Be Present

How to strengthen your leadership

Last month, I shared “the one thing excellent leaders never stop working” – check it out here. This one thing will allow you to build caring relationships at work and stay aligned with your values while you create system change. Doing it well can reduce burnout and allow you to be a leader who supports equitable change in the world.

Haven’t read the last post yet? Here is what excellent leaders always foster – self-awareness. 

Self-awareness as a leadership practice includes:

  • Learning how you show up in different situations and scenarios, 
  • Knowing what you need to be clear and kind, 
  • Clarifying your values and goals, 
  • Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses,
  • Understanding how your different identities interact with systems and structures and affect you and your colleagues and
  • Acknowledging your personality, strengths, and weaknesses impact your work and colleagues. 

If you continually reflect on this list, I am sure you are a thoughtful leader.
This is an ongoing learning.

As promised, I want to share a pattern I noticed in my self-awareness exploration. I hope this can serve as an example of what behaviors and patterns to look for when you want to improve your leadership practice through self-understanding.

Here is a pattern I am working on in my leadership, business, (and definitely –) family life:

When I am not paying attention, I tend to oscillate between – 

  • “going full speed ahead with high personal expectations” 
    This looks like – saying yes to everything, wanting to support everyone, holding myself to unrealistic standards, not asking for support, or delegating.
  • “crawling into a little ball and being completely unavailable” 
    This looks like – needing to take a Saturday completely to myself, under the covers with Netflix and food in bed, not responding to personal communications, deciding not to schedule doctor appointments, etc., because it is “too much.”

Don’t worry, y’all! I have been working with this one for a while now, so there’s no need to check up on me. I’ve got this. I also know this is a normal nervous system response to running in overdrive and going into a freeze pattern. I continue working on finding a balance and finding fewer extremes in my pendulation between the two. 

How does this very personal pattern impact my leadership?

I can be experienced as controlling or absent. My care and intense response can diminish people’s agency in their learning and personal change work.

All of our internal “mechanics of being” – impact our leadership.

Here are overarching steps I use to allow self-awareness to create behavior change that improves my life and relationships.

Here is the self-awareness to action cycle in broad stokes:

  1. Seek out self-discovery and personal learning 

    I look for opportunities to see who I am and how I can improve. I do ongoing work to regulate my heightened emotions and improve my ability to receive feedback, allowing me to learn more about myself.

  2. Offer compassion and forgiveness

    I work to increase self-compassion so I do not attack or freeze when I learn how I show up, my behaviors, or how I am perceived. The kinder I am in my head, the more I can take in self-awareness moments and turn them into action. I work on forgiving myself for the ways I fall short.

  3. Reflect and deepen the learning 

    I seek out further learning about the patterns I notice or receive feedback on. 
    (For example, I took my colleague Molly Caro Mae’s course and worked on my behavior pattern, which oscillates between “hide away” and “do it all.” Her course is excellent, by the way!)

  4. Find Support

    Yes, here it is again – get support. I often get support from friends and teachers.

    We cannot do change work alone. We need each other. Find friends, colleagues, communities, coaches, therapists, somatic practitioners, or teachers.

  5. Practice & Apply

    Find doable, micro ways to practice. After a time of practicing in less visible ways, apply your learning to how you show up in real-life scenarios.

Rinse and repeat.

Personal behavior change is possible.
We know this through the learnings of neuroscience, habit science, somatics, and psychology.
We can change how we show up for ourselves and others – but first, we must notice.
Noticing is always the first step.

What is something you have been noticing? 

What behaviors and patterns are you working on in your leadership?

P.S. We created Clear Harbor as a support community for just these people – leaders who want to be more self-aware and reflective. If you want a brave, warm, and caring place to grow as a leader, join us.

Rheanna SmithHow to strengthen your leadership
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Recalibrate, listen and explore: a mid-summer check-in

How are you doing this season?

Over here in the northwest, summer is a noteworthy season. Why? Because there is incredible fruit and warmth and no rain or snow. Everyone is out and about. It brings a particular kind of delight AND in like matter a frantic, frenetic energy. People want to do everything… sit by a body of water, drive to a mountain, eat ripe peaches and corn. See all the people they love.

I feel this delight and pressure too. And now, with a child, I have the added urge of wanting him to experience it all and feel connected to the land where he lives and the joy of being outside with people we love.

This season highlights the push and pull I feel at this time in my life. I want to be present and soak in the joys and delights around me as a human on this earth – noticing the color and texture of bumble bees and butterflies, laughter, and the feel of my feet in cold, glacier streams. I want to be in this moment of life with my child – muddy hands, skinned-up knees, a face sticky sweet, holding hands with a summer friend. I want to make spacious room for my clients to recalibrate, listen, explore, and make plans that build toward bigger possibilities. Additionally, there is a list of hopes for my partner, family, community, and self.

What are all the pieces of summer you are holding? What do you want to feel and experience this season?

I have moments of inner struggle and grumpiness because it is not possible to make all of these things happen simultaneously inside linear time.

Again, I remind myself that I cannot do it all.

So how do I find my way toward these intentions for the rest of summer without overwhelm?

Here is what I do to reset and reduce stress:

  • Name my intentions (see above)
  • Name my constraints (time, energy, other people, etc.)
  • Look for supports 
  • Simplify (where can I do less, where can I lower internal or external expectations)
  • Overcommunicate and calendar with my partner (and key colleagues or family)
  • Build in slowdowns (when am I pausing to check in with my body)
  • Offer gratitude out loud at the moment for what I am seeing and the humans around me
  • Be okay with an unconventional work schedule (as long as I have solid boundaries in place)
  • Use a metaphor for the season to remind me of my intention

It is not too late to invite in a different way to be during this summer (or the next season) – if you feel frenetic, frustrated, “blah”, or disconnected. It may be cheesy, but it is also true; every day, you have an opportunity to reset your intentions and actions.

Today I intend to dig into key client communications and connections, eat a juicy peach, and sit outside with my son in the late summer afternoon.

Want reflection questions to support your reset? Check out more below.

Here is to a fruitful summer,

Annie

If you find this info helpful, please consider joining my email list. You’ll get helpful tools and learn about the practices I use for myself and to help leaders and teams gain clarity, work collaboratively, and discover a deeper sense of purpose, connection, and joy.

Rheanna SmithRecalibrate, listen and explore: a mid-summer check-in
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How to bring in joy & intention when  building partnerships [Leaders Creating Change Series]

Thoughtfully built relationships are vital to creating long-term partnerships that support your work, mission, and also support you in your leadership. I am always looking to learn better and different ways to be in relationships and in partnerships with fellow humans – so that together we can create social change and experience joy and delight along the way.

I want to share more opportunities for you to gather and hear from thoughtful leaders building toward equity and social change in their communities.

I recently had the joy of talking with Amanda Thomas, Director, Community Partnership for Tacoma Public Schools. We spoke about how she shows up in spaces, builds community, and creates long-term partnerships. Amanda is one of my favorite leaders to work with and it was a delight to hear her talk about her leadership and work.

Hear what Amanda says about building relationships even in institutional capacities:

You can probably tell from our conversation that Amanda brings joy into her work and the communities she’s a part of, so I wanted to know how joy fits into building relationships for her. She said…

Amanda offered the reminder that it IS enough to simply be in relationship with each other. Building relationships thoughtfully over time supports your growth as a leader and your ability to create something bigger and more meaningful. Investing time in the relationship without considering what you have to gain creates trust and space for learning and creativity. This allows you to make more significant and impactful changes.

We can’t do any of our change work alone.

If we’re going to build larger solutions, we have to be in conversations with each other and hear diverse perspectives. We must be able to see and talk about the problems with people who view them differently.

It’s more than just partnerships, though. As leaders, we have to identify and find the support we need intentionally. I asked Amanda how she has built a support community around herself. She finds support in others but also in herself.


I’m grateful to have found support in my relationship with Amanda. My hope for you is that you have built or are building partnerships and communities of support for yourself, too. 

In what ways are you putting energy into relationships simply for the joy and act of being in community?

A massive thank you to Amanda for joining me and for always showing up in spaces and giving very freely to community. 

Interested in the full interview with Amanda? To learn more about building relationships and partnerships, grab it here.

Rheanna SmithHow to bring in joy & intention when  building partnerships [Leaders Creating Change Series]
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There’s a difference between rest and reflection. Spoiler alert: You need both.

“Being a leader is not about production; it’s about being there for the people I lead, support, and serve. And I need to prepare myself to be a decent human being so that
I can be there for others and be approachable.”
– Andrew, Clear Harbor member

I have to exist as a human to show up at work. And when I show up as a cog and a machine, I feel the least fulfilled in my life.”
– Shannon, Clear Harbor member

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many conversations about rest and reflection. We talked about why it’s important and how to fit it into our busy lives. The two quotes I shared above were from those conversations and examples of why we must find time to rest and reflect individually and in groups if we want to show up as leaders in our lives. 

Rest can happen when you reflect, but rest is not always reflection time. Sometimes the reflection piece gets left behind. We hear a lot about self-care and well-being on the topic of rest. But often, reflection is missing.

Leaders, in particular, need both rest and reflection to:

  • keep going,
  • keep leading, 
  • stay in their role (and lane), 
  • not burn out,  
  • make decisions, and 
  • recognize that pauses are necessary. 

Leaders need built-in time to reflect on themselves. The results? You avoid bringing knee-jerk reactions and your own bias to your team. We must reflect internally first before we can show up and lead a reflection with others. Reflection can bring you back to your why and passion and help you feel human. Time for reflection for yourself and then in groups is a critical tool for building a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

“Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times,
a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time.”
– Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Most times, teams will retrospect at the end of a project by looking at how things went, what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved. But you can do this at any time as a team! Build those moments into groups in the arc of the process with reflection points to pause and observe. 

I build rest and reflection into meetings – we stop, take a breath, take a break, and look away from the screens and each other. We write on our own before we share in the group. These practices are critical when building your team and group processes. 

At times, I work with teams after they’ve missed opportunities to reflect – on the big picture or on cultural dynamics. They always had lots of work to complete but little time to reflect. The good news? It’s never too late to change this. We can find time to reflect. 

You CAN build in time to reflect starting now to avoid big crises and conflicts in the future. When you practice slowing down and reflecting now, you will remember how to do it in the middle of stressful moments and not leap into fast decision-making based on assumptions and stories. When we slow down and recognize our own biases, we change how we do things. That’s one step toward making our work more equitable and inclusive. 

This is one reason I created Clear Harbor for leaders – more here if you’re intrigued.
Clear Harbor is a built-in time for groups of people to reflect outside of the day-to-day pressures to respond.
It’s a commitment on your calendar to other people.
It’s a space to step back and reflect with a more significant viewpoint.

We not only show you it’s possible to build this into your workday, but we show you how.  

I promised you a list of ways to build in time for rest and reflection. You can grab the list here. Remember, this isn’t MY list. These thoughts and ideas are from friends, clients, colleagues, and maybe even from you. Browse the list and see if anything sparks your interest. Try a few of the ideas yourself.

How can you build reflection into your day?

Rheanna SmithThere’s a difference between rest and reflection. Spoiler alert: You need both.
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How to tap into more joy when you need it most

In these last days of summer, our house is full of family, people and things are everywhere. Plates of food with warm stone fruit next to plates of food with fried rice. People yelling each other’s names from across the tiny house. I am grateful and full of connection. 

Mind you, I am also an introvert, and I took a few days out alone, away from all my family before this next batch of sweetness arrived. I needed time to connect first to myself, to say “oh hello there Annie.” I needed time to be outside. My body and being need time near the water in stillness to recalibrate my inner compass. I am grateful for a supportive partner who did the household preparations for a month of family time so that I could have alone time. I am grateful for the moments we can be outside in the woods or near a river.

Now, in this house full of people from 80 to 4 years old, I am feeling joy. I am feeling the joy of good food, of laughter, of stories shared with our son. I am delighting in the feeling of creating a life with this wild family.

And when I was alone with my thoughts, books, and a shoreline, I felt joy. I felt the joy that comes when you notice the sound of water moving at the same time as a bird call. 

It is not all sunshine and ease, we’ve had major changes in life plans in the last month that caused stress. We are navigating the fires and the virus with apprehension and sadness. We are listening to the news from around the world and our own town – people navigating devastation and loss of life, lands, homes, and rights. We are fielding phone calls from friends and family about illnesses. 

This is to say – the connection is essential. Amid all the changes, and our own and other’s fights for a safer and more just world – we need to remember our connections to each other, to ourselves, to the natural world, to our experiences, our breaths, our stories, and the bigger picture.

And the connections lead to joy. And we all need joy. Joy is a reminder of delight and “aliveness” in the middle of the mess and the heartaches.

This week think about using connection as a source of joy.

What do you need to connect to right now to make a little room for joy?
Who do you need to connect to now?

Want to dive deeper into what joy can be and how to access it? Here is a quick video for you to go further into this practice and how to apply it even in a work setting.

Guess what? I asked a few amazing communities I am a part of what they do to build joy. The answers form an inspiring list you can use to build joy & connection into your life anytime – especially when you need it most. 

Get it here!

Want to share this joy-building list and video with a friend so you can inspire each other? Send them this link to share for free!


Looking for genuine connections in your professional life?
Clear Harbor is a community of fellow leaders who practice equity and make room for joy!

Get on the waitlist before the doors open in September.

Rheanna SmithHow to tap into more joy when you need it most
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The first hug in a year

I gave my first hug to a friend I hadn’t hugged in over a year. I felt a mix of tenderness, joy, relief, sadness, and distance. The feelings surprised me. I expected sheer delight – I love this person SO much! Instead, I think the hug was exactly what is meant by the word bittersweet. 

I recognized something else in that hug and subsequent first hugs after. My feelings right now are different than I assumed. They are milder and murkier than I expect. I think this is because for the last year, I was not able to have many nuanced emotions.

My mind has been locked down tight. I was focused on attending to the safety and wellbeing of my family and the community. I watched Covid take people’s lives, wellbeing, and livelihood.  I witnessed the racial reckoning of our country with held breath and continued to find what I must do and undo professionally and personally to be a part of ending racism. I observed friends navigating hardships from a distance and did my best to send love. I supported clients in their huge lifts to carry on their missions.

This last year I felt sad, and angry. At times I felt grateful and glimmers of sweet joy. And that was it.

My focus was tight and that was necessary, but it had its repercussions.  

I did not make room for a larger reflection on what was missing.

My spectrum of thinking, feeling, and experiencing was constrained to attend to the immediacy of survival and to respond to immediate personal and societal concerns.

This is not a new thing for humans. We all close in our emotions, and perspective in our daily lives in moments of pressure, trauma, conflict, violence, and loss. 

As tender and quieter thoughts and emotions emerge, I can feel the shape of the cold, exterior container I built to get through the last year. I do not want to be in that container but I know it will take awhile to set it down.

I want to share with you the slow ways I am dancing with the re-emergence of a fuller spectrum of emotions and thoughts. (I am not a trauma-expert, so I am including other resources below.)

You can better see and support others in your work and life, if you tend to where you are emotionally, mentally, and even physically, in this transition.

Here is what is supporting me:

  • I am paying attention to how I am feeling in the moment.
  • I am moving at the speed I can and trying to understand what others may be feeling or experiencing (i.e. go at your own pace and support others in their own pace.)
  • I am building connections with people who can listen without judgement or shame and whom I can offer the same to.
  • I am reflecting alone with walks, movement, and writing. 
  • I am finding moments of appreciation, thinking “I appreciate this… I appreciate you for…” and then letting the appreciation sink in.

The cliff notes:

  • Notice your feelings.
  • Go at your own pace.
  • Know and understand other peoples’ pace.
  • Connect with others who can listen, and you can listen to.
  • Reflect alone.
  • Appreciate the people, moments, the things you can.

Reflection questions to go deeper alone or together:
– What have I been feeling about…
– What am I feeling now about…
– What do I need? What do you need?
– What am I experiencing right now?
– What do I want to take with me from last year?

May you have moments of real connection with others and with yourself this month.


Here are two guides from the past months to support in this continued time of transition:

5 steps for grounding during instability
How to prepare for reopening


Trauma, grief & tending to emotions – a mix of resources

People on Insta for support & resources:
@nedratawwab – Nedra Tawwab
@Alex_elle – alexandra elle

Websites
Self-compassion – Dr. Kristin Neff’s resources & meditations
Cloud Sangha – facilitated mindfulness groups, including groups for people of color and women
Spell for grief & letting go – adrienne maree brown

Movie
The Wisdom of Trauma movie – Dr. Gabor Mate

Books
The Body is not an apology, Sonya Renee Taylor
The Body keeps the score, Dr. van der Kolk
No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh
Walking each other home: Conversations on loving and dying, Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, Nadine Burke Harris

Thank you to my social work colleagues for these resources! 
Have others I should include in my list? – Please send your recommendations.

Rheanna SmithThe first hug in a year
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How I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, flowers are beginning to peek up out of the ground. The days are getting longer. A smattering of them have been without rain. Which means there are less mud puddles. That means a lot less loads of wash for me to run. 🙂

Thankfully, some of my family have managed to get their Covid shots. In most places, infection rates are reducing as opposed to rising. 

I find myself thinking… perhaps I should be feeling more relief. More hope. 

Yet, I find myself sitting with a strange mix of emotions these last weeks. Here are the words that come to mind as I try to name them: exhaustion, wariness, nostalgia, sadness, hope, gratefulness, and grief. As we face the prospect of returning to gather in person, my hope and relief is mixed with powerful reminders of what family, friends and community have had to endure this past year – the loss of time spent together, the loss of jobs and security, the loss of loved ones. 

That’s when I begin to notice my posture of “just put your head down, Annie, get through it, push on.” This is not the first time in my life I’ve used this survival technique. It works. For a short time. But it takes a toll when I do it for long enough. 

You see, in order for me to “push through” I must also actively avoid feeling my own emotions – both negative and positive. That includes empathy, grief, tenderness, and gratefulness. This year provided me with moment-to-moment opportunities to both experience and avoid my feelings. Because of the intense magnifying glass our lives have been under this last year – I am noticing the moments I’ve avoided my feelings in order to simply “push through”.

The key for me moving towards hope and accessing my ability to open myself back up to people and public space, is to move myself from a posture of avoidance into a position of allowing myself to experience my own feelings. I am doing this now… ever so gently.

Here is how I am opening myself up to the feeling of hope and the learnings of the last year:

I am focusing especially on my feelings of grief and gratitude.

I am noticing in a specific way. It’s a technique coming out of mindfulness and Buddhism. 

I try to be aware of any feelings I may be experiencing in the moment. Then, I see if I can slow down and acknowledge the feeling, whatever it may be. It goes something like this:

“Hello there, sadness.” 
and 
“Whew, here it comes again… I’m missing someone…” 
and 
“Wow, I am so grateful for…”

I say to myself or (if appropriate) to those around me, just what it is that I am feeling.  I offer appreciations out loud when I am experiencing gratitude. 

I try to offer some variation of Valerie Kaur’s offering around grief if I am grieving with or because of something someone else is experiencing, “You are grieving, but you are not grieving alone. I am here with you.”

I let the feeling remain with me. Till the next one comes.

Then, I am practicing being quiet and present in the moment. (You know me – this is taking a lot of practice!)

This is not new information. It is centuries old and across traditions. However, there is a reason we continue to strive to learn it – it is hard work & it is life changing.

Here is what happens when I allow myself to notice & experience my emotions, especially grief and gratitude:

  • I experience more love and connection in my life, and less resentment.
  • I give love and acknowledgement to those I am with, allowing them the opportunity to feel loved and appreciated.
  • I can stay in the present moment, which reduces worry, anxiety, and fear of the future,
  • I feel human and notice the humanity in others.
  • When I notice gratitude – it expands and unearths more appreciation. Gratitude and appreciation can coexist with pain and grief.
  • I move through the emotions so that unexpected emotions are less likely to surface later, which reduces the harm I enact on myself and others.

It can be hard. 

I am still head down, barrel through at times. And that is okay.

However, the more I drop into my emotions and the lessons they point to, the more prepared I am to keep showing up as a human being.

As I practice feeling more, I process more of the incredible lessons and hard moments of the last few years. As I sit with the grief and the gratitude, I find myself learning how to be a better friend, partner, and teammate. I recognize that I have more capacity than I imagined. 

And that gives me hope.

What are you feeling right now?
What emotions are you paying attention to? 
What are they teaching you?

May we allow each other the space to feel as we enter a new time of transition.

Feelings and emotions too overwhelming right now? Here is a place to go for support: NAMI Hotline

Want more resources to support feeling your emotions, supporting others in their grief, and practicing gratitude? 

Here are a few offers:

See no stranger, Valarie Kaur, The People’s Inauguration  and other learnings
A guide to transition from winter to spring, Kirin Bhatti
Lama Rod Owens – Acknowledging emotions meditation
Tara Brach – Pause for Presence
Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Emotional Agility, Susan David

Need examples? Here is what this looks like in real-time:

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the lost time with people I love.
  • It hits me in a pang in my chest.
  • I sit with it and I say to myself, “Whew there is that feeling of missing and loss.”
  • I send a message or call when I can to tell the person I miss that I love them.

Gratitude

  • There is always more to do in our house, with our child, in my work. It is easy to get bogged down.
  • I am practicing noticing when my family is actively working on supporting someone else in the house or helping with a household task (which is actually very often).
  • I try and see it in the moment or shortly after and let them know I am grateful for what they are doing and/or I am grateful for them.

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the people I care about who have lost loved ones to Covid.
  • I am feeling grief when I hear stories of people who have lost loved ones, including their children because of hatred and violence.
  • I offer my love and feeling of grief in the form of a mediation. 
  • When I can I drop into the moment with the person or the story and practice listening not solving.
  • I look for actions I can take afterward, in response to the grief – learning more about the story, taking a direct action, and supporting a person or organization.
  • For individuals in my life I am grieving with, I look for simple ways I can show up in support (and ask them first).

Gratitude

  • I notice when my heart is welling up with tenderness. It can be when I watch Lino and Rob dance in the living room or play cars. It can be when Lino is creating a hilarious made-up scenario or when Rob or his sister Lisa is preparing a warm meal.
  • When I feel the tenderness rise up, I notice it if I can.
  • I set down what I was doing just for the moment and take a mental polaroid.
  • I say to myself “THIS” and I say to myself or out loud, “I see you, I appreciate you”


What are the ways you acknowledge grief and loss?
What are the ways you offer appreciation?


I’ve created a guide to help you move forward during this time. Grab the guide here.

Rheanna SmithHow I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)
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Make a big change in your career and life

In the past few weeks, I offered up steps to take in preparation for a life transition and what you can do to create a shift without making the immediate big change.

Now I am sharing a process that sets you up to make a big life or career transition.

There are two ways to use these tools:

  1. Try out these steps when you know you are ready to implement a change in your life and you feel, “this is it! Now is the time!”
  2. Use any of these tools to move you closer to the change you want in your life or career sometime in the future. Hint – these processes work at ANY TIME to give you more clarity and alignment in your life!


If this moment in our history has awakened something inside you, igniting your creativity and a new direction, and you are ready for a change – use these tools to begin decisive action.

If this time of challenge has provided you or your family with clarity that what is currently occurring cannot continue in the same way – use these tools to walk toward a more sustainable future.

And if you are currently working hard to manage each moment in front of you, using your energy to tend to your well-being and your family’s well-being, and cannot possibly think of or talk about a change right now – you are not alone!

You can try only one of the first steps to gently lay the groundwork for the possibilities of what you want to come in a year or two. (Or come back to this process when you are ready.)

Here is the guide that includes these tools, plus the previous processes offered for building towards a transition in your life.

May you be well as you move toward change or stead yourself right where you are.

Rheanna SmithMake a big change in your career and life
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Back in the thick of it.

Are you back in the thick of things?

This can be a hard time of year because we want to feel that fresh start. Yet here we are, still pushing through the same work and juggling all the same pieces of daily life.

It can also be a refreshing time of year. Some people can harness the new year’s energy and then launch into both new and old work with a renewed sense of passion.

If you are working on a project that feels like it just keeps going with no end in sight, then this note is for you. If you are feeling super excited about the year ahead, then consider this note an extra boost!

When you are pushing through work that never seems to end, here are a few things to remember. You have heard these things before. Many wise teachers and dear friends have said these words. But for you, now in the midst of January, I am going to say them again.

Look back at what you have accomplished

You have done many things in your life that are awesome and powerful.  You have already done things in your work that are HUGE accomplishments. I know you have. Right now remind yourself of the great things you have done. (I won’t judge if you brag a little.)

Trust yourself

Yes! You actually have the ability to keep going. You have the ability to do this work. You have everything within you that you need. That includes the ability to ask for help and innovate with other folks who would be great work with. You can do this.

Find ways to sustain yourself for the journey

If you are going on a very long road trip, it is a good idea to pack snacks and food. It is also a good idea to pull over and eat that food, get out of the car and look around, move your body a bit, get some sleep, and even ask someone else to drive for a while.  Think of your big project like a road trip. Eat, sleep, listen to good music, see the sights, have fabulous conversations – get out of the car sometimes! You will still get where you’re going. And you will enjoy the journey a lot more!

Nothing is forever

“This, too, will pass,” said Persian Sufi poets and lots of other wise people. And it’s true. Everything ends and begins again anew. This current project will be over, this challenging job will end, the kids will grow older. Hold this knowledge, at least just for a second. This moment right now is the moment you have to make the most of. A few moments and blinks later, things will be different.

You’ve got this! Keep going. Look back and congratulate yourself on what you have done. And don’t forget to take a few breaks along the way.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Back in the thick of it.
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What is sweet in your life right now?

There are a lot of expectations at this time of year. Expectations we place on ourselves, expectations of our loved ones, end of the year expectations of our co-workers. If you are religious, then this time of year can also bring expectations for your spiritual life. Some of these people and their expectations want the best for you: to have a merry time, to feel loved and connected, to experience delight. However, expectations can feel heavy.

For me this year, the expectation to participate in the holiday season and year-end rituals is commingled with the heaviness of my heart.

My heart feels heavy because of all the hate, lack of understanding, and murders that so many communities in our world are facing right now. And I do not want to ignore the complexity of the expectations for the holiday season and the sadness about what is happening to people in my country and in countries far away. So I am not going to. I am going to hold both.

This year as I shop or decorate the house, I am also feeling a mix of delight and sadness.

I am choosing carefully where to invest my time and energy. I am putting my energy into this time of thanksgiving. I am focusing on the upcoming holidays, which are most dear because that’s when I gather with my family. I am lucky to have them.

I work hard to not shut down my heart with the constant barrage of news focused on hate and suffering. I have one technique I am using this year to keep my heart open and remember the essence of this season. At least once a day I take time to remember what is sweet in my life, what I have given to others, and what gifts I have received.

You can do this every day, perhaps right before closing your eyes or as you take the first sip of coffee in the morning.

Close your eyes and ask:

What is sweet in my life right now?
What have I given to someone in my life?
What have I received from someone in my life?

As you answer each question, say thank you. This ritual does not have to be a big thing.

Here are my answers for right now:

What is sweet in my life?
Our home is warm and clean, with a sweet cat and caring neighbors.

What have I given to someone in my life?
I offer a careful listening ear and steadfast commitment to my partner.

What have I received from someone?
My dear friend trekked across the mountains in the snow, bringing her 10-month-old for a visit.

What is a sweetness in your life right now? Post in the comments or on Facebook.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015What is sweet in your life right now?
read more