Giving and receiving

Did you grow up with the idea that “it is better to give than receive?”

It is a message I absorbed growing up, and I used to think it was about generosity. I hear a “lyrical” version in my head and think it might be from some rendering of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I thought it meant that I should always be giving, that somehow to receive is weak. 

I now understand that this belief no longer serves me. It has gradually been unfolding especially in these last couple of months of reflection. I have a deep longing to give, and to be of service in my life. It is a part of what I consider my purpose for being on earth. But now I recognize that receiving is also an act of grace and an act of faith. 

Receiving with gratitude is a beautiful experience. When you are open to receive you allow others to give and to share with you. You allow the generosity of others to come into your life. As humans, even though we can be tribal creatures, we also have a very natural “tend and befriend” instinct that allows for our survival. Giving and receiving are often reciprocal activities, but they do not have to be. 

In receiving, we make room for others to share their gifts with us. We open the flow of giving from ourselves as well.We start to give from true generosity rather than a scarcity mindset that may be present about not being worthy unless we can give. 

I grew up with an abundance of love and care from my parents and family members. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” in that regard, especially when I hear stories of neglect or abuse. So I guess my belief that I can and will always give comes from some sense of always having enough.

As a very independent person, I have struggled with asking for the help I need at times. Even last December, when my husband suspected I needed to go to the hospital, I told him: “I am fine, go to work, don’t worry.” Finally I had to surrender to his help when I literally could not get myself up off the couch to get my coffee (that never happens) all morning after I returned from an international trip. The pain was too much.

I accepted help (not that he would have given me a choice, he told me later). Later, after my appendix was safely removed, I visited my parents and my mother expressed such profound gratitude to my husband, I realized that this event was meaningful for so many reasons. 

My advice to you is: do not be afraid or reluctant to receive. You are worthy of receiving love and kindness. Everyone is worthy of that. If it touches you and inspires you to give to others, so be it. But if you are in a position where you cannot give at this time, then just gratefully receive.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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400 posts

400 posts

I nearly forgot to celebrate my 400th post to this blog yesterday! I like to acknowledge milestones that feel significant. It helps to consider that small, consistent efforts over time can build a body of work.

I noticed when checking blog stats that I have nearly 10,000 hits since I started writing last September. Thank you to all you read and comment and give me feedback! I realize I can be eclectic when it comes to topics. I prefer to be spontaneous with topic ideas, and allow my soul to nudge me each day toward those ideas that captivate me.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Dropping the illusion

It is Day of the Dead in Mexican tradition, and Samhain in the Celtic transition. How fascinating that separate cultures and traditions celebrate similar human experiences. It’s also a bit amusing (or perhaps disturbing depending on your perspective) that religions tried to either co-opt or quash the celebrations.

The Catholic Church tried to get people to stop celebrating Halloween in favor of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. But it did not work, and I think one reason the church has been successful in Mexico is that people simply adopt and meld both traditions in a kind of mash-up of pre-Hispanic and indigenous traditions.

day of the dead
Photo credit link

If you want a charming and beautifully-rendered movie about the traditions of Dia de los Muertos or Dia de los Santos (Nov 1-2), check out Coco, a Disney Pixar film about the choices we make despite our families’ desires for our future.

But I digress.

What about illusions? Wasn’t that the topic of this post?

Yes. I am getting there.

The illusion that most of us live by, and what drives so much divisive politics is that we are all separate, as human beings, as cultures, as groups.

The reality is that we are all part of one miraculous and unlikely part of our earth’s existence: humankind. Whether you believe our origin is divine or a product of evolution, we are one species.

Separation is the illusion.

We are all in this together on this small planet. I believe we are becoming more and more aware of that as humans evolve. We are made up of matter and energy, swirling together in an amazing array.

Those who cannot see that perhaps lack the ability to look beyond their protective egos and reptilian “fear” brains to the wider world where we are actually just part of a larger story of the universe.

What if we dropped the illusion? What if we began to see each other as one amazing sphere of beautiful energy that can ebb and flow? What if we allowed for the mystery that we are all connected, in ways we are only beginning to understand?

What a world it could be. What a vision to embrace.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Avoid energy vampires

Happy Halloween!

Today seems like the perfect day to cover the topic of energy vampires. When you first read the title, did you get an image in your mind of anyone in particular in your life? Or an activity that can feel like a “vampire” – sucking the life-blood or energy out of you?

In my experience people or activities can function in ways that give us energy, or sometimes deplete energy. Sometimes this effect is not a result of the person specifically, but perhaps some thoughts we have about the person. For example, we all know that person who constantly complains about their lives. Nothing ever goes right for them. They are victims and life is unfair.

dracula
Photo credit link

When we allow some compassion for them, acknowledging their sadness or distress, sometimes it can feel like they “feed” off our sympathy and continue to engage in their sad soliloquy. Other times, we want to cheer them up, so we do a “Tigger/Eeyore” type of interaction, which makes neither person feel better in the end. For me, I allow for empathy, but also acknowledge to myself that I am not the cause of their distress. While I may want to alleviate their suffering, sometimes it is better just to be a compassionate witness, and then move on.

Some activities can feel like energy vampires as well. For me, shopping for clothes has always been an energy-draining prospect. I don’t enjoy it, and I order nearly everything online. Sometimes I do need to go out and shop, but I find myself much happier when I minimize that activity. I also find it easier on the wallet not to shop for things I do not need!

What I find is that when I fill my time with people and activities that increase my energy, I have a lot less time for the others. It may not be possible to avoid them entirely. But it is important to make space for the vitality that comes from being around people, ideas, and activities that energize rather than drain.

Consider the people who fill you with energy, or the activities that bring you joy. How can you spend more time with these people, and do more of these activities? You may need to get creative with this question. I dare you to have fun with it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Farewell, with gratitude

On Monday I learned of the passing of Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, and inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker.

I worked with Medtronic for 11+ years, and I got to see firsthand the commitment of so many people to the mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Earl had endless creativity and persistence around the invention of technologies that could help physicians treat their patients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cristy with Earl Bakken. Photo taken August 2009 at the Mission and Medallion ceremony. 

For many years, there was an annual “mission and medallion” ceremony where new employees would learn more about the mission and history of the company. We were “inducted” into the Medtronic way, and the important focus on quality and a patient-centered culture.

I used to love the annual holiday party and employee meeting that Bakken implemented, where we would hear from patients who had received devices, and the difference in their quality of life (or in some cases, life itself). It was moving to hear stories of real patients and to connect with the mission on that level. In clinical research there can be a lot of bureaucratic processes to enable to get things done, because of regulations. Keeping our focus on the patients served always kept us striving toward excellence and quality, despite the challenges.

Earl Bakken was a role model and a humble leader in his 40 years at the helm of Medtronic. He hired good people and got out of the way to let them do their jobs, said Earl Hatten (employee #8 of the company that now employs 84,000 people). After he left Medtronic, he stayed involved in many philanthropic endeavors. His focus was on enabling people to live full lives, not just implanting devices.

I am honored to have been part of the company he co-created, and to have shared in that journey for a substantial part of my career. I am grateful for the impact and influence Earl Bakken had on so many people, employees, patients and communities.

Thank you, Earl. Your legacy lives on through the dedicated work that continues today.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Doing the exercises

I am a sucker for a good self-development book, especially one that is meant to help you “find your purpose” and live the life you truly want.

Sounds like a cliche, eh?

I agree.

But that is probably because the “life I want” seems to change from decade to decade. When I was in my teens, I wanted to grow up and get away from my small town where I felt confined. When I was in my 20’s after college I just wanted to earn my own money and not have to live with my parents.

When I was 30 I got divorced because what I wanted was very different from want my ex wanted. (I tried to explain I’d never wanted children when we married. He was pretty sure I would change my mind. At age 44, I am still grateful I was not “talked into that.”) I finished my graduate degree with a Master of Liberal studies focusing on Nonprofit Management, but I still did not really know what I wanted to do.

I kept reading self development books to try to figure it out. But while I read a lot, I did not often do the exercises recommended in the books. 

pivot, concise coaching, dare to lead
my desk on Sunday afternoon, while taking a break from coaching homework

In my 30’s I disintegrated some networks, I jettisoned a great job and burned bridges without a plan or a safety net. Probably not the best move. But I am resilient, and I knew I’d find *something* to earn a living Fortunately found a job I enjoyed at a very large medical device company. This path allowed me to travel to Latin America regularly, which got me to reconnect with my roots in important ways, and re-discover my enjoyment of travel.

One of my mentors told me a year ago that I needed to figure out what my definition of success is. But I told him I have already succeeded. I was making more than twice the money I thought I could earn at my age. Materially, even though we still do not own our home, I have everything I need every day. That is more wealth than most people on the planet. He said “then you have to give back.” I agree.

A nagging voice inside me says I am not working “up to my potential.” I used to hate it when my middle school teachers told me that. I graduated salutatorian of my high school class. What more did they want from me?

In retrospect, I can can see that my ability to focus on many things at once is not a detriment. Lack of focus means I had a LOT of interests. Choosing just one, or even just two, has always felt like Sophie’s Choice to me.

Emilie Wapnick
Clip of 12 min Ted Talk on multipotentialites

I am working with a coach right now who is helping me whittle this down. But I may just have to accept that I am a multi-potentialite (a term coined by Emilie Wapnick). Please watch her Ted Talk if you can relate.

For now, I am doing the exercises that my coach (and most of the self-help books I have read) have recommended. The habit of devouring books is not something I will get over any time soon. Now, I have to stop using that as a diversion and do the work, finish the exercises, and see what they reveal. Scary, no? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

What do you most want to learn?

It is said that we teach what we most want to learn. Research is “me search.”

One of the exercises I have tried while crafting my “offer” to my ideal clients is to consider the topics I most enjoy exploring through writing. By looking at my “tag cloud” or my category list, well-being and consciousness are big on my list. I also love thinking about and experimenting with how to increase employee engagement and career satisfaction.

Regarding my well-being focus for the past few years: in 2015-2016 I realized I had gained more weight and life felt stressful. More travel and meetings were required of my position as a manager for an international division. I knew something had to change. I did not like the feeling of my clothes getting tighter, or my need to take the “edge off” with a glass of wine as soon as I got home each day.

I decided to take a 10-day pause from my nightly glass (or 3) of wine when I came home each night. Whew, lots of emotional stuff came up. Then I realized I’d started taking the “edge” off by over-eating more often, or justifying extra chocolate or dessert because my day had been stressful and “I deserved it” I told myself.

But what if I could live a life where I did not feel a need to buffer my emotions with alcohol or food? What if I could learn to feel my difficult and uncomfortable feelings, without needing to dull them? 

As someone slightly on the introvert side of the introversion/extroversion spectrum, being with people for the majority of my day is taxing. Susan Cain advises introverts to find “restorative niches” of quiet or tranquility in our day, in order not to be overwhelmed by the social interaction required.

As a nexus point for 5 different departments and many different countries and regional units, it felt like constantly being “under fire” from far too many bosses or project managers, to whom I was accountable, even though I technically reported to just one director.

Restorative niche? Only if I could work at home (and I did now and then). I craved “deep work” assignments when I could have uninterrupted time to work on a project or develop a tool or workload model, for example. But the number of conference calls and meetings grew exponentially with the number of different initiatives we were called upon to execute.

I got really good at saying “no” toward the end, and also much better at delegating to fellow team members while developing their skills. Not always a popular choice for the entities which funded our small team. But a necessity nonetheless, since we were not able to deliver high quality results when spread too thin.

Fall inlove with taking care of yourself. (1)

So what do I want to teach and learn?

  • We must make conscious choices in our lives. We cannot do it all, nor should we. We must decide on what is essential and strategic, and do only that.
  • Wellness is non-negotiable. Our employer may think our mid-day run or yoga class is optional, but for many of us, it is the restoration we need to be most productive.
  • Working harder is not an option. Most of us are already maxed out. Working smarter is an alternative. Turning down calendar appointments is an option. Setting boundaries and expectations and communicating those is critical.
  • Being willing to receive tough feedback as a leader is essential. When people know you trust them, and are willing to listen and make changes, or help influence the process based on feedback, they trust you. Trust is essential to getting the work done efficiently.

These are some of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my time as an operational manager in a very large medical device company.

What do you most want to learn? Do you spend time writing about this topic as well? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com