Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living

Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living

by Halley Bock

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626343559
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 01/17/2017
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Halley Bock is the founder and CEO of Life, Incorporated—an organization that fosters mindful connection in all areas of life as the means to experience a wholehearted, fulfilling, and joyful life. Previously, Halley spent over a decade as a shareholder and CEO of a successful training and development company, where she both worked on and studied human dynamics and relationships and their impact on business and individual success. The focus of her company was on developing the art and skill of conversation as the vehicle for creating connection with teams, employees, leaders, and individuals, as well as transforming individual and collective results.

Based out of Seattle, Washington, Halley now spends her time writing, teaching, and leading her organization while also coaching executives. As a prominent thought leader, Halley has spoken to leaders and audiences across the globe on the topics of relationships, connection, culture, management, and fulfillment. She has also been relied on by substantial media outlets for her expertise. In addition, Halley serves on the boards of several nonprofits and can often be found exploring the trails with her wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt

Life incorporated

A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living


By Halley Bock

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2017 Halley Bock
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-355-9



CHAPTER 1

INNER LIFE


"Until we find self-love, the roots of our tree cannot grasp the rock or the soil."

— Halley Bock


When I originally sketched out the structure of this book, I thought physical well-being should be the first foundational element, followed by environment, and finally, inner life. As with most Americans, I tend to gravitate toward what I can show as it speaks to my results minded slant. Plus, it's quite gratifying to be able to present the physical evidence of working on oneself by flexing in front of the mirror after an intense workout session. But in the process of digging up and cultivating my own foundation, I quickly realized I had it backward. Looking solid on the outside bears no weight and has no connection (minus the brief endorphin high) with spiritual and emotional health. A tree can have a strong root system and an impressive outgrowth of branches, but if the foundation — the soil — in which it's rooted cannot support its continued growth, then the tree will eventually fail because the roots have nothing substantial to grasp.

I can also assure you that there is no magic pill we can ingest to fortify our centeredness, our spiritual grit. No inner life "sea monkeys," if you will, that can spring up to fill a void or make things happy and okay. There is also nothing exterior, no scaffolding to bolt on that can compensate for lack of emotional health and connection with self.

Focusing on the external as a means to heal our inner life is akin to erecting a facade in front of a derelict building. We merely mask the truth of what begs for our attention. We choose to look the other way, betraying the exquisiteness that lies beyond what our eyes can see — the crumbling walls and forgotten rooms — shaming and running from ourselves instead of embracing our own human nature.

The path to peace and inner fullness has no signpost, no neon lights, no catchy slogan. It is a tiny, meandering, lush footpath that can go easily undetected in our fast-paced, results-driven lives if we aren't careful.


SHI(F)T HAPPENS

I'll pause to share the life-changing event that uprooted me from the earth — thanks to a lifetime of leaving my internal world unattended to — and how, like millions of people, I employed all the techniques previously mentioned to try and fix myself. I exhausted each and every one of them until I landed on the powerful insights and new strategies that would heal the pain and allow me to build a healthy emotional ecosystem, once and for all.

When I began the initial undertaking of authoring a book, I was the CEO and shareholder of a training organization. I was passionate about the work, had a formidable tribe of dedicated employees, landed the company on several well-respected business lists, and was exalted as a leader in the industry for both my business acumen and my approach in creating a people-first culture. For nine years, I worked my knuckles to the bone to turn what was a boutique lifestyle company into a force to be reckoned with.

On April 2, 2015, my boss waltzed into my office as if walking on air, with a delicious grin curling up the sides of her mouth. She invited me into a conference room, where she sat me down and delivered these words: "After careful consideration, the company no longer requires your services and wishes to part ways. Your employment has been terminated, effective immediately." She slid a folder across the table, and that was it. My life changed forever.

Here's the plot twist: That boss was my mother. The reasoning and style of her delivery baffled many, including me, but her world — seemingly made of extremes — had always been peculiar to me. There was often no middle ground. From an early age through adulthood, I was either in fashion or outmoded, good or bad, adored or tolerated, right or wrong. Too often, I landed on the wrong side of the coin, as I did that day in the conference room.

As a child and daughter, I always struggled with the feelings of never being enough when it came to my relationship with my mother. Needless to say, I spent a great deal of my life trying to be enough of an asset or creator of assets to justify my existence, to find a sense of belonging. I was constantly reaching for approval and doing anything to grasp that trophy, which always seemed out of reach because it wasn't mine to take. It was hers to give, and she wasn't capable of extending it to me — at least not in a way that I could sense. I get it now, and I don't fault anyone for it. But in the absence of engaging in that struggle for unconditional love, I had to face the void that remained within me.


THE ART OF BUSY

The first two weeks following my dismissal were pretty much a shitstorm. No joke. My body rejected anything I tried to consume. Determined to prove that I was fine, I kept up with my already demanding workout routine and literally ran myself into the ground. After vomiting during a run up a particularly steep hill, I passed out on the downhill side and came to in front of the house of a very surprised, incredibly sweet retired woman. She begged to give me a ride home, but I turned her down and staggered back to my car. She must've thought I was out of my mind. She would've been right.

In another effort to prove to myself and the world that I could handle what had happened as if it were no big deal, I began to seek a way to provide for my family. Within these same two weeks, I hung up my shingle as an executive coach and growth consultant and had my first signed contract in hand. For this, I was elated. Overjoyed! This first gig gave me a much appreciated and well-timed boost of confidence. It is work that I remain passionate about to this day.

Two months later, my wife and I sold our home. We could no longer afford to live the life we had created, and there were a million adjustments we would have to make for ourselves, our children, and our future. In short, I was busy. As a born visionary and problem solver, I was making mincemeat out of these seemingly mountainous challenges while looking forward to the new adventures that would come with completely overhauling our lives. What I didn't take into account was the silent but devastating spiritual, psychological, and emotional damage that had taken place due to the teeth, the buzz saw, of incredible loss and pain.

Looking back, I see clearly what I was doing. My theory was that if I kept achieving goal after goal, I would build up enough self-worth and positive feelings that when I finally did sit still, I wouldn't implode from hurt. A steel structure of inner peace and fortitude would be my prize for all my doing.

I was wrong. Though I could keep myself incredibly busy mentally and physically, there were inevitable lulls when the emotional pain would creep in. And my steel structure? Well, it was more of a sand castle. There was no escaping the emotional tide and the fragility of my inner life when I sought to strengthen it through external validation instead of from within. It was simply an altered version of what I had been doing for forty-something years. Recognizing that this strategy of keeping busy wasn't going to be my ticket to "justfineness," I began to see it for what it was. I realized I needed to find out why I defaulted to this mode. The reason, I discovered, was the seemingly unachievable need of feeling loved and worthy.

By the time I was an adult, this constant striving for love and acceptance had become an unconscious pattern. But when the veil of fantasy was forever ripped off, what I didn't know — the insecurity, the fragility, the still desperate five-year-old fighting for a parent's love — took center stage. As the Japanese poet Mizuta Masahide so eloquently put it, "Barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon." For me, the "moon" was the recognition that I would never receive the kind of love and belonging I craved from my mother, that this wasn't what the universe had in store for me during this lifetime; I would have to provide that love and sense of belonging for myself. But before I gained that ability, I had to deal with the ashes — the sheer, guttural pain that comes from letting go of what could have been. After spending years guarding my emotions and allowing callouses to form around my heart, I was confronted with my own pain, my loss; it was almost too much to handle.

That's where I was in the weeks following my termination — busy on the outside cobbling together a new life while hate mounted on the inside. The scariest part was that there was little outward indication of the pressure that was building within me. There were momentary, sporadic outbursts of negative emotions, but those were nothing like the emotional outpouring and collapse that would soon follow.


WHAT LIES WITHIN

It's true that we discover who our real friends are when we fall on hard times. I was fortunate enough to have Deli alongside me, a handful of close friends who managed to keep me upright, and the collective support of a larger community. During this time I learned what family meant to me and discovered the true, raw power of love — the beauty and life force that comes in its presence and the brittle emptiness that remains in its absence. I learned that love, like balance, is an inside job. It's not freely available to give or receive until we can create and sustain it within ourselves.

Once I stopped filling my life with busyness, I ran face-first into my feelings about myself. It was like slamming into a mirror. The experience left me dazed, confused, and fragile, yet full of clarity. The insight I gained is that how we treat others — what we say about others, what we believe about others, and how we care or don't care for others — is often a direct reflection of what we believe and feel about ourselves. I would say this is generally true in day-today life when we aren't actively projecting ourselves onto others. However, during times of extreme stress or emotional trauma, it is one hundred percent dead on. In these moments, it's not uncommon for the true, honest feelings and beliefs we have about ourselves to emerge.

As I mentioned, Deli and a small circle of close friends stood with me during this time of chaos. Unfortunately, to both my wife and closest friends, I became a monster. I began acting in a way unfamiliar to myself. I assumed friends hung out with me out of obligation, not because they really wanted to. If there was any way to twist a text, action, gesture — anything — into a sign of rejection, I would make it so. Time after time, I would emotionally implode or verbally explode when I perceived that my wife or friends were not fully accepting or supporting me. I actually believed that, deep down, they didn't really like me, that they already had one foot out the door, and that it was just a matter of time before they fully absented themselves from my life.

Of course, none of this was true! But I projected my own feelings about myself onto them, feelings I had formed in childhood. The sad reality is that the sheer force of my will to hate myself was leaving them no choice but to opt out of having a relationship with me. The more they loved me, the harder I pushed them away.

It's really sad how hard, mean, impatient, and unkind we can be to ourselves. I know I was heartless. Ruthless. The pain I experienced as a child was nothing compared to the pain I inflicted upon myself. It was only when my wife and close friends began to pull away for reasons of self-protection that I realized what I was doing, and if I didn't stop and change, all the behaviors I exhibited would prove me right: that I was unlovable, that I didn't belong, and that total abandonment was not a question of if but when. When the impending isolation closed in after I succeeded in forcing one of my closest friends out of my life, I realized it was the last thing I wanted. I embarked on an immediate emotional and spiritual journey to save my life.


THE PATH FORWARD

Each morning, I remind myself that the real work is the inner work. I can set the tone for the day, or I can let external forces set it for me. This is the difference between living life from the inside out and the outside in. The most important aspect of my life will not be defined by accolades, positions, accomplishments, possessions, or the results I achieved. The most important aspect of my life will be how I felt during my gifted time here and, equally as important, how I made others feel. It's the experience brought on by the time and attention I afford my inner life, not what life can afford me.

In an effort to create the foundation upon which we can spring forth and live fully, let's set aside our desire for pursuing results. Don't get me wrong! Having goals is great and necessary. We'd be lost at sea in an oarless boat without them. But life is to be experienced and enjoyed on the path from here to there — not only when we attain something or arrive at a destination.

One cannot pursue happiness as a goal or expect it to be a byproduct of achieving a goal. When we throw happiness outside ourselves or make it a task, then we lose the essence of it. When we try to regulate our emotions based on how or what we achieve, the feeling is short-lived, if not missed altogether. However, when the basis of those feelings and emotions is internal and we focus on experiencing them daily, what we find is long-lasting, attainable joy. Or peace. Or confidence. Or whatever it is we need to focus on for this particular period of our life. In short, when we focus on our inner life — our emotions, how we show up each day, how we feel about ourselves and others — we are free to fully experience the joy in life and, often, results emerge that we couldn't even have imagined possible.

Let me share the successful strategies that I employed to nurture and sustain my inner life. The strategies, or elements, that exist within this foundational subset are mindfulness, connection, and nurturing.


MINDFULNESS

If you're like me, it's hard to sit still. Literally. Life's distractions have a strong pull on me, often shifting my focus from one shiny object to another. Or perhaps you're quite willing and content to sit quietly, meandering through your internal world, leisurely lifting up and examining the intricacy of each discovery. Mindfulness, or awareness of the present moment, is amazing, because it can come into play no matter your ability to abide distraction or your comfort level in exploring your internal world. Here is what I mean. Mindfulness is a quality of mind that is awake, aware, alert, and knows it. When we build this muscle, it allows us to see things for what they truly are so we can respond rather than react. I think of mindfulness as the bridge between our inner life and our ability to exist and function in the world without being sideswiped by reactivity, emotions, and negative thought patterns. Meditation, such as the practice of present-moment awareness, are the planks of the bridge. It's how we construct and build mindfulness in ourselves. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, to name a few, are exercises we can engage in to build mindfulness.

Being the more hyperactive type, such as I am, presents obvious challenges to practicing meditation and developing awareness. I had to learn that being still and alone with thoughts does not indicate awareness, even though that's often the image we have in our mind. Rather, stillness can lead to quite the opposite — emotional or physical stasis or, worse, harmful thoughts and feelings, negative judgments that can lead to suffering, self-hate, or hatred of others. Allowing ourselves to drift into this zone creates painful loops of negative emotions that we relive and default to over and over and over again. Eventually, we only feel alive when in a state of emotional chaos and trauma. When author Anne Lamott said, "My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone," I imagine she was referring to a time like this!

When we judge or hang on to our thoughts and feelings — artificially lengthening them beyond their intended lives — they imprison us, which leaves us bound up and unable to see other possibilities. We assume that because a thought has entered our brain — this organ believed to be so superior — that it must really mean somethingprofound. Instead of letting these ripples occur in a relaxed state of awareness — dropping in and gently moving out — we throw out grappling hooks and waterski on the choppy waves of thought control and magnified emotions. Such passing thoughts were only intended to be flashed up on our mental screen, not revered behind stanchions and rope.

I remember vividly how, in acting class one day, the instructor became frustrated at our ongoing need to push the scene, a term used when an actor is more interested in guiding a scene to a predetermined outcome than allowing the scene to unfold by way of riffing and surfing on what is actually happening in each moment. We push when we manufacture emotions out of thought or try to suspend them so we can wallow in them.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Life incorporated by Halley Bock. Copyright © 2017 Halley Bock. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Soil Foundation

Chapter 1 Inner Life 25

Chapter 2 Physical Well-being 57

Chapter 3 Environment 81

Part 2 Roots: Inspiration

Chapter 4 The Inspired Life 113

Part 3 Branches: Expression

Chapter 5 Expression 1: Play 149

Chapter 6 Expressions 2 and 3: Avocation and Vocation 165

Chapter 7 Expression 4: Key Relationships 191

Chapter 8 Crafting Your Living Tree 203

Part 4 Leaves Impact

Chapter 9 Intention 239

Chapter 10 Attention 265

Chapter 11 Conclusion 279

Journal 283

Index 305

About the Author 315

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