😁 5 Steps to Quit Awfulizing

Do you want to procrastinate? Do you like to procrastinate? Do want to come to a complete stop? Start worrying? Worry about the what ifs? Dwell on all the things that could happen? Might happen? Could happen? Should happen? It sucks the life out of you. Quit awfulizing.

I had a client gnashing her teeth because her child was going overseas for a month. Her biggest issue was the not knowing. How would they communicate? What is Skype? Where would he be living? So my question to her was: “How is all this worrying working for you?” Well, it’s not. It’s paralyzing, sleep depriving…a waste. Worrying or not worrying will not change the outcome.

I’m not saying I don’t understand. I have two young adult children who have been more than an hours drive away for the last four years. They are making their own decisions, their own plans and their own mistakes. My worrying or lack of worrying won’t change the outcome. But at least I sleep. This has not always been my M.O. (modus operandi). It’s taken me years to back off the Ledge of Worry.

How to get to worry-free in 5 not-so-easy steps:

1. Decide.  You need to simply get on board or not. Unless you really enjoy thinking of the endless amount of ways your child, parent or spouse could be in a car accident. If this is your fuel, then join the fretters club. But if you’re ready to do the mental dump and start living in the moment, then you need to make the commitment. This can’t work unless you do.

2. Optimism. You will need to be optimistic. This will be difficult for the glass-half-empty people out there. What if everything is going to be better than expected? Maybe the plane is getting in early. Maybe your team will go to the NCAA finals. Maybe the boss’s office door is shut because they are working on your raise. Everything is possible, including the windfall, the referral and the next project. Expect the best.

3. Turn it off.  The news that is. I was just in Atlanta and my friend had the evening news on. OMG. Shootings. Drownings. Murder. Car accidents. My blood pressure went up. My mind started wandering down horrible trails. What if that was my kid, friend, or coworker? Nothing good can come from the news. 98% is sensationalized and depressing. I’ve taken a clue from my daughter. She gets caught in rain storms without an umbrella or in freezing temperatures with flip flops on. She doesn’t watch the news or the weather. She takes is as it comes. Why ruin the surprise?

4. Moment.  As in, Ya Gotta Live in the Moment. This is the most difficult. There is always a certain  amount of reflection and planning in life. We just need to stop dwelling on embarrassments, back stabbing and finger pointing. We need to quit anticipating the worst outcome. So your friend has cancer. Worrying for them is not going to help them. Praying for them can. Assuming they will be cured is a much more positive approach. Being with them in the moment is a gift.

5. Alert.  Pay attention to your thoughts. No one else will. You need to be vigilant. Pessimism has a way of seeping into our heads. When you get caught in your fourth red light in a row, chill out. It’s going to be fine. Sometimes I fantasize that if I didn’t get caught at the red light, I would have been some place three minutes earlier and caused a car accident. This was meant to be. Just make sure you’re staying in charge of those fretting thoughts. You are your own sheriff. Clean out the riff raff.

So the next time your spouse/partner is late, imagine that they’re picking up your favorite coffee or scoring a new project. It will send out positive energy and you will sleep so much better.

What would you do?

👍Be a Better Person, Make Your Bed

Full disclosure, I am a reformed bed maker. I never made my bed as a kid, teenager, college student, newlywed or mother. Ok. I made my bed after washing my sheets, but beyond that or having company over, never. I would think, I’m so busy, there isn’t enough time, no one will know the difference. Then I dated a guy for several years who was probably best described as OCD. I learned a lot from this guy including, how to do perfect laundry (hint: hang everything immediately), how to make the perfect margarita (hint: fresh lime juice) and how to make your bed every day. Actually it wasn’t literally how to make your bed but more so the habit of making your bed. I began to appreciate the Zen of making your bed and, eventually, it became my habit as well.

Many years ago when I was married, at least once a week, I would leave the house before my husband is out of bed. When I arrive home, if the bed is not made, I feel let down. So no wonder that meeting didn’t go well. I immediately repair the situation and make the bed. Whew. Relief. The shui is back, as in feng shui. Feng shui is an eastern philosophy of positive energy flow. Regardless of what some Taoist said 3,000 years ago, a made bed feels better.

So here they are. The rationale behind making your bed everyday:

1. ProductivityCharles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit says “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” This has been true for me. I am more productive when my bed is made. There is a sense of satisfaction that if I can make my bed, I can get all sorts of things accomplished. It’s the added advantage that it’s normally accomplished first thing in the morning and sets the rest of your day up for success.

2. Head. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows.” I get this. Here is one of the largest objects in your life and it is at peace. There is space. Make your bed to clear out your head. It allows you to address those things that need to be tended to.

3. Chain reaction. Small habits start a chain reaction of big transformation. Duhigg says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” Keystone habits beget other habits so if you eat a nutritious smoothie in the morning, you skip going to Starbucks, you read a book instead of watching TV and on and on. It’s like lighting a fuse to momentum. I write better when my bed is made. I feel like exercising, eating better, working harder, being better. So a two minute task can do all that? Let’s do a temperature check. Is your bed made right now? What is the chain reaction either way?

4. Impact. In Gretchen Rubin‘s blog Make Your Bed, she says,” Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.” It seems so small. So mundane. It’s almost like it builds resilience. Hmmm. Instead of having a V-8, make your bed.

5. What is. I have been in relationships with various men who were not bed makers. They would frequently slept later than I and my expectation was that last one out of the bed makes it. Well, this was not a priority for them. I held a lot of resentment if they didn’t make the bed. I’ve let that go. As Byron Katie posits “Love what is“. I can spend all day wishing and praying or nagging and cajoling or I can let go and love what is. Find the joy in tasks like making the bed. There are plenty of other tasks that they do so ‘what is’ might be me making the bed. ‘What is’ are the two minutes in my life to embrace the simple elegance of making the bed. Set yourself free and love what is.

My kids, as young adults, still don’t make their beds. And I’m not about to twist their arms. The minute they head back to their homes from vacation, I head up to their rooms to make their beds. I don’t know if there can be better energy or chi by proxy through my efforts but I sleep so much better knowing that in the bedrooms above me, there is order and space. Do you make your bed on a regular basis?

🦋The Butterfly Effect

In case you are not familiar, the Butterfly Effect was coined by Edward Lorenz when he found that while trying to predict a hurricane’s path; he inadvertently rounded the decimal on a weather model and the outcome was vastly different than it would have been otherwise. This became termed chaos theory and equates with outcomes being influenced by minor fluctuations such as the flapping of wings of a distant butterfly at an earlier time, affecting current occurrences. This eventually turned into “if a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Brazil it could set off a tornado in Texas.” I prefer to think that the flip side of this is that if a small change is made by one person, the impact could potentially change a community and be like a wave gathering strength.

I have a client who is training for an ultra-marathon (any distance over 26.2 miles). For the last year he has been running and biking in his neighborhood, sometimes by himself and at other times with his young daughter. In the last month or so he’s begun to notice that there are a lot more folks who are either running, walking or riding bikes. In addition, people he doesn’t even know have been coming up to him and saying, “Oh you are that guy that runs”. Small change. Big impact. There’s no way to know if he’s the cause of the increase in exercise in his neighborhood but it seems like it might be and it sure didn’t hurt.

So how can you have an resounding impact? What butterfly are you? Here are some ideas:

  • More. Always, always, always phrase whatever change you want to make as doing “more” of something.   It’s just easier to measure doing more of something rather than less of something. So if you want to lose weight, say to yourself that you want to be more physically fit. If you want to be less shy, say to yourself that you want to be more self-assured. It’s the same thing when you are reprimanding an employee or writing a performance evaluation, phrase it in a way where it’s more. Like, “Suzy could be more accurate (instead of less sloppy)”. Suzy can then measure her effectiveness by being 99% accurate (instead of less than 5 errors). Always phrase it in terms of being/doing more.
  • The 20 Second Rule. Have whatever change you want to make be just 20 seconds away (or less). Shawn Achor wrote about this in “The Happiness Advantage”. All my running garb is in the same location and is twenty seconds away from my sink where I brush my teeth. I know I’m going to brush my teeth when I wake up, so it’s easy for me to put on my running stuff first thing in the morning and start running; no excuses. Make a path of least resistance. If you need to get that expense report done, put it on your chair so it’s the first thing you see when you come into work. Leave the document you are working on open on your desk top so that it is visually the first thing before you start any other project. Follow the 20 second rule.
  • Small. Start small. I recently started doing Yoga again. I knew if I did more than ten minutes the first time out, I would be way to sore and dejected to want to go back and do it a second time. This is true with anything. When I first started writing this blog, I would write for maybe 10 or 15 minutes at a time. I would never finish it in that time but if I spread it over several days, it was wasn’t a drag and, more importantly, it didn’t seem to be as overwhelming as “I want to write a blog post once a week for ten years”. When I start a new training, I just put an outline together for 15 minutes and then move on to something else. Easy peasy.   Take a very, very small step; incremental steps will get you to the same place.
  • Confederate. Find yourself a confederate. In the book “Change Anything”, they talk about having a source of social motivation. If you want to run a 5k find someone else who wants to run one as well. If you want to save more money, find an accountability partner who wants to save as well.   If you want to start your business, join a group of like-minded folks who will support you (especially when things get tough). This is the point of having an accomplice, they lift you up when there are bumps in the road and there will be bumps (if not potholes) in the road. A confederate will keep you on track.
  • Plan. Make a plan. When I ran my half marathon a few years ago, I had my runs planned out for the entire 4 months leading up to the race. I know I need to have my blog post written before Saturday so that I can get it to my “Brain Trust” for feedback and edits. It’s a habit. It didn’t start off as one. This can be phrased anyway you like. “The day starts at 4:30 AM”. “Exercise 3 times a week (at least once in the morning)”. “Study for 30 minutes a night”. “Spend 15 minutes cleaning the top shelf”. These are all actual action items from different clients.   They all phrased it in a way that meant something to them. But they all had a plan.

I spend maybe an hour a week on this blog and most of the time it’s completely out of my mind. But then I run into someone at a party and they say, “I love your blog”.   I may not see the end result but it’s having an impact somewhere for someone. In fact, I know someone who signed up for a half marathon and ran it, after my post on crossing the finish line. There is an impact.   You may not see it. So just like that butterfly in Brazil, you just need to start flapping your wings.

😃 Solve for Happy

I read Mo Gawdat’s brilliant book called Solve for Happy. Gawdat’s premise is: “Happiness is greater than or equal to your perception of the events in your life, minus your expectation of how life should behave.” It is profound for me because he grounds a lot of what he suggests in research and, being an engineer, in mathematics. Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer for Google X. He has a lot of money. He is successful. It’s easy at first glance to dismiss his ideas like they are coming from Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. None of these guys are worried about making the monthly mortgage payment. What could he possibly know about happiness when his bank account is overflowing? The thing is that Gawdat lost his 21-year-old son to a mistake made in an appendectomy. He suffered a loss that I would not wish on anyone. Despite this enormous loss, he has found the formula for happiness.

I have never suffered a loss as profound as a child. Gawdat doesn’t grind an axe about the hospital. He doesn’t blame a divine power. He takes it as a lesson from his son, Ali. He brings us into his enlightenment. Gawdat had already solved for happy many years before Ali’s death. He at one time had purchased two (yes, two) Rolls Royce’s on the same day and found that he was empty. All the money in the world could not taper the stress he felt from trying to control and plan everything in his life. I have a ton of clients who suffer from this over-planning. I have suffered from trying to control all the variables in my life. This is an illusion of control. You and I really don’t have any control over those outside of us.

Here are the only two things you can control:

Your Actions.  Gawdat struggled with trying to control everyone and everything in his life. Every employee, family member and outcome. Have you done that? I have. I’ve tried to control the perceptions of my neighbors, co-workers and family members. I made sure my kids were dressed in name brand clothes, got the best grades and created the impression of the perfect happy family. That whirlwind of effort and control was exhausting and unfulfilling. It left me empty. Invariably, something would go wrong. My son didn’t want to go to my Alma Mater, my daughter wanted to spend her Spring Breaks hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains instead of coming home, and 50% of the students in the class I was teaching at the time would fail the exam. Ugh. That illusion that you can control others weighs you down. You are lugging a giant sack of expectations and it is making you suffer.

As Gawdat writes, “My first breakthrough came when a friend taught me about the Hindu concept of detachment, when you strive to achieve your goals knowing that the results are impossible to predict. When something unexpected happens, the detachment concept tells us to accept the new direction and try again. There is no sadness or regret, and no grief over the loss of control.” I love this because it’s not like you throw your hands up in the air and say, “Oh well” and give up. You continue to take action and you just realize that the outcome will be, for the most part, unexpected. I think of every weightlifting competition I have attended to watch my son compete. I want him to win. I want him at the top of the podium with a gold medal around his neck. I show up. I envision success. I wear my lucky t-shirt. The outcome is out of my control. No amount of wishing and hoping can change the outcome. It will be what it will be.

The lesson is to take action. I’ve recently lost a bunch of weight from some lifestyle changes. Now I need to work on my muscle mass. I need to do push ups and lift weights. I need to take action. I have control over whether or not I take action. What the outcome will ultimately will be is up to forces outside of my control. Whether my son qualifies for the World Championships this year is up to variables way outside of my control. I can show up and support him. Ultimately, the outcome is outside of anyone’s control. Act and detach from the outcome.

Your Attitude. As Gawdat writes, “While actions are the visible levers of achievement, attitude is the true game changer.” I know a lot of folks who suffer from external locus of control. This is the belief that whether or not you have a good day is dependent on the world around you. So, if it’s raining outside or if there is an accident on the way to work, It’s going to be a bad day. I know you have worked with someone like this, or perhaps, are even married to someone like this. They cannot accept responsibility for anything that happens. There is always someone or something to blame.

The secret is having an internal locus of control. Owning the fact that you have complete control of how you respond to anything whether it’s the rain, bad news from the IRS, or a devastating loss. This doesn’t mean you can’t grieve. In fact, you should grieve a profound loss. The worst thing you can do is ignore or numb out the pain. What you resist persists. The majority of setbacks are magnified or diminished based on your attitude toward the setback. I play some memory games every morning. I mess up. I can cuss myself out or just say “Oops.” The acceptance that I am not perfect and make mistakes, but not letting it bring me down is important. Keeping a positive attitude is critical for happiness.

Gawdat’s outrageous audacious “moonshot” goal is to create one billion happy people #onebillionhappy. There are three steps. The first is to make happiness your first priority. The second is invest in developing your happiness skills. The third is to tell two people who will tell two people. This is my step three. Now you go tell two people.

🔼 Being Responsive to Change

I’ve been writing this blog for over ten years and I never know where I will find inspiration. It might be a trip to Paris with college friends, a statue of a dog in Wilmington, North Carolina, or a client mentioning a new idea like “wabi sabi”. This past week, I opened an Honest Tea bottle and inside the cap, there was this quote from Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” Well isn’t that thought-provoking?

I look back at the last five years since Hurricane Matthew, and I have been through radical change: from transforming my flooded home, surviving divorce, sobering up, and adopting a plant-based eating lifestyle. That is a lot of change. That is also a lot of responding to change. And I feel like the species of “Cathy” is on a completely different trajectory than I ever would have imagined three years ago.

Here are my takeaways on being responsive to change:

Appearances are deceiving.

I think of the fable of the frog being boiled alive because it didn’t detect the water temperature slowly changing. The water looked the same but the temperature was rising. It’s that way in relationships. The slow changes in a relationship can be imperceptible. The rules of the relationship have slowly morphed overtime and suddenly you don’t recognize yourself or your partner anymore. Right after the water receded from the flood, we stayed in the house for about three weeks. There was no HVAC, but because the weather was beautiful outside (low humidity and mid-70’s – beautiful for Eastern North Carolina), I had deceived myself into believing that we would not have to move out. The house looks fine, the relationship seems “normal”, and the water doesn’t seem that warm. Take a look below the surface and see what’s really going on. Things may have radically changed and you forgot to notice. Can you really live in a house without HVAC? Can you be in a relationship where you are no longer valued? Can you stay in the water when it’s starting to heat up? Don’t be deceived by appearances.

Patience is the key.

As Abigail Brenner wrote for Psychology Today, “Don’t be impulsive or try to rush the results. Patience will help you arrive at the best possible place you need to be.” There was the lost cabinet that was the linchpin to moving back into the house. It was at least a month to two months longer than expected. There were the slippery slopes of the mountains of bureaucracy associated with the insurance company, mortgage company, FEMA, and contractors. Patience, not my strong suit, was critical. It’s the same with the legal process of divorce. I wanted to just get it all wrapped up neatly in a package and move on. Nope. There is bureaucracy associated with that. I remember thinking over and over and over again, You can’t push a rope. This too shall pass. It’s difficult for someone as impulsive as myself, but the old Alcoholics Anonymous saying of “one day at a time” has incredible value. Relax when you are blindsided by change; lean into it.

Feel the feels.

Pain is difficult. It’s easy to take shortcuts to get around the pain. Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, an Amazon Prime shopping binge or polishing off a bottle of Chardonnay. Numbing out of the experience. As the old Children’s song “Going on a Bear Hunt” says, “Can’t go over it, Can’t go under it, Can’t go around it, Got to go through it!” The way to go through is to feel the pain. Feel the feelings. Grief feels like this: tight stomach and clenched teeth. Anger feels like this: tight shoulders and fists. Then sit and feel the feels. Label it and feel it. Stuffing, numbing and ignoring aren’t helping you. It makes the change that much harder because you are trying to go around and not through. I know it can seem daunting. I remember thinking I would never get over the end of my marriage. I thought I would grieve every day. And I did for a while. But I think allowing grieving every day really helped me move on. Feel the pain of letting go of the past. Be with it.

One small step.

In my booklet 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits, I espouse the wisdom in making one or two small adjustments. I think we have all tried to take on the exercise regime, often over do it the first time out, and give up. Or we try the low carb diet and dump all the pasta, cookies and bread out of the pantry only to head to the drive thru the next day. Change is much more palatable with small steps. When I started to remove dairy from my diet, I started with breakfast. What could I eat for breakfast that didn’t have eggs or dairy? Oatmeal with blueberries. OK. One meal that is more plant based. Done. I still had cheese at lunch and dinner. I just removed it from breakfast. I avoid alcohol with one club soda and lime at a time. It’s just as easy to walk up to the bar at the reception and order a club soda with lime.

Give up on perfection with all this. Change isn’t easy. I facilitated a workshop this week and the food choices weren’t very plant based. I had some cheese. It’s OK. It’s good enough. It’s not all or nothing. There is 95%. It’s most important to focus on responding rather than reacting. Change will come. How will you respond?

👍 Making a Fresh Start

I read Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and it had lots of useful information about timing. Interestingly, a fresh start can occur more often than just on New Year’s Day. So, for all of you who missed setting or initiating your New Year’s Resolution, there is still hope. There is a whole, brand new fresh start. In fact, by Pink’s count, there are 86 days available for a fresh start. Well, that is, about 1 in 4 days, so that means you can get a fresh start right around the corner, if not today.

His theory is that there are eighty-six days that are especially effective for making a fresh start:

  • The first day of the month (twelve)
  • Mondays (fifty-two)
  • The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter (four)
  • Your country’s Independence Day or the equivalent (one)
  • The day of an important religious holiday—for example, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Fitr (one)
  • The first day of school or the first day of a semester (two)
  • The first day back from vacation (two)
  • The anniversary of your wedding, first date, or divorce (three)
  • The anniversary of the day you started your job, the day you became a citizen, the day you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school or university (four)
  • The day you finish this book (one)

It’s ironic, but some of my fresh starts were not on Mondays, not at the beginning of the month, and not around a holiday. The most significant for me was getting sober. It was a Saturday, four days after July 4th. But I made that fresh start stick. I can’t remember the day I gave up animal products, but I do remember the last time I had meat was at the DFW airport, and I didn’t end up finishing some sausage links on my breakfast plate. That was the last of my meat eating. It wasn’t a Monday or on an important anniversary.

The thing is that fresh starts can start right now. If you want to give up sugar, alcohol, chicken, or smoking, throw all that mess out right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here. It’s amazing how fast you can get rid of whatever is tempting you. I was kind of surprised how easy it can be if you can let go of the guilt tied to whatever is in the garbage can and the waste of money it has been. I’m pretty sure I threw out 7 bottles of wine when I embraced sobriety. I didn’t give it to a good home. I threw it in the garbage can. I can sort of visualize that I am not a garbage can. Why do I think that chocolate cake should go into my stomach instead of the garbage can? Yes, please donate what you want to give up if it’s feasible. If it’s not, then throw it out.

So, I decided to look up famous birthdays on July 8th: John D. Rockefeller and Kevin Bacon. Now I know that I got sober on their birthday. It’s not why I chose that date, but it’s auspicious none-the-less. It might work to go backwards to make your fresh start more memorable.

The key to it all is to get started. Pick what you want: whether it be exercising, napping (highly recommended by Pink), writing, playing the guitar, dancing, singing, walking the dog, or saving money. If you need more ideas, check out my 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits. What do you need a start?

😍 How to Have Wonder

This is a repost from 2017, enjoy!

I was on a plane to Miami a few weeks ago. It was my fifth flight inside of a week. I’m a jaded traveler. I don’t pay attention to the safety announcements, I always bring a bottle of water and go to the ladies room as soon as they start boarding. This kills time for the inevitable “those who need extra time to board the plane.” I am always habitual and with this trip I was hoping for no snags in my connections or weather in Atlanta. I almost always sit by the window but rarely look out. Until I saw this little boy looking out the window some three rows in front of me. He had wonder in his eyes. It caught my attention with a wisp of admiration. I want that. His mouth was open in awe. He couldn’t believe the magic of the clouds before him. He had wonder oozing from him.

The boy three rows up from me on my flight to Miami

I took his picture knowing that I wanted to write about it. And to look for ways to get wonder back in my life. It’s happenstance that the leaves in Eastern North Carolina are just starting to turn as we enter autumn. I was going to Miami to visit my son and to see him compete in a weightlifting competition. For most of the two-day trip, I had nothing to do. All I could do was sit, walk or look for wonder. The awe-inspiring moments of life are way top easily overlooked. So, I went about looking for them as a direct consequence of the boy on the plane.

Here is how to have wonder in your life:

  • Patience.  This has never been my strong suit and omnipresent technology distractions don’t help in the least. When we are constantly striving to move forward and pay attention to more than what’s in front of us, we miss the little things. I took note of this when I saw a family waiting for mom at the airport, with signs that read: “We ran out of diapers three days ago.” I forced myself to overcome the urge to text my son to say, “I’ll just take a taxi,” because I’m too impatient to wait. To force myself to be okay with the cable being out and not calling the company multiple times –  it won’t change a thing. And to wait for the orchid to bloom, instead of buying flowers at the store. Restraint exposes wonder.
  • Be open. I ended up spending the majority of Sunday at the coffee shop (White Rose Coffee) where my son works. He had the second season of Better Call Saul on the big screen television. I had no desire to start mid-season on a new television show. My son Benson pointed out that he had started watching Breaking Bad mid-season when I was home after surgery. So there I sat, watching some five episodes and watching with wonder as my son served guests. I even ate some vegan pirogi so I wouldn’t have to leave for lunch. If he missed a section, I would catch him up. Be open to the experience.
  • Venue. It never hurts to change your venue. Even if it’s a new coffee shop instead of your usual place. Walk your neighborhood in a different direction. Park in a different spot at work. I wrote about a side trip to Assateague Island when I was headed to a wedding in Delaware. Take time to go to a museum, garden or restaurant when you are in a new town, even if you’re on business. I have a friend who had been to Chicago several times on business and made it a point to consistently go a day early to see the sites of Chicago. What’s the point of traveling if you never stop and see the sights? Seek out new venues and sit back with wonder.
  • Child’s Lens. When I saw that little boy with his mouth agape as he looked out the window of the plane, I looked out the window with my mouth agape. I suddenly appreciated the fluffy white clouds below me. When I walked this morning, I saw a break in the clouds where the sun shined down as if being summoned by angels. Look at something like you are five-years-old and suddenly, this becomes your first plane ride, car ride, ferry ride, escalator ride, taxi ride, train ride, truck ride, roller coaster ride–any kind of ride. Put on your five-year-old glasses and wonder.
  • Focus. I am sitting here writing as I watch my dog stalk a squirrel outside. I’m trying to figure out what the squirrel is eating as my dog, Baci, is laser-focused on that squirrel. I realize now that Baci is in wonder (probably wondering how tasty that squirrel might be if she ever caught one…she never has). It wouldn’t matter if I put a steak on the floor or offered her a treat, she is mesmerized by that squirrel. I can remember seeing a Matisse at the National Gallery in D.C. If you stood really close, you could see the brush strokes, and you end up not focusing on the forest as a whole, but rather seeing the details in the trees. Wonder starts with focusing and being mesmerized by the detail.

Wonder is really just another word for curiosity. Curiosity is the cure for fear. It helps us open ourselves to a new experience, or reliving an old experience in a new way. What are you in wonder of?

😉 6 Reasons Why You Need a Coach

Bill Gates famously said “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you are a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or bridge player.” There is a misperception that getting coached, whether it be for personal or business reasons, implies that you are defective or perhaps less than. I love the analogy a recent facilitator for my Advanced CliftonStrengths Coaching said: “You won’t go up to an NBA basketball star and tell them they don’t need a coach anymore.” So, if you have hit mastery, it’s OK to just coast on your laurels.

I have to say that as a coach, I am suspicious when another coach doesn’t have a coach. How can you coach if you don’t see the value for yourself? I see having a coach as sharpening my saw and realizing that I’m not finished. I have room to grow. Unfortunately, many organizations only use coaching to turn a bad egg around, which gives it a bad reputation. Coaching is embraced by many organizations as a perk and it enhances their workforce.

Here are the six reasons why you need a coach:

  1. Clarity: Perhaps it’s hyperconnectivity or maybe the clatter of conflicting and competing goals, but coaching has brought clarity to my life. I can get wrapped up in the immediacy of getting laundry done, packing for a trip and making sure bills are paid instead of being clear about the path I am headed down. I find this to be especially beneficial when there is more than one apparent goal. I have been coached about the priorities in my life dozens of time and it’s not until the distractions are temporarily put to rest during coaching that I realize that supporting my loved ones is the most important goal for the next few months. Coaching has helped clear the fog and provided clarity.
  1. Blind spots: There are many things that I take for granted or have made assumptions about for years; some, even decades. Coaches help you seen the unseen. They uncover the pattern that is not apparent. I just worked with a CEO the other day who realized that he had no problem paying compliments to his child but was hypercritical with his direct reports. This was a blind spot. He realized that if he could focus the same openness and benevolence with his direct reports, he would be more approachable and a better leader. Coaches help shine a light on the blind spots.
  1. Perspective: Coaches don’t have a dog in the fight. They are outside the situation. They aren’t your direct report, your boss or your partner. There are very few people in your life that have this perspective. This makes them much more unbiased and open to possibility. My child, my parent or my boss might try and limit my choices and add to my limiting beliefs, but a coach can set up a safe space where anything is possible. They can also suggest resources that might be helpful. I remember when my marriage suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved, my coach, Tammi, suggested a book by William Bridges called Transitions. It was invaluable to help me make sense of being in the neutral zone for many months. The neutral zone is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. I don’t think I would have found it on my own. Coaching provides a different, neutral perspective.
  1. Accountability: When I coach, I ask my client if they want any accountability around the actions they have come up with. The important thing to remember is that coaches don’t decide on action items, the client does. So, if my client decides they are going to go to one networking event per week, month or year, that was their decision. When you come up with your own action items, you are much more motivated to see it through. You own it. If you want accountability or not, you are the best to decide. Some clients (like those who are naturally responsible) don’t need any accountability. But as a client said this week, “Oh yeah. I’ll forget and won’t make this happen unless you follow up with me.” So as a client you may or may not need the accountability. A coach is there to help with accountability.
  1. Powerful questions: Coaches employ powerful questions to help tease out insight. As my Neuroleadership Coach Training taught me, new connections between neuropathways are made with powerful questions. This is virtually impossible on your own. The other thing is that powerful questions have a positive forward-looking perspective. Sample questions are: “What is possible? What if it worked out exactly as you wanted it? What does success look like? What do you want?” In a safe space, these questions open up and create new thought pathways. Coaching is about powerful questions.
  1. Happier: I have found that most of my clients are happier. I have found myself to be happier once I started being coached. I feel more balanced and less frazzled. I have changed other things in the same timeframe, including being sober and a long-standing meditation practice, but I believe that checking in with Tammi once a month has brought about a new balance and perspective. She has been with me on my journey for over five years and has seen the highs and lows. I appreciate the space she creates for me to do my best work and reflect. As William Arruda wrote for Forbes, “Because coaches help you identify and align your values, create a focus, cut through clutter, and clear tolerations, they help you increase your professional fulfillment.” Coaching makes you happier.

It’s important to know that coaching is not mentorship, consulting or therapy. I know that many clients say it “feels” like therapy, but therapy has a backwards view and coaching has a future, positive view. It feels like therapy because there is someone who is deeply connected and listening to you. It’s the gift of truly being heard. Have you thought about having a coach?

🚴🏼‍♀️ 5 Tips on Learning to Coast

I recently read Oliver Burkeman’s “4000 Weeks”. It’s a humbling book.  Perhaps a hamster wheel stopper. The title derives itself from the number of weeks the average person has in their life (if you live to 76).  Gulp. At sixty years old, I’ve got less than 1000 weeks left. It’s made me take stock.  It shines a light on all the striving I’ve done in my life, the next raise, project, bonus check, prom, graduation, wedding, house, promotion, boyfriend, training, client.  It’s an endless path full of hurdles that I keep trying to get past; and the more “efficient” I get at it, the more projects, tasks and duties seem to come down the pike. I so rarely, if ever, just coast.

I remember biking the Virginia Creeper Trail a few years ago.  Most of the riding of the seventeen plus mile trail, is just coasting.  It’s wonderful gliding through the autumnal trees with a meandering river below or beside. It’s mostly effortless and I was able to get back into the moment of the sheer joy of gliding through the air.  That’s the feeling I want for my last 1000 weeks.  Coasting.

Here are some tips on learning to coast:

  • Find the awe. I try and snapshot moments in my life. Singing hallelujah at the vespers concert in Duke Chapel, a single dancer pantomiming a scream and some 30 dancers falling down like dominos in unison at a Spring Dance recital at the School of the Arts. Or the sweet smell of honeysuckle on a sunrise walk with my dog, the mainsail filling and the sailboat starting to heel on Jordan Lake with a bluebird sky, 83 year old Lena Mae Perry’s electrifying voice singing, “Oh Lord, come by me” at a mesmerizing Stay Prayed Up performance, and the grimace, shiver and might of my son lifting a personal best 176 kg over his head at the Queen City Classic. As Burkeman wrote, “The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.” I’m trying to pay attention to the awe and wonder.

  • Be curious. Curiosity is the antidote to fear. Being curious and fearful turn on the same reactions in the body, it’s just that reframing it as curiosity helps your mind repackage it.  So instead of your prefrontal cortex shutting down to run for it, it opens your mind to take in the experience.  It’s like reading a signal from your body in a different manner, a different language. As Burkeman espoused, “choosing curiosity (wondering what might happen next) over worry (hoping that a certain specific thing will happen next, and fearing it might not) whenever you can.” I’m trying to stay curious.

  • Let time use you. This is complete blasphemy to my uber scheduled life of routines, appointments and structure. On the surface, it feels like letting go of the wheel while driving down interstate 40 at 70 miles per hour. As written by Burkeman, “There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history.” It’s a matter of response and flexibility.  Let things unfold and find the gift in the unfolding. The traffic jam, being put on hold, the long line at check-out, here is an opportunity to let time use you.

  • Find what counts. “Follow your gift, not your passion” wrote Steve Harvey. This reframe has been very beneficial to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to find “my passion”.  Knowing my gifts is so much more obvious.  I write well, I’m a phenomenal coach, I’m a good mom and I’m a great cook.  There.  Now all I have to do is use my gifts.  There lies my passion. As Burkeman wrote, “Once you no longer need to convince yourself that the world isn’t filled with uncertainty and tragedy, you’re free to focus on doing what you can to help. And once you no longer need to convince yourself that you’ll do everything that needs doing, you’re free to focus on doing a few things that count.” I need to use my gifts to do what counts.

  • Do less. I coach so many women who work more and more and more hours each week. Some work until midnight, eat lunch at their desk, or work all Sunday evening to “get ahead”. Only to be rewarded with more to do because, well, they are good at doing so much. As Burkeman posits, “Limit your work in progress. Perhaps the most appealing way to resist the truth about your finite time is to initiate a large number of projects at once; that way, you get to feel as though you’re keeping plenty of irons in the fire and making progress on all fronts. Instead, what usually ends up happening is that you make progress on no fronts—because each time a project starts to feel difficult, or frightening, or boring, you can bounce off to a different one instead. You get to preserve your sense of being in control of things, but at the cost of never finishing anything important.” Perhaps this is the most difficult thing to tackle. To limit what you are working on so that you actually accomplish something. The curse of multitasking is that you really are just task switching and losing ground each time you switch tasks. Embrace doing less.

I’m a recovering efficiency-aholic. I walk into a grocery store and I’ve already mentally mapped which aisles I’m going down and in what order to maximize my time. The concepts in this book are sobering yet in a sense, it’s all about just being in the moment.  As much as possible to be here right now, balance yourself on your bike, lift your feet up and coast.

😎It’s Not My Only Line in the Play

I heard this quote at a conference in October. It really put things into perspective. We have a lot more shots at a goal than we imagine. I think back to grade school theatrical productions and not wanting to flub the one line I was given. But in reality, we have a ton of lines. For that matter, a ton of plays in life. I can get wrapped up in perfection in the job interview, or the presentation to the board, or the first date. It’s freeing to realize there are a lot of opportunities in life and it’s grand to not get wrapped up in the perfection of your next line in the play.

A recent facilitation for Daniels and Daniels Construction

I can relive conflicts in my life where I have an epiphany about what I should have said. The perfect comeback. The perfect redress. The perfect reparation. Finally putting someone in their place, and yet, the opportunity is long past. I can live in a loop in my head about how I should have played the situation differently. It takes energy. It zaps me. It’s completely unproductive. It was only one line.

So here are some ideas on how to move on to the next line in the play:

Piece it out

I facilitate a bunch of different trainings. They can range from Ethics, Sexual Harassment, or Human Resource Certification. Sometimes I present about CRR Global’ s “Lands Work”, Gallup’s Strengthsfinder, or Leadership Retreats. The thing is, when I first started facilitating, I would get completely caught up in the three upcoming events I had scheduled. I’d be worried about the one in three weeks when I was prepping for the one tomorrow. I would be overwhelmed and not sleep well. The secret is to focus on the next project. The next training. The next coaching client. By piecing it out to one project or event or client at a time, I can focus, be calm and better prepared. Focus on the next line in the play.

It’s about them

Delivering a line or a song or a presentation is all about the audience. Moving off of my own ego and onto the group in front of me is lifting an enormous burden off my shoulders. It’s not worrying about if I look fat in this outfit or if I can get a laugh out of the room. It’s delivering one piece that helps someone in their day. When you focus on them, it becomes a service. It makes it easier. I know that can seem like a lot of pressure but if I go into a room of two hundred people wanting to impress them all, it’s overwhelming and sure to fail. If I go into that same room with the intention to impact just one person’s life, it’s much easier. If it helps more than one person, terrific. If everyone gets it and loves the presentation? Even better. But the goal remains all about them.

$hitty first draft

Practically everything I facilitate, coach, or write is a first draft. I try not to overthink things. Granted, I have an editor for my blog, but the rest of what I deliver is on the fly. It’s in the moment. I’ve said some dumb things; I’ve said some witty things; I’ve said things I want to completely forget about (and usually don’t). Aren’t most conversations in life just $hitty first drafts anyway? Let go of perfection and be in the moment. If you mess up this line, there is another line coming up.

Be present in the moment

I’ve spent a lot of time rushing ahead. Planning. Mapping things out. I can be exhausting to be around. I can also spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. The Monday morning quarterbacking type stuff that is just as debilitating. The important thing is this moment right now. I facilitated a new group a few weeks back. I had never worked for this organization before. There were a bunch of unknowns: the audio visual; wall space for flip-charts; seating arrangements for the table. That’s all just flotsam. The real object is being present for the people in that room. It’s being present to tease out the wisdom in the room. It’s letting other folks shine their light for everyone else to benefit. If I’m more worried about the perfect room set up and refreshments, I’m not present for those in the room. So maybe you have to adjust the line in the play to fit the group in the room. Be present so you know it.

Be silent

It’s OK to be quiet. Not everything has to be filled with words. Time for folks to reflect is super important. Time for you to reflect is important as well. I think back to my first date with my ex. There was plenty of silence. I was OK with not filling every moment with language. I remember becoming certified to deliver a Myer’s Briggs facilitation. The instructor told us to wait 20 seconds after asking the group a question. Count out twenty seconds in your head.  Go ahead.                It’s an eternity, right? It’s an adjustment to be OK with silence. You don’t need to have language filling the air at all times. Give everyone time and space to reflect and digest. Some of the most profound moments in a play are when it is silent. Think back to all the pregnant pauses in a Hitchcock film. Rear Window would not be as griping without the silence. Silence can be powerful.

At the heart of all of this is just being authentic and present for as much as you can. Give up the need to know how it’s all going to end up. Every play is going to be different. Every line you deliver will have a different impact. What’s your next line in the play?