Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body to Create Positive Change

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Did you know that you have a great built-in resource that can help you create positive change in your work and your life? This resource is your life energy, and you feel it through sensing in your body. What it has to tell you about what inspires or depletes you is what I call the "wisdom-energy" of your body.

If that sounds exciting to you, I hope you'll join me for my new webinar, "Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body to Create Positive Change," that's happening on Wednesday, October 11th, from 12 - 1 PM Pacific Time. This webinar is part of the series, "The Heart of Being Human," sponsored by Living Forward, LLC. You'll be getting more information soon about how to register for this webinar.

From my earlier career as a somatic therapist and in my current career as a certified life coach, I've learned that becoming aware of the body's energy is usually an easy way for people to assess their level of interest in choices they have to make.  Well-cared-for children instinctively follow where their energy leads them. However, as we grow older, we tend to become more socialized and less spontaneous with this ability.  

In order to be socially accepted, we hold back from the direct knowing of joy, happiness, and understanding that our feelings and body sensations tell us. We forget the resource we all have inside ourselves— the wisdom-energy of our bodies— that lets us go forward and make authentic choices that lead to positive change.

As a coach, I've found that helping people slow down, breathe more fully, and pay attention to sensory perceptions (signals from our bodies) allows them to feel what engages their energy and what limits it. In learning what lifts your energy, you're more able to feel what choices will lead to positive outcomes in a career or other life transition. In this way, your energy builds, and these changes you make become transformative leaps in the way you work, create, and connect with yourself, others, and the world!

A man in his early forties whom I coached was in transition from his engineering career and struggling with all he had to do, as he saw it, to get his new business under way. He felt tense and exhausted, seeing no end to his to-do list. He felt he couldn't give himself the time to go to the gym or even take a walk in his neighborhood.

So I challenged him to put five items from his list on the back burner for a month and see what new choices he was inspired to make for his work, as well as his health and well-being. He was appalled because he thought that now his business development would have no structure and that his new career venture would fail.

I had him practice awareness of his body sensations and breathing as he considered different actions he could take. By doing this, he realized that his original plan to create a new website plunged his energy down low. What sent his energy up, and what he really wanted to do first, was take time to deepen some connections with potential partners for his business. Suddenly, he felt energy rush through his body as he was filled with a sense of new possibilities opening!

He also planned to invite a friend to join him for a weekly workout class at his gym. In paying attention to his body's messages, he realized that what motivated him was connecting with other people— and this new insight transformed his approach to working and making time for fitness and self-care.

So if you're interested in expanding your awareness of the wisdom-energy of your body to create the professional and personal changes you desire, I invite you to join me for my webinar on this topic on Wednesday, October 11th, from 12 - 1 PM Pacific Time. I look forward to sharing this new experience with you!

Making Things— The Joy of Creating with Magic and Wisdom

Have you ever considered a career path that involved creating things with your hands?  Or have you ever used your hands as a staple of your profession apart from writing with a pen or working on a computer?

As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love, states in an "On Being" interview with Krista Tippett: "The entire world . .  has been altered by the human hand . . . making things a little more beautiful than they have to be, altering things, changing things, building things, composing things, shaping things.  This is what we do . . . And no one is left out of the inheritance of that."

I was reminded of that quote when I visited the Rosie the Riveter museum in Richmond, California, where thousands of people— the majority of whom were women entering the work force for the first time— came in 1941 to work in the huge shipyard there as part of a major armed forces buildup as the US entered World War II.  For these women it was an incredible experience to use their hands and minds outside the home to create enormous ships that the lives of men in the military would depend on.  The skills, self-confidence, and professional camaraderie they developed on the job in a common cause I believe also helped set the bar for the second wave of women's rights activism in the early 60's.

Personally, I'm quite tactile and have always enjoyed using my hands to make things and explore the world.  However, because my education from age seven on was primarily conceptual and to some degree social, the focus of the work I expected I would do as a career was also conceptually based.  In my book, Success with Soul, I described what it was like when I changed careers from nonprofit program development to somatic therapy.  I felt like "a complete imposter . . . never before having worked using my hands, with the integrated presence of my body and mind, as my tools."  But I also felt that, for me, this way of working "was guiding me to my own inner wisdom that could connect to that of every person whose life I touched in this way."

Making things happen with your hands as part of your presence in the world is a creative way of being that can also be professional.  Our hands put us in touch with our primal ability to make things that can be both useful and beautiful, and let us explore the range of our creativity.

So I was intrigued when I read "Magic in the Making"— an article about Stanford mechanical engineering professor, David Beach, who, in the early 1970's, transformed the Stanford Student Shops ("shop class," as it was known in high school) into the Product Realization Lab (PRL).  Having worked on the Hewlett Packard factory line before getting his master's degree at Stanford, Beach knew he could work with his hands.  But he didn't know he could combine his hands' skill in making objects with the creative experience to bring forth innovative solutions for a wide span of societal needs.

At the beginning, he didn't even know how to teach at this level. He didn't know how to help students who'd never had hands-on experience with different materials learn to have fun and be creative with these materials.  He didn't yet know how to work with students on the big picture of what they were doing, on how to interweave design and manufacturing.  But the "magic" and the "wisdom" he learned about the process of creating with his welding tools led him to success with this "timeless" new way to work.

And now, the PRL is in hot demand on the campus.  Working with the hands and with the mind together is now the new white-collar way to go!  Students from the PRL are being hired by Apple, Tesla, and Google.  They are also working to help meet worldwide societal needs, such as creating low-cost medical devices (e.g., burn rescue tools) and more effective groundwater drilling tools for developing countries.

Plus, there's the pure joy and confidence students experience in "the feeling of finally making things."  As one graduate student states, "Everybody talks about ideas and invention . . . but the ability to immediately turn [them] into something is incredibly empowering."

Feeling Stuck? Try a Radical Shift in Perspective!

Have you ever felt completely stuck as a professional— trying to find work you love, or having to do work you do not love at all? It happens to everyone at certain times, really jarring your sense of yourself as a competent, resourceful, purposeful, even worthwhile, person in the world.

What can you do when you feel stuck like that to get your creative juice going again? One thing you can do is get into a radically different perspective from the one you

are in. If you can’t do it for yourself, get in contact with a friend or colleague who’s empathic, but not stuck, and allow something new to emerge in talking together that turns your mind in a totally different direction. Coaching, too, can offer this kind of experience, as I shared once in a rather dramatic encounter.

It was early in my coaching career, and I was invited to give a presentation at a support group for people in mid-life seeking jobs. I came early to watch how the group worked together and found myself looking several times at a participant who moved very strangely, I thought. He wasn’t disabled, but his body seemed all at odds with himself. Even standing still, one shoulder was significantly higher than the other, and his whole torso was somewhat askew. But most particularly, his face looked out vaguely, seemingly without focus.

From my training as a somatic facilitator, I had an intuitive thought that he might be inwardly distressed from the sheer drudgery of waking up daily for months, maybe more than a year, to the endless round of the job search process.

Then it was my time to talk to the group about career transitions. Throughout the room, the energy was tired, low, and discouraged, so I led some exercises designed to help people expand their vision or sense of possibilities. I felt it might be interesting to the group to offer a mini-coaching session for one person that everyone else could tune into.

There was only one concern I had— I hoped I wouldn’t have to coach this particular man, who seemed so out of touch with himself, in a limited, 15-minute session. Of course, he was the only person to raise his hand.

He literally shuffled forward to the front of the room. His energy level was almost at zero. I asked him what he’d like to be coached on. He mumbled something about finding a new job. In response to my question about what he’d really like to be doing for work, he responded with litanies of positions he’d held and positions he was applying for. There was no uplift to his voice anywhere, no opening I could elicit.

I felt myself as stuck as I’ve ever been as a coach until, out of sheer desperation, I seized upon an inspiration. “Barry,” I said, “What is it that you can tell us about yourself that none of us here knows?”

Suddenly, there was an amazing shift in Barry’s posture and stance. His body literally unwound and righted itself. He took the microphone in his hand, actually smiled, and, speaking clearly and audibly to the group, told us about his joy in volunteering as an auctioneer to raise money for a nonprofit group he supported. He had such poise and passion as he told us about what he did with this work, that the group in front of him clapped and cheered. He beamed. For the first time in a long time Barry received affirmation for what he truly loved to do and who he truly was as a whole person.

In the 2013 movie Her, Theodore, a professional writer of personal letters, is emotionally and professionally stuck. His upset over the failure of his marriage leads him to start a new, unorthodox relationship with a specialized operating system in his computer named Samantha. Having a completely open mind without conventional limitations, Samantha invites him to join
her in a connection that will bend his mind open and jumpstart his whole life.

When Theodore asks her how she works, she replies, “Well, basically I have intuition . . . But what makes me me is my ability to grow through my experiences. So basically, in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.”

Falling in love with Samantha, Theodore finds that he’s opening to a more playful and expansive approach to life that unsettles him, but brings him new awareness and fulfillment with his intimate and professional relationships.

I don’t know what happened next with Barry’s job quest, but it was clear that he’d had a transformative and breakthrough moment. He finally acknowledged to his support group that he knew what it was to work in a heart-centered way— and that that was what he really wanted.

Transforming Fear into Heart-centered Ways to Work and Live

Recently I spent a few days exploring some of the high desert terrain of the Mojave desert in southern California, enjoying the experience of being in space inhabited by massive stones and a surprising diversity of flowering plant life given the extreme limitation of water.

Being in the desert in springtime and seeing wildflowers emerging from spiny cacti or growing at the feet of enormous, ancient boulders made me think of my work in helping people move out of limitation and blossom into new ways to work and live. We humans have so many talents, skills, and creative abilities, it's such a loss that we spend the time we do feeling limited in what we do, how we love, and how we live our "wild, precious" lives— until we learn to wake up and feel our intuition guiding us in new directions.

What I've noticed is that when you try to limit change in your life— mostly out of fear— you hold back from your own intuition that tells you when you’ve outgrown a particular path and would do better to move on in a new direction. We get intuitive promptings every day about what we want to do and don't want to do. Many times we ignore them, because we're afraid they might tell us that we're tired of certain ways of living and working— and that we could risk losing what we've already got.

Ongoing stress, pain, and illness are common body signals that you're not in balance or that you're losing touch with what you're doing in your life. Emotional signals such as burnout and disengagement with your usual activities in your career or in other places in your life can also indicate that fear of a necessary change is present.

And when you ignore spiritual messages such as significant dreams, or a lack of spirit or purpose— you risk over time damage to your health, wholeness, connection with others, and pure sense of aliveness.

Because I know how important it is to become aware of our fear of change in our desire come alive and bloom fully and successfully, I'm now making my webinar— Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change (based on my book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance)— available for purchase.

In this webinar, I describe why and how fear holds people captive from enjoying the work they do and the lives they lead. With special exercises, I help you connect with your awareness as the first step to transforming fear into the energy and focus you need to move forward— towards living and working authentically and well.

This 45-minute webinar is sponsored by Living Forward— a heart-centered coaching & training group in Chicago developed by my wonderful colleague, coach and trainer Suzanne Ness, MS, CPCC. For more information and to order, please click here.

"When you hold back, [your life] holds back . . . But when you commit, it comes on like blazes."    -- from Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

 

Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change— New Webinar, March 22, 2017

Most of you receiving this message know that I'm a certified life coach who works extensively with people who are creating heart-centered career and life-balance changes to live fully and well. To do this successfully, it's vital to understand not only what calls you forward, but also the ways in which fear holds you back from making the changes you need to work and live with fulfillment and satisfaction.

As Tara Brach, PhD— therapist, international meditation instructor, and author of Radical Acceptance— says, "When we live with fear, we spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully."          

Are you spending too much of your time feeling stuck and just defending your life?  Learning to recognize your fear of change will help you clear your mind and your energy so you can develop the life you truly want to live. 

Fear of change is a way of staying small and limited in your outlook and your actions. Becoming aware of the impact of this fear, however, is the first step towards moving forward and creating transformative change from your heart.

If you're feeling stuck and want to make new changes that matter to you, I invite you to join me for my webinar, "Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change," on Wed., March 22, 2017, at 4 PM PDT/7 PM EDT.  This webinar is part of the series, "Being Human," sponsored by Living Forward, LLC.

For more information and to register for this webinar, please click here.

Change-Making As Pilgrimage— Finding Your Inner Path of Fulfillment

An integral part of the coaching journey is the experience of finding our own paths to what is deeply fulfilling within ourselves. Often we base our desire or need for change on what seems permissible or possible. We base our choices on what we've already accomplished, rarely on the inner voice of our dreams or longings.

Making changes like this seems to take less time— just a jump from here to there. But conscious change is more of a pilgrimage than a commute ride. Conscious change-making is giving ourselves permission to explore and make tangible what our hearts long for. In this way, our actions are powerfully fueled by the tailwind of our full energy.   When we give ourselves permission, that energy from deep within ourselves is what moves us forward most effectively toward what we desire.

Creating change, therefore, can be experienced as a journey for which you consciously prepare. It's based on your desire to open yourself to new explorations that call to something deep inside— a dream from childhood, a quest for adventure, or a confirmation of an unrealized, even unacknowledged, potential within yourself.

In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau writes that planning a pilgrimage is about "embarking on any journey with a deep purpose," even if you "are unsure of how to prepare for it. The art of pilgrimage," he suggests, "is the skill of personally creating your own journey, and the daily practice of slowing down and lingering, savoring, and absorbing each of its stages."

So your desire to create change can be a time in which to find meaning and relevance on the path to change itself. Indeed, accepting this new phase in your life as a pilgrimage--a journey with intention, awareness, and spirit-- allows the pathway itself to become an vital part of the whole of the change you seek to create.

One of my clients discovered this as she planned a career change from her earlier work as a professor in a British university. While she was taking her first steps in this direction, she required an operation that kept her mostly house bound for almost a year. She decided not to get stressed about her inability to give public outreach presentations that were the basis of her health education program. Instead, she planned as part of her coaching to strengthen the spiritual underpinning of her life and work through reading, journaling, meditation, and self-care.

She slowed down, savored more depth in her relationships, dealt with old fears, and appreciated the gifts of healing and spiritual connection. From this inner pilgrimage, she emerged re-energized and decided to pursue a long-held dream— to study dancing the tango in Argentina. During this trip, she met a former colleague who invited her to give a paper at a conference in Brazil. Later, he asked if she would offer a class on the same topic, which included a description of her health education project as a solution to a particular societal need.

So her pilgrimage led her deep inside herself, and later, brought her back to where she'd started with health education.  However, she now had more clarity and confidence about her new professional direction, and a more joyful, expansive outlook about her life overall.

"This is . . . why the art of pilgrimage is the art of re-imagining how we walk, talk, listen, see, hear, write, and draw as we get ready for the journey of our soul's deep desire."
The Art of Pilgrimage

What is the pilgrimage you must take to create the change you most desire?

Change-Making at Solstice— How the Light Gets In

Now, on the shortest day of the year, with even northern California cold enough to wear hats, scarves, and gloves, I'm reflecting on the seeming polarities like light and dark, love and fear, that have swung us back and forth over our political and personal landscapes this past year. For me, the experience has been like standing on rock cliffs, being battered and splintered by an ongoing series of huge waves under the low-hanging clouds of a storm.

One such wave was the result of the presidential election in the United States. For myself and the majority of the electorate there is now the fear of having a president, a Congress, and a Supreme Court that will actively work against what we hold dear for our society— a healthy environment, health care access for all, up-to-date public education, and fundamental equal rights for all— so that we may have work and build lives in connection with our authentic desires, our relationships, and our world.

At such times, it seems that there are only the polarities of storm or calm, vitriol or caring, hate or love, dark or light. When people are able to stand steady in the heart of the storm, grounded in awareness of the connectedness of life, there are ways to bring oppositional forces into calm and wholeness. And it is in this place of wholeness and connection that positive change can emerge.

Recently, for example, I heard the story about the brilliant poet, songwriter, and singer, Leonard Cohen, who just died this year, and how he quelled a riot at the 1970 Isle of Wight rock concert in England. I was there, too, one of 600,000 in the passionate, free-flowing audience, many of whom were upset about political, economic, and social injustices of that time, including the Vietnam War. However, since the concert went on day and night, I seemed to have slept through Cohen's 4 AM performance on the last night of the festival that followed a literally blazing Jimi Hendrix set.

This was what I missed. Apparently, on that dark, rainy night, the audience was cold and restive and trashed the stage. Cohen, awoken at 2 AM after Hendrix played, was only bothered because the organizers couldn't locate a piano and organ for his musicians. "I'll come out when you find them," he said, and did, two hours later. As film reviewer Mike Springer wrote, "Perhaps the most moving moment [was] at the beginning, when Cohen [brought] the massive crowd together by asking a favor: 'Can I ask each of you to light a match, so I can see where you all are?'" In this way, he gathered that huge group of disparate, upset people in a cold, damp, inhospitable place into one whole, and soothed them into listening with his calm and deeply centered presence.

Fast forward to 2008, to Leonard Cohen's concert in London at a time of world-wide economic depression. I was very moved by what he said before performing his famous song, "Anthem," to the people in his audience. Again, he brought them together by speaking to their feelings of fear, anger, and upset with lovingkindness— "Thank you so much, friends. We're so privileged to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos."

And then he sang:

"So ring the bells
that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in."

In our lives, it's not so imperative to seek perfection as to embrace our wholeness.  This includes our stormy encounters, as well as the thin band of light we see on the horizon. When we put our attention on this light, we can see it radiating outward, reflected on the waves of the sea, reaching and opening our hearts.

So try this— when you find yourself in a difficult work situation, relationship, or political landscape, focus on whatever you can that is beautiful or inspiring in the midst of that challenge. Find that crack where the light gets in, whether it's a compassionate glance from a colleague, a memory of a loving moment, or a song that opens your heart. In this way, allow the change you long to make begin from within.

As poet and inspirational speaker, Mark Nepo, wrote in his book, The One Life We're Given: "When we can keep breaking through what has hardened and keep what is alive soft, the cracks turned into openings fill us with an undying light."

In this season's darkest days, may we celebrate the beauty of the light and love within us as we move forward into the challenges and changes of the new year.

Go for the Hallowe'en Spirit to Create the Change You Really Want!

Do you feel stuck as a consequence of earlier choices you've made? Do you feel there's little possibility for change in your life?

If so, try asking yourself the following question from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander—

What assumption am I making
That I'm not aware I'm making
That gives me what I see?

What is your current assumption about the possibility for positive change in your life?

In what way can you change this assumption so that creating positive change becomes possible?

When I grew up in the United States, Hallowe'en as a child was a wonderful time.  We could become all sorts of magical creatures— and go out on a dark night, knocking on spooky-looking doors and wondering whether there were witches or ghosts hiding behind tall shrubbery. Friends might be unrecognizable, and normally silent streets were alive with the sounds of swishing fabric, excited whispers, and eerie hoots and cries. A sheet became the flapping of a ghost, a stick covered in aluminum foil a wand, an old oak tree part of a haunted forest.

In other words, the Hallowe'en world we were in made it less possible to make verifiable assumptions about who was whom or what was what. That was a big part of the thrill of that holiday— being caught off guard and entering into the mysterious realm of unknown potential. So our world expanded from that of daily life— that is, what could be seen and what was expected— to a different place where possibilities were legion and being out of the box the norm.

I see Halloween as a vivid and spacious metaphor for the creative and often unsettling experience of making transitions to positive changes in our lives. As The Art of Possibility states, "The frames our minds create define— and confine— what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and the problems vanish, while new opportunities appear."

Consider the Hallowe'en spirit from a child's experience. My older great godson, Edgar, age 4, from Sweden, celebrated his first Hallowe'en at my California home this year.  He and his family had to leave earlier than the traditional date of October 31st, so we just changed the date. We didn't have other homes for him to go trick or treating, so we created a Hallowe'en world in the backyard with flapping ghosts, entangling spider webs, and special stations where he solved puzzles to collect his treats.

Fortunately, Edgar is the kind of person who says "Yes!" to almost every new choice for action that he encounters, and he wanted to do Hallowe'en as a pirate. And here's where the challenge lay—to be a full-fledged pirate, he needed a boat, he decided. A BIG pirate boat. As the organizer, I felt some dismay and possibly at a dead end. Would we have to find a kayak and haul it home? Would he demand black sails, as well? But it was unthinkable that we could refuse him his legitimate desire as a pirate to have the boat he required.

And then The Art of Possibility came through with another very appropriate question—What might I now invent, That I haven't yet invented, That would give me other      choices?

Finally, I recalled a cardboard box sitting in the garage. But it wasn't BIG. And I couldn't think how it would move with him in it. Fortunately, his father found some rope and taped it around the box. We pasted pirate pictures on it and presented it to Edgar with a flourish as his BIG BOAT. To my unmitigated relief, he was fully able to step into a fun, imaginative framework that allowed the rather small box to become a BIG BOAT. He sat in the box, which moved smoothly over the ground as the volunteer pirate crew pulled him wherever he ordered.

So what can we learn from this Hallowe'en experience about positive change-making?

1) Challenge your assumption that a new choice is not possible (it's going to be hard to find a BIG boat for a young pirate in a limited amount of time for a modest price)

2) Create a new framework that's more open to possibilities (I can make this work, somehow—borrow a kayak? or hmm, how about a cardboard box?)

3) Be ready to say "Yes" and try out a new possibility, even if it's not exactly the solution you imagined (thank you, Edgar, for being ready to accept on trial a box with a rope as your pirate ship)

4) Turn a new choice into a new lifestyle (yes, I can accept a cardboard box with a rope around it as my pirate ship, IF it includes a crew to pull me around wherever I want)

Whatever your challenge around creating a positive change in your life may be, learn to check out your assumption that's getting in your way. Then you can re-frame your situation into one with more spaciousness and potential to lead you toward the change you truly desire.

Authentic Livelihood— What If You Always Knew What You Loved to Do?

Like many people watching the Olympic competitions in Rio de Janeiro this past week, I found the U.S. women's gymnastic team absolutely riveting. Simone Biles, in particular, with her stellar back flips, aerial somersaults, and serene poise caught my attention. Then I became interested in her back story, which showed that she'd been interested in gymnastics from when she was a young child.

Barbara Sher in her book, Wishcraft-- How to Get What You Really Want, zeroed in on this point, that what we really want to do emerges in different guises with great clarity from when we're quite young. As she says, "You were very busy when you were two . . . You knew perfectly well what you loved and what you wanted. And you went after it, without the slightest hesitation or doubt . . . Those 'rare' and 'special' qualities we think distinguish geniuses from the rest of us? You had them. I had them. Where did they go? . . . Ask any famous woman or man, and you will probably find that they remember having a very clear sense of what they were meant to do at a very early age."

Finally, Sher asks, "What talents or abilities might those early interests and dreams point to?"

Back to Simone Biles' childhood upbringing. Since her birth mother struggled with drug addiction, Simone had no opportunities when she was very young to let her natural curiosity and aliveness have full scope. When she was adopted by her maternal grandparents at age five, however, they immediately noticed that she was "happy, but hyperactive, leaping off furniture" and "doing back flips off the family's mailbox before she even took a gymnastics class."

Fortunately for her, Biles' adopted parents and her coach, Aimee Boorman, supported her in following her passion and channeling it into gymnastics, which she loved since being introduced to it at age six. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Boorman identified something in Biles that she knew she needed to nurture. She went with a low-key approach that's rare in this sport. That meant letting Biles simply have fun in the gym in her early years, rather than pushing her towards Olympic greatness and risk losing her entirely."

Essentially, Boorman gave Biles back her early childhood of exploring and enjoying running, flipping, and twisting in the air. Gradually, Boorman introduced Biles to new ways of focusing her energy and abilities that allowed her to become the top athlete that she is now without burning out her joy in being who she is doing what loves.

We know we're not all champion athletes, Nobel prize winners, or Mahatma Gandhis. However, what Sher calls your "genius" and others call "authentic self" is there right from your beginning, "like the genes in a seed that say it's going to become a . . . palm tree, or a rose."

So if you're feeling stuck, and not sure what your career or life path is or wants to become, ask yourself:

What did I love to do when I was a child? What gave me joy?

For example, I loved to create things where I got to put together bits of fabric, paint, egg shells, and found objects. So my first job was not selling lemonade, delivering newspapers, or babysitting. It was teaching other kids on the block how to make papier maché puppets and other arts and crafts objects that I was learning from my own art teacher. Even then I enjoyed what I evolved later for myself--- being my own boss, working in my own environment, and helping people enjoy learning to create something new and interesting in their lives.

Then ask yourself:

What is it that gave me joy and delight as a child that I'd like to bring into how I work and live my life now?

Did I love running? Did I love to sing? Did I like drawing pictures? Did I enjoy collecting rocks and shiny objects when I went out walking? Did I like riding horses? Did I enjoy helping people find lost keys or cats? Did I like to read or tell stories to my younger brother? Did I relax by watching clouds scudding by in the sky?

And then ask:

What held me back from doing this?

Was it a lack of support when you got into school? Or an assumption that only certain skills can guarantee you sufficient income? Or....?

And then:

What are the essential qualities of what I loved doing as a child that I'd like to bring into my work and whole life now?

These could include-- being able to move freely, feeling creative, exploring new things and places, being with animals, spending time outdoors, building things, teaching, having time to be meditative, and so on. Imagine how these essential qualities of what you loved doing when you were young could be part of what and how you work and live now.

And finally:

What is it I need to learn in order to integrate these essential qualities into a new career or way of living that I love now?

This might be developing particular career skills. Or it might be getting coaching support for a career or life transition. Or it might be meditation practice or yoga for inner balance and centering.

Remember the advice of coach Aimee Boorman--- trainer of Simone Biles, who just won four Olympic gold medals--- to the five U.S. women gymnasts in this 2016 Olympics: "Success is being happy and healthy. Compete from a place of joy!"

Creating Successful Change— Keeping the Spark Alive!

"What we think we want, what we think we strive for, is often not the goal at all— just what we hold on to in order to discover what is truly calling us.
— Mark Nepo, The One Life We're Given

Have you ever had an experience where a barrier or obstacle inside yourself suddenly fell away and the next direction in your life opened clearly to you? This invisible barrier can be a belief based on other people's opinions— an emotion long-held and frozen inside— or a goal that does not take into account changing conditions. As this barrier falls away, you can feel the spark of adventure and aliveness inside yourself that has guided you to this place through all obstacles.

In my work as a coach, I see this inner shift as the defining place clients reach who have gone through the chaotic middle zone of a transition, between an ending and a new beginning. This place of uncertainty and discomfort also can be a time of affirmation of what we love and the spark we carry within us that lights our way forward. This is a genuine foundation for career and other life changes that feel right for us because they're based on what is true for who we really are.

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I describe such a transformational journey of a client, Julia, "a single woman in her mid-30’s, who was very discouraged after a move across country to a big city for the sake of a new career in restaurant management. Her initial focus in coaching was on whether to change careers, and if so, how. However, it soon became clear that she had a desire she’d never before consciously claimed-- the warmth of home with a partner committed to creating family together. She’d certainly never put 'home' into the equation of how she wanted work to look and feel like in her life."

As Julia and I explored the joylessness of her life at that time and the profound sense of disconnection her restaurant work gave her from her friends, family, and overall sense of purpose, one thing became very clear to her— the importance of home and family. She became aware of her inner barrier— that her career goal had to be a high-level management position in a cutting-edge restaurant— and recognized it as a serious obstacle to her happiness. With this new awareness, she stopped trying to create career success in this way and found her inner spark. She realized then that she loved cooking and wanted to work in a way that combined this with her strong desire to help others.

"Synchronistically, she reconnected with a former boyfriend who now wanted to be her mate and build a life together. Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable-- as was her new career plan to teach cooking for health and nutrition….

As she stayed connected with the 'spark' in her spirit that wanted to come fully alight, she answered her own biggest question: 'How will following my heart allow me to evolve a way to live and work that fully embodies all that I am and most desire?'"

Recently, I attended a reading by Mark Nepo— a remarkable poet, storyteller, and author, akin to the mystic poet Rumi— from his most recent book, The One Life We're Given— Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart. I was riveted by the quiet eloquence and deeply centered presence of this man whose calling to share heart-centered wisdom through his writing and speaking was born of some very difficult experiences in his life.

After surviving almost fatal thoracic surgery for cancer in his 30's, followed by divorce, Nepo discovered that the book he'd planned to write, and had had great ambitions for, was no longer relevant for who he was becoming. The books he actually wrote instead reflect a very different perspective on what success can be. Through his unplanned journey, he realized that living out hard experiences opened wide his heart and transformed the evolution of his life. His inner barriers fell away and revealed his own bright, authentic spark, guiding him to a successful career and new marriage.

"….What we think we want, what we think we strive for, is often not the goal at all— just what we hold on to in order to discover what is truly calling us. Often, when we think we're building one thing, we're building another, or we're the ones being built . . . When we think we're enduring one thing, we're often being undone by life into the birth of a gift we've been carrying for just this opening . . . The point is, we're challenged to follow our heart beyond our intentions in order to find our quiet destiny, the way a tulip . . . follows its urge to break ground, hardly imagining its life in blossom."
— Mark Nepo, The One Life We're Given

What obstacle have you encountered that opened you to your inner spark of aliveness?

What can you do to help keep this spark alive?

What has challenged you to make a successful change by transcending an inner barrier or obstacle?