A big holiday calls for a big heart

It’s Thanksgiving week, and posts about the holiday — and gratitude — abound. And, why not? Slowing down to focus on all there is for which to be grateful is always important, and this holiday provides a great reminder about the value of gratitude for all of us. 

Thanksgiving affords many of us a special and distinctive time to be with family and friends. It enables many of us to be creative and cook new dishes, or set a table with a fresh twist, to increase delight. Some of us will spend the day with people we see only once or twice a year.

And, for some of us, Thanksgiving, and tuning in to gratitude, can bring up challenges.

This Thanksgiving I wish those of you who are missing someone special at your table an abundance of love to fill your heart alongside the sadness. I hope that you can think about and feel grateful for the beauty and goodness in your world, past and present.

I wish those who are struggling with health issues healing and relief from suffering. I know that living with pain can be terribly difficult. I also know that adopting a practice of noting gratitude on a daily basis can ease the journey. I hope that will help you.

I wish those with contentious relationships a willingness to seek common ground. Can you aim for heartfelt communication, instead of experiencing stress or conflict? If you are able to exchange thoughts related to love, goodness and shared interests, you can create shared gratitude. That gratitude can alleviate some of the interpersonal stress.

I wish those who are feeling despair about a host of troubling matters in the media a day to consider the opportunities to have a positive impact on the world. Consider what you can do to make the world a better place as a way of expressing gratitude for all that is good in your life. If each of us works to improve the world in our own way, the combined impact will be huge. 

Start by focusing on the important work you do, and do it with a full heart. Value and appreciate that when all of us do our best work it has a great impact, no matter what else is happening near and far.  

You can also commit to helping people in need, either locally or in places across oceans — or both. You can make financial donations and you can make a commitment to volunteer. 

Your efforts can be focused on political causes that matter to you. You might volunteer or donate for the benefit of people in nearby communities, like helping a foodbank, or a program for needy children, or people in need of access to good healthcare. 

You might volunteer to use your special talents or professional skills, on a one-time basis or with a continued effort. There are, literally, countless ways that each of us can have a positive impact and make the world a better place.

Are you able to focus on gratitude — even if it feels complicated to do so — and use the energy and emotion in your heart to create and spread goodness? Can you even be a catalyst for others to commit to efforts that matter to them, and inspire them to do their good work alongside you?

This is the conversation I intend to bring to the Thanksgiving table this year. I want it to be an important part of the time I spend with my family, as we express gratitude and celebrate the holiday together.

I invite you to join me. 

I want to end by thanking you for being here as I explore and share my big ideas. I am truly grateful for your companionship and for the thoughts and ideas you share with me in return. I am enriched by our connection. 

I’m sending you love and heartfelt gratitude.

Starting your journey to the future does not have to be a struggle

A week ago, I shared a powerful day with 8 amazing women at my newest workshop, Dear Future: Getting Ready for What’s Next. Whenever I create a new workshop I am ready for surprises — and I welcome them, even as I know the surprises are sometimes magical and sometimes challenging. 

The surprises that showed up with this group were the best kind. Everyone in the room opened her heart and shared in deeply meaningful ways. There were big “aha” moments. There was laughter and relief when someone realized she was not the only with a challenge or fear like her own. There were some tears as tender places were reached while we shared in candid conversations. There was delight at all that was created and the energy that was generated. There was courage and vulnerability. And, there was tremendous generosity during our day together.

When any of us considers the future we want to create, big questions always show up. And big questions can be overwhelming. Not knowing how to begin to figure out what we really want is daunting. Thinking about what can be possible, and how to take steps to initiate moving into a future that will be filled with purpose and satisfaction — and sustain us — can feel intensely challenging. It’s understandable that so many of us stay stuck in the face of these big questions. Or, we drift into changes, rather that intentionally creating the change we want.

What can you do to start creating and realizing a brilliant future when it feels so daunting?

There are a few ingredients you need in order to intentionally move into your future.

1. You need to be willing to embrace the process
When we feel overwhelmed, and when we do not have a clear vision of the future, it’s easy to get stuck. Not knowing how to sort it all out or how to get started on a path to a different future can paralyze us, even when we want to make intentional changes. You need willingness to undertake a process that may call on you to answer big questions, and willingness to begin to take new steps.

Are you willing to get started?

2. You need to believe in yourself
This is belief in your ability to do something new, bold, and in many cases undefined. The  ability to truly believe in yourself is rooted in self-love. You must be able to acknowledge yourself for your talents, your skills, and your capacity to embark on creating a future that will fulfill you.

It takes attention to bolster self-love. Start by focusing on feeling deserving of goodness in your life. Make it a priority to take good care of yourself. Steer clear of people-pleasing. Set healthy boundaries. And, look out for all the sneaky ways your self-critic tries to step in and sabotage you — for instance, when you compare yourself to others, when you slip into being a perfectionist, or when you are afraid to try something new for fear of failing.

Check in with yourself. How much do you believe in yourself, and are you ready to you ramp that up?

3. You need commitment
Commitment is where the rubber meets the road. This is the crucial component that must be in place for you to make your great future a reality. 

Commitment means doing the work to define where you are now. It entails acknowledging and honoring your emotions, and not letting them derail you. It means taking the time to get to the heart of what you really want (which is harder to do than most of us think!). And, with clarity about what you want, it means taking action — embarking on small but important steps toward creating a new reality that aligns with what you truly want.

Commitment also entails investing in yourself. It means carving out time and space for this focus and effort, for creating a vision, and for initiating the small, purposeful steps that will lead to bigger steps. Commitment also means being willing to be flexible as you find your way. You will likely have to make course corrections as inevitable missteps occur. (Self-love will help you to move forward when setbacks occur!)

And, another way to bring commitment to a process as big and important as creating your vision for the future — and realizing it — is to invest in getting support. DYI appeals to some people, those who like to read up on how to go it alone. But getting help will always accelerate your process and smooth your path. 

Help is what will get you through the tough emotional places that come up frequently when embarking on big personal work. If all we needed was to find a perfect strategy and clear tactics to implement, it would be easy to achieve important big personal change. But, our emotions and a host of mindset issues always get in our way. That's why doing work like this is far from easy.

Most people who have achieved great success have learned not to do it all on their own. They invest in coaches and mentors to help them because they know having that support will enable them to more quickly and easily make progress.

I invite you to consider the level of commitment you are ready to bring to creating the future that will bring you satisfaction and joy.

If you are ready to focus on your future and want help on your journey, we can talk about what you desire, where you are now, and how I may be able to support you to realize your fulfilling future. Reach out to me to schedule a conversation.

Returning to center — and staying the course

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As long-time readers will recall, I frequently refer to our culture of “too busy,” as it relates to so many challenging issues.

Living a life that is too busy has been an ongoing struggle for me, and it is something that challenges nearly all of my clients. The impact of long-term too-busyness takes a huge toll on us, and dramatically limits our ability to live big.

Living at a frantic pace becomes the norm for so many of us that we often do not recognize the problem. We impose short deadlines on projects we’re excited about, or we feel outside pressure to push ourselves, and thus become accustomed to daily fatigue. We pride ourselves on being master multi-taskers. We ignore the warning signs (read stress, impatience, insomnia, and more) that tell us things are out of balance. We do not face the truth — that there’s a price to pay for this continued way of living.

Why do we tolerate this? 

For one, we see so many people around us living the same way. Our culture not only encourages, but celebrates, incredible hard work and unceasing drive. Those messages are pervasive, and make us feel like slackers if we don’t “measure up.” Not only do we think living frantically is normal — it is often portrayed as a virtue.

This is wrong.

We are human beings. We need to BE more. We need to DO less.

I know this, and yet I often fall into the trap of pushing myself too hard. In the last 6 months I drove myself to accomplish important things that I am very proud of, and that make me happy. But, by the end of the summer I found myself so exhausted that I realized I needed to make a real change.

My body said, “Enough!” And, my spirit felt as if it would collapse if I kept going at this pace. Another clue was that people around me frequently expressed concern about how tired I appeared to be. With a scheduled vacation coming up, I told myself to hang in, rest up while away, and all would be well.

So, here I am, writing to you from the glorious Rocky Mountains. The air is magnificent. The sky is gorgeous and vistas are breathtaking. I have made this a week for BEING, and very little DOING. My husband and I could surely have filled our days with outings and activities. Instead, we have made this a week of sleeping until we awake naturally (no alarms!), having nothing scheduled aside from a massage, reading in front of the fireplace, movie-watching, many meandering walks, lingering over lovely meals, and thoughtful conversations.

This has been a week of returning to center for me.

But had I not had a vacation planned in advance, I’d have needed to find other ways to re-center. I had reached the point where it was a necessity.

If you are reading this and thinking that you need to slow down and return to center, consider these suggestions:

1. Unwind for a few days — or more
A low-key vacation is a wonderful way to shift into a new space, if you can take one. And, it doesn’t need to entail a plane ride. A nearby locale can feel as special as a distant destination.

And, if going away is not feasible, you can create the space to make the shift at home. It will likely be more challenging to stay in your usual environment, but it can work.

And, even two or three days can make a world of difference.

Start by choosing when you will clear your calendar for a day or two, or longer. (Yes, this will likely entail canceling plans you’ve made, but your well-being is worth it!) Choose dates within the next couple of weeks — don’t put this off unless it’s absolutely imperative to wait.

2. Disconnect with intention
First, create an away message, even for a day or two. By declaring to the world that you are unavailable, those who email you will not expect a response. It’s liberating! And what’s more, you declare to yourself that this is time you are disconnecting.

Turn your phone off for big blocks of time — or for your entire dedicated time to rest.

Consider drawing a hot bath to sink into, and decide if silence or music will be most soothing. Choose beautiful places to walk, where you can marvel at nature. You may want to visit a museum or galleries and get inspired.

Make it a priority to eat fresh foods, and slowly savor the flavors. You can choose a variety of restaurants, or combine meals out with cooking for fun, creative experiences.

3. Plan ahead for re-entry
All the rest and re-centering of your down-time will be for naught if you resume a crazy pace after your time away. You may want to read (or re-read) my thoughts about simplifying a busy life, in posts about the gift of simplifyingsaying,“No!”, and cleaning up emotional clutter.

As I look ahead to returning home next week, I realize that the benefits of my time away will evaporate unless I commit to making serious changes. I have identified my top priorities and decided to defer other projects. Committing only to efforts that I most value now will provide satisfaction and will enable to me reach meaningful goals, while allowing me to live at a pace that will sustain me for the long-haul.

I have decided on my highest priorities for the rest of the year, as well as considering what I want to add in the year ahead. I have not only deferred some of the exciting initiatives I have had in mind, I will do them over a longer time. This will allow me to accomplish big things but at a healthier pace.

I invite you to make a plan to return to center and commit to consciously creating a new, saner pace for your life. Are you willing to make that commitment?

If you have questions, or want to consider getting support to make these important initiatives a reality in your life, let’s talk. This is big, important work, and you do not need to do it alone.

And, if this post resonates with you, or you have found good ways to get back to center and sustain it, I welcome you to share your thoughts below. 

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 creating — and 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.