Why Our Work Has to Change

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantA lot of what I've been doing lately has been centered around this concept of "a wild new work." I think that term is appealing to folks because it sounds alive. And hopeful. Many people are hungry for work to be different - for it to be nourishing and adventurous instead of a source of depletion or fear. For others, it's easy to throw off this concept as frivolous, or optional - as if only privileged freelancers or white collar workers have the right to dream of something better.

From where I sit, this concept is not optional.

To work in a way that is life-giving is part of the next phase of our human evolution, if we choose to be brave and allow it to unfold. If you believe that the way we treat people in most organizations has no impact on how we treat the earth or the beings we share it with, then I'm sorry, but you are mistaken.

What does it do to a person to go to a stale office building every day to do meaningless work under the hum of fluorescent lights? How does monotony and micro-management change us over time?

According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, we are deeply shaped by the work that we do and the environments in which we do that work. (Check out his 10-minute TED Talk for more on this).

What does that mean for you? When you look around you at your work, does it strike you as an environment that you want to become?

For some of you, I think the immediate reaction would be "No!"

Some of the most troubling aspects of the way many of us work now are:

  • The systemic squashing of our own internal truth and integrity (e.g., our obsession with "experts," "objectivity," and productivity above all else)
  • The rampant disconnection: from the earth, from animals, from those we love, and, therefore, from our own humanity

photo-1461709444300-a6217cec3dffWhen we work in places where those things are true, we experience sickness, whether it's physical, mental, or spiritual.

In these environments, we forget who we are, which makes it easy for us to become desensitized to things like the systematic harm done to people of color or the literal pillaging of the earth (#nodapl). We fill our bank accounts or get to tell others about our fancy job, but meanwhile, something is closing off inside of us. As Viktor Frankl wrote, "Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for."

Because of what it does to us and our communities over time, the tightness and misalignment that's felt in so many workplaces by so many people is a serious issue. The tightness and misalignment you feel is a serious issue.

Things have to change.

The work we dedicate so much of our lives to should make us - and the world around us - healthier. And there are people who are making that a reality today. Tami Simon, founder of a company called Sounds True, shares her vision of how business can be different:

We have this idea about business--everything we do has to help us make more money, be more productive or whatever. But that's not my view of business. My view of business is that we are coming together as a community to fill a human need and actualize our lives.

I believe her vision is possible and have seen it happen for myself and others - including people working within organizations. There are always things you can do to nurture your spirit and your humanity, even in the midst of a mechanical workplace. If you feel interested in learning new ways to work and support yourself, I've got three ideas:

megan leatherman a wild new workYou can join our Facebook group, A Wild New Work, where we share resources and discuss issues coming up for working people.

You could register for the free webinar I'm offering tomorrow, September 14th at 10:00am. (If it's after September 14th and you're itching to view the recording, let me know).

If you're a working woman in Portland, you could check out the four-week group I'm offering starting October 29th, where we will get very real about all of this and shake things up in our worklives.

If any of those ideas resonate with you, I hope you'll take a step forward.

Your relationship to work, how you're treated in your worklife, and how you treat yourself in your worklife are so important, and I hope that, no matter what, you at least give yourself permission to want what's best for you and your gifts.

How to Say "No, thank you."

  megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantYou know those lessons you have to learn again and again in life? One of my recurring lessons is about how to graciously but firmly say "No" to things that make me feel heavy, uncomfortable, or unsure of myself.

Since I've had to revisit this issue many times and am in yet another cycle of learning it, albeit at a deeper level, I thought I'd share a quick 'n dirty cheat sheet on how to authentically and clearly say "No." Or, if it pleases you, "No, thank you."

Step 1: Take every opportunity you can to get clearer and clearer about what does and doesn't work for you in life. Notice what feels easy and what feels like a total slog. Notice what feels good and what doesn't feel good.

Step 2: When confronted with a choice, feel it out. When you think about saying "yes," how does your body feel? Are you tense? Are you clenching your jaw? When you think about saying "no," do you feel free and calm? Your body is a compass - use it.

Step 3: If steps one and two have made clear to you that you need to say "no," then you would be well-advised to say it. Say "No." or "No!!!" or "No, thank you." or "Thanks, but no." Say it in whatever way fits for you, but say it clearly and succinctly - even if it's just in your head at first. Start getting comfortable with acknowledging and accepting your "no" response and, when it's time, say it out loud.

Step 4: Stop yourself from going on and on about why you have to say "no." Here's an example of what not to do: "Hi Harry, thank you so much for your offer to give me this opportunity. Unfortunately, I have to water my plants this weekend, and we're having visitors in town, and I have a medical appointment, and I don't have the bandwidth, and....."

Instead, you can just say "Hi Harry, thanks for considering me! This isn't something I can take on right now, but I hope you'll keep me in mind for the future. Best of luck."

Now, I know people don't like it when we just say "no," and depending on your relationship with someone, you may want to give some reasoning behind your "no." But do it from a place of self-respect and personal power, not a need to please and justify your every decision.

Step 5: Move on to "yes." Don't wallow in did-I-do-the-wrong-thing-by-saying-no-land. Dive into something you really want to say "yes" to instead of spending energy on analyzing what you just did. Try to trust that you drew the boundaries you needed to.

Those are the steps that have worked for me, and I hope you'll call them to mind if you're ever feeling stuck between choices or pushed into something that doesn't fit for you.

In today's world, with its massive amounts of information, activities, obligations, and demands, I think many of us need to say "no" more often than we're comfortable with.

Fortunately, with some practice and a lot of courage, it can be a quick, easy, and graceful action instead of one mired in doubt, guilt, and fear.


If you're in Portland and are feeling the need to say "no" to some toxic work dynamics, I hope you'll consider joining me for a class on June 27th!

May Day: Our Worklives and Sacred Passions

subject12_mayday_42 In many Celtic traditions, May 1st was known as "Beltane," a holiday to mark the return of the sun and the beginning of summer. Today, many of us know it as "May Day," and while it's not widely celebrated in the United States, I think it has important lessons for those of us seeking a more energized and natural way of working.

On May Day, we celebrate the abundance of Spring and the tide of life rising up within us again.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you may have experienced a long, wet, and dark winter - literally, and maybe figuratively, too.

As we transition into a new season, the whole world is coming back to life around us. If you have felt giddy as you see trees blossom, enjoy having a couple of hours of daylight after work, or are already imagining the camping you'll do this summer, then you're right in line with the energy of the season. On May Day, we're reminded that growth, creativity, and beauty are all possible when we honor what makes us feel alive.

The return to life that's happening all around us doesn't stop outside our office doors - if we let it, it will permeate our organizations and infuse them with some much-needed growth and energy.

The best way to allow this May Day joy to bubble up in your worklife or your organization is to simply honor your passions as sacred.

Passion, defined as a "powerful or compelling feeling," can be a scary thing. Many of us were taught that passions and desires were dangerous, probably because they can compel us to violate social norms that tell us to stay in jobs we hate, relationships that are dying, or follow the rules that tell us to stay small and quiet.

In many organizations today, passion is sterilized into "employee engagement," "culture," or "career development." When someone shows up passionate about a new initiative, project, or solution to a problem, we often say "thanks, but here are all of the reasons why that won't work."

When we - as individuals and organizations - deny what's coming to life within and around us, we dishonor what makes us human. It's as if we stomp on the flowers that are blooming in our yards or cut off all of the buds growing on trees that line our streets just because they scare us. When we do that, we end up living in a barren, colorless world in which nothing vibrant blooms.

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If you feel the joyful, abundant energy of Spring around you and are tired of existing in a professional wasteland, then I've got some ideas for you.

They're all about honoring what it is that makes you feel alive, just as a flower accepts the sunlight, water, and soil that it needs in order to bloom.

Here are four ways that you can start stoking the May Day flame in your worklife and organization:

First, respond to small desires. Do you feel like getting a popsicle with that cute colleague? Do it. Wanna stare out the window for five minutes? Let yourself. Need an afternoon off to go kayaking? Leave. Now.

Your desires are sacred, and too often, we shut them up and push on toward a life that is lifeless. You don't have to quit your job or cash out your 401(k) yet unless you're ready to - you can simply begin to honor your small desires and the flame within you will grow. It's there, I promise, even if you can't feel any passion at all right now. Let your senses lead you back to what you love and simply honor the small things that make you feel good.

Second, envision yourself living passionately. Passion doesn't have to be this big, grandiose thing that consumes you. Most of the time, it's a still, small spark that just compels you to create, connect, and expand. If you feel passionately about something but don't feel ready to acknowledge, talk about, or make it a reality in your life, that's totally okay. You can simply honor that passion by taking time each day to imagine yourself living a life that you love. Give yourself permission to create a little opening for those passions each day, even if you have no idea how they'll come into reality. You can include your organization in this exercise as well and imagine the entire place alive with creative passion, energy, and connection.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThird, plan for joy this summer. I don't know about you, but at the end of almost every summer, I find myself regretting the fact that I didn't go camping more. Even though life transforms in the summer months without trying, if I don't somewhat plan for what I want to experience, I miss out on experiences that I know would make me feel joyful.

So this May Day, plan a couple of things that make you (and maybe your coworkers, too) feel joyful in the height of summer. Maybe it's planning a barbecue for friends, a trip to the beach, or a day off to go float on the river. Simply set aside time to do what makes you feel good and connected to the world around you. If you're a leader in an organization, plan some fun for everyone else, too, or better yet, adopt the New England tradition of closing early on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day!

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFinally, play more. May Day is a celebration of play, fun, and letting go of the things that make us feel inhibited. Anytime we dance, sing, play a sport, or engage in a creative activity, we're playing, and it lights up all sorts of goodness in our brains. Humans play in order to learn, connect to others, and be renewed, and we need more of it in our organizations. For your next team meeting, try doing something playful just for the sake of having fun. If your team isn't used to letting loose in the office, start small and simply include more play in your worklife to model it for others.

I hope you'll let the joy and energy of May Day enrich your worklife and your organization today. Your passions and desires are sacred, and if you let them, they will guide you to live a bigger, more bountiful life that transforms your career and your organization.

In closing, I want to share a quote from Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map:

Through our wanting, we come to know more of ourselves, each other, and life.

Desire is at the root of our divine impulse to evolve.

Desire leads the way home.


Know anyone who could use some May Day passion in their worklife? Pass this along to them!

Free Cheat Sheet: How to Gracefully Choose Between Work and Life

In a longer post that I shared a couple of weeks ago, I outlined some ways by which you can more gracefully, and authentically, choose between work and personal demands. Since most of us don't feel up to reading a 1,500-word blog post when it comes to decision time, I developed a quick cheat sheet that you can download for free! The next time you're faced with a tough choice between work and all of the other things you care about, I hope you'll consult this colorful guide!

To download your own copy, click here.

how to gracefully choose between work and life megan leatherman

How to Gracefully Choose Between Work and Life

**This post is in response to a reader's request. If you have ideas for things you'd like to know more about, let me know! megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI write a lot about work life integration - the idea that there's no real separation between "work" and "life," so we're better off finding ways to integrate the two instead of trying to balance them.

The tenets of work life integration get a little murkier you have a seemingly black and white decision to make about where you will be and how you'll spend your time. Will you stay at the office another hour, or get to your kid's soccer game on time? Will you finish that blog post or get coffee with a friend you haven't seen in a while?

Our attention, physical presence, and time are finite resources. We cannot be everything, everywhere, to everyone. Sometimes we have to choose.

Most people choose this way:

They're faced with a conflict: let's say it's family dinner v. happy hour with colleagues. Panic ensues. They try to weigh all of the factors in their head in a split-second (Who will be more upset if I don't show up, my spouse or my boss? What did I do last time? How can I get out of one or the other?). They make a haphazard decision to go out for drinks, aren't sure it's the right one, and then spend their time with colleagues feeling guilty about not being at home.

I've totally made my decisions this way in the past, and it doesn't feel good. But there's a better way - one that gracefully honors who you are and what's important to you.

In four simple (but not always easy) steps, I'll outline how I choose between competing priorities in my life in case it's helpful to you, too:

First, I set intentions about the way I want to live.

Being caught in the "work v. life" crossfire is exponentially harder when you aren't clear about your own priorities. This will go much more smoothly if you essentially make the decision ahead of time. If you know that out of the four major domains of your life (more about that here), self-care and your community project are at the top, then it's easier to tell your boss "no" when she asks if you're available to come into the office over the weekend.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantSo that's step number one: get clear about what's most important to you right now.

Second, I create structures that will support those intentions.

For example, I used to prioritize networking and email management above my own quiet working time, which resulted in me being burnt out and not able to produce very high-quality content. That way of living went against my intention to reflect deeply on the way we relate to work.

Now, every morning, there are walls of titanium around me as I read, write, and design classes about how we relate to work. It's not always easy to keep that time sacrosanct, but it is so important. I realize I'm fortunate to be able to work alone, but even as a solo-preneur, I have demands and distractions coming at me all the time. I mean, it's not like I've got a boss who would notice if I just watched Game of Thrones all day. If we're going to live the lives we want, we have to set intentions and then reinforce them with structure.

For me, that structure usually looks like: a) blocking off my calendar, b) turning my phone on "Do Not Disturb," and c) never, ever opening email until my top priorities for the day are met.

Third, I enforce my boundaries.

Intentions and structure are the foundational elements of choosing gracefully, but they're not enough - at some point, we have to draw boundaries and say "no." This is usually where the breakdown happens. We've got our intentions set, our calendars blocked off, our email closed, and then...someone comes into our office. Or we really want to stay up watching t.v. for another hour. Or we're convinced that it's okay if we just schedule one teensy meeting during our quiet working time.

We have to be disciplined with our boundaries. We have to lovingly say "no" to that person who came into the office, or to the part of us that just wants to watch t.v., or to that person who really wants to meet with us.

We have to enforce our boundaries for others in a loving but assertive way. 

There's a big difference between cowering in your boss's office asking if it might, umm, be okay if, uh, you took next Friday off and saying with confidence, "I need to help my mom move out of her house next Friday - what do you need from me in order to make that happen?"

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWhen we stand in our truth and lovingly assert our needs, it makes our boundaries clear to others, which is actually very helpful to them and to us.

People may not like your boundaries at first, but they will get used to them. Let me say that again: they will get used to them. They will adjust. You will be living a life that feels authentic to you, and they might kick and scream at first, but then they'll respect you and may even find the strength within themselves to enforce their own boundaries.

When you're clear about your intentions, have built helpful structures around them, and know your non-negotiable boundaries, communicating them to others is way, way easier. If you need help knowing how to communicate your boundaries to others with grace, here's a quick little formula based on the principles of Non-Violent Communication:

  1. Observation (example: I can sense you're upset that I won't be at that meeting, but...)
  2. Feeling (...I feel excited about where this project is heading, and...)
  3. Need (I need to stay focused on it for the rest of today if I'm going to meet my deadline.)
  4. Request (Would you be willing to share your notes with me afterward?)

No demands, pointed fingers, or screaming, just assertive and compassionate boundary-enforcement.

Finally, when I have to make a difficult choice between work and life, I heap on the self-compassion.

This stuff is hard, especially for those of us who naturally prioritize external demands over our own internal needs. Oftentimes, I'll feel some guilt after making a tough choice, and that's when I have to remember to communicate compassionately to myself as well. Instead of allowing the onslaught of guilt and shame to rush through my thoughts, I think back to my intentions, take a deep breath, and accept that I'm doing the best I can with the time and resources I've got.

In case it's helpful, I'll walk you through an example from start to finish so you can see these four steps play out:

Intention: You want to feel more connected to others around you, so you intend to strengthen your ties to your community.

Structure: In order to do this, you sign up for your local neighborhood council and block off your calendar after 4:00 one Thursday a month to make sure you get there on time for the 5:00 meeting.

Boundaries: When someone at work puts a meeting on your calendar for 4:30 on the Thursday before your council meeting, alarm bells go off. Now you have to make a choice. You remember your intentions and muster up the strength to enforce your boundaries. You take a few deep breaths and assume your colleague just didn't check your calendar when she scheduled the meeting. You to go her office and calmly say "I appreciate you making sure we had time to chat about Project X (observation + feeling), but I have a neighborhood council meeting that day and have to leave at 4:00 (need). Would you mind rescheduling it? (request)"

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantSelf-compassion: Then, as you walk back to your office, you let yourself feel good, and authentic, and aligned. You let any feelings of guilt or shame move on through, out of your system.

So there they are: the four steps I take to gracefully choose between competing demands. It's a lifelong work in progress, but I've found that this gets much, much easier with practice.

No matter what choices you make, they are graceful when they're in alignment with who you are and what matters to you. We all benefit when you're living out your truth and lovingly asserting your boundaries.


Know someone who needs some help choosing gracefully? Pass this post on!

Tonight!: Harmonious Living for the Modern Professional

Hello! It's not too late to sign up for the online class tonight, March 15th, at 5:30pm PST. If you've been feeling overwhelmed with work and life demands and need some extra support, I hope you'll sign up for this event! The class will be recorded, so no worries if you can't make it live this evening. Below is a quick video I recorded for folks who are on the fence and want to learn more!

To sign up, you can head over to www.meganleatherman.com/workshops, select March 15th as the date, and fill in your information. I hope to see you there!

https://youtu.be/pLKK3eRIuEI

Integrating Work and Life: It's a Process

pexels-photo-tired-man There I was, on the couch with a heating pad over my shoulder again, zoning out in front of the TV with a blistering headache. If you came to my house and found me in this position - sinking into the couch, glass of red wine close at hand, pajamas, heating pad, and a ghostlike look in my eyes - it would be because I had pushed myself over the edge at work again. When I end up being that lady in the evenings, I'm reminded that this whole "learning to work in a healthier way" thing is a process.

Many us are slow to change, and layers and layers of old habits make it feel impossible at times.

That's why small, daily steps to keep yourself headed in the right direction are so important.

I'd venture to guess that most of you reading this would like to change the way that you work. You'd probably like to feel more energized throughout your day, more balanced, and more attuned to what's going on around you.

pexels-photo-woman-backpack

Changing the way we work from "Herculean effort that feels horrible" to "focused, integrated approach that is sustainable" is possible - totally possible. It's also a process, and those of us in the industrialized West tend to expect big, instant results without having to put in much effort. "One McLifeChange with fries, please."

Instead of waiting for a silver bullet that's going to turn your worklife into the creative, prosperous, rejuvenating experience you'd like it to be, you can start by changing the way you approach familiar problems today.

What are some common issues that come up in your workday, and how can you approach them with a fresh set of eyes?

What one small thing can you do to feel more integrated and balanced at work today?

I've got some ideas to get you started in case they're helpful:

Problem: Total email addiction and inability to focus for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Small tweak today: You could close your email  (I know, I know - this would have felt impossible to me a few years ago, too) for 30 minutes while you focus deeply on something you're working on. Bonus: according to research cited by Jennifer Ackerman, you will literally feel like you're gaining time by doing this. As she puts it, "when you're engaged in one thing, time expands. When you're dual-tasking, it contracts..." Magic, people.

Problem: You spend almost your entire day in meetings and have no time to actually work on anything unless you push it to this evening or later this weekend. Small tweak today: Find out how much one of your meetings is costing the company using Harvard Business Review's Meeting Cost Calculator and use that information to justify cleaning up your schedule. Most meetings are useless anyway.

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Problem: You answer customer calls all day and hate it. Small tweak: Go off-script. Be more human and ditch the pressure to sound like an automaton. Your customers will appreciate it, and you'll expend less energy by simply letting yourself be authentic. If you can be genuine and have more energy to serve your customers well, I bet your manager will be less adamant that you stick to the script.

Problem: You make decisions all day and are so overwhelmed that you're worried you aren't making the right decisions. Small tweaks today: First, you could just admit that you have no idea and ask for the help you need. Second, you could try to limit your decision-making time to your "peak" hours (usually 2.5 - 4 hours after waking) when your brain is better able to focus on analysis and data without distraction. Third, you could remind yourself that there's very rarely one right answer to any problem and trust your intuition to guide you.

Problem: You hardly ever have any fun at work. Small tweak today: You can [almost] always have fun, so this one's pretty easy if you're willing to play along. Maybe instead of writing out a note to Sally to let her know that Jim called for her, you draw a photo and see if she can guess what it means. Maybe you make up a new dance move in the bathroom stall before your next meeting. Maybe you just start smiling more and work backward. I don't know! Just start shaking things up in whatever way you can.

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Our beliefs about work - that it's a daily grind, not a dance, or that it's supposed to be hard all the time - are deeply ingrained in our brains, and changing them won't happen overnight.

But today you can start small and simply approach an old problem in one new way. 

When new neurons start to fire as you encounter old problems, your brain's chemistry will begin to change and expand to new ways of seeing, being, and doing. You are learning to work in a more integrated, healthier way, and that takes time and practice.

As long as we commit to work life integration on a small daily basis, we'll get the results we're looking for: no more comatose Friday nights or emotional breakdowns on Sunday afternoons, just sustainable, harmonious worklives with healthy ebb and flow.


If you're interested in learning more about how you can integrate work and life, I invite you to sign up for an online class I'm offering this month! You can learn more and enroll by clicking this link.

 

 

A Beginner's Guide to Energy Drains and Fillers

apple-desk-office-technology You know you're not a computer, right?

I'm sure you know that you can't just plug in somewhere or get a new set of batteries when you start to feel tired. I'm sure you know that rationally, but many of us live as though we are machines - machines that can get by on empty calories, caffeine, and the drive to just...keep...going.

The American Catholic theologian, poet, author and activist Thomas Merton wrote:

"To allow ourselves to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism...destroys the fruitfulness of our own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful [emphasis added]."

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Many of us have allowed ourselves to be carried away by frenzied activity and disregard our own energy levels throughout the day. If you envision your energy reserves like a gas tank, chances are that you hover near a quarter of a tank to empty most of your working days - many of us do.

Living a life that is integrated and healthy doesn't mean that you're just doing what's easy all of the time.

People who seem to "have it together" and who live authentically aren't avoiding difficulties at all costs, they've simply figured out how to balance their energy reserves. They prioritize the things that fill them up so that they can better deal with the things that empty them back out. There's an ebb and flow to their lives that is natural and primitive and beautiful.

We all know, deep down, how to care for ourselves; it's in our nature to live in rhythm and balance, but our modern ways of being have cut many of us off from our own inner knowing. Peter Levine writes, "No matter how highly evolved humans become in terms of our abilities to reason, feel, plan, build, synthesize, analyze, experience, and create, there is no substitute for the subtle, instinctual healing forces we share with our primitive past."

One of those instinctual healing forces is knowing how to recharge after we expend energy - whether it's physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual energy. The way I've come to understand this concept is through energy drains and fillers.

In the past year, I've started to pay attention to the things in my life that zap me of energy (drains) and the things that re-invigorate me (fillers).

This is such a pivotal thing for us to know about ourselves, but many of us aren't really aware of what drains or fills us on a daily basis, which makes it very easy to constantly run on "empty." Apart from the basic things our bodies need to re-charge, such as sleep, nutritious food, and a sense of safety, we each have our own sets of drains and fillers, and it's imperative that we understand what those are.

I'll give you some examples from my own life. Things that I know drain my energy: administrative work, managing emails, public speaking (love it, but yowza, does it wipe me out), and social media (thanks to my fast this month, I have one less thing sapping my energy).

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Things that I know fill my tank back up: coffee dates with good friends, hiking or nature walks, meditating each morning, and being absorbed by a good book.

The things that drain your energy are not necessarily bad things; like I said above, I enjoy presenting to groups, but I know that afterward I'll need to do something to recharge.

The things that drain your energy and refuel you are unique to you.

For example, if you're highly extroverted but are in a job that forces you to enter data into spreadsheets alone all day, you probably leave the office feeling really drained. Maybe you grew up around women who knit and find that hobby extremely rejuvenating. The point isn't to find the "right" fillers, it's simply to understand what does it for you.

When you're able to understand what fills you up and what drains you, then you can begin to live in a way that supports your natural energetic rhythms.

When you're aligned with your natural rhythms, you're much more able to care for yourself when the waters of life get choppy. In her book, Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky writes, "The more deeply we can connect with ourselves, the more likely we are to find what we need to do our work joyfully and well, even in the face of significant hardship and obstacles."

Do yourself a favor and connect to what fills you up today. When was the last time you felt like your energy tank was at "Full"? When do you feel revitalized? What are the things in your life that feel like a total slog? Begin to pay attention to the ways that you try to balance your energy - how are they working for you?

flock-of-birds-350290_640We do not have to live our lives hovering at "Empty."

We can have days, and lives, that are balanced between energy expenditure and regeneration, we just have to choose to prioritize our own sense of balance over our addiction to productivity.

We have to value learning how to be instead of succumbing to the violence of constantly doing.

As I prepared to write this post, the beautiful and famous poem by Mary Oliver, Wild Geese, came to mind. I want to share that with you in closing (if you'd like to hear Mary Oliver read this work, click here):

"You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things."


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Shadowlands: Fasting from social media

Work life integration: taking a break from social mediaIn Plato's Allegory of the Cave, prisoners are lined up facing a wall lit by a fire behind them. They're chained in and cannot turn around to see the fire or the puppets that cast shadows upon the wall that they're looking at. Having no knowledge of the fire or the puppets, they assume that these shadows are reality. They're unable to see the intricacies of the actual puppets themselves, only the representations of them along the wall. John O'Donohue compares Plato's allegory to our modern reality and writes, "Television and the computer world are great empty shadowlands." Lately, my life has felt too shadow-y for my liking. Many of my days are spent in front of a screen of some sort, "constantly looking at empty and false images; these impoverished images are filling up the inner world of the heart" (O'Donohue). I find myself paradoxically craving screen-time and hating it. My relationship to technology, and social media sites in particular, has become gnarly, burdensome, and empty. If I had to choose a relationship status to sum things up, it would be "It's Complicated."

Work life integration: taking a break from social mediaI'm sure I don't need to tell you how much time the average American spends online or in front of the television for you to know that it's a lot.

And this post isn't meant to convey the idea that technology is all bad, because it isn't. The ability for us to connect with others across time and space is a straight-up miracle, but like anything, it can be both dark and light.

My life last week was full and crazy and demanding, and I really struggled with staying integrated and balanced. I didn't sleep enough, I gobbled down food at my desk, I never took breaks, and I ended the week feeling like you would expect: completely obliterated. This certainly wasn't just due to the fact that I was on social media or watching television sometimes, but it forced me to get real about how I want to spend my finite time and energy.

Before deciding last week to take a break from social media, I tried a mentor's suggestion to simply change the way that I orient to it - to think of it as a tool that I get to choose to use. I gave that my best effort, but I'm so deep in the muck and mire of my "online presence" (gross) that I can't even see clearly enough to change my orientation to it.

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All I know is that I want more time to read books, write powerful blog posts, and prepare deeply for sessions with my coaching clients. I also know that while I love connecting with readers and loved ones online, I usually log off feeling disconnected and insecure about who I am or what I'm doing.

Almost every religious or spiritual tradition in the world embraces fasting in some form or another. Typically, this has been to fast from food and drink (except water) during times of stress or intense prayer, but it has also been used by our ancestors as a way to reset our body and its relationship to food. By choosing to step away from something for a while, you're able to see it clearly again. When you fast from something, it becomes renewed in some way so that it's different when you re-engage with it.

So this month, I'm trying out a new way of living and working: I'm going to fast from social media, professionally and personally, for 30 days.

Easy breezy, right? Well, except for the fact that I'm a) probably addicted to it, and b) have been told numerous times not to do it because it will be the death of my business. But heck, it's 2016, and I feel ready to try something new. This month, I'm going to trust that I won't evaporate when I turn off my accounts. I'm going to have faith that if I put out content that is powerful and helpful, that you will want to tell your friends about it. I'm going to use the time that I spent on social media to read, write, and deepen my understanding of how to live and work in a way that is truly more integrated.

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What do you need to temporarily fast from?

Which part of your life could use some renewed perspective? If you're part of the Christian tradition, you may be partaking in Lent soon, which starts on February 10th this year. Even if you're not observing Lent, I'm sure there are things in your life that feel heavy or burdensome and that need to be "reset." When we step far enough away from the things in our lives that are weighing us down, we can begin to understand them again.

I'll leave you with another beautiful quote from John O'Donohue:

"To look at something that can gaze back at you, or that has a reserve and depth, can heal your eyes and deepen your sense of vision."


We can definitely still stay in touch without social media! You can always reach me at megan@integrated-consulting.org or (gasp!) call me at 971-279-6755. To get these posts sent straight to your inbox,  just enter your email address into the little black box on this page.

5 Ways to Give Yourself a Jumpstart

jumper-cables-926308_640 This weekend, I was getting together with some girlfriends and one of them was late because her car battery died and she had to wait until someone could give her a jump. I realized later that this is totally what I've needed in the post-holiday fog: a jumpstart! I needed to hook copper clamps on my body and shock the life back into me (okay, not really, but you get where I'm going).

This metaphor got me thinking about healthy ways to give ourselves jumpstarts when we've got too much mellow energy in our systems. I write a lot on this blog about needing to find time for rest and prioritizing self-care, and I stick by all of that, but sometimes we've had enough rest, and we need something to light the fire in our bellies again.

This isn't about cracking the whip over yourself or your employees. This isn't about ways to do more for the sake of doing more. This post is about healthy ways to signal to your brain and your soul that you're ready for some fire, some flow, some movement.

You see, we need the fire in our lives. An integrated life includes the soft, healing, feminine energy of water, or yin, as it's called in Chinese medicine, but an integrated life also includes the masculine, action-oriented yang energy. Personally, I usually have to focus on cultivating more yin energy in my life, and I think that's probably true for most of us living in the United States. Since the holidays, however, I've been all about the yin, and I'm ready to lovingly - without using the word "should" - get down to work.

So here are five ways to jumpstart your day, your job search, your project, or whatever it is that needs some energy pumped into it:

First, know how to motivate yourself. Gretchen Rubin has written about something she calls the Four Tendencies framework, which posits that there are four types of people in the world: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. In her own words, here is how they break down:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

To learn more about this helpful framework and take a short quiz to see which type you might be most like, you can click here. The point is this: jumpstarting change is going to look different for each of us. I'm an Obliger for the most part, so I'll say yes to other people all day and then get overwhelmed because I didn't make time for my own internal commitments. I know that if I want to make changes in my life, I know I need to externalize them, because I struggle to do it on my own. Think about which tendency you line up with and how real change happens for you.

Second, try tapping. When someone first told me about tapping, I thought it was ridiculous, and it's okay if you do, too. I get that tapping spots on your body to decrease stress and increase functioning probably wouldn't fly in a conference room. But just hear me out, because this sh*t works. Tapping different acupoints on our bodies essentially signals to our body that we're safe, it moves the fear and anxiety we're holding onto, and it promotes the growth of new neural pathways. It surpasses the thinking mind and helps create change that talk therapy or new year's resolutions simply can't do.

To try it, start with this video. The technique featured in the video, called "tapping cortices," is really powerful, and I do it almost daily. Sometimes we forget that our bodies are pulsing with electricity, and what this technique does is simply help that electricity flow in the right direction(s). You'll probably feel weird and crazy at first, but just try it! I know it will help get you the jumpstart you need.

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Third, change up your environment. I just set up a new home office, and yowza, I felt so excited to get to work! We have to signal to our brains that we're ready to get moving, and if nothing around us has changed for a long time, it can be hard to do that. So clean out your desk, organize some shelves, or work at a coffee shop instead. Just do something to switch up your surroundings.

Fourth, set an intention. Intend to get moving. Intend to do work with passion, energy, and commitment, even if you feel completely bored and listless right now. Set an intention and keep it in mind by representing it physically somehow. You could simply light a candle or write "I intend to jumpstart" on a Post-It that you stick above your computer.

Finally, you can get help. If you're an Obliger or Upholder, it would probably be really useful to get some outside help to jumpstart your worklife again. You can get help from loved ones, a therapist if you feel like you need some mental health support, or from a career coach like me. Sometimes bringing in a new resource can really infuse us with good, healthy, active energy.

Whatever you do, just start. Start moving, stretching, or intending. Start somewhere - even if it's just imagining the little battery inside of you getting a jumpstart.


Know someone who needs a jump today? Pass this along to them!

P.s.: I have a little surprise coming to readers on January 19th...stay tuned!