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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.

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.

The Work of Art That is You

Hands Messy With Paint
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

I recently put out a survey on the joys and challenges of the Second Half of Life. (If you’d like to take it, click here. It’s only 4 questions and takes less than 3 minutes.) The responses led me to contemplate, once again, how our lives are works of art.

We are alike and yet different

Out of 40+ responses, several common themes emerged. And, in spite of the commonalities, I loved seeing how the ways they showed up were unique to the individual.  For instance, where many responded that freedom was one of the joys they are experiencing, what they’re doing with that freedom differs. For some it was the freedom to set their own schedule, for others the freedom to change. There was freedom of choice and freedom to pursue hobbies. Does freedom resonate with you? It sure does with me. More than resonate, it starts the bells pealing in my belfry!

Frustrations and challenges

Frustrations included worry about money, the experience of no longer being seen, a shortening time horizon or the “loss of me along the way.” That last one particularly makes my heart ache. I understand it so well.

And then there are challenges. Procrastination showed up (although that isn’t unique just to midlife.) Health and fitness, need for structure, the difficulties of beginning to plan for the second half while still engaged in her career – what I call traveling the two-lane road. (Kudos to the respondent who was smart enough to take on that challenge!)

Perhaps I’m a little further along in my journey (that sounds so much nicer than “older”, doesn’t it?) but here’s what those extra miles have shown me: Life is a beautifully messy creative process and each of us will experience our own unique route.

Choosing how we move through our second half of life

When you choose to view your second half of life in this way it becomes an adventure. It gets easier. Injecting some playfulness can make it fun. It becomes a time of curiosity and anticipation instead of dreariness and dread.  And the hard parts, while certainly not pleasant, can also benefit from this approach when you use your awareness to focus on what’s working, sources of help, the need – and permission – for self-care, even if only in very small pockets of time.

What’s beautiful about this is that we gradually find that we don’t need to know how it’s all supposed to work out. We don’t need all the answers at once or a crystal-clear view of the future. It is very freeing. We only need to take our next small step and take our eyes off the rear-view mirror.

That rear-view mirror syndrome was prevalent in a lot of the survey responses. Along with the regret that usually accompanies it. I, too, find myself transfixed by that view. I wish I’d done some things differently; I re-enact a hurtful situation so I can come up the winner; I recreate old shames and embarrassments. Notice what’s missing here? I usually forget to revisit the wins and the joys. And the reality is that spending time looking back does me absolutely no good. Can I change the past? No. Can I learn from it? Probably, if I haven’t already. Do I need to hang out there? No. Just turn your gaze around.

Does any of this feel familiar?

Good. Awareness is the first step in any process of change or creation. It clears the mist and shows us our truth. We experience our moment. The good stuff and the not-so-good.

For instance, where are you feeling joy? What’s the essence of that feeling? Where else is it happening that you’re not noticing on a conscious level? What we focus on expands.

What would happen if you sat down with that frustration? Try bringing it to your journal page – without judgement? I find that when something feels defeating or like too much of a challenge and I look it in the eye, it begins to dissipate. Other solutions come up. I’m able to see it in a totally different light.

Your creative process

The creative process that produces paintings, symphonies, books, gardens and so much more also works in life. Reframing, thinking differently, adding play and self-care are part of the process. The decision to wean yourself from perfectionism and procrastination, to let it all be beautifully messy, to embrace Kaizen’s small steps and questions elevates it. All of this that conceives and manifests so much that is good and beautiful in the world – all of this is what makes a life of meaning and purpose, a legacy of being, a view at the end that has no regrets.

And midlife is the perfect time to dive right in and uncover this masterpiece, your Multidimensional Life!

Ideas, Dreams and Threads (Pamela)

Ideas Dreams Threads

She was fresh out of college, full of ideas and dreams. Pamela didn’t have a specific career in mind. She had majored in Liberal Arts, studied Spanish and comparative literature and later taken English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

While in school she had the opportunity to spend a summer in Spain and France. She got to immerse herself in the local culture and observed how she really enjoyed the mundane everyday bits of life, like going to the market. She found it and liked the challenge. It took her beyond being a tourist and allowed her to be a local, to sop up real life.

Her someday dream was to live overseas. But, in the meantime, like most of us, she needed a day job.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” *

Pamela started at one of the Bell companies in sales. They had an international presence and she thought that might be an avenue to get overseas. This was part of her  “someday” dream.

She also got married and had a daughter. The young family had a five-year plan, but, as so often happens, life took over.

And, as women are wont to do, she made compromises. She adapted.

A successful woman

In retrospect, Pam readily acknowledges that she had a great career. She is a smart and savvy woman. Not surprisingly, her favorite role was one in which she needed to become an expert in import/export regulations and procedures. It gave her the opportunity to learn international law. She had to deal with international trade across multiple countries. And, yes, she got to travel.

But, the more successful she became, the less freedom she had. It gradually ebbed away and she became a workaholic. There was a time when she was able to work from home and that helped bring some balance into life. But that didn’t last. It became increasingly apparent that work was beginning to interfere with life.

Sometimes that realization comes as a gradual awakening; other times it’s a whack on the side of the head. Either way, it gets our attention. If we are awake and paying attention, solutions present themselves.

Now what??

Like many large companies and retirement eligibility, Pam’s had certain formulas in place that took into consideration age and length of service. At the same time, a favorable interest rate environment presented Pam with an attractive pension opportunity. The decision to retire was a quick one. She grabbed it.

However, she was not mentally prepared. After all, “how does one go from a 24/7 work environment, fast paced, “married to my job”, high energy to retirement”? Now what, she wondered.

Old ways of being are carved deep on our souls and Pam was faced with a new challenge. Learning how to learn to relax battled against the habit of being busy. She grappled with the shock of going from an intense work/social environment to nothing. She certainly knew how to fill her time – three book clubs, the YMCA three days a week, some classes. Loading her calendar was a familiar – and comfortable – pattern.

Listening to her heart

It took a long time to find a level of satisfaction. Eventually, Pam was able to articulate what she wanted:

  • A good ongoing volunteer opportunity
  • Someone to play with
  • Places that contributed to health, relaxation, exercise and socialization

Oh, remember back to Pam’s college days? ESL? And about solutions presenting themselves when we’re paying attention? One day a friend suggested she look into Literary Volunteers of Morris County. It piqued her interest and she went a little further.

She followed her intuition; heeded her natural creative process. She volunteered and organized a conversation class. She got to select news articles and themes to discuss. She researched and presented cultural and historical subjects. Election day inspired a class on the American election process. She used other current events and “mundane” everyday things to stimulate conversation. There was a group that met for lunch, sharing the cuisine of their native country.

In the process, Pam got to enhance her own learning, have cross cultural exchanges, play and socialize while immersing herself in international flavors and staying close to home.

The Thread

And there was the thread that connected to her young dreams.

In the beginning, Pam never envisioned a corporate career. Her interests were language, literature, intellectual stimulation, cross cultural experiences.

In the end, she found fulfillment and enrichment and intellectual stimulation through LVMC students in and outside the classroom, socializing at lunch, developing close familial connections, all the pieces of everyday cross-cultural, mundane life that had intrigued her.

Finding the thread of yearning in your life and figuring out how it can be fulfilled today is part of the work I do when I work with clients to create their Multidimensional lives. It could be a second (or third) career. It can be volunteer work or just rediscovering an old passion. It is recovering old dreams or finding new ones and living from the inside out.

* Various attributions – John Lennon, Allen Saunders, Earl Wilson. Regardless, it’s a great sentiment!

Tapping into Joy

Can Joy Flow Like The Sap Of A Maple Tree?

Does joy flow easily through you? Like the sap of the maple tree in spring, only needing a spigot to gush out and fill the bucket?

It hasn’t always been that easy for me. I admit to getting a little stuck with this joy stuff. But, one of the elements I want woven into my Multidimensional Life is simple joy. Noticing and appreciating those small things that used to escape my consciousness or that became tasks, items to check off on a list.

Small Moments

For instance, do you know how quickly the sun moves across the sky? I can’t quantify it in minutes but I can tell you how quickly I can miss the spectacle that is the house across the road when the sun crests my rooftop and beams its joy on the yellow house across the street. It glows as if from within. It is liquid warmth even on a cold January morning.

That small act of standing at my front window and watching brings me joy. No matter how often I see it, it catches my breath. I no longer zip by on my way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and get my day started. I stand or sit and drink it in. Better than caffeine.

This is something I discovered by slowing down and paying attention. Recently I was thinking about whether we should downsize and move, and one of the things that came up was “Oh, I’d miss seeing Minnie’s house at dawn.”

Small, inconsequential? Yes.

Powerful road into a joyful, mindful experience? Hell, yeah!

Synchronicity

I started writing this post on a Saturday morning. Later that day, I met with an intuitive coach for an oracle card reading. The first card she pulls for me is Joy. (Yes, really.) I can feel forces conspiring, trains of thought converging.

As the river of conversation flows, “tapping into joy” shifts into opening up to receive joy. Can you feel the difference? It’s not so much going out and finding it as it is opening up to it. Putting yourself into a state of receiving. I no longer have to hammer the spigot into the tree; I am the bucket.

Now I remind myself in the morning to open up so joy can find me. (Writing this helps reinforce this goal.) I ask how can I become a vessel ready to be filled with joy. Part of this Multidimensional Life journey for me is to stop turning even joy into a task. It’s no longer something to be checked off a list. It’s the small everyday moments. It is being in a state of receiving and trust. 

Simple Joy

When I do this, I find that there is so much simple joy in my life. Yes, I will continue to appreciate the glow of the sun on the house across the street. I’ll relish the startle of red that’s a cardinal perched on the evergreen outside my kitchen window. I’ll continue to be in awe of the hummingbird as it whizzes past my ear while I’m sitting on the deck. I will be open to moments of joy and then some.

If you are building a Multidimensional Life and joy is an element you want woven into your day, consider this affirmation: I am open to receiving joy.

Very simple, very small, very potent.

Remembering Joy

Call it into memory as you come up through layers of sleep each morning or as you go to sleep at night. Write it on your tube of toothpaste, write it on a Post It that you stick to your car dashboard. Keep it handy and repeat it often until it becomes part of the flow of your thoughts.

A quote attributed to Buddha says “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world”.

Let’s all be joy.

Waiting for Retirement?

“I can’t wait to retire.”

I was at a party recently when someone made that comment. A chorus of agreement followed. They were all straddling 60.

As the conversation swirled around me, I realized it wasn’t just about retirement. They were talking about freedom. Freedom from the commute, freedom from deadlines, freedom from crazy bosses and angry customers.

Ah, sweet freedom!

But, wait. Open the door to that longed-for future, just a crack, and peek out at that distant freedom. What do you see? Who do you see?

It’s not just freedom.

Retiring is about so much more than just freedom. It’s not an end. It’s a beginning. It’s you transitioning to another stage of life. It’s you unfurling the many layers of who you’ve become – the rich, multilayered, beautiful, multidimensional you.

And it does offer freedom. Freedom to sleep in, go out to breakfast, run errands on Tuesday instead of with the throngs on Saturday.

But freedom can still have its own challenges.

Because what you may find on the other side of freedom is a yawning void. A vacuum, if you will. And you know how nature feels about a vacuum. It’s unnatural. It will be filled. Count on it.

It will be filled with so much that you will hear yourself saying, “I don’t know how I had time to work before I retired!” Days will pass and blur. Years will fly by, even faster than they already are. If you’re okay with that, you can stop reading now.

How about looking at freedom in a different way?

Looking at it as a vehicle that will take you someplace rich and unexpected. This is a time of life when you get to direct the action. It’s your Third age and you get to live from the inside out instead of the reverse, which we all do during the building, striving, tending second age of life.

With this freedom you get to recognize and tend to what is most important to you and to choose how to spend that precious commodity that is your time.

If you want a freedom that takes you someplace rich and surprising, consider this (first of 3 rules of the retirement road):

Rule #1: If you’re waiting for retirement to do something, stop waiting.

Don’t put it off any longer. Start it small but start it now. We have no guarantees on how long we’ll be on this mortal coil. Start practicing what it would be like to step out of that work driven world and into a Multidimensional Life that matches the multidimensional you. Start planning, imagining, trying on, discerning. It could turn out that the thing you’ve been putting off loses its allure when you go deeper.

I know a woman who always had an entrepreneurial itch. While she was working, she tried several different part-time selling ventures (jewelry, cooking tools) She couldn’t sustain it because it wasn’t satisfying a deeper need: to create.

Then she started making her own jewelry. She learned different techniques and got to experiment and design what gave her pleasure. She participated in juried shows and that pleasure radiated out to her customers. Now she’s retired and finds joy in this form of personal expression. Her whole demeanor has changed, her face is relaxed, she is beautiful.

How much better to have experimented sooner than later!

Recently, I visited a friend who was getting ready to retire. He was transitioning his business to his daughter and his mind was several months ahead into his new life. He was thinking about how things might be and told me how he was going to take his time to get used to this new stage of life, not rush into anything. He was also a gardener and told me about his plans for adding to his garden. He knew what he could do himself and where he might need some outside help. He wasn’t waiting; he was designing and creating. After all, a garden takes planning. Most of the work is done before you put the shovel in the ground.

Preparing

A lot of your prep work will be the inner work. Read, talk to people, explore. Just don’t wait.

This is a freedom that you can exercise while still working. You don’t need an empty nest or hours of unrestricted time to dream and plan. Take it where you can, in small bits, small steps that let you begin to acclimate to a new pace.

Just start by asking yourself what is truly important to you. Listen to what comes up; be curious. There’s unlimited wisdom already inside you just waiting to be mined.

Are you yearning for that future freedom? This is where I can help. There’s more to retirement planning than a pension and 401k. Contact me to set up a time to chat and learn how this type of coaching would ignite your freedom. Do you know someone who is at this stage of life? Please share this post.

A Different Retirement Planning

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask. ~ Sam Keen

Let’s turn retirement planning on its head. Or maybe just on its side. Let’s bring it down to reality and by reality I mean what is real for you. Traditionally, retirement planning has been about the money. It’s about a magic number to strive for. It brings up anxiety around whether it’s enough. And, if we think it’s not enough, we worry about how to get to that magic number. As a result, we often double down on our work, forgo personal time, grow a someday/maybe list, or put off for the things that are meaningful because they don’t contribute to that number. We experience stress and all the accompanying gifts that that brings.

Traditional Retirement Planning.

As I moved through my career, the retirement planning world came into prominence for the regular working person. IRA accounts, 401k allocations. New investors poured into mutual funds. As a result, the stock market boomed with these new investments. New careers were built around this segment of financial planning.

And this is all good.

Don’t get me wrong. Tending to your finances is important. It’s prudent. Because if you don’t sit down and look them square in the eye you may be in for some surprises.

However, as I approached my 50th birthday and saw the vague outline of retirement out on the horizon, I realized that it was not all about the money. Sure, I’d love to have a $1 million + retirement fund. Who wouldn’t?

Being called to a truer self

But I didn’t want to be a slave to this goal. There was something else that was important and needed serious attention.

That something was me.

A clock was ticking and the question it was beating into me was: when will you do what you say you want to do? When will you start living from the inside out instead of the other way around. My creativity was stifled and it was slowing killing me, from the inside out.

I was being called to be a truer version of myself.

Non-traditional Retirement Planning

I was being called to craft a multidimensional life in which the things that are urgent are woven into the things that were important, not the other way around. For me, the important things are writing, my garden, moving my body. It’s about exploring art, connecting more with nature and the people around me. It is also doing meaningful work as a coach and a writer to help others craft the life that brings them joy, meaning and fulfillment. Whatever that might be for them.

This is the kind of planning that needs to come first. Know who you want to be, how you want to live, what is important and what can be whittled away. Then absolutely look at the financial side.  Because now, you’re better informed as to what you need.

Start early

The first steps into retirement don’t happen after the gold watch and bye-bye luncheon. They begin now, wherever you are in your journey of life.

They begin with a question:

What is most important to me now and as I transition into the next stage of life.

Ask the question and then listen as ideas emerge. Capture the ideas. Let them settle in. Decide on a small step to get going. Then prepare for an exciting adventure.

Because retirement is not an ending. It’s not heading out to the pasture. It is the beginning of a vital, important stage of life that will cover decades. It is a rich Third Age.

I’ve told you what’s important to me. Now, it’s your turn. What would be a satisfying next stage of life for you? Let me know in the comments.

Creative Expression and What We Ache For

Creative Expression Brings Us To What We Ache For

Over the years, I have personally experienced how creative expression opens us up to the liberation found in discovering and following our truest yearnings. A recent article led me down a train of thought that brought this home to me again.

It was an article by Jaleh Bisharat, Co-founder/CEO at Naked Poppy, called “10 Books That Changed the Way I Think About Business”.

First, I chuckled as I am reminded of the magic in numbering. This many life hacks… days to…, habits… and yes, so many books.

But then I gave thought to the books that have had a meaningful impact on my life. There’ve been many. But one stood out. It was one that opened me up to the creative being that I am and became part of my own journey to finding what was truly meaningful for me.

The one that floated to the top

Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s What We Ache For fills the bill on so many levels. (Hey, why knock myself out to come up with a compelling “number”, I thought.  One is good.)

Dreamer’s book is chock-full of beautiful prose. It offers reflections and exercises that deepen the reading experience. And it goes to the heart of what I believe to be the most important mission in the second half of life. That is, liberating ourselves to tend to those things that are truly important and using our innate creativity, our own creative expression, to weave them into a Multidimensional life.

While I won’t say that reading this book was a triggering event in my life, it was definitely a spurring one.

A well worn and loved book

I read it approximately 10 years ago and I’ve picked it up many times since then. For coaching programs or writing workshop ideas. For my own writing inspiration. It is a book that I need to have in hard cover, that I can rub my finger along the rough paper as I read. I highlight and underline and put notes and exclamation marks in the margins. I engage with it as I read it or skim through it or open it up at random to see what wants to be seen. It has post-its and random pieces of paper to hold a place and the end flaps tuck in between pages to remind me where I want to go next. It’s the whole enchilada!

Doing creative work allows us to follow the thread of what we ache for into a deeper life, offering us a way to cultivate a life of making love to the world.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Yes! Following that thread is my mission in my second half of life. Cultivating a deeper, more meaningful (to me) life and honoring the tug in my gut, the quiet voice in my heart. Having the spiritual courage to do all this while living in my world and doing my own work.

This is what I want for myself and, if this resonates with you, it’s what I want for you.

What do you ache for?

Have you also felt that ache, that tugging? This is what my 6-week program, You Are The Artist of Your Life is about. It will ease that ache, gentle that tug and begin your journey into a more integrated, Multidimensional life that is unique to you alone.

Want to learn more? Join me Thursday, August 29th at 6:30 pm ET on Zoom for my free monthly call. This month a I’ll be talking about my upcoming workshop You Are the Artist of Your Life. We’ll get to meet; you’ll get a taste of what the longer program will be like. One person will have a chance for a mini coaching session.

Begin your own journey to a deeper life!

Find the Thread

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.  – James Russell Lowell

What do we do with an idea?

I am rising out of sleep, not quite awake. It’s 4 AM. Half in/half out of a dream. Seemingly disparate photos slipping away. They get fainter and fainter. Just the sentence “Find the thread and follow it in” remains.

I grasp for the images. But they will not be caught. Pfft! Gone. The who, what, where and why go with them. Just the one line remains.

Find the thread and follow it in.

Writing in my head

I often wake to words that stay with me. I start writing in my head.

While I sometimes reach for something to write on, more often I don’t want to disturb the flow that runs so easily in the quiet dark. In the relaxed body state where I’m melted into the bedding, where my body hasn’t awakened but my mind is gearing up. Many of my blog posts start there.

How about you?

Where do things start for you? What quickens your imagination and shifts your thoughts to possibilities? Opportunities? A project in the studio or around the house, a job or life change?

What do you do with the idea once it arrives? Dismiss it or explore it?  How would it feel to grab that thread and see where it takes you? Recognizing where it starts and allowing your process to take over can be the difference between a dream realized and a dream deferred.

Once the idea is allowed to live, what is your process to get started?

Do you feed it with small questions? Talk it over with a supportive friend or coach? Do you allow yourself to daydream? (Yes, daydreaming is a productive activity!) Do you make a list? Do you sketch it out, mind map it, doodle it? Do you look around at what’s out there to find what you like and, sometimes more importantly, what you don’t like.

Most importantly, do you let it emerge in its time, like a butterfly out of its chrysalis?

For me, with writing, it is often starts in that half asleep state. Rather than dismiss it I let it take its own course. It could be hours or days before anything gets onto the page. That’s okay. I find that the theme will linger for a few days in my waking-up time and show me more. I also find that it will spark other ideas. Those spark more and so on.

Intentional Creativity

This is intentional creativity and it is available to us 24/7. In our dreaming and in our waking. When you’re aware of how ideas take hold – when you’re able to recognize your thread – you become aware of your creative process. This will take so much of the struggle out. Your awareness will provide a magic carpet that you can ride into anything. Your process is as unique as you. Go with it.

If you’d like to explore how a creativity coach (that would be me!) could help you with your process schedule a free discovery session. I’m a very good thread detective.

Kaizen: A Kinder and Smarter Way

Years ago, when my commute was almost an hour, I worked with a woman who lived nearby. What a happy coincidence! As a result, we began to carpool. She was the epitome of “all or nothing”. Even with her car’s heater. She would constantly turn it on and off. Too cold, too hot. (Hey, there’s a built in thermostat for a reason! I’d tell her)

She would make pronouncements about how she was going to quit smoking, lose weight and start working out – all beginning that day. I understood her “why”, however, I instinctively knew this wouldn’t work. I would ask her why she didn’t just start with one of those things and then add the others over time. Nope! Not a big enough gesture. Subsequently, within a few days, all those big plans would fade. A month or two later she’d drag them out again.

I hadn’t learned about Kaizen at that point.

Too bad.

When people ask me what Kaizen means I tell them it’s “a Japanese philosophy that means continuous improvement though small steps.” Sometimes I’ll add “small questions, small thoughts and small rewards.” That’s a quick and easy explanation.

However, nothing can be further from the truth. I just haven’t come up with a quick sound bite to explain the magnitude of Kaizen.

Kaizen is huge!

Ironic, huh?

Kaizen is about gradual, lasting change without fear, resistance, overwhelm or procrastination. Can you feel something start to unwind in you as you read the word without? (Oh, and there’s my sound bite!)

How does it work?

With Kaizen, change or goal achievement happens through the accumulation of small steps, questions and thoughts. Kaizen bypasses that part of the brain that throws us into the fight or flight mode, the mode that made my friend give up before she even started. It is intuitive and gentle but it is very powerful. It builds sustainable momentum. When you add principles of creative thinking that momentum becomes an evolving process that reflects who you are, feels more natural and is easier to continue. In Kaizen, small thoughts and questions allow you to act with wisdom as you build new habits.

Why do we need it?

There is such a pandemic of overwhelm, perfectionism, fear and resistance in today’s world! Everything needs to be bigger, faster, done overnight. Reactive, as opposed to proactive. Just writing this I can feel prickles of anxiety. Corporations want to do more with less and they want it faster; workers compete to come up with big ideas, big solutions, big innovations. They want home runs not singles. They don’t want to see that the more batters that get on base the better the odds of the win.

Looking for the big innovation overlooks the importance of the smaller steps, the building blocks, and the creative process of trial and error – all the things I use in my coaching.

Stop and think for a moment. How do you bring change into your life? How do you work toward goals? Have you, like so many, fallen victim to the fairy tale of overnight whopping success?

Would you like to experience this for yourself? Contact me for a 30 minute discovery call.

There’s a kinder and smarter way. It’s called Kaizen.

 

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