The 4 Tendencies (Gretchen Rubin)

https---blogs-images.forbes.com-naginaabdullah-files-2017-09-FourTendenciesJacketBasedGraph-1Ever wonder why some people are really good at following through when they’re trying to nail down a new health habit or when they endeavour to quit a harmful vice?

Gretchen Rubin, author of the 4 Tendencies explains that we all fall into one of the 4 personality tendencies and that these tendencies have remarkable implications on the way we live our lives. We learn that there are pros and drawbacks to every tendency and that, if we’re smart, we can harness the strengths in order to live our best life. Not only can we impact our own lives positively, but having a working knowledge of the framework can help us navigate the various personalities in our lives from our bosses, to our children, to our spouses, to our adversaries, and to various stakeholders in our lives.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the tendencies according to Gretchen Rubin:

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Here is a test that’ll help you identify your tendency

Here are some helpful ways you can reframe the way you approach expectations based on your tendency:

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How does knowing your tendency change the way you interact with others?

Feel free to share with others!

#kindsight101 #smallactbigimpact #podcast #education

How to Be a Rockstar Podcast Guest

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

How to Be a Stellar Podcast Guest

Podcasting is the new frontier in marketing and business communication. Everyone seems to have one or want to be a guest on one. Now, it’s more important than ever to know how to hone your message so that it lands well with your desired audience. Sharing your ideas effectively is simple enough, but it helps to keep a few key elements in mind.  I’d like to share a simple six-step framework I’ve learned from my own journey as a podcast host and coach, to help you do just that.

I’ve had the pleasure to experience the world of podcasting first-hand though my role as an online coach/mentor for Seth Godin’s The Podcast Fellowshipand through the creation of my own podcast, KindSight 101, a podcast where you’ll hear from world renowned educational leaders about the mobilizing power of kindness.

Alongside a handful of other incredible coaches, I’ve had the honour of mentoring hundreds of people through the process of creating a podcast that aligns with their brand, message, and the change they wish to make in the world. Since my introduction to podcasting in 2018 as a novice, I’ve had many people ask for advice about becoming a better podcast interviewee. I’d like to share 6 tips I’ve learned that will guide your success and excellence in communicating your message even more effectively as a podcast guest.

6 tips for being a stellar podcast guest:

  1. Singular Message:Think about your central theme or message. Can you sum it up in a sentence or less? It’s helpful to first think of your ideal audience? Can you describe an avatar that represents the ideal customer or listener?  What is your product or message for? What problem are you seeking to solve with your work? If you can answer those questions eloquently and clearly, it’s likely people will sit up and take notice.

 

  1. Stories:People learn and connect to one another through narrative. Warren Buffet once said, in his annual letter to shareholders, that leadership lies in the ability to tell a good story. The best podcast guests I’ve had respond to questions by telling a story first, then zooming back out to the learning or actionable strategy. Have a few stories “in the bank” that relate to several subtopics connected to your overarching theme and story of origin. Telling a narrative makes the idea stickier and connects people more readily to your message by engaging their emotions. People are emotional beings. It is emotion that often causes people to act. If you can tell a story that motivates people to take meaningful action (buying your product, visiting your website, starting a new habit), you’ve won!

 

 

  1. Strategies:Have a few actionable tips related to your big idea. Often, I find that giving people a three-step system, approach, or set of guiding questions can help anchor your idea to a corresponding action. You don’t simply want to inspire people, you want to transform their lives. They can only do that if you leave them with a roadmap or some instruction about what to do once they’re inspired.

 

  1. Sales:Understand the difference between self-promotion and value creation: For some people the idea of selling one’s products or brand feels like a shameful and uncomfortable endeavour. Every successful guest I’ve spoken to believes so deeply that their message or idea will improve the lives of the audience that they confidently approach the interview from the perspective that it’s their moral imperative to shine light on it. The result? More people feel compelled to buy the book, subscribe to their blog, purchase their merch or buy their course.

 

  1. Statistics:Statistics are a helpful way to reinforce the science and rationale behind your concept. It’s a tricky balance. Stats, if overused, can put people to sleep, but harnessed properly can wake them up to a shocking reality or paint a picture worth remarking. Keep a few basic statistics in the bank related to your central theme, but always make stats come alive by comparing them to something tangible.

 

  1. Summarize: Don’t forget to summarize your main points a second time. When we are listening to audio, it sometimes takes a few repeats to let an idea sink in. According to the book How to Give a TED talk by Jeremy Donovan, people need to hear a central message approximately three times before it anchors in their minds. Having a 2-4-word mantra that summarizes the concept, helps with the stickiness of the idea. For example, in my speaking, I often tell stories that come back to my central philosophy of “small act, big impact.”

 

 

The podcasting genre has become a favourite medium for entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, and dreamers to make their mark on the world by spreading their message and networking synergistically with like-minds. These days, anyone with a message, niche market, or obscure set of skills can share their expertise through audio. Unlike YouTube, podcasting lends itself to our current multi-tasking culture. You can listen while you run. You can listen while you do menial household tasks. You can listen and transform the experience of the once-soul-crushing commute.

 

At the last check in June 2019, there were approximately 750,000 podcasts in existence (up from 26 percent since 2018).  That number continues to grow exponentially as there are approximately 547 new podcast shows launched every day! Compared to the 25 million YouTube channels that exist, podcasting is still relatively under-developed and presents some significant opportunities for growth. According to a recent Apple survey, approximately only one in two Americans has listened to a podcast, so this number is sure to grow in the coming years.

 

With the growing number of enthusiastic podcast listeners, being a podcast guest is a great way to share your ideas, sell your product, promote your book, and uphold your company’s brand.

 

Leadership Pitfalls: The Recognition Gap

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Good leadership can be easy to spot, but deconstructing it can be so challenging. Over the course of the past year or so, through the interviews I’ve done with truly remarkable world-class educators and leaders, I’ve learned that so much of great leadership comes from trust and the deep, intentional practice of gratitude. Nothing makes you feel smaller than a leader who doesn’t see you. When you feel insignificant, or at least your efforts do, nothing is less motivating. In fact, it’s been proven that an ambivalent leader can be as damaging to his/her employees as an outwardly ineffective leader who puts his/her employees down.

I recently learned about the recognition gap, which applies as much to organizational leaders as bosses and managers, as it does to teachers in the classroom or parents in homes.

It turns out that 80% of supervisors claim that they frequently demonstrate outward appreciation for their subordinates, while only 20% of employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally.

So, knowing that there is a gap in perception, it’s important that leaders, teachers, and parents find meaningful ways to see and appreciate the people they serve so that these individuals feel motivated, valued, and believe that their work matters.

Here are a handful of easy ways to do this at work:

-Start a Shout-Out Board to encourage employees to recognize one another’s efforts.

-Every day, focus on one employee or student and celebrate something about them in person or in writing.

-When someone goes above and beyond for the organization (picture that student who volunteers to stack chairs at the end of the day, your child who cleans her room without prompting, or the employee who contributes meaningfully at a faculty meeting), go out of your way to show them you see and appreciate their efforts.

-Call someone and tell them specifically what they mean to you.

-Write a quick post-it for 3-5 staff members or students every day specifically thanking them for the way they contribute to the climate in your class or school.

These little things don’t seem like a huge effort on your part, but they sure go a long way in building trust, rapport, and positive morale.

Shame vs. Humiliation vs. Guilt vs. Embarrassment (Brené Brown)

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Have you ever wondered what the difference between shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment are?  Often we use these words interchangeably, but Dr. Brené Brown has so beautifully described the difference between the 4 terms:

  • Shame is “I am bad”  Shame is a focus on self. Imagine you’ve worked really hard to prepare a presentation with a coworker for an important staff meeting. One of your responsibilities was to prepare the powerpoint. You forget to save the file onto your computer and, as a result, your coworker is disappointed. If you feel shame, your immediate thought pattern is that you’re a bad person. “I’m the worst co-planner ever. I am such a loser for forgetting that powerpoint.”
  • Guilt = “I did something bad”  Guilt is a focus on behavior. If your self talk is : “ahh. I can’t believe I did that.  That was such a crappy thing to do,  I made such a poor choice not to back up my work!”  That’s guilt.

Our self-talk really matters and often frames the way we move through our relationships. Shame is highly correlated to aggression, addiction, depression, suicide, bullying, eating disorders, whereas guilt- the ability to separate who we are from our actions-without degrading our worth.

Guilt is inversely correlated to these same outcomes.  So, it’s much better for our mental health to focus on behaviour, even when we’re speaking in jest about ourselves.

  • Humiliation. With humiliation results in the same physiological response as shame except that you don’t believe you deserve the treatment:  sweaty palms, wish that the ground would swallow you up, wanting to make yourself small, nervous laughter… Dr. Brené Brown uses a school example:

A teacher is handing back papers and one of the students doesn’t have their name on the paper and the teacher calls the kid stupid:  If that child’s self-talk is “that is the meanest, most nasty teacher ever, I didn’t’ deserve that” What that child is likely experiencing is humiliation. As a parent or caregiver- I’m going to hear about that when the kid gets home- because they’re going to be angry and hurt and want to share it.  If the child’s self talk is immediately “ ugh. She’s right, I’m so stupid, why do keep forgetting to put my name on my paper, I’m so stupid,”  Thats shame.”

  • Embarrassment-it isn’t rooted in shame, is often funny and fleeting, and it doesn’t make you feel alone (it’s usually some universal human experience). Just think of that time that you put your sweater on backward and the tag was sticking out for the better part of an afternoon lunch with friends. Once you realize your mistake, it could leave you a little red-faced, but you know deep down that it’s human and that other people have done the same.

Shame is not funny.

Shame leaves one feeling alone and isolated.

#26: What you Can Say to Help Someone Living with Cancer (Hint #1: Say Something…Don’t Avoid the Topic) (with Genevieve Stonebridge)

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Cancer is a far-reaching, often-devastating illness that touches everyone either directly or indirectly. Oftentimes, navigating grief and loss can be complicated and confusing, especially for children. In this surprisingly uplifting episode, you’ll hear from a very special guest about her personal experience living through Cancer at the age of 18, how the experience enabled her to gain a unique perspective on the effects of cancer on families, and actionable ways teachers can support children affected by the disease.

Through her positive storytelling approach, you’ll learn the 7 specific needs that well-children (specifically siblings) require in order to develop resilience in the face of familial cancer. This is such an important conversation; I hope you learn as much as I did!

Genevieve Stonebridge is a clinical counsellor (RCC) at InspireHealth (www.inspirehealth.ca) supportive cancer care, as well as at Rise Health (www.risehealth.ca).

She is devoted to creating safe and inspiring places for people to explore their experiences. This includes holding space for both the suffering and joys of life. With compassion, creativity and openness she believes in meeting patients wherever they are at. She is passionate about helping people explore their relationships with themselves, their loved ones and their bodies.

Her research thesis entitled, You Matter: Retrospectively Exploring the Needs of Adolescents who had a Sibling with Cancer developed into a short film called [You Matter][1]. You Matter succinctly summarizes her research in a digestible way for the general public and was accepted to premiere at the 2015 Boston International Kids Film Festival. For more information check out (https://siblingsyoumatter.squarespace.com/)
Genevieve lives in Victoria with her husband. She loves good quotes, gardening, dinner parties, random acts of kindness and pondering the meaning of life on the bluffs of Dallas road.

The seven needs are:
1. Familial social connection
2. Acknowledgement and attention
3. Clear communication and information
4. Validating difficult emotions
5. Emotional support for the well-sibling (coaches/teachers)
6. The need to be a kid (help with the losses of childhood)
7. The opportunity for Humour and lightheartedness
For more information about [Genevieve’s Video and the 7 needs][2] she identified visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][3] and search for episode #26.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNHt54zUtAU
[2]: https://www.childhoodcancer.ca/sibling-support
[3]: http://smallactbigimpact.com

The Letter Every Teacher Should Write in June

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The Letter Every Teacher Should Write in June

Five years ago at the end of each school-year in the busy month of June, I started the practice of writing a letter to myself.  Like a ritual, I would seal the letter and place it in the left-hand drawer of my desk on the last day of school.  At the end of September, during the beginning of the following school year, a time when the lighthearted novelty of freshly sharpened pencils, crisp and clean notebooks, and excitement to ignite passion in the hearts of our students seems to melt like a brightly-coloured rainbow popsicle on a hot sunny day into thick greyish soup of overwhelm, lack of sleep, and a thorough sense of imposter syndrome, I would allow myself to pry open the letter. I would read each word slowly, with intention, allowing the message to sink into my skeptical spirit… reminding it that, yes, these students would get to where they needed to go. I just had to meet them where they were.

Patience. Time. Faith.

That was all I needed to keep in my mind over the coming months in order to stay afloat.

Throughout most of my career, I have had the pleasure of teaching Grade One, one of the most incredibly rewarding age-groups to teach because of the nature of exponential, near-explosive growth and learning that occurs in such a short period of time.

Like little jumping jellybeans, pint-size bodies file into the classroom in September,

eyes and hearts wide-open to the possibility of learning,

passionate about their beliefs,

sure-footed about their perspectives of the world,

filled with a desire be their authentic selves,

some students filled with trepidation,

others eager to show off their strengths,

certain children combative and oppositional,

other kids quiet and observing,

most are not yet able to

read,

write,

or do math.

There’s truly nothing like it!

It’s exhilarating.

It’s also incredibly exhausting.

But most of all, teaching Grade One (or any grade) can seem insurmountable in September.

The magic of the learning and deep growth that occurs within the soul of each child seems impossible to the rational teacher’s mind at the beginning of the year.

And so, the letter served to remind my “September-Self” that according to my “June-Self”…it would all work out.

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, the beginning of the year can seem tough. Why not take a moment now, in June, to reflect on how far your students have come, you have come together on your journey?

I urge you to jot it down on paper, pop it into an envelope and open that gift of insight and wisdom in September. It’ll alleviate some stress and create a sense of certainty for the future.

I guarantee, it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

 

The Magic Ratio you Should Employ to Ensure Success in your Relationships at Work, School, and Home

 

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The Magic Ratio you Should Employ to Ensure Success in your Relationships at Work, School, and Home

When we think about the little people in our lives who are already faced with fighting larger battles than we will ever know, empathy and compassion kick in, urging us to be diligent with our word, lean in closer with our hearts, and to listen carefully with our ears. Even so, we find ourselves, especially as parents, employers, teachers, and educators having to give feedback, on a regular basis, about behaviour, performance, and effort.

I’ve always struggled with this. How do we hold space for and build up children and individuals who struggle with their identities, home lives, and mental health, while upholding our responsibilities as educators to hold them to high expectations?

I remember a particularly challenging student I had who must have experienced nothing but negative interactions throughout his day. He would literally arrive at school buzzing and had such a difficult time settling into any routine. He was disruptive. He struggled academically. He could be very rude. He had a soft heart with rock hard armour and he would launch into fight-mode so as to preemptively ward off perceived threats at the drop of a hat.

The cumulative daily burden of the chastising by his parents and family, thwarted peer-to-peer connections, and the negative comments coming from teachers and principals must have been a heavy load to bear by the time this boy went to sleep at night. It often weighed heavily on me that I could be contributing to his negative self-concept with my own demands on his behavior. I couldn’t help but think about the compounding negative effects of his mostly negative exchanges day-over-day, week-over-week, month-over-month, and year-over- year. No wonder so many of our struggling, at-risk students lose their curious spark and love of life by the time they leave us in Grade 12. So many of them have received consistent messages telling them that no matter how hard they try, they will never be good enough, never measure up, never amount to anything.

So, like many dedicated educators I know, I tried my very best to maintain positive interactions with him frequently throughout the day, no matter the kind of day he was having. Sure, I had no choice but to correct him often, but it was my mission in life to ambush him with love and respect during our time together. And, I always accepted and celebrated approximations of desired behaviour! As a result, 8 years later, he still visits my classroom, lamenting that our time together had to come to an end.

Whenever I think of this student, or many like him who have followed in his footsteps, I wonder how to offset the negative feedback we have no choice to provide from time to time. Boundaries have to be set and reinforced, even in a loving environment.

I recently stumbled upon a study done by relationship researcher Dr. John Gottham which really got me thinking. I guess I had never thought of my interactions in such a data-oriented way, but it made me wonder if perhaps I had adhered to a proven ratio without even knowing it.

According to Gottham, there is a scientifically proven 5:1 ratio of authentic positive to negative interactions that exist within effective, healthy relationships. This means that for every one negative feeling or interaction between individuals, there must be five positive feelings or interactions. In other words, “unless positive interactions outnumber negative interactions by five to one, odds are that the relationship will fail.”

What if it was this easy? What if we could be a little more aware of our positive to negative interactions, keeping Gottam’s rule in our head as we do so? How might our classrooms cultures be different?  How might we feel knowing that most of our interactions were positive?

We all know that successful educators are effective because of the relationships they build. So, I would argue that if we want to be successful as parents, teachers, employers, and even spouses, this ratio should stay at the forefront of our minds.

#smallactbigimpact21days

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https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

The 25 Beliefs I Once Held to be True…but Don’t Anymore

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Like everyone else I know, I have a million-and-one things I should be doing instead of writing this post right now, but that tiny fleeting voice of inspiration came knocking and tugged on my shirtsleeve. So, while the kids were napping, I did what any self-respecting mom on a ‘nap-break’ with mountains of laundry, tons of research to do, gazillions of emails to respond to, and a disaster of a house to clean…I indulged the urge to sit down with a pen and paper. I gave inspiration an inch…then, as the saying goes…time literally evaporated.

My loved ones all know my passion for lists, but this one’s a little different than the usual to-do or goal-setting lists. The following is a compilation of some of the beliefs I once held to be true…the ones I now whole-heartedly reject.

Maybe you’ll agree with me, but more interestingly, perhaps you’ll disagree. Let me know!

Regardless, I felt compelled to examine, tease-out, and share some of the strongly held beliefs I once had to illustrate that it’s very possible to change one’s mind.

Here is goes…in no particular order:

  1. Mind-games and posturing are the only road to true love. Vulnerability is for suckers.
  2. Effective parenting results from manufacturing adversity so that one’s children will toughen-up for the real world. I once heard someone say that they seek to disappoint their children every single day for this reason!
  3. Perfection is the antidote to criticism-the notion that if one achieves perfection in terms of work performance, grades in school, physically, in our relationships (parents, children, friends, spouses) that we will receive immunity from the pain and hurt that our experiences have the capacity to unleash upon us (*And by-the-way, perfection is not only a total fallacy, but it’s a dangerous and seductive illusion founded in fear.)
  4. Grief is a finite process with an end date. (*Nope. It’s more like an ocean whose waves are sometimes gentle and lapping, and other times have the immense capacity to pull you right under.  Grief is unpredictable. The kindness and bravest thing we can do for others and ourselves is to hold space for grief and sit along those in grief as they navigate its choppy waters.)
  5. Achieving your goals = happiness
  6. Beauty is objective.
  7. Parenting is easy, if you’re doing it right. (Ha! Riggghht…)
  8. The only way to navigate this world and make it out alive is to construct and dawn a thick coat of armour so strong that neither joy nor pain shall penetrate one’s tender heart.
  9. Successful, obedient students exemplify successful teaching.
  10. Being courageous is not for me.
  11. I am alone in my experiences.
  12. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  13. Being “good” is the only road to worthiness.
  14. Admitting to experiencing sadness, anger, loneliness, and jealousy means that there’s something wrong with you.
  15. The only way to be spiritual is to go to church.
  16. Creativity lies inherently within the individual. You either are or you aren’t. The genius resides within the artist.
  17. Everything in life is random.
  18. We must ask our passions to provide for us, financially.
  19. Forgiveness is impossible because it means condoning.
  20. Seeking and acquiring approval from others is the only way to win at life. *In the words of Seth Godin, seeking to please everyone makes you a “walking generality” instead of a “meaningful specific.”
  21. Everyone deserves a second chance. *No they don’t! Maya Angelou once said, “When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time!”
  22. My worthiness of love and belonging is directly dependent on my ability to earn it. It’s about hustling. *Nope. Nope. Nope! You are born worthy of love and belonging. The minute you start believing that, the more you can get down to the important, purposeful work you were meant to do!
  23. People’s personalities are fixed.
  24. I cannot write the ending to my story.
  25. Achieving and striving toward audacious goals is for other people.

Tim Ferriss’ Fear-Setting Strategy: How to Make a Decision when Fear is Holding you Back

IMG_3984Have you ever found yourself faced with a decision that feels not only overwhelming, but crippling?

We all have defining moments in our lives that force us to reconsider the status quo. Sometimes, what stops us from making the right (but HARD) decisions is the fear that we’ll fall flat on our faces and, ultimately, that we won’t be able to recover from the failure. Fear stops us dead in our tracks. So, we retreat from the edge of uncertainty and choose comfort over courage.

The amygdala (reptilian brain) takes over like an overprotective big brother, signals that your livelihood is being threatened, and shuts everything down. You begin rationalizing your inaction. After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?

What if you had a framework for examining your decision through a different lens? What if you could circle-back to the big brother and question his assumptions upon which he based the need to protect you? What if through examining the decision with precision, you could override the fear, altogether? What if you could choose the difficult path and live to tell the tale?

You’ve likely heard of goal-setting, but maybe you’re new to the concept of fear-setting. One of my favourite podcast hosts, Tim Ferriss, describes the process in his Ted Talk. Sometimes, when you’re faced with that jump of the cliff moment of a big decision, fear-setting can be the answer you need to bring clarity to a situation, allow you to make a decision without second-guessing it, and to ultimately, choose courage over comfort.

The framework recently helped me to make a big career decision that, initially, had me shaking in my boots. Once I examined my fears head-on, I was able to make the decision without doubting myself.

So, if you’re faced with a big, bad decision related to any aspect of your life, try it out sometime.

You’ll need three pages in a journal or on your computer:

Page One Define and name the Fear: What if I ____? 

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Create three columns

1. Define Fear: What is holding you back?

  • Make a list of the worst things imaginable associated with the choice (10-20 things)

2. Prevent: What are the preventative steps one could take to avoid the worst things imaginable?

  • List them all!

3. Repair: If the worst case happens, how do I come back from it?

At the bottom of the page, reflect on the following: Has anyone less intelligent/less driven figured this out? Chances are that they have, and so can you!

Page two: What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?

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This helps you to create a framework through which even partial success relates to a win. Often this comes down to an increase in:

  • Confidence
  • Money
  • Time
  • Connection with those you love
  • Creating boundaries
  • Growing your business
  • Growing your family
  • Opportunities
  • Meeting people
  • Practice for the big projects

Page three: What are the costs of inaction, emotionally, physically, and financially?

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Inaction can be a regret-maker. It’s likely that envisioning the costs associated with inaction will be the magic sauce that tips you over the edge, that enables you to stand behind that hard decision, that allows you to invite the fear.

Break down the costs using the following time-increments:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 3 years
  • 10 years

Next, ask yourself: What is the cost of the status quo? What might my life look like in:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 3 years
  • 10 years

I hope you found this framework useful. I always love to hear from my readers, so feel free to message or email me:)

Bottom line, easy choices usually result in a hard life. If you’re able to front-end load your life with hard choices, I believe it’ll lead you to an easier, more fulfilled life. 

 

 

 

 

 

On saying “NO”

No.

I have always hated saying it to people, especially those who might judge the essence of who I am inaccurately, as a result. Ultimately, it’s always run counter to my character to disappoint.

But this past weekend, I did just that.

I said “no” to someone.

I said “no” to giving more than I could provide.

I stood within the integrity of my initial offer of generosity and refused go beyond it.

I refused to compromise my boundaries or to take time away from my precious family in order please someone else.

And it felt good. Really, really good.

In our current culture that encourages us to say “yes” at all costs, it’s not an easy thing to do, to say “no.” There are books, movies, podcasts, and movements dedicated to inviting, embracing, and devoting ourselves to “yes.”

In fact, I would consider myself a recovering “yes-person,” a pleaser or Obliger. In her recent book, The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin describes an individual of the Obliger tendency as someone who “meets outer expectations, but struggles to meet expectations they put on themselves.” Many of my past decisions have been guided by the following tenant- above all, ensure that people like you.

Whenever I have had to disappoint people, fallen short on another’s expectations of me, or had to draw a line, the decision has weighed heavily on my heart, slipped its way into my dreams, and left me sleeplessly second-guessing my choices. For too long, my decisions could be summed up by someone else’s evaluation of them. In the past, I have often ignored the signposts of my intuition, feeling compelled to meet exterior demands on my time, performance, and ability because the alternative meant letting someone down.

Disappointing someone might result in judgement.

Judgement could give way to dislike.

Dislike could lead directly to un-lovabliity.

And In my mind, there was nothing worse.

But not this time. I made the decision to say “no” with absolute clarity and peace of mind.

As time marches on, I have questioned the need to derive my value from pleasing others. Lovability, I’ve learned, comes from an inner sense of worthiness and belonging, not from external reinforcement. The truth is, the more you attempt to meet external expectations, the further you drift from your own path of purpose. The more you stay true to your integrity, the more you uphold your self-trust, the more loveable, worthy, and valued you wind up feeling deep inside.

It’s one thing to know this, intellectually. It’s an entirely different experience to put this into practice with actual, unpredictable, reactionary, tangible humans.

It was Thursday morning and I had just finished contacting beneficiaries for an upcoming charity photoshoot event.

These days, photos play an integral role in creating, sharing, documenting, and preserving memories. The cost of family photo sessions can be astronomically expensive and that cost can be a barrier to entry for lower-income or single-family homes. In the spirit of the Small Act Big Impact initiative, I thought it would be fun to offer a handful of single-parent families (from the non-profit 1 Up Single Family Resource Centre) a mini-session photoshoot and a single edited digital family portrait as a keepsake.

No ulterior motive.

No business marketing scheme.

Zero personal gain beyond the joy of using my hobby to genuinely add value to people’s lives.

That morning, several of the individuals I would be photographing reached out to thank me or share their stories in anticipation of the shoot. One of the single-moms emailed me, stating, “This sweet surprise feels like one of those little nudges to let me know I’m doing the right thing and being rewarded in this recent decision of mine to leave an unhealthy relationship and change everything for me and my children.”

I was feeling excited and honoured to be providing a service that might bring happiness to people who could not otherwise afford it.

Ping! My thoughts were interrupted by the signal of another email entering my inbox. One of the recipients, whom I had not yet met, had presumed that because the photoshoot was free, there was a catch. Her assumption led her to believe that doing the shoot would result in some benefit to me personally or financially, so she took it upon herself to make several bold demands of my time.

Acknowledging her wishes, I kindly declined and stated that in order to fulfill her expectations, I would be compromising important time with my family; furthermore, I assured her that because of the nature of the project, any benefit to be would be of the heart, not financial.

She responded almost immediately, proceeding to compare my “services” to other for-profit company ventures and marketing campaigns. In closing, she snidely asserted that the free offer was hardly worth her time, and that unless I could deliver on her list of demands, she wouldn’t be attending the shoot. Looking back now, I think her goal had been to shame me into submission. This was not a negotiation she was willing to lose.

I was stunned. I reread the email, believing I’d missed something or that maybe she was joking. And as I did, I felt an angry red heat rising in my chest, travelling up my neck, and spreading across my cheeks. I felt sickened by the skepticism lacing each line of her message, distain and entitlement emanating from the text like destructive radioactive waves.

For a moment, I began questioning my own adequacy. Maybe, she was right! Maybe what I was offering wasn’t enough. She wanted filet mignon, five-courses, and white-glove service, but what I was offering was a warm, soul-infused, hearty bowl of soup.  Briefly, I felt the need to explain myself, to make her understand that there was no catch! I wanted her to see the purpose and intent behind the shoot. I wanted desperately in that moment for her to know, see, and understand me.

But then, I realized something…

Our world is in crisis right now and we have all become victims of uncertainty and scarcity.

We have collectively become conditioned not to trust people.

We have learned that in order to survive and protect ourselves, we must read between the lines for the ulterior motives, because everything that seems too good to be true always is.

We want to win, not lose. Therefore, we continually play anticipatory offense to win the game, at all costs.

We have been acclimatised to our dog-eat-dog world by becoming takers. We have been trained to believe that since everyone else is taking, we might as well, too. Our appetite has become insatiable because there is never enough. The scarcity story plays out in all aspects of our lives.

There are not enough jobs.

There is not enough time.

There is not enough money.

There is not enough sleep.

There is not enough stuff.

Not enough,

Not enough,

Not enough…

We feel we need to negotiate by asking for more than we deserve because that’s the only way to get what we need.

We actively eliminate humanity from our interactions to protect our tender hearts and, in doing so, we become ever more disconnected from the heartbeat of the world.

And so, I understood that this woman was simply a casualty of our current culture. Compassion and empathy edged out the anger.

As I crafted my response with a more open heart, I was reminded of Dr. Maya Angelou who once said: “You teach people how to treat you.”

My goal was not to please. My goal was not to win, either. My goal was to stand strong, with respectful integrity and say “no.”

So, I did.