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Elizabeth Barbour, M. Ed.
The Revitalized Business Woman
Missouri City (Houston), Texas

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The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question: Wisdom from David Whyte

Last week, I was privileged to spend an entire day with the extraordinary poet David Whyte at the 19th Annual Energy Psychology Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

I was first introduced to him many years ago by a friend who told me about his book The Three Marriages.  It's an excellent inquiry into our relationship with ourselves, our love partners and our work in the world. It’s one of those books that I have lovingly defiled with dog-ears and far too many underlines.

Soon after I read that, I started to pay attention to his poetry. He has a way of observing the world that is captivating and breath taking. I now follow his Facebook page where he posts poetry regularly and sometimes it speaks to me so deeply, I am moved to tears. My recent favorite is Friendship.

The workshop I attended was called “The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question” and I want to offer to you for consideration the question he posed that had the biggest impact on me…

“What if you could start a conversation with yourself that your future self would come back to thank you for?”

What might that conversation be about?

  •  Love
  • A big decision you are facing
  • Parenting
  • Health
  • Asking for help
  • A book you are longing to write
  • Your work in the world
  • Spirituality
  • Joy
  • Grief
  • Quitting a job
  • Starting a new business
  • Travel
  • Forgiveness of self and others
  • Rest
  • Learning how to say NO
  • Gathering courage to say YES

There are thousands of possible answers to this question but only ONE that will matter to you and your future.

I had a chance to explore this question during the workshop and began an important conversation with myself in the process. One question led to more questions than I have answers for but at least I started the conversation! I’ll tell you a bit more about it in next week’s blog.

Grab a journal and dig deep with this one. See what shows up for you!

Here’s to Beautiful Questions!



Cultivating Resilience: Sheryl Sandberg on Option B

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Sheryl Sandberg, the COO for Facebook, speak at a live event here in Houston. She was talking about her new book, Option B, which was released just two years after the sudden death of her husband.

If you've been following my writing for the past year, you know that I've written a lot about grief and loss since the death of my mother last September (gifts to give someone who is grieving, embrace the mystery and the magic, gratitude in hard times, the importance of rest). So the timing of going to hear Sheryl Sandberg speak was absolutely perfect. I found myself nodding my head in agreement at many of the things that she said.

The title of the book came from a conversation she had with a friend who volunteered to step up for a father-child event at school after her husband had died. Sheryl said “But I want Dave!” and the friend replied. “That is not an option. But we will do our best to kick the sh*t out of Option B.”

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan it, does it? I don’t know about you, but I can think of three or four ways that I’m living or have lived Option B in my life. When you’re young and the world is your oyster, you think you have it all figured out. You may have plans on what your career will be, where you will live, who you will marry, how many children you will have….But then life takes a lot of detours and U-turns and where you end up is often not where you set out to go.

Where are YOU living Option B in your life? Maybe one or more of these have happened to you…

  • You got fired from a job.
  • You are not in the career you prepared for in college.
  • You’re not as successful in your career as you thought you’d be.
  • You got divorced (or ended a serious relationship).
  • You’re not living where you want to be (house, neighborhood, city, state, country).
  • You’ve experienced financial crisis (and maybe had to sell your house, move in with relatives, etc.).
  • You developed cancer (or other disease).
  • You became a caregiver to a loved one who got sick.
  • You have a child with health problems.
  • You suffered infertility.
  • You experienced infant loss.
  • Or, like Sheryl, you had a beloved die WAY too soon (child, spouse, friend, parent, etc.).

According to Sandberg, everyone is living some version of Option B in their lives. It’s not a matter of if but when you will have an Option B facing you. What matters most is how you choose to respond to it.

 Here are a few highlights from her talk about building resilience and finding joy:

1.  You can build resilience (It’s not something you naturally have.) The best way to build resilience is in community.

2.  For the person grieving: People feel isolated after suffering a great loss. Writing helps (Keep a journal.) and so does sharing it on Facebook.  

3.  For the person supporting someone who is grieving: People fear saying the wrong thing, so they don't say anything at all. Don't make that mistake! Just show up.

4.  It's OK to laugh. Humor gives a minute of release.

5.  Joy is a discipline (And an important one to cultivate in times of grief.) and we have to work at it. Before bed, write down three moments of joy that you experience each day.

She also offered that after a big loss, many people experience post traumatic growth. They have deeper relationships, there is more meaning in life and they experience profound gratitude for the life they have. I wrote about my own experience with this last year before I had ever heard the phrase “post traumatic growth.”

One last tip she shared. Sheryl suggested spending time with loved ones at the dinner table asking three questions:

  1.  What was the best part of your day?
  2. What was the worst part of your day?
  3. What are you most grateful for today?

These conversations will allow you to deepen your connections and will invite everyone to express their feelings in a healthy and open way.

If you’re living an Option B in your life right now and are struggling with it or trying to find more meaning and understanding of what it’s all about, I suspect her book, Option B, will help you.

I’ve just started reading it. If you’ve read it, are reading it or plan to read it, let me know!

Here’s to cultivating resilience!



Get the Most Out of 15 Minutes of "Me Time"

Craving more “me time” these days?

Yep, I hear you. Me too!

While it’s ideal to carve out an hour a day for yourself and occasionally an evening or weekend, too, the truth is, it can be hard to find big chunks of time for rest and renewal when you’ve got a busy career, a growing family, volunteer commitments and a household to take care of.

But 10 or 15 minutes for a quick reset? That's more manageable, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of us fall into the “Oh I only have 15 minutes” rut so instead we default to flipping through Facebook or Instagram and waste our time going down the rabbit hole of silly cat videos or political posts that leave you feeling drained.

The key to maximizing those little pockets of time is being more intentional about the precious “me time” that you do have. Tuck a few ideas in your back pocket and you’ll reap the rewards BIG TIME!

Here are 5 quick strategies to help you recharge your batteries in 15 minutes or less...

1. Drive in silence. If you spend a lot of time in your car, this can be a great time to rest and reflect. Turn off the radio, get off the cell phone and heavens to Betsy, please don't text! Whether you are doing a 10 minute errand or driving an hour across town (if you live in a big city like I do in Houston!), the more you can reduce the noise in your life, the better off you'll be!

2. Go outside. I write about spending time outdoors a lot and that's because it's essential for our health and well-being. Mother Nature is the greatest teacher of balance and flow that we will ever have. Eat your lunch outside on a park bench instead of at your desk. If you work from home, take a mid-morning walk around the neighborhood and another one in the afternoon (if you can squeeze it in). Make sure you don't take any technology with you. When your kids get home from school, play with them in your backyard or take them to a local park. Fresh air and warm sunshine --- it's always good for the spirit!

3. Meditate. I get it. Meditation isn't always easy. I have had an on-again off- again relationship with it for years. What I do know is that when I meditate regularly, my mind is clear, I have more patience, and I’m much more creative. Research continues to show that meditation is good for brain health and overall well-being. Here are some guided meditations from the Chopra Center that you can check out. And my best friend recently reminded me about the Sa Na Ta Ma meditation which I had learned about years ago. Here’s an article that explains it pretty well. 

4. Move your body. Whether you love to dance, do yoga, stretch or go for a run, 15 minutes of moving your body can help to reset your entire day. As of this writing, I got less than six hours of sleep last night due to being up in the night with both the kid and the cat. I work out with an awesome personal trainer twice a week and I desperately wanted to cancel her this morning. But I decided not to. The workout that we did for 30 minutes this morning will help me to power through my day!

5. Write morning pages. Julia Cameron made these popular in her creative classic "The Artist’s Way". She suggests writing three pages of a brain dump first thing in the morning to help clear your head. I rarely write my morning pages in the morning, but I know that when I scribble three pages worth of junk and get it out of my head, I move forward with focus and clarity through the rest of my day. Always carry a pocket sized journal with you so that if you’ve got 15 minutes at the doctor’s office or waiting in the carpool line to pick up your kids, you can still find time to write.

What are you going to do with your next 15 minutes of “Me Time”? I’d love to know! Send me a note!

Here’s to more “Me Time” for all of us!