Project U. Blog

The Will of the Warrior

Posted by Catherine Saar on Sat, Apr 20, 2013 @ 11:47 AM


It is a quiet, rainy Saturday morning in Boston after a surreal week of explosions, lock downs and manhunts. In just a few short days, we have mourned the loss of innocence on what started as a celebratory day, grieved the senseless suffering of those killed and wounded in vicious violence and started taking steps to closure by capturing the perpetrators, so we can ask, “Why?”

Meanwhile, having spent a day alone in my home, (asked by authorities not to venture outside), I had time to wonder, “How can I protect myself and the people I love from this kind of pain and suffering in the future?”

Sadly, I cannot.  And I also will not live in constant fear and anger.  What kind of life would that be?

So what is the answer? How can we feel safe and happy when there is no guarantee against affliction, danger, illness, financial ruin, betrayal and unkindness?

I knew that I had found my truth when my answer resulted in a sense of overwhelming calm and safety: I can be a peaceful warrior in my own life. I can trust that whatever comes my way, (and something usually does) I can handle it.  I will find the strength and the help I need to carry-on. I will do the best I can.  Maybe it won’t be what I hoped for, but it will be enough. 

To that end, it occurred to me that feeling capable was only the first step.  If I want to increase the likelihood of triumph, I would have to prepare.  Just like an athlete, a warrior must train to be battle-ready.   So I developed a plan. I call it:

  1. I will honor my physical body by eating well, resting, getting exercise and making good decisions about what I do with it and where I put it.

  2. I will feel my emotions and release them.  I will not necessarily act on every one, but will use them as information to help me understand what I want and what I need, seeking productive ways to communicate clearly and interact with others.

  3. I will consider other’s needs as no more or no less important than my own when creating solutions to shared problems.

  4. I will take responsibility for my own life and not try to run the lives of others, or to manipulate outcomes.

  5. I will do my best to bring my best to every situation.

  6. I will live honestly and with integrity. 

  7. I will keep my promises and not make promises that I know I can’t keep.

  8. I will take responsibility and seek to make amends when I make a mistake or commit a wrong-doing.

  9. I will treat myself and others with kindness and respect.  I will do this even if they do not reciprocate, simply because that is how I want to be in the world.

  10. I will focus on what I have, not what I don’t have.  I will take time to be grateful every day for the love, the beauty and the freedom that is available to me in my life.

  11. I will seek to clarify, understand, and avoid judging myself and others, and in so-doing, eliminate the habit of blaming, labeling or shaming myself and others.

  12. I will seek to live in this moment and not dwell in the past, which is done, nor in the future, which is yet to come.

  13. I will do my share to help others to learn the joy and challenge of taking care of themselves and managing their own lives.

  14. I will take right action and give up my attachment to outcome.

  15. I will do my best to cultivate love and kindness toward myself and others, and when I feel I cannot, I will ask myself, why not?

My fellow warriors, what will you do?


Tags: kindness, explosions, manhunt, warrior, safe, betrayal, love, grateful, calm, respect, integrity, fear, Boston, closure, safety, battle, honor, honestly, trust, truth, protect, loss of innocence, violence

How Knowing and Trusting Yourself Could Save Your Life

Posted by Catherine Saar on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @ 06:23 PM

During a recent spin class, my instructor seemed vaguely familiar - but if this was who I thought it was, he appeared transformed.  This instructor’s hair was darker and bushier; he was a bit beefier and a little easier going than I remembered.  As I pondered the resemblance, the instructor shouted, “Dig!  Dig!  - Dig!”  This sealed the deal.  This had to be Doug – how many spin instructors actually use that expression in exactly that tone of voice?save your life resized 600

After class, I decided to say hi and confess to Doug that I barely recognized him. He told me that he wasn’t surprised; he had gained quite a bit of weight because he had been very ill with a rare autoimmune disease that attacked his brain.  After a year, he was still undergoing chemotherapy.  He said he was glad to be alive and then added, “Yoga saved my life.”  

 “Say more,” I asked, feeling my “yogi” curiosity kick in.

Apparently, Doug had been practicing yoga several times a week for many years.  One day, he noticed that his balance had been progressively (and inexplicably) getting worse for a while. This alarmed him, so he decided to go to the doctor. 

“I think there’s something wrong with my brain. My balance is off, and I seem to be losing my short term memory,” Doug explained to his highly regarded physician.  Sadly, the doctor dismissed Doug’s concerns and suggested that Doug might have the flu.  “Give it another week,” he told him.

But Doug knew himself better than that.  Years of yoga indicated to him that something was very different and very wrong about how he was moving through space – and he didn’t notice any flu-like symptoms.  So he decided to seek the advice of a second doctor, who also dismissed his reported symptoms as probably something minor.  Finally, another week or so later, a concerned family member made a call to a physician friend who agreed to give Doug an MRI.

Hours later, Doug found himself in intensive care, with several intravenous needles inserted in his arm.  He had an autoimmune disease that had attacked his brain. Large black areas appeared in his brain scan.  Not only was his ability to function at stake, but also his life.  The doctor advised him that he had no time to lose in getting treatment.

Obviously, Doug survived.   After a year of difficult convalescence, including learning to walk again and adjusting to a major hearing loss, Doug is back to work and teaching spin classes.  He credits his self-awareness and his yoga practice with saving his life.

While yoga was the tip off, Doug also had the confidence to trust his self-knowledge and to persist in his beliefs, regardless of what the “experts” told him.  As a result, he is one of just a few hundred survivors of this rare disease.

Doug’s story resonated with me. How many times have I dismissed my inner voice, when I hear it telling me something is wrong? Call it a gut feeling, a hunch, or an instinct, but the implication seems the same. It’s important to pay attention and to honor your hunches.  Check them out. Be mindful of your body.  Notice the specifics of how you feel when you are well.  Notice how it feels when you are tired, or when you eat and drink different foods.  Pay attention to how your chest and stomach feel when you meet someone you like, versus where and how your body feels when you are in a challenging situation.  Notice when long-term patterns change.  These are clues, and clues provide important information.

 Time and time again, I find that our bodies will tell us what our conscious minds cannot discern.  All we need to do is listen (somatically), and learn to interpret and to honor the signals we receive.

Know yourself; know your body.  Trust that knowledge.  It might just save your life.

Tags: challenging, brain, yoga, ill, self-awareness, self-knowledge, instinct, somatically, transformed, body, confidence, save your life, mindful, bodies, trust, inner voice, syptoms, patterns, minds

Facts Matter, but Energy is Key

Posted by Catherine Saar on Thu, Oct 04, 2012 @ 11:22 AM

I watched the presidential debate last night.  We can argue about who got what right, and the fact checkers can weigh in, but in the end, my hunch is that most of us read the energy of the candidates more than we analyzed every word they said.

If you were able to watch or listen, ask yourself, which candidate seemed energized?  Which candidate was not? How did that make you feel about each of them?  Did it make you trust one more than the other?

I sensed that Obama was tired, while Romney was energized.  Remember this when you are interviewing, in a relationship, or making a presentation.  The facts are important, but in the wise words of Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My key takeaway? It’s important to learn how to work with your energy.  One of the key pieces to clear energy is being in your truth, otherwise you can get very stuck!  What is authentic for you?  When you align with who you are and what you need, your energy can shine through you.  Although the path can be challenging, it’s worth the trip. 

Tags: relationship, challenging, interviewing, path, stuck, feel, align, shine, trust, energy, energized, Maya Angelou, truth, authentic

How Leaders Can Benefit From Their Mistakes

Posted by Catherine Saar on Thu, Aug 09, 2012 @ 10:00 PM

Face it. Sometimes things go wrong, even if you are a conscientious, competent leader.  A blog post by Art Petty on how leaders can benefit from their mistakes resonated with me so much that I decided to share it with you, especially since many of my bosses over the years counseled me not to ever apologize or explain, as doing so shows weakness.

That did not appear to be good advice. What I found instead was that when I quickly owned up to an issue, shared what happened and how to fix it, my associates were appreciative and understanding.  This practice actually built trust, strengthened my working relationships and encouraged openness. By modeling that mistakes are not the end of the world, it allowed others the freedom to address issues openly when they arose. Petty’s post captures this notion beautifully when he writes, “don’t dwell on or attempt to hide your mistakes.  Instead, confront them head-on, help everyone learn from them, and move on.” 

According to Petty, not only should you clearly admit that you made a mistake, in addition, don’t make up an excuse.  He also states that you shouldn’t blame anyone else on your team when an error happens on your watch: “Take your medicine and use your team member’s mistake as a developmental opportunity.”

Here are the two additional recommendations from the post that I support wholeheartedly: 

“Share where you went wrong. If your gaffe was an interpersonal one, admit to the other party that you recognize what you did wrong. For example, “I shouldn’t have jumped to a conclusion before I heard all of the facts.”  If the mistake related to a decision, assess where you might have gone wrong and share the mistake. “I framed this problem wrong. I let emotions get in the way of a clear view to the situation, and I made a rash decision.”  This is powerful credibility building juice and a teaching moment for everyone involved.”


Apologize. The fine art of the workplace apology is often ignored in the workplace. Instead of a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of character and strength.”

I love that.  As I mentioned, I didn’t often hear this perspective articulated in the business world, and I surely appreciate hearing it now. Thanks Art!

Tags: strength, modeling, blame, character, business, appreciate, leader, opportunity, decision, benefit, apologize, mistakes, emotions, perspective, trust, relationships, weakness, openness, workplace, understaning, freedom, confront, credibility

How to Make Work Friendships Work

Posted by Catherine Saar on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 @ 03:58 PM

describe the imageEarly in my career, one of my bosses said, “Remember Catherine, the people you work with are not your friends.”  The irony of that is that she and I have been close friends for almost 20 years now!  And, although you can and will make great friendships at work, I have come to better understand the wisdom of her words over the years.

As we all know, much of our life is spent at work.  So, if we can’t be friendly with our coworkers, life could get pretty dull. Not only that, but getting things done at work often requires teamwork.  So, how to relate with coworkers on a personal basis takes some thought.  After all, at work, others judge your performance. You are paid to support the organization and its success, not to build a network of friends.  Luckily, one often can do both. From your employer’s perspective, you are being assessed on your ability to improve results and get along with others. So how can you enjoy friendships and still maintain a professional demeanor?

Remember, at work, its business first. While you want to enjoy your coworkers, each of you has a work agenda and you may not always agree.  Often, it’s not a problem when you and your coworker’s agendas match up, but inevitably, your agenda will be at cross-purposes with someone else’s at the workplace.  It may not always be fair or fun, but in life, that’s how it goes. 

So, here are some tips for navigating the world of workplace friendships.  (I’ve included some ideas from a blog post by career expert Heather R. Huhman on since her article inspired me to write on this topic. Check it out!)

  • Strive to work well with others:  Treat people with respect, negotiate in good faith, deliver on your promises and avoid surprises. In short, act with integrity. It engenders trust.  Feel free to share some laughs, but don’t forget why you are at work.  This is business and today’s ally may be tomorrow’s competitor. 

  • Remain appropriate and professional. Be mindful of what you share about your personal life with your co-workers. There is a reason that the expression “TMI”, (aka “too much information”) was invented. Are you sharing something about yourself that a coworker really needs to know?  Will it make their day or their workweek better and/or improve your working relationship? If not, you may want to keep it to yourself.

  • Get your work done and do it well.  Remember why you were hired. You have deadlines for a reason, so don’t get distracted and spend all your productive hours socializing.

  • Watch your language. Don’t gossip and speak badly about other workers. Keep conversations positive to help boost workplace morale. This guideline may also limit your downside when and if your coworker is not as resistant to spreading gossip as you are.

  • Set boundaries in direct reporting relationships. A friendship with your boss or your subordinate can be warm and fun, as long as it is respectful and appropriate.  Remember, at some point, you will have either to receive or give a performance evaluation. Don’t set yourself up for an uncomfortable situation.

  • Be a good communicator.  Many conflicts arise because of poor communication.   We all want to believe we will never be involved in a workplace conflict, but that’s not realistic. When conflicts arise, handle them maturely.  Focus on issues and behaviors and don’t get personal.  Use effective communication tools and do your best to work things out.   Consider the long-term results of any disagreement. You probably don’t want to ruin a friendship, a good working relationship or get yourself fired.

  • Have lunch together. Having lunch with coworkers allows you time to be more personal without compromising productivity. From time to time, dinner may also be appropriate; however, I believe that any after hour meeting are optional.  Use your best judgment as to how much time you want to spend with coworkers outside of the office - that time is yours.

To read the Heather R. Huhman’s blogpost that inspired and contributed to this discussion, check it out on  at

Good luck and may you enjoy a hassle free and friendly work environment.

Tags: professional, network, career, success, results, teamwork, performance,, good faith, laughs, ally, direct reporting, good communicator, conflict, personal, friendly, problem, competitor, boundaries, how to, friendships, respect, integrity, hired, productive, gossip, boss, work well with others, trust, friends at work, wisdom, coworkers, Heather R. Huhman, negotiate, TMI, language, morale, subordinate, evaluation, agenda