Be the Author of your own (Great) Story

“All I need is a really great story”

I remember exactly where I was when I uttered these words. It was 1999 and I was pursuing my Ph.D. in sport & exercise psychology at the University of Saskatchewan. I was with my colleague Pat and we were attending a speaking event associated with the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship, The Tournament of Hearts. The speaking event was held in the hockey arena, that at the time could seat about 4000 people, and it was a packed house. Daniel Eugene ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, was the speaker we had come to hear. His story, the story of using his determination to overcome all odds and play football for Notre Dame University, was depicted in the 1993 film “Rudy” by TriStar Pictures (starred Sean Astin). I came to the event wanting to be inspired and had hoped to learn more about his outlook on personal excellence and achievement. He had done nearly the impossible and I was a huge fan of his movie.   To say I was disappointed was a gross understatement. The hour of time was filled by cliché inspirational messages. I said to Pat, “We could give this talk – we know all this stuff. All I need is a really great story…”


I remember why I thought it was important to have a great story. It was to make money using my degree. A respected colleague in the field told me that there was a very high chance that I would not be able to make a living in the field of sport psychology. I needed a story. If I had a story that consisted of something that was valued by society, I thought that I would have an easier time securing clients and work. I didn’t have my own Olympic athletic achievement story, so I sought out to obtain an academic position. I completed my Ph.D. and then secured a tenure-track University position. I went on to achieve tenure and promotion within academia. During that time I also secured contracts to consult with national sport teams. I can now say that I’ve worked with Olympic medalists and professional athletes. I have a story …

How ‘great’ my story is should not be judged by the jobs or clients I’ve worked with, nor by what others’ think is ‘great’. After nearly 20 years of working and building my story, I’ve learned that my story is ‘great’ because I chose to risk failure and seek out opportunities to build personal excellence. My story is ‘great’ because I believe it is. Only I know how much I’ve learned about myself in the process. Only I know how much that I’ve transformed and grown as a person because I pursued my own version of personal excellence.

I am in interested in your story.  What (GREAT) story are you in pursuit of? Leave a comment letting me know what you are seeking to achieve.

Posted in Lifestyle, mental performance, Motivation, Olympics, Self-belief, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“With a Little Help From My Friends”

In thinking about what to post tonight, the Beatles tune “With a Little Help From My Friends” has been in my head all day.  This post is dedicated to you — the people who are in my life.

It’s May 31st.  I have been pursuing a goal to exercise everyday for the month of May to raise money and support for those who are living with Cancer (including their family members).  This goal was important to me to achieve, because my father, George Hoar, passed away 5 years after living with the disease (off and on) for 14 years.  In honor of him and the values that he and my mother helped to instill in me (and my siblings), I’ve attempted to raise $500 for this cause.  The challenge was called Workout to Conquer Cancer.

The final results are in …

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Whoot Whoot!!! The results are in and I overshot the goal by nearly 50%! That is outstanding.  To celebrate I also did one of the hardest workouts I have attempted throughout the month.

Seriously, thank you to everyone who supported me.  I really couldn’t have done this without my family and friends.  There are just so many ways that you helped me:

  • Donations!  Over 10 people contributed financially towards my goal
  • Workout buddies. Walks, bike rides…
  • Accountability partners — thank you Mel and Andrew.
  • “Likes” on Facebook
  • Private messages about your personal relationship to cancer and why this issue is important to you too
  • Massage treatments for the tired muscles
  • Child care and child taxi duty so that I could have the time to exercise
  • And one dear friend gave me a prize!  She gave me this super cool hat this week to use when the weather turned poor.  [I love awards!  That is a pretty huge motivator for me].  WorkoutToConquerCancer HatThis will be forever more known as the Workout to conquer cancer hat.

Thank you!  Please know how deeply appreciative and humbled I am.  Your generosity in spirit, friendship, and financial means is inspiring.  I also know that my Dad was with me/us through this whole month.  His spirit made this challenge fun, light, and positive.

Not sure what is next… maybe 30 days of yoga?


Posted in Cancer, Exercise, Focus, Lifestyle, Motivation, Team support | Leave a comment

Workout to Conquer Cancer

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May 2017.

It has been 5 years since my Father passed away from cancer.  To mark the occasion, I am doing something that is deeply important to me — SERVICE.  I am raising money for Cancer research in British Columbia through participation in the Workout to Conquer Cancer.  I am doing this in service of others who suffer from, who live with, cancer.

My goal is to reach $500.00 ($100 for each year that I have lived without my father).  The task is to workout each day for the month of May.   Today is May 10th and I am 25% to where I want to be: I have 21 days to go and $350 dollars to raise.  Can you help me?

Why does it matter to me that I complete this challenge and raise this money?

  • First, Cancer really really sucks.  It is painful.  It is scary.  It profoundly changes people — and people need help and support to manage it.  People matter.  People’s lives matter.  This money will support someone who is suffering right now.
  • I’m healthy and I can do something.  Not everyone has that privilege.
  • My parents have a legacy of service and philanthropy.  My Dad assisted with a golf tournament for a BC Hospital that was able to build a cancer wing with the money raised (over a couple of years).  My parents have provided me with that example and it is my turn to start finding ways to raise money for a community that I care deeply about.

Want to know about my “workouts”?

May has 31 days, and I’ll be spending 30 – 120 minutes a day “exercising”. So far, so good.  No missed days.  I’ve done Zumba, Orange Theory Group Training, Spinning, Bike rides, Jogging, Walking … Not all workouts are created equal. Some more enjoyable than others, some more intense (and difficult) than others.


This is me not looking so fresh after my Orange Theory Group Fitness training. But notice the smile…

How can you help me?

Every donation no matter the size is greatly valued!  If you can’t donate, perhaps you can connect me with someone who you think might. For any donation over $20 (CND) you will receive a tax receipt.

This is the link to my personal fundraising page:

Thank you!






Posted in Cancer, Dealing with Physical and Emotional Pain, Exercise, Lifestyle, Service | Leave a comment


I believe that excellence is learned.  It is not a destination, but rather, a journey.  It is simply, a way of being.  I strive to be the best version of myself in my personal and professional lives through the practice of excellence.

My goal in my postings is to provide you with inspiration and to empower you in your own journey of excellence.  It occurred to me, that I haven’t really introduced myself to you.  So as we continue down this path together, here are 10 fun facts about me.

  1. I have PhD in the area of expertise is Sport & Exercise Psychology.  I spent 8 years working as an academic within the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Lethbridge.  I left academia because of family reasons but subsequently realized that  academia wasn’t really wasn’t feeding my passion.
  2. When my ego gets out of control, my husband of 14 years likes to remind me that my PhD is in “gym”.   That always makes me smile.
  3. I’ve been consulting with athletes and sport coaches for over 20 years. This is my passion!  It is amazing to be working with people who strive for personal excellence day in and day out.
  4. I’ve lived all over Canada:  Edmonton, Vancouver (home), Waterloo, Saskatoon, Toronto, and Lethbridge.  Where I live now is the best fit for me.  My personality doesn’t always match the Westcoast pacing (EXTREMELY clear “J”), but it is where I am most healthy.
  5. I have a 10 year old daughter who is amazing.  I love being apart of her life.  Watching her forge her way in this world is a privilege.
  6. For my daughter’s sake, I need to be a better sport parent!
  7. I’m the kind of person who can spend too much time on the details rather than spending my time on big picture ideas.  I recognize that as a limiter for my time and energy, and subsequently on my pocketbook.
  8. Another personality quirk I have is perfectionism. It bites me in the ass more times than I would like to admit.
  9. I don’t suggest any ‘interventions’ to my clients that I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself.
  10. I have a passion for Zumba!  It makes me smile and burns away my stress.

So this is me. I would love to hear more about you and your journey on the ‘exellence’ train.

Posted in Lifestyle, mental performance, self-awareness | Leave a comment

Making Peace with Adversity

I love watching the Olympics. Everything in my household stops when the games are on. The computer plays the live feed nearly 18 hours a day (from 6 am to midnight) – whether I am in the office or at home. I really can’t get enough of the drama and human stories.

The 2016 Rio Games have been no different for me. This year a major Canadian sport retailer chain used the hashtag #WhatItTakes to describe the journey that our country men and women take for his or her opportunity to attend and perform in this celebrated contest of human capacity. This slogan resonated deeply for me. I thought, “Yes. That is what I love about the Olympic Games — it is the story of #WhatItTakes!”.

On a less emotional level, I know that the Olympics is simply another sport event that just happens rarely (i.e., every four years). People seem to highly value this particular sport event in that for many sports it is the only time their sport is showcased or even celebrated. When you measure what a human body (and mind) can accomplish every four years, the growth is tremendous. It is fun to watch record after record break, the intricacies and difficulty levels of routines evolve, and marvel at the new technologies developed to capture performance.

Adversity is part of this growth. Each athlete has his or her own unique journey of challenge and adversity. I firmly believe that adversity is necessary (evil?) for growth to occur. Without challenge, without pushing boundaries (both physically and mentally) we do not change or grow. Though I believe this truth, I don’t like it. I fear adversity. It is painful! I fear adversity because in adversity I am not in control, and I am not sure what the future will hold.

It helps me to better accept this when I can break it down. What is adversity to me? It is simply an event that I didn’t plan for; that I didn’t expect to happen for me and thus, didn’t prepare myself for. It is something that I might require more skills or capacity to manage appropriately, but ultimately, adversity is NOT something that can BREAK me. It is a teaching tool assisting me to learn more about myself and develop what I can do.

I am moved by the stories of others (not just Olympians) who have faced and even embraced adversity and used it to evolve into a better version of themselves. It inspires me. I know that if others can get through their adversity, I can too.

As I watched the live Canadian feed (thank you CBC for an amazing broadcast!), the same sport retailer chain with the #WhatItTakes campaign put out a series of ads labeled Olympic Manifesto – Final Verse using video of Canadian athletes’ Olympic performances and the powerful spoke word of Shayne Koyczan. The combination was captivating and it provided me with water cooler material with friends, family, and colleagues. I commented on the visuals recalling the memory of what I had felt watching the actual event unfold in the days prior. At times I found myself commenting about my frustrations with the ad in that an image of a particular performance was used to depict adversity when in that very moment, for that individual athlete, it was success. I was frustrated that the ad showed Canadians suffering when I knew that we were winning more medals than we had ever done before at a summer games. Paraphrasing the words of 2016 Olympic medalist swimmer, Hilary Caldwell, the podium is something that ‘normal’. Isn’t that #WhatItTakes? That is, the belief in ourselves that we belong on the podium and the images of others being on the podium? At times, all I could see in the ad was the image of pain and adversity rather than the joy and success. I felt that I was watching failure when there was clearly so much to be celebrated in the Canadian’s performances at these recent games.

But then I realized that is the story of #WhatItTakes. In Canada’s pursuit to ‘Own the Podium’, in the pursuit of personal excellence, adversity is part of the story. Adversity is a MAJOR part of our excellence and what is experienced emotionally deepest. Adversity is #WhatItTakes. I’m recognizing that growth is occurring in the moments of adversity even when I don’t feel it. And if adversity is #WhatItTakes, I can accept that.

Posted in Dealing with Physical and Emotional Pain, Handling Pressure, mental performance, Olympics | Leave a comment


Fact or fiction? Resilience is about the individual and relationships.

This is a question that I have presented to at least two high performance client groups that I currently work with. How would you answer this question?

It is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and I am reflecting on what I am thankful for.  What I am most thankful for are the relationships that I have cultivated in my life. My relationships at times have provided me with the highest of highs, and at other times, the lowest of lows.  My relationships are pivotal to who I am and who I aspire to be.

Some of my relationships feel very ‘easy’.  These people are a natural fit with my personality and the activities that I enjoy doing.  We seem to be “on the same page”. My choices are never questioned; my actions are supported – even when those choices and actions are so obviously poor (in hindsight of course!). During the times when I am low, these individuals pick me up and inspire me to persevere.  Oh…if only all my relationships could be like that.

My (late) father gave one of his superintendents some advice about relationships early in his career. It was something he never forgot in working over 20 years of construction and he shared this advice with us at my father’s service last year.  It all came about when this young superintendent went to my Dad to complain about the Foreman of the job site.  Dad admitted to knowing how difficult the foreman was to work with. He said, “Relationships are the hardest part of your job. You could complain about those who are hard to get along with or you could try to appreciate each worker for what he or she uniquely contributes to this job.” That piece advice transformed the way the superintendent saw his relationships and his ability to lead the construction project.

No matter if my relationship is “challenging” or “easy”, each relationship I hold teaches me about my place in the ‘team’.  No construction project or aspiration can be met without a ‘team’.  When you watch the Olympic games, you may be watching a single athlete aspire for a podium finish with his or her performance. The preparation that has gone into that performance has been carefully scripted by a ‘team’ of coaches, sport scientists, financial backers, family, friends who all work with the athlete.  It is not a ‘solo’ effort at all.

The correct answer to the question above is FACT.  Without my relationships, I cannot relentlessly pursue my very best self with resilience.

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In Search of Balance

In today’s rush we all think too much – seek too much – want too much – and forget about the joy of just being.   Eckhart Tolle

Accepting that I can’t do everything that I want to do, at the moment that I think about doing it, is really hard for me.  Recently, a picture appeared on my facebook newspage with a caption that read “Keep Calm, and remember that you are Superwoman”.  I laughed out loud reading the caption because it was so relatable. I can’t remember directly calling myself a superwoman, but I’m pretty sure that I do expect myself to behave like one.

My image of superwoman is the female version of the superman character played by the late actor Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie of Superman.  Superwoman is a leader, she serves others, and she saves the day of mortal human beings. 

An interesting aspect to Superman is that he isn’t always superman. He has an alter-ego that goes by the mild-mannered news office reporter, Clark Kent.  My superwoman doesn’t have an alter-ego; she doesn’t have a female version of Clark Kent.  And this is a gross oversight on my part.

The character of Clark Kent provides a balance for the Superman.  To be clear about what is meant by the word “balance” I turn to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. According, balance can take one of the following meanings:

  1. An instrument for weighing.
  2. A means of judging or deciding.
  3. A counterbalancing weight, force, or influence.
  4. An oscillating wheel operating with a hairspring to regulate the movement of a timepiece.
  5. Equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements.
  6. An aesthetically pleasing integration of elements.
  7. Physical equilibrium.
  8. A weight or force of one side in excess of another.
  9. Mental and emotional steadiness.

My best guess regarding Clark Kent/Superman balance is that each provides a mental and emotional steadiness that could not be achieved alone (definition #9).  My Superwoman needs a “Clark Kent”.  Does yours?

In what ways do you need to be balanced? Do you need to take care of yourself as well as others?  Do you need to play as well as work?  Do you need to rest as well as training hard? Do you need to be in the moment as well as concern yourself with the future? Do you need to spend time doing things that energize you as well as take energy from you?

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Taming My Gremlin

When I was 13 or 14 years old, my mother came into my room with a book that she had purchased for me. The title of the book was “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson.  I remember the book, not because I actually read it, but because of the title.  I remember thinking that my mother was crazy. I did not have something in me and I certainly did not ‘get in my own way’ towards success.  I was a figure skater who needed to perform day in and day out if I wanted to get to the top.  I believed that I could not afford to have one day where I was ‘less than’. I believed that I could control what happened in training each day if I was stern and hard on myself (afterall my coaches were).  I believed that if I was having a bad day, it meant that I wasn’t trying hard enough and I wasn’t focused.  To rectify the situation I would use a ‘verbal’ whipping stick to ‘straighten myself out’.   Did this really mean that I had a ‘Gremlin’ inside of me?

Thirty years later, I reflect on that time in my life as a figure skater and can say with all certainty that I should of read the book.  I did have a Gremlin inside me. It was the Gremlin of perfectionism.  This Gremlin is pretty tricky because sometimes she can be energizing and motivating as she whispers “Common Shar, you can finish this. You can push one extra step [when I am running a 10 km race], you can stay up one more hour to finish this presentation [when I am teaching], you can….”.  But then there are the times when she is so critical and punishing.  She says things to me “You aren’t good enough yet to write your blog, to work with that client, to compete in a half-ironman triathlon, to ….”.

What I have learned on my journey so far (without reading the book) is that my Gremlin will be with me for life. She is A PART of me. SHE ISN’T ME.  She doesn’t need taming…she needs a positive and productive direction for all the energy that she can provide. I can only do this when I embrace and accept her.  When I take a mindful and gentle approach to understanding that she is just an energy source and her whispers (or shouts) are just thoughts, I am able to feel the peace.  I feel in control.  I feel that I can do what matters most to me in that moment. I can play, I can be creative, I can just BE. And the best part is, she, the gremlin, is along for the ride giving me her energy.

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Adventures in Losing and Finding My Confidence

I have spent the past week working out of town with a client. I’ve felt off and not exactly on my “A-game”. It seemed to me that the client and I just couldn’t connect. This left me feeling frustrated and disappointed. And I began to loose faith in my ability to be effective with this client.

I began to think:  Where have I gone wrong? What have I done to cause this response (or lack there of)? Have I missed something? Did I screw up?

So I did, what I typically do when I feel badly.  I turned to my friends for support.  Luckily I have astute friends who can see past my whining and complaining.  They seem to cut through the emotions and get right to the ‘heart’ of the matter.  When I expressed my feelings about the first few days of work with the client, one friend just stated “Sharleen you do good work for this client. You DO GOOD WORK”. She repeated this phrase to me at least 5 times before I really heard her. “I do good work”.  It was this phrase that helped me sort out where my ill feelings were located. I had lost confidence in myself. The communication issues between my client and myself were also my problem.  I was looking to my client to affirm my effectiveness. My expectations of how the communication should be were completely inappropriate for the reality of the situation. (We had been out of contact for at least 7 weeks).  My friend was right; I do good work for this client. I’ve accumulated plenty of evidence of this fact over the past two years. There was absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise, except for the feelings I was having that something had gone wrong.

It was time for me to make an expectation adjustment. I refocused myself on the aspects of my work that I need to do to establish good communication with the client. First, I needed to listen to each person, I needed to re-establish rapport, and I needed to have a positive optimistic attitude and energy about the relationship.  All of these facets would help to re-establish a positive and productive relationship with the organizational members. From there, I could be more effective in my helping role.

This week has been a wake up call for me to remember that confidence is a fragile beast. She can slip from you so easily.  Albert Bandura, David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology/Emeritu at Standford University, has demonstrated through numerous scientific experiments that confidence comes from four main sources: Experiencing success in similar situations, images of success, convincing suggestions that success is imminent, and positive energy (physical and mental) about the potential from success. Paying attention to these elements is thought to put a person the spiral towards self-confidence. I am happy (and proud) to report that is exactly what I did. Let me explain…

First, each day I recorded my successes of the day.  I paid close attention to the rapport I was building with different members. I made a mental note to myself about how I could interact differently with specific members of the organization to achieve rapport with those I had not yet connected with.  I imagined myself successfully communicating about my observations (which I perceived would be difficult to accept by the organization).  And I made sure that I took care of myself, specifically managing my energy through sleep, nutrition, and recreation.  I wanted to make sure that I had enough energy to do the hard work that I felt was necessary. All of these actions contributed to me slowly but surely re-connect with the client.

Each day was a new opportunity to do good work for the client.  I took pride in these successes.  I learned this week that paying attention to build my confidence in my professional skills can pay dividends in being effective, particularly when the work is difficult.

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Who Says That You Can’t?

If you are honest with yourself, it is probably you.

This is my challenge to you today.  Choose not to buy into the message that you cannot do what it is that you really want to do (I am assuming here that what you want to do doesn’t involve hurting yourself or hurting others – if that is the case than don’t read a word further – go to your nearest hospital for help!).  It doesn’t matter who that messenger is, ignore the message, and for ONE DAY live with the attitude and belief that everything you want is doable.

Photo courtesy of Sharleen Hoar

Photo courtesy of Sharleen Hoar

Last week I was facilitating a high performance athlete retreat with an accomplished group of female skiers.  It was evening, and we were sharing inspiring stories.  I shared with them a story I had heard while listening to TED talks. I realize that most of the TED talks are meant to be inspiring, but in my top 5 is the talk given by activist Caroline Casey.  Caroline Casey, TED Talk: Looking Past Limits Her story is appropriately called “Looking Past Limits” and she recounts how she found herself walking her elephant, Mobly, across the Sahara Dessert raising money and awareness for people with disability.  But the riding across the Sahara Dessert on an elephant isn’t what inspires me about Caroline’s story.  What is inspiring to me is that Caroline’s parents never told her (or labeled her) to have a disability. Caroline recounts learning for the very first time that she was legally blind on her 16th birthday.  She was born blind and didn’t know what ‘being blind’ meant.  She never grew up having sight so she didn’t know what she had been missing. This story absolutely fascinates me because I wonder how much I would be able to accomplish if I didn’t know that I, too, had limiting factors: I’m too short, too overweight, not smart enough, ….

As human’s we are hard wired to psychologically need to be competent (defined as exert our will onto our environment). Children, however, cannot determine competency on their own. Decades of research clearly state that a child learn to understand whether he or she can or cannot achieve something.  The way that significant others in our life respond to a child’s attempts to exert themselves on his or her environment provides a powerful interpretation regarding the success of the child.

Take for an example, a 4 year old’s first hockey game.  Playing hockey is quite complicated and requires a number of skills: skating, stick handling, making contact with a puck, having the power and strength to hit a puck in the direction desired, ect.  As adults, what is success and competency for that 4-year-old? What is it that you would respond to and celebrate? Is it being on a winning team? Is it the goal that the child scored? Is it playing well with others and following the rules of the game? Is it helping a teammate up when he fell? Is it the effort that the 4 year old brings to the game that day?  The point is that what we respond to and celebrate for the child is what he/she interprets as competency.  The child learns that competency = winning, if the adult celebrates winning more enthusiastically than trying hard.

These early competency experiences shapes the later motivation and beliefs that an adult has about what she can and cannot do.  The difference between the child and the adult however, is choice.  As an adult you can choose to change beliefs. You can choose to change motivation.  You can define for yourself what you can and cannot do.  You do not have to be limited by your early experiences.

Again, here is my challenge. Dare to live today with the attitude (and belief) that anything and everything is possible.  I’m going to. I’m determined to NOT be the one who limits my potential today.

“Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible.”  (Mike Norton).

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