Monthly Archive: June 2016

The benefits of failure

Hitting bottom – what happens to all of us when we experience major failure – can be the impetus we need to get up and keep going.  After all, the only way to go at that point is up!

J. K. Rowling gave a speech to graduating students at Harvard and spent some time telling her story of failure and what she gained from it. Because, as she said, when she was 21, she wished she’d known that failure has benefits.

At 21, she was torn between what she wanted to do – write novels – and what her parents wanted her to do – learn a vocation. She eventually chose writing over a vocation, and had to experience failure in the process – divorce, joblessness, single parenthood, on the brink of being homeless, and very real poverty.
As she says, poverty is romanticised only by fools; its not ennobling; it entails fear, stress, depression, and a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. But at 21, she didn’t really know this about poverty; and even though her parents were poor, she feared failure much more than poverty.

For a long time, any light at the end of the tunnel was a hope rather than a reality. And what this meant for her was the need to strip away the inessential, conserving her will and her energy for finishing the one thing she cared about. Had she done otherwise, she would never have finished the book. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which she rebuilt her live.

This is possibly the greatest benefit of failure – hitting bottom. It may be there are a few people who are able to learn and grow without hitting bottom, but I’ve never actually met such a person.

You may not be J. K. Rowling. You may feel that she’s an exception and that others who take the risks she took won’t make it.  We all need to know within ourselves when enough is enough.  Having said that, without failure, I truly believe that nothing great can be achieved.

As an anonymous cowboy once said: good judgment comes from experience; and experience comes from bad judgment. Without trying, and failing, at least a few times, whatever was won would be more accidental than real, and might not even be noticed.

Famous Failures

Quote of the Week
As is a tale, so is life: Not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
– Seneca

Announcements

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly atmaryanne@thejoyofliving.co

3 super healthy ways to worry

“Don’t worry about it! It’s all going to work out somehow anyway.”

If I remember, this is what I tell myself when I find myself worrying.  This effort usually relieves me of worry, at least for a moment.  And so, if I remember, I’m guaranteed at least a moment of bliss every day.

Worrying about possible disasters can be a soul-destroying waste of time, since nothing’s happened yet. What we do to ourselves when we worry like this is focus only on the worst possibilities, no matter how small; and in the meantime, we miss what’s happening right now in our lives, and all the joy and contentment that might bring.

But, hard as this is for me to say, there’s an up-side to worrying. First, when we worry that our son or daughter might get into trouble on their first backpacking journey, no matter how well supported, it’s probably because there is a real although remote possibility that something bad might happen. We know our kid well enough to recognize real possibilities; but then we dwell on them, to the exclusion of all else.
So, given that sometimes worrying is a good thing, here are 3 ways to keep it that way:

  1. What’s worry covering up? No matter how remote, there’s always a nugget of truth underlying a worry.  For instance, when in front of an unfamiliar audience, I can worry about how they’ll receive my talk. Telling myself not to worry – that it’s a waste of time, doesn’t work, because I need to worry about my audience. I need to know what’s important to them so that I can tailor my talk to what’s relevant in their lives.  If I didn’t worry about this, I would very likely deliver something that simply didn’t interest the audience, doing them a disservice.
  2. What am I avoiding when I worry? Sometimes worry keeps me from looking at something I really need to look at. For me, that could be tackling my accounts, which is generally the last thing I want to think about.  In this case, worry is like cleaning the toilet – something that becomes interesting, entertaining even, in the face of the alternative.
  3. What are my real priorities that I’m neglecting that I’m worrying about?  If you’re like me, I can be persuaded into doing something that I don’t really have time for – most often to help a friend.  This requires that I actively ignore the alarm bells inside me that begin to go off when something I really need to focus on isn’t being attended to. It isn’t that I need to ignore my friends; it means that I also need to include myself in the equation.

When we begin to use worry as an indicator of deeper issues, then it turns from being an issue in our lives to an ally. As an ally, a little worry keeps me honest. I can lighten up, making everyday happiness a reality.

Let the Good Times Roll- Ben Rector

Quote of the Week
Too much worrying is like praying for bad things to happen -Anon

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly atmaryanne@thejoyofliving.co

The Gods – are they really jealous of us?

Achilles in Homer’s Iliad said that the gods envy us because we are mortal: any moment could be our last, and this makes everything more beautiful. “You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again”.

Some argue that Homer – and therefore Achilles – didn’t actually say this. In a way it doesn’t matter – that’s one of the things we know him for, and remember him for. It’s a compelling thought: how our impermanence makes everything more beautiful.

It’s Spring here in Ontario; this is one of the most beautiful times of the year.  From grayness and dirty snow and cold, to vibrant green, blue, and every color imaginable. From bareness to lushness.  Song birds wake us every morning, things are greening and multiplying as if in a hurry, making up for it’s Winter dormancy.

It’s wonderful and inspiring; and we appreciate it all the more because we know it will be with us only for a few short months.

If you’re like me, when things are going well, I find myself at moments wishing that I could stop time so that I could be in this space forever. But I didn’t just land in that particular moment. I mean, I didn’t come into existence and have all the knowledge and skills and abilities that got me to this moment, like, say, Athena. Athena popped full-grown out of the side of her father Zeus, fully ready and able to take on the trials of being Zeus’ daughter.  I didn’t. I had to learn, grow, make mistakes – sometimes big ones – then get myself up, brush myself off, and carry on. Until the moment, like this one, where life is wonderful.  Knowing it’s only a moment, and that there will be more moments like this one that come my way as I continue to live and learn.

Knowing that beautiful moments are fleeting means I really appreciate them. Knowing that I’m around for a very short time in cosmic terms gives me the motivation I need to get going.  For instance, I live in Toronto and the only time I visited the CN Tower was when I was a visitor, and when I took other visitors who insisted.  The CN Tower is there, every day – so what’s the rush? Last year, I visited Florence, and I took the time to see David, and their amazing cathedral, because it might be the only time I can do that – appreciate the beauty and mastery of those works.

Woody Allen once quipped: If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.  Being aware of impermanence, as the Buddhists teach, gives us the impetus we need to take action for what makes life worthwhile, and to truly appreciate what ends up being.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

A Cinematic Haiku: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

The Gods – are they really jealous of us

Quote of the Week
Awareness of impermanence is encouraged, so that when it is coupled with our appreciation of the enormous potential of our human existence, it will give us a sense of urgency that I must use every precious moment.
― the Dalai Lama

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Fitbit & Obsessive Thoughts

I’m halfway through my day; the plan was to work in my office in the morning and take care of sundries in the afternoon. Normally, since nothing is in the same general area, I’d take my car. But not now: now I feed my need to please this very small piece of machinery on my belt. Not only do I cater to my Fitbit, I also spend a lot more time in coffee shops. Every chance I get, I walk instead of ride. Because I work from home, you’ll see me nearly every day, walking to various coffee shops with my overloaded purse and laptop bag.
And I’m not the only one: Geraldine in her blog posts calls her Fitbit a pedometer but more judgmental – because it lets you know how you’ve done every day. She laments that there is no limit to what she is willing to do to appease that tiny robot on her arm. Joanne Lee obeys her Fitbit even to jogging in place as she makes her morning coffee, and schedules her showers between red dots. Fitbit produces one red dot per hour if you’ve reached a certain level of activity. Sort of like the red star my kindergarten teacher gave us for being good.
There’s now a March Madness Fitbit challenge that anyone with a Fitbit can join; you play by sending in your “daily Showdowns” that Fitbit sends you. And the latest? Since sexual activity is a calorie eater, Fitbit tracks this. We feel good when we’re doing something that’s healthy. Some of us can go overboard with this device, but then if not with the pedometer, then probably with the speed bike, or exercise classes, or some other activity. Walking is available to almost everyone and it’s free. Using a pedometer does help us focus on the number of steps we walk daily, if for no other reason than it provides a solid goal – the now almost universal 10,000 steps originally suggested by a Japanese firm in the 1960’s who’s product translated to 10,000 steps meter”. According to Live Science  walking around 8,000 steps a day, or participating in this kind of activity for 150 minutes a week, reduced blood pressure after 24 weeks, and for overweight women, improves blood glucose levels.
Harvard Health Publications reports that people who use pedometers walk an extra 2,000 steps per day on average. Using a pedometer promotes walking in aging adults who might otherwise not exercise due to arthritis and diabetes, and most universally, walking reduces stress and depression.
If you’re interested in joining pedometer madness, here are a few pointers:
Have a step-count goal; to begin, try going for a little more than you would normally walk;
Walk at a brisk pace – something that challenges you without getting you out of breath;
Get a good pedometer; it doesn’t have to be expensive – find reviews of the different models and see which suits you best. The piezoelectric models that “work at any angle” cost more but may be more accurate and easier to use.

Yes, Fitbit can be an obsession – but a healthy one. Instead of ruminating on things that we can’t control, we can now “get our fitness on” and think about healthy things – which, in turn, will lead to a healthier body!

Work/Life Imbalance

I listened to an interview with Simon Sinek the other day about his new book Leaders Eat Last. Sinek is a motivational speaker and writer whose focus is on leadership and management.  He also advises the military on innovation and planning. In this capacity, he’d been invited by the United States military to see their people in action in Afghanistan.

While there, he experienced first-hand, what it was like to live in the middle of a combat zone. He discovered that his responses to the constant dangers were different in these circumstances: the emotions were still there, for instance, but delayed. He also discovered, to his surprise and dismay, that he began to act and think in ways that weren’t normal for him, and that he really didn’t like what he seemed to be becoming. That got him thinking and observing his own behavior, which eventually led to an appreciation on a deeper level of what makes some people great leaders.

His experience in Afghanistan was incredible and exciting – and one he never wanted to repeat: even though it was exciting, it was stressful; even though it was fulfilling in some ways, it was devoid of joy.

Many of us confuse excitement with joy; happiness with fulfilment. Our jobs can be exciting – every day something new.  But that doesn’t mean we are fulfilled or feel joy from it. If we don’t feel safe in our jobs, the simple fact is that we won’t feel joy either.

We are social animals, after all and respond best in environments that we feel are safe among our fellows. Leaders are responsible for creating that safe environment, but if workers fear the leader, they will take steps to protect themselves from that leader.  One notorious example that most of us are familiar with are the standard CYA notes, emails and letters that typically accompany any activity in a business.

The point is: work/life imbalance isn’t about how much work-outs we do, or yoga, or even meditation.  These help, but will never make the workplace safe.  Work/life imbalance really means that we feel safe at home but not at work. Work/life imbalance is therefore, a leadership problem. Studies show that when people feel safe at work (i.e., where they are treated fairly, they are recognized, etc.) 2 things will happen:

  1. These people will work hard to see their leader’s vision is advanced, and
  2. They will take care of their leader.

If you’re a leader, and you don’t feel safe with your people, that’s a strong indicator that you probably haven’t created a safe environment.

Sinek sites Bob Chapman, CEO of a large manufacturing company and author ofEverybody Matters as a leader.  In 2008, because of the downturn in the US economy, his Board of Directors had to cut back; they directed Chapman to lay off some of his workforce.

Chapman refused, and instead devised a plan where everyone in the company would have to take 4 weeks of unpaid vacation.  In explaining this to his employees, he told them he felt it was better for everyone to suffer a little than for a few to suffer a lot.

The result was incredible: instead of morale going down, it went up; and behaviors showed up that no one had predicted.  For instance, people who could afford more, traded days with those who could afford less.

Sinek believes leaders need to shift their focus: instead of being responsible for the results, they need to be responsible for those people who are responsible for the work that gets the results. If you as a leader focus on creating a safe environment, then the results will happen.

This message isn’t only for managers and business owners. It’s for anyone who wants a better work/life balance.  To the extent that we can influence our environment, we can create a safe and mutually respectful space with our fellow workers and customers, ultimately contributing to our own happiness and well-being.

Simon Sinek – Start with Why

Quote of the Week
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly atmaryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Your Inner Dragon & Control

Control. Obviously it isn’t practiced by everyone. We all have our limits, for some- those limits are miles apart. For others, the limits are inches apart. We all have places we have to be, or people we have to be with, that requires us to have tact and stay within our limits, regardless if they are miles or inches apart, when it comes to anger. So, how do we tame our inner dragons? Easy. We first have to admit that our reaction to every situation is completely our fault. We may not be able to control the situation, but we do control how we mentally and physically respond to each and every situation.

Anger is usually depression in hiding. Someone does something that irritates you. Your response is to go off of the rails and get mad. But are you really mad? Is your anger really frustration that is masking deep seeded depression? Are the frustrated and sad feelings simply building up to the point where you can’t take it anymore and then you explode? Addressing why we are having emotions, especially rage and anger, can help us understand and then control responses.

It is not unusual for people to be depressed about their line of work. Workers  tend to feel more and more powerless to make changes, often because they fear losing their job, and that lack of power can lead to depression. The depression leads to frustration and then the dragon starts to grow until one day – you either quit your job or become so angry or upset that you’re fired because of it. This is a pretty common scenario.  In order to avoid this, having a talk with your supervisor about not having power AKA more responsibility is important. We don’t often talk about our feelings at work, but I think this is a huge mistake. You can professionally address an issue without putting yourself in a vulnerable place at work. Presentation of these feelings is key and – remember- keep it professional. Do not go to your boss to talk about depression caused by issues at home, there are other resources for that. You want to talk about your feelings as an employee and what you would like to see happen with your role at the company.

When taming your inner dragon, self-empowerment, learning to speak out in ways that help instead of hinder, taking a hawk’s view – seeing the bigger picture and all the details so that we come from a considerate place, and learning to recognize the signs of inner rage are all important aspects to consider and practice. We need to express our feelings and develop a plan for dealing with them both personally and professionally, otherwise our dragon come out and all that bottled up sadness, anger and frustration breathes fire in an unproductive way.

Want to learn more? I offer self-guided virtual help and one-on-one counseling. Don’t hesitate to contact me to ask about both options. I also offer a great virtual and in-person session on how to deal with our inner dragons at work. Corporate speaking rates are available upon request.

Impossible is Nothing ! – Muhamed Ali

I have a very large poster in my office with a photograph of Muhamed Ali in a fighting pose, and “Impossible is nothing” written large across the bottom.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked at that poster and gained strength – from the audacity of it, from the man who said and lived it.

Mohamed Ali passed away June 3rd.

He was and is someone I try to emulate. At the height of his abilities he stood up to the United States government and refused military service.  Why? Because he had no quarrel with Vietnam.  He gave up millions of dollars, spent time in prison, and took on the disapproval of millions of citizens with that action.
All for his beliefs. And that took a lot more courage than stepping into the ring.

Living with Parkinson’s for his last 30 years, Mr. Ali handled his declining physical abilities with grace.  Even at that time of his life, he didn’t shy from politics or controversy, releasing a statement in December criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda”.

His knack for talking up his own talents — often in verse — earned him the dismissive nickname “the Louisville Lip,” but he backed up his talk with action.  “He was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion”.

When asked to share his personal philosophy in 2009, this is what he said:

“I never thought of the possibility of failing, only of the fame and glory I was going to get when I won, … I could see it. I could almost feel it. When I proclaimed that I was the greatest of all time, I believed in myself, and I still do.”

Muhamed Ali – Tribute

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Quote of the Week
The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. – Muhamed Ali

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly atmaryanne@thejoyofliving.co