Category Archives: Goals

Self-Reflection During Uncertain Times

I recently started re-reading the book “Let Your Life Speak” by parker J. Palmer. I’m still only in the first chapter, but I’ve had to stop multiple and meditate on what I’m taking in.

What’s resonating with me within the context of getting used to living life in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be slowing it’s spread of a potentially deadly virus is a line from the opening chapter, “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” It is from the poem ASK Me by William Stafford.

The past four months of isolation, social isolation, and more spare time that I ever cared to have has help me with doing a lot of soul searching. If and when this pandemic is over we’ll all be facing a future that is significantly different. A number of restaurants and eateries have closed, some of our favourite clothing and department stores have shut down for good, people are still working from home, and many people have ended up unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on businesses.

If your job, material goods, and your leisure activities defined you – who are you once those things are no longer available?

Isolation, quarantine, social distancing, and endless online meetings have revealed our weaknesses and our strengths. The rapid changes that have taken place are an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s life.

Some simple questions to ask one’s self:

-What have I missed the most?

-What have I missed the least?

-What are some new ways of doing things that I enjoy or like?

-What are some old ways of doing things that I hope we don’t return to?

-What are some new skills I’ve learned over the past few months?

-What has my outlook been like? Hopeful, anxious, confused, grief-filled, resistant, disbelieving, etc.

If you haven’t taken some quiet time for internal reflection during this COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to do so. It’s not a time to beat yourself up or make extreme unattainable goals; it’s simply a time to reflect on what you’ve been feeling, thinking, and doing during these times of instability and rapid changes.

Whatever your reflections reveal, remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.

Ask Me William Stafford

 

Shortcuts, and Getting Lost in Life

 

I think we can all admit that we’ve made some unwise decisions in our lives due to impatience. We want something and we want it sooner than later. We don’t want to take longer than we think it should take to get somewhere in life, be it a physical destination or a goal.

This weekend I learned about the story of the Donner Family, also known as the Donner Party. This was a group of approximately 90 American pioneers in 1846 who were to make their way from Illinois west to California. At one point during the journey brothers Jacob and George Donner decided to not follow the already established, tried and true path west, but instead decided to follow a supposedly new and shorter trail established by a man named Lansford Hastings. Let’s just say the shorter path ended up not being quicker, in fact, it didn’t even exist.

Image result for donner party

During the journey the emigrants discovered the path had not even been cleared; instead it was all dense bush and rocks. Travelling with a caravan of children, women, and men of different ages, along with animals, and personal belongings made the trek even more difficult. To say the journey was filled with failure is an understatement.

Due to heavy snowfall the travelling party eventually became trapped in the Sierra Nevada, unable to proceed further due to the weather. Unprepared for the harsh winter they experienced hypothermia and eventually ran out of food.

Members of the Donner Party eventually turned to survival cannibalism due to near starvation; some turned to murder; and others experienced trauma due to the death of their spouses and children. Eventually some members of the party were rescued when the weather allowed a group of men to form a search party. Apparently roughly half of the party survived long enough to be rescued, the majority of them being children.

I share this extreme story of what can happen when we make decisions to take unnecessary short cuts to show the lengths some of us could be willing to go even if it meant risking our safety and well-being. It’s easy to look at the Donner Party and question how they could be so foolish and careless, but I’m confident we can all search through our past and find our own versions of impatient decisions which lead from one thing to another until regret, embarrassment, anger, and shame took over.

Image result for going in circles

Major areas in life where we are heavily tempted to take shortcuts:

Money. Be ware of risky habits such as gambling, buying lottery tickets if you can’t afford them, signing up to be an multi-level-marketing (MLM) rep if you can’t afford the start up costs and don’t have a large network to sell to, borrowing money from friends for things you don’t need, and using credit cards for unnecessary big ticket items instead of saving money.

Friendships. Making friends as an adult takes a lot longer than it does when you are in high school or college. Solid adult friendships take time. Avoid the mistake of thinking that frequently hanging out with people leads to meaningful friendships, it doesn’t most of the time. It might take years to build long lasting friendships with people you can trust, depend on, and genuinely care about, but it’s worth it.

Goals. Whatever your goal is, the way to achieve them is to commit to the work of daily discipline, learning, failing forward, sacrifice, and prioritizing. We look around and see successful people in person and on social media. What can easily be forgotten is how long it can take to become knowledgeable in your field and develop the skills that will keep you successful for the long run. People who take shortcuts to success are often people who have cheated others, stepped on people, fought a nasty fight to the top, and deceived someone somewhere. You want your goals to be achieved with integrity, honesty, hard work, and ethics.

Whenever you are tempted to take shortcuts in life remember this verse from Proverbs 21:5:

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

 

There Are No Experts On Life

There is an expression that some people believe, “You are the expert of your own life” or the other variation, “You are the only expert of your own life”.

I was in a planning meeting where we were working on developing a tool for women who might feel isolated or lack community during their pregnancy and postpartum period. A common theme and belief that kept being repeated during the brain storming session was that women know what’s best for themselves and they are experts in their own lives. I had to disagree.

I reminded everyone in attendance that if these women were indeed experts, they wouldn’t be needing help because they wouldn’t have found themselves in these situations that required government help. An expert is defined as “One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject; b) having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” (Websters-Merriam Dictionary)

The reason I believe we can’t ever become “experts” of our own life is because of a simple fact, we don’t know what we don’t know. As someone who has worked with numerous women and others who are in emergency situations I have never believed that we should expect people to know exactly what they need. In the midst of situations that will eventually become traumatic, it is unrealistic to expect a person to be an expert while their life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, or in danger. That is why we as workers, friends, and family are there to be of help to those in need.

Failed expectations often lead to shame, embarrassment, isolation, and sometimes mood disorders. We can manage our lives as best as we can, but that never guarantees that occurrences outside of our control won’t happen and that we won’t be in a place where we won’t know what to do and seek assistance and advice.

There are a variety of reasons why people aren’t so called experts of their lives: PTSD, mood disorders, sleep deprivation, lack of self-awareness, being manipulated, effects of domestic violence, medical issues, and simply being human.

If you are an expert of your life, this can lead to not being open to growth and learning. Learning more about yourself, your environment, and others. It’s easy to see yourself one way while others might see you a different way. We can learn self-reflection, self-awareness, and healthy self-critique; but it is unlikely that you will ever become an expert on yourself.

Life's Journey

Instead of being an expert, embrace being a learner with periods of thankfulness for the experiences of growth and transformation. We can plan for the future, but if we aren’t flexible and resilient, we will always be disappointed. Allow yourself to change directions and welcome new experiences. An expert is rarely on a journey because they know everything already and are often there to tell the world what they know rather than what they are learning. Experts spend plenty of time talking about the past and less on the future of open possibilities.

Let’s leave being an expert to things that are external to our self and instead, let’s be journeyers in our own lives.

Judging without Judging

Life live to the fullest!

The title, it doesn’t sound quite right. Judging without judging others, how is that possible, is that even possible? Sounds almost like an oxymoron.

Over the past few weeks I had been trying to figure out how to deal with a very powerful peer who happens to be a highly judgmental, self-serving, vindictive, and bitter person (this description sounds judgmental, doesn’t it?). It has gotten to the point where a conversation couldn’t be had without her tearing down other women who work in our industry. It was an earful of listening to nasty comments about how these other women dress, what their husbands look like, silly gossip, and fantasies of taking her opponents down in the cruelest manner.

If this was a friend rather than an industry peer, keeping my distance would be easy. Speaking to her about the behaviour described earlier is out of the question. I have seen firsthand what has happened to those who have dared to do so; it wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately, I live in a mid-sized city and it is difficult to entirely avoid people who are in the same career field as you. Everyone knows somebody who knows someone. In the end I decided to forfeit having her as part of my career sphere of influence.

The Lessons

What I have been learning is that when you are close to a peer(s) and you distance yourself from these people who are emotionally toxic yet powerful and well connected, it makes more labour for you in terms of networking, getting connected with just the right people, learning the ropes, and having your work known by others; but in the end it is worth it.

Not having that powerful and seasoned professional by your side to give you the ins and outs of a cutthroat industry makes the struggle even harder, but I was alright with this, my personal values were more important.

If your career-based circle of associates requires that you cut others down, eliminate your competition with dishonest words or actions; and your emerging business plan includes a social media smear campaign against people you (or they) don’t like; take a pass, this is necessary. Your mentors and those who are part of your career circle heavily influence your behaviour, values, and personal work ethic.

Ask yourself, “what part of who I am as a person is being sacrificed in order to stay within this career based inner circle”?

Is the sacrifice and trade-off your…?

  • personal values
  • unnecessary time away from your family
  • money that you don’t have to spare
  • integrity and honesty
  • healthy character traits
  • long-time friendships (healthy ones)
  • your faith/religion
  • keeping up shallow and superficial appearances
  • constant emotional and mental fatigue that isn’t directly related to the production of your work
  • abandoning your own dreams or personal goals in order to people-please
  • decrease in quality of your own work

Count the costs, not just short-term, but long term as well. It can be difficult to set boundaries with people who have direct influence on your work, reputation, and income, but I encourage you to find a way to create a healthy distance between yourself and industry peers who have a spirit of spitefulness, revenge, pettiness, and exclusion. The slower path to career fulfillment will leave you with a clearer conscience knowing your achievements were obtained without having to sabotage peers, belittle the work of others, or step all over people.

When you take the more laborious and often longer path, do so because the other option was not a part of who you are as a person, nor who you aspire to become. Recognize that people who thrive from their toxic behviour are often personally scared and insecure, and might even have developed such ways of living due to past trauma. But remember, it is not your problem to deal with. Be willing to operate in a different way without seeing yourself as better than anyone else or allowing bitterness and self-doubt to permeate your mind and your work. This is how you “judge without judging”.