I truly believe that we create a better world, by becoming better people. And I believe that both those things can happen through becoming more mindful and connected to our inner selves. By becoming more aware of our emotions, thoughts, beliefs, identity and perceptive, we can create a stronger and more love-filled bond with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with our communities
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josée Perron.
Jo is a Mindful Life and Travel Coach. She works with clients one-on-one, hosts retreats, offers courses and writes about the journey inwards. Her company You Choose the Way helps people with travelers, expats and those with an adventurous spirit find their way by exploring all the stuff that lies within them.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ofcourse! I spent most of my 20s traveling and living around the world. I backpacked, joined tours, traveled solo, moved to new cities, relocated for love, work and even to learn a new language. I’m naturally attracted to wandering, but eventually, I found that it wasn’t filling me the way I wanted it to. Although traveling allowed me to experience some of the richest moments of my life, something was missing. For years, I thought I missed having a home, so I kept wandering in search of a perfect place to settle my feet. I searched high and low, but like GoldieLocks, nothing ever felt quite right. After living in the Canadian Rockies, Australia, Guatemala, Peru and now Spain, I realized that no place on earth could make me feel at home. I would only feel the peace and love I sought, once I felt at home within myself.
For there, the rest is history! I started learning about inner exploration, and how to find peace within, and it led me to this path I’m on.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
You Choose the Way originally started as a blog inspired by the realization that I have the power to create the life I want to live. At first, I wrote articles and connected with others who were exploring this same idea. Having been raised in a traditional Canadian context, my idea of what life should look like had always been quite narrow. Study, get married, kids… You know the rest. So realizing that my life didn’t have to look like that, and allowing myself to explore what I did want, was revolutionary for me.
Although my life could have seemed nontraditional because of my travels, I always maintained a “normal-ish” professional life. I usually found stable 9–5s wherever I lived. I always worked for the man, in different fields, in different places, but always for others.
As I started choosing my own way more, I started gaining clarity about my values, what I thought was acceptable, and worth giving my time and attention to. I started questioning societal structures, ideas, and norms, which started to conflict with my work life.
At this point, I was living in Madrid working for an editorial. I helped make textbooks and loved having a hand in educating young minds. But the bureaucracy, greed, egos, and hierarchy of my office life started to weigh me down. After a particularly rough few months of conflicts, I had enough. It was time to quite my 9–5.
It’s been almost 2 years since that day, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been learning all about creating an online business, teaching yoga and meditation, as well as working as a life and travel coach (specialized in NLP and mindfulness). I even had the chance to go on a life-changing motorcycle trip from Madrid to Kyrgyzstan with my partner.
This path isn’t easier, but for now, it’s the right way for me.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Honesty, compassion, and collaboration sit at the base of all my relationships, professional and personal. One of the main reasons I left my 9–5 was because I stopped feeling like I was being treated like a human being by the company I worked for. So now, I prioritize making others feel connected and a part of what I’m building.
As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We work better when it’s together, and I thrive to build a work culture that prioritizes that. I want everyone I work with to feel valued, heard and that their best skills can be utilized to help make the world a better place.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that most drastically changed the course of my life was The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I remember the day I found it in the second-hand book store. At that point, I had recently moved to Spain with a partner with whom things were falling apart. In this period, my life felt unstable, even more than usual, and I felt like the world was pushing me to look into myself. And I was listening. I had recently done an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, I was getting more into yoga, and then this book appeared. The words I read there, gave me the biggest ah-ha realizations. It all became clear what I needed to do. It included becoming more mindful and getting connected to myself and my truths.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Being mindful has two parts. First, it’s about being present with the moment. Instead of allowing our minds to float away worrying about the future or obsessing about the past, we focus our attention on the now. Our attention stays with what is within us (thoughts and feelings) and outside of us (sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings). From there, in the second part, we accept what we find. This isn’t about being complacent or not taking action for things we want. But instead, about planning when that feels necessary, taking action for what we want, but then releasing expectations about the outcome. Life unfolds as it does. The more we can let go and stop needing for things to be different than they are, the less we suffer.
It’s from here that joy can be found. Happiness won’t happen when you get that promotion, when you meet the person of your dreams or when you finally pay off your loans. Happiness can only be found right now.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Well, like I just mentioned, happiness stops being something that we only find once certain outcomes are reached and becomes something we find in every moment.
Then also, by practicing mindfulness, it becomes easier to accept things as they are. It’s still a really hard thing to do, but slowly, as you become better at accepting the presence of hard emotions, annoying situations, and difficult people, these things lose their power. They still aren’t fun to experience, but with less resistance to them, they don’t cause us so much suffering.
But best of all, it helps you see the beauty in regular daily things. It feels likes cruise control is being turned off, which helps you notice the simple joys of life, like a moment in the sunshine, a kind word or a valuable friend. It’s hard for life to be anything but wonderful when you’re reminded of those beauties regularly.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Notice and accept your feelings. What makes negative emotions hard to handle, is the power we give them. If we can change the way we look at them and see them as the essential guiding lights they are, they stop hurting us so much. Once I learned this and managed to implement this idea, my whole life changed. A sad moment didn’t feel so sad anymore, because the sadness was allowed to be there, then it would pass. This happened to me this morning. Since being in lockdown because of COVID-19 I find my emotions more scattered than normal. A day can only be ruined by a bad mood if I try to reject, deny and escape the feelings that come with that mood. But if instead, I allow the doom and gloom to be present, within a short time, these heavy emotions flow by, like clouds in the sky.
- Accept the imperfections of life. Nothing is perfect. People aren’t perfect. Life isn’t perfect and it never will be. Well, not all the time. That’s not the deal. It’s unrealistic to think otherwise. So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves and others to be perfect always? As a new business owner, this has been such a valuable idea to keep in mind. I try to remind myself of it daily. I won’t ever be able to do it all perfectly. And if I waited for it all to be done perfectly, I wouldn’t ever start. So, I strive from progress, instead of perfection.
- Recognize the impermanence of all things. The day starts, then night falls. Babies are born, and other people die. Relationships flourish, while others perish. The flower blooms, but then the petals fall off and nourish the ground beneath it. That’s the cycle. It’s how all things work. But again, we live in denial. We keep ourselves safe in our comfort zones hoping that nothing bad will ever happen. No one we love will die, our relationship with be solid forever and things won’t change. But they do. Change is the only thing we know for certain will happen. If we can embrace that idea, we can live much more freely. Having confronted the death of a loved one in my early 20s, I realized the importance of living each moment fully. And that can only be done by embracing the impermanence of everything.
- Stop taking it personally. Other people’s words aren’t personal, the government’s mind-boggling decisions aren’t personal, the feelings that exist within you aren’t even personal. These things exist, I’m not denying that. But they don’t make you the person you are. They don’t define you. We allow everything that we come into contact with become part of our being. But it doesn’t serve us, nor is it true. It’s just a silly habit we have. We wander around assuming that everything that happens is about us. That we are at the center of the universe. We don’t do it to be bad people, our ego just wants it to be that way. But it doesn’t have to be. Learning to disassociate from my feelings has been one of the most valuable gems of learning this lesson. Instead of “being mad”, I simply “feel madness.” The madness doesn’t define me, it doesn’t sit in my soul. It’s a fleeting emotion that’s passing through me. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Remind yourself of what you’re grateful for. Although we can’t change our thoughts and feelings at any moment, we can change the habits we have around thoughts and feelings. We do that by deciding how to focus our attention. By consciously deciding which thoughts and feelings gain protagonism throughout our days. The more often a feeling will gain the spotlight, the more often it’ll get it. So, by practicing gratitude, we get our minds accustomed to focusing on the good stuff. Then, it naturally keeps doing it. This has been a super handy practice during this social distancing time. After almost 2 weeks stuck at home, practicing gratitude daily, has helped me recognize how lucky I am. I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a health care system, people who love me… Some days, all I can notice are tiny things, like a warm blanket or a soothing glass of wine. But sometimes, all it takes is small appreciations to make a whole perception shift.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Listen. It’s an underrated experience that happens far too infrequently: being heard. Give others space to verbalize what they feel, what they fear and how they interpret that. Often, by simply getting space to express the stuff inside us, it dissipates.
- Stop giving advice. As an important addendum to the previous point, stop telling people how you think they should solve their problems. They might not want your advice. If you have advice, ask them if they want it. They might not. Don’t offer it unless it’s asked for. We all walk different paths, and so will solve our issues using varied solutions. Imposing our courses of action onto others (without their request for it), assumes that they don’t know how to do it for themselves. Let them solve their issues their way.
- Lead by example. If you’re convinced that your way of doing things is the best way, then live your own life that way. If your loved ones witness you’re joy-filled states and optimism and decide they’d like to feel that way too, they’ll learn how to do it from watching you. Or they may ask you for your guidance, at which point, advice can be given. But instead of preaching kindness, compassion or mindfulness, allow those traits to radiate from within you. Don’t impose them onto others. This forces them to live those traits the way you do, which isn’t the only way.
- Allow them to walk their path. There are endless ways to live a life. We’ll all choose different ways of doing it based on our personalities, values, beliefs, etc. Allow others to do things how they think they should be done. If they “take a wrong turn”, they’ll figure out how to get back on track. Maybe this detour leads them to a lesson they need to learn. Often we impose our life norms onto others to feed our own egos. But the most love-filled thing we can do is to let others choose their own way.
- Encourage them to see the beauty. I’ve brought my gratitude practice to dinners with my partner. Especially in complicated times, it feels important to remind each other of the beauty of our lives. Doing this together feels even more impactful than when I practice gratitude on my own. I get a double sense of appreciation because I often recognize the greatness in the things he mentions, but even better, it helps me feel more positively connected to him.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
I love listening, reading or watching anything by Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle, or Oprah. I use Insight Timer for my morning mediations every day. And having a journal handy to write in every morning has been helpful. But by for, the most valuable thing that’s helped me become more mindful is my Sangha, my spiritual community. We meet every Sunday, we meditate together, Jim gives a talk and then we go out for dinner. It’s a simple concept, but extremely valuable. A supportive community has been fundamental for me as I walk this introspective path. It helps the journey not feel so lonely and egocentric.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” by Wayne Dyer is resonating strongly with me lately. I’ve experienced a few drastic shifts in my life that happened after only just changing the way I looked at the situation. Since being locked in my house due to coronavirus, this has been especially true. The first few days I was super down and discouraged about what was to come. Then, I consciously decided to see this circumstance from a different viewpoint, one of gratitude and presence, and my days immediately felt brighter and more uplifting.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that we create a better world, by becoming better people. And I believe that both those things can happen through becoming more mindful and connected to our inner selves. By becoming more aware of our emotions, thoughts, beliefs, identity and perceptive, we can create a stronger and more love-filled bond with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with our communities.
What sits at the base of You Choose the Way is that only by becoming conscious of how we built our own paths, can we truly find love and joy. And it’s by finding these gems within ourselves that we can build more equal and compassionate connections and communities.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thanks for the interview!