Hello from ‘Antarctica’

Have I been traveling? In a way, yes. I have been submerged in an exploratory laboratory taking samples and testing them out. Exploring new vistas. Am I really in Antarctica? No. I’m not even on a boat, or anything else. I have been doing all this from the place I call home, moving mostly from a comfortable couch in my home office, to my basement studio (lab) to my backyard garden.

But I have been away from writing for the last six months and I have missed connecting with you. I have spent my time coaching clients, learning with coach specialty courses. I took a poetry class and I joined two artist’s working groups. I spent time imagining, and then planning, new projects. One titled “Coaching the Imagination: How to Use the Creative Process to Grow Anything”. I have also led workshops, retreats, and “Master Mind” groups all with the title, “Focus on What Matters Most”. (Curious? Contact me at Focus and Creativity )

Thanks to the pandemic and related quarantine to force me to invent some new adventures!

Submerged in all of that. And of course, bumping into a few ‘icebergs’. Accepting the invitation to experience the gorgeous vistas of meeting new people and immersing myself in creating new things. Coaching is all about transformation. Transforming ourselves through the vicissitudes of reality and finding joy there.

Now, we are like the famous ground hog peeking our heads out to see if spring has arrived, life will be changing again. How will you transition — transform the rest of 2021? I would love to hear. Anytime

Empathy and Compassion at Work

My coaching colleague and dear friend Sabine have met via Skype nearly every week, since 2012. She is a Coach and a Communications professional in Bavaria, Germany. We both trained together at Coach U, and were learning partners in one of the teleclasses. As you can imagine we have had many lively conversations in all that time. Especially in the last several months, as we have shared from our experiences in the global pandemic. What it means for our families, our business, our clients, our countries — the world. What questions are keeping us awake at night? What could we do to help? As we discussed these questions, we had long conversations about empathy and compassion, and their importance in the workplace, especially in today’s situation. Out of those conversations came this joint presentation, a webinar, shared below, entitled, “Empathy and Compassion at Work”. We hope it brings some value to you. And, please, share it with others. Thank you!

Modern Teams Leading Successful Companies in Complex Times

Need help with Team Management? Contact Sabine or myself.

For a copy of our Bibliography of Resources used in this webinar, download here.

Where is Your Power?

These days I am leaning into my Coaching Model, “Coaching is love in action in a professional way.” Feeling great love for my community. Holding

Waiting patiently for signs of spring

both concern and amazement in my heart for all of you. Striving to remain open to possibilities of change for the good. Holding space for those suffering. On the lookout for silver linings. Feeling compassion for those in the gap. Waiting patiently for signs of spring.

Where is Your Power?
People who have experienced deep fear and anxiety in the past can re-experience it to a greater degree when something in the environment triggers fear. The global emergency we are all experiencing has the power to do just that. Even though this crazy moment is unique for us living in the 21st century, our response to it is dependent on how we handle stress. Old trauma leaves an imprint on the brain and can re-emerge. Quarantine, social isolation, radical changes in our work lives, loss of control – all contribute to creating a situation for triggering overwhelming anxiety. While everyone’s response is unique, there are common reactions; just know that feeling upended about the pandemic is okay and normal.

Are you:
Replaying fearful thoughts?
Impatient? Feeling angry? 
Feeling powerless?

Action is the antidote to anxiety, and there is a lot you can do to help you get through this. That’s where your power is. Let’s brainstorm together. Schedule here, it’s free.

I love what Brene Brown is saying. “OPEN YOUR HEART. WASH YOUR HANDS. SPREAD LOVE.”

Big love to you,

Identity Word Play

It is entertaining to look for new words to describe the same word with another. Cognomen is such a word. Outside the norm, a word I’ve never used in conversation. But delightful all the same. It means “name“. A cognomen is an identifier, a symbol that stands for you. You are not Anonymous.

I’ve had many names—

Deborah Kay McNeilly  – when my mother wanted to get my attention.
Debbie – the name of my childhood
Debadoo  – only a very loved person can get away with that one
Babe   – when my boyfriend turned into my husband.
Deborah McNeilly Campbell – when I joined my life with another.
B – when my husband takes shortcuts.
Mom   – I loved it!
Grammy  – I loved it multiplied!
Each name has its own special significance. McNeilly connects me to my Irish ancestors, Sis conjures up closeness and all the wild and wooly of siblings. I have a different identity with each of my names. I also have Secret Heroine I name and call on when I need to feel strong. She has a determined look in her eye, big Wonder Woman bracelets and red Cowgirl boots.

How many names do you have?
What do you call yourself? Do you have a Secret Heroine/Hero name for yourself when you need to feel strong?
What names do you use to describe yourself? Who do you imagine you are?

Beginning Again

“Always we begin again.” Benedict of Nursia

Expectations + Perfection = Disappointment

This jewel box of colors brings me great joy. Mayan Red, Tuscan Yellow, Cobalt Blue. Every part of the process – opening the box of watercolor tubes, squeezing them out onto my tray, choosing the brush, and brushing them on to the paper is a great pleasure.

This is a new phenomenon.

Twenty years ago I studied watercolor for a couple of years, pretty seriously, while at university. But when in graduate school I found I needed to focus exclusively on my course of study and I let watercolor go. And then it let me go.

I returned to it recently. But I struggled to re-learn the technical aspects of the media. I was very critical,

Expectations + Perfection = Disappointment

even mean. And then it wasn’t fun. I was wondering, do I just quit? When I found a book by watercolorist Jean Haines about meditating with paint. The aim was to just have fun. To open up and lean into the intuitive chance qualities of water and color on paper. No aiming for content, or creating ‘art’, no striving for perfection. Instead, change my expectations, let go of an outcome I can’t control  — aim instead for exploration and yield to joy.

Expectations +  Experimentation – Perfection  = Joy

So here’s the thing. Life is all a big adventure, a big research study into the nature of what makes you happy. That difficult thing you’ve wanted to do?  Throw away your expectations. Instead, just let go. Pay attention to the parts that bring you joy. And go with that.

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Sprint or Marathon? Some Tips for the Winding Road

When running a sprint, you need both an initial burst of power and sustained speed. You can blow out with everything you’ve got, and pour it on all the way. But if you try to do that with a marathon, you’ll burn up everything you have in the first hour and will be left without the juice to make it to the finish line.

So it is with life. More of a marathon than a sprint, right?

You’re in it to finish, with a bit of glory, a narrative of flourishing, and your trophy (re: legacy) at the end. A legacy of love – accomplishment – purpose. So it’s time to leave behind the mentality of sprinters, and embrace the mindset of a marathoner.

You don’t go straight from 0-50, from the couch to the race. Preparing for a marathon is to  think of your goals as a kind of graceful step ladder– you put your foot You don’t go straight from 0-50, from the couch to the raceon the first step, and find the second, and move at a thoughtful pace — feel comfortable, then move on. Prepare, warm up, practice, measure — it’s a gradual process. Do you expect yourself to be perfect straight out of the gate? To be able to ‘do it all’ immediately?

To continue the metaphor, let’s consider the strategies that marathoners use..

Link with others who will encourage you when the going gets tough.

Pace yourself.

Be aware of your limits and plan accordingly.

Practice gradually upping your tempo to increase your capacity, slowly over time.

Make sure you take time to Rest and Recover.

I think our expectations of ourselves is to push, pour it on, and go at life like it is a sprint. When the reality is, that kind of tactic will cost you the race.

Change your outlook, and you can cross the finish line with your resilient spirit flying high.


The Pebble in your Shoe is Having a Rock Party

“Want to go to a Rock Party?” was my Dad’s joke every spring. Being a farmer, as soon as the fields were dry enough to plow and plant, meant he spent long days outdoors preparing the fields. Over the winter, the freezing and thawing of the soil would push the rocks to the surface, and they would need to be cleared to create ideal growing conditions. The naïve would answer ‘yes’ to Dad’s question and end up following a tractor and wagon all day, throwing rocks onto the wagon. If you were smart, you jumped into the driver’s seat first.

Recently, in a blog post, I shared a story about two of my heroes, the artists Christo and his wife Jean- Claude. When Christo turned 80 he said, “I’m 80. I want to do something really hard.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked to my elders to show me the way. That post was all about challenging mountains to climb, and the small and large courageous acts it takes to scale them. But what if you’re having difficulty scaling the mountain?

Muhammad Ali was so clever with language that he inspired fans and non-fans alike. He said, “It isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wears you out: it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Sometimes your particular ‘mountain’ and the problematic ‘pebble’ are not so obvious.

Here are six “shapes’ that pebble could take:

  1. Your mindset — Your underlying belief system is in conflict with your desires. Examples: “If I succeed my world will change dramatically” “I can’t have financial abundance AND healthy strong relationships” “I’ll lose control of my life if I take on a leadership role.”
  2. You have conflicting values.  “Professional ambition and kindness can’t co-exist” “Marketing myself feels like selling out” ” The needs of my family and personal achievement is a competition”
  3. You have conflicting ambitions. Are too many choices muddying the waters? Causing confusion — so you end up doing nothing?
  4. You are not all in. (Caused by: see above) To follow through on goals, you have to be 100% on board with your new goal. 70/30 will not cut it.
  5. You have a limiting narrative. “I have to take care of my family first — and their needs are never ending.” “I can’t ask for that much money, they will never pay it.” “I can’t say no, I can’t handle the consequences.”
  6. You are experiencing overwhelm. Too many things on your to do list? No clear plan on doing any of them?

By eliminating these ‘stones’ you clear the path to achievement. Want to go to a Rock Party?

Are You Ready?

Last week I shared three Hero stories, about people who have pushed themselves through that icky place called ‘discomfort’ and resisted the lure of that soft couch to stay safe. I shared a little bit of my own struggle around keeping a low profile. Which is my place of comfort. It’s about VISIBILITY.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked to my elders to show me the way. I really admire the artist Christo and his partner (wife) Jean-Claude. Christo (Jean-Claude passed away 10 years ago) create massive, temporary artworks that build community, create exalted experiences and start conversations. They take years, sometimes decades to come to be. Mainly because they work with a consortium of governments, politicians, citizens, and public and private landowners to get consensus and permission to create his temporary public works.

One thing he has said, is that he and Jean Claude have had to have courage.  On his 80th birthday, he said, “For my 80th birthday, I want to do something really hard.” So he created “Floating Pier”. I know some people who travelled to the ‘Floating Pier”, traversing a lake in Italy. They said it was an otherworldly experience.

Well, that is my mantra now. I want to keep meeting the next challenge, the next ‘hard thing’ — leave my place of low profile to embrace visibility. My own ‘hard things’, are smaller in scale than Christo’s, but they are my own personal version of courageous acts. What are the tough challenges that you’re ready to take on? That will make you stretch, and will take courage from you?

(If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here  )

Is Your Hero Hiding?

I grew up in a culture that revered humility. Doing good anonymously. Anyone who called attention to themselves with pride in their work was spoken of with scorn. The message was clear. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Do good, but keep a low profile.

But the paradox is, you can’t do your good work in the world unless people know. So I have worked on my discomfort around sharing my own accomplishments. And I encourage others to get comfortable there too. Which leads me to this…. Three stories. Of women who weren’t afraid of change. Who instinctively knew that change — upsetting the status quo, was exactly the thing to do. They were not afraid of hard work. Or the disappointment that might come with venturing out there into new territory. In our work together we had moments though, when it was hard for each of them to acknowledge their strengths, to feel good about their special skills, to confidently talk about their value in a job interview —  and to ask for more money. They grew into being confident in those areas.

Three Hero Stories

Kate was running a successful local business. Although it paid the bills, she knew it wasn’t a career. But because it paid the bills, she put up with it, for a while. There came a point when she knew the clock was ticking, and it was time to do a 360. After we worked together for a while, she uncovered her true passion, her life’s work, and with guidance began taking actions toward her dream. Today she is working in a job she loves, in a vibrant city that ‘feeds her’ and she is even taking on leadership roles. She answered the call to leave comfort behind for awhile, and seek adventure (because that’s what heroes do).

Megan had mad skills, but was working in a job that was not challenging. When she talked with me she described her role as ‘being a piece of the machinery’. After we dove in, she saw the shape of her desire, and it was not doing the work she thought she was supposed to do. We coupled that with her strengths, and she began designing her next career move. Megan is ambitious, and has already landed the first job up her career ladder. For her, the hero’s journey is just beginning, and she knows what will sustain her along the way.

Emily might call herself a ‘failure to launch’ statistic. After she graduated from college, she moved back to her hometown when no dream job offer came calling. She began working in the first job that came her way back home, and before she knew it she was very good at her job — AND miserable. Her dreams were being submerged, they looked farther and farther away. She was afraid they just might disappear. Within six weeks of our work together, Emily had connected her dreams to real actions, then actions into opportunities. After wrapping up her life here in the midwest, she’s enjoying success and happiness in Seattle.

All three of these women worked very hard. They were willing to say yes, and to be coached. They invested in themselves. I asked them tough questions, gave them assignments to explore deeper. I asked them to do things outside their comfort zones like asking for more money when job offers came in. They continued to show up and follow through. They kept going. Answering the call to adventure and going forward with perseverance is what hero’s all have in common.

Empowering people and connecting you to your dreams and desires is what coaching is all about. Helping you become the hero of your own story.

Can you be your own hero?

What are you waiting for?

Who Is Your Hero? (Hint: It Could Be You)

My MFA Project

My work as an artist in graduate school began exploring the role of woman as hero in Homer’s epic “The Odyssey”. Penelope, wife of Odysseus, is the one that stays behind while her husband is off fighting in the Trojan Wars, then he wanders the world, adventuring, trying to get back home. Meanwhile, she keeps the home fires burning, she raises their son from boyhood to manhood, she defends their kingdom from usurpers with cunning and wit and she takes care of her people. I wanted to hear her voice and recognize her as a woman empowered. A true hero, I found her story as relevant today as it was in the 8th century B.C.

The work I do now in coaching uses different processes but my purpose is the same. I help my clients find their voice, access their strength and build their kingdoms, empowered. They do meet ‘monsters’ along the way — time stealers, soul killers, crushing responsibilities, serpentine messages from society, lack of confidence in their own capabilities. But they learn to access their strength and do the work, because they are motivated by purpose. It is work I am passionate about. I help them be their own hero.

Who is your hero?