Saying farewell to 2018 and howdy to 2019

Isn’t it perfect when you notice a gift right when you are in the middle of it?

Mine was time. Between Christmas and New Year’s. Where there were things to do but nothing that had to be done. Where I could move at my own pace. Where there was a settling after all the Christmas excitement.

There was breathing space.

What a gift it was to just sit with what is. I continued my daily practice of writing down “10 Things…..”  One day I wrote 10 ways I would like to focus my energy in the next year.

A few hours later, it was clear that there were items I had left off the list. That is the gift of breathing space. A time for percolation.

On this last day of 2018, I am thinking ahead and back.

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Later today, I will do my last-day-of-the-year ritual, writing about what happened in 2018. Tomorrow I will move on to 2019.

I have already begun the process.  I reviewed the goals I set for 2018. My achievement rate was 56%. This is a pretty low. If the percentage is in the 70s, I see that as pretty successful. But 56% is not. According to the Internet, a 56% rate is a F.

Some of the goals were pretty lofty (doing 2 presentations) but then I didn’t really try. Others didn’t make sense. Anymore.

As one who has a dislike-hate relationship with goal setting, here is some thoughts for others in the struggle:

1. Moving Targets

Life changes. Where you want to focus your time and energy is anything but static. I still like the idea of writing down goals at the beginning of the year. But if they don’t make sense down the line, they need to be shucked.

I have a thought for my next year – looking at the goals that I set at the beginning of the year a few times during the year (no more than 4). What needs to be brought to the surface. What needs some amending. I am going to try that. And let you know how that works.

2. Pick a word or a phrase for the next year

What resonates with me is using a guidepost for the upcoming year. For sure, I want it to be inspirational and in alignment with where I am. 

One year I picked the phrase, “Be courageous and be brave.” There was a lot of upheaval ahead, some difficult conversations and serious letting go. I carried that phrase with me every day. 

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I so appreciate the work of Danielle LaPorte who says that what we are seeking is a feeling. Her book, The Desire Map, outlines a process of uncovering your Core Desired Feelings. Our CDFs will ignite us.  

Here’s what she has to say about following what you love:

Your pleasure is your power. In relationships. In business. In service of the greater good. Doing more of what you love helps you be more loving, think more clearly, and be more resilient.


Previously in this blog, I have talked about my end of the year process. It is a compilation of ideas that I have gathered over the years that works for me. I have done some tweaking but the format works.

Here is the blog posting:

Year End Review

I have a journal devoted totally to the purpose of year-end review. 2018 is the 24th year of me writing in this book. After 24 years, I would say that is a strong attestation!

What do I get from writing the process?  I see birds-eye view of what happened in the last year. Lots of revelations!

Recently I heard that one of the great abilities of being a human is our ability to reflect. That makes a lot of sense to me. It is through our reflections that we can see:

  • our mistakes – what we have learnt, what not to repeat and what we might want to adjust

  • what needs improvement

  • how far we have come

  • what is most important to us – from an experiential perspective

In the spirit of that reflection, I found a cool tool for year-end reflection and planning for the next year. It’s a free downloadable booklet Check it out here: 

Year Compass. 


I would love to hear how you end one year and begin another. Any traditions?? 

The Gift of Impatience

Patience. On the wall in the physiotherapy room, I spotted the word emblazoned near the ceiling.

The word has tailgated me my entire life. Sometimes as a compliment and sometimes as a taunt.

But mostly my life has been a dance with its opposite.

Impatience is familiar. Even after mindfulness training and the Eckhardt Tolle class, I find it hard to stay in the here and now.

I recognize the trait in a client. She wants a job that isn’t dreadful. She longs to find work that excites her. She wants to quit her job immediately. Being unemployed feels a lot better than this.

I remember that feeling. When I was 20 years old and 5 months pregnant, I woke in the middle of a night dreading the day ahead of me. My work was a series of routine paper pushing, doing all necessary details to clear shipments through customs. I never saw the goods; everyday I saw the same 5 people. Nice people. The same people.

I was in a hands-on learning environment finding out that I was quite challenged to do repetitive work. I felt like a part of me was dying. For a long time before my middle-of-the-night terror, I had a strong urge to quit. I resisted the desire. I tried to emulate the other people in the office. They had done it for years. What was wrong with me?

I tried to motivate myself with pep talks and apple fritters and a fresh perspective.

Some of it worked. For a while.

What I was discovering about myself was I didn’t do very well with routine tasks. Especially repetition. So I changed the routine. As much as I could.

So when my client talked about her grim work scene, I nodded. I remembered my own desire to throw up my hands. What I didn’t tell her was my solution the morning after my abrupt awakening, was to hand in my resignation.

I was young then, having no regard to what I would be doing for the last 4 months of my pregnancy or if someone would even hire a pregnant woman. My patience had worn out.

I didn’t tell my client about how I solved my problem because she had to find her own solution and there are lots of ways to solve a problem other than walking out. 

One of them is to listen to the wisdom that impatience can each. Resisting the force of wanting to do something right now and sit with the discomfort of impatience is a great tool. Much more mature than my impulse when I quit my job.

This year, in my life, my body – specifically my knee – is teaching me about patience. At the end of January, I had knee replacement surgery. Physiotherapy begins within 24 hours of the surgery.

Seven days after surgery, I am in the physiotherapy department. For 7 days I have bent and straightened my leg every 2 hours, pushing myself further than my knee wants to go. I am a model patient.

My degree of bend is measured. 55 degrees.

Six weeks later, my knee is at 101 degrees, an increase of 1 degree over the previous week. A plateau they say.

Even though I have done the exercises faithfully. And pushed hard each day.

In considering my frustration, I realize it is excitement about getting the bend back in my leg that propelled me towards the surgery. I was ready to move. And the fact was that I could not.

I was feeling quite impatient with the process. As I considered my options, I understood that I could not be anywhere other than where I was. As much as I wanted the knee to bend, it did not. How exactly was this exercising helping? 

I started thinking about my impatience companion. All of my experience in life so far with it has led me to this definition – impatience is about being in a place where I don’t want to be. 

All those years ago when I was frustrated with my customs clearance job, I definitely did not want to be there.

By definition, impatience is a lack of patience. But is it something by itself? Does it have something to teach us? 

The biggest trouble with impatience is it is such an uncomfortable feeling. Irritability. Exasperation. Annoyance. Big feelings. There is an immediate desire to do something, just to get rid of the feelings. One of the hardest things to do is to befriend it.

What I noticed when I looked at little harder was there was not much I could do about the situation. No matter how hard I wished it to be different. What I then saw was a deep desire. I longed to move freely. I longed for Zumba class.

The well of desire was primal. Innately, humans need to move. 

We want to create, contribute, expand, enjoy, experience.

Could I look at my impatience in a new way? As a driving force rather than a limiting feeling?

To think about what it is that I truly want.

I was so caught up in doing, I was far removed from being. It is my beingness in the world where my well of desires resided. It was time to regroup. The first stop was acceptance.

As much as I wanted it to be different, my knee had limited movement. 

When I think about my client who was feeling the agitation to be somewhere other than where she was, I know the road that brought her to me was paved with many desires. Somehow she found a side road, one full of obligations and what the world wanted her to be.

Her impatience is what fuelled her to find some other way of leading her life. Her side road had come to a dead end. She was ready to accept that she could not continue doing what she was doing.

Her impatience brought her here. As uncomfortable as it was, it pushed her away from doing what she had always been doing and into new territory.

We are on the cusp of spring where the light of day and night is equal, where the plants are awakening. I am thinking about seeds and the mystery of what comes up from the ground, how a plant pushes its way through unlikely places. My impatience is like that, a seemingly unlikely place where beauty arises.








Taking a Leap: The Challenge of Letting Go

The sky is immense, spreading around me in all directions. I know this land in my bones, the familiar angle of the sun as it brushes the roofs at the end of the day and the wind whirling dust or snow depending on the season.

I think about leaving here over 2 decades ago and what gets stirred in me when I visit. Memories. Belonging. Changes. Who I was back then. Dreams. Hopes. Fears. Who I am now.

I am considering what it means to let go. For every change I have had in my life, what it means is letting go of something.

I had to leave behind those vast prairie skies to live in the mountains and by the ocean.

I hear people miserable in their work, knowing that for their own well being they have to make a change.  They can’t leave they tell me. A mortgage. A benefits plan. A pension. Wherever will they get the wages they have now?

How do you make the leap?

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to save his father Indy passes several trials and then comes across a chasm too wide to cross by the regular means (that multi-use whip). What he understands is he is required to take a leap of faith.

What is true of every hero on the journey is a point where there is a risk. What the risk involves is letting go of where they are to allow them to get where they want to be.

In Indy’s case, it was the path with its steady ground. 

For those who are wanting to have a life they love, it will require a leap of faith. And leaving behind the safety and comfort that may have taken a long time to build.

I am not talking about the idea of taking risks that put your life in jeopardy or to throw away all that you have accumulated.

What I remember about Indiana Jones is that he studied the legends and folklore, the clues and maps. His decision to step into the abyss was from a deep understanding of the journey.

When I think of finding work that matters, risk is involved. Like Indy, the idea is to be calculated about it. You don’t know exactly what is going to happen but you are clear about what you want.

What always is true is that something is left behind. And that means letting go.

This is a journey we all encounter. We let go of ideas of how we should be, and then how we want to be, and what we wish could be. 

Some ideas are easier to let go of than others.

What is also true is that letting go is not about telling yourself that you need to let go and then it happens. The process is complex, extending beyond an intellectual level to emotional, spiritual and psychological.

What you may encounter along the way is:

Tapping into a belief

Core beliefs especially those limiting ones appear during times of change. For example, you may be considering quitting your job and then fears about financial security arise. As you explore this, you may find there is a core belief about poverty. The challenge here is to work with the fear, not to let it take over.

Thinking you have let go but then maybe not. 

In the process of letting go, you will find many layers. During a conversation with someone, you may talk about how logical it is for you to quit your job – you may have outgrown the position or you know you are capable of so much more. Then you notice that emotionally, you are grieving the idea that you were in a job that never was what it was supposed to be; now that you are quitting, that dream has died.

You expect yourself to be in a place you are not.

As you navigate a decision, perhaps, to move on with your life, you are expecting to be excited about new possibilities but you also find yourself feeling entirely different. With letting go, it is imperative to be kind and gentle with yourself.

Resistance to letting go. 

You may find yourself not wanting to let go; there is familiarity in the past. Standing on the precipice like Indiana Jones is unsettling. When I am caught in resistance, I remember this quote:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.—J. A. Shedd.


How to overcome fears that sabotage your dreams

Here’s what you can count on when you are moving towards your dreams: fear will show up.

Sometimes you will recognize it. Often fear looks like procrastination, distraction, self doubt, caution or feeling paralyzed. 

In The War on Art, Steven Pressfield explains how Resistance is ready to trip us on the road to our dreams; fear is its weapon. You know Resistance when you think that whatever dream you want can be postponed until another day. For example, you decide to write a book. Other incidents arise and you think you can do it tomorrow. Or after your holidays. Or next week.

When it comes to your dreams, fear may rear its head before you begin. I see this when people put their dreams on the backburner or when they dismiss their dreams altogether. One of the most heart-breaking demonstrations of fear is when people have no dreams. I see it sometimes disguised in a practical notion – “I have to make a living; dreams are for people who can afford them.”

The feeling of fear can be disconcerting. It is a powerful force, gripping you when you might be least expecting it. And it is a show stopper. Once you move through your fear, though, you will be able to see what it teaches you.

One December I was driving to Vancouver during a snow storm. At the top of the Allison Pass in Manning Park, there was a line up of cars descending slowly. Worried about the possibility of failing brakes after so many miles of constant braking, I began shifting gears to speed up and slow down. During one switch, my car went out of control. My heart was racing. I wanted to be anywhere but on that road. My first instinct was to steer away from any other vehicles. My second was to brake gently. I did both. And soon I was back in the car lineup.

What I learned from that experience is that in the midst of fear, I am able to do what I had to do. Even make good decisions. Fear doesn’t need to stop you.

Fear, then, can walk alongside you. It doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.

Over time, I also learned that when anything new happens, I can expect fear. I am hardwired for fear; it is probably what has kept me alive.

Fear in the moment is one type, a natural response to a threat.

For those who feel stalled around their dreams or their careers, the fear is an anxious feeling of anticipation projected onto a future event. We may label it as a fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection.

There were many terrible things in my life and most of them never happened.
— Michel de Montaigne

Karl Albrecht, in a Psychology Today article, suggests all fears can be categorized under the following 5 types: extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation and ego-death.  See his article here.

In looking at finding work you love, Laurence G. Boldt uses the term Voices of Doubt. He has identified 4 voices and the fears behind them. They are:

The Voice of Doom and Gloom – Financial Security

In our culture, we have adopted the idea that doing work you love and making money are separate ideas.  What this voice tells us is that you are lucky to have any job at all and you can’t be supported by the work that you love. 

The truth, though, is anyone who pays for your services whether it is an employer or customers through self employment want you to have a passion for what you are doing. The young woman who worked at a San Francisco art supply shop and loved pens inspired me to buy one.

The Voice of Conformity – Straying from the Pack

This voice is based on the human need of wanting to belong, that you must spend your life doing what you “should” be doing versus what you want to do.  But to do work that is meaningful to you means you need to go inside and get a good sense of who you are, and that requires listening deeply to yourself and not to others.

The Voice of Self-Diminishment – Not being good enough

This is a devious internalized voice that says you are inadequate, the one that criticizes even when you do well and reminds you of past experiences where you may not have done well. The best antidote to this voice is to recognize when it arises (which can be tricky) and keep focused on what it is that you want to create in your life. You may want to get someone on board to help you deal with this one because it is old and deeply rooted. 

The Voice of Idle Complaint – Taking responsibility

This voice keeps us focused on other people, complaining about your circumstancesor the faults of others, and has at its core a sense of blame and helplessness. If you hate your job, are you ready to accept the responsibility of finding out what it is that you do love?

If you could conduct a scientific experiment to find the root of fear, you would find it has tendrils back to childhood, to some event or series of events where you adopted a belief.

Here are 3 steps to overcoming fears:


Step 1:

Understand your fears.

 Step 2:

         Get comfortable with that queasy feeling of fear when we are begin something new.

Step 3:

      Go out and do something that scares you. 

Susan Jeffers, author of Fear the Fear and Do It Anyway, states, “Every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised considerably.  You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens.  And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.”

You are stronger than you think: what struggles teach you

By the time we reached the hike’s destination, darkness was beginning to fall.  There was no time to linger. We admired the city splayed out in front of us. And began our trek down.

Nelson from Pulpit Rock

Nelson from Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock is a popular hike for Nelsonites. Located across the river from the city, it is a favourite choice because of the easy access and spectacular views of Nelson. The trail is 1.8 km long and with 300 metres of elevation. 

My sister, who had been visiting me for 3 weeks, adopted the routine of walking up to Pulpit Rock daily. This time I joined her.

I can’t remember now why we started the climb so late in the afternoon. What I know is that if my sister calculated the time based on her experience, she underestimated how long it would take with me along.

As we descended, we entered the forested area and we could occasionally see the lights of Nelson through the spaces between the trees.

Single file, we followed the narrow pathway. My sister led. Soon, the darkness obscured our ability to see the ground.  To the right the mountain ascended upward and to the left was a drop off.  We knew this because of memory, not sight. We inched our way down the path, my sister calling out when she encountered a rock or root.

When we reached the first switchback, a hairpin in the path reversing our direction, I saw the dark outline of a tree. I grasped it with my right hand. No longer did I have to pay attention to each inch beneath my feet. I confidently placed one foot in front of another.

But soon, I realized I had to let go of my safeguard. Because if I kept holding it, I would not be able to go down the mountain.

Isn’t this the way in life? Whatever we cling onto, that provides the safety and security that we need, we will ultimately have to forfeit because that object or story or person will be what holds us back. 

The lesson for finding work that matters:

You may find yourself clinging to a job or idea of work you want. What if that very notion is holding you back? What if your future work was grander than you can now imagine?

As I was plodded my way down the mountain, my future was ahead. Going back or staying still was not an option. As in life. I let go of the tree and resumed my inching foot steps.

By the time we passed through the next switchback (me being grateful for each tree that held me steady), my quadriceps were rebelling. Muscles quivered from the constant downward pressure. 

In the middle of the path where I could not see very little and I could only hear my sister, I made a decision. I told her, “I am done.” No more walking down this mountain in the dark. The idea was ludicrous. And I hated every minute!

After a few minutes, I reconsidered my plan. Was I going to sit down and wait for the sun to rise? The world was quiet except for my breathing. I contemplated. 12 hours. What would I do? Sleep? Probably not. Imagine every sound was a bear or a cougar? Probably. “I hate this,” I yelled.  Once the echo had died, I said, “Let’s go.”

Nelson and Kootenay River from Pulpit Rock

Nelson and Kootenay River from Pulpit Rock

As I shuffled silently behind my sister, I was thinking of options and how I often talked about how there is always a choice. Spending a night on a mountainside with no gear was an option. But my real decision was how I was going to deal with the situation. I could scream all I wanted, wish I was somewhere (anywhere) else or consider how I might do it differently if I were to start again. 

Between me and anything that I wanted in that particular moment meant going down that mountain first. 

The lesson for finding work that matters:

Where are your options? Like me, are they inside of you? Can you allow space for the brainstorming?

I wish I could tell you that it was all smooth from that point. But my legs shook and I still moved my feet in the tiniest steps I had ever taken in my life. I still hated where I was.

I ignored the fact that one step to the side would mean a tumble. Or we could happen upon a wild animal. 

I just kept moving one foot at a time.

And that is sometimes all that can be done. When I don’t know where I am going (when I was younger I imagined a time in my life when I would have it all figured out) there is nothing left to do but keep moving as mindfully as I can.

The last drop on the path was quite steep. I decided to turn around and descend like I would on a ladder. At the second step I reached my hand onto a rock. I felt squishy. And then an odour. Dog shit.

Yep. Of course.

Because sometimes shit is what life gives you. It doesn’t matter if you have already had a lot of shit or you are too tired for shit.

I reached and felt moss on the side of the path. Nature’s toilet paper. I wiped my hand. In that moment, with no other solution accessible, I appreciated how one presented itself. Not 100%. As soon as I was down that mountain, I was heading for soap and running water. But really, it did the trick.

And sometimes life is like that too. We may not get exactly what we want but you know, when all is said and done, a good-enough fix is all that was needed.

I climbed down the last few steps. And then it was done. No longer was I on the mountain. No longer did I have to be on full alert.

Years later, when someone asked me one of the most courageous things I had ever done, I thought of Elephant Mountain and our descent in the dark. What I learnt is that courage doesn’t look like I imagined. It isn’t about fearlessness. It is about showing up along with the fear. It means keeping moving even though the fear is steady on my heels. It means handling all of the shit that gets in the way and being grateful for the oases that I encounter.

The lesson for finding work that matters:

Any time you are doing something new, fear is not far away. Courage is about how you show up in your life!

For more on lessons from nature, check out this article