What does it mean to have grace and grit? Let’s dig in…
Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking about this very topic to a room of eighty women at Babes Who Brunch, a monthly event put on by The Ace Class. Check them out, they’re amazing.
We got real fast. I asked attendees to close their eyes and raise their hand if they “are exhausted” and once again if they “are lonely”. It wasn’t surprising to me that close to 50 per cent of the room raised their hands for exhaustion (this aligns with recent metrics), but what did move me was that 1/3 felt lonely.
If you’ve read Dare to Lead, you’ll know where I got these questions from. They come from Commander Dede Halfhill, who asked the same question to a group of her direct reports after reading about a research study linking exhaustion with loneliness. She was shocked when 1/4 of her reports said they were lonely; something she wasn’t ready to tackle, but realized she had to better support her people. She now shares this story with all levels of folks inside and outside the military; as you can imagine, her listeners immediately connect to what she’s saying, quickly shaking off the initial surprise that military men would admit to being lonely.
Over the course of my talk yesterday, I dove into the following themes:
- We need to start using language, at home and work, that connects to the human experience in a real way. Using “lonely” vs. “disconnected” elicits a visceral reaction in us. Why? Because we have felt lonely at some point in our life and we will again. Language is powerful and we need to start using it differently to better connect with our tribe, but also ourselves.
- I didn’t get a change to dig into this one, but I want everyone to start giving themselves the permission to use real, emotionally-charged language with themselves. I want you to be able to tell yourself, “I’m sad” or “I’m angry” or “I’m joyful”. When you start connecting and acknowledging your emotional self, which is innately human, you start to connect with who you are. You understand what moves you; shakes and scares you; what makes you yearn for change.
- Move into discomfort. One brave attendee asked what to do when the pain is too much. My answer was simple (sort of): you need to be kind to yourself in the process. You need to find the right tools (and sometimes professional people) and give yourself the time and kindness to move into and sit with discomfort. It takes so much time. Patience is paramount. It is hard work, but it’s good work.
- If we want to stave off loneliness and build authentic connections with those that matter most (which requires vulnerability), we must connect to ourselves first.
How does this all tie into cultivating grace and grit?
I believe, based on my interpretation of the literature and experience in the workplace and life, that in order to get grittier, you need to know thyself (oh, you bet I used that phrase). This entails sitting in discomfort and hearing the inner monologue and all its ugliness (and beauty). This may require the support of friends and professionals, but it is work that is paramount in order to figure out what you’re actually interested in, where and how you derive purpose.
And once you better understand your passion, after much testing and exploration, you will be more willing to engage in the deliberate, un-ending practice to build out your passion into something bigger than you thought possible. It is passion and perseverance that make us gritty; and you will persevere when you have something to strive for. I have coined this the Personal Manifesto, but you can call it anything you like: your mission statement, life’s essence, macro goal, etc. ‘
Yet, once you have a true handle on what the heck it is you’re about, I believe that in order to have any hope of living it, of bringing your core essence into this world and taking action, you must uncover and cultivate your grace. You must acknowledge the fundamental truth that you are not your thoughts; that much of what you tell yourself is from baggage or trauma that doesn’t serve you anymore. It’s deep and dirty and dark and horrible, but you need to see it and shed light on it. Only then, and I know this sounds very trite, can you lessen its power.
You cannot solider on and live your Personal Manifesto if you aren’t well. You can’t. You can’t be kind to everyone else and not yourself. You cannot go out and change the world, in your own way, if we don’t have a firm grasp on your awesomeness (and your dark, for the dark will take hold if you let it).
After yesterday’s talk, my social media feed had a moderate blow-up. Moderate because I’m still a peon (and I’m OK with that), but big in impact.
Attendees were sharing small pieces of their story with close friends and extended followers, because they wanted to do something a little different, to be vulnerable and real, because too often we are our contrived selves on social media (myself included). And it seems that people are listening and ready for more. People are hungry for realness and authenticity because like many who attended yesterday, they are lonely.
Real change requires courage. The courage to bring your whole heart to all facets of life. Being vulnerable has served me well, but I know it is fraught with challenges. I acknowledge that sharing the dark isn’t always received well. I recommend that those you share with are those who have earned your trust. You do not need to share for the sake of sharing. Be kind to your aching heart.
The powerful response from yesterday’s attendees has inspired me to do a series on the gritty and the grace-full.
- I want you to tell me about a gritty and / or grace-full person in your life. They can be one or the other or both.
- What makes them so?
- How does their essence speak and connect to you?
- Send me a picture (if the person will allow) and answer the questions above.
- Email me at email@example.com or connect with me on Instagram (@liveitactiveyyc).
- I will share on social media and my blog.
Together, we can start using the language that connects us to our core humanity. And together, we can allow ourselves to bring our whole heart to work, to school, to home and to the community, to allow our inner gritty and grace-full badasses to show up.
Past Blog Posts
Blog: The Rejuvenation Retreat, Bragg Creek
Tuning into our divine feminine, exploring the reverberations of our ancestry, accepting v. proving our worth, and moving into a place of discomfort to encourage growth are only a few of the profound themes that emerged from the Rejuvenation Retreat: Cultivating Grace & Grit in Bragg Creek. Read on to learn more about this beautiful journey…
As the facilitator, I experience a different flow of the day. I am worried about the room and outdoor temperature, the strength of the tea, the comfort of each participant, and the timing of each activity. At the end, it’s hard to fully appreciate and know, in a deep way, whether you’ve had an impact…whether you’ve helped others to start their journey of change (the shedding of the proverbial snake skin, as our spiritual guide, Susan O’Shea talked about). I’ll come back to this…
The day opened with an energizing and uplifting Buti yoga session. If you haven’t experienced Buti yoga, find a class. Rachel Cadrin, local Buti instructor in Calgary, helped participants to open themselves to a new form of movement, allowing many to tune into their inner child (something we all must do more often). Starting the day with Buti was intentional: I wanted to move people into a place of discomfort; to have them move their bodies and minds in a new way; to set the stage for the “work” we were about to dig into.
Cultivating grace and grit isn’t easy. Our work began exploring self-compassion and worth: participants were asked to explore how they feel about themselves; whether they believe themselves to be worthy of love, peace, happiness and rest. This was hard. This was painful and raw. But without this, without discomfort, we will not move from wherever we currently are. It was and will remain an undeniable part of the process.
Lunch, a delicious vegan veggie bowl and incredible granola bar, nourished participants, readying them for the cold. After bundling up, local medicine woman and spiritual guide, Susan O’Shea, led us to her Peace Park where we performed a smudge ceremony, opened the medicine wheel, danced around the fire and burned what isn’t serving us, and finally, released a flower into the Elbow River representing our intention for change.
To capture, in written word, the emotional journey that occurred in the brief moment we had with Susan is impossible. As one participant shared, Susan has an inner beauty that emanates from her, completely distinct from her physical beauty. She opened participants to a new way of letting go and processing emotion; something outside of the physical realm; something many of us shy away from (myself included).
Back at the Heart of Bragg Creek, we came together to discuss grit: what it means, how it is cultivated, and how to begin the process of writing our personal manifesto. Time, oh marvellous time, we needed so much more to allow for more conversation and exploration of this deep subject matter. To ensure the journey continues, I gave participants homework (to continue to use their personalized workbook) that I will be following up on in three short weeks (I didn’t say this would be easy!).
We closed the day with the incredible Tamie Murphy who led us through Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep. An almost dream-like experience, we tuned into our senses, taken on a journey into the metaphysical (I’m not kidding, it was transcendent). Participants “awoke” rested. Ready for home. Ready to continue the journey.
As I mentioned above, you’re never entirely sure how the day and activities resonate with those in attendance…until, you do. Until you receive the feedback. And not simply, “that was great” but the feedback that showcases people using the tools you created, spending time with themselves, contemplating their life’s work, and exploring what it is they’re supposed to do in this world. That’s big. That’s powerful. It means, if even for a few people, you have altered their course in a (hopefully) very positive and meaningful way.
To close, thank you to the sixteen incredible women who came on this journey with me. I pushed you outside your comfort zone, moved you into pain and sadness, and asked you to explore your life’s mission. It was very powerful to watch a group of mostly strangers sit and honour each experience and emotion as they arose. This wouldn’t have been possible without your openness and willingness to be present and explore. You are warriors. You, without a doubt, embody grit and grace in all that you do. Thank you.
I cannot wait for what the next retreat in Ontario holds…stay tuned.
Thank you to Karen Davis Rwankole for your beautiful photography; Rachel Cadrin for leading us in Buti Yoga; Susan O’Shea for sharing your Peace Park and opening us to the spiritual realm; Tamie Murphy for guiding us in Yoga Nidra and watching my son while I wrote the workbook; the Heart of Bragg Creek for your space and heartwarming food; Damian Blunt for bringing my workbook vision to life – the design is magic; and to the incredible sponsors who provided the swag bag material. And finally, my husband. How would I ever do any of this without you? I wouldn’t. You are the love of my life.
Meet Dr. Sheri Madigan, Upcoming speaker for Live It Active
Haven’t heard about Live It Active’s upcoming speaker series? Interested in learning more about our first speaker? Meet Dr. Sheri Madigan, renowned child development psychologist working and teaching at the University of Calgary.
Learn more about Dr. Madigan and what she’ll share at her talk, The First 2000 Days of Life on May 7 (buy your ticket; it’s only $20).
Dr. Madigan’s research centres around the notion that early experience lays the foundation for lifelong growth, learning, and success. The overarching goal of her research is to isolate which key factors, or which combination of factors present in early childhood, are most predictive of children embarking on a successful versus an unsuccessful developmental pathway. She is also interested in understanding why some mothers, children, and youth show resilience to stressors and adversities, while others remain vulnerable.
Research emerging from her team has been published in the top journals in Psychology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Social Work. Her work has been widely covered in the media, including The New York Times, Time Magazine, CNN, CBC, Today’s Parent, and Newsweek, as well as ABC’s Good Morning America, CTV and Global news.
She is passionate about disseminating research to those interacting with children and youth, and regularly gives presentations to parents, caregivers, educators, and health practitioners on central determinants of child and youth development. She is also the child development expert for CTV Morning Live Calgary, providing monthly segments on topics related to parenting and child development.
What will you learn about at our event? In addition to meeting other parents, enjoying the beautiful cafe of Yoga Nova (and a few treats), you’re going to learn about:
- Domains of child development (I’m excited to learn what this means :))
- Typical and atypical patterns of development
- Quality of caregiving in the early childhood years
- Tailoring parenting to suit the individual needs of your child (how cool)
I’m mega pumped for this event as I’m always in need of parenting strategies to navigate the endless challenges of parenting a toddler and an infant. I look forward to hearing from Dr. Madigan and connecting with other incredible parents in Calgary (that’s right, this is an event for moms, dads and grandparents).
To register (FYI tickets are half sold), buy your ticket today!
Set gentle goals; Get real about your New Year’s Resolutions
It’s that time of year again – well, if you engage in year-end reflection and contemplate / prepare for the year ahead. Finding a reliable metric on the percentage of Canadians who make resolutions has proven more challenging than expected, but the Toronto Star tells me around 68 per cent made a resolution in 2012. Research conducted on behalf of Goodlife Fitness (by Ipsos), tells us that 33 per cent of those polled plan to make a health-related resolution. The website Statista tells us that after health and wellness goals, financial goals, travel and leisure and quitting bad habits are a respective second, third and fourth in terms of priority (I’m fairly certain they are simply reporting the Ipsos survey data without sharing their source…cheeky). Yet, the metrics around who keeps these goals is a bit disappointing to say the least. It seems very few of us stick to our guns and see our resolution(s) out. My reliable data source, the Toronto Star, tells me that only 19 per cent of Canadians see it through the year.
What are we resolving to change? We tend to focus largely on our bodies. Why? Because we want to improve our quality of life, prevent health risks, lose weight, have more energy, and so on (just check out the Ipsos data). These are great reasons, but I think it’s largely to do with our body-obsessed culture of looking like sexy, greased-up muscle gods (or beasts). We want to be the people we see everywhere we look (aren’t those paid ads on Instagram infuriating?) – and damn, that’s hard to achieve.
So what do we do? We head to the gym. We crush our first workout. We drink our shake. We eat our protein bar. We feel incredible. We know, without a doubt, we are going to kick this year’s resolution’s ass. And then, the next day…well, it hits us. We can barely move. Our arms feel like lead. Every step an agonizing stretch of tight (but stronger) muscles. We collapse on the couch, unable to put the peeled carrots and avocado in the juicer. We wallow in self-pity and reach for the almost-finished Terry’s Chocolate Orange under the Christmas tree (we realize we need to take the tree down and agonize over the pain we will feel when reaching the star). And we eat the orange (the chocolate kind, not the fruit kind). And we love it. We tell ourselves, “I’ll burn this off in my next workout…I’ve got this…OK…just one more piece”. We don’t return to the gym. We tell ourselves we’ll go tomorrow.
Side note: I love me some Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
We may repeat this cycle at another point in the year. Perhaps we save it for the following year. So why do we do it? Are we self-sabotaging out of the gates because we don’t want to run the risk of failing. Is it easier to fail with the masses at the outset than stick it out and fail later? Is it because we simply lack the grit?
Perhaps it’s because we are expecting too much too soon. Perhaps we need to take another look at the goals we are making and determine if they are reasonable. For example, if you haven’t been to the gym in 6 months, creating a workout routine that includes a 5-day regimen of weights, cardio and yoga is perhaps not going to end well (read above scenario with said orange). Even for those overly active folks, this sounds daunting. That’s way to much, too soon.
So what is Live It Active encouraging you to do?
Go back to those goals (you need to write them down to have any hope of sticking to them) and carefully review each one. Break them down. Make them simple. Make them achievable. Ensure you create gentle goals. And as you achieve, make your goals more challenging. There is no rule that says you can’t revisit your goals or change them throughout the year. In fact, you should be reviewing and updating on a regular basis. Why? Because we change as our lives change. Things are in constant flux and thus, having static goals simply won’t work. We need to be kind to ourselves and being kind means being realistic about what we can commit to.
Here’s an example of how to tackle this:
- Original goal: (A non-runner) Run 5 KM 2 times per week and one long run on Sundays.
- My thoughts: For a non-runner (someone who doesn’t regularly run and hasn’t trained in let’s say, six months) to commit to three runs a week, starting at 5 KM, is a stretch and will prove painful. My recommendation is to break this down a few more levels to set up for long term success. Your body and brain will thank you.
- My recommendation (and remember, I’m no professional): Find a local running club. The Running Room has great programs for individuals learning to run. They break running into 1-2 minute increments to start and build up from there. More specifically, you will start by running for 1-2 minutes followed by fast walking to recover. You will then repeat this as you build up your endurance, ligament and muscle strength, and overall mental grit. Running is as much mental as it is physical (perhaps even more). Also, having a support crew is awesome and makes entering the exercise world much for pleasurable. If you want to go it alone, look up beginner running programs and follow. Don’t push it.
- Revised goal: Explore local running programs. Find a 5 KM running group and / or a beginner’s running program online that breaks running into small increments with recovery time. Run 1-2 times per week of increasing length and speed, as advised by the running group or developed program. Follow rest and recovery recommendations.
The same approach goes for any goal – meditation, financial monitoring, calorie intake, cleaning…start off small and manageable. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Change takes considerable time and energy and you’re going to have days and weeks when things don’t come together – and that’s OK. In fact, that’s normal and to be expected. If you’re able to forgive yourself and move on, you’ll likely have a greater chance of success.
In summary, go back to your resolutions and simplify. Break them down. Make them manageable and relatively easy to start. And as you grow and start meeting your goals, you can revisit and make them more and more challenging.
Happy New Year and best of luck with your resolutions,
Photo credit to Dev Dodia on Unsplash
Blog: The Rejuvenation Retreat; a Monumental Success
“Transcending down into the ground of things is akin to sweeping the leaves that cover a path. There will always be more leaves. And the heart of the journey, the heart of our own awakening, is to discover for ourselves that the leaves are not the ground, and that sweeping them aside will reveal a path, and finally, that to fully live, we must take the path and keep sweeping it.”
~ The Way Under the Way, Mark Nepo
These delightfully apt words, shared by yoga guide and goddess, Tamie Murphy, kicked off Live It Active’s inaugural Rejuvenation Retreat on Saturday, August 19, 2017. Throughout the yin yoga session, Tamie shared a variety of different poems and sentiments to inspire and ignite the imaginations of retreat participants. Ignite the senses and imagination she did; the words and metaphor resonated powerfully with me. It was a beautiful reminder that the “leaves” of life – the dishes, the appointments, the sicknesses and the deadlines – are not the path, simply distractions, and that we must keep sweeping them to stay on course (perhaps with fewer grumbles). But perhaps it resonated most powerfully, because I have finally found (and am walking) my path (more on this later).
The Rejuvenation Retreat, set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at The Crossing at Ghost River Retreat Facility, was attended by powerful, creative, and beautiful mommas, all at different ages and stages of their care-giving role. Following introductions and intentions, we moved into our yoga session, followed by quiet reflection anywhere on the grounds, and mindfulness meditation (during which many enjoyed a quick snooze). Massage therapy was also available for anyone interested. During quiet reflection, many participants were drawn to the Ghost River to reflect, write and read. All came with different intentions, but there was one definite overarching theme – to take a moment, to clear thoughts, and to rejuvenate.
Lunch, served in the main house, was a joy to the senses. Hearty, homemade comfort food (with a much inspired flare) adorned plates for only a brief period before being gobbled up. Gentle conversation about our babies (and grandbabies) was sprinkled with much laughter and joy (my daughter’s poop story was a hit; I’ll spare her the future embarrassment by not immortalizing it on social media).
The afternoon exposed participants to a completely different experience for the senses: Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing. All a little uncertain, the participants courageously walked into the forest with local Shinrin Yoku guide, Ronna Schneberger and accepted the first invitation, “to pay attention to all that is moving in the forest”. After 20 minutes of simply observing we reconvened to discuss our experience and receive our next invitation.
As the afternoon progressed, we (myself included) slowly began to disconnect from the rush and swirl of the day to day (even though much had been let go in the morning) and tune into the natural beauty surrounding us. Tuning into our senses allowed our brain to rest and our bodies to relax. The final invitation, to simply sit in nature, allowed participants to reflect on the day and their intentions for the day, week, and beyond. We came together, drank tea, enjoyed some goodies, and chatted about how we can find more time outside with our families.
The day was perfect – the attendees, the space, and the magic of the Ghost River helped to create the atmosphere for rest and rejuvenation. I will be forever grateful to the women who decided to attend my first-ever Retreat; from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I sincerely look forward to what the future holds for Live It Active and myself. As I said above, I believe I’ve found my path. This path will take a lifetime to walk, yet I excitedly await the challenges, joys, and will work to relish the inevitable sweeping of those forever falling leading me to my life’s work and calling: to help people find wellness, balance, and contentment in their everyday lives.
Live It Active will launch it’s first Speaker Series: Discovering the Inner (and Awesome) Parent in You on October 23, 2017. To check out our incredible speaker, Dr. Sheri Madigan, R. Psychologist and University of Calgary Professor, click here.
This day wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the following people:
- Carol Pegg, The Crossing at Ghost River Retreat Facility
- Karen Davis Rwankole, Photography
- Tamie Murphy, Yoga Instructor
- Ronna Schneberger, Shinrin Yoku Guide
- Leah Haveman, Massage Therapist
- Jenny Thompson, Website support
- Penny Sundstrom Mclaren, Logo Design
- My incredibly supportive hubby