The truth may surprise you

the answer may surprise you copy

How often do you jump to conclusions about another person’s motivation or reason for doing something especially when what they are doing is causing you angst?

If you’re human, the answer is possibly, a lot.

The brilliant Ian Munro of Leading Essentially shares  4  Thoughts For Navigating The Every Day Path, on his blog this week. As Ian writes,

How often do we find ourselves rising up the “Ladder of Inference” (theory first put forward by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris), creating new truths for ourselves that clutter our view of our world and make it difficult to answer the question “what’s really happening right now?”  (you can see the diagram for the Ladder of Inference Ian mentions by clicking here.)

We are New Truth Makers, continually spinning tales of ‘what’s really happening’ outside our sphere of influence to deflect from what’s really happening within us when we become hyper engaged in someone else’s story.

Recently I had a perfect example of my ability to be a new truth maker. A simple mistake, omission, moment of forgetfulness by another lead me down a path to telling myself the story of how they were being deceitful.

Fact is, what I knew to be true is they had not done something that needed doing. Whether it was forgotten, an oversight, or an intentional omission made little difference to what needed to happen — and that was for them to address the situation so that it would be resolved.

Challenge is, in my story-making-up-of-their-motivation, I fell into my own trap. I believed less of them and in that place, felt less of myself because my response, based on my less-than thinking, did not keep me in the moment, did not leave me operating from my higher self, but rather, thinking from my baser instincts.

And that does not serve me well.

Life will always offer up opportunities to rise above or sink below our instinctual habits. For example, I know that I don’t trust people’s motivations easily. It is learned behaviour that I am conscious of, and when acting from a place of esteem, balance, openness and authenticity, does not pull me down to my baser instincts. However, because I have an inherent belief that people are ‘out to get me’, I can fall into the trap of believing they are not acting from a place of wanting to contribute their best in moments of discord. When I let go of my desire to stand in the light and be at peace with the world around me, it is relatively easy for me to leap to the conclusion that what motivates others to do what they do, is proof I should never have trusted in the first place.

From that place, it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump to seeing what someone else is doing as being nefarious, underhanded, deceitful…

Staying conscious of my innate distrust of other’s motivations keeps me grounded on my path, without my capacity to create new truths that prove my child-centric belief, ‘I can’t trust anyone’, interfering with my ability to continually check in with ‘what’s really happening right now’.

Making ‘new truths’ is convenient. It means I don’t actually have to see inside myself to what’s really happening now within me. It means I don’t have to be 100% accountable for my responses, my actions, my own story. It puts me in that treacherous place of negative fortune-telling where I see ‘what’s really going on here’ as the one and only truth – and that’s not a truth based on fact. It’s based on the story I’ve created to keep me from feeling at risk.

We all encounter moments where it is convenient/habitual to make up stories about why someone else is doing what they’re doing that is causing angst or drama or unease in our worlds.

Fact is, we can never be 100% all-knowing of what motivates another.

We can be 100% all-knowing of what motives us when we stop our rapid ascent of the Ladder of Inference, take a breath and go back to the basics of asking, ‘what’s really going on here, right now, inside of me’.

When you do that, when you take the time to stop and ask yourself, ‘What’s this really about for me?’ ‘What do I really want right now’ ‘Is my belief about the other 100% true?’ ‘Is my story about what they’re doing 100% fact?’,  or, ‘Is my story about the other interfering with my ability to be… happy, content, peaceful, accomplished…?’, when you ask yourself the tough questions and lovingly embrace the answers that appear, the truth may surprise you.


Self-love or self-hatred? Which will you choose?

A commenter writes, “Self-love is no simple task.”

It’s true. It is not always easy to love oneself. To be in love with oneself. To hold oneself in loving thoughts and tender mercies.

There was a time when loving myself was the last thing I wanted to do. Challenge is, I didn’t want to face the fact I was actively engaged in avoiding loving myself so I pretended I did love myself, well sort of, almost, some parts.

In my ‘I love myself but….’ I did a lot of things that hurt me. That hurt people I love.

I knew what it meant to love another — well sort of, at least as long as I didn’t have to face the fact I didn’t really love myself.

In my “I love you but not me” pretense, I could pretend everything was okay when actually, I was not living my truth. Not standing true to my beliefs. Yet, in fact, I wasn’t really lying — I didn’t want to admit I didn’t love myself so pretended I did, but because I didn’t, the things I did that hurt me, that put me in situations that were not self-loving or filled with dignity, self-respect, kindness — they were true to my feelings about myself.

Ahh, the webs we weave when we attempt to deceive ourselves about the truth of our human condition.


It is fascinating to me that for many of us, we think about not loving ourselves, but we hesitate to ask the next question. If I am not loving myself, what am I doing?

Am I hating myself? Am I doing things that express my self-loathing? Am I drowning my self-loathing beneath the false pretense of over-confidence? Lack of self-confidence. Humour. Anger. Acting out. Drugs. Alcohol. Am I playing down to my worst instincts to avoid having to acknowledge I am afraid to love myself. Afraid to see this flawed, fragile and frightened being is me — and I’m not loving myself enough to see that what I am doing is hurting me.

Is avoidance of self-love my game?

Long before I fell into the arms of a man who almost killed me with his abuse, I was in therapy. I wanted to understand why I did not love myself.

I knew it was true — that I didn’t love myself. What I didn’t know, what I didn’t see or what no one ever asked me was — Which hurts more? Loving yourself or hating yourself?


Recently, I did an EQ (Emotional Intelligence) In-Action Profile with my brilliant friend Ian Munro at Leading Essentially.

It was very telling and informative for me to see where my automatic default goes when I am under duress/stress.

I am ‘optimally fit’ in my Positive/Negative orientation, and ‘optimally fit’ in my balanced reliance on thoughts, wants and feelings.

In my ‘Self-Other Orientation’, well, according to the results it, ‘Needs a Work-Out’.

It’s all about trust. Boundaries and loving myself enough to set healthy ones.

Dang. Wouldn’t you know it.

In this quadrant the good news is, ‘I don’t let relationship ruptures fester or run on too long. The bad news is, I may find myself taking more responsibility than is actually mine to take.’

Taking excessive responsibility is the Achilles’ heel of those who are more self-oriented, the Profile tells me.

No kidding.

Starving children in Africa?

War in Afghanistan?

It’s either my fault or I can fix it. There is no in-between.

Just kidding. I know that’s not true, but somewhere deep within me is a wish, a desire to fix it. To bring peace to the world – all of it, not just the parts over which I have domain or impact. It is not succumbing to that place where I believe everything is all my fault, that is vital to my well-being. Of not giving into the feeling that if I could just grab a magic wand and sprinkle fairy dust over everyone so they could just ‘get along’ and quit making such a mess of relationships and our world, I will have done my job.

It’s all about boundaries.

About knowing what is mine and what is yours. What I am responsible for and what I’m not and then…

Yup. That self-love thing again — loving myself enough to give myself the grace of setting boundaries that honour me, and trusting others to be responsible for their journey along the way.

As I mentioned to a friend awhile ago, “I am getting so tired of people crossing the boundaries I refuse to set.”

Boundaries are great. But first, you gotta set some!

Here’s to setting healthy, loving and effective boundaries that get me to optimal fitness in my world.

What about you?

Feeling any need to love yourself a little more today? Go for it. There’s nothing to lose, because really, is self-love any more difficult than self-loathing?


For those of you interested in the EQ In-Action Profile, Ian is an amazing coach. Do check out his website. Leading Essentially

Thank you KW for your inspiring comment.

How not to scorch the earth when lighting the flames of love

Ian Munro at Leading Essentially wrote on Sunday about the natural power of a forest fire to clear out deadfall and create room for new growth.

Ian writes:

forest fire“A forest benefits from naturally occurring fires. It is one of those counter intuitive things in nature.  The forest ecosystem needs a good fire occasionally.  The larger, older trees form a canopy that blocks the light and suppresses new growth. Over the years, it also accumulates a lot of dead wood and brush on the forest floor, making it less passable for animals and less arable for other plants.  A good burn cures a lot of these issues.  At first, there’s nothing but a blackened mess.”

Read more of “The Secret to Avoiding Drastic Measures”

What we humans sometimes do not see is the beauty in the devastation. The possibility in the mess.

No matter how messy and filled with dead wood our path may be, we don’t want to feel the loss, experience the trauma, know the grief of burning down walls, tearing out the roots of the past, sweeping away deadfall on our path.

We focus instead on keeping going, no matter how dark the road, how treacherous the way. We keep on going in whatever direction we’re going, if only to avoid having to see the loss of light on our path.

Nature is patient, writes Ian.

We humans, not so much.

We want to continue on whatever path we’re on, be it comfortable or not, and not face the devastation, not confront the need to uproot or, as the case of a forest fire, burn down the overgrowth to get to the sun.

Two weeks ago, I married my beloved and we committed to live together, ‘happily ever-after’.

Okay, well the happily ever-after bit maybe wasn’t in our vows, but sometimes, in the beauty of the moment, happily-ever-after seems not so far away!

What was in our vows was the commitment to love one another, in the broken and the whole, of who we are, where ever we are.

We committed to be true to one another, no matter how dark the skies around us. To always find the path of least-destruction through all kinds of turmoil.

Life isn’t the culprit when our paths become dark and gloomy. We are.

In our quest to live in constant ‘happily ever-after’ we forget that life can be messy. It can have challenges. Ups and downs and disappointments. We must continually sweep away the fallen branches and deadfall that has collected on our path as we’ve journeyed from yesterday to today if we are to keep the light coming in. Or, to paraphrase M. Scott Peck who wrote over three decades ago about love and life and spirituality in “The Road Less Travelled”, if you don’t take out the garbage the whole house will stink. Our shadows are like the garbage, suggested Peck. If we don’t face them and all they carry, they’ll really stink up our lives.

I’m not a scorched earth supporter. I don’t believe we need to continually burn the earth on which we walk to keep our paths clear. I do believe, we need to continually clear out the deadfall, examine fallen branches and either turn them into walking sticks or let them go if they no longer serve us well. We need to continually seek the peaceful, loving path through our lives.

If I want my life to be filled with peace and love, joy and harmony, I must let go of lighting fires that destroy the world around me. As a couple, we must choose the road less travelled to find eachother’s hearts, in darkness and in light.


This post is in response to Ian’s question on his post:  The Secret To Avoiding Drastic Measures:

  • As a couple do we allow small irritations, poor habits and minor incompatibilities to fester to the point where the level of resentment cannot be reversed?  Or do we pursue more open dialog that allows these issues to be addressed individually, accepting that sometimes it will cause an argument or “small fire” that can be more easily controlled?


Anything is possible if you are willing to do the hard.

He was in his late forties, early fifties when I met him. Almost black eyes. A crooked smile that moved all the way up to his eyes to push the skin into deep, well-worn lines. He liked to laugh. A quiet laugh that shook his body. He spoke slowly. Measured his words as carefully as the sugar was measured out at the homeless shelter where we met. Sugar is gold in a homeless shelter. He used his sugar wisely.

I’d seen him around the shelter for quite some time. Quite often inebriated. He was always friendly. Laughing. Loquacious.

On the day we officially met, he was sober. Had been for three months he told me proudly. “That’s how I got into this course,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me take it if I was drunk.”

‘This course’ was a three-week job readiness training course the shelter ran to support clients moving on with their lives. I was a guest lecturer, there to give a  half-day workshop on self-esteem.

“What is self-esteem?” I asked the 12 participants.

Someone replied quickly. “Something that’s hard to get.”

“What do you think makes it hard to get?” I asked.

At the end of the long table around which we sat the man with the measured words, considered the question. “I don’t think I ever had any self-esteem,” he said. “Residential school beat out any I might have had when I was a little boy and then, I never got sober enough, until now, to even think I might need some.”

It is the same answer for many First Nations. The attempted purposeful destruction of their culture tore apart their familial, social and spiritual roots. Rootless, they have drifted for years searching for what is missing, what was destroyed, what was stolen from their pasts, what was hidden from their futures.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’m sober. My friends here know I want this. I told ’em it’s important to me. But they keep wanting me to drink with them. To get stoned. Why?”

“Why do you think?” I asked.

He shook his head. Side to side. His body slumped deeper into his chair. “It’s hard. Being sober. My friends. They make fun of me. Tell me I’ve changed. That maybe now I think I’m too good for them.”  He paused. Scrunched up his face. Smiled. “I don’t think I’m too good for them. But I can’t be around drunks. They’re not good for me.”

And we went on to talk about the challenges of sobriety in a community where ‘getting sober’ is both the dream and the nightmare of everyone involved.

“Is it possible that your getting sober, a guy who’s been drunk for 30 years, is a sign that they could do it too? Do you think they’re afraid?”

He laughed. “Of my getting sober? Nah. But they sure as hell are scared of getting sober themselves.”

He wanted to be a role model, he said. To be an example for the youth on the reserve where he could never go back to if he’d not gotten sober. “I’ve got two sons. They’re adults now. Haven’t seen them in years but I want them to see me as a man they can look up to.”

He never got the chance. Three months later a massive heart attack hit, and he took his last breath.

But the memory of our encounter has remained with me. This morning, while reading Ian Munro’s post at Leading Essentially, “When Did “Busy!” Become the Correct answer to How Things are?”, I was reminded of that encounter from several years ago.

Ian suggests we have to Watch how we measure ourselves. Be cognizant of where we are putting our energies, how we are measuring our time. He mentions in a response to a comment from one of his readers that he is coming off his addiction to ‘busy’. He is happier now. More fulfilled in his work, yet, people at his workplace keep asking if he shouldn’t be doing something more urgent.

For Colin, the man at the shelter who had put a lifetime of energy into being drunk and now was committed to sobriety, his courage in taking those steps away from the past, were a reminder to everyone around him that it was possible. In the possibility that Colin represented, their fear wanted only to drag him back so they would not have to face the truth.

Anything is possible if we are willing to do the hard.

The hard work of getting sober, of getting ‘unbusy’, of taking time to stop and smell the roses, to savour the possible in this moment, right now, no matter how frightened we are that if we don’t fill this moment right now with ‘meaningful work’ we will be wasting our lives away.

Colin only had a few months to savour his new life, to lean into his new possibilities. I like to think that in those months he found his meaning not in the past, but in his courage in letting it go. And I like to think he knows that in his life and his willingness to ‘do the hard’, he keeps inspiring me to step beyond my fear of letting go of the well-worn path to soar bravely into possibility.


The Value of Vulnerability — Guest blog

The first time I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability was shortly after it appeared in 2010. I was hooked. Gave the link to my daughter. Shared it with everyone I know. Read, The Gift of Imperfection and recommended it with everyone I know.

Today, guest blogger, Ian Munro. shares the value of vulnerability in our lives — not only will it help lower stress, you’ll love yourself and your life a whole lot more!

Thanks Ian for sharing your light so graciously. Thanks for being so vulnerable!


The Value of Vulnerability

By Ian Munro

The holiday season is behind us and we are back to our normal work routine. It gave me pause to reflect back on the past several weeks. This year I worked through the break, having taken my vacation earlier in the year. Normally I would find working through the holidays somewhat burdensome but this year was totally different. I found myself using this slower time of the year to have some slow, meaningful conversations with people. With both time and some solitude as the office wasn’t very busy, these conversations often penetrated through a few layers of the normal office shields we wear to protect our essential selves. They were great connections, and I look at them now and see how uncommon it is for us to reveal the true nature of ourselves to each other, especially within a work environment.  To read the rest of Ian’s fabulous article, click here!