Mind Control

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I recently had the pleasure of listening to Nancy Brownsberger as part of her webinars prepared for one of our teams.  She challenged listeners to think about this question: “Is the way I am speaking to myself the way I want to live my life now and into the future?” 

I have been trying to meditate more and the one thing I can say that I have mastered is just being more mindful of how my mind chatters away almost endlessly. And some of the time this mind of mine is jumping to nonsensical conclusions about the actions of others. Those conclusions seem to be connected back to my being shunned by a group of girls in grade four … because almost all my conclusions end up being, “I guess they do not like me anymore.”

I think we can all say that there is a small voice inside that seems bent on making us feel like less, having negative things to say about how we look, what we just said or how we are fitting in. Is how we are speaking to ourselves, and is this how we want to live?

Nancy says that we need to look for truth, look for evidence. And yes, sometimes we’ll realize that we have things we need to work on to be more supportive or flexible, but more often as we analyze the evidence, we find that that small negative voice has no business bringing us down today – or any day. 

Counter the voice with facts and ground yourself in the truth of your awesomeness.

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Bring it!

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – One of my favourite team exercises is the resume mash-up. We list all of the workplaces, experience, education, years of service and other assets of each team member and then make one humongous resume. The beauty here is that the sum of all that experience is massive, and this exercise drives home that we all bring a little something to the group that makes the team as a whole super fantabulous. 

These combined competencies and interests, if honoured, can make for an incredibly efficient, problem-solving team.  Working in a team is hard, there is no question. While all of those different strengths and opinions are what makes the team stronger, ideas can clash; there can be misunderstandings and conflict. 

I guess the magic elixir lies within two questions, the first being: Would you please help me to understand where you are coming from? Where we are coming from has a lot to do with all kinds of layers that we carry, how our family did things, our core beliefs, our habits and different experiences. What we do and how we do it makes complete sense to us.

The magic of the first question is that it simply asks to understand. In the outcome of that understanding a different way could be shared and learned. Or the person asking could decide that what at first seemed completely strange is a really great new way of doing things. 

The second magic wand question is: What can I bring to this team that no one else can? Here again we are all so unique we need to remember that a solution that seems so simple to us may not even occur to someone else. 

Our skills and abilities are our greatest asset, and ours alone to bring to the team. Seeking to understand where another is coming from helps us to understand their gifts, and in that understanding we can feel confident that our gifts will be received.  This is the one-two punch of community building and the ultimate mash up of awesomeness.

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Be the Lighthouse

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have read this analogy a few times over the past year, the notion that lighthouses do not move around. Very simple I know, but the idea here is that sometimes we want to move, play defense, intervene, react, save and otherwise scramble in a million different ways in order to warn those we care about that something is needed. A lighthouse, however, stays in one place and shines.

It is in the knowledge that this lighthouse is there, that the light is there, that ships for hundreds of years have known that there is a cliff or rock or another hazard to avoid nearby. Equally, if a storm was raging or the journey home was long seeing the lighthouse indicated that land was there, and home was close. Stay put, stay strong, stay rooted in who you are when you are your best self, and shine. We can’t actually solve the problems of other people or prevent them from crashing, but we can offer guidance in how we make decisions or commit to improving, how we shine.

And in your own journey who and what has offered you this same warning and comfort? Who was shining and steadfastly there when you have to make a decision? What phrase or truth shone bright when you were facing a dark time?

“Once the lighthouse is seen the rest of the sea is ignored,” Terri Guillemets said. Lighthouses do not move around; they stay rooted in rock. There is a lot of rocky danger in the world right now and we can feel like we are capable of offering very little… but you are so valuable and shiny in who you are and being you, so shine it out! You could be the lighthouse in someone else’s stormy seas.

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Small Steps to big dreams

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I recently was talking with a friend who had an interesting story. She had received a call from a close friend about going on a wine tour in the Niagara region for a few days. It did not take any convincing at all, it was perfect, a few days at the end of July to sip at wine, enjoy the sunshine and scenery with a good friend.  She said yes immediately and e-transferred the money needed. 

The next day the friend emailed all the information for the tour. It was then that it was noticed that this was a biking tour. Several kilometres of biking between wineries and vineyards seems the stuff of Hallmark movies, unless you do not regularly bike. 

I guess the takeaway here is that while lots of things should make us excited enough to agree on the spot, there are a few questions we should ask to ensure we have the whole picture, the whole agenda, know more of the facts. Lots of things may look like a sunny wine tour until we ask key questions. That is not to say that challenging answers or details should change our commitment, but at least we have time to purchase a gel seat. 

I think that we often set goals or determine a direction that we want to go, and then rush the in-between step of breaking that goal down into smaller steps. Ideally, I think that a big goal should be taken in small bites that can be celebrated and accomplished along the way so that we stay motivated and stay on track. In setting those small steps, the details of what is needed will come into focus, and we will know that while we are sure of where we are headed, there could be a lot more pedaling involved than first planned.

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My Cup Runneth Over

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – If someone bumps into me while I am carrying a cup of coffee and I spill some coffee on the floor, you may ask why did that happen? I may be tempted to answer that it happened because I was bumped into, but the reason is actually that I had coffee in my cup. That is to say, if I were carrying lemonade, there would now be lemonade on the floor.

This reasoning caught my eye first when it was offered in a friend’s reflection, because I was only thinking about the cause being the external force. It seems an upside-down kind of logic that the reason for coffee on the floor is in fact the presence of the coffee.

The thinking here is that whatever we are carrying is what will spill out when we are threatened, challenged, overwhelmed or bumped. We get to choose what goes in the cup. I might say, for example, that my latest tirade about work boots filled with sand that are always in my path at home is about the work boot wearers. In fact, that tirade is spilling out of me, and it is because of that reality that I have choices. I can fill my cup with complaints, fear, negativity, and anger. Or, I can focus on problem solving, positivity, joy, and gratitude. 

We can keep what’s inside all under wraps in either case until we get bumped by a crisis, a setback or a small thing that is just one thing too much. Self care is so much more than the odd pedicure; it is about really focusing on what we are filling up on and making sure that it is not toxic to drink or to put into the environment.

When life gives you lemons… well, you know, fill your cup with that sweet lemonade, step nimbly over the chaos left at the door by the family that you love, and sip sweetness as you choose what you take next in your cup.

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Sticky Notes

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I heard a great term this week when I was taking part in online leadership training – sticky floor.

The idea of the sticky floor is that we often get stuck in one way of thinking or in an echo chamber of our own making. We may know that there is another direction we could go or another room that we could try, but our proverbial feet are just stuck where they are. 

The trick is to make sure that we can find a way to un-stick ourselves from sticky spots and through our comfort zones to something new and better. So, why don’t you read a book you would not normally, watch a documentary on a subject you have never heard of, travel somewhere new, make connections with strangers just to see a new perspective?

This un-sticking, of course, is harder than it sounds; I know what kind of books I like and what reinforces my core beliefs. We all have gaps – experiences we have not had, knowledge we do not have, cultures we cannot begin to understand. It is only in identifying these gaps and working to fill them with new experience and knowledge that we can make a start at growth, at getting smarter. 

The trick of the sticky floor is that you can only move your own feet, even if you reach out to another for a brand new, different perspective that movement must be for your own. Last year I read Fredrich Nietzsche, on purpose, as his thoughts were pivotal to a friend’s mindset on the world.  I cannot say that I am now a completely different thinker, but I do have a little bit broader perspective on a different kind of self-improvement ideology. 

Here is the thing, I read that Nietzsche book knowing that there was no unwritten contract that the friend would in turn read Louise Hay or Brene Brown to understand my perspective. I had to go in with the idea that I wanted to unstick my feet and not thinking that I was going to dance anyone else across the rubber cement with me.  

Figure out what part of your floor is sticky and look for a path to more knowledge and awareness. And just like cleaning a floor, rinse and repeat as often as you can.

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Mindful Emoting

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have been taking a mindfulness course over the past few weeks. Mindfulness is a well-known concept to me, and there is always more to learn.

One theme that strikes me this time is the idea of being curious about emotions. That emotional responses will rise and fall throughout the day, that circumstances and situations will cause anger to flare or my stomach to tie up in knots or for me to feel instantly vulnerable.

I am urged by this current trainer not to stuff that down or be troubled that I am feeling a certain way. Just ride it out; take a minute to check in to what I am feeling and get curious as to why.

I think we all know how it feels to be in different emotional states, and that there are many that cause almost instant behavioural or physical reactions. Here we are being encouraged to just pause and think about what is really causing the emotion. Am I angry because the app on my phone is not working quickly enough or am I in fact nervous about the big interview that is coming up and my swirling emotions are taking it out on an easy target, troublesome technology?

The gurus of mindfulness say that the sweet spot is the time between what happens and our reaction. This is the time that we can choose to stay present, lean in, get curious – and not pitch that cell phone through the nearest window, but instead take notice of what is really going on. In that few seconds we can make a choice about our next move, take a deep breath, reset, reframe and carry on with grace and determination.

Equally, sometimes even after a pause, we need to expel angry energy. But at least we know why we are doing it and can tackle the cause while we are sweeping up the glass or other fall out.

Mindfulness always reminds that at any time we can return to a more balanced state just by taking a deep breath.

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Sprouting Wisdom

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – One of my closest rural neighbours (2 km away) has a market vegetable farm. On one of my evening walks a few weeks ago I came upon a little vegetable seedling, its little root ball drying out on the hot roadway. Not even sure what it was I knew that the seedling had toppled from a wagon en route to the field. I picked up the little sprout and cradled it in my hand for my walk back home. 

I planted the seedling in a pot and took care of it. A few days ago, it was about six inches high and very hardy in its pot. The time had come to transplant it to the garden, a glorious triumph for what now really looked like a cabbage plant. I saved the little seedling from certain demise, and now I would enjoy the coleslaw fruits of my labour in the near future. 

On a totally unrelated note, sort of, my yard has been filled with wild rabbits this year, and several times a day I can delight in them playing and nibbling on the grass. I love watching them and seeing how over time they are less and less startled by my presence. 

Here is where my delights collide – the bunnies ate my plant; it never had chance, it was too delicious and tender. I’ll admit, this was a jarring discovery when I was expecting to see a happy plant basking in the next stage of its rescue, but I must balance these emotions with my delight in the bunny colony. 

This experience made me think about how often we can’t have it all. We can’t have the culture and convenience of the city and the peace and quiet of nature. We can’t bask in the natural surroundings of country living without sometimes coming face-to-face with wildlife and long drives to get anywhere. 

Even in small things – like a kitchen renovations and your sanity – both cannot be present at the same time. And so, my delicious little cabbage plant could not exist in the midst of my 24-hour bunnies-at-play reality show. Sometimes life is just like that. Choose what you know is exactly right for you, whenever you can, and if that gets obliterated, eaten or feels wrong, choose again and enjoy.

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Bump It Up!

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I have had house guests for the last few weeks, including a 16-year-old with whom I recently discussed volleyball. She reminded me of the game, of playing it in high school and of the basics of volleyball communication.

These are not long dialogues to discuss who is going to do what on the floor; the balls whizzes over the net and if you think you have a good angle you yell, “Mine.” That’s all – no pleasantries, no one says, “I would really like to bump this so you can spike it, do you agree?”

In the fast pace of volleyball there is a trust among the team members to do what needs to be done, to listen and watch, to know what should happen next.

Of course, dialogue, debate, conversation and learning are critical in a lot of scenarios – in our work, in life, in family situations. Sometimes, though, I think we must channel our inner teenage high school volleyball player, and call it as we see it. I see this problem coming at us; I am confident in my ability to tackle it; please watch what I do so that you can follow up or help accordingly and have my back. It’s mine.

Some days we are playing a great round of golf or maybe chess, during which there is time to think and to
strategize in our challenges. Other days, however, those problems are being served at us in rapid succession. We need to act quickly, get the problem addressed and, sometimes, drop onto our knees and bump it high in the air knowing others will take the next step and finish the play.

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Talk Big

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read a great book – Every Conversation Counts by Riaz Meghji – and I was struck by his story telling and the great reminders about the power of conversation in building relationships and learning for life.

Meghji offers five strategies: Listen without distractions, make big talk, set aside perfection, be assertively empathetic, and make the other person feel famous. What I super-love is that these strategies are for everyday conversation; he offered examples from his world of interviewing people for television.

Two of Meghji’s strategies gave me some pause for thought, the first being about making the most of a conversation by making the “big” talk, beyond pleasantries or chit chat as it were, to ask an impactful question. It takes bravery and a healthy dose of vulnerability to do this. But what if we did go beyond ‘How are you’ or ‘Is it hot enough for you?’ to dip our conversational toes into, ‘What has been the most impactful part of your week?’, ‘What is the most important conversation you have had today?’ or ‘What do you need to talk over with someone today?’

The author’s second suggestion that I love is to make the other person feel famous. With this he stresses holding space for the other person, taking an interest in who they are, and sincerely being grateful for the time and talent they share with you.

In the rush of complex problems and very heavy workloads there is so much richness to be gained in being just a little more purposeful with the conversations that we have. Any conversation can lead to a great connection and something wonderful.

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