Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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It’s Never Too Late to Begin

As I continue to explore the question:  “What do women of a ‘certain’ age want?” I am discovering just how important continuous learning, experimenting and experiencing is to living life fully and joyfully.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 76 when severe arthritis made it impossible for her to  cook and sew, pick berries, make preserves, all things she loved to do. Rather than fall into the ennui of doing nothing, she took up painting and, in 1949, at the age of 88 received the Women’s National Press Club Award for “The most outstanding contributor to contemporary thought and achievement.”

It’s never too late to begin.

What if you could begin to live the life you dream of, today?

What if you decided the life you always wanted wasn’t about the things you acquired, like titles and cars and houses and trophies or accomplishments but rather, about being the person you’ve always wanted to be, stepping into doing the things you fear but always dreamt of doing?

Tomorrow morning, I am stepping into the Choices Seminar room for five days of delving into the Be. Do. Have of living life on the other side of my comfort zone.

For five days I shall be immersed in ‘heartspeak’, listening deeply to the dreams and fears, hopes and possibilities of people willing to explore the ‘better’ of what is possible if they choose to let go of believing it’s not. There’s always a reason why we fight against ‘the more’ and the better of what we want in our lives. Beliefs that leave us giving up on ourselves becuase we buy into the notion there’s not much sense in trying to change, because… there’s always a because… “I’ve tried to change, I can’t.” “Why bother?” ‘This is as good as it gets.” “Nobody cares anyway.” “What’s the point?” “I’m just not good at anything else.” “My dreams don’t count.”….

In the Choices Seminar room, people walk in with lives in every state of existence. From working okay to not working at all, from just hanging on to completely checked out. They step into the room carrying their pasts, their pain, their fears, their dreams and limiting beliefs. Some have chips on their shoulders, some, weights on their feet. Some carry arrogance like a shield while others carry their pain like a security blanket. And some come carrying nothing but curiousity because someone they care about has asked them to explore the possibilities, or, they’ve tried everything else, why not prove there is no hope?

No matter their state of being, or reason for being in the room, there is always something in that room that awakens their heart’s desire for the better possibilities of life. Something that says to their heart it’s okay to step into life beyond the boundaries of the comfort zone they’ve grown so familiar with, the pain that feels so protective, the fear that feels so comforting, the beliefs that feel so safe.

I feel so blessed. Sixteen years ago, when I walked into the seminar room, I had no idea what was in store. A friend had asked me to go and I wanted to express my gratitude for all she’d done for me.

I walked in with my attitude, ‘I alreay know it all’ as a shield. I used my arrogance as a barrier. My ‘I’ve done all this work already’ as an excuse not to let my true feelings show. I believed letting people see I ‘felt’ anything other than happines was risky. I believed people were out to get me, that inevitably, being vulnerable would only lead to people hurting me.

Sixteen years later, I can look back at the woman who was on the surface very put together and embrace her fragility and her fears, and love her for having had the courage to risk stepping into somewhere she didn’t think she needed to go anymore. Herself.

How mistaken I was to believe I knew everything there was to know about myself. I am still learning. Still exploring what it means to be me, at any age, any stage of my life.

What a wonderful and miraculous journey.

I am stepping into the Choices Seminar room tomorrow. I am grateful.

Perhaps one day I’ll see you there and we can shine our light togehter to create an even brighter, more loving world.

Because the dream I have for what I want to create more of in this world is Compassion. Joy. Creativity. Love. – and it takes a world of people believing better is possible to make it happen.

____________________

Thank you to those who have commented, emailed, phoned to share their thoughts on what women of this certain age do and do not want. Your wisdom and courage is inspiring.  (and it’s not to late to include your voice!) Namaste

 

 

 


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To ‘Know Thyself’ is not an excuse to act out

I spent the weekend coaching at Givers 1 (G1), the first of two weekend processes that complete the  Choices Seminar program.

One of the core elements of G1 is the Sunday Colours activity where trainees go through the process of discerning their core personality/social drivers based on the four colours:  Blue. Gold. Orange. Green.

Years ago, when I first took the Colours test, I came out high green (intuitive, visionary, analytical) with equal Blue (empathetic, compassionate, cooperative) and Orange (energetic, spontaneous, charming) a few points back. My Gold attributes (punctual, organized, precise) were the lowest.

Fact is, as I became more comfortable living from my heart, and embraced vulnerability as the path to peace and joy in my life, my top three colours shifted to the point where they are pretty well equal.

And that’s the opportunity and the challenge.

I can use each colour to complement everything I do in my life, creating more harmony and joy, or, I can choose to let my colours drive me into chaos, flipping from thoughtfulness to erratic, thoughtless behaviour, constantly changing my mind, stepping on people’s feelings and creating disharmony where no one around me feels safe.

I don’t want to do that in my world.

I want to create more peace, harmony, joy. I want to be a safe haven. I want those around me to feel welcomed and embraced by love and grace.

Decades ago, the Greek philosopher, Plato, extolled the virtue and necessity to ‘know thyself’. That maxim still holds true today. When we know ourselves, we open ourselves up to creating the relationships we want to have in the kind of world we want to live in.

The danger is that sometimes, we use the knowledge gained from self-awareness as an excuse for why being the way we are is an excuse for us not to change the things we do that create more distress than harmony in our world. Our excuses for being the way we are do not move us closer to our vision of what we want to create in the world. They put up barriers, destroy intimacy and build walls.

For example, my critter would love to have me believe that when my beloved says, “I don’t have a clue where you’re coming from”, (a natural response on his part when I am taking 101 different sides of an argument looking for the flaws in each perspective simply because I think it’s fun to argue) that what he’s actually saying is, “What is wrong with you?”.

When I can step out of my position of, “It’s just the way I am” (because my colours say I am this way or some other test says I am) and move to being curious about what I am doing to contribute to his confusion and discomfort, my personality strengths/attributes become my ally. Knowing my ‘Colours’ helps me to understand my natural affinity for certain social responses so that I can align my natural responses with my vision of what I want to create in my world and relationships.

Knowing myself, and knowing how I am in the world is not a license to act out, to be unkind, thoughtless, rude, arrogant, stubborn, difficult.

Knowing myself is the invitation to be curious about how I respond in every situation and what I can do with my self-awareness to ensure my responses, actions, presence create the more of what I want in my life and all my relationships.

Namaste.


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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.

Namaste.

 


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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.

Namaste.

 

 

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What makes you happy?

I dropped in to visit friends at Choices over the weekend. The seminar was in session so I knew there’d be lots of people there to hug and say hello to.

I wasn’t wrong.

It is what I love about visiting Choices friends. It’s as though whatever time has passed is erased and we are all standing, heart-to-heart, connecting on the deeper plane we each discovered exists when we went through the program. It’s the space the space that makes life so much more rich and vibrant.

At one point, I sat and chatted with a lovely woman whom I don’t see very often but when I do, always reminds me of the power of the human spirit to grow and heal and stretch and deepen.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with her, but today, as we sat and chatted about the things in life that have held us back from living the life we want, time wasn’t important. Our heart conversation was.

We talked about how the experience of going through Choices and using the tools in our lives has changed us and all our relationships. How we have both found our lives enriched and our capacity to use our voices strengthened.

One of the greatest gifts Choices has given me is the belief in myself and my right to be happy and my accountability for my own happiness. There was a time when I thought a man would make me happy. Or perhaps the right job, or more education, or more money, or more anything.

What I didn’t realize was that my search for externals was keeping me from diving into the one place where I would find the source of my discontent, and my happiness. My own heart.

Another friend commented that my life seems really busy. “It is,” I replied.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

I heard her question coming straight from her heart and stopped a moment to reflect. I took a breath. In. Out.

Am I happy?

I listened deeply to my heart.

“Yes,” I replied. “I am. And even more than happy, I’m content.”

“What makes you happy?” she asked sincerely.

Ahhh.. Well, of course my grandson. Daughters. My marriage. My life. Beaumont — of course.

But even deeper is my sense of fulfillment. My sense that the work I’m doing matters. That I matter.

A few weeks ago, when I took on the role of Interim Executive Director of the family emergency shelter where I work, I wasn’t thinking about my happiness. I was thinking about  how taking on this role was the right thing to do for the organization at this time.

Doing what I believe is the right thing makes me happy.

I hadn’t thought of that until my friend asked me, “What makes you happy?”

In many instances, I’ve been focused on how scary it is to step into these shoes. How daunting a task to try to stabilize an organization that has gone through a challenging period.

I haven’t thought about my own happiness. I haven’t had to.

In doing what I believe is the right thing, I have inherently created a sense of happiness within me. Because, to not do it would have left me disquieted. Uneasy. I would have felt like I was letting people down and while that’s not always a good enough reason to do something, there is a place in me that recognizes that being of service to others fills me up. It feels right within me. And when I feel right within me, I am happy.

I spent a few hours this weekend immersed in the world of Choices. It was a gift of time. Of connection. Of deep-feeling and listening.

It was also an opportunity to delve inside and connect to what makes me tick. What gives my life meaning. What brings me joy.

I am so blessed.

I have a life I love. I am surrounded by people who love and adore me and whom I love and adore.  I get to work everyday in a place where I find meaning and fulfillment. And I have friends who are willing to ask me the tough questions that give me pause to consider… What makes me happy?

What makes you happy?

 

 


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What’s holding you back?

I believe that when we are born, our unwritten stories hold the untold promises of our unique possibility.

And then, life happens and the promise of our potential becomes lost in the limits of our reality. We experience life in ways that we cannot imagine and, looking out through the eyes of a child, simply do not make sense. Ill-equipped to handle the sometimes harsh and bitter winds of life, we harden our hearts, build up walls, shut off feeling to cope with what we don’t understand and have no tools to cope with.

It isn’t that life set out to hurt us, it is that we were unprotected for far too long and learned to do anything that worked to keep from feeling the pain of whatever happened to us. In our need to protect ourselves from the pain we don’t understand, we end up hurting ourselves with the very limitations and beliefs we adopted to keep ourselves safe.

To justify wherever we’re at, we tell ourselves stories about how it’s safer this way. Safer to keep our hearts locked up, our feelings stuffed down, our senses shut off, if only because it feels less scary, less frightening, less everything to stay locked within than to risk letting our hearts run wild.

We grow up and fight to hold onto the limitations that we created to keep us from feeling the pain of being lost in a world that doesn’t make sense. We carry on until we are living in a box so small we are suffocating within its restrictions. We can’t breathe. We can’t move. We can’t feel.

But we don’t dare look at the walls of our box. We don’t dare attempt to break free because, remember… and we list the litany of things that life not safe out there… The last time you tried to break free your heart was broken, your hopes dashed, your dreams ridiculed. Remember? And our minds embrace the idea that keeping ourselves safe means locking our hearts and dreams behind the walls of our self-defenses so that nobody can touch us in a way that will hurt us ever again.

And life goes on and we become accepting of the idea, this is the only way it can be. This is the way I am and I am safer when I play the part I know.

But we wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of living life one short breath at a time.

We wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of walking on broken glass with every step we take.

We wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of believing we are worthless, useless, unwanted, unloveable, un-everything we tell ourselves is true if only because, believing in the lie of our limitations is familiar. It’s safer. No one can hurt us if we don’t let them see into our hearts, we tell ourselves. And we shut down.

For years, I spent five days eight or nine times a year, immersed in Choices Seminars as a coach. In that room, I had the gift of being witness to people’s hearts as they opened up to the beauty and magnificence of their truth.

So much time spent breathing into the essential beauty of our human condition has left me feeling, humbled, joyful, grateful, hopeful.

We can change our world, one heart at a time.

In that room,  dreams awaken and hearts break open to find their own special beat. In that room, I have heard silent suffering become a powerful voice announcing to all the world, I am here. I am alive. I am willing to begin this journey of living my life on the outside of my comfort zone. I am willing to go for the gusto. I am willing to break free of the past so that today, in this moment right now I can breathe freely and soar higher than I ever imagined. Because, it doesn’t matter whether I take one baby step or one giant leap, it is my journey, my flight into freedom and no matter how I take it, I am worthy, deserving, capable of Love.

Choices Seminars is happening at the end of this month, as it does eight times every year, here in Calgary, Dallas and Vancouver.

Everyone deserves to let their heart run wild, their dreams soar, their pain ease.

If you’re looking for tools to help you run wild, set your dreams free to soar, or simply to find out more about the most fascinating person in your world (that would be you 🙂 ) I can’t think of a better, safer, more loving place than the Choices Seminars.

Go ahead. Give it a go. Click this link and find out for yourself!

___________________________

And just so you know, no one paid me, asked me or coerced me into writing this post or suggesting Choices. I just know what incredible value its created in my life and want everyone in the world to experience what can happen when they discover tools to live their best life yet!


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Self-Love: Where all things are possible.

I hope it is the start of a revolution. A new way of being and doing and connecting at work.

This past week, a co-worker, friend, a woman with a beautiful heart, attended Choices.

She fell in Love. With herself.

And from self-love, all things are possible.

On Wednesday, I dropped by the hotel where the seminar is held to leave a card for my friend and to say hello to some of the coaches.

It’s been a year since I’ve been in the room.  Last year, as I struggled to keep up with the pace at my former job and then started a new job, I took time off from coaching. It was needed medicine for myself. Time to simplify  my life, to create space to be more present to what was in my life without feeling stressed by all the “To Do’s” I had on my plate.

At least, that’s the story I told myself.

Walking into the seminar room on Wednesday morning I realized, it’s time I went back. It’s time I immersed myself in the joy, beauty, Love of that space where all things begin with self-love. Where all things are possible.

People often ask me why I volunteered so much of my time to the program or why I stayed involved.

When I suggest they try it out to find out for themselves, I often get a nervous laugh and a, ‘it’s not for me’, kind of response.

Choices is for anyone.

But often fear of the unknown prevents us from stepping beyond the edge of our familiar. Sometimes, it’s the fear that comes from believing inside ourselves is too risky a place to explore – what if it’s too dark to see? We tell ourselves that to explore our inner depths could put us at risk of completely falling apart with no way of being whole again.

All of that was true for me, yet, once I went through the program, I realized, as Winston Churchill famously penned,  I had nothing to fear — but fear itself.

In fact, my fear paled in comparison to all that I gained.

When I walked into the seminar room on Wednesday morning, even though I was only there for a few minutes, I remembered why I gave so much to the program and the people involved.

Because I receive so much more in return.

In my life there have been very few times when I felt 100% safe to be ‘all of me’. In the Choices room, I know I am safe.

In the Choices room, I know that people are not whispering behind my back, talking about my flaws, complaining about how I say this or do that or how I’m not participating enough or not doing it right.

In the Choices room, there is no judgement. Only Love.

So often in this world, we learn to not trust love. To be distrustful of one another.

To cope, we build up walls and defenses. We guard against possible hurts. We defend our position of remaining separate, believing that we need to protect the core of who we are against attack.

In the Choices room, I know I am 100% safe and from that place of feeling safe, I can be me. Completely me. All of me. Beauty and the Beast. Wisdom and Wounds. Perfections and Flaws.

It is an incredible gift. A beautiful thing.

And that’s why I’m hoping my friend’s having experienced the Choices revolution will create its own revolution at work.

Choices provides tools to live your life outside your comfort zone, wide awake, 100% in Love with me, myself and I and the world around you.

My dream is to have our entire leadership team experience the program so that we can connect on deeper, more authentic and meaningful levels. From that space, all things are possible. Including, ending child and family homelessness.

Namaste.