Career and Work

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Do you come home from work too tired to do anything except crash on your couch? Does the very idea of calling a friend sound like too much work? Do you panic at the idea of scheduling a social event into your calendar? Do you end your workweeks so tired that you need the entire weekend to simply pull the blinds and recover? Do you wish you had time to go meet new friends but by the time you prioritize your partner, your kids, and others in your family-- you've reached your limit?

How to Respond to a Friend's Pity Party

I woke up early yesterday morning unable to go back to sleep, which is unusual for me.  But my mind was so busy hurling accusations at me that no lullaby could be heard above the ugly words. In the dark hours my critical voice sounded strong and empowered as she told me what a loser I am.  She grabbed my new book, my business, my classes and projects, and everything she could get her hands on and tore them up in front of me by telling me how they weren't good enough, how I wasn't doing enough, and how I could have done better. Her words were plentiful as she made her case for my lack. She used my own dreams and fantasies against me reminding me that not only had I not yet lived up to them, but that I probably never would. Her convincing words echoed through me this time in a way that resonated with my own deepest fears.  So even as the sun came up, I couldn't shake the feeling that she had been right: I'm failing.

Now I can defend myself with the best of them by jumping into the game and trying to name my successes or by assuring myself that the ruler she used to find me wanting wasn't measuring the right things.  And I typically am a pretty positive and hopeful person. But as a girlfriend arrived later in the day for our early dinner plans, I welcomed the back-up by exclaiming: "Oh I am so glad you're here-- I'm being bullied by a bunch of inner mean girls!"

The Five Amazing Responses of My Friend

I am sharing this story with you primarily because I want to share how my friend responded so we can all feel inspired to show up for each other when we feel under-attack by ourselves.  But I also am pushing myself to share this because it's important that we all hear reminders from each other that self-doubt and fear of failure are on every playground, even (or especially?) in lives that have stretched, dreamed, and succeeded by some measurement. frientimacy_quote_4 For me, right now, it's centered on the gap between the impact and teaching I want to be doing versus what I feel I am currently achieving; but for you or one of your friends, it might be about hoping you'd be married or have kids by this age, feeling like a failure because you don't have x (fill in the blank: a 401k, a book deal, or a corner office) yet, or feeling discouraged because while you are making good money you aren't pursuing your creative work, or vice-versa.  Unless we've reached pure enlightenment, we tend to fan a desire for something more that we're secretly convinced will make us feel better about ourselves and more peaceful about our lives.

Here are some of the ways my friend loved me well and brought me home feeling more hopeful:

  1. She Took It Seriously... Before I had interrupted her with my current condition she had been walking up the stairs to my apartment exclaiming, "There's the amazing and famous author and teacher who has been out traveling the world!"  But when she heard my panic, she pivoted quickly and instead of dismissing my feelings and telling me I was crazy, she validated them, "Oh no! I am so sorry. Those voices can be so cruel. What awful things are they saying?"  I felt supported, seen, and heard; not crazy, weak, or silly.
  2. But Not Too Seriously... But as we started walking into the neighborhood to find a spot for dinner, she also helped put it into perspective: "Shasta, I don't know a single author who doesn't feel depressed at some point after their book comes out.  It's a post-adrenaline drop after working on something for so long, your heart is still trying to catch up to your body as you traveled all over the country in the last few weeks, and everyone has higher hopes for their work than the immediate response. It makes sense you're feeling this way."  She helped again to validate my feelings but also subtly reminded me that how I feel now isn't the final answer.
  3. She Matched My Vulnerability Without Taking the Attention Off of Me. Upon sitting down in our chosen cafe, she shared with me how she had a similar attack over the weekend, feeling like a complete loser because several of her friends were buying their dream houses or had just moved in to new homes recently.  Her mean bullies said all kinds of awful things about her as she compared herself to others in that department. She confided how she had pouted, how she had hurt, and how she had eventually been able to hear her own wisdom. I felt closer to her for her willingness to reveal her own insecurities and felt peace that I wasn't being judged; she understood.
  4. She Invited Me To Find the Joy that Mattered.  When our drinks came she asked me to share with her 5 highlights from my book tour.  Five!  Most of us would simply ask someone how it went or to share a highlight or two... but she asked for five.  And somewhere between thinking up the 4th and 5th one, I had given myself enough evidence of how much had gone really, really well.  She cheered for me, toasted me, and found joy in my answers.
  5. She Brainstormed With Me.  Knowing full well that I was undoubtedly being too hard on myself, she also knew that there was some truth(s) to what I was saying mattered to me. Much like when we're menstruating--our feelings might be heightened or we may have less reserves--it doesn't mean that what we feel isn't real or that what upsets us shouldn't. She started asking me questions about my business and my book to see what actions I might want to consider in the weeks and months to come.  She didn't try to solve it; she just opened up the space for me to feel like I could respond to these feelings in productive ways at some point.

In my book I have an entire chapter on the five acts of vulnerability, three of which my friend and I practiced in a big and beautiful way yesterday:

  1. Know Yourself to Share Yourself
  2. Shine In Front of Each Other
  3. Share Your Shame & Insecurities

We both shared honestly about what we were feeling, we revealed the fears we hold and what those mean or symbolize to us, and we invoked each other to shine, to be successful in other areas, and to dream.  Which is significant because when we say we want to be loved it includes accepting both the amazing and insecure pieces of us.

I was willing to show up as I was; and she met me right there in the most affirming and generous of ways. As we practiced vulnerability with each other, we not only bonded our relationship in deeper ways, but we both left that time together feeling seen, safe, and satisfied-- which is what friendship can give us that matters so very much to our lives.

Thank you, dear friend.  And may your kindness inspire all of us to show up with others knowing that even in success, there may lurk doubts and fears that we can witness.

xoxo

 

 

 

A Practice for "I Don't Have Time for Friends"

Lack of time for friendships is easily one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time? Plus, it's a bit of a vicious cycle because the less time we make, the less fulfilling the time together can feel.  Which then undoubtedly leaves us even less motivated to make time again at future dates. We find ourselves musing, "Is going out with her occasionally to just catch up on life worth leaving _____________ (fill in the blank with work, kids, romantic person of interest, or whatever feels more compelling) and we can easily drift apart from someone not because we don't like them, but because we don't spend enough time together to feel really connected to them.

Our lives are crazy busy-- there's not denying that most people feel that way.  And if not busy, then at least full of our routines and responsibilities, which to step away from can feel challenging.

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

The practice of Sabbath is an ancient spiritual tradition of carving out one day a week to focus on that which is most important to human restoration.  For me, my Sabbath is filled with spaciousness--it's a day where only that which really matters is welcome: family, friends, long conversations, beautiful walks in nature, amazing food, spiritual growth, and acts of service.  It's one day a week where I get off the hamster wheel.

The word literally means "to cease or desist" so for thousands of years people have chosen to stop doing what they do every day: chores, work, errands, consumerism, to-do lists, TV,

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

packed schedules, and rushed meals, in order to make time for that which feeds their souls. It's a practice that reminds me that I don't have to do in order to be be; that my worth doesn't come from what I accomplish; and that my value isn't connected to what I buy and own.  I rest from trying to "get ahead." I remind myself I'm good enough without needing to go buy more things.  I step away from stress and let my body restore itself.

More and more people are practicing mini-Sabbath's-- blocks of time where they engage in restorative acts, or practicing variations like "No Technology Sabbaths."  I practice, similar to Jews, a Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night-- a full 24-hours of bliss at the end of my workweek.

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

The invitation to step away from our emails, our productivity, and our household chores might sound nearly impossible for many of us.  But just because we live in a culture that runs on consumerism and productivity, doesn't mean it's the best way to live.

In fact, the more I researched the value of relationships in preparation for my new book Frientimacy, the more sad I felt that we don't live in a world that is oriented to that which we most need: love.  A few more hours of work hasn't made anyone healthier and a few more thousand dollars hasn't made most people happier, but the loss of time for relationships most certainly has made us less healthy and far less happy. Gone is the feeling that we can linger over long conversations, sit on our porches and talk to neighbors, or gather in our tribes every week.  We are strewn across this country, far too lonely, and missing deep and meaningful connection. It can break my heart if I think about it too long.

So for me, I can't snap my fingers and change the world we live in, unfortunately. If I could, I'd make sure we had more vacation days (and actually took them), longer hours to sleep, slower mornings for centering ourselves, spacious evenings with friends and loved ones, and weekends filled with laughter and amazing food. My tendency, if left unchecked, is toward being a workaholic, and yet I know that more work isn't the answer to feeling valuable. Being in connection with others is the only way to really know we're loved and feel seen and valued.  I know that.

So, for me, my Sabbaths are when I remember that truth.  I step away... in order to step in to something that matters more.  I can't reorient our entire culture (but God help me I'll keep trying! ha!) but we can each practice re-orienting ourselves toward that which matters most.  We can choose to let love and relationship be our focus.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but maybe we can do it one day a week?

Because you're right-- we don't have time for our friendships the way we're doing life now.  So we have to decide if we're okay with that.  And if we're not, then we have to stop doing something in order to make time for something that matters even more.  We can't just say yes to more love, without also saying no to something else.

For me-- a day dedicated to that which I most value helps ground me, heal my body,  re-focus me on my priorities, and remind me why I do what I do the other 6 days of the week.  What can you do that would help give you the space and time for your friendships? If you were to try it, what could a Sabbath practice look like for you?

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Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

You are invited to join me for 7 Sabbaths in a row where I will teach and inspire toward deeper friendships for one hour.  I typically don't work on Saturdays but I feel compelled to foster the space for us to spend an hour together reminding ourselves of how significant love is to our lives and what we can do to develop greater intimacy around us. The calls will be recorded so if you can't join us on Saturdays, then you can listen anytime in the week that's convenient to you!  Join me for 42 Days of Frientimacy!

42 days of frientimacy

Grateful for My Own Life

It's so common to look at the lives of friends (or celebrities) and wish we had their lives.  Facebook exacerbates this yearning as we constantly see the highlights of each others lives at times when our own lives are most boring (since most of us are only browsing news feed when we have a dull moment). Feeling Jealous of Our Friends

I know I've felt the pang of jealousy.  Recently, in fact.  Someone I admire posted "So excited!  My retreat just sold out in 20 minutes!" and the critic in my head whined, "Why didn't your retreat sell out? Do people not like you?" Insanity, really. My head can quickly jump in and cheer me on: "Shasta, be gentle on yourself.  It's your first retreat!" but my heart will feel the sting of failure and jealousy will have poked her head into my day.

So when one of my dear girlfriends Krista posted on our group page (a Facebook group page that 5 of us use to stay in touch with each other in between our quarterly phone calls and annual get-togethers) her own twinges of jealousy-- I understood immediately.

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life..."

We can first talk about the fact that 98% of my life is hardly exciting and glamorous... but the bigger issue at hand is how easy it is for us to compare ourselves to each other.

My darling friend Krista living her dream...

And these are with girlfriends who go far beyond cherry Facebook posts with each other.  We have witnessed each others tears, we send texts saying, "Ugh! I am so mad right now at x," and when we give updates to each other we share highs and lows so we are always hearing each others pain, tension, and stress, too.  So we can't just blame Facebook. This feeling reveals that even with friends who we share deeply and intimately with-- we're still tempted to want their high points even when we know their whole life isn't that way.

I can point to every single one of my friends and pick something from their life that I wish were mine: be it their home, their financial stability, their joys of motherhood, their beauty, or their ability to make people laugh.

Choosing Our Own Lives

When Krista bravely posted her honest twinges of envy for each of us, she also posted a recent Facebook post from Liz Gilbert (so worth reading) where Liz shared all the dreams of others that she is saying no to:

"I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I've had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I've never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me. I never had children...because that's somebody else's dream. I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own...because that's somebody else's dream.... I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings...because that's somebody else's dream...."

And she goes on-and-on with all the lives she could have had....

Liz Gilbert "living her dream" researching her books, knowing that by picking this dream, there are others she is saying no to.

With this post, she shared a picture of her with "greasy hair and tired eyes" researching her most recent book, saying this is me living my dream: "going down the rabbit hole of research."

While there are plenty of us who might look at her and wish we could write best-selling novels... I'm left asking, would spending years researching a book actually be my dream? It's too easy to want the outcomes of each other's choices:  wealth, flexible schedules, reputation, or a big family; but not necessarily enjoy the journey that leads there or what we'd give up to choose that.

By her choosing to live this dream of having the time to write and get lost in "rabbit holes" she is living her dream which means saying no to many other valid, wonderful, and meaningful dreams that she could have chosen.

Where Our Jealousy and Our Peace Can Intertwine

Had Krista just admitted to occasionally feeling jealous that would have been impressive enough... for most of us don't stop to acknowledge our feelings to ourselves, let alone share them vulnerably with our friends; but she look how she continued:

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life...

...it would be total hell for me" because that is her dream and not mine. Getting up doing Improv is not my dream. Giving a graduation lecture is not my dream. Singing in front of people is not my dream. Those dreams belong to you girls and you do them with grace and authenticity.

With my career, I sometimes look at other doctors and think I should be publishing more or trying to advertise more. The truth is I love taking good care of my patients. As long as I know I'm doing a good job and they know it, I could care less if I'm voted "top doc in Seattle." That is somebody else's dream. I love having a husband to come home to and plan grocery lists and dinners and organize our lives together and share hikes and road trips. Vegas weekends and fancy dinners are somebody else's dream. I'm not a stay at home mom - that also is somebody else's dream. I love that you all have supported me in finding and living MY dream. xoxo

What I Love About that Exchange

So much to love about that posting, but notice these things:

  • She was honest... she brought us all together, more willing to admit where we feel jealousy as we look at each other.
  • She was self-reflective... she may like the idea of what she calls a "glamorous" life but she then uses the words total hell!--Ha!-- to describe that she knows the difference between the idea of something and the actuality of it for who she is.  She then goes on to name the things she loves about her life... you can almost feel her peace returning as she reminds herself that she is, in fact, living the life she chose.
  • She affirmed... Improv comedy, singing, graduation lectures-- those are amazing accomplishments of her friends and she's acknowledging how cool they are. It's tempting to downplay or criticize something that isn't our dream, but she's not saying there bad dreams... she's wowed by them and says "you do them with grace and authenticity."
  • She accepted... I absolutely love that she gave voice to the expectations and standards of what she thought she was supposed to want (i.e. being top doc in Seattle) and realized that she really didn't need that (nor was willing to do the things it would take since it either would take away from things she values or wasn't in alignment with who she is) to be happy.  It was "someone else's dream."
  • She inspired us... When the five of us were on our conference call yesterday, we talked about it a bit--each acknowledging how much we can want pieces of each other's lives.  Her posting inspired us to talk about it and reflect.  One friend said, "It helped me realize that what I was jealous of wasn't actually the thing I thought I wanted, rather it was the feeling of taking a risk and pursing a passion.  And then I realized I am doing that! I don't need to be jealous!"

To have friends we admire means we have friends that will wow us, which means chances are high that we'll sometimes feel less-than-wowing. To be human means we will sometimes compare and feel jealous.  To have healthy friendships means we do the ongoing work of living our dreams and cheering for theirs. To grow deeper means we sometimes talk about it.

Thank you, Krista, for sharing this post with us, your girlfriends, and for kindly giving me permission to share it with a few of mine via this blog. ;)  The good news is that if we both keep sharing our lives with each other, then we can live a wee bit vicariously through each other... I am cheering you on and love the life you've created!

This Thanksgiving... what would it look like for each of us to let go of one "dream" that is someone's elses and instead choose peace and acceptance for one of ours?  And who do you sometimes feel jealous of that you could write a note to them this month and tell them you're thankful for them, their accomplishments, and how much they wow you?

Feminism is a Team Sport

Something magical happens when women gather in circle. Many of my best ideas over the years have happened in connection with others; when I get to hear myself think out loud, when they say something that resonates, when their brainstorms inspire, and when I feel the energy of validation.

Such was the case last January as I spent a retreat day with one of my mastermind groups, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost three years now.  We began this year by sharing some of the promptings we were each feeling in our hearts for where we were feeling called and led in the year ahead.  I was speaking to my conviction that I want to be a part of women trusting each other again, cheering for each other more, and working alongside each other as we step into our own personal power.

Wearing on the outside the hope I have on the inside!

While processing out loud, I said something along the lines of: "we need to realize that feminism is a team sport, not something we each do alone." And Kimberly, sitting across the Circle from me, said, "You need to put that on a t-shirt."

And so I did.  :)

Feminism Needn't Be Scary

Here's why:

Several years ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that they titled, "Feminism: How I Finally Came Out as an Advocate for Women" where I shared a bit of my struggle over the word feminism, specifically; and my own ignorance with the movement, more generally. It wasn't that I hadn't wanted to be an advocate for women, it was more that I had been avoiding being an advocate for feminism-- I saw them as two separate things.  I mistakenly thought you could be for one without being for the other.

Many women still shy away from the word, wondering if we still have need of it.  This word has been used to help us win the right to vote, to fight for reproductive and sexual rights, to make a path for women to work outside the home in any profession of their choosing, and to give us permission to make our own life choices around marriage and motherhood, among many other things.  We appreciate the fruits of movements-past, but so badly want to believe that we have arrived.

Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, said this when I went to hear her speak last year:

“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.”

Now we may not have the same laws that keep us down, but our chains of who we think we're supposed to be can feel just as heavy.

In my travels and connections I see just how exhausted, weary, guilt-ridden, fearful, unhappy, and lonely women are, and I am convinced that the call to feminism is still relevant. And needed. It may just need to look a little different from the image seared in my memory of seeing women burning bra's in front the capital.

If I could pick a new image for feminism, it would be women sitting in circles, supporting each other.

Feminism Together

Because it's only when we're in tribe, connected to each other, sitting shoulder-

feminism is a team sport

to-shoulder, face-to-face, in relationship with others that we can practice embodying the equality that we long for.

What we crave is each others acceptance. Why can't we give that fully and easily?

What we long for is for someone to tell us that we're doing enough, we're okay, we're good moms and wives and daughters even if we can always think of more we could do, and that we're making a difference. Why must we keep competing as though only a few of us deserve to hear those words?

We need each other to help us hear our own worth. We can do that!

We need to stop feel judged, and instead feel cheered on.  What a difference that would make in this world!

It's only in relationship to each other that we practice offering love even when we risk rejection; and just as importantly, practicing the receiving of gifts and time without feeling like our lack reflects poorly on us. No, we can't do everything. Yes, we need help. Thank you.

These power house  women live with vulnerability, courage, and conviction; modeling for me the actions I am committed to keep practicing.

It's with my friends that I practice shining my biggest and best self, speaking of my strengths and owning my accomplishments so that I feel more comfortable doing that in a world that isn't as practiced yet.  And it's where I want them practicing for themselves, as well.

Only in relationship do we learn the coveted skills of saying "yes" when scared, and "no" when tired.  It's with each other that we should be able to practice those hard words so that we are more at ease speaking our truth in other crowds.

Who we want to be, must be, need to be-- requires us practicing those skills in relationship. We don't become more confident, loving, patient, and empathetic in a vacuum; we do it in connection with each other.

Feminism now is inviting all of us to love ourselves, our bodies, and each other, just as we are. That's not to say that the external circumstances are equal, for they aren't.  But just as significant, is us feeling our worth on the inside and reflecting that to each other.

Feminism Practiced

I believe so much in being in circle with other women that I have committed to it as a regular practice in my life.  In addition to my friends and social life, I belong to three "mastermind" groups.  Two of them are weekly, via Skype and telephone; the other is a monthly in-person gathering.  Each of them functions differently, but behind every one of them is a circle of women cheering each other on.

I want you to be in circle with women who see your value, your worth, and your joy.  I want you to keep practicing being a woman who cheers others on, judges less, and loves more.

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Two Resources for Cheering Each Other On!

  1. Buy the T-shirt in our store:  I've been gifting these to some of the women

    You can get this t-shirt at www.ConnectedGifts.com

    who have been supporting me saying, "Thanks for being on my team!" Wear yours and spread the love!

  2. Join www.GirlFriendCircles.com:  GirlFriendCircles.com is a women's website that matches amazing women to new local friends.  We believe women are better when connected!  Join us today and meet other women who value having good friendships and are open to meeting new people!

 

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women's Groups

I have sat in 5 circles of women and 2 circles of couples in the last 7 days, with two more coming up this weekend, which is a bit more connection than I typically allow for in my schedule, but my heart is feeling such gratitude and fullness today. I want to share a few of them with you because I want you to see how they got started, how different they each are, and how meaningful they are in so many different forms.  So many of you crave having more Circles in your life, and I want you to see what is possible for you to create.

Being in Circle Invites Support

Last Friday I was sitting around a table at a restaurant because I said yes to an invitation from someone I didn't know who was hosting what she was calling 12@12, 12 women she admires coming together for lunch at 12 pm for us to meet each other and find ways to support one another. She had made the reservations and initiated the gathering, and we all reaped the benefits.

Business mastermind womens group

When we went around the circle to introduce ourselves we had to answer three questions: What do we do? What is our super power? And, what is one challenge we're facing right now? Just from hearing those shares, one woman has reached out with an offer to introduce me to a friend of hers who is in charge of finding speakers for an event, I offered to make a donation from GirlFriendCircles to the non-profit that one of them is starting in order to bring art to children. Being in Circle invites support.  When women hear how they can help each other-- they do.

Being in Circle Invites Accountability

On Monday, I hosted six friends in my home for an afternoon of journaling and sharing, ending with dinner and celebrating.

womens circle for journaling and reflecting

This group came about because the day before New Years I had invited a handful of friends (who didn't know each other at all before that date) to come launch 2014 by setting aside the time to reflect, honor, and set intention in the midst of community.  As everyone was hugging each other good-bye that evening, everyone kept saying, "Can we do this again? Sooner than next New Years?" So I scheduled this one to celebrate the end of the first quarter.

It's one thing to pause and make sure I'm honoring my growth in recent months and getting clear about what I want the upcoming months to hold, and it's quite another hearing the honesty of others and getting clearer as I hear myself talk out loud. It was easy planning-- invitations were sent, everyone brought something to share for our dinner, and I just had some journaling prompts (such as "What am I tolerating in my life? and What is bringing me the most energy these days?") to give us some loose structure. Being in Circle holds the space to do things like journaling and reflecting that we value but don't always do on our own.

Being in Circle Invites Brainstorming, Feedback, and Ideas

Yesterday morning, I participated in two beautiful Circles that were both virtual. One was my entrepreneur mastermind circle (apply at Savor the Success to be matched into one!) where 4 of us spend an hour every other week on video chat getting the collective wisdom and expertise to help us grow our business.  I am hoping to partner with a few brands that might sponsor GirlFriendCircles and these women spent 10 minutes giving me every idea they had for what that can look like as I take my next step on a road that is unfamiliar to me.  Being in Circle with these women makes me a better business owner.

The other Circle happens early every Thursday morning via the phone.  There are seven of us who affectionately call ourselves The Rebel Queens. Queens because we are all thought-leaders, speakers, and authors who feel called to bring our messages of love into this world, each in our own domain and expertise; Rebels because that means we'll speak against norms, ruffle some feathers, and invite people out of their comfort zones. We know the power of having space where we can be vulnerable, witnessed, and supported by other women who are big, bright, and imperfect.  We'll each have days and areas where we will feel insecure; and days and areas where we can celebrate the success of each other. We each take time to share our hearts and receive the prayers and reflections of the group. This group was started by a couple of them who were friends deciding they wanted to have more structure to their support and connection, so they decided to start a small group and invited a few others in who they felt would be resonate. Being in Circle with these women helps me practice shining my best self in confidence that my shining gives permission to others to do the same.

Being in Circle Invites Fun

This Sunday is my 10/10 retreat day!  There are ten of us women who meet on the last Monday of every month. I started this group 3 years ago with two other friends.  We knew the power of networking but didn't like the idea of mingling at networking events as much as we liked the idea of a group of women committing to supporting each other regularly.  So we compiled a list of names of women we knew, or knew of, and sent them an invitation asking if they wanted to commit to attending at least 8 of the 10 monthly meetings that were scheduled.

Womens Retreat Day mastermind group

Three years ago we planned one day-long retreat in addition to the evening meetings.  It was so much fun that last year we decided to up it to twice a year.  And, this year, you won't be surprised that we scheduled three of them!  We always keep them easy, meeting at someone's home, adding some yoga or a walk, good food, and lots of laughter and sharing that bonds us way beyond a typical mastermind monthly session.

 

Being in Circle Invites Intimacy

Many of the groups I described above started as Left-Side Circles, meaning that I was either meeting with complete strangers where we became Contact Friends, or committing to the group for the purpose of bonding over what we had in common (i.e. entrepreneurs, speakers) which made us Common Friends.  The groups where we have the most consistency (either by meeting weekly, or because we've been meeting for several years) now are also growing in intimacy.  May of the women I met in these Circles have been invited into my other Circles as we continue to grow our friendships in multiple ways.

best friends, girls groups

But one of my Circles started with my closest friends.  Three of us made a commitment to get 2 dates on the calendar every month, if we can.  We schedule a few months out and plan life around those sacred Circles where three of us, who have now known each other for nearly 7 years, come together and instantly go deep. We have the power of history; the memory of where we've each been, what we've each survived and struggled with; and have seen glimpses of who we're each becoming that we can continue to hold up in front of each other.

Choose Your Circles

Being in these Circles never "just happens."  Your calendar will never just automatically pop up an alert that says "Women's Circle" without you putting it there.  Intention is necessary. Admitting what you want is important. Extending invitations is part of creating a Circle.

If you crave being in Circle with other women, I hope one of these stories inspires you... I wish upon you the opportunity to receive the power of the Circle.

p.s. TIP: If you're a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, our web site to meet new friends, then be sure to post a ClassifedCircle with the type of Circle you want to belong to and see who else wants to join you!  :)

Friendships in the Workplace

Lately I've been fielding more interview requests to talk about friendships in the workplace. Which for many women is still the number one place where you're meeting your friends. Work, much like school when we were kids, is the one place where the same people show up repeatedly without anyone having to initiate, invite, make plans, or schedule around, or follow-up with-- we're paid to be there and we both show up daily.  That consistency breeds friendships.  We report being 96% happier with our lives if we have at least three friends at work, and a whopping 30% of us end up establishing a best friend at work.

But there can also be some mine-fields.  I hear women repeatedly say to me that they don't feel comfortable making friends at work for various reasons and to that I want to gently say: "Hey, we live in a world where we all need more good friends, so take them where you can get them!" In the interview below, I hope I can squelch some of your fears by helping you see how you can build friendships appropriately!

For my blog post this time, I thought I'd re-publish an interview where Jennifer Merritt of  Levo League (a professional community for Gen Y) asked me some work-related questions.  Hope my answers are helpful to some of you!

Jennifer: If you really feel a connection with a co-worker, is it a good idea to try to deepen that relationship? Or should “office life” and “real life” be kept separate? Shasta: No, I don’t think they should be separate at all! In fact, that really is one of the last places to make friends where we have one of the biggest friendship challenges taken care of for us—consistency.  That’s why it felt easy in school–we saw each other every day. In “real life” it’s actually much more difficult to see each other regularly enough to build up that familiarity and comfortableness. The office is perfect, since you both have to spend so much time there. I’d definitely try to deepen that relationship, so much so that I’d encourage you to practice being friends outside of work, too, so that when one of you leaves the job you already have other structures in place for your friendship to continue.

How concerned should you be about making friends in the office, even at the basic level of casual friendship? People who have friends at work are way more inclined to report job satisfaction and companies recognize that that’s one of the best ways to retain employees. We will put up with a lot of stress, lower pay, and non-ideal job descriptions if we like the people we work with, so I’d say it’s worth being a pretty high priority at work. Plus, this is where you spend most of your time, so it make sense that at minimum you want to be surrounded by people you’re friendly with, even if they don’t all turn into consequential friendships.

Are there any “rules” to making friends in the office? I’d say two good principles are to, one, take it slow, and two, don’t let your friendship ever make others feel excluded in the office. The first one is super-important: don’t over-share with someone. Vulnerability—sharing more about yourself with less of a filter— is one of the actions that develops a friendship, but I encourage everyone to engage it step by step so that really you’re never taking a big risk, as much as you are many, many small ones. But that’s even more important at work, where you don’t want to share too much with someone before you’ve co-created a trusting relationship with each other.  And the second rule speaks more to making sure your friendship is adding to the office dynamics, not excluding others or making people feel wary, left out, or suspicious. While at work, invite more people to join in your friendly relationship—invite others to sit with you at lunch—and try to do more of your eventual secret-sharing outside of the office.

What are some good ways to explore deepening a relationship with a co-worker? Probably starts with friendliness and chit-chat, talking about the weekend, and what TV shows you’re watching. Then the next goal is to find a way to spend more substantial time together, so usually an invitation to grab lunch together, attend an event together, or meet for drinks after work will help make that happen. And this is where it may stay for a while—friendliness in the office, friendship for an hour here and there outside the office.  In fact, if this is as far as it goes—it’s an incredibly valuable relationship that will increase your happiness at work. In some cases, you may want to grow it to the next step and that means eventually starting to get together when it’s completely unattached to work, such as brunch on the weekend, a double-date with the boyfriends on a Friday night, or getting together to watch your favorite TV shows one night.

Can you — or should you — ever be friends with your manager? Or, if you are a manager, friends with your subordinate? This one can be tricky because there is not a “one size fits all” answer. Our personalities, company culture, and individual job descriptions will inform the decision. But in theory, I’d say yes. We can be friends with people even if we have different roles at work. Obviously it requires both people respecting the other so much that neither one shares confidential information or asks for favors at work. And the two rules I mentioned earlier–taking it slow and not letting your friendship make others uncomfortable–are even more important. But the first two steps of friendship—being friendly and starting to spend more considerable time together—is definitely appropriate, in my opinion.

Fights among friends are inevitable, and can become even more hot-button if that friend is also a co-worker. What is your advice for dealing with conflicts with friends in the office? This goes back to the second rule—don’t let your friendship make others uncomfortable in the office. That means they shouldn’t know you’re fighting. You don’t gossip about her, talk about her, or take it out on each other. Maturity means trusting each other so that even when we’re mad or disappointed,  we can still trust each other to have our backs. It also speaks to the “taking it slow” part—you should never have shared more than you felt the relationship was ready to support. By the time you fight, you should have some considerable history between the two of you where you can trust you’ll both make up and be closer than ever.

Is it appropriate to get into a friendship with someone who is in a romantic relationship? Basically, should you pursue a friendship with a co-worker if it could be misconstrued by his or her significant other? Wow you’re asking the toughies! Good for you! Again, though, this is not an easy answer. Cross-gender relationships are a wholly different animal in this setting. If the friendship could hurt people— in the office or in either of your lives—then one has to ask whether there are other feelings or motives at work. Because mature friendship wouldn’t want to jeopardize our friends other relationships. At the least, recognize this relationship has a whole different level of complication and drama that may best be avoided simply by fostering other friendships even if there isn’t as much chemistry.

What should you do if you don’t feel a connection with co-workers, on even the most basic level? (Assuming that you enjoy your job.) Bonds can always, always be developed, in some form or another. The best place to start is with having enough conversations that you can start seeing where you both have similarities or where you “get” each other. We all have more things in common that we realize—even if we have a 40-year age gap, opposite political views and are in completely different life stages.  I believe that those who seek, find; which means that if we say to ourselves, “I am choosing to like you, now I’m going to keep looking for the reasons,” we will always find them!

 

I'd love to hear from some of you-- have you met one of your closest friends at work?  What helped foster the friendship?  What advice would you give?