Wholehearted

imagesLately I’ve been enamored with Brené Brown’s work. She is a Social Scientist who is a researcher, storyteller, and speaker who inspires audiences to have conversations about difficult topics – in particular vulnerability and shame.

If I had titled this post shame would you have even read it? Please do….this information can have a profound effect on our Personal Mastery focus. Our shame may be driving us to not show up, be our true and authentic ourselves, and to speak our truth. Also, this entire post isn’t about shame or vulnerability.

Brené shares three things we need to know about shame:

  1. We all have it. It is universal and the most primitive of human emotions we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection and are potentially psychopaths.
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame.
  3. The less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.

images-9Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy. Shame shows up in all of the familiar places including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human.

Brené want’s to have a national conversation about shame – how it shows up and how to manage it. Our lack of identifying shame and our inability to speak about it is causing us to perfect our lives and to keep playing those broken tapes of inadequacy in our heads.

“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough. If we want to develop shame resilience, the ability to recognize shame and move through it while maintaining our worthiness and authenticity, then we have to talk about why shame happens.” – Brené Brown

images-10She has an amazing ability to explore these unspoken and painful topics using real stories of people who she’s studied and learned from. She also shares her very vivid life’s stories, thoughts, and feelings about how she struggles with vulnerability and shame in a genuine and humanistic way that her audience can’t help but connect with, giggle about, and understand. Her TED Talk on vulnerability is still one of my top 5 favs.

Because of Brené’s research and conversations with people who have figured out how to speak about and use vulnerability and shame to their benefit, she developed 10 Guideposts for what she calls Wholehearted Living. I consider them to be today’s updated version of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – you know what a fan of Covey I am so it shouldn’t be a shocker that I love Brown’s work. 🙂

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think – no mater what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough! It’s going to bed at night thinking; yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging. Wholehearted living is not a one-time choice; it is a process. In fact, I believe it’s the journey of a lifetime.” – Brené Brown

10 guideposts for wholehearted living:

  1. Cultivating authenticity – letting go of what people think.
  2. Cultivating self-compassion – letting go of perfectionism.
  3. Cultivating a resilient spirit – letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivating gratitude and joy – letting go of scarcity and fear.
  5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith – letting go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivating creativity – letting go of comparison.
  7. Cultivating play and rest – letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
  8. Cultivating calm and stillness – letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivating meaningful work – letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to.”
  10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance – letting go of being cool and “always in control.”

images-11Recently, I attended a daylong seminar called: Daring Way for Coaches in which we studied and pulled apart Brené’s 10 guideposts. Participants were asked: Which of the guideposts do we feel we’re living most fully now and feel like areas of strength that we can draw upon for resilience? I chose numbers 2, 4, 5, & 7.

The next question asked was: Which one or two guideposts would I like to focus and build upon after the seminar? I chose numbers 1 and 6. I felt that they would help propel me to live more wholeheartedly in lightning speed – yeah right!

It’s has been almost four months and I must admit that guidepost one is kicking my butt. Here are Brené’s thoughts  about authenticity….

  • Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we thing we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. (Check, I’ve got this mostly incorporated.)
  • Choosing authenticity means that we cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. (Nope, I don’t have this one. This has been tough for me because of my perfectionist critic. Perfectionist, party of one? Note to self: keep working on this one will ya? :))
  • We need to exercise the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. (I’ve been able to implement some of this but I have an inner critic that I’m battling that keeps questioning – What if others don’t think I’m enough? Where’s that critic sledgehammer! :))
  • Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving, even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives. (Okay, I’ve got critics or as Brené calls them gremlins that cause this practice to also be difficult. I need to remember that cultivating wholehearted living is a process and a journey of a lifetime so that I’m not so hard on myself!)

images-4Because of being enamored, I’ve been working on 1) a better understanding of and; 2) putting in a framework to manage those perfectionist tendencies. AKA the sledgehammer! 🙂 With awareness, focus, work, and time I know I’ll be able to call myself a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good enoughist.

If you’re interesting in learning more about Brené’s guideposts, I highly recommend picking up her book titled: The Gifts of Imperfection. She provides ideas and practices on each of the guideposts to institute so we can live a wholehearted life.

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Fully Engaged Feedback Checklist

What if we shared this checklist with our significant other, family members, friends, coworkers, & employees and followed it every time we had an important conversation?Daring Greatly Engaged FeedbackHow would our world look if we followed these 10 steps when we entered into conflict? Would we be less frustrated? How about less judgmental? Would we deepen relationships? Would we be moving through life tapping into our authentic self rather than our protected and fearful selves?

What are your thoughts?

#connection #empathy

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Social connection should be the top of our daily to do list because it is the foundation of our happiness. Researchers have found that the quality of our connections rather than the quantity is more important when it comes to relationships. Not shocking yet I fear in the world of facebook, twitter, and Instagram that we feel quantity is more important. We need to remember to make spending time with those who are closes to us a priority.

“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.” – Brené Brown

images-2Connection is our ability to forge meaningful authentic relationships with others. It is the essences of human experience and it gives meaning to our lives; connection is also the anchor to our relationships.

To have a quality and deep relationship we need to utilize our empathy and compassion. Empathy is not a “fuzzy” emotion; it’s a path directly to connectivity. Some people get empathy and sympathy confused. Take the next three minutes to review Brené Brown’s short animated video on the differences between empathy and sympathy.

Science shows us that we are hard wired for empathy. We have circuits in our brains devoted to understand how another person is feeling and to align with them. Sometimes these circuits are closed and need a mental nudge due to our upbringing, other times they are offline – especially when we are stressed.

images-2Actually, there are two types of empathy; affective and cognitive. Affective empathy refers to the physical sensations and feelings we get in response to another’s shared emotions. Cognitive empathy is usually called perspective taking and refers to our ability to identify and understand others’ emotions, needs, and perspectives.

To overcome the barriers to empathy we need to consciously humanize other people in our minds. Here are some thoughts on how we can do this:

images-7Tap into our inner child. Remember when we we’re little and felt comfortable being inquisitive? We used to find other people more interesting than we do now. What happened? Oh yeah…social norms beat it out of us! “Chris, it’s not safe to talk with strangers!” Curiosity expands our cognitive empathy skills. When we talk with people outside our usual social circle, we encounter the lives and perspectives different than our own. We can then experience another person’s needs and perspectives and we expand our worldly view.

images-8Look for commonalities rather than differences. Most of us move through life making unconscious assumptions, use labels to identify people, and yes, even pass judgment. What if we continually challenged our own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what we have in common with people rather than what divides us? If all of us would do this,  it would lead to a social revolution!

images-11Walk a mile in another’s shoes. When George Orwell returned to England in the 1920’s, he purposefully lived as a homeless person so that he could understand and experience what it was like to be a “beggar and a vagabond.” His experiences radically changed his beliefs, priorities, and relationships and provided him unique literary details for his book titled: Down and Out in Paris and London. He was able shift his views on inequality by walking a mile in another’s shoes through using empathy.

images-1Use Channel 2 Listening. Be present to hear what is really going on within another. Mentally trade places with the other person through listening. Ask questions around their perspective. What do they think? How do they feel? What are their ideas? To see, hear, and feel the feelings and needs of another person is to experience them in that very moment. Channel 2 listening is one of the necessary keys to tapping into empathy, the other is vulnerability.

Empathy isn’t only important for individuals to tap into, it is equally important for leaders and organizations to understand the power of its use. In our VUCA times we need to incorporate empathy as a key to business survival because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership.

So, how do we make better connections?

  • Make time. Set regular and reoccurring time slots for your most important relationships. Significant other, kids, family members, close friends. Release your expectations of who you believe they are or should be and remain curious rather than bring in past experiences and bias into your interactions.
  • Be open. Unpack that suitcase of past experiences and toss it. By being open, that suitcase will no longer be required. Are you the same person you were when you first met your spouse, friend, sibling, etc….? When we share your authentic self and can be vulnerable, we create deep and meaningful relationships. Share what has gone well for you but even more importantly, share what makes you human, your miss-steps and failures both small and epic.
  • Be honest about what you want and need. Share your expectations and ask for theirs. This is the number one way to divert disappointment in a relationship. As humans we are brilliant biological creatures but we are not mind readers. Additionally, we need to let go of any desire to be right and telling others what they should do. Accept people for who they are.
  • Give more than you receive. Loose the “what’s in it for me mindset.”  Give your undivided attention, your love, your positive words, your encouragement and your time. These gifts are more valuable than gold.

“What I know is that we’re all interconnected and that’s a really beautiful thing. We have links to everyone else in our lives and in the world. Different people have different journeys for different reasons. You can’t judge, but you can celebrate that there are connections everywhere.” – Jane Seymour

#authenticity #vulnerability

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Continuing on with the seven part series regarding Happiness; this week we’re digging deeper on habit five: Authenticity and vulnerability.  (For more on forgiveness see here.)

In our heads, we know there is no such thing as perfect. So why do so many of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone and not follow our authentic self?

images-3#authenticity…what is it really?

It is the alignment of our head, mouth, heart, and feet. An authentic person thinks, says, feels and does the same things consistently. It requires making conscious informed choices based on self-knowledge.

images-2We all know people who are authentic. They are graceful, wise, centered and credible. We are drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. They know how to share difficult or painful information with others by being honest yet gentle. They are not overly concerned with what other people think of them – what they think, say, feel and do are all in alignment.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Bene Brown

So what does being authentic have to do with our happiness?

imagesBy being authentic we are being true to ourselves. Authentic people are comfortable in their own skin. Their energy is spent on things they can control. Because of their primary focus on positive emotions as well as a healthy management of negative emotions, they’ve developed a natural resilience. Resilience is an ability to navigate the sticky and messy parts of life. Oh yeah….our authentic self isn’t always pretty – it’s just real.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Ghandi


images-5Vulnerability is difficult for many people; most of us were brought up to regard vulnerability as weakness. What if I were to tell you that authenticity, vulnerability and worthiness are the underpinnings to a successful and happy life?

Social Scientist Brene Brown spent the better part of a decade researching this area. After thousands of interviews with people here’s the simplistic view of what she found:

We must embrace who we are to be authentic.

When we are authentic we can be vulnerable.

When we are vulnerable we can have powerfully strong connections with others.

She also discovered that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. Wow! Why then do we not consistently practice vulnerability? Because it is hard and at times scary.

Sharing our deepest thoughts, feelings, and actions with another exposes our true self – our soft underbelly. If we’re not fully comfortable with who we are, we won’t speak up and share ourselves – we’ll have a tendency to quietly stay in the background.

images-3For me, you cannot have a discussion about vulnerability without a review of judgment. I feel that another reason people are not comfortable being vulnerable is because we are quick to judge others as well as ourselves.

When we can understand that judgment wreaks havoc in our lives ….we can loose the shackles of our pre-disposed judgment and more freely navigate the deep and meaningful waters of vulnerability. This isn’t easy for most of us, me included.

Because vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love,  (who doesn’t want more of this!?!) I’m making the commitment today to work on removing my own judgment of others and myself so that I can practice vulnerability more consistently and freely.

“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” – Brene Brown