The Birth of Empowerment Education

Meg Hanshaw Ph.D.

Sometimes when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place. (Unknown)

Iloveme_267879074My Passion.

I had a passion, -playing basketball. I loved the smell of the gym, the sweat pouring off of my skin, hours of practice, learning and growing my skills, and the competition. I felt confident, strong, smart, and in the flow of the game, totally connected to my teammates, my friends and my coach. By 9th grade, I was one of the stars of my team and received lots of awards and positive recognition. I was part of the foundation that catapulted the school into an 88 game winning streak. But as a college junior, I quit my basketball team, injured, sick, stressed and angry, feeling stupid and not confident in my skills anymore, alone and that nobody liked me, full of shame, and like a failure. All I wanted to do was hide, eat sugar, and hang out with my boyfriend 24/7 to make me feel better. I hid this from everyone, never letting anyone know how I felt blaming my departure on my injuries. On the outside, I looked like a high achiever, happy and successful, but on the inside I was falling apart.

I spent the next 20 years after I quit the team continuing the high achieving image doing a multitude of things I loved, such as going to grad school, researching, coaching basketball, teaching health and physical education, and practicing my newly learned skills. I was searching to find out what had happened to me. How could I have quit something that I loved so much? I really felt like something was wrong with me. I studied and tried everything I could get my hands on. From graduate work in exercise science, health, sport psychology, motivation, educational curriculum and instruction, supervision and leadership, to personal programs such as Anthony Robbins Mastery University and Leadership Training, World Works Leadership Training, The Wellness Inventory, Wellness and Life Coaching Certification, spiritual trainings, postural alignment and fitness programs, therapy, massage, acupuncture, herbs and supplements, essential oils, cleansing, going to traditional doctors and holistic doctors, and reading many books in personal and spiritual development, …I was on a personal quest to find answers. I had an inherent drive that I wanted to thrive, not survive.

It just wasn’t me.

During this time, I also began to notice that many of my students and athletes had the same struggles I did. Because I was learning new skills to help me, I found myself coaching and mentoring the young people around me. They would confide in me about their challenges, and that they were constantly feeling stressed, overwhelmed, controlled, and in a hurry. They shared that the pressures in life were sometimes unbearable. I began to see similar disempowering emotional patterns that kept them from fully enjoying their lives. It just wasn’t me that was secretly hurting. It was beginning to seem that these feelings were “normal” but no one was talking about them. I became even more driven to ensure that athletes, students, children, and anyone else could learn to live a life of empowerment and peace no matter what and would not have to secretly go through the emotional pain that I and almost everyone I coached was experiencing.

So I began to create a personal empowerment program during this time based in the most cutting edge information and studies I had found. I became an applied researcher and I loved it. I tried the program with athletes, students, football and basketball coaches, mothers, wives, kids, and anyone I could find that would do it to see the results. By age 35, I was beginning to get a vision of a new type of personal empowerment education that had integrated everything I was learning, experiencing and practicing.

During the 20 years after I quit the team, I had again developed a list of what most people would call “a successful life”, … teaching and coaching in high school and college, turning around basketball teams and winning games, receiving teaching and coaching awards, getting good feedback about my programs, getting married, being financially sound, serving in my community, having lots of good friends, going to church, and successfully parenting two healthy and beautiful children. I was starting to experience better health and some understanding of my past, but still underneath all of this external success, I was still feeling a constant internal stress and struggle. I did not FEEL successful and fulfilled. Something was still not working.

It fell apart again.

By the time I turned 40, my external world started to mirror my internal world. My marriage fell apart after 14 years, my husband lost his job, and my university teaching contract was up. I found myself driving across the country to set up a new life with my two young children and my dog, jobless, panicked, stressed, and feeling sick and alone. HOW COULD THIS BE? My feelings were still running out of control, from anger, fear, and sadness, to depression and overwhelm with very few moments of satisfaction in-between. I was on a roller coaster ride of emotions and I was really ready to get off the ride and feel fulfilled and successful. I was scared that I would never get there. But something kept me searching.

For the next 6 years, I soothed myself by trying to make a dysfunctional relationship work and digging down even deeper with counseling and other trainings to do some major internal work. It was hard. I learned even more about myself in my own relationships as a mother and significant other, along with beginning to feel my emotions and the many parts of my personality. I began to experience some relief, however, my emotions still seemed to have a mind of their own and I still felt out of control and not happy. I knew that there was something missing inside of me that had to do with dealing with my out of control emotions and I just couldn’t put my finger on it yet.

The Missing Link.

Finally, in 2010, I was introduced to Kim Griffith, a parent coach, from Dallas Texas because I was told by one of my wellness mentors that she might have what I was specifically looking for. When I called her, introduced myself, and she explained her simple empowerment coaching process, I immediately realized I had found the missing link. It was like I had found the golden key to a room full of treasures. I knew it was the finishing touch to FEELING truly fulfilled and successful. In this moment, I had a keen awareness that everything was going to change, and it did.

Kim and I connected easily and we became close friends and business partners, learning from each other things that we never knew. We brought together my work and her empowerment process to move forward the non-profit company I had created, i.b.mee., integrating the “missing link”, -the latest applied neuroscience research that focuses on and integrates techniques that improve the body-mind connection to truly shift into internal empowerment. …how to truly FEEL peace and fulfillment. From our work, i.b.mee.’s Empowerment Education Model and the W.E.L.L. Curriculum were birthed. I believe these two things must be the foundation of an educational system. Students must have the freedom, confidence and skills to love, accept, and be themselves as well as experience the joy and passion in what they love in the present moment, and from these two things, they will experience a more fulfilled, healthy, and successful life no matter the outcome or challenge. Everyone deserves to live their highest and healthiest vision for themselves, their relationships, their community and their world, and school is the perfect place to set the standard and carry out this vision.

It finally worked for me.

So, as I refined and practiced the W.E.L.L. concepts myself, that “something that was missing inside of me” began to dissipate. Over the last four years, I have been involved in something I can hardly believe. I am now feeling what it means to truly have personal power and peace from the inside out no matter what is going on around me. The mystery of life and human behavior is less a mystery and more of a knowing because I understand WHY things are happening around me and inside of me, and what to do. My outer and inner worlds are beginning to match and I am living my legacy and passion and feel totally different than 30 years ago when I quit, even though what I am doing today is much more challenging than playing basketball ever was. I am relaxing into my gifts with much less stress, worrying less about my future. I FEEL the most successful I have ever been and I don’t care who sees it, recognizes it, or if I get an award for it.

Why I quit the team.

Unfortunately, our society has “mis-defined” success as “having more”, “being better or the best”, “being different”, and “doing it right”. Our society covertly teaches us that it is the things outside of us that will make us feel good, like making A’s, winning, or being rich, or perfect. When we even think that we are not going to “get” these things outside of us that we want, we become stressed-out, fearful, and ashamed on a deep level because bottom-line, we believe we will not be successful if we don’t get these outcomes. And if we are not successful, then we believe we will not be accepted and loved. When we begin to feel these pressures, we tend to move unconsciously into a fear-based survival mode, and we will begin to react with survival behaviors such as hitting, hurting, yelling, cheating, ignoring, quitting, numbing out, or trying to control others and everything around us to not feel our pain of failure. Living in survival-mode, which occurs frequently in today’s world, causes massive disconnection from our own selves and others, which is the opposite of what we really want and need (which is connection, love and belonging). Thus, it is our “outcome-based, extrinsic societal philosophies” that have actually created the Connection Crisis we have all around us.

As I fell into this societal disconnection trap and got caught up in the secret lies about what was really important, I began to lose my connection to the process of not only loving the game itself, but to myself and the people around me also. This happened as I moved into more competitive levels of basketball competition. Even though it would be normal to “not play perfectly” nor “be the best” at these higher levels of play, I did not know how to deal with my shame and embarrassment about not being the best anymore and basically numbed out, hid, and eventually quit building my skills. On some level, I thought that if I wasn’t the best, then I was nothing at all and no one would like me. I would consistently beat myself up over mistakes, again something I had learned growing up in this extrinsic societal philosophy as a way to not get rejected by others. Not being able to move through these internal challenges literally made me angry, sick, injured, exhausted, and depressed, and eventually turned my outside world into something I hated.

The 3 main changes that came out of all of this…The Shift into Body-Mind Empowerment

  • True success, health, and fulfillment happen from the inside out. What I know now is that a loving connection with myself breeds true success, health and fulfillment, and how we were lovingly connected with growing up determines the degree in which we will be able to lovingly connect with others and ourselves throughout our lives (until we learn self-love). This sounds really “woo-woo”, but the truth is, is that the way we deeply think and feel about what we deserve and our own “self” creates our external world. Our feelings of success have little to do with having more, being better and different, and doing it right, even though we really think it does. Our outside world is actually a complete mirror of our inside world. In the old paradigm, we are not aware of how powerful and smart our inside world, our body’s feelings, sensations, thoughts and beliefs are. To make the shift, we must retrain and reorganize our body’s old stuck energetic patterns to work with the mind to build a strong internal connection of love and acceptance within. When we do this, everything changes. We then have the power to truly love and accept others and situations as they are, we will be self-responsible for our own lives, and our external world will then follow right along bringing to life what it is we think we truly deserve and want.
  • True success, health, and fulfillment happens in the processes of life, not in the outcomes. Life is a process of experiences that occur in the present moment. Life happens NOW, not yesterday, and not tomorrow. The past does not equal the future nor can we predict the future. Thus, it is how we connect and live right now that determines our feelings of success and fulfillment NOW and in the future. In the current paradigm of life, we are taught that the goals we set and the outcomes we want are “where we are going” and “what we should focus on”. Like I mentioned earlier, we have learned to set goals that are centered around being more, better, different and right and then we end up trying to control everything to get these outcomes. It is exhausting and no fun to live a life focused on outcome goals; we miss the beautiful ride, even though we pretend like we are enjoying it. The shift occurs when we begin to realize that our outcome goals are great and that we can set them, but they are not what we should be focusing on. It is in the “clear connection” to the experiences we want along the way that we must be present to. “What do you want to experience?” “How do you want to feel?” “Who do you want to be?” “What is it going to take right now?” “What are you really wanting right now and why?” are the questions we must focus on. Ironically, outcome goals will automatically come into fruition from setting them and then deciding what experience we want right now and focusing on that with total patience, trust and faith, without any attachment to the outcome! When this happens, our life will unfold step by step. Then while we are enjoying the process more and more, interestingly, more of the outcomes we do want and even the things we never dreamed of begin to occur. Moving forward step by step every day learning new skills and taking small actions towards our goals are what truly allows us to feel and experience daily success in the present moment.
  • True success, health, and fulfillment happens in one’s ability to stay connected with others. Being able to communicate from a calm, clear, confident, and connected place inside myself was another amazing feeling and skill that I began to experience as I learned and practiced the W.E.L.L. concepts.  I began developing close, respectful, fulfilling relationships with wonderful people from a healthy place of giving and receiving without judgment. I began to set personal boundaries that were good for me without staying in survival mode or fretting over my decisions.

Overall, As I understood and practiced these three main concepts on a daily basis through the W.E.L.L. concepts, I began to experience and FEEL successful no matter what was going on around me. I can now trust in the goodness of life, love, and joy as I embody that these states are my inherited innate qualities as a human being. I realize that my past challenges were the stepping stones to bring me where I am today, that life, no matter what, is a choice made out of our conscious and unconscious beliefs and bodily energy. I am practicing and enjoying being well on a daily basis because I want to take care of myself. My perfectionism and attachment to any outcome are going away and my stress levels are becoming normal. I am enjoying the ride of my life; there are not as many bumps and bruises, and if they appear, I know what to do.

Learning to love our selves and navigating our lives through our own body-mind connection in the present moment, and connecting with others are the most powerful tools human beings have. They are the missing link to internal peace, fulfillment and good health, and a happy, connected, well, productive society.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to take 30 years to shift. With the level of body-mind research out there now, the science behind how I was able to shift is available to all ages. We have taken 30 years of research and experience and broken it down into 4 W.E.L.L. keys that include the missing link (the E): whole person Wellness, internal Empowerment, self-Leadership, and live your Legacy.

We are currently living in a disconnection epidemic and it has done a number on our young people causing major increases in violence/bullying, health challenges, and depression, quitting and suicides. We are ready for a new story of education, a W.E.L.L. story of education: A story based on a new definition of success, healthy ways of being, innovation in motion, and an expanded idea of what it means to learn and be human.”

The 4 W.E.L.L. keys create a healthy, fulfilled, and successful life that students can actually feel and experience no matter the challenge. Want to learn more about them and the missing link? …go to the to the top of the home page of ibmee.org and sign up for our free special report to find out more! (Will be there by May 30th.)

Be W.E.L.L.!

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