I am back at it after a much needed break! And in case you are wondering, yes it was wonderful being off for almost 3 weeks. I spent my days cooking and dreaming, exploring new parks, playing the guitar, practicing Spanish with a Meetup group, reading books, watching movies and spending some time with family. It was glorious.
I am a little slow to jump back on writing and also realizing that twice a month entries aren't sustainable. So I am glad to be back with you knowing that it may be fewer and farther between than I originally envisioned. Please bear with me while I settle into my writing rhythm. Once a month (ish) feels good and I'm sure things will be a bit hit or miss come Fall.
So what's up for this Dear Reader Edition? Well since I have been grappling with a decrease in motivation and because it's summer, I figured I would talk about how self care and self actualization can be acts of liberation. So many of us (including our organizations) desire a better way but fall into the trap of relying on systems of oppression to deliver us when small, radical acts of intention can chip away at oppressive systems and pave the way for our collective liberation.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a hard worker. I was a straight A student in grade school who did (and was President) of many extracurricular activities. I was a front row student all through college and use to brag that I completed every single homework assignment I was ever given. I regularly worked 45 - 50 hours for most of my professional career. I was also (and still am in some ways) a perfectionist. So even non-work related projects were time consuming. I spent hours trying to get things just right so I could work my elaborate plan to win people's favor, live an upstanding life, and work my way past the glass ceiling so I could live an exciting and comfortable life.
"My life had become a vacuum; a twilight zone where the suffering and insanity of the world was secondary to my own experiences."
But it wasn't enough. There was something missing at the end of the day. I felt accomplished, but somehow my accomplishments were at the expense of my motivation. I was working on exciting projects but diluting my curiosities. I was using my skills but seldom had meaningful interaction with people. My life had become a vacuum; a twilight zone where the suffering and insanity of the world was secondary to my own experiences. I was growing and learning but I was consumed by longing for connection and impact and inspiration. There is a lot more to this moment in my life (which I wrote about in the Be Bold Origin Story post) but it was clear that while I was excelling on paper, I was struggling to be human.
Years later and I found myself researching developmental psychology and motivational theory, which ultimately led me towards Abraham' Maslow's work on needs and motivation. In his 1962 book titled, "Toward a Psychology of Being", Maslow argues that health is the default state of man and that humans are born with a neutral and perhaps even slightly positive disposition. Except for rare instances of genetic abnormality, Maslow purports that it is only when the psychological and material needs of humans go unmet that we experience disease, illness, and evil intentions. The result is that humans who do not have their basic (lower) needs for psychological safety, physical safety, sense of belonging, or esteem met are unable to achieve their highest need; the need for self actualization (the top of Maslow's Hierarchy).
Self actualization occurs when an individual has their lower needs met and is able to realize their capabilities and potentialities. We get our bodily and ego needs met by taking action and there in lies the driving force behind motivational change theory; we experience motivation when we seek experiences that helps us get our needs met. Of course not all of our behaviors are sufficient enough to move us towards health. And as we know, some of our activities make us less healthy and happy individuals. But when our basic human needs are met, we can use our natural insight and skills to cultivate more flow, more wonder, more learning, and an enhanced ability to meaningfully engage with the Living World.
Although Maslow's theory doesn't talk a lot about the ability of systems of control such as racism or wage labor to influence (determine) the extent to which certain ethnic, cultural, and identity group members will have their needs met, his work can still help us understand the connection between self-actualization and liberation. Liberation means that we have removed the barriers that prevent us from full access and participation. Self actualization means that become aware of and in touch with our essential self; able to share our gifts, capabilities, and insights with one another.
"Self actualization cannot be fully experienced and sustained without liberation."
When we spend all of our energy staving off mental break downs, working through a never-ending to do list, and fighting against isolation, inflation, lack of affordable housing, a failing political system, and whatever challenge you can think of, self actualization remains unattainable. Perhaps sparks and glimpses of it, but self actualization cannot be fully experienced and sustained without liberation.
I personally believe (and there is alot of data to support) that most of these barriers to liberation occur at the social level in the form of bad policies, biased systems, poorly designed programs, and settler-colonial mental models that infringe upon our lower needs and ability to be self-actualized. Think about failed public housing projects such as Pruitt-Igoe, racial redlining in the mid century, and the lack of investment in public education and community health. No one can reach their full potential in systems of oppression that thrive on social conformity and the commodification of human disease and suffering.
Taking a nod from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, I understand that our efforts to achieve self-actualization should be motivated in part by a shared understanding that our actualization is bound to our collective liberation. Systems that deny our basic needs and infringe upon our ability to experience our essential selves are the same systems holding back countless others, including the most oppressed and marginalized communities, from fully experiencing life and their own personal power. By taking radical steps to ensure our needs are getting met we can dismantle oppressive systems that make money off disease, discontent, and social isolation. That's because despite what society tells us, our struggles are all connected.
"It is a reminder that life is for living and that self care has beneficial system impacts."
When I push back against systems of conformity to prioritize my needs and nurture my abilities, I radicalize self-care. I also create emotional capacity required to work with others and advance the cause of sustainability, justice, and liberation. Every time I set a boundary to honor my physiological need for rest by not working on Fridays and taking extended quarterly rest periods (especially when work is slow and funds are low), I undermine the power of extractive economic systems. When I implement a sliding scale fee and use work trade agreements, I reclaim my sense of agency and bring deep equity into the wage labor system. The result of these acts of self care is a tenderness to living that no check can compete with. It is a reminder that life is for living and that self care has beneficial system impacts.
There is nothing sweeter and more life-affirming than the feeling you get after emerging from a flow state or peak experience and you see yourself without the ego-gaze and feel a deep sense of aliveness and connection to the Living World. Whether experienced while on vacation, watching a moving performance, or being lost in a hobby, these moments are sacred. They put the sacredness and humanity back in living and working in a way that a check can't. They are medicines for times of social collapse and antidotes to burn out, apathy, rage, and meaninglessness. They radicalize acts of self care and cultivation.
"I make collective liberation a primary driver for my personal development because the alternative is rest and relaxation when they say, and love and happiness only when you have the money to pay."
I am by no means perfect, and there are plenty of ways I am still caught in and contributing to systems of oppression. There is also a real downside to dismantling oppression - loosing the convenience of time, money, and ease of use. There is also the shame of the social gaze and the growing isolation you bear with every step you take away from mainstream society. But I choose to make collective liberation a primary driver for my personal growth and development because the alternative is rest and relaxation when they say, and love and happiness only when you have the money to pay.
Since starting Be Bold, I stopped putting down payments on my happiness and instead make investments in self care, actualization, and solidarity that allow me to experience more joy, impact, and meaning in my life right now. I pray that people will carve out more space to practice radical acts of self care in small and tangible ways. I pray that more organizations will embrace a radical ethos of corporate social responsibility and rebel against business as usual. I hope that our individual efforts, from the big and bold to the seemingly insignificant, create the foundations for a future where we get our basic needs met; where we can realize our greatest potential; where we can be free. Wouldn't that be sweet?
Alexis Goggans, PCC (she/her/hers)
Founder & President of Be Bold Services
Want to chat? Schedule a meeting with me
P.S. Check out the next section for updates on Be Bold happenings, tips to working with rhythms, opportunities to be in community with me, & cool resources!
Tip for Bold Impact
Some tips to help individuals and organizations participate in natural cycles
Humans are surrounded by natural cycles and rhythms. From weather and seasonal food patterns that we are most likely to notice, to moon phases or the tides that may spring up on us we are constantly interacting with and being influenced by natural systems. However, computers, electronics, access to 24-7 lighting, and an always-on work culture has severed our connection to the Living World and the many rhythms we were once a part of. As a results, we are not only disconnected from the Living World, we often live at odds with our daily work cycles and our natural rhythms.
It's not so much that we can't thrive without working lock step with these rhythms, but that not engaging in them deprives us the gift of flow as well as a a sense of belonging and place. Below are 3 ways you and your org can get in the rhythm of life and experience more flow.
Figure out your natural rest, play, and productivity cycles. Whether these are seasonal cycles that move with the seasons or parts of the day or week when you are typically more alert and focused, tapping into these cycles can help you stay on top of your to do list and better transition from one activity to the next. The first step in taking advantage of these cycles is in tuning into them. Reflect back on a time when you were really productive. What time of day and year were you working? How long could you work for in one go before you were restless? How did you naturally transition after getting a fair amount of work done? And if your in an organization look at your re-occurring meetings, annual events and vacation requests to optimize your organizational work flow around them. Notice, tweak, and repeat until you can create a rhythm that supports what naturally works for you. And if you have trouble noticing these cycles, take a zero meeting day or a day off and notice when your mind starts to troubleshoot a task or you find yourself suddenly in work mode. It may take a few days to notice any trends, and it's perfectly normal for these trends to shift across seasons, geographies, and/or timescales as your work (and needs) change.
Honor your body rhythm and rituals. From eating and drinking to using the restroom and sleeping, we underestimate the rhythms our body manages without much effort or awareness on our part. This is mainly because our body is an adaptive and complex system that is constantly freeing up mental space so we can make decisions and take appropriate action with fewer resource demands. Moreover the 9 to 5 (which was only recently standardized by Congress in 1938), the mainstream adoption of synthetic lighting in the 1920's and capitalistic work culture causes us to ignore these rhythms-- some of which, including large periods of rest during winter months and extended periods of mourning and celebration, have existed for the majority of human history. We often forget that there are opportunities in our working days and life to reclaim these rhythms. For example, if you are a morning person block out time in the morning to work on projects and schedule less urgent meetings later in the day. Do you like to wake up slow and ease into your day? Add an hour of admin time at the beginning of every day to check your email while you listen to a podcast or the news. Have trouble staying focused or feel lower energy during menstruation? Set a meeting limit per day and let folks know you will be off video or out walking during meetings. Use rituals to create a sense of flow in your life by honoring morning, evening, and cyclical routines. These should include routines for self grooming, self care, managing household responsibilities as well as celebration and learning. Most importantly, whether its going to the doctor for an annual wellness exam, attending religious or cultural events or something as small as when you pull weeds from the garden or spend time with a loved one, build your work schedule around these routines and rituals. Make them non-negotiables so that no matter what happens at work, you experience the sacredness of your humanity and autonomy on a daily basis.
Live with the seasons & cycles of rest, growth, decay and death. Seasons are probably one of the easiest rhythms to notice and yet one of the hardest to observe. We all know that projects tend to slow in the summer and winter when people take vacation yet few of us intentionally structure our work flow around and mindsets to these ebbs and flows. While not all of us have the privilege to radically alter our schedule, I encourage us to adjust our physical reality to the seasons by adjusting our capacity, eating and activities accordingly while also tuning into the emotional and mental changes that take occur. That will allow us to not only enjoy the deliciousness that comes from squashes in the Fall but also the gratitude and slowing that comes as temperatures drop and trees loose their leaves. On top of these seasons, it may be helpful to tune into the larger rest, growth, decay and death cycles happening both seasonally, socially and internally. As periods of social and organizational decay (turmoil) and growth (progress) come and go, we must also see that we are stewards to these cycles in our own lives. Are we at a time in our life when we are growing spiritually, socially or professionally? Or are we actually in a period of decay, trying to heal or make sense after a sudden loss or misstep? I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and adjust your approach and energetic output appropriately. Be sure to also consider the relationship to larger systems of rest, growth, decay, and death in our organizations, society, and the Living World.
Be Bold Happenings
Check out this section for updates on my coaching and consulting work
I closed out my contract with Empower Michigan - the RE-AMP state table working to advance climate justice and energy democracy in Michigan. It was great to be in a movement space again and I wish them the best of luck as they continue to explore funding opportunities to sustain their work.
I just signed a contract with RE-AMP to support development of their Executive Director Peer Learning Circle. I love to see organizations advancing the coaching culture and look forward to supporting their efforts.
I just renewed my contract with the Sustainable States Network and will continue our collective efforts over the last 3 years to advance their 2023 Equity Commitments. I will be facilitating several training sessions and peer learning conversations and looking forward to our August 10th discussion about Communicating with Conservatives around Equity.
The WildSeed + Be Bold podcast tentatively named "How to Get Free" is on hold at the moment, but we are continuing discussions on how we might work together. More on that soon :)
Here are some interesting and inspiring things I have digested recently
I'm reading about the Inflation Reduction Act and celebrating this necessary (albeit less ambitious than previously imagined) bill to address climate change impacts, soaring health care costs, and our struggling tax code.
I'm listening to "Student Loans: The Fund-Eating Dragon" from NPR's podcast Throughlines. It tells the history behind the federal government's role in creating the student debt crisis by brokering a deal that allowed banks to administer government backed student loans.
I'm reading WE ACT for Environmental Justice's Extreme Heat Policy Agenda, which explores policy interventions they are taking to address the devastating impacts of heat exposure on New York City's most vulnerable populations.
I read "How the Word is Passed" and really enjoyed author Clint Smith's personal and moving book about slavery and place in U.S. history. It covers the connection between the abolition of slavery and the rise of private prisons, the devastation of family separations, attempts to white wash Civil War history, the role Africans played in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. A tough but necessary read.
I'm still listening to the Chasing Consciousness Podcast and spent an hour gushing over their episode on "Mood Food: the Gut, Diet, & Inflammation" with Medical Herbalist Alex Laird. I love her decolonized take on human health and have since re-committed to intentional eating.
I'm reading about the 10 Principles to Embed Race Equity in Real Estate Development, a toolkit published by the Urban Land Institute. According to Pew Research, 46% of Americans spent at least 30% of their income on housing in 2020 with 23% of those individuals spending at least 50% of their income. Obviously these principles are much needed!
Community Happenings Here are some opportunities to engage me & other folks doing bold work
Wolf van Elfmand released his album titled "High Desert Valley" last week. His sound is a mix of new folk and strange country music and its giving me The Animals meets Johnny Cash meets Vance Joy vibes. Join me in supporting his work by streaming his chill album out on Spotify.
Kathryn Benson is expanding her life coaching practice. Part design guru, part holistic life coach, Kathryn helps people find freedom and purpose to live the life they were meant to live. I have worked with Kathryn as a coaching colleague and client and I always leave her sessions feeling clear, charged, and more connected. I encourage you to reach out and submit an application to inquire about her coaching services if you are moved.
The RE-AMP Network is hiring a Program Manager ($48K salary, full time, remote) to support their equitable decarbonization, transportation, and energy democracy efforts in the Midwest. Check out the job post and email email@example.com to see if they are still accepting applications.
Sustainable States Network is co-hosting a 3 part webinar series with ACEEE from August 4th until September 29th on key opportunities for cities to act on climate change through energy efficiency investments—including by capitalizing on new federal funding. Please register and share with your network.
Thanks for walking with me on this journey! I've been so grateful for the many of you who have reached out and shared the impact of my writings on your work. I hope these words continue to be a source of wholesomeness and connection in the days and months ahead.
If any part of you has been moved by my words or work please like and/or comment on this blog and follow Be Bold on LinkedIn where I share tons of resources, webinars, and consulting and coaching tips. It's a little more business forward if that's your thing.