How to connect heart to heart.

I awoke from a dream about death. It had something to do with telling people all the wonderful things I saw in them, after they were gone.

Didn’t make a lot of sense. Why not tell them while we’re both alive and able to enjoy each other’s company, I wondered?

A tool we practice at Choices Seminars is the “The thing I like most about you in this moment is….” and then you name it.  There are other versions of that tool around as well. “What I appreciate about you right now….”  “I really like how you….”

You can get even more creative as my beautiful friend, mentor, inspiring human being Patricia Morgan of Solutions for Resilience does.

Her question is simple. “What do you think I think is incredible about you?”

The question always gives people pause to think before they answer. And after they’ve quietly (hesitantly/shyly…) said one thing they think you think is incredible about them, the response is…

“That’s true and that’s not the only thing. What else do you think I think is incredible about you?”

And after their second answer, the response is the same… “That’s true too and that’s not the only thing either. What else?”

After their third answer, you get to tell them more… “All those things are so true about what I think is incredible about you. What else I think is incredible about you is…..” And then name all the amazing, incredible, inspiring, beautiful things you think about them.

Believe me, they will be delighted to hear what’s on your mind about them and you will have created space for a deeper, more inspiring connection!

Human beings yearn to connect in deep and meaningful ways. It’s in our DNA. Often, though, we make it hard. We put up walls. We talk over one another. We don’t listen to eachother’s hearts. We discount each other’s voices. We listen to the voices in our own heads telling us people will think we’re silly, or we’ll be judged if we get so honest, or hurt if we are too vulnerable.

Connecting with people is pretty simple.  The first step is to ask a question. Ask them about who they are, what makes their heart beat, what gives them joy, what brings them peace, what inspires them when they get up in the morning.

The second step is to listen deeply to their answers. Let them tell you what’s on their minds, their hearts, what’s rumbling in their tummies and stirring their possibilities.

The third step to connecting to people is to repeat the above, again and again and again.

Because let’s face it, the answer to who we are in the world, how we want to be seen often stays locked inside us, disconnecting us from those around us with whom we’d really like to feel connection.

It isn’t until we ask ourselves, or someone else asks us:  What makes you heart beat? What inspires you to get up in the morning? What do you do that makes a world of difference?, that we really start to feel and live into the answers of our heart’s-calling us to connect, dream big, live large.

Deep down, we all know how incredibly magnificent, special, unique we are. It’s just life has taught us a whole bunch of not so healthy ways to deny our beauty. When we learn and accept our worth is priceless, we learn how to navigate the world in new, inspiring and creative ways that ignite possibility and create a world of opportunity for better all around us.

Knowing and believing our worth is priceless is essential if we are to live our dreams, fulfill our desinty. Connecting and helping someone see their own worth is important to making the world a better place. In that connection, hearts find a common rhythm so that together, we can make a world of difference.


Living life in all its colours is a Choice.

Living life in full colour
alcohol ink on yupo paper
5 x 7″
2019 Louise Gallagher

My heart is full.

After five days in the Choices Seminars room, I feel grounded, peaceful, whole.

Stepping into the Choices room felt like coming home. It felt so effortless and easy. So life-giving and fulfilling.

There is something miraculous about being in a room with people intent on finding their path out of the darkness — even when they walked into the room scared and full of trepidations that they don’t belong there, they don’t fit in, they are not welcome.

There is something so incredibly inspiring about witnessing hearts breaking through the walls their human has erected to keep themselves from feeling the pain of loss, the confusion of betrayal, the agony of grief.

We all do it to some degree or other. Life happens. We get hurt. Betrayed. Griefstricken and we desperately fight to keep ourselves safe from more pain, more sorrow, more loss. In our efforts to ease our pain, we build walls around our heart believing the wall will keep us safe. And then one day we realize, the wall has become a prison and we are trapped on the other side, convinced there is no way out. To make sense of finding ourselves imprisoned by the very walls we’ve built to keep ourselves safe, we tell ourselves, it’s better this way. We don’t need to feel, to breathe freely, to dance like no one is watching or live like this one life is a precious gift. We’re safer in our prison we tell ourselves and then we name it — our comfort zone, our safe place, our doing our best to get through the daily grind that has become our life.

The label is important to us. It has to be for us to make sense of the limiting beliefs that are holding our lives in check and our walls intact.  I’m okay in my comfort zone we say. I like it here. At least I know what to expect. At least no one can hurt me if I don’t let love in.

Imprisoned by our limiting beliefs we convince ourselves not to risk change, not to dare to try to fly, not to even breathe deeply. We’re safer that way.

There is no need to live imprisoned by our pasts, trapped in our belief we are not good enough, or too small, too big, too loud, too weak, too stupid, too much, too anything other than beautifully, exquisitely human.

But we do it. We convince ourselves our beautiful, exquisite human selves do not measure up to the expectations of voices from the past, the chaos and pain of the present or the fears of an unknown future. And in our pain and grief of having lost connection with the magnificent, exquisite human being we were born to be, we act out. We rage, we lie, we hide, we crumble beneath the weight of our sorrow, we strike out at the one’s we love, we beat ourselves up with our disappointments.

Last week, I got to witness the miracle of hearts breaking free, of minds awakening to the brilliance of their true selves and of human beings stepping into the truth of who they are when they let go of the past to live fearlessly and fiercely in the present.

I am so blessed.



What do you want more of in your life?

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
5 x 7″
2019 Louise Gallagher

This is my last post for a few days.  I am off to coach at Choices Seminars tomorrow — Long days. Short nights.  And I am excited.

There was a time when I coached at least 6 – 7 times a year.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been in the room.

When I joined the team at the homeless shelter where I work, I struggled to balance worklife, homelife and such a significant volunteering commitment. Something had to give, and I let my Choices commitment go.

I am soooo excited to be back in the room for the next five days.

There is something incredibly enlivening and inspiring about being in a room where I get to witness miracles happening with every breath.

It doesn’t start out easy. Trainees walk into the room scared, confused, defiant, eager to learn, resistant to changing. They are all over the emotional map.

And then, slowly, they begin to get the idea that Choices isn’t about magic wands that will suddenly solve all their life issues and feelings of loss, unworthiness, separateness, loneliness.

Choices is about doing their own work to discover their own answers, their own way of being in this world that gives them the ‘more’ that they are looking for.

It’s one of the key questions we each get to explore in our lives, when we are willing to peel away the layers of past hurts and shame and fear and self-loathing that prevent us from seeing, ‘better is possible’.  The question is:  “What do I want more of in my life?”

For me, I want more time… to create, to spend with those I love, to laugh and sing and inspire others feel joyous and light. I want more space to simply be present in each moment, without worrying what the next will bring.

I want more of being me without the masks, without the fear that being me will bring ridicule, shame or blame.

I have been blessed. Thanks to a beautiful friend I trust deeply, I entered that room in April 2006 and began this amazing journey into peeling away the layers of the past so that I could be free in the present.

I am so grateful.

Thirteen years ago, my Choices journey began. At first, I was kind of dubious. Kind of, ho-hum, done all that digging, there’s nothing else about me I need to learn – or change — for that matter.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we’re willing to explore what’s possible when we give up believing we know it all, or that this is all there is. Blinded by our beliefs and fears and judgements over who we are, and who others are, we become stuck in the comfort zone of our unease and fear breaking free.

Over the past 13 years I have been in that room countless times and every time I come away with my own, ‘Ah Ha’s!’ that break me free just a little bit more, that give me just a little bit, or a whole lot, of what I want more of in my life.

In that room I have witnessed hearts breaking open, spirits breaking free and lives being changed for the better.  I have witnessed people choosing to drop their anger, pick up their self-esteem, walk away from relationships that were unhealthy, forgive themselves, forgive others.  I have witnessed those who felt so lost they only wanted their lives to end, claim their right to live. And I have watched miracles happen again and again as people awoke to the beauty and wonder of how incredibly powerful they are when they walk in their own truth.

I am off to coach at Choices tomorrow. Off to stand in a room where the common denominator is that our human journey is so much richer and fulfilling when we let go of what is holding us back from living the more of what we want in our lives.

No magic wands. No abracadabra’s. Just a whole lot of opportunity to walk alongside people as they learn new ways of being, new tools to use so that individually they can find their own answers to living the life of their dreams.





Lessons from the studio

5 x 7″
Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
2019 Louies Gallagher


I am in an art show May 10 & May 11.

There’s a lot to get done.

I haven’t been in this show for a couple of years. Work, busy, no time to prepare kept me from entering. As a commitment to my ‘rejuvenation’ vis á vis retirment, I decided to participate this year.

I’ve been getting ready.

Most of the work I’ll be showing will be my alocohol inks. I don’t have my studio well enough set up yet to work on large canvases and I’ve been loving working with the aochol inks so much I’ve just kept creating.

Yesterday, along with sealing my finished work with Kamar, I played with a new toy — an air brush — and even though I still don’t quite have the hang of it, I think I’m in love!

Working with alcohol inks is all about letting flow what will flow, where it will flow. It’s about layering on, taking off, trusting that whtaever happens will be okay. Sometimes, the end result doesn’t cut it. Most times, with enough play and a whole lot of alcohol, magic happens.

Three important life lessons working with alcohol inks have taught me are:

  1. You don’t need to be in control.
    • Alcohol Inks are free flowing. Sure, you can use various media such as Friska to create specific images, but the joy and pure delight (for me) comes when you simply let go and let it flow. Letting go of wanting the inks to go one way, of wanting them to blend to create a certain ‘look’ is something that you need to give up (unless you really want to drive yourself mad!). Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about the outcome, it just means that along the way, you take pure delight in the experience of being in the moment, are willing to risk experimenting and are flexible enough to go where the ink flows.
    • Like life, trying to be 100% in control of everyone and everything creates frustration, anxiety and disappointment. Svouring the moment, keeping an open mind, creating space for magic is vital to the experience.
  2.  The journey isn’t in knowing ‘how’, it’s in trusting you will discover the way as you go.
    • Predicting what happens when you apply ink and then layer on alcohol and more colour, use a hairdryer or airbrush or any other method of moving the ink around is part of the process, but it’s not all of the process — you gotta be willing to follow the flow. Sure, you can master the airbrush and create images that resumble a flower or leaf or tree, but working with the airbrush means staying loose enough you give the ink room to flow as it will — because seriously, you can’t ‘make’ it flow exactly where you want it to or how you want it.
    • Starting with an ‘idea’ of what you want to achieve is important — but as you move through the process, being flexible enough to adapt, and being open to new ideas as they arise is vital to creating a life that is joyful and fulfilling.
  3. Everyone has their own unique Point of View. Honour the differences.
    • Some of my paintings bring me great joy. Some, I think are okay – and then someone else sees the same painting I deem ‘blah’ and says, “Oh wow! That’s my favourite!”  and I have to smile. We all see the same thing through our own unique perspectives.
    • My sister always finds animal faces in my paintings. I don’t see them. Doesn’t mean they’re not there, it just means we are both looking at the same thing through  different eyes and points of view. She looks for faces, I tend to ‘feel’ the colours and mood of a painting. Neither is wrong. Both bring value to our lives and to our conversation (believe me, I have spent a lot of time trying to see what my sister sees and seldom do — which is what makes life so rich. We each have our own POV and can celebrate the differences by honouring where we each come from, creating space for sharing of our opinions, views, ideas.  — and just like layering on ink to create a whole new look and feel, creating space for someone else’s POV into your conversation creates a whole new landscape of texture/depth to work with!

I spent the weekend getting ready for my artshow in May.  It was a labour of love and delight that colour my world in vibrant, beautiful hues of possibility.



Follow Your Heart No 52. #ShePersisted

No. 52  #ShePersisted Series  — Follow your Heart  —  2019 Louise Gallagther

My intent with the #ShePersisted series has been to complete 52 in the series. I just reached my goal.

And the muse is not yet finished with me.  She keeps delivering new ideas for the series. And I keep creating.

It is a process I love. A creative endeavour that challenges and fulfills me.

As I continue to explore all the muse has in store for me, as I move deeper into rejuvenation mode, I shall have more time to mediate on the messages and thus, be able to continue to write ‘The Teachings” for the each painting/message in the series.

It is an exciting journey. One that also invites me to go back to some of the original art pieces and possibly re-work the art, not necessarily ‘the message’.  The earlier pieces have a different style that became more recognizable as I continued to create in the series.

And that’s the beauty of this journey. There is no formula to follow. No rule saying I must do it one way or the other.  I get to create my own path. My own way. My own creative expression.

The Teaching

No. 52
The #ShePersisted Series
Follow Your Heart

Many years ago, Robert Frost penned one of his best known poems which ended with,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This card is calling you to examine where you are walking. To look closely
at your choices and see if you are choosing them for yourself
or are you following someone else’s plan, marching to someone else’s drum?

Life is full of opportunities to find your own beat, to carve your own path.
Yet, too often, we let fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the pack hold us back
from hearing the calling of our heart to follow no one person or thing, but our own beat.

Let go of fearing what others may say and listen to the voice of your heart.
Your heart knows. Listen to your heart.

Take charge of your own life. #ShePersisted No 47

No 47 #ShePersisted Series
Mixed Media on Watercolour Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Sometime ago a friend asked me to join her and other women in creating a book of wisdom for a niece who was turning 13. Ultimately, after writing my list of “10 Things I would tell my 13 Year-Old Self if I could change her life”, I discovered that what I would have told myself then is really, what my 60+ self still needs to hear and know and breathe into everyday.

This post originally appeared on my blog in May 2014 and then Sept. 2017.  As I was contemplating what went with No 47 in my #ShePersisted Series, these 10 things came to mind. The 11th would be, “You are responbile for your own happiness. Do not abdicate your responsibility to someone else. Take charge of your life.”

Ten Things I would tell my 13-year-old self if I could change her life.

  1. There is no such place as forever. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass. Whatever you are experiencing, the trauma, the angst, the joy, they are all illusory. Transitory. Ride whatever is happening hands free, barefooted, body wide open to the experiences of life. Now is not forever.
  2. You’re okay. More than okay, you are amazing. Just the way you are. There is no fashion too out there, no style too wild if it is what you want to wear. You are not too fat, too skinny, to short, too tall, too under-developed, over-developed. You are who you are, how you are. And that’s amazing.
  3. You are worthy. This is a tricky one. Your mind wants to steal this one away and hide it because to know your worth, you must risk — the unknown. the perceived impossible. You must risk the ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and unders of life. To know your worth, you must know there is nothing, noone, no way anyone can steal it from you. It is your birthright.
  4. Believe in you. Really, really believe in you. Don’t question your right to be. Don’t question you’re right to go anywhere, do anything, anyway you choose. Be you. Everyone else is taken. Wear your hair up, down, wild, straight. Colour it pink, gold, orange or green. It’s your body. Your hair. Your skin. Your life. Your right to believe in you and be you just the way you are.
  5. Be kind. People will say mean things. Do cruel things. Be kind. Like you, they struggle to know their worth, find their place, feel their feelings. Like you, they are taking this journey of life without a manual, unable to control and predict everything life will throw at them. Like you, they are sometimes scared, sometimes silly, sometimes confused, sometimes wise. And like you, they too are looking to fit in, to belong, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Be kind, no matter how they act. Be kind.
  6. You don’t have to find your meaning. You are your meaning. Live it with your whole heart wide open to life. Your meaning is not in wearing the latest fashion or having the coolest stuff. Your meaning is found in how you approach every moment, engage every person from that place where you know, no matter what you think they think about you, you think and know you are amazing, just the way you are.
  7. Seek magnificence. Don’t go looking for mediocrity. Seek to be known through your magnificence and seek always to know others through theirs. Don’t look for fault, seek the lessons, seek the knowing, seek the value in all things.
  8. Risk often. Life isn’t a predictable series of events over which you have ultimate control. The only person you have control over is yourself – and even then you’ll sometimes doubt just how in control of yourself you are. Risk anyway because, if you’re involved with others, there will be lots of messy, sticky, unexpected and sometimes painful things happening on your journey. They’re just things. It’s all just stuff. You are amazing  – I know, I said it already – it’s true. Believe it. Risk living from the place of knowing you are okay, you are amazing, you are magnificent. Risk living as if it’s true — because it is.
  9. Smile often. Laugh lots. Dance always. And when you cry, cry out loud. When you laugh, laugh out loud. And when you see injustice, ask what can I do to change it, and do that thing with your whole heart and know, that is enough. You are enough. You don’t have to have all the answers, you only need to learn the one’s that will allow you to make the difference in the world you want to see and be. And that’s enough.
  10.  Get creative. Don’t go looking inside boxes for the recipe for life. Live it not knowing what’s next. Live it expecting the unexpected. Live it free of holding onto hurts and pains, sorrows and regrets. Live it up. Fill it with joy. and always, always SHINE! Because you are amazing. You are worthy. You are magnificent. And that’s the only truth you need to know to live your life fearlessly in Love with all of you.


The presence of the present.

Tables turn. The world spins and life goes on.

This morning, Alberta awoke to a new political landscape.

Election 2019 heralded an upheaval for the reigning NDP, with Jason Kenney’s UCP stepping to the forefront with a crushing win.

Yup.  It’s politics.

And I do not write about politics.

So what do I write about on this morning when the river flows past my office window and the birds chirp in the trees lining the riverbank unmoved by the upheaval in our Provincial political landscape?

Maybe… there’s nothing to write about but the presence of the present.

Maybe it’s a day to breathe just as every day is a day to breathe.

Maybe all I can do in this moment is, to pause. To take in the quiet of this morning and savour the sun’s rays peeking through an overcast sky tinting the horizon in hues of pink and golden amber.

Maybe it’s a morning to simply be present, without searching for meaning, a message, a grand idea to inspire minds, open hearts and set spirits soaring.

Maybe it’s a day to simply be.

And in ‘being’, to set my intention to weather whatever changes are on the horizon with grace. To embrace what is present with acceptance. To breathe into all that is without judgment.

A new day dawned this morning. Behind grey clouds lying low on the horizon, the sun still shines. The world still turns and life goes on.

I am choosing to step into to this day, without carrying anything but the joy of being open to its possibilities when I turn up with a loving mind and open heart to the grace that is present in every moment.



I am releasing.

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
5 x 7 “
2019 Louise Gallagher

The sky is clear this morning. Blue infinity soaring forever.

My mind is fuzzy this morning. Restless sleep stirring my mind.

And softly, the sun rises. The river flows.

There is within me a quiet stream of contentment  Flowing.

I am releasing.

For the past few weeks I have been practicing releasing. It’s a simple process. A continuous statement of “I release.” Sometimes, I add ‘me’ to the end of the sentence. Sometimes ‘you’. Sometimes I get more specific, naming the thing/feeling in that moment which I am carrying and want to let go of.

There is a story of a man who travelled across a great desert, fearing for his life. No water. No food. Nothing but a desire to reach somewhere that was not desert.

Finally, it happened. Just as he was about to give up, he crawled to the top of a giant dune and on the other side, spied a mighty river flowing. He was elated. Not only had he found water, he discovered a land on the other side of the river that was rich and verdant. Beautiful and lush.

With the last of his strength, he eagerly scoured the river bank, searching for wood to make a raft. At last, his task of building a raft to carry him to the other side was over. He set sail and made it to the beautiful lush forest that was once a mirage as he crawled through the desert and was now his reality.

Elated to have reached such a place of bounty, he decided to explore. He hoisted his raft onto his back and began to walk. Eventually, the raft grew heavy but he could not put it down. It had carried him across the river to this beautiful place, what if he needed it again?

And so he travelled onward, each step becoming more and more laborious as he struggled with the weight of the raft on his back.

So often in life, we become like that man, carrying the hurts and pains we’ve gathered up throughout our journey through time, as if our lives depended upon them. Even though they are heavy. Even though they weigh us down, we dare not let them go. Doesn’t carrying the weight of our dark days mean we’ve learned the lesson? Doesn’t their weight keep us grounded? What if putting them down leaves us naked in the light of today?

And we forget. The lessons learned are always with us. It is our choice whether they are a light on our path or a burden on our backs.

I have worked in the homeless-serving sector for over 13 years.

It has been a rich and humbling experience. I have met amazing people. Walked alongside incredible leaders. Shared highs and lows with others who like me, want to create a world where everyone knows they are valued, just because they are here.

Throughout that time, I have been blessed with the opportunity to tell the stories of the people who travel the streets. Of those who carry all they own in a backpack on their back or sit leaning against walls on busy sidewalks, asking for coin. I have told stories of those who work alongside the travellers. Of those who support and care and struggle to create space for those with nothing, to find something to hold onto in the dark bleak corridors of homelessness.

I have been changed.  By everyone I’ve met. Everything I’ve done. Everything I’ve written and every story I’ve told.

I am releasing.

Setting down the weight of this work to release myself to dance in other spaces. Other fields of possibility.

And, just as a river finds space to flow free of its banks when it reaches the sea, I am finding my heart breaking free of where I’ve been, how I’ve been, who I’ve been as I continue to release myself from this work that has enriched my life so much and given me so many opportunities to find my voice, share my stories, create a difference in this world

I am releasing.

And in that release, I feel lighter.

In the lightness of being unburdened, I am releasing.


And so it is. Beginnings. Endings. And in between transition.

And so it is. An ending. A beginning. And in between, transitions.

An ending:  I am no longer the Interim Executive Director of the family homeless shelter where I work.

A beginning.  Still unplanned. Unscheduled. But it is there. Simmering. Shimmering. Quivering. The space of the unknown. That place of possibility. Dreams. Vision. That place where my creative expressions unleash my psyche to dance naked in the light of each new day dawning. Where my soul knows I belong. Where my heart knows its home is right here, within me.

More than knowing what it will look like, I am beginning this journey with how I want to feel. How I want to be. Excited. Challenged. Creative. Inspired. All jazzed up. I want to wake up each morning and leap out of bed, imagining that I am stepping onto creative landmines that explode with opportunity, that challenge my concepts of who I am and propel me into being all I am when I am living within the fires of creativity unbounded.

And first, the transition.

I am spending the next six weeks supporting the new ED and finishing off a couple of projects.  No title. Just ‘Consultant’.

More transition.  I’ll spend the summer, unplanned, uncharted. Except for a trip to the coast to spend as much time as possible with my grandson and his family, and on the way, a stop-over to visit dear friends in the Shuswap and to take in some wine tasting.  I’ll hop on over to the islands to visit my sister and her husband. Maybe even visit Tofino, but I may save that for C.C. and me in the fall with Beaumont!

The beauty of unplanned time. Anything is possible.

As I sit at my desk this morning, watching the river flow past, the sun-bruised morning sky begins to lighten. Cars intermittently travel across the bridge from the west towards the east, where the downtown waits. A bird chirps in a tree, welcoming the morning.

And I am….

I am me.

And I feel….

Now that’s the question for the day. How do I feel?  I feel a mixture of anticipation. Joy. Sadness. Uncertainty.

How will I be with this new person walking into my old role? How will I respond?

Over the past few weeks I have been practicing, ‘releasing’. Letting go of any expectations I might have held that I could stay in the role longer. Releasing any hurts and sadness I’m not.

In releasing, space has been created for this new way of being in the same place to arrive and enliven me with its sense of anticipation and possibility for my uncharted future.

As I drifted into meditation this morning, I asked myself two simple questions to set my intention for this day, week and the weeks until I completely transition out of being here to being in the next as yet unmapped ground of being somewhere else:

How do I want to feel?

I want to feel grateful. Gracious. Calm. Inviting.

I want to feel that feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing it was, a job well done.

That feeling that says, ‘my time here is done, and that’s perfectly okay with me now.’

I want to feel complete.

What do I want to create?

I want to create a space for the new ED to feel like this decision she has made to step into this role is the best decision she’s ever made in her life. I want to create a space where she feels my support and the support of all the leadership team. I want to create opportunity for sharing, of ideas, knowledge, experiences where she can learn of ‘what has happened in the past’, so that she is free to create an exciting new future for the organization, the families we serve and all the staff.

I want to feel like I am not ‘in the way’, but part of a transition that is creating better for the future, for everyone. And, as I near the end of my transition time, I want to feel like letting go is the most natural thing to do. That letting go is all there is left to do to step away and feel, ‘complete’.

I have awoken to a brand new day this morning. I sit at my desk where I sit every morning at this time and watch the river flow past. Right now, there are no cars on the bridge. No people walking or biking. Ther is only the river flowing past, the trees struggling to find their springlike finery. There is only the sun-bruised sky lightening and the birdsong calling me to awaken.

There is…. only Love.

I am grateful.


On leadership and letting go

As I prepare to transition out of this role of Interim Executive Director at the family homeless shelter where I work, I am excited by the possibilities and the mystery of being ‘me’ in a space that is undefined, fluid, open. It’s a space where I carry:

No formal title.

No 9 to 5 schedule.

No expectation of having to turn up anywhere but where I choose.

Today is my last day in this role. I’ve learned and grown a great deal over the past 8 months, both personally and as a leader. I have been blessed and gifted with this opportunity to stretch and grow. Some of my learnings on leadership are:

 1.  Build a team you trust. 

Leadership is not a walk in the park, It’s a constant race to get it all done. Inevitably, there’s never enough time in a day to get it all done and that’s okay. Being able to prioritize is vital. Having a team you can count on, and that you trust, is essential.

2.  There is no such thing as ‘perfection’.

The need for perfection kills creativity, innovation and passion, in yourself and your team.

Expectations of being or getting it ‘perfect’ are self-imposed limitations you set on yourself to avoid turning up authentically in every situation. They are founded in insecurities and act as a smokescreen that interferes with your capacity to assess, evaluate and determine next best steps without fearing you’re going to get it wrong. Sometimes, you will get it wrong. It’s okay, as long as you create an environment where people do not fear making your mistakes. And when you do, it’s vital you own your mis-steps and create opportunities for those around you to grow through them with you.

3.  People will give you a chance if you consistently speak the truth and treat them with respect.

People want to believe in their leaders. They want to trust them. Being consistent in who you are and how you are is essential to build an environment founded on trust. A space where people feel they can believe what you are saying and doing because they trust that you are always coming from a place of authenticity.

We all have a natural ‘sceptic’ within us. We all have stories of times where people betrayed our trust. For a team to truly trust their leader they must see that no matter the circumstance, no matter how challenging the times, the leader does not sway from their values and principles. They do not compromise on the truth and will inevitablly choose to ‘do the right thing’  — which means, if you are known as someone who is constantly getting angry, flying off the handle, making rash decisions, being unpredictable, you are constantly undermining trust.

4. Trusting and believing in yourself is vital. 

It’s human to have moments of self-doubt but it’s not effective nor reassuring for staff to see you constantly doubting yourself and your capacity to lead. In a study of what makes good leaders, it was determined that a willingness to ‘be vulnerable’ is essential. However, that vulnerability is about your shared human condition, not your weaknesses as a leader.

Self-doubt undermines trust. You may not always get every decision right from the get-go, but you can get addressing mistakes with honesty and forthrightness right every time when you trust yourself enough to turn up, pay attention, speak the truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

5.  Learn first. Do second.

It’s easy to convince yourself you need to know it all, right from the beginning. That’s just not realistic nor possible.

It’s vital to learn first, do second. Too often we get it backwards. We do and then learn from our mistakes. While mistakes are inevitable, avoiding some is possible when you take the time to ask lots of questions, listen deeply and strive to understand situations from all perspectives. It’s vital to ask questions, lots of them, before making any judgements, decisions or course changes.

6.  Communication is key. 

How you communicate is as important as what you communicate.

There are many paths that lead to achieving what you set out to do. Knowing that your decision is ‘the right one’ is different than believing it’s ‘the only one’. Providing people enough information to understand the thinking behind the decision goes a long way to helping them cope with the change that every decision brings. Even a decision to maintain ‘status quo’ comes with change, particularly when the decision is based on investigating the options before making the status quo decision.

7.  Create space for greatness to appear.

Being a leader isn’t about being great at everything you do, it’s about creating space for greatness to appear in everyone around you so that great things can happen. It means sharing the glow of achievement with those who did the work because when they shine, you shine too.

And finally, my key learning over these past few weeks of transition is:  It’s okay to let go. Because, knowing when it’s time to let go is as important as holding on. For me, it’s time to stop holding on to what I was doing to create space for what I can do when I let go of needing to hold on.

I am.

Letting go.