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!


Thoughts about love on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love is the focus of the day and I want to share some thoughts on the ways that love and creativity are closely related.

The power of love is legendary. Thinking about love in terms of the people who love us and those we love comes naturally. But few of us think about self-love, which is crucial for our happiness, our relationships, and as a foundation for creativity of all kinds.

A common misconception is that it’s selfish to think about loving yourself, but self-love is neither narcissistic nor selfish. It’s healthy and wonderful to make yourself a priority and love yourself, in much the way that you feel warm, excited, adoring feelings when you think of a person you dearly love. These are feelings of delight that you can cultivate for yourself.

Fall in love with yourself! Just as you want to give gifts to people you love, give yourself gifts. You deserve them. Give yourself time to do things you love. Give yourself the treat of popping in to a shop that delights you. Take a trip to someplace you've longed to visit. If you are busily doing only for others, you're neglecting yourself. And, when you put yourself last, you cannot give as much to others.

Self-love is also about forgiving yourself and accepting yourself. Most of us are much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. That's the sign of a harsh self-critic, and for some, a self-critic that's out of control. Healthy, robust self-love is the antidote.

Cultivating self-love fuels a happy life. And, self-love is a key foundation of creativity. When self-love is missing the self-critic has free reign and creativity is stifled. Nobody can feel free to experiment, play, create, make mistakes and move on from from them, try out new ways to express themselves or find novel ways to solve problems when that self-critical voice is putting you down (and often making you afraid to even try). Do you see how this works? How self-love is the antidote to the negativity that hampers us and limits our potential?

I hope that this Valentine’s Day will be a celebration of vibrant love — for those dearest to you and for yourself.