Conation and Unfulfilled Potential

I watched the move “The Circle” a couple of days ago. There is a line in the movie when the star character is interviewed about her biggest fear. She answers “unfulfilled potential”. It had an instant and gut-level effect on me because I too have a fear of unfulfilled potential. (this clip includes the line)

I know I have the capacity to do something significant with my life, but there have been some root level blocks to my motivation. Where does passion, purpose, intention and volition come from? Apparently they come from a function of the brain called “Conation”. The day after I watched this movie, I read about an interview with a Alison Adcock, M.D. a Professor at Duke University, who studies – conation. I felt like the law of attraction just hit me with a big wake-up stick.

“Most of us are familiar with cognition, or the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge and insight through our thoughts and experiences. Memory and attention are the best-known and perhaps the most studied cognitive processes. Conation is the mental faculty driven by purpose and volition. And, much like emotion, conation, it has the power to shape the way we perceive and interact with the world around us, as well as determine the things we learn and remember. Adcock studies how drives like desire and curiosity can facilitate so-called “motivated memory,” or the way the brain selectively encodes the experience that mean the most to us.”

We respond to rewards differently. Some people are motivated by money, some by fear or anxiety. We remember the exact same experience in completely different ways depending on our conation. Marketing people understand and apply techniques aimed at human conation, but psychotherapists don’t – yet. (CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, not conative behavioural therapy)

In Yoga Classes, we are asked ‘to set an intention’. As if our intention is a goal that can be set and achieved. The concept of conation changes my thinking about intention. Intention is already set. The goal is to get in touch with the intention that lies deep within the subconscious mind firing curiosity and motivation – then to align with that intention and bring forth progress.

Two very exciting things came out of this discovery for me:

1) Adcock is looking at ways to enhance the progress of learning-based therapies (psychotherapy) so at some point conation training could replace pharmacological treatments for states like Attention Deficit Disorder and Addiction – which affect the lives of SO many people I know and love.

2) Understanding conation is inspiring and empowering. I’m driven to learn about how motivation and curiosity lead to evolution, change and progress. Because…

I have “the power to manipulate (my) environment to behave more productively”. – The Brain: Full Potential, Science Classics Magazine.

What is your intention? Do you ask yourself what you want cognitively or conatively? Does this concept make a difference to you? After googling ‘conation’, I could see it is commonly studied in Marketing, Human Resources and Psychology, but it is new to me. I’m looking forward to learning more. Do you have any suggestions?









What is in a name? PMDD

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’… a line I think of often from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A story of human emotion – two young lovers whose raging hormones led them to make decisions which eventually led to their deaths.

Hormones are powerful.

Pre-Menstual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – Some people suggest this ‘condition’ which is charged by the fluctuation of hormones, isn’t real. There is debate about whether it should be named or not named. For example, this article below brings forward the opinion that it is abusive to a women if she can’t get help or support for feeling bad, unless she is willing to accept the diagnoses of mental illness.

Is PMDD Real (article)

PMDD is not the most offensive thing I’ve been labelled – that’s for sure. I’ve been called crazy, depressed, bitch, nasty, mean, scary…  Nobody likes to be called these things, but they are hard to deny when your thoughts and emotions are stirring you into a frenzy of rage, hate and despair –  mostly directed towards yourself.

Despite the names, if there is help available… I want it. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you ask almost any of the 3 to 9 percent of women who experience this intensity of emotion and mental agony, currently called PMDD (that is a lot of women) when they are in the middle of the shit-storm for two weeks a month – they want the help.

PMDD is currently listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a mood disorder under the category of depression. Treatments include the same types of treatments available for depression such as SSRI’s (anti-depressants) cognitive therapy and stress reduction techniques ie. yoga, meditation etc.  There are also hormone-related interventions.

PMS is something both men and women casually complain about to me, but I’ve never heard anyone say they are dealing with PMDD.  Perhaps more people would talk about it if it weren’t categorized as a mental illness – adding shame and stigma to the already bubbling melting pot of emotions involved with this situation.  Perhaps not…

I want to talk about it – have you or someone you know been diagnosed with PMDD? How are you coping with it? What solutions have you tried?












Why Does She Talk About That Online?

I fully expect to look back at these blog posts someday and notice how I’ve changed. In fact, I look forward to it. Rather than feeling regret for saying things to the world that may or may not be an exact reflection of my future self, I choose to feel good about the unfolding of change and evolution.

There are some very specific reasons why I’ve decided to share my thoughts publicly.  Writing things down is part of the learning process. Reading, writing and explaining are the key ingredients to training your brain to learn a concept, behaviour or belief. So why don’t I just keep these thoughts in a journal? (and save myself from the potential judgement, criticism and future embarrassment that might come from sharing personal and honest stories about some of darker parts of my life)

Because social interaction, connection and sharing are a part of our life’s purpose – helping people. They also contribute to personal feelings of happiness and a sense of community. I want to be happier and I want to connect with people who talk about the things I want to talk about – and those people are blogging.

Since I started blogging I’ve been reading lots of other people’s posts which have led me to books, podcasts, articles and conversations, comments and stories from all around the world. It has been a fantastic experience and I’ve only just begun. I’ve also received some sideways comments from people who don’t understand why I would want to do this …

Two hot topics for me right now are mental health and addiction. These subjects are fascinating to me because I experience problems with both. As most people know, these two subjects are surrounded with shame, judgement and ignorance. I myself have judged other people with addictions and made big generalizations about people with mental health problems.  I regret these judgements and my contributions to the shaming.

Sharing my experiences is my small part of an effort to change the way we think about addiction and mental health. I’m willing to accept any judgement (trust me, I’ve been way harder on myself about this than anyone else might be) for the sake of the awareness raising.

Recently I sent a note to the author of a very handy book called “Alcohol Explained” Link to Alcohol Explained Blog by William Porter (great book). I said everyone should read his book. Everyone should understand exactly how alcohol works. Not only that, they should TALK about it. Like cigarettes, we should know how the drug works – what it does to our bodies and minds and how it can destroy us. Oprah Winfrey always says (not sure if it is a quote from someone else but… ) “When you know better, you do better” and I think after reading his  very logical and straight-forward book, a person couldn’t help but do better.

In January I started a yoga class with a facebook group page to support it called Inspire. The class was dedicated to those experiencing the stress that comes with anxiety, depression and addiction. I shared articles online and started to tell some of my stories in the classes. A few people would post,  but I found that most people were just too crippled by fear of judgement or the actual symptoms of anxiety, depression or addiction held them back from getting involved. Several people sent me private messages (which I cherish) to say they found my posts or messages in class helpful. I couldn’t afford to keep doing the classes for free (thank you generous husband for sponsoring the first few months) and I started to think that facebook wasn’t the right place to engage with people on these subjects…. but I wanted to keep sharing.

So now, I blog.

I look forward to connecting with you.







The Lindsay Milk Run 2017 Jamie Schmale Half Marathon

For 39 years the Lindsay Milk Run has been a tradition in our community. I’m proud to say it was 28 years ago I ran my first 10k run here with friends, family and supportive community members cheering. It’s always heart-warming to see people you know, young and old, coming out of their homes with hoses to water down sweaty runners and to clap and cheer. The weather is typically very hot but today’s event was the perfect temperature.

In fact it was perfect conditions for the new addition to the Milk Run – The Jamie Schmale Half Marathon. 80 runners took a bus to a drop off point (Daytonia Beach on Sturgeon Lake) close to the Victoria Rail Trail. The course/trail was in amazing condition and the runners were never parched with drink stations almost every two kilometers. Overall the event was extremely well organized, and I expect this half marathon to grow quickly in the coming years.

I’m sure it will be inviting to tourists in the Kawartha Lakes area to join in on this event, in lake country in the summer time. They will not be disappointed!

Big thanks to MP Jamie Schmale for bringing this Half Marathon to town – and to the organizers (Lindsay PRC, City of Kawartha Lakes) the sponsors, volunteers and spirited participants. Thanks dear running friends, for doing it again!

What a great day!


Is Depression an Excuse for Lazy?

People who are depressed can appear to be lazy. They quit jobs, they abandon friendships and they disengage from the functioning world. Why can’t they just decide to be happy, or at least to suck it up and get out there in the world like the rest of society? Lots of people feel sad or tired, but they get over it and move on. What is the deal with depressed people??

Here is the deal, from someone who experiences depression. This is my perspective. I recognize it is different for everyone, but maybe this will bring some understanding to a subject which is still so whispered about.

Some of the highest functioning people on earth are depressed.  Perfectionism (as opposed to laziness) would be a better way to describe depression. A compulsion to find flaws, troubleshoot, avoid mistakes. Humans are wired to learn from mistakes. Our fight or flight instincts tell us to be prepared for attack. So do our pre-school teachers… if we make a mistake we must learn from it and know not to repeat this mistake again in the future. If you do – you might be considered slow or stupid or lazy.

Some of the worlds greatest artists, musicians and poets experience depression. We know this because we can see it in their work – the messages, the struggles, the addictions that become so public. It’s not only the artists who are depressed, it’s the world leaders, the business people, the school teachers and the line workers. There are battles going on in the minds of the people next to you everyday. These depressed people are not lazy – I would argue they are extremely motivated. They must overcome the agony happening within, to make themselves  move forward and mix with the living.

Andrew Solomon, Author of The Noonday Demon, An Atlas of Depression, talks about the perspective of people who are depressed. Compared to ‘normal’ people, a depressed perspective is more accurate. A person who is not depressed tends to fabricate or overestimate their experiences. It’s not that the perspective of a depressed person is wrong, it is that their perspective does not serve them – it can hurt them or destroy them.

Andrew Solomon Ted Talks

Depressed people are top athletes, excel at work and school, lead groups of people, and make a difference in the world. They do this despite the negative swirling thoughts in their heads, the self-doubt, self-hatred and the despair that come in waves. Black, heavy, drowning waves.

There is no cure for depression. This is what I’m told. There are techniques, drugs, therapies available, but so far nobody has come up with a cure for this brain flaw, this personality defect, this epidemic of darkness.

So many people today (depressed and otherwise) are taking anti-depressant drugs to take the edge off of the lows of depression or the frenzy of anxiety. Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection says “You can’t selectively numb”.  You can’t take the bottom off of depression without taking the top of of joy. Whether it’s a pharmaceutical or alcohol or drugs – altering your brain with drugs comes with a price.

Brene Brown Ted Talks

I don’t have any answers, but I do have some suggestions that I’ve found helpful (for myself, and for people around me) My first suggestion is to work on perspective – all of us.

The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is about Perspective.

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

Dave Gray, in his book Liminal Thinking talks about how our conscious mind and unconscious mind must be in alignment when making a change. To do this we need to understand that there are other perspectives, other correct perspectives that make up the whole truth…

“We construct our beliefs, mostly unconsciously, and thereafter they hold us captive. They can help us focus and make us more effective, but sadly, they also can limit us: they blind us to possibility and subject us to fog, fear, and doubt.”
Dave Gray, Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think

Work on perspective can help the depressed person to accept there may be more than one truth to a situation. Perspective can also help the not-depressed person to understand the depressed person. We are all made up of a sum of our very different parts. Depression does not define a person. Depression is just a part of a person.

I’m writing this blog piece today because I wish I understood perspective years ago. A couple of days ago I was cleaning out my basement and found a little plaque I received in university. It was an award for “Energy, Enthusiasm, Dedication and Determination” – The Gary McLean Athletic Award. It’s hard to believe I left university early, didn’t go to my graduation and felt like a loser. Even though I was given an award for my positive traits, I was unable to accept this perspective of myself. I wish I knew then that both of these perspectives could be true. That for whatever proof I had that made me believe the negative about myself, there was also proof of the positive. The difference between me now and me then, is an openness to perspective.

I hope this blog message helps to give others some perspective. Depressed people could be considered lazy, but there are other parts to them as well. Depressed people could also be considered energetic, enthusiastic, dedicated and determined.

I also hope more and more people will talk openly about depression, adding to the truth and contributing to the whole story. Do you have a perspective on depression to share? I would like to read about it.





Beautiful Paddle Down the Burnt River (less canoe paint, more great memories)

I can’t think of a more beautiful way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than a paddle (with the current) down the Burnt River.

Yesterday we enjoyed a trip from Gelert to Kinmount (Kawartha Lakes, Ontario) The trip included two portages past beautiful waterfalls. Each bend on the winding river unveiled another lush natural scene. The wind was just strong enough to keep most of the bugs away. I would recommend this trip to anyone looking for a leisurely float and some beautiful scenery.

*Note, the re-entry point on the second portage is pretty difficult. A slippery steep slope. Also, there are some rocky bits in the fast moving water, so don’t be too attached to the paint on the bottom of your canoe.

Here are some pictures and a short video from the trip.

(Thanks Bolendar and Carere for a great afternoon – looking forward to more get-aways.)

The 3rd waterfall at the 2nd portage on the Burnt River.


Some of the scenery and ‘wildlife’ (that’s wild-man, Greg)


There is so much to enjoy here in Kawartha Lakes, get out there!

Brain Power – Try the “Big Three” with Me

“You want to reach your full potential. To become the best version of yourself. You want to feel healthy and engaged. To feel clever and focused. To live a happy and full life. And you can do so, but it begins when you start considering the raw material you – and you alone – have to work with.  Your Brain.” – Science Classics: The Brain: Full Potential

Current science tells us our brains are plastic. We can change the way we think and behave. We can learn, grow and evolve throughout our entire lives. Our potential doesn’t stop or slow down at middle-age, our potential is limitless.

I’m fascinated with the idea of neurons firing and wiring together, and learning more about why we think and behave in the ways we do. The more we learn about how the brain works, the more potential we have to improve our lives and to love and embrace the experience of living.

My new year’s resolution was to “clean house” – clean the house my mind lives in. The metaphor really works and has helped me to stay motivated. I’ve spent many months clearing out the junk. I’m feeling ready now to start filling the spaces with new things that serve me better and represent the person I am becoming, not the person I was.

Creating new thoughts and behaviours takes practice… “neurons that fire together wire together” so I’ve come up with what I’m calling “The Big Three” as a daily practice to re-wire the brain for health, happiness and full potential.  Please, join me if you think this practice would be helpful to you. I’ve put it together in a way that is meant to be easy to remember, execute and stay committed to.

Big Three


  1. Exercise for fitness – pick your exercise and try to choose something you like, but this is meant to be vigorous ie. running, biking, stair-climbing, gym… you are doing this to get all the benefits of a raised heart rate, sweat, circulation, endorphins…
  2. Outside Activity – go outside and move your body. Go for a walk, garden, pick weeds, walk to the store, shovel the driveway, sweep, mail a letter… go out and move. This is about being in nature, breathing fresh air, and feeling like a part of the bigger picture.
  3. Fun and New – choose an activity that is fun and new. Your brain creates new pathways every time you go outside of your routine. Try a new skill or do something differently, and make it something fun. ie. play catch with your kids (try throwing with your left hand) try a racket sport, play croquet or frisbee, go fishing, try hopscotch, knitting, drawing… use your hands to create something.

I‘m not putting a time limit or level on any of these things because they don’t matter. They are personal to you and your interests and experience. But don’t let “I don’t have time” be your excuse not to do this…  most of these things can be done in minutes…  and really, how many minutes do we spend (if we live in North America) online, watching screens, or sitting around doing … nothing. So… try the Big Three with me!


  1. Practice Gratitude – literally write three things down you are grateful for every day. Get a journal, put it beside your bed.
  2. Practice Yoga – slow conscious movements to improve your concentration, some breathing techniques, meditation, and much much more… can all be packed into a 20 minute yoga practice. You don’t have to go to a class – anyone can practice yoga at home, even without a mat.
  3. Practice Affirmations – the repetition is the key here. Choose your affirmations, say them out loud to yourself… some resources say to stand in front of the mirror and say these things to yourself, the visual lights up your brain.


  1. Learn something – Read something, watch something, ask questions. We live in the age of information. It’s at our fingertips at any moment. We can get the answers to anything that we want to know, immediately. Learn something new and get to know your interests and passions. Enjoy them by sucking up the knowledge.
  2.  Share something – we understand things better when we share the knowledge with others. Also, as a culture we depend on each other to evolve and succeed. Sharing helps everyone. So tell somebody what you have learned or apply the new information in some way ie. if you are a “how to” person  go out and fix leaky faucet for the lady next door.
  3. Be helpful – not everyone is social by nature, so helping another person directly can sometimes cause stress, but you can always help the universe in some way.  Clean up, contribute to charity, do a good deed, give something away. There is always a way you can contribute, big or small, everyday.

So here it is – wallet size…

Big Three: Body Mind & Spirit:

I move my body for Fitness, Fresh Air, Fun

I train my brain with Practice, Gratitude, Yoga, Affirmations

I am spirit (consciousness) I learn, share, help.

Please let me know if the Big Three will be part of your day. I would love to hear some examples and experiences in the comments. I’ll share some of mine going forward on this post. Hope this is helpful!