Managing Self

Does life happen to you…or through you?

Written by Milisa Burns

Do you often feel like you are just reacting to life, so much is happening to you and it feels like you are often spinning out of control or on the verge of being there?  You may appreciate the shift in approach to life that I share below.

Last year, I had the privilege of working with the publisher of this website, Allison Wolf of Shiftworks – Coaching for Lawyers, on two programs, one for the Ontario Bar Association’s Mindful Lawyer Series and one for the Canadian Bar Association’s Fall Solutions Series 2016. We had a lot of fun collaborating and I am so grateful to be a part of these important conversations about lawyer well-being.

I introduced myself with the story below for the OBA program Avoid Burnout: Train for Resilience – describing when I experienced a powerful shift in approach to my relationship with life.

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It happened at Spadina and Dupont here in my Toronto neighbourhood on my morning walk two springs ago. I had an insight that would profoundly affect how I live my life…. But before I get to that, let me backtrack to a few years earlier. Again, I was outside, on a run this time. I was using the workout to clear my head, feeling like the wind blowing by me was literally blowing the messy toxic debris and clutter out of my mind as I ran. I could feel this happening and also feel my chronic worries about my family and my work being pushed to the back of my mind by the wind. I really needed my regular runs for this – to manage my stress. I depended on them.

Shortly after that experience I developed nasty pain in my hip and IT band and was advised to stop running. This hit me hard on a number of levels. Fear set in. How would I cope without it? I had prided myself on taking good care of myself – how could I have let myself get injured? I would miss the feeling of freedom and near euphoria and I got from running. With these thoughts, and feelings, down, down, down I went into a downward spiral of negativity, driven by fear.  Yuck.

Now, happily I have a dog and she needs to be walked if not run. Happily, I am a coach and have been my longest standing client for 11 years. Happily, I had enough awareness to see where my fear was taking me, and decided to take steps to stop it. So I went to physio. I went to a personal trainer. I ramped up my Pilates and yoga. I began walking instead of running.

And gradually I found many opportunities that presented themselves in the midst of this challenge of not being able to run (ie growth mindset!). I was able to be more present to my surroundings. Sometimes I socialized with friends as I walked.  Sometimes I listened to a recording from one of the many courses I have taken.  When I was alone on my walks, I began to have important insights…

Back to that day at Dupont and Spadina. I was listening to Claire Zammit teaching a course called Feminine Power. She made a profound point about how we relate to our life events. She suggested that we think of life happening through us rather than to us – through us rather than to us. I walked and breathed this in and felt a shift deep inside me.  Yes!  That made so much sense to me. On an earlier walk, I had had an insight that I was like a filter for my clients, and those who read my newsletters and blog posts, taking in a ton of information and keeping the valuable bits to share with them. But this was even more powerful. It was about how we make meaning of events in our lives… how we choose to explain things to ourselves…. what we notice. This idea hit me not only at a cognitive level but also at an energetic level. I felt it in my whole body. I felt it in my breath. I felt it in a deep place inside me. I felt it in my heart. It felt so true. I connected it to my filter idea. Ever since I have felt like a walking filter that life is happening through. I have influence as to what happens because it is happening through me, not to me. I invite you to keep this idea close as we dive into our topic today. Thank you!

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Have a look at these blog posts to get some idea about what we talked about in the program – Harnessing “The Upside of Stress” by Kelly McGonigal; A Growth Mindset: Why We All Need One.

(If you are an Ontario Lawyer, you can access the recording and still get your Continuing Professional Development points.)

About the author

Milisa Burns

I practiced law for 6 years, and was an at-home parent, before founding Strategic Evolution Coaching & Consulting, in 2006. Through my “Making Room For You” programs, I boldly and tenderly support professional women as they create success for themselves, on their terms. My clients are very "successful", but inside they may initially be very stressed, full of questions, possibly bored and no longer fulfilled. They are yearning for more. My clients are amazed at how quickly they create peace and contentment while achieving at even higher levels than they previously imagined. I have 3 children and am married to my law school sweetheart.

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