A few years back Kumi, a woman facing and living with cancer, came to one of our Come Alives. She was inspiring because it was clear she intended to live fully! She’s the one who shared one of my favorite quotes, “Live Life Full Out!”
I really like the intent of living life full out because it’s not saying live happily or lovingly or fearless. Not that any of those options are bad – just somewhat idealistic for me.
I do have many happy moments. I have actually become someone who does a good job of smelling the roses. Meaning, I get great pleasure from visiting the dog park, watching a herd of horses, reading a good book, or just having a great cup of coffee (best on the porch but inside still provides the joy factor!)
I am also someone who lives through my loving. Now, my definition of loving isn’t always about being sweet and nice. My form of loving is being honest and true, which sometimes creates discomfort.
Also, my face doesn’t make my loving all that obvious. An earlier post Being a Grumpy-Faced Leader talks more about my face. Not that a smiling face as anything really to do with the depth of one’s loving, but I do sometimes wish my wasn’t quite so intense.
Fearless, me? Well, no. Most of the things I love to do the most, bring up fear! I just feel the fear and do the best I can with it!
But that’s why Living Full Out – makes so much sense. Living full out includes the fear, the pain, the anger, the joy! Kumi knew that and so do I!
I have added my own lines regarding how to:
Connect with curiosity
My tag lines or how to’s came from my years at The Haven. It was at The Haven that I first discovered the power in curiosity. Since then I have used my curiosity over and over again to help me connect to people who think and live differently than me. I have come to believe it really is the secret sauce in any relationship.
Living wholeheartedly – well my heart can hold a lot – cracks and all. To me, the wholeheartedly means embracing the cracks, the sorrow, hurt, and anger that is a part of living and loving. The human heart is much like a lava rock – it can withstand tremendous heat!
I am writing about this today because sometimes living life full out isn’t easy. Since returning from leading the Living Alive Phase I have been struggling to find my Montana rhythm. But riding through the melancholy is just as important as riding the big waves of joy, especially if I want to live full out. Got to love the dark spots too!
Just wrapped up our in-person day with the ESG (Education Steering Group) at The Haven. Was a very productive day as usual.
As is often the case, we spent a good portion of our time looking at programs and educational direction. However, one piece that came up and I am really excited about working on going forward, is emphasizing putting action foreground in The Haven models.
So what do I mean?
Well we spend lots of time focusing on program content and what happens at the Haven. We got to talking this time about how could we start talking as much about what happens next! Meaning how do people take action with their learning and experiences at Haven.
Haven really isn’t just a center for personal development. It’s a center for self-responsible relational living and that has a lot more to do with how people live their learning than just how they get it!!
I know for myself. I love coming to The Haven and taking a program or connecting with friends. But really what I love and value most about The Haven is how I have transformed my life, my relationships and my world outside of The Haven as a result of engaging in the programs and living that learning when I left!!!
For me, I changed my relationship to my cancer and my relationship to the medical model. As my health changed, I focused on building relationships that were based in open, honest dialogue. This has lead me to leadership at The Haven but also out in the world with my work and life partner CrisMarie through thrive!
I transformed my relationship to my family, where for years we did not speak, Now we have deep connections based on who we each are as people. All of this came from learning about self-responsible relational living and taking action!!
Sometimes in a program, I may not talk enough about what comes next. I know I do usually mention my favorite motto: It’s not what you do – but what you do next. For me that motto is immediate and intentional in regards to taking whatever I learn into what I do next!
When people ask me, what does the Haven offer. I often answer with information about the programs and that may be the intent in the question.
But really what Haven offers is so much more than the program.
Haven offered me a choice in how to live my life and face whatever came my way by responding – not just reacting. Now I don’t always do that! But I do get I have a choice! Sure I still make a choice to react, to blame, to self-hate …. the list goes on. However what The Haven offered me was the opportunity to fully own my choices and basically with that comes freedom.
My relationship to myself and to the world around me becomes something else entirely when I really get the meaning of that!!
Indeed the programs at The Haven are amazing but what is really even more amazing is what the people who have come through the Haven have done next! I do believe those stories are worth sharing. Those stories are about how Haven is changing the world.
Tell me – how did you take action with what you learned at The Haven! What did you do next!! How have you changed the world through self-responsible relational living!
I started this post, sitting in an Alaska boardroom about to head back to Whitefish. Before this, I had a fly-by visit in Seattle to celebrate my sister Penny’s 60th birthday!
Penny’s official birthday was November 19, and there were a variety of celebrations that started on that day and continued through the Thanksgiving holiday. When I visited at the end of the week, I was told it was the culmination of the celebration and was going to include all I love about her family, the Reids.
Yes, there was going to be a party, and at some point the singing of the traditional birthday songs! But even more importantly, this evening marked the release of Penny’s first book, Bridging. Both Clarke and Carolina, my amazing niece and nephew, would be there too. Clarke planned to play music with a couple members of his current band, and Carolina was driving from Portland with my Mom. Rob, my brother-in-law, ensured me that the party would include awesome food. Plus, I had a bed to sleep in! Perfect!
Reflecting back, I have no regrets making the journey, even if I did miss Melissa, my other sister, who had made the trip for the official birthday date, and CrisMarie was just not able to fly over for just a 24-hour visit. (Someone had to take care of Rosie, right!)
Now sitting in the boardroom, I had an opportunity to read my sister’s book,Bridging; a book about one woman’s, my sister, journey to bridge two very different cultures while also dealing with a much more universal journey of living and dying. The book is touching, human and a great read.
It can be a bit of a scary proposition when a family member writes a book and you get one of the copies. Sure you want to be supportive, but what if you don’t like it! Plus, I opened the book while the Seahawks were playing on the big screen. I was not confident I would successfully stay focused.
But soon into the read, I was more deeply engaged in my sister’s journey than in the Seattle Seahawks!
It’s not that I haven’t known that my sister was a strong writer. She is. I have read various shorter pieces authored by her and know that she has a strong literary style. She has also been a strong supporter of my writing process. But I believed our writing was very different. She is much more poetic and literate in her style.
But as I dove into Bridging, I was engaged by the humble and real storyline of Penny’s efforts to become fluent in Spanish and emerge herself in a lifestyle so different than her own.
I loved reading the book. I read most of it on the plane and finished it the next day.
I enjoyed the team effort reflected in her decision to intersperse pieces written by others who were either family, friends or travelers like herself. I loved that the writing, mostly English with Spanish words and phrases weaved in, was able to reflect her own developing language ability. Toward the very end, there was much more Spanish. And yet even someone like myself was able to understand while also acquiring a taste of what it had been like for her.
I even enjoyed her references to religion, hope and faith even though I am on a much different path than her. I found myself connected and appreciative of the importance her faith and spiritual community is to her. I liked that she spoke about the challenge she faces as someone who works in education and values the importance of separating church and state.
But what was most surprising was what I interpreted as our deeply shared passion to not stay restricted and limited by our own story or narrative. It is so to easy live a lifetime thinking our story is the only story.
Her version of expanding her story was truly multi-cultural. It was literally about traveling beyond the border of America, listening to and appreciating the culture of others who have a completely different language, history and socio-economic experience. My focus is much closer to home. Yet, as I lived in the pages, I was touched by the similar deep desire to find a way to bridge beyond our differences.
I was also moved by the storyline that was not quite as obvious – her dealing with death and dying. I loved how the book weaved in my father’s process of dying, which for her had been such a profound journey. Then she closed with having to let go of Roxy, the family dog. Though Roxy did not have the same long-term storyline or heavy impact on her own making, Roxy clearly had a huge impact on Penny’s heart. Both connections for Penny, so profound, yet so different.
In the end, the weekend and the book, reminded me that our differences are both our greatest challenge AND our greatest opportunity.
CrisMarie introduced me to a book, The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) by Dr. Elaine Aron. Though I am not generally fond of labels, as I listened and learned, a great deal of the information fit CrisMarie and my experience of her. I, on the other hand, do not think that I am a highly sensitive person.
No, I think I am more of a highly reactive person. Is there a book for that? There probably is.
Over the years, I have worked very hard to take responsibility for my reactivity. Early on I was determined to rid myself of it. I don’t want to say that effort was pointless, but it was somewhat heartless. Yes, I taught myself some self-management techniques, but I was making myself wrong more than helping myself. That approach isn’t sustainable over time.
There are so many books out there about how to be different, how to change and become better: more authentic, more productive, more alive, happier, healthier – better! Some of those books have great ideas. However, I do tire of hearing about how I need to change to become someone other than I am.
To tell you the truth, I am not so sure change is really possible.
For me, over time I have developed some self-compassion and discovered that my reactivity developed for a good reason and did serve me early in my life, and it even has some valuable information for me. In other words, my reactivity was not really my biggest problem.
No – it seems the biggest issue for me, and frankly, I think for most of us trying to live and thrive as humans, is finding acceptance and compassion for ourselves, whether highly sensitive, highly reactive, or any other label out there.
I have shifted the amount of time I spend stuck in high reactivity or making myself wrong through self-hate. Though let me be clear, I am still someone who can catapult myself into a spin of “compare and despair,” or flare when I interpret someone is acting without regard to their impact on others. However, I am much quicker to notice, to pause, and to acknowledge what is happening.
More recently, having just completed a program called Access to Now, with Sherrie Toews from Effortless Momentum, I have put into practice some simple, practical, and elegant tools, that help me re-balance when I hit a bump in my fast paced world.
Many of the situations I am in as a leader, coach, and facilitator demand that I shift out of my reactivity or self-hate quickly and get back in the moment. Once I am out of the immediate demand of the situation I can decide to go back and review something that happened and may even allow some more in-depth emotional processing, but I like that with the Access To Now tools I have a choice rather than just getting stuck.
Bottom-line, this human experience isn’t about becoming someone different. It’s about discovering ways to embrace, accept, and value who you truly are! When that happens choice becomes possible! With choice there is freedom!
If you are interested in learning more about Access to Now, Sherrie is starting her next program October 26, 2015. I highly recommend it, but more importantly, I recommend accepting yourself!
We launched the first Living It! September 11th, with a weekend in person at The Haven, with online sessions to follow! It’s been a year or more in the making. The initial plan, to launch a nine-month blended onsite and online Living Alive Phase I, did not make it out of the gates. However, we listened and tweaked the plans and came up with Living It!, a much shorter format, designed to give people a taste of a blended program.
I have to admit I expected a different collection of folks than the ones who arrived in the circle on the evening of the 11th. I was anticipating people who were adept and comfortable online or on computer. Not the case. In our opening circle it was clear some were newbies to the land of the internet and others spoke right up about their lack of confidence in the online part of the program.
Wow! Right at the outset we were confronted with a few challenges and some resistance to a core portion of the program!
However, living it was not called loving it – and I guess for a good reason!
We could have been discouraged or bagged the design. But no – instead we decided to make the most of just what was happening.
Truth is, I appreciated the honesty and I guess I’d be the first to admit living it for me has always had some significant elements of resistance, fear and reactivity!
So, instead of waiting for the online dates to start we built the online learning into our weekend!
What we discovered was the creativity that comes from diving into conflict, resistance and the potential of people choosing in, instead of opting out!
I loved how our computer literate members stepped up and partnered with those who were uncertain or new to Skype. Frankly, the lessons offered were way more patient and relational than I would provided if I had tried to get everyone up to speed myself.
I also loved that the people resistant or new, jumped in, even with fear and doubts. I found each courageous and developing computer chops much faster than I ever did!
One of our evening groups was done via Skype and the evening was filled with laughter, failure and a coming together (literally –six folks cuddled very closely together so they could be seen by others on the Skype screen, with Toby and I running between other rooms trying to invite, accept and add everyone to the party!). Yes, it was quite rich!
We also took full advantage of the circle and our time together in person to revisit and refresh some of the core models and bring them to life with breath and energy! I loved the commitment and willingness that folks had in stepping forward and sharing, listening and relating!
We weren’t certain how Living It! was going to go. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a set format. However, I am thrilled to be a part of the pioneer program and enjoying all those folks along for the ride!
If nothing else we all know now that indeed you can be personal, relate, laugh and learn online AND in person!
Indeed we are Living It! Thanks guys for making it happen and making it real!
When I was young I would spend my summers at camp, which had a wonderful arts and crafts program. Almost every day I would spend time working on a summer craft project. I loved the feeling of working with wood. I started spoons, forks, a lamp, a duck, a fish, board games – I had such high hopes. Alas, I believe almost all of my projects ended up in a box of in-completes, like the misfit toys. I’d start with gusto, but at some point the wood would crack, something would look more promising to start, or I’d simply tire of the struggle and give up.
My memory is that box in corner stayed throughout my many years at camp and was labeled – Susie’s Unfinished Projects!
It’s possible I have dramatized and over-personalized that box of unfinished projects, but I do know that I was one of the primary contributors.
Over the years the memory of that unfinished crafts box, and my success in filling it, has indeed haunted me. See, I am just not that great at finishing. I am all about the excitement and possibility of starting and the joy of learning, but I can be a bit weak on crossing the finish line.
So today I am celebrating a completion! A solid start to finish effort on my part!
At the start of the year I was wrestling with my father’s dying process and all the unfinished business I had with some of the pieces and history of my life.
Over the years, I have done a lot of work in reclaiming my life and have shifted from focusing on the past drama, to now becoming a healthy, thriving person, charting my own destiny.
Still I knew things were resurfacing from the past, during the last few months of my father’s life and I wanted to see if I was ready to integrate these pieces and feel complete.
I decided to embark on a coaching/counseling project with a highly recommended therapist in my area.
I’ve got to say, I had some fears of explicitly revisiting the past. I did wonder if I was opening some crazy can of worms that I might wish I had left unfinished. But I also wanted to discover if I had the resources to stir up the past and in the process resolve some of the reactivity I knew was a big part of my current charm. Okay. I call it charm, but I know some of you reading might have other words for my reactivity!
Well today I sat with my therapist after eight months of consistent work on a series of events from my life that have haunted me, and as we talked, I realized I was complete. We talked about my intentions in starting the project and I realized I had done what I came to do.
I also had just come home from leading a Come Alive at The Haven in which I had stayed in touch with my joy, curiosity, and love of the work and the people in the room. I hadn’t gotten impatient, reactive, nor found myself hooked in an old story. Was everything perfect – of course not – but life isn’t about perfect.
Earlier today I also finished and published I written piece I am most proud of: How Surfacing Conflict Saved My Life. For me it was a powerful experience of telling my story and not getting stuck or caught in how it would be received.
So today I walked out of my therapist’s office feeling complete.
As I drove home I remembered that incomplete crafts box and all those unfinished projects. I thought about other in-completes in my life, like my book or relationships that no longer serve me. Things that I have started, but have not been clean, clear, or successful in crossing the finish line.
Today, I felt differently.
I am grateful for the journey and for my therapist’s reflection to me that my work with her is complete.
So today I am celebrating! It’s like taking a few of those incomplete projects out of the art box, finishing them, and placing placing them on the mantel, recognizing indeed they are done and are works of art – as is my life!
It was a bucket list experience for me. Yes, doing a TEDx talk was one piece of that, but being able to be on the stage with my life and work partner, CrisMarie, and sharing my own transformational experience from my first Come Alive at the Haven was the bucket list part.
When I arrived at the the Haven in 1984, I was dying. When I left, I was awake and alive! Of course, the journey really wasn’t a five day transformation. Yes, the tumors were gone, but that didn’t mean I had a clue how to keep living it!! What I did know was that something else was possible, and I wanted more of that!
I had an experience that woke me up to the possibility of living beyond my limiting story and circumstances. In other words, I was embracing the possibility of self-responsible relational living! Now, that was, and is, a practice, and frankly, a spiritual one well worth pursuing!
That concept of embracing self responsibility was not easy. I still have a quick twitch tendency to blame – either myself, others, God, or the universe. That blame is an easy escape route from being connected to the world around me. When I am unwilling to respond, I stay trapped in my reaction, or in a right/wrong place, and as a result, my world is isolated and quite small.
For me, the key was curiosity! Getting out of that right/wrong trap is still a practice I have to embrace daily, however, now, it’s exciting and very enlivening!
The relational part took even longer to fully embrace and is big reason I was so thrilled to do our TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! together. When you watch it you will see how relational it is. We start out personally. We make mistakes, sing a song, and a flub the very last line. It is funny and poignant. At least, we hope that is your experience in watching it.
To me, it was definitely real and relational. It is that relational piece which has made the lessons of Haven spiritual and sustaining.
Today, CrisMarie and I at thrive! inc., work with leaders and teams. I am thrilled to be taking self-responsible relational living to self-responsible relational leadership!
I love that the roots of who we are in the world are grounded in that transformational experience I had years ago in a Come Alive. I also love that in many ways the concept is simple. Live and lead with vulnerability and curiosity – embrace our differences and use conflict to change/connect the world!
For me that is what Come Alive offers – a wake up call to action. A chance to change my world through surfacing conflict and using it as an energy source for transformation, creativity and innovation.
That is also the essence of becoming a self-responsible relational leader!
If you are stuck or frustrated in your life, I suggest taking a Come Alive! Try on self-responsible relational living! Come join us for our Come Alive starting August 30, 2015. (Next dates March 6-11, 2016)
And it if you are a leader, frustrated by your team’s results, give thrive! inc. a call and consider embracing self-responsible relational leadership!
Rosie has been with us for five months now. She’s 7 months old, meaning she as spent more of her life with us than with anyone else. We are her pack, and she is our family.
It is easy to say I love her. She is so cute. She is smart. She is Sooooo PLAYFUL.
What’s not to love?
Well, let’s just say, we, meaning Rosie and me, have our moments.
My arms, bruised and scratched, bare proof of her desire to find a four-legged playmate and settling on me instead.
For all you alpha dog disciplinarians out there, don’t assume I am just too soft. While there is some truth to that, I started reading Caesar on day one. I signed up for a variety of trainings, including personal leadership and dog obedience ones. Lately, I have had a clear intention to not encourage wrestling with Rosie.
Rosie has a slightly different opinion.
My latest strategy is taking a water bottle with me when we go out in the yard to exercise/play. It seems to be the best plan so far. Either I am more confident, or Rosie is simply clear that anyone with a water bottle is an alpha! It could be because Carol from Lucky Dog Day Camp, is an awesome alpha pack leader who carries a water bottle and isn’t afraid to use it!
I am encouraged with Rosie’s new found respect for me. It’s not too hard to stay positive with a puppy like Rosie. There’s more joy and laughter than “ouch!”
Since beginning to write this post while out on the deck with Rosie, I have gotten up twice to ensure that that “quiet, contented silence” is Rosie resting or playing quietly with her own toys rather than getting into mischief.
She has visited me with a tennis ball to try to encourage me to play. She has also dropped an old toy at my feet, that Sooke must have hidden, when the tennis ball was not effective!
I love having her around. Even though some things like those non-working garden lamps have all been ripped up, chewed up, and spread around the yard, and the plastic deck chairs include some new bite marks, having Rosie around, as our dog, is worth it.
Mostly, I see potential in both of us, to get through puppy-hood and develop a great long-lasting relationship!
We just participated in our first TEDx talk, right here in Whitefish! It was an amazing experience. In many ways a perfect topic for addressing the importance of integrating power and strength.
As a speaker it’s my job to make my great idea work within the time frame of eighteen minutes. Taking an idea and making it crisp, and clear in 18 minutes is tough enough. Add to that the complexity of there being two of us, sharing this big idea, and I think you can see the challenge.
Our big idea: Conflict is an Energy Source for Innovation, Creativity and Transformation.
Use it! Don’t Diffuse it!
Be Vulnerable and Curious to Transform Conflict into Creativity in an Instant.
Power is all about dominating and controlling the external environment
Strength is about coming more from within
Both power and strength are choices we have for handling anxiety and our innate sense of helpless. We usually have a favorite or a familiar choice. Our work, as we become adults and more fully embrace our lives, is to value both and move between power and strength with flexibility as appropriate.
Preparing and delivering a TEDx Talk is a great way to test that integration process.
Getting our idea clear and concise in many ways involved a healthy use of power. (To be completely honest, we were a touch unhealthy at times. We are a couple!) The message needed to be tight and not one that implied uncertainty. We went through many stages of writing, rewriting, delivering, and redelivering, getting feedback, and incorporating that feedback. (Okay crying and screaming as well!)
We practiced our timing. We practiced in our outfits. We practiced with our slides. We did the talk super fast and then very conversationally.
This was all about taking our deeply personal, passionate message and framing it into a Powerful package.
The day of the dress rehearsal we delivered a very tight TEDx Talk well within the time limit.
Our speaker coach had this to say, “You guys have great material, but you are talking at us about vulnerability and curiosity and you need to actually be vulnerable and curious!”
Yes, the feedback did sting a bit! Yet, it was so right on!
We had done some great work to control and package the message. I believe that was invaluable. However, to step on the stage and deliver that message, we needed to come from within – the strength side – to connect and show that vulnerability!
So what did we do? We went home and practiced some more. Why? Because I think we both knew that if we really, absolutely knew our lines, we could let them go and embody the lines on the stage. Meaning, choosing power can and does support, strength.
On the stage live, we delivered. We connected. We made mistakes, and we recovered. We were vulnerable and curious.
For me, it was a wonderful experience of integrating Power and Strength.
I can so easily get upset with CrisMarie when she wants me to script or overly practice a model or a speech. It can seem so non-organic and impersonal. Yet, I get it. One way is not right or wrong – good or bad.
It’s all about the choice, and knowing when it’s best to power over (dominate that script) and when to trust my strength (take the stage and breathe some life into our message, and be real).
This is true on stage. It’s true in business. It’s true at home.
Don’t make the usual mistake of getting fixated on one side or the other – dance and integrate the best of both in your life.
A year ago when I started my journey in Equus Coaching, I found myself totally terrified about my decision to say, “yes”, to the nudge towards Koelle Simpson’s, Equus Coaching program.
Today I am traveling home after my year end review for certification.
I had a wonderful weekend. I did some things I never thought I would feel comfortable doing.
Frankly, most of my angst and fear comes up catching horses and moving them between the pasture and the round pen. Sure enough, I got lots of opportunity to work on that! Yes, Scotty (whom some of my co-coaching folks will remember) had me circling for quite a while before I finely settled myself into the fact that no one else was coming to help me get him to and through that gate! I had to take a deep breath and take the lead. His follow pasture mates were no help as they simply persisted to hang out at the gate until I gave them a clear message to back it up!
I had a round pen session with a horse, Snowman, who simply wasn’t in the mood to demonstrate a walk, trot or gallop around the pen. No, he pretty much just stood there. Yet, he gave me a wonderful chance to keep coming back to myself and my intention; stay present in myself and my own sense of ‘good enough’.
The coaching was the joyful part of the review. Sure I can always get better AND I had one session that for me was magic, very fulfilling (not only that but we laughed a lot, tears are not the only way to get profound and deep work done!).
Finally, yesterday as we each waited for our turn for feedback, I used the time to practice haltering horses for anyone wanting to practice in the round pen. I also, got a chance or two to dance with a horse and get some great coaching. (thanks Tj)
Did I get certified? No, I have work to do. Did I ‘pass’. Yes!
I honestly wasn’t sure if I would continue if I didn’t come this time. Whenever I get back home from the incredible experiences at the ranch, I seem to drown in my lack of self-confidence. So I came, not to get certified but to get valuable feedback. I did and I stayed open and curious about all the input that came my way!
The best feedback came from the horses. They let me know I have come a long way and gave me lots of good input about ways to continue to grow and build my confidence!
This time returning home, I’d like to think I’ll do things differently.
However, for now, I simply want to celebrate my success.
I feel full and very grateful. Thank you to all who took this journey with me! Especially the horses, who continue to sing and I continue to listen!