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?

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?

Need a Career Makeover?

Get a fresh start this January — the symbolic month of doors, of stepping on the threshold from the old into the new. The year is so full of possibilities!  I always enjoy creating something new in January. How about you?

I sat down at Espresso Royalle Cafe, my favorite coffee place, and began to sketch out ideas for a special program. I pulled together all my coaching resources from a lifetime as an educator, program director, creative and coach. This is what I love! It’s what gets my heart pumping. Designing services that will empower people to fulfill their dreams.

The people I work with want more than the status quo. They want a life that is meaningful, challenging and fun. And their work has to fulfill that promise too. That’s why I’m launching my new program. If you know anyone who could benefit from a Career Makeover, here it is!

Career Makeover

  • Need help designing a career path?
  • Don’t know if it’s time to find a new job?
  • Thinking it’s time to advance in your profession, but don’t know what to do first?
  • You’re contemplating starting a business, and need a thinking partner?
  • You want more than a job, you want a calling?

Being there can feel overwhelming, stressful, confusing. Coaching gets you clarity, because we work with a clear strategy. With my Career Makeover Program you get coaching sessions, and a menu of tools, exercises and assignments, all proven to get you all the way to your goal. Coaching provides you with accountability, you are in action, accelerating. Best of all, you get confidence in yourself and in your decisions.

Need to know more? Get that here.

Ready to book a free consultation? Schedule here

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 

Are You Holding Back?

You’re successful. You’ve worked hard, been rewarded for your hard work, met challenges and sought out greater opportunities. And then, some new ‘thing’ just rises up and stumps you.

Sunshine was spilling through the window, but Sarah ‘s mood was perplexed. She was an ambitious professional. Hardworking. With many successes to testify to this hard work. But today, her normally positive attitude was hard to sustain.  She had set some new goals for herself, but just couldn’t get excited about them.

As we talked about her new plans, it became clear that she was holding something back. A part of her wasn’t ‘all in’ and she didn’t know why.

After some deeper conversations, where I probed and asked lots of questions, Sarah began to realize that there was some icky unfinished business related to what she was trying to do. As we talked, she began to understand that emotions around events in the past (which she thought were in the past) were interfering with her passion to fully embrace what she was trying to do in the present. 

Together, we developed some homework assignments, aimed at examining fully what was going on. Greater understanding leads to empowered action. Released from the entangled morass of undealt with emotions, she felt renewed energy. And in our next coaching session, Sarah saw a way to make something positive from it, to clear away the unfinished business. Funny how this happens, but she felt excited about what she wanted to do right now.

If you feel like you’re holding back, ask yourself, “What is interfering with my enthusiasm for what I want?” It’s a great question to get you started.


 

The Dark Side of Nice


Do you spend time thinking and worrying about the problems of others, and how you can fix them?

  • Do people know they can call on you at work to take care of the extra last minute projects because you’re ’nice’ and ’so helpful’?
  • Are you the one that always goes along with whatever the group wants? Never expressing your opinion or finding your voice?
  • Maybe you have an adult child who is always calling you for help?
  • A friend who is always embroiled in some drama, and you’re the only person who understands?
  • Do you drop everything to handle things for your family? And you see this as your job?
  • Do you end up feeling unheard? Taken advantage of. Or wonder when it’s your turn to shine?atlas

First. Congratulations on your big heart. You are NICE. You’ve knocked that one out of the park. But because you’ve hung in here reading with me, you recognize that nice could be hurting you, and there are other strengths you could be utilizing.

There comes a time to understand this impulse of yours to jump to the rescue. Not necessarily to become less ‘nice’ but so you feel less fragmented, less taken advantage of, less like you are at the bottom of your own ’to do’ list. When you start to get excited about your own plans, when you quit trying to fix others problems and empower them instead.

Here’s the thing. Getting wrapped up in other people’s problems keeps the attention off yourself and away from your own growth. You may not be aware of it, but taking care of others without caring for yourself, leads to a deep simmering anger that can disguise itself as health problems, stress, sadness, and other secondary issues.

Being constantly pulled away, ’needed’, looks nice, might even feel good, but by doing so, you are closing off growth in those who quote ‘need’ you. Really. 

And, by saying yes to others neediness, you’re utilizing a subtle coping mechanism to avoid your own feelings and resistance to growth and change for yourself.

What does a healthy alternative to the dark side of nice look like?
When you’re whole and complete, you

  1. Set boundaries with people chronically with ‘drama’
  2. You provide a listening ear to your loved ones, but do not attempt to solve their problems for them. You trust them to come up with their own solutions.
  3. At work, you show up as ‘empowered’ doing your job with integrity and capability. You do not take on others problems or last minute projects. Instead, you help coworkers problem solve.
  4. You feel confident and in charge of your own life.

Like many of my clients you may have grown up conditioned to be ’nice’,  to sacrifice your own desires for the good of others. But this only works for so long before the cost of submerging yourself feels wrong.red-shoes-2

You can change the equation from:
You x Other Peoples Problems = You as Atlas
TO
You x Other Peoples Problems = You as Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz

 

Guidelines for Making Good Career Decisions

It All Depends On Where You Want to Go

The road is a long one between North Carolina and Michigan. We had taken a detour on a whim. Just as we approached our exit to go west, we veered east instead. We were curious to see the scenic coastal city of Wilmington. When we were back in the car pointed west again, GPS broadcasted the disconcerting news ‘12 hours and 25 minutes’ to get home, I felt a surge of discouragement. Navigating our way to Florida to be with family was exciting. That part of the trip was fun with anticipation. Then, by wandering and wobbling along the road back, it felt like we had gotten sidetracked, pulled off course.
The perils of getting sidetracked.  A client was having a problem we all would envy.She had been sought out for a job in another department at the university she worked for. A promotion and a raise. The HR Manager called her out of the blue, told her that her work and accomplishments had been noted by the Dean’s Office — “She was a top-tier employee”. They wanted her to come work for them.
Wow! …… and then Whoa, Wait a Minute! My client was hesitating for several reasons. One, she was happy in her present job. She had not been seeking a change. Two, she knew her boss counted on her and he would be upset if she left. She felt a strong sense of loyalty. (But she also knew her boss respected her, and wanted the best for her.) Three, the new job included many unknowns. But then, here was an opportunity being offered to her? Should she take it? As we continued to talk, I asked her some thought-provoking coaching questions.

1. Did she enjoy challenging, sometimes difficult work, or did she need a job where she knew what to expect? (The answer to that was she loved solving problems, and challenging work).

2.Was her present job one she saw herself staying in until she retired? (No. She knew lots of people at the university who were content, comfortable, but she liked to do ‘what’s next’. She loved her present job, but upon thinking, she didn’t want to end her career there.)

3. So the next question was, “What do you see as your optimal career path, your dream position?”

4. And does this job that has been offered to you, fit into that picture?

It all depends on where you want to go. Being very clear about that makes all the difference in where you end up.
Her career path doesn’t have to be haphazard and dependent on the decisions or whims of others. She is empowered to create her own way.
Where do you want to go? That is the question that will lead you to making decisions about your next step.

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Difficult Conversations at Work

How do you encourage an open and productive workplace, one where everyone can do their best work? How do you do that when you’re not in charge? How do you begin a conversation with your boss, when you’re feeling angry? Do you put up with ‘stuff’ at work, but you’re finding it has a big cost?

You can initiate change.

For example, your boss puts you on a committee without asking you first, and you’re already overwhelmed with a mountain of work. Or your boss is rude and verbally abusive — and feels free to express this side at will. You decide that you can no longer tolerate it. But what should you do?

 Why is it hard for people to respond in a pro-active way? The authors of “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” suggest that when faced with difficult situations where we feel we have no power, we begin operating in the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, the part we call on when we are in stress or our emotions are triggered. Which do you typically choose: ‘flight’, which looks like “I’ll suck it up because I can’t rock the boat” or “Fight”,  and your days will be numbered at work. Either way sets an unhealthy precedent.

There is an alternative.

Take positive action. Make a decision to talk with your boss. In preparation for this conversation, ask yourself these questions (Most people find it helpful to write out these thoughts)

  • What’s the issue?

  • Where are my choices?

  • What does my boss care about?

  • What do I care about?

  • Where is our common ground

  • What is my Plan B

When you are ready to speak to your supervisor, use the sandwich approach. State the issue, quote your common work interest, ask for what you want. If you don’t get what you want, follow through on your Plan B. It might look like this:

(For the scenario, your boss feels free to vent)

 “John, when you raise your voice with me, it makes me feel terrible and hurts my productivity. I know that your job is difficult, and that you want me to do a great job. Our shared goal is for our department to shine! It would help me to do that great job, if you stated what you want from me when you are not upset.”

 If you don’t get results from this conversation, employ your Plan B choice. Either way, You’ve gotten good information. And in the end, you will have empowered yourself to make your next move.

 Do you think this approach would work with personal relationships too? I’d love to hear your view!

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PANIC AND A PLAN

There was a note of panic in her voice in the telephone message. As she laid out the problems she was facing, I heard “but what if this happens, and what if……”  Two days in a row, I saw faces full of anxiety, heard words that lacked energy, people who appeared vulnerable and without power. Stories of sleepless nights, brought on by impossible expectations or the specter of trouble ahead. 

I heard a lot of ‘overwhelm’ stories this week after my last newsletter article  (“It’s Snowing Overwhelm”)  This is how it went………Small anxieties became large worries that became distress that spiraled into sleepless nights. Trouble fermented like a large pot of ugly stew.

When you were a kid and you went to the county fair, were you drawn to the cotton candy booth? The paper cone swirls around the vat, a few strands wind on, pink fluff begins to collect and by some magical force it creates a big ball of fleecy sweet. Worry and overwhelm spin out like that. Stress multiplies and snowballs. Only it’s not sweet. It’s toxic.

It’s time to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. If you begin to feel a sense of panic, stop, breathe, and make a plan. Here is the framework:

Analyze and ask yourself —

  • What is it I need to know?

  • What is the one essential thing that needs to be done first?

  • What is an action I can take that would help?

Panic makes us vulnerable to crisis. A plan gives you choice and is empowering. 

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6 Essential Tools For Accomplishing Your Next Project or Your Big Dream

Do you find yourself having great intentions? But then have difficulty following through? There have been moments in the past when I knew I wanted something different, but I didn’t know either how to go about it, or completely stalled with overwhelm when road blocks popped up. Then I quit. It was a shame.

I didn’t have the proper tools to give me traction. From my work with people, and by researching the conditions for success, I have discovered that there are six essential ‘tools’ necessary for accomplishing anything.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 15.26.56

Number 1) Make your goal specific. You have to have a destination in mind. This might seem simplistically silly to point out, but by defining your goal you bring it more sharply into focus. It is the difference between saying “I want my life to be different”, to defining what “different’ means to you. To create a focus you need your goal to be specific. ‘Different’ could mean more adventure. Then the next question is —What does ‘more adventure’ mean? Trying out a dating website? Applying for a promotion that involves more travel? Taking tango lessons? You write the definitions.

Number 2) Chunk it down. Research shows that when goals are broken down into smaller steps, there is a greater chance for success. This works for large or small goals — from trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro to flossing your teeth.

Number 3) Include chocolate. Research also shows that we human beings follow through more often when there are small rewards built into the activity. If you want to begin a regular exercise routine, you might link that with a reward, say, watching a favorite tv show on your IPAD while running on a treadmill or begin exercising with a friend.

Number 4) Build a supportive network. By telling others of your intentions, you raise the chances of success for yourself.  Enlist positive supportive people by asking them to cheer you on. If you expect push back from your family around your intended goal, help them see how your success could impact them positively too. Sometimes your family or friends can feel threatened by any changes that might be coming. Accept this, and surround yourself instead with others who want your best self to shine. This is a role I frequently play in coaching. My clients tell me they do so much more because of the support our coaching relationship provides.

Number 5) Accountability. This goes hand in hand with a supportive circle. Studies have shown (and my own experience with people underscores) the power of accountability. When people have an accountability partner, they actually follow through and do far more than they would have otherwise. This too, is part of my job as a coach. When choosing someone to serve this role, pick someone you can count on to consistently show up to ask you how you are doing in regards to your goal and to give you positive feedback. And if you didn’t do what you said you would, to care about the ‘why not’. Importantly, your accountability partner should have no agenda of their own.

Number 6) Reframe Missteps. Speed bumps and road blocks are part of the process, as I have learned from personal experience! Expect them. Plan for them. And learn from them. Make a commitment to yourself that you will see this through. By knowing that ‘failing’ is a part of every new endeavor, and framing the ‘failure’ instead as a learning opportunity, you avoid beating up on yourself and quitting. (Shame and low morale follow blame – both not conducive to growth.) Be kind to yourself. You will be richer for it.

I love being on this path with you. Let me know your thoughts!

Warmly,

Deborah

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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!”

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