5 questions to ask yourself now

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Asking yourself good questions is a great technique for getting clear and getting real. Here are five questions I ask my clients — and that I take time to answer for myself — each time we transition to a new quarter. This practice is a great way to check in four times during the year and take stock.


1. Am I being real?

Are you showing up fully and authentically? Or, are you trying to be what you think people expect you to be, or want you to be? Maybe you are afraid to show the world (or segments of the world) your true self — afraid you’ll be “too much,” unliked, or are simply uncomfortable being seen.

If your answer is less than a whole-hearted YES, think about why you may be holding back.

What to do next: If your answer was, "No," consider how you can make a small change, to show up as your true self in a particular situation. Starting with a small effort lets you test this out, and from there you can consciously bring more of yourself into all parts of your life.


2. Am I letting fear take the reins?

This is a big one for all of us. Taking a clear-eyed look at where you may be operating based on fear lets you consciously make shifts that can have a profound impact.

Most of what we fear is not perilous, and can be overcome with clear perspective and getting support.

What to do next: If you are holding back because you are afraid to fail at something new or challenging, try taking baby steps to test the waters.

If you are afraid to speak up about something on your mind, let a trusted friend help you practice ways to express yourself and encourage you to do so.

When you take small steps, and continue taking additional steps, you will gradually build confidence. Things are rarely as scary as they seem when unexamined.


3. Am I living small?

This question holds many more questions, such as:
How can I bring some boldness into my life?
How can I take steps to embark on a burning desire?
How can I lead in new ways?

What to do next: Pick one way you see that you are living small and explore at least five ideas for small steps that can open you up in new ways.Then pick one to test now.


4. Am I taking action?

Some of us are full of ideas, but hesitant when it comes to implementing them. Some of us habitually procrastinate. Some of us feel stuck — around a particular issue, or in general. All of these can drag us down, and often cause pressure and stress.

What to do next: If you realize that there are ways you are not taking action, this is the time to begin committing to taking small, consistent steps. Once you begin, momentum can build. And even if you hit rough patches along the way, the flow and energy you’ll experience when you commit to ongoing action will amaze you.


5. Am I celebrating my wins?

High achievers typically feel the need to do big, heroic things to feel worthy of celebration.

The truth is that when we acknowledge and celebrate micro-wins we have the satisfaction of accomplishment. It’s a big deal for our brains to get a boost like that. And it gives us energy to continue down the path we have set.

What to do next: Celebrate small wins like three straight days of keeping a commitment to stay in action around a particular initiative; or inviting someone to have a conversation you’ve been putting off; or (finally) asking someone for help.


The common thread.

You have probably noticed that small steps are the key to living more authentically, to living without fear, to shifting from keeping yourself small, to getting into flow and building momentum, and to reaping the benefits of celebrating your wins. All of these are doable if you set the bar low enough that you can clear it with ease. And when you continue to take small, doable steps, learning and adjusting as you go forward, the impact adds up dramatically.

Drop me a note, or leave a comment to share the insights that come up for you when you answer these questions. And, tell me about the small steps you are committing to taking, too.

Start taking a small step or two today, keep it going, and imagine what it will feel like to have truly moved the needle by the time the next quarter rolls around.


How to get past the diabolical duo of fear and perfectionism

There's a strange paradox I see all the time. Accomplished professional women who strive to build great careers, launch businesses, or make big shifts in their personal or professional lives often trip themselves up.

So many of these women have big ambitions, big ideas, and even big plans but can’t get things moving. Or they make a start and can’t build momentum.

What holds them back?

Two big culprits are fear and perfectionism — and often a combination of the two. These two forces are the underlying issues that keep so many people playing it safe (tweet this).

They slow them down — or keep things from getting started at all.

“It’s not good enough yet.”

Have you said these words to yourself?

You’ve been thinking, planning, and laying groundwork for something new and important. Maybe you’ve prototyped a new product, or completed rigorous training, or see the opportunity to build an awesome business. Maybe you’ve gone as far as building a new website. But the thought of actually showing it to the world or taking the next steps feels terrifying.

After all, what if it’s not good enough — or you’re not good enough? What if people won’t like it? What if you’ll be judged — by a relative, a colleague, or in the vast social media world?

Fears like these, that sit atop the perceived need for everything to be perfect, have stopped many worthy and important new things from getting off the ground.

Here are 3 ways you can turn things around

1. Stop listening to the fear

Focusing your time and energy on more refinement or additional preparation — or holding off on taking action — may feel like a safe way to protect yourself. But this is actually a way of telling yourself, “I’m willing to stay where I am right now.” 

If that’s not what you want, I’m here to tell you that you have the power to choose not to let the thoughts that drive perfectionism and fear rule you. 

It may sound simple (and maybe a little odd), but when you hear thoughts like those you can talk back to them.

Start by acknowledging them. Be aware that these thoughts are your ego piping up, trying to maintain the status quo (which feels oh so comfortable). 

This is your opportunity to be compassionate to that voice, but to firmly tell it you are in change and you’re running the show. 

Will it feel easy to do that? Probably not. But when you want something that’s important to you, you are called on to step out of your comfort zone and bring some boldness to the matter. 

And, remember that there is no such thing as “perfect.” So, share that news, too, when you respond to your fearful thoughts.
(You can read more about perfectionism and what to do about it here.)

2. Take action

Taking action — including some risks — is always the path to learning, growth, building confidence, and ultimately to reaching new and exciting places in your life.

Remember how many times Thomas Edison tried and failed before he created a light bulb that worked (he made 1000 attempts!). What if he had never started, or felt he needed the perfect solution right off the bat, or was so worried about how people would judge him that he did not get started, or became so discouraged along the way that he gave up?

Start with small steps and keep going — every small step counts. Stepping out of your comfort zone this way is not as hard as you might imagine. Continued action builds momentum. And you will find that action keeps fear at bay. 

3. Ramp up self-love

The foundation that will support you to implement steps one and two is actively emphasizing self-love.

If you have been following my work for a while, this concept will be familiar to you. If not — or if you want a refresher on the topic — here's an article that’s devoted to this important topic.

When you cultivate appreciation for all of your gifts, when you feel deserving of goodness in your life, and when you joyously love the amazing person you are, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to stand up to fear, ease up on perfectionism, and take action.

Drop me a note or comment below to let me know how playing it safe has been getting in your way and how these three strategies are making a difference.

And, if you think that coaching may help you to bring the important changes into your life that you desire, let’s talk. Take a few minutes and complete my Coaching Inquiry Form and I’ll be in touch to schedule a complimentary conversation.

Make this your day to step up and start creating something big in your life!

Creating light in dark days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say, “No!”

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

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

1. Slow down. Be still.

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

2. Live without fear.

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

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

3. Tap your passion.

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

4. Live boldly.

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

5. Create!

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

6. Be patient.

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

7. Carry on.

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

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

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

How to access all of your own wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

The right hemisphere of our brain 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 override 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, 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.

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 setback, 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 breathe 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.

Does creativity excite you or scare you?

When people ask me about my work and I describe my workshops and my new Creative Drop-ins, I usually get one of two types of responses. Some people hear that at the workshops you spend a day to learn about and experience creativity, and they are excited about the idea of being a part of it. And, they hear about the weekly evening Creative Drop-in sessions for free-flowing creative fun, and are eager to experience it.

Others say, “Oh, that’s not for me!” And, often they add, “I’m not creative.”

Typically, people think they need to be “an artist” or “artistic” to be creative. While my programs employ making art as a way to experience creativity, they also include writing, movement, and discussions about creativity that range from activating creativity when cooking to increasing creativity in the workplace. The emotion that’s surfacing for people who have the second response is usually related to fear. For some of us, the idea of being relaxed and creating freely is intimidating. For some it’s completely unimaginable, and maybe even terrifying.

Why can something as amazing as letting yourself freely create be so frightening? There are many reasons. Maybe some of them are familiar to you, or to someone you know. Here are a few cases to consider.

One woman who came to my workshop a year ago said that when she was in the second grade the nuns told her that she was not creative. She had shut that part of herself down for nearly four decades until she decided to come to a workshop and see what it would feel like to connect to the creativity that I assured her she was born with (as we all are). She has been back since, and has been loving what she experienced and the way it has shifted so many things for her.

One person who attended a workshop is an engineer and had recently been promoted to lead an R&D team. She had never done much creative exploration and felt the time had come to figure out how creativity worked, to be an effective leader. She discovered that her own creativity was brilliant. As well, she found a personal resource that has enriched her life as she has embarked on new and exciting challenges.

One person is a researcher who never had a personal source of creative expression. She always focused solely on her family’s needs in her spare time. After a friend encouraged her to come to a workshop, she struggled to find a creative path that excited her. In time, she realized that spending time in nature and nurturing a garden really delighted her. She (and her family) have worked and played in her 15’ “victory garden” this season, and she is now harvesting the last of the vegetables and flowers they have grown in that lush garden.

I am another case in point. Sadly, as a young child everything I created was severely criticized. I soon felt it was safer not to draw or paint than to risk feeling the shame of being told I should be able to make better pictures. For me, the urge to create was strong enough that I pursued a BFA degree — but in college, and after, my creativity was strictly channeled to designing for clients. I never expressed myself through color, drawing, painting, sculpture, poetry or any other form of personal creativity. I was paralyzed at the thought of creating anything from my own heart until a few years ago when I was invited to attend an Intuitive Painting workshop. In the 2 days I spent at that workshop my life changed! The terror I had always felt evaporated when I had a safe, non-judgemental place to open up and discover that I — and everyone else at the workshop — had enormous creativity that just needed a safe place to emerge. That experience launched me on the path to immersing myself in new educational adventures and training, and to the the work I do now.

A wonderful thing for me has been seeing so many people who have felt nervous about attending a workshop or a Creative Drop-in and yet have decided to come and give it a try. I’m glad to say that nobody has freaked out! Their reactions have ranged from, “That was really ok!” to being delighted and amazed at what it was like to open and express themselves and feel the joy of creating. Most rewarding of all for me has been hearing numerous stories about how the creative experiences have impacted people as they’ve moved through their lives.

If you feel fear or anxiety arise at the thought of creating, you are welcome to get in touch with me. I truly understand that fear, and I would love to help you find the courage to safely and lovingly experience the joy of creating in a way that will feed your heart and your spirit.