Leaving Shore: Making the Choice to Live in Discovery

Barbara A. Bernard

It’s here!

I am elated to announce the release of my latest book, Leaving Shore: Making the Choice to Live in Discovery. In today’s unpredictable world, this new book offers practical strategies for navigating uncertainty, challenges, and change.

If you feel stuck in a rut, have had a personal earthquake that makes you question everything, have a full schedule but not a full life, or feel a yearning within yourself and long for something more, Leaving Shore is for you. In it you will find:

  • Questions to help you remember the stories that have shaped your life so far
  • Ideas about how to reframe your experiences by choosing new language
  • Ways to anticipate change and work with it as it occurs
  • Guidance for nurturing your body, mind, and soul
  • Everyday activities you can choose to propel your growth

Available on Kindle now, Leaving Shore invites you to take the first step to creating a life of meaning, possibility, and joy. Start living in discovery today!

5 Key Discoveries That Can Change Your Life

Barbara A. Bernard

Living in discovery means developing a rich bank of knowledge about yourself so that you can retire unnecessary fears and increase your resilience in any situation. We write these blogs to support you in learning more about who you are and what you’re capable of because you are SO worth it.

As we’ve practiced this approach to living, we’ve made some pivotal discoveries that can change your life for the better. Here are five of them:

  1. We can learn about our inner strength without experiencing pain.  

One of the common cultural myths that prevent people from seeking more self-knowledge is “no pain, no gain.” This needn’t be true. It’s possible to greatly enhance your understanding of yourself without pain and even with a great deal of laughter.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.43.27 PMFor example, one of the most powerful strategies all of us can use is to identify our “Go-To Excuse File.” Once I identified that I was saying “I’m too busy” as an excuse to keep me from making healthy choices or attempting something new, I started giggling whenever those words popped up in my mind. The more I choose not to buy into this excuse, the more I find time for many activities I’ve long yearned to do.

  1. Comparing our efforts to our own previous attempts is more empowering than comparing ourselves to anyone else.

When I decided that comparison to others was no longer going to be a valid excuse for avoiding opportunities, my life began to shift. I realized that when I attempted to learn to swim as an adult, it wasn’t helpful to compare myself to Diana Nyad. When I was addressing my fear of water, I wasn’t served by measuring myself against my friend who had grown up on a lake and likened herself to a fish.

Now when I am learning anything new, I choose to look at what I know at any given moment in time and then use that for comparison in the future. I love that this supports me in celebrating my efforts, my growth, and the changes I’m making.

  1. Resilience grows when we keep a memory file of the times we felt good about accomplishing a task, succeeding at something, or overcoming an obstacle.

When I face new choices or challenges, my brain often goes to past incidents of embarrassment, humiliation, or fear in order to protect me from experiencing the same thing again. It’s normal to want to avoid those feelings, but we can train our minds to recall our moments of strength instead. My I Can file is a collection of memories that I intentionally consult when I’m trying something new, taking a well-thought-out risk, or feeling anxious about stepping out of my comfort zone. I now take responsibility for drawing on my I Can file to support my learning and growth.

  1. We can identify beliefs that no longer serve us and replace them with beliefs that truly represent who we are now.

For much of my life I held the belief that I was not creative because when I was eight years old, I didn’t do particularly well in an art class with older students. Over the years, I based many decisions on this belief until a friend challenged me with the evidence from my life. She pointed out all the creativity I employ professionally and personally. When I heard it from friends, I listened. I now can tell you I am creative, and I’m able to use this information when making choices.

  1. We don’t have to be good at everything to try new things. It’s okay to be a beginner, get support, and have others observe us attempting something new.

If I won’t try something unless I am good at it, I am severely limiting my life. If I’m unwilling to be a beginner or learn in front of others, I’m closing off possibilities. Life is always more interesting and stimulating when we are learning, discovering, and exploring. We can all be beginners throughout our lives. Let’s celebrate every new beginning and cherish each step of this journey of discovery together.

Brave Enough to Change

Barbara A. Bernard

To be brave is to act in spite of fear. If I remain rigid and dogmatic, if I cling to simple answers, if I live with ideas that have been passed down for generations without questioning them, then I avoid any potential conflict in my mind and the discomfort that comes with it. I avoid the fear that usually accompanies the uncertainty of change.

We hold tightly to beliefs and ideas for many reasons. We might have been raised by a bully (male or female) who makes it clear that there is only one right answer to give and it had better be given immediately. To hesitate or act uncertain in the presence of a bully is to be unsafe. For some, a personal belief is one that’s commonly held by “my people.” Everyone who belongs here thinks this way. If I grew up in a community where everybody was similar, anybody who was different, whose lifestyle or beliefs were new, could be suspect. If their customs or behaviors were labeled as bad and seen as “wrong,” I may fear them because they are not like what I know and understand.

Another reason to hold on to an idea might be the patterns of thinking promoted by institutions during childhood, namely, that there is always a clear right and wrong. Ideas and people must fit into distinct categories of one or the other. For any of these reasons we may have a deep pattern of habitual thinking that is our automatic default.

Because bravery is often associated with conflict, a quiet, unseen bravery can be found in those who are willing to experience the conflict within their mind that comes with looking at beliefs that have always been a part of who they are. The bravery that inspires me is the bravery I see when a person is willing to be uncertain, to allow new ideas and thoughts to enter their mind, and to question themselves or their thinking. That is why I admire Nelson Mandela. Mandiba, as he was called by his people, was brave enough to reexamine his beliefs, and ideas, change his mind, and then lead his fellow countrymen in changing theirs.

After spending 27 years in prison and later being elected the first black president of South Africa, Mandela was looking for ways to unite his war-ravaged country. As portrayed in the movie Invictus, an idea comes to him while he’s watching his country’s team, the Springboks, contend in a game of rugby. He sees how the blacks in attendance are rooting and cheering for the opposing team and against the mostly white home team. To them, the Springboks represent the prevailing prejudice and apartheid that are crushing their lives. Mandela himself used to renounce the team when he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Now as president, he begins to realize that because he is asking whites to change their minds about apartheid, his fellow black countrymen will need to demonstrate the ability to change their minds as well. Blacks supporting the Springboks would send a strong message throughout South Africa and could serve as a powerful step toward bringing the people together post-apartheid. With this in mind, he invites the captain of the Springboks to tea and, during their conversation, offers him a copy of a poem.

The poem is “Invictus” by nineteenth-century poet William Earnest Henley, and the title means “unconquered.” Mandela explains that the poem inspired his vision throughout his imprisonment. It helped him stand up for what he believed and to stay standing when all he wanted to do was lie down. Through his accomplishments since that time, Mandela demonstrated to the world that indeed he had an unconquerable spirit and he that he, like each of us, was truly the captain of his own soul.

Prior to the 1995 rugby season, an interviewer posed the following to Mandela: “It has been said that you used to support any team that played against the Springboks.” To this Mandela replied, “Obviously that is no longer true. I am 100 per cent behind our boys. After all, if I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?”

Adopting an attitude like this is basic to living in discovery. Holding a vision, regardless of the current reality, inspires us to continue exploring our minds and our world. In the broadest sense, being willing to examine our own thoughts and decide whether a change in thinking is needed is what living in discovery is all about!

Celebrating Those Who Showed Up For Us

Barbara A. Bernard

Barbara A. Bernard

Part of my work as a consultant involves teaching a class for educators about communication and culture. On the first evening we meet, I ask the participants to make a list of the people who taught them how to be a human being. Recently one of them, a bright young teacher and mother of three, called me over and said, “What if I can’t put my parents on this list? I was a latchkey kid.” In response, I asked, “Who did show up for you?” She smiled and began writing her list of names.

This is a time of year when I reflect on the fact that, for many people, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are national holidays that don’t fit them and possibly bring up pain. Some may be longing for the mother or father they lost or never had. Some may have always wanted to be a parent but couldn’t. Estranged spouses may mourn the marriage that didn’t work.

When Anna Jarvis began campaigning for a holiday to honor mothers, soon after her own mother died in 1905, our nation had a different view of families and mothers. Publicly we held to the idea of the nuclear family. A few years later, in 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd initiated Father’s Day as a tribute to her father, a single man who had raised six children. The holiday began because Dodd’s family didn’t fit the cultural norm of those times—no mother was present to celebrate on Mother’s Day.

As a public school teacher years ago, I tried to be sensitive to situations that potentially could make some of my students feel “other.” Because Mother’s Day occurred during the school year, I saw the pain on some children’s faces when that holiday was celebrated and they didn’t have a mother at home. What I learned was that all students could honor the adults who had shown up for them in some way, even if they weren’t the child’s parents.

IMG_5951By finding ways to thank those people and acknowledge their gifts, the students began to understand the importance of gratitude. Gratitude is a lifelong practice that I knew would support them in their growth as human beings. By opening up the definition and moving beyond biology, we were reframing their stories. Now, when I teach the university class on culture and communication, I explain that in many indigenous cultures, young people will speak about their uncles or aunts, but often those individuals are not biological relatives. Rather, they are elders who have contributed in important ways to the young person’s life. It is common for people in such cultures to claim many elders who have shown the way, expressed kindness, and been part of the fabric of the community in which the children have been raised.

One of the hardest things in life is contending with the cards we’re dealt when they aren’t the cards we wanted. Fathers may not be present for many reasons: divorce, death, fractured relationships. In some cases, a father may never have been in the picture at all. Consequently, Father’s Day can sometimes be a painful reminder that seems to offer no appropriate way of celebrating. Even so, it could present an opportunity. For example, I once knew of two brothers who found Father’s Day to be particularly painful because their father was choosing not to be present in their lives. Wanting to celebrate anyway, the young men decided to exchange cards and gifts between themselves to honor the ways they appreciated each other. By doing so, they broadened their own definition of the holiday.

When my father was alive, although he and I had a deep and abiding love, we had the normal amount of static in our relationship. Apart from traditional celebratory cards and gifts, we struggled in our communication for several years. Now that he has slipped out of his costume, however, my awareness of what he contributed while he was alive continues to expand and grow.This Father’s Day, I will be honoring my father by writing him a thank-you letter. Expressing my gratitude will strengthen my heart muscle.

If this Father’s Day is not a day on which you can celebrate a man with whom you share biology or lineage, consider calling, acknowledging, or visiting with a man who has been supportive of you or has otherwise contributed to your life in a valuable way. Let this Father’s Day be a day when we express our gratitude to those who showed up for us and taught us something about what it means to be a human being.