At the end of last year as I drove over the river and through the woods to visit my grown daughter,
Brene Brown taught me how to live a whole-hearted life.
Because my friend Karen Haring—founder and executive director of Libera, Inc.—recommended more than once that I listen to Brown’s 6-cd audio recording of her conference titled, “The Power of Vulnerability,” I popped it in my Amazon cart.
You may remember Brown’s TED talk that went viral. Her lectures are raw and real, not to mention bust-a-gut hilarious. So much so, I listened to all six cd’s twice in two weeks. However, not everyone has six plus hours to give them a listen. That’s why I’m going to supply you with what I feel are the greatest takeaways in Brown’s talks:
Brene Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Living a Whole-Hearted Life
First we need to identify what Brown means when she says, “whole-hearted.” Brown says whole-hearted people are the most resilient to shame. They’re also people who believe in their own worthiness.
Everyone knows what worthiness is, but what about shame? And guilt, a related concept? According to Brown,
“Shame is when you believe, ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is when you believe, ‘I did something bad.’”
Now on to the 10 guideposts of people who live a whole-hearted life.
#1 Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think
If you know me at all, you know I lived in huge conflict with my mother for pretty much half a century. A few years back, though, I finally spoke my truth to her.
“You don’t like the woman I’ve become.”
In Mom’s opinion, I’m too loud. I talk too much, too fast. I can be flashy with my appearance. And for crying out loud, women over 30 should not have long hair.
In that moment, I acknowledged her right to not be a huge fan of my externals. She was absolutely entitled to her opinion. That day in the car I felt a bit detached from the scene, as if I watched the two of us from above. But I also felt very free.
#2 Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism
Decades ago when I believed in horrorscopes, I identified as a Virgo. Virgos are well known for perfectionism.
At some point, though, I experienced a moment of enlightenment and decided to be an “excellentist” instead of a perfectionist. I would strive to do my very best, but not kill myself to make my very best, better.
As a mother and wife, one day I realized that when I over-schedule myself (usually in an effort to be recognized as Woman/Mom of the Year), I become cranky, witchy. So doing fewer things less perfectly is a wise choice for me.
#3 Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness
Brown says people living in the United States today are the most addicted, overweight, depressed, and in-debt population the world has ever seen.
People are using alcohol, drugs, television, sex, the internet, and shopping to self-medicate the pain and powerlessness they feel. “If I focus on ____, I don’t have to think about _____.”
But we’re not powerless. In most cases we are simply afraid, bound by our fears, our “what ifs.”
If you are a person of faith, consider 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
#4 Cultivate gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity
In her research, Brown found that joyful people almost always have a practice of gratitude.
- Gratitude journals
- Saying grace before meals
When you recognize all that you do have and all the beauty that surrounds you, your lack shrinks. Your focus shifts.
#5 Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty
Brown came up with her own definition of spirituality: “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”
Brown says whole-hearted people tend to consider themselves spiritual. They don’t have to be sure of anything because they trust in a higher (good) power.
As I listened to this particular section, Hebrews 11:1 came to mind. “Now faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we cannot see.” (my translation)
#6 Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison
This item is pretty self-explanatory. Brown is giving us permission to do that thing we love to do—paint, sew, cook, garden, write, sing, throw pots, etc.—with no regard for what other people think of our efforts.
Brown’s research revealed that many people bear emotional scars from someone (sometimes a teacher) telling them to color inside the lines. Or their six-legged horse drawing is unacceptable. Or, “Don’t quit your day job.”
As Tony and I Swedish Death Cleaned last weekend, I came across three boxes of wool fabric scraps in a dizzying range of hues and patterns. The woolen rainbow resurrected in me a desire to return to one of my former creative passions: traditional American rughooking.
Question: What are your creative passions—past or present?
#7 Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
I remember as a mother of young children, staying up past midnight to get more and more done. Only to have the vicious cycle repeat the next day.
Years ago—after my very first life-planning session—I decided to start going to bed at 10pm so I could read. This way I got more rest and more “play.” Reading being play to me.
Recently I rediscovered the power of play. When I visited my daughter and her husband in December, I spent a day in her fifth grade classroom. Not once, but twice, I played four square, one of my favorite pastimes as a child. The experience was glorious!
Then, this week I rediscovered another childhood activity: dodgeball. With Tony and two gal pals, I participated in Co-Ed Monster Dodgeball. First I was afraid, I was petrified. But then two hours whizzed by in an exhilarating blur. For all four of us. We can’t wait to go again! Here we are with Aaron Hess, our fearless dodgeball leader.
#8 Cultivating calm and still: letting go of anxiety (and anger) as a lifestyle
In her talks, Brown noted the behaviors of “calm people.”
- They take time to breathe deeply—often for a minute or longer—when a potential crisis arises.
- To gather data, calm people ask questions.
- With the data they collect, calm people decide whether or not to freak out.
- Calm people ask, “Will freaking out help the situation?”
I love the quote Brown says is rumored to be on Oprah Winfrey’s door:
“You are responsible for the energy you bring into a room.”
Question: Have you ever considered what kind of energy you bring into a room?
#9 Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
Sadly, in my experience, most people do not love their job. Far more work complaints float around than effusive tales of employee satisfaction.
In a perfect world, everyone would be living out their purpose and getting paid well for it. Sometimes, though, we feel trapped by our financial circumstance. We have to do the job we dislike to pay the bills.
In situations like this, Brown suggests a “side-hustle.” Maybe you get a second job in the industry you do love. Perhaps you go to your garage after supper and make candles to sell on Etsy and someday, in your own candle shop.
My husband Tony’s side-hustle is officiating ACC college football games. This activity not only makes Tony very happy, it also provides a welcome additional income stream.
Writing is my side-hustle. While not as lucrative as officiating football, wordsmithing brings me significant joy.
Question: If you could initiate a side-hustle right now, what would it be?
#10 Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and always in control
Thankfully I have #10 mastered. I laugh loud (Sorry, Mom.), sing when I know the words (and sometimes when I don’t), and dance whenever I get the chance: ie. Zumba, Pop Pilates, and wedding receptions.
To me, guidepost #10 sounds similar to #1: Letting go of what others think.
Which reminds me of a saying that’s a little worn-out, but I’m going to end with it anyway.
This gorgeous dancer is Morgantown’s own Maddie Spruill.
Please let me know in the comments which of these items do you want to work on in 2019.