The art of end-of-year reflection

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As the days of December — and the year — wane, we have a great opportunity to reflect on the year that's ending, and to start considering what we want to create in our lives in the coming year. 

Most of us rush through holiday preparations and celebrations. It’s easy to move on auto-pilot, and find ourselves in a whole new year without having done any reflecting. And that’s a big missed opportunity. Because when we fail to slow down and take stock, we fail to live intentionally. It's like leaving unclaimed gold behind, that can inform your future in important ways.

Can you make time for thought and reflection, even at this busy time of year? Can you make some precious time for yourself a priority — and commit to giving yourself this gift?

Here’s what this commitment looks like.

Set aside an hour or two for quiet reflection. Pick a spot that’s cozy and away from distractions. Maybe that's a room you love in your home, or a quiet corner of a lovely restaurant or inn. Maybe you want to spend a few hours at a spa, and sit in a beautiful quiet room wrapped in a thick robe. Maybe you are someplace warm and can find a spot in nature to relax and think.

You may want to do this reflecting alone, or you may invite a close friend, sibling, or partner to join you. Have a notebook in hand and a favorite pen or pencil. Include a mug of warm tea or a glass of wine, light a candle, and maybe put on some soft music to create the setting that will help you sit in peace. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

What did the last year teach you?

  • How did you step outside of your comfort zone? What happened? What is your big take-away?
  • How did you cope with a challenge (or more than one challenge)? How did you navigate it? What worked well? What could have been better?
  • How did you take good care of yourself, or find any new ways to care for yourself? What positive outcomes did you get? What did you try that did not meet your expectations?
  • If you neglected self-care, what were the consequences? Do they motivate you to find ways to take better care of yourself next year?
  • What do you want more of in your life? 
  • What things or activities do you want to keep?
  • What things or activities do you want to stop doing? 
  • What are you no longer willing to tolerate? 

What can you acknowledge and celebrate?

  • What went well, that you can look back at and truly appreciate? Can you see things, (big and small) that are noteworthy, that you did that had a positive impact on your life?
  • What was it about you that made those things possible? Was it courage? Did you study to achieve it? Did you ask for help, so there was less struggle? Did you trust your intuition?  
  • What can you celebrate? Can you celebrate overcoming a fear? Achieving something important? Healing a sore spot in your heart? Leading with more boldness? Staying committed to something important? Stepping up in a new way?
  • Consider the ways you can celebrate these things! Don’t simply shrug them off. Can you treat yourself to an experience you have been longing for? Can you make a sign to post where you will see it that says “Bravo!”? Can you invite someone special to join you for a celebratory outing?

After you have reflected, acknowledged yourself and celebrated the great ways that you showed up in the past year, you will be poised to consider the year ahead — with questions like:

What do you want to be next year? 
What do you want to do next year? 
What do you want to have next year? 
In short, what do you want to create in your life next year?

Answering those questions will entail another session for thought and consideration. You may want to do some journal writing about them here and there in the next couple of weeks. This is a perfect time to start to think — and dream — about the year you want to create.

Wishing you all the best for the end of this year, and abundant happiness, love and creativity in the new year.

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.

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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Getting creative with 90 new friends

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

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

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

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

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

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


Appreciating the wonder of winter

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

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

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

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

 Some scenes from our walk in the Vermont woods.

Some scenes from our walk in the Vermont woods.

New experiences open your heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My vision for a big new year

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

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

Here’s how I am moving forward:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to show up and take action?

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready?

The stories we tell ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we do anything is how we do everything

I’m a keen observer of how people live:
How we focus — or are scattered.
How we take action — or fearfully avoid it, or procrastinate.
How we create — or eschew expressing ourselves, and/or live reactively.
How we care for ourselves — or put ourselves last, or run ourselves ragged.
How we live with optimism and an abundant mindset — or live with fear as a driver.

Ultimately, how we live can lead us to frustration and limitation, or it can lead us to expanding in our lives — to living big.

At my workshops and when coaching clients in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself recalling some wisdom that I’d heard from my coach, and again from my painting professor while I was on my sabbatical last fall. Its truth has been playing out in front of my eyes.

“How we do anything is how we do everything.”

It may sound odd at first, but consider this example. If you were asked to write a poem about yourself in 3 minutes, as I have asked workshop attendees to do to introduce themselves to one another, would you dive in with a feeling of “ok, here goes!”, or would you be excited to write it, or would you get nervous and worry that you could not do it, or would you fear it wouldn't be good enough? I have seen all of those responses at the start of the exercise — and I have also heard all of the poems and been knocked out by their expressive beauty and eloquence.

Here’s another example. In watching a group work on creating collages to express the ideas that emerged for each in several exercises, some women were especially adept at starting to select images and phrases that appealed to them, and they then moved into composing and gluing down the elements. This entailed clarity, focus and trust as they made decisions and followed through with the project. Others were overwhelmed at the options, pulled out piles of things they liked, then sorted and considered many possibilities before they composed and glued the elements into place. This approach entailed more struggle, and sometimes that kind of struggle diminishes outcomes. Happily, the resulting creations of our project were marvelous, no matter how the process unfolded. Yet the way different people approached the project was very revealing.

Just as a painter has to make endless decisions about the next color to mix, which brush to select to apply the paint, and what gesture or mark they will make on a canvas, we all face making countless decisions each day. Do we feel connected to our intuition and trust it? Are we in a state of flow? Or, is it hard to make each choice? Does it feel physically uncomfortable to be unsure? Do we second-guess ourselves and fret? Does the possibility of making a “mistake” paralyze us?

“How we do anything is how we do everyting.”

Can you reflect and recall the times that you have lived with flow, and when you have struggled?

Here are 3 ways to shift your mindset when you find yourself struggling:

  1. Appreciate and compliment yourself (aka build self-love). It's impossible to overstate the importance of self-love. Shower yourself with praise — for your courage, for your efforts, for the results of what you attempt, even if they are not all you wish they were. Remember, great things happen when you take many small steps, so appreciate yourself for taking each step.

  2. Talk back to your self-critic. That negative voice in your head is damaging. It sabotages you whenever possible. So, learn to recognize when it shows up, and what form it takes. Does it fill you with doubt? Urge you to procrastinate? Make you feel like an imposter? Make you afraid of failing? When you notice it, you can tell it to leave you alone for a while. (Sadly, it cannot be banished permanently, but it can be managed!) Instead of letting it interfere, tell it you are too busy to listen for the next hour— and then move ahead without that negativity.

  3. Take action, even “imperfect action”! When you feel stuck, start by bolstering some healthy self-love, then tell your self-critic to step aside for a while. You’ll find that it’s easier to take action, whatever that action may be. You can make a decision, place a phone call, try something new — any kind of action will move you forward. And, consider taking “imperfect action” — give yourself permission to go for it (whatever “it” may be), knowing that even if it's not perfect, you can take your next best step after this one. Newton’s first law of physics is worth remembering: an object in motion stays in motion. Once you start to take action it's easier to keep going.

It's always worthwhile to reflect on how you operate in your life. Observe yourself and see what shifts for you over time.

The magic of making precious time for yourself

Life certainly gets busy! There are many days when it feels challenging just to make a little time for a calm short lunch break (one where you actually taste and digest healthy food!). On days like that, the idea of taking a short walk to enjoy the glories of spring feels impossible.

 Pink blossoms started popping on the tree outside my window today!

Pink blossoms started popping on the tree outside my window today!

What I have learned is that those beautiful days, when the pink blossoms are first popping out, are too good to miss. Even when my to-do list is crammed, I know I will be happier — and will do my work with more attention and enjoyment — if I take that break and get outside to breath fresh air, move my limbs, and appreciaote the magic of nature.

How can you feed your heart today with beauty, movement, and a break from the hurry in your life?

Enhance self-love but treating yourself to small ”goodness“ breaks. You‘ll naturally bring more creativity into your life. Your health will benefit. And, everyone around you (family members and co-workers) will love the energy you share.

Try it. I‘d love to hear how it works for you.

Are you taking inspired action?

I’ve been making big plans of late, and thinking about setting intentions, motivation, making progress and completing projects. Spring is an exciting time to launch new projects that really excite me and that will offer huge value.

Following my fall sabbatical, I was busy developing program proposals that had been requested, starting work with new coaching clients, and writing a major proposal for the book I'd worked on during my sabbatical. (More to follow about the book soon!) Once my proposals were submitted, it was time to look ahead to what I wanted to create in my business — and my life.

I’m never at a loss for ideas that excite me, so I had important decisions to make. I started by thinking about my intentions. Being clear about what I most wanted to do — and why — helped me decide where to put my focus and my attention. It made it easy for me to say “Yes” to some things, and to put other ideas and opportunities on a side burner. The last thing I want to do is “splatter” myself across a lot of projects and be unable to do any of them well. So, while it’s a challenge to say “No” to things that excite me, when I stayed clear about my intensions, and thewhy behind them, I was able to choose the projects I most wanted to make a reality.

Then it was time to take action. That’s where the hard work — but also the fun — began. I’ve been excited to dive in and see my ideas become realities, and I am on track to bring them to completion.

What I’m creating now.
I am happy to be offering some great workshops this spring that are designed to inspire and ignite change. I am excited, too, to be doing several one-on-one artist retreats this season. And, I’m thrilled to be offering a new 6-month coaching group in 2016. In this group, 6 brilliant women will explore what Living Big means to them, and decide how they want to take action to stop living small, navigate a big transition, or create a vision for their future and begin taking confident steps toward it. This will be a journey of significant change, filled with shared love and support. (If this opportunity intrigues you, get in touch with me directly. I’m accepting applications now.)

What is your intention for this new season?
Do you want to get healthier? Show up in a bigger way at work? Improve a key relationship? Bring more inspiration and creative energy into your day-to-day life? Stop over-working and get balance back in your life? Find courage to follow a dream? Make a bold idea a reality? Think carefully, then consider why the desire is strong for you. Knowing that will provide a foundation for taking action and staying motivated.

If you want to talk about what you want to pursue (or what you are sorting out) and how you can start taking inspired action, let me know. I hope that this will be a fulfilling and creative season for you, filled with abundant inspired action.

 Early spring Sightings! I am inspired by the new growth that heralds a beautiful new season.

Early spring Sightings! I am inspired by the new growth that heralds a beautiful new season.

What my art — and making it — is teaching me

 A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY   COMPLETED.

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY  COMPLETED.

Having embarked on a new professional direction after selling my design firm 5 years ago, I dicovered that I loved Intuitive Painting (so much that I became an instructor in that proecess), but that engaging in other personal creative work was a challenge. In time I started writing poetry (as I have always loved words, and that was a comfortable way for me to express ideas and emotions). And, last year I enrolled in a class at Boston's MFA and began sculpting in clay. To my delight, I loved working with my hands and in three dimensions.

On my fall 2015 sabbatical, I took a new big step and enrolled in an abstract painting course at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. To say that it was life-changing is not an overstatement. I had a brilliant teacher and wonderful classmates who generously embraced me as a new student, and who all taught me more than I'd have imagined possible in a one-semester course.

Now, I am enrolled at the SMFA in Bosotn, with another brillient painting teacher and inspiring classmates. And, I have continued to study with my sculpting teacher.

All of this art-making takes a lot of time. I wondered, at first, if perhaps I was devoting too much time to this work, as my coaching practice and the programs I offer are so important to me and require so much time and attention. Now that we are four months into 2016, I am taking stock of the decisions I made, and how the balance is working for me.

 MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

What I have realized is that my creative work is richly rewarding — and it challenges me. In the best moments, I make what I feel tangible in my art. I sometimes find myself in such flow that I completely lose track of time. That is an amazing experience, and one that, happily, I often replicate when engaged in my coaching work.

Other times when I am in the studio, and more often this semester in my painting class, I find myself struggling to connect to my intution, unable to create with ease. I had decided at the start of the semester to deliberately use this painting class to experiment with a wide range of techniques, so that I my painting process can flow. I want to find a way to paint that feels like home for me. So, I am perservering and have started to find more freedom as I paint.

Strikingly, when I am at work outside of either the painting or sculpting studios, I realize that I more naturally look for opportunities to be responsive, intuitive, adaptable and, yes, creative — in recognizing unexpected and intriguing ideas, and in the decisions I make and the actions I take. This fluidity is striking to me, and is leading me in exciting directions. And, the happiness I feel with my work is ever increasing.

I am certain that my descion to devote time to personal creative exploration is paying dividends for me, and I am excited as I contemplate continuing my journey to develop as an artist.

Sabbatical recap and looking ahead

Alas, my sabbatical has ended. We‘ve packed up the DC apartment and driven home to Boston, and while it‘s lovely to be back, it is bittersweet.

Our Thanksgiving trip to Boston was wonderful, highlighted by spending time with our children and our grandson, Samuel. Sam is now 9 months old. He is growing and thriving in wonderful ways, and is a constant source of joy.

We flew on to Chicago after the holiday, where my husband was honored at the RSNA (Radiologic Society of North America), at their enormous annual meeting. I was so proud to see him receive a Gold Medal in recognition of his great achievements as a leader in Radiology. And, I was happy to have time to explore the town on my own, including a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and getting a start on some holiday shopping.

 My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

Some of the spectacular pieces we enjoyed in the contemporary collection at The Art Institute of Chicago (by Jawlensky, Giacometti, Matisse, Klee, Severini, and Klee)

The interior of the Kennedy Center; at Lafayette Park the night after the Paris attacks.

The last weeks of my time in Washington were full and fun, in spite of coping with troubling world events. We were at the Kennedy Center seeing a brilliant perfomance of the Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversay Tour when we heard the news about the terror attacks unfolding in Paris. The next evening we found ourselves walking through Lafayette Park, across from The White House, and were surrounded by people holding candles and hand-made French flags as they sang La Marseillaise. We felt a deep connection to the love, sadness and hopeful energy of the crowd.

On a happier note, I worked nearly daily in the studio and returned with a body of work that I am proud of. I have registered for a spring semester course at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that seems to be much like my course at the Corcoran School for the Arts and Design. While I will miss my brilliant teacher, Mira Hecht, and my fantastic classmates, I am excited as I look ahead to continuing my work as a painter. I look forward to having the structure, support and energetic environment of a challenging course to help me further develop my skills as a painter, and I am eager to explore many new ideas on canvas.

Three of the small paintings I completed near the end of my sabbatical.

I am also excited to have made significant progress on a book I‘ve been writing, and am glad to be in conversation with a terrific publisher. Stay tuned for news about the book!

Another highlight of the last weeks of the sabbatical included a tour of the White House, that was decked out in fantastic holiday splendor. The live music that was being performed made it even more special to be there.

The White House tour was a visual treat at every turn.

And, my teacher had arranged for our class to have a private tour of a remarkable special exhibition, Masterworks From Switzerland, Gauguin to Picasso, at The Phillips Collection. The art historian taught us a lot I had never known about the distinctive works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pissarro on view, and several wonderful artists whose work was new to me (including Alexej von Jawlensky, Ferdinand Hodler and Cuno Amiet).

My husband and I also made time to take in several excellent films while we were away. Among our favorites were Spotlight, Truth, Bridge of Spies, Suffragette and Trumbo I also recommend a wonderful new documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, that was released just before we headed home.

On our final visit to the Dupont Circle Farmer‘s Market we enjoyed seeing holiday wreaths, garlands and flowers and e were surrounded by lively music and happy shoppers. We said goodbye to our friend Annette, whose amazing bakery items are all gluten free, and all delectable. If you‘re in Washington on a Sunday morning, it‘s worth waiting in line at her O Earth Creamery and Bakehouse table to taste her creations (even if you have no worries about gluten)!

With the unpacking now nearly done, and having enjoyed lovely visits with family, it‘s great to be home. I am glad to have this last week of 2015 to ready myself for the new year. I believe that my experiences on the sabbatical will inspire an amazing 2016. I‘m planning some big new work — to live an even bigger life in the year ahead, and to help more women create and step into the amazing big life they dream of, with clarity, confidence, and joy.

Wonder at the Renwick Gallery

One of the great joys of being in Washington DC for my sabbatical has been the opportunity to visit the fantastic museums of the Smithsonian. These treasures are free for all of us to enjoy, and it is a thrill to be able to visit these museums whenever time allows.

The Renwick Gallery is one of the Smithsonian museums, and is located across from the White House. It is a beautiful building that’s been closed for renovations for the last 3 years. I’d not known of it, but I have walked past the gallery each day on my way to the Corcoran and have been intrigued by the imposing facade. It was exciting to find out that the museum was to reopen on November 13. There was a lot of buzz about it, so I checked out its fascinating history and the opening exhibition, Wonder. While I was eager to see the exhibition, I waited until after the opening weekend to avoid the crowds.

My patience was rewarded! The magnificent sculptural installations that were commissioned for nine grand galleries were thrilling to move around and marvel at with just a few other visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. The name of the exhibition, Wonder, could not be more apt. The works are superb, and they make each of the gallery spaces a star attraction.

While photos cannot convey the impact of seeing these monumental works in person, I hope you will get a sense of the nine works — and perhaps be able to make a trip to Washington see them yourself. I hope you can make it before July 10, 2016, when the exhibition will close.

Tara Donovan’s intriguing landscape, ”Untitled”, is made of index cards!

”Plexus, A1“ by Gabriel Dawe is made of thread and is completely spellbinding.

Patrick Dougherty’s ”Shindig” is PHENOMENAL, and especially delightful because you can move into the forms he created with willow saplings.

Janet Echelman’s Suspended Woven sculpture, ”1.8” is in a gallery 100 feet long. It was inspired by the Tsunami in Japan in 2011. changing lights, and the shadows cast on the gallery walls, make it completely mesmerizing.

”Middle Fork”, by John Grade, was made by first creating a plaster cast of a tree, found IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS, that is the same age as the Renwick building. Then, a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar were carved and connected to make the new ”tree” from the cast. Amazing!

”Folding the Chesapeake” was created by Maya Lin, using marbles to shape rivers, fields, canyons and mountains in this gallery. IT is exquisite.

Leo Villareal’s ”Volume” sculpture is suspended above the great staircase and is ever-changing. It is coded so that the lighting sequences never repeat exactly as before.

"Anonymous donor" by Chakaia Booker is made with reworked RUBBER TIRES. She created fantastic textures and forms.

”In the midnight garden”, by Jennifer Angus, transports us into a magical and completely surprising space. Not only are the patterns on the walls made with actual insects (that are abundant in nature), the stunning pink wall color was derived from crushed insects.


Sabbatical update — reflections at the mid-point

I continue to be enormously grateful for my 3-month sabbatical adventure. In the year before it started, the prospect of having 3 months to live in a new city and dive deep into new learning and personal exploration sounded like it would be a rare and remarkable experience. Now that I am at the mid-point, I can say that the sabbatical has surpassed my expectations.

The rhythm and structure of my days is quite different here than in Boston. I am taking a semester-long abstract painting class as well as a short course on making art books. I‘ve also committed to a self-study program and I am working to complete a book I had started writing before the sabbatical. I am working with a few coaching clients on a very limited basis now, and savoring the time with them. I am also visiting as many of Washington's museums and monuments as I can, I‘m walking to explore as widely as my feet can manage, and Steven and I have been taking in movies more often than usual. I‘m doing some cooking with lovely farmers‘ market finds, and we are enjoying socializing with some friends and family — including some wonderful new friends — who live in the DC area. 

 One of my paintings

One of my paintings

Every day is different, and I am never at a loss for things to do. But as I plan each day, I am aware that it is very easy for me to slip into old patterns and overload my schedule. I am conscious of making choices to create space for some quiet every day, whether it‘s for reading, meditation, drawing, or walking in a beautiful place. Creating balance is a big priority now, and I hope that when I return to Boston at the end of the year it will be a natural part of my life.

 My first book

My first book

Among my most inspiring experiences have been recent museum visits. When I look at art now, I see it in new ways. When I stand before a painting, I look at color through new eyes, thinking about all of the color choices the artist made. I have a new appreciation for the tones they mixed as well as the impact of the juxtaposition of colors. And, I am keenly aware of the painting technique, marveling at strokes of textured paint, or smoother surfaces with clean edges of color against color, or a flat surface in which the brush strokes are barely perceptible. The craft of the painting, as well as its color and composition and overall emotional impact are all playing in my head (and my heart) as I walk through galleries. 

Whether sharing studio time in my painting classes, or seeing the gallery exhibitions of some of my incredibly talented classmates, or gazing at masterworks in some of our country's most fabulous museums, I am thrilled by all of the creative stimulation. That energy spills over into every part of my life.

Here are just a few examples of recent pleasures and experiences.

 The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

 Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11.  [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11. [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

 The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

 Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

 Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

I cannot omit some other highlights of the sabbatical so far. The first half of this adventure was punctuated by a wonderful week back in Boston, where I had a powerful retreat with my coaching group to conclude and celebrate the completion of 6 months together. And, I had the pleasure to doing two great Evening of Creativity and Cooking workshops with women who were full of creative spirit. 

As I look ahead, I am eager to continue the challenging work in my painting class (I‘m venturing out of my comfort zone and starting to paint on larger canvases), learning from my gifted teacher and my generous classmates. I look forward to visiting the newly renovated Renwick Gallery that will reopen next week, as well as many other museums. I have plans to spend time with new acquaintances who share my passion for creativity. And, I am excited to anticipate our trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving, when we will spend time with our children and our precious grandson, before returning for the last weeks of this special time in Washington. 

I am truly excited to be here and to be living big!

My sabbatical adventure has begun!

I am thrilled to be posting from Washington DC, where the experiences of my first 2 weeks on sabbatical have been terrific. We’re living in Dupont Circle which is within walking distance of an enormous number of wonderful places, and I’m happy to report that my fitbit is hitting new highs for steps walked and active minutes each day!

It’s been great fun exploring a city I have visited only briefly in the past, and then as a tourist. Being here as a resident feels quite different. 

Here are a few observations: 

  • Driving from Boston to Washington down the East coast is not for the faint of heart, particularly trying to get through New York (where we finally toured the South Bronx to make our way into Manhattan, when the road to the George Washington Bridge was in total gridlock). But one can find unexpected delight in a route that the phone’s map suggests, such as finding yourself on traffic-free country roads in Pennsylvania that are surrounded by beautiful farmland.

 

  • There’s a lot to be said for adding small, personal touches to make a furnished apartment feel like home. Postcards of art we’ve collected on recent trips to museums now fill our bookshelves, mixed with books and family photos we brought along.
  • Exploring new places on foot, with my phone in hand, enables me to easily go anywhere without getting lost. (Driving has been somewhat more challenging at times, but we have done as little driving as possible.) The metro is a breeze to navigate when distances are greater than my foot power will manage and I want to be car-free.
  • The Sunday morning farmer’s market at Dupont Circle is a feast for the eyes and full of marvelous produce, cheeses and more. The market is open year-round, so we will be able to enjoy the abundance of fresh foods for our entire stay.
 A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

 The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art  TREA  SURES in the  West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art TREASURES in the West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

 The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

  • The painting class I have enrolled in at The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design (part of George Washington University) is challenging and exciting. I am studying with a marvelous teacher and am surrounded by talented, interesting and generous classmates. 
  • Now that I am studying painting, I am seeing differently. I am keenly aware of color, whether simply looking at what surrounds me or, quite profoundly, when looking at paintings in a museum. And, I am closely looking at surfaces and paint strokes, as never before. 
 The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

  • It’s new for me to be in a city where political events play out all around me. My daily walk to classes and my studio takes me close to the White House. From the flags that went up to welcome the Pope, that changed to the Chinese flag this morning (on those same lamp posts), and protests of all kinds that feel a like street theater, there is always something interesting to observe.

There’s not doubt that these 3 months spent away from home, doing so many new and exciting things, will have a big impact for me. I am enormously grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

Stay tuned for periodic updates!