Category: Blog

Opening up to a new reality: Is it a chance to share your authentic story?

Opening up to a new reality: Is it a chance to share your authentic story?

 

 

Some of us may never work in an office again. Total career pivots and upright moves to new cities became almost commonplace. This much upheaval can feel unhealthy, but as with any change, how we handle it, shapes how it makes us feel.

In my role I coach people to craft their new stories. The outsized changes brought on by the pandemic are, if we’re facing into them the right way, a special opportunity. (Maybe you knew I was going to say that, but I really mean it.) This is a time to reflect, to regroup, and to ask yourself: Who am I today? What is my new story?

Being defined by your job is understandable—it’s been that way for a long time—but I argue that that’s just a small part of your life. A job pays the bills, it keeps you above poverty line, but it probably doesn’t define you faithfully. When the pandemic stopped the economy, in some cases whole jobs stopped and, in some cases, standard modes of working stopped. Hello Zoom!

You see, it’s never been about the job, though that can form part of your story. It’s never been about what society says is important; that changes all the time. This forced slowing down, this dampening of the distractions of consumerism and events, affords you the headspace to own who you are: the person behind the mask that the world sees.

That language from me may seem a little lofty, but we’ll get there, I think. You can even take the time to ask yourself as the world opens up, do I know my core values. Do I truly pay attention to what is really important to me?

This has been a difficult time and the pandemic has left an uncountable number of us depressed or chronically stressed. While moving through these states whether we wanted to or not, the upside, if you’ll let me call it that, came in the form of something simple: more quiet, reflective time to be with your own thoughts and space.

This overlooked rarity became less overlooked and less rare after shutdown shrunk our time-pressed, overbooked former lives, and I’m asking you to lean into it for the space it affords you to ask questions: What kind of person am I supposed to be? What kind of hobbies are for me? (Yes, hobbies, you aspiring baker, comic-book collectors, adult-coloring book lovers. Take time for it.) Who among our friends should occupy important positions of time and attention in our orbit? It’s never simply been about a job, whatever the world told you. It’s about your life and what you give attention to. It’s different for everyone.

Personally, I inject meaning into the global lockdown; I don’t see it as the result of randomness. The world stopped because we needed to pay attention—to the biosphere, to the culture, to the lack of diversity, to the uneven corporate hierarchy, to one-sided relationships and toxic friendships. We needed to wake up. If we weren’t paying attention, the universe stepped in with a little shake-up, almost as if to say that limitless corporate greed has limits and ignoring people who fall through between the cracks increases the store of human suffering.

In a way, when you move through the world inauthentically, either because the world is giving you confusing signals or because you can’t hear your own signals over the noise, you too are falling between the cracks. Without diminishing your feelings, I don’t care what job you have or what status you hold. It’s not who you are.  I care about you taking this time to meet yourself, to own your authentic story. This isn’t about what your family, your neighbourhood, your culture or your office says is right. When you go quiet and listen to your intuitive heart-based feelings, you’ll be closer to what I’m talking about.

For a taste of knowing your story, take the time to watch Megan Macedo’s video on coming to terms with who she was and how she connected to her work. My brother introduced me to this special 13-minute exploration years ago, and I still share it with clients who are crafting their next chapter. (I still get teary every time I watch it).

Our world doesn’t look the same anymore, and it shouldn’t. We have lost but we have gained if we’re closer to what moves our inner compass. Vulnerability and pain can diminish us or it can take us to a new level of understanding.

We are all connected. And if you march to your own drummer anew, and I, in my corner of the world, know what makes me happy, and we both follow those threads no matter how divergent, our own healing helps each other. It’s a ripple effect.

Covid-19 happened to the whole world. Is this the time to wait for the return of the status quo or to figure out what really makes you happy? The job rarely defined you, nor did a dozen other modern-world values. What makes you feel good—be it a meditation at midnight, walks in the nearest forest, playing with your rescue dog, using kids’ paints for the first time in thirty years, or whatever your form of watching the clouds go by is—is asking you to pay attention. Heed the call of your need not the noise of the outside world, which will so frequently let you down.

Listen, if this unasked-for time of going inward has only served to show you how what satisfied you before, no longer does, the wisdom might just be to stop following the crowd and turn to what you want to do and be. When we pay attention to ourselves—something closer to our real selves—we receive new energy to heed what is better for everyone because we are happier.

As we tiptoe towards opening up the world, this will all have more meaning if you commit to integrate real, repeatable time to craft a new narrative of your own beautifully messy story. (The perfectionist tendency will chain you into doing what those around you are doing; reject it and go for messy.) We are so much more beautiful and raw and real when we simply march to our own beat, wearing our own clothes, hesitantly and then proudly someday. Those clothes always fit us the best anyway, don’t they? Now where did I put that unicorn sweatshirt with rainbows on it?

#bekinder #bebetter

An antidote to Blue Monday

How Kindness can help anyone feeling blue

Looking for a cure for #BlueMonday? Take the time to perform an act of kindness for someone else and receive what is called a ‘Helper’s High’.

According to scientist and author David Hamilton, Kindness makes us happier: ‘When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us that says, ‘This is who I am.’ On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.

Think of it as a form of self-kindness to you and something nice for the recipient. It’s a win-win for both of you.

#bekinder #bebetter

Podcast with Steffi Black

An interview on the importance of kindness, ho’oponopono and surviving as an introvert in an extroverted world.

Board Double Whammy Appointments Strengthen BILS Process

Further to BILS’ strategic announcement in July and as welcome news for abused women, isolated seniors, and recent immigrants/war refugees in and around Toronto, BILS board chairman Vinay Mathur is pleased to announce two further strategic appointments to support BILS’ future plans.  Applications from Farheen Lakhani and Steffi Black were proposed by Mathur, and accepted by BILS’ members during the non-profit’s recent annual general meeting in Toronto.

“We are overjoyed to have Farheen and Steffi join the board,” explains Mathur.  “Both new directors have expressed strong interest in the work we do with abused women, as well as in honouring and acknowledging the great work of our counselling team in general.  Between them we hope to improve BILS’ profile externally and its business relationships and process internally over the coming months”.

BILS’ assistance to Canadian women recovering from physical, emotional, financial and other forms of abuse since 1997 will need to increase if recent research is proven accurate.  Just earlier this year the Canadian Womens’ Foundation communicated that 79 per cent of Canadians believe that sexual assault will continue at current levels for those women born after 1999.  Already, only 30 per cent of abuse against women is ever reported to Canadian authorities, and women are four times as likely to be killed by their male spouse than men are by their female spouse.  Equally, continued geopolitical activity by the United States and its NATO allies throughout the Middle East and other natural resource-rich areas of the planet will guarantee a continued stream of war refugees entering Canada, the USA, and Western Europe for the foreseeable future.

 

Farheen Lakhani, a lifelong sales, account, and relationship management professional, enters this tumultuous climate as board director tasked both with cultivating new relationships, and maintaining existing relationships with key stakeholders.  Lakhani’s focus is likely to be both internal and external, liaising with the BILS’ counselling team to ensure high standards of counselling service are maintained, as well as with current and potential partner agencies.  Her strengths in data analytics will also be applied to BILS’ marketing, particularly online, in the future months as BILS secures further expertise to maintain its communications and development efforts.

 

BILS is not the first altruistic initiative for Lakhani to be involved in, having previously helped recent immigrants via the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Aimia, as well as championing womens’ independence and recovery in Thailand.  In her own words, “Assistance-style services often focus on providing food and shelter to victims, but rarely counselling too.  BILS differs from the norm by also providing clients with the necessary counselling to develop coping skills and abilities to not only deal with trauma, but also fend for themselves in the future.  It’s a truly holistic program offering, and I intend to assist BILS in both measuring and communicating its astonishingly positive impact on the community.”

BILS’ second board addition requires almost no introduction at all.  Steffi Black’s notable TV career spans almost a decade and saw her host, write, and produce on various Global TV shows for most of the 1990s.  Since then she has launched her own life & career coaching company, as well as consulted for a myriad of corporations and other for-profit organisations to enable them to boost the mood, productivity, and genuine hope of their employee populations.  Black’s acceptance onto the BILS board comes hot on the heels of her brand’s support of a global “spread the kindness” initiative just this month, promoting the beneficial effect of kindness and positivity all around the world.

As such it’s not difficult to see how and why Black fits so well with the BILS board’s intentions.  However, Black’s affinity with kindness belies her tenacity when it comes to serving positivity.  As Black says of her appointment, “I hope to bring a positive and proactive work ethic to help make the necessary changes for BILS to grow, as well as fostering a warm and connected work environment that ensures our programs and projects stay on the front line of serving the most vulnerable demographics within the GTA population”.  Black goes on to explain that her choice to join BILS stems from her desire to make a difference, give back, and champion the great work of the counselling team.

Initially Black’s expertise is intended to be deployed in improving internal communications and process, and ensuring HR practices are up-to-date and forward-looking.  From some point in 2018 though, it is hoped that Black will be able to assist BILS with both fundraising and outreach efforts, bringing to bear an extraordinarily widespread, optimistic, and women-dominated network that mirrors the ethos of many of the organisation’s program and project offerings.  Indeed, a mutually beneficial arrangement may also see Black augmenting her own counselling skills as she seeks the opportunity to support BILS counsellors in their work more directly.

Radical changes to the BILS board during the last year are only the first stage of an organisational revamp intended to bolster the stability of the 46 year-old non-profit.  As further recruitment expands and deepens the board’s expertise, additional plans to improve operational process, external communications, and even review the BILS brand itself are expected to come online.  Further focus on IT and the honing of digital systems will be one of the soonest improvements to gain traction during the end of 2017 and first quarter of 2018.

Why Kindness Is Needed In Our Schools And Workplaces

“Kindness is Contagious. When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to three degrees of separation.” David R. Hamilton, Ph.D.

It’s a proven fact: Most environments can benefit from leadership that cares and empowers others to do so as well. My work as a kindness advocate via #spreadthekindness includes encouraging pro-social behavior in both the children’s playground as well as the adult ones.

 

Why Kindness Matters in Schools?

 

It can be an overwhelming environment: crowded hallways, stern faces, loud lunchrooms and occasional aggressive behavior. Our children leave their usually secure home and venture into a world where each child has a different personality. Can they all be expected to get along? Hardly. What can help with the transition at any age: A simple dose of kindness.

How important is kindness to young children? Numerous scientific studies show that acts of kindness result in significant health benefits, both physical and mental for the doer and the receiver! Kindness makes us happier, gives us healthier hearts, strengthens the immune system, makes for better and stronger relationships and, as mentioned above, kindness is certainly contagious. Promoting it creates a better classroom, and, in turn, a warmer school environment.

Yes, educational facilities that implement a strong emphasis on character education can make all the difference in a child’s experience outside the home. Many reasons can be listed and one main one is feeling safe, secure and cared for in their environment. And, yes, kids even work harder as academic performance improves too.

In a well-known Vancouver study from Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, it was shown that children who performed three acts of kindness a week for four weeks experienced an increase in peer acceptance afterwards. Pro-social behavior also increases well being and the tone of a classroom can be improved. The study states: “Increasing peer acceptance is a critical finding, as it is related to a variety of academic and social outcomes including reduced likelihood of being bullied.” It goes on further to suggest that “teachers and interventionists can build on this study by introducing intentional pro-social activities into classrooms and recommending that such activities be performed regularly and purposefully.”

And, when the curriculum includes an emphasis on kind actions it has the ripple effect of a warmer school environment that emphasizes EQ not just IQ.

 

Why Kindness Matters in the Workplace?

 

Can today’s businesses learn from a warmer environment in the workplace? You bet your bottom dollar they can!

As a passionate Kindness Advocate, I work with corporations to #spreadthekindness by creating tailored plans emphasizing kind act activities often geared to the International RAKWeek. As leader Julia Rivard, Partner, Norex.ca, shared after her company’s involvement: “…the RAK week really helped us all place an emphasis on what we could do to ‘make the day’ of the people around us just a little bit better….The acts of kindness seemed to snowball leading to a week filled with positivity that was outside what any of us had imagined. I heard from more than one staff member that it was the best week they had had at Norex and that’s saying something.”

You see warm actions towards others actually makes us feel good on a biochemical level as it raises the brain’s natural version of morphine and heroin – you get what is called a “Helper’s High” and people have more engagement when their environment is an open, transparent and resilient environment where people are motivated to work in a collaborative and encouraging way. Those that have been known to have a warm, inclusive environment include Google, Pitney Bowes, Eileen Fisher and Juilliard.

And, finally, it’s always nice to leave with a word of wisdom from someone more informed than myself: In today’s world we often emphasize big events but there is grace and power in the small acts of kindness. Aldous Huxley, a philosopher and writer who studied human nature for over two decades, was asked what was the best way to transform human beings. He knew the interviewer would want something heavy and profound, but, after a thoughtful pause, he simply replied that the way we make a difference is to be a “little kinder.”

Sounds like a smart plan to me. Who’s on board? I’ll bring my #STK spirit and help you ‘spread your kindness wings!’

Featured in an article on meditation

You don’t have to chant, ‘Om,’ or devote hours to meditation for it to work

 

Who doesn’t have that one friend who’s always gushing about meditation? She finds time for it, doesn’t have a problem sitting still and claims it’s changed her life. Admit it: You kind of want to know her secret.

Since May is National Meditation Month, we thought it was the right moment to ask women about the real ways it’s impacted them. All of the studies already laud meditation for things like lowering risk of heart disease and cancer, improving calm and focus and overcoming fears and anxiety. But aside from avoiding a super-scary diagnosis and feeling better overall, which are obviously great benefits, what does that actually mean in day-to-day life?

For me, it began in the last few moments of yoga class during Savasana. At first, it was hard to lay there and hear the silence around me, but I soon embraced the downtime. Before long, I found myself taking Savasana breaks at home for a few minutes at a time. Ultimately, I think meditation is most helpful at helping us focus on our actions so they align with what we really want. For instance, I may not react as quickly to something that upsets me, which helps my body avoid harmful cortisol or adrenaline surges that come with being an anxious person.

Meditation can happen in many ways, and once you practice it, you’ll find that it works itself into your day seemingly without even having to try. To me, that’s the biggest benefit of all. Here’s how other real women use meditation in everyday life.

 

Loosen up, literally

 

“By sitting still for five to 30 minutes a day, I’ve learned I shouldn’t believe everything I think, and that’s made such a difference in my ability to lead and parent. As an author, I spend quite a bit of time at the computer, and thus, my neck and shoulders can be tight. I realized after about a month of meditation how much more relaxed I was physically. Now, while I write, I take breaks and meditate for five minutes to increase my stamina and ability to think creatively.” — Christina Harbridge, author of Swayed: How to Communicate for Impact, San Francisco, California

 

Press pause on reactions

 

“I had a global marketing career, steadily climbing the corporate ladder for 18 years. Then I developed a rare, aggressive and advanced breast cancer. I discovered that it’s not stress that’s the problem — it’s our physiological response to it. Mindfulness helped me wake up from a life of autopilot action and reactivity. It gives me space between emotions and reactions, allowing time, however brief, to reflect and respond more skillfully. After many months of intense daily practice, I realized if you want to make changes in the world, you have to start with changes in yourself. My schedule now includes intention and goal-setting in the morning, a formal meditation practice before breakfast or at lunch and mindful moments during the day.” — Kate Kerr, 42, mindfulness consultant, Burlington, Ontario, Canada

 

Dial down stress

 

“The word ‘overwhelmed’ has started to disappear from my vocabulary. I wear many hats in an emerging technology field and at fast-paced growing company. There will never be a day where I’m not faced with challenges. Meditation has changed the way I respond to that stress. Since I started practicing regularly, my mental response to stressors is no longer panicked and I don’t have the same physical response either. I find myself naturally reverting to breathing and other meditation techniques without thinking about it. The cool, calm, balanced demeanor is a win, not only in my personal and professional life, but a win for the company and my colleagues who are looking to me for an example and support.” — Brittiany Broadwater, 29, director of operations at Phone2Action, Washington, D.C.

 

Get perspective

 

“Meditation helps me shut out the anxious voices or external and literal sounds. Today, I’m in southern Maine, and meditation means concentrating on the crashing waves. When I’m home, it can be the rustling trees, blue skies or clouds. It’s quite literally looking at the beauty of the bigger picture and being able to focus on that instead of the stress of life.” — Rachel Weingarten, author of Ancient Prayer: Channeling Your Faith 365 Days of the Year, New York City

 

Be more efficient

 

“Meditation gives me a crucial mental focus and clarity that allows me to be more efficient at work. My partner and I meditate together and it’s given us some great quality-time together, offering us a new depth of intimacy in the interactions between actual meditation sessions. I also make more conscious decisions in everything from my eating habits to life-altering decisions, rather than moving through life triggered by my past and reactions.” — Tiffany Cruikshank, 37 founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight, Seattle, Washington

 

Let inspiration in

 

“Meditation helps me surrender more to what is instead of worrying what should be happening. My sense of touch, taste and smell is heightened. It’s amazing what good ideas come when I let my thoughts be and allow pure inspiration in. I am not trying to control my thoughts, but just allowing what needs to filter in come.” — Steffi Black, 50, life and career coach, Toronto

 

Ease anxiety

 

“I used to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, but by meditating, I’ve found that I can avoid getting too anxious, which means I avoid spiraling into panic. I’m always surprised at the difference I feel when I don’t meditate compared when I do. I have more clarity about what I want and am much more productive during the day. I feel more sure about the decisions I make and know that I’m more present in all aspects of my life. It’s really rewarding.” — Amanda Leigh Doueihi, 31 lawyer/writer, New York City

 

Enhance empathy

 

“When I practice, I feel more clear, conscious and able to flow with the changing nature of life and myself. It’s an adventure every time too — exploring the great mystery that is my own mind. It’s better than any vacation I’ve ever taken! A body scan allows me to witness whether or not I have emotional discomfort that I need to deal with. This sets me free from looping fear, anxiety, anger and sadness. It allows me a moment where I transcend my mind, which sets me free, if only for a moment, from the insanity that makes up my relentless thoughts. It allows me brief access to a bigger experience than my own limited personal view of the world. Every chance I get to connect to all things offers me greater compassion and empathy.” — Kristen Ulmer, 50, author of The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to do Instead, Salt Lake City, Utah

 

Press reset

 

“Some people resist starting a meditation practice because they believe, erroneously, that it requires long, boring stretches of trying to sit still, doing nothing for 20 minutes or more. It doesn’t have to be like that. Meditation can be as simple and easy as pausing to clear your mind for three minutes, two or three times a day. Mini-meditations give me pleasant, healthy little rewards throughout the day, providing an opportunity to press the reset button whenever needed.” — Dr. Liisa Kyle, creative life coach, Washington state

http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1133961/meditation-perks-women

Mentoring Matters

Why do you think kindness is important in business today, and what can leaders do to encourage more of it? Glain Roberts-McCabe sits down with Career/Life Coach and Kindness Advocate Steffi Black who shares her perspective on the importance of kindness in the workplace. Kindness makes us happier. Kindness makes for better relationships. Kindness is contagious.