Category Archives: Positive Reinforcement

Coffee shop conversations

When’s the last time you had a meaningful and uplifting conversation with a stranger?

There’s no denying it, winters in Vancouver are dreary. The constant rain and cold makes it easy to justify staying in and cuddling up in your warm bed instead of venturing out… Netflix marathon anyone? If you’re like me, cooping yourself up in the house, avoiding the crappy weather can make the days lonely and leave you feeling uninspired and demotivated.

I have to admit the rainy weather gives me the lonely winter blues from time to time. Today, I decided I wasn’t going to let the rain be an excuse to sit around the house – so I got my butt out the door and headed to my favourite place to go when I need to feel inspired: my local coffee shop.

I came with my ipad, notebook and pen in tow, all set to read the news paper and then get to mapping out some juicy goals and action plans with my steaming cup of coffee!

I grabbed a coveted window seat and proceeded to look for today’s Globe and Mail (my favourite paper).. I started glancing around with no luck, then was informed by the older gentlemen sitting two seats over that there were no papers today due to the holiday. Darn.

He continued to tell me that he too was disappointed that there was no paper to read with his coffee, and then looked at me with an inviting smile and said: “I guess we’ll have to just talk to one another instead, huh?”

Wait. What? Talk to each other? For some people, that kind of invitation would instantly make them think ‘no way, i’m too busy to spend time talking to a stranger’ or – even more common, a profound uncomfortable feeling. I could have easily turned him down and exited the cafe… but I plastered a smile on my face and said: “Sounds like a great idea (extended my hand), I’m Amanda.”

For the next hour I chatted with my new friend, Sol, and learned all about his his wonderful wife, two beautiful daughters (his face completely lit up every time he talked about them, I might add) and his dog, Gucci (who I recognize as the beautiful boarder collie who’s often tied up outside of the coffee shop). We shared a few laughs, got deep into a conversation about politics and the civil unrest happening back in his home country in the middle east – and then he spoke, almost tearfully, about how grateful he was to be able to live in Canada.

Ah ha! One of my favourite topics. Whenever people talk about how fortunate and grateful they are to live in a country as free and prosperous as Canada, I immediately find that wonderful meaningful connection that lights me up inside.

An hour flew by before I realized I had to leave, but before I could, he asked me what I did with my spare time? I told him about my love for weight lifting and fitness and he looked at me wide-eyed and said: “On top of your career you do all of that?! You are one wonderful woman. After a big smile and a hug, I said goodbye, thanked him for the wonderful conversation and headed outside to give Gucci some love before I headed off.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to get inspired and energized is to engage in meaningful conversation – especially with new people. I love hearing people’s stories, experiences, history and most importantly – perspectives on common issues. By talking and sharing our thoughts with others it allows us to earn new things, meet new people and find meaning – both in the most simple or complex of ways. To some people, striking up conversation with a complete stranger sounds bizarre, uncomfortable and honestly the very last thing you want to do when you’re feeling lonely or not your best self, but I know meaningful conversation and connection is what lifts my mood and inspires me the absolute most.

The sad fact is, we don’t make time for random conversation and experiences anymore. You never know when that next stranger you chat with could become your next partner, mentor, business associate or life-long friend.

So, the next time you’re at your favourite coffee shop, why not start a casual conversation with a stranger? You might not get lucky every time, but I’m confident you’ll come away with new found energy, new perspectives, knowledge, or at the very least, a new face to say hello to the next time you stop in for your cup of joe.

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Refuse to live a life of expectation

As I sit here with a big mug of green tea listening to the rain pound relentlessly at my window, I cannot seem to wipe the smile off my face.

Today was a great day, an incredible day even, and in all truthfulness nothing ‘happened’ to me.. it was what happened around me.

It started off like most Mondays.. trudging to the gym in the rain at 6am to get my morning cardio in, and even with a sore lower back (don’t worry, it’s only a small strain – my fault for pushing too much weight overhead and not bracing my core properly – do not do this!), it always feels great to get a sweat on to kick off my day.

Work began like any other Monday: immediate chaos upon walking through the door. It’s to be expected, and we plan for days like this, but it’s always a kicker trying to manage so many issues at once without warning.

Crisis is always exhilarating, but here’s where the day actually gets exciting:

When you work so closely with and to (legitimately within arms reach) coworkers, you truly get to know them and their abilities at a pretty high level. You work together to get tasks done, celebrate the wins and pick each other up when outcomes aren’t ideal… but the very best part about working so closely with others is watching them grow and succeed. Today, one of my coworkers overcame a huge obstacle and handled it like a pro. I felt proud and inspired to have been there to witness the situation unfold, confidence set in and a new realization that she could now always conquer issues as challenging as these the next time one comes her way.

As the day progressed I was thinking a lot about my time, how valuable it is and how I’m fortunate enough get to chose how I spend it. Too often we get caught up in the ‘what’s next‘ and ‘how am I going to get there‘ – and we forget how valuable this very moment and the people around us are. Worse, we often never realize how valuable those things are until they’re gone.

I choose to spend my time and effort on people and things that matter. I want to know that what I’ve done has helped someone – be it mentally, physically, or emotionally – be a better version of themselves and gain greater self-awareness, respect or love than they previously had. I think this explains a lot about why relationship building is at the core of my beliefs – both for business and personal relationships. And it shows, trust me.

I realize however, I am just as guilty for sometimes forgetting what truly matters. People, relationships, community – those are what matter. It’s the people who make the difference – not money, numbers, reports, words, websites, targets or otherwise… none of these ‘things’ matter if there aren’t people who see value in it.

So, I challenged my friends and followers to pay it forward today. Give unselfishly without the expectation of return. As expected, many took the challenge with open arms – sharing their stories and inspiring others to take a moment to do something to help make another person’s day better, easier, happier or even brighter.

Something as simple as a hello, holding the door for someone, giving them a hand or offering to drive them home in the rain has little to no impact on your life, but yet because of the lack of reciprocity these days, it causes people to simply do nothing. And this is sad.

Today, I walked into a Starbucks, ordered a tea and gave the barista money to buy the beverages of next five customers who came in behind me. I didn’t wait around long enough to watch anyone come in, but I truly hope that random act of kindness brought a smile to someone’s face, lifted their sprit and gave them hope that others do actually care for strangers.

I refuse to live a life of expectation. I do not expect reciprocity from others because no one ‘owes’ me anything – but kindness and being present in the moment for another does go an incredibly long way.

This brings us to the gym. I cannot say enough about the incredible members I’m fortunate enough to lead, push and watch grow on the daily. I’m amazed and inspired every time I lead a session and see someone achieve a goal they had been working on for months, or even years…some of which they never dreamt possible.

Just like other areas of life, it’s easy to get stuck in a comfort zone. If it feels good and seems normal why change it, right? WRONG. When you stop learning and changing, you stop growing. Change is essential for growth and if you want different results you have to make changes.

Today, I was put on the spot when the class size became the biggest we’ve seen at the gym yet – a max of 20 ballooned into 25 people staring at me looking for direction. At that moment, three things popped into my head:
1. Shit.
2. How are we going to be able to fit everyone in this space and they all get a great workout?
3. They need to be energized or this could go south, real quick.

My solution? Make them work, push and challenge each-other to distract them from being able to even think about the crowded space. And goddam did it ever work! Never underestimate the power of camaraderie. The members took direction, kicked their asses and pushed their friends to have a great workout and a lot of fun.

As they cleared out, the buzz continued into the next class where I then witnessed one of our members deadlift a crazy 400lbs, one strict-press a personal record 24kg bell and another a 48kg bell! The only words to describe my sentiment after being present in those moments are again, proud and inspired.

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I personally didn’t ‘get’ anything out of today. But I did get to help, witness and celebrate the achievements of many others, who, without knowing it, ‘gave’ me more than they will ever know.

How do you choose to spend your precious time? Life’s short. Don’t waste it. Grab it, push it, appreciate it and make it meaningful.

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Filed under Personal Records, Positive Reinforcement