Last Spring I took a vacation with my family in the desert of southern California. By mid-March, most of us living in the Pacific Northwest are at our wits' end with the grey, the cold, and the relentless rain. Migrating to where it's hot and sunny for a week felt a little like a pilgrimage: we took a journey into the desert, seeking rest and renewal.Read More
This morning before I sat down to write, I was feeling stressed out because I got off to a late start and don't have as much time to write as I normally do. "What will I write about in such little time?!," I wondered. "I have to get this done ASAP so I can make those website updates today!," I thought.
Then, a sweet little ping of inspiration hit me: I can have fun with this.Read More
I hear from a lot of people who feel tired, stifled, belittled, overwhelmed, and patronized at work. They feel disrespected in meetings, put down by their "teammates," or are just exhausted to their core. So many of us put up with jobs and organizations that diminish who we fundamentally are. We feel bad, heavy, or mixed up at work but tell ourselves that it's just because we're not tough enough to "hang." We become convinced that since we feel badly, something must be wrong with us.Read More
I recently held a webinar with a new software system that I wasn't totally comfortable with. It was time to start the webinar, and I could see that people were signed in, so I went ahead and switched it to "live" and started talking. I knew the chat function wasn't working, but I didn't know how to fix it, and while normally I like to get confirmation that people can see and hear me, I decided to just move ahead since we were recording.
So, I'm talking, sharing my slides, doing my thing...for about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, so like, almost half of the time I've set aside for this thing.Read More
A few nights ago, Chris and I watched a documentary called Prescription Thugs, which is essentially about the prescription opioid epidemic in the United States. I can't say I'd really recommend the film, but it got me thinking about a dark side of our boot strappin', problem-solving culture:
Many of us believe that pain is always bad.
Sometimes pain is a bad sign - it can be your body's indication that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Other times, however, pain is a good thing. Pain protects us by making sure we don't touch hot surfaces, run into sharp objects, or hurt ourselves in other ways.
Pain can also be a necessary gateway we have to pass through in order to get to the other side of something.
This has been on my mind a lot as I approach giving birth in just a couple of months. Well-meaning moms and doctors have often shared horror stories about the pain of childbirth, and there's a whole narrative swirling around that says "pain in childbirth is bad, so get rid of it."
The epidural and other pain-relieving medications have been lifesavers for many moms, and I believe every woman should be given the opportunity to give birth in whatever way she wants to - painlessly, painfully, or otherwise.
But the idea that pain is automatically bad is wrong - in childbirth and in personal growth, the pain is necessary in order to complete the cycle of bringing new life into the world.
Not knowing what to do with our gifts can be incredibly painful.
Sometimes the question feels so big that we just want to avoid it, hopping from misfit job to misfit job. But the denial that something is painful or the belief that it shouldn't be painful can actually make things worse. As the Zen master Alan Watts says:
"There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering."
Finding your way and giving birth to your gifts is excruciating sometimes, and that doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong.
The pain of not knowing can actually help us get to the knowing if we'll sit with it, stop pretending that it's not happening, and maybe even befriend it.
If there's a part of you that hurts because you feel like you've lost your way in life or your career, I'd encourage you to try something a little "out there" but incredibly effective:
Ask the pain what it needs.
Imagine the pain as a color or a shape inside of you - give it some texture and dimension. Approach it lovingly. Then ask: what do you need right now?
Maybe it just needs time to work itself out. Maybe it needs you to do that thing you're afraid to do. Maybe you won't get a straight answer right away, but keep paying attention to how it feels in your body. Notice it and try not to be afraid of its presence.
The pain you feel can be a gift - it indicates that there's something more for you out there.
If you can lovingly accept the pain of not knowing, you give yourself the space and self-compassion you need in order to find what you seek.
Not knowing what you want to do in your worklife can feel incredibly isolating, which is why it's so important to surround yourself with others who are positive and encouraging. The Facebook group I facilitate is one such community, and I invite you to join us.
Hi lovely readers, I wanted to let you know that I'll be taking some time away from writing between now and December 27th to do two things: 1) rest and enjoy the season, and 2) think about how to re-invigorate The Integrated Workplace.
It's hard to believe that I've been writing two blog posts per week for over a year now, and to be honest, I'm feeling a bit tired. I also wonder how you're feeling and am thinking about how I can tweak the format, rhythm, and flow in a way that re-energizes things for all of us.
So, I will most definitely be back, I'm just not sure in what exact form :) My guess is that I'll mix the writing up with content in other mediums, but stay tuned!
If you're feeling a little worn down in an area of your work, this is the perfect time of year to take some space from it so that you can see it in a new light. Once you give yourself permission to look at things anew and make them work for you, the gifts flow much more easily.
You *might* hear from me on the Winter Solstice if I'm feeling inspired, but otherwise, keep an eye out for a post from me on Tuesday, December 27th!
I'll still be active in our Facebook community, A Wild New Work, and you're welcome to join me there!
Take good care of yourselves in this dark time before the sun starts to return next week!
At the end of A Wild New Work, we do a closing ceremony where each person is asked to bring in a gift (real or symbolic) that they'd like to leave the group with. In our ceremony this past November, one of the participants very sweetly brought me an airplant, which is one of my favorite kinds of plants.
Airplants, formally known as Tillandsia, are native to South/Central America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. They're these adorable little things that can attach to other creatures (you'll see them growing on trees in the wild), but many of them don't require any soil.
Some of them will shoot roots, but they're unlike other plants in that they don't require an underground support system.
In my work, I talk a lot about how important it is to be grounded (rooted), because without being grounded, it's easy to lose a sense of who we are amidst the chaos of life. Rooting into what is meaningful for you, whether it's through a daily spiritual practice, going for a walk outside, or simply living in integrity, is essential for us humans to live well.
But sometimes we're so taken out of our elements, either by a crisis or a major change like moving or getting a new job, that it feels like we lose our rootedness for a minute.
This is the limbo stage we get put into when we enter into a new phase of our lives, and it can be really uncomfortable.
This topic feels very personal to me right now, as I'm about to enter into the completely unknown territory of motherhood. Maybe for you, the territory is a reconnection to your true identity, a new relationship, or an unfamiliar town that you've just moved to.
I think airplants have something to teach us about this place of limbo - this feeling like everything is unfamiliar, or like we can't make sense of things like we used to. Eventually we'll get rooted again (hopefully in a rich, healthy soil), but if we take a few cues from our airplant friends, it's possible to get through this in-between stage with grace.
The three most important things that airplants need in order to survive are light, water, and air. Let's take a look at how each of these can help us in these times of transition (bonus: this can be a mini airplant care tutorial if you need one!):
Airplants need to be no more than three feet away from a brightly-lit window. They love the light.
The light warms us, helps us see clearly, and bestows invisible vitamins on us without our having to do anything. It's a gift.
When we're in this place of feeling like we've lost our groundedness, we can seek the light. What is it in our lives that makes us feel warm? Can we get closer to it in this time? And how about seeing clearly? What can we do to have more clarity? Maybe it's journaling, asking ourselves if we really believe something to be true, or talking to a supportive person in our lives.
Sit in the light of what feels like truth to you and you'll get all the warmth, clarity, and nutritious vitamins that you need in this time. For me, this light has been the work of Byron Katie and her book Loving What Is, which I highly recommend.
Most airplants need a bath 1-3 times per week for about 20 minutes each time. This enables them to really soak up resources and stay hydrated.
When was the last time you felt totally submerged, in a good way?
Think back to a time when your cup felt really full or like you had a lot in your emotional/energetic tank. Can you feel that fullness in your body?
A few weeks ago, I scheduled a prenatal massage because when you're pregnant, your body has no idea what the fuck is happening and starts to decompose. Or at least that's what it can feel like. On my way to the massage that I was so looking forward to, it was raining, I had Lykke Li playing, and my heart was so full. I hadn't even gotten to the massage yet, but that simple act of showing up for myself and what my body needed made me feel submerged in goodness.
We all need to bathe regularly, and not just literally - we need to feel submerged into whatever it is that fills us up, whether it's a massage, lighting a candle, or getting outside. Just because we don't have roots in this time doesn't mean that we have to run on empty - just like airplants, we can still store up resources to draw from when we need them.
Once the airplants get their mini spa day, it's really important that they dry out completely within four hours. Putting them in a place that gets good air circulation is critical, or else they'll rot from the inside out (I've had this happen, and it's sad).
Fortunately, when we're in this place of limbo and newness, there's already lots of air circulating!
We're no longer in our stale, stuffy old patterns - we're breathing in novelty and change. The key is to incorporate plenty of light and water into your life so that all of the freshness around you doesn't start to feel completely overwhelming.
This sense of limbo won't last forever. Eventually, we'll begin to feel grounded again and things will start to feel familiar. Change is a wonderful thing most of the time, but it can cause some real discomfort when we're in the midst of it.
If you're in unfamiliar territory, don't panic: that sense of groundedness will be back soon.
In the meantime, focus on the light, water, and air that are always available to support you.
I'm due to have a baby in March of 2017, and I never knew (until being pregnant myself) how much pressure there is on new and expectant moms. There are about 1,000,000 things you're "supposed" to be doing before the baby arrives: take lots of supplements, eat more protein, stop drinking so much coffee, kegels, sleep more, buy things, choose a name...the list goes on and on. Oh, and on top of all that: relax! Stress hurts the baby, and you need to keep your blood pressure down.
It's a horrible, annoying spiral of "not enough" that's so easy to get sucked into.
On top of trying to be a good baby-grower, I'm running a business, which has had to shift and accommodate as I grow and approach giving birth.
I know 2016 has been a year of next-level stress and change for many of us, and we've seen that played out on a larger scale through global events.
It's not difficult these days to feel overwhelmed and like we're not doing enough. In fact, I think that's kind of the baseline for a lot of people, especially those of us who want to grow and develop into more awakened, loving professionals.
A not-so-helpful thing can happen when we're experiencing life stress: we add on the pressure to deal with that stress in a "better" way.
For example, not only did I feel the pressure to be a good pregnant woman, I found myself feeling bad about not managing that pressure in a more "enlightened" way. In an attempt to grow and develop, I'd listen to podcasts about how we need to separate from our egos more, or about how we need to manage our time more intentionally. I didn't listen to these podcasts because I really wanted to, I listened to them because I believed I wasn't handling things in "the right way."
I totally believe the things I heard on those podcasts, but berating myself for still having thoughts that made me feel anxious only compounded my sense of feeling overwhelmed.
If you're feeling the weight of a shifting world, a heavy load of responsibilities, and the pressure to constantly improve yourself, I want to share one thing you can do today to give yourself some breathing room:
Stop trying to be better.
Don't read another article about how you can change until it's because you want to. Don't get any more advice from anyone until you've taken some deep breaths and centered yourself again.
Let go of the pressure to be and do more.
Chances are, you're being and doing enough already.
I'm all for self-improvement and development, but sometimes I find myself turning the desire to grow into an obligation and another thing I'm not doing "correctly." But the thing is, we are all already growing. In the natural world, everything that is alive can't help but grow - even when it's on the path to death.
If we are part of the natural world, then we can't help but grow, either. Even in the midst of what feels like a burden we can't possibly carry or get through, we are growing. We're progressing in small ways every moment without even trying.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you're not handling it the way you should, please give yourself some grace and let go of the need to be better.
I know this is a hard lesson to learn - I'm learning it, too - but we have to stop hating ourselves and trust that we're evolving even when we don't feel very good.
So just be who you are today.
Do the best you can, and accept that it's enough.
When you're ready, you'll make the tweaks you need to in order to feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. Magically, those changes will be much easier to make when they come from you, not from external pressure to be better.
The week before A Wild New Work started, a lot of weird, gnarly, frustrating things happened. People from my past showed up, clients were having emergencies and cancelling, I broke out in a rash...I could go on. It was an abnormally difficult week, and it literally felt like someone had thrown poo into a fan and it was shooting out over every aspect of my life.
I believe in energy, which means that I believe our actions have consequences - often unintended ones. I don't believe all of the things coming up that week were "my fault," but I've noticed that interesting things always happen before I start a big, important thing in my life.
With A Wild New Work, I was staking a claim and starting a group workshop that I knew I had to do. That's powerful stuff, and I think it reverberated in good ways and uncomfortable ways - hence, shit + fan.
It's hard to be a grown-up when things keep coming up that just feel so frustrating, overwhelming, and uncontrollable. It's much easier to revert back to our childhood and wail on the floor about how unfair it all is, even though that doesn't help us in any way.
Something had my back that week, though, because I kept coming across books and articles by grown-ass people who showed me how to be like them amidst what felt like total chaos.
I tried their methods, and I'm happy to report that this was my most graceful handling of a horrible week so far.
So I want to share the five major tools that people like Glennon Doyle Melton, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Steven Pressfield taught me about how to be an enlightened adult when things get rough:
First, you need to accept what's happening. Things get much, much harder if you're fighting the fact that someone is throwing shit through the fan. They just are, and it's not always something you can turn off. So here you are, crying on the bathroom floor, or screaming at the person who cut you off on the freeway, and you just have to be there for a minute. No one deserves a happy, easy life all of the time, and you can get through this as long as you accept what's going on and intend to see it through with grace.
You get to decide how you respond to the things showing up in your life right now.
Second, you need to take care of your body. This will not get better if you're exhausted, hungry, or in a ton of pain because you haven't moved your body in 48 hours. Now is the time to take an extra 30 minutes to do a yoga video at home, drink lots of water, go for a walk, or get some fancy healthy food in your stomach. You'll be able to think and feel much more clearly.
Third, rally support. It's not helpful to go into a long, circuitous tirade about how unfair everything in life is, but it is helpful to ask for help from the people who love you. Tell them what's going on. Ask them to light a candle for you. Take a sick day and let your co-worker cover. Ask for what you need like a grown-up and, if it feels right, humbly accept the help that's offered.
Fourth, stay still. Don't make any sudden movements. No major decisions should be made in crisis mode unless a decision is what's needed to get you out of it. In my experience recently, there was nothing that needed to change that week, even though I wanted to overreact to the difficulties and completely switch up what I'm doing in life. But that wasn't the time, because those changes would have been reactive and made just because I was uncomfortable.
Stay still and get quiet. Watch what's happening, journal like hell, and hold your heart.
Finally, practice gratitude like it's nobody's business. Gratitude snaps you out of temper tantrum mode and gets you grounded again. You don't have to be grateful for everything, and it's really important that expressing gratitude feels authentic to you, even if it's hard at first. You can be grateful for your next breath, or the water you're drinking, or the fact that you have heat in your home. Find the things to be grateful for - they're there even when it feels like everything is falling apart.
Sometimes chaos enters our life to show us what really matters again. It's uncomfortable and wildly inconvenient, but we always have the ability to choose how we will respond to its presence.
People who have their shit together inside when the world around them is in upheaval are the ones who will learn, adapt, and transform through the chaos.
We can all be those grown-ass people if we stay grounded, healthy, accepting of support, still, and grateful.
I was driving home from the grocery store yesterday, and I was stopped a few cars down from a red light. On the righthand corner ahead of me, there was a man who looked to be in his 30s with a cardboard sign that read "We are people too." I liked that, and wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment. And while he wasn't openly asking for money, his sign and where he was standing implied that that's what he was requesting from those of us driving by.
A few seconds later, the light changed to green, and everyone started rolling forward. As I drove by, I noticed he had folded the sign in half so that it read something else:
"Go fuck yourself."
When I read that, the first thing I felt was surprise.
And then relief.
It was striking. While I'm sure that's what a lot of people asking for money on the streets want to say after they've been ignored, yelled at, or demeaned, I've never actually seen a sign with that written on it.
It was refreshing to see someone in real life - someone who was socially and physically vulnerable, no less - say exactly how he felt. "Go fuck yourself."
How often do you hear or speak the truth at work? How often does a message come in loud and clear from someone's mouth? Coming from the world of Human Resources, I've seen my fair share of spin in the workplace.
"We don't want to justify paying you more" becomes "Our research shows that this is the appropriate salary range for someone in your position."
"We have no intention of continuing your contract after three months" becomes "We'd like to see how you do in the role and then talk about the possibility of having you come on permanently."
"We have no idea where we're headed and everyone on the leadership team hates each other" becomes "We're excited about the future and are working hard to find strategic paths forward."
Imagine a workplace that's been taken over by huge spiders weaving webs of total befuddlement and confusion. Everyone's walking around with sticky webs all over their bodies, leaving them tangled, heavy, and nearly blind.
Some people have been around the spinning of the webs for so long that they can hardly recognize the truth anymore - in themselves or in others.
Many of us have our polite, outward-facing selves - the parts of us that hold the sign that gently says "We are people too." While it's appropriate to keep good boundaries at work and keep some part of ourselves private, too many of us are walking around as victims and accomplices of the befuddlement spiders.
Have you ever shown someone the side of your sign that says "Go fuck yourself"? What keeps you from turning it over?
And the truth doesn't have to be angry like that - what keeps you from speaking other truths, like "I love you" or "I'm afraid" or "I don't believe that's fair"?
For most of us, it's fear and shame. But your truth can cut right through all of that, and it can also cut through the webs of confusion and mistrust that are so prevalent in many organizations today.
The day before I saw the man on the street with that sign, I used a tea bag that had a little message on it. It said "Truth is everlasting."
The truth isn't going anywhere, and it will come up again and again until we can't ignore it. Better to let it in with open arms than to continue being wrapped up in the webs that keep us trapped and confused.
What is true? What do you say to yourself before you make it nice and palatable for others?
What's on the back of your sign, and will you ever show it to us?