Braving Minneapolis

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…Theodore Roosevelt

In the month of June, I had the privilege of attending the Daring Way™ Training in Minneapolis. The Daring Way™ is curriculum based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Brené Brown has published various books covering the topics of shame, vulnerability, resilience, courage, worthiness, owning our story and so much more. I have been a fan girl for quite some time.  Not only do I enjoy and respect her research, I can relate to her story and voice. She is incredibly authentic about her struggles and background and she does not take herself too seriously. No question…she knows what she is talking about and her grounded theory method leads to many feeling like she is talking directly to them as they read and listen to her thoughts. Yet, she consistently presents as a human being, a flawed yet beautiful and impactful human being. (As I gush about her, you can see what I mean by fan girl.) For years I have wanted to attend this sought after training and, luckily, with the work that I am doing at Wise Health System, I was able to attend this year. My organization sent me because they recognize the value of this work and the impact it can have on our employees and the community.

I arrived in Minneapolis on a Sunday afternoon right as the Pride Parade was wrapping up. I immediately felt the vibrancy and warmth of this city. I checked into my huge hotel room at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Minneapolis (got quickly excited about not having to clean for 4 days and the idea of 8 hours of sleep without interruption.) My nights typically involve wrangling my 3 beautifully energetic, adventurous and messy children and then sharing the bed with all of them and their unique and unassuming sleeping positions.

That night I had the chance to catch up with a dear friend, Torie, who is wrapping up her law degree and doing important work in child protection. She told me about her love for the city, her dreams for her career and I felt like I got to know the woman she has become. I already loved this trip before my bucket list training even began.

daring way megan

Day One of The Daring Way™:  I wake up and only have to worry about getting myself ready!!! Wowza. When I drank my first cup of coffee for the day…it was HOT! So far, so good. I catch my scheduled ride to the training and have the pleasure of meeting an incredible primary care physician from Canada named Melanie. The driver pulled away not knowing that he was leaving another lady waiting on transportation behind but we quickly circled the block and came back to get her.  I am so glad that we met in this moment because she became an important fixture in my Minneapolis experience, and I am hopeful, that we will continue to explore this work and life together moving forward.

This training requires an application and pre-work process. I earned my way here and did the work to hold a seat with these impressive folks. Despite my excitement and preparation for this experience, as I hear members of my small group tell their stories and what brought them to this training…I have flooding thoughts of imposter syndrome. I am wondering if I have the chops to be here and I am praying that I have meaningful thoughts to share throughout this time.  The beauty of this curriculum focusing on shame, vulnerability, and living brave is that we all eventually discussed our fears and identified that multiple people in that room were feeling the exact same way. We cover values, relationships, trust, vulnerability, empathy and self-compassion during the activities and conversations of Day 1. This curriculum pushes you to face fears and own the thought processes that keep you from living an authentic life. You gain insight and courage to truly allow yourself to enter “the arena.” Exploring this with the women in my group, led by an incredible facilitator was a gift. Reeling from excitement and inspiration, 5 of us went to dinner at a great rooftop restaurant a few blocks from our hotel.  Three Canadians, a magical gal from San Fran, and I enjoyed conversation about human rights, politics, advocacy and dreams.  Building these relationships and debriefing the content of our training was arguably as beneficial as the training itself. I hope to always have the chance to touch base with these women and witness the amazing work they will do.

Day Two of Daring Way™: This was by far, from an emotionally challenging perspective, the toughest day of training. Shame was central to our conversations. I felt closer to each of the women in our group as we worked through tough topics and offered vulnerability, authenticity and empathy to one another. I was physically and emotionally whipped after 8 hours of shame education and processing, so I opted to spend my time that evening at the free happy hour and ordered an (essentially) free meal because I chose to go the green route and re-use my towels throughout my trip. (I received 2 $5 vouchers in turn for making an environmentally friendly choice – I have taken free meals for less honorable reasons.) Again, I was surrounded by colleagues who were also receiving this refining and thought-provoking training. We talked about parenting, magic, our specialties and, again, our dreams surrounding our practice and individual communities. I relished in this interaction and exchange.  Relationships are so valuable to me and most of my favorite people in life have come to me during these types of experiences.

daring way desk

Day Three of Daring Way™: We got to enter the Rising Strong™ curriculum on the final day of training. Throughout the Daring Way™, “participants are invited to examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding them back and identify the new choices and practices that will move them toward more authentic and wholehearted living. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing daily practices that transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.”  When we Dare Greatly, we will fall. In Rising Strong™ participants learn “what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle can be our greatest call to courage and the clearest path to a wholehearted life.” We only partially delved into this material as we learned about expectations and next steps moving forward: four weeks of online training + six months of case consultation prior to becoming an officially Certified Daring Way Facilitator (CDWF.)

I said my goodbyes to my newly developed friendships, small group and my wonderful facilitator (who has an emphasis on mindfulness in her own practice which could NOT have been more perfect.) As I headed back to Texas, I was flooded with excitement to get back to my family, but also with inspiration and ideas about integrating this meaningful material into my practice, organization, blog, relationships and life in general.  My heart was (and still is) full of gratitude. The value of exploring these topics is difficult to express briefly. This work is life changing and the reality that I will be able to bring this work into my practice is ridonkulously amazing.

I continued with the four weeks of online training and am now getting set up with a case consultant to develop a relationship with and learn from over the next six months. I plan to offer groups, workshops, retreats, intensives and individual counseling utilizing this curriculum. My personal growth from this training is evidenced by my ability to realign with my core values, honor my boundaries, walk in authenticity and live brave. I cannot wait to share this with my clients and community. The practice of mindfulness is relevant to this work and discussed in both Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™. Let me know if you are interested in getting plugged in to an upcoming group, workshop, or retreat! You can also look for Daring Way™ opportunities near you here: The Daring Way

Check out my creative project on Shame versus Authenticity!

Until next time my friends.

Peace, love and laughter,

Megan

courage

*This image is from The Daring Way™ curriculum

The Essence of Enthusiasm

Not one time in my life experience have I completed an interview that my enthusiasm was not mentioned.  As a baby social worker, I loved this! This meant I brought a fresh perspective and excitement to the table; I saw it as strength. Recently, when someone refers to my enthusiasm it has made me curious about how seriously they take me. It is often mentioned with a coy smile or giggle, like the word enthusiasm could be replaced with naivety as if what they truly wanted to say is “just wait until you actually have a glimpse into the real world.” Regardless of my actual level of exposure to the harsh realities of the world, people will continue to draw assumptions and develop their personal opinions.

I recently attended a meeting where the lack of enthusiasm in the room was palpable and painted on (almost) every face at the table. What a bummer of an hour? Trying to put myself in their shoes, I thought well perhaps they are confused, distracted, stressed, or feeling like this hour is a waste of their time. But I could not help but continue to think about the reality that their inability to engage with eagerness would guarantee that they would continue to be confused, distracted, and certainly make meetings like this a waste of their time. This also had me curious about what it would take for someone to serve as a catalyst for change in meetings like this or in the broader spectrum of culture shifts or organizational change. My brain was rapidly firing with….enthusiasm about enthusiasm.

But prior to developing a plan to harness and spread enthusiasm like wildfire the world over, I wanted to learn more about the word enthusiasm. What are the roots of this word and how does the word make people feel?  How do people respond to enthusiasm? What makes people enthusiastic? Does enthusiasm fade?

First…I found connection between children and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and innocent positivity seemed synonymous to people. In searching “enthusiastic characters in fiction” the first result read “characters who are overly optimistic.”  From the get go, my search demonstrated that enthusiasm is linked to silliness or irrationality.  I found reference to Tigger from Winnie the Pooh who is as annoying to other characters in the Hundred Acre Wood as he is enthusiastic. Goofy was also deemed enthusiastic.  I love these characters, but I am not sure that I find them to be inspiring.

So then I began to dig into the history of the word. Earl Nightingale says, ““The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word “entheos” which means the God within. And the happiest, most interesting people are those who have found the secret of maintaining their enthusiasm, that God within.” Ok, this is more what I was trying to find. Passion, faith, excitement; perhaps unexplained at times, but not silly. God within is certainly more inspiring.

The definition of enthusiasm is intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval. Synonyms for enthusiasm include eagerness, warmth, fervor, zeal, ardor, passion, and devotion. The antonym for enthusiasm: indifference.

When I think about fictional characters that I believe depict enthusiasm, I think of Bunga from The Lion Guard. He is small in stature, but brave, confident, fierce, and funny. He is enthusiastic about life and about protecting his land. What he lacks in size he makes up for with grit and enthusiasm.  But he also can crack a joke, sing a song, and make sure everyone is having fun.

So why is enthusiasm in a professional setting so “refreshing.” Why isn’t it the norm? Why aren’t more folks enthusiastic about the work that keeps them away from their families all day every day? Why do you need a third cup of coffee before you can tolerate someone who is passionate or comes to work with fervor?  Why do you dread Monday morning? Why is enthusiasm linked to a childlike mindset?  Why is enthusiasm linked to innocence?

Maybe it is because we have become habitually out of touch with our true, inner selves. Have we gotten so caught up in the ideas of success and status that we take ourselves too seriously? We are focused on titles, recognition, money, tasks, and material possessions that we have lost sight of what it means to be truly fulfilled. I know the days that seem hard to muster the energy and focus to get through are days when I feel distracted by fears of failure or preoccupied with financial stress. When I feel genuinely excited about an opportunity for connection or to make an impact…I get a rush of energy. I am filled with passion and purpose. I am enthusiastic.  Enthusiasm is light, airy, and energizing. It feels good to be fueled by the essence of enthusiasm.

Back to the original question: How can we harness enthusiasm or create culture shifts where enthusiasm is the norm rather than an outlier state of mind? Now let’s be honest, folks have to buy into the process of creating an enthusiastic culture. But assuming there is buy in, I believe these concepts could create some positive change.

  1. Mindfulness – Without being in touch with your true, inner self, how can you know what will fuel your spirit? What is your calling? What ignites passion in you? What is your soul hungry for? Implementing a mindfulness practice into your day to day life can help you achieve increased enlightenment. Personally, my practice has become very spiritual. My prayer time and mindfulness practice are intertwined. Mindfulness helps to remove the distractions of expectations, insecurity, and stress from my mind and allows me to be still and more in touch with what I value. My ability to be enthusiastic is dependent on my values being protected and engaged in the work I do and the activities I involve myself in. For ideas on how to begin to implement a mindfulness practice, check out my Daily Dose of Mindfulness post.
  2. Trust – Taking ourselves too seriously is a defense mechanism. For people to have the comfort and faith to allow their inner selves to be shown there must be a level of trust. If you have been vulnerable in the past and have regretted this vulnerability either due to disappointment, betrayal, or being made fun of it might be a struggle to allow your true self to be shown. Because I believe enthusiasm is wrapped up in our values, passions, and dreams…I believe that it is vulnerable to wear your enthusiasm on your sleeve. If your excitement is not well received you may develop the need to be guarded. Creating organizational change based on the concept of building trust can be quite the undertaking, a great read to give some ideas about how to make this happen is The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.  However, that doesn’t mean that individuals cannot do their part to serve as a catalyst for change in day to day activities.  Trust yourself and your instincts. If you have enthusiasm about a meeting, connection, or opportunity share it! Enthusiasm is contagious and your willingness to be vulnerable may be the inspiration for others to peel back their protective layers of status and power. This may not always be true, but the right people will be lit up by your passion…be on the lookout for people who perk up when you are enthusiastic rather than shy away or roll their eyes. Their hesitations say more about their insecurities than your potential.  A brief thought on encouraging enthusiasm in your children…LISTEN. When they are tugging on your shirt tail with excitement to tell you something, try your best to pause for a moment and HEAR them. You can be the catalyst that encourages your kids to listen to their inner voice and act on their passions. I know this can be a challenge when you have limited time and limitless responsibilities, but model being still for them.
  3. Turn Towards the Light – I use this phrase often in my counseling practice in many different contexts. I use it to explain cognitive behavioral therapy and changing your negative thought processes. Turn away from the negative thoughts that weigh you down, make a choice to engage in positive and rational thought processes. I also use this phrase when I talk about toxic relationships. What relationships feel heavy, dark, and foreboding? Choose to surround yourself with people who inspire you and reinforce a positive self-image. I try to focus on the concept of choice in the way we feel, think, and behave. We can actively create scenarios that are more uplifting, positive, healthier, etc. Or we can actively choose or passively exist in situations that drag us down, deplete us, or leave us feeling empty. The idea that enthusiasm is something we can actively choose makes perfect sense to me. We can make the choice to implement practices and activities that light us up. We can engage in experiences that keep us excited about life, work, and our families. We can decide to honor our true selves, our set of values, and our dreams. An article from the Technical University of Munich discusses the concept of phototropism:

The growth of plants toward light is particularly important at the beginning of their lifecycle. Many seeds germinate in the soil and get their nutrition in the dark from their limited reserves of starch and lipids. Reaching for the surface, the seedlings rapidly grow upwards against the gravitational pull, which provides an initial clue for orientation. With the help of highly sensitive light-sensing proteins, they find the shortest route to the sunlight – and are even able to bend in the direction of the light source.  “Even mature plants bend toward the strongest light. They do this by elongating the cells of the stem on the side that is farthest from the light. This type of light-oriented growth is called phototropism,” explains Prof. Claus Schwechheimer from the Chair of Plant Systems Biology at the Technische Universität München (TUM).

Plants actively grow in a manner that increased access to life-giving sunlight! If we find the moments that provide that life-giving light, we should actively create increased access to these opportunities. Maybe children are more commonly associated with enthusiasm because they haven’t been tempered by disappointment and expectations. Children are still in tune with their inner selves and naturally turn towards the light.  I hope that each day I have at least one moment that ignites childlike excitement, passion, and enthusiasm in my soul. We should all be so lucky.

pexels-photo-214574.jpeg

Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan