Stepping up in your life — or playing safe

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After a powerful session with the women in my 4-month group coaching program, I reflected and realized how far each of them has come in the work. We are 3 months in, and while each women has had a different focus for the work she’s doing in her life, each is courageously stepping up in ways that are impressive. They are all saying “YES” to their lives.

Observing their great work inspired me to share stories about what it has meant for these women to move beyond their comfort zones — which each of them has been doing.

What does it take to make bold moves?
How do you get started?
How to you stay on track, even when challenges arise?

Here is the first story in a series that I want to share with you.

What does it take to set a vision and step into action in spite of hesitance, resistance, and even fear?


1. Step one: Setting a big goal

Creating a long-range goal that entails stepping up to do something new — and something that’s outside of the space you operate in successfully and feel comfortable with today — requires courage.

When you have a big "Why" for something you really want to go for, you can more easily create a big goal.

My client has a vision for work she wants to do in five years. Is it a stretch? Yes. Is it important to her for a number of fundamental reasons? Yes. Knowing why it means so much to her helped her to get clear about what it will take to make it a reality, and commit to moving ahead.

2. Step two: Getting started

Taking early steps was not so hard for this motivated woman. She reached out for coaching support. She used her network to meet with women who had succeeded in doing what she wants to do, and got their advice. She’s been doing research into this new kind of work and what it takes to get it. She joined a group of other women on this path, to get education from the program and support from peers.

3. Step three: Keeping the momentum going

After getting the ball rolling, she hit a snag. It was time to begin creating a document to use to pursue this new work, and a host of self-critics showed up.

First, the Impostor Syndrome came calling and asked: who is she to go for such a big opportunity? It reminded her that she does not have all of the typical expertise that is often sought after. And, Perfectionism showed up to impede her. She doubted that her efforts would be “good enough." These, in turn, invited Procrastination to join the party. Weeks went by without a single word written.

Coaching provided an antidote to the trio of self-critics. The first thing we addressed was helping her to believe that the distinctive expertise she has to offer is, in fact, important to many forward-looking organizations. An article in a respected business publication confirmed that fact. She was then able to acknowledge and own her expertise, and ease up on the grip of the Imposter Syndrome. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination were shooed away by her making a commitment to write a really bad first rough draft of her document. After that she knows she can trust herself to edit it and get input from others, to polish and refine the work.

This woman is now fully on track to moving into a bigger future, knowing how she will be able to move through each phase of the process she is mapping out. And, the lessons she is learning and skills she is building as she pursues this big goal are helping her in her current work, as well as having a positive impact on her personal life.

Will she run into other challenges of confidence or resistance? Will fear show up as she moves ahead? 

Undoubtedly. But, having a strong system in place to get the support and advice she needs will keep her moving forward. As well, she knows that these resources will accelerate her progress compared to going it alone.

I welcome you to comment below or email me and let me know about the big dreams you have, and how you are pursuing them — or, if you’re playing it safe but yearn to say “Yes!” to your life in new ways. What are your questions about getting started?

And, if you are curious to learn about private coaching, or the impact of my group coaching programs (I’m launching a new group program this fall), click on over to inquire about coaching. When you complete and submit the Coaching Inquiry Form, I’ll be in touch to make a date with you.

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

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

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

And, we set expectations for perfection ourselves. 

Why do we do that? 

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

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

Can you relate?

Do you find that pressure to be perfect exhausting?

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

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

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

In fact, there is no such thing as perfect.

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

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

1. Start with self-love

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

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

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

2. Take imperfect action

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Make commitments to yourself

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

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

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

Love is in the air

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

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

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

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

Start with self-love

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll start to notice a ripple effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sending you BIG love.

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

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

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

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

Why do we tolerate this? 

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

This is wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s to be done about emotional clutter?

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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.

Just say “No”

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get started taming the clutter around you

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

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

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

It’s ok to ask for help

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

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

The gift of simplifying

Life is pretty cluttered for most of us.

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

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

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

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

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

Start simplifying by making YOU a bigger priority.

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

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

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

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

The trap of going it alone

Is there a big lesson you’ve learned the hard way in your life? A key lesson for me had to do with feeling I had to do it all on my own. And I see it all the time in my coaching work. Lots of people are hung up on this issue.

Why do so many of us feel that if we don't figure it all out and do it all ourselves, we’re not good enough? Not smart enough? Not working hard enough? Not proving how capable we are?

This has been coming up over and over, so I want to shed light on the subject.

1. The root of the “I have to do it myself” mindset.

My story stemmed from a parent who was self-made (and very successful), and who took great pride in having done it all on his own. But the unspoken subtext of that message took me a long time to identify: there was shame if you needed to reach out for help. So, I was determined to prove my ability to do it all on my own. And that took a toll on me in many ways. It was, frankly, impossible to be great at everything that needed to be done in my business, and exhausting to carry such a huge load in my family at the same time. When I finally sought help of many kinds, the pace of success in my work — and my personal life — was thrilling. (Early additions to what I think of as my “team” included my housekeeper, and later a brilliant coach. More recent additions to my team have been a fantastic bookkeeper and a great virtual assistant. Each person I bring into the mix lets me do more of what only I can do, and lets me do it better.)

Do you know the root of your story about doing it all on your own?

2. The “Am I worth it?” trap.

I see a lot of people who feel unworthy of asking for or getting help. This is a sign that lots more self-love is needed! Because, we all deserve what’s best for us and what will let us be our best in the world. And, while making a financial investment in ourselves may feel daunting, there are options even when resources are limited. If you are a whiz at writing marketing copy, try and barter with someone who has a skill you need (say, nutritious cooking, or deep-tissue massage), and would benefit from your services. Be creative to get the help that will make your life and work smoother and less stressful.

3. The “Where do I start?” question.

All of us are different, and we have different needs at different times in our lives. There's no “formula” for what help will be the most beneficial for you. You may need coaching support to make an important career change. You may need a great pet-sitter so you can travel on short notice without stress. Maybe investing in a personal trainer is what will make the biggest difference for you in the next year. Perhaps the services of a professional organizer will help you to resolve chronic low-level stress you feel when working in your office. Take the time to think about all aspects of your life and work, as you consider the kind of support that will benefit you the most. Then make it a priority to find the help you need.

Do you have a story about doing it all on your own — or what happened when you brought great help into your life? I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment below.

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.

Our challenges can be our greatest teachers

I recently wrote about how you can deal with set-backs, which are inevitable in life. As a nation, at this moment, many of us are feeling like we are experiencing an emotional set-back, feeling significantly challenged. I’ve been grappling with and thinking a lot about how we respond to challenges that are big, small, or huge.

Our typical challenges can be related to something like working on an important project and finding things going well, but then suddenly getting paralyzed and feeling unsure about how to get going again. Or, maybe you’ve had a great idea, done your thinking, research and planning to implement it, and then have found it daunting to get started. Or, you’ve been offered a great opportunity and feel thrilled, but then a deep-freeze overtakes you just when you need to take action.

You may be reflecting on a day-to day challenge, or you may be contending with a more emotional and existential challenge — like the fear and anxiety that have come up for so many people after an election result that feels frightening and overwhelming.

It is easy to find yourself in such situations, and to respond in ways that do not serve you. Sometimes we beat ourselves up, letting our self-critic go wild. Responding like that digs us into a deeper hole, and what follows is despair. Sometimes we simply curl up into a ball and “go fetal”, or numb ourselves with binge eating, getting lost in distraction for hours on end, or turning to alcohol. Sometimes we lash out at others.

So, what can be done when challenges grip you? And, what can we learn at these times?

1. First, get quiet. Start by sitting with yourself and breathing. Just breath deeply and get calm. You might want to place your hands on your heart and feel the rhythm of your blood pumping. Don't try to “fix” anything and don’t judge yourself. Instead, simply let the anxiety you are feeling settle down and soften. Let yourself connect to the feeling of love, and love whatever comes up for you. Witnessing your fears lets your emotions and thoughts become clear. You can be present with them, name the emotions you recognize, and trust that doing that will make it easier to begin to move ahead.

2. Remind yourself of what you have lived through before, that felt impossibly challenging at the time. When you recall times that you suffered grief, or feared external threats, or were able to find your way to taking action after being totally stuck, you give yourself a gift. Maybe you will recall how you were comforted, or that you felt better when you comforted someone else, and how that freed you to take action. Maybe you will recall that a trusted friend was able to help you see a way forward when you felt you were in a dark place with no path forward. Consider the fact that the situation you are facing now may be calling on you to show up in a bigger way, to move beyond your fear, to do something important.

3. Steer clear of drama, commit to taking a small step toward what you want, and find the lessons in these moments. When you are quiet and focused, you can keep drama at bay — your own drama, or that of others around you — so that you can stay clear and centered. You can notice when your self-critic has intruded, or irrational thoughts are getting in your way, and know that they are just thoughts and do not have to be given power. You can appreciate that you are able to impact the world in beautiful and meaningful ways when you commit to taking a small step forward, then another. And, you can commit to continuing to take those steps until you approach, or reach, the outcome you desire. It may mean persevering in the face of discomfort, but taking those small steps (even taking imperfect action!) will create positive momentum. You can appreciate that you have learned new ways of responding to a challenge, so that when this kind of stress hits again (which it inevitably will), you will have new ways of coping, rather than feeling defeated as you may have been in the past.

These challenging experiences offer you a way to practice being kind to yourself, to be open and willing to accept the way you tend to react, and to celebrate that you are changing old patterns. I urge you to recognize and celebrate each step you take, and celebrate all of your progress — even if you backslide from time to time (as we all do). The key is to gently get back on the right track, and celebrate that you have learned to keep moving forward with small, positive steps.

The wonderful thing about living consciously is that you learn and grow from every situation you experience. Let me know what you think about these ideas, and if they help you.

Tame your hectic life

So many of us live frantically. Our fast-paced culture celebrates non-stop activity, and the demands of family, work, getting exercise, socializing, and more often overwhelms us.

What to do? How to find peace, a little quiet, some relief from the demands that exhaust us?

Start with the simple practice of considering your calendar and determining not to overfill it. When you consciously decide to keep some open blocks — what I like to call "white space" — on your calendar, you make considered choices about what to say "yes" to, and what to defer or skip.

Having been a designer, I know the power and beauty of white space. When a page (either printed or online) is crammed with text and images, it's overwhelming for the reader. By designing in white space, the reader has visual relief, and can take in the content without effort. And, it looks beautiful when there is white space on a page.

When you build white space into your calendar, you are creating space in your life. You can choose to use that time to slow down, take a break, do something good for yourself, or get creative in a way that makes you happy. That white space also gives you time to respond to unexpected opportunities or challenges. And, you will have time for a little surprise to show up in your day. All of these are wonderful things to allow for.

As you look ahead and start commiting to meetings, deadlines, appointments and activities, be mindful of leaving blocks of white space open. Appreciate the beauty of a schedule that is not crowded with commitments. And, then experience the difference it makes.

Try it for a few weeks and see what happens. I predict you will see how a small bit of breathing room can have a big impact on your wellbeing.

How to deal with a set-back

Life is full of ups and downs. We think we can control so much in our lives, and sometimes we can. But, there are times that reality hands us unforeseen challenges. And when that happens, the question is, how do we respond?

Set-backs can show up in many forms. For me in the last 3 weeks, I’ve experienced a bit of a health set-back that took me by surprise. But you may be facing unexpected challenges that range from a problem at work, to an unexpected issue with a child or parent, to a life interruption caused by mother nature, to a late snag in a big project, to a stalled negotiation, or any number of other scenarios.

When something like this happens, how do you respond? Do you feel panic? Become a bundle of nerves? Worry excessively? Here are 3 ways to think about and work through a challenge you face.

1. Get all of the information you can. This may mean doing your homework, arranging to get the medical care you need, doing research, considering all of your options, advocating for yourself, and reaching out for help and support. I suggest talking through all of this with someone you trust to listen well and help you find answers — those that are external, and those you need to dig for in yourself.

2. Look at all points of view. This is something we rarely do. We think things through in our heads and come to a point of view, without turning the question around, without considering the way others see the issue, or without asking to find out how someone else would approach a similar challenge. What we think at a given moment is not necessarily the whole truth, or the only way forward. From what angle are you looking at the problem? Where are you focused? What might you be missing if you don't consider many points of view? How can you look at a wider view of the situation? Get curious and bravely look at all the angles and possibilities.

3. Be patient, courageous, persevere and keep things in perspective. It is normal to feel fear, anxiety, impatience and distress when things go awry. And, it’s easy to lose the true perspective of the impact of the set-back. It takes trust and patience — with yourself and others — as well as determination and courage, to slow down, attain the information you need, and consider many points of view. By patiently doing that, rather than reacting and rushing forward impulsively, you are more able to find a clear and positive path. You are able to persevere and to do what needs to be done — even when none of this was in your plans.

And, when you find yourself pulling through the challenge — both along the way and when you are on the other side of it — be sure to acknowledge what you accomplished. Savor and celebrate your patience, trust and successes. Don’t rush into whatever is next without appreciating and acknowledging your efforts.

These are basic ways you can coach yourself when life unexpectedly throws obstacles in your path. You may have other ideas about how to find and build resilience. Let me know what you think about it and what has worked for you.

The stories we tell ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What if? Why not?

In meeting with a client recently, we talked about what we do when we get stuck, or come to a fork in the road in terms of which ideas to develop. My client said that making two post-it notes, one that says, “What if?” and one that says, “Why not?” have served to inspire great thinking.

So, I started testing it. I’ve found that I love what happens when I have these prompts in front of me — and use them.

I have found that the questions work in a number of ways. “What if?” can stimulate lots of creative possibilities, which is exciting. And, the question can be turned into a challenge for myself — what if I tried something that feels intimidating, or what if I dared to dream bigger? And, “What if?” can make me test the possibilities of things that are not going so well, and consider how I can respond when that’s the case.

“Why not?” is a good way to test my ideas to see if they may be off base, or could be stronger. The question helps me consider the possible downside of an action or approach. It's also a wonderful way to encourage myself — as in, “Why not give it a try?” (And, if I feel resistance, I can explore the root of that response.)

And, right now these questions are helping me focus on a personal matter. I have a date with a surgeon in a couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to get a great deal of work done before then. At the same time, I realize that this is an enormously important time for me to slow down and take care of myself. So, the questions are helping me think about the big picture implications of my decisions in terms of my health.

“What if” I don't make the time to get extra exercise, in order to be as strong and fit as I can be before the surgery? And, “What if” something on my to-do list doesn’t get done and has to wait until I’m able to attend to it in August?

“Why not” decide to simply let myself take it slow for now, so that I will be well rested going into the procedure? “Why not” give myself permision to use the 4 to 6 weeks of recovery for rest, reading, writing and reflection? “Why not” trust that everything will unfold as it’s meant to, and that I will resume my work with more insight, energy, creativity and enthusiasm after this small piece of time? And, the biggest question: “Why not” put myself first when it’s so important?

As many of my readers have heard me espouse, the issue of self-love is enormously important. It is key to opening yourself creatively, and a foundation for living big. Self-care is always essential. Putting ourselves and our wellbeing high on our to-do lists may feel hard to do when we are busy with work, family and friends, volunteer commitments or personal projects. But taking good care of yourself needs to be a priority — even if your don't have a health matter on your mind.

Try using the two questions, “What if?” and “Why not?”. I have found them to be important and useful conversation starters with myself, and I hope that these two simple questions will help you, as well.

How we do anything is how we do everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The magic of making precious time for yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even when life is busy, make time for yourself!

Now that June is here and spring is in full flush, life gets busier than ever for most of us. The invitations and events can be overwhelming, from graduations to end-of-school-year gatherings and other social events, weddings and organizational program offerings, to Father’s Day and family birthdays (at least this is a big birthday season for our family). And, many of us are busy making summer plans — or anticipating the summer plans we've already put on the calendar. It can sometimes feel like the season will rush past and fall will be here in the blink of an eye.

The antidote to all of that busy-ness is to slow down, to savor every day, to create time for yourself. Make time to breathe. Take time to be quiet. Plan time to walk in nature, sip tea quietly with a friend, get enough sleep, read a beautiful book. Use more of your time to BE, rather than DO so much.

One of the beautiful ways to slow down and make YOU a priority is to create. And that can mean a host of things you might not even think of when you consider the idea of “creating”. Here are some ideas:

  • Try carrying a small notebook with you, so you can pull it out and jot down ideas as they pop into your head. Try adding a doodle to embellish your thoughts.
  • Snap photos on your phone when you take the time to notice small wonders around you — things you typically rush by without noticing.
  • Buy an exotic new fruit or vegetable when you come across something unfamiliar at the market, and try fun ways to incorporate it into your next meal.
  • Intentionally take a turn to get lost on your way back from a meeting or outing, and see what you discover.
  • Play — in any way you can think of, whether with a child, or a friend, or by yourself.
  • Of course, you can write a quick poem about a feeling you have, you can strum a guitar, make a sketch, sing, or dance to music you love.

Any and all creative acts liberate your right brain, providing inspiration, more “aha” moments, new insights, and more quiet inside. I expect you will discover that it’s wonderful to slow down and start creating in small ways.

I wish you a season filled with an abundance of joy with friends and family, as well as quiet, creative time for yourself. I would love to hear about the highlights of your season.

A fantastic evening of creativity and cooking

I have long had the idea for offering a special workshop about creativity and cooking. The concept sprang from my focus on the importance of self-love, which is a key condition that enables us to create freely. The way we feed and care for our bodies is an important aspect of self-love. So, I thought, why not help people to bring creativity into the way they prepare food?

It took some time for me to find a partner to make my idea a reality. When I met Amy Lipton, who runs The Joyful Kitchen Cooking School, I knew she had the spirit and energy that would make for a great partnership. And, after taking a private class that she created for me and my husband, I knew my instincts were sound. Amy and I soon set the date for the workshop on April 28, and we were gratified that it sold out within a few hours of offering it to my community. In fact, when we added a second date (in May), that workshop also filled right away.

April 28 arrived, and in came a superb group of 8 women. The chemistry and enthusiasm in Amy's magnificent kitchen was palpable. I shared some key concepts about the nature of creativity and how we can be open, playful and experimental as we cook. Everyone did a writing exercise to loosen up, and then we cooked! 

Amy taught us techniques for creating Vietnamese fresh rolls, seafood and vegetables en papillote, and a fruit crostata. All are fun and surprisingly easy to prepare. For each dish, Amy demonstrated the basic preparation, and the the fun began! Each person made a version of each dish of her own, choosing from a huge variety of ingredients, seasonings and flavors that Amy offered us. And, we ate what we cooked as the evening progress. We savored the fabulous tastes, and compared the variations we'd each created.

The spirited evening was great fun, and eating the results of our efforts was a treat — in every sense of the word! It was lovely to see everyone let herself use interesting and unusual combinations of ingredients and flavors, and to hear about how they want to try and make new variations in their own kitchens.

Amy and I are looking forward to doing the next workshop in May, and are already looking for more dates so we can offer it again this summer. I can't wait!