What are you most thankful for?

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With the US Thanksgiving holiday just days away, I am thinking about all the goodness for which I am deeply grateful, and I expect that you are, too. 

One thing I am endlessly grateful for is the resource of creativity that is available to me, and the opportunity to bring it into my life in every situation. So I’m thinking about new ways I can express my gratitude — as well as how I can inspire the people around me to do that in fresh ways.

If the idea of bringing some creativity to this special time of year appeals to you, I’m happy to share some ideas you may want to try.

They may serve as a jumping off point for you to create your own new ways to inspire and share thanks.

1.  Set aside time to write a short note of appreciation for everyone at your Thanksgiving table. You can hand a note to each person in turn, or use the addressed envelopes as place cards on the table. And, if you’re filled with appreciation for people who live at a distance, mail them notes, too.

2.  Plan something special to say as you sit down to the Thanksgiving meal. It could be a new spin on saying grace, or a statement of love, or a vision of the abundance you foresee in the year ahead, for which to give thanks in advance. 

3.  I love the idea of creating a new tradition for everyone at your gathering. You can plan to bring a dash of surprising humor to the day, and plan to repeat that each year. Perhaps you’ll hand off the honor to someone for next year, to build a new tradition. You might start a new tradition like adding one new ethnic dish to the table each year. You might have everyone share a statement of gratitude starting with the oldest person and moving to the youngest. The possibilities are endless.

4.  Why not go around the table and ask everyone to recall and share a Thanksgiving memory? Or, you might invite everyone to bring a special dish from a Thanksgiving menu of the past that they recall with fondness. 

5.  You may want to bring a new look to your Thanksgiving. You might choose a color theme for your table settings. and even the choices of foods you serve. Before dinner, you might ask everyone create a small drawing related to the holiday to adorn each place at the table. 

If you create other ideas, or if you try any of these ideas and want to share them, I would love to hear about the ways you bring creativity — and new ways to share love — to Thanksgiving this year. Add a comment below, or email me directly.

I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving holiday filled with gratitude, love, joy and creativity.

With love,
Rochelle

Creating light in dark days

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The last week has been intense, stressful and even overwhelming for many women (and men). I put aside the topic I had planned to write about today because I feel a pressing need to address the flood of emotion that so many are struggling with — friends, family members, clients, and my own troubling emotions.

If you have a different political orientation, and feel happy with the current state of affairs in our country, I welcome you to stop reading now.

But if, like me, you have been distressed by the political climate and you feel that hope is hard to hold onto, you are not alone. We have witnessed deeply disturbing changes put in place that impact our health and environment, damaging changes to educational and our justice system, policies that are cruel and inhumane, and unspeakable omissions such as withholding standard levels of support for everything from health insurance to help for those hit by devesting hurricanes.

And then we watched the events of the last week unfold.

A brave, articulate, remarkable, composed and credible victim of sexual assault came forward with important testimony. A nominee for a seat on the highest court in this country, for a lifetime appointment, was frighteningly partisan, shockingly emotional, and seemingly untruthful. The sham of a limited investigation gave cover to lawmakers to approve the nominee, despite the outpouring of cries not to do so from scores of women who have suffered sexual assault, scores of prominent lawyers and academics, the editorial boards of the most respected news organizations, and countless citizens.

It has felt for many that this is a new and especially frightening low, one that surpasses many points where we thought things could surely not get worse.

Which brings me to address our collective state of mind, and how we can live and move forward in such troubling times.

We have been bullied, and bullies want to silence us.
They want us to cower and hide.

I say, “No!”

I urge you to resist the temptation to go fetal, or simply wring your hands with other like-minded people, or numb yourself to all the distress. 

Here are some of the tenets of my manifesto for living a creative life that are top of mind for me today, and that you may want to consider.

1. Slow down. Be still.

In quiet we can honor ourselves and have time to feel our emotions. And, we can collect our thoughts. This is important self-care that provides a foundation for taking action.

2. Live without fear.

Fear paralyzes, which is why it’s used by powerful people to quiet those they don’t want to hear from. Two sure antidotes to fear are love and action. Start by surrounding yourself with people you love, who fill your heart with good, positive energy, and who you can shower with love.

Filled with this positive energy you will think more clearly and be able to consider the actions that you can take to influence the situation in positive ways. In this circumstance, you can actively work to get like-minded people out to vote in great numbers. You can send financial support to candidates and causes you are aligned with. You can show up at rallies and be counted among the masses who will not be cowed.

3. Tap your passion.

Your passion connects you to your heart, your beliefs and your values. Let these guide you each day, and they will serve you well.

4. Live boldly.

Being bold requires that you think big. When you are bold you speak your mind. You show up to support the causes that matter to you, and encourage others with shared sentiments to do the same.

5. Create!

We all have the capacity to create our futures, rather than resigning ourselves to being passive, or worse yet, victims. When we adopt the mindset of a creator, life is full of vast possibilities, and we can be agents of change. Creativity can resolve confusion and inspire effective action. Test it and see what happens. Then keep reminding yourself that you are a creator until it is embedded in your thinking.

6. Be patient.

The challenges we face are huge, and there are few quick fixes for the changes that are needed. We must be patient and diligent as we work to turn the tide on so many fronts.

7. Carry on.

As we work as individuals and together to create a better future, new challenges will show up. Setbacks are inevitable. These will test us. We must live with intention and return to the themes discussed above as needed. We can and must maintain our commitment and persevere.

Our nation has rebounded from other dark periods, and often come out of them stronger than before. It’s by standing together and staying committed that we will turn the tide and restore justice, decency and honor, to live up to the true values of our nation. We have been the light of the world and we can be that light again.

I invite you to join me in voting in the coming election, in working to get all committed citizens to the polls, in supporting candidates with values worthy of our respect, and to staying the course for the big work that lies ahead for all of us.

Getting into gear for the fall

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I'm taking a brief break in my series about how my clients are stepping up in their lives in big ways. Stay tuned for the second great story, that will arrive soon.

Right now I am thinking about this being the last week of August, and that we'll be celebrating Labor Day weekend in a few days. I'm tickled to see photos of cute kids with their backpacks leaving for the first day of school. And, I'm hearing stories from excited parents who just moved their teens into college dorms. A number of colleagues are savoring this last week when many of their clients are on vacation, as they get ready for a busier fall pace.

Even in the sweltering heat, we all feel change of one kind or another is coming. I, for one, am always excited about the new beginnings that fall brings.

How will you navigate this seasonal transition? Are you excited like I am? Does this time of year bring up anxiety (which is very common)? Do you feel overwhelmed at the number of to-do's filling your list, or are you ready to jump into the the new month and new season with enthusiasm?

As we move into this season of new beginnings, you can choose the mindset you want to bring to your life and work. 

Here are 3 ideas ideas that you may want to embrace. 

1. Welcome the opportunity for new starts

Whether your schedule opens up with your kids back in school or your calendar gets more crowded, think about the ways you can start anew. This is a great time to look at your opportunities and obligations with fresh eyes.

What do you really want to say "yes" to, and what do you want to decline? What priorities can you choose and what can you defer — or delegate to others? Give yourself permission to create new ways of operating as you step into the new season.

2. Savor the new

We often overlook all that we can appreciate and savor. Start with tuning in through your senses.

This is a time to enjoy the feel of crisp weather and brisk walks. As you pull out a favorite sweater and put on soft socks and a pair of boots, savor the coziness. 

New produce will soon show up in the markets that will bring great possibilities for what to cook, and new flavors to enjoy.

Color will abound as the tress put on their annual show. 

What are your favorite sounds of the season? Kids giggling at your door on Halloween?

What are the smells that excite you in the fall? For me it's logs burning in my fireplace and vegetables roasting in the oven.  

3. Explore new opportunities 

The new season can be a time for new learning and experiences. You have opportunities to try new things, to explore, and to expand in many ways that will excite and inspire you.

Will you take a class? Join a book club? Attend a workshop? Reach out to connect with people who share common interests? Take a day trip to a place you’ve been wanting to visit? Go to a museum or the theater to see something provocative?

Let me know the ways you plan to create a mindset for expansion and growth as the summer winds down. I'd love to hear your favorite ways to approach the fall season, so post them in the comments below, or email me to share them. And, if you have questions about shifting into a positive mindset, I welcome you to get in touch.

And, if you're in the Boston area, check out the workshop offerings I have on tap for this fall. They may be just what you’re looking for!

How to access all of your own wisdom

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So many of us live primarily in our heads. We think — hard and long. We look for and depend on data, validation, or confirmation from outside sources before we take action.

We are afraid to take risks, and are often desperately afraid of failing. We believe that all that thinking, analysis and searching for confirmation will protect us from the possibility of failure. And certainly, if we remain in our heads and search for more and more assurance, we never make many attempts that could fail — but could also succeed.

This is a classic way we stay stuck — all the while telling ourselves the comforting story that we are simply being thorough, or doing our due-diligence, or getting fully prepared before taking action. 

All of this thinking is leaning hard into the left hemisphere of our brains. That’s the side that is logical. The side that seeks data and facts. Some of us even think of ourselves as “left-brained” types. But, the fact is that while the left hemisphere is super-important, it is only half of our brain. And, we all have access to all of our brain-power — right and left.

Why do so many of us settle for using only half of such a critical resource? 

The right hemisphere of our brains is marvelous and is often under-tapped as a resource. People in fields like science, law, math, medicine and engineering often feel wary of right-brain attributes, as they rely so much on facts, logic and evidence. They think that right-brained people are artists, and they are uncomfortable about having anything to do with art.

This is a huge misconception. The riches of the right hemisphere are remarkable and valuable for all of us — and they are accessible to everyone. 

Here is how you can begin to tap into ALL of your wisdom:

Connect to and trust your intuition

The right brain is the place that our intuition lives, and our intuition is a huge source of our intelligence. When you have a “gut feeling” that’s your intuition talking to you. Pay attention to the messages from your body, too! In fact, your gut is considered a second brain. I urge you to actively check in and listen for what it is saying — because there is enormous wisdom in your gut feelings. When you over-ride intuitive messages with logic, you will invariably find that your intuition was right. Trust it!

Embrace emotion

Emotions are connected to the right hemisphere of the brain, and connecting to your emotions is amazingly valuable. Emotional intelligence — being able to read people’s feelings, and your own feelings — is one of our greatest resources, and is crucial for effective leaders. 

Some people are scared of their emotions, and that is not so surprising when you consider the impact of strong emotions like anger or grief or fear. But when you cut emotion out, you are disconnected from important messages that help you make sense of things, experience things, and assess things. You are unable to communicate and respond effectively, and you are less able to feel empathy for others. All of this missing knowledge hinders you in big ways. (And strong emotions tend to come to the surface in spite of your efforts to suppress them, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, confused, and even out-of-control. Ouch!)

Create!

The right hemisphere of the brain is the place of idea generation, imagination and creativity. And, our gut (our second brain) is the other seat of tremendous creative energy. It goes without saying that creativity is vastly important — in every aspect of your life.

The thing I have found, over and over, is that huge numbers of people have an absurdly limited idea of what it is to create. They are sure they are not creative, because they associate creativity with being Michelangelo, or Mozart, or Baryshnikov.

The truth is that there are infinite ways to create, and all of them are remarkable. And, all of them are available to you. 

First and foremost, start to think of yourself as a creative being, and consider what you can and want to create in every moment. 

  • You can create with food — in the preparation of food, the presentation of food, the combinations of flavors, and more.
  • You can create with color — using pencils or crayons for fun, or using color to make your ideas clearer for other people to understand, or choosing colors for an environment that will inspire or soothe or stimulate you, to name just a few examples.
  • You can create with words — in poems, in conversation, when journaling or writing articles or proposals. Or knock yourself out and start writing a book if you’re so inspired.
  • You can create with music — by playing an instrument, or singing to process emotions, or by choosing the music to play during a gathering with friends, to set the mood you want.
  • You can — and do — create when you bring any new concepts and ideas together, and when you set a vision. Consider these creative opportunities, expand your thinking.
  • And here's what you may never have considered. You can create when you deliberately choose a creative mindset. Every time you create a response and choose your course of action, rather than reacting, you are creating in your life. You can create what is right for you, what will align with your values and lead to what you want, in every moment.

Can you think of yourself as a creator now? 

Test it — and start today

There’s no time like the present to start thinking about how you can embrace all of your intelligence and bring more of it to everything you do, both at work and in your personal life. Pay attention to what changes, or shifts, or expands as you exploit the benefits of leaning more into the gifts of your right brain!

I welcome you to share your experiences and ideas and results, or questions. Comment below, or email me, so we can compare notes, learn from one another, dig deeper into this topic.

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.

Love is in the air

Having a day to focus on and celebrate love feels like a glorious gift in the middle of winter. And with the especially frigid temperatures (and snow and ice) we’ve had in New England these last months, I feel enormously grateful for the warmth of this powerful emotion in my life now.

But I have long observed that many of us have a narrow concept about love. We often think about it in a very limited way. 

We think about romance, and romance is great, but love is so much more than romance. (And, romance requires a partner — and not all of us are partnered.) We think about the external symbols that the commercial culture emphasizes, like flowers and chocolates. And while it can be lovely to receive a thoughtful gift at any time, bouquets and sweets have little to do with the true glory of love.

When I think of love I think about the magnificent and vast energy that love holds and how we can bring more of that into our lives and our world. Here’s what I mean.

Start with self-love

I always teach my clients that everything good we desire in our lives starts with loving ourselves — and that it’s much easier to create the life we want when we fully love ourselves. In fact, the ability to create in every and any way is bolstered when we practice self-love. 

Further, the sabotage of our self-critic can be mollified when we cultivate self-love. 

And, we must be filled with love for ourselves before we can truly love others in the fullest possible way.

When you appreciate yourself and your talents and gifts with a full heart, when you feel deserving of every kind of goodness in your life, and when you are able to forgive yourself for inevitable missteps, you are on the self-love path. You will naturally want to take good care of yourself — think good nutrition, ample sleep, exercising in ways that you enjoy, reducing what adds stress to your life, and more. You will feel great about pursuing things that enrich your spirit — think spending time in nature, attending concerts, taking singing lessons, reading great books, or embarking on adventures. This mindful way of living and caring for yourself lovingly will open your heart in magnificent ways and open your creative channels as never before. 

With strong self-love in place, the magic of love expands

Truly loving yourself allows you to love others more fully. A natural desire to share the joy in your heart will fill you. Of course it will flow most fully and abundantly to those who are special in your life, and they will likely notice that your ways of engaging lovingly are sweeter than ever. But you are also likely to be surprised at how much more inclined you  feel to smile and share kindness with strangers in the course of your day. You may even be able to forgive more easily, with the insight that those for whom you have held hurt feelings are sorely in need of more love in their lives. I predict that you will find yourself spreading love in many new and beautiful ways.

You’ll start to notice a ripple effect

With abundant love in your heart, your expressions of love will be felt by others, in both subtle and obvious ways. Picking up on the magic of loving energy will enhance the happiness of those with whom you interact, and they, too, will be likely to feel and express more love for those around them. It’s this loving energy that expands, and can change the world in amazing ways. I see it often, and I hope you will experience it as well.

So, in this season when love is the central topic of conversation and advertisements and celebrations of many kinds, I ask you: Even as you may be thinking about expressions of love for others, what can you do to love yourself now? What concrete thing can you do to shower yourself with love, and make yourself feel special? (Because, you ARE special!)

And, if you want to make a commitment to yourself to cultivate self-love, why not email me this week to tell me your ideas for self-love this week — be it taking a long soak in a bubble bath, or cooking up something special to enjoy with dear friends, or going to a matinee to see a film you've heard great things about, or anything else. 

And, next week, email me again to let me know what you did, how it went, and what you plan to do in the coming week to keep self-love in flow.

For those who email me twice, to share both their plan and how it went, I’ll draw a name and give the winner the gift of an IgNight Creative Experience or Creative Excursion session with me and a small group of remarkable women. Check out the details about this exciting new monthly series I have created. 

And, whether you win a session or not, consider sharing the joy of these evenings. It can be a perfect way to celebrate and add love to your life.

I’m sending you BIG love.

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.

Is this the year you’ll get unstuck?

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Here we are on New Year’s eve. 2018 is starting in just a few hours. This is a moment to bid farewell to 2017 and consider what you will create in your life in 2018.

I recently wrote to you with suggestions for end-of-year reflecting. If you missed it, it's not too late to do some thoughtful looking back — and taking that look will certainly inform your perspectives on the new year you are stepping into.

When we commit to making time to look with clear eyes at the year that’s ending, it helps us to be in the delicate moment of “in-between” — the space between the end of where we have been, and who we can become. This is a rich moment for thought, for appreciating ourselves, and for creating a personal vision for the future. And, with a vision for the new year — whether it’s clear or less well-defined — you will be able to start setting intentions for what you want to create in your life this year.

As I have experienced over the years, there is a great deal to learn when we look clearly at our past — not to rehash or to sit with regret, but to see it all and have it inform our lives moving forward. Because, we all have things to acknowledge and celebrate. And we all have things that trip us up and block us. 

Life gives us these challenges over and over  — and thus there is endless opportunity for personal growth and expansion. Some things tend to trip us up again and again, but with insight, guidance, and new approaches, we can learn to deal with them better over time. And, when new kinds of challenges show up, as they inevitably do, we are able to apply what we have learned and make our way with more insight, confidence and ease.

Are there a few “quick-fix” steps I can rattle off to help you get past your personal blocks? 

No. 

We are complex beings. I know from diving into the work I have done over the years that it is possible to find the path to mastering challenges when these ingredients are in place:

Willingness 
You must be willing to engage in serious work. True transformation and growth occur when you are willing to embrace the mystery and go deep.

Belief 
We become what we believe. When you believe that you matter, you do not put yourself last. You are able to take steps to create what you desire in your life.

Commitment
It’s both necessary and worthwhile to build structure and space in our lives to create the future we desire. A deep commitment to yourself entails bringing the focus, and expending the effort, that are required to make important change.

This is what I teach my clients and share at my workshops, and yet I am called on over and over to return to the fundamentals of willingness, belief, and commitment as I expand and grow in my life. We never reach ”perfect“ and the learning never stops! This is ongoing work, but the beauty is that over time you will have tools to reach for, mindsets shifts to reflect back on, and strategies to employ. These help me — and can help you — to break through and climb ever higher. You can create an amazing future. You have the power to shape your life.

My intention is to bring you new and exciting ways to grow in the year ahead. Here are a number of ways I can serve you in 2018:

1. Join me for my new IgNight Creative Experiences and Excursions, to light up your spirit and bring joyous create flow into your life. The first one is on January 18, and they will continue on the third Thursday of each month.

2. Learn at a workshop. I will be offering a full-day workshop every other month. The first one is my Dream Big Vision-Board Workshop, on January 20 — a powerful day for getting clear and setting a vision for the year you want to create. Then on March 17, you can join me for my new workshop, From Doubt to Confidence, Getting from Stuck to Unstoppable. The rest of the workshop calendar for 2018 will be posted soon.

3. Experience coaching in a group. I will be launching a new group coaching program this year, following the success (and extended) coaching group I offered this year. Details will be coming soon.

4. Get support to make deep, lasting change. I am always happy to talk to you about what private coaching can look like for you. This is the most powerful way I can support you to get beyond the challenges that limit you to realize tremendous personal growth.

And, if you have a question, or an issue you are unsure about how to approach, I welcome you to drop me an email. Or, let’s make a date for a call. I am happy to help you think through what’s on your mind.

I would love to hear about significant insights you’ve had from reflecting on the last year, and the intentions you have for what you want to create in 2018. Leave a comment below, or email me to let me know. 

May this be your year to get unstuck and experience incredible growth and expansion!

Sending you heartfelt wishes for abundant happiness, love and creativity in 2018. Let’s all LIVE BIG in the year ahead.

 

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. 

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.

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.


New experiences open your heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My vision for a big new year

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

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

Here’s how I am moving forward:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big + small

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

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

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

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

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

Try it! I predict you will amaze yourself.