We have quite a few new people at Tribe and our first social gathering (outside) this week. And it feels good. But it is different then it used to be so in some ways I feel like we are starting over but I guess that is change. So how do we embrace change that builds resilience? When change makes us better, it’s because we have learned how to turn a challenging situation to our own advantage, not merely because change happens.
BBC’s, The Collection, Why embracing change is the key to a good life, writes;
How we handle change is the essence of our existence and the key to happiness, particularly in our current times of uncertainty. Since humankind has existed, many great artists, writers and philosophers have grappled with the notion of change, and our impulse to resist it. “Something in us wishes to remain a child… to reject everything strange,” wrote the 20th-Century psychologist and author Carl Jung in The Stages of Life. For these thinkers, a refusal to embrace change as a necessary and normal part of life will lead to problems, pain and disappointment. If we accept that everything is constantly changing and fleeting, they say, things run altogether more smoothly.
We all know cognitively that change is nothing new and inevitable. Yet, by nature, change feels unfamiliar so we often try to resist or desperately try and make sense of it. Pain is often the agent of change, which is why we fear it. It is hard to see beyond the pain to the opportunity of anew – but that is the only good choice. The alternative is resisting change, a futile and ultimately more painful option. Not to mention missing all of the opportunities for growth. Change takes practice and the more you accept it, the better you get at it. So in theory, we should all be a bit more practiced right about now.
“All that you touch you Change. All that you Change changes you. The only lasting truth is Change.” – Octavia E Butler
Today we had our first social gathering since before the first lockdown. It was so nice. Everyone missed that community feel of our coworking space. In some ways we felt more united, all having experienced our own disconnection and struggles over the past 17 months. I would like to think that a show of solidarity and support in different communities has emerged; perhaps even a broader sense of equality and empathy. Now is the time to reflect and find the opportunities from change. Let’s not go back to being disconnected, isolated and self interested. I am hopeful that we can find a deeper understanding of our humanity, discover new priorities and be driven by our values in order to change and heal. Remember that change isn’t always out with our control.
Focus on your values instead of your fears. Reminding ourselves of what’s important to us — family, friends, great music, creative expression, and so on — can create a surprisingly powerful buffer against unexpected change.
Social lunch helps too.
If you want to see more or less of something, take action, make the changes you want to see. In our behaviour, we tend to be making an implicit distinction between getting other people to change – and changing ourselves. We often think more about how to change others or complain about others rather than making the changes ourselves. Sometimes because we don’t give ourselves permission and sometimes, well, because it’s easier to point than do the inner work. We might know we may have to develop in certain ways, but for now, our focus is on altering others. However, we miss an important insight: changing how you behave to others can be the fastest way to alter how others behave towards you.
Here is a brilliant video by School of Life which illustrates how and why you should be the change you want to see and how mirroring is the best way to change yourself and others.
Would love to hear your thoughts if you want to share, email me.
I recently spoke about the book, When the Body Says No, by Gabor Mate on the monthly book review club, 5 Things. I highly recommend 5 Things (@andyirvine on Twitter) – here is April’s video recording to check out. There were two other books and speakers, Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad and Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein.
From my own personal health traumas, to the pandemic, all the way to the climate crisis, there is a lot to feel right now. Life is hard, right? How many of us are teetering on the edge of burnout or lack energy?
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the path to success is paved with relentless work. Achieving isn’t good enough, we are striving to overachieve. But lately, working hard is more exhausting than ever. And the more depleted we get, the more effort it takes to make progress. As Greg McKeown rights in his new book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most,
“There is an ebb and flow to life. Rhythms are in everything we do. There are times to push hard and times to rest and recuperate. But these days, many of us are pushing harder and harder all the time. There is no cadence, only grinding effort. What could happen in your life if the easy but pointless things became harder and the essential things became easier?”
McKeown describes the effortless state you feel after a warm meal, a hot shower, a walk in the forest. The effortless state is one where you are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energised. You are able to do what matters most with ease.
This is so simple, but I think you should read it again. The effortless state is one where you are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energised. You are able to do what matters most with ease.
Traumas are felt in our bodies and what is a trauma? A loss of safety; a lack of predictability; a sense of immobility, of being stuck; a loss of connection; a loss of our sense of time and sequence; a loss of meaning, purpose. Stress hormones really do create more energy, and that energy is either propelling us to fight or flight. Collectively we are all feeling the trauma in some way.
Collectively we can also heal. We are all connected and when you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack.
Since the first lockdown, I personally have enjoyed watching sea swimmers shrieking in the North Sea, copious social media pictures of wonky sourdough loafs and hundreds of posts of sunsets and sunrises. These small acts are effortless because they give back more than they require. They have helped people slow down, notice what they have and feel a bit better. Don’t get me wrong, being physically rested takes effort and awareness of behaviours. Being emotionally unburdened is also no small feat but if you never begin, you’ll never go anywhere. And being mentally energised is bliss and worth all of the effort required.
So what’s my takeaway? Life doesn’t have to be as hard or complicated as I make it and there is no prize for burnout. Focusing on finding the effortless state to do what matters most, feels like a good place to start.
Please get in touch with any thoughts, comments or stories.
June 1991, I can still remember the bright sunny morning, driving under the arch of the wooden Keystone Wye bridge with the feeling of delight and a new found sense of freedom. I was on my way to my first official job having passed my driver’s test two month’s prior.
Keystone was and still is a small, ex mining town in the Black Hills of South Dakota and about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Rapid City. When I say small, I mean it has a population of 340 year-round residents. Keystone’s origins can be traced back to 1883, when it was founded as a mining settlement and later became one of the richest gold-mining areas in the Black Hills.
For the three months of summer, I would drive my light blue Honda Civic Hatchback to Keystone and clock in (I can still remember the time card machine chomping down on my card— there was no way to cheat it if you were late) at 7am and chomping out at 12noon.
Even though I was just cleaning hotel rooms at the not so glamorous Rushmore Express, and getting up at the crack of dawn, I felt liberated. At the ripe old age of 14 years old (yes it is legal in some states to get a full licence at 14 years old), I was proud to be earning money for myself. I was finally grown up — I had transitioned into the world of employment; or as us Americans have been sold, into the land of opportunity. Saying that, I know now my race to adulthood was based on achieving, pleasing others and escaping some aspects of home. In any case, it felt brave and exhilarating.
Like most people, I am both the same and completely different from my 14 year old self. Who we are and what we do are so connected but yet when we are growing up, we are usually asked ‘what do you want to do or become?, not ‘who are you?’. Maybe because most perceive young people can’t really know who they are; but I think it is mostly because we have based our career cultures around chasing outside things and to seek approval. We are rarely encouraged to, or shown how to go inward.
For example, have a quick search for career path and you get neatly wrapped up choices — as if we all fit into ’10’ different career boxes. At best, you will get reassured that your career path might not be linear but winding. Most career advice centres around how to get noticed, or go that extra mile and how to have a CV which stands out. This approach focuses on all of the details and misses out the big picture.
Jonathan Fields, founder of the Good Life Project has developed a business around supporting a good working life.
“Work that lets us wake up in the morning and know, deep down, we’re doing what we’re here to do. Work that sets us ablaze with purpose and, fully-expressed in a healthy way, becomes a mainline to meaning, a pathway to that transcendent state of flow, and a gateway to connection and joy. Put another way, work that “sparks” us. We call this imprint your ‘Sparketype‘ (well worth doing their free test if this is of interest to you). Your Sparketype reveals the essential nature of the work you’re here to do. Once you discover it, there is an immediate, intuitive knowing. An undeniable truth that explains so many past choices and outcomes, and empowers you to contribute to the world on a very different level. To spark your life, and ignite those around you.”
So at 14 did I know what I wanted to do because I knew my sparktype? No of course not, but I bet if I was asked what brings me joy or when do I feel most alive, my career journey would have looked differently.
Who gets asked this growing up or even as an adult? Most of the time, at least in my memory, I was told what to feel, not asked how I wanted to feel. Imagine if we were asked, ‘how do you want to feel as a student’, or ‘how do you want to feel as an employee in this company’ or ‘how do you want to feel in this relationship’? These are much better questions than what do you want to be when you grow up, or what kind of job do you want to have, or what kind of partner do you want.
The other good question we should ask ourselves, especially when we are adults is ‘Where does it hurt’? What do you need to attend to so that you can better answer the question, who am I and what do I want to do? Civil rights legend Ruby Sales learned to ask “Where does it hurt?” because it’s a question that drives to the heart of the matter — and a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now. Sales says we must be as clear about what we love as about what we hate if we want to make change.
Jonathan goes on to say you should think of your life as three buckets; vitality, (the state of your mind and body), connection (relationships) and contribution (how you contribute to the world). The fuller your buckets, the better your life. How to fill up those buckets and finding ways of stopping any leaks is in the doing. That takes effort, awareness, intention, and I for one in up for that work. Looking after those buckets should be the challenge of life, not figuring out the importance of the buckets in the first place. How can we align our culture and education better or maybe we are in the process of doing so already? Hopefully the post industrialised society with its increased valuation of knowledge will go even further, or rather back to its centre, the importance of all living things.
Perhaps that joyful freedom and itch for adventure was ignited with that first job. That pairing of freedom and work might have been what later led me to move 2000 miles to North Carolina and again a further 3,000 miles to settle here in Scotland. I love that my working life started with that journey to Keystone and the significance of a keystone. It is the most important stone — a bridge or stone arch gains its stability from the placement of the keystone and holds all of the other stones in place. I believe my curiosity and commitment to my working life was started back then. Maybe the keystone has finally just been placed and all the other bits are now held and strengthened — that feeling of freedom and exhilaration fortified.
In some ways, that drive on US 16 represents all of me so well. Portions of that road are called the Keystone Wye and portions are known as the Iron Mountain Road. The highway runs near Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and its eastern line extends to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, near the edge of Badlands National Park.
I no longer think of my career as a destination but more of a mix of the new, the sacred, the wild, the unknown and most of all, the beautiful, long, winding road.
There are two major types of social comparison: upward comparison, when people compare themselves to people who are better than they are, and downward comparison, when people compare themselves to those who are less proficient than they are. Both upward and downward comparisons have strengths and weaknesses and in some ways unavoidable; our minds want to quantify. Our minds want to rank and file and organise information and understand where we fit into the scheme of things.
I think if we can be more aware of how we are comparing ourselves, we can take back some control and use it to our advantage. There is no denying that we all do it, so if you tell yourself you don’t, then you’re kidding yourself. Comparison can also be a liar who says your best won’t ever be good enough. Especially in the world of Instagram realities, measuring your success through comparison is an easy way to feel unhappy.
The best way to stop comparison’s green monster from taking hold is to focus on your own path. Use that comparison energy for your own life. You can learn to redirect the comparison to a past and a present self and keep the comparison within.
“We last longer if we compete against ourselves for the good of others instead of competing against others for the good of ourselves.”
We are always becoming more. Who you are today is a result of the decisions you made yesterday. We are always in a state of creation if we choose to be. And be sure to be kind to yourself. This is radical self motivation in the most nurturing way with positive self talk and behaviours. Ask yourself these questions if you need some prompting;
Through community we can expand our individual shared identities. We are separate AND one community, and through each other, we learn more about ourselves. Nurturing relationships can help us see our interior world in the larger context and a shared space can be a platform to lift off from and come back to when needed.
Let’s stop comparing ourselves to each other and start competing with ourselves and cheer on one another from the sidelines.
How do you compete with yourself? Would love to hear from you.
by Dani Trudeau
by Dani Trudeau
I was recently asked to do a quick talk to camera about my life’s ‘purpose’. To me, it’s a word that feels so limiting, so finite. As though we all have just one reason for being. Actually, I’ve come to realise that a better, more relevant question would be, “what can I do with my time that’s important?” And that led me to think that, ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. It sounds morbid, but it’s really freeing.
In Mark Manson’s brilliant article, he says “Discovering one’s ‘purpose’ in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.”
So I’ve made a list of important ways to spend my time:
It all seems pretty simple, yet it feels really important. I would love to know what others find important ways to spend their time.
Let me know.
by Dani Trudeau
It has been a bit of a tough month. I have not been well and in pain and after a load of tests and scans, I still don’t know what is causing it all. That being said, it has taught me a few good things too. Before I sound overly dramatic, I just want to say that I am grateful for my health, albeit not brilliant at this very moment, as for as I know it is nothing serious. Like most experiences outside our norm, it is an opportunity to wake us up and take notice of what we do have.
As darkness helps us see the light, I think pain helps us see the joy. Being in A&E for 8 hours last week and witnessing the pain of others, I felt really sad. I felt sorry for myself but also for others; those alone, the young guy passed out, the elderly woman being ignored. It also showed me how ill prepared we are for loss and vulnerability and how our default coping mechanism is often denial. The systems we live and work in don’t support us very well most of the time. I was just outside the nurses station and it was clear that they work within a system which dictates that patients are moved or discharged by a certain time. They had up to 4 hours to move me out of A&E. Unfortunately, they moved me up to the surgical ward with little communication and I was prepped for surgery without knowing what was happening. I then waited another 4 hours for the consultant to tell me he didn’t know what was going on and to go home.
I understand why these ‘efficient’ systems are implemented and can be useful. Something happens though when the system because more important than the work. It must be far less satisfying for those healthcare workers to work for the system instead of the patient as well. From my perspective, I felt hugely disconnected on a human level. There are parts of ourselves that the conventional health care system isn’t equipped to heal or nourish, adding to our suffering.
There was a moment when I was being rolled out of A&E and up to the surgical op ward when I looked over at the man in the next room, bent over, watery eyes and in obvious pain. I quickly looked away and then thought about hearing the nurse comment about how he knows him (in a “oh yeah I know Dave” kind of way). Did that comment make me less empathetic to his suffering. Did I not want to see his suffering or did I at some level, not even believe it. I felt horrible about this. How can I accept suffering and not get tripped up by my own discomfort around it. In fact, maybe that is what some of the healthcare workers have to do to cope with the daily onslaught of other’s suffering.
I love what palliative care expert, BJ Miller, MD has to say on the topic. “First, let’s all get better at being vulnerable because we are vulnerable. If you’re in the course of a normal life, any one of us is going to be a burden to someone sometime. It’s just not possible to only give care and not need to receive it. Getting more savvy with needing one another is one way to turn down the pain.”
After getting home, it took me a day and some serious self talk to get me out of feeling utterly shite. No one could help me and maybe somehow I was making this all happen or making this up? I had to remind myself that normal scans and tests were a good thing and that I had to just keep checking in with how I felt and asking more questions. I had to remember to trust myself and that the body doesn’t lie. And although most of us don’t know when we are going to die, we are all dying.
The more intimate we get with the idea of dying, the closer we come to folding it into the fabric of our daily lives, the better off we’ll all be, Miller says. Advice on how to die well is really no more than advice on how to live well, with that unavoidable reality in mind.
Friends who know me now joke about what is going to happen next. Since about September, there has been one thing after another; some small things and some big things and it has felt relentless. And I am tired. Above every other feeling, including deep sadness of losing a father I never really knew, losing a grandmother who has always been a big part of my life, losing a close friend to suicide, which is emotionally complicated beyond words, I feel tired. Which doesn’t seem very insightful and I have been searching for life lessons, transformational changes, but the overwhelming feeling is… tiredness.
Me being me, I have been trying to somewhat force a cognitive realisation. With all this grief, there must be a big lesson to learn, right? It must be a lesson on forgiveness I decided. My parents split up when I was only a year and a half and then my dad moved to Tokyo. I saw him once when I was 5 and 10 years old and a few times in my teens when he lived in NYC. I admit I was angry and sad about him not really being in my life and there was a sense of rejection for sure. However, when I went to see him this summer to say good-bye, there was no anger. I had forgiven him and I was able to think about how he was feeling coming to terms with a terminal illness. He was not ready to go, he had too much unfinished business he said. I felt sadness of missing out on time with him, I wasn’t angry at all anymore. We recorded a Storycorps interview, something I am so thankful for doing. You can listen to it here.
When I heard he had died, I felt this pain deep in my soul, it reached back to my childhood. The grief I felt with his death came from a place somewhere between my stomach and my chest and it went so far back; deep within my body and deep within my memories.
A couple weeks after my dad passed away, my mother facetimed me crying, sitting next to my lifeless grandma, Marge. I recognised this deep sadness in my mother’s eyes and lying in contradiction was her sweet, peaceful mother. Grandma was ready to go, she lived a full life to 94 and had become quite frail and confused for the past few years. The sadness for my grandmother felt very different. It felt high in my chest, almost in my face and there was almost as much gratefulness as sadness when thinking about her. Grandma had helped raised my sister and I when my mum was on her own after leaving my dad in NYC. We moved back to Kadoka, South Dakota and my mum went to nursing school. My sister and I loved hanging out with Grandpa Max and Grandma Marge- they were a lovely couple. They loved to dance and they loved their family; total salt of the earth people. Still now, there are more good feelings than sadness when thinking about her.
Before, during and after all of this were some health problems, a surgery and a week of the most pain I have ever endured after a kidney operation. These things definitely added to my tiredness, especially the pain. Pain is something that needs time to heal. Then just when I was feeling better, I found out a good friend had taken her own life.
I had known Alex for the past 13 years, we met at a swing dance class at Dancebase. She was like no one I had ever met before; she’d already lived a thousand lives. Alex was brilliantly clever, full of big ideas, deeply cared about others and also a little intensely scary at times. She was a good friend and a godmother to my daughter. Alex was bi-polar and I had been with her through some ups and some downs and she always managed these difficulties well. She was super insightful and I trusted her. However, these past 2 years, she was not so great and at times was even horrible. I distanced myself from her, put up some boundaries and we hadn’t spoken since August. Our last contact was an email from Alex saying she was sorry, that she loved me and my family and she wanted to meet up. I could have sworn I had emailed her back to ask when might be good to meet up- however, I have looked for that email and I cannot find it. Maybe I just thought about it, maybe I never sent it? Surely, this is the life lesson I am meant to learn. Tell your friends you love them, don’t get caught up in work too much, forgive, forgive, forgive. Well almost, I have learned about forgiveness with Alex but it has been about me forgiving myself. This has been much harder.
The grief I felt with Alex felt very different again; it was low, ugly, confusing and heavy. I am not sure I could have navigated that grief without the support of her other friends. We all shared a love for Alex and we all knew her well enough to not let any of us take on the responsibility of her choice to depart. Alex loved her friends and we could see this in one another and Alex did have amazing friends who have been with her through these recent hard times.
So my lessons…! Well, lesson 1- life doesn’t work like that! There is no finite takeaway. There are so, so many and they are still being discovered and imagine will continue to teach me for a good long while. I do know that I need to listen to my body, explore the parts of the body where the trauma lives and heal through love, movement, awareness and forgiveness. I need to take the time to keep these people in my life and acknowledge their irreplaceable imprints on my being and how they each played their part in who I am.
My next book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Treatment of Trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring- specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. I think we often get caught up in our heads and yet our bodies hold so much truth and understanding of ourself. Feeling the grief differently is a mystery and yet makes sense to me at the same time. I want to learn more.
I am learning about a resilience we can all cultivate. I am living and feeling the sadness, but also knowing that all of it- the drama, grief, love, loss, pain and joy, make up this beautiful life.
GRIEF CAN BE ITS OWN
BUT DARKLY BEAUTIFUL CURE
…and then I felt the raw presence
of stone and I looked at the grass
laid down by the wind and I stood
beneath the passing mountain sky
seeing the clear view across the lake
below and felt as if I stood both alone
and entire and yet together
with everything looking back to find
my outlined mountain silhouette,
as if the world were held in place
as much by loss as any precious gain,
and that even after this goodbye
my memories were all still true,and that all the horizons
of the world still held their hidden,
and unspoken promise, and above all,
that grief can be its own
but darkly beautiful cure;
that the deepest pain
can be a long way to somewhere after all,
and of all things, even living on
beyond our loved ones,
that hardly beating, whispering
broken, but listening heart,
the one to serve us best.
Excerpted and Revised
In PILGRIM. Poems by David Whyte