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The Birth of Butterfly Phoenix

by Donna R. Wood

Emerge into your best self!

We live in a time when personal brand seems to be everything. Personal brand sounds so salesy and … well, fake; but is it? The world’s perception of our personal brand really depends on us. The authenticity of the brand is what matters the most. Are you being authentic, or are you blending in with everyone else out of the fear of being different?

For years, people would ask me what exactly Butterfly Phoenix is. For the longest time I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, because even I didn’t know. The title of my blog was Butterfly Phoenix. I published my books under Butterfly Phoenix Publishing. Everything I did online was somehow directly connected to Butterfly Phoenix.

One day, it came to me. The reason I didn’t have an outward answer was because Butterfly Phoenix is me. It is the culmination of a life that had an uncertain and rocky beginning, and would end as something beautifully transformed; not perfect, but transformed.

As I pushed forward to discover more about Butterfly Phoenix, I found more people who had discovered the authenticity of who they were inside, like my business partner, Adele. Although Butterfly Phoenix was born from my life experiences, I recognized that I am not the only butterfly in the kaleidoscope of humankind; nor am I the only phoenix that has risen from the ashes as something new and beautiful.

After years of chasing the almighty dollar, struggling to get ahead, I found my authenticity through living a lifestyle based on existential well-being, where I focus on living from the inside out. Every day, I try to balance my four dimensions of being, resulting in a life of wholeness and a sense of purposeful meaning.

Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the holiday season here in the US. As lovely as the holidays are, sometimes the whirlwind of activities can get the better of us, and we can lose the focus of the season, especially that of Thanksgiving Day, tucked in at the beginning just before we hold our breaths and dive into the Christmas rush. It seems that the entire point of the day gets lost in participating in the season’s activities.

So this year, do something different. You can create joy and thankfulness this season; it only takes a slight change of perspective. Take a moment, whether it’s on Thanksgiving Day or during time that you set aside for yourself, and reflect on the people and things you appreciate. Remember what went well for you in the past year, what things bring you joy, and especially which people are your biggest fans and have been there for you through thick and thin: really feel your sense of appreciation and gratitude for their presence in your life, and for the changes you’ve experienced because of them.

Hold your appreciation in your awareness whenever you can, especially when you feel the rush of the season pressing in on you. Appreciation for the good people and things in your life can change your entire perspective, and give the holidays meaning  and a deep satisfaction that perhaps may have been lacking in the past.

True gratitude is appreciation.

True gratitude is appreciation for the good people and things in our lives, for the joys and challenges that create our day-to-day experiences. Appreciation defines us; it informs our outlook and influences how we move about in our world; it colors how we interact with others, how we value the people in our circles and care for the things under our stewardship.

True gratitude is a way of being, a chosen perspective. Gratitude, true gratitude, is cultivated by choosing to think on our blessings, those people, events, and things that give us joy, rather than focusing on the negative people and things that pepper our existence. It’s cultivated by choosing.

Rain falls on everyone; gratitude is choosing to see that it’s raining on one’s garden and not that it’s raining on one’s parade. Gratitude is choosing to see the glass is half-full and the wine bottle is too. Gratitude is being happy for puppy kisses instead of fretting about the fur on one’s pants.

Gratitude is transformative.

This kind of gratitude transforms our experience of life. It gives each day meaning, because it opens our eyes to the beauty and love and happiness that always surround us. We notice beauty and love and happiness in our world when we have them in our mind. Not only do we see more of these on days we intentionally choose gratitude, we start to see more of them every day no matter how we feel. Our senses and our mind are selective: our mind processes so much sensory data every moment that we can’t consciously handle it all, so the mind sends us data consistent with our habitual thoughts in a kind of sensory confirmation bias. We see what we expect to see because the mind thinks that’s what we want to see.

Fortunately, we can consciously filter the data we receive by managing our thoughts. When we do, we start noticing different things than we used to notice. As we notice different things, our experience begins to change, then our beliefs change, and then our circumstances begin to change to conform to our new patterns of habitual thought and our beliefs. This can work both ways; our experiences can change for the better or for the worse based on our thoughts and beliefs.

Like ripples in a pond, gratitude spreads out until everything is changed by its presence.

As our circumstances change, our opportunities change as well. New possibilities present themselves, new people appear in our lives, new talents and skills emerge that we may not even have known that we had. Suddenly, everything seems to change in a very short time. Our circle of acquaintances changes drastically, we no longer like to gossip around the water cooler, we spend our time planning a new business or volunteering in a new way or learning a new skill or making some kind of positive change in our lives. Often, our finances change, sometimes drastically; the future transforms into something challenging and exciting and encouraging and filled with hope and promise.

Pie in the sky? Not at all. By choosing to think in terms of gratitude, to be gratitude, to live gratitude, we begin to resonate with other things related to the positive frequencies of gratitude: success, money, happiness, opportunity, optimism, inspiration, change, forward motion – and similar people experiencing similar things in their lives.

Changing our minds changes our attitudes change our experiences change our beliefs change our circumstances change our future. During this holiday season, take some time simply to be gratitude. Meditate on it. Make it part of who you are. And expect to see changes in your life.

Inner Peace Through Forgiveness

The most difficult apologies to accept are the ones we will never receive. Sometimes, so much time has passed that the person or people who hurt us are no longer a part of our lives. How do we forgive someone who has caused us pain at our deepest levels, when we can’t, or don’t want to, speak to them face-to-face?

Forgiving and forgetting are two very different things. We are physically incapable of forgetting events in our lives, especially those that have caused pain. We are hardwired to remember pain as a means of survival. This is what makes it so difficult to “just let it go”, and creates the trigger effect.

In situations where the hurt is deeply traumatic, we need to first seek out professionals to assist in processing the powerful emotions. The professional can help us to try to understand what has happened and process how we feel about it.

There is no shame in seeking professional services. Millions of people do it every day.

But, what about the every day kind of hurt and pain that is inflicted? Disagreements or misunderstandings between friends and family, or even co-workers? The key is to get the hurt out of your system, before it festers into resentment or worse.

  • Write about it. Write down every detail of what you remember happened – on paper; not on social media. Create space in your mind and life to do this. After you write it all out, read it to yourself. You may want to read it out loud. Once you have written and read it, tear it up, shred it, or even burn it. Create a symbolic gesture of being done with it.
  • Meditate on it. Using focusing and visualization techniques, imagine yourself holding your hurt as a balloon and when you are ready, let it go and watch it float away. Again, creating a symbolic gesture of being done with it, and it is no longer a part of who you are. It doesn’t have to be a balloon. Use whatever feels right for you.
  • Choose to move on. We do not have to continue reliving hurt. We have the power and ability to make the conscious decision to move on. It’s one of those, ‘that was then, this is now’agreements we make with ourselves. It won’t happen overnight, but the more we choose to acknowledge the feelings and then let them go, the easier it becomes and the lesser the hold it has on us.
  • Live Well. They say the best revenge is living well. Although we have a tendency to hold onto the hurt feelings from the events in our lives, the person who has hurt us isn’t thinking about us at all. They are living their lives as though nothing happened. Hard to accept, but it’s true. Don’t invest in resentment and hurt feelings. The key is to keep our focus on living for our own happiness.

By holding onto pain and other emotions, we anchor ourselves to our past, preventing growth and progress.

We are not saying it was okay to hurt us; we are saying we no longer allow the pain to define us.

When we seek love, beauty, and kindness in the world, the world becomes a much friendlier place. When we seek compassion, mercy, and grace, we open ourselves to positive experiences and leave behind that which insults our soul. Accept the apology you will never get by acknowledging and processing the feelings associated with the event, and then live well ~ for you.

The Societal Disconnect

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
~ Dr. Viktor Frankl

If there were anyone in the world who had, or has, a bona fide reason to hate people, it would have been renowned Viennese neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl.

Frankl, and others like him, survived the most inhumane of circumstances in the World War II concentration camps, yet despite the brutal treatment he received at the hands of the Nazis, Dr. Frankl carried on after World War II to become the founder of logotherapy, which requires individuals to take existential responsibility for their lives.

There is a certain angst that exists in modern society, where interacting with others is becoming a source for anxiety. Instead of working toward a solution, the mantra has simply become: “I hate people”. Seriously, ask yourself how many times a day do you hear this or something similar in conversation, or see it on your social media feeds?

We are, and have been, immersed in a societal disconnect, since the early 1990s, which was the catalyst for the book, Prozac Nation, an autobiography of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s experience with atypical depression. Ever since then, we have been on a downward spiral in regard to meaningful connections with others.

Admittedly, that is an overly-simplistic representation of a very complex issue that involves psychopharmacology, access to health care – especially mental health services – as well as the psychiatry and psychology of depression and anxiety. Depression, however, isn’t the only source of anxiety in our modern society.

Overindulgence: We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Too much of a good thing’. Recently, ex-highly positioned executives of Facebook admitted that they knew and understood the psychological and sociological risks of the social network, but they did it anyway. Have you noticed the sudden shift to ‘doing good works’?

The onset of the modern internet began as a novelty in most households, and many, like during the birth of the TV, declared it a fad and moved on. The younger household members latched onto the internet, like the kids of 80s latched on to the early video games.

Well, the fad of the internet has become a household staple, just like the television. In fact, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to function in modern society without wi-fi or access to the internet. Most of North Americans’ time – an average of nine hours every day – is spent on social media.

Which leads us to the societal disconnect. Emboldened by the buffer of the internet, people of all ages are losing the arts of civil conversation, healthy debate, and collaborative working. This leads to cyber-bullying (in all age groups), fear of conflict, and even leadership failures.

The overly simplistic and unrealistic solution is just to stop using the internet or participating in social media. The reality is that we are all responsible for our activities and engagements off- and online. We are each responsible for our own amount of usage, how much time we spend with others in the physical world, and how we choose to engage or respond to the variables that exist.

Dr. Frankl could have chosen to’hate people’ and felt righteously justified in doing so, but he didn’t. He recognized that the one thing that had held it together for himself and others like him in the concentration camps was having a sense of purpose: surviving to the next day, or helping others in his barracks, or being wholly present and attentive to the needs of others in spite of the circumstances.

Loneliness and Social Well-Being

Does loneliness mean you are missing meaningful connections with others?

Social Well-Being

According to Health Insurer Cigna’s 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index, 46% of Americans feel lonely sometimes or always. 47% feel left out sometimes or always. 43% feel isolated from others. Moreover, 43% feel like they don’t experience companionship, or their relationships lack meaning.

Technology plays a role in the epidemic of loneliness. However, according to the report it’s not the defining factor in whether a person feels their relationships have meaning. The true defining factors are our connections to each other in real life.

Combating loneliness

One way that we can combat loneliness in America is to reach out to others, instead of waiting for them to reach out to us. We can help those we think may be experiencing loneliness or isolation. This can be difficult though. We can feel a certain amount of anxiety-producing stress when reaching out. In addition, people in general do not want to be perceived as weak or imperfect, so they often suffer in silence.

Reach out to others

We are primarily responsible for our own well-being. However, we often find this difficult, because of our perceptions of the world, and fear of how the world will perceive us. We are social creatures by nature. We have a need to be with others for a sense of security and belonging. When we lose that connection, it’s easy to withdraw into ourselves, rather than seeking out others. We need to remember to recognize the humanness in each other. In addition, we need to help those who may be having difficulty asking for help.

Not all alone are lonely

Yet, we must remember that not all people who are alone are lonely. Some people choose to spend time by themselves sometimes. That doesn’t mean they’re lonely. Loneliness is subjective and is only an issue if it has a negative effect on the person’s sense of well-being.


Incivility: The New Workplace Normal

Incivility exists all around: at work, at home, at sporting events, at church, and really anywhere other people congregate. You  can get blindsided by it, leaving you wondering how to respond.

What Is Incivility?

In a nutshell, personal incivility means treating another person discourteously and disrespectfully. Often harm is implied or intended. In other words, it means a refusal or neglect to acknowledge the other as an equal sovereign person.

Moreover, incivility can lead to behavior deviating even further from the bounds of acceptability. Uncivil behavior can ultimately expand to violence, bullying, gaslighting, and narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic behavior. As the latter behaviors can stem from mental illnesses, they tend to be at the extremes of behavior. Not all incivility necessarily leads to them.

It isn’t always a person

In addition to person-to-person incivility, corporate cultures as well as social and/or political systems can be characterized by incivility. Once uncivil behavior is tolerated without consistent controls and appropriate consequences being placed on it, corporate culture can degenerate into a system where employees feel disempowered, isolated, and demeaned.

Politics and religion…

In political systems, incivility can change the tenor of the discussion from one of considering the issues to one of disrespecting dissenting voices. In city councils, county commissions, state and federal agencies, community action groups, non-profits, and more, where healthy, informed disagreement forms the foundation of progress and growth, civil discussion becomes impossible.

Name-calling and mud-slinging

This leads to a breakdown of productive conversations. Divisive behaviors like name-calling, mud-slinging, undermining, slandering/character assassination, ignoring, and others occur. These behaviors deepen the divisions and solidify the sense of separation among the people involved.

Who Practices Incivility?

Everyone is uncivil sometimes. You have probably cut off others as they speak, said unkind things, gossiped, or engaged in other boorish behaviors once in a while. This can result from feelings of weakness, insecurity, or vulnerability. Maybe you’re under a lot of stress, or you’re angry for reasons outside the present environment. Perhaps you feel threatened by someone. You might feel the other has done something to deserve incivility from you.

Maybe life has been just plain difficult recently – and you’re being discourteous or disrespectful with those around you who may not deserve to be treated this way.

Is it a pattern, or a single instance?

Until it becomes a pattern for an individual, it’s just an unfortunate incident. Hopefully it can be set right with proper actions.

Often the chronically uncivil person feels entitled but believes he doesn’t receive proper respect. He often has an unhealthy need to control others. Chronically uncivil people may also have a desire to humiliate others or make them feel vulnerable. Moreover, he is often a bully, engaging in uncivil behaviors when he isn’t bullying.

What to Do in the Face of Incivility

The first step to responding to uncivil behavior is to realize that incivility reflects on the person being uncivil. It has nothing to do with you. You may simply be the first person to interact with her after an unhappy incident with someone else. She may be transferring her feelings of frustration and irritation onto you. It’s possible she may not even realize she’s doing it.

If You Are Dealing with a Friend or Acquaintance

Incivility can bring up your defenses. The hurt or anger from uncivil behavior can drive you to retaliate. Before taking an action you might regret, step back and put your emotions on ice for a moment. Ask yourself if this kind of behavior is habitual from this person; if it isn’t, take a deep breath and ignore it. There may be extenuating circumstances.

If this behavior is typical of this person, consider putting some emotional distance between you and her. Do not respond in kind, as it will do nothing to resolve the situation. Instead, make it a point to spend a few minutes evaluating how much future interaction you want with this person. Decide how you will handle it, knowing that incivility is the norm with this individual.

If You Are Dealing with a Family Member

This situation can be very difficult, because so many emotions are interwoven into familial relationships. You can’t just walk away from family. You must find a way to deflect the chronic uncivil behavior without getting drawn into the drama and negativity.

Learn to recognize the reactions that chronic incivility creates in you. Identify the physical stress responses – for example, tightness in your stomach, or tension in your neck and shoulders – and the related conditions – nausea or heartburn, or a headache. When you feel these things happening, you almost always have an emotional reaction, too – anxiety, anger, fear – that lead you to engage the other person in ways that are not in your best interest.

Respond by choice, don’t react by habit

Once you recognize the physical signs of stress, you can make a decision to pause. Step back and choose not to engage with them in their incivility.

It’s truly hard to learn to do this, especially since chronic incivility leads to habitual responses. You may believe you have no choice over the emotions you feel. Perhaps you’re not even consciously aware of the physical sensations that accompany your emotions. You can’t control the emotions, sensations, or thoughts; they just happen. You can control what you do next.

Do nothing

And next, do nothing. Choose not to respond in kind. If you feel the need to reply, say something that deflects their incivility past you. Don’t engage them or accept blame. Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s talk again when you’re not so upset.”

Family problems frequently continue unchanged for years or even decades. Family members all become accustomed to playing their roles. Everyone does and says the same things every time, and nothing ever changes. Next time, don’t play your role.

If You Are Dealing with a Co-Worker

In this case, ignore the emotions being expressed and remain calm. If he brought up a relevant topic, then address the topic, not the emotion. Be mindful to keep yourself separate from the emotions being expressed by the other person. Do not reciprocate anger or frustration. It doesn’t help to resolve the situation.

Express understanding not blame

The uncivil person may demand that you acknowledge his emotion. Tell him you understand why he feels frustrated or angry by retelling back to him, in your own words, the situation that caused him to be upset. Tell him that you’d like to help resolve the matter – if that’s something you are in a position to do and it’s appropriate. If it isn’t something you ought to be doing, then simply express understanding and leave it at that.

Your responsibility is to yourself. You cannot change the uncivil person, nor can you control her behavior. You can only control yourself. Remind yourself that incivility directed at you is a reflection of the uncivil person, not a reflection of you.

If You Are Dealing with a Subordinate

Create company and even departmental guidelines for dealing with incivility. However, attempting to force a chronically uncivil person to be compliant does not cause them to make an inward change. Instead, it may drive them to find surreptitious ways to be disruptive and uncivil. This can make the problem harder to track and to manage.

When dealing with chronic incivility from a specific employee, consequences must be enforced evenly and consistently. Consequences include corrective actions up to and including termination from employment. All employees need to know that uncivil behavior toward others will not be tolerated.

A culture of respect

Creating a culture of respect and courtesy takes consistent work. Nevertheless, everyone involved in the effort benefits. Ultimately, employee morale and productivity will rise. Innovation and efficiency also improve. The number of employee sick days drop, as do the number of employees who look for other work and leave. Finally, when each person feels valued for his or her contribution, she feels confident to do her job to the best of her ability, looking for ways to do better.

It Isn’t Easy

But nothing worth doing is easy. Take these steps to start:

  • learn to deflect incivility.
  • stop buying into it.
  • stop retaliating.
  • listen to what they say. Reply to the topic without reacting to or addressing the incivility.
  • keep our emotions out of the conversation.
  • avoid internalizing uncivil words and behavior.
  • realize that incivility is an attribute of the person engaging in uncivil behavior.
  • recognize that we don’t have to change the behavior or the person. That’s not for us to do.

Refuse to engage

In conclusion, if we, even once, turn incivility aside and refuse to engage with the uncivil person on his terms, we change our relationships. In addition, if we respond with calmness and civility – no matter how the other person reacts to that calmness – we create a better future for ourselves, and maybe for those we love, too.

#butterflyphoenix #incivility #love #keepcalmandrespond

Summer Vacation Self-Care

Take time just to be and to experience what’s around you.

Personal Well-Being

The warmth of the summer sun creates the perfect setting for summer self-care. It’s the time of the year when many people are out and about among the masses. We’re on the beaches, in the woods, and on planes, trains, and automobiles, traveling to the homes of our families and friends, or to vacation destinations.

Summer can be stressful, especially when traveling. Even more so when you have children – toddlers or teens. The key is to remember that there is a difference between taking a trip and a vacation. A trip entails a lot of pre-planning, coordination, packing, unpacking, and re-packing, itineraries to be followed, and scheduling of everything you want to do and see. It feels a bit stressful just thinking about it.

Even if you are traveling to a vacation destination, you are still on vacation once you get there. Ask yourself: What is really important? Will you regret not seeing this or that for the rest of your days if you don’t actually see it? What is the purpose of your vacation? Are you going just to get away from work? If that’s the case, keep the decision-making to a minimum while vacationing. We get away from our work to relax and recharge. If your vacation is filled with decisions, isn’t it the same as working?

Take a cue from your kids when it comes to vacations. They splash in the water, or just sit around watching people (or their phones, which should be kept to a minimum on vacation) and just be. Have you ever noticed that kids whine the most when their sessions of “just being” are interrupted?

The important thing is to know why you are doing what you are doing. Is it adding joy and value to your vacation; or is it adding stress? Are you having to make too many decisions, or struggling with the kids to get them going? Seeing every major attraction in a tourist destination isn’t necessarily the best plan. Take time to see the little things that the place has to offer. Visit with the local shopkeepers. Check out a couple of museums. Slow down and enjoy the place where you are, as it is. Learn about the local culture, and just be.