Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peace On Earth

Snowy christmas trees
Originally uploaded by xtremepeaks
For a moment, stop thinking about shopping, baking, decorating, rushing, finishing up work projects, sending out cards, or attending parties. For a moment, put down your pen, your phone, your credit card, and dwell on peace. Whatever peace means to you, close your eyes and think about it, visualize it. Will you do that now?

Today translate those thoughts and the feelings behind them into all of your interactions and spoken words. Make peace the theme for your day. Isn't that all we can do?

In a world that is broken by war, violence, sadness, and hatred, all you can do is bring peace to your own day. One person at a time.

One of my favorite songs (sung at nearly every Unity church) is Let There Be Peace On Earth by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller. Unity has chaned the lyrics slightly, but I like their version very much.

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our father,
Brothers all are we.
Let us walk with our brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Wishing you a peaceful and joyous Christmas and holiday season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happiness Pie

Spread Happiness
Originally uploaded by beforethecoffee
Stop reading this right now, and ask yourself, "Are you happy?" If not, why are you unhappy? If so, to what do you attribute your happiness? For most people, happiness or unhappiness hinges on something outside of us -- how we look, how much money we have, what kind of relationship we are in, our job, our boss, our stuff, our power. Is that you?

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychologist who has spent the majority of her research career studying happiness and whether a person's happiness can be measurably increased. She's even written a book about it called The How of Happiness. If you look at your state of happiness as a pie, fifty percent of the happiness pie is set by your genes. Some people are just predisposed to being happier than others. As for the other half, just ten percent of one's happiness can be attributed to something outside of us. Getting married, having wealth, buying a new car, getting a facelift, buying a new dress. All of these things bring us a temporary boost in happiness, but then we fall back to our "set point." It's a wonder that we spend 99% of our effort on pursuits that affect our happiness by just ten percent. And that boost doesn't even last very long. Yet we keep spinning our wheels chasing stuff and people and money.

Ah, but there is that remaining forty percent. Here's what Dr. Luybomirsky suggests about the rest of the pie. "My colleagues and I believe that sustainable increases in happiness are possible through the practice of intentional cognitive, motivational, and behavioral activities that are feasible to deploy but require daily and concerted effort and commitment."

So what are these magical activities? Well, they are things your mom or grandmother probably told you. You've seen them on bumper stickers, posters with furry kittens, and refrigerator magnets. You've probably blown them off as trite and cliche, but you are wrong. Done regularly and with intention, research has proven that these activities can raise your level of happiness by forty percent.

First, count your blessings. Yep, regularly set aside time to express gratitude through reflection, a journal, or letter writing.

Second, think positively. Focus your thoughts on happy times and goals for the future.

Third, practice kindness. Commit to acts of kindness and altruism on a regular basis.

Dr. Luybomirsky recommends that you mix things up a bit to keep it interesting. Don't practice the exact same thoughts or activities in the same way every day. Otherwise you'll get bored and the work will become meaningless. But do one of these activities every single day.

If you find yourself sinking into a bad mood or having negative thoughts, in your mind scream, "STOP". Force yourself to shift to positive memories or reflection. Reach out to someone else and be kind to them. Write down a list of all of the things in life for which you are grateful. Then enjoy a big slice of happiness pie!

Monday, November 23, 2009

In All Things, Give Thanks

This is Thanksgiving week and my teenage children have reacted in horror to the announcement that we are eating out for Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, they don't comprehend the depth of my gratitude that others are cooking for us this year. One day . . .

This is the week, not too many years ago, when these same children would "host" a Thanksgiving feast at their preschool. Parents would arrive solemnly to the sound of Indian drumbeat and would sit in tiny chairs, knees to nose. We would be adorned with hand-crafted Pilgrim headgear and sing "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing," accompanied by earnest, beautiful little voices. This ceremony was followed by a paper plate feast of turkey roll-ups, cheese sticks, and a juice box. In all things, give thanks.

I cherish this memory. I am grateful for the days of making pinecone turkeys and reading stories about the Mayflower and Miles Standish and the first feast with Squanto and the Indians. I am grateful for the days spent chopping celery and onions and yanking bags of innards from the turkey cavity, often after the turkey was cooked. This year I am grateful for a daughter returning home for the holiday, a house that doesn't have to be cleaned, and for those who will prepare the feast for me.

I am grateful for very simple things too. The view out my office window. The comfort of my own bed. The sound of quiet.

This is Thanksgiving week, and as you gather together with family and friends, reflect on those things profound or simple for which you are grateful. Count your blessings and remember the good in life. In all things, give thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are You Worried? (Part 2 About Your Brain)

Originally uploaded by hkvam
In my previous blog entry, I wrote about this amazing book, The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D. As I continue to read it, I'm struck by how much control we really have over our mental and physical well-being. How our brains are malleable and can respond to visualization and repetitive learning or exercise. I just finished a chapter that applies to all of us at some point in our lives. It's about worry and how we can stop it.

Doidge begins by talking about people with OCD (obsessive-compulisive disorder). This is worry gone wild. Chronic anxiety caused by out-of-control, exaggerated thinking. Like Jack Nicholson in the movie As Good As It Gets. He's a germaphobic, constantly washing his hands and engaging in obsessive behaviors like avoiding sidewalk cracks and locking and unlocking his door multiple times. He's trapped in his loopy behaviors and worries.

OCD traditionally has been treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, having people focus on the content of the symptoms, then incrementally exposing them to the source of their fears. This has had mixed results, especially with severe cases. But the laws of neuroplasticity suggest that focusing on the symptoms only reinforces them in the brain. A new therapy is emerging that can unlock the OCD brain, growing new brain circuits that replace bad behaviors with better ones.

The therapy involves some specific steps. First, the person having the attack re-labels what is happening to him, realizing that his current experience is not an attack of germs (or whatever) but an episode of OCD. Re-labeling allows the person to get some distance from the content of the episode, the same way Buddhists "observe" during meditation and separate themselves from their minds. The next step is to refocus on a positive, pleasure-giving activity the moment the OCD attack begins, replacing fear thoughts with pleasure thoughts. This activity "changes the channel" and forces the thoughts in a different direction. It doesn't matter if the OCD sufferer is still feeling the anxiety. It's repetitively, intensively applying the technique that counts. After a time, the brain "unlocks" and the OCD episodes get less and less intense.

How does this apply to you? We all worry and get anxious. Sometimes it's mild, but often it can be debilitating. You fret, you think about the worst case scenarios, you dwell on the content of your anxiety. But this only strengthens the fear connections in your brain. Rarely does the content of your anxiety justify the suffering.

The next time you get into a worry phase, test out the neuroplasticity therapy. Re-label what's happening to you. The sky isn't falling, it's just an episode of anxiety. Then force yourself to refocus your thoughts on something pleasant, even if you don't feel it. You must use your will for this, refocusing for 15-20 minutes. Like exercise. You will weaken the worry link, and soon your mind will unlock and the anxiety will dissipate. You are free to be productive again. You have the power to change yourself. I challenge you to give it a try!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Go Grow Your Brain

Neurons in the brain
Originally uploaded by Hljod.Huskona
Did you know that you can use your mind to rewire your brain? What a mind-blowing idea. I've been reading this book, The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, MD. It's about the science of neuroplasticity and the discovery that our brain is not fixed or hard-wired. It is endlessly adaptable and dynamic and has the power to change its own structure, even for those with the severe neurological afflictions. People with problems like strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can re-wire their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities and completely change their brains and their lives. Amazing.

Now here's the really exciting part. Our brains don't have to stop changing, even as we get old. Through continued learning, new connections can form between neurons, and the structure of existing synapses can change. In other words, areas in your brain keep growing if you keep learning through repitition and practice. In fact, brain deterioration can be reversed by twenty to thirty years. Just like exercise, you have to use it or lose it. The more adept you become at the skill you are learning, the more your brain grows and supports the learning. Go figure.

Does it get better? Yep. Thought and imagination also can change your brain and rewire it for positive change. Here's an example. In December 2007, Men's Health magazine detailed a study in which participants visualized themselves doing bicep curls. They did no weightlifting at all, yet their average bicep size grew by 13%. You can imagine yourself into all kinds of wonderful changes for the better. And think of the impact of imagination combined with action. You could soar. Studies also have been done related to meditation. Avid meditators can grow the areas of their brains related to compassion, peace of mind and happiness. If all of our world leaders meditated daily, we might have the prescription for world peace.

The unfortunate part of knowing your brain is changeable is losing your box of excuses for living in Mediocreland. I'm too old. I'm not creative. I'm not smart enough. I'm not good at that. Those don't fly anymore. If you keep learning, if you keep imagining, if you keep thinking, your brain will grow. Your possibilities will be endless. Your dreams will become reality. It will be mind-blowing. Go think on that!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paint Your Days

Sunrise Flare
Originally uploaded by nobleup
Your days are numbered. That sounds really scary, doesn't it? But the reality of this fact can be transformational if you wake up right now. In fact, you can even make time expand for yourself if you start today, this moment, living creativly and with intention.

Consider this. The average life expectancy in the United States is around 80 years. Knowing your own age, you can figure out about how many days you have left on this beautiful Earth. I'm guessing that if I take good care of myself and stay healthy, I have somewhere between 13,000 to 15,000 days remaining. That sounds like a lot, but it's still a finite number.

In a 24 hour day, we spend 6-8 hours sleeping and probably another 10-12 working and doing other extraneous activities that must be done -- getting dressed, cleaning, running errands, doing chores, etc. That's 16-20 hours of your day spent sleeping, working or doing things that are either neutral or a pain in the butt. And if you don't like your job, you are really living most of your day uncreatively and frustrated. Add up those hours, and you've consumed nearly three quarters of your days on Earth alive but not really living. Is that what you want?

If you can shift your thinking a bit, you might see that each remaining day is a beautiful, incredible, glorious gift. If you shift your thinking you might decide, or even demand, that you start living consciously and creatively. So what does that mean? For me it means reclaiming as much of my day as possible for living that brings me joy and meaning and contentment. I want all of my days to be lived that way. I only have a few thousand left!

If you see your day as a blank canvas, start with your vision of the completed masterpiece and work backward. What do you want for today and for every day of your life? I want fulfilling work. I want to experience beauty. I want to interact with loving family and friends. I want to learn. I want to enjoy nature. Filling your day with more of what you want and less of what you don't want takes some courageous action. You might decide you need a different job. You might need to let go of some unhealthy relationships. You might have to simplify your life with less stuff and fewer commitments.You might have to let go of fear of failure or being too old or unable to change. These bold actions might take a little time. But not taking them will steal nearly all of your time.

When your day becomes your own self-created masterpiece, time slows down. You are savoring time instead of killing it. You are living in the moment instead of for the next moment. There will be stuff that still needs doing -- neutral or unpleasant stuff. So here's another secret to slowing down time: even with this stuff, stay in the present moment. Do these tasks with intention and focus -- even with gratitude. If you are distracted, you are in the future, and you've given away the now. Give away enough nows, and you've lost days, weeks, even years. You have the power to make even the most unpleasant now a moment of your own creation. With intentional living, you will have less and less of these unpleasant moments.

Now imagine your remaining day on Earth. You are looking back on the canvas of your life. How do you want it to look? Is it splattered with the paint of fearful, boring and unconscious living? Or is it an exquisite masterpiece of your creation, artfully and lovingly rendered by your own bold hand?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be? I'm not asking who you are or what kind of life you want to have, but who do you want to be? One of my favorite literary characters of all time is Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. Gregory Peck played the role in the movie, and he captured the character as the quintessential father and a man of compassion, honor and integrity. I wanted to know him, and I wanted to be like him.

Role models are a good way of beginning to define who we want to be. It may not be Atticus for you, but you know the people whose demeanor, behavior, attitudes and values are inspiring and motivating for you. Sometimes we look at those people and think, "I wish I could be like that." They have their act together, but I'm too emotional, angry, sad, insecure -- whatever your story happens to be. We feel stuck in our feelings and heartaches and life events. We want to indulge our anger and feel self-righteous about our pain.We feel incapable of becoming the who we want to be. Life throws too much at us. We must react.

In relationships we seem to step farthest away from the who we want to be. We defend our turf or our story. We lash out because we've been wounded or misunderstood, and we want to equalize the pain. But is that really the highest vision we have for ourselves?

Living that vision of being our highest self, the who we want to be, is not impossible to achieve. In fact, it is profoundly simple. First, you must take the time to decide who you want to be. You need to sit down with paper and pen and write down the qualities of this person, this new you. I want to be a person who is honest. I want to be a person who doesn't yell at my children. I want to be a person who follows through on commitments. I want to be a person who solves conflicts without condemning or belittling.

Then you must cloak yourself in that robe. You must wear the robe until it becomes your own skin. Until you become your own role model, an inspiration for others, the who you dreamed of being. If you must pretend at first, then do it. Act as if. In your next encounter with your misbehaving children, act as if you are the calm mother next door. The next conflict you have with your spouse, act as if you are capable of giving unconditional love and support -- and then give it. In spite of their reactions, comments, misunderstandings. Be a creator, not a reactor. Don't give away your vision just to defend your ego. It's never worth it.

We struggle and struggle to make everyone else become the who we want them to be. But there is only one who whom we can control. Ourselves. Find out who you want to be. Then go be it. Before you know it, that who will be you.

Friday, October 16, 2009


My friend Elizabeth is a great mom. She's the kind of mom that makes a fresh, hot breakfast for her kids every day and handmakes crafts and toys. She's also whacked the head off a snake in her yard that was bothering her boys (while she was wearing her nightgown no less). I think about her in disbelief sometimes as I hand my kids a frozen waffle. She approaches motherhood fearlessly and with loving commitment, and yet sometimes she can feel quite bereft about her parenting abilities. (Can't we all?)

The other day she called me and told me about her day. Dishes, dog throw-up, sick child, carpool, school meeting, grocery store. We mothers need to do that -- rattle off the litany of activities that comprise our day. With no one around but small children or surly teens who could care less about the details of the day, moms in particular need to proclaim to someone, "Look here now! I've done something with this day." I like to let my mom friends know, "Yes indeed, you have done something, and I for one applaud you." It may have been so tedious that your eyes were glazing over or so tiring that you find yourself standing in the kitchen wondering why you're there. But it needs acknowledgement. Just a word or two - "I see what you've done, and it makes a difference." It can sometimes move an unsuspecting parent to tears.

I am learning in coaching school that acknowledgement is essential to the one being coached. To anyone really. Taking action can be really hard. Every step, every movement toward a passion, a goal or a dream should be acknowledged and celebrated. Steve Chandler, a great coach and author, says that you don't need to have motivation. Just take action. Some kind of action. You don't have to be inspired to write. Just start writing. You don't have to feel energized for that exercise program. Just put on your sneakers and take a walk. You don't have to feel loving to give your child a hug. Just hug them. Action begets action and motivation follows. With each tiny step, acknowledge yourself. Or take a moment to acknowledge someone else on the path. Whether a mom or a dad or a business leader or a teacher or a child.

Acknowledge the struggles, recognize the actions, celebrate the accomplishments. Acknowledgement is like a shot in the arm, a ticket to ride, a cool breeze. It can make the journey lighter and more interesting. Because someone sees that you've done something. And it makes a difference.

Acknowledge someone today. And then acknowledge yourself for taking action.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Standing On The Edge

Life is an adventure pulsing,
Waiting to be claimed,
To be molded and formed
Into the design of your making.

It is an instant on the edge
Of some wild cliff where you teeter,
Then fall with arms outstretched,
Knowing the universe will catch you and hold you
In a tender embrace.

Life is a glorious hiccup in time, a flickering star.
Hold it like a delicate flower, then fling it to the sky
With wild abandon, with laughter, with utmost love.
Until your heart bursts opens and blooms,
And a million radiant gems scatter down upon you.

You are a living, breathing slice of eternity
For whom you are named and given essence.
It is your obligation to make your namesake proud,
To suck the juice from the marrow of the moment
And savor every breath, every tear, every thing.

Awaken now! Turn the potter's wheel and press the clay.
The fire has forged you and made you new. The cliff is calling.
Close your eyes, fall forward with the wind at your face.
Smiling and knowing that creation has begun.

Love the fall. Love the wind. Love the arms that catch you.
They are your own.

-Barrie Davenport

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dig Deep

a little digging
Originally uploaded by edartr
My friend Laura is a digger. She also is a finder and a seeker. (And a keeper!) She is always digging within to find what's real for herself beyond what everyone around her defines her to be. She seeks meaning and purpose daily.

Laura appears to have it all, and for the most part she does. She's beautiful, funny, a great friend, talented and smart -- the glowing adjectives could be endless. But as Laura says, these descriptions (as nice as they are) are like the wads of chewing gum people stick to you. For good or bad, throughout a lifetime, you continue to morph into what other people perceive you to be. Sometimes that's hard to live down -- and even worse to continue to live up to.

But Laura keeps digging under the chewing gum. She wants to live authentically, even if it means discarding some of those sticky wads that can shape us and limit us. Laura wants to live a creative life and a life that she has created. A life that has more on the list of "things I love to do" and less on the "things that must get done" list. The latter list is like kudzu -- it can take over without a purpose to keep it in line.

Creating your own life means having a purpose, being bold, and designing a plan. And to do that, you must keep asking questions of yourself. Who am I? What do I value? What do I want from life?

Here's a daily email meditation Laura sent me recently about the digging required to find purpose. I think it could be her mantra. Try it out for yourself . Maybe it can be yours too.

Look for the reasons behind the reasons. There is some reason
for everything you have chosen to do or to be.

Behind each reason is another reason that drives it, and a
whole string of reasons, reaching to your very core. Dig
deep enough, and connect with your most treasured purposes.

The more clearly you know who you are, the more elevated
your perspective becomes. Develop a solid understanding of
your very own fundamental reasons why, and you'll find
multiple opportunities for moving forward.

When you're in touch with your purpose, you'll find that
many of the external things you see as necessities are not
really necessities at all. The less you need, the more
abundant and fulfilling your life will be.

Know why you do what you do, and you'll understand how to do
it more effectively. When there is authentic passion driving
your actions, those actions get results.

Where there is a real and meaningful reason, fulfillment
naturally follows. Find your deepest reason why, and
activate your most powerful abilities to make it so.

Ralph Marston

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Books From the Universe

Books are for Throwing
Originally uploaded by Andross
Have you ever had a book claim you? I have. In fact, it happens to me all the time. I'll be walking through a bookstore, and a book will fly off the shelf and boink me in the head. I call these "books from the universe" because they clearly want me to read them. Or something does. Granted, there are lots of attractive books on the shelves that look intriguing just by the title and cover art. I've picked up hundreds and bought them because the story looks good, I like the author, or a friend has recommended it.

But I'm talking about books that might be homely or hidden or previously not on your radar screen that somehow come to your attention in the bookstore. You're walking along thinking about finding a mystery or a bodice ripper, and suddenly a kooky little book will distract you. You start flipping through it, and the next thing you know, it's in your bag on the way home with you.

Recently, I had a very clever book come from the universe right through my computer. I was doing some research for my coaching work, and this very persistent book kept aggravating me for attention. It's called Fearless, Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can, by Steve Chandler.

Now I had never heard of the book or Steve Chandler, but I read the reviews, and they were pretty glowing. By now, having been boinked by a book many, many times, I gave up the ghost and bought the thing without much further ado. Steve is a life coach, so I figured I might learn something from a guy whose published a book. Boy was that an understatement. The universe really knew what it was doing with this one.

I don't want to ruin the book for you if the universe decides to chunk it at you, but suffice it to say, there's some really good stuff in it. Like this amazing idea: fear isn't real. It's just a thought about something from the past that's already gone or something in the future that hasn't happened. And you can analyze a thought, and break it down, and look at it every which way. And darn it, if most of the time that thought doesn't hold water. So the fear kind of evaporates. He has lots of stories to illustrate this, so don't spend too much time trying to debunk it before you read the book. Like my 12-year-old daughter did: "But mom, what if it's a lion." So OK, you can be afraid of a lion (if he's in the same room with you).

He also offers this other great gem which seems so obvious but was a huge revalation to me: you can't be a success unless you are a failure. If you live your life only inside of your safety zone, never trying anything new or allowing yourself to fall on your face, then you don't grow and learn and become successful. You must fail and fail and fail to be a success. Otherwise, you just become Mediocre Man or Woman, as Steve likes to say. Did I mention he is very funny too? The universe has a sense of humor. Thank God.

I don't know if Steve's book will be a universe dropping for you like it has been for me. But there's a lot to be gained from reading it anyway. And he mentions lots of other great books, and great teachers, and has many profound insights. And he seems like a nice guy. That's always a plus.

If you haven't ever been bruised by a book from the universe, I highly recommend it. If it's your first time, I'd suggest you open yourself up to the idea before you walk into the bookstore. Kinda casual. Like, "Ok universe, I'm here for John Grisham, but if you have something you want me to read, I'll take a look." You might be surprised at what falls on your head. It could be life changing!

If you are interested in Steve's books or his work, please visit his web site listed on my links on the right side of this page. Happy reading!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Originally uploaded by peterbaker

There are two things I used to do that I try not to do so much of anymore: buy stuff and do stuff.

I spent years of my younger adult life accumulating things or thinking about how I could accumulate them or why I deserved to accumulate them even if we couldn't afford them. Clothes, furniture, gadgets, gee gaws, doo dads, you name it. I would walk into a mall with all of the glittery stuff that shouted, "You need me!", and I'd be almost delirious with want, want, want. I didn't have a shopping addiction or go on spending sprees. Well, maybe sometimes. But it wasn't what the world or Oprah would label a problem. (Maybe because much of my world suffers from the same affliction.)

The problem was inside of me. I thought all of that stuff could define who I was to everyone else. Hmm. Nice house, great decor, cool clothes, shiny car. She must have her act together. She's really someone. But the problem is, to keep feeling like you are really someone, you have to keep buying the stuff. More and more and more stuff. Until you don't have any more room for stuff, but you still need to feel like somebody special.

The other side of this coin was all the time I spent doing stuff. The more stuff I could fit into a day, the more accomplished I appeared and felt. Like most of us multi-tasking moms, I took great pride in the fact that I could prepare six meals before sunrise, clean the house, drive carpool, work part-time, all while spinning plates on my head and playing the piano with my toes. But it was exhausting.

I was an exhausted woman with lots of stuff. I didn't feel like having people over to look at my stuff. I didn't have time anyway. And they had their own stuff to look at with no time to look at mine. How can you be somebody if nobody is looking at your stuff or seeing how much you can cram into a day? So if all of the stuff and doing doesn't define me, who the heck am I?

One day I woke up. I'm not sure exactly how. Maybe just getting older makes you realize some valuable things. Now I walk around my house looking at stuff and thinking about how I can get rid of it. Rooms we never use full of furniture. Closests full of clothes that don't see the light of day. The idea of one of those cool, clean loft apartments with lots of light and minimal furniture seems very appealing right now!

And then somewhere I read these amazing words: "Stop intending to do so much, and start doing less with more intention." Wow. Those words stopped me in my tracks. What if I actually enjoyed the things I was doing, because I chose them carefully, did them slowly and with intention. So some of the things on my "to do" list didn't get done that day. Would that be horrible? Then I could really appreciate, savor, and truly experience the doing of whatever I'm doing. It's kind of a zen thought -- be in the moment of what you are doing without thinking about getting to the next thing.

Consider this monumental shift for a moment: Simplify your life. Get rid of clutter. Give things away. Stop buying so much. Take things off your plate. Slow down.

It's not a race or a competition. Enjoy life and savor it. I think that's why we're here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Are You Coachable?

When I first heard about Life Coaching, I thought it sounded kind of new agey. Like the way you might think about crystals -- they sound nice and look pretty, but can they really do anything? Now I know better about coaching (the jury is still out on crystals), and since I've been training with corporate leaders, VP's of human resources, PhD's in psychology, and other muckedy mucks, I figure if it's a fluke, I'm in good company.

But it isn't a fluke. Life coaching generates great results for people. That's why corporations, executives, athletes, and celebrities hire coaches all the time. (See this New York Times article about coaching:

But it also helps people like you and me discover who we are, what motivates us, what our goals are, and how to achieve them. Here's an example on a smaller scale. A friend asks you to go for a run. "Come on," they might say. "You said you wanted to lose weight and it'll be fun running together." So surprise -- you've just been coached. You've been motivated, inspired, and you have someone to whom you are accountable. Life coaching is the same, but on a more profound level with long-lasting results. If you work with a coach, you will grow and grow and grow.

You might think you don't need a coach. And maybe you don't. But before you blow it off completely, ask yourself this question: "Am I coachable?" Is there any area of your life, work, relationships, finances, or enviroment that could use improvement? Are you interested in self discovery and thinking outside of the box? Would it be easier to do these things with someone trained to help you? Do you have the real desire for something better?

There's really nothing to lose. Most coaches offer a complimentary session up front so you can get a feel for what it's all about. If you are a business owner or a parent or an athlete or a student, or anyone who wants to move forward, coaching will help you achieve what you want.

Here are some of the results you can expect from coaching:

1. Discover what is out of balance with your life by looking at who you are now and what you need to change.

2. Determine what is sapping your energy and how to eliminate these drains in your life.

3. Envision and define what a really fulfilling life looks like for you.

4. Decide what your priorities are and how to stay focused on achieving your goals.

5. Focus on your values and align your external life with your internal beliefs.

6. Unhinge yourself from beliefs and patterns that are holding you back from what you want to achieve.

7. Make profound shifts in your way of seeing yourself and the world, allowing you to move in directions you never even considered!

If you are interested in learning more about coaching and how it might benefit you, I invite you to email me at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting To Know You

Do you really know yourself? That question always has intrigued me, and as an INFJ, it's only natural that I would spend a lot of time and thought figuring out who I am, what motivates me, and what my passions are.

For those of you who aren't INFJ's or who haven't explored character and temperament types, an INFJ is just one of sixteen personality types commonly associated with the model of personality development created by Isabel Briggs Myers, the author of the world's most widely used personality inventory, the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. ® Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, developed their model and inventory around the ideas and theories of psychologist Carl Jung.

There are four pairs of preferences in typing:

-extroversion (E) or introversion (I);
-sensation (S) or intuition (N);
-thinking (T) or feeling (F)
-perceiving (P) or judging (J).

We all have elements of each of these functions, but we differ in the degree of preference we have for choosing one way of doing or being over another. Thus, the sixteen combinations.

So, why does this matter? For me, it is simply fascinating. I love learning about myself and other people. But typing has a much more profound and practical application. People are different and have different motives, values, drives, etc. They perceive and believe differently. And in spite of knowing about these variations in behavior, most people see others' differences as some manifestation of being bad, stupid, or crazy. We naturally tend to see people's differences as a kind of character flaw in them. But if you understood them, what makes them tick and how they experience the world, imagine the positive implications for your personal and professional relationships!

As an INFJ, I love to focus on possibilities and interact with people individually or in small groups. Put me in a solo job where I have to follow detailed instructions or assemble something, and I'm bound to start chewing my ankle off. Employers utilize type testing all the time to help them figure out where people belong within an organization and how to take advantage of their natural abilities and preferences.

But I think on a personal level, understanding your own type and the types of those close to you could put us on the road to world peace! Perhaps that's stretching it, but you get my drift. If you understood that your friend isn't being "too sensitive" when her feelings get hurt, but that emotional sensitivity is part of her natural make-up, then you learn to engage with her in a different way.

I love this quote from Please Understand Me, Character & Temperament Types, by David Keisey and Marilyn Bates:

"If I do not want what you want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong.

Or if I believe other than you, at least pause before you correct my view.

Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly.

Or yet if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, let me be.

I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will come only when you are willing to give up changing me into a copy of you."

If you are intersted in taking the Myers-Briggs personality sorter, contact a coach or psychologist trained in administering the test. You can take a shorter version online at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Larry and Jody

Bowl of clouds
Originally uploaded by kevindooley
I have these friends, Larry and Jody. They are the coolest couple. They have always been cool, but in the last few years they are more than cool. They are amazing. I've known them for years. Mostly Jody, since both of our daughters have been training together as ballet dancers, and Jody and I have been plopped together in carpools, recitals, and waiting around dance studios. Jody always has had the most incredible zen-like quality to her. While I was biting my nails over my daughter's ups and downs as a dancer, Jody seemed to handle it all with a serene equanimity and appropriate detachment. I really wanted that. Plus, she could pull off wearing blue jean overalls and look completely adorable. But I digress . . .

I got to know Larry a bit later. I started hearing bits and pieces of a new venture he had started. Something about coaching people to align their life and spiritual goals. I kept asking his teenage daughter (the dancer) what he was doing, and she'd roll her eyes and say, "I don't really know." So as I was thinking about life coaching for myself, I decided to go talk with Larry to learn more about his work. And I found out the most incredible thing about him -- and Jody.

First, Larry had worked for years in a big job with a big corporation. They lived in a big house in a gated community. You get the picture. (I never really knew this since Jody is so zen and wears overalls.) One day Larry comes home to the big house and tells Jody that he has been experiencing a spiritual transformation and has been profoundly inspired to start a non-profit working with people on spiritual awakening. Oh, and by the way honey, we'll need to sell the house to do this, and please don't buy any more overalls. Needless to say, this did a number on their marriage. This was not the Larry Jody had married.

But here's the amazing part. Larry had discovered his life passion. He couldn't walk away from it in spite of fears about his marriage, finances, and a myriad of concerns about starting a new venture. And as Larry aligned with his authentic self, incredibly Jody did too. Maybe she was forced too by circumstances, but that doesn't matter. As long as we get there. She would have gotten there one way or another.

So fast forward to today. Larry started Cloudwalk, a Christian non-profit organization whose people have dedicated their lives to serving others in their spiritual growth. They do workshops and retreats and have touched hundreds of lives. It continues to grow, and Larry is clearly where he should be. The Cloudwalk offices are in this wonderful, light-filled cottage which he shares with Jody. Jody found her own passion and started a retail business called The Garden Within. The rest of the cottage is her retail space where she and her partners sell all kinds of unique, locally made stuff. Jewelry, clothing, garden goodies. I just want to roll around in there, it's so neat. The outside of the cottage is devoted to Jody's gardening business, another of her passions. She also works with Larry at Cloudwalk with workshops and retreats. She has a light around her.

So now this husband and wife have each found where they are supposed to be. Their contentment is palpable. They are in this great space, together, working with people who want to grow spiritually. Amazing.

Why am I telling you about this? Because life is short. Find what you love and go for it. Don't accept mediocre. If you need help, get a mentor or coach or advisor to assist you in discovering the authentic you and then become it. Go live an amazing life.

(If you want to learn more about Cloudwalk, visit

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Are You Tolerating?

On the way downstairs this morning, I stepped over a pile of accumulated stuff that my kids have left on the steps -- for days and days. I passed the sample boards for bathroom tiles leaning against the wall that the guy brought over four months ago for a fix-up in one of our bathrooms. A project yet to be started. And now as I've begun to write this post, I can't move my darned mouse around because it has to circumvent a maze of the clutter on my desk.

These are minor irritations, but irritations nonetheless. And I've been putting up with them. As busy people, we humans tolerate a lot. Not just the small things, but big, important things like living on the edge financially, being overweight, or putting up with negative, energy-draining people.

Why do we do this? Yes, we are all busy, distracted, pulled in many directions and short on time. And many of us have been taught to accept the status quo, not to complain or rock the boat, or to put up with other people's bad behavior. But what if you started eliminating the tolerations in your life? What if you made the decision to start addressing the irritations, energy drains and negative habits that stand in the way of a happier, fuller life? A life focused on what you really love and value rather than one marred by tolerations.

I know. It can be overwhelming. There are so many things we tolerate, it's difficult to know where to start. But now that your attention is focused on it, can I challenge you to just start somewhere? Dave Ramsey, the financial advice guru, encourages people who are in debt to start paying off the smallest debt first. Every early success can motivate you to tackle the bigger issues. And every success is a gift to you -- a gift of more energy, more time, more peace of mind.

So here's my challenge for you: pick one small thing in your life that you are tolerating and eliminate it this week. That's all. Just start there, and maybe you will be motivated to challenge yourself next week to take on another!

I'd love to hear back from any of you about your toleration and how you handled it.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Originally uploaded by psychosquirrel427

"I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom." -Anonymous

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Re-write Your Life Script

Have you ever taken the opportunity to re-write your life script? To tear off the old pages and start with a clean, fresh sheet of paper? Often this happens as part of a big life change or upheaval. A job loss, a divorce, a move or some other extraordinary event that changes you forever and forces you to reassess everything you are and everything you do. Most of us don't want to go through the upheaval to get the new life. But have you ever considered re-writing your script on just an ordinary day? If you could wake up tomorrow and recreate your life into the life of your vision and dreams, would you do it? What would it look like?

That empty sheet of paper can seem intimidating -- all that white space crying out to be filled with a plan for joy, purpose, meaning and fulfillment. How do you begin? Is it really attainable? This year I have started to re-write my own life script. My oldest daughter has left home to pursue a career as a ballet dancer. After years of driving her 60 miles round trip twice a day to her dance studio, I discovered her absence has created a time void for me that has screamed for attention. Though I've loved raising kids and working as a public relations consultant part-time, I finally decided to pursue my true passion. Unfortunately, I didn't know quite what my passion was! But something inside kept urging me on, begging me to continue asking the universe "What am I supposed to do?" In my search, a very strange thing happened. I discovered that my passion is helping other people discover their own!

In April I started training for certification as a Life Coach. For those who don't know, a Life Coach works with individuals, groups or organizations as a partner and facilitator in helping them determine who or what they are, their goals and how to achieve them. They help you re-write the script and then encourage you to live it! A Life Coach can work with you on any goal -- from finding your life passion to increasing your productivity. You do the work. The coach helps move you along.

I am more than halfway through my training and have started coaching (a requirement for my certification). I love the process of facilitating change, growth, joy and passion. Supporting people as they move forward toward a better life is thrilling! In fact, if you or a friend would like to experience coaching first hand, I am providing a free session to anyone truly interested in blooming in some way. Feel free to e-mail me at One last thing. My friend Laura helped me create the name Bloom Life Coaching. She also created a beautiful logo and business cards for me. Thanks Laura. Your passion inspires me!