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?

Your Mind – Set to Dial Up or Down?

Last Tuesday, I was enjoying coffee with a friend as she described 2 business owners, members of her Master Mind Group, who owned the same kind of businesses-Home Health Care Agencies. She was wondering aloud why one of them was successful and the other was not.

The Home Health Care industry is the type of business that is never closed – clients have needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The people they serve need frequent contact. But not only that, the providers they hire to do the hands on work also have their own challenges — cars that break down on the way to work, sick children that keep them home, etc… But missing work can’t be an option.

These two business owners did constant problem solving. One rolled up his sleeves and met his challenges, open to creatively figure out solutions. The other one became overwhelmed with client needs, angry with his employees, complaining about the system, and eventually closed his doors. Same business, different outcome. What specifically was different? The two business owners had a different approach. And it stemmed from their unique mindset.

What is mindset? Here is my definition, “A fixed mental attitude or disposition that pre-determines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.”

Do you see problems and react to them? Or do you see challenges and respond to them?

What Are Your Results Telling You?

Connie said she wanted to explore new career options. She had long felt undervalued at work, unchallenged. She felt as though she was treading water. She said her boss was unwilling to help her reach her potential. But she was paid well, and couldn’t risk rocking the boat, so hadn’t budged on exploring further. Yet, this was what weighed on her mind when she woke up in the middle of the night.

Cole was a devoted family man, he would tell you every chance he got. Yet his behavior showed a man who put in long hours at work, and had little time to be the man he said he wanted to be. man-aloneHe believed this was what his career demanded of him. The years were ticking by with no shift in the balance while he longed for his life to change.

Shelly knew she was talented. She had an unsatisfied appetite for learning. She wondered what might have happened if she had continued her education, and felt bitterness about the obstacles that had kept her from reaching her true potential. If only things had been different.

All you need to do is look at the results to see what they are committed to.

It may surprise you to know that Connie, Cole and Shelly are committed to staying in their cycle of stuck. The sad thing is, they are unaware of this. If they understood what really is holding them back, they would be empowered to instigate change. But all three of them thought it was outside forces that kept them stuck. The real reason? The beliefs they held on to.

Are you stuck in a job you have been complaining about? In a relationship that isn’t satisfying? Are you still in debt despite having taken on another job to put money in the bank? Guess what. You have something deeper going on, more than what you think. There is a complex disconnect between what you say, and what you do. To understand and change this disconnect, first you have to uncover your unconscious mindset, revealing the ‘why’ behind your behavior. When you do this, you can let go of what is holding you back, and begin doing what you say you want to do.

Mindset and unconscious beliefs are powerful forces. When Connie, Cole and Shelly dig a little deeper, they can begin to peel back the layers and reveal the real purpose behind their behavior. Understanding that will give them the tools to make empowered choices. This awareness will free them to lead happier,  fulfilled lives. That’s what I want for them,

and for YOU.

Sending Love,

Deborah 

What Happens in the Space Between Yes and No

Stories: True or False?

Every single person on this planet, interprets the world from their own learned perspective. Actual circumstances are far less important than how you interpret them. Some researchers believe that external events are responsible for as little as 10 percent of our feelings and well being. It is our internal, emotional codebook that informs our thinking and actions. This is why ‘Re-framing’ is so important in coaching. The stories we tell ourselves are what influence our mood and behavior.

So, what does this mean for you. Maybe a reference point?

Actual circumstances are fall less important than what you believe about them.

Janet was a middle aged woman. She had a very interesting life. In addition to being a wife and Mom, she was an amazing gardener. She was having fun. For awhile now she had been experimenting with making delicious chutneys, jams and homemade ketchup with her garden produce, with several more recipes she was still tinkering with. Last summer she began selling her jars at the Farmer’s Market. They were a hit! So much so, that Janet had been approached by Mark, a local entrepreneur who wanted to help Janet sell her products in regional specialty markets. Janet’s next move? She withdrew from the Farmer’s Market and quit selling. But after making this decision she got depressed. She blamed Mark.

As you can guess, Janet changed course because of the invitation to grow her business. Janet had not thought of herself as a business, until Mark identified her as such. In her mind, having your own business meant being overwhelmed, neglecting your family and constant financial headaches. The opposite of fun. This was the anecdotal evidence she had gathered and kept as truth. And she did not want that!

And why did she get depressed? She really loved developing recipes, sharing her products, growing customer relationships and making money. Her sadness was mourning the loss of this. And to her way of thinking, Mark had brought that about.

If Janet decided to try again, and tested her assumptions, she could reframe the story she told herself. The dialogue might go something like this.

Is it really true that I HAVE to be overwhelmed? Or could I do business differently?
Is it necessary for me to neglect my family? Or are there ways to integrate my family life into my business life?
Do I have to accept as gospel that turning my hobby into a business will be constant financial headaches? Or could I have a balanced strategic plan.

If you feel yourself stalling, circling or avoiding, check in with these questions:

  • What is the story I am telling myself about this?
  • Is this story true?
  • What is the ‘Re-frame’?

He actually thought worry was productive

As I sat across the cafe table from Mark, I could see anxiety lines on his forehead. I noticed he had his coffee cup in a death grip, when he began catching me up on the last two weeks of progress toward his goal of starting a business. From my side of the table, it sounded like he was right on track. We had made a checklist, and he was right on target with that. He had plenty of financial reserves to provide a nice cushion. What could be wrong?

From Mark’s perspective, his worry was productive. He kept painting ‘what if’ scenarios. I quickly saw that he had shifted his focus from ‘enthusiastic anticipation’ to ‘what might go wrong’. Watching the circling drain, he was sure things were going to go wrong, and then, his plans would be down the toilet. He was absorbed in trying to prevent trouble, when there was no evidence of trouble. It was all about his focus.

Been here? Energetically moving toward what you want ( a new goal, a loving relationship, a new venture, a healthy lifestyle program) You’re diligently carrying on, when, it all begins to look like a nightmare. Where did all the good feelings go? The excitement? Like Mark, worry, doom and gloom move in to threaten your world? And you stop. How do you move through sluggish pea soup to get back to your original intention?

What happened to Mark is called “Failure Impact Predictions”, and when that happens, stress skyrockets. Mark’s mind shifted from happy to wary, as a method of protecting himself from disappointment. (He was unaware of this pattern).  But at what cost!

What I did with Mark, and what you can do when this happens to you, is to shift your focus. To do that, ask yourself these questions (and write down the answers) :

  1. Remind yourself about what progress you HAVE made.
  2. What kind of energy do you have for this goal? What would increase the energy?
  3. What resources can you tap into to move ahead?
  4. Who could help you with this goal
  5. Accomplishing the new goal will bring change. How can you support this change?

Awareness, and reconnecting to his goal made a difference in Mark’s outlook. His fingers relaxed around that coffee cup. The sparkle came back into his eyes. Relief!

“It Was Like I Was Wearing a Mask.”

“I’m a very positive person, but this whole concept of having to always be nice, always smiling, always happy, that’s not real. It was like I was wearing a mask. I was becoming this perfectly chiselled sculpture, and that was bad. That took a long time to understand.” — Alicia Keys

Caroline was a young talented woman. She loved her job, had huge responsibilities at work and was paid well. The work energized her, and she constantly pushed herself to learn more, do more. To take classes, trainings and certifications to rise in her profession. That area of her life was right on track. The thing that kept her awake at night was her personal life. She was in a serious long term relationship. She was having second thoughts, a vague uneasiness. Her doubts about the relationship caused her to doubt herself. “What was her problem!”, she kept asking herself.  Her hesitation had now turned into sleepless nights and gnawing anxiety.

Mark was a bright guy in his 50’s. He had made a lot of money working long hours as a tech designer. His passion was for photography (his zest for tech work had long ago disappeared). He said he wanted to figure out a way to sell his photography, to see if he could turn his hobby into a career. He had been saying this now for two years, and had done nothing about it. He was at a loss as to why he couldn’t move ahead.

Just retired, Lauren had been preparing herself for a smooth transition to doing what she loved. All plans were in place to rent space in a commercial kitchen and bake her famous cupcakes to sell at the Farmers Market. This was to be Lauren’s second act, one she was excited about. Just as she was checking out commercial kitchens to rent, her parents moved back from living for many years in a vacation/retirement village in South Carolina. Now they demanded Lauren’s time, and played on her sympathies as a daughter to get her to care for them. She felt torn, resentful and guilty. All of these emotions morphed into extreme sadness about the loss of her dream. Family trumps self, right?

Carole, Mark and Lauren couldn’t trust their own instincts. They were letting the ’noise’ of what they thought they ‘should do’ get in the way of  what they wanted to do. Staying stuck in limbo was making each of them miserable. These three thought there was something wrong with them, and they felt overwhelmed by what, exactly could they do about it?

I’m happy to say, they did not stay stuck in anxiety, overwhelm and sadness. We worked together in a strategic way, and began to create a road map so they all could thrive.

First we systematically uncovered the truth about what was holding them in a painful place. Then, they brought what they desired into focus. They gave themselves permission to say yes to having what they wanted.

Second, we moved all the faulty thinking out of the way, and created a new, more powerful and honest, way of thinking.

Third we made a step by step plan to move through challenges toward their ideal future.

I’m thrilled to say, they all did this courageous work. You can too. Caroline, Mark and Lauren learned to trust their instincts. Let go of the mask of inauthenticity. Become your brilliant self.

Let’s work together. Begin here……..

This can’t be what abundance looks like

“I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.” Augustine (Og) Mandino

“Crap, the timing couldn’t be worse!”
That’s me talking. To my friend Monique.

I was dramatically sharing about events unfolding in July. It was dawning on me that I had major upheaval on my calendar, all of it invited by me, although not all of it within my control. Family, travel, moving, business expansion, major reorganization. All of it poised and scheduled to happen in the same two-week period in July. Screenshot 2015-07-01 20.39.04

As I was spilling ’the timing couldn’t be worse’ to my patient friend, I next blurted out, “I guess this is what abundance looks like!” Darn. Truth, Told.

Had I really expected that my life would unfold perfectly and exponentially? If I do this, then I do that, then my blessings multiply very neatly and orderly. Yes, I guess I had expected that. But this life is messier, AND more abundant than even my imagination could cook up. After the “I guess this is what abundance looks like” revelation, I more calmly realized that this was ALL GOOD.

There are few absolutes. Every blessing can have a dark side. Every negative can yield a positive. It depends on your perspective. I’m really good at helping my clients look at their strengths. We build bridges over what to them look like valleys of despair. While my present circumstance in no way describes a story of hardship, I had slipped into ‘negative thinking’. And that mindset had caused me stress for a full week. Then I flipped the story in my head. “I love the darkness for it shows me the stars.” Do you have a story that could use a different perspective? One that is causing you stress? I’ll bet you can tally up an affirmative side to your problem. That’s where you can begin to build something more useful to you than stress. Tweak this formula:

Your challenge (acknowledge here): _________________
Silver lining: (Think, then make a list) ________________
In this silver lining list, where do you see opportunity? _________________________
Plant your feet there.

If you need help looking at your silver linings, I’m here.

With love,
Deborah

A RADICAL IDEA

-Where there is love, there is life-  --As you read these words, I’m wondering how they will make you feel. Curious? Mystified? Uncomfortable? Nauseated? I love a good juicy coaching question, and this one is sure to provoke some response.

“What would love do now?”

I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is a lot of strife in the world. Some of it in our own backyard. This friction is all caused by ‘other people’. These ‘other people’ could be family members, close friends, bosses, co – workers, neighbors, any member of your community that you have to interact with. Relationships can be fraught with tension, disappointment, sadness, angst. Someone in your circle has wounded you with a snide comment. Or your boss just unleashed a bucket of ugliness on you. Has your teenage child disappointed you? A neighbor who is an irritant? Relationships are a messy business and we all have been involved in some kind of strained relationship. What do you do when emotions run high?

Step outside the tense space for a few moments and hit the pause button. Draw an imaginary circle around yourself. Breathe. The inside of this circle contains you and your experience. Extend compassion toward yourself.

1. Ask the question, “What would love do now?” Love in this case is an action word, a verb, and the first course of action is to love yourself. Go ahead. Even if it feels weird.  Would loving yourself be finding a new job? Would love be telling you to get some help to cope with that teenager? Would love direct you to take a compassionate stand for yourself? Get a massage?

2. Then, secondly, the most radical part of this action “what would love do now” is directing that action toward the person contributing to this stress or tension. Release the need to engage with this tension. Love would ask you to see that person as separate from you. Outside the container of your own experience. They have their own personal perspective that directs their behavior. They are not ‘doing to you’, but acting out of their own experience of the world, separate from your experience. Love might ask you to have a sit down talk with your boss, empathic, non judgmental, asking for their point of view. Love might ask you to send a card to your sister simply stating your warm wishes to her. You get the picture.

3. Then, release these loving actions. Because people respond from their own experience, and you are not in control of that. They may accept what you say or do, or push it away. That is not your business or about you. But because you are separate, you don’t have a need to control their response. There is tremendous freedom in this.

So pause and ask yourself “What would love do now?” And begin with yourself.

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Tips to a New Mindset in 10 Seconds

Re-Framing the Picture: Spring Back to Optimism

The sun was gloriously spilling through my kitchen window this week, with the Vernal Equinox, the angle of light announced that winter was passing and spring was slipping in. I was sipping my morning coffee, drinking in the sunshine. Sitting with this glow, my eyes began to see all the new dirt that had accumulated. The blizzards left grit on the windows.The cobwebs I hadn’t been able to see in the gloom of winter. My good mood began to fade, and within seconds I had shifted my viewpoint from the hope of spring to ‘when am I going to find time to clean?’ From drinking in the sunshine to slipping down the muddy slope of anxiety and ill-humor. Yes, I am a human being, and that’s what I do. How about you?

This is a simple example, but it has larger implications. Because of this: It is what is at work underneath the slipping down (that’s how I envision it) that is important to reflect on. What are the beliefs you have hidden there (not immediately obvious to you)? Those hidden beliefs are what are at work, deflating your positive desires …….

A thought might come up in your mind, “I want to take that class that sounds so interesting.” Then, the next thought, “But I can’t, the kids need me to make dinner for them.” bursting the hope. ‘What’s underneath that? “No one else can do it, I’m the only one. I come last.”

OR

“It’s time I took that trip to Hawaii I’ve always wanted to take.” Next thought, “But I can’t, Mom’s going through some stuff, and may need care soon, I can’t leave now.” What’s underneath that? “I won’t be a responsible daughter if I take care of myself.” You get the picture. A slipping down, from hope to gloom in a swift moment.

Here is what you can do instead.
1. Pay attention — be aware of your thinking.
2. Ask yourself, ‘Is this really true?”
3. Dig deeper — what are my beliefs below the surface?
4. Give yourself permission to return to the positive — to honor your desires.
5. Know you are human, and give yourself credit.

Practice the process. And let love and joy slide in.

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Cultivating Optimism When You’re Two Quarts Low

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You just got a phone call from someone you used to have a great relationship with. But since they had a switch in leadership, they have dealt with you in a less than respectful way. Today, the voice on the other end of the line nailed you to the wall. You get off the phone feeling shaken and wondering what you had been thinking when you decided to ……. a) start this business, b) go into this field, c) serve in this capacity …….  take your pick.

Developing optimism when your energy is low, is a skill. Discouragement hits when you’re tired or sick or when you’ve had too many difficult challenges in a row. Your normal optimism is weakening, and you feel yourself looking into a bleak closet. There are a few tricks you can use to turn your boat back around, chugging along in the right direction. Here are a few tips — they may at first seem simple, but there is solid positive evidence behind these  techniques. Simple is good, right?

1. First, step back a moment. Take a long deep breath, let it out slowly. Remove yourself from the scenario. Imagine yourself separate from what is happening. This technique cultivates space between you and whatever nasty pessimistic bug is developing.

2. Remember what it is you have to offer. Write these down. List your past wins. Your clients who love you and why. The research you’ve done recently that you are very proud of. The evaluation that  made you swell with pride.

3. Set down in words, how this moment can help you improve what you do. For example: Clarify agreements with the people you do business with. Create more choice in your work. Pull the plug on a relationship or job. Is there some change that you can make that would take the pressure off?

4. Spend 5 minutes with your Mission/Purpose statement outlining why you’re here doing what you do.

5. Take a 5 minute walk outside your office. Down the hall, around the block, to the coffee shop, wherever you can clear your head.

You were put here with spectacular gifts, meant to be shared with the world. 

“Deborah challenges me

to identify barriers and confront obstacles so I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.”

Rosemary Collins, Business Owner

“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener.

“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener who is always fully present when we meet. She challenges me to confront obstacles and identify barriers in my practice so that I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.” ”

Amy | Project Manager at the University of Michigan and Professional Artist

“Deborah listens carefully to my short-term and long-term goals

and sets a course of strategy including time-tables to carry out my plans and keep it within a structure and focus.”

Nancy Wolfe | Educator, Professional Artist

“She challenges me to recognize my worth

I love Debbie! She is kind, insightful and honest. She challenges me to recognize my worth, identify obstacles and pursue my goals. She treats me as if I am already the person I hope to be. She is a rare find and a joy!”

Heather Suffron, Business Owner and aspiring ESL Specialist