Sooke River Salmon Dive – Three Things About Being Playful

Last year, on the edge of a forest near my home, I had a rare opportunity to watch a family of bears playing. I was in my house (with some strong binoculars) and watched two little cubs tussle in the long grass with each other. Every now and again they would bat at their mama’s nose and she’d give them a playful swipe and they’d go back to their little bear wrestling match. It was amazing.

Play was so easy as a kid (or a cub). It was natural and expected. It got me thinking about play as an adult – whether or not I played or was playful in my every day. At first, I was like “sure, I play every day” and when I really sat down and thought about it, sadly, I’ve taken this adulting very seriously and I’m not as playful as I once was or as I’d like to be.

So, I went on-line to look up the definition of play and loved what I found. It is both a noun and a verb and quite frankly, a state of being. I also love some of the words associated with play. Words like:

Frolic, enjoyment, amuse, cavort, recreate, horseplay, skylarking, merrymaking

Don’t these words alone just make the corners of your mouth turn up a little? Oh, and yes, I had to look up skylarking – it means passing the time with tricks and practical jokes.

In recent months, where everything is much more serious, I’ve thought more about play and why it is important now more than ever before. Here are three things about play:

  1. Time flies, in a good way. Whether it is losing yourself late into the night playing board games with your friends and family or trying to build that sandcastle while beating that incoming tide, time seems to fly. Remember when you were a kid, outside playing, and your Mom called you in for dinner. And you were like “NO WAY! I want to stay out and play”! And you’d run in, wolf your food down and then blaze back outside to keep playing until darkness fell? And then you cried because it was dark and play was over and you had the best-day-ever and you were exhausted? Best thing was you got up and did it again the next day.


  1. You don’t have to “outgrow it”. Playing keeps us young. Thank goodness because the seriousness of life will age us quickly! My Grandpa lived until he was 90 and for most of his life, he loved to play. I think he may very well have written the mantra “work hard, play hard”. When I was a kid, we lived on the same property together. He’d be up early, working on his house, yard, bike, garden and more. Then come mid-afternoon, he’d hang up his tools and come play with us kids in the pool. Not just sitting on the deck, sunning, but being a total goofball with us. I still remember is we’d all make up weird dives. I remember one of his: The Sooke River Salmon Dive. Toes on the edge of the deck, arms spread wide, with a grace only a salmon could have, we’d launch ourselves into a circle dive into the pool. Laugh, get out and do it again.


  1. Play is fun. I know, duh. But if you are like me, you take life a bit too serious at times and don’t have enough play, aka fun, in your life. Is it “adulting” to actually have fun? I say hell to the ya! What is happening to us when we are having fun? We are smiling – the good-wrinkle-creating-smiles. We are laughing. Those fabulous endorphins are being released. Our bodies feel good. And the best thing is that play is different for everyone. Maybe you are playing a team sport like curling or cricket. Maybe you are playing Clue, or Hearts, or Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe you are on the floor building lego with some kids. Maybe you are throwing a frisbee. Maybe you are playing bocce. Maybe you are cannonballing into the lake. Maybe you are playing chuck-it or tug-of-war with your pup. Play is a way of being and I want to be more playful, to play more, to bring play into my every day. So, let’s dust off those gumboots, go find us a puddle and stomp and splash…let’s play.


The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.

~ Doug Larson

It’s Okay to Stay in Your Pajamas … All Day – So Many Things I’m Learning About This “that-shall-not-be-named” Time

I’m taking a slight departure from my “3 things I’ve learned” approach to my blog post this month.

A few weeks back, a friend of mine sent me an email about the crazy day she had and how everything on that particular day just blew up. Another friend shared the temper tantrum that both she and her kid had one day. Another friend shared how lonely she is, isolated, living alone, working from home. Another friend shared that he has shut down his business right now, hopefully temporarily, but maybe not.

And I’m no statistic expert, but I’m guessing this is a pretty significant representation of what many, many, many people are feeling right about now.

And this is a hard time. No doubt about that. Many of the societal rules we’ve been strictly adhering to are not necessarily that important right now. So I thought I’d put pen to paper on what’s okay right now (and perhaps some new “okays” that I will take with me post-crisis):

It’s okay to stay in your pajamas…all day. Next day…repeat.

And yes, it’s okay to have a “nice shirt” on and your pajama bottoms on for that all-important zoom meeting and then to go back to your pajama top after said meeting.

It’s okay if your house is a mess – no one is coming over anyway.

It’s okay if it feels like groundhog day.

It’s okay if your kid has more “TV time” than normal. Those important rules you’ve had in place to ensure your kid is not a TB zombie can be bent a bit more right now.

It’s okay to feel pissed-off, anxious, sad, worried, numb, annoyed, judgmental, confused, overwhelmed.

It’s also okay to feel empathy, compassion and care.

It’s also okay to feel happiness and joy. All of the emotions may all happen in the same day, maybe even in the same hour – all okay.

It’s okay if you forget to shower and hair starts to grow in strange places. Who cares? You are beautiful just the way you are. (thank you, Bruno).

It’s okay to have a quaran-tini or an isolation-ale at 4pm. Aim for just the one, as I do worry about an increased consumption.

It’s okay if your gray roots are showing. Maybe it is a good time to actually go all-the-way-gray? Just saying.

It’s okay if you don’t exercise every single day like you were before. It’s okay to slow down a bit or to get creative on your new workout regimen – like squats while I am at my stand-up desk or side lunges when I am reaching for the mixing bowls.

It’s okay if you are not doing “that-which-shall-not-be-named” perfectly. Is there really any such thing as “perfect” anyway? Nope. Let that shit go.

It’s okay if your kids running screaming through your zoom meeting or come to ask for a snack. They really do not care about your important meeting or that you are running said meeting or that you are trying to lead a high-performing team from home.

It’s okay if it feels like groundhog day.

It’s okay if you feel isolation is hard. It is. I mean, it might be a tiny bit easier for the Introverts but know that the Extroverts are really struggling.

It’s okay to take up painting, puzzling, crosswords, scrapbooking, guitaring, pianoing, harping, colouring, knitting, refurnishing, latte decorating, picture taking, taking-that-motor-apart-and-try-to-put-back-together or any other creative activity that you have been waiting to dive into.

It’s okay if you have days where you laugh hysterically. Either at the absurdity of this situation or because you find something that just makes you laugh. Laughing feels good.

It’s okay if dinner is toast.

It’s okay if your day goes off the rails and today is just about snuggling on the couch, with a cup of tea, watching soaps (are these even still on?) or reading to your kid or binge-watching Harry Potter or re-watching Downton Abby or rubbing your dog’s belly.

It’s okay to look at your vision board and dream of your desired future. It’s also okay to modify said vision board. And it’s okay if you throw the damn thing away. And start fresh with new dreams. Just be sure to keep dreaming.

It’s okay to accept money from the government. I know this is hard for many of us. Most people I know have paid into this for their entire working life. It’s okay if you take a little back right now.

It’s okay to cry. This is an emotional, super-weird, wildly uncertain time and emotions that build up need to be released. For some of us, that is in the form of tears. Sometimes big ugly cry, snotty tears. It’s totally okay.

It’s okay to simplify your life.

It’s okay to focus only on what is the most important right now. This might be basic needs. Or family. Or personal wellness. Or helping others. Or just getting through today.

It’s okay if it feels like groundhog day.

It’s okay to not know what day of the week it is. And a tip on how to remember is to try theming your dinners…like this:

    • Mash Monday (just mash anything you want together)
    • Twizzler Tuesday
    • Weiner Wednesday
    • Throw-back Thursday (where you make something your mama lovingly cooked for you, like mushy peas and overcooked liver)
    • French Fries Friday
    • Sundae Saturday
    • Sinful Sunday (I know this doesn’t sound right for a Sunday, but what this actually means is chocolate at every meal)

It’s okay if you are re-setting your life. If you are looking at the things that matter the absolute most and making them a priority. If you are looking at our planet and are ready to act differently, perhaps radically, to heal it. If you are looking at showing up in a new, sustainable, present, kind, compassionate, simpler way.

And it’s okay to have a dance party. No one is watching you. And yes, you can dance, yes YOU! Just shake your booty, wave your arms around. See…you’re dancing.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Shake What Your Momma Gave You – Three Things In Uncertain Times

I have a reoccurring dream that can best be described as a loss of control. The dreams always vary, but the theme is the same. The last one, a few months ago, had me in an airport trying to check-in, get through security and get to my gate. At check-in I can’t find my ticket or passport. I’m dropping things, I can’t seem to get my shit together. I am trying to convince the agent that I just had all of my documents and suddenly they are gone. Flash forward (dreams are weird) and suddenly I am through security and now heading to my gate. Only, I cannot find my gate. I am horribly lost and I cannot figure out how to get to the gate. I never do make it and I miss my flight. I wake up, flustered and relieved it was a dream.

I feel like I’m living this dream right now. I feel unsettled. I am not sure how to problem solve this crisis. I feel a total loss of control. Someone shared that this is a “loss of certainty”. That makes sense – the certain world has been up-ended. Uncertainty is the prevailing wind. And this is no whirlwind, this is more like a typhoon-wind.

So, when a storm hits, what do I do? I batten down the hatches. I hunker down. I ride it out. I do what I can to get through it. The storm has the control. Not me. I’m at its mercy. And inside this particular storm right now, where can I find an iota of calm, a tiny piece of control? What can I focus my energy on? What can I hang onto?

It turns out, a lot. I’ve got my wonderful husband who is positive and supportive. I have my dog who is clueless to the typhoon and lives in the moment – I love this so much about her. I have my friends and family who I can connect with through technology (did I hear recently that technology is fueling disconnection – well who’s laughing now – technology, I’d say). I have food – enough to last weeks if needed. I have music. I have movies. I have books. I have a comfy bed. I have a view of the mountains. I have birds singing outside my window. I have a caring community helping each other out. I have puzzles. I have a yoga mat. I have plants. I have my guitar. There is a lot to hang onto.

And to process this wild world right now, I also get to continue to write, so that is fun! And I came up with three things that have revealed themselves to me over the past few weeks:

Belly laugh until you pee: I realize I’ve been taking life way too seriously. When the poop hit the fan with COVID, I found myself laughing way more. And laughter feels good, really freakin’ good. I love that people are creative and clever to find humour in elements of this storm. I love that they share their humour and I love that I am laughing every day. Every. Day. I wasn’t laughing every day two weeks ago. I am now. And I want more. Looking for a laugh? Try Ellen De Generes on the insta. Or Pluto_Living on the facebook. OR the fun, silly made up song lyrics on the tube. If you are one of my friends making me laugh – Thank you.  So, I know the laughter feels good and now my question is how do I shift to ensure I’m finding laughter every day when this crisis is over? How can I let go of my seriousness and allow for more lightness, playfulness into my life? Cuz you know, the stuff I was super serious about, just doesn’t need to be taken so seriously. Seriously.

WW II: Is it weird that I can’t stop thinking about World War II? This might be about perspective taking. I saw a post that said something along the lines of “people, during the war, lived in 4 x 4 sq ft rooms, hid for their lives, with very little food and all of their possessions taken away from them – we can handle staying inside, sitting on the couch”. That statement hit me. Yes, this is a bad time. Yes, this is very hard and scary. Elizabeth Gilbert shared on the insta the other day that despite our (humans) deep resistance to change, we are incredibly resilient and adaptable – like super duper adaptable. What is being asked of me right now (physical distancing, taking care of our most vulnerable etc) is actually very doable. Is it a nuisance, sure, but one I am fully able and willing to do for the sake of my community, my family, my friends. And my head is not completely buried in the sand, I know there will be a big fall out of this crisis. Maybe it is the worst recession we’ve ever seen, maybe it will divide more people before it unites, maybe our biggest hopes and dreams are not realized and worse of all, maybe we lose loved ones. And I will get through it. Changed? I sure the hell hope so. There is learning in this entire experience. I hope I learn something and make a shift in my life as a result – for the better.

Wu Wei: Remember a blog from a while back when I wrote about Wu Wei? A Taoism roughly translating to effortless action. I talk about releasing the tight grip – keep in motion – but allowing for things to unfold, to happen in a more effortless or natural way.  Wu Wei right now is a letting go of my tight grip on the dreams in the exact way I was dreaming them. The dreams are still there, but I need to stop pushing, step back and settle into how these dreams may unfold in this new time. Dreaming is hope, so I am not giving up on the dreams I had as that would be giving up on hope. Instead, how can I look at my dreams and goals differently? How can I loosen my tight hold on a concrete plan and allow for what may unfold?  Wu Wei, that part around letting go, is also about letting emotions go right now – not supressing them but letting them move through me and out. Lots of really heavy, scary things have happened over the past few weeks and I found myself crying almost every day – which has not happened since my Mom passed away a few years ago. I’m trying to allow for these emotions to work their way through me and out of me. And then I follow up the tears with a mini dance party – another great way to Wu Wei is to dance. Put on your favorite tune. Crank it really loud. Stand up. Wiggle your hips. Throw your arms in the air. Jiggle your jiggly bits. It does not matter what you look like, shake what your momma gave you and dance the shit out of this crisis.

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”   ~ Gandhi

Girl Interrupting – Three Things I’ve Learned About Listening

I love Oprah. I have admired her for years – I’ve watched her show, I listen to her podcasts and follow her on social media. But she tends to be an interrupter. She’ll have the most amazing and interesting guest and constantly interject while they are speaking, not allowing for the guest to tell more of their story. Now I get it, she’s got to keep the show going, she’s got people talking to her in an earpiece, she has commercials that have to be played, she’s got tight timelines to meet. But the interrupting sometimes makes me crazy.

And, Carl Jung said everything that irritates us about others can lead to us to an understanding of ourselves. Ugh. This is not about Oprah.

So, here we go, confession time…

I’m an interrupter (actually, a recovering interrupter). I’ve been like this all my life. I can’t help myself, especially when I get excited in a conversation. I know this about myself, I have a high awareness about this innate flaw in my character, and I still struggle not to interrupt someone else in a conversation.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone when you felt so deeply listened to? You look at your watch at some point in time and realize hours have gone by in a flash? Isn’t that an amazing feeling when you’ve been completely immersed in a deep, meaningful conversation? What a gift!

And in coaching, the most critical skill is to listen. And I now call myself a recovering interrupter as I know this is a lifelong learning and growth edge for me and I work on being a better listener every single day (yes, some days are better than others).

If you want to tap into being a better listener, there is no shortage of great resources out there.  And while I am definitely no professional on this topic, I have learned three important things about listening:

  • Get off the roller coaster – it’s been a challenge for me to quiet my mind. I’m hoping I’m not alone in this, but my brain is like non-stop. Some days (most days) my brain is like a roller coaster – it is zinging along at 100 miles per hour, whipping around corners and just when I think it’s slowing down, it launches me around a loop-d-loop. It never seems to stop. So, for me, I need to intentionally work on quieting my mind, attempt as much as I can to step off the roller coaster for a time and allow for space to slow the brain down and really listen. A five-minute meditation helps me tremendously here.
  • The first date – I tend to listen to respond and when I first did my coaching training, I learned about deeper listening. I’ve seen a few different versions of this, and in general, there are three levels of listening.
    • Level 1: Listening to respond – I call this the tip of the iceberg listening – factual, sharing of data and really a surface level listening. This works when providing quick instruction or information.
    • Level 2: Listening to deepen your understanding and get closer to the core of the issue – as a friend and colleague of mine says, this is like a first date. There is a high level of engagement in the conversation, an interest to get beneath the surface of the iceberg and discover more about the core of person and get to the heart of the matter. Best practice here for me is to ask questions, stay in the conversation, be really curious.
    • Level 3: Have you ever walked into a room of people and felt the tension in the room? This level is about picking up on the energy and the emotion, the deeper values and desires – this is the depth of the iceberg. This is where we feel most genuinely listened to – that this person listening seems to really understand me. It helps me in this level, picking up on emotion or energy, to pay attention to my own body. Do I feel butterflies, goosebumps, jittery? That’s usually a sign there is something bigger at play and then I get to work getting curious about that energy.
  • Silent – it is right there in this word. Move the letters around and silent = listen. Stop talking, when I’m talking, I am not listening. I’m not even going to pretend I can multi-task to be a listener and a talker at the exact same time – for me this is just not possible. For me to do this effectively, stopping talking, I take a very deep breath and just sit.

A few years back I knew the time with my Grandpa was limited and there was going to be a day, too soon, when he would not be here. I knew I had to be extra diligent in my listening. So, we’d put a beer in his hand and ask him about his life. Then stop and listen, really listen. I truly believe this was a mutual gift – with nostalgia and an incredible long-term memory he would share story after story of his life. With awe and wonder, I would sit and listen, soaking up the gift of his voice and the tales of his simple yet adventurous life.

Listening will always be a life-long practice for me and I’m going to do my best, each day, to be just a little bit better than I was yesterday.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear”. ~ A.A. Milne

Sticks and Stones – Three Things I’ve Learned About the Power of Words 

I was in a meeting recently and a friend was complimenting her colleague. She was being so kind and caring with her words and her genuine nature created a very safe space for deeper conversation. It struck me that she was being so generous with not only her words, but her assumptions of the good in this person. The exchange was brief. The impact was incredible. The other person was grateful, and I believe, felt truly seen and heard.

Remember telling that kid in the playground who was bullying you with “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. I call bullsh*t. I’ve seen way too often how deeply powerful and painful words can be. Have you ever said something, out loud (or email, text, on-line) that you wished you could have taken back instantly? I have had a few of these mortifying moments where, there they were, the words out there landing as they may on the people around me. My face flushed deep red, I felt sick to my stomach and I so wished I could take back the words. Such a gross feeling – the knowledge that the words I used might have hurt someone. Ugh.

So, after this meeting, I drove home inspired and curious as to how I could be more generous in my assumptions, my words, my approach – even if it’s a tiny wee-bit. It brought to mind a quote I’ve seen circulating social media over the past year:

Before you speak, let your words pass through these gates:

“Is it true?”

“Is it necessary?”

“Is it kind?”

Kind words are much easier when things are good. What I mean by that is, it is difficult to be caring with my words when I’m angry, righteous, in conflict, afraid, hurt or offended. And I am pretty certain, that’s actually when it counts the most.

How challenging is it can to not fling open the gates and barge in and to be aware of the tremendous impact words can have on others? Let’s take a look at what I discovered with the three gates and the power of words:

Is it true? Have you read Loving What Is by Bryon Katie? This is the profound question she asks. Is it true? When I’m on my high horse or heels are dug in, the answer is usually “hells ya”! And you know, sometimes the facts are the facts and yes, it is true. And then she asks, “Is it REALLY true”? It’s this second asking of this question that actually invites a pause, a breath and a deeper look if this thing is absolutely, completely true. I apply this a lot to things I see on social media, idle gossip by anyone (including myself), and am trying harder to apply in my assumptions or judgments I have of others. It is an invitation to ask yourself, at the first gate, before speaking, “Is it really (really, really) true”? I’m a bit humbled that the answer is often “No” or “I’m not actually sure”.

Is it necessary? Oh, yes, it is completely necessary! This second gate is my Achilles heel when I’m feeling self-righteous. I have a voice and I am using it. I really like to insert my thoughts and opinions (just ask my husband and the soap box I carry around!) and I feel the world will be better off with me sharing my words. Hmm. Except that, and this is unsettling, this is actually not true. In some recent coaching training I’ve received, the facilitator, Dr. David Drake shared a thought-provoking quote and a great piece of advice: “Do not speak unless you can improve on the silence” – Ram Dass. Is it necessary begs the question “Do I really need to say this”? Often times, um more often than not, the answer is “No, it really is not necessary”.

Is it kind? Even if I’ve charged my way through the true and necessary gates, this third one should stop me in my tracks. When a word (more importantly an unkind word, or a kind word with an ill-intent i.e.: passive aggressive), is out, it is like a million pieces of confetti being thrown into the sky, it is impossible to pick up and take back every little piece. Yes, one can apologize for a hurtful or spiteful word but once through this gate, there will likely always be confetti pieces that never get cleaned up. I’m reminded of the simple little book I’ve been carrying with me for over a decade now called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. He states in the 1st Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word. I’d quote the entire chapter if I could, it’s mystical and magical, profound and important, simple in theory and challenging in practice. Using words with a positive intention (yes, even in a tougher conversation). Asking is it kind? If it is not, why say it?

Thinking about that meeting, and how my friend naturally, likely unintentionally, yet caringly walked through these gates. She spoke a beautiful true statement about the colleague – a compliment of their character. It was so necessary because the impact was palpable. And kind – yes, beyond belief.

Speak when you are angry – and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. ~ Laurence J. Peter

Let It Go – Three Unexpected Things I Learned When Burning My Diaries    

I’ve spent the last month going through my diaries from when I was a teenager. Admittedly, this has been a very difficult thing to do. I am bearing witness to a young person who was, for the most part, jealous, way-too-boy-crazy, mean, spiteful and downright angry. To read some of the words I wrote is painful and quite honestly if someone else read them, embarrassing.

Time has luckily softened my angst. Growing up and becoming an adult contributed to this, no doubt. And a lot of “self” work over the past few decades has helped tremendously. That anger was poison. It was poison to other people around me. And it was the most poisonous to my own well-being.

Reading these words has also been an amazing gift. It has given me the chance to take a step back, to look back and see how far I’ve come in this life (thank goodness). And most of all, to get curious about how I am so different now than I was then. In reflecting back, I’ve discovered a common theme: Letting It Go. In burning the diaries, I had some unexpected learnings:

  • Letting go is a form of forgiving: I’ve carried some resentment, some anger, some hurt, well into my adulthood. While I’ve worked on this in a variety of forms, learning to let these toxic emotions go has been a form of forgiveness. These emotions are only really hurting me – if I sit at home ruminating that “this person should pay for that thing they did” or “that person is just a big jerk” or “the world is terribly unfair”, I’m only creating harmful emotions for me. Allowing these to go feels like a level of forgiving those that I feel may have unintentionally hurt me – yes, unintentional as I believe in my heart no one set out to intentional hurt me. In letting go, I allow for more joy, calmness, love and compassion to enter. Tearing out each of those diary pages is letting go of the past and moving on towards my future.


  • Letting go let me avoid conflict, in a good way: I’ve been told most of my adult life that avoiding conflict is bad. I feel like I’ve avoided conflict all my life, except what strikes me is that, while my memory is somewhat fuzzy on the specifics, I actually created conflict in my teen years. When did the pendulum swing from being an instigator of strife to the exact opposite as a complete conflict avoider? Was this a mechanism for trying to change my bad behavior? If you are also an avoider of conflict then you too know avoiding conflict does not always serve us, however, like anything, it does have its upside. Because I tend to steer away from conflict, it does allow me to let go of potential conflicts a lot more quickly and easily. I ask myself” “Is this worth it?” Nine times out of ten the answer is “no”, it is not worth it. Conflict avoiding gives me more access to actually let sh*t go, in a good way.


  • Letting go helped me lose weight: I do not have a scale that can measure the weight of each page I tore out. I am going to assume that each diary likely weighed somewhere between ¼ to ½ a pound. I got rid of around 10 diaries and journals (so far). So, adding all that up I shed around 5 pounds. This was like a cloak was lifted off my shoulders, allowing me to stand up a little straighter, open up my heart a little more, expand my mind a bit wider. It was getting rid of junk that I have been carrying around for 40 years, buried in the bottom of a big box labeled “heavy”. Yep, it was heavy all right. And I will continue to practice letting it go – especially the stuff that does not serve me, that does not fill up my cup, that does not feed my own soul. Deep breath. I’m tearing out and burning the pages of those old diaries. I’m letting the old anger, unmet expectations, sadness, resentment and jealousy go, page by page.


“Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means we stop carrying the energy of the past into the present”. Yung Pueblo

A Look Back – Three Things I Learned in 2019

I had a big milestone birthday this year, the big 5 – 0, as they say. This is big actually, if you think about it, 50 years alive (and hopefully thriving) on this planet. That is pretty amazing.

And one would think that at 50, the learning slows down, there’s not much new information to acquire unless of course I’m back in some type of formal education setting. Well we know that is not true at all! Approaching this life with a sense of wonder, a keen desire to continue to learn, an open mind to discovery, is a key ingredient in maintaining a youthful life.

So, with a sense of humbleness and gratefulness, I share the top three things I learned this past year:

  • Trees are really important: Duh, right? I may be late to the party on this one, but I’ve learned a lot about how important trees are to our planet, our environment, our ecosystems, our well-being. I’ve known for years trees are important but this year, I was finally paying attention. One book I read was called: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It was eye-opening and sometimes heartbreaking on how we’ve treated our life-giving forests as a commodity at our own disposable and not as a diverse, integrated, important, alive community (the irony of holding a book, made with paper, from trees, is not lost on me). I’m so lucky as I get to spend lots of time in the forests – and now I have a new wonder and deep appreciation of each and every part of this complex ecosystem.
  • People are really important: I look at my circle which includes family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and I’ve discovered these people are my forest. These people are my trees. They are part of a system that supports each other. They are sturdy, resilient, providing shade when needed, providing strong foundation when needed and allowing me to walk my own path, standing vigilantly by but never getting in the way. They nourish and feed, they are life giving, they are integral to my well-being. Recently I was talking with a friend that I had not spoken with for a while and I started to say I was sorry for not being better at staying in touch and she said “Nope, let’s not do that. We’re connecting now and that’s perfect”. Sometimes our people are on the other side of the forest, but they are still there – solid.
  • Letting that sh*t go is important: Back in May I wrote about Wu Wei and the art of loosening our grip, a letting go so to speak. This year has been one of letting go. Letting go of things that no longer serve me like the teenage-angst-anger-is-my-middle-name diaries I found in a box I’ve been hauling around for over 30 years. It is a weight lifted, letting those hard-to-read diaries go, letting that anger and spite and ferociousness that I am no longer carrying go out into the abyss. Also, loosening my grip on my frustrations around more injuries that derailed my exercise and recreation program and learning to accept what’s working in the moment and that each day I work towards healing and getting stronger. Letting go of the constant nagging at myself about my weaknesses, my kryptonite. Letting that go allows me to focus more positive energy on my superpowers, my soul-igniters, the stuff in my wheelhouse, this sh*t that matters.

So here I am, at 50, with a lot of great life lessons already learned (thank goodness). And honestly, 10-fold more on the horizon. No matter what age you are at right now, I invite you to spend time as the days grow shorter and nights longer, to consider what you might have learned in this past year and approach next year with a sense of wonder of what you might discover next.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better. I do better.” –  Maya Angelou

The Foundation – Three Things I’ve Learned about Trust

According to the Oxford Dictionary trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth or strength etc. of a person or thing”. When teams struggle, very often there is a breakdown in trust. A breakdown in the reliability of each other, the confidence in each other.

When I was in high school, I had a social studies teacher that started off the year proclaiming to the entire class that everyone, at this very moment, has a “A” in this class. For someone who never really achieved high marks, I was pretty stoked to say the least. Until the teacher then went on to say that it was now my job to maintain that “A”.  He had given us the benefit of the doubt, he started off with trust and it was up to us to keep it.

What do you think? Is trust only earned and built over time, thereby we start off with little to no trust? Or can trust be given generously and then it is up to the involved parties to hold it vigilantly? It’s the chicken and egg debate. I believe there is no right or wrong answer here. Both work, both are right and in fact, most people likely find the middle point.

No matter if you are in an organization, a friendship, a relationship, or a community – trust is the foundation. Like a house, it has to be solid for anything to be built on it. When I work with teams, if I see there is little trust, that is my starting point for helping them.

While there are so many important elements to trust, here are three basic things I’ve learned about trust in all aspects of my life. I’m betting none of these are new to you, but hopefully a good reminder:

  • Be impeccable with your word – this is one of the Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz (read this book, it is so powerful and timeless). Speak with a positive intention. Don’t gossip. Hold people’s information with care – do not share people’s private information. One of the quickest ways to erode trust is to gossip, share information that is not yours and to speak unkindly of others. Additionally, it is okay to admit to mistakes – we are human after all and will all inevitably make mistakes along the way. I have a lot of admiration for people who stand up and say, “Yikes, I made that mistake and I am taking responsibility for it”.
  • Do what you said you would do – this one is simple, but quite often I’ve had my own experience of over-committing and then finding myself scrambling to finish what I promised. The trick here is to find the balance – the balance of committing to what you know you can follow through with and the balance of knowing when you might need to ask for help. A big part of this is consistency. Being consistent in your commitments and follow through is a key part of building trust.
  • Meet in the middle – while trust may be blindly given at the beginning, it takes work and effort to build on and maintain it – to maintain that proverbial “A”. It takes both or all parties to support trust. It cannot be one-sided and be truly trusting. I see this as a meeting in the middle – we are all committed to coming to the trust centre together. I can count on you. You can count on me.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. ~ Stephen Covey

Thirst for Change – Three Things I’ve Learned about Change

I named my business Thirst for Change Coaching. I tossed around a lot of other names but kept coming back to Thirst for Change. I have a broad offering of services from HR projects to training to coaching and all of these have a common denominator of change.

According to the dictionary definition, change is to make or become different; alter or modify and/or to have a new experience and coaching supports this for people. Individuals want coaching because they are keen to shift something – to take steps forward, to get un-stuck, to make a move towards their goals or dreams, to make some type of change.

Similarly, facilitating and training is all about providing people with information, tools, tips and methods to do something different, to modify their behavior or action. And at the heart of any HR project I tackle is the desire to make a positive change in the organization I’m working with.

It makes sense. Thirst for Change. It’s a call to action. It’s a challenge, perhaps. It is an expectation that something will change.

And change is a business in and of itself. There are fantastic models, books and certified change guru’s helping companies lead big organization-wide changes. I’m grateful for these step-by-step approaches as large-scale, company-wide changes can be immensely difficult and challenging.

I can’t verify who said this, but it makes sense: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. Yes! The three big things I’ve learned about change aren’t about process or steps, they are about mindset and attitude:

Early Adopter – change is hard, I get it. I’ve lagged far behind with change many times and it is a bunch of hard work to catch up. While there will be times you initiate change, let’s face it, change is going to happen to you, like it or not. If you can muscle up the gumption, I recommend getting on board early. Yes, you will be worried, yes frustrated, likely a bit afraid, and perhaps lacking all the information. My experience is that is all quite normal and do your best to ask yourself questions to help shift your mindset:

  • What are the opportunities, the possibilities with this change?
  • What is one thing (even something small) I can do right now to get involved, to understand, to support?
  • What do I have control over?

Say Goodbye – one of the best books I’ve read on transition during change is “Managing Transitions” by William Bridges. He says it is important to honour “the old” as part of being open to embrace the new. I’ve heard great stories of teams having ceremonies to send off the old system/equipment/process/building etc. Not only is this a great way to bring a team together, it is important to have closure, to say good-bye.

Resistance is Futile – it is normal to go through a cycle when transitioning through change. Pay attention to where you might be at during a change and use the questions in the first learning point under Early Adopter to help move through each phase. Here is what I’ve seen play out most often:

  • Starting with denial: nope, this is not happening!
  • Followed by resistance: oh, this is happening, I’m not sure I’m cool with this change. I’m afraid. I like the old way better.
  • Then exploratory: I’m curious, I want to learn more, but I’m still a bit guarded.
  • And finally, commitment: onboard captain, let’s sail this ship!

And, I’m human. Recently I was in line at my favorite restaurant, with a good friend, having a look a newly redesigned menu. I started complaining that some of my favorite items were no longer on the menu. I became somewhat flustered, actually a bit angry and did not know what to order – my go-to’s were no longer there. I made several comments on how crazy the new menu was. My friend leaned over and whispered to me “Isn’t your company called Thirst for Change”? We both burst out laughing – yes, of course it was and yes, I was struggling with the changes. It dawned on me how normal our initial resistance is with change – even if it is good – like the new menu item I finally ordered and enjoyed – it is now my new favorite!

“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear… It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.” – Marilyn Ferguson

The Wise Owl – Three Things I Learned from My Grandpa

In this second part of a two-part series, I share the life lessons my Grandpa taught me. In reflecting and writing about both my Mom and Grandpa, I am filled with sadness as I miss them each and every day. And I am filled with such deep gratitude for having known them and even more so for their wisdom and lessons.

In describing my Mom as a Mama Bear, I thought a lot about how to describe my Grandpa. Born in the late 1920’s, my Grandpa was a determined (some in my family would say stubborn), stoic, hard-working man. I’d even say a self-made man – he had a grade 9 education and still worked his way up into management roles with Parks Canada – something I’m not sure would be available to a high school drop-out nowadays.

Reflecting on my Grandpa, while some would likely use a bull or an ox to describe his hard-working, tenacious manner, I feel the owl best illustrates his impact on my own life. It’s been said that an owl symbolizes wisdom and even prophecy. The wisdom coming from life’s experiences, mis-steps and adventures. Again, like my Mom, the lessons weren’t through him telling me what to do or not to do, rather through his actions and how he showed up in this world.

Over the past few years, with the stark realization that time was running out, I was able to really stop and listen to my Grandpa – to hear his stories, his regrets, his achievements, his adventures. My husband and I would prop him up in our backyard, with a Bud Light, sitting in the shadow of our mountain range and listen. The stories he shared were like meandering walks on a deserted beach, slow strolls through a vast farm field or a rain forest boardwalk wander (fittingly of which he had a hand in building in Pacific Rim National Park). So here I am, today, sharing three things I learned from my Grandpa, a wise old owl.

Keep It Simple – I can see my Grandpa rubbing his head in frustration when drama ignited. He was not one for making a scene or for engaging in life’s dramas. It was like he knew the secret of a happy life was to “keep it simple”. Not like your head in the sand, rather a focus on what was important. He probably did not even do this consciously, but he would shut out the noise, the distractions and stay focused on the simple things. He and I would ride our bikes on the Galloping Goose trail and he’d often stop to look at a small flock of quail, newly born baby sheep, a viewpoint overlooking the ocean or on one special occasion, two beautiful owls watching us ride by. He cared about these seemingly little things. These simple pleasures of life. In his later years, a pint and bowl of clam chowder at his favorite pub made him happy. Sitting in our backyard, staring at the majestic mountains filled him up with joy. But it wasn’t just the simple things, it was his fundamental approach to life. Keeping life simple. When I’d ask for advice from him, his response was about not over-complicating things, sticking to the root of what I wanted, what was truly important (so aligned to the coaching work I do now). And Grandpa was never excessive – even with his bike of which he put thousands of kilometers on and rightfully deserved a shiny new part – he’d find a simple way to jerry-rig said part instead of buying new.

Grand Adventures – While my Grandpa did not travel all over the world, he loved adventures. He was adventurous, even a bit of a dumb-dumb daredevil. His one and only overseas adventure was a working sailing trip from Gibraltar to South America. The stories he told of swimming in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean were awe-inspiring, if not terrifying. In his 70’s he did numerous biking trips all over BC including a memorable 7-day jaunt we did together on the Kettle Valley Railway. When Grandpa was 88, my partner and I were married. Grandpa decided to make an adventure out of it and fly on a float plane to our wedding. He did this on two more occasions after the wedding – loving the experience of taking a float plane and traveling on his own. On his last trip to our home, he had bladder cancer, limited mobility and was thrilled when we took him to Joffre Lakes. Imagine this 90-year-old, with a walker, storming down an uneven, undulating trail to the first lake. He sat on the bench at the lake and was like “Wow”. It still brings me to tears thinking about this day, this moment – that we were able to take my Grandpa on a little adventure, despite all the obstacles. While I am quite a bit more cautious, I try hard to tap into my Grandpa’s sense of adventure and get out of my tight little comfort zone (some days easier said than done).

Give It Your All – I can use Grandpa’s work life to describe this as he was so deeply committed and such a hard worker, but quite frankly that is not what stood out to me in terms of his dedication and commitment. It was how he took care of my Grandma. When my Grandma was in her 60’s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I cannot remember all the timelines, but my memory is that she moved into advanced stages quite quickly. My Grandpa took care of her until he physically could not – around 10+ years. But not only did he take care of her (already heroic in my eyes), he made it amazing for her. He’d modify her wheelchair so they would go off road, over bumpy terrain, on grand adventures. He set up the van to ensure he could get her to the local pub – and work with the pub staff to ensure he could get her wheelchair in without issue. He’d figure out how to get her into a canoe and yep, take her canoeing. He committed to making this difficult and often terrible time a more bearable and perhaps even a happy time. He was completely dedicated to her care. When Grandma finally went to 24-7 care, Grandpa would ride his bike 30km’s one way, to see her – pretty much almost every single day. His dedication and commitment to my Grandma’s care has stuck with me so profoundly. While there is no way I could live up this same standard, I aspire to live my life with dedication and commitment to the people around me, to what I believe in, to the work I do.

My Grandpa was a few months shy of 91 when he passed away. One of the most amazing gifts he gave me in the end was the peace of mind in knowing he was ready. He had lived life full, fully, to its fullest. He was bruised, battered, used up, happy, content and at peace with the life he had lived. Wow. He had quite a ride!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather a skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”  ~ Hunter S. Thompson