Empowering Woman in Montreal, Canada and Worldwide.

Melissa Dawn on the news

Conscious leadership just might be the next big evolution in business leadership as well as in the global marketplace, with Canada uniquely positioned to take the lead is forging this new path. In Montreal, conscious leadership is already being practiced or explored by many organizations.

What is Conscious Leadership?

To understand what it is, we need to understand what it is responding to. For a long time, leadership was about command-and-control. You were the boss and your job was to get people to do what you told them to do.

It makes a certain sense. You are the boss. You decide what’s best for the team or the company, you tell your employees what to do, and they should do it. Right?

Well, it turns out, that isn’t very motivating or engaging for employees. It also doesn’t allow much room for creativity, innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, designing new solutions and all those great qualities and skills that organizations need in order to grow and succeed.

Conscious leadership is a leadership movement in response to that. The aim is to shift our leadership approach so that the focus is on creating cultures of growth – growth of individuals, teams and the overall organization – where employees are highly engaged, fulfilled and dedicated to bringing their best selves to the work that they do.

 

Why Canadian Companies Should Embrace Conscious Leadership?

Melissa Dawn is a Conscious Leadership Coach here in Montreal and founder of CEO of Your Life coaching services. She works with individuals, teams and organizations to develop their leadership and help them evolve forward.

According to Melissa, a conscious leader is someone who:

  • Aligns strategy, decision-making, hiring and all other business practices with the purpose, vision, culture and values of the organization; 
  • Seeks out new team members whose gifts and values are aligned with the organization’s and bring strength to the team;
  • Actively looks for the unique strengths and talents of current team members, and helps them bring those gifts forward;
  • Doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations, but instead embraces them as opportunities to learn, overcome challenges and strengthen interpersonal relationships;
  • Seeks to cultivate cultures of trust, integrity, accountability and openness;
  • Continually works on their own personal and professional development;
  • Prioritizes the personal and professional development of those around them;
  • Is able to marry the nuts and bolts of getting things done with compassion and care for the people doing the work, so that both the work and the people can move forward successfully.

Melissa says that while these skills and habits can feel difficult at first, if people approach them with an open mindset and a willingness to learn, they usually start to see the benefits right away – benefits which will continue to grow and spread as the work moves forward.

“In his book, Conscious Capitalism, John Mackay states, ‘The quality of our leaders affects the quality of our lives.’

We all know this to be true,” says Melissa. “We’ve all experienced the stress, frustration and even anger that can result from ineffective or toxic leadership, or even just a culture where we don’t feel valued as whole people, or free to just bring the best parts of ourselves out at work. However, the opposite is also true. Really great leaders – leaders who value others, uplift them, encourage them forward – have a truly positive impact on our wellbeing and quality of life. It makes us better people and better at our jobs. And that matters to the organization because it’s great people who help businesses succeed. As a leader you’re in a position to bring out the greatness in others and conscious leadership is a powerful way to do that.

“When it comes down to it, conscious leadership is about co-creating with employees, teams, management, clients, suppliers, communities, stakeholders and so on. It’s about creating workplace cultures where people feel comfortable being themselves, which makes them happier, more engaged, more productive, more collaborative… all of which we know leads to higher ROIs. And finally, it’s about keeping a mindset of what is best for the general good of the people and the community. When you put conscious effort in your employees and the people around you, you build genuine trust and a reputation for integrity that people – customers included – want to support.”

A professional discussing leadership ideas

When Does a Company Need Conscious Leadership?

We asked Melissa what kind of issues conscious leadership might help address.

She gave several examples of what it can help with for both the individual leader and the organization:

  • A feeling of being stuck – like you need to move forward or change direction, but you just can’t see how;
  • Behavioural issues like defensiveness, procrastination, feelings of hostility, passive aggressiveness, placing blame, etc;
  • Consistently missing objectives or struggling to clarify objectives;
  • Moving through transitions;
  • Motivating employees or teammates;
  • Finding and keeping top talent;
  • Looking to get an edge in the millennial job market;
  • Interpersonal issues or struggling to communicate effectively.

And there’s one big one that Melissa says everyone struggles with and everyone can benefit from confronting:

“The difficult conversations. We all have them and we all know them! It’s those conversations that we know, if we could just have them, openly, honestly, without judgement or fear, everyone could move forward more easily and understand each other better.”

 

How to Get Started With Conscious Leadership?

In Montreal, conscious leadership coaching is just starting to take hold with some business and leadership coaches training in this specific branch of leadership coaching. Montreal has always had a very forward-thinking business community, so it’s no surprise that local organizations are open to the benefits of conscious leadership. 

If you’d like to get started on your own or look into adopting conscious leadership within your organization, you could start by reading up on case studies and other resources, but one of the best ways to really dive in is to get a conversation started with a specialized coach like Melissa Dawn of CEO of Your Life.

Montreal-Based Coach is Shaking Up Teams

Montreal Team Performance Coaching

The following is an interview between MontrealTips and Melissa Dawn, founder of CEO of Your Life. Melissa is a Montreal-based Leadership and Team Performance Coach. She works with individuals, teams and organizations to help them uncover their unique strengths and values and harness that innate power to take themselves to the next level. Her CEO of Your Life Coaching organization was recently named one of Hubspot’s top coaching services.


MTLTips: It’s great to have you with us today, Melissa!

Melissa Dawn: Thanks! It’s really great to be here.

What does a team Performance Coach do?

MTLTips: Now, you are a Leadership Coach, which I think many people are familiar with, but you’re also a Team Performance Coach and I think that’s new to a lot of people. Can you tell us what that means?

Melissa Dawn: So, to understand Team Performance Coaching, the first thing to understand is that teams – and in terms of my coaching I’m talking about business and corporate teams of all sizes, levels and industries – each team functions as a system. That system has its own values, strengths, challenges and unwritten rules that govern everything from how the team approaches problems, to how they view management, to how they interact with clients, and so on. The system is powerful and often the people within the system and those around them are not even fully aware of that system.

 

MTLTips: If they aren’t aware… I mean, when you say “system” are you not talking about documented processes or culture?

Melissa Dawn: Culture, yes, but “documented”, rarely. Or at least not entirely, and the undocumented aspects tend to be the most powerful. So what I mean by “system” is this almost living, breathing organism that evolves out of the combination of different personalities, the leadership styles and approaches, the overall working environment, the history of the team, how it came to be, how it fits into the organizational ecosystem, the challenges it faces now or has faced in the past… all of these elements come together to create the team system. So, what the team has encountered in the past, for example, is going to impact how they approach obstacles in the present, whether or not that approach is documented as an official process. 

MTLTips: In the articles you’ve published and on your website, you talk a lot about getting to the core, or the root of the team to solve problems. How does that work in relation to this system concept?

Melissa Dawn: When clients come to me they’re almost always in a sort of stuck feeling, or they feel like they’re running up against the same challenges over and over again. They want to move forward, but every new process they put in place or approach they try keeps butting up against the same issues and the status quo is maintained. Whatever those issues may be – lack of engagement, conflict within the team, people just not wanting to try new things, goals or objectives not clearly communicated or understood, negativity, lack of motivation… when you continually get held back by the same issue or assortment of issues, it actually comes down to the system. This is a characteristic of the system that has been learned and has grown with the team. It’s a part of the team. In this case, the issue can’t be fixed with a new process. We have to get to the root of how it’s thriving so we can cut off that negativity and grow the team in a stronger direction.

 

MTLTips: That makes a lot of sense, but also… what does that look like? What’s that process? I’m imagining group therapy sessions or something! (laughs)

Melissa Dawn: (laughs) Not quite, but there certainly is a level of introspection that takes place. Believe it or not, there are quantitative assessments involved. I really do believe that what gets measured, gets managed. That’s a fundamental aspect of Team Performance Coaching. The assessments I use have been designed and perfected over the years by top coaches, business leaders, coaching institutions and yes, even some input from therapists. We have to remember that, ultimately, we’re working with humans. Human emotions, human drives, human instincts. So there is a great deal of compassion involved in the process, but also, these assessments that take real measurements of the current status of the team – elements like productivity, engagement, employee satisfaction, leadership effectiveness, collaboration, etc. – these assessments are what start the deep dive into the coaching process. They give a clear picture of the current team system and a benchmark from which to measure progress. From there, we identify the main challenges of the team but, most importantly, we identify the unique strengths – strengths of the team itself and strengths of the individual members. These strengths give us something to grow from.

Growth in Team Performance

 

MTLTips: That’s the second time you’ve used the word “grow”. I take it growth is a big part of this process?

Melissa Dawn: A huge part! However the team functions today, it grew that way because certain things were fed – ideas, beliefs, habits, etc. Just as negative elements can be fueled and grown, positive elements can, too. So, a key aspect of Team Performance Coaching is identifying those amazing opportunities for growth. It’s not just about getting rid of the negativity or the undesirable habits. It’s about feeding the strengths of the team so that the best parts of the team become stronger, confidence and engagement grow, and collaboration and creative problem solving become a natural part of the evolving team system. Now, a lot of teams struggle with motivation. What motivates people more than seeing the best parts of themselves or their teams grow even stronger? We focus on growing these strengths because that’s where the greatest value lies, but also because it fuels motivation, engagement and productivity like nothing else.

 

MTLTips: That sounds amazing and inspirational almost, but how do you actually get people to do this? You mentioned before people not wanting to try new things. This all sounds… very new! Won’t people just sink back into old habits?

MD: There has to be a desire to change, for sure. But it doesn’t have to be big to start with. Another key element of Team Performance Coaching is guiding people to have the difficult conversations that need to be had. I think we can all relate to that. Those conversations that, if we were able to have them openly and without judgement, with everyone keeping their cool and speaking respectfully and compassionately, could really change things for the team and open up possibilities.

 

MTLTips: Oh yes, I can relate to that!

MD: But where do you even start, right? Like, how’s everyone going to react if I just open up this massive can of worms we’ve all been tiptoeing around?

MTLTips: Exactly!

Melissa Dawn: This is where the right coach can have a huge impact. Because having these conversations is not a skill most of us have. When it comes down to it, most of us just weren’t raised that way! We’re raised or conditioned in some way to avoid these conversations completely, but all that does is establish more and more bottlenecks. The right coach will help people learn techniques to approach and guide these conversations in a way that honours the human on the other side of the table, but also holds people accountable – not in a “this is your fault” way, but in a “let’s dig into this together” way. What I’ve found is that all you need is one person to take that first courageous step. One person to really embrace the techniques, embrace the mindset, embrace the challenge and step into it. When someone does that, it has this amazing domino effect! It’s like it suddenly gives other people permission to start speaking more openly and honestly. Really speaking from the heart.

MTLTips: So how does all of this impact performance? It’s called “Team Performance Coaching”, afterall. 

Melissa Dawn: When we think of a team system locked in negative or limiting habits, a lot of energy goes into that. Whether it’s trying to keep up appearances, to work around difficult personalities, avoiding speaking up, fear of change, conflict with other team members, lack of clarity on objectives… whatever it is, it takes a lot of energy from the people within your team. When a team can overcome those challenges and really start to grow its strengths, performance is just going to skyrocket. All of that energy previously wasted on unproductive areas can now be directed towards the real work of the team, and that’s working together to meet objectives, inspire innovation and overcome challenges. And, just as that one person taking that first step can have a domino effect on others, the team taking these steps together will have a domino effect on the overall organization. We mentioned culture earlier. This is about co-creating a culture of trust, respect and the courage to be open about things instead of letting them become roadblocks. When you can do that, either as a team, individual or an organization, performance just naturally reaches greater and greater heights. People feel good about what they’re doing and the environment they’re doing it in, they’re happier to be doing it, they feel challenged in the best way and they’re excited about what they can accomplish.

The Process of Team Performance Coaching

MTLTips: So this clearly isn’t something that happens overnight.

Melissa Dawn: No. This definitely takes dedication and perseverance, but the good news is that the first steps really start to open up your perspective. You start to see, right away, what’s possible and it’s an exciting thing, both on a personal and team level. And like I mentioned before, that’s quite powerful in terms of motivation. Those first steps fuel the next ones and so on. Now, I often give one-off workshops on this, which I really enjoy. It’s just amazing to see that ‘click’ in someone. That spark in their eye when they start to get it and get excited about their own potential. But what I really love is when I get to do either a full coaching program, or follow up coaching after a workshop because that’s when I get the opportunity to witness, and be an integral part of, real change. I’ve had a long career. Nearly two decades in different roles and industries in marketing and business development, including several years as VP of marketing. So I’ve experienced being a member of, or leading a variety of different teams. I know how a strong team can raise up a whole organization and I know how a struggling team can do the opposite. What’s truly exciting for me now is that I know how to help those that struggle and it’s so amazing to see the impact that has on the overall organization.

 

MTLTips: Well, I guess that leaves us with one final question… how can people work with you?

Melissa Dawn: That’s the easy part! All the information about the different workshops and coaching programs I offer is available on my website at ceoofyour.life. Most people use the contact form on my website to get more information or to ask about availability, but they can also reach me directly at [email protected]

 

MTLTips: Thank you very much, Melissa. It’s been great speaking with you and learning about Team Performance Coaching.

Melissa Dawn: Thank YOU! 

Art exhibition Montreal

Convergence: Arts, Neuroscience, and Society a thrilling Artscie double exhibition!

 

This Friday the first of two inter-intra-trans-disciplinary vernissage happenings will take place at the Visual Voice Gallery at 5 pm. From April 12th to the 27th students form the DART 498: Art+Neuroscience+Culture course taught at Concordia University will be exhibiting their collaborative works in two venues, as mention one is the Visual Voice Gallery at the famous artsy Belgo Building (yes according to Wikipedia this building houses the biggest number of Contemporary Art Galleries in Canada) and the second venue is the Black Box space at Concordia University.

The DART  course is in interdisciplinary class that invites students to creatively explore the intersection of arts, neuroscience, and society, and how these domains shape the understandings of ourselves and others. Concordia Fine Arts students work with the RI-MUHC Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience program (BRaIN) and McGill Neuroscience students within the Convergence, Perceptions of Neuroscience initiative to create self-directed, collaborative projects which converging artistic and scientific research.

The course combines lectures, debates, site visits, and independent study to encourage all participants to understand and discover territories outside their artistic or scientific comfort zones. The course develops in two terms, where the final work for the artists during the first term consists on creating an artistic response to one of the neuroscience lectures taught. Then, the final projects after the two terms consist on a collaborative project where neuroscience students share their research to inspire the art students. Thus, artists and neuroscientist work hand in hand to produce a piece where convergence actually occurs.

“Our main purpose is to create a connection, a convergence, between different areas of society to make neuroscience research more accessible to the public and to give to our students the opportunity to communicate their research, learn, and acquire a broad perspective from highly skilled artists as well as the public, in the process.”

www.convergenceinitiative.org

 

One of the projects we want to especially acknowledge on this post is Self-flow, a resulting ongoing series of paintings portraying blood vessels with actual blood ink* from the artist Lily Jiménez-Dabdoub.

*Blood was extracted in a safe environment by health professionals— MD. Fernanda and nurse Freddy Jáuregui— who the artists thank. They also encourage those struggling to reach out to professional counselling services.

 

Self-Flow sensitizes the viewer and connects them with mental health, thus confronting their existing stigmas. Self-Flow is a series of four light boxes containing three layers of organic papers (bamboo, silk and hemp) where images of Liam’s brightfield micrographs of human brain blood vessels (revealed using CD31 immunostaining) were translated by Lily into Sumi-e brush strokes. Then, Liam’s contour drawings were engraved in the glass. The containment of this work represents the contained emotions people suffering from mental health disorders experience due to social stigma. The images are lit to acknowledge these emotions.

Self-Flow unveils a state of peace and creative flow. Human blood* as an ink suits both creators who wanted to portrait its’ emotional intensity and dynamism. The blood degrading colour shows a similarity to the 3,3′-Diaminobenzidine (DAB) staining tint in Liam’s micrograph images and Lily’s own personal experience with depression and anxiety.

Finally, to mention all the works you will find at this thrilling exhibition:

Urban DNA

by Deirdre Hatton (Neuroscience student) and Laura Rosero (Artist). An experimental piece involving volunteer participation and the urban landscape. Urban DNA project aims to investigate the effect of certain genetic mutations on how we navigate through the city.

 

The Cookie Theft

by Marielle McCrum (Speech Therapist)  and Rochelle Panganiban (Artist). Using a common language assessment tool as its base, The Cookie Theft: Case Studies takes invented responses to the test image and depicts them visually. Each script represents different types and severities of communication disorders that could occur following a neurological event such as a stroke.

 

MS and the Invisible

by Elena Lin (Neuroscience student) and Maria Mathioudakis (Artist). Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating yet often non-communicable disease that attacks the central nervous system. The etiology is not well-understood, and the biological mechanisms that underlie the disorder complex. Of note are immune cells that interact with the nervous system and the profound impact the cells can have in the exacerbation or mitigation of symptoms experienced by patients. The artists were inspired by the contours of moving cells recorded via microscopy: the waves that cells make and their purposeful undulations through space. Using the medium of wire, Mathioudakis and Lin not only capture the idiosyncrasies of cell morphology but also the interplay between what is visible/perceptible (the solidity of the medium) and invisible (the negative space framed and shadows formed). The artwork concomitantly explores concepts of cell-cell interactions in the microscopic world and the macroscopic phenomenology of patient experiences – ultimately bringing into light the pain individuals with multiple sclerosis endure.

Art exhibition Montreal

Synapsense

by Raina Fan and Erin McKenzie Wall (Neuroscience students), Maya Moussall and Alice Perichon (Artists)

 

All these works are part of the Visual Voice Gallery exhibition from April 12 – 27, 2019

 

Vernissage: April 12, 2019, 5 pm – 7 pm

Belgo Building, 372 Ste-Catherine Street West, space 421, Montreal QC, H2V 2K8

 

The second vernissage will take place on April 27th at The Black Box Space at Concordia University.

 

Black Box

Exhibition: April 19 – 28, 2019

Vernissage: April 25, 2019, 5 pm – 7 pm

Art & science symposium: April 27, 2019

Concordia University, EV OS3-845/855, 1515 Ste-Catherine West, Montreal QC H3G 2W1

 

The works you will find here are:

 

Alien Agency

by Naila Kuhlmann and  Zahraa Chorghay (neuroscience students) and the Matthew Halpenny and Matthew Saleciak (Artists).

Sensenet is a conceptual piece realized as an experiential installation, based on the concepts of alien agency in art (a property where the artwork takes on its own meaning, outside the creator’s intent) and the motif of timing and synchrony in neural circuits. By gathering and manipulating data on the senses gathered from participants within the installation environment in real time, Sensenet subverts the individual’s perception and encourages synchronization of the collective senses, thus challenging concepts of identity and consciousness.

 

🐸 👓 🧠 Frog’s Eye Viewer

by Vanessa Li (Neuroscience student) and Natacha Vieilleux (Artist)

A playful insight into how the developing visual system of a tadpole functions and evolves. In this imaginary tadpole sporting a single giant eye, visual neurons are represented by an army of colourful frogs.

 

Salience

by Yuting Zhang (Neuroscience student) and Ryan Bruggeman (Artist)

 

The Network

by Erin McKenzie Wall (Neuroscience student), Giuliana Greto and Tania Marquez (Artists)

Harvesting the Mind Through the Passage of Time

by Morteza Pishnamazi (Neuroscience student) and  Tania Marquez (Artist)

Starlight Gone

by Liam O’Leary (Neuroscience student) and Elizabeth Parent

Case and Control

by Kathryn Vaillancourt (Neuroscience student) and  Alessandro (Tarek) Ghaleb-Debello (Artist)

 

 

Art exhibition Montreal

Kids laughing and having fun

Parents, have you ever been to Ikea and found yourself weighing the euphoric joy of shopping kid-free with the inevitable pink eye they’re going to get from the ball pit?

 

We all know that kids mean sacrifice, often of our personal freedoms, social opportunities and even opportunities to expand our horizons, skills and interests. Those sticky, whiny, bouncy, shrieking bundles of absolute joy truly are the most meaningful parts of our lives, and I for one would make the sacrifice over and over again. But boy do I ever love getting a break from them!

 

So when I came across Kidtabulous… holy cow. It’s almost worth planning a wedding all over again just so I can use their amazing service!

 

What is it?

 

Kidtabulous is a mobile child care service specifically for events – weddings, conferences, festivals, workshops, office parties, seminars and more.

 

Many parents don’t have a relative or trusted babysitter to leave their kids with, so offering quality, reliable and FUN child care at events makes them a lot more accessible to parents. It also allows kids to be a part of special events – weddings, christenings, reunions, graduations, etc. – in a way that really is fun for them. Because what four year old has ever sat quietly through speeches?

 

What they offer

 

There are different packages available, all of which can be customized according to the number of kids your expect, the length of time child care will be needed, how involved you want kids to be, etc.

 

You can opt for one of their pop-up playrooms that come with toys, games, craft supplies and activities, and allow kids to run wild without disturbing the event. There is also a kid’s table option that lets kids be part of the event (ideal for kid friendly weddings, family reunions, showers or festivals), but allows them a space just for them with toys and activities to keep them engaged. There is also an animated babysitting service so kids can be part of an event, or stay in the comfort of a hotel room or other personal space.

 

All options come with qualified, caring animators who are “expert nose wipers, sillies-shaker-outters, ‘use your words’ reminder-ers, and fun-stuff-to-do developers.” They take the time to get to know the children and find activities that keep them engaged, happy and having a great time.

 

They bring all the supplies and equipment, you provide the kids!

 

Pregnant woman making a heart with her hand

 

By moms, for moms (and dads)

 

Kidtabulous is owned by entrepreneur, I-yatah Holness. As an entrepreneur and mother herself, increasing the accessibility of social participation for mothers of young children is an initiative near and dear to I-yatah’s heart. Kidtabulous is all about opening doors for parents by ensuring kids aren’t just cared for, but are truly enjoying themselves while parents get the freedom to turn their full focus to the event.

 

She knows that parents want to feel good about where they’re leaving their children, and who they’re leaving them with. She knows they’ll want to check in and will want to chat with caregivers and tell them about their child. She knows they want their children to feel comfortable, happy and as at-home as possible. And that’s exactly what Kidtabulous aims to provide.

 

For your next event…

 

Whether it’s your office team building event, the company BBQ, your wedding or anniversary, annual conference, or any event that parents might attend, check out Kidtabulous, get a free quote, and consider how much you gain by opening up your event to even more people, and providing a truly unique and incredible service. Pink eye ball pits not included ;-)

Inspiring Montrealers: Mirella’s empowering path to pure joy!

Have you ever considered a big lifestyle change and thought… I can’t. It’s too much. That’s not me… Or maybe… I don’t know where to start. I don’t have time. I don’t have the willpower… Or maybe someone else told you it was unrealistic… and you believed them.

If so, you are not alone. Consider the people around you. Those you know, those you don’t. Odds are, every one of them has something they really want, but they don’t even try because of their own negative voices, or the voices of those around them.

Mirella Atallah was one such person. But she proved herself and her naysayers wrong.

 

And you can too, because it doesn’t take superhuman strength to overcome negativity. What it takes is making the conscious choice to say, “No more!” To decide that people can say what they want. Your inner gremlins can say what they want. You’re going to focus on what’s possible and move forward, one step at a time.

Here is Mirella’s inspiring story, in her words:

Life’s road is long and filled with challenges. Along the way, we all accumulate baggage that we drag around with us.

In 2012, I found myself walking around in the freezing Montreal winter. I was far from my home in Lebanon, and asked myself, “What am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?”

I knew I wanted to change my life, and it had nothing to do with homesickness or frozen toes. I was 34 years old, about 200 pounds, with a malfunctioning thyroid, tachycardia, type 2 diabetes, and to top it all off, I was in a toxic relationship.

I didn’t just need a change. I needed a drastic change.

I started my journey at Tristar Gym in Montreal with two simple goals: to lose weight, and to get in shape.

Mirella Atallah fighting

At the time, I had no idea how drastically even my goals would change!

My first week, I felt so lost and nothing made sense. I was out of my element. A gym full of people who seem to already be in shape and know what they’re doing can be so intimidating to someone just starting out.

To make matters worse, a guy in the gym told me I couldn’t do anything and lacked the flexibility to improve. Not only can I not do it now, but he’s telling me I can’t even improve??!! I had already been dealing with naysayers in my personal life. I can’t count the times I’ve been asked, “Aren’t you too old for this?” So that guy’s comment was a huge blow to my confidence.

But I pressed forward anyway. Determined to shake things up and get healthy, I dropped all my medications, started kickboxing, and eventually added in boxing and Muay Thai. I was so curious about Jiu-Jitsu, but felt I was too heavy to even try.

It took three years before I gave Jiu-Jitsu a try, and once I did… I was hooked!!!

Jiu-Jitsu is like a never-ending puzzle. You are always trying to find the right piece for the right place. Against everything – the naysayers, the wounded confidence, all of it – I kept going back. Just six months later, I received a third stripe to my white belt. A year later, I earned my blue belt.

I went from being told I couldn’t even improve, to kicking some serious butt!

You see, I’m not too old and you are not too old. Nobody is too out of shape, too ‘girly’ or too much or not enough of anything, not matter your naysayers may want you to believe.

The only restrictions you have to getting in shape and finding something you love are the restrictions you put on yourself.

There is always a work around. Always a way to achieve what you want. Because it really does start with a single step. And there is always time, space and energy for one step… then one more… and another, and another… You need to believe in yourself and just BE!

In December 2015, I went back to Lebanon. My first love. My home! I looked so hard for a place to train, but no gym felt right. I was ready to move back to Montreal when I stepped into Atos Lebanon and met Head Coach, Daniel Hilal. I knew I had found my new Jiu-Jitsu family.

Mirella Atallah Jiujitsu

What Daniel has done for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in Lebanon is unbelievable! Let’s just say he has made an incredible difference. Against all odds, he placed Lebanon on the Jiu-Jitsu map, worldwide, and I have so much respect for this selfless coach. By continually pushing forward, he even attracted another unique Lebanese Jiu-Jitsu athlete, Professor Said Khatib, a black belt from the Mendes Academy.

I can’t help but be inspired by these two outstanding athletes. They are bringing the game to another level in Lebanon and I’m so proud to have had the chance to train and work with them.

Fast-forward to now, I am back in Montreal. My second home!

The search started again, but this time with great focus! A friend recommended Brazilian Top Team (BTT). I went in and it felt right!

I have been so lucky in my Jiu-Jitsu journey. The people I have been fortunate to meet and work with have been so far removed from that laughably negative guy in my first gym.

At BTT, I have had the opportunity to train with top athletes like Leonardo Saggioro. I felt welcome from my very first day, and the level is incredibly good under Professor Fabio Hollanda. There are also so many top female athletes to train with, especially the Head Female Coach, Juliana Mendes Nogueira. What an inspiring BJJ athlete/mom! She is a real role model for women.

At every training session, I’m reminded that Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport. It’s a therapy; a type of meditation. When I am on the mat, I am ME.

This is a sport that will give you a voice when you feel you have none. Weakness is not an option when you have to be strong. You’ll discover that you are not actually weak. You just are not strong, YET! And you will get there. You will become strong through your own perseverance, and with the support and encouragement of the Jiu-Jitsu community.

On a deeper level, every woman needs to defend herself from any type of abuse, physical or emotional. I know, from personal experience, that Jiu-Jitsu will build you up with the confidence and skills to defend yourself from both types of abuse. Jiu-Jitsu boosts your self-confidence. You will learn to defend yourself, and to use people’s power against them. It’s an entire physical and mental workout. If your main goal is to lose weight, you will lose those extra pounds. But, more importantly, you will train your brain to be calm and to find solutions for the toughest roadblocks on your journey.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu really is a lifestyle. It teaches concepts like respect, commitment, humbleness, persistence, and care. All of which are tools needed for a productive and purposeful life!

Parents, I strongly encourage you to enroll your daughters in these amazing martial arts classes. Teach them to be strong and confident. Allow them to break the norms and gift them with the empowering knowledge that they can be self-sufficient. They will learn that they can stand up for themselves and navigate through the roadblocks of their lives.

For all the times I’ve heard, “Oh, you are so strong! I wish I could be like you!” I have to say, “Of course you can! You just have to believe in your capabilities! Be patient and never give up.”

I didn’t start out strong. But it’s where I am now. And I am happier now than I have ever been.

It is not an easy path. There were so many times I felt frustrated and wanted to give up. Instead, I found myself on the mat doing those drills again, and again, and again…

Your Jiu-Jitsu community is supportive and empowering. You will gain friends from all over the world, and will never be alone. The numbers are growing and the community is getting bigger, with more and more women enrolling. Why not you? Why not your daughter?

I’m now 41 and received my purple belt in December. I train 6 days a week and compete as often as I can.

Whenever someone asks how I do it, I say age is a state of mind. The only limits are the ones we set for ourselves. It’s not to late. Now is always a perfect time to start! I know that if I can, you can too.

If you are looking for a place to train in the Middle East or Montreal, please reach out to me and I’ll give you the right contacts.

Follow me on Instagram. I’ll be happy to answer any questions and welcome you into the community!

 


Tarek RimanFounder | Marketer | Speaker | Best Selling Author | University Instructor

With a passion for exploration and sharing new discoveries, I founded Montrealtips.com, with proceeds going to the UN Refugee Agency, Montreal Children’s Hospital and other causes. I am also involved with NGOs & charities in Canada & worldwide.

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