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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Say no to isolation.

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

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

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

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

2. Look for support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if you lived this dream a year from now?

chungkuk-bae-241046-unsplash.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get started to bring important change into your life

arnel-hasanovic-640110-unsplash.jpg

One of the big issues I see people deal with after attending my Dream Big Vision Board workshop is moving forward to bring dreams, ambitions and visions into reality. And, even if you have not created a vision board to get clear about what you want to be, and do, and have in your life, most of us have ideas about how we want to bring change into our lives, or make progress, or grow in important ways.

Taking the first step can be daunting.

We tend to think we need to be bold and brave and strive to make heroic changes — and thoughts like that can bring up all sorts of resistance. All of a sudden it can feel scary to make huge change. Confidence can slip away at the thought of doing something so big. Coupled with that, the prospect of failure and the shame we envision can be paralyzing. Or, we tell ourselves we're not ready yet, and so we put off getting started. And sometimes, our doubts tell us it’s useless to try.

Even accomplished women who have a deep desire to step up to living a bigger life can get stuck this way — and they may be especially prone to setting huge expectations for themselves and getting tripped up. 

Here are 3 steps you can take now to get started on making important change in your life.

1. What do you want? It’s time to get clear!

It’s exciting to anticipate making big important changes, but if you are not clear about what you really want — and why — you may jump in and find yourself having to back up and refocus. Why risk hampering yourself like that?

Sometime we want something new in our lives, but that feeling is fuzzy. Say you are exhausted by overwork and you want to more day-to-day sanity in your life. The why is not hard to figure out, but what exactly do you want? 
- More and better sleep? 
- Getting rid of bad clients who drain your spirit — and learning how to avoid them in the future? 
- More support from family members, or finding helpers like a bookkeeper or VA? 
- More time for exercise and other self-care? 

Pinpoint what it is your really want. Because without knowing, how can you begin to bring that change into your life?

Let’s use another example, and take the process of getting clear a step further.

Say you want to relocate. Do some writing about what your reasons are for making a move. And, list your criteria. You may desire a warmer climate, or seek less costly housing, or a location with better job opportunities, or some combination of factors. Maybe you need to have access to an international airport, or live near a major medical center. Get all of that down. Next, rank the importance of each factor, as you will likely need to compromise on some of your criteria. The more information you pin down the smoother and clearer your process will be going forward.

This is a doable and crucial first step — and, you’ll have started taking important action!

2. Set your sights on one or two small steps to keep going.

Rather than set a huge goal and try to tackle it in one great stride, think about one or two small, doable steps you can take now to move forward. We’re going for wins, and building momentum.

Let’s say you are in an unhappy professional position and want to move on to find work that will be more satisfying and meaningful, or you want to find an organization with a culture that feels like “home.”

Having started with Step One, getting clear about what you want and why, and having established the criteria for a great next job, you can decide on one or two doable small steps to take next.

You might first choose the most appealing option on your list and dig in to learn more. Rather than jumping in to a full-fledged job search, you can start by reading up on the sector or job type, or companies in the industry sector. Then identify people you can meet with — or people you can reach out to and ask for introductions. Prepare a solid list of the questions on your mind about the kind of work, available opportunities, compensation, etc. 

Once you have set up and had a few productive conversations, you’ll be on your way. And, when you are ready to confirm what you want to go after, you can plan for the next small step to take — like creating a tailored resume and a great cover letter.

3. Build in accountability and support. 

When you tell someone that you intend to do something important, and regularly keep them up to date on your progress, you are more likely to stay on track. Accountability is a powerful motivator and keeps your momentum strong. 

The key is to get that support from someone who truly cares about you and your success — someone who believes in you and will support you in a positive way. You can seek out an "Accountability Buddy” and set up a schedule for check-ins. And, having a coach can be a great asset when you are trying to make important change and want to do it as smoothly as possible. Because, inevitably there will be bumps in the road, times when your confidence dips or your best next step is unclear. Having a capable guide to get you through the rough patches and help you to see the way forward and stay on track will accelerate your progress. 

Life presents us with an ongoing series of opportunities to grow, change and expand. And every time you decide to step into what’s next, you’ll be called on to commit again and take consistent action to reach your next level. 

Some final thoughts.

As you go through each step along the way, remember to acknowledge yourself for setting your intentions, committing to taking action, and for each small piece of progress as you attain it. Celebrate your ongoing commitment, your ability to leave old limiting mindsets behind, your willingness to make big change, your courage to persevere, and your creativity and resolve. 

And finally, be sure to celebrate your successes!

I would love to hear from you as you undertake or move through periods of important change in your life. Comment below or email me — I always read what you post or send.

And, if you want to talk with me about how coaching can support you to step into the big life you desire, just complete my Coaching Inquiry Form and we'll make a date for a call (there’s no obligation or cost for this deep heart-to-heart conversation).

How to access all of your own wisdom

allef-vinicius-135031-unsplash.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect to and trust your intuition

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

Embrace emotion

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

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

Create!

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

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

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

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

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

Can you think of yourself as a creator now? 

Test it — and start today

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

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

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

bekir-donmez-335320-unsplash.jpg

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

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

And, we set expectations for perfection ourselves. 

Why do we do that? 

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

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

Can you relate?

Do you find that pressure to be perfect exhausting?

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

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

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

In fact, there is no such thing as perfect.

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

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

1. Start with self-love

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

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

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

2. Take imperfect action

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Make commitments to yourself

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

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

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

Love is in the air

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

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

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

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

Start with self-love

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll start to notice a ripple effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sending you BIG love.

How a simple word can change your year

annie-spratt-167089.jpg

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. 

Is this the year you’ll get unstuck?

toa-heftiba-274947.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The art of end-of-year reflection

cassie-boca-385643.jpg

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.

A big holiday calls for a big heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I invite you to join me. 

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

I’m sending you love and heartfelt gratitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you willing to get started?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Returning to center — and staying the course

IMG_4488sm.jpg

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

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

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

Why do we tolerate this? 

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

This is wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say good-bye to reacting and hello to creating the life you want

danielle-macinnes-222441.jpg

By now, most of us have returned from summer vacations and a season of living at a more laid-back pace. We’re getting in gear for the fall. Children are back in school or installed in their college dorms. With recollections of Labor Day fading fast, work is back in full swing. It’s filling our schedules with meetings, imposing deadlines, and making us feel pressured — whether you are in a corporate job, you work for yourself, or you are in the midst of a transition and engaged in activities related to seeking new work.

The change of the calendar and season can also make it easy to fast-forward to envisioning the series of holidays that will start to roll out, to feeling concerned about last-quarter demands, and to feeling self-imposed pressures. I am observing this energy in women all around me now.

What about you? Have you checked in with yourself to observe the way you are responding to the start of the autumn season? Are you thinking about specific ways to shift from the stress that can so easily creep in and impact your state of mind? Are you attempting to achieve more balance in your life? 

Most of us feel powerless when external forces burden us. After all, our kids’ homework must be checked, we must prepare for the meetings that are coming up, we must hustle to bring in new business. We often feel there are no options. How can we possibly make time to sit quietly and reflect, or thoughtfully plan?

The truth is that you have agency in your life
You have more power to shape your life than you may think. Rather than living reactively, you can create the ways forward that will work best for you. This is a state of mind you can learn to adopt, and doing that can be a game-changer.

It starts with realizing you have choices
You may not have considered that you always have choices — and you get to choose what’s best for you. Instead of reacting on impulse — to an ultimatum, to a request you feel obliged to say “Yes” to, to the dynamics at play in any given situation, or even to self-imposed expectations — you can slow down and consider your options. Because you always have choices, even if they differ completely from what’s being thrown at you, or the ways you are accustomed to operating. 

When you slow down, you can choose the best course of action for you
Yes, I am suggesting you slow down! This is a crucial first step in the process. Without slowing down, pausing to get some perspective and considering your options, this will not work for you. The key is this — do not respond or hit reply right away. Get comfortable saying something like, “I’ll get back to you.” Or, in a face-to-face situation, “I need to give that some thought before I respond.” This ensures that you won’t regret your reaction, or think, “Oh, I wish I had said...!” And, it means you will be creating the space to choose the response that is best for you. 

This is also important if you notice that you are falling into an “automatic-pilot” habit that does not serve you. Becoming able to notice those moments lets you take a pause and consider better options for your next move.  

The option you choose now leads to more choices
Once you have taken some time to think quietly and make a choice that will create the next step that’s best for you, the process is not over. Things are rarely set in stone. Life is comprised of decisions and choices all the time. After your first step is clear, you get to take your next best step — the next step that serves you and moves you in the direction of creating the life you want.

Be aware, sometimes the options you have in front of you will not be great. But they are yours to choose from! And, be aware that you do not have to make a perfect choice every time. The key is to make the best choice for you now, having considered your options, and then pause to consider what your next best choice will be. 

A process that unfolds like this gives you the power to create the life you want, one small step at a time. You will not find yourself agreeing to something your mother or sibling or friend wants that is wrong for you. You will no longer agree to do something that is in conflict with your integrity. This approach can end the detriment to your physical or emotional well-being to the demands of outside people and outside forces — or, to your habits of self-sacrifice. This deliberate way of living gives you perspective and helps you to create the calm and balance you need to thrive.  

Are you ready to test this yourself?
Why not try out this approach today? See when you notice yourself reacting on the spot. Then, see if you can remember to stop and take a pause, to think before you react. 

It’s great if you can start testing out this approach with something that’s not really loaded. But, if something big and important shows up today, it will be a perfect time to at least pause and think before your react. 

This effort will call on you to be alert to yourself
And, it may call on you to be willing to do something that’s uncomfortable, if a choice you make is not what someone wants or expects to hear from you. Do you feel willing to try it out and see what results show up?

Be sure to reflect on what it feels like to make a choice that you have actually considered, and that you know is best for you, and to then use that as your response. And, reflect on how it feels as you use your choice to set a clear direction for what you will do next.  

If you believe in yourself, and make a commitment to bringing this new awareness and approach into your life, you are sure to see important shifts take place. You deserve to live this way — to create the life that’s right for you.

I’d love to hear from you
Let me know how this works for you. Leave a comment below, or contact me directly to share your story or questions. 

Ready to go on a road trip to clarity?

My passion is helping accomplished women to break through the barriers and challenges that limit them, so that they can live their greatness — and truly live big. These accomplished women know there is more greatness in them and want to tap that power to make important change in their lives, but don’t know how to do that, or where to begin.

Seeing that struggle and frustration over and over, I decided to create a roadmap for these women to gain clarity about what’s really important for them, to get laser-focused on the issues, and to start making the big changes they want in their lives.

What many people don’t consider is that you need to start by clarifying what you really want and why it’s really important to you. When you do that, and decide on a few specific realistic changes to start with, you can move on to implementing bigger important changes in your life. With clarity and structure, making change is absolutely doable — I watch it happen all the time, and marvel at the breakthroughs I witness.

I created my 5-day virtual journey to help women first get clear about what they truly want — and what their highest priorities are. Because if you try and change a little here and a little there without focus, you splatter your effort and energy and stay pretty much where you are. Once this journey guides you to clarity, and to committing to what you want to make your focus, you’ll be guided to generate real action steps and ways to implement them slowly — so you won’t resist the change, and so the changes stick. They become a natural part of your life.

When you start making these tangible changes — even small ones that impact your mindset and well-being — you’ll be propelled forward in big ways.

The Roadmap to Clarity is a 5-day journey of discovery. And, I am traveling with you on this journey. I will guide you through the entire process.

My design for the process uses one of my favorite and most powerful tools (one that my clients find to be remarkably useful and valuable). This tool is easy for me to teach and easy for anyone to use. Best of all, it always reveals big insights and generates great ideas that can then be put into practice, one step at a time. And, you’ll be excited to implement these changes, because they are perfectly aligned with what you really want and need.

I am excited to offer this journey and lead women to starting to live their greatness. I’d love to be your guide and watch you start creating — and living — your biggest life!

Getting lost on purpose

Life is super-busy for most of us. I hope that you are slowing down a bit this summer.

Taking a real vacation is rejuvenating and important. Sadly, many of us feel so much pressure to work and accomplish that we don’t make vacations a priority, and entrepreneurs and consultants are most likely to work without a break. Without taking time for ourselves — for rest, relaxation, to do nothing, to simply play and have fun — we hurt ourselves.

What about you? Have you already taken some time off to enjoy the summer? Are you looking forward to an upcoming vacation before the fall season arrives?

And, here’s another question: Are you making the most of the summer season even when you are not getting away? Are you slowing the hectic pace a bit and finding ways to live with less stress even before or after a vacation? 

I am often asked about how to cope with the grind of work and the pressure of fitting in personal time and self-care amidst a demanding work schedule. This is a universal challenge in our culture.

There is a lot of advice we hear for coping with the physically — and emotionally — challenging problem of overwork and stress. And, I don’t disagree that things like meditating in the morning, or getting to the gym for a workout, or sinking into a warm bath at the end of a long day are great suggestions.

But I have another idea to share that you may never have heard about. It does not require a lot of time, and it’s free. What could be better than that combination to easily take some stress out of your life?

I urge you to try getting lost on purpose
Why? Because when you let yourself wander without an agenda, without knowing what you will find, you are open to surprise. And, open to delight. And, open to unexpected wonder. Letting yourself be spontaneous and open to whatever you may discover, and delighting in the surprises (even if you come across something like a decaying old factory rather than a scenic babbling brook), fires up your brain. It inspires you and prompts you to think differently. It ignites creativity and opens you to new possibilities.

Ready to give it a try?

Find a natural time to get lost
If you are driving home after a meeting or after running errands, why not allow yourself a few minutes to explore? Purposely turn off the road into an area you have never been. It can be an exit from the highway you have never used, or you might go down a street near your home or office you that you’ve never driven on. 

Turn off your GPS! 
This is a time to follow your nose and see what’s around you. You may find yourself on a country road that is peaceful and beautiful. You may see architecture you did not expect in the area — like a super-modern house, or a historic home painted in unusual colors. You may be shocked at the way an area has become overdeveloped or run down. You may come across an impressive mural. You may see gardens full of exotic plants.

You may find a tucked-away little park, like I did, within a mile of my home, that I never knew existed. When you find yourself in an interesting place, get out of your car and explore on foot. Sit down on a bench and look around. It may be a place you’ve never been, or someplace you have driven past a hundred times without stopping. 

It’s really fun to walk in a place you think you know, and let yourself wander aimlessly. Look at what's around you with open eyes. You may read the plaque on statue of a man on a horse and learn something fascinating. You may wander through a church graveyard and marvel at beautiful headstones that go back to the 17th century. You may feel,inspired to pull out your phone and take some photos of the wonder around you

Share your experiences
When you are excited about new experiences and discoveries, it’s great to share them. Social media sharing has become a ritual for many people, so why not share your micro-vacation that way, just like you would a week at the beach? And, I urge you to share your experiences with family and friends — in actual conversations. When you speak about what happened you may find that new levels of insight emerge.

These short excursions are like taking mini-vacations — they will lift your spirits and refresh your thinking. You are likely to find that great new ideas come to you as you explore, much the way ideas often come like “magic” when you are in the shower. That’s because you are allowing your overactive brain a little time to be relaxed and just play. And, you will have given yourself a little gift. The gift of time just for you, with no agenda.

Many of my clients have tried this little idea and have reported back that getting lost on purpose was wonderful. They report that the peace and pleasure of their short excursions have a big positive impact on the rest of their day, and opened up their thinking in surprising ways.

So, why not give yourself this little gift? This is a simple way to de-stress and inspire yourself, any time you are out and about.

If you want to share your experiences, add a comment below. I would love to hear what getting lost on purpose was like for you.

The time it takes to say “Yes”

I’ve written a lot recently about simplifying a cluttered life, and about how saying “No” is an important skill to hone. (The three articles I wrote on this topic can be found by scrolling down, or clicking to read The gift of simplifying, Just say “No”, and What's to be done about emotional clutter?.)

So naturally, I am turning my attention — and yours — to what we say “Yes” to. 

And, I am thinking about how we give focus to the things we decide are a true “YES!”, so that those big desires become real in your life. Because the decision to say “Yes” means those things require, and deserve, your attention, your commitment, and ample time. 

Even when we have made a concerted effort to simplify our lives, and say “Yes” to priorities with intention, we tend to underestimate the effort it takes to change our habits and stay focused on those clear priorities. We are accustomed to living at a fast pace, and don’t consider that we may need to shift our patterns of behavior to make our commitments a reality. Because just like the principle in physics that says nature abhors a vacuum, we tend to quickly (and often mindlessly) fill all of our time — in this case, the space we created when we simplified.

If you are ready to get focused and really commit to seeing your “Yes” priorities become real, here some suggestions that can help. 

Start by slowing down

Simply considering the idea of slowing down is a challenge for most people. But if you have done some thoughtful simplifying, and have carefully decided on what it is you want to make a focus in your life, it’s not as hard as it may appear at first.

Certainly, your life is likely to be busy. But, by giving attention to what you said “Yes” to, you have already slowed down for reflection and conscious decision-making. Take that same, thoughtful energy into the way you choose to pace your days.

The magic here, as you will soon experience, is that you will get more done by slowing down. (I know, it sounds completely counter-intuitive!) Why is this true? Because when you slow down you will not be multi-tasking. You will be less distracted. You will be amazed at how much you are able to focus. And when you move more slowly and with more focus as you tackle your priorities, you accomplish more. 

Make a sound schedule

Consider the next month in your life, and how you will use your time.

Start by listing the things you absolutely must do in your life, and rank them from most important to least. Then make a list of the big ”Yes” commitments you have made to yourself. Break the steps down for those projects, if there are multiple stages or steps involved.

You will now be ready to put blocks of time on your schedule for the ”must-do’s” that make the most sense and reflect the relative priorities you assigned to them. Some of your must-do’s will be need to be done daily, some will be weekly, or once or twice a month. Map them all on your schedule for the month ahead.

Next, in the open blocks of time on your calendar, schedule in your efforts for each phase of work entailed for your “Yes” priorities. Or, if there’s a priority like making time to exercise that does not entail steps to accomplish, you can plan for times when you will work out at a gym, take a yoga class, walk in nature, etc.

Do not fill every minute on your schedule! There will always be unexpected things that come up, so allow for them. And, remember that it’s important to build in time for you to simple BE in each day. Remember, slowing down is a big part of this new way of living. 

Stick to your schedule and adjust as needed

It's most important to honor the times you have mapped on your calendar. Make those sacred times to focus without distraction. Remember, you are now a good “No” sayer, so stay true to both your obligations and your “Yes” priorities.

There will certainly be adjustments to be made as the month goes by. Make your changes thoughtfully. Consider your priorities, and what’s come up that was unexpected. Consider what you can delegate to others, what you can defer for a time, and what you can simply say “No” to. Then move things around on your schedule.

And, be sure to include time for an appointment with yourself to map your calendar at the end of the month, so that you plan for the coming month. There may be new steps to take to see a big priority through. And there will certainly be new priorities to plan for as you complete some projects and have space for what you next want to make a commitment.

Are you willing to give this approach a try? To put in the effort to take simplifying your life a step further, and to seeing what you learn from it? Whether things feel challenging, or you find a comfortable, new flow, or a bit of both, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below. Let’s share our experiences. 

What’s to be done about emotional clutter?

 Photo: Jeremy Cai

As you consider that question, you may be wondering what I mean by “emotional clutter”. When I think about clutter of any kind, I think of a mess — a jumble that is confusing and complicated, and filled with things that can be eliminated to create calm and order. In the emotional realm, clutter is similar. A mess of emotions includes many that are needlessly complex and often undesirable. Messes like that typically grow without awareness.  

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have been thinking a lot about how we can simplify our cluttered lives. I recently wrote about starting with a focus on you (scroll down to see The Gift of Simplifying). I also urged you to consider the importance of decluttering your environment — and had tips to help you tackle that clutter (that post, Just say “No”, is below). 

Something important tied those two concepts together: saying, “No”. 

Learning what to say “No” to, and saying it with comfort (and without guilt!) is a key skill to build to simplify your life.

Today, I am thinking about another dimension of decluttering that will help you to simplify a hectic life — emotional decluttering. We often overlook the impact of emotional clutter in our lives, which builds when we don’t pay attention to it, and when we don’t consciously say “No” to tame it. 

Why is it important to do emotional decluttering?

In much the way that a cluttered physical environment contributes to making us feel overwhelmed, we are often in a swirl of emotional clutter. And when we let that clutter fester and grow, it adds enormous stress to daily life. Emotional clutter distracts us, distresses us, and drains our energy. We pay a high price when our energy is sapped.

So, the question arrises: What can we do to declutter a life plagued by emotional mess? Try this exercise and see what happens. 

Make a list of ENERGY DRAINERS

Start with a clean sheet of paper. Think about what you may be putting up with, and start listing what comes to mind. Consider what you put up with in both your personal life and at work. What do you tolerate, even grudgingly, that creates resentment, frustration, or anger?

Next, think about things you’ve taken on or accepted that drag you down emotionally and/or energetically. Your list can include people or situations in your life. This may take some careful thought, because we often take things on or accept things that drain us emotionally without being aware of, or acknowledging, the negative consequences.

Look at your list. Consider that these things often drain your energy for positive activities, and that they can impact your thinking in negative ways. Give some thought to that impact. Consider how long the things on your list have been influencing your life, and the consequences of bearing the ongoing emotional clutter.

You may or may not choose to actively do anything about the things on your list now, and that’s fine. Simply becoming aware of them and articulating them will make you more alert to where they interfere, and will also build awareness about their impact. With that new awareness, you may naturally start to address, or eliminate, or resolve them. 

And, you may decide that you are ready to make deliberate changes — ready to say, “No” to the emotional clutter that is sapping your energy. If you are ready to take action, start by choosing an item or two on your list that you feel most comfortable addressing. Take small steps, and continue as you feel ready to address more of the troubling items on your list.

As I have often said, it’s ok to ask for help

Just the way there are some household and office decluttering challenges that are best tackled with the help of a professional organizer, there can be challenges clearing emotional clutter that feel daunting to take on alone. It may be easier for you to say “No” to the excess “stuff” in your environment than to making changes in the realm of emotional clutter, where habits are often deeply entrenched. Coaching can be valuable if you are ready to make a commitment to shifting the mindsets that hamper you, so that you can stop saying “Yes” when you truly want to say “No”. It will provide support and guidance for you to set healthy boundaries of many kinds in your life, so that you can live without emotional clutter — and live big.

Focusing on career questions through a creative lens

Considering big questions about your professional life can be overwhelming. No matter where you are in considering your career — whether it's about making a change, how to start a job search, considering what will make you happiest, preparing for a big interview, how to face emotional issues that arise, and more — bringing creative thinking to the questions, and employing creative expression, can make all the difference.

A courageous and amazing group of women joined me for a workshop to get clear about the career journeys they are each navigating. We dove deep into identifying the emotions at play for each of them and identifying the attributes related to work that are most important to them. And, we addressed the mindset issues that limit them. With all of that insight, the women created collages to pour creative energy into the process, and to make a visual creation they can reflect on. Their collages makes their new-found insights vivid for them as they continue on their journeys.

It was a fabulous group, and their work was remarkable.

Just say “No”

I recently wrote about the benefits of simplifying a cluttered life, and suggested that focusing on you is an important first step. If you missed it, scroll down to the post titled, The Gift of Simplifying.

Embedded in learning to make time for yourself — creating time for self-care, indulging in personal pleasures, pursuing interests — is a skill that many of us need to develop and nurture. Making yourself a priority entails developing a comfort level with saying “No” — “No” to things that are not priorities, “No” to burdensome obligations, and “No” to time-draining habits that do not serve you. Saying “No” with greater ease lets you say “Yes” to more of what you really want and need in your life.

And, in your effort to simplify a cluttered life, I urge you to consider how much a cluttered environment contributes to the overwhelm. Operating in any disorganized environment drains your energy, creates distraction, and creates a small, constant source of irritation.

You may already realize that you are less efficient when things around you are disorganized, and when things are not easily accessible when you need them. You are also prone to being late meeting deadlines, or late getting to appointments, when you have to rifle through a mess to find what you need. 

Creating order in your surroundings will create calm and ease in your life. Interestingly, creating that organized environment means saying “No”, in much the same way that learning to say “No” is needed when you make yourself a bigger priority. When you declutter, you are called on to say “No” to things that are no longer needed, to things that are worn, and to things that feel like obligations to hold onto (rather than things you truly want in your life).

Learning to say “No” with more ease is an important skill to build in order to simplify your life. Practice it when you make yourself a big priority, and continue practicing it when you bring order to your environment.

How to get started taming the clutter around you

The question that typically arises when people contemplate how to tackle cluttered spaces is where to begin. The experts advise that you start with a small, manageable project, so you won’t get overwhelmed. 

Think about beginning with a drawer, or your desk, or perhaps a few shelves in your kitchen pantry. Once you reduce clutter and organize a small space, you’ll enjoy the results and will feel inspired to do another modest decluttering project. You might check out the ideas in this terrific list of small projects you can do in 30 minutes or less, for good ways to start decluttering.

I also recommend getting a book to help you. Among the many books on the subject is the super-popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I had picked up this lovely little book, and my husband recently started reading it when he decided to simplify his wardrobe. I was inspired to join him, and together we removed items we had not worn in ages, what did not fit well, what we no longer loved wearing, what was dated or redundant, and things that did not work well with other items we were keeping. It was fun to do the project together, and we enjoyed shopping for a few organizing devices that made everything easier to store and access. The result is a closet and drawers that are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to access. It’s so much easier and more fun to get dressed every day.

It’s ok to ask for help

Consider that there are times when hiring a professional organizer is the best bet. I did that for several organizing tasks that were complex and felt overwhelming. A few years ago I needed to create new systems in my office, because those that I’d had in place for my old business no longer functioned well for me. It felt daunting to figure it all out and then execute on a plan. The organizer I worked with was amazing. We worked productively in a few 3-hour time blocks, creating wonderful systems to meet my new needs. And, we accomplished much more, more quickly, than had I struggled to do it myself.

When you make a commitment to simplifying and you get some of your environment organized, you are likely to feel encouraged to continue. Over time, as you do each project, you will feel more comfortable saying “No”, and will enjoy the freedom and ease that your beautiful environment will bring to your life. And, you will be happy knowing that you are well on your way to creating the simpler life you yearn for.

The gift of simplifying

Life is pretty cluttered for most of us.

We struggle to handle big work demands — which is taxing even if we are happy with the work we do, and certainly if we’re not.

Most of us cram personal time into evenings and weekends. But, we often have a lot of practical things to do at those times, too.

And, taking care or ourselves — getting enough sleep, eating well, getting ample exercise, and just having some quiet time for ourselves — is a “luxury” that many of us rarely indulge in.

We pay a steep price when our health, happiness, relationships and personal interests are short-changed.

What’s to be done? A good way to shift to having more balance, sanity and ease is to simplify your life. Here’s an important first step to doing that.

Start simplifying by making YOU a bigger priority.

If you have hired me to coach you, or have attended one of my workshops, or been a reader of mine for a while, you’ve certainly heard me speak about the importance of self-love. Yes, I mean that when you love yourself, feel deserving, and treat yourself lovingly it’s healthy (not selfish!).

Think about what makes you happiest and what you really want for yourself. It may be a quiet time to soak in a tub one night a week. You may crave more time to read, or play an instrument you haven’t picked up in memory. You may want to spend a Sunday each month having a wacky adventure with your family.

When you decide on ways that you want create more personal happiness, and commit to them, you will more easily find opportunities — and ease — to say “NO” to other things, so that you can build these priorities into your life and reduce overwhelm.

Devote a little time to pondering what would feed your soul, and how you can make YOU a priority in your life. When you begin to simplify to make your self-care a reality, you will certainly be happier. And, you will build awareness about the power you have to create in your life. The big bonus is that you’ll see how you can bring that new awareness to everything you do — you’ll find ways to simplify and prioritize in every part of your life.