Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's love got to do with it?

As I prepared to launch my new business in September 2009, a friend who is a successful private consultant recommended that I read the book by Geoffrey Bellman entitled "The Consultant's Calling - Bringing Who You are to What You Do"

I have been reading this book with interest a few chapters at a time. One chapter in particular really spoke to me. Chapter Nine is entitled "Love at Work" and in it Bellman says:
"We all want love and our wants do not respect the boundaries of work. Many people show up for the money but stay for love. They assume they will get the money: they seek the love." p. 81

What are we searching for at work? According to Bellman, and I would agree, we search for attention, recognition, care, understanding, affection, glory, respect, appreciation, inclusion. In other words we are looking for small "L" love.

Bellman talks about a five-level hierarchy of appreciation which starts at the bottom with "KNOW" and culminates with "LOVE"

Love yourself first

Bellman recognizes that love of self is not necessary to achieve professional success, stature or recognition - though it can be helpful. He believes that if you want more enjoyment, abundance, growth and satisfaction, start by loving yourself first.

First you start by taking stock of what you think you know. This is harder than it sounds. This involves looking honestly at everything you believe in and checking within yourself to see if you are keeping an open mind to new information that could modify or even change what take for granted.

Through the knowing of yourself you can move to an understanding of yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses. What makes you tick? What are your fears? What are your most cherished dreams? Truthfully, in order to grow as a human being, we should always be working at understanding and redefining who we are what we stand for.

Even if we know and understand ourselves, accepting all of who we are can be a struggle. There are some parts of ourselves that are difficult to acknowledge. We are not proud of some parts of ourselves and would rather pretend they didn't exist. Carl Jung calls that hidden part of our persona the "shadow side". The shadow is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."

The next step in the hierarchy of acceptance is embracing all that we are: the good sides together with the darker sides. That's the goal. But the reality is that we embrace a lot of who we are while still distancing ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, from other parts of our selves. As we move forward in our journey as human beings it becomes easier to reach contentment and be at peace with who we have become, warts and all...

I don't know about you but as I grow older (getting closer to the "golden" years) I love much more of myself than I used to. We become less preoccupied with what other people might think of us and are more aware and appreciative of what feels good to us.

Loving others

Loving yourself opens you to loving others. Take a trip in your mind to your workplace environment. How would you apply that five-level hierarchy of appreciation with colleagues and bosses?

1. KNOW: You take time to get to know your colleague. You have a conversation with him or her and find out a bit more about their professional and personal background. You listen actively without preconceptions or judgement. You stay curious and open minded, willing to have your ideas and beliefs challenged and enhanced.

2. UNDERSTAND: You seek the meaning behind the knowledge you have gathered in your interactions with this person. You express some of what you know and ask questions to deepen your understanding of them.

3. ACCEPT: To accept someone requires openness, allowance and welcome. It does not necessarily mean to agree with everything they stand for.

4. EMBRACE: You embrace your colleagues ideas, emotions and issues simply because they are important to him or her. You show respect for your colleague by honoring what is meaningful to him or her even though you may disagree. If it is important to your colleague, it becomes important to you as well.

5. LOVE: You and your colleague are attuned to each other. You open yourself to the other person without fear of being judged. Neither of you need to change to satisfy the other. You have complete trust that the other person will act in a way that serves both of you well.

Many of us love our work so why would we not open ourselves to love the people with whom we work? As in any other relationship, the ascent of this hierarchy of appreciation is accompanied by risks but it also brings new depths to your partnerships with colleagues.

What do you think about Bellman's concept of "love" at work? Can you relate to it? If not, would you have the courage to try to be open to deeper relationships at work? What have you got to lose except missed opportunities to feel fulfilled and accepted in the workplace?

As for me, the concept of love in the workplace is very real. I have been blessed in my career. Through my work I have met wonderful people that I love dearly and are still part of my life to this day.

Thank you to all of you who have let me into your hearts and made my workplace a place of acceptance and caring:
Marie Anick

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One week

I watched the movie One Week last night. It enchanted me. It disturbed me. It provoked me. It stayed on my mind.

The movie opens with a scene in a doctor's office. Ben Tyler is a man in his mid-twenties. His doctor tells him that he has stage four cancer (terminal) and a 10% survival rate if he starts aggressive chemo treatments right away.

On his way home, he meets an older man who is reluctantly selling his vintage motorcycle. The man convinces Ben to take the motorcycle for a spin. Ben is delighted by the sense of freedom he feels as he rides the bike. He buys the motorcycle on the spot. On his way to tell his fiancée the bad news, he stops for a Tim Horton's coffee and rolls up the rim. It says "Go west young man." He sees this as a sign...

His fiancée pleads with him to start treatment right away but he replies that he needs an adventure before he is tied to an hospital bed. Ben hops on his bike and heads west. Where exactly? He doesn't know. For once in his life he has no plans. He lets his body decide when it is time to stop and sleep. Otherwise, Ben just rides and rides.

Many things are weighing on Ben's mind as he sets on his journey: Does he still want to get married? Why did he settle for a career in teaching? Why did he stop writing after his first book was turned down by too many editors to count? Why did he not pursue his love of singing?

What started as a couple days of aimless driving to escape a hard reality morphed into a week-long trek along the beautiful countryside of Canada. The vistas are beautiful: the Great Canadian Shield of northern Ontario; the grand lakes of Manitoba; the vast wheat plains of Saskatchewan; the breathtaking snow capped Rockies in Alberta; and all the way to the Pacific Ocean off Vancouver Island (British Columbia). As he travels the varied landscapes of Canada, he also takes an internal voyage of self-discovery.

Ben finds the answers to his life along the road. They emerge from within him as he contemplates nature or through seemingly ordinary encounters with people on his journey. He reacquaints himself with his own truth and he hears the wisdom in the words of others.

Eventually he comes back home to make peace with his fiancée. He will not marry her. And to let his family share his pain as he starts treatment. He has made peace with his life such as it is.

The movie ends with a black screen and these words: "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield."

You know what I am going to ask you don't you?

If you just had one day or one week or one month to live what would you do?
  • What would stay the same?
  • What would you change?
  • Would you stay or would you go? Home bound or exotic trip somewhere?
  • What are the "undones" would you like to finish or accomplish?
  • What would you like to turn back the clock on?
If there are more things you would change than things you would keep it may be an indication that it is time to take a hard look at your life.

What are you waiting for to live the life of your dreams?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Up Doc?

There is a new show on TV that talks about health, and it is very popular. Imagine that. It is called The Doctor Oz Show. Have you seen it?

Last Friday The Dr. Oz Show featured a special on a medical mission in the city of Houston (Texas) - the largest non-disaster relief free health clinic. Over 700 volunteers, 200 doctors and 300 nurses provided medical care to over 1,780 Americans. On the show, Dr Oz introduced some of the patients with serious health conditions that they saw at that clinic.

We met a middle-aged man who had lumps in his neck and bloody stools for over three years. Being a typical "man", even though he was concerned about these symptoms, he never made it to his doctor to have a Colonoscopy. The man lost his job last Fall, and with it, his health coverage. Prodded by his wife, he came to the free clinic to get things checked out. The doctors who examined him were concerned about cancer. The producers of the show arranged for this man to see a specialist to have more thorough tests which determined, happy news, that he did not have cancer after all.

We met a young mother of five children who was told that her baby daughter had a hole in her heart. On the show, Dr. Oz introduced her to a heart specialist and a pediatrician who agreed to provide care for her daughter free of charge. Disney donated an all expenses paid trip to Disney World for the whole family.

We met a man in his forties who had a cancerous tumor on his lip that had tripled in size over the last few years to the point that he was disfigured and unable to eat properly. He just did not have the money to pay for the surgery he required so he let the tumor grow and grow. Because of his disfigurement he could not get a job which compounded the problem even more. The producer of the show provided him with a team of medical experts that would remove the tumor, do reconstructive surgery to repair his mouth, oversee his chemotherapy treatments, and give him the psychological counseling he required ... all free of charge.

I was fascinated. Fascinated by the stories. Fascinated by the relevance and depth of the medical information Dr Oz shares with his audience. He has a knack for simplifying complex health-related concepts and high tech medical procedures in a way that is easily understood (many doctor's I know could learn a few tips from him!) And I was fascinated by the fact that I was watching the show in the first place and really enjoying it, along with millions of other people.

Is it the reality show voyeurism thing that entices me to tune in? Or simple curiosity maybe? Or is it possible to watch something educational and good for me while being entertained? If that is the case, I think we are onto something big here. Maybe this is what the Sesame Street concept was built on: educational entertainment. The Dr. Oz Show is educational entertainment for adults. The show is making health a "cool" thing to talk about. It is making health information accessible to the general public. The show is even making some of the "unspeakables", like teen sex, speakable in polite company.

More than anything though, what that special show on free health care brought home to me is how lucky Canadians are to have government funded health insurance. We take it for granted. Watching those regular people struggling with something as basic as staying healthy shook me up. Obama is facing a lot of resistance to his proposed health care plan. Why? It seems like common sense to me. Does it all have to be about money in the end? I think health care is a basic human right in modern society, in any society for that matter. It is funny that in the most (self-proclaimed) "advanced" and powerful society on the globe there is such a discrepancy between the haves and the have nots.

My mother-in-law is struggling with very serious health issues. These days she visits doctor's offices, hospitals, specialists and medical laboratories every week. She is going through tests and more tests to figure out what is making her so sick and, more importantly, what is the best course of treatment to give her the best chances to recover. It has been hard on her. It has been tough on my father-in-law, her sons, and daughters in law. The "not knowing" may be the worse part because you don't know what you are fighting. We just have to trust the process and believe that her medical team will do everything in their power to make her better. We try to stay positive.

But I can't imagine what it would feel like if every visit and every test was a withdrawal from our bank accounts. It would be even more painful not being able to get her the medical care she needs to get better because of lack of insurance and money. That is one less thing thing we have to worry about as Canadians. Our health costs are covered. We can dedicate all our energies to getting better. One more great reason to be proud to be Canadian ...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving Thanks

At Thanksgiving families gather round tables to share a meal and give thanks. Around our table last night my teenage daughters and my six teenage nieces surprised with their deep expression of gratitude. They were thankful for sisters and family (even if we fight and get on each other's nerves sometimes), for having switched to a new school where there is no bullying, for their success as a musician, for their mother's success in a new business venture, for the things we take for granted like water, a roof over our head and a peaceful country. Our rebellious teens may have a hard edge exterior but they have soft and kind hearts. They push us away with their "I don't care" attitude but they are fooling us. They do care. They are wise observers of the world. They just don't want us to know.

I used to keep a Gratitude Journal. Every night for six or seven years I would write in my journal five things I was grateful to have in my life. At first I struggled to find those five things. Culturally, we are programmed to see what is wrong and what is missing. I find it is much more difficult to be appreciative and be grateful. So I had to teach myself to pay attention to my life in a different way.

After a (long) while it became second nature for me to go through my day "looking" for something to write in my journal at night. When I saw or felt something positive I would tell myself "take a picture of this with your mind so you can remember to write it down in your journal tonight." I recorded in my thoughts what brought me pleasure and happiness. As I re-read my entries I found that a pattern emerged. The things I am grateful for are simple things, little things really. Things like noticing the sun rise over the snow covered fields on my way to work, the smell of a fresh brewed cup of coffee, a hug from a daughter who does not like to show affection, a compliment from a co-worker, etc...

As a write this I regret that I have not written in my Gratitude Journal in over 6 months. Our family has gone through some difficult times this year and the journal became one more "chore" to get done before I could crash in my bed exhausted for a few hours of sleep so I could start the whole thing all over again the following day. Funny that I would sacrifice the one thing that would give me a positive perspective on my life isn't it? I think it is time for me to start the comforting ritual of writing in my journal again.

Thank You

For the force of life coursing through my veins
For my curious mind

For my strong yet fragile heart
For the miracle of nature around me

For the people who share their hearts with me

For the people who learn with me

For the people who teach me

And for the people who dream with me... of a better world

What are you grateful for?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Run for our lives

This morning I ran in the Breast Cancer Run for the Cure. I have run this race every year for 5 years now. The Run for the Cure is my favorite race of the season. You cannot help but be awed watching a sea of people, over 10,000 this year, dressed in all shades of pink.

Years ago this race was mostly for women, mothers and daughters. In recent years, the race transformed into a family event with almost as many men as women participating. It is common to see three generations of women walking together, chatting, pushing strollers or holding the hand of a little four year old. And, we see men of all ages walking along with the women.

There are corporate teams like CIBC or The Running Room. There are family teams like Oma Tucker's Life Support Team and In Memory of Sherilynn. There are sisterhoods like the Ta Ta Sisterhood and Pretty in Pink teams. There are brotherhoods like André's Trailblaizers and Real Men who Dare to Wear Pink teams.

For me, it is a happy occasion to get together with my sisters. One of my sisters volunteers every year to help organize the event. I can always count on her to tell me to hold on to my backpack while I run and to be there when I come back to congratulate me. Her teenage son hangs out with her because he likes working with people plus he can accumulate volunteer hours for his high school credits. My other sister usually walks with 2 or 3 of her 6 daughters (yes, I did say SIX daughters). Her husband who is a phys ed teacher and an accomplished athlete is the lone adult male in our group. If I have been especially persuasive, one or both of my teenage daughters join me for this event but this year part time jobs and ringette games interfered so I was alone from my clan.

There is a buzz in the air. They have started the countdown. A mass of pink clad people are lined up behind the Start Line. 1-2-3 GO! At first, no one is running. There are too many people. It is a compact mass of people moving forward in unison. So I just walk slowly until I can find a hole in the crowd. I start weaving back and forth between people in search of a clear path to run. It is a bit like an obstacle course. I like it. I get to "visit" different groups of people as I run along with them for a while.

We are a couple of kilometres in. I am running at a fast clip trying to keep my pace steady as we go up a hill. I start thinking of my sore knees and my problem hip that is acting up these days. I get a bit winded and that small voice in my head starts badgering me. "Why did you have to get up so early on a Sunday morning to come here anyways? Don't you have enough to do at work and at home without adding even more to your calendar?" But then my eyes start to focus on the "I run for..." signs on the back of people I pass.

I run for...
  • My mother who is fighting breast cancer for a second time
  • My daughter who was just diagnosed
  • In memory of gramma
  • Women all over the world
  • YOU... hey, I already had it
  • A cure

All of a sudden, I forget the discomforts in my body and I let all that positive energy envelop me. That energy carried me through the Finish Line, twice. I ran the race a second time just because. Just because I am healthy and I can do it.

At the Finish Line the mood is celebratory. People who are crossing the line after a speedy time of 20 minutes for 4.5 km get the same acknowledgement as the people who cross the line 55 minutes into the race. There are lots of laughter, singing, "hurrays" and "high fives" from people watching on the side lines.

You bet that it was worth it! Even though I have been craving a bit of extra sleep lately it was worth it to get up early this morning to join 10,000 fellow human beings, running and walking, to raise funds to find a cure for breast cancer and other cancers. Being part of this event is important to me. Taking some time out from my busy life to fan the flame of hope for a cure is a celebration of life.

They say that one of the key to happiness is gratitude. Taking part in the Run for the Cure is my way to give thanks for my health and the health of my family.

I believe there is strength in numbers. Together, we can find the courage to face the dark shadow of cancer. Together we can fight it. Together we can help fund research to find a cure. We can find a cure - it is just a matter of time.

Some stats:

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

In 2009:
  • An estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,400 will die of it.
  • An estimated 180 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 50 will die of it.
  • On average, 437 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every week.
  • On average, 104 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every week.
  • One in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 28 will die of it.