Tag Archives: growth

Transition to Transformation

By Susan Birkenshaw

On December 8, 1989, having reached my late 30s, I “retired” from my long-standing employment with the Ontario government. Over numerous summer assignments while still in school and permanent jobs, my focus was always on the education and personal growth of the people I managed. I found it fascinating that it did not matter what job we were doing or the level of responsibility or accountability a team member had, we were the most successful in meeting goals and simply “Getting the job done!” when each individual was acknowledged, encouraged, and rewarded both professionally and personally. There is nothing more rewarding than to watch the growth of the staff around me.

Fast forward to the time of my “retirement.” I had been in a position where I trained executives in public service for a variety of subjects and tasks – developing skills for leadership, management and labour relations. The most ironic subject that I was faced with was “how to make early retirement work for you!” Imagine an under 40-year-old person, teaching long term civil servants (often over 60) how to make the best of early retirement options.

THEN – I had a “lightbulb” moment – with my years of service and the new program that the government was offering, I was eligible for one of these retirement options! Suddenly, I was unemployed, at my choice. I now had the opportunity to create my next future. I had to learn the true meaning of transition, transformation, and growth!

This was at the time when self-help books were raining from every bookshelf, self-styled gurus were popping up on every street corner and flyers for new personal growth courses arrived in your snail mailbox on a regular basis. This also was before the advent of email, internet, and the ubiquitous AOL disc! I knew two things in my soul – I loved working with adults and having meaningful conversations where opinions were shared and challenged with respect, and I craved being my own boss – maybe not forever but to experience that feeling of self-power. OOOH, I had so much to learn!

After many starts and revisions, I was and am a private coach and educator in the simple art of personal communication. As I proceeded to work with many people who found themselves frustrated with their lack of success in communicating what they wanted to say, I finally put together a short but simple message to demonstrate the goal of each training session: “Transform to Keep the Good Stuff – Thrive with the New.” Change is usually just a cosmetic alteration – a coat of paint, a new window, or a new clothing style. Actual transformation is an alteration or replacement of things that are not working, and we must remember that the results of transformation are not returnable.

I designed a program called ThrivalQuest©.

Consider the caterpillar. This small, maybe bright green worm creeps about in its environment and finally picks a spot to create a chrysalis to move on to her next life. In this chrysalis, she alters her complete make-up, goes through a soupy goo stage, and ultimately recreates herself and comes out as a beautiful butterfly (or moth) to live on anew. The thing to remember here is there is nothing left of the caterpillar – no cellular similarities, no memories and likely not even any of the same colours.

Now we come to my forever favourite – the Dragonfly – this magnificent creature challenges all of us to see movement in a different way, colour in its many layers and just simply to SEE. Her magic begins in her early life – from egg to larva to adult dragonfly. The most wondrous thing about this whole process – anywhere from 3 months up to 5 years – she keeps the parts and cells that will work in the next stage, rejecting things that will control her growth – like her hard-shelled exoskeleton.

In other words, she keeps the good things about herself and rejects the things that hold her back. Clearly, I am not a scientist and I find the minute detail of the process that a dragonfly goes through to achieve such beauty a bit overwhelming – but I did and do find the analogy of her process was a perfect fit for my clients: “Shed the Old Coat that No Longer Fits!”

I still use the beautiful dragonfly to support me in any conversation I have about transformation. Each time I hear someone tell me that something must things have to change – my first challenge is “Everything? Or can we take small steps over time?” More often than not, there is a long pause in the conversation, and we begin again – what needs to be different? How fast does this need to happen? What will need to happen to achieve our goal? I do know that if we want to thrive in our currently weird environment, we need to be flexible. We can neither change everything nor keep everything the same in our lives – but if we are selective about who and what we keep around us, we will thrive.

I suggest as we come to a time where our world transitions through drastic change both personally and globally – take a good hard look at your “old normal.” This is when you can identify all the stuff that is holding you in a place where you may no longer be comfortable. With that list in hand, these are the questions you need to ask yourself. Is this still true? Is this still important to my life? Does it give me pleasure? Can I keep that thing or that person in my life and still respect myself? Am I being honest? And finally, what are you going to do next with your new knowledge?

This is ridiculously hard and may take a long time, so I strongly suggest the time is now! If the pandemic has given us anything, it is the gift of time to design and prepare to take the next steps in our lives.

Susan Birkenshaw-Keith is a storyteller and a personal communications specialist. She has retired from active clients and enjoys the creative arts, writing her life stories and living in Huatulco.


By Raina Dawn Lutz

I’m a holistic nutritionist and I know that changing the way you eat is hard. One thing I’ve learned consulting with people about their eating patterns and choices is that as we change our diet, we need to allow for space to grow. As we evolve, things fall away and new things enter our horizons. This is one of the emotional challenges around making change. It’s not just about the thing we are removing, there’s a lot of emotional processing around it that’s not necessarily nice to do. As we make changes in our life and diet, some things have to fall away before new things can be properly integrated. Some things get shifted, re-arranged or they transition.

For example, 10 years ago when I went vegetarian, I loved it. But when I started craving meat almost a year later, I could have stuck it out. I could have held on tightly to my vegetarian label and not allowed my body to get what it was asking for. I had to let go of the belief that vegetarian was still working for me at that time. I had to let go of the thought that I was “bad” for changing and no longer following my plan of vegetarianism. I had to let go of fear of change and let go of judgement on myself for ‘failing’ at something. (It wasn’t a failure at all and in fact it taught me to more quickly adapt.)

Moving through food phases, be it foods we love now or diets we are following is a lot like, well, life. Between the ages of 18 and 27, I had moved 17 times. That is a lot of upheaval and “unsettle.” Moving on average twice a year for almost a decade. I got very used to change, even though it was uncomfortable. It wasn’t easy. It was frustrating at times and I would question my decisions and feel anxiety about where my life was and why I couldn’t settle. I was so used to moving regularly that this kind of lifestyle became almost like a game.

When I was 28, I got rid of 80% of my material possessions to live as a “digital nomad.” I’ll play the game. I applied this mentality to other areas of life. I also started to classify my diet as “flexitarian.” It was one great big metaphor that I was living. I was flexible, my diet was flexible, my living situation was flexible. My life became fluid in momentum and so did my nutrition. I embraced change

I used this life/food metaphor to start working with my clients on a level where they could stop dieting and learn to find their power, their sense of choice and freedom.We may think we need a fixed diet label or a meal plan regime to feel secure with our food choices when really we just need a basic understanding of what foods are healthy as well as the freedom and fluidity to allow ourselves to discover what works innately for our body. This is the “Consciousness Over Calories” method that uses mindfulness as the base to success. It’s also letting our attachment to diets die – letting our thoughts on a “certain way” of being, having things or having things look – die.

But once we hit that great plateau of freedom and flexibility in our transitions – then what?

Our minds crave a challenge.

What are the positives of allowing death, death of thoughts, beliefs, etc., about our diet? It makes room for growth, for personal development using food as a platform.
·-Every day we can make decisions to vote with our fork and support slow food, a powerful shift.
·-We can take care of our planet by making conscious decisions.
·-We have the power to choose how our body feels based on decisions we make.
·-We can support local farmers (when our lifestyles and budgets allow).
-We can choose the food that works for us and not feel bound by strict rules.

If healing is a return to wholeness, then healing from trauma by allowing parts of us to die is remembering that we can trust ourselves, we can trust our failures and successes in food and we can trust life as it changes. It is the reintegration into easiness, calmness, and the willingness to allow things to be as they are, rather than trying to control everything.

As you’re making changes in life or feeling that you need to, just remember there is always a new perspective just around the corner. The simplicity, change and freedom you crave is just one new thought away. It’s allowing that transition and questioning it, getting curious about it, welcoming it instead of fighting it, that’s where we’ll find both success and balance.

Raina is a holistic nutritionist based in BC, Canada.

OXXO – What’s Behind the Ox in the Room?

By Brooke Gazer

With eight locations in Huatulco, OXXO signs seem to be multiplying like a squad of bunnies all across Mexico. Who are they and where are they from?

In 1977, the first OXXO stores opened in Monterrey, selling mainly beer, snacks and cigarettes. The name originated with a stylized logo that resembled a shopping cart. Two diagonally stacked XX’s formed the frame of the cart, and the O’s on either end looked like wheels. Before long OXXO expanded its inventory to compete with the 7-Eleven international chain, which had opened its first Mexican store in Monterrey in 1971.

Brandishing a simplified logo, OXXO now boasts in excess of 18,000 convenience stores across Mexico, and the chain is rapidly expanding throughout Latin America. It is estimated that OXXO serves 13 million customers daily. If convenience stores were part of a farm, OXXO would be the Ox – the biggest animal and the one who controls the most pasture.

The OXXO brand is owned by FEMSA (Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.), the fifth-largest company in Mexico. FEMSA has far-reaching tentacles into a vast number of other companies in Mexico and throughout much of Latin America. It is the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world; Del Valle fruit juice is also bottled under the Coca-Cola brand. FEMSA owns 20% of The Heineken Company’s international operations, including Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, a major Mexican major brewery, which means FEMSA controls sales and operations of not only Heineken Beer, but Dos Equis, Sol, Tecate, Bohemia, Superior, Carta Blanca Indio, and Noche Buena. It might be safe to assume that all the beverages inside the refrigerated wall of the OXXO stores are controlled by FEMSA. But this mega corporation also has a refrigeration division, so it is likely that the coolers belong to FEMSA as well.

Solistica, another branch of FEMSA, controls much of the beverage distribution in Mexico, moving its brands from production to warehouse to point of sale locations such as OXXO and its competitors.

A favored location for OXXO stores is adjacent to gas stations, so FEMSA has been a major franchisee of Pemex stations. When Mexico reformed the laws that ended Pemex’s monopoly on petroleum, FEMSA began investing in this sector as well. OXXO Gas has yet to arrive in the state of Oaxaca, but there are over three hundred OXXO gas stations dotting the rest of the map of Mexico. In the past, the government set the price of fuel through Pemex, but could FEMSA trucks buy their own fuel at a discount?

The little beer store OXXO has come a long, long way in just over forty years, and they continue to expand their services. It is estimated that about sixty percent of Mexicans have no bank account – OXXO saw a tremendous opportunity. They introduced computer scanning software that allows anyone to plunk down cash and pay for goods bought online, partnering with retailers like Amazon and Mercado Libre. Like VISA, OXXO charges a percentage to the merchant, and they add ten pesos to the buyer’s purchase price. Even those with bank accounts might find this service useful. You can deposit cash into someone’s bank account simply by giving the receiving person’s bank card number. For a mere ten pesos, it’s quicker, easier, and more accessible than going to the bank.

Without question, OXXO is a convenient place to stop for a snack or a drink. It is easy to spot these ubiquitous outlets and they have so much to offer. I’ve used the payment option myself when my bank card was being uncooperative. But I worry, just a bit, when one firm has so much control over a market. It’s practically impossible for independently owned stores to compete with these clean, well-lit, well-stocked convenience stores. But when the company also controls the product and its distribution, it is no longer an even playing field. Yes, the customer wins – at the moment. But what if they became the only game in town?

Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, an ocean-view B&B in Huatulco (www.bbaguaazul.com).