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Although I am allergic to dogs, one of my favorite shows to watch while I knit is The Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan says he rehabilitates dogs and trains people. As a coach, it fascinates me to watch how he works with the dog owners to be present, aware of their own state and create what they want for their home and their pack. One technique that he uses with the dogs kind of startled me – in fact, it bothered me: sometimes when a dog starts acting up, he gives it a little tap or kick. Yeowch. Cesar explained that sometimes the dog’s brain moves into a behavioral rut and the nudge doesn’t hurt them – it just snaps them out of their current state. Kind of like when my computer gets stuck and won’t respond to what I am asking it to do and I have to reboot it. So I got to thinking about how this applies with people…

I remember back in October I was feeling really bogged down on a couple fronts – I was in the tail end of my certification program, parenting was occupying a lot of my emotional energy and we had just renovated and sold a family property so I was struggling to catch up on some business development that had piled up. My partner, Glen, and I had planned to go with our TCM, Dr. Melissa Carr, up to Adams River to see the salmon run for a little daycation. I wasn’t sure whether a day on the road would be relaxing or if it would create more pressure in an already full calendar. Glen is a wise and patient man and assured me that the day would be memorable and well worth the trip. We bundled into the car early that morning (I don’t think I realized how early we had to leave Vancouver when I agreed to go) and set off to see the largest salmon run in 100 years.

Beautiful BC

I love the feeling of roadtrips (even if this one started too early in the morning) because I get a delicious sense of freedom and discovery… With the open road before me, good tunes and company in the car and, of course, plenty of snacks, the day was mine to make of it as I wished. The backlog of work faded quickly as we put miles between us and home. One of the amazing things that I appreciate about BC is the lush beauty that surrounds us and it reminds me to get outdoors more often. I am always refreshed, although sometimes also rained on, when I do.

Sea of salmon on the Adams River

What I wasn’t prepared for was the sight of thousands of salmon, fighting against the currents and odds, to return to their  nesting spot, find a mate and fulfill their part in the salmon circle of life. Before this trip, I knew very little about salmon except that I liked it with a little teriyaki or fruit salsa rather than candied. Fortunately, the Adams River Salmon Society (sorry, their site is down at the moment) had fantastic educational displays. Of all the eggs that are laid in the spawning grounds, only one in four thousand survive to return four years later to the Adams River. Something like half of all eggs make it through to hatching into little fry, half of the fry survive a year of growth in the lake and then swim out 480 km to sea, and only half make it past predators, fisherfolk, and nature to swim back the 480 km to spawn in the place they were born. Those are not odds in their favor for survival. The last part of their journey is in fresh water, where they cannot feed, and so their bodies begin to feed on themselves, changing shape and color as they stave off starvation. With their last reserves of strength, they struggle against the current to maintain a steady position, staking out territory and building nests to lay their eggs. The second they lose their grip, they are swept away by the river and have to make their way painstakingly back over the same rocks and other fish that are competing for mates and space. And then to top it off, as soon as their eggs are laid and fertilized, they die, their carcasses floating to the banks to become fertilizer to enrich the nearby land. While the last days of their lives seem grim for the salmon, I felt inspiration in their determination.

Journey's end: male and female salmon with eggs

I found this scene on the rocks nearby the river and thought it was poignant: a male and female salmon having fulfilled their life’s mission, with life spilled out on the rocks. And it made me reflect on my life’s mission… and wonder how committed I am to seeing it through… Do I have the persistence of the salmon? This thoughtful, grounded woman on the bank of the Adams River was not the same as the person that had left Vancouver 5 hours earlier. I was changed by being in a different environment, experiencing something new, engaging with my surroundings and being open to what the day had to offer.

So how are the dog whisperer, salmon and my experience connected? Cesar Millan said:

…I have made it my mission to continue spreading this message of balance around the world. If we can do this with one dog, and one human at a time, maybe we can eventually bring that into entire communities and countries, so we can all live as my greatest teachers (dogs) do – mindfully aware, and emotionally in tune.

To me, he is referring to connecting back with ourselves and being intentional with our actions. In our busy lives run by calendars, various phone alerts and overfull inboxes, it is really easy to slip into familiar ways of getting through our day. Our lower brains are really good at learning rote behaviors and we can almost switch off our active brains for things like getting between familiar places or dealing with routine functions. Have you ever arrived home and realized you weren’t really paying attention to how you got there? Or felt like you spent your entire day catching up, constantly behind and running to the next thing on your to do list? What are you missing when your mind and heart are not connected with your body?

My daytrip was like that nudge in the side to snap me out of a habitual work-mode and to re-engage with the world around me and within me. I am sure I would not have had the same experience, sitting in my office at my computer, crossing off things that needed to get done. And absolutely, those things were still waiting for me when I returned. But I approached them in a different way – with fresh eyes and energy – after an afternoon at the river’s edge. New experiences shake up patterns and habits. We pay more attention to the details of our surroundings and are better able to hear what our senses are telling us. We stimulate the frontal cortex of our brains where we make decisions, weigh conflicting information, problem solve and direct higher learning and behavior.

We can’t always take a day or longer and get out of Dodge to mix things up so here is a list of some ideas to start with:

  • take an art class
  • try an open mike night at the local lounge
  • do yoga
  • try writing with your opposite hand or upside down
  • visit a botanical gardens near you
  • spend some time journaling
  • take a bath (I was told once that to take a proper bath, one must fill the tub, get in and then drain and refill the tub twice and then drain the tub a final time in order to feel completely relaxed)
  • take a dance class (for me, this was taking a hip hop class. As a dancer, I was shocked at how awkward and out of place I felt. And it was so good for me!)
  • take a glee club or stand up comedy class that has a performance at the end

And here’s the thing for all you perfectionists out there… if you don’t know what the exact right thing is, do something else until you figure it out =)

What do you do to nudge yourself?

Peace of mind and Joy in heart,

anne

We have a new addition to our family. Her name is Emily and she is a sweet as can be. She has dark, inquisitive eyes and brown and light hair. We weren’t expecting her arrival but now that she is here, we love her to bits.

Emily is my teenage daughter’s pet rat. My daughter wasn’t able to care for her and asked us to foster Emily. I have to admit that the idea of having a rat in the house was not appealing to begin with. I thought rats were dirty and sneaky… and then there is the tail… Regardless, the rat arrived and so I researched how to take care of her and adjusted living space to make room for her cage and supplies. Rats are actually very clean animals and extremely intelligent. I *think* that I have trained Emily to jump and to climb down and I’m working on getting her to ride in my hoodie. For the most part, my roles and responsibilities are pretty straightforward. There are a ton of websites but they all seem to be pretty consistent in the recipe for a happy, well cared for rat.

The aforementioned teenager who owns the rat… not so straightforward.

*They* say it takes 30 days to start a new habit. I must admit that it took less than 30 days for good intentions to be displaced by other things that had hard deadlines, were more exciting or were standing right in front of me. Moving and renovating this summer didn’t help… and then I felt so behind in posting that it was easy to get stuck in not restarting.

I have realized (through working with my amazing coach) that I tend to be pretty hard on myself. I have an idea in my head of what I should be doing and sometimes beat myself up about not getting there. The thing about perfectionism is that it takes my professionalism and dedication to excellence and stops me in my tracks. So instead of getting mostly what I want done, I will start lagging behind. Seriously. Check the date of my last post…

So here’s to kickstarting a new habit, with grace. Here is what helped me get going again:
– Recognizing where I get in my own way of success
– Redefining what success looks like
– Reconnecting with why this is important to me
– Tapping into expertise to get help where needed (I went to a great seminar by Paul Holmes, self professed social media and WordPress Enthusiast. He gave a great overview of how the context of communication has changed for business and dug a little into some of the tools out there. You can find out more about him and his company at paulholmes.ca or IdeaZone.ca. A big thank you to Cambie Village Merchants Association (http://www.cambievillage.com) for bringing in Paul from Victoria for the great seminar and Canadian Federation for Independent Business (cfib.ca) for sponsoring the event.
– Taking a first step. Posting this blog. I am a big believer in starting with a small win. Yay. Clicking “Publish” now…

Updated events page

Hmmmm… I’m not sure how to make the Events page more prominent. Any ideas? Anyhow, I just updated it for October and November. I am pretty excited about my first open house in November. Save the date…

https://divafish.wordpress.com/events/

My brilliant friend & former co-worker, Lindsay of Goose Educational Media tweeted about an Inc.com article a little while ago and there was a pretty shocking statistic about small businesses:

Only 1 in 2 small businesses will survive more than five years.

1 in 2.
1/2.
50%.
That is as bad as the divorce rate.

In the face of such odds, fortunately Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute has looked at small businesses and identified six traits of successful owners. Here is what they say are common qualities that may predict small business leaders who will beat the odds:

Ability to collaborate
Self-fulfilled
Future focused
Curious
Tech saavy
Action oriented

If you were to rank yourself on each of those characteristics on a scale of 1 – 5 (1 being low and 5 being high), what is your total score out of 30?

I will be spending my next few posts on each of these areas because that statistic has really stuck with me – how many business owners put everything on the line and need to be better equipped to face the challenges ahead…

How will you beat the odds?

I recently joined the Burnaby Board of Trade and had a booth at their Business to Business tradeshow. I am so tickled that they chose to interview me for their follow up article in the Burnaby NOW as well as feature me on their business blog. The writer, Heather, approached me and said that it was a new feature on the blog and she only had a sample of the first post which was about Price-Waterhouse Coopers. Did I mind following them? Um, no problem!

Here is a link to the Burnaby Board of Trade blog: http://burnabyboardoftrade.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/bbot-member-profile-divafish-communications/

and here is the clip from the Burnaby NOW article:
Burnaby Now

I was looking for a business association that had a strong reputation as being pro-membership, positive and held regular events to connect members. What I like about the Burnaby Board of Trade is that they are a proactive association that provides outstanding service to their membership as well as cross promotes business opportunities between members.

What business associations do you belong to and what has worked well?

I have emerged from the boxes and dust that seem to have no end to share some of what I am working on. Well, the truth is that my skill in gathering *stuff* has made this move really challenging. There were of course good reasons to keep things: old school yearbooks, furniture from dead relatives, product samples from when I freelanced in marketing… I also have a lot of interests which require equipment or supplies (paper making forms, stamps, clay, renovation tools, snowboard, camping, 9′ 6″ long board – and then there is the yarn. Hey, I run a knitting group!).

I watched an episode of Hoarders – have you seen that show? There are people who are buried in their own homes by their stuff. Or who don’t live in their homes because there isn’t room for them there. My home isn’t falling in on me but it definitely could use some streamlining. I have adopted the “love it or lose it” approach to clearing clutter and that has helped significantly as I sort through things.

I read a really interesting quote that I will paraphrase since I determined not to get get side tracked to find it. The jist of it was that attachment comes when we do not trust. Hmmm. What am I not trusting by holding on to these things?

The memory items (photos, furniture, paintings, gifts) have something about honoring the person that they were from. Throwing the item away feels disrespectful to the person that it was from. -> I will trust that honoring people from my past doesn’t require that I hang on to physical items.

Past portfolio (marcomm, products, paper/print samples) give a sense of accomplishment for the last 10 years of freelancing. What if someone asks to see printed examples of my work? Funny enough, no one ever has. And for custom work, I’ve always gone out and found specific print or paper samples for individual projects. -> I will trust my resourcefulness to find what I need if and when I need it. I also know that my experience & wisdom aren’t contained in my portfolio…

Extra furniture. O this is a good one. A large factor in this move was merging lives and moving in with my partner. The question is whether to keep the extra bed, dining table, couch, etc. in a storage locker just in case… -> As I learn to lean into interdependence, I trust that we will not need a backup plan and I know that if we do need to re-establish our own places, we will figure out the best way to do it.

What are you attached to? What would be different if you trusted in that area?

I choose to have a home that I love living in and that is a warm place for our friends and family to visit. As I build my new home in partnership, I will lean into trust and let go of the stuff.

Peace of mind and joy in heart,
anne