Expectations Can Bring You Down; 3 Tips to Increase Your Self-Awareness

Storyblog 1: A Special Day Through The Eyes of Julie

Mother Father Son and Daughter (8-11) Having a Picnic and ChattingJulie had been looking forward to this day for weeks. Well not exactly ‘on pins and needles’ kind of waiting, after all it was only a birthday and at 34 she had certainly come to understand not all birthdays brought the same level of enjoyment. But still, this day was special to her and she really believed this year was going to be a good one.

The house was quiet as she padded down the stairs to the kitchen. She had awoken at seven – her normal Saturday morning wake-up and had decided to stay in bed, luxuriating in the comfort of her memory foam and ignoring her ever present ‘to-do’ list. Her husband, Kurt, had arrived home from a four day business trip late yesterday evening and still he was up by six. She knew her seven year old, Alex, was up because she’d heard his squeal of delight when he got up and found his dad was home. Then she’d drifted off back to sleep and didn’t notice if her ten year old, Samantha, had joined the party.

She giggled to herself, as she thought the word party and wondered what special things had been planned for her today.  Kurt had asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday this year, but she had just shrugged and given her typical response, “Nothing really – just relax.” As a result he could have planned anything from a day at the park, to a small celebration with friends and family, to just spoiling her by looking after all the chores she’d normally tackle on the weekend.

Tip #1: Let your expectations be known.  Really think about what you would like for those special days (or even normal days that you’ve set expectations for) and share them with those people involved.  The ability to read minds is very rare and it’s unlikely your family has that gift, so make it as easy as you can on everyone by sharing your thoughts.

In this case, it’s Julie’s birthday and she has ideas about how she would like the day to go…wake up when she is ready; have the day off from her usual chores; be made to feel special by her family and receive some sort of acknowledgement that they appreciate what she does for them.

Walking into the kitchen, Julie fully expected to find a fresh pot of coffee and maybe even some  muffins from the bakery up the street, but other than the dog, who lifted his head and gave a weak flap of his tail, the room was empty and quiet.  I guess breakfast in bed was not part of the plan, she thought to herself, Maybe Kurt finally got that one. She’d felt bad when she told him last year that although the thought is nice, I don’t enjoy being woken up on the one day I get to sleep in and I’m rarely ready to eat as soon as I open my eyes – so how’s that a treat?

No one was in the living room either. “Strange,” she mumbled, wondering if they were going to jump out and surprise her. On her way to peek in the back yard a pink post-it note stuck to the counter caught her eye.

Taken Alex with me to Stan’s and dropping
Sam off at Brittany’s. The house is yours –
enjoy it “doing nothing”!
Kurt xxx ooo

Tears sprung into Julie’s eyes. She had forgotten that Samantha had to finish her project for the fair next week and was going to Brittany’s for part of the day.

But that’s not what I’m upset about, she thought, angrily wiping away the tears, why would he take Alex and disappear for the day – especially when he’d just been away! I mean, that would be great if Kurt was here with me, but spending my birthday alone, ‘doing nothing’ is not my idea of a special day. A feeling of hurt spread through Julie’s chest and abdomen and the thought popped into her mind, Don’t they like spending time with me? Am I that unpleasant to be around that they would ditch me on my birthday?

Tip #2: Separate your feelings from your thoughts. Feelings are a very important signal for you to acknowledge – like a smoke detector, they are not set up to tell you what to think or do; but to alert you that something might be wrong.  Women feel first and then create thoughts from those feelings (whereas men think first, then create feelings). If you don’t do anything to control your thoughts, often you will create thoughts that match your feelings.

 In this case, Julie is feeling rejected – this is a normal response to knowing people have an opportunity to spend time with you and finding out they have chosen not to. The thoughts about them not liking her match this feeling and increase her hurt. These thoughts are not based on reality, but instead are created from how she is feeling at the moment.

Sighing deeply, Julie plopped herself down at the kitchen table. Her dog was at her knee in a second and without thinking Julie starting rubbing his ears.  “At least you love me Max,” she told him, noticing the adoring look in his eyes. “Why would Daddy do this to me?” she asked him as if he’d give her an answer.  Tears flooded her eyes as Julie buried her head in Max’s neck.  The soft fur felt nice and he still smelled fresh from his bath yesterday.

What am I doing? She suddenly demanded of herself, straightening back up. I have the house to myself and it’s my birthday. I can sit and read, enjoy a coffee, sing, dance…whatever I want to make this day fun for me!

Taking a deep breath Julie could feel the cloud of disappointment drifting off her shoulders. Giving Max a final pat she stood up and stretched.  Flicking on the XM Radio she laughed when one of her favorite songs started to play. Singing along she danced over to the cupboard, pulled out a new bag of beans and started making her own fresh pot of coffee.

Tip #3: Change what you can, Accept what you can’t – Becoming aware of what you control and what is beyond your reach can help you release feelings and create positive thoughts. You cannot change what has already happened and although you can ask, in the end you can’t control how others behave. You can control how you let their behaviour affect you and what you do in that moment to help yourself feel good.

When Julie recognized she was ruining her day by feeling sorry for herself and wishing things were different, she started taking charge of her own behaviour and steering herself in a positive direction. Patting her dog, breathing deep, stretching, singing, dancing and coffee – are all things that make her feel good and helped her stop this drift into the negative.

Sitting on the back deck in the sun, sipping coffee, listening to music and flipping through a magazine, Julie signed contentedly.  When’s the last time I’ve just sat and read a magazine guilt free? Reaching over the side of her chair she rubbed her dogs belly where he had stretched out beside her. She signed again.  This is not quite the day I had planned, nor what I would have chosen to do, but perhaps ‘doing nothing’ was a good idea after all.

 Storyblog tasks for increasing self-awareness …

  • Notice how often you share your expectations with those who are close to you rather than make them guess at what you’d really like.
  • Give some thought to what your expectations are and try to figure out if they come from habit, a need for social approval or if they identify what you truly want. If they are what you really want, start sharing them.
  • Pay attention to negative feelings as they arise and try to stop yourself from feeding them with matching (negative) thoughts.  Sometimes it helps to focus on the bottom of your feet until the intensity of the feeling eases off or pretend you are a fly on the wall watching yourself in action.
  • Notice what you are trying to control or change and ask yourself if this is a good use of your energy (i.e. is it something you can in fact control/change).  If it’s not within your ability, let it go and focus on your own thoughts and actions.

Relationship Building; Making Compliments Count

bigstock-Beautiful-Family-Enjoying-2085173It’s the little things we do on a regular basis that have the greatest impact on most areas of life – including relationships. How you talk to others, the kind of voice you use, your intonation and the words you choose all make a difference.

An important part of building any relationship involves doing or saying things that feels good to that person. Of course, a person with a healthy self-esteem doesn’t need to hear anything from you to know they are worthwhile or to feel complete, but we are not talking about them at this point, we are talking about your relationship with them.

The late, Stephen Covey talked about this as building an emotional bank account with the person and suggested that anytime you said or did something kind, caring or helpful, you were making a deposit into your relationship bank account. He went on to say that anytime you did something negative (broke a promise, laughed at them, put them down…) you were making a withdrawal.

I call this the give and take of relationships and both Covey and I suggest you make sure you are giving (depositing) more than you are taking (withdrawing).

Giving a person a compliment is an easy way to make a person feel good and build on your relationship with them. For this to work it is important to be authentic (there must be a strong element of truth in what you are saying) and it must be said in a tone that suggests you mean it.

Unfortunately, when we are in a negative space with another person (colleague, child, neighbour), it can be really hard to see the positives and find something to compliment them on. When this happens I suggest you start with small things, “Nice shirt” and then learn how to find the positive in the bigger things, such as the argument they are intent on winning; “Your determination and willingness to see something through to the end is pretty amazing.”

One of the greatest challenges we face with those we are close to is not always being authentic with our compliments because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. In this case you might tell them you love their new hairstyle when in fact you think it looks terrible. When this happens you create a trust rift especially when you later admit that you didn’t like the way it looked. Try to always be authentic, “You’re so cute you can pull off any hairstyle,” might be a way of not hurting them and still being authentic.

It’s also helpful to become aware of the different qualities of a compliment so that you can practice using the ‘big ones’ more often. A small compliment focuses on something the person has no control over and is not part of who they are, such as; “Nice shirt.”  A notch up from this would be a compliment that focuses on something unique to them but still not something they really control; “You have beautiful eyes.” One level higher would be sharing a compliment about something they have some control over and is connected to them; “That colour really brings out your eyes.”

Although how a compliment feels is unique to a person’s story and situation, the ultimate compliments tend to be those that are specific to them and that they control, “I really enjoy spending time with you, you have such a great sense of humour.”

The point of this article is not to critique compliments, but to show you that with some thought your compliments can become more meaningful and therefore have a more positive impact on relationship building.  Although it might seem like such a little thing in life, when it comes to building relationship, kind acts – like giving a compliment – really do count.

Enjoy this short video on playing Compliments Count (Family Booster Shot series)

Why Respect Needs to be a Discussion in Your Relationships

What is respect really and how do we teach it to others?

MP900439553[1]When I worked in the school system I would talk to kids about what they thought respect was and they would give the expected response of exactly what their teacher that year had put up on their wall. “Don’t interrupt; Raise your hand if you have a question; be nice; wait your turn…”

Then I would ask them what respect meant in their home and they would spout off the same answers they had given for their classroom. “Really?” I’d ask, “Do you have to raise your hand at home before you can speak or stand up when O’Canada plays?” The kids would giggle and the real fun would begin.

At some point an interesting thing would happen. The kids would start spouting off the rules in their house as being respectful and sometimes the word respect would even creep into the definition. “Eat your supper; don’t run in the house; take your boots off at the door; don’t talk back; be polite: respect the rules.”

Through discussion and games we’d figure out that this respect thing was pretty confusing and appeared to be different in many of their homes and classrooms. “So, if respect is really just following the rules, then if someone drives slower than the speed limit are they being disrespectful?” I would ask. “Or if they run in the hallway because someone is hurt and needs help fast – would that qualify?”

“No,” they’d respond, “it’s not rules it’s something else.”

So what the heck is this respect thing that we hear so much about, if it isn’t just a bunch of rules?

The truth is, respect is a word that is bandied about as if it has clear meaning, when in reality its definition is individual specific and often defined by how it makes the other person feel. We teach respect by what we do (modeling), not by what we say or the lists we write.

If you feel disrespected when someone raises their voice at you, then respect to you would be using a quieter voice (or not yelling). If you feel disrespected when people ask you questions about your personal life, then giving you space to share only what you want to share will be respectful.

In the end, respect is closely connected to our personal boundaries, our upbringing (specifically what we have become accustomed to such as people yelling) and our own experience with how different things make us feel. There can be cultural definitions around respect – lowering your head and not making eye contact  with an elder; never questioning your father/boss – although even these will be challenged.

A discussion around respect and what it means to another person is a must in any relationship and one that we should definitely have with our kids. This became even more obvious to me when I would have the same conversation with adults (parents or teachers) and come up with the same confusing results.

A teacher will be most successful with her students when she discusses what respect means in her classroom, becomes clear on what these things look/sound like (i.e. defines be nice) and then consistently models respectful behaviour (or calls herself on it) in the classroom. In essence she is setting boundaries for the kids and then respecting the rules she has created with them.

True respect is something we feel when other people treat us in a way we believe shows they care. This cannot be defined easily or consistently, but can be learned through action and clear communication.

This week’s Family Booster Shot video is on the topic of respect. Check it out here: http://youtu.be/en6Mfif2TJU




Standing in Your Power Interview on CJOB

Last Friday I had the honour of being the guest on the radio show “Your Life Unlimited” . Guest host, Deb Dawson-Dunn and I had a great time talking about what it means to stand in your power and covered topics like:

  • why I wrote Standing in Your Power
  • what kind of power I’m suggesting we connect to
  • what the difference is between the inner critic and your inner wisdom
  • how you can fill yourself up and why it’s important
  • what an Oh My Goddess Moment is along with an example
  • who Jane is and why she plays a prominent role in the book

If you missed it and would like to listen to the session you can listen until March 21st in their audio vault.

The interview was February 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 pm. 

If you’re in the Winnipeg area and would like to attend either booklaunch on March 8th or 14th, I’d love to see you there! Pick up the details on any page of my website.

Lighten Up! Tips and Techniques to Help You Avoid Capsizing In Your Busy Life

Are you aware of your Plimsoll line? 

Did you even know you had one? 

Apparently you do and in this 50 minute discussion with Doreen Penner (Brilliance Telechats),  Bev Doern from A Thought Worth Sharing explains what it is, why it’s important and what you can do to lighten your load and keep yourself from capsizing into overwhelm.

Enjoy listening now or download a copy – it’s worth it!

Access Lighten Up! Recording

Standing in Your Power Releasing Soon!

Do you ever find yourself wondering;

Why do I compare my life to others and feel like I don’t measure up?

Why do I commit to so many things when my life is already so crowded?

Why do I shy away from standing strong when people question or challenge me?

Standing in Your Power;  A Guide for Living Your Life Fully Awake, will help you:

  • Reconnect with your inner wisdom
  • Quiet your inner critic
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Assertively stand up for yourself
  • Embrace the incredible journey you are on
  • Practice living your life fully awake

Author Debbie Pokornik, BA, BSW shares, “My favorite part of this book is the fictional story about a woman, named Jane, who the reader gets to see succeed, mess up, try again… in other words to personally develop throughout the book in a fun, entertaining and helpful way.”

Standing in Your Power is a book for any woman who has ever felt too big, too small, or just not good enough to meet the demands and expectations in her life.  This passage sums up the beauty of this book, “Confidence never leaves you. It just gets covered up with negative stories, beliefs and thoughts you have about yourself.” Author Debbie Pokornik offers gentle understanding and solid encouragement for any reader who wants to be happier and more confident. Highly recommended. 

Lynne Klippel, best-selling author of Overcomers, Inc.

Reserve your copy today! mail@empoweringnrg.com

How Would You Like to Create Your Own Reality?

Parent Coaching for Empowered Parents                                                         By Kassandra Brown

Some days life feels like one big rush. The ‘To Do’ list is a mile long, the kids are calling “Mommy!”, you’re late for work and what the heck is for dinner anyway? Maybe your version of rushed and overwhelmed is different than mine, but I’m guessing you can resonate with the feelings that come up when there just seems to be too much to do and not enough time.

Perhaps you could clone yourself? Or duct tape the kids and put them in the closet? Or hire a nanny, like Maria in The Sound of Music? Or maybe you can learn a few simple tricks here to help you find your ease in the midst of your life, just as it is? Perhaps instead of changing the circumstances, you can create your own reality? How? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Take time for yourself every day. As little as 10 minutes, just for you to be with yourself, can make a huge difference. What can you do with that time? Anything that helps you be in your own skin, your own mind, and your own intuition counts. Journaling, yoga, and meditation are my favorites. Other clients have chosen going for a walk, sitting by the ocean, or drawing.
  2. Notice what’s going on. Slowing down your own inner commentary, rush, and critic is pretty critical to making real change. We have to notice the stories we’re telling ourselves, the stories that are driving our life choices, before we can make different choices.
  3. Set goals for yourself. Go for the smallest increment of change you can do to see transformation in your world. Go for something reasonable. And then cut it in half.
  4. Track Changes. If you want to stop yelling at your children, set the goal of noticing when you yell and writing down what you were doing, what the kids were doing, what you were thinking just before you yelled, and what you wanted to have happen. Try it. Tracking helps.
  5. Entertain the idea of Radical Self Responsibility. Everything (everything!) that is happening in your life right now has been created by you. Yet most of it seems to be happening to you and to be out of your control, right? When you entertain the idea of radical self responsibility, then the possibility arises to become conscious of what you’re creating, to see the gifts in what you’ve already created, and to choose to live the life you truly want.

You are the author of your own world. Raising children is incredibly challenging because you have responsibility for, and believe you should have control over, other human beings. No one can truly control anyone except themselves. This can set you up for incredible frustration. For me, practicing the list above has brought ease and spaciousness into my life. For the next week, I invite you to try at least two of the above practices. Let me know how it goes, any questions, or desires for further support.


Kassandra Brown is the owner of  Parent Coaching  and is dedicated to helping parents realize and harness the incredibly creative powers within them. This allows each family to craft unique solutions to their unique challenges. Visit Kassandra’s website for a free consultation http://ParentCoaching.org

Ego, Meet Your New Boss

There are a lot of people who talk about the Ego as if it is something we would be better off without. In fact, the Ego is what makes us human so to get rid of it would not be desirable at all!

A few years ago I heard Sonia Choquette, a gifted intuitive, speaker and author, talk about the Ego as if it is our faithful companion – a loyal pet like a dog to be loved and enjoyed. You don’t go home and kick the dog, I remember her saying, but you also don’t let the dog run the show.

These few words literally changed my understanding of the Ego and with it my ability to keep it in its place.

Your Ego is the human side of you. It feels, it fears, it gets jealous and it reacts. Just like a dog, it will bite when threatened or curl up in fear and pee on your shoe. Left in charge, the dog will run the show the way it thinks the show should be ran.

When someone says something to you and you feel a need to correct them, explain your behaviour, compete with what they have said or blame someone else, your Ego is running the show. Only the Ego will take things personally, become defensive, act overly confident and try to bring others ‘down a notch’.

The higher-self on the other hand, is the spiritual side of you. It is the soul and if you believe in this idea, it is the part that is connected to all. The higher-self does not judge, blame, feel or panic. It has access to Divine wisdom, although that doesn’t mean it knows all the answers or will always tell you the best way to do things.

I believe the secret to making this relationship work, is to strive to bring the higher-self into the picture as much as you can while recognizing that your Ego is equally important and in desperate need of regular pats.

One way to do this is to ask your higher-self to be in charge and instruct your Ego to allow this to happen. When you tell your Ego to sit it will, however, like a puppy you might have to remind it more than once.

Notice when you feel defensive, hurt, angry, competitive, and so on, then ask yourself if these feelings are going to help you do your best work. If the answer is no – which it will be ninety-nine percent of the time – remind your Ego to sit and call in the calm cool one to run the show.

As you practice this you’ll find your higher self slipping into the lead role more often and your Ego quite happily running by its side. Like the master with a well trained dog, the two make an excellent team and are content when they know their place and feel loved and appreciated for what they have to offer.

This article is excerpted from my new book Standing In Your Power releasing late 2012

Relationships, How Expectations Become Irreconcilable Differences

The relationship between life partners is a critical one for standing in your power. A lot of testing and setting of boundaries is done in this setting because it is often the people you are closest to that push you to do your best growing.

When you were young your parents made the rules and set the boundaries that you had to live by within their home.

These boundaries have a huge affect on your beliefs around what you can and can’t do as an adult in regards to food, touch, privacy, language, arguments, gender roles, emotional expression, sleep schedules, parenting… pretty much everything. You can change these beliefs, but first you have to be aware of them.

Unfortunately many people were raised in homes where the boundaries were too rigid and restrictive, barely existent, unpredictable or totally unhealthy. As a result they grow up confused about how to question things that don’t feel right, how to put their foot down about those things they cannot tolerate, or even what’s within their right to insist on and not be seen as selfish.

When it comes to relationships one of the greatest gifts you can give to each other is to know your boundaries and to share your expectations around them clearly and positively. It sounds like such a simple task, but depending on your communication skills there are many reasons it can backfire.

The first batch of problems arises with some main difference between the feminine love of connection and the masculine need for secrecy.

The feminine love of sharing thoughts and feelings, coupled with a common history of not being heard, often results in a desire to think aloud. Thinking aloud tends to be circular in nature which can be extremely frustrating and confusing for a listener who really just wants the bottom line.

As a result when the woman tries to spontaneously share her expectations she will often put out an idea, rethink it aloud, contradict the idea, share some more and muddy the water completely before ever getting to her final thoughts on the issue.

i.e. It bothers me when you call right before I’m expecting you for supper, to say you’ll be late. I realize you don’t always know when you’re going to be late, especially when it’s traffic that causes the problem, but I wish you could let me know ahead of time. Maybe when it’s traffic you could call on your cell, but that doesn’t really matter, because by then I’ve already started the meal and really can’t do much about it. I guess I could wait and make the meal when you get home, but then I’m hungry and if you call that you’re going to be late and it’s not the traffic – there’s no reason I should have had to wait….

This kind of conversation can work in a strong, healthy relationship, as the feminine loves to think aloud and if the man is content to just let her go until she’s ready to provide the summary, everything will be clear in the end.

When a relationship is already stressed, however, this ‘thinking’ comes out with an emotional undercurrent that creates defensiveness while it confuses. The result will often be an argument, hurt feelings, and increased confusion rather than clarity.

At the same time, the masculine likes to keep their plans close to their chest (they are not always aware that they do this) and share it on a need to know basis only. Men need to feel safe to share (which seems contradictory to their ‘tough’ exterior) and will only open up if they believe it won’t backfire on them in any way.

Add to this the societal message that talking about feelings is ‘fluffy talk’ and most men will want to hightail it out of the room as soon as their partner says the dreaded words: Can we talk?

As a result, finding out a man’s expectations can be much like picking a tiny piece of eggshell out of your omelet when it’s still slipping and sliding around in the pan. It’s difficult to see, hard to grab onto and if you’re not careful you have a good chance of getting burned in the process.

As if that’s not enough, another challenge with this type of discussion for both genders is that many people have been raised to think that if they don’t like what someone else is doing in a relationship, they should tell them so they can change their behaviour.

This feels like rejection, is unrealistic and totally ignores the reality – which is that people will not change something about themselves until they are ready to do so!

Telling your partner – this is what I don’t like about you and what I expect you to change so we can get along – is rarely well received or accepted.

As a result of all of the above, many conversations meant to clear the air in a relationship and share expectations will result in defensiveness, arguments, undermining of each other and, in many cases, a break-up. What started out as a desire to clearly share in an effort to build a strong, open relationship, has turned into irreconcilable differences that can’t be overcome.

So, what can you do? Tune in next week and I’ll tell you…


Video – Self-Control Tip for Parents

Self-control is not something our kids are born with, but something they must learn and practice along the way. When parents are aware of this they can use little things (like a request to stay up late) as an opportunity to teach their kids coping skills and practice self-control.

Having trouble viewing the video? Watch it directly on Youtube: http://youtu.be/_ekzmbo5eTs