Why Kick Start Your Creativity— and How to Do It

When I was growing up, you were considered either creative or not creative. You could draw, or play an instrument, or act in plays— or you couldn't. You always knew who the "creative" ones were. They had a special status— either admired, or thought to be weird and socially limited. In any case, the kids who were "creative" were often set apart from the others in mutually exclusive ways. 

From a coaching point of view, I feel this was a serious mis-education in limitation for everyone concerned.

Fortunately, we now live in the age of inclusivity and expansiveness when it comes to what defines creativity and who can be creative. As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic— Creative Living Beyond Fear, writes, "What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." 

Since humans have an ingrained sense of curiosity from birth to seek ways to satisfy evolving physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, we all have a strong drive within ourselves to live creatively. It's a way of living that we all can do with support and encouragement. Why do we want to do it? Because in doing so, you add enormously to the energy, joy, and fulfillment that living with such awareness brings us.

With coaching, I've found 3 useful pathways for helping people infuse their lives with creativity and satisfaction—

1) Encourage new ways of visualizing the opening of your life—

This is actually the core foundation for all transformative change. It's how I often begin coaching with people who feel stuck or indecisive about how to work and live fulfilled. With envisioning, you give yourself full permission to bring out into the open everything that's most important to you in your life.

Yes, fear of the unknown and doubts about your own competency can arise as you expand your outlook on the way you want to live. Sometimes you may feel challenged letting even the vision of how you really want to live happen. 

With your own desire and the right kind of support, however, you can learn to activate your creativity and imagination— and free your mind and spirit to soar! 

2) Change your current career to one you love that feels totally different

The process of changing the way you work to something that truly engages you is a highly creative act demanding awareness, commitment, and an openness to the possibilities of change. Changing your career can also be an opportunity for transforming your whole life in fulfilling new ways. One of my clients— Josh, an artist, who made his livelihood as an architect— felt his creativity stifled by management demands in the large architectural firm where he worked, though he enjoyed doing architecture. What he really minded was that he had little time to do his own art and to have quality time with his family.

In our work together, Josh developed his confidence in following his own creative path. He streamlined the way he worked so he had time to workout during the week, left his office on time instead of two hours later, was able to have several hours of time with his children, and created an award-winning architectural design.

Ultimately, Josh fulfilled his dream of being a partner in his own architectural firm, with time for his painting and sculpture. To do this, he developed innovative ways of doing contract work with his old office, while building his contacts and winning project bids for creative building projects for his own firm. 

Often, opening the energy of your creative self is about tapping into the wellspring of what makes you come alive. As Rabbi Sharon Brous puts it, "Each of us participates in creation every day when we make a [conscious] choice about how we want to live in the world."

3) Bring forth a part of yourself that longs to be expressed

What is something you loved to do when you were young that made you feel glad to be alive— that perhaps you've forgotten about? Remember Robin Williams as the grownup Peter Pan in the movie Hook? When forced to rescue his children from the pirates, he learned what he'd loved as a boy and forgotten as a man— how wonderful it was to feel free, playful, and fearless in a cause larger than himself! 

Are you curious and interested about some part of your younger self that you'd like to call back and live out now? Were you ever told that you couldn't or shouldn't sing loudly in the shower, paint whatever you liked, dance on your way to school, or collect squirmy caterpillars on hikes? 

Feel the opening of your energy now as you bring your singer, painter, dancer, or collector self back into your life. Re-create opportunities to sing, paint, dance, and collect whatever you like. Kick start your core creativity and re-kindle the joy of feeling fully alive! This is the key to connecting with the way of living and working that is most deeply satisfying to you now.

What Makes Taking a BIG RISK for Change Worthwhile?

Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking at least one risk that is a definite challenge to what is known and familiar to you. Such challenges can be external, involving changing professions, investing capital to create change, or moving to a different place. But at a transformational level, taking a BIG RISK involves changing from within yourself, too. So what is a BIG RISK to one person will not necessarily be the same BIG RISK to someone else with a different personality, skills, and life experience.

The bigger the challenge is to a person, the bigger the risk will seem. For one of my clients, Jessica— a parent planning to come out with a book about a controversial subject that she was passionate about, bullying in public schools— was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in a dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or how to land safely in an emergency. She was a person who protected her privacy, and her biggest fear was that she would be exposing herself and her family to intense, possibly hurtful, public scrutiny in order to promote and sell her book.

Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck. She'd written her book, but didn't know whether to publish it. I started by having her define what the value was to her in taking on such a huge challenge. While privacy for herself and her family was important to her, as her son started college, she felt a strong inner drive to voice her concerns about bullying at school that had strongly impacted her family when her son was a young teenager. Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. I also heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied, felt they had no one to help them, and whose lives at school became a horror. 

With her family's support, she was willing to take the risk of their public exposure because of the big picture she held— feeling that, through her book, she could become a leader in the movement to create a positive and safer environment in public schools. Her deep desire was to change the way principals, teachers, and teaching aides are trained in viewing and dealing with bullying in the schools. Her intent was to set up a new paradigm for classrooms and playgrounds to become safe places for children and teens to be and learn. 

As she said this, I asked her to notice what she was sensing in her body. She paused for a moment, then replied that she'd been holding her breath tightly in her chest and diaphragm. When I asked her what she was feeling there, she responded, "Fear of believing that I can risk my life as it is and become a more public voice for change."

It's important to remember that taking a BIG RISK to make a change that matters vitally to you is not about the absence of fear. It's about becoming aware that fear indicates the presence of a direct challenge to your spirit— and that you need to prepare inwardly and outwardly to move past your fear. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. This is what makes taking the risk worthwhile— taking on the challenge of making a change that inspires you, and that will transform the way you are and what you can offer to the world.

As we continued our sessions, Jessica decided to see taking her risk to publish her book from a new perspective— My Big Adventure!  I'd asked her, what will be your reward? Now she was able to reply, the adventure itself, learning to fly freely! 

We also practiced grounding techniques such as stopping to breathe slowly and fully to calm feelings of anxiety and hold her new Big Adventure perspective in going forward. Another grounding exercise was guiding Jessica to feel her feet on the ground connecting with the embracing energy of the earth. I also had her place her hand on her heart to connect with her own love and compassion for herself, to give her nourishing support from within for taking the risk to make the change she desired (Linda Graham, Bouncing Back).    

Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take that would help break down the BIG RISK factor. Using the metaphor of trying to land a small plane safely in dangerous, unknown territory, she saw that she could prepare by having her equipment (her book) carefully inspected before flight time (by her editor and her friends reading over her manuscript); have training in making emergency landings (learning how she could handle criticism of herself and her book); and very importantly, learn to manage fear. She recognized how vital it was to have understanding friends and professional/ emotional support people to help her through any challenges that would arise after her book's publication.

She checked out the terrain of who she wanted to read her book, and made a list of her allies in getting the book out and getting positive reviews from teachers, principals, and other parents she knew. She had in-person and online talks with these people and began to get contacts for interviews on the radio, newspapers, education journals, and online sources. Jessica felt excited, and increasingly confident, that she was making progress in checking out where she'd be landing with her book with her action plan to change the public school culture and create zero-tolerance for bullying.

At a deeper level, Jessica found her inner well of inspiration to create something bigger than herself of true value in the world— a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. As a consequence of taking this BIG RISK, she felt prepared to fly forward, confident that she was prepared from within to meet the challenges of getting to where she really wanted to go! 

"You shifted perspectives . . . You allowed your heart to open. You let the bird out of the cage. You are flying!"  — Pamela Hale, Flying Lessons

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

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What's an easy way to find out from within yourself whether you're making a new professional or personal choice that's right for you?  

The good news is that we have in our own bodies this great, built-in resource that's surprisingly accurate in helping us affirm new choices for what we want in our work, our relationships, our creativity, and our well-being. This is the wisdom-energy of our bodies. Becoming aware of this resource as part of the coaching experience is often a fascinating part of the journey in itself for coaching clients.

From many years of giving stress-management classes, I've noticed how people at work cut off from connection with their feelings and their senses. I've seen that type of tightened, hunched-over body posture often in professionals from non-profits, tech corporations, schools, and businesses. The message so clearly embodied is: "Work is hard and demanding. It takes all my energy and leaves none for breathing and feeling. I will myself to focus only on my work and not my well-being, unless maybe there's time for that later (and there probably won't be)."

Recognize yourself?  When did you last stop to check in with yourself at work or in other situations during your day, inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, and actually feel the sensations in your body?  For your body speaks to you through sensations-- warmth, cold, tension, flexibility-- and your energetic level. In general, when your body is warm and flexible, and your energy is high, your mind and spirit feel more expansive than when you're cold, tense, and energetically depleted.

When you're in a higher energy state, your thoughts and feelings are more positive, and it's easier to become aware of new possibilities and feel ready to make new changes.

As you practice moving from lower to higher energy states, you start to tap into the aliveness in your body and spirit that you need in order to find fulfillment in what you do and how you are in the world.  Otherwise, though your career choices, for example, may look good on your resume, they may feel unsatisfying, as well as disconnected from a sense of purpose and vitality in your life.

What we can learn here is that when we hold back from feeling our life energy, we cut ourselves off from our intuition and awareness. We cut the cord to the direct knowing of our own truth from our feelings and our senses.  

My client, Jana, was a young college graduate who was not happy with her career choice of engineering. Then she had a bout with colon cancer, which gave her the time to pay attention to what her belly and the rest of her body were saying to her. Healing from cancer was the first step in understanding her life priorities and considering  changing her professional direction to one that was more deeply satisfying. 

In our coaching together, I made time for Jana to practice deep belly breathing that allowed her to relax the pressure from her mind and engage with her body energy. 

When she reached choice points, she learned to pay attention to whether she felt her energy get higher or go lower. Considering becoming a career engineer plummeted her energy. But combining some of what she did enjoy about structural engineering with community planning lifted her energy.

By checking in with her energy when making decisions, she gained clarity about her evolving vision for her new career direction and her future life-- creating a sustainable community by connecting people with the sources of real food and life.  Her sense of purpose come alive as she felt her belly softening and opening. 

She began to envision creating a place for growing healthful food, with beautiful buildings for holding classes and retreats to help people heal their relationships with their food, their bodies, and their spirit. In time, she brought together her technical, agricultural, and human potential interests into a more authentic and satisfying professional direction. 

As Jana did, you can learn to pay attention to the messages from your body. When you feel confident about accessing your body's energy, you become attuned to your own intuitive wisdom. In learning to sense what energetically uplifts and motivates you, you can more effectively make positive, satisfying choices and transformative changes for working and living fulfilled.

Love As Foundation for Transformative Change

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What is the power of opening our hearts that it can transform our lives? In my experience coaching people making career and life-balance changes, being supported in connecting with that which you love is the true foundation for making transformative change happen. This isn't something that you generally learn in school, and it's not often what you learn professionally.  Just try, however, to undertake something really challenging, like making a profound change in the way you work or live, and see if you can do this without going deeply into your heart.

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.—founder of Commonweal and renowned for her healing work with doctors struggling with burnout in trying to heal gravely ill patients— writes in her book, My Grandfather's Blessings, "The heart has the power to transform experience. No matter what we do, finding fulfillment may require learning to cultivate the heart and its capacity for meaning in the same way that we are now taught to pursue knowledge or expertise."

A young doctor, LaVera, who came to see Remen told her about a traumatic event where another first-year student in her medical program suddenly dropped dead. No one in her class, including the professors, talked about the impact of this experience. Busy as the students were with their 18-hour days, they just rolled on through the year without any acknowledgement of how they were affected by this event.  

Months later in a pathology class, the professor passed around a congenitally deformed heart and casually remarked that it had belonged to the student who'd suddenly died.

The sudden impact of that remark hit LaVere like a bolt of lightning, but she noticed that none of the other students showed any sign of emotional distress. And neither did she—until she told her story to Remen and wept.

The metaphor of the heart and what happens when we hold ourselves back from what we feel speaks directly to what is so important about coaching and being coached from the heart. It's often not easy to take the first step in changing your professional identity. You might find it hard to acknowledge sadness or shame at not having taken a different path earlier. You might feel fear (as well as excitement) at leaving a profession in which you've spent years training and working.

As a coach, tuning in to the emotional aliveness of what my clients are feeling in the midst of making powerful changes is a vital, endlessly fascinating part of my work.

For me, this is transformational coaching and has a broad foundation in love. From this aware and caring space, I give people the welcoming experience of being free to be who they really are (sometimes for the first time in their lives) and make new choices for their lives that really matter to them now. 

How do you know when you're following the direction of your heart and spirit? It feels easy to go forward in this way because you're drawn to this energy.  Think of people you know whom you enjoy being around because they love being who they are and doing what they do.  Because they work, relate, and engage with aliveness, awareness, and spirit, with every cell of their body.  Because they shine with the joy of living and working with purpose and love.

I'm thinking of the joy, engagement, and purpose I've seen emerge through coaching and mentoring people from a place of loving connection. There was the coach who was so energized with the new, heart-centered depth to her work with her clients by integrating somatic awareness and techniques she learned during our mentoring sessions.  And there was the architect who moved out of burnout and breakdown in health to radiant joy in creating his own business and shifting his priorities to have time for his family, fitness, and creative passion. 

Opening your heart allows you to claim what has meaning and what gives joy to your life!  In this way, you can dare to risk making the changes you need to work and live with fulfillment, to create and transform. When you then share with others what you love, you let the joy within yourself flow out and inspire them, too. 

What's a transformational change you've experienced that opened your heart and changed your life?

Living Your Life in Dynamic Balance!

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Why do so many people come to coaching seeking balance in their lives? 

Many people I help with making career transitions also feel that it's a great time to open the picture of what they really want in their whole lives. When we explore this in more depth, they see that they want more than just a new professional direction or position. They want to affirm the importance of living in such a way that there is time in their lives for the synergistic richness of meaningful work, caring relationships, health and fitness, personal development, creativity, and simply being.

When you feel your life is out of balance, what happens is that too much of yourself is being absorbed in ways that are no longer fruitful. Living in dynamic balance is about how to refresh and renew yourself within the forces that shape and energize your life— with work, family life, friendships, creativity, spirituality, and well-being.

As Gregg Levoy asks in his dynamic book, Callings, "What is the feedback your life gives you? Is your energy growing or shriveling? Moving or getting jammed up? Is your life deepening?"

Suzanne was a 30-year-old woman who'd moved several years earlier to Portland, Oregon, with her husband and young daughter after several years working with an international corporation in Washington, D.C. She started coaching with me because she felt her life was very much out of balance. While happy with her family, her contract work was unsatisfying to her, she felt isolated from her friends back east, and out of rhythm in her life as a whole.  She definitely felt her energy was "shriveling" and "jammed up."

As we explored what she wanted to do and how she wanted her life to be, Suzanne  realized how much she wanted her life to include teaching yoga again, expressing herself through writing, taking courses at a psychotherapy institute, reaching out to her women friends, and re-connecting with her spirituality. She soon found a studio to teach yoga for disempowered women, took a class in neuropsychology, and reached out for places to start publishing articles about living spiritually.  

Now her energy was "growing" and "moving"! In fact, Suzanne found so many areas of compelling interest that she then had to look at how to fit them into her busy week. Then she took a week-long meditation retreat that profoundly opened her core desire to live authentically, from her heart. 

In this spirit, Suzanne accepted a part-time position on a project she particularly cared about with the organization she'd left several years earlier. She negotiated ways to work as part of a team, even at a distance, so she wouldn't feel isolated working from home.  She also organized a "hub" for herself and some of her women friends as a place to come together to do whatever work each of them was engaged in, as well as connect socially.

In these ways, Suzanne has begun to build on her growing awareness of what it is to live her life in dynamic balance. She no longer tries to make her family life and all her new interests fit perfectly together. Though she plans time for her work routine, including teaching yoga, she's learned to appreciate shifting and re-balancing her energy by following where her curiosity and her caring lead her during the week.  She's learned to trust in herself the evolution of an "inner compass" on her own authentic path. 

Most importantly for Suzanne is connecting with the alive, passionate part of herself in everything she chooses to do now.

Living in dynamic balance is about just that— understanding where your energy needs to go in order to grow and nourish your soul. Living in dynamic balance requires a periodic shifting of your energy from the outer shape of your profession or relationship or creative path to your inner knowing that assesses their meaning and value for you. This, in turn, allows you to re-design your work and other life commitments so you can breathe and go forward, freely, with happiness and with purpose.

Fundamentally, our lives are not jigsaw puzzles that we take apart, then put together again in the same ways. Whenever you create change in some aspect of your life, your whole life changes, as if you're dancing with the universe. This is the “dynamic” quality of “balancing” your life!

             What is the dynamic balance you'd like to have in your life now?

Creative Use of Coaching Structure for Successful Change

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How can the creative use of coaching structures help you develop the professional and personal changes you really want?  

Life coaching is fundamentally a dynamic conversational structure— a co-creation between the coach and client to bring forth the new ideas, images, and perspectives that will best serve the client in creating transformative career and life changes.  From the beginning, I as the coach set up a special structure for effective change-making by creating a safe "container" between myself and my clients to help them go farther and deeper in exploring new possibilities and directions.

This "container" is the invisible structure that holds the energy and flow of the coaching conversation—while the coaching conversation itself is the structure that's heard and felt, and moves the client forward.  As I build safety and trust into the coaching "container," clients feel more grounded and more able to participate fully in the coaching exploration about what they really want to achieve.  

Using powerful, stimulating questions and imagery, I expand the conversation to help clients develop the big picture of what they really want, which can sometimes feel scary as well as exciting.  When they are clear about their new choices and direction, the coach can then re-shape the structure of the conversation to help them focus on choosing actions and timelines to manifest their dreams and goals.

Brian, a retired teacher, was struggling to complete the book he was writing based on The Remembrances of Times Past by Marcel Proust.  Brian had recently had a birthday and commented that he felt old, but that this next year for him was supposed to be one of "energy and change." Sensing that he was feeling discouraged about how his life was going because of the lack of progress with his book, I re-phrased this as "a year of energy and transformation." Then I asked him, "What's in the cocoon that wants to come out?"  

"Good question!" exclaimed Brian, and his face brightened. Then he described the image that came to him of a chick pecking its way out of an egg shell, emerging cautiously but gaining energy by moving.  "The egg is transformed into a chicken with its own distinctive internal structure," he said.  "By its own efforts, it's hatched from the limited external structure of the egg shell.  It's free to move and make sounds!"  With his energy opened by a resonant image, Brian felt ready to re-focus and create a plan for moving on and completing his book.

In this case, the structure of the 20-minute coaching conversation expanded with a powerful question that both acknowledged Brian's feeling stuck with his book and his life— and offered "cocoon" as an image of potentiality for transformative change.  As Brian connected with this image, he was able to take it further and create a new opening to go forward with his book. The structure of our conversation then shifted to a more straightforward planning mode with action steps, a timetable, and a method of accountability.

What I've found is that using creative structuring with coaching conversations supports people in getting out of stuckness and into successful outcomes.  This can help you—

  • Transform unsatisfying ways of working into heart-centered livelihood that feels successful and purposeful to you

  • Create more time and energy (life balance) for living with fulfillment and purpose

  • Shift gears into retirement in ways that feel deeply satisfying to you

  • Create more effortless, personalized, and authentic marketing outreach for solopreneurs

  • Learn how to have more effective coaching conversations with clients (mentor coaching)

What is the conversation you're longing to have?

Coach Mentoring for Coaches— Keeping the Spark Alive!

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Have you ever wanted someone to support you in realizing your dream as an aspiring professional in your field? 

Have you ever had a mentor in your life?  

In the coaching field, there's a lot of discussion now about the roles of coach mentors.  As with mentoring in any professional field, a very important function of coach mentors is helping less experienced coach clients fine-tune the quality, breadth, and depth of their coaching.  This also includes coach mentors who support coaches applying for professional credentialing through the International Coach Federation (ICF).  Additionally, coach mentors may offer coaches practice with integrating non-coaching skills into their coaching (e.g., business development, cross-cultural awareness).

As a credentialed coach and certified mentor coach (as defined by ICF), I'm very glad to be part of the mentoring wave flowing through the coaching profession. I very much enjoy mentoring coaches in the areas mentioned above.  In addition to mentoring other coaches, I, too, have received valuable mentoring at certain times from other coaches whose professional expertise I trust and from whom I want to learn. 

A mentor from my mentor coach certification training, Marion Franklin, MCC, introduced me to more nuanced ways of listening to my clients, which allows me to have more fluid coaching conversations with more useful outcomes for them.  My current coach mentor, Ian White, Life Fulfillment coach, has an open, imaginative mind and always helps me find new, creative directions with my coaching.  I have monthly sessions with him to keep my coaching skills sharp and effective.

Why mentoring?

During one session with Ian, I mentioned that I'd been feeling vulnerable from some challenging event in my life.  Because of that, I felt I was at a new level with my coaching, but wasn't sure what it was all about. Ian identified this transition as "transformational, like starting a blaze!"  That image was so vivid to me that I realized, "Yes, this why I coach.  I'm keeping the spark alive!  I help my clients reach for what is alive in themselves to make positive changes in their lives."

Throughout the ages, mentoring— the passing on of survival and working skills from one person to another— has been the primary way that humans have learned how to navigate successfully the tricky terrain of staying alive and retaining cultural legacies into the next generations.  As the world of work diversified, people became apprentices in different trades or professions.  The more promising candidates were mentored into journeymen or mastery when they were considered competent and able to set up their own businesses. 

These days experienced teachers, professors, and corporate managers and executives may be called on to provide mentoring to less experienced employees and students to help them learn to work more skillfully within their departments or organizations.  Many mentors invite their mentees into important networks for developing professional contacts leading to speaking, publishing, and/or teaching opportunities.

In what ways do coaches need coach mentors? 

We coaches invest a great deal of ourselves in helping clients open their vision for their future, align their career and life planning with their values, find new opportunities on which to base new choices, and motivate them to go forward.  Helping our clients keep the spark alive to make changes that matter in their lives is rewarding and sometimes demanding work.  Periodically, we coaches benefit from skilled mentors who remind us just what it is about coaching that we love to do!

As both coaches and teachers, coach mentors challenge their coach clients to move to the next level of excellence in their work by giving them clear feedback about their coaching interactions with their clients. They inspire their coach clients to expand their reach in helping their own clients understand and make the changes they really want.  Coach mentors remind their coach clients to be curious and open to new perspectives that can help their own clients grow and evolve with consciousness and clarity.

What makes mentoring such an effective learning experience for both the coach mentor and the coaching client?  

As Lois L. Zachary says in The Mentor's Guide,"Learning on the part of both mentor and mentee grounds the work of mentoring. It is the reason we do it, the process we engage in during a mentoring relationship, and the outcome that both mentor and mentee seek."  As both a coach mentor and a coach receiving mentoring, I know and look forward to the mutual learning involved in these relationships.  Mentoring other coaches also affirms my connection to, and appreciation of, the profession and process of coaching as an alive and authentic way of helping people create meaningful changes in their lives.

Defining Heart-Centered Success in Your Own Terms for Your Work and Your Whole Life

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What does it mean to define heart-centered success in your own terms with work and your whole life?  You don't necessarily need to become famous or rich.  Most importantly, you don't need to give up anything that's really important to you.  Clarifying what heart-centered success means to you is about getting to know who you really are and what really motivates you NOW.  The drive to find work and a way of life that deeply satisfies the needs of a person's spirit can be so powerful that it blows right through old messages from teachers, parents, peers, and the media that say, "you can't" or ''that's not what you're trained to do" or "you won't be able to make a living at that."

If you’re feeling burned out or limited at work, it’s likely you’re seeing your professional future and the picture of your life based only on your past and present experience, training, education, or family expectations.  As Barbara Sher in her book on strategic change-making, Wishcraft, asks:  “Were you given real help and encouragement in finding out what you wanted to do-- and how to do it?”  

If not-- and most people I’ve worked with have not been-- then your first step is:  

Begin to envision an authentic career and life as an integrated process based on what motivates and inspires you in the present moment! 

If you're reading this post, you may be exploring what it means to feel successful

in your career or the quality of your life as a whole— with relationships, creativity,

fitness, travel, spirituality, and whatever else is important to you.  Perhaps there's something intangible that you long for to bring a glow to all parts of your life.  This is what I call the "heart-centered" quality of success.  Your can feel it as energy, vitality, and passion.  Essentially, it's about understanding what it is that calls you.

As I wrote in my book, Success with Soul, "Vitality is our energy and passion to live fully, to discover our purpose, to awaken to the gifts we have to offer and not just get by— on the job, in our relationships with others, in every activity we undertake."

When I coach people, that's where we're going— towards where their energy

vibrates at a high level and towards where they are genuinely attracted.  At this energetic level, you're able to connect with what is most meaningful to you— and to your capacity to let this open and flourish.

Nicole, is a coach in her mid-50s with a strong business background, hardworking and creative.  She began coaching with me because she felt stuck professionally.  She believed that to go forward, she needed to create a bigger business involving associates, trainings, and informational products.  Each time she took a step in that direction, however, she could feel herself losing energy and interest.

Her dream was to go back to living in the country on a good-sized piece of land, but she insisted that she needed to make more money before she could afford to do this.  However, she was clearly longing to take action in a new way.  

So I asked her if she’d be willing to look at whatever she enjoyed doing, then brainstorm ideas for career directions for each possibility.  Soon it became clear that everything she loved doing was in the outdoors.  With “Hiking,” she considered becoming a professional photographer.  “Kayaking” led her to the prospect of offering kayaking tours.

But when she offered “Chickens” as what she loved, then I really heard the passion in her voice, while she felt the upsurge in her energy!  From this place of aliveness, she envisioned starting her own chicken farm of free-range chickens, finding someone with land with whom to partner (thus reducing her need for instant capital).  

In fact, she was passionate about wanting to rid the world of chicken factory farms that torture these animals to force them to produce.  By educating people about the humane advantages of backyard chicken farms, she also saw she could have more opportunities to be outdoors helping people make this happen. 

She even stretched her vision to consulting with Hollywood film professionals about setting up “boutique farms” in their spacious backyards.  With her passion, knowledge, business and coaching skills, she saw clearly how she could help them design and operate aesthetic, flourishing, self-sustaining chicken environments.

Most importantly, Nicole felt supported in embracing a new work and life direction that made her feel alive and ready to work at achieving her dream. 

So if feeling heart-centered success in your work and your whole life sounds like the direction you'd like to take, ask yourself—

What is heart-centered success to me?

How do I want to contribute from my heart?

What support do I need to lift my energy to a higher level to find purpose and aliveness in my work and my life?

Creating Transformational Change

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What is transformation? And what is so important about the radical shift that transformational change can make in your life?

In my coaching career, I've had the privilege of helping many people make the changes they wanted in their work and other aspects of their lives. However, I began to see a profound difference between the experience of simply making changes— and that of connecting with your awareness and inner passion to create changes that transform the shape, energy, and reach of your whole life.

This is what I call transformational change, and what Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), calls "changes that occur at the level of identity or being." When I work with people who are creating transformational change, I often notice a sharp rise in their level of self-confidence and joy in living.

For example, Leslie, an unhappy employee in a small restaurant, told me she'd seriously considered working with another coach who promised he'd help her get a high-level management position in a prominent restaurant. But Leslie also had a feeling that she wanted to explore other possibilities. In choosing to work with me, it soon became clear that, though she loved cooking, she was dissatisfied with the restaurant industry as a career path. She also longed for the warmth of a home with a partner who was committed to creating a family together.

The fact that her position in the restaurant consumed most of her waking hours, and that she felt lonely and disconnected from friends, family, and a sense of purpose, pushed her into realizing how joyless her life felt. From this new consciousness, she began to plan and manifest how she really did want to work and live. She reconnected with a former boyfriend who now wanted to build a life together. Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable— as was her new, purposeful career plan to work in a community setting teaching cooking for health and fitness.  

In the case of Eric Sun, "a devastating diagnosis led [him] to find new meaning in an old pursuit," as I read in a recent New Yorker magazine. Eric had played violin from early childhood through college with immense technical prowess. However, both his instructors— Kyung Chee, violinist with the Seattle Symphony, and Dawn Harms, violinist with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra— tried to convey to Eric that he needed to learn "how to emotionally move people through [his] playing."  Somehow, despite his obvious talent, it just didn't seem to happen.  

Meantime, in 2009 Eric was hired by Facebook, after completing a master's degree in statistics at Stanford. The next year, he married his waltzing partner, fellow violinist, and the love of his life, Karen Law. He kept on playing and in 2014 bought a rare Vuillaume violin in London. In 2016, Eric developed symptoms of what was a malignant brain tumor. He took a medical leave from FaceBook and kept on playing, even as his prognosis worsened.  

As his health declined, Eric began to share his feelings about dying and living with purpose with his wife and his friends. He opened himself to the wisdom and compassion of his wife who urged him to go deeper within himself and find out which desires were most important to him at this time in his life. These included the dream of winning a place with Stanford's resident St. Lawrence String Quartet's chamber-music seminar— which he did.  Lesley Robertson, violinist with the SLSQ, sharing with the group Eric's medical condition, added from her own life learning, "Making music can literally be a matter of life and death . . . That profound moment of making music that takes you to another world is something we're very privileged to experience."

Then came Eric's playing the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof— which catapulted him into his own emotional stratosphere. To help him prep for this role, he went back to his high school instructor, Kyung Chee, who had him slow down his playing so that the "very heartfelt" quality of the Yiddish melody could come through. As you listen to his solo, you can hear and see how he plays this incredibly difficult piece with his whole heart and self. As Karen said, "He was trying to convey his own personal story and the story of the fiddler. He pushed the boundary of what he felt comfortable with." 

In Leslie's situation, transformational change was about shifting her awareness and the vision of her life as a whole. Interestingly, though she was close to her own family, before coaching she'd never put "love" and "home" into the equation of how she wanted her chosen work to look and feel in her life.

In Eric's case, he never lost his passion for playing the violin. In the end, he broke open his heart and shared his passion for living and loving through his music. And so he transformed his life.

Change-Making at Solstice— How the Light Gets In

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This post is a reprint from December 2016

Building Connection, Creating Community, Holding Presence

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.