How a simple word can change your year

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A new year is underway! 2018 arrived in New England with unusually frigid temperatures, and a blizzard is underway as I write. I am grateful to be warm and dry, that our power is on, and that my family is together. I see this as a fine start to what I know will be a big year.

But, big years do not happen magically. When we drift through life, as so many people do, we are unfocused and usually scattered. 

So, how can you make 2018 a big year? Some of us think we need to make resolutions, but you have probably read all sorts of articles about why resolutions fail — and I agree that New Years resolutions are far from the best way to make positive change in your life.

Here's what I recommend instead. Choose a word of the year.

Begin by reflecting, with clear eyes, on your life in 2017. By getting clear, you can more easily envision what you want in the year ahead. Maybe you want more quiet in your life. Maybe you want to stretch into being bolder this year. Maybe you are ready to release old habits. Why not start now and choose 3 to 5 concepts that feel most important for this year of your life?

After you have your short list, you may see that some of the concepts are related, and you can feel which seem most on target. Getting to clarity will be the key for you to set intentions — intentions that will ignite the energy that will support you to consciously creating the year you want. 

I have been focusing on my intentions and choosing a word to guide my year for several years now. And, I help my clients to do that, too. The idea is to zero in on a word that will help me stay on track as my year unfolds.

Two years ago I chose the word SAVOR as my word of the year. I knew I wanted (and needed!) to slow down, but "slow down" was not quite it. I yearned to make time to truly connect to all there was to appreciate, and hold those things in my heart. SAVOR was a rich word that entailed slowing down as well as bringing a focus on gratitude. And, it meant that all of that goodness would not be forgotten. SAVOR was a great word for me, and guided my 2016 in wonderful ways.

At the start of 2017, I chose the word VIBRANT. I had been recovering from surgery and was focused on restoring robust health. But, I applied the word VIBRANT to many other aspects of my life and how I wanted to be in 2017. It entailed a stretch for me. The sign I posted in my office and looked at every day said:

VIBRANT   health  |  energy  |  creativity  |  thinking  |  service  |  action

I was motivated throughout the year to be true to my intentions for vibrancy in all of those aspects of my life. 

I invite you to join me as I focus on choosing my word for 2018.
Here’s a brief set of steps you can follow.

Start by answering these questions:
What am I no longer willing to tolerate? 
What activities do I want to START doing in 2018?
What do I want to STOP doing in 2018?
What do I want to KEEP doing in 2018?
At the end of 2018, what has to have happened in order for me to call the year my BEST YEAR EVER?

Next, go back to your list of up to 5 concepts you wrote down that felt most important for this year of your life. Do your answers to the questions above give you any new insights or ideas for things to swap out? (Maybe words like Presence, or Friendship, or Power, or Risk, or Freedom, or Action, or Openness, or Love, or Change, or Happiness, or Trust might feel like they belong on your list. Let your intuition guide you here.) Do you see some words that feel squarely on target?

Now, narrow your list to one or two words. (I know it may be hard, but this is the time to get focused!) Write down why each word is a great choice. Consider what would be different for you every day if you chose it. Write out a short list of actual things you could create or bring into your life if you chose it. Then write down what you would cultivate as habits (or bring more focus to, if the habits are already in place) to embody the word.

Look again, and see if the right word shines clearly for you. Or, think a bit more and hone in on the word that captures what you want.

With your WORD OF THE YEAR selected, here are your next steps:

In addition to printing out and posting your word, also share it. And, ask for encouragement when you need it. It’s great to ask someone to be your partner and supporter. And, of course, commit to taking ongoing action based on your word.

So, this is my moment to share my word for 2018: LEAD

I intend to be a leader in my life, to be all that I can be in each moment. I intend to show up more and shine brightly. I intend to passionately lead my clients to create the futures they want. I intend to paint with the energy and passion of a leader, and not limit myself. 

What will it take for me to LEAD in these ways? I commit to not shrinking back, even when I move into territory that’s new for me. I intend to focus on what matters most, and commit to those things with a whole heart. I commit to taking good care of myself so that I have the energy to see my vision through, all year long.

I invite you to share the word of the year that you choose, and tell me why you chose it. Leave a comment below, or send me an email to let me know. (Bonus points for adding what it will take for you to live your word of the year.)

I wish you a momentous year filled with growth, wisdom, happiness and all that you desire. 

A big holiday calls for a big heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I invite you to join me. 

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

I’m sending you love and heartfelt gratitude.

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.

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.

A different kind of top-10 list

With the holidays upon us and the last days of 2016 winding down, top-10 lists will soon start showing up. We have all seen the typical lists of the top-10 films of the year, the top-10 world events, and such. In thinking about top-10’s — which for me, would include things like a significant birthday celebrated, the marriage of my nephew, coaching remarkable and inspiring clients, and a memorable trip to Paris — I decided to be grateful for all of those things, but to take a little different approach to thinking about how I want to compile my top-10 this time around.

I am thinking about the top 10 things I have learned that I want to take into the new year.

1. To start, I’m focusing on what I want to leave behind from 2016. By reflecting on what went well and what things went awry this year, I will be able to leave behind habits and practices that I know do not serve me well. This will open the way for more of what I want to bring into my new year. What will I leave behind? For one, timidity. I have learned that when I take a step that feels big, and even a bit scary, it's always better than shrinking back. I will also no longer chase after every interesting idea I get, or every opportunity that comes my way. I’ve learned that these distract me from my big priorities. Do you get the idea?

2. After reflecting on my year in 2016, I will decide on the key things I want to create in 2017 and I will choose a word for my year. When I have clearly defined my top priorities, for my personal life and my work, selecting a word that will guide me will follow. (I wrote about choosing a word of the year last December, and many people wrote to tell me they carefully chose a word to guide their year, too.) I learned that having my word was meaningful and inspiring, and that it was great to post my word where I saw it daily. I know this year’s word will help me to be focused and on-target, both with my new priorities and with how I want to live.

3. I will celebrate my achievements in this year and commit to celebrating my coming achievements in 2017. We often lose sight of the things we have accomplished and achieved as we rush through our days — especially the small things that can have so much meaning. When we take the time to savor and celebrate ourselves for our successes, and celebrate things what we might overlook (such as trying out something new that is not a sure bet, or having a tough conversation rather than avoiding it), we encourage ourselves, and can appreciate that we are learning new skills and are growing in important ways.

4. I will make my visions visible. For me, this incudes making a vision board every 3 to 6 months. Creating a vision board is an incredible process, and the completed board provides a way for me to look at what I want to bring into my life on a daily basis, so I do not lose sight of what I want to manifest. Making things visible also includes writing down the top 3 things I will commit to each week and posting the list where I will see it often. The act of committing things to paper, and seeing them, is powerful.

5. I will get more help and support. Last year I began to work with a great bookkeeper and wondered why I had waited so long to do that. My coaches are a big part of my support system, and I look forward to continuing my work with them. This year, I will begin to work with a virtual assistant, to free me from daily tasks that take time away from doing the things that matter most to me, and things that only I can do. I will also do more work with a great professional organizer, to start the year with an updated filing system for my business, and to help me clear accumulated clutter in my office and home. And, I will think about other kinds of help and support I can enlist to make this a great year.

6. I will have weekly Accountability Calls with a colleague. This is a practice I started in 2016. In every call we each report on what we accomplished in the past week, where we struggled and what we learned, and we declare our top 3 priorities for the coming week. We close by picking a word to be our theme for the week. This has been a remarkable practice.

7. I will take excellent care of myself. Having experienced a series of health challenges this year that are now, happily, resolved, I am well aware of the importance of careful self-care. I will pay special attention to what I eat and to my exercise routine. I will create a new daily practice that includes quiet meditation each morning, so that I will be centered, calm and clear as I start each day. I will be tuned in to what causes me stress, and work to reduce those influences — and I’ll actively clear any stress that does come up.

8. I will show up, engage in constructive conversations, and take action related to civic causes about which I care deeply. Current political developments are calling me to think creatively and partner effectively to be a force for sustaining and improving civil rights, ensuring social justice, building tolerance, protecting the environment, and more.

9. I will create as never before. I know that when I write from my heart, and when I paint, and when I think creatively, and when I experiment freely, my life is enriched. Difficult emotions are transformed, I am fueled and inspired, I learn and grow, and I engage with others in amazing ways. I will also visit museums and galleries, attend live theater, music and dance performances, and read as many great books as I am able. Creativity that I engage in and that I experience connects me to big, new ideas and accelerates inspiration.

10. I will live with love as a driver. I know that love is powerful and positive, and that is what I want to be. I know that love is an antidote to fear and anxiety. So, I will continue to make “love” my watchword, as I have been especially focused on doing recently. I will check in with myself and ask if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart, and if I am modeling love and tolerance for those around me.

I am looking ahead to 2017 with the desire to live bigger than ever. That desire informed my top-10 list entries. What will you include on your forward-looking top-10 list? How will you create the best year ever in 2017?

Let me know if you are making a top-10 list, and what your list (or lists) include. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

All my best wishes for the upcoming holidays and a BIG and happy 2017. Let's all look ahead to a year filled with love, creativity, joy, abundance and peace.

The importance of warding off fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the world needs now

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To put it simply, I believe the world needs more love, and needs it urgently.

Love within families and close relationships, love in the workplace, love in our schools, love in our communities, love between nations and cultures.

Love even when we have different viewpoints. Love even when fear or resentment or bitterness are the instinctive impulses. Love when we do not know or understand one another. Love even when someone is unkind, inconsiderate, or worse. (Love is probably needed the most in those situations!)

Love and kindness, smiles and warmth, need to be shared with strangers as well as with friends and acquaintances. They create a bridge, even if a momentary bridge, between people.

Even small moments of expressions of kindness and love can have a profound impact. Love opens and fuels the heart, it builds trust, it creates happiness and satisfaction (in you and the recipient of your love). It inspires cooperation, it invites empathy, and it attracts more love and kindness to the giver. So, if for no other reason, spread love to get more love.

How can you bring more love into your world? Smiles are a great way to begin. Invite people to do things with you. Cultivate an awareness of all there is to be grateful for, and opnely express gratitude. And don't be shy about using the word "love" — even in your workplace. The more this becomes a "normal" word in our vocabularies, the easier it will be for more people to spread more love.

If we all practice sharing more love, the collective power of that energy will grow, and grow and grow. What a beautiful image that is. Let's make it a reality.

What I’m learning from my body

I had surgery in late July. While not “serious”, this was a much bigger deal than anything I’d experienced before (the procedure entailed four hours of general anesthesia). Happily, I spent only one night in the hospital. I am enormously grateful for the excellent care I received and that everything went well. I am now past the half-way mark of the predicted six weeks of recovery, and I am happy that the healing process has been going smoothly.

As I reflect on my day-to-day experiences in these weeks I find that I am in awe of the physical body and how it heals when you give it rest and respect. I had intentionally wrapped up lots of work beforehand so that I could focus on healing, and that has proved to be a great decision — and one that has eliminated stress from my life. That said, I am learning a lot about myself and things about the mind and body that I took for granted before this episode.

Like many of us in the modern world, my work is based largely in my head. I think, I plan, I write, I coach in deep conversations — most of the time while sitting at a desk. When I walk or do yoga (something I am really missing now!) and when I paint in the studio or sculpt, I am engaged physically. And, I used to think that those were the times that required most of my energy. After all, when you are sitting, well, you are sitting!

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last few weeks. The walks I have taken (as prescribed by my doctors) have been a breeze compared to the fatigue I have experienced doing the little work I have put in in my office. Whether I am taking care of small administrative matters that cannot wait, or coaching the few clients I have continued to see during my “medical leave”, it’s the mental work that has taken a toll on my energy. The focus, concentration, attention and careful listening in a conversation are much more tiring than going up and down stairs or walking outside for 30 or 40 minutes.

I realize that I must honor and respect the energy I have — and use it wisely. I must expend my energy with awareness. I have to acknowledge and plan for the impact that doing “head-based” work will have on my well-being. I have to have balance and ample rest.

And, I realize that even when my energy levels are back to normal in the fall, I will have an opportunity to keep this awareness about my energy in my mind. I will be able to honor the hard work of mental focus, and appreciate the gifts that physical activity offer me. I will aim for balance, knowing that the opportunity to use the body more brings great rewards. I want to have physical strength and the pleasures of using my body, even as I love the intellectual parts of my life. And, I predict that creativity will flourish with these conditions in place.

As the summer winds down, and we move out of a “vacation” mindset and gear up for more intense work, school, and social activities, I hope you will think about and honor your energy. When you use your energy with awareness, you can truly create a rich and balanced life, one day at a time. Many of us are so excited about our big ambitions that we overload ourselves and struggle. Realizing that we can actually do more by slowing down, focusing on our priorities, and bringing awareness to the way we expend our energy can be a game-changer.

How do you find ways to balance the mental and physical, to honor and respect your energy and to seeing the rewards of this approach to living?

 I received a lovely small coloring book as a gift and discovered that this is a special way to be creative that I had not appreciated before. Watching the pages come alive with color has been a delight.

I received a lovely small coloring book as a gift and discovered that this is a special way to be creative that I had not appreciated before. Watching the pages come alive with color has been a delight.

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.

Snowed in, 2016

Last year, on February 2, 2015, we were snowed in big-time. I just came across an email I sent that day, and thought that today’s storm in Boston, while not as crushing, still cancelled schools and played havock with schedules. So I wanted to post it again here, and hope it brightens your day (wherever you are!):

 The view from my office window today.

The view from my office window today.

Those of us in Boston, as well as many others across the country, experienced the second big snow storm in the space of a week. By now there is no place to put all the snow! We are trying to dig out, and plows have been laboring to make the roads passable. For people with pets who had to be taken out, or places they had to get to, it was an especially challenging day.

Fortunately, many of us were able to work from home and have a productive day. I certainly appreciated that the power and heat kept things comfortable. I lit some candles and made more than a few cups of tea. And, I set aside a little time to write a poem and listen to an inspiring TED talk by a wonderful Buddhist monk who enlightened me about altruism. Creating always brightens my day, and getting new ideas helps me to bring fresh perspectives to my work. I hope you were able to bring creativity into your day, too.

Wishing you sunny skies, a few days with no precipitation, and inspiration of every kind.

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.

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!

How gratitude super-powers life

We can cultivate states of mind that open us to creativity and enhance our happiness and well-being. That open our heart in beautiful ways. That plug us in to the glories of the world around us.

Focusing on love is one such state of mind. Being at peace, and consciously spreading peace is magnificent. Focusing on the moment we're in — without dwelling on the past or fast-forwarding to the future — calms and centers us. Being joyous keeps us from suffering anxiety and worry when there's no real danger in our midst.

These are all important and powerful forces that we can be mindful of, and that we can make a reality in our day-to-day lives if we focus on them. They let our spirit soar. They set the stage for goodness of all kinds.

 I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

And, there's something else we can add, that not only amplifies all of that wonderfulness, it accelerates the benefits of those states of being. Gratitude is the extra ingredient that can make life enormously rich and rewarding.

Gratitude tunes us in to small moments of wonder and loveliness — the things that typically go unnoticed as we go through our days. When we take a few minutes each day to jot down 5 things, 10 things, even 12 things for which we're grateful, we are alert to our lives in a new way. And we can rejoice in all there is to feel grateful for. 

When we practice gratitude we are slowing down — slowing down to notice things we can appreciate, and slowing down to note them. We can write that we're grateful for the restored health of someone we love, for the momentary kindness of a stranger, for having a safe place to live, for the inspiration found in a newspaper article, for an insight we gleaned in a conversation, for the taste of something delicious, for the fun of laughing with a friend, for a discovery made on an outing, for the budding of trees and blooming of flowers, for courageously trying something new, for the sweetness of watching a young child at play.

There are endless things for which we can feel gratitude. When we observe those things, and note them as we start our day, before switching off the light at night, or any time and place in between, we are enriching our hearts and connecting to all the sweetness in life. 

In addition to better emotional wellbeing, we have greater vitality when we are grateful. Gratitude enhances our relationships — we are in a kinder state of mind and more empathetic. Science shows that grateful people feel better physically, having fewer aches and pains and sleeping better, and there's even evidence that they have stronger immune systems. We feel better about ourselves and experience less doubt. And, we are more emotionally resilient when the inevitable challenges come up in our lives. 

All of these benefits make life so much sweeter. We can feel so much more open and ready to make the most of our lives. We can be courageous and live creatively in every moment. We can put fear aside and be bold. Gratitude helps us to truly live big.


Truly thankful, every day

Thanksgiving is a few short days away, and my inbox is already full of messages related to the holiday. I love that this moment on the calendar prompts so many people to say how much they appreciate their clients and friends, and to share good wishes.

Thanksgiving is a lovely time to focus on gratitude, as well as the power of gratitude in our lives. I have learned that when I am mindful of gratitude every day of the year my life is enriched.

Beyond my awareness of how fortunate I am to have a wonderful family, that all of my physical needs met, that I am in good health, have so many dear friends and do work that I love, I have come to appreciate much that I used to miss.

Most of us move at warp speed through our days, rarely slowing down to notice the small wonders around us. We miss so many things that we can savor in our routine lives. When I keep a list of 12 things for which I am grateful on a daily basis, I recall many sweet and special moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. My gratitude list often includes things like someone holding open a door when I am carrying packages, or smiling with warmth while standing in a line, or making a helpful suggestion that enhanced my day. It includes the delight I felt watching a flock of birds soar against the sky, or the taste of an especially delicious cup of tea, or the sound of a little child giggling. When I am aware of and reflect on all of the small things that brighten my day I can hold the memories of those moments. And, the positive emotions help me cope with any challenges I may be facing. No matter what, I treasure the beauty and abundance in my life.

Whatever you have planned for Thanksgiving Day I hope you will have many happy moments to savor. I hope, too, that you will consider developing a gratitude practice of your own, to keep the holiday spirit alive every day. It requires slowing down just a little, but I predict that you’ll get a lot back in return.

Reflections and Gratitude

With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, everyone I speak to seams to be hurrying to fit a week’s worth of work into three days. People are cooking and have lots more cooking to do. Many are facing car and air travel that will surely be stressful. Hanukkah shopping and preparation is another challenge for many of us, as that holiday starts so very early this year, overlapping with Thanksgiving. In all of the rushing it’s easy to lose sight of the meaning and importance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Can we all just push the pause button and refect for a few minutes? Can we give ourselves a short and meaningful break from the hustle and bustle? Try this — I promise it will take one minute and give you lots in return.

Close your eyes, relax your shoulders and lower jaw and slowly draw in a deep, full breath. Then, slowly exhale. Make it a long and complete exhale. Repeat. Open your eyes and smile.

That’s it. A moment for yourself. A gift. A snippet of time to refresh your body and your mind.

And, if you can spare another three to five minutes, make a list of at least 12 things for which you are grateful. Beyond the things that come quickly to mind, see what you find in your heart. Maybe you’ll want to make a new list every day this week and see what comes up for you. You can use these simple practices often to bring light into your life. That's what happens when you take a little time to care for yourself and focus on the truly important things that bring you joy.

As I reflect on the past year and all that fills me with deep gratitude, I wish you a joyous holiday, safe travels, love and abundant creativity.