So, I love to read. I’m simply enamored with books – the smell of the pages, the imagination of each author, the transformative power of the words printed in black ink. These days, I’ve found myself hungry for books that demand a little more than an open afternoon and an active imagination. Most recently, I finished Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, after which I promptly decided that everyone needs to read it. Like, now.
First, some context. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. What does she study? Courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. With twenty years of research on these topics, Brown has published five (FIVE) New York Times bestsellers, one of which is The Gifts of Imperfection. Brown writes with such intense honesty about the things that none of us really want to talk about, much less think about in a way that might just persuade you to “embrace the suck”. Although The Gifts of Imperfection is not Brown’s first book, I think it’s a great place to start. In it, she offers 10 guideposts for what she calls “Wholehearted living”:
- Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
- Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
- Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
- Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
- Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
- Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
- Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhastion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
- Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
- Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
- Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”
As you can tell, living Wholeheartedly, per Brown’s research, counters the way that most of us operate. These guideposts challenged a lot of internalized beliefs that I’ve held without even realizing it. They forced some self-reflection and probably generated more questions than answers. The most important part of this work for me is how grounded it is, both in Brown’s interview-based research and her own life. She speaks a lot about her “2007 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening.” She tussles with her own vulnerability as she teaches us about our own which give her words so much weight. What’s more, Brown also calls her readers to action – at the end of each guidepost, she demands that we “DIG Deep”: Get Deliberate, Get Inspired, and Get Going. She shows us how she has put these guideposts to work in her life and asks the same of us, in the name of Wholeheartedness.
Needless to say, I am now obsessed with Brown’s work. I’m already knee-deep in her latest book, Dare to Lead (eventually I want to read them all). If you want to learn more about Brené Brown, visit her website. Or, if you’d like a little taste of her work without the commitment to a book, watch her TedTalks!