Expressing Gratitude


Expressing gratitude is something I’ve struggled with for awhile. I am still learning. Saying thank you is easy for me in obvious situations where a “thank you” is part of courtesy–when someone opens a door, or gives a gift, or treats me to a coffee or a meal.

It’s different in situations where I feel deeply, or where I am engaged in what’s going on and not thinking because I am so immersed in it. Situations when I am collaborating, or when working with others toward the same goal, or when I am part of a family group.

In these situations my need to feel competent and self-sufficient can get in the way of acknowledging and appreciating the help I’ve received and the contribution made by others. Needing help or having been given help, especially if it wasn’t asked for, has  sometimes meant I felt shame, resentment, or defensiveness rather than gratitude.

I also have had difficulty receiving appreciation.

Here are some of the things that have been helpful as I’ve learned to express and receive gratitude.

Watching those who do it well

The first time I remember seeing someone who knew how to express appreciation and gratitude easily and naturally, I was entering mid-life. When someone can do this well it really stands out. Being able to receive thanks and appreciation gracefully; being present and not deflecting its as soon as someone starts is worth learning.

Russell Precious, one of the folks who founded Capers Community Markets hired me while when there was only one market in West Vancouver. Watching Russell talk with staff and customers provided lessons in how to connect with people, engage them, acknowledge them, and appreciate their contribution. He noticed what was going on, expressed his pleasure and shared the significance of what he saw. He caught people doing something right. Whether it was letting a cashier know how wonderful she was for being present, accurate, and human with every person in the endless lines at the holidays, or savouring the newest dish from the restaurant kitchen, he conveyed his gratitude in a way that let the person know he saw them and what they did and what he found worthwhile and unique. This made it easier to receive his thanks and know they were genuine.

Cynthia Baxter-Diggles  was my Training Director at Wild Oats, a person loved for her ability to recognize the contributions of her team. Her knack for seeing the “superhero” ability of each person inspired outstanding performance and kept us engaged in innovation as we worked to introduce new ways of learning and training at each store. The training team became incredibly supportive of each other in very concrete ways even though we worked in different locations and only connected through conference calls and quarterly meetings.

Assertiveness Skills

When I learned that providing appreciation was being assertive I stopped expecting it to be easy, and I knew practice would help me get better at it. I understood it wasn’t a case of not appreciating others, just feeling slow and a bit awkward when I offered thanks or appreciation. This made it feel inauthentic and I often felt  embarrassed.

In People Skills Robert Bolton, Ph.D. defines an assertion message as

  • a non-judgmental description of the behavior to be changed;
  • a disclosure of your feelings; and
  • a clarification of the concrete and tangible effect of the other person’s behavior on you.

Changing the focus slightly provides a three-step process for expressing gratitude, appreciation, and praise.

The gratitude message:

  • a non-judgmental description of the behavior you are grateful for;
  • disclosure of your feelings; and
  • clarification of the concrete and tangible effect of the other person’s behavior on you or the situation.

Boltan notes that the process of framing assertive messages leads you on a voyage of self-discovery. Learning to express gratitude and appreciation continues to help me grow.

Making the effort to be concrete, specific and descriptive about what you are grateful for and expressing it in a way that includes your feelings and the impact is powerful, and–good news–the more you do it the easier it gets.

Expressing gratitude and appreciation calls for

  •  Vulnerability — We need the willingness to dig a bit deeper (the feeling and impact part) .
  •  Presence — You have to be in the present moment to experience gratitude and be aware of it (the specific, concrete part).

For me this means being aware of the sometimes mixed feelings I am experiencing, recognizing the old reactions of defensiveness or resentment, and setting them aside for later reflection so I can catch someone doing something right.

Accepting appreciation

I am still working on learning to accept appreciation and share how happy I feel when gratitude and kind words come my way; still learning to say,”thank you for letting me know.”

Join the conversation: When has your expression of appreciation or gratitude been difficult? When has it been satisfying? What’s it like for you to receive appreciation?


Executing the Plan: 5 Ideas to Move You Forward

Plastic BlockOkay. You have a goal. You have a plan. You begin to act on the plan and the things that distract you from it and the things that get in the way begin to show up. Here are some ideas that can help you move forward.

What distracts you?

I can easily get lost in the internet and email so I found I have to limit both the time I spend on it each day and when I look at email and follow-up blogs and websites. I just can’t go there until I’ve finished priority work for the day.

Other distractions include calls and visits, setting meetings at times that interfere with my best writing times, and failing to review and refine my daily work list.

Some distractions are common these days (email, internet, calls); yet each person has their own list of events or behaviour that derails momentum. If you can notice what gets you off track then you can understand how to correct the problem.

As soon as you realize you’ve been distracted, make a note. Keeping a list of distractions and reviewing it at the end of the day will provide some tips for better focus the next day.

What do you need from others?

I am pretty independent so I often forget to think about what I might need from someone else before I get started. Some of the things that I can forget to ask for before I start:

  • clarification of points I am not sure about
  • more information
  • permission to use material or to contact other sources
  • how contacts and connections may help
  • physical resources
  • time
  • boundaries

It helps me when I remember to ask before I start, both because I don’t lose focus by interrupting work to ask, and because it increases my sense of being supported.

How can you work with the obstacles or forces that resist accomplishment of your goal?

I identify forces that oppose the goal as part of planning. I’ve found it helpful to research these forces and develop some strategies to use when they appear.

Here are the ones I listed when writing about the goal of completing the first draft of a novel with some examples of steps I took to remove or reduce the impact of the obstacle:

  • Self-Doubt: I reread what I’d written so far. It was better than I remembered!
  • Lack of focus and not spending enough time in the world of the novel: I recommitted to daily work
  • Fear of the dark parts: I am taking Clarissa Pinkola Estes course Mother Night
  • Pushing instead of discovering: I am working with discovering when an element needs a bit more time or research before writing and learning how to let the material “actively” rest. This means that even if I am not writing I spend time attuned to that world each day; just watching, just listening.

How can you leverage the forces that support your achievement of the goal?

There’s usually much more attention paid to what could go wrong when planning and not so much emphasis on how to ensure that the things that help us are in place.

Here’s my list of things that support my achievement of the goal to finish my first draft and how I am working to leverage each one to increase my chances of success.

  • Life-long desire to write: reaffirm my writer identity by taking one action each day that presents me as a writer (in addition to writing)
  • Clarity of the dream that launched the story: attune to the energy of the dream
  • Daily writing: forty-five minutes of work on the novel each day
  • Appropriate breaks: stretch breaks, shift to different part of story, begin work after a break
  • Connection to other writers: at least two meetings with writer-friends each month
  • Attunement to my soul’s longing to see it finished: connect with longing before beginning work
  • Just enough reading about craft and practice: read either blog, book or article on craft each day
  • Right effort: paying attention, being present with the process, and writing

I’ve found that my understanding of how to use each support changes as I work with it.

Each of us has a unique list, and I’d love to hear more about how you leverage what supports you or any ideas about how I could use my supports more effectively.

How can you stay connected to the larger goal and your core desired feeling over time?

I’ve started to use my weekly journal as a place to review progress. This lets me focus on the details during the week and then draw back for a higher level view at least once a week. The combination of detailed work and a new perspective seems to be helping. The weekly review gives me a place to integrate the lessons I am learning along the way.

Join the discussion: What has helped you execute your plans and reach your goals?


Reviewing 2012

How was your year? I love the sense of interval, of a time between, that happens during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. For me, it’s always been a time of finishing off and preparing for the New Year.

A simple review

I learned to do this as an end of meeting activity when facilitating community groups, and find it works well for end of year prep for new year plans. We used to use flip charts and head one, “What Worked”, another “What Didn’t Work”, and a third, “What to Change”.

Head a sheet “what worked”, head another “what didn’t” and a third , “changes”. For the first two headings, let the ideas bubble up and jot them all down. Evaluate what you’ve got and then flesh out the bits that are most meaningful.

Take a look at the past year

If you had goals for this year, take a look at them as you reflect on what worked and what didn’t. If you didn’t have formal goals or a plan, that’s okay. Even if you didn’t have something written down you may notice areas where you feel good about what happened and areas where you aren’t as pleased.

As you work through this review see if you can approach it as a fact finding mission. Finding out what worked, and what helped it work, and finding out what didn’t and what stood in the way are both valuable. Let go of any blame toward yourself or others.

Other questions to explore:

  • When something worked, how did you feel?
  • When something didn’t work how did you feel?
  • Are there areas of your life that generate good feelings that didn’t show up on your “what worked” list? Add them to your list.
  • Are there areas of unhappiness that didn’t show up on your “didn’t work” list? Add them to your list.

Take a break

Go for a walk, talk with a friend, have a cup of tea. Shake it out.

If a friend or partner is near by, either with you, or by phone, consider giving them a call and asking if they have a moment to listen to your lists. In fact, it’s lovely to do this process with a friend, each of you working on your pieces and then coming together to talk about each piece before going on to the next.

 When you come back

Review your lists and write down things you want to change.

When you look at your “what worked” list, see if there are ways you can bring more of the elements that helped create successful outcomes to other areas of your life. Potential changes could come from adapting successful strategies in one area to other areas.

When you look at your “didn’t work” list, see if you can identify the things that were obstacles to success, or that took energy or spirit away. Once you have identified obstacles, or elements that create resistance, look at what you could change or what you could do to eliminate or minimize the obstacle or the resistance.

These change points will be valuable information for next year’s planning/goal setting.

Goals focus on results; planning focuses on the steps you need to take to achieve the results. In the next post I’ll focus on goals. The following post will look at planning.

Remember to celebrate items on your “what worked” list as you ring in the New Year!

Join the discussion: What helped you last year?

Three Tools to Explore Resistance

I missed posting last week. Have you ever experienced a time when everything that was simple seems complicated? When finishing regular tasks takes three times as long? When every thought seems to veer off the straight path and into some other very fuzzy train of thought? That was my week last week. Despite many hours at my desk nothing worth writing about emerged and all my draft posts seemed totally unworthy. I was deep in a huge feeling of resistance.

The first thing that began to create some movement was Trevor Simpson’s SoulClarity Newsletter where he shared an auto-responder message:

Resistance Autoreply: From the desk of ….. “Thank you for your e-mail. I will be in resistance until Monday February 23, but will return your message once I am back from the state of denial.”

Trevor’s correspondent was feeling some resistance too. Funny how comforting it was, finding out that someone shared my state.

Then there were some helpful posts from folks I follow. Lissa Rankin wrote about being more “eggy”, more receptive and less inclined to push your way through on her blog and Marie Forleo interviewed Steven Pressfield about his new book, Turning Pro. Steven wrote the The War of Art and Do the Work about resistance, and had been helpful in the past. The interview sowed some useful seeds.

And then I worked with these guidance tools. Before using the tools I reflected on the question I wanted to ask for guidance in getting through my resistance and came to “What do I need to do to redeem my shadow and clear the way forward for my creative and spiritual work?”

The Tools

1. Susan Seddon Boulet and Michael Babcock’s Goddesses Knowledge Cards

I first used these cards in Atum O’Kane’s Spiritual Guidance course. The art by Boulet is inspiring and the text by Babcock straightforward. Locally they are available from Banyen Books. I received the card for Hathor, an Egyptian Goddess. The card notes, in part, Hathor reminds us that we too must acknowledge all parts of ourselves, that what we call destructive is sometimes necessary to allow creativity and compassion to flourish.

2. The I Ching

It had been years since I consulted the oracle, but I thought it would be interesting to discover how I felt about it now. I received hexagram 31 Influence changing to hexagram 13 Fellowship with Men. The direction that perseverance furthers, encouraging approach by being willing to receive, and waiting until being impelled to action by real influence seemed remarkably apt, particularly with the direction from the second hexagram about both the power of peaceful union with others and the injunction to remember that joining with others is an ideal and the actuality may involve more down to earth considerations bringing people together. Clarity of intention is critical.

3. Consulting a book as an oracle

The practice of using a book as an oracle or guide is one I have found useful before. Sometimes I’ve used the library, walking around until I felt called to a book. This time Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Set You Free was the one that presented itself. The book fell open to David Whyte’s poem, Self-Portrait. The poem asks a series of questions. One,

“I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living falling toward the center of your longing”,

seems to be the exact question for my issue this time. Housden’s essay on his experience of the poem was helpful too.

Readers in the United States — I wish you a happy, delicious, heartful holiday.

Join the conversation: What tools have you found helpful when working with your resistance to work or moving forward?


10 Questions to Explore Self-Support

When we work with others we get used to the incidental support that comes from having colleagues down the hall and a network of expectations from those we work with that pull us through the day. When I switched to being self-employed and working on my own it took some time to understand what behavior supported me. Here are some questions to help you explore your self-support habits. Each one of us needs something slightly different for support so it helps to do a review of your current habits first.

1. What do you need to start your day off right?

Even though we’re different some things are simply true. Breakfast is one of them; eat something, preferably more than just a muffin. Get enough sleep.  Have a means of capturing your daily commitments and tasks.

Establishing a routine that prepares you for more engaged work, a warm-up, is useful too. My writing warm-up consists of Morning Pages, and a 10-Minute writing session with a short story prompt. Once I am warmed-up, I am ready to dig into work for clients, work on stories, polishing a blog post, or more work on my novel.

For some, exercise fits into getting the day started. For me this comes later on, as a break. Finding the right spot for exercise can help you establish it as part of your day.

2. How often do you need a break?

Some research suggests every hour; workshop leaders and trainers know that learners need a break at least every 90 minutes.

Writing, and other work on the computer is sedentary. Making sure you get up and move will increase your productivity and is better for your health.

If you know you’re not going to get to the gym, try developing some ten minute workouts that you can do throughout the day.

In addition to work breaks during the day, think about a weekly break. If you can give yourself a longer break once or twice a week, say lunch plus a walk, it can help renew your efforts.

Be aware of work tasks, projects, or social events that take recovery time and build that time into your schedule.

3. What do you need to fuel your work?

This is about eating to work (and enjoying it). Basically you use more energy thinking than plowing fields and the sharpness and clarity start to fade between three and four hours after you’ve eaten. Pay attention to see what refueling interval works best for you. Small meals work well, or a meal-healthy snack-meal pattern can work.

Remembering to drink enough water during the day is a challenge, but makes a big difference. Dehydration affects both thinking and energy.

If you are doing creative work it’s good to stay aware of what boosts your creativity (music, play with colours, seeing/hearing other’s work, meditation, movement). Build in time to replenish the inner resources that feed your creative output.

4. When do you need an outside opinion?

Once you’ve pulled things together and you feel you’re ready to share it with the world or your best client, you may want someone to provide some feedback. Identifying safe, confidential resources for this can provide help for your blind spots (we all have them) and give you a sense of whether or not you stayed on track and kept the work on target.

Develop some criteria for whom to ask and think about how you can develop reciprocity. You’re still out there on your own, but you will have ideas from outside your own patterns of thinking, and some folks who are already interested in the final result.

5. Where in your work will finding a mentor help?

Look for the area where you feel most challenged; where you know you need to grow; where you lack confidence; where you aren’t making the best use of your strengths and then look at the people you admire and whose work exemplifies where you want to go. Then ask. Suggest a framework for the mentoring work, and think about how you could make a contribution to what they’re doing. Take the time to build the relationship before you ask.

6. How do you network most effectively?

As an introvert my idea of a good time is time alone with a book. That said I love sharing information that will be helpful (my friends tell me I have the instincts of a librarian). My best networking happens when I have information to share with the group I am going to have an opportunity to meet. I am a flop when I don’t feel I have anything to give. I’ve found I need to do the research to make it worth my while. Even for an extrovert, it super-charges networking results if you do the research and prepare ahead of time.

A solid network is a huge asset when working on your own.

7. What administrative work keeps you in touch and what should be delegated?

When you start out you tend to do everything yourself. While you’re in the start-up phase it’s a good idea to log your reaction to tasks and note how you feel about them.

For some, doing the invoices helps keep you touch with what you’ve accomplished, for others it’s always on the bottom of the list and the accounting piece just makes you antsy. After a short while you’ll have a good idea of what you want to keep doing to stay in touch with key aspects of your business, and what to outsource once you have the cash.

8. What’s on your YES and NO Lists?

Your YES list has opportunities that connect with your goals, your joy, and your learning. Your NO list has the things you do that drag you down or suck time from what you really want to do.

As you become more successful you need to stay aware of both lists to give yourself support for saying NO to things that aren’t the best use of your energy and time.

9. Who is in your cheering section?

These folks can be real people you know (family, friends, mentors) or public figures you admire and want to emulate; even characters from books or movies (Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web).

10. What’s your celebration plan?

When you reach your goals, hit your targets, land the work of your dreams, you need to celebrate and share the good news. Have a plan, develop a ritual and enjoy your success.

You can also plan to share success by thinking about the group or organization you want to donate to when you reach your financial goals.

Once you know about what supports you, you’ll find even when you work alone you are connected.

Join the discussion: What activities support your work? How do you stay connected?

Inspired By Feedback

Learning how to ask for feedback is a skill that improves with practice. I’ve gotten better at it by asking more frequently and by asking different kinds of questions. By making feedback a regular event, I began to minimize the charge that feedback, whether positive or negative, had often carried.

Asking for feedback allows me to confront fears about what others think head on and get it over with; this frees more energy for the actual work. Knowing how others react to what I am writing has helped me improve the writing and provided validation, especially when I am working on my edge. Feedback has been a source of inspiration and encouragement.

When to ask?

This is can be bit tricky. When I am learning something new I ask for feedback early and frequently until I feel confident I am on track. Once I am working in a familiar area, I don’t ask too early in the creative process, unless I need to clarify direction. I want to get enough done that I have a strong feeling about where it’s going and what I’ve done so far before I ask.

If I am asking for feedback on my writing this may mean waiting till I’ve finished a complete first or second draft. Sometimes it means asking for one kind of feedback early on and another kind later.

What to ask?

Different writers have different answers, because in each case what you ask will depend on who you are asking, your relationship, and the type of feedback you seek. Using the example of a piece of writing, here are some feedback request ideas for different kinds of readers.

Readers who are writers

  • Ask about the element of the writing that you’ve been working to improve
  • Ask about the element of the writing you think is good
  • Ask what they respond to
  • Ask where they think more work could improve the piece

Readers who are fans of the type of writing you’re asking about

  • Ask what they responded to
  • Ask if they think others will respond to it too, and if so who
  • Ask if it seems to offer something new, and if so what
  • Ask them for their favourite part and why
  • Ask them for their least favourite part and why

Readers who are expert in a field discussed in your writing

  • Ask them if the details are consistent with what they know
  • Ask them for sources of additional information
  • Ask them if they could suggest anything to deepen credibility

Readers who are potential clients

  • Ask them what they appreciated
  • Ask them if this type of writing fits their needs, and if it doesn’t what seems to be out of sync
  • Ask them if anything in the writing suggested something to watch for on this job
  • Ask them what tone and voice they want to see in the work you do for them

Don’t forget

  • Always ask if there is anything else they’d like to tell you. This open-ended question can yield valuable information that just didn’t come up through a specific question.
  • Ask if you can approach them for feedback again (if you found their feedback helpful and constructive) .
  • Thank them for their feedback and their time, regardless of whether or not you will ask them for feedback again.

Join the discussion: What type of feedback is most helpful to you? Any tips on asking for feedback? Share a story about a time when feedback inspired you.


De-clutter Your Online Information

Do you live in an information jungle?

Do you have virtual (or real) piles of files and emails?

Is your favourites list hundreds of websites long?

Do you organize emails, documents and website favourites differently?

There’s hope, but it requires resolve and a system.

Before you start, review current work, objectives and your mission/purpose and values.

The overarching question for sorting:

Why do I need this?

How does this email, document, or website relate to your work/purpose/values/life?

If you aren’t going to use it in the next 6 months, toss it. By the time you get around to using it everything will be different.

Discard as much as you can. Your discard muscles will grow stronger with practice.

Step 1: Look at your current folders

Keep main folders/headings to about 20 (one screen length).

Some folders may become sub-folders with the right heading.

Example: Use Colleagues, Family, Friends, as sub-folders under the main folder People. Add folders for individuals in the appropriate sub-folder.

Once you’ve whittled your folders down, look again to make sure everything is current. Discard old material.

Ideally, your 20 folders can be main folders for emails, favourites, and documents; use the same file scheme in each area.

Once your folders are ready for action you can move on to

Step 2: Sort emails, websites, documents into your 20 major folders and sub-folders

When something doesn’t fit in a major folder, or an existing sub-folder, create a 2nd sort folder and put it there for now.

As you sort, watch for new themes or ideas.

Once you’ve gone through your folders you should have everything either in an existing folder, sub-folder, or in the 2nd sort folder.

Review themes. Could some themes be sub-folders for existing main folders?

Hint: Once you have more than 20 items in a folder, you may need a sub-folder to keep filing and access easy.

If you still have items with no home in the 2nd sort folder, rename it 3rd sort folder and move to

Step 3: The 3rd sort folder (this one requires the most thought)

Take another look at your main folders and sub-folders. If there is no home for the item, ask yourself again why you need it. If despite everything you just feel like you want to hold onto it consider a “Likes” or “Investigate” folder or sub-folder and file it there so you can review it again later.

Try really hard to keep it to 20 main folders, with no more than 20 sub-folders under each. It will be much faster and easier to remember and use. Once you blow past 20 it’s just harder and takes more time to use.

You might need a break if you have been working through the first steps in one time block. Give perspective a chance to return.

Once you’ve finished disposing of your 3rd sort folder you are ready for

Step 4: Scheduling your next de-cluttering session

Keeping the flood of information moving smoothly is a challenge. We accumulate much more information and it decays much faster than it used to just a few years ago. Regular information de-cluttering can help you stay current, be more productive, feel less overwhelmed, and become more sensitive to trends.

Want more? Here’s a favourite post from Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog with 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life to take the whole process further.

Join the discussion: What do you do to keep the information flood in check? How do you organize it? When do you discard? What kinds of information or sources seem “evergreen” What’s your biggest de-cluttering/simplifying issue?


Lessons From the Dark

When I think of the dark, my association is not immediately positive. I don’t often remember the importance of the dark, of down times, yet the dark is a part of dreaming, of the creative process, and often contains insights.

The first time my view of the dark was challenged was when I read M. Esther Harding’s The Value and Meaning of Depression. I read it more than forty years ago; it remains one of those amazing moments when a an idea opens a whole new way of perceiving the world. The need for times of darkness, the idea that darkness can be a source of nourishment, an incubator, a storeroom of nutrients, opened many possibilities I hadn’t seen.

It helped me begin to approach feelings i usually avoided: fear, anger, sorrow, low energy — feelings I’d associated with darkness.

Exploring the depths

The idea that depression could be a natural part of life gave me permission to explore my own depths.

We live in a world that constantly calls for our active presence and engagement. Our electronic gadgets have multiplied the calls on our attention and intensified the need to be constantly on, constantly giving out, constantly available.

All the more reason to spend some time dwelling in our depths and befriending our “dark”. Fleeing from our fears, anger, or sorrow means the insights they offer us and the energy they contain are lost.

If we learn to move toward our darkness it has gifts for us. Sometimes we don’t feel strong enough to do this on our own. Finding the right support is important, whether you build it internally, or seek it externally. You want your encounter with the dark to be healing.

Help befriending the dark

Look for someone who is

  • Trustworthy
  • Experienced
  • Oriented to supporting you
  • Aims to help you rather than do it to you or for you
  • Open to what is (doesn’t have a frozen point of view that all experience fits into)

While these qualities are ones you to look for in an external guide, you can apply them to yourself too:

Trustworthy: Do you trust yourself to explore? If not, why not. What do you feel you need that you don’t have? What areas need more development? What needs to be removed?

Experienced: What experience do you have with yourself or with others? What experience do you need? Are there experiences you need to heal before you start? What’s your track record with this? What patterns and habits help you deal and which ones get in the way?

Oriented to support: What’s your relationship like with you? Is your inner voice more likely to be critical or a cheerleader? Does your inner voice need an attitude adjustment before you start?

Lets you do it: Does your inner guide take over? Acknowledge and appreciate your progress and efforts?

Openness to what is: Are you able to suspend judgment and simply inquire without assuming?

Dreaming and the dark

The unconscious provides material for our dreams and our dreams can express the wisdom of the unconscious.

I’ve recently begun a four-session dream group with Trevor Simpson,and have found the process both fascinating and useful. I am back to remembering dreams and I love the sense that there are riches in dark each night.

Skills for working with dreams, openness and patience, inquiring without assuming, compassion, gentleness toward oneself, and the ability to use focused but soft attention (attention that isn’t trying to force meaning from what you are paying attention to) are useful in many areas, not only in working with my dreams.

The dream work session helped me remember M. Esther Harding and the need to befriend my fears, anger, sorrow and gain a better understanding of times when I feel less energy or interest in the world.

Dr. Jean Raffa is A Jungian Analyst who often references Harding. Her website is devoted to accessing our inner wisdom.

Join the discussion: What have you found helpful when exploring the dark or exploring your dreams?


10 Steps to Reconnect with Work You Love


A year after deciding not to pursue HR work I have a better idea of what snuffed the flame of engagement after a long career when I loved the work.

I began in HR in a small sixty-five person business because I wanted to help make it a great place to work. A background in organizational development and a successful six-month development process that engaged 85% of our front-line staff finished and I moved to the human resource function, the area that most needed attention. When I left the organization some eighteen years later, we had become part of a Fortune 500 company with operations in three countries and over 50,000 employees.

Over the years I gained experience in most aspects of human resources and worked with senior management who believed in the power of engagement and supported front-line staff. I’d say I had a pretty ideal work environment. Despite that, when I left I discovered I needed to dissolve or reframe a lot of ideas I had accumulated, and my view of myself.

I first looked at the internal and external drivers.

Internal Drivers

  • Personal Values
  • Personal Vision
  • Desire to Serve
  • Insight
  • Observations
  • Knowledge
  • Ethics

This is a list of my internal drivers. Yours may look a bit different. Now let’s look at the external drivers.

External Drivers

  • Company Leaders
  • Company Values
  • Company Vision
  • Company Policies
  • Boss
  • Legislation
  • Experts
  • Training
  • Front-line Opinion
  • Colleagues

As with the internal drivers, your external drivers may be a bit different.

From looking at the internal and external drivers you can see how, over time, it’s easy for your voice and vision to be overtaken by external voices and ideas.

So how do you get out from underneath and re-engage with the internal drivers that brought you to the work you love?

10 steps to reconnect with work you love

1. Identify and reconnect with your internal drivers.

Why do you do what you do? Pay particular attention to the values you want to embody in your work and to the vision you have for success in it. Is your desire to serve alive and well? If not, why not? What’s changed? How is your knowledge base? When did you last do some professional development that challenged you to be better? Is your conscience happy? Are any ethical concerns addressed promptly? Do you regularly observe the work of the people you serve? Do you know what’s great and what needs to be improved? Do you reflect on and gain insight from your day-to-day work life? Do you feel successful?

2. Assess your relationship with External Drivers.

Is what you do in tune with expert opinion or do you really feel it is irrelevant to your situation, and if so, why? Are you compliant with Employment Standards, Human Rights and WorkSafe legislation? Do you respond to the letter of the law or understand the intent? Are there many rules governing your work? If so, do you agree with them and believe they are needed? Are rules written or unwritten? What do you feel your professional colleagues expect? Where did you make assumptions? Are company policies clear, simple and direct? What assumptions have you made about front-line opinion? How frequently do you check it? Are the methods you use effective and accurate? How does your boss communicate expectations? Are they clear, written, communicated well? Does your boss embody Company values? Clarify as needed. How in sync are your efforts with Company Values? Do Company Leaders embody values that are important to you? Do they embody Company values? Does what you are doing build on your professional training or is it taking you in another direction?

Having a better understanding of your internal and external drivers lays a foundation for the next steps.

3. Review your strengths or discover them.

To what extent do you currently use your strengths at work? Estimate the amount of time you spend using your strengths. If you can hit the 20% mark you have a good chance of loving your job.

4. Look at how do you instinctively respond to situations.

Don’t know? Invest in the Kolbe A Index, an assessment that will give you insight into your motivations. Once you know your preferred method of operations, you can take steps to move toward doing more work that fits with your MO.

5. Log your highs and lows.

For two weeks log every high (activity where you felt very engaged) your lows (activity where you felt disengaged or bored). Once you’ve completed the log look for themes.

6. Have a dialogue with your professional role

You can dialogue either in a journal or by sitting first in one chair and then in another, speaking for yourself and then switching and speaking for your professional role. In each position ask what you like and dislike, what advice you have to give, what you would stop doing, and about what you would change. If you’ve done this verbally, make some notes after your dialogue to reflect on later. You can do this dialogue with a mentor or friend as well.

7. Write a profile of yourself.

Pick your favorite work related magazine and picture the article running three years from now. Which magazine did you chose? What are the accomplishments you highlight? Why did the magazine chose you for a profile?

8. What legacy you would leave if you left your job?

What would people thank you for and miss? What would you be most proud of? How would this position add to your career?

9. If, for some reason you couldn’t do this work, what would you do?

10. If, you attained enlightenment tonight, what would you do differently tomorrow?

Join the conversation: Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your work even though you love it? What do you do to reconnect? If you try any of these steps, let me know how they work for you!


After You’ve Achieved the Goal


Goals give you something to aim for; something to steer toward. What happens when you achieve a goal, but don’t have another to steer toward yet? Or maybe you have another goal, but it’s in a different area and you don’t want to lose the momentum that accomplishing your goal provided? What can you do to make best use of the time and energy unexpectedly at your disposal?

If you treat your plan for the year as the itinerary for a journey, recognize that the situation is a bit like finding yourself with free time on a trip. If traveling and already in an area, you want to take advantage of this; maybe explore something you didn’t think you’d get to see, or spend some time hanging out with the locals, shopping or relaxing with a more expansive meal than you’d usually have for lunch.

Does the analogy translate?

Let’s say you’ve completed a research project. Maybe there are some related areas that turned up while you were working on the project that you couldn’t explore. Now you can. Or you found several expert resources that are accessible in person or by phone. Now you can see if you can do some short interviews. Maybe you found an area where there was much recent work but didn’t have time to review it as it wasn’t immediately pertinent. Go back and take another look at material that seemed especially rich that you didn’t have time to dive into deeply. Now you can immerse yourself.

The space between goals is great time to do some day dreaming too. Blue sky,” what if”, thinking thrives in the breaks between focused efforts.

Often your goal will be one step on the journey to a larger goal. Now you have some time to visualize the end point with the information you’ve gained from accomplishing your interim goal. Does it change anything? Suggest any course corrections or new avenues of exploration? Did it point to some things to stop or discontinue? Use this time to reflect on the meaning and implication of achieving your goal.

Reap the rewards

What did you learn? Can these lessons be used as you go forward? What did you learn about how you work? What did you most enjoy? Dislike? Were you able to use your strengths effectively? What could you do to leverage your strengths as you move forward? Did you have everything you needed? Are there any resources you need to ask for before you proceed? Who deserves appreciation and thanks for their contributions and support? Who do you want to stay in touch with or work more closely with? What pleased you about this work? Where were you dissatisfied? Is there anything else you need to do to complete this phase?

Building in some time to stop and reflect when you reach your goals will help you gain more from achieving them. All too often we tick them off the list without reflection, debriefing or celebration. Do all three to get the most from your achievements.

Join the conversation: What happens for you in the space between goals? How do you use this space? How do you explore what you learned from achievement?