If you're reading this, you probably need to take a break

I was the kind of student who fell over herself to listen to and truly hear absolutely everything the teacher said. In theory, this was great; who doesn’t love a devoted student? Oftentimes, though, the teacher was trying her damnedest to get through to all the students who weren’t listening, who weren’t hearing her.

“You need to study harder.”

“I was disappointed with the majority of what was turned in last week; you need to spend more time on your homework assignments.”

“You need to take more care on the next exam; so many of you lost points for sloppiness.”

Imagine a room of students, one or two of whom are already so exceedingly conscientious as to not need to hear these particular messages day-in and day-out. The others, the ones who probably do need to hear these particular messages day-in and day-out, are folding notebook paper into fortune tellers or coloring the boxes of their graph paper or frantically completing the homework for next period. And the irony, of course, is that the conscientious students are the only students who are paying such close attention to the teacher; they are the ones who are internalizing the teacher’s frustration, taking it to heart, and trying (always trying) to do even better.

At some point in my schooling, my mother saw what was going on and had to tell me, “They’re not talking to you, Helen. Those lectures aren’t aimed at you.” She had to help me learn to tune it all out, that relentless messaging that said WORK HARDER and DO BETTER. Because not only wasn’t it for me, but hearing it wasn’t serving me. It was turning me into someone who believed her very worst fears about herself, because what the teacher said seemed to confirm those fears: I’M NOT ENOUGH; I CAN’T AFFORD TO GIVE MYSELF GRACE; I DON’T DESERVE MARGIN.

I am here to tell you that you already are enough.

Grace is your birthright.

Margin is a crucial ingredient for your success.

And: An important part of becoming someone who realizes her dreams and achieves her ambitions is being someone who knows when and how to take breaks.

(Really, an important part of being human is knowing when and how to take breaks.)

My clients and the people who tend to gravitate to my work (that’s you) aren’t folks who need to be told to work harder and do better. In fact, that’s pretty much their kryptonite—because it underscores their deepest fears that they’re not doing enough and that there isn’t time to pause or rest without falling too far behind.

My folks need to have their hard-working systems* reviewed.


*Your hard-working system is the relentless way you check things off your list; it’s your protocol for being productive and staying on top of things in your life. It might be a combination of day planners, Google calendars, late nights after everyone’s gone to bed, family chore wheels, hired help, spreadsheets, apps, carpools, and grocery delivery. It might also be that nagging voice in the back of your mind that lets you know repeatedly that you’re behind the eight ball and that you need to keep moving or else risk total collapse and chaos.


They need someone who understands how conscientious they already are to come in, assess, and then trim the excess—to say, “Here’s where a break is necessary for you,” and “Let’s try this more efficient approach,” and “Looks like you’ve forgotten to build some margin into your days; let me help you with that.”

My folks need me to remind them: It’s when you most feel you can’t afford to take a break that you most need to take a break.

Again, that’s the irony.

Same as Little Helen in the classroom, taking those diligent notes and studying excessively, as the teacher tried again and again to spark something in the uninterested students (who were too busy being uninterested to process or even care about anything the teacher was saying).

We all hear the messages we believe we need to hear, the messages that confirm some deep insecurity inside of us.

So much of my work with clients involves helping them to become a trusted voice of reason for themselves, so that they can work and play in a balanced, healthy, and human fashion—breaks, margin, and all.

Do you need to have your hard-working system audited—either because you’ve got the nagging feeling (still) that it isn’t enough, or because it simply isn’t sustainable (and you suspect you’ve overlooked the whole breaks/margin thing)? Leave a comment below or shoot me a quick email and tell me about it. I can help.


Recommended reading/listening:

Thanks to her newsletter this week, my dear friend and colleague, Caroline Leon, brought my attention to this post by Jac McNeil, 5 Ways to Bring Minimalism to Your Work, which reminded me of a favorite podcast of mine, Jocelyn K. Glei’s Hurry Slowly, and referred to these two particular episodes on the topic of rest: “This Is Your Brain on Nature” and “Prioritizing Rest and Reflection”.

How I diagnose (and treat!) time anxiety in my clients

Let me tell you three scenarios I hear fairly often in my coaching work with clients. See if any of them are at all familiar to you.

Scenario #1

Weekends and days-off are difficult for her, mostly because when she sets out to do one thing (e.g. dig into that novel that’s been sitting on her bedside table, the bookmark still stuck somewhere in Chapter 2, despite its being quite compelling so far), she quickly convinces herself that there’s something else she could or should be doing (e.g. organizing the pantry, weeding the garden beds, finally switching over the clothes from one season to another, catching up on email replies)… And before she knows it, the whole day has passed and she hasn’t thoroughly taken advantage of or even enjoyed a single minute of it. That particular lose-lose never ceases to sting.

Scenario #2

Rushing around is the normal state of affairs for her. Frequently she has her heart in her throat as she drives from one appointment to the other, because she’s late once again and no amount of scheduling seems to circumvent that. Her lateness makes her the butt of jokes among her long-suffering friends and irritates her punctual partner to no end. She’s convinced all would be well if only she had just a little more time in the day. (Or one less thing on her to-do list. Frankly, she’d take either.) Again and again, she convinces herself that she can fit in just one more thing before she has to 1. climb into the shower, 2. leave the house and start driving, or 3. get into bed and still have a solid night’s sleep. It never works. That one-more-thing always pushes her over the edge, into late territory. She half-believes the solution’s hiding somewhere in a new planner or system...and half-believes it’s hopeless. Do other people fight the clock this much?

Scenario #3

She often feels as though the years are just flying by—or she fears they are. She’s worried she’ll look up one day and realize the good part of her life is pretty much over. Most women have kids at her age; she’s barely dating. She can’t remember a single, distinct Thanksgiving because, during the actual holiday, she finds herself distracted by that thing her mom’s cousin said to her last year (and on avoiding said cousin throughout the afternoon) and on how many emails will be waiting for her when she gets back to the desk job she can’t stand, that she forgets to anchor herself in the particulars of the event, the special day she’s inhabiting right now. It passes—and she knows (painfully) it was the only one of its exact kind that will ever exist in history.

Believe it or not, these different conundrums my clients face are very related—they all point to what I call time anxiety: a pervasive state of nervousness or unease as it applies to time (both the big construct, capital-T ‘Time’ and the ticking clock on the wall, measurement of moments ‘time’).

Maybe you, too, suffer from time anxiety. Maybe the scenarios above are all too familiar—and it never occurred to you that they could change, that things could be different, that a solution could be hiding in plain sight.

Let’s take a closer look and consider a way forward for each.

Scenario #1

What are the symptoms?

Existential angst about the time you have here on earth. Frequently, you feel worried that what you’re doing isn’t The Right Thing and how you’re spending your time isn’t The Right Way.

What’s at the root of this problem?

A lack of clarity—around what your priority is and what’s deserving of your time; how satisfied you are with your current use of time and what approach to living might lead to more satisfaction

What’s the solution?

Locate the clarity that's already there, within you. I promise you, you have it. You know what you’d do if you had just one more year on this earth, but you’re allowing that existential angst about your bigger purpose to take up valuable real estate in your brain and crowd out your inner knowing; it’s also stalling out your potential to take decisive action. Ask yourself: “What's most important to me today (or this week/month/year)? What do I want and/or need to give my attention to right now, in service to that (and what actually has my attention right now)?”

Scenario #2

What are the symptoms?

Panic, urgency, and scarcity around time. You feel as though there isn’t enough time to do everything that needs doing. You tend to be overwhelmed and feel unprepared. Your chronic lateness and rushing around are the biggest indicators of your tendency to simultaneously underestimate and overestimate time.

What’s at the root of this problem?

A lack of planning—when it comes to how much time you have and how much time various activities and enterprises require; matching your stated priorities to your available time slots; determining how you want to feel before, during, and after any given activity, and ensuring you leave the space to create that experience for yourself

What’s the solution?

Work backwards. Start looking at time as though it’s a relationship with a person who has clear and unflinching boundaries; you know exactly where you stand with it. Ready or not, the appointment time will appear on the clock, so why not anticipate the arrival of that hour by determining 1. what you need to do in preparation, 2. how long it typically takes you to do those things, and 3. how much latitude you might want to build into your timetable in case of traffic, a run in your pantyhose, or a moment to catch your breath. This is the symptom we all tend to attack first—and usually with new devices, apps, and systems—believing our main problem is a logistical one. And it might be! However, any planning solution that’s more complicated than simply working backwards from the time you need to be someplace or the deadline when something’s due? Probably unnecessary if your symptom is chronic lateness and/or rushing.

Scenario #3

What are the symptoms?

A feeling of time speeding by with nothing to hold on to. You tend to feel empty after holidays or big events, like you weren’t even there. Frequently, your mind wanders to the past or the future, and you often miss substantial chunks of time in the present moment because of this. You still believe multitasking is possible.

What’s at the root of this problem?

A lack of presence—in that you fail to bring both your mind and your body together...and keep them together...for any considerable length of time

What’s the solution?

Give yourself an awareness tune-up. Throughout the day, ask yourself: "Am I all here?" Check in to see if the mind and body are in the same place. Ironically, being 'all here' actually opens up many opportunities for creative ideas and solutions to come into being. You can be 'all here' while you’re taking a shower (in other words, not forcing yourself to work on a particular thought while you’re washing up for the day) and still wind up simultaneously toweling off and taking frantic notes. Change the expectation you have of yourself to do more than one thing at a time—and observe how miraculous the bio-computer in your head really is!

Do you have time anxiety? How does it tend to show up for you? Share with us in the comments, and let's see if we can come up with a workable solution to get you moving forward and feeling good.

Starting and finishing...with the seasons

I decided to finish work early today, so I could get out into the garden to weed and trim and clear out while the sun was shining and my energy tank was full.

The cherry trees have finished blooming in our yard. Same with the tulips and the daffodils.

(The lilac bushes are about to start. Same with the wild lilies and the irises.)

We think of spring as beginning—new life, new growth, new newness.

But it’s also a time of finishing. There’s constant finishing, all around me, as one or another tree or shrub does its thing, has its 15 minutes of fame, and then goes quiet again… That is, until next year.

What are you finishing this season? What are you starting?

"I struggle least with time when..."

This week, I’m curious to find out what’s easy for you, when it comes to time…

To get the conversation started, I’ll tell you some of my fill-in-the-blank answers.

I struggle least with time when...

  • I plan backwards from the time I need to be somewhere, and
  • I round up in considering how long each activity will take.
  • I bookmark possible distractions for later instead of reacting in-the-moment to every interesting thing I encounter.
  • I’m truly present to the task at hand, immersing myself completely in what’s right in front of me.
  • I consider how I want to feel as I arrive at each appointment or commitment (not frantic and frazzled, I’ll tell you that much!), and use that as my guidepost for how I spend the time I have.

What about you? Tell me about your time successes in the comments, or email me if you prefer a little privacy.

Who are you to do this thing?!

You’ve got this wild idea. It’s big. It’s maybe even revolutionary. You have a strong feeling there’s a place for it in this world—and it has the potential to be truly awesome once you figure out how to get it off the ground.

In your darker, fearful moments, it seems farfetched and like you’re kidding yourself. You don’t know anyone who’s done anything like this, so not only do you lack a trustworthy precedent, but you start to wonder if you might also lack credentials. ‘Who am I to do this thing?’ plays on repeat in your mind.

There’s a few mental obstacles you keep encountering, and while a big part of you knows they’re just mindset things, a much smaller but somehow louder part of you insists there’s some legitimacy there; it insists there’s some hard facts about what’s possible for you and what isn’t.

If you could just get a handle on this teeter-totter between conviction and self-doubt once and for all, you’d know how to move forward; you’d know where you need to expand your thinking and where you need to enhance your skill set.

I can help you. I know what a janky mindset looks like (and how to remedy it) and I can spot the missing tools in your tool belt (and help you find the right resources for filling them) pretty swiftly.

Leave a comment below to get the conversation started, or, if you’re ready to dive all the way in, go here to book your own 90-minute session.

The impossibility of impossibility

As a human and as a coach, I stand against impossibility.

I just don’t believe in it. And so nothing is impossible for me.

I’m not bright-siding when I say this, nor am I plugging my ears and la-la-la-ing myself into a state of denial.

I’m simply but profoundly aware of my immense power to create whatever I want for myself—if only my own mind doesn’t get in the way. And that’s one of my more important jobs: not to let it get in the way.

I believe the same is possible for you, too: You are perfectly capable of getting what you want, IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE. And if you truly honor the lifelong task of not letting your own mind get in the way.

What feels impossible for you today? Have you remembered to punch in at your crucial job: to guard possibility from an encroaching nay-saying mind?

What self-beliefs are you choosing? Wanna choose some different ones?

You’re not categorically “bad at finishing”—it isn’t a fixed personality trait of yours. You just haven’t gotten really good at it yet; you haven’t allowed yourself enough opportunities to practice and cultivate a finishing mindset and skill set; you’ve carried an old story forward into the present, so that the only thing that’s preventing you from being a finisher now...is a belief you have about yourself.

That’s it! Just a belief. Not a fact or a condition, but something you’re playing over and over again in your mind.

You could just as easily choose to believe the opposite.

If what you believe doesn’t make something true or false (that’s what your actions are for), why not believe something about yourself that feels better? Something that encourages you, something that’s uplifting, something that creates an energy of possibility and capability.

And then what if your actions followed suit? On their own? What if you became someone who finishes what she starts simply because you convinced yourself, via your chosen belief, of the possibility?

If that doesn't quite land with you, here's a cheeky alternative: Why not decide that what you believe, either way, doesn't actually matter as far as your behaviors are concerned? What if you don't need to first believe that you're a strong finisher in order to become one? What if what you believe as far as your finishing capability is irrelevant?

Snack on that food for thought on this fine Friday—and, if you’re up to it, share one of your new chosen beliefs in the comments...or declare your decision to separate your beliefs from your actions. Whichever feels best for you.

"I struggle most with time when..."

I want to hear from you about your relationship with time!

But, just to get the conversation started, I’ll tell you some of my fill-in-the-blank answers.

I struggle most with time when...

  • I operate from a place of magical thinking, believing I can accomplish more than is actually humanly possible in a given day.
  • I mistakenly believe I can outrun the clock.
  • I follow my distractions instead of going all-in on one thing at a time.
  • I tell myself the story of not having enough time.
  • I get too big-picture in my thinking and forget that the here and now is all I have to work with.

What about you? Tell me about your time struggles in the comments, or email me if you prefer a little privacy.

(#tbt to October 9, 2016, when my husband and I found ourselves inside a giant hourglass in Colorado. ;-) Not really. We were in the south-central part of the state, where the Sangre de Cristo mountains surrounded us as we climbed the tallest sand dunes in North America. The dunes are estimated to contain over 5 billion cubic meters of sand. It was a strenuous climb that involved lots of stopping to empty our shoes, but time stood still. We were fully present. And we made it to the top of Star Dune, at 750 feet, where we took out kites from our backpack and sent them up into the sky.)

Examples of small steps you might take today

BUSINESS

  • Come up with a list of five specific people you want to serve.
  • Ask ten friends, family members, or coworkers to subscribe to your email newsletter.
  • Reach out to a former client in a meaningful way; ask her what she needs right now.

HEALTH

  • Post a request on Facebook for physician recommendations in your area.
  • Set a timer to remind yourself to get up from the computer every 40 minutes to stretch.
  • Replace your third cup of coffee with a glass of water.

RELATIONSHIPS

  • Instead of your usual phone date this week, FaceTime with your parents or your kids.
  • Put a note in the mail to that friend you haven’t talked to in a while but think about all the time; no fancy stationery necessary, any old paper will do.
  • Before you and your love fall asleep for the night, share with each other your favorite part of the day.

Do these examples spark some ideas for you? Declare your small step in the comments, and I’ll cheer you on. Encouragement is more vital than you might think!

The truth behind your Shiny Object Syndrome

Here’s a question and distinction I’d like to invite you to consider: Is your SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME actually a FEAR OF COMMITMENT in disguise?

You’re highly cerebral, exceedingly intelligent, interested in learning about everything. Curiosity propels you. Your mind does wild amounts of work every hour of every day—processing, considering, scheming, dreaming, problem-solving, puzzling, you name it. The list of things that fascinate you is infinite.

I suspect boredom is something you remember feeling quite a lot as a child in school; maybe even as a young adult at a pointless and brainless minimum wage job; and possibly in your first few serious, college-age romantic relationships.

You weren’t challenged. Your mind was restless. It all felt too easy and stupid.

Shiny Object Syndrome became your way of navigating and staying engaged with the world. You grew accustomed to chasing whatever piqued your interest because that feeling of piqued interest is both addictive and life-giving, and it reassured you that you wouldn’t die of boredom.

But that same chasing is a crutch now. It’s a familiar excuse and it’s an acceptable way to not commit to any one thing. (And if you don’t commit to any one thing...you can’t fail at any one thing. It’s genius, really.)

To be clear: I believe you’ve got a whole slew of interests and passions. Of course you do—you have a brilliant and hungry mind.

But I also wonder if you’re afraid to commit. Because you’re afraid of becoming bored, sure—but more than that, because you’re afraid of giving everything you’ve got to this one thing. Of giving yourself over absolutely. Of being all-in. Of sticking it out for the long haul, come what may: failure, restlessness, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and everything else that’s possible when we make and move forward with a choice.

If you’re willing to ditch Shiny Object Syndrome in order to lock it down and commit to one Big, “Impossible” Thing at a time, I can help. Leave a comment below (“I’m ready!” will do just fine), and I’ll take it from there.

You're more ready than you think

I don’t believe you when you say you’re not ready. I just don’t.

I believe you’re scared, sure.

I believe you’re cautious, absolutely.

I believe you’re uncertain about how this thing will shake out, yup.

But not ready? I don’t buy it.

True readiness has nothing to do with fear, caution, or uncertainty; being ready doesn’t require the presence or absence of specific feelings.

 

This is difficult for you to grasp, I know, because somewhere along the way, you got the idea that readiness is linked to emotion—hell, that readiness IS an emotion. You’ve long thought you need to FEEL ready before you ARE ready.

Let me tell you something: Readiness is a decision. It’s a commitment. It’s active.

It doesn’t happen TO you. You CHOOSE it for yourself.

So, when you say you’re not ready and I say I don’t believe you, what I mean is this: I know you’re capable of deciding to be ready; I know you’re capable of commitment; I know you’re capable of take acting whenever you want to, regardless of how you feel.

You’re far more powerful than you think. I see it in you.

Isn't it time you commit to that first, small step of sending me a message (“Helen, this resonates with me!” will do just fine)—so I can tell you, specifically, just how powerful I know you are?

Cutting loose vs. letting loose on a Friday

“Sometimes the biggest gain in productive energy will come from cleaning the cobwebs, dealing with old business, and clearing the desks—cutting loose debris that's impeding forward motion.”

David Allen wrote this in his book, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done.

I haven’t yet read that book, but the concept is something I help folks put into practice on the second Friday of the month when I host Get It Done Day. The event is free and open to whomever wants to show up, and it’s largely about what Allen says: sweeping away the dust, finishing up projects, and making space for clarity and peace. It’s pretty nice that it’s held on a Friday; the participants get to glide into a weekend with a huge feeling of accomplishment, productivity, and energy.

It’s a better alternative to the burned-out, brain-fried experience that so many escape from on a Friday at 5 p.m.—and then escape TO some sort of over-medicating situation (booze, greasy food, late night, un-boundaried decisions) in an effort to recover...to compensate for what felt bad about the week...for the procrastination and the flagging energy and the unavoidable avoidances. In an effort to find balance.

Get It Done Day is about cutting loose. (Cutting loose isn't the same thing as letting loose.) Get It Done Day doesn’t remind me of my wild Friday nights, tearing it up at the Lithuanian Dance Hall in my Baltimore days or at the back room of Rapture in my Charlottesville days.

But it does feel fun. It feels like camaraderie and good collective energy to tackle the stuff no one wants to tackle...but that we all know we must tackle eventually.

I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling pretty damn balanced, not because I'm letting loose tonight, but because I cut loose on a Friday afternoon, when it would’ve been easier to write off the week and hope for the best when Monday rolls around again.

If you’d like to invite some sensible balance into your weekend, come join us for one of the next Get It Done Days, always on the second Friday of the month. (Use that hyperlink to register; it's FREE, but I require a headcount.)

Now, go eat a banana and get some rest. Don't do anything that’ll make you feel like garbage tomorrow.

The only way I know to ensure I'm using my time wisely

The only way I know to ensure I’m using my time wisely is to be all HERE.

Wherever ‘HERE’ is, I’ve realized just how important it is to locate myself mentally and physically in this exact moment (physically is obviously easier...until teleportation becomes a thing)—and to try my damnedest to be as stunningly present as possible.

This is not an easy task for me.

I know you struggle with it, too.

We live in our heads (though I prefer to say we “have rich, inner lives”). Where our bodies are located is sort of an incidental, right?

But it gives you the feeling that you’re not really living...because, while you’re HERE in a physical sense, you’re THERE in a mental sense...and THERE isn’t located in the present moment.

(Stay with me.)

THERE is either someplace that already happened or has yet to happen. (Yesterday or tomorrow.)

So it doesn’t actually exist. (How could it when it’s either history or future?)

HERE is the only thing that exists.

And time doesn’t pass you by when you’re HERE. Because your body and brain are present, together, in this exact moment—you don’t get that loopy, oh-my-god-I-spaced-out-where-the-hell-did-the-day-go feeling that happens when half of you has been living HERE and the other half THERE.

Are you willing to be all HERE with me? To slow down time and make the most of whatever we’re given?

(#tbt to August 20, 2016, when we located ourselves all HERE at my parents’ cottage in coastal Maine. Jigsaw puzzles make for excellent HERE activities—you’re physically HERE, naturally...but you must also bring full mental presence to the table; your mind has to stay HERE in order to make sense of the colors and shapes, and even the bigger picture.)

The allure of the before-and-after series...and why that approach won't work for YOU

You think everyone else is better at managing time than you are.

Everyone else is more focused and efficient.

Everyone else makes good decisions and sticks to them.

Everyone else navigates internet rabbit holes with ease.

You think no one else requires external deadlines to complete their projects.

No one else flakes out at the last minute.

No one else finds boundaries and resilience to be downright impossible.

No one else struggles with follow-through.

Here's what I see, though:

I see someone who's highly capable of learning and experimenting with new time management skills.

Someone who's stunningly creative and whose intuition doesn't always take the quickest route (for good reason).

Someone who's compassionate and won't ever make a decision that hurts her people. (And someone who might change her mind once she has new information.)

Someone who lets her curiosity lead the way.

Someone who has such a rich inner life, such a finely tuned imagination, that she knows she needs to outsource structure wherever possible.

Someone who can't bear to be a disappointment and is trying to learn that her mistakes are actually no worse than anyone else's.

Someone who has spent her life growing her heart instead of fortifying it (and just needs a hand wrangling some chicken wire around it now).

Someone who's so deeply introspective and knows herself so well that it's all she can do to not think herself out of action on a regular basis; sometimes she slips, though.

I see someone who values time, empathy, creativity, intuition, success, both self-knowledge and self-improvement, and (though you hate to admit it) perfection.

You don't expect it of anyone else (well, sometimes—astonishingly —you expect it of your partner, but then you check yourself), but you hold yourself up against it daily. As though it's the door jamb in the house with the pencil marks, and you've got a specific height to reach.

You know it doesn't have to be like this, but you can't conceive of an alternative that will actually stick. (You slide back into old patterns really easily. Know how I know? Because you're my people.)

I believe lasting change happens as a result of taking reeeally small steps. Like, teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy baby steps. SO little, in fact, you're not entirely sure what you're doing is sufficient. (It is, I promise.)

 

I want to separate myself from those sweeping-change, just-do-it, shiny and mighty overhaul-everything coaches who make you believe your efforts to change aren't sticking because you're just not trying hard enough. Or you just don't want it badly enough. That approach feels impossible for most of us because it's based on a belief that self-discipline is a set it and forget it feature—one that overrides who we are at our core.

Here's what I know to be true:

Creative, empathetic, and intuitive people don't set and forget anything. (Well, except maybe the slow-cooker.)

You're tuned in and turned on by so much, all of the time, and it's that attention and intellect and curiosity that makes you capable of such interesting relationships, creations, and experiences.

You can't and won't create lasting change in your life if it means steamrolling your fundamental brilliance.

Are you open to finding and/or creating an approach to habit change that's different from how you've approached it up to this point...but also aligned with who you are at your core?

Are you willing to surprise yourself?

Can you allow yourself to embrace course correction over course perfection?

Do you see validity in taking smaller steps than you thought advisable, or even possible?

If you answered 'yes' to these questions, then regardless of any unsuccessful attempts in the past, you do have what it takes to make lasting change in your life. And you don't have to become someone different in order to do so.

There's nothing wrong with you; you were just holding yourself up against the big and flashy before-and-after, overnight-success paradigm that's sexy as hell, sure—but impossible to embrace if you want to bring your whole self along for the ride (and of course you do, of course you should—you're brilliant).

Small steps, dear heart. Smaller than small. No such thing as too small.

How to start before you're ready

You’ve got the seed of an idea in your mind...and, right on schedule with spring and through no conscious effort of your own, it’s just started to push through the surface and show a little green.

Are you ready to begin work on it?

(Psst! Here’s a not-so-secret secret: If you say you’re ready, you’re ready; if you say you’re not, you’re not. I promise it’s that simple.)

Will you water it and put sunlight on it and cultivate it, knowing that it’ll put forth its own effort no matter what? Knowing that it’ll meet you more than halfway? (After all, that’s just the nature of an idea that’s in season.)

Or will you hold back out of fear, out of a feeling that maybe right now isn’t The Exact Right Time to invest yourself, and next year might be better? In which case, that green that’s starting to emerge on its own? It’ll catch your eye every single time you walk by it...and remind you of what you’re not doing. It’ll be visual evidence that the idea is showing up and doing its part—so, what might be possible for it if you showed up and did your part?

A former client once told me: “One of the most transformative parts of working with you was learning to embody the idea of doing something before I feel ready.”

In our work together over the course of six mini sessions, we didn’t try to change how she felt.

Nope. We changed only what she did (or didn’t do) with those feelings.

She said it best: “I’m much more comfortable now with feeling ‘not ready’ and taking action anyway. You helped me change my mindset at a core level. And I now I don’t see it as an excuse to not move forward but instead as an opportunity.”

Want to change what you do (or don’t do) with your feelings? Comment below (“Seedling alert!” will do just fine) and include the best email address where I can reach you, and I’ll take it from there.

How would you explain it to a child?

As a human and as a coach, I stand against over-complication.

If it can be said simply, say it simply.

If it can be done easily, do it easily.

Shortcuts are usually good (unless they compromise integrity—use your best judgment).

Shorthand tends to get the point across.

Over-complicating serves no one, least of all you. It doesn’t even earn you brownie points or gold stars.

You want to be a hero? Volunteer to teach someone to read. Listen deeply when someone speaks to you. Help someone change a flat tire.

But don’t make things harder than they need to be. That’s not heroic. Valor is never attributed to the people who, for kicks, create more hoops for themselves to jump through. We don’t revere those folks; we pity them.

If you’re uncertain about whether or not you’re over-complicating it (whatever ‘it’ is), ask yourself: How am I making this harder than it needs to be? See what comes up.

If nothing comes up, try imagining you’re explaining the process to a small child.

What wouldn’t she understand?

What steps would need to be reconsidered because they’re just too involved, maybe even excessive?

How would you suggest she pace herself, to achieve this thing?

Should she try to do all the steps at once, or would you recommend she stretch them out over the course of a week or a month?

Do you stand against over-complication, too? But do you find yourself somehow over-complicating things anyway? Tell me about it below.

Why you procrastinate

Have you ever considered the purpose of procrastination?

TO AVOID DISCOMFORT.


The discomfort of starting something new or finishing something difficult, the discomfort of being a perfectionist who might not be able to do the thing perfectly, the discomfort of working on an undertaking that elicits some level of stress.

But there's often a bit of a fight against procrastination. We do it and we self-flagellate at the same time. We know it's not serving us to procrastinate...and yet, we can't seem to stop ourselves from avoiding the discomfort that we know the work will entail.

What I propose to you is to bring some awareness into the picture.

Instead of procrastinating blindly, thoughtlessly... And instead of railing against your procrastination—fighting it, obsessing over it, trying to force your way through it...

Shine a light on your procrastination. Focus your awareness on the why of it. Examine it—as well as your perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions about it—without judgment.

When you notice yourself picking up a novel to read instead of researching that grant that could finance your painting career for a full year, do just that: Notice it.

When you keep telling yourself you'll begin writing your website copy just as soon as you've cleared out your email inbox (but you haven't yet put down that novel in order to tend to the email, let alone the web copy): Pay attention to yourself.

This awareness will become habitual, inserting itself earlier and earlier into the chronology of events, so that you'll start to observe yourself as you're following the distractions and avoidances, not just after the fact. Then, you can introduce some gentle inquiry to your procrastination-in-progress:

“Why am I avoiding this thing?”

“Where is there discomfort for me in this undertaking?”

“Am I sure there's discomfort, or might it be just that I'm fearing possible discomfort?”

And that's it. No cajoling or strong-arming necessary. This focused awareness is enough.

I’d love to know if this lands for you; leave a comment below and tell me!

For when you're feeling existential anxiety

“Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive.”

This is one of those unattributable, inspirational quotes that floats around in various hand-lettered memes—and I love it. It isn’t too lofty; it isn’t idealistic. It nails what I believe when I think about our relatively short lives—and how important it is to remember the bigger picture goal: to enjoy your existence while you’re existing.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a wildly quotable woman who left this earth far too soon) is known for a lovely variation of the above: “Make the most of your time here."

What makes you feel happy to be alive?

How are you making the most of your time here?

Share with me by leaving a comment. I always write back.

(#tbt to July 30, 2016 when my husband and I were full-time vagabonds...but without a house or motorhome. We lived out of backpacks and tote bags, and we got very well-acquainted with hotels. Travel still makes us feel happy to be alive—though I gotta say, we’re really glad to have a home base to travel FROM these days.)

How to turn a session with me into...three

SO MUCH of my transformative small-steps work with clients happens between our coaching sessions.

Between them?!

Yup. The biggest shifts occur within the client when she’s out there on her own, incorporating what we’ve talked about, experimenting with the challenges I’ve given her, and updating me via email.

It’s an awesome thing to witness, because SHE HAD IT IN HER THE WHOLE TIME. I just brought it out of her and then reflected it back so she could see it for herself.

One client summed it up perfectly: “The most helpful part of working with you was the ability to email you updates on the status of my [Big, “Impossible” Thing] and receive very thoughtful and in-depth responses from you that helped me understand my next step. Those emails were so valuable to me, I always felt like you gave me your very best and also that you were 100% cheering me on. I felt relieved when I wrote and sent you the emails. I felt inspired and encouraged when I received your responses. You helped me to see things differently and more authentically.”

I don’t leave anyone out in the cold during this work. It’s a supportive, co-created process, and I keep close tabs on your small steps because I want to keep showing you that you’re Making It Happen. If you take it slow and steady, I know you can do anything you want to do.

Have you thought about investing in a 90-minute session with me—but you’re not sure how far those 90 minutes will really get you?

You might find that 90 minutes, split into three 30-minute laser calls, is spot-on—as it was for my client. She showed up to our calls, did the work I gave her, and as a result: “The follow up emails are really where I stretched and applied your guidance.”

She also said this, which might resonate with you: “I have no doubt that a 90-minute session would be magical, but I preferred having a few sessions spread out so that I continued working with you as things began to shift.”

If you’re on a tight budget, consider three mini sessions. Email me with what you want to achieve, and we’ll break it down into three micro steps—which you can then take with 90 minutes of my support.

Even if the neighbors with the perfect lawn are whispering about you...

I spent all day Sunday out in the yard, cutting back dead things from last year and finding layers of crunchy leaves under hedges and in the nooks between tree roots.

It felt good to move my body in the sun. It felt good to do something physical after a long winter of minimal activity.

Before it becomes a simple matter of lightweight maintenance, our yard will require a whole lot more elbow grease—but there's something about the unglamorous work of getting everything up to speed that I love. The progress is so...visible, it's a hefty dose of instant gratification when it's most needed: on the front end.

You might feel as though you're in the weeds (see what I did there?) when it comes to your self-development; maybe you're in the thick of some seriously gnarly change at the moment, and maybe you're longing for a future in which the daily won't feel like so much of a struggle for you. You're filling yard waste bag after yard waste bag with last year's leaves and felled branches, and you haven't even gotten to the weeding yet, not to mention the out-of-control yews on the property line. You're pretty sure the neighbors with the perfect lawn are whispering about you.

Alternately, you might be in lightweight maintenance mode; maybe your therapy appointments and group coaching challenge you just enough—but on the whole, you feel like you've hit your stride and don't have to work too hard right now to be who you want to be. You're simply repositioning your potted plants on the porch so they get more light and maybe considering novel ways to stake this summer's tomatoes against the house. Weeds? What weeds? You don't even give them a single minute to rear their heads before you're All Over That Shit. The neighbors' lawn's got nothing on you.

Either way, I salute you. Being a human isn't easy. Having a human brain isn't easy. Engaging in human relationships isn't easy.

And yet, you're doing it. You're journeying with the rest of us, despite the difficulty.

Keep going.

If you could use a hand with your heavy-duty or lightweight work, a conversation with me will help. I've witnessed this again and again. The sweet spot is 90 minutes, which is why my single sessions run that long. You don't need to do anything but bring your whole self to the call (i.e. be willing to share, don't hide anything or hold anything back, stay open to the possibility of transformation, trust that I'll hold your heart with care, prepare to be amazed).

Go here to purchase and book.


We can be on the phone together as early as Monday.