One of My Very Most Favorite Words

AmpersandHere’s proof that there are messages from the universe everywhere: I was reading People magazine last night, and it completely validated and reiterated something that’s been coming in to my awareness (and popping up in my talks with clients).

It’s about one of my favorite words.

I was reading an article about Anne Hathaway, and what she’s up to now that she’s been an Oscar winner for a full year now. Turns out she’s a Broadway fanatic, and she quotes one of her favorite lyrics from Stephen Sondheim’s play Into the Woods:

“Must it all be either less or more / Either plain or grand? / Is it always or? / Is it never and?”

And then she says, “I kind of approach my life from a place of and.

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It’s OK to Feel How You Feel

keep calmI hear people say, “I need to be more Zen” a lot. Like, a LOT.

What I think people are trying to say when they utter those words is, “I shouldn’t get so upset. I should be more serene, all the time, no matter what is happening. I should be able to shut down my feelings.”

Am I right?

What I hear when I hear people say it is, “I’m afraid to feel my emotions.” And, “I feel bad about the way I’m feeling right now. Something about what I’m feeling is wrong.”

It sounds like an enlightened thing to say, but there’s a lot of fear and self-judgment implied in those six little words. And I can promise you one thing – fear and self-judgment are a great way to get and stay upset.

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When (and How) to Give Up

white flag“Sometimes your only available form of transportation is a leap of faith.” – Margaret Shepard

I am a big fan of taking action. All kinds of action, really – small consistent steps that add up to greatness over time, anything that’s different than what you would normally do, anything that gets you out of being stuck, anything that will give you feedback that you can use to decide what action to take next.

After all:

If you want different results, you’ve got to take different actions. (Click to Tweet!)

But there is one action that’s always in your back pocket that it is all too easy to forget about. And maybe even a little scary to contemplate. But it is so powerful. Like, dropping an eight in a game of Crazy Eights powerful. Lay this puppy down and bam! Everything changes.

It’s surrender.

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Do Less. No, Really.

chillaxThere was a time in my life where I felt the need to stay busy at all costs. As a Girl Scout, I earned so many badges my Mom had to resort to stapling them on to my sash instead of the painstaking process of sewing them. In high school, I entered every contest that crossed my path—essays, talent shows, beauty pageants. It didn’t really matter whether I won or not – all I cared about was which one was coming up next. In college, I joined just about every extra-curricular club there was, and worked a couple jobs to boot. As a freelance writer, I not only made sure I had several assignments at any given time, I worked and re-worked every article multiple times before I turned it in; I didn’t want to merely meet deadlines, I wanted to wow.

I gotta admit, old habits die hard. Even though now I’ve learned – thanks to motherhood, a couple episodes of burnout, and coaching – that when I don’t spend ample time doing things I love simply for the sake of enjoying myself everything in my life suffers, I still occasionally find myself in overdrive mode. I know you know what this feels like:  Read more…

What Strengths Are You Not Seeing?

focusMy clients hear me say this again and again:

What you focus on grows. (Click to Tweet!)

Which begs the question – what are you focusing on?

It’s so tempting to hone in on what’s going wrong. The skill you don’t have. The hole in your resume. The fight you just keep having again and again. They symptom that keeps coming back. The client or the lover who got away.

The problem is, your awareness has undeniable energy. It’s a scientific principle that the very act of observing something affects the outcome. When all you can see is what’s not working, you’re giving that undesirable thing strength.

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Spring Clean Your Psyche

spring clean psycheTo me, March feels a lot like one whole month of PMS. (Sorry, gentleman for the gender specific analogy, but surely you have had some indirect experience of this female phenomenon that can help you relate.)

I mean, sure, there are other troublesome times of year. Some folks can’t stand August’s heat. Or December’s dark days. For me, the mud, the up-and-then-down temperatures, and the phenomenon of it being colder in the house than it is outside are all real buggers! It’s enough to make me downright irritable sometimes.

The good news is that, just as with PMS, there’s a big release heading your way. You may not know exactly when it’s coming, but you know that it is imminent. Soon enough, all this “Isn’t it spring yet?!” angst will be relieved.

But that doesn’t mean you have to just suck it up and endure until sundress weather arrives for real.  Here are a few things you can do to make the waiting more tolerable and less emotionally volatile.  Read more…

What if it doesn’t last?

I was doing so great… what went wrong?”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever uttered those words. Thought so. I know I have!

I’ve been on yoga retreats, and coaching retreats, and even girlfriends’ weekends where I had such great clarity and a sense of ease and possibility. And then I’ve come home and that momentum seems to disappear. Something happens – like a potential client says no, or my husband or my kids do something annoying – and it has felt like I can hear the balloon that was lifting my spirits pop.

I used to take the setbacks that come after a new insight as ominous. “I knew I was crazy to think I could really do whatever I was just so convinced I could do.”

If this has happened to, or is happening to you, congratulations. You’re human. =)

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magic wandThis week I heard this from a client:

“I don’t know if it’s the homeopathic remedy I’m taking, or the restorative yoga I’ve been doing, or working with you, but I am feeling SO MUCH BETTER.”

As cool as it would be for me to be able to take 100% credit <cue Dr. Evil laughter>, the truth is, it’s everything she’s doing—including deciding to invest in and focus on herself.

FACT: There is no one way to get what you want. There are millions of ways.  (Click to Tweet!)

When you are focusing on healing old stuff and creating new stuff, no one thing is going to create the results you’re after. It’s the combination of a few different things—whether related to each other or not—that really helps the dots connect and the pieces slide into place.

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The Answer Is…Both

fun in the snowYesterday was one of those days.

No, not one of those days – the kind where you sigh and roll your eyes and wait for the storm to pass.

One of those other kind of days, where you see that those things that were once just a glimmer in your mind, still only a desire, actually did come to fruition.

It was a great frickin day. =)

It was President’s Day, which meant a school holiday. And yet, with all the snow days and sick days, I had some work that my heart and my to-do list both really wanted to get done.

In my old life, I would have asked, “Should I blow off my work? Or should I outsource the care of my kids so I can kick out the jams?” I used to be very in to the either/or. It felt so clear, like a relief.

Except it wasn’t. Whenever I was doing one option, I felt bad about neglecting the other. I wrote some about this in my post on de-compartmentalizing.

Nowadays, my mantra is “Both.” Now, trust me, I am a firm believer in making decisions from your gut, so you can move forward, take action, and get feedback. So you can then make another, more informed decision. But the choice doesn’t have to be one or the other, on or off, this or that.

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Mindfulness, Schmindfulness

question marksThe idea of mindfulness is getting a lot of play these days. Like in this piece, “More Mindfulness, Less Meditation,” by Tony Scott, which appeared on last week.

I mean, I am a proponent of mindfulness–applying a meditative focus to pretty much anything. Indeed I am! Many of my heroes – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield — have done a lot of incredible and important work to teach mindfulness, to study it, and to inspire people to practice it.

Mindfulness is definitely off the cushion and out into the world: It is taught as a stress-reduction technique with boatloads of studies to support its benefits. It’s a big piece of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is such an important thing to have an effective, simple, and accessible treatment for. Clinical psychologists are even using it to help women revive their flagging libidos (here’s a downloadable PDF of an article I wrote for Whole Living magazine about that a few years back). It works.

Before I go too much further, what is mindfulness, exactly? Here’s a standard definition of it, according to Jon Kabat-Zin: “The awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Or, put more simply, “Paying attention to paying attention.”

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