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Two years ago when I first came across this book it had a huge impact on my life. At that point, I was a recovering perfectionist (in some ways maybe I always will be) and this book introduced me to a completely new way of looking at our lives and owning our story.

I found myself revisiting some of these ideas just recently while reading Brene Brown’s more recent book “Rising Strong” so I wanted to share some of the key ideas from her earlier work here.

This is essentially a book about ‘wholehearted’ living and I’m going to share a definition from the book –

Brene Brown on The Gifts of Imperfection

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to be at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

When I first read those words I had goosebumps. My first thought was “Yes! That’s how I’d like to teach my girls to live.” The second thought was more along the lines of “Oh no”. I know my children are much more likely to emulate my behaviour than listen to what I say – suddenly I realised I had a way to go.

So for the past two years, I have used Brene Brown’s guideposts in this book along with the certification courses we use for our coaching clients to move towards living a more wholehearted life.

10 Guideposts to living a wholehearted life from the book

Guidepost #1 – Cultivating Authenticity – Letting go of what people think

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” This is not easy particularly in a society that values fitting in or pleasing those around you. There are much shame triggers around being perceived as self-focused and it makes this seemingly simple guidepost difficult to live.

Guidepost #2 – Cultivating Self-Compassion – Letting go of Perfectionism

I often wonder if there’s a gene that makes people more predisposed to perfectionism if there is then I have a strong family history. Like Brene I now consider myself  “a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good-enoughist”.

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to do your best, it is at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.

Guidepost #3 – Cultivating a Resilient Spirit – Letting go of numbing and powerlessness

Three significant patterns emerged as being essential to resilience:

  1. Cultivating hope – this is a cognitive process
  2. Practising critical awareness – reality check messages and expectations
  3. Letting go of numbing and taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain – in our work we call these numbing practices ‘pain relief’

Guidepost #4 – Cultivating Gratitude and Joy – Letting go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

In her research, Brene mentions that “without exception, every person I interview who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practised gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.”

Guidepost #5 – Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith – Letting go of the need for certainty

I love these definitions that Brene has written

Intuition – “Intuition is not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”

Faith – “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty”

Guidepost #6 – Cultivating Creativity – Letting go of comparison

There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people – there are only people that use their creativity and those who do not. When we don’t use our creativity it lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death or suffocated by resentment and fear.

Guidepost #7 – Cultivating Play and Rest – Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

This one had a huge impact on my life. Getting intentional about what I allow on the ‘to-do’ list and making sure our family has more time to play have become top priorities for us in recent years. Brene suggests sitting down with your family and writing an “Ingredients for joy and meaning list”.

Guidepost #8 – Cultivating Calm and Stillness – Letting go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

This has been something I have focused on implementing in my own life for the past eight years and having experienced the benefits firsthand, it came as no surprise that it was included in a guide on wholehearted living. For me, this needs to be a daily practice and I encourage all of our clients to include a ‘personal success routine’ as part of their morning ritual.

Guidepost #9 – Cultivating Meaningful Work – Letting go of Self Doubt and ‘Supposed to’

For me, the most striking idea that came up in Brene’s interviews was that Squandering our gifts and talents bring distress to our lives – if we don’t use the gifts that we have been given we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we ignore our gifts and live the way we’re “supposed to”  inevitably we will be driven to seek out more pain relief.

Guidepost #10 – Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance – Letting go of being cool and ‘Always in Control’

Brene says “Laughter, song, and dance create an emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone”

She also mentions betrayal and points out that when we value being cool over giving ourselves permission to be our passionate, goofy selves we betray who we really are. The really scary part is that when we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.

So that’s a very brief summary of this absolutely amazing book. I’d encourage you to have a read for yourself when you get a chance, there are too many gems to cover here but I will leave you with one parting thought from Brene Brown:

Brene Brown on The Gifts of Imperfection

“The truth is that meaningful change is a process, It can be uncomfortable and is often risky, especially when we’re talking about embracing our imperfections, cultivating authenticity, and looking the world in the eye and saying, ‘I am enough’.”

Cultivating wholehearted living is at the core of what we do here at Focus on Growth. For 32 years the techniques we teach have been proven successful by thousands of students putting them into practice and reaping the rewards. If you would like to learn more, please get in touch.