From Masks to Mastery: Navigating the Midlife Journey of Self-Rediscovery

From Masks to Mastery: Navigating Your Midlife Journey to Self-Rediscovery

Have you ever felt like there’s a version of yourself hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be rediscovered? The journey towards uncovering our true selves is a powerful one, and it’s a concept I first encountered a few years ago. It all started with a lecture by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr on ‘True Self, False Self.’ Since then, these terms have resurfaced in various contexts and teachings, resonating deeply with the idea that each of us is born with a soul – our true essence – which can become buried under layers of a false self. Join me on a transformative exploration as we delve into the realms of the true self, false self, and the neuroscience that supports this fascinating journey.

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“Trust” by Cloud

Book Review: Trust by Dr. Henry Cloud

Are you tired of broken promises, shattered trust, and unreliable relationships? Look no further than Dr. Henry Cloud’s latest best-seller, “Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken,” for a comprehensive blueprint on how to cultivate and restore trust in all aspects of life.

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“The Self-Evolved Leader” by McKeown

Book Review: The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown

Brené Brown. Stephen Covey. Jim Loehr. Cal Newport. Carol Dweck. Simon Sinek. Michael Hyatt. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Henry Cloud. Whether they have opened your eyes to view vulnerability as courage, motivated you to find your why, or advocated for you to set clear boundaries with others, each of these best-selling authors and speakers has shifted the way leaders think about and approach leadership.

Imagine if there were ONE book where themes of vulnerability, authenticity, mindset, purpose, clarity, communication, and boundaries all came together to paint a complete portrait of an effective and influential twenty-first century leader. Would you be interested?

Enter The Self-Evolved Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in a World That Refuses to Slow Down by Dave McKeown. In this single volume, the principles taught by each of the aforementioned authors has been distilled and synthesized into a coherent and comprehensive model for personal leadership development and team management.

The Self-Evolved Leader is a “How to Lead” manual for managers and directors in charge of teams (size doesn’t matter).

It is a GPS for people on a mission to develop their own leadership abilities whether they are leading a team or aspire to do so. Maybe they are lifelong learners like me and can’t get enough of leadership theory, or maybe they are suddenly thrust into a leadership position and feel unequal to the task ahead of them, or maybe they were never taught healthy leadership principles from their senior staff.

McKeown takes readers through a step-by-step process to discover “their authentic leadership calling, create a vision for a better world, and build the framework and structure needed to chart the course (p. 2).” And the framework and structure are legit.

The Self-Evolved Leader includes an actual  90-day plan to begin implementing what you’ve learned. He literally tells you what to do each day so that by the time you’re done with the 90-days, you will have set in place a roadmap for yourself and your team that you repeat each quarter.

McKeown rejects the industrial era model of teamwork (“a cog in a well-oiled machine”) and instead posits that teams in the twenty-first century function more like cells in organisms.

“The interactions are more amorphous, the nature of work is more prone to change, and the individuals are connected by more than the mere interlinking teeth of a cog or spoke. There’s a stronger degree of interdependence of connection and of symbiosis. Each person is uniquely individual and at the same time part of the whole. Each person is connected by more than the pursuit of a common goal; they are connected by a sense of shared humanity.”  

(p. 37)

The author’s description of a “self-evolved” leader really resonates with me because it’s exactly who I strive to be. This type of person is someone who accepts responsibility for their own growth. They demonstrate vulnerability and regularly practice empathy which strengthens their connection with the team. This leader is clear on boundaries and daily chooses to stay in their own lane. 

Smiling personal health coach sitting in an office and talking to a woman

According to McKeown, when a person adopts the self-evolved leadership approach, they will focus their activities, decisions, and interactions on helping team members achieve their goals and become the best version of themselves.

He lays out three essential elements which increase the self-evolved leader’s impact on the team: (1) creating a shared vision; (2) establishing a “pulse” and a variety of vantage points from which to assess progress; and (3) key disciplines to adopt in order to have long-lasting impact. He does this by not only suggesting what the elements are, but also by detailing HOW to implement each one. It’s like a road map for how to lead your team over the course of the next year. Literally. 

McKeown has identified eleven“key disciplines” (six micro disciplines and five core disciplines) essential for every self-evolved leader. He lays out a 90-day plan to help the reader practice what they are learning and hone their leadership skills. 

The author takes a methodological approach to explaining the five core disciplines. He describes the importance of the discipline, shares the benefits of it, and then answers the question “why is it so hard?” He then offers a proven “how to” strategy to spur you towards growth in that area. 

The Self-Evolved Leader is packed with helpful tips, strategies, and methodologies for implementation based on the latest research and best practices in leadership accepted across sectors. I highly recommend it for anyone currently leading a team and anyone interested in moving into leadership at their organization. 

If you are interested in purchasing this book based on my review, I’d appreciate it if you use my Amazon link:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Images properly licensed through Envato.

“Simple Joys” by Payne

I knew Simple Joys was going to be a good read when I laughed out loud while reading the INTRODUCTION! ? The stories are genuinely hilarious and thought-provoking.

In her first book Laugh It Up! Candace Payne offered us a peek at the woman behind the mask: the Chewbacca mask. The woman who belly laughed for three minutes straight on a now-viral Facebook Live video with such contagious joy that the world laughed with her not at her. She shared the story behind her viral video and how she grew into a woman who was not only comfortable in her own skin but also undeterred by what others thought about her.

In her new book, Simple Joys: Discovering Wonder in the Everyday , the author shares even more events from her life to demonstrate how each of us can mine for joy in our own everyday experiences. From “taco sweats” and taffeta to an icy driveway and hot coffee, this gifted author will have you laughing out loud one moment and deeply reflecting on complex situations in your own life the next.

Oh, the Places She Went!

Candace is a masterful storyteller who recounts her experiences with such vivid detail, it makes you feel like you were right there with her at the roadside café in Zambia squirting ketchup onto her fries or sitting next to her in the back seat of the car as her father walked out of the house with his hot cup of coffee on a freezing cold morning.

Don’t be fooled. Simple Joys is not a book that you read, put down, and forget about. It’s one that makes you chuckle, wince, roll your eyes, examine your own life, and mine for nuggets of joy even in difficult times.

The most underrated tool we have at our disposal to shift an atmosphere of anxiety to one of joy is to speak out the good times.” page 63.

Simple Joys will help you discover wonder in the ordinary events your everyday life through fun stories, poignant reflection, and questions to spur introspection.

Chapter titles:

  • Prologue: There’s Joy in Them Hills!
  • The Year I Spent with My Head in the Clouds
  • Trash-bag Choir Dresses and the College Crush
  • The Waterbed Where I Said, “Amen”
  • The House on the Hill, the Coffee that Would Spill, and the Stories Shared Around the Table
  • The Day Inadequacy Tried to Squash My Joy
  • Run for Cover
  • Selfies with the Last White Rhinos in Zambia
  • Take the Good, Toss the Bad
  • Epilogue: Prospecting for a Heart of Gold

At the conclusion of each chapter, Candace poses one related, thought-provoking question to the reader and provides ample space for the reader to jot down their own thoughts. There are also a few blank pages at the end of the book for additional notes.

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Pictured above: End of chapter with question and space to journal.

Simple Joys Is Small, but Mighty!

This small, but mighty 176-page book measures only 5-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ x 0.9″ and is the perfect little gift book—but I’d totally buy this for myself, too! (Actually, I did.)

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne

Each chapter features at least one inspirational quote digitally illustrated by the author (see photo above). I’m hoping they make them into a calendar or coloring book, because they are totally cute!

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Simple Joys is small and mighty!

The cover is a smooth hardback with smyth-sewn and perfect-bound pages. The inside pages are printed in full-color on a heavy, matte paper stock which is perfect for highlighting, note-making, drawing, and journaling.

Over Too Soon!

MacaroonsThe book ended too soon for me. It left me wanting more. So, I sincerely hope that Candace is already working on her next book. While I wait, I will read Simple Joys again. And probably again. 

I highly recommend it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

By the way, I had the opportunity to participate in a live video chat with the author immediately prior to release, and when she revealed the book cover she said, “Well, it’s supposed to be watercolor dots, but they remind me of macaroons…and I love macaroons! So, that’s a simple joy!”

Yes. Exactly. 

Simple. Joys. All you have to do is search for them, and you will find them.

Photo credit:  of macaroons by @holly_anewlookat on Unsplash.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I also decided to purchase the book because I really enjoyed it. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Braving the Wilderness” by Brown

Book Review: Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone is arguably one of the most important books I have read in years. The book is timely, relevant, inspirational, challenging, and practical.

In her 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown presented ten guideposts for wholehearted living based on the results of her research on shame and vulnerability. Over the past decade, her work has turned conventional wisdom on its head, and her conclusions have resonated as true for people all over the world.

According to Brown, vulnerability has more in common with courage than weakness, and authenticity with bravery than weakness. Her 2010 TED talk on vulnerability has been viewed over 35 million times, translated into 52 languages, and remains one of TED’s most-watched videos ever. As a result of her own vulnerability in sharing her personal journey toward authenticity, she has been catapulted into the spotlight and is impacting lives all over the world. 

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
Poster by Leonie Dawson (
Click image for a variety of free downloads from the artist.

Brown’s work is based in grounded theory research which means she approaches the data with curiosity, not pre-conceived conclusions or theories she’d like to prove. Her conclusions are based on hard data and her insights can be life-impacting. For example, the data shows that every human being is wired for connection and craves belonging; but Brown takes the conclusion a step further clarifying that authentic connection and true belonging will occur only in an environment where trust has been cultivated. 

Braving by Brené Brown
This poster was created by Brené Brown as a free download from COURAGEworks (now defunct). Click image to download a full-size image.

In her 2015 book Rising Strong, she introduced the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G.—a mnemonic device to help us remember the seven elements required for trust (see poster on the right).

In her new book Braving the Wilderness, Brown emphasizes the critical role self-trust plays in establishing true belonging. She utilizes the same B.R.A.V.I.N.G. acronym to help us assess our level of self-trust. She transforms the original statements into the following questions:

  • B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
  • R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?
  • A – Did I hold myself accountable?
  • V – Did I respect the vault (confidentiality) and share appropriately?
  • I – Did I act from my integrity?
  • N – Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgmental about needing help?
  • G – Was I generous toward myself? (p. 39)

Brown’s theories are founded upon the conviction that every human is innately valuable and should be treated with dignity—not necessarily because of who they are, but because of who we are and the One whose image we all bear:

If our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree…Challenging ourselves to live by higher standards requires constant diligence and awareness. (p. 76)

If we’re surrounded by people who look like us, talk like us, believe like us, eat like us, sing like us, and dress like us, belonging is a given—but is it conditional? Is it fake? Is our belonging constantly up for negotiation?

True belonging must begin with self-acceptance in the midst of diversity and imperfection.

Braving the Wilderness beckons readers back to their shared humanity with guideposts for establishing self-trust, leaning into vulnerability, and embracing curiosity.

The author challenges us to “reclaim human connection and true belonging in the midst of sorting and withdrawal…to choose courage over comfort…how to become the wilderness” (p. 59). Cultivating true belonging will require us to break out of our “ideological bunkers” and intentionally spend time with people who are different than us.

We’re going to have to listen hard, become curious, experience discomfort, and empathize—all without sacrificing who we are.

Foundational to Brown’s analysis is her conviction that “we are all inextricably connected with each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion” (p. 34). The author proposes that our connection to each other has been recently broken, explains why and how that happened, and suggests four paradoxical behaviors which will help us find our way back to one another.

  1. People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.
  2. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
  3. Hold hands. With strangers.
  4. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Each of these paradoxes is elaborated upon in its own chapter. The book is packed with stories of real people advocating for the dignity of human life and wholehearted living. 

Braving Is Advocating for Human Dignity

Braving the Wilderness was written during one of the most divisive and provocative presidential campaigns in the history of the United States. The author objectively examines how social media, news reporting, and political rhetoric exposed the underbelly of our personal dysfunctional relationships built on misperceptions, false assumptions, and manipulative control. The result? Disconnection and loneliness.

In a world as connected as ours, it’s hard to fathom how loneliness could possibly be on the rise. But it is. And the biggest culprit contributing to our social disconnect is fear. 

In the case of the United States, our three greatest fault lines—cracks that have grown and deepened due to willful neglect and a collective lack of courage—are race, gender, and class. The fear and uncertainty flowing from collective trauma of all kinds have exposed those gaping wounds in a way that’s been both profoundly polarizing and necessary. These are conversations that need to happen; this is discomfort that must be felt. (page 58)

She asserts that those who strive to sort us into one camp or another are often motivated by selfish interests, money, and/or power. Our division fuels their agenda, and their favorite tool to cause division is dehumanization. The dehumanization of any person or people group begins with language and is closely  followed by propaganda-like images. 

Dehumanization Diminishes Our Wild Heart

According to Brown, “once we see people on ‘the other side’ of a conflict as morally inferior and even dangerous, the conflict starts being framed as good versus evil” (p. 72), and we always see ourselves on the side of good. 

The problem is that most issues are not that dichotomous. Using recent social movements as an example (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter), Brown challenges the reader to be willing to take a nuanced stance on issues when our humanity demands it. It’s not as clean-cut as choosing one side to the exclusion of all others, but it is essential to our personal integrity. Nuance is a good thing. It’s humane. And there’s no shame in having a nuanced opinion on any topic!

The author has a gift for weaving together compelling narrative with factual data in such a way as to motivate and equip the reader to trust themselves and stand strong in courageous vulnerability and empathetic compassion with no need for approval or permission. Her values are life-giving and line-up very nicely with what is taught in the Scriptures. Belief in the imago dei requires us to value human dignity. Full stop.

I highly recommend Braving the Wilderness (and, seriously, ANY of Brené Brown’s books) to anyone who is serious about being true to self and making a positive difference in this world. If you read it, I would love to hear what your favorite section(s) were and your favorite quotes!

Photo Credits:
Women’s March in California by Alex Radelich@alexradelich on Unsplash
Black Lives Matter in Northwest Washington by Vlad Tchompalov@tchompalov on Unsplash

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”