Self-Development and the Critical Mass of Spanx

Last weekend, I took a bite out of the Big Apple. And, as it turns out, everything else that was edible in Manhattan. A family-styled dinner at Carmine’s (code for a delicious pasta overload). M+M World. Tuna tartare tacos. And so on. It was a joyous feast that I do not regret.

On Saturday, I was co-hosting The Golden Ticket :: Your Time in the Spotlight with my dear friend and colleague Michelle Ward (much more to come on that day in another post). Lo and behold, the dress that I had packed for the glitter + gold day was juuuuuust a little snugger than it had been days before. So, I reached for the ol’ Spanx. As expected, it brought things in and up, and smoothed things out (almost) perfectly. A second look in the mirror had me contemplating this thought…would a second pair bring things in and up that much more?

And then this:

How many pairs of Spanx would a person have to wear before the sheer bulge of the extra undergarments defeated the purpose?

Or, put another way: What’s the critical mass of Spanx?

Applying my lipstick and laughing at the inanity of this question, I thought back to a moment two years earlier. My then six year-old daughter had done or said something heart-meltingly beautiful and I was tearfully holding onto her with such force that it was like I was willing time to stand still with my arms.

My husband surveyed us on the couch, Mama and daughter in a heap of love, and with a gleam of mischief in his eyes, said: “Y’know, Babe. There is such thing as being too present.”

I wonder. Kinda like too much of a good thing, non? Or like too many magical undergarments?

In that moment on the couch, I went from enjoying a snug with my girl to trying so hard to clamp down on it that the sweetness became salty with tears.

The moment itself became bloated and completely out of proportion.

And so, I’ve been asking:

  • At what point does self-discovery become self-aggrandizing goop?
  • At what point does our ability to see other perspectives just become another way to dilute meaning?
  • At what point does positive self-reflection turn into convenient procrastination?
  • At what point does simplifying actually become unwieldy with boundaries and barriers?
  • And, ultimately: 

At what point is the critical mass for self-development reached (and tipped)?

Kate says: “Anything–even spiritual work and self-help–can be twisted to suit the purposes of Ego.”

Right-o.

Lianne’s rule of thumb sings to me: “As long as your inner work is making you more human, more connected and more of who you are, carry on.  If it is taking you to a place where you are finding it hard to live in the world and irritated by others’ ignorance and lack of enlightenment then it has become a voyage of escape, not a voyage of discovery.”

Proportion and intention.

I keep coming back to having “it” be about understanding the end goal. 

The Dalai Lama has said: “It is important to consider others at least as important as ourselves.” This is hard to do when our eyes are affixed to our navels.

Look up and keep your eye on where you’d like to go…and exercise proportion control.

 

 

********

PS – Ready to step into your starring role? The Dress Rehearsal begins on March 1st. 

 

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TGtv Episode 4 – How NOT to launch

Live (ish) from New York, it’s TGtv…

I’m here for Golden Ticket with Michelle Ward. Crazy, crazy excited to be meet all the Goddesses rock their message out on video in an off-Broadway black box theatre. And that will be one delicious celebratory glass of champagne at the end of the day.

And my family came with me. This, my friends, has been part of the dream. The work I love WITH my family? Truly sublime. Bursting with gratitude. The Kid has seen herself on a screen in Times Square, we have had the experience of “Annie” sippy cups of (questionable) wine at the Palace theatre. Carriage ride in Central Park, Statten Island ferry, MoMa, FAO Schwartz, the whispering corner at Grand Central are on the agenda.

As such, this will be quick ‘n useful.

Last week, I decided to launch the Dress Rehearsal version of Step into Your Starring Role program.

I live and breathe the content. It’s what I do with my clients all the time: helping them go from feeling like an understudy in their lives to the starring role. It’s also deeply rooted in the TEDx Women talk I did in December. So, the content lives and breathes and is very very very good.

But I haven’t done it in a group before and have been deeeeeeply wanting to. And so I decided to. Last Thursday. I did NOT do my due diligence, got a little sloppy, didn’t pay attention to details and yet, YET….

Please note – some people have reported that the video is hard to hear even with their speakers turned all the way up. Try using headphones – that seems to do the trick!

So.

  • I do NOT recommend launching on Saturdays.
  • I DO recommend paying attention to details.
  • I DO recommend doing due diligence and consulting with people in the know.*  (Tara Gentile’s Insight Intensive comes to mind…I cannot recommend Tara highly enough). And if you’re launching something, be sure to let Stacy Stone know.

And I ALSO recommend launching anyway.

If you have a story about a launch that flew OR flopped, please share in the comments. Also, please share resources for others who are launching to learn from.

And there are ONLY THREE spots left for my Step into Your Starring Role:: The Dress Rehearsal program. If this feels right for you, join us.

 

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Tantrummy Toddlers + Inner Critics

Quick. Name three things toddlers hate:

.

.

.

Got them?

I’ll go first:

  1. Change.
  2. Being ignored.
  3. Feeling unsafe.

How’d I do? Pretty close?

I’d like to submit for your consideration that toddlers have a boatload in common with our inner critics.

Unconvinced? Read on.

They both despise change.

To wit: ever tried to get a toddler to leave the playground/library/house? Ever tried to launch something new? Decided to take a bold leap? Oh, the howling. The HOWLING.

And if you ignore the screaming…

What happens next? They (both) go ballistic. Flinging sippy cups and beratement your way.

But if you lean in and listen…

…REALLY listen, you’ll hear they both want just want to know that they’re safe. Loved. Heard. Held. That you’ve got this.

I know, I know. It’s hard.

They know how to play you (‘cause they have the inside scoop and know your trigger points) and they do. And we KNOW there’s no negotiating with them. But for all the “kick ‘em to the curb” language in the land of self-development about dealing with the inner critic, it really doesn’t work. Nor does screaming at it, cutting it off, walking away or shaming it. (And we know you wouldn’t dare try any of that crap with a toddler).

Your inner critic is a part of you. A noisy, messy part of you. But an integral part.

Try this

Just like you might with a tantrummy toddler*, imagine getting down to eye level with your inner critic, taking a deeeeeeep breath (or three) and calmly, patiently and with curiosity ask what she REALLY wants. What she’s here to tell you. And then listen. Listen deeply. Listen for the fear.

Most often, I think you’ll hear:

I’m afraid we’ll look foolish.

I’m afraid that we’ll fail.

I’m afraid we’ll lose it all.

Oh.

Do you see why she’s been so vocal? This is big. For her, this is even bigger than big. It’s everything.

Now hand her a metaphorical mum-mum while you absorb what she’s just shared.

What is she trying to show you? What does she want you to protect on her behalf? Which of your values is she fiercely wanting you to honour?

Maybe her “we’ll look foolish” is pointing to your value of accomplishment.

Maybe her “we’ll fail” is pointing to your value of excellence.

Maybe her “we’ll lose it all” is pointing to your value of freedom.

Take a moment to notice how much calmer she is already. (You both are). In her outburst, there was 2% of truth that she needed you to hear. (The other 98% of sheer red-faced rage has been dissolved). Can you hear that truth? That those values are sacrosanct to you and that you must find a way to honour them as you move forward? And that you will?

And now, will you thank her for her deep care and assure her that you’ve got this? Kiss her on her forehead as you tuck her into her snugli and get going. Proceed as planned, holding those values sacred. The waters are calm…and we’re ready for your new. So are you.

Yeah. You’ve got this.

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TGtv Episode 3 – What kind of person do you want to be?

We all trip up. We all lose our way. We all get jumbled in the “should I” vs “shouldn’t I” cage match.

Answering “what kind of person do you want to be?” is a never-miss shot of clarity. Character-revealing. Your next steps may not always be easy, but they are clear.

Watch on.

And hey, TGtv friends? It’s good to be back.

So…will you consider:

1) Feel free to declare in the comments what kind of person YOU want to be. It feels good to claim it.
2) Let me know in the comments, on Facebook  or via email if there are any issues you’re facing in your business or life that you’d love me to tackle in an upcoming episode. I’m willing to bet you’re not the only facing it.
*************
PS – In the next couple of episodes, I’ll help you: sift through the many asks that sit in your inbox and discern what to say yes/no to; dealing with overwhelm; what stops people from starting, and on and on. Why not sign up for the blog (and you’ll get The Joy Pages) and you’ll KNOW when the next TGtv comes out.

PPS – Feeling like you could use more Clarity in your life or business? My Clarity Sessions have been likened to divining rods. Sounds about right. Shall we book one?

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Beautiful Feathers

As a young girl, my appetite for princess stories was voracious. The singing, the woodland creatures, the ball gowns, the conquering of evil, the comeuppance, and, of course, the happily ever after. But before any happily-ever-after could be requited, the narrative arc needed to be crested, and the villain’s main motive was always the same: jealousy.

The evil stepmother. The ugly stepsisters. Ursula. Maleficent. The Queen. Each woman more jealous than the last. Covetous of our heroine’s unparalleled beauty, kindness, capacity to love and be loved, resilience and charm, they were cruel and vicious towards her.

When I was teased in grade school, my beloved Mama would soothe my brow with assurances that those other girls were “just jealous.” In my mother’s eye, I was that princess of unparalleled beauty, kindness, capacity to love and be loved, resilience and charm. “Stay away from them” was the directive. And a subtle distrust of other girls was born.

It ebbed and flowed over the years, to be sure. True and enduring 2 am call friendships would become forged that weren’t fraught with jealousy and tension. But a deep-rooted belief existed that somewhere lurked a woman (women?), jealous of me and my gifts who wanted nothing more than to peck my eyes out with her talons.

“Staying away” came to mean:

Keep your head down.
Don’t shine too brightly (you may become a target).
Don’t ask for help (scavengers will feast on your weakness).

Over time, this got pretty stale. As I started to become awake to my purpose on this sweet orb called earth, I knew there was another way. In fact, MANY other ways, and none that required me to keep to my small, safe and quiet path.

If I was to fully step into my purpose (and really…you don’t say “no” to your purpose), there was no way I’d be able to hold it alone.

I would need to trust in others.
I would need to ask for help.
I would need to shine brighter.

So I did.

And who showed up? Not a single vicious predator, but rather flocks and flocks of beautiful soul sisters. Mentors. Colleagues. More 2 am friends. Co-working partners. Genius collaborators.

And the more I showed up, the more they showed up.

Parliaments of owls, wise and insightful. Exaltations of larks, cheerful and self-aware. Convocations of eagles, spiritual and courageous. Bouquets of pheasants, noble and refined. Charms of magpies, creative and expressive.

Ah. Yes. This is the way for me.

Image credit: Hannah Marcotti

In these flocks, I have found divine inspiration, guidance and solace. In these flocks, we gather and preen each others’ beautiful feathers. To the observer, this may seem an act of vanity. In fact, in this act of preening, we are bonding, insulating each other, helping one another to fly more efficiently, keeping each other healthier AND more beautiful. And once our feathers are neatly ordered and in place, we are ready to fly…often in formation to help conserve energy for maximum velocity.

 

It is my later-in-life belief that we need each other to love, to hold, to cherish, to champion, to challenge, to connect and to conspire.

Lean in.

  • Dare to ask for help. It makes you neither needy nor dilutes your value of independence.
  • Dare to see the brilliance in another’s feathers. Allow them to reflect back the brilliance of yours.
  • Know that your success inspires their success. Your wins make their wins possible.

I intend to send this post to the women in my life who have taken my 2 am call. Have sent “what do you need” texts. Have listened with their full heart. Have held space for my fears and tears. Have helped me in my business with their promotional power. Have seen the beauty in my feathers and have preened them with me.

I will say to them, as I say to you:

Thank you for being in my flock. For having me here. For being here.

Will you do the same?

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The wonder of specificity

Be careful what you wish for…you may get EXACTLY what you’ve asked for. No more, no less.

A story:

As long as my husband and I have been together and talking about building a life and family as one, we were always going to have a little girl named Lauren. There was no other name for her. Lauren or bust. She would be funny. She would be compassionate. She would be creative. She would have great hair and an even greater heart. Oh sure, we’d probably have another one. But our nights were spent dreaming and whispering about our Lauren. Magical, sweet girl.

Another story:

It was 2004. I was nursing said magical, sweet girl and reading a parenting magazine. I came across an article about Jennifer Torres, the beautiful entrepreneur behind Salsa Babies. She was quoted as saying she built her business with the intention of making the same amount as she did on her maternity benefits (called EI here in Canada). No more, no less.

At that time, my husband and I had sucked in the belly fat that was our budget and were managing to get by just fine, thank you very much, on his income and my EI benefits. YES, YES, YES, I thought as I sniffed the head of my honeysuckle-scented child. That was EXACTLY what I wanted: not an empire, just a business that I can run from home with my babe-in-arms that will cover what I was currently making on benefits. And maybe enough to cover the “incidental thousand” as my friend Krista says. I declared it that night to my husband.

I am incredibly blessed. I will repeat that. I am incredibly blessed:
• I have my one dreamy Lauren.
• I hit the desired revenue amount in my business within a year and a half of putting out my shingle.

There is not a single day that the joy of my child and the joy of my business don’t make a cameo in my gratitude journal. No. That feels too glib. There is not a single day that I do not thank the deity I call God for the gift of my daughter, my business and my life. Better.

Powerful stuff, this intention-setting.

And:

• It’s likely that there will be no more sweet, magical children.
• It took me a very very long time thereafter to surpass the EI + $1000 revenue amount in my business.

Powerful stuff, this intention-setting.

See where I’m going here?

I was super specific about the order that I placed. I forgot to leave room for ordering dessert. Besides, isn’t it greedy to ask for more?

Nope.

Yeah, I know “more” is a four-letter word. But so is love, hope and cash. You’re allowed to ask for more. You always have been and you always will be.

As I shared months ago with my dear friend Rachel Cole:

The more I heap on, the more I share. And the more I send out, the more comes back to me.

Our needs scale. Our desires scale. Please make sure that your intentions scale too.

So, by all means, be specific with your dreams + wishes. Get granular AND leave space for more.

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Skepticism vs. Cynicism

Our daughter has a lot of questions lately. Things are shifting, ever-shifting around her and she is trying to get her bearings.

Images of caskets. Unattended teddy bears. Flags at half-mast. We have risen to her questions about Newtown in the most age-appropriate way that we know how, as most parents and caregivers have. We make our way in through compassion as we touch on issues that feel too complex for us to grasp. It’s excruciating to witness a little more of her innocence slip away with every tiny bit of information shared. A new layer of bark on the tender sapling that she is.

And of course, it must be said that every chance I get to hold her, I do, overwhelmed with gratitude that I still have this very moment.

It’s our seemingly contradictory role as her parents to meet her needs with love and presence and then stand back to allow her independence and interdependence to flourish. To be her safe place to land as well as her spring board from which to soar.

We are trying to allow our own grief and vulnerability to hold some space and not attach too much to it when the gears shift suddenly to another topic, like Santa.

Tonight will likely mark her last visit to see him with the true belief of his existence in her heart. Her questions have become far more sophisticated, that yawning space between middle childhood and adolescence starting to close. Though, for one last year, her healthy skepticism has yielded to her hopeful belief in magic.

In school, the debate about Santa rages on: the Cynics who admonish those who still believe for being naïve vs the Skeptics who want to understand the truth (even as they have fear, doubts and apprehensions).

Fertile ground for debates of the future.

As the tragedy in Newtown is bound to become further politicized in the dark days ahead, it’s my hope that we can move from cynicism toward skepticism and from there, towards contribution. As ever, the way in is through compassion.

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Things I love in 400 words (2012 edition)

Long, long ago, a friend returned from a trip to Europe with 100s of developed pictures. And I looked at each and every one. Correction: I SAVOURED each and every one. This to me felt significant because I barely look at my own pictures of trips to Europe with that level of reverence.

But these were different, these were truly beautiful. I mean, sure, I got nice shots of the Seine, flower carts, rolling hills of vineyards, ancient fountains and the requisite snap of my husband with the Eiffel tower (and other landmarks) sticking out of his head.

The difference, I realized, was that Elly saw beauty in everything. Everything. And though she would argue that she’s  not a skilled photographer, she was able to CAPTURE that beauty in everything. Everything.

What a gorgeous way to move through the world.

I don’t believe that my gift is in seeing (and capturing) the beauty all around me. But I do see the grace. It’s everywhere, ready to be witnessed and savoured.

I’ve been invited to speak at a Gratitude Tea this Sunday in Toronto. It’s a fundraiser and the intention is to bring someone who has shaped your life to celebrate your gratitude for them. Celebrating gratitude, ummmm, yes please. (And there’s still time to get your ticket).

And so, with gratitude on my heart and in my writing, I’ve decided to reprise the post I did a year ago inspired by Elan Morgan (a woman I’m becoming increasingly grateful for).

 

Grace is a circular blessing. The more grace enters your life, the more grateful you are. The more grateful you are, the more easily grace seems to enter.

- David Brazier

Among other things, I love:

Full-hearted people who show up…even if you barely know them, baked potatoes with greek yogurt + chives, the stiff and uncracked spine of a new book, the soft and dog-eared pages of an old book, making lists, that moment of removing high heels, forgiveness, everything about the Sound of Music, impromptu dinner parties, the stage, generous people who make me want to be more generous, pizza night (though VPN pizza is a close second), witnessing acts of courtesy among strangers, TED red toenails, “it’s handled” emails from my VA, nanaimo bars near Nanaimo, the infectious quality of enthusiasm, wood-burning fires, retiring long-held beliefs that no longer serve, crossing guards who care, garden yoga, heart-to-hearts, reading just the right words at just the right moment, getting my makeup done for me, the ahhhhh of white space, staplers that mean business, the stillness of a stilling question, Erasure’s “A Little Respect” (like, every couple of years), clearing out my inbox, the song of Riedel glasses, new levels of appreciation, bagpipes in parades, the magic that lingers in a group long after a Board of Your Life session has ended, most cheeses beginning with “St.”, the perfectly picked gift destined to thrill someone, the memory of that Christmas Eve in Innsbruck, co-working with Jamie, pressing checkout on Kiva donations, making homemade ravioli (it’s never about the end product), Dropbox, my daughter’s current love of fluorescent pink, eye contact, humility, crisp linens, letters from Santa, firm black plums, the smell of grinding coffee, shifted (and shifting) perspectives, farmers’ markets, finding a full book of stamps, Staedler Triplus Fineliners, the “pop” of a champagne cork, the perplexing power of intention, dividing and sharing hostas, Dad’s borscht, genius ideas straight from the muse that cannot and will not wait to be captured until morning, fresh-picked cherries still warm from the sun, acts of courage, Scandinavian spa silliness with my husband (we are lousy at staying hushed), camping with our wonderful and wonderfully prepared friends (we are lousy at being prepared for camping), April in Paris (or September in Paris, or June in Paris, or…), kitchen dance parties, the way my Instagram feed feels like receiving postcards of peoples’ lives, inari sushi, knowing where the hand-crank flashlight is at all times, beach glass, freedom, sleepovers with my sister, getting to do my heart’s work, coming full circle, the sheer brilliance of The Desire Map and Gratitude Teas.

Yes. More please.

And you, Dear One? What do you love?

 

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The Power of Identification, Paint Cans and TEDxWomen

Two pieces of news.

They are unrelated, but not.

One: I am speaking at TEDxWomen on December 1. (My hands just shook as I typed that: I. Am. Speaking. At. TEDxWomen. On. December 1). So, you know, kinda a big deal.

Two: I finally got rid of the paint cans on my front porch.

Which one would you like to hear about first…the paint cans you say? Well, if you insist.

We have no garage, so unfortunately for our neighbours, we have become, over time, THOSE PEOPLE who store crap on their front porch. You know, stuff that no longer belongs in the house, but is one step away from the proper disposal. Like all bad habits, it was an innocuous first step that became a slippery slope of incremental crap housing. One bag of mortar mix begat the paint cans which begat the long-forgotten wagon which begat the ladder etc.

Getting rid of said paint cans has been on (though admittedly low-down on) the to-do list for longer than I care to share.

Oh, I’ve known where I need to take them. In fact, I’m pretty sure a two minute Google search would tell me who would come and pick them up for me. Safely. It’s just NOT been a priority.

Then one morning, as I was supposed to be writing my TEDxWomen talk (ahem), I received a group email:

Something that frustrates me to no end is not having easy access to information that teaches and shows us how to easily, safely and responsibly dispose of household hazardous waste items. 

Been hoarding a bag of batteries in your ‘bits and bobs drawer’ since high school?  Politely ignoring the leftover solvents and paints that are hiding beneath a tarp under your back deck or on your porch from that redecorating project in 2005?

Ummmmmmmmmm. Yes.

I identified with it. Fully and completely. It’s like she was writing with one eye on me. But you can read in these words that this rich context is likely borne of HER own experience, not mine. And it landed. Boom.

So, a short trip to the closest depot one day later, our front porch is (mostly) clear.

Identification leads to action.

So, about that TEDxWomen talk.

I’m tackling a topic that lives dead smack in the middle of my heart: how the Impostor Complex keeps people from their dreams. And to me, this is unacceptable, so I’m taking it down.

At the highest level, I know the talk will be grand: smart stuff, with a whole process, charming stories ‘n everything.

Annnnnnnnnd naturally, MY Impostor Complex is having a field day reminding me how woefully incompetent I am. How there are people far more qualified to speak to the topic than me. How I’m not funny, or smart, or captivating, or…

I’ve been struggling with the words. Procrastinating. Needling the nuances, incanting, sweating, fretting and tearing my hair out.  Because it really, really matters to me.

Hell on the ego, but heavenly fertile ground for developing honest and authentic content.

The more clever I notice myself wanting to become, or smarter, or funnier, or deeper or more poetic, the more I feel disconnected from the truth that MUST imbue my words. Which disconnects me from the point. Which will disconnect the audience from me.

Also not acceptable. Not for the work I need to do.

So here’s what the audience at TEDxWomen Isfeld can expect:

I will share what I know of my own experience with the Impostor Complex and the process I use with the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with.  I will share in my way, in my language and in my voice and some will identify with my words (and some will not). And some will take action (and some will not).

And you? Are you giving people the chance to experience you? Or are you hiding behind clever, or funnier, or deeper or more poetic, too?

My request: bring the fullest, most truthful expression of you, glorious YOU. Your people will identify and then take action. Promise.

And isn’t that the point?

++++++++

PS – The price of my Clarity Session (which have been likened to divining rods) goes up Jan 1. Now’s a pretty good time to book one. xoxo

 

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Today is End Sex Trafficking Day

As the title of this post suggests, today IS End Sex Trafficking Day. Can you believe there even needs to be a day dedicated to this? That such horror exists?

It does.

Women and children are bought and sold every 30 seconds around the world.

How many ways can we say: unacceptable?

When Erin Giles reached out to me in the spring to tell me about End Sex Trafficking Day and her desire to curate a book to help end this madness, about the project, I was an immediate and effusive, YES.

Buy a copy of End Sex Trafficking for $20 — a collection of 60 essays on love, knowledge + freedom by trailblazers like Seth Godin, Danielle La Porte, Jonathan Fields and yours truly (I wrote about love: “The Wisdom of the Beaten Heart”) — and all of the authors proceeds goes to the Not For Sale Campaign an organization fighting to abolish slavery every single day.

None of the essay contributors, the publisher or the editor is taking any money from sales. It’s not just a book, it’s a chance to change the world.

 

More than 27 million human beings are enslaved in the world in 2012. So — you want to stand up for freedom…today?

BUY THE BOOK HERE.

Let’s get this pressing message to all the hearts and lit up screens we can.

Thank you, you free and compassionate soul.

Click to tweet:

Just bought a copy of End Sex Trafficking. $20 = Women Freed + One Step Closer to abolishing modern slavery #ESTDay2012 http://bit.ly/GC8ff9

Tweet to free lives, help us end sex trafficking today on End Sex Trafficking Day #ESTDay2012. http://bit.ly/GC8ff9


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