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Reflect on Your Mortality

Coffee Mug With Begin
Image by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Reflect on your mortality. Not exactly an uplifting opening line or prospect. However, on further consideration you may come to agree that it is actually a necessary and positive exercise. It can infuse a healthy sense of urgency and allow for possibilities not previously considered!

A Health, Wellness & Fitness magazine appeared in my mailbox recently. One cover article promised “44 Health, Wellness & Fitness Tips”. I’m a sucker for these. I know many of them so I enjoy making a righteous mental tick mark.  Others are new ideas or good reminders. But the suggestion to reflect on my mortality stopped me.

After all, on an average day how often do you think about your mortality? Usually, especially in these strange times, we are encouraged to focus on the positives. Look for things to appreciate. I recently offered a 5-day Savor challenge with the idea being that stopping to savor something leads to gratitude.

And I still believe gratitude and positivity is valuable.

So, when I saw “reflect on your mortality” as a wellness tip … I paused.

Small but life changing advice

At first blush it seemed quite grim. Morose. Sad, even. But I stayed with it for a bit. I read the whole paragraph and came away with a fuller understanding of what the author was trying to convey.

It wasn’t saying my time was nigh. It was reminding me that we are mortal beings. Not eternal. Our time here is finite. Not infinite.

If you took that to heart, what would you do differently? Right now? It could be life changing.

Memento Mori

Now, I know that you don’t go through life thinking that you’ll live forever. Hopefully you’ve done your estate planning and have your end of life wishes articulated. But you certainly don’t ruminate over your final days. If you think about it at all it’s to wish or pray that you won’t suffer, or that loved ones won’t suffer.

But we all come with an expiration date. And there’s no convenient stamp on us to tell us when that time is.

And, again, this wellness tip wasn’t asking that we reflect on our date of death. The message was  “Memento mori” – “remember that you will die.” One day it will be too late.

Before it’s too late

There’s a quote that I always associate with Wayne Dyer: “Don’t die with your music still in you.”

It’s a beautiful metaphor for the gifts inside you waiting to be shared. It’s also another reminder to not wait until it’s too late. To start now even if with tiny steps. To start now even if the song is not clear in your head, even if the melody is sketchy and the theme not fully formed.

The music doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simplicity can be just as eloquent. You also don’t have to think in terms of the grand gesture. Start small. Here’s a story of someone who followed a thread in her life, got involved in a local organization and enriched her life while making a difference in the lives of others. Her music is out in the world.

In her blog post “5 Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware writes about the misgivings many of her palliative care patients expressed as they neared the end. It’s poignant and a great lesson. How wonderful it would feel to live with no regrets.

A final example, my husband’s friend who had many health challenges in his later years. Even though it might have helped, he resisted the physical therapy that was recommended. At the end he asked his son if it was too late to try. Of course, it was. The grief of what could have been is deep.

I’m challenging you to pause and think about this. And then ask yourself what you’d do differently in this moment. Right now? In the juicy bit of the present. Before you rush on to the next task, appointment, social media post, Instagram photo, text message?

What would I do differently?

I would be bolder in inviting you into a conversation about how our working together would help you create and live a second half of life that is rich and meaningful and in touch with the music that’s inside you.

I would be more direct in telling you that it’s not too late to be or do something you’ve put off, to make more daring and unexpected choices in how you spend your day, to make meaningful life changes.

I would urge you to shake off the status quo and live unapologetically. Now.

I would show you the container and the tools to unfold your Multidimensional Life that’s as necessary and vital as all the things you do for your health.

I’m urging you to do this now. Contact me to get started.

Staying centered and sane

Even in the midst of life’s challenges and disappointments and hardships this is possible. I have found during my own hard times that taking time for those things that make me come alive is what gets me through. Taking 20 minutes for a walk with a friend. Talking on the phone with my writing buddy, puttering in the garden for 30 minutes, savoring my morning Barry’s tea even if the rest of the day is going to be consumed by the urgent. I have learned that even small moments of the important make all the difference. They keep me connected to the layers of my Multidimensional Life. That keeps me centered and sane.

Reflect on your mortality. You don’t have forever so start now! Now in what might be the middle or the final quarter of your life. Start now because you’re not dead yet. And, of course, once you are…well, it is just too damn late!

 

Leaves in the stream of life

Leaves In A Stream
photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash

Life is often compared to a river, a current that carries us along. We become leaves in a stream.

There’s no stopping time, no stopping the current. Just like water life will always find ways to move forward.

And as time marches on we begin to feel that we can’t do anything about it its passage. And that’s true. We can do nothing about its passing. But it’s not the forward movement that’s the problem. It’s the direction. Your direction.

It’s not the fact that it flows. It’s the direction of that flow.

I have a water run-off problem in my yard. It’s eroded the soil, left bare patches in the lawn and debris from the road, the driveway and the eroded ground is scattered all over.

I live on the downside of the mountain. The water will come. My focus is now on directing it where I want it. Rain garden, anyone? (And, as the garden is an essential part of my Multidimensional Life, I am being true to myself when I give it my attention.)

So, as in the metaphor above, life is just like that water. It happens. It flows. It carries life’s debris and if left to its own devices can erode our very beings. But consider this: you get to decide where it takes you even if it’s merely the way you choose to frame it. You get to take a pause, maybe grab onto an overhanging branch, take a breath and consider where you go from there.

The flow of your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Life will happen. We can’t control everything. But take a moment now and think about what you can control. Make a decision on what direction the flow of your life will take you. Whether the current of time will carry you along like a leaf in a stream

Will you be swept away? Or at the helm and navigating?

Will you succumb to a torrent of emotion or step back and, once again, pause?

But go beyond just “managing”.  In addition to navigating are you also setting the course direction? In your pause are you giving yourself choice? Are you directing some of your time and energy to what actually lights you up and gives your life deeper meaning? Or are you stuck in a holding pattern where you never make time for yourself, where time becomes a vacuum that is filled by others?

It’s not always easy but remember that you do get to decide.

And when it’s challenging you can consider getting a co-pilot.

A case study

One of my clients, with whom I’ve worked for several years, has had lots of life wash over her. Health, career, family “stuff” that could have easily knocked her off her path permanently. Remember how that water carves its own way?

But in spite of all that was going on, with my help, she was able to maintain perspective, take what were sometimes miniscule steps forward, and sometimes take a break from the journey and take care of what needed care. It was a pause; not the end. It was conscious and deliberate.

A serious injury laid her low for a while. She experienced a lot of pain. However, as her coaching journey was leading her toward healing modalities, she was able to consider how her particular situation could benefit her work with others. Her intuition had been honed in our work together and she knew that this was grist for her particular mill. It didn’t take the pain away, but it gave it some purpose.

I was able to help her with that. I was able to help her with the decision to step back, even to stop coaching for a while, to regroup, be sad where she needed to be sad, hurt where she needed to hurt and to provide a safe container for her to come back to and resume her journey. And what a journey it has been!

Your own experience

But you don’t need to just take my word for it. Or rely completely on someone else’s experience either. Experience it yourself. Explore how it feels to begin to take a new approach to the stream of life.

Contact me for a discovery call. What’s calling to you from deep within? What have you left behind in a busy life? What’s getting in the way? Discover how our work together will make a difference.

(Here’s a little short read on growing old that calls up this age old metaphor of life as a river.)

Midlife Awakening

Freedom
Image by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

It’s been my experience and observation that we spend early to mid-adulthood, our Second Age, on auto-pilot. We charge through our days getting lots of “stuff” done. We compartmentalize life, schedule our pleasures and squeeze in downtime. It’s a race to the end of each day. But once you arrive at midlife? Ah, now it’s your time, a for awakening.

I’ve written about the Third Age, a theory Peter Laslett offered in his book, A Fresh Map of Life: The emergence of the Third Age. Today I want to talk a bit about that Second Age.

Just to refresh:  In our first age, he says, we are dependent. We are still immature; we may be students. The second age is the time for independence, maturity, working. The third age is an era for personal achievement and fulfillment, and the fourth age is a final dependence, infirmity and death.

The Second Age

The Second Age is a building time. Typically, we are absorbed in developing careers, making a good living, rearing families. Often, we are taking care of older generations. It is an outwardly focused time. And, let’s be honest, there’s a little bit of keeping up with the Joneses. We’re running on the schedule of Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit. “I’m late, I’m late…”

Maybe that’s what has to happen during those years.

No judgment here. I’ve lived it, too.

However, what I know is that we don’t have to continue to embody that story.

Awakening to the Third Age, a Multidimensional Life

What I know is that we can Pause, get our bearings and transition to another path, our Third Age, our Multidimensional Life.

Now, I’m not saying it won’t be scary. There’s a nakedness, a vulnerability in this process and that can be quite uncomfortable.

But, just imagine the enormous relief of awakening in midlife, taking off the bindings of earlier times and feeling free. The sweetness of checking in with your quiet inner voice and heeding her message. Learning that you have options as to what comes next, that you are strong and courageous and that it’s okay to rock the boat as you move forward into uncharted waters.

What I wish for you

I believe that this is essential for a full, rich life. Therefore, this is my work in the world:

To empower brave women like you to feel the liberation that comes from speaking to what is alive and true in you.

To guide you as you step into the life-long experiment of being on your own path, even when that path is not clear, of taking small, steady steps in creating and expressing your truest self.

To remind you that there is always the possibility of growing and transforming, of exploring the options of what comes next, of being open to how everything you need is on the path to finding who you are.

Ultimately, it is the freedom of being your true self that wins the day.

Contact me for a discovery call. Let’s explore how I can help you find that freedom.

Tracking Time

Clock

Recently, I started tracking my time. I was inspired by a comment on a recent call with my coach, Isabel Parlett. It got me curious. Where does my day go? Am I living the Multidimensional Life I want to be living where those things that are important get the same attention as the urgent? Where there is some space in my day to breathe or think, or do both at the same time.

Whoa! This little experiment immediately snapped my head back into a mindset that had whips cracking and deadlines breathing down my neck. That is a familiar and, unfortunately, comfortable mindset. It’s a perfect illustration of a hamster wheel that resides in a very deep groove in my head and into which I can easily fall. It was constrictive. I’d rather my time be expansive.

I’ve done this type of exercise before: while I was still working in corporate, when I first left and started my business.

It never felt good. I don’t respond well to whips and things breathing down my neck.

But…

This time was different.

I woke up from the wheel induced coma much quicker.

I paused to evaluate the results of this tracking.

I observed what got done and what didn’t.

I wasn’t thrilled with what I found.

Granted, I got a lot of tasks done. Work tasks, household tasks, personal tasks.

But do you see what was happening? Everything became a task. Just the word task has a certain crackling quality to it. It’s not onomatopoetic (you have to love that word!) but it may as well have been, because it sounded just like a bullwhip snapping close to my ear.

Important vs. Urgent

There was no space woven into my day. It was a race to the finish so that tangible results could be documented. List items could be checked off. I could hear the “good girl, Kathy” in the back of my head.

No! No! No! Get off the hamster wheel!!

Here’s what I know about life off the hamster wheel:

  • We can still be productive.
  • Thinking and dreaming are essential to a full and fulfilling life.
  • Hard, tangible lists can be replaced with curiosity and creativity.
  • The cracking whip can be replaced with an inner GPS check.
  • We can get the urgent done while leaving space for the important.

The important is what is woven into a Multidimensional Life, what gives it its dimension and sparkle. It should be given the same priority as the urgent.

Actually, it should be given a higher priority so we’re sure to get to it.

The intangibles

Because often the urgent is easier than the important. That’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? The edges of urgent are easily defined.

Set up a landing page for an offering? Easy. Yes, there are some tech challenges but there will be steps to follow. We figure it out.

Other things are not quite as simple. Get to the next chapter of my book. Ooh, now we’re in the amorphous world of “I don’t know what happens next.”  Adding more movement/exercise to my day – also important.  Not always simple steps to follow if I want to keep and loose and intuitive.

What’s important to you? What might your day feel like?  Is there a creative project or a refresh of your day-to-day rhythms called for? What about noodling about a new business or retirement? There’s no real template so it’s hit or miss. It’s curiosity and practice. It’s not knowing and trusting.

It’s never an end result like an urgent task that has a starting and ending point and can be given a neat little check box that you tick off.

But it’s so very important.

The thrill of the process

It’s a process, a journey and guess what? That is where the good stuff is. That’s the juice, the thrill, the joy.

It’s messy and complicated and simple and fun all at the same time.

I know. This is what I am reminded of when I come out of my hamster wheel induced coma and remember what’s important.

That next chapter of the book. The garden dreams. My business. My clients. What I’m doing at this very moment.

Does this whet your appetite for your own Multidimensional Life? I hope so. I hope it gives you a yearning for what could be. That sensation of “I can taste it but I can’t put my finger on it…yet”. This is where I shine in helping you shine. Are you being called to do the work you’re called to do?

The other stuff will get done. This is the Multidimensional Life we all crave. And deserve.

I’d love to talk to you about getting you off your hamster wheel and into your Multidimensional Life. Click here to book a consult with me.

A Pause to Savor

A Moment To Savor Life
Image by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Savoring. A deep awareness, an inner mmm.

It is gratitude on a fuller, deeper level that incorporates more of the body and the senses.

By its very nature it produces a Pause, not to mention closed eyes and a smile.

It’s a moment when time slows down and gratitude wells up.

Why Pause and savor?

The benefits of this moment are many.

  • It brings you smack dab into the present moment.
  • It releases stress.
  • It makes you more aware of other things to savor
  • It leads to more gratitude

Savoring is also a wonderful first step to creating a Multidimensional Life. A life in which these moments of savoring are woven into your every day.

Yes, even your busy days. Even days in hamster-wheel-driven lives.

The hamster wheel behind the scenes

While you may not notice this hamster wheel of your life on a conscious level, your unconscious is screaming. And, once you become aware of it, it’s not always possible to just hit the off switch. This frenzied wheel is your normal. You’ve created a habit of cramming as much as you can into your day. You zip from one task or commitment to the next with little thought other than how you’ll get from one to the next. Quite one dimensional.

I know, I’ve been there. And I also know that living at this speed is not sustainable. Something will break, something will be forgotten or discarded or lost. Sometimes that something is you.

You get lost in the minutiae of your day as you try to get it all done. But the hours of the day are finite, so it spills over to the next day. And the stress happily tags along.

Bliss moments

Do you remember the Calgon ads? “Calgon, take me away!” Or the look of a woman in a Dove candy ad eating a chocolate? The bliss, the savoring.

Or the TV ad for the Calm app that invites you to do nothing for 15 seconds. (Does that make you anxious, antsy, a little itchy? Just “being” can be hard while trying to keep the wheel in motion.)

Yes, it’s hard to slow down, shut down, savor “just like that”.  But you can do it slowly, gradually.

What I suggest is weaving in pockets of savoring to start.

Slowing down

Those are your hands on the throttle. You can slow things down for those pockets of savoring. Take a moment now. Imagine your hands grasping the controls. White knuckled. Feel yourself pulling it back, slowing it down. Listen to the whine of the engine get quieter. Feel the vibrations get fainter and fainter. Let it come to a gentle stop. Experience yourself stepping off, pausing and savoring a moment. Whether it’s a moment of quiet, or that Dove chocolate or a piece of music. Maybe your partner or your workmate.

Just a short Pause

While I’m using the analogy of stopping the hamster wheel, savoring is not always the cessation of all activity. It can be a Pause. At least to start.

For instance, you can metaphorically slow down and appreciate your commute, your dinner preparation, weeding your garden. You can temporarily pause at a view, a word, a phrase.

During my last job my commute was all back roads. No highways, just country roads and neighborhoods. One spot was my favorite. It overlooked the Washington Valley and at certain times of the year, the setting sun would be perched atop the tree line. Like the old Kilroy was here graffiti. I didn’t stop the car but I would consciously quiet my monkey mind and appreciate the view. To savor the beauty and amuse myself by personifying the sun as a long-nosed cartoon character peeping over the horizon.

In my Writers Circle we read our freshly written work. And almost every time someone reads, we get stopped by a phrase or a word. We need to pause and savor it. Someone will say “Can you go back and read that sentence again? It was so beautiful.” “I got lost for a moment after that one phrase…” It’s as if we tripped and fell into gorgeous language. It’s a moment of savoring and appreciating.

This is what is missing in a hamster-wheel driven life.

The moments that accumulate and create a different feeling, a multi textured world, where beauty and riches reside. Moments that can be woven into the musts and even the “shoulds”. Moments that can gradually unfurl into hours, days, a life, a Multidimensional Life.

I have a chance for you to practice this starting August 31st in my private Facebook group: Your Big Juicy Multidimensional Life.  Join the group now for more info on what we’ll be doing and how you can participate. 

Are you up for a challenge?

Start awakening to your Big Juicy Multidimensional Life.

Help with the Midlife Journey

You Can Lighten Up Your Journey

Do you find it hard to ask for help? Do you feel that you need to do things on your own? After all, why would you work with a coach for help in the passage into midlife and beyond? To lighten up the journey? That beautiful unfurling of a Multidimensional Life? After all you can read a book or talk to your friends. And hiring a coach feels frivolous. I used to think that way.

Lots more road ahead

At a certain point in life we start to sense feelings of disappointment. It can become a close companion. Regrets, ruing, what if’s, the road not taken. I know I’ve been there. We aren’t that 21-year-old anymore with starry dreams and no road dust. We have been through the thick of it. We have worked and nurtured, we’ve laughed and shed a lot of tears. Tears of sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, laughter. We’ve been knocked for loops, left adrift, fallen down, gotten up, been pulled up, been knocked down. So, how do we put it behind us and move on? Because there’s still more road ahead.

And, here’s the thing: You’re still here!  All the stuff I just listed? This is the stuff that will be used for the next leg of your journey. This is the stuff that you can sort through, dialogue with, toss out. You can thank it for its lessons and let it go. You can use the Marie Kondo method – does this bring me joy?  No? Toss it. This is grist for your personal mill, lead to be transmuted into gold.

You are an alchemist.

Moving forward

Now, you can certainly go it alone. You’re smart. This isn’t your “first rodeo”. However, my personal experience is that without support dreams just float by. It’s hard to get momentum and easy to slip back into the rut of the status quo. The pages of the calendar fly away at an ever-quickening rate. Oh, well, you sigh. Maybe I’m too old for change. Maybe it’s too late. Life isn’t so bad.

You’re not too old.

It’s not too late.

Life can be richer, deeper and more meaningful.

I’m not talking huge epiphanies or complete 180’s. I’m talking about beginning an exploration of possibilities with small questions, small steps, curiosity and joy.

Why go it alone?

Getting support, hiring a coach, taking courses…this was hard for me in the beginning. I always thought that I should be able to fix whatever wasn’t working. I thought asking for help was a weakness. It didn’t fit in with the image I had of myself as a strong, self-sufficient woman. Yes, my ego was quite fierce!

But, the reality? Staying in my own head, having no objective person to bounce things off didn’t work. Yes, I have a great husband and friends and siblings but their views and feedback will usually be biased. They know me as they think they know me.

Fresh ideas, fresh tools, fresh mindsets? That has made all the difference. Finding new people who resonate with the person I was becoming and who weren’t stuck on the old me (like I also was!) was life changing.

That is what I do for my clients.

What else I do

I also:

  • Remind them of their dreams
  • Help them create small questions and determine next small steps. (There’s an art to this!)
  • Provide accountability, celebration, deep listening and someone to reflect back their words.
  • Have an array of creative tools to make this process more intriguing and fun.

By midlife we carry so much. We are containers that life has filled to the brim with all our experiences – both good and bad. Up bubbles the regrets, the disappointments.

It’s time to tip that container over and sort through things. It’s time to stop being weighed down by this slag.

What worked, what do you love, what is important to you, what are your values – have they shifted, what brings meaning into your day, your life? What about joy, delight, a giggle?

Work with what is working

Let’s shine the light on that, expand it, thank the other stuff for their contribution, for their strengthening power, for making you who you are. Know that there will be more challenges and tears but the depth and richness of your MD Life will be able to contain them, hold them and let them move through and out of you.

Now is the time to begin living as if you believed you have a lot of life left and that the quality of that life matters. Because when you do, it begins to come true. It’s magic. It’s alchemy. You are golden.

You are so much more. Contact me and we’ll uncover the you that is in waiting. Let’s show the world all your beautiful layers. Your Multidimensional Life.

Tuning In

Alert Rabbit Tuned In To Surroundings
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Are you tuned in? To yourself, not the outside world. The outside’s easy. Tuning in to your inner world requires less thinking and more listening but can feel awkward at first. What should be harmonious instead feels clumsy. Tuning in is an essential part of a Multidimensional Life.

Why it’s important

I hold a shared work space with another coach a few times a week. We bring everyone into our virtual space with a guided relaxation that invites them to tune in to what really wants to be done. It gives permission to put down the taskmaster’s switch and dial in to what the inner self wants. For some, it is a meal or their journal or exercise. Maybe a cup of coffee before they start a task, a small step. It brings grace into their day.

Animals and insects are tuned in. What wants and needs to be done is natural to them. They are not multi-tasking or wearing blinders, going full tilt on the highway to the next task. They are quite brilliant.

This comes to me as I sit out on my deck one recent early morning. I notice the cicadas tuning up, practicing the quickening crescendo of their August song, that creaky, ch-ch-ch sound. It sounds like August, I thought. How does nature know? July is waning, the garden is becoming voluptuous. As I tune in to the sounds and smells of high summer, I am awash in emotions both bittersweet and anticipatory. And I stay tuned in to it all, leaning my head back on the rocker and taking it in with all my senses.

How lucky I am to have this experience. I feel gratitude surging. This is an important element of my Multidimensional Life. I will go back into the house and tend to tasks and responsibilities, but I savor this time in the fresh new morning – just me and the birds, bees and cicadas.

Genius of a Pause

The awe at nature’s genius remains with me as I go about my day. Nature just knows what the next step is and when to take it. It doesn’t procrastinate or get side-tracked. It carries on brilliantly.

How do we become genius? How do we tune in to our natural brilliance? It’s all there for the taking once we get off the merry-go-round and Pause. 

A Pause allows us to listen, discern a natural next step, make it small enough to make it easy and then take it.

A Pause is potent because without it the proverbial tail wags the dog. The outside world pushes and pulls. We are unconscious to it, operating by habitual thoughts and actions.

A small example of one of my Pauses

I take medication for a sluggish thyroid. It’s supposed to be taken on an empty stomach so I try to take it first thing in the morning. A few days ago I sat down to breakfast and realized I hadn’t taken it. Oh, I wish I would remember to take it first thing! You know that exasperated tone?

When I paused to listen, I was able to tune in to the feeling under the thought. I was able to hear the chastising way I said that to myself. Taking myself to task was not going to help me remember and it didn’t make me feel good about myself.

I observed a habitual mode of thinking and then was able to make a conscious decision to cut myself some slack. I would never say that to you in that tone of voice. Why do I say it to me that way?

Where are you NOT tuning in?

Again, a very tiny example, but magnify that by the hundreds or thousands of thoughts that flit through our heads and the myriad actions we take each day without thinking. We become automatons living a one dimensional, hamster wheel driven life.

Tuning in doesn’t always require action. It certainly doesn’t require judgement. It requires a small pause, a checking in with our inner guidance and then perhaps an adjustment to our course. A trajectory that is dialed in to the richness and depth of a Multidimensional Life.

This is where I can help. I help tune up your tuning device. I listen to help you listen. I clear the way for you to build your Multidimensional Life. Contact me to learn more.

There’s Magic in Those Small Steps!

Magic Of Small Steps And Kaizen

To me there is something truly magical about the philosophy and practice of Kaizen. After all, how could such small actions and thoughts create such amazing results?

But, when I speak about Kaizen in front of a group, I occasionally get the eye roll and the “Ugh! Not this again”. This is from women who have grown up in companies that employ Kaizen as a quality control process. Or they had to certify in Six Sigma, another improvement methodology. In these settings it is about streamlining and continuous quality improvement that result in financial returns.

No, no! I exclaim. This is different.

While it’s true that Kaizen came out of manufacturing, the way that Dr. Robert Maurer presents it in his book, The Kaizen Way: One Small Step Can Change Your Life, makes it so much more approachable. It becomes a softer science. Continuous improvement for you, a lovely, warm, flesh and blood being. Not hard, cold manufactured stuff. It offers a way to live as we create a rich, Multidimensional Life, a life more truly connected to who we are at our core.

Sneaking past the amygdala

When I talk about Kaizen I’m talking about actions and thoughts, questions and rewards that are small enough to bypass the attention of the brain’s amygdala. That ancient section of gray matter, developed for the fight or flight response, is just waiting to squash any attempts to make a change, to do something a daring, take a risk, be yourself. It must hang out with the ego. It’s for your own good, dearie!

I see the amygdala sitting on the front porch, kicking back, feet up on the railing, filing her nails. But she’s alert. She snaps to attention if she hears any rustling noises or sees you sneaking out the side door or attempting anything out of the usual.

The beauty of the small steps, questions, thoughts and rewards of Kaizen is that they help you tiptoe right past her.

The four elements of Kaizen

Small steps that are so small that it’s almost impossible to not do them. But in doing them, they accumulate and give you traction. That leads to momentum. All of a sudden, your taxes are done because you’ve broken it up into tiny steps, small increments of time, and the dread and angst never get a toehold.

Small questions that don’t overwhelm and don’t require an immediate answer. They are small enough to bypass the amygdala and make their way to frontal cortex, the creative part of the brain. The frontal cortex goes to work while you go about your own business. These small questions are probably my favorite; they feel like magic. I prescribe them to my coaching clients all the time and utilize them myself. For instance, I wanted to know what one of my fiction characters was keeping from me. I asked myself the question frequently but didn’t struggle with it. Then one morning I woke up startled as I realized what her secret was. And even now as I prepared to write this post and remembered this example, I just got another download. Because my brain continues to chug away in the background.

Small thoughts which can sculpt our mind. Similar to visualization, it involves all the senses. Athletes have used mind sculpting to “practice” while sidelined from injuries or to improve their skills. The brain doesn’t really know the difference – real or imagined – and the results are tangible. In Kaizen small thoughts/mind sculpting is taken a few steps further. Dr. Maurer suggests that we experience what it is we want (public speaking, writing, weight loss) in our minds utilizing all our senses. Feel it, hear it, smell it, see it, taste it. It’s not just seeing or visualizing ourselves doing it; it’s participating in our minds. Maurer gave a great example in a lecture I attended when he confessed that he really didn’t enjoy writing. But he needed to get his book written. So, he spent 30 seconds at a time imagining himself writing. How his body felt in his desk chair, the sensation of his fingers tapping the keyboard, the sound of the tapping, the ease of words flowing from his brain to his fingers to the page, the joy of the creative expression. His brain didn’t know that this was only his imagination; it created the habit he needed to get his book written. His brain chemistry changed, new connections were made and new patterns emerged. More magic?

And finally, small rewards. Often the bigger the reward the harder we try. We strain and struggle because the stakes are high and we don’t want to fail. The result is that nothing – or nothing special – happens.  By contrast, small rewards – a cup of coffee after writing 500 words, a manicure after losing 5 pounds, a new pair of fun socks for reaching a workout goal – don’t involve a lot of risks. As a result, we are more willing to take a bigger risk and stretch a bit more. After all, the stakes are low and there’s not much to lose.

Kaizen and creativity

Kaizen is about continuous improvement through small steps. I combine it with principles of creativity. The process becomes unique and powerful.

Consider yourself as the creative work. Discerning what you want, beginning to see it and to take the small steps to begin the journey to it. This is the most important work you will ever do!

Do you want a life that’s rich and full and constantly evolving and growing? Try practicing these four principles. In fact, pause for a moment right now. Ask yourself: “what is one small step I can take today to get me closer to my goal.” And then just listen.

Contact me to find out how this can help you…whatever your dreams.

Freedom from the inside out

Unfurling Rose

Just what is freedom? What does it mean to you? Yes, it’s inalienable rights and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what does it mean for you on a personal level? On a gut level? From the inside out?

Does it mean a lack of obligations? Not needing to work? No financial concerns or any need to bother yourself with domestic tasks?

Maybe.

But, how can I be free?, you ask. I have to work. I have to take care of my family. I have obligations.

I hear you.

Yes. Me, too. But, first and foremost, I would suggest that freedom isn’t necessarily just the absence of those outer bindings. And anyway, most of us don’t fall into those categories.

So, what does freedom mean to you? That inner freedom? Think about it as I tell you what it means to me.

Soothing the rough patches

Several years ago, my husband had a very serious eye issue. It required lots of doctor visits, including specialists in New York City. I had to take over his normal day-to-day tasks, like bill paying and laundry and garbage detail. He needed more of my attention for many things. All of which I was happy to do.

But – and this was new for me – in the midst of this I made sure I tended to me. I walked with a friend. I worked on my writing. I worked with my clients. Some things had to be put on the back burner but I reminded myself that a back burner is not the dumpster.  I checked in with my heart and figured out what most wanted to be done and then decided what I could do. Then I let go of what I couldn’t do for the time being. Conscious choices – freedom. Weaving in the joyful, rich moments (he couldn’t watch TV so we listened to a lot of music) with the dreary mundane moments (laundry).

This is freedom to me:

  • The ability to take a Potent Pause to remember who I am at my essence and what I’m on this earth for.
  • Being able to choose my actions and reactions and include myself in those choices.
  • Knowing how to reframe a situation and find those choices. (What can I do, as opposed to what I can’t do.)
  • A deep understanding that, regardless of what is on my plate, there are places and ways and moments in life that will bring me pleasure, satisfaction, and joy.
  • Remembering that while life is always shifting, throwing me curves, challenging me, I can stand tall in my own brilliance.
  • The vow – to myself – to remain true to that brilliance for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death kicks me out of here. Even if only in short snippets. Even in the midst of health emergencies, pandemics and general craziness.

It’s an inner freedom that no one can take away from me.

It’s an act of faith, an opening to grace.

It is a conscious and deliberate step off the hamster wheel.

It is my Multidimensional Life.

What is freedom for you?

 

Hamster wheels, Merry-go-Rounds and Sisyphus

Crashing Wave Like Overwhelm
Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

What do hamster wheels, merry-go-rounds and Sisyphus have to do with each other? Simply put, they provoke and exemplify stress and overwhelm.

So many successful, professional women spend their lives on a hamster wheel. It’s a constant push, always focused on getting things done and accomplishing things.

Or their lives are a merry-go-round. With that incessant music – someone else’s music – insinuating its way into our veins, taking over our natural rhythms.

We are like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up, struggling, paying for sins long forgotten. Perhaps just the sin of gender and the need to prove ourselves. The need to try harder.

Enter stress and overwhelm.

Sisyphus dared to fiddle with the plans of the gods. He was punished with a job that will never be done. Is that you?

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

(Opening lines from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese)

Here’s the truth.

You are already good. You can stand tall in that. And you will go on being good: at what you do, at who you are, at what you stand for. Stop wasting your energy trying to prove it. Come out of the desert into the cool green glade of your essence.

What I know is that when we try so hard to be all and do all, when we struggle, all we see is the struggle. All we see is the rock teetering above us and we lose sight of why we’re pushing. And, at the same time, we teach others to let us do the heavy lifting.

When we struggle, we get exhausted and those pieces of ourselves that renew and restore get lost. We don’t have time to do the things that make us a multidimensional human. For me, well, who had time to meditate, journal, play with watercolors. The garden was on the list but at the bottom. If I were to invite a friend out for a walk…wait, what friend? Most of my friends were really acquaintances or work colleagues. Ten-hour work days plus a long commute left no energy to meet new people, volunteer, join an organization that aligned with who I am and who I want to be.

I had let go of who I was and tried to become what the world thought I should be. Is that you?

Here’s another truth.

You can climb the ladder of success without a boulder on the rung above you. You can let loose your creativity in your business, your home, your interactions with the bigger world. And it can be joyful and satisfying and meaningful. It can be a model for the women who are coming up behind you. Because you do not have to sacrifice your whole self to attain this. I am still learning this; unraveling years of habitual, reactive behavior.

You can stay moored in the depths and riches of who you are at your core. You can choose how to spend this precious commodity that is your time. You know there is so much more to you and your life. Are you willing to explore and flow with it?

Yes, you can be anchored and flowing.

Let the world get to know the real you. You don’t have to push. You do not have to walk on your knees. There is nothing to repent.

Wondering how to step off the merry-go-round? Contact me for a complimentary discovery call. I’ve been there and I can help.

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