3 Tips for Putting Down Your Armour

It seems a natural response to being hurt, facing challenges or experiencing unexpected tragedy is to respond with fear and anger and armour up. Armouring up can be anything from “From now on I copy everyone in on my emails to cover my butt.” to “I will not share anything authentic with you again.” to “I’m going to isolate myself from others.”

But research is clear about the role of optimism in resilience. While these armouring up responses are normal, it’s when they become a long term habit that our overall wellness, effectiveness and satisfaction with life can be affected.

While some people seem to be more naturally optimistic, there are times when all of us need to be intentional about it. Here are three practices I use to put down my armour:

  1. Lighten up. Lightening up means that we don’t take ourselves seriously and we put things into perspective, hopefully finding humour in situations. While that may not always be possible in extremely distressing situations, it can also mean giving yourself permission to “park the issue” even if it’s for a short time. This gives your brain a chance to get out of fight or flight. To lighten up, practice the “pause.” When you find yourself overly stressed, anxious, serious, in a rush, etc, take a deep breath, pause for 4 seconds, name what you are experiencing and then ask yourself a question to shift into more optimism. Some of my favorites are “Will this be important a year from now?” “Can I do anything about this?” “Can I invest my energy into something more important or positive?”
  2. Reframe. Reframing means that we interpret and make meaning of our experiences in a way that is optimistic. Resilience researchers followed children raised in neglect or abuse over a long period of time to see how they fared as adults. Those who did well (lived productive happy lives) did not attach the same meaning to their earlier experiences as those who continued in a cycle of neglect and abuse. The “stories” we tell ourselves about what happens to us can be even more important and crucial in determining how we do than what actually happened to us in the moment. Those children who were able to reframe their early childhood as learning experiences that helped them develop their strength and confidence did better than those who told a story of how their early childhood damaged them. Reframing also relates to how we think about things that didn’t go right for us, or failures. Resilient people are able to reframe mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn or create something different in their lives.
  3. Develop a daily ritual that facilitates connection to yourself, others, nature. Some of the things I do are to write down 3 things I appreciate or am grateful for, go for walks, review my file of thank yous from others, watch uplifting videos or read something uplifting, and send a text or email of appreciation to someone. I find that doing this helps me to lean more towards optimism than pessimism, put down my armour and connect to others in a meaningful way.

What are the strategies you use to put down your armour and develop your optimism?

This blog is the A in our PAUSE model of resilience – Active Optimism. Watch for the U in a future blog!!

What it Takes to Say Yes

say yes

A common coaching question is “what would it take to say yes to [fill in the blank]? In my particular case, it was saying yes to a book.  I have wanted to write a book since I became a high school English teacher at 24. I thought it would be a novel, and then as the years wore on and I changed careers many times, I thought it would be something non-fiction, probably around leadership or teams. I have come up with many book titles and even drawn up outlines for books but have never quite got there until now.

So what did it take for me to say yes to a book? A few rather interesting discoveries, thanks to the conversations with my brilliant book coach, Danielle Pope, my equally as brilliant husband, Dave Whittington and my equally as brilliant friend, Claire Abbott:

  1. That the book was writing me, not the other way around.  When I started the book, I had a vague idea about what I was going to say, but mainly the idea just wouldn’t go away. I needed to give it some time and energy and learn about the book by writing it.
  2. As an adult educator, I think and am energized by developing and facilitating learning. So the first draft of my book was actually an e-learning course, followed by a one day workshop. That was a major “ah-ha” for me and fundamentally shifted my energy about writing.
  3. Related to the above, that a book could start small (a 7 day e-learning course) and evolve into a full length book.
  4. That writing a book is different from any other type of work I do and I couldn’t do it at my desk! I was too distracted by “real work” and couldn’t focus. I actually had to go to another environment to turn the e-learning course into the first draft of a book.
  5. That finding my voice for the book meant overcoming several inner demons related to the last time I wrote something substantial, my PhD dissertation.
  6. That I had to give myself permission to write the first draft as if no one else would ever read it. Until I made that discovery, I edited almost everything I wrote or stared at a blank page.
  7. That I cannot write in dribs and drabs as recommended by lots of people. I could not get up early and write a few hours a day. I needed to delve into the book and make it my sole focus for a period of time.
  8. And the most challenging discovery of all … I had to say no to paid work. I set aside weeks in my calendar and then would get calls to do work and would take the work. The hardest thing I have ever done is prioritize the book. I had to tell myself that writing a book was as important as my “real work” and actually invest time and money (as I went away to The Haven on Gabriola Island, a great place to write by the way.) I realized that saying no was an absolutely critical part of getting this book written, and while this was the biggest no, there were others.

And so, whatever your dream might be, I encourage you to find a few folks who will continue to ask “What would it take to say yes to  ….?”

Oh and I almost forgot … the book is called How to Forgive your Boss and should be published this fall.  Contact me or watch this space for how you can get your copy!



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For those of you who have been subscribing to our blog, a big THANK YOU. You may have noticed it has been some time since I blogged here and that’s because I have been creating a new site for all of the visuals. I will continue to blog daily, but now it will be done at pixpired.com (visually (pix) inspired (pired). Head on over to subscribe to the RSS feed, a daily email and download a free reflective leadership journal. Hope to see you there!


Developing Personal Resilience

I recently noticed that this resource got lost in our web site’s latest reorganization. So here it is again …

This isn’t the only path to personal resilience, but these five practices provide a common-sense approach that is easy to understand and realistic to apply. Please note that because we deliver this presentation in a number of contexts and formats, what you see here may differ from what you experienced in the workshop you attended.

Link to presentation at prezi.com and the handout (one page word doc) that goes with the presentation.

Know Yourself

Get clear about your strengths, develop your emotional intelligence, live your values and confront your self-limiting beliefs.

Set Clear Goals

We need really clear goals. This isn’t news: “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind”. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4BC – 65AD). We need short term goals so that we can measure progress and we need long term goals so that we know which direction to head in.

What’s your long-term BHAG? What are your short-term SMART goals? And what’s on your stop doing list, to make space for the good stuff?

Lighten Up

Most of the truly successful people I have met seem to be having fun. They have a sense of humour, they don’t take themselves very seriously and they laugh a lot. It’s often difficult for us to find humour in the world around us, but we need to find it, and share it with others whenever we can.

Give yourself a break. Take time to connect with friends and family. Find ways to have fun at work. How can you maintain a positive attitude?


Viktor Frankl makes it sound so easy – “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

We need to stick at it. We need to work on these practices continually, until they become a habit. Changing habits takes time and there is no instant fix. This is a lifelong exploration. We need to deliberately and consistently put effort into building resilience. This means scheduling time for ourselves to do the reflective work we need to do.

Embrace Paradox and Uncertainty

Uncertainty is one of the biggest stressors for some people. The clever folks who study complexity say increases as the pace of change increases and the level of interconnectivity increases. Our work and our society are destined to become ever more complex and unpredictable.

The new normal

In the last while, I have found myself saying, “when things get back to normal,” meaning when I can get back to doing business the way I used to (or was comfortable with). Well, I think I have known all along that’s a bit deluded and news of a triple dip recession only heightens my awareness that doing business right now requires huge amounts of courage, nerve, risk taking and creativity. This IS the new normal.


Asking stupid, insulting questions

I am a huge movie buff and really appreciate great talent, and so it is with utter bewilderment to me that reporters ask such insulting questions. Kudos to Jennifer Lawrence for handling herself with such authenticity and humour. We could all learn a few lessons from her!


Tell a different story

The way we talk about our situations really does contribute to the outcome. What are your “favorite” stories and how do they help or hinder you?


Change your shoes

We can become entrenched in our attitudes and beliefs. Change viewpoints … assume you are one of your team members and watch your energy shift. If you are having difficulty with this one, find a pair of shoes that are quite different and walk around in them for a while. Symbolically this might help you shift your perspective and energy and communicate differently with your team members.

Today’s blog is based on the 4 of diamonds, a communications teamwork tip from our Teamwork Explorer.

Go on a story walk

I was inspired to read about Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, who takes employees on off site “story walks” to build trust and organizational culture.


Enjoy every moment