Embracing Your Gifts

Every single one of us is unique. When I was in university, a coworker passed on advice he had been given to us all:

“Find out what you love to do and are good at and then find someone to pay you for it.”

Despite working at a bookstore, I hadn’t heard of Tony Robbins yet so I was impressed. While I wasn’t ready to make any big life choices at the time, the coworker’s passed on advice (from his grandmother – not Tony Robbins) stuck with me for many years.

When I needed inspiration, I thought back to that young man that I worked with for only a few short weeks. When I was annoyed with graduating into a recession and the blame passed onto millennials for wanting a better career, the words stung my soul.  Luckily I’m resilient (and a privileged white woman), so I’ve scraped through the recession and find myself on the journey into an exciting career that I never would have imagined for myself in university. (I always imagined myself in a downtown condo, working for a magazine or publishing company, and still waiting to settle down in my early thirties.) Despite my cynicism, I uncovered what made me unique in order to find a job satisfying enough to turn it into a career.

That’s how that advice can succeed on a lifelong level, but what about in the day-to-day?  I think it’s actually more practical on a day-to-day. As I have mentioned before, my life unfolds spontaneously, and rarely according to plan.  I get to where I am meant to be by making decisions every day that are right for me. Maybe those decisions are not always right, but they are at the time. And, just like the little decisions that shape my big life, it’s the little things I am good at that have shaped the satisfying career I find myself in today.

For example, I loved cooking as a child. I continued to cook as an adult, and was always mildly interested in working with food. I never thought that I would one day be a manager at a restaurant, though. Or working in Produce at a grocery store.  And then be selling products to restaurants and grocery stores. But I followed my interest there. I was interested into raw food in a city where it was fairly new, so the owners of a new restaurant that focused on raw food reached out to me. Then, I had spent a few years listening to chefs order from produce suppliers, so I became quick friends with the reps I had to deal with at the grocery store. I hadn’t sought out either of those jobs but they somehow fell into my lap and I ended up loving and learning from them so much.

Occasionally, I think back to that image I had of myself in my early thirties. I was strong, confident, and really well organized in that idea of myself. Now I would say that I am two of those things, and the third no longer matters to me. Neither does the idea of living in a condo downtown interest me any longer. Perhaps I have suddenly become old and lost the dreams of my youth but I would rather think of myself as having accepted myself for who I really am than for who I wish I was. I remember feeling jealous of my university friends for continuing their education and getting into professional fields…but I knew a decade ago (and have every year since continued to believe it) that I needed to be in this “real world.” I may be ridiculously bored sometimes, but I also know that I am doing what I am good at, and making the difference that I need to be right now.

Perhaps it is a curse of being a millennial that I continue to think about what I love to do so that I can create the life that I want to be in. I was told as a young adult that previous generations had one career; millennials will have 4-10. Frankly, I don’t think of this as a curse as I enjoy new challenges and thinking outside of the box of how it has always been done. As I have learned in my long decade of working in the new world, those skills might be the most valuable going forward.

Body Love – Not a Reflection

We have very few mirrors in our house. It was never a conscious decision to not have mirrors in our house so much as it never became a priority to have a good mirror among our possessions. I realized this when my aunt asked for a baby bump selfie (a bumpfie) that featured my face as well as my growing baby. We do not have a proper full length mirror in our house. (The closest thing is a warped IKEA mirror that has been cracked for well over 7 years.)

Our baby loves his reflection! So, I have spent much more time in front of the few small mirrors that we do have in our house. When I am looking at the mirror, though, I am focused on his reflection, and the reaction happening there. I maybe look at myself once every other day when I am putting my hair in a clip, or brushing out my part. Of course, there is a quick glance when I’m brushing my teeth, and maybe as I wash my face. For the most part, though, everything I do does not require actually looking at myself.

When I did catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror, it was therefore a pretty big shock for me. Now, I was also in my bathing suit, which is not an outfit I normally think about myself in. And, I was looking over my shoulder, holding a squirming 20-lb baby when I happened to glance at myself.

I was out in public, so I repressed the emotional reaction that this had on me. I fixed the gap that had caught the most of my attention, and carried on the conversation with a fellow mother. My internal dialogue was doing a number to repress the shame I instinctively felt upon seeing this body that I live my life in every day.

I knew that I wasn’t at my physical best, and I was okay with that. My body has had many aches and pains so far this year, and I am focused on strengthening it so that those aches go away. Like many new parents, I am sleep-deprived, distracted, and not making my own health as much of a priority as my child’s health. My health is still important to me, which is why I have been putting more and more energy into regaining my strength from before my pregnancy. My appearance, though, is way below both of those aspects to my life on the scale of priorities. However, I was still really taken aback.

I haven’t always loved myself, and a lot of that neglect comes from not loving the looks of my body. “Hello, my name is Jodi, and I am a woman in our current culture.”  As a young adult, though, I decided to change that. And, not in the usual way of working out every single day, counting all of my calories, and losing weight in all the right areas and adding some weight in all the other areas. Nope! While I have always been interested in fitness, being a healthy weight, and living healthier, I knew at 19 that health and appearance were two different aspects of myself.  By the age of 8, I started to realize that it wasn’t “baby weight” that I would one day outgrow, but that I was actually overweight and should do something about that. For the next ten years, it became my fault that I was so overweight, and I felt the shame associated with being “so unhealthy.” However, at my healthiest age – 25/26 – I still wouldn’t have fit into the cultural idea of what a “healthy body” looks like.  I didn’t need that, though, as I was just elated to fit into a single digit size of clothing.

As a young woman, after years of feeling ashamed for being overweight, I knew that changing myself physically wouldn’t change the shame I had for my body. Instinctively, I used positive psychology to slowly fall in love with my body. I started with what I already liked about myself: my hair, and my feet. I have these golden locks of hair, and even today – as the dirty blonde has more and more wisdom glitter in it every day – it is still one of my best features (and needs the least amount of maintenance).  I had never realized, though, that my feet were really gorgeous!  In fact, I joked with a coworker that I should have them photographed for a foot fetish website.

I started with what I liked about myself, and soon realized that I loved those aspects of my physical body. Then, it started to grow. My calves became super strong in my mind’s eyes, and my knees were pretty perfect, too. My face – contorted into the right angle for the age of selfies – was great. I would stare at it in mirrors, working on different expressions in high school, and by university, I decided to start loving the little lines that were starting to form. Laugh lines, to me, meant that I had been so happy in my life! Soon, I discovered my collar bones and realized that they were amazing. My shoulders were super strong! And my breasts, well, I have never disliked my breasts.

By this point, I had kicked that shame about my body in its ugly face.  This is, of course, the only kind of violence I tolerate. Every time I look at my hands, I see my mother’s long fingers and perfectly shaped nails, working hard in service for her loved ones. My forearms are adequate. And the rest? Well, I have found reasons to love them, too. My inner thighs may ALWAYS rub against one another, but that’s just how powerful my THUNDER THIGHS are! As a bicycle commuter, I loved their strength and the speed it provided me, even in the winter months.  Always a little bit of a comedian, I fell in love with my upper arms when I lived in an 18th floor apartment. “In case of an emergency,” I joked, “I’ll just open the window, and let my squirrel arms fly us to safety.”

As an older woman, I know that the shame is not my fault. Looking at that body in the bathing suit, I knew that what I looked like didn’t matter to anybody who mattered.  As Dr. Seuss wrote:

“Those who matter, don’t mind. And those who mind, don’t matter.”

And yet, that shame still popped up. It lingered below the surface for the rest of the day before I brought it up with my husband that night. As I started to tell him about seeing my reflection, tears came flowing from my eyes. I hadn’t realized until that point how much that shame was still there. Nor how much it needed to be released.

In my day to day life, the appearance of my body matters so very little. What it can do – create life, build sanctuary barns, comfort a stranger – is so much more of a way bigger deal. Body shame, though, is still so prevalent in our lives that after more than a decade of dedicated body love – and a lifetime of caring less about what people think than the average person – it can still bring a strong woman like me to tears.

Remember this any time you think something negative about a woman’s body. It’s fine, we can all have those thoughts. But what you do with those thoughts – something like telling her them – is pretty important. My suggestion would be to keep any negative thoughts to yourself…and then think of ten positive ones to believe instead. <3 <3 <3

Consistency vs Commitment

It is okay to go down crying as long as you get up fighting.

~ Marjorie Shier

The leader of a New Moms Group that I was a part of invited us to share something about ourselves that wasn’t about our career or our new babies. Of the myriad of things that I could share, the one that first came to mind was my approach to fitness:

“I’m a runner. And always a novice runner. I really want to commit to it for a length of time, but something always comes up – like an injury, a busy work schedule, or more recently – my pregnancy. But, I am always interested in getting started again. I love running!”

Like the majority of the culture around me, the new year is always a reminder for me to take care of my health more than I was (if only in December!). As part of that resolution, getting more active has been on my radar, and I have been doing more and more every week. As I listened to a workout video from before my pregnancy, though, I started to contemplate how important it really is to be consistent every day.

I did one of the workout videos for the first time in 16 months last Thursday. After encouragement from a fellow mother, I set up my baby as my cheerleader in his jolly jumper, and I talked to him through the whole thing. (He loved the first 10 minutes of watching Mum’s new moves, but started to protest for the last 10 minutes of the video. The middle ten minutes were precarious.) I wrapped up the video sooner than I would have had I been alone, but celebrated the success of being more active even with a 5-month-old under foot.

The next day, I was walking like a spring chicken…because my quads were on fire!

In my old life, I would have just pushed through and put on another video – no pain, no gain, right?  Wrong! I snapped at my husband because I was in pain. I cried when my baby needed me to pick him up again because my legs felt like they were ripping apart. Despite all of the extra stretching I did after the baby had gone to bed, my body was broken. I could not be the mom I want to be when I had done something to make my body stronger.

So, do I stop working out entirely to focus on being that mom I want to be?   If consistency is so important to gaining strength and working through that pain is essential to being fit, did I ruin it all by NOT putting the next video in the next day?

There are so many things in my life that I want to do and so many roles that I want to fill that the activities might not get executed perfectly, and I may not be the person I want to be in those roles all of the time. Does that mean I am failing at them all? Not at all. Just like tearing apart the muscles in my quads in order to rebuild stronger ones, my life needs to be torn apart every so often in order to be a stronger me, too. And being a stronger me is truly the Mum I want to be for my baby.

When I really think about consistency, I realize that my need for it is not coming from myself, but from what the fitness guru on the video was telling me. If fitness were the only thing happening in my life, maybe it would be more important for me to be consistent at it. But I am committed to so much more than fitness in my life right now. When I look back at what has worked in my life, commitments are much stronger than consistency.

For the first few years of my compassionate lifestyle, I “cheated.” I referred to myself as the “Cheatin’ Vegan” as a result, joking at my failure because I wasn’t always consistent. I was still committed to being a vegan, though, and after a few years, it became the easiest part of my life.  I did this through a commitment to being more of the person that I wanted to be than consistently doing the most I could every day. The only consistency I had was in re-committing to being a vegan every single day.

One of my friends had this sentiment to say in regards to my “vegan cheats”:

You can choose to re-commit first thing tomorrow, or not even that far ahead – re-commit at your next meal, your next snack, even the next bite.

You are free to commit or re-commit at any moment. That is the one consistency you will always have.

I did the second workout video this morning. My baby went in his Jumperoo to work on his cheerleading skills and I zoomed past the exercises that my back isn’t strong enough to do just yet. My quads are still sore, and they might be for the next few weeks, but I’m pretty sure that I will be able to pick up my baby without tears running down my face tomorrow. Maybe I didn’t bring “all that I have and then a little bit more” this time, but I brought enough for the change I am willing to put our lives through right now. And that’s more important to me than being a fitness guru leading a workout video right now. Maybe I will do another video tomorrow, maybe it won’t happen again until Wednesday. I can’t commit to any specific consistent time, but I can commit to always growing, changing, and being stronger.

The Right Kind of Politician

I am a passionate, dedicated person who has always been interested in making an impact on the world. For this reason, as well as probably many others, I have been told often that I should run for political office. I would be lying if I said that I had never thought about it.

In contemplating it, I realize that it would not be a good fit for me. The biggest factor in that decision is that I would not like to be the kind of politician that I think is the right kind of politician.  Let me tell you about the first time I realized this to illustrate it.

I was working at an event that was not as busy as we had all hoped it would be when I found myself listening to another vendor. For simplicity, I will call her Rachel. Since I was working, I found myself being more polite than if I were at a social gathering. Rachel had spent the better part of three hours talking to the other vendors more than talking to the attendees – it was a slow market. Her voice carried well, and I could tell she had some strong opinions – Rachel was a passionate individual. She spent much more time sharing her passion with the other people than she spent listening to them or reading their reactions. I was intrigued, and had spent a lot of time watching her interactions with the other people there.

At some point, this vendor had set up her metaphorical soap box between my table and the table of another young woman. I will call the young woman Emily. Emily was younger than I, and we had been chatting for some time, so I knew that she was working for her employer at the time, and was new to being at markets. Emily was very polite and kind, and I enjoyed her as a market neighbour. I noticed Emily being polite in her responses to Rachel. Since I was working, I focused more on the attendees of the market, and had lost the interest of Rachel. (Truth bomb: I was being “silent polite” in hopes to be left alone.)

In the course of Rachel talking to Emily, the topic came around politics.  As it turns out, Rachel had run for office in the last election. Rachel was very interested in politics, and had been working for the party she was running under for what seemed like a few years.  She told this story about how she had created this bill that another party wanted to use, and it got to be too much for me. Rachel was upset because the other party was not going to credit her party with the bill. I, too, am a passionate person, and I couldn’t listen to this idea of politics for any longer.  So, in true Socratic style, I started to ask her questions.

“Is it important to you that this bill get passed? Or more important that you get recognized for it?”

“Well, it’s not giving us any credit for it.”

“So, you need to have credit for something in order for it to be the right thing for the country?”

“Well, it’s the principle of it…” she trailed into some more of a rant about copyrights to the bill or some sort of thing.  My apologies as I wasn’t doing my best at listening by this point, having tried to politely listen to this proselytizer for so long.

“Is it what your constituents would want, though?  I’ve watched you for the better part of this market, go around to all of these people – these potential voters – and tell them your opinion. But what do the people actually want.”

“Well, I asked them during the last election. I knocked on so many doors…”

Aha! There’s the rub. “But that’s not the only time that a politician is supposed to be listening and representing what the people want.”

It was in this moment that I truly understood that myself. People no longer trust politicians and this might be part of the reason why. We elect the politicians to represent us and what we want for our country, province, and our community. To make this decision, we listen to their platforms prior to an election. At that time, we get to know them – as if we were interviewing them for the position that we get to grant them. But what happens after the election? If they have (or have not, in this case) been chosen as our representative, how do we know that they are still representing our best interests?

Many people don’t realize it or perhaps don’t think about it very often, but elected officials are always (supposed to be) working for us. If they aren’t, we need to hold them accountable – and not just during an election. Every politician is required to hold constituency hours, and are there to have discussions with the people they are representing. Just like you would tell an employee or be told as an employee, this is a great opportunity to not only tell the elected official that they’re doing a good job but to also have your voice heard.  Frankly, I want the politicians I elect to be better at this part of the job than at the election part.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Somewhere along the way, we got caught up in the glamour of the election more than the day-to-day duties of our elected officials. We yell at politicians for not holding up their promise only when they are running for re-election rather than talking to them in the moment.  An election might be years apart, whereas employee reviews are recommended every 3 months.

So, yes, I might make a great elected official…one day. I’m passionate, and I care about my community, my country, and most of all the world. Does my community share that same passion with me, though?  Would I be the best representative for them?  Personally, I think my passions are too important for me to be in full service to the issues that are important to the people who would elect me. However, if I wrote a bill that was going to be passed through, I would be rejoicing in having made such a mark on the law. It is not the glory that attracts me to politics so much as it is the impact one can have on our society.

Multi-tasking My Feminism

We used to brag about our ability to multitask. Employers would be excited to hear about our ability to keep track of multiple activities at the same time. It used to illustrate a sharp brain that could process information quickly and efficiently.

And then “they” did a study. I don’t remember who, and I don’t remember when, but I remember hearing about it, and taking note. According to the study, multi-tasking was not as efficient as we all believed it was. Simply put, the brain had to disengage from one activity before it could begin another activity. (Regardless of how quickly our brain could disengage and re-engage?  I’m not sure if that was ever looked into.) This process took 30 seconds, but that is 30 seconds that we couldn’t get back. That was a waste of 30 seconds, and therefore not as efficient as finishing one task before starting another one.

I had a manager once who gave morning meetings. It was a womens-only business, and for the most part, I had a lot of time for thinking while there. I was the morning receptionist, so I wasn’t always there for the meeting that the rest of the team really needed to hear. One morning, though, I caught the end of her daily pep talk. I cannot remember what she was referring to, but she made the point about something that all of the women really resonated with:

“It’s like when you’re cleaning the house. You don’t just finish one room at a time and move on. You start the dishes, pick up the papers, take the laundry to the bedroom, etc.”

I think it resonated with me so well because I had never thought about what I was doing in that way. Growing up, we had a list of cleaning chores that we ticked off throughout the weekend as they were done, so I always did think of it as accomplishing one task at a time. My favourite chore, though, was laundry, and that is something that necessitates ‘multi-tasking’ while you do it. Unless you take your laundry to a laundromat (something that I have always fantasized about but never had the pleasure to get to do), you put some dirty clothes, and go onto something else for the next 20-30 minutes while your machine is cleaning it. I think this may actually be why laundry is my favourite task around the house. When I’m doing laundry, I get it in the machine, and then I am motivated to do something else around the house while I am waiting for the next part of that task. It’s somewhat rewarding to have the tasks around the house broken down into small tasks that I can engage and disengage my mind from.

Last summer, I read an article about how women’s work around the home is still not valued for the amount of effort put into it. Simply put, women are still informally put into the position of house manager, needing to remember events, chores (“honey-do” lists are just one way of delegating), and holding the family unit to the standard required for that family.  This idea has led to many conversations with my feminist ally husband… and even a few arguments. (Our relationship thrives on the constant growth of understanding our world from our slightly different viewpoints.) I am still ruminating on this idea, and probably always will be ruminating on it.

(The article is on the drain that this mental workload places on women. I highly suggest you read the article and have conversations about this with your friends and family. Check it out here: The Mental Workload of a Mother)

Recently, it has dawned on me that – just as women’s role as ‘house manager’ is not valued – women’s ability to multitask is being devalued with this “new study.”  Of course, nobody in the study or the media reporting on the study would ever say that women’s ability to do this is actually detrimental. That’s not the power structure of patriarchy works at this point in time (nor for the majority of its recorded history). Power structures are often more nuanced than to blatantly state something like that. Instead, the strengths of the lower segment of society are inadvertently de-valued to keep their power and confidence at bay so that those in power can stay there with the value of the strengths that got them there still intact.

This brings me to my leading philosophy on the kind of feminist that I am. There are several forms of feminism – from those who think women should be treated (and as such act) just like men to those who push for the acceptance of gender fluidity and a rejection of the binary.  I sit somewhere in the middle of those groups (I just like seeing the whole spectrum so much).

I recognize that there is a cultural construction of each gender. Within those constructs, there are characteristics that we apply to either genders. For example, men are assumed to be better at spatial reasoning and therefore excel in mathematics. Women, in this example, are assumed to be better at emotional intelligence and therefore excel in roles as caregivers. I know that culture is not static, but a web that we are constantly creating and navigating throughout. In this web, men are told that they are better at math and so they are more interested in it and spend more time understanding it. Women are told that they are better at understanding emotions and are encouraged to learn more about other people’s feeling, opinions, and the social repercussions that this has. Our web is still constructed with patriarchal tendencies, and those dictate that mathematics is more valuable than people’s feelings. Building a bridge is seen as a greater accomplishment than building a team of people with diverse opinions.

My call to feminist arms is to change the characteristics that we as a society value.  All of us have amazing strengths, and it is time that society values those strengths for their uniqueness rather than valuing only those that have always been in power.

When it comes to multi-tasking, I can see it from a non-feminist viewpoint, too. In this the information age, we are bombarded with so much information, tasks, and something new and shiny, that it can be overwhelming for many people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some people thrive more in this environment than others. This doesn’t mean that multi-tasking is bad for all of us. What should be focused on instead is how much multi-tasking is still efficient for one person before they can no longer hold it.

For me, I need that break after 20-30 minutes. I also need to feel like I am accomplishing something in order to be motivated to get something else done. As I get into any new role, I use this knowledge about myself to make my work that much more efficient. My multi-tasking load is not going to be the same as yours, and that’s OK.  As someone with an adequate emotional intelligence, I will accept your knowledge of yourself and your strengths and help you excel for who you are.  And, in a slightly different life, I might even have been able to build you a bridge, too. 😉

 

And Then It Hit Me

I agonized. I thought it all out. I spent nights, lying awake, thinking about it. Yet, I wasn’t doing anything about it.

One night, I got out of bed and decided to do something. My health-focused (read “hypochondriac”) brain had been telling me to just think about something else and drift off to sleep. If I fell asleep now, I could get 6 hours of sleep before the baby was up for the day. OK, now 5 1/2 hours. Somewhere between 5 1/2 and 5 hours of sleep before the inevitable waking up to baby stirrings, I realized that it no longer mattered. How many hours of sleep had I already lost to this? How many more was I going to lose?

I could figure out this problem. I could find the solution on my own. My recent thoughts of asking “expert” friends wasn’t getting done. I needed to just do it myself. Even if it was two hours past the time I really “should have” been sleeping.

An hour later, I had no solution, but I had more information. The journey towards a resolution was under way. It wasn’t the route I thought I was going to take, but my life rarely follows its plan.

And then it hit me.

No, my life does not follow my plans. But my life does follow my intention: to change the world. Whether through some seismic masterpiece or the tiny little decisions that I make at 3 hours past the time I should be sleeping – my life is changing the world. Why should I lose any more sleep worrying about that seismic masterpiece when those little things make just as much of an impact?

And so here I type – two hours before I should go to sleep. Just 25 minutes, I said. That’s all I need to make a difference to me today. That’s all I need to let my voice come out, just a little bit. There is so much more I would like to say, but there really isn’t more time in my day. And maybe there won’t be for the next 20 years. But why should I wait for that perfect moment or that seismic masterpiece if I can make as big of an impact with those tiny little moments every day?

Self Care or Sabotage

Last fall, I really started to worry about the state of my own mental health. My motivation was low, my self esteem seemed to be declining, and I had very little excitement for social activities. As a woman who makes things happen, I knew something was wrong when “Netflix and Chill” was more of my real life than the code words 20-somethings were always posting about.  I wanted to be out there, enjoying the company of my new coworkers, and getting the most of the new opportunities that fall generally provides. Alas, I barely had the energy to get through a day of work, let alone social activities afterwards.

I’ve known for a decade that the winter months are always hardest for my mental health, and I did what I could to combat SAD.  I made myself look forward to things, took my vitamin D and B’s, focused on eating better, exercising more regularly, and continued to increase my knowledge base as this always seems to inspire me.

Towards the end of the winter, I took Mental Health First Aid, and my eyes were pried open. I always advocate for others to get help when facing these symptoms, but I had yet to follow my own advice.  There’s always some excuse to not see someone – my schedule conflicts, it’s probably not as bad, etc. My health kept getting worse, though, and I finally spoke to someone!

It turns out, my biggest mental health concern was… BURNOUT! Yeah, I’m the woman who makes things happen…where do you think all of that energy comes from? For the last five years, I had been stressing myself out with the next big project, a new-to-me organization that gives back to the community, and putting so much effort into external relationships that I forgot about the most important role each and every one of us has in our lives – taking care of me!

Luckily, I caught this diagnosis just in time for the seasons to change, and the sun to inspire me into action. I LOVE SUMMER and SUNSHINE! Spring and summer is when I get the most done, and this year I had one primary goal: self care!

Shade-bathing with my feline bestie, Jito (he-toe) on a superbly sunny day this summer.
Shade-bathing with my feline bestie, Jito (he-toe) on a superbly sunny day this summer.

Of course, I also had a Big Party (a.k.a. ~ My Wedding) to finish preparing for, but self care through those preparations was key.  I knew that if I didn’t shift my way of thinking about my life, this burnout was going to plague me for much longer…and that is NOT what the woman who Makes Things Happens wants for her life. Last autumn might have been the peak of my lacking motivation, but I had been feeling depleted for almost three years before that. Prioritizing other people, other – still important – tasks and roles, but never really taking enough time to rest, recover, and love myself first.

I bet I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not! As I recovered this summer, I began to socialize more, and I notice the signs of my own burnout in so many other people I come across. Always an empath, I want so desperately to help them all learn from my own experiences. Alas, we’re all on our own journey, and – as one of my favourite quote:

“We cannot teach people anything. We can only help them discover it within themselves.”  ~ Galileo Galilei

There is another more famous quote that I love, too: when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Well, if you’re that student – you’re in luck!  This Saturday, I will be leading a Fireside Chat at the Healthy Living Therapies Alberta Association (HLTAA)‘s “Experience Health” Fall Fair in Edmonton. In this Chat, we are going to address the guilt that so many people suffer from when they take time for self care. Oh dear, there was a tonne of guilt I had to get through with my own self care! After addressing that gremlin, we will then discuss how to shift that paradigm and prioritize self care.  When you take time to care for you, you can care for others much better, and for much longer. I’m really excited to have this conversation with you!

Warming Fireside Chats!

If you have never heard of HLTAA before, please check out their website at: http://hltaa.org/

Tickets to the “Experience Health” Fall Fair are available on Eventbrite here.  Regular admission price is only $15 and there’s a wonderful deal with that $15. Every person there will receive a $10 voucher to use at any one of the amazing health-focused vendors there. So, really, it’s only $5, with a further $10 investment into your health from one of the amazing people you will meet there.  This is my first year attending the fair, but I have always heard great things. I am looking forward to seeing you there!

We Get To…Create the Change

The most inspiring phrases can hit us from such a myriad of places. Sometimes, they appear on a Page-A-Day calendar we bought just for that reason. Other times, we search the internet for quotes on “happiness,” “success,” “motivation,” etc. Perhaps you’ve found your guiding light or mantra in a book you read once, twice, or a dozen times. (I’m guessing you re-read it because of the genius in that mantra.)  Wherever you find them, inspiring phrases tend to show up exactly when you need them.

I’m not sure why, but I’m still surprised when an inspiring phrase seems to appear out of thin air. Or not such thin air as the latest example will illustrate. Depending on your view of life, you could believe that life throws you inspiration exactly when you need it. I hope you can believe that.

I was in a visioning exercise at work when I heard the best thing so far in 2016: “we get to create the change.”  Now, for all of those out there who like to always be right, I will impress you all with the fact that this was said in response – and against – my suggestion “to adapt to changes.”  Despite my ego’s desire to always have the best idea in the group, I swooned over this perspective.  As it turns out, synergy really does improve our lives.

Now, like I allowed myself, soak those words in: we get to create change.  Yes, it’s important to react to the changes happening around us, and be flexible. And, yes, it’s also important to hold our ground and stand for the things that are really important to us. But, what if we could do both of those things? What if we could constantly be observing the world around us and recognizing trends, while at the same time working towards that world we want to be a part of?  That is what those words meant to me.

So, what change do I want to create in this world? When I look back on my life, what do I want to see behind me? In front of me? Around me?  Well, for almost a decade, it has been one strong theme: the end of factory farms. But what all does that entail? How are we going to create that change? What is my role in creating that change? What are all the possibilities that might work with me and against me through that lifelong goal?  And, most importantly, what is the one thing I need to do right now to start making things happen?

I’m still working on my answers to all of those things, and more.  Don’t worry, you’ll be updated on them as things progress.  For now, I want to leave you with your own questions:

  1. What is the change you want to create in the world?
  2. Why would you choose just that one thing to change?
  3. Who are you going to impact with that change?
  4. How will you know when you’re making progress?
  5. What is one thing you can do today to start making things happen?

Share what you want to in the comments below, or email me your response to jodi(at)koachkarlssen.com

Until Next Time – Be The Mountain!

Easier to Pull than to Push

How do we make things happen? What does it take to create real change in this world? Who gets to leave a legacy behind? These are the questions that I have pondered through many of my Quarter Life Crises. (You can check out more at: Writing of a Quarter Life Crisis.)  And I couldn’t quite explain this for myself until the phrase – “it’s easier to lead with a pull than a push” – was mentioned to me earlier this year.

I’ve been an “activist” for a long time. When you read that word, what do you think? Often, it conjures up images of rallies, and large signs; sounds of people yelling from soap boxes and angry chants from mobs taking over the streets. For me, though, it means that I have studied the status quo, compared it to my personal ethics, and realized that I have to do something to make the world more into the ethical place I want to live in.  I actively challenge the status quo through my individual behaviour.

There are several ways to change the world; and I’ve been a part of quite a few. I have a confession to make, though: I have never been to a rally. I heard about a lot of them in university, and my interest was peaked a few times, but I was never convinced that it was the right way for me to change the world.  I know several activists who regularly attend, participate in, and even organize rallies for change – and I commend them for the hard work they are doing. But, this is not how I am changing the world   Mostly this comes from my realization early on that, well, you see…I hate conflict!

This idea – to pull rather than push – resonated with me deeply when I first heard it.  It came in response to my question to a group, “What qualities make for a great leader?” The responder pulled it from a quote that “it is easier to lead by pulling rather than pushing others to follow you.” Yes!

I want you to think of a leader that was appointed to their position of supervisor, manager, or something else along the lines.  Perhaps there was no other qualified person around, or they had the potential but lacked the training of how to lead. Do they encourage, motivate or pull their employees or followers to get the work done? Or, instead, do they demand, instruct, or push their employees to do what they say? I know which type of leader I would much rather follow. I follow the leaders that lead by example, encourage me when I’m not quite sure what to do, or motivate me to pull myself up to their level. I prefer leaders who pull me rather than push me.

When I apply this thought to my own life, and my biggest commitment to a cause, I think of my fiancé and my vegan lifestyle.  My fiancé and I were friends for years before we started dating.  A few months into the new relationship, a mutual friend of ours commented to me that she never imagined us together because I was a very opinionated vegan and my fiancé – at that time – loved eating meat. I love remembering this impression of our lives, and it serves as a benchmark for how much we have influenced one another. I have never even asked my fiancé to stop eating meat or consuming animal products; instead, I cooked many of our early meals and shared a cookbook with him that teaches him easy substitutes and – as he remarks – inspires him to be more creative. When he first asked if he could bring a non-vegan treat into our home, I was a bit taken aback – because it was his house, too – and so much more flattered that he cared that much about my values to ask permission.  Soon enough, he had reduced his consumption of animal products even outside of our house to the point where he is now a pescatarian, but not for the same reasons I am. How did this happen? Well, I calmly shared my reasons for making this change to my lifestyle, and he was inspired by some of the minor reasons I provided.  My fiancé is also a very compassionate, respectful, and open-minded individual. Those were three of the values that led me to choosing a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle. Through his acceptance and respect of my choices, I have become even more compassionate towards people that don’t always agree with my choices, and he has illustrated how you don’t have to be extremely passionate about something (such as the end of factory farming) to contribute to its success.

What about your activism? What inspired you to be a part a movement you care about, such as veganism, the end of poverty or feminism? How do you show up as an activist leader? Do you pull people into your cause, or push them? Are you getting frustrated with the level of engagement? If so, I would love to talk! Contact me below to set up a free Activist-Engagement Session.

Managing Your Time: “If You Want Something Done…

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

I remember the first time I heard it. I agreed with it. Now, I refuse to let it be repeated!

The first time I heard it, I was rushing around trying to finish: the last minute details of the first Vegtoberfest festival; the opening of a new restaurant; and not completely bailing on my sister as she prepared for her wedding. I was a busy person. And, I was getting a lot of things done.  Remember, I’m the woman who #MakesThingsHappen!

That was four years ago. And, I was a busy person for the next 18 months. Then, something cracked. I realized that I wasn’t happy. I noticed that even though I #MakeThingsHappen, everything I was working on had pretty much stagnated – including my health. The worst of it was that I couldn’t remember why I was doing half of the projects I had signed up for. Yet, that saying kept circulating around me and people kept asking me to get things done.

Who actually thought that saying up?  Busy people are BUSY for a reason – why are you going to interrupt them from THEIR mission by adding to it? Because we assume they are the most resourceful? Because they finish what they started? Because they’re dedicated? Because you can count on them to get it done? Because they’re not-so-secretly martyrs and will always say “yes” when they should really prioritize instead?

Ah, there’s the rub. The saying needs to be changed:

“If you want something done, ask a martyr.”

That’s a little more honest. You can count on a martyr to get it done. A martyr is dedicated to a cause (and sometimes too many of them). A martyr will finish what they started…often to their own death or detriment. You will assume a martyr is the most resourceful, but often only because their dedication to a cause is so high. A martyr may even interrupt the dedication to their own cause to help you, because they recognize that you are just as resourceful. So…why aren’t you just getting it done? Because a martyr will do it for you if you just ask them to.

Are you a martyr? If so, you need to read the rest of this blog! If not, please do the martyrs in your life a favour: stop asking them for help…and send them this blog!  If you want a martyr’s input, ask them instead to help you with something. Use their passion to get your project done together, and be inspired by their actions.

I have seen far too many martyrs in my life. Whether in the activist scene, the holistic health community, or in the business world – dedicated people (a.k.a “martyrs”) are over-worked far too often for the passion they hold that they could be directing in to a much more productive outlet.

Why is this happening?  Every person has their reasons, but here are just three that come to my mind first:

  1. Martyrs are more compassionate and empathic than most other people.  Well, that pretty much defines every activist or “light worker” I have met. It takes a lot of empathy to understand that something in our world or business needs to change. Perhaps, we’ve struggled in a situation and now see someone else in the same situation. Aren’t we supposed to be the person we wished we had when we were younger?
  2. Martyrs are dedicated in seeing results, and will keep pushing until they do.  The proper definition of a martyr is someone who voluntarily dies for a (religious) cause. That is the level of dedication assigned to people who put themselves in to this predicament.  Ask yourself, “if you were given the choice of death or this project failing would you choose death?”
  3. Martyrs forget to take care of themselves as well as they take care of “To Do” lists and other people. Yes! This is the single biggest reason that busy people get turned into martyrs, burning out before they get anywhere close to accomplishing their own mission.

Do any of these happen to you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!  And, you can stop this situation in its tracks. How?

First: start by saying “No!”

I had a boss that would be flabbergasted when I explained to him how much I had to do. He told me to tell me “no” if I couldn’t actually get something done for him. In his words, “if you never tell me no, then I can never trust your yes.”

(Ironically, he would always just keep asking me when I did tell him “no,” but I’m sure I will write more on that later…)

Second: Choose your limits

What is YOUR mission? Why are you here? How are you changing the world? Your limits are all about YOU and only you. Knowing what is most important for you will actually help you in saying “no” to the people and projects that don’t fit in to that criteria.

Third: Schedule “Me” Time

EVERY DAY! You’re dedicated to getting that task list done, so you’re going to be looking at your schedule, your task list, or your day planner at least once a week. Put “Me” down on every day! And, during that time, do something that YOU love to do. Maybe it’s vegging out to Netflix, or cooking an amazing seitan roast, taking a bubble bath, or reading a trashy romance novel. I know you won’t get to that time every day, but at least putting it out there will help you think about taking care of YOU for at least a fraction of the time that you take care of everything else out there.

Of course, these three steps are just the beginning. So start with them!  In the next few months, I’ll share more with you about how to find your core competencies, delegate what you’re not good at; and stay accountable to yourself before all others.  I know what it’s like to suffer as a not-so-secretly martyr, and I want to help others stop suffering through it, so we can all reach our ultimate missions and really #MakesThingsHappen.

For all the Busy People out there, thank you for #MakingThingsHappen. You have done a lot, and now I’d like you to reclaim some of that time for yourself and YOUR mission. That is my ONLY request of you!

For everybody else, STOP ASKING BUSY PEOPLE TO DO THINGS and get it done yourself!