Say good-bye to reacting and hello to creating the life you want

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By now, most of us have returned from summer vacations and a season of living at a more laid-back pace. We’re getting in gear for the fall. Children are back in school or installed in their college dorms. With recollections of Labor Day fading fast, work is back in full swing. It’s filling our schedules with meetings, imposing deadlines, and making us feel pressured — whether you are in a corporate job, you work for yourself, or you are in the midst of a transition and engaged in activities related to seeking new work.

The change of the calendar and season can also make it easy to fast-forward to envisioning the series of holidays that will start to roll out, to feeling concerned about last-quarter demands, and to feeling self-imposed pressures. I am observing this energy in women all around me now.

What about you? Have you checked in with yourself to observe the way you are responding to the start of the autumn season? Are you thinking about specific ways to shift from the stress that can so easily creep in and impact your state of mind? Are you attempting to achieve more balance in your life? 

Most of us feel powerless when external forces burden us. After all, our kids’ homework must be checked, we must prepare for the meetings that are coming up, we must hustle to bring in new business. We often feel there are no options. How can we possibly make time to sit quietly and reflect, or thoughtfully plan?

The truth is that you have agency in your life
You have more power to shape your life than you may think. Rather than living reactively, you can create the ways forward that will work best for you. This is a state of mind you can learn to adopt, and doing that can be a game-changer.

It starts with realizing you have choices
You may not have considered that you always have choices — and you get to choose what’s best for you. Instead of reacting on impulse — to an ultimatum, to a request you feel obliged to say “Yes” to, to the dynamics at play in any given situation, or even to self-imposed expectations — you can slow down and consider your options. Because you always have choices, even if they differ completely from what’s being thrown at you, or the ways you are accustomed to operating. 

When you slow down, you can choose the best course of action for you
Yes, I am suggesting you slow down! This is a crucial first step in the process. Without slowing down, pausing to get some perspective and considering your options, this will not work for you. The key is this — do not respond or hit reply right away. Get comfortable saying something like, “I’ll get back to you.” Or, in a face-to-face situation, “I need to give that some thought before I respond.” This ensures that you won’t regret your reaction, or think, “Oh, I wish I had said...!” And, it means you will be creating the space to choose the response that is best for you. 

This is also important if you notice that you are falling into an “automatic-pilot” habit that does not serve you. Becoming able to notice those moments lets you take a pause and consider better options for your next move.  

The option you choose now leads to more choices
Once you have taken some time to think quietly and make a choice that will create the next step that’s best for you, the process is not over. Things are rarely set in stone. Life is comprised of decisions and choices all the time. After your first step is clear, you get to take your next best step — the next step that serves you and moves you in the direction of creating the life you want.

Be aware, sometimes the options you have in front of you will not be great. But they are yours to choose from! And, be aware that you do not have to make a perfect choice every time. The key is to make the best choice for you now, having considered your options, and then pause to consider what your next best choice will be. 

A process that unfolds like this gives you the power to create the life you want, one small step at a time. You will not find yourself agreeing to something your mother or sibling or friend wants that is wrong for you. You will no longer agree to do something that is in conflict with your integrity. This approach can end the detriment to your physical or emotional well-being to the demands of outside people and outside forces — or, to your habits of self-sacrifice. This deliberate way of living gives you perspective and helps you to create the calm and balance you need to thrive.  

Are you ready to test this yourself?
Why not try out this approach today? See when you notice yourself reacting on the spot. Then, see if you can remember to stop and take a pause, to think before you react. 

It’s great if you can start testing out this approach with something that’s not really loaded. But, if something big and important shows up today, it will be a perfect time to at least pause and think before your react. 

This effort will call on you to be alert to yourself
And, it may call on you to be willing to do something that’s uncomfortable, if a choice you make is not what someone wants or expects to hear from you. Do you feel willing to try it out and see what results show up?

Be sure to reflect on what it feels like to make a choice that you have actually considered, and that you know is best for you, and to then use that as your response. And, reflect on how it feels as you use your choice to set a clear direction for what you will do next.  

If you believe in yourself, and make a commitment to bringing this new awareness and approach into your life, you are sure to see important shifts take place. You deserve to live this way — to create the life that’s right for you.

I’d love to hear from you
Let me know how this works for you. Leave a comment below, or contact me directly to share your story or questions. 

Ready to go on a road trip to clarity?

My passion is helping accomplished women to break through the barriers and challenges that limit them, so that they can live their greatness — and truly live big. These accomplished women know there is more greatness in them and want to tap that power to make important change in their lives, but don’t know how to do that, or where to begin.

Seeing that struggle and frustration over and over, I decided to create a roadmap for these women to gain clarity about what’s really important for them, to get laser-focused on the issues, and to start making the big changes they want in their lives.

What many people don’t consider is that you need to start by clarifying what you really want and why it’s really important to you. When you do that, and decide on a few specific realistic changes to start with, you can move on to implementing bigger important changes in your life. With clarity and structure, making change is absolutely doable — I watch it happen all the time, and marvel at the breakthroughs I witness.

I created my 5-day virtual journey to help women first get clear about what they truly want — and what their highest priorities are. Because if you try and change a little here and a little there without focus, you splatter your effort and energy and stay pretty much where you are. Once this journey guides you to clarity, and to committing to what you want to make your focus, you’ll be guided to generate real action steps and ways to implement them slowly — so you won’t resist the change, and so the changes stick. They become a natural part of your life.

When you start making these tangible changes — even small ones that impact your mindset and well-being — you’ll be propelled forward in big ways.

The Roadmap to Clarity is a 5-day journey of discovery. And, I am traveling with you on this journey. I will guide you through the entire process.

My design for the process uses one of my favorite and most powerful tools (one that my clients find to be remarkably useful and valuable). This tool is easy for me to teach and easy for anyone to use. Best of all, it always reveals big insights and generates great ideas that can then be put into practice, one step at a time. And, you’ll be excited to implement these changes, because they are perfectly aligned with what you really want and need.

I am excited to offer this journey and lead women to starting to live their greatness. I’d love to be your guide and watch you start living your biggest life!

Getting lost on purpose

Life is super-busy for most of us. I hope that you are slowing down a bit this summer.

Taking a real vacation is rejuvenating and important. Sadly, many of us feel so much pressure to work and accomplish that we don’t make vacations a priority, and entrepreneurs and consultants are most likely to work without a break. Without taking time for ourselves — for rest, relaxation, to do nothing, to simply play and have fun — we hurt ourselves.

What about you? Have you already taken some time off to enjoy the summer? Are you looking forward to an upcoming vacation before the fall season arrives?

And, here’s another question: Are you making the most of the summer season even when you are not getting away? Are you slowing the hectic pace a bit and finding ways to live with less stress even before or after a vacation? 

I am often asked about how to cope with the grind of work and the pressure of fitting in personal time and self-care amidst a demanding work schedule. This is a universal challenge in our culture.

There is a lot of advice we hear for coping with the physically — and emotionally — challenging problem of overwork and stress. And, I don’t disagree that things like meditating in the morning, or getting to the gym for a workout, or sinking into a warm bath at the end of a long day are great suggestions.

But I have another idea to share that you may never have heard about. It does not require a lot of time, and it’s free. What could be better than that combination to easily take some stress out of your life?

I urge you to try getting lost on purpose
Why? Because when you let yourself wander without an agenda, without knowing what you will find, you are open to surprise. And, open to delight. And, open to unexpected wonder. Letting yourself be spontaneous and open to whatever you may discover, and delighting in the surprises (even if you come across something like a decaying old factory rather than a scenic babbling brook), fires up your brain. It inspires you and prompts you to think differently. It ignites creativity and opens you to new possibilities.

Ready to give it a try?

Find a natural time to get lost
If you are driving home after a meeting or after running errands, why not allow yourself a few minutes to explore? Purposely turn off the road into an area you have never been. It can be an exit from the highway you have never used, or you might go down a street near your home or office you that you’ve never driven on. 

Turn off your GPS! 
This is a time to follow your nose and see what’s around you. You may find yourself on a country road that is peaceful and beautiful. You may see architecture you did not expect in the area — like a super-modern house, or a historic home painted in unusual colors. You may be shocked at the way an area has become overdeveloped or run down. You may come across an impressive mural. You may see gardens full of exotic plants.

You may find a tucked-away little park, like I did, within a mile of my home, that I never knew existed. When you find yourself in an interesting place, get out of your car and explore on foot. Sit down on a bench and look around. It may be a place you’ve never been, or someplace you have driven past a hundred times without stopping. 

It’s really fun to walk in a place you think you know, and let yourself wander aimlessly. Look at what's around you with open eyes. You may read the plaque on statue of a man on a horse and learn something fascinating. You may wander through a church graveyard and marvel at beautiful headstones that go back to the 17th century. You may feel,inspired to pull out your phone and take some photos of the wonder around you

Share your experiences
When you are excited about new experiences and discoveries, it’s great to share them. Social media sharing has become a ritual for many people, so why not share your micro-vacation that way, just like you would a week at the beach? And, I urge you to share your experiences with family and friends — in actual conversations. When you speak about what happened you may find that new levels of insight emerge.

These short excursions are like taking mini-vacations — they will lift your spirits and refresh your thinking. You are likely to find that great new ideas come to you as you explore, much the way ideas often come like “magic” when you are in the shower. That’s because you are allowing your overactive brain a little time to be relaxed and just play. And, you will have given yourself a little gift. The gift of time just for you, with no agenda.

Many of my clients have tried this little idea and have reported back that getting lost on purpose was wonderful. They report that the peace and pleasure of their short excursions have a big positive impact on the rest of their day, and opened up their thinking in surprising ways.

So, why not give yourself this little gift? This is a simple way to de-stress and inspire yourself, any time you are out and about.

If you want to share your experiences, add a comment below. I would love to hear what getting lost on purpose was like for you.

The time it takes to say “Yes”

I’ve written a lot recently about simplifying a cluttered life, and about how saying “No” is an important skill to hone. (The three articles I wrote on this topic can be found by scrolling down, or clicking to read The gift of simplifying, Just say “No”, and What's to be done about emotional clutter?.)

So naturally, I am turning my attention — and yours — to what we say “Yes” to. 

And, I am thinking about how we give focus to the things we decide are a true “YES!”, so that those big desires become real in your life. Because the decision to say “Yes” means those things require, and deserve, your attention, your commitment, and ample time. 

Even when we have made a concerted effort to simplify our lives, and say “Yes” to priorities with intention, we tend to underestimate the effort it takes to change our habits and stay focused on those clear priorities. We are accustomed to living at a fast pace, and don’t consider that we may need to shift our patterns of behavior to make our commitments a reality. Because just like the principle in physics that says nature abhors a vacuum, we tend to quickly (and often mindlessly) fill all of our time — in this case, the space we created when we simplified.

If you are ready to get focused and really commit to seeing your “Yes” priorities become real, here some suggestions that can help. 

Start by slowing down

Simply considering the idea of slowing down is a challenge for most people. But if you have done some thoughtful simplifying, and have carefully decided on what it is you want to make a focus in your life, it’s not as hard as it may appear at first.

Certainly, your life is likely to be busy. But, by giving attention to what you said “Yes” to, you have already slowed down for reflection and conscious decision-making. Take that same, thoughtful energy into the way you choose to pace your days.

The magic here, as you will soon experience, is that you will get more done by slowing down. (I know, it sounds completely counter-intuitive!) Why is this true? Because when you slow down you will not be multi-tasking. You will be less distracted. You will be amazed at how much you are able to focus. And when you move more slowly and with more focus as you tackle your priorities, you accomplish more. 

Make a sound schedule

Consider the next month in your life, and how you will use your time.

Start by listing the things you absolutely must do in your life, and rank them from most important to least. Then make a list of the big ”Yes” commitments you have made to yourself. Break the steps down for those projects, if there are multiple stages or steps involved.

You will now be ready to put blocks of time on your schedule for the ”must-do’s” that make the most sense and reflect the relative priorities you assigned to them. Some of your must-do’s will be need to be done daily, some will be weekly, or once or twice a month. Map them all on your schedule for the month ahead.

Next, in the open blocks of time on your calendar, schedule in your efforts for each phase of work entailed for your “Yes” priorities. Or, if there’s a priority like making time to exercise that does not entail steps to accomplish, you can plan for times when you will work out at a gym, take a yoga class, walk in nature, etc.

Do not fill every minute on your schedule! There will always be unexpected things that come up, so allow for them. And, remember that it’s important to build in time for you to simple BE in each day. Remember, slowing down is a big part of this new way of living. 

Stick to your schedule and adjust as needed

It's most important to honor the times you have mapped on your calendar. Make those sacred times to focus without distraction. Remember, you are now a good “No” sayer, so stay true to both your obligations and your “Yes” priorities.

There will certainly be adjustments to be made as the month goes by. Make your changes thoughtfully. Consider your priorities, and what’s come up that was unexpected. Consider what you can delegate to others, what you can defer for a time, and what you can simply say “No” to. Then move things around on your schedule.

And, be sure to include time for an appointment with yourself to map your calendar at the end of the month, so that you plan for the coming month. There may be new steps to take to see a big priority through. And there will certainly be new priorities to plan for as you complete some projects and have space for what you next want to make a commitment.

Are you willing to give this approach a try? To put in the effort to take simplifying your life a step further, and to seeing what you learn from it? Whether things feel challenging, or you find a comfortable, new flow, or a bit of both, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below. Let’s share our experiences. 

What’s to be done about emotional clutter?

Photo: Jeremy Cai

As you consider that question, you may be wondering what I mean by “emotional clutter”. When I think about clutter of any kind, I think of a mess — a jumble that is confusing and complicated, and filled with things that can be eliminated to create calm and order. In the emotional realm, clutter is similar. A mess of emotions includes many that are needlessly complex and often undesirable. Messes like that typically grow without awareness.  

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have been thinking a lot about how we can simplify our cluttered lives. I recently wrote about starting with a focus on you (scroll down to see The Gift of Simplifying). I also urged you to consider the importance of decluttering your environment — and had tips to help you tackle that clutter (that post, Just say “No”, is below). 

Something important tied those two concepts together: saying, “No”. 

Learning what to say “No” to, and saying it with comfort (and without guilt!) is a key skill to build to simplify your life.

Today, I am thinking about another dimension of decluttering that will help you to simplify a hectic life — emotional decluttering. We often overlook the impact of emotional clutter in our lives, which builds when we don’t pay attention to it, and when we don’t consciously say “No” to tame it. 

Why is it important to do emotional decluttering?

In much the way that a cluttered physical environment contributes to making us feel overwhelmed, we are often in a swirl of emotional clutter. And when we let that clutter fester and grow, it adds enormous stress to daily life. Emotional clutter distracts us, distresses us, and drains our energy. We pay a high price when our energy is sapped.

So, the question arrises: What can we do to declutter a life plagued by emotional mess? Try this exercise and see what happens. 

Make a list of ENERGY DRAINERS

Start with a clean sheet of paper. Think about what you may be putting up with, and start listing what comes to mind. Consider what you put up with in both your personal life and at work. What do you tolerate, even grudgingly, that creates resentment, frustration, or anger?

Next, think about things you’ve taken on or accepted that drag you down emotionally and/or energetically. Your list can include people or situations in your life. This may take some careful thought, because we often take things on or accept things that drain us emotionally without being aware of, or acknowledging, the negative consequences.

Look at your list. Consider that these things often drain your energy for positive activities, and that they can impact your thinking in negative ways. Give some thought to that impact. Consider how long the things on your list have been influencing your life, and the consequences of bearing the ongoing emotional clutter.

You may or may not choose to actively do anything about the things on your list now, and that’s fine. Simply becoming aware of them and articulating them will make you more alert to where they interfere, and will also build awareness about their impact. With that new awareness, you may naturally start to address, or eliminate, or resolve them. 

And, you may decide that you are ready to make deliberate changes — ready to say, “No” to the emotional clutter that is sapping your energy. If you are ready to take action, start by choosing an item or two on your list that you feel most comfortable addressing. Take small steps, and continue as you feel ready to address more of the troubling items on your list.

As I have often said, it’s ok to ask for help

Just the way there are some household and office decluttering challenges that are best tackled with the help of a professional organizer, there can be challenges clearing emotional clutter that feel daunting to take on alone. It may be easier for you to say “No” to the excess “stuff” in your environment than to making changes in the realm of emotional clutter, where habits are often deeply entrenched. Coaching can be valuable if you are ready to make a commitment to shifting the mindsets that hamper you, so that you can stop saying “Yes” when you truly want to say “No”. It will provide support and guidance for you to set healthy boundaries of many kinds in your life, so that you can live without emotional clutter — and live big.

Focusing on career questions through a creative lens

Considering big questions about your professional life can be overwhelming. No matter where you are in considering your career — whether it's about making a change, how to start a job search, considering what will make you happiest, preparing for a big interview, how to face emotional issues that arise, and more — bringing creative thinking to the questions, and employing creative expression, can make all the difference.

A courageous and amazing group of women joined me for a workshop to get clear about the career journeys they are each navigating. We dove deep into identifying the emotions at play for each of them and identifying the attributes related to work that are most important to them. And, we addressed the mindset issues that limit them. With all of that insight, the women created collages to pour creative energy into the process, and to make a visual creation they can reflect on. Their collages makes their new-found insights vivid for them as they continue on their journeys.

It was a fabulous group, and their work was remarkable.

Getting creative with corporate leaders

It was a pleasure to work with an outstanding team of 8 corporate leaders in an off-site program that I created for them last week. We spent 3 hours together as the cap-off of their day.

Everyone did remarkable creative work and shared insights gleaned from a writing exercise. They connected their insights, and the concepts I shared with them about bringing more creative thinking to their work, to the big issues they are focusing on. And, the afternoon concluded with collaborative art-making that everyone loved.

I enjoyed seeing the way that these scientists and researchers dove into creativity with me. It was exciting and gratifying that both the individual and collaborative creative work, and the conversations we had, inspired the team in so many big ways.

Just say “No”

I recently wrote about the benefits of simplifying a cluttered life, and suggested that focusing on you is an important first step. If you missed it, scroll down to the post titled, The Gift of Simplifying.

Embedded in learning to make time for yourself — creating time for self-care, indulging in personal pleasures, pursuing interests — is a skill that many of us need to develop and nurture. Making yourself a priority entails developing a comfort level with saying “No” — “No” to things that are not priorities, “No” to burdensome obligations, and “No” to time-draining habits that do not serve you. Saying “No” with greater ease lets you say “Yes” to more of what you really want and need in your life.

And, in your effort to simplify a cluttered life, I urge you to consider how much a cluttered environment contributes to the overwhelm. Operating in any disorganized environment drains your energy, creates distraction, and creates a small, constant source of irritation.

You may already realize that you are less efficient when things around you are disorganized, and when things are not easily accessible when you need them. You are also prone to being late meeting deadlines, or late getting to appointments, when you have to rifle through a mess to find what you need. 

Creating order in your surroundings will create calm and ease in your life. Interestingly, creating that organized environment means saying “No”, in much the same way that learning to say “No” is needed when you make yourself a bigger priority. When you declutter, you are called on to say “No” to things that are no longer needed, to things that are worn, and to things that feel like obligations to hold onto (rather than things you truly want in your life).

Learning to say “No” with more ease is an important skill to build in order to simplify your life. Practice it when you make yourself a big priority, and continue practicing it when you bring order to your environment.

How to get started taming the clutter around you

The question that typically arises when people contemplate how to tackle cluttered spaces is where to begin. The experts advise that you start with a small, manageable project, so you won’t get overwhelmed. 

Think about beginning with a drawer, or your desk, or perhaps a few shelves in your kitchen pantry. Once you reduce clutter and organize a small space, you’ll enjoy the results and will feel inspired to do another modest decluttering project. You might check out the ideas in this terrific list of small projects you can do in 30 minutes or less, for good ways to start decluttering.

I also recommend getting a book to help you. Among the many books on the subject is the super-popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I had picked up this lovely little book, and my husband recently started reading it when he decided to simplify his wardrobe. I was inspired to join him, and together we removed items we had not worn in ages, what did not fit well, what we no longer loved wearing, what was dated or redundant, and things that did not work well with other items we were keeping. It was fun to do the project together, and we enjoyed shopping for a few organizing devices that made everything easier to store and access. The result is a closet and drawers that are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to access. It’s so much easier and more fun to get dressed every day.

It’s ok to ask for help

Consider that there are times when hiring a professional organizer is the best bet. I did that for several organizing tasks that were complex and felt overwhelming. A few years ago I needed to create new systems in my office, because those that I’d had in place for my old business no longer functioned well for me. It felt daunting to figure it all out and then execute on a plan. The organizer I worked with was amazing. We worked productively in a few 3-hour time blocks, creating wonderful systems to meet my new needs. And, we accomplished much more, more quickly, than had I struggled to do it myself.

When you make a commitment to simplifying and you get some of your environment organized, you are likely to feel encouraged to continue. Over time, as you do each project, you will feel more comfortable saying “No”, and will enjoy the freedom and ease that your beautiful environment will bring to your life. And, you will be happy knowing that you are well on your way to creating the simpler life you yearn for.

The gift of simplifying

Life is pretty cluttered for most of us.

We struggle to handle big work demands — which is taxing even if we are happy with the work we do, and certainly if we’re not.

Most of us cram personal time into evenings and weekends. But, we often have a lot of practical things to do at those times, too.

And, taking care or ourselves — getting enough sleep, eating well, getting ample exercise, and just having some quiet time for ourselves — is a “luxury” that many of us rarely indulge in.

We pay a steep price when our health, happiness, relationships and personal interests are short-changed.

What’s to be done? A good way to shift to having more balance, sanity and ease is to simplify your life. Here’s an important first step to doing that.

Start simplifying by making YOU a bigger priority.

If you have hired me to coach you, or have attended one of my workshops, or been a reader of mine for a while, you’ve certainly heard me speak about the importance of self-love. Yes, I mean that when you love yourself, feel deserving, and treat yourself lovingly it’s healthy (not selfish!).

Think about what makes you happiest and what you really want for yourself. It may be a quiet time to soak in a tub one night a week. You may crave more time to read, or play an instrument you haven’t picked up in memory. You may want to spend a Sunday each month having a wacky adventure with your family.

When you decide on ways that you want create more personal happiness, and commit to them, you will more easily find opportunities — and ease — to say “NO” to other things, so that you can build these priorities into your life and reduce overwhelm.

Devote a little time to pondering what would feed your soul, and how you can make YOU a priority in your life. When you begin to simplify to make your self-care a reality, you will certainly be happier. And, you will build awareness about the power you have to create in your life. The big bonus is that you’ll see how you can bring that new awareness to everything you do — you’ll find ways to simplify and prioritize in every part of your life.

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!