The stories we tell ourselves

We all have our stories — and often there are several that play a prominent role in our lives. They may be old family scripts. We may have adopted some along the way. But, whatever the origin, these stories get in our way and hold us back.

I recently wrote about a story of mine that many of us tell ourselves, and looked some of the root causes. This particular story is about how so many of us believe we need to go it alone, and do everything by ourselves, which is exhausting and costs us in many ways. But, there are lots of other stories that get in our way, too. Some are stories about money — and there are oh so many versions of money stories we pick up and cling to! Some are stories about worthiness — many of us are sure we are not good enough, not deserving, or not up to the task in a host of ways. Some are stories about how much is possible for us — the cliché that says all artists struggle through life is a classic example. And, there are many more.

I call these limiting stories. And, sadly, these are stories we hang on to — usually with tenacity.

Why? Because they are familiar. And, they feel real. They “save” us (translation: they provide a powerful excuses for us). They make us feel we are powerless to take new steps, or take action, even when we feel certain we want to make a change.

Can you think of a story or two that you cling to? Have you considered the impact the stories have on your life? Have you tried to break free of your stories and not known how to do it, or found it to be hard to fully let them go?

Your limiting stories create a mindset that can be shifted — with awareness, tools and practice. When your mindset is addressed, your behaviors can more easily start to change. New habits can be formed. And new freedom can be found — to take bold steps, to make clear decisions, to live without fear, to find the direction you have been seeking.

A great example is about when I stopped believing that I had to do it all on my own. I made a commitment to myself to let go of my story. I sought out the support of a great coach and courageously started to do deep personal work that has made a huge difference, in my work and the way I live my life. In time, I found and engaged a number people with expertise in areas that were not my strong suit, and was relieved to see how much better those tasks were being handled on my behalf than when I had been managing them myself. And more recently, I got a lot more help with tasks that could be delegated. I began to trust others to do things I’d always felt only I could do to my high standards. These changes did not happened quickly, but as I let go of my story, one step at a time, I was liberated! I am now more self-aware, confident, bold and clear about the direction I am taking in my life. I have the peace of mind that comes from experts handling matters that were not really in my skill set. And, I now spend my time focusing on what I do best, and what only I can do. I love all of my life, and have much more freedom and time to enjoy it.

Do you feel ready to look at your limiting stories and to connect to what you really want? Are you ready to create a roadmap and start on the path to a bigger, more fulfilling future?

I invite you to leave a comment below about how this topic resonates for you. And, don't hesitate to reach out to me. We can make a date to talk.

How clarity makes for a powerful vision board

I was delighted to be with the remarkable women at my workshop and their fantastic vision boards.

I was delighted to be with the remarkable women at my workshop and their fantastic vision boards.

An incredible group of women spent a wonderful day at my Create Your Life Vision Board Workshop, on Saturday, April 8. They focused on gaining clarity about they want in their lives — what they want to BE, what they want to DO, and what they want to HAVE. They were courageous and deeply engaged in the work, and also supported one another in beautful ways.

The vison boards they created are fantastic! The creative energy in the room was palpable as each woman selected images and words tied to her desires, and arranged and pasted them on the boards in compositions that had the deepest meaning for her. These unique expressions are already hanging where they will be seen daily, to keep each woman inspired to take action that will help her manifest her desires and transform her life.

I was honored to lead this special group through my process, and I'm eager to hear about the impact of the vision board for each one.

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What we can learn from the stubborn change of seasons

The calendar tells us it’s spring. But here in Boston, we still have snow on the ground and are bundled up against cold and wind that swept back in and made it feel like early January again. Brrrr.

I can safely say that by late March, we rugged New Englanders all yearn for warm air, bulbs pushing up through the soil, and being able to go outdoors in a light sweater. But, as I consider the stubbornness of winter yielding to spring, I know there are interesting things to reflect on and lessons we can learn.

1. Where do you stubbornly hold on in your life? This weather moment can prompt honest introspection about what you may be holding onto rather than letting go of and moving forward in your life. Are you sticking with a job or career out of fear of moving forward and making change? Are you tolerating a bad relationship because it feels too hard to make a change? Or the alternatives feel frightening? Or you think you can change the person if you keep trying? Or you can’t face the conversation where you’ll set clearer boundaries with that person? When we know that change is calling us, and we stubbornly resist making that change, we get pulled into damaging resentment, bitterness, and sometimes numbness. Take a look and see if you are stubbornly hanging on to anything that is not right in your life.

2. How do you respond when reality differs from your expectations? Having expectations and finding that reality is not what you expected can knock many of us off balance. The expectations may have been based on sound evidence. Or, they may have come from wishful thinking. Whatever the basis for the expectation, we’re often faced with a reality that surprises or disappoints us. The question is: How do you respond? Some of us feel flummoxed, get bitter, feel deep disappointment, and even get mired in resentment. But there are always ways you can respond that do not pull you down like that. Take a look at the reality from many angles — there’s often an opportunity or an upside you did not see at first. Get input and ask for advice, rather than feeling alone with the challenge. Keep an open mind and look for a way to respond that will serve you.

3. Do you find yourself yielding to frustration — or bitterness — when you can creatively respond to what’s in front of you? When reality throws you a curve ball you have an opportunity to create a response that serves you. Carefully consider the options at hand, then decide on your response. What can you create now, to make this situation the starting point for something positive? What best decision can you make to move ahead now, rather than feeling stymied? And then, what's the next good choice you can make that will move you into a positive frame of mind and moving forward on a positive path? You always have power to create what is best in your life.

4. Can you find gratitude for all that’s good even when facing a disappointment or challenge? The science is clear — when we focus on all there is in our lives for which to feel grateful, we are more resilient and happier. So, take a few minutes every day to consider all you have to be grateful for, even when things are not all you wish they were. Test it for a week or two and see if you can make this a habit. See if it keeps everything in better perspective. See if it opens your mind to discover creative ways to look at your life and the world.

5. Can you find patience? Sometimes we simply need to be patient — with ourselves and the world around us. We think we have control over so much, and we tend to yearn for control. But just like the weather brings us cold when we yearn for warmth and spring flowers, we can allow ourselves to be patient when we know that what we want will, indeed, show up — even if not on our perfect timetable.

The trap of going it alone

Is there a big lesson you’ve learned the hard way in your life? A key lesson for me had to do with feeling I had to do it all on my own. And I see it all the time in my coaching work. Lots of people are hung up on this issue.

Why do so many of us feel that if we don't figure it all out and do it all ourselves, we’re not good enough? Not smart enough? Not working hard enough? Not proving how capable we are?

This has been coming up over and over, so I want to shed light on the subject.

1. The root of the “I have to do it myself” mindset.

My story stemmed from a parent who was self-made (and very successful), and who took great pride in having done it all on his own. But the unspoken subtext of that message took me a long time to identify: there was shame if you needed to reach out for help. So, I was determined to prove my ability to do it all on my own. And that took a toll on me in many ways. It was, frankly, impossible to be great at everything that needed to be done in my business, and exhausting to carry such a huge load in my family at the same time. When I finally sought help of many kinds, the pace of success in my work — and my personal life — was thrilling. (Early additions to what I think of as my “team” included my housekeeper, and later a brilliant coach. More recent additions to my team have been a fantastic bookkeeper and a great virtual assistant. Each person I bring into the mix lets me do more of what only I can do, and lets me do it better.)

Do you know the root of your story about doing it all on your own?

2. The “Am I worth it?” trap.

I see a lot of people who feel unworthy of asking for or getting help. This is a sign that lots more self-love is needed! Because, we all deserve what’s best for us and what will let us be our best in the world. And, while making a financial investment in ourselves may feel daunting, there are options even when resources are limited. If you are a whiz at writing marketing copy, try and barter with someone who has a skill you need (say, nutritious cooking, or deep-tissue massage), and would benefit from your services. Be creative to get the help that will make your life and work smoother and less stressful.

3. The “Where do I start?” question.

All of us are different, and we have different needs at different times in our lives. There's no “formula” for what help will be the most beneficial for you. You may need coaching support to make an important career change. You may need a great pet-sitter so you can travel on short notice without stress. Maybe investing in a personal trainer is what will make the biggest difference for you in the next year. Perhaps the services of a professional organizer will help you to resolve chronic low-level stress you feel when working in your office. Take the time to think about all aspects of your life and work, as you consider the kind of support that will benefit you the most. Then make it a priority to find the help you need.

Do you have a story about doing it all on your own — or what happened when you brought great help into your life? I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment below.

Getting creative with 90 new friends

I love bringing my programs to teams who work together, and have enjoyed creating custom off-site programs for several years. Last week I had a great opportunity — and a great challenge.

A dynamic start-up asked me to create a powerful creative experience to cap off an off-site day for their team of 90 incredible people. Comprised of engineers, AI experts, and a host of other brilliant people all working to design a robot unlike any out there, this promised to be a great group and a great assignment. My work was to cap off the important retreat they were holding at Gillette Stadium (which proved to be an amazing venue for my program).

The objective for my work was to help the team to be energized and discover new paths to connecting to deep creativity. And, I needed to help this relatively new team to build deeper connections as they work across disciples and need to meet tight deadlines.

After days of calls with the CEO and the executive team, I honed my program to fit their tight window. The room had to be laid had so that I could work with the huge group. The program had to be fast and fun, interspersed with delivering lots of key points for people to take back to the office. I included individual Intuitive Painting work to start, followed by group work that called on people to collaborate to create together, each team having a wacky assignment to bring to life.

The outcome of the program was eye-popping creative work and energy bouncing off the walls! I could not have asked for a better group to work with.

I can't wait to see the finished work framed and hanging in their offices and hope to hear that the experience of making such exciting work together will remain alive and inspiring for the team.


Appreciating the wonder of winter

Here in Boston we are knee-deep in snow. I'm getting emails from friends who are in beuatiful warm locations, and happy for them to be enjoying sun and sand. I had a week away not long ago, too, and was glad to be in a beautiful desert environment with milder weather (even if it was not warm enough to swim).

So many of us gripe about the cold, the need to dig out cars, and walkways that we have to shovel. But we also have an amazing opportunity to see the beauty and wonder of nature in winter.

Last weekend we decided to go out and enjoy the beauty around us. Dressed snugly, we experienced the magnificence of the woods and the remarkable silence, as we snow-shoed through scenic trails. Being alone in the magical natural environment filled us with pleasure. We loved being active and in the fresh air. We were in awe of snow-covered tree limbs, the small animal tracks we saw, the sounds of a brook running under the snow alongside our trail, the pieces of curled birch bark that we picked up to keep as souveniers of the outing. And, of course, it was lovely to return to a warm and cozy spot at the end of the adventure.

Being in nature heals us, no matter the season. Breathing fresh air and taking in natural beauty clears our minds and inspires us. Creating oportunities to appreciate the wonders of nature keeps us balanced and helps us to be resillient. Even if you are unable to spend much time oudoors, take some time to look at the sky through a window. And, take photos of what you can see from your front door. It all works to fill your heart with the wonder of nature.

Some scenes from our walk in the Vermont woods.

Some scenes from our walk in the Vermont woods.

New experiences open your heart

I was fortunate to spend a week in Scottsdale Arizona last week, and had the chance to rest and enjoy a new environment. Especially in times that are fast-changing and challenging, my time away was restorative.

What was so meaningful for me? Having time to share with my husband without the usually busy-ness of our daily life at home. Deep conversations over meals and while walking were easy when we had mental space and fewer distractions. Being in a warmer climate was a treat. Having time to read and see some excellent films (Lion and Hidden Figures were both outstanding) was special, as was a stimulating museum visit. And, we went to the Women's March in Phoenix, where we were inspired and happy to be with tens of thousands of like-minded people who were passionate about maintaining American values, tolerance and justice.

And, we explored the natural environment that is so different from our New England landscape. Being out in the fresh air, to take in the natural beauty and wide vistas, was spectacular.

We returned from our week away feeling restored and inspired. Travel is magical that way. But even when travel is not an option, there are always opportunities to get out into nature, visit galleries, take in a film or concert, and get creative in any number of ways. All of these open us up to new ways of seeing, new ways of thinking, new perspectives and new ideas.

Because we all need to look for ways to bring fresh thinking into our lives — not just when we travel, but every day. When we look for ways to play, when we seek out experiences that will introduce surprise, and when we intentionally aim to shake up our usual thinking, we see new possibilities. We get inspired. We feel less stuck. We find ourselves amazed at what we can create in our lives — and at how we can impact the world.

What fresh experiences can you seek out to open your heart and expand your thinking?

White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a fabulous place to hike. These are all images I shot on the Waterfall trail.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a fabulous place to hike. These are all images I shot on the Waterfall trail.

My vision for a big new year

2017 is off and running! In just the first couple of weeks I’m experiencing a lot of positive energy and feeling that this will be a momentous year.

Yes, I, like many others, feel great uncertainty and deep concern about the direction our nation’s new administration is taking now, and where it will go. But, I feel determined to make my voice heard, to take constructive action, and to do my important work. I want to be a force to support and inspire people to stand strong, to think creatively, and to be effective leaders in their lives and work. The collective, bold, creative thinking and action that we bring to our lives and our society are crucial now. If we succumb to fear and anxiety we will fail to think, and fail to act.

Here’s how I am moving forward:

1. I chose an important word to guide my year. As many of my readers know, I am a big believer in choosing a guiding word for each year. Last year, I chose SAVOR. It guided me to slow down and appreciate everything — big and small — in my life, and it served me well. It helped me to create new awareness and habits, and enhanced my daily happiness. The gratitude I cultivated was a great balance to the stresses that came along.

My word for 2017 is VIBRANT — vibrant health, energy, creativity, thinking, service, and action. I am already feeling the power of this amazing word in my daily life!

2. I am already celebrating achievements. I am celebrating good self-care, and that I am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I am celebrating that I have cleared my office of accumulated clutter, and have updated my systems so that I can keep my work space organized and functioning smoothly. I am celebrating that I have started to work with a terrific virtual assistant, and I look forward to how that help will free me to do more of the important projects I have planned.

And, I am celebrating the Vision Board workshop I lead on Saturday, and the remarkable group of women who did deep and beautiful work with me. I am still savoring every moment that we spent together, as they connected to clarity and determined how they want to be in their lives, what they want to do in the year ahead, and what they want to have. They made it all visual in amazing ways, creating vision boards that are both beautiful and packed with intention.

3. I am finding inspiration and creating in exciting ways. I visited the Museum of Fine Arts last week to see great work on exhibit before it leaves the museum. Standouts, in addition to William Merritt Chase, were The Clock, Terry Winter’s prints, and the Massed Media show. I will continue to visit museums and galleries regularly. And, in anticipation of the start of a painting course that I’m registered for at Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I have been painting in my studio. I am also finding the vision board I made in late 2016 to be an inspiration for the things I most want to manifest in my life now. Seeing it every morning keeps me taking action toward what I want most. All of these are sparking my thinking and awakening my heart every day.

And, connecting everything for me, love will continue to be my driving force, alongside creativity — in this year and every year. As I wrote in my email at the end of 2016, I ask myself every day if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart. I am determined to model love and tolerance as I move through 2017.

How is your year starting? Have you chosen a guiding word for yourself? Do you find yourself struggling or feeling stuck? Let me know how you are feeling and doing as you look ahead to this new year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Big + small

We tend to think we need to tackle big projects with big action to get big results. The funny thing is, that's not the best way to realize those big ambitions.

Why? Most of us get paralyzed at the thought of tackling something big, especially when we think we need to take heroic action to do so. Our self-critic jumps in and it can show up as doubt, fear or procrastination — or a nasty combination of those self-sabotaging reactions.

The key to overcoming these obstacles is counterintuitive. Whether you have a modest, moderate or huge idea to tackle, or project to do, or ambition to realize, start with taking small steps.

And, start taking those steps even if you don't feel you can do them well. It's taking action that matters, and imperfect action is encouraged!

Then, after you take the first step, take another. Be consistent and keep going. It's the consistent small steps that result in tremendous accomplishments.

Try it! I predict you will amaze yourself.

A different kind of top-10 list

With the holidays upon us and the last days of 2016 winding down, top-10 lists will soon start showing up. We have all seen the typical lists of the top-10 films of the year, the top-10 world events, and such. In thinking about top-10’s — which for me, would include things like a significant birthday celebrated, the marriage of my nephew, coaching remarkable and inspiring clients, and a memorable trip to Paris — I decided to be grateful for all of those things, but to take a little different approach to thinking about how I want to compile my top-10 this time around.

I am thinking about the top 10 things I have learned that I want to take into the new year.

1. To start, I’m focusing on what I want to leave behind from 2016. By reflecting on what went well and what things went awry this year, I will be able to leave behind habits and practices that I know do not serve me well. This will open the way for more of what I want to bring into my new year. What will I leave behind? For one, timidity. I have learned that when I take a step that feels big, and even a bit scary, it's always better than shrinking back. I will also no longer chase after every interesting idea I get, or every opportunity that comes my way. I’ve learned that these distract me from my big priorities. Do you get the idea?

2. After reflecting on my year in 2016, I will decide on the key things I want to create in 2017 and I will choose a word for my year. When I have clearly defined my top priorities, for my personal life and my work, selecting a word that will guide me will follow. (I wrote about choosing a word of the year last December, and many people wrote to tell me they carefully chose a word to guide their year, too.) I learned that having my word was meaningful and inspiring, and that it was great to post my word where I saw it daily. I know this year’s word will help me to be focused and on-target, both with my new priorities and with how I want to live.

3. I will celebrate my achievements in this year and commit to celebrating my coming achievements in 2017. We often lose sight of the things we have accomplished and achieved as we rush through our days — especially the small things that can have so much meaning. When we take the time to savor and celebrate ourselves for our successes, and celebrate things what we might overlook (such as trying out something new that is not a sure bet, or having a tough conversation rather than avoiding it), we encourage ourselves, and can appreciate that we are learning new skills and are growing in important ways.

4. I will make my visions visible. For me, this incudes making a vision board every 3 to 6 months. Creating a vision board is an incredible process, and the completed board provides a way for me to look at what I want to bring into my life on a daily basis, so I do not lose sight of what I want to manifest. Making things visible also includes writing down the top 3 things I will commit to each week and posting the list where I will see it often. The act of committing things to paper, and seeing them, is powerful.

5. I will get more help and support. Last year I began to work with a great bookkeeper and wondered why I had waited so long to do that. My coaches are a big part of my support system, and I look forward to continuing my work with them. This year, I will begin to work with a virtual assistant, to free me from daily tasks that take time away from doing the things that matter most to me, and things that only I can do. I will also do more work with a great professional organizer, to start the year with an updated filing system for my business, and to help me clear accumulated clutter in my office and home. And, I will think about other kinds of help and support I can enlist to make this a great year.

6. I will have weekly Accountability Calls with a colleague. This is a practice I started in 2016. In every call we each report on what we accomplished in the past week, where we struggled and what we learned, and we declare our top 3 priorities for the coming week. We close by picking a word to be our theme for the week. This has been a remarkable practice.

7. I will take excellent care of myself. Having experienced a series of health challenges this year that are now, happily, resolved, I am well aware of the importance of careful self-care. I will pay special attention to what I eat and to my exercise routine. I will create a new daily practice that includes quiet meditation each morning, so that I will be centered, calm and clear as I start each day. I will be tuned in to what causes me stress, and work to reduce those influences — and I’ll actively clear any stress that does come up.

8. I will show up, engage in constructive conversations, and take action related to civic causes about which I care deeply. Current political developments are calling me to think creatively and partner effectively to be a force for sustaining and improving civil rights, ensuring social justice, building tolerance, protecting the environment, and more.

9. I will create as never before. I know that when I write from my heart, and when I paint, and when I think creatively, and when I experiment freely, my life is enriched. Difficult emotions are transformed, I am fueled and inspired, I learn and grow, and I engage with others in amazing ways. I will also visit museums and galleries, attend live theater, music and dance performances, and read as many great books as I am able. Creativity that I engage in and that I experience connects me to big, new ideas and accelerates inspiration.

10. I will live with love as a driver. I know that love is powerful and positive, and that is what I want to be. I know that love is an antidote to fear and anxiety. So, I will continue to make “love” my watchword, as I have been especially focused on doing recently. I will check in with myself and ask if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart, and if I am modeling love and tolerance for those around me.

I am looking ahead to 2017 with the desire to live bigger than ever. That desire informed my top-10 list entries. What will you include on your forward-looking top-10 list? How will you create the best year ever in 2017?

Let me know if you are making a top-10 list, and what your list (or lists) include. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

All my best wishes for the upcoming holidays and a BIG and happy 2017. Let's all look ahead to a year filled with love, creativity, joy, abundance and peace.

Endings and beginnings

Here we are in mid-December. As we count down the last weeks of 2016, and before we get to New Year's eve resolution-making, it's a perfect time to think about what you want to STOP doing, in order to open up space to create in big and new ways in 2017.

What will be your big YES for 2017? What have you been wanting, or trying, or yearning to do but not been able to make it a reality or bring it into full flower? What is calling for your attention and exploration?

Has something gotten in your way of going after this big desire? Have you been pulled in too many directions? Have you avoided really going for it out of fear or doubt? These are big and important questions to ask yourself. And, this an excellent time to give yourself space to getting clear about what has been getting in your way.

Consider what changes can you make that will make space for focused action to fully realize your big YES for the new year. They may be small changes, like starting your day in a new way, or getting more sleep so you have more energy. You may realize you need to become more alert to things like not getting sucked in to long conversations that drain you, or not letting yourself go down social-media rabbit holes. Making small changes can have a big impact.

And, be aware that to say "YES" to something important you want to realize in your life, you must be ready to say "NO" — a lot. In addition to saying "No" to things and habits that you want to shift away from, you will find that you have to say "NO" to interesting ideas that will pop up, or opportunities that will come your way. As interesting as they are, they will distract you from your big YES. A big YES demands time and attention to become a reality. It's not always easy to say "No" to great things, but when you are really clear and committed to your "Yes", you'll find you can more easily say "No".

Take a little time during the last days of 2016 to ponder these ideas. You may want to do some journal writing to explore these questions. You can talk about your ideas with a trusted friend, or, consider partnering with a friend so you can support one another to do this important thinking and planning.

Wishing you a new year of clarity and focus. I'd love to hear about your big YES and how you are going for it!

The importance of warding off fear

I, like many others, am finding that the weeks since the election have brought up a lot of challenging emotions. I do not want to assume that we all share the same political point of view, but nearly everyone I have been in touch with is concerned about extreme statements that were made made during the election and many of the directions being taken to date by the incoming administration. I need to address the emotional responses to those developments, and hope that we can all be empathetic to one another in order to be calmer, hear each other and discuss our points of view with respect.

For context, I want to tell you about why I am feeling especially concerned now. I am Jewish. My father grew up in Paris. When the Nazi regime occupied France in WWII, he and his parents and brother made a perilous journey through the country and over the Pyrenees mountains to stay ahead of the Gestapo, who would have sent them to a concentration camp. They were imprisoned in Spain for several months, and after entering Portugal (also without papers), they found safety and finally got visas to come to the US. Many of my relatives were not so lucky. In addition, my mother-in-law, who grew up in Germany, was an 11-year-old child when her mother sent her out of the country on the Kindertransport to save her life. So, my first-hand knowledge of the ways that authoritarian leaders curtail freedoms and are dangerous is keen. And, while nothing of that extreme nature is happening now, I see very frightening similarities in the way our president-elect has spoken over the last year and since the election, has rallied support employing blatant lies, has tolerated and encouraged the hateful and dangerous behavior of extremists, manipulates the media, and is surrounding himself with people who have histories and agendas for curtailing liberties in many ways.

And, many other agendas trumpeted by the incoming administration are very worrisome. These include proposed changes to healthcare policy and education, building relationships with authoritarian leaders of other countries, and reducing protection of our environment, to name just a few. This does not feel like the America I have always know. And, as I hear from so many people, concerns about matters like these lead to feeling fearful.

And fear is a problem. Because when we live in a state of fear, we are actually inhibiting our ability to think. We suffer from high levels of stress. We can become paralyzed.

Now, more than ever, we must not let ourselves become victims of fear.

We must think clearly and remain able to discern. We must be informed and alert. We must think together about the actions we can take to have a positive impact in times of uncertainty or danger.

But how can we stay informed and yet resist the overwhelm of constantly reading and watching the news (and steering clear of so much false news)? How can we foster the kinds of clear conversations that will lead to the emergence of wise end positive ways to respond effectively? How can we take prudent actions without getting carried away? How can we protect against living in a state of anxiety?

A wise friend told me that at her church, they often say: Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are. These words struck me as helpful guides for these times.

Want what you have. This seemingly simple statement emphasizes the importance of being grateful for what you have. There is scientific validation for the benefits of gratitude, for thinking each day of at least three things for which you are grateful, and why you are grateful, too. Rather than longing, feeling gratitude for what you have keeps you grounded. It keeps you in the moment, it and ensures that you do not lose sight of the goodness in your life. For despite your concerns, there are so many reasons that it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Do what you can. None of us has all the answers or can do it all. Accepting this is important, and keeps overwhelm at bay. But, the message also tells us that we are able to do many things. We can help others in need. We can foster important connections and facilitate meaningful conversations. We can contribute to organizations that are doing important work that will be needed now more than ever. We can teach tolerance and model living with love as a driving force. And, we can — and must — each be leaders as we do our important work in the world.

Be who you are. We are all unique and distinctive human beings. This is the time to authentically be who you are, and appreciate yourself. Be true to your values and beliefs. Honor the contributions you can make to your family, your community and the world.

As we strive to be vigilant without getting pulled into fear, we have opportunities — to be courageous and to be creative. We need to muster courage for the important work ahead, and we need to activate creative thinking now more than ever. We can come together for comfort and support, inspiration, and also a sense of power to be able to collectively effect change.

Courage and creativity are among my fundamental principles for living big. When we are courageous and creative together we can ward off fear and live through challenging times with more confidence and hope. And in addition, it’s important to know that love is a powerful antidote to fear. When we focus on the power of love we are stronger. (You may want to check out this article, that I found to be both insightful and inspiring).

I’d be happy to hear about how you are feeling now and what is helping you to ward off fear.

And, as we look ahead to the holidays and the conclusion of 2016, I send you my best wishes and a vision for a new year filled with love, tolerance, abundance and peace.

The beauty and power of a poem

Creativity has so much to offer us as a way to process emtions and express what we feel. Many of us are experiencing a lot of enmotion in the aftermath of the election, and I urge you to do something creative with the energy connected to your emotions.

You may feel like pulling out paints or digging in your garden. You may feel like dancing to loud music or playing a musical instrument. I wrote a poem today.

I encourage you to try creating poetry. It's so basic and simple. All you need is a paper and pen, or a keyboard, and you can get started. A great approach is to write a 3-minute poem. Just set a timer and start expressing what you are feeling. Your poem needn't rhyme — just let your thoughts flow and see what happens.

If you like that, you can play with other forms and lengths of poetry writing. It is an enormously satisfying way to express yourself and to feel relief if you are struggling with challenging emotions.

I would love for us to share poems, so please add yours in the comments below. Let's start a bit of a creative movement to heal ourselves and heal the world.

Here is the poem I wrote today:

Our challenges can be our greatest teachers

I recently wrote about how you can deal with set-backs, which are inevitable in life. As a nation, at this moment, many of us are feeling like we are experiencing an emotional set-back, feeling significantly challenged. I’ve been grappling with and thinking a lot about how we respond to challenges that are big, small, or huge.

Our typical challenges can be related to something like working on an important project and finding things going well, but then suddenly getting paralyzed and feeling unsure about how to get going again. Or, maybe you’ve had a great idea, done your thinking, research and planning to implement it, and then have found it daunting to get started. Or, you’ve been offered a great opportunity and feel thrilled, but then a deep-freeze overtakes you just when you need to take action.

You may be reflecting on a day-to day challenge, or you may be contending with a more emotional and existential challenge — like the fear and anxiety that have come up for so many people after an election result that feels frightening and overwhelming.

It is easy to find yourself in such situations, and to respond in ways that do not serve you. Sometimes we beat ourselves up, letting our self-critic go wild. Responding like that digs us into a deeper hole, and what follows is despair. Sometimes we simply curl up into a ball and “go fetal”, or numb ourselves with binge eating, getting lost in distraction for hours on end, or turning to alcohol. Sometimes we lash out at others.

So, what can be done when challenges grip you? And, what can we learn at these times?

1. First, get quiet. Start by sitting with yourself and breathing. Just breath deeply and get calm. You might want to place your hands on your heart and feel the rhythm of your blood pumping. Don't try to “fix” anything and don’t judge yourself. Instead, simply let the anxiety you are feeling settle down and soften. Let yourself connect to the feeling of love, and love whatever comes up for you. Witnessing your fears lets your emotions and thoughts become clear. You can be present with them, name the emotions you recognize, and trust that doing that will make it easier to begin to move ahead.

2. Remind yourself of what you have lived through before, that felt impossibly challenging at the time. When you recall times that you suffered grief, or feared external threats, or were able to find your way to taking action after being totally stuck, you give yourself a gift. Maybe you will recall how you were comforted, or that you felt better when you comforted someone else, and how that freed you to take action. Maybe you will recall that a trusted friend was able to help you see a way forward when you felt you were in a dark place with no path forward. Consider the fact that the situation you are facing now may be calling on you to show up in a bigger way, to move beyond your fear, to do something important.

3. Steer clear of drama, commit to taking a small step toward what you want, and find the lessons in these moments. When you are quiet and focused, you can keep drama at bay — your own drama, or that of others around you — so that you can stay clear and centered. You can notice when your self-critic has intruded, or irrational thoughts are getting in your way, and know that they are just thoughts and do not have to be given power. You can appreciate that you are able to impact the world in beautiful and meaningful ways when you commit to taking a small step forward, then another. And, you can commit to continuing to take those steps until you approach, or reach, the outcome you desire. It may mean persevering in the face of discomfort, but taking those small steps (even taking imperfect action!) will create positive momentum. You can appreciate that you have learned new ways of responding to a challenge, so that when this kind of stress hits again (which it inevitably will), you will have new ways of coping, rather than feeling defeated as you may have been in the past.

These challenging experiences offer you a way to practice being kind to yourself, to be open and willing to accept the way you tend to react, and to celebrate that you are changing old patterns. I urge you to recognize and celebrate each step you take, and celebrate all of your progress — even if you backslide from time to time (as we all do). The key is to gently get back on the right track, and celebrate that you have learned to keep moving forward with small, positive steps.

The wonderful thing about living consciously is that you learn and grow from every situation you experience. Let me know what you think about these ideas, and if they help you.

What the world needs now

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To put it simply, I believe the world needs more love, and needs it urgently.

Love within families and close relationships, love in the workplace, love in our schools, love in our communities, love between nations and cultures.

Love even when we have different viewpoints. Love even when fear or resentment or bitterness are the instinctive impulses. Love when we do not know or understand one another. Love even when someone is unkind, inconsiderate, or worse. (Love is probably needed the most in those situations!)

Love and kindness, smiles and warmth, need to be shared with strangers as well as with friends and acquaintances. They create a bridge, even if a momentary bridge, between people.

Even small moments of expressions of kindness and love can have a profound impact. Love opens and fuels the heart, it builds trust, it creates happiness and satisfaction (in you and the recipient of your love). It inspires cooperation, it invites empathy, and it attracts more love and kindness to the giver. So, if for no other reason, spread love to get more love.

How can you bring more love into your world? Smiles are a great way to begin. Invite people to do things with you. Cultivate an awareness of all there is to be grateful for, and opnely express gratitude. And don't be shy about using the word "love" — even in your workplace. The more this becomes a "normal" word in our vocabularies, the easier it will be for more people to spread more love.

If we all practice sharing more love, the collective power of that energy will grow, and grow and grow. What a beautiful image that is. Let's make it a reality.

Are you ready to show up and take action?

People often ask me about coaching — what it's really about and how it differs from therapy.

The short answer is that therapy is about looking at and focusing on the past, while coaching is all about creating a better future.

What challenges are you facing that you want to get past? What do you want to create — what big ambition or dream do you yearn to realize? What's blocking you, keeping you stuck? Are you tired of living with those barriers and feeling ready to work to change entrenched patterns and habits?

The good news is that a coach can help you see past limitations, give you powerful tools, and support you to make big change and realize your biggest ambitions. But you have to be ready to show up and do the work. You need to be open, honest and willing to be vulnerable. You need to face issues that may be unconfortable. You need to be ready to be challenged and to courageously make changes.

When you work with a committed and capable coach you won't have to do it alone. You'll have help and support along the way. But you need to show up and take action.

Are you ready?

Tame your hectic life

So many of us live frantically. Our fast-paced culture celebrates non-stop activity, and the demands of family, work, getting exercise, socializing, and more often overwhelms us.

What to do? How to find peace, a little quiet, some relief from the demands that exhaust us?

Start with the simple practice of considering your calendar and determining not to overfill it. When you consciously decide to keep some open blocks — what I like to call "white space" — on your calendar, you make considered choices about what to say "yes" to, and what to defer or skip.

Having been a designer, I know the power and beauty of white space. When a page (either printed or online) is crammed with text and images, it's overwhelming for the reader. By designing in white space, the reader has visual relief, and can take in the content without effort. And, it looks beautiful when there is white space on a page.

When you build white space into your calendar, you are creating space in your life. You can choose to use that time to slow down, take a break, do something good for yourself, or get creative in a way that makes you happy. That white space also gives you time to respond to unexpected opportunities or challenges. And, you will have time for a little surprise to show up in your day. All of these are wonderful things to allow for.

As you look ahead and start commiting to meetings, deadlines, appointments and activities, be mindful of leaving blocks of white space open. Appreciate the beauty of a schedule that is not crowded with commitments. And, then experience the difference it makes.

Try it for a few weeks and see what happens. I predict you will see how a small bit of breathing room can have a big impact on your wellbeing.

End-of-year thinking

Here we are at the end of October — already a month into the final quarter of the year. For many of us, looking ahead to Halloween, the election, Thanksgiving, and the holiday season in late December, it feels as though this year is wrapping up. It's easy to look ahead and think about taking significant action in our work and lives at the start of the new year.

But we can also consider the 67 days left this year as a big chunk of time — it's over 18% of the year! Why write off so much precious time for making progress with the initiatives you set out for yourself to make headway on in 2016?

Consider what's important to you and how you can use every day with intention. Each day offers the opportunity to take a new step toward what you want to bring into your life. It may be realted to your work, the way you spend time with your family, creating healthier ways of living, getting involved in community-centered activites, healing and enriching a relationship, or anything else that's important to you.

When you live with intention and make the most of every precious day, you live big.

How to deal with a set-back

Life is full of ups and downs. We think we can control so much in our lives, and sometimes we can. But, there are times that reality hands us unforeseen challenges. And when that happens, the question is, how do we respond?

Set-backs can show up in many forms. For me in the last 3 weeks, I’ve experienced a bit of a health set-back that took me by surprise. But you may be facing unexpected challenges that range from a problem at work, to an unexpected issue with a child or parent, to a life interruption caused by mother nature, to a late snag in a big project, to a stalled negotiation, or any number of other scenarios.

When something like this happens, how do you respond? Do you feel panic? Become a bundle of nerves? Worry excessively? Here are 3 ways to think about and work through a challenge you face.

1. Get all of the information you can. This may mean doing your homework, arranging to get the medical care you need, doing research, considering all of your options, advocating for yourself, and reaching out for help and support. I suggest talking through all of this with someone you trust to listen well and help you find answers — those that are external, and those you need to dig for in yourself.

2. Look at all points of view. This is something we rarely do. We think things through in our heads and come to a point of view, without turning the question around, without considering the way others see the issue, or without asking to find out how someone else would approach a similar challenge. What we think at a given moment is not necessarily the whole truth, or the only way forward. From what angle are you looking at the problem? Where are you focused? What might you be missing if you don't consider many points of view? How can you look at a wider view of the situation? Get curious and bravely look at all the angles and possibilities.

3. Be patient, courageous, persevere and keep things in perspective. It is normal to feel fear, anxiety, impatience and distress when things go awry. And, it’s easy to lose the true perspective of the impact of the set-back. It takes trust and patience — with yourself and others — as well as determination and courage, to slow down, attain the information you need, and consider many points of view. By patiently doing that, rather than reacting and rushing forward impulsively, you are more able to find a clear and positive path. You are able to persevere and to do what needs to be done — even when none of this was in your plans.

And, when you find yourself pulling through the challenge — both along the way and when you are on the other side of it — be sure to acknowledge what you accomplished. Savor and celebrate your patience, trust and successes. Don’t rush into whatever is next without appreciating and acknowledging your efforts.

These are basic ways you can coach yourself when life unexpectedly throws obstacles in your path. You may have other ideas about how to find and build resilience. Let me know what you think about it and what has worked for you.

The stories we tell ourselves

I am delighted to say that I have made a great recovery following my surgery in July. This was a challenging life experience, but one that taught me many lessons. I hope that some of what I’ve learned will suggest some fresh thinking for you.

In addition to my recent observations related to the energy expended on physical exertion compared to mental/intellectual activity, I have been thinking about three other lessons I’ve learned or reflected on this summer, and where my pre-conceived, limiting ideas were rooted.

Asking for and receiving help is important.
Even when faced with a health challenge, as I was, it was not easy to reach out for help — and it was sometimes hard to graciously receive help. So, when we are dealing with our everyday lives, with no extenuating circumstances, asking for and accepting help can be an even bigger issue.

I realized several years back that I had trouble asking for help. And, accepting help when it was offered did not feel great, either. I was stubbornly committed to doing everything myself. Why? It was a family “script” that I had adopted, that said there was something wrong with me if I needed help. The script said that I should be able to figure everything out myself — and if I couldn’t, or if I struggled, it indicated that I was not smart enough or hadn’t worked hard enough. By the time I realized how much I’d have benefited from reaching out for help sooner, I had suffered much more than I needed to — not to mention having lost opportunities for accomplishing even more. It took some getting used to, but learning this lesson has proven to be very important.

The myth of needing to be a lone warrior is damaging! Asking for help and support carries no shame. And learning to receive help with grace is an significant part of personal growth. I’ve learned to not only give with a full heart, I also ask for help, and receive help with gratitude.

I no longer believe that grinding away at hard work is the key to achieving great outcomes.
This is a common belief in our culture, that emphasizes hard work and long hours. It’s a badge of honor for people to boast about how little sleep they need! So, whether this is a script that is rooted in childhood or not, it’s a story many of us have readily adopted.

What I’ve learned over time, and have realized even more keenly this summer, is that success comes when we work smart more than work hard. What does that mean? When we take care of our precious physical bodies, getting enough rest and nourishment, and when we create time to move (on walks, in a yoga class, swimming, etc.), we work with more focus. When we slow down, think, and stop reacting, we can create the paths forward that are best for us. We actually get more done with less exertion. And, yes, when we also reach out for help so that we focus on the work that only we can do (letting others create systems for us, letting others take on tasks that can be delegated), we work less hard and work smarter. And best of all, we reap the benefit of having energy left to enjoy life apart from our work.

The answers are in each of us.
This lesson has become clearer and clearer over time. Instead of doubting myself, or looking to “experts” for answers, I’ve learned that I hold the answers to my most important questions. This lesson took a long time to learn, and to trust.

It used to feel overwhelming to sort through the whirlwind of thoughts in my head. I was sure that others had figured it all out, if only I could find the right book or the perfect on-line guru. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot to learn from great books and teachers. But I have learned that MY answers to MY deep questions are in me — they always were there, and they always are there. I now know that my creativity is boundless and my internal compass is sure, and I know they guide me wisely. What I needed were good tools to connect me to my intuition and to finding my answers. I needed good people to teach me about the tools and how to use them. (My coach provided both great tools and supportive teaching.) And, I needed to practice using them, to integrate them into the fabric of my life.

Do these issues resonate for you?
Do other issues come to mind that connect to stories that limit you?
What have you learned that has been significant to your personal growth?

I’d be glad to hear about the matters that continue to be challenges for you — because we are always on a path of reaching new heights in life, and mastering our challenges is the way that happens.