You can break free when you’re stuck — here’s how.

At my workshop last week, Dear Future: Getting ready for what's next, I led a group of remarkable, accomplished women through a series of exercises and experiences designed to help them take sure steps into the futures they want.

What I see every time I begin to work with great women like these, is how many similar challenges keep them stuck and frustrated. To the outer world, they look like dynamos. Inside, they often feel:

  • Overwhelmed by their day-to-day lives — which makes it nearly impossible to get out of the weeds and see the big picture
  • Rudderless — because they lack clarity about what they truly want
  • Unsure about how to get moving forward — or how to sustain momentum when they do take first steps  
  • Plagued by perfectionism — which they recognize inhibits them, but nonetheless they feel powerless to change

Do some of these issues resonate for you? 
Do they make you feel stuck, too?

If the answer is “Yes” (to any or all of these challenges, or others that come to mind for you) I have good news.
You are not alone — and you can take these 3 sure steps to get unstuck:

1. Say no to isolation.

When we face a challenge in isolation, we compound the challenge. We circle around alone in the muddle of our mental clutter. Frustration builds and we struggle more. 

Some of us (and I was one of those women!), feel we need to figure things out alone. Seeking help makes us feel inadequate, and ashamed about feeling unable to bring enough intelligence and determination to figure things out and solve problems ourselves.

And, because so many accomplished women tend to compare themselves to friends and colleagues, they think that they alone struggle with their challenges. If they could open up to other women, they’d know they are not alone — and they would be exposed to new ideas, strategies, and support.

When we look for opportunities to safely connect to and open up with peers, the benefits are enormous. 

2. Look for support

When you’re ready to end isolation, you have some choices. You can seek out ways to connect and get support like this:

  • Reach out to a friend who cares deeply about your wellbeing, listens well, has some objectivity about the matter at hand, and is not oriented to telling you what to do or to "fixing" things for you. Not all of us have such a friend to turn to, but if you are fortunate to have that friend, invite her (or him) to spend some quiet time with you to listen to your concerns, and ask you questions that will help you find clarity and answers.
  • Attend a workshop that’s focused on the challenge you face. Look for a leader whose message resonates for you and who will attract like-minded participants. Show up with the intention to be open and to learn.
  • Consider working with a coach — either in a group coaching program or for one-on-one coaching support. Seek a seasoned coach with a strong track record and effective tools you can learn to use. But most of all, choose someone with whom you feel the right chemistry, trust and eagerness to work with. Seek someone who will lovingly challenge you and call you out when you make excuses; someone who will see more possibilities for you than you may be able to see for yourself; someone who will hold you accountable to the commitments you make.

3. Take a first step — even a small one!

It may sound obvious, but when you are in a place where you’re stuck, you overlook the fact that taking action is required to get unstuck. It will likely feel pretty uncomfortable to take action when you feel uncertain or unclear about what to do. But action is what’s called for, and this is the time to urge yourself to move forward in spite of some discomfort. 
Remember that you can begin small! Your first small steps will get you in motion, and momentum can build from there. Here are some great options:

  • Make a list of people who you'd feel could be good listeners related to what’s on your mind. Your next step will be to choose one to invite to meet you for coffee and a conversation.
  • Think of someone who has moved through a challenge similar to one you are facing, and reach out to ask if they have resources to suggest.
  • Check out coaches that colleagues recommend or web searches bring to your attention. 
  • Download the Roadmap to Clarity, a process I recently developed that will guide you to get clear about a question on your mind. It will also help you to identify and implement small action steps that will bring meaningful change into your life. (Lots of women have used the Roadmap to Clarity and I’ve received tremendous feedback on its impact. And, you can use it many times, to address a range of challenges you want to work through.)

The wonderful news is that when you start taking action — even small action — and make a commitment to continue taking small steps, you will realize that you are no longer stuck! You will be on a path to creating the changes you want in your life. And, as you bring in desired change, you will usher in more joy and satisfaction. Keep moving, and the true experience of Living Big will be yours!

Drop me a note or leave a comment below to let me know what you try, and what works best for you to get unstuck. 

And, I am happy to extend an open invitation to you to schedule a complimentary Introductory Coaching Call with me. Simply complete the Coaching Inquiry Form and I’ll be in touch to make a date with you.

What if you lived this dream a year from now?

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One of the most gratifying things about being a coach is hearing from past clients with updates that demonstrate the ongoing impact of the work we did together.

I received an email today from a great woman who wrote to me in response to my last blog post (about how to get started to bring important change into your life). She wrote to say she loved the content, and always enjoys what I have to say.

What really lit me up was the description that followed — about all the things that are going so well in her life. You see, she had been struggling with many things in a big way a year ago. So it was great to read that she continues to love the new work she started doing as a result of our coaching, and that she's living at a perfect pace.

The ripple effects? Her career change and success enabled her husband to shift into doing new work that they’d both been dreaming of for a long time, and it’s going gangbusters. And, to top it off, her young adult children are thriving. They also have time for a lot of fun in their lives now — free of the stress and worry that had been getting in the way for so long.

She closed by recalling a key moment in our work that brought her inspiration and gave her courage, and said she continues to refer to it daily.

Reading this truly made my day! (There’s a huge grin on my face and my heart is swelling!)

The trap of perfectionism — and what you can do about it

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When you are an accomplished woman (as so many of my readers are), you are bound to find yourself dealing with perfectionism — and it may show up with great frequency. 

We feel pressured by the perceived expectations of others to be great — a great leader, consistently productive and efficient, to have an abundance of excellent ideas, to perform well at everything we do. This applies to work, being a parent, our exercise routines, our roles of spouse and friend — basically in every aspect of our lives. And, the truth is that we believe the expectations of other people are much higher than is often the case.

And, we set expectations for perfection ourselves. 

Why do we do that? 

Maybe we adopted the pressure to be perfect as a child, imparted by parents or teachers. We then generalized that everyone has those expectations of us, and have carried the weight of that misconception. 

Maybe we adopted the pressure out of a belief that we are deficient, and need to prove ourselves. And many believe perfectionism is the path to achieving big goals. What most often happens is that the stress of striving for perfection makes us stuck, or slide into procrastination. Thus, we don’t shine fully, or it takes longer to reach our goals. And sometimes we don’t ever them.

Can you relate?

Do you find that pressure to be perfect exhausting?

I often hear this stress expressed by my coaching clients and women I speak to, when they feel safe and open up to share how hard it is to live this way. It’s a challenge I know well, too — I was saddled with this self-imposed pressure for many years.

I also hear about an array of self-doubts that are tied to the endless attempts to be perfect. Many accomplished women feel like impostors, or not good enough or smart enough or talented enough. They see other impressive women and are sure those women don’t struggle as they do. With crazy-high standards for themselves, they tell themselves they are the only ones who can’t comfortably perform at amazing levels all the time. 

But it’s impossible to live up to a standard of perfection. Because none of us is perfect (even if it looks to us like some people are pretty darn close). Excellence is a wonderful objective, but nobody can achieve greatly all the time, or be great at everything. 

In fact, there is no such thing as perfect.

Perfectionism is one of the great myths, and it’s one that the Self-Critic loves to use as a tool of sabotage. Perfectionism puts our emotional well-being at risk, and it can negatively impact our physical health, too. 

So, what to do? How can you release the patterns and habits that are rooted in a drive to be perfect — and that you believe you need in order to be “successful”?

1. Start with self-love

I talk about the impact of self-love often — because it is so powerful. Here is how to put it to work to reduce perfectionism.

Begin by fully acknowledging and appreciating all of your talents and gifts. Own them with a full heart, without judgement, without looking at where they are limited. Focus on believing in yourself.

And then, forgive yourself for all the ways you are not “perfect”. Consciously start trying to let go of unrealistic expectations. Appreciate the efforts you put into things that matter, and release a sense of duty to do things that do not merit a super-high level of effort. And, be happy when you give your best shot to what does matter most — even when you don’t meet Nobel Prize-level standards! 

2. Take imperfect action

Perfectionism can inhibit us terribly, or even paralyze us. The second-guessing and fear that come up are huge blocks that keep your true talents from flowing. Perfectionism often leads to procrastination, which heaps on more stress. Taking action — without pressure — is a brilliant way to start, and to accomplish, in big ways.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking action with the objective of beginning imperfectly is a powerful way to do great things. Let me share an example of this concept and how it worked.

A client of mine was launching a new business and working to quickly get a simple website in place in time for a big opportunity. She knew she needed to write a short but powerful statement about the business, but was stuck. It felt daunting. It had to be great and she was intimidated.

Now, this client is a excellent writer, so her skill level was not the stumbling block. Her expectations for perfection were stopping her, even with a deadline looming. My advice to her was to begin by writing a shitty first draft — in fact, not one bad draft but at least three totally messy drafts. The assignment was to play with rough ideas, get lots of them down, and then begin to shape the statement from that material. The result was fantastic — and she was surprised at how fast she completed the work. She found the gems in her drafts and polished them, got feedback on a fresh draft, and tweaked it just a bit more. 

Best of all, she enjoyed the process, and was thrilled to get it done and onto the site.

Whether you are writing an article or a report, or planning a new initiative, or aiming to conceive of solutions to knotty problems, or learning a new skill, start with taking imperfect action. That imperfect, messy action gets momentum going, which means you’ll complete the work more quickly as you let your talents shine.

3. Make commitments to yourself

Anything we really want to do or accomplish entails commitment. In this case, the commitment begins with a focus on self-love in as many ways as you can think of. Commit to being alert to the sneaky ways that perfectionism shows up for you, so you can consciously respond differently. And, commit to talking imperfect action, and to taking a playful approach to start tackling the tasks at hand. And finally, commit to following through with your best efforts.

Your best efforts, consistently brought to each challenge, will lead to great outcomes — outcomes you can feel really good about. 

I welcome you to share your experiences related to perfectionism — from questions you have to ways you’ve been able to ease that pressure — in the comments below.

The rich connection between creativity and wellness

I was delighted to be interviewed by Mari Ryan, whose company Advancing Wellness is a leader in establishing wellness programs that positively impact the lives of individuals and the companies in which they work.

When Mari and I connected last summer, I told her how interested I am in the intersection of creativity and wellness. She was surprised, and asked me to share my thinking with her. That conversation led Mari to asking me to be interviewed, as part of Advancing Wellness's series of Expert Interviews.

It was a pleasure to speak with Mari for her series. Check out the conversation, and share your thoughts and comments below.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

The importance of warding off fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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