Posts tagged empathy
Reflective Reads for Autumn
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Hello friends,

Naomi here! I’d like to share with you some reflective reads that have inspired me recently…

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci

This is a beautiful little book with a simple but profound concept. Written by a respected expert in Transpersonal Psychology (a branch of psychology that emphasises positive influences and addresses, as a whole, the spiritual, social, intellectual, emotional, physical and creative aspects of a person's being), the book is divided into eighteen chapters, each devoted to a facet of kindness, such as empathy, generosity and forgiveness. Kindness, the author argues, should be our guiding compass and will not only lead to the happiness of those around us but will ultimately develop our own self-compassion and help us to thrive. This may not be a ground-breaking book, but I found a gem of wisdom and a powerful one-liner in every section. It was a comfort to read a chapter before bed each night, to end the day reconnecting with an attribute that should always, inarguably, be a core value for all of us - because wouldn't it make life just that little bit easier if we all decided to be a little bit kinder?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Coehlo is an exceptional storyteller but the message he delivers in this poetic novella is what's most memorable. It's no wonder it's sold over 65 million copies and has been heralded as a modern classic - so often it's these humble books that make the most impact. The Alchemist is an allegorical story of a Spanish shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of treasure and riches. Making his way through northern Africa, however, he experiences a number of fateful encounters and omens that finally lead him to a life-affirming conclusion. I read it in one sitting and on finishing, I had that flutter in my chest that you get when you receive good news, like a renewed sense of hope. It is a book about gratitude, personal values, self-discovery and, (one of our favourite words here at COR), courage which, as the boy in the book is told, "is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World". We agree, wholeheartedly.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

This was one of those books that I'd heard a lot of people mention as a seminal work but had never got round to reading. So when I did eventually pick it up, I had high hopes. And I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I'd go as far as to say I found it life-changing. Eckhart Tolle suffered with severe anxiety and episodes of suicidal depression, until he experienced a personal epiphany at the age of 29. The thought, “I cannot live with myself any longer”, had been a constant in his mind until he realised "If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” Suddenly he understood that only the "I" was real, and that this was the true, observing self; the rest was fiction. What followed was a path to self-discovery and the pursuit of pure consciousness, a journey which he shares with us in The Power of Now. It's a tough book to follow; you need a highlighter in hand and the patience to re-read paragraphs, but the lessons you will learn will stay with you forever. I often catch myself indirectly quoting lines from the book and I will always be grateful to Tolle for teaching me that "Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be".

Lots of love, N x

TOP 5... VIDEOS ON VULNERABILITY
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Everyday we engage with those around us on a surface level, never really connecting. It is commonplace to stand silently in a lift; to have earphones in and eyes to the pavement when walking; and to be glued to a phone whilst on the tube. But what would happen if we were to share the personal - and painful - parts of ourselves? Find out in these 5 inspiring videos on vulnerability, compassion, and storytelling.  

  • ‘The power of vulnerability’, by Brené Brown - one of COR’s favourites, Brené Brown, an academic and researcher into human connection, shares her insights into vulnerability, and explains how this can strengthen human relationships.

  • ‘Living beyond limits’, by Amy Purdy - In 2011, Amy Purdy made herself totally vulnerable in front of a TED audience by sharing her own highly emotive account of recovery from a life-changing accident.  Reflecting on her talk, in her own words, - “I'd delivered a speech made perfect by its imperfections.”

  • Vulnerability as a key to confidence. A story of resilience’, by Imad Elabdala.  Imad, a social entrepreneur and Syrian refugee, shares his own story from growing up in Syria, to his lived experience of conflict and fear, and of life as a refugee.  He exposes his own struggles with mental health, having suffered from anxiety attacks induced by post-traumatic stress disorder, and his journey towards finding strength and confidence in vulnerability. Imad’s experience led him to set up an organisation which combines storytelling with science and art to help refugee children cope with trauma and to find courage in vulnerability.

  • ‘Why aren’t we all good Samaritans?’, by Daniel Goleman.  Author and science journalist, and expert on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, explores why, as human beings, we sometimes shy away from compassion and empathy.

  • ‘Trust, morality - and oxytocin’, by Paul Zak - Neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, delves into the science behind human trust and morality, and why we behave the way we do in response to certain stimuli or situations.  He demonstrates the impact of compassionate storytelling on the human brain, through its connection to the hormone, oxytocin, which is linked to feelings of empathy and trust.

REVIEW: MAKE YOUR BED, BY WILLIAM H MCRAVEN

Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life...and maybe the world

William H McRaven

ONE LINE PITCH ~

Former US Navy SEAL, William H McRaven, shares some simple, yet powerful, life lessons that saw him through the toughest moments of his life and career, and demonstrates how these can help us to find strength and courage to overcome the obstacles that life throws in our way!

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

This is a handy little book which will become my go to when I’m in need of courage and inspiration to pursue my goals, and a healthy reminder not to let that all-too-familiar creeping sense of self-doubt get the better of me!  

McRaven gives us an insight into the brutal and relentless conditions of SEAL training, but also draws comparisons with the hardships and misfortunes experienced by ordinary people, and how they have found the courage and determination to keep going against all the odds.  Whilst not many of us will know what it feels like to endure days and months of combat, most of us have experienced grief, loss, disappointment, failure and misfortune.  

My biggest take-aways from this book are recognising how self-limiting the fear of failure can be; that you can’t go it alone all of the time (control freaks, beware!); and how adjusting our mindset can enable us to make positive changes in our lives, however small.

WEAKNESS: 

The principles set out in this book are not particularly ground-breaking; instead they are tropes that many of us will already be familiar with. However, they are a healthy reminder to keep ourselves in check, maintain focus, not let self-limiting beliefs hold us back, and find joy in hard times.  However, this book does not profess to be a comprehensive ‘how to’; it is more guidance and inspiration from someone who has ‘been through the wars’ – quite literally. When you think of the original audience – a graduating class about to enter ‘the real world’, it feels about right. It occasionally veers a bit too heavily into what feels like “tough love”, but what else might you expect from a former navy SEAL?!

OPPORTUNITY: 

Read this if you are preparing for some big life changes (e.g. reversing or changing your career), or where you’ve had a run of disappointments or bad luck, and are in need of some practical advice and inspiration from others who’s strength and resilience has been tested, but who have found the motivation to keep on striving, or to continue to find joy in everyday life.

TIPS: 

This got me thinking about the power of the growth mindset, a theory developed by psychologist Carole Dweck, and is something we draw on in our workshops.  This explains how self-limiting beliefs can prevent us from pursuing what we really want to do, and how people with a growth mindset are much more likely to achieve their goals than those who believe their skills and abilities are ‘fixed’.  McRaven teaches us that it’s ‘the size of your heart that matters’, i.e. it doesn’t matter how tall, short, fit, or educated you are – you can learn anything, as long as you put your mind AND heart into it.

Also, we need to stop being embarrassed by failure – all humans make mistakes – and McRaven will tell you that what really determines our character is how we learn from failure and the will to persevere.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“They all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day.  In battle, soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments.  You search for something that can give you solace, that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world.  But it is not just combat.  It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure.”

Chapter 1, 'Start your day with a task completed'   

“None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. ...It takes a good team of people to get you to your destination in life.  You cannot paddle the boat alone. ...Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

 Chapter 2, 'You can't go it alone'   

"It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe that fate is against you. ...Nothing could be further from the truth.  The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness..”

Chapter 4, 'Life's not fair - drive on!'  

“I realized that past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes.”

Chapter 5, 'Failure can make you stronger'

“Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment, will never achieve their potential.  Without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the rope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life.”

Chapter 6, 'You must dare greatly'

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

There should be no embarrassment about failure – we have something to learn from failure, and we can't always ‘smash it first time’, so if you really want something, keep striving for it!!

Life is not ‘fair’ and all of us will likely suffer misfortune at one point or other.  This books reminds us that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can influence how we respond.

As small an act as making our bed each morning can influence how we feel about our day – so, think about routines that make you feel good (e.g. regular exercise, eating well), and stick to these as they may provide the structure you need in busy, stressful or uncertain times.

Lots of love, H x

REVIEW: OPTION B, BY SHERYL SANDBERG & ADAM GRANT

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

ONE LINE PITCH ~

A personal account of grief, combined with insightful research that demonstrates the human capacity to find strength in the face of hardship, and the ability to rediscover joy.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

Helena: I really appreciate how Sheryl, whom we all know as a leading female business woman, lays herself bare and shares her deeply personal account of losing her husband. I was really interested by the research that illustrated the misconceptions of what it means to be resilient in our society today.

WEAKNESS: 

H: No criticism whatsoever!  Sheryl is so self-aware that she pre-empts potential challenges to her philosophy, recognising that she has the financial foundations to give her the resources she needs to cope. However, the book is filled with everyday strategies and examples of how we can support ourselves and others, in ways that don’t require wealth.

OPPORTUNITY: 

Naomi:  I am a huge fan of Sheryl and her work in relation to business and leadership, but Option B particularly moved me and taught me that personal pain can’t be compartmentalised. For me, currently dealing with a tough situation,  her account gave me hope.  In addition, this book also aids understanding how to help friends or co-workers who are going through difficult times.  

TIPS: 

N: A simple take-away that triggered me into action was the suggestion that we keep a journal as ‘writing can be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion’, and that labelling negative emotion can make the feelings more manageable.   An extension of this could be a daily gratitude list, or recognising what we’ve done well that day, however small.  Option B was the result of Sheryl journaling during her period of grief.  So, if it works for Sheryl, we should all give it a go!

STANDOUT QUOTES ~


“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had.  He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient.  Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity - and we can build it.  It isn’t about having a backbone.  It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone”.  

~ Introduction

“Philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, said that life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.  Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self-confidence to navigate the present and future”.

~ Chapter 4, Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence 

“Resilience is not just built in individuals. It is built among individuals - in our neighbourhoods, schools, towns, and governments.  When we build resilience together, we become stronger ourselves and form communities that can overcome obstacles and prevent adversity.  Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope - it is also fuelled by shared experiences, shared narratives, and shared power.” 

~ Chapter 8, Finding Strength Together

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

H:  What I learned was that I’ve been asking the wrong questions!  The thing that stood out to me the most in Sheryl’s account was that the most commonly asked question in times of crisis - “let me know if there’s anything I can do?” - is not always helpful, as it puts the onus on the person in need.  I have been supporting Naomi, my best friend and business partner, recently though hard times, and this insight really made me reflect on my approach - that it’s better to just do something, or anything, for the person, instead of waiting for them to tell you what they need (because they don’t always know!).  A lovely example of this was last week when we were having a COR meeting, Alice had to rush off early, but when we came to pay the bill, we were told it had already been settled - Thanks Alice!

N:  I don’t know where to start!  I guess the big thing for me was the giving myself the permission to feel whatever I need to feel.  I recently can’t help crying and I felt I must look like a mad person most of the time, but after reading this book, in which Sheryl talks about taking time out at work to cry and pulling the car over at the side of the road to have a weep,  I realised that it’s OK to drop the brave face and let it all out when you need to.  In fact, I did this at one of my favourite cafes that I often work from, and when I eventually reappeared, the owner, a dear friend, was there and rather than saying anything, she just bought me over a huge hunk of cake!

N&H: Another common response to hearing people’s tragedies is “I can’t imagine”.  Well, neither can the person that’s going through it.  What Option B tells us is that survival is the only option.  We all deal with grief in different ways, but ultimately, the pain does eventually lift, and there is an element of agency that we can apply in how that pain impacts us.  Because we have no choice but to keep going, we mustn't feel guilty when we do find moments of joy amidst the darkness, and when we finally find our way through.

N:  As with the last book review, I honed in on the ‘collective’ element, and there is a whole chapter in Option B dedicated to the idea of collective strength.  Inspired by this, I have found my own collective called ‘Kid’s Time Project’, a charity for children of parents with mental health problems.  I had the first meeting with the Board recently and rapidly realised that all of us in the room shared a common understanding. As an extension of the book,  Sheryl has created an online community ‘optionb.org’ for people to connect with others coping with challenges.  As Sheryl says, ‘by coming together and supporting one another, we can bounce forward and find joy again’.

Lots of love, H & N x

REVIEW: Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Hello friends, Naomi here!

I’m unashamed to admit that I have an addiction to self-improvement books. I have an entire library of them, and I’ve passed the penchant on to Helena and Alice. We thought the blog would be the ideal forum to share the tips we’ve picked up in the hope that it might encourage you all to continue educating yourselves in the COR arena of courage, openness and resilience.  We’ve created our own SWOT analysis for the reviews - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Tips - and we will signpost you to important chapters and quotes.

Practicing what I preach and making myself vulnerable for a moment, I’ve had an incredibly tough few months with family. I've been trying to sit with the pain, look at it head on, and take it day by day, giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel. Last week, I escaped for a few days of sunshine and quiet, and of course I took an inspirational read with me: Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness. It helped me enormously; I hope you enjoy my review.


Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone

Brené Brown

ONE LINE PITCH ~

An exploration of true belonging - through personal and collective courage and connection - in an era of fear and political division.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: Brené has a trademark style in which she merges research with storytelling and openness. This enables a qualitative understanding of emotions, accessible through simple language and clear case studies

WEAKNESS: Another of Brené’s traits is her absolute Americanness - she talks about her love of bluegrass music, and her support of safe gun ownership -  so the narrative may not resonate so much with a UK audience. The writing at times slips into a rather cheesy rhetoric, but I simply see this as an expression of Brené’s passion for the subject!

OPPORTUNITY: This is one for all of you who are despairing at the state of the world and the political and ideological divisiveness that is unsettling communities. Scaling it down, it also applies to our personal sense of belonging and fears of loneliness and vulnerability.  It’s a comforting reminder of what really matters amidst personal, and global, crises.

TIPS: Brené identifies 7 elements of trust which she breaks down into the acronym, BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (referring to privacy), Integrity, Non-judgement, Generosity. Once you understand the elements, it can serve as a useful framework on many levels.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“If I had to identify one core variable that drives and magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions whilst at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. Fear.”

~ Chapter 3, High Lonesome: A Spiritual Crisis

“Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain [...] Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

~ Chapter 4, People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.


“The foundation of courage is vulnerability - the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy. [...] Pain is also a vulnerable emotion. It takes real courage to allow ourselves to feel pain. When we’re suffering, many of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.”

~ Chapter 7, Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LEARNING ~

I received some heartbreaking news on Saturday.

I was meant to be hosting a party that evening to thank everyone that had supported me over the past few months. I thought about cancelling but realised that the alternative would be sitting on the sofa, weeping and wallowing. Instead, I surrounded myself with the people that care about me the most, and I told them exactly what had happened.

On what should have been a very bleak and anxious night, I was somehow able to laugh, chat and even have a dance. And when I crept upstairs for a cry, one by one each of my friends came up to join me, until the entire party was in my room, and I realised I wasn’t going to fall apart, because there were so many people there to hold me up.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers., stood out to me the most as Brené explains that true belonging comes from the belief in inextricable human connection. When we named the company, I hadn’t registered how important the term ‘collective’ was to our brand and company mission. Now I realise, it’s at the very core of everything we’re trying to achieve, (pun totally intended).

An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time
— Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers.

Lots of love, N x