Moving out of Limitation

What Will Change in You When You Make the Choice You Really Want?

I remember using the pros and cons method for choosing the college I went to. That gave me the understanding that I preferred a large, coed university with an international program. What it didn't do was help me understand how a college education could help me learn how to develop authentically as a person, and in that way, help me find a career path that genuinely interested me. 

That's where coaching could have been very useful in offering me different ways to make new, aware choices for learning, expanding my skills, and becoming the person I really am. The choice-making options that coaching offers include what Joshua Rothman  in "The Art of Decision-Making" describes as—

  • Maximizing values— understanding what's really important to you— and making choices based on those values

  • Diverse perspectives— seeing your situation from different angles— helping you see aspects you hadn't thought of in making a new decision

  • Old self into new self— when a choice point requires that you open into a completely new way of engaging with your life

  • Aspiring to new values— aspiring to a new direction that interests you, but you don't know why or whether it could be right for you

The following example shows how using values and perspectives helped lead a client of mine from aspiring to a new way of working to shifting into a new self— that is, opening into a completely new way of engaging with his desired work and his whole life.

Matt, a corporate manager in his early forties, turned to coaching because he felt stultified in his career. He aspired to creating his own business, but wasn't sure that he was the type who could do well working for himself. When he came for coaching, he first wrote out a list of his values, which included— family, financial freedom, environment, and living authentically. Then we did the coaching exercise, “Perspectives,” which helps people explore different choices or options by encouraging them to push the boundaries of what they feel is possible.

With Matt, I used “Perspectives” to explore his attitude towards “working outside the box.” The perspectives he chose to explore included “Critic” and “Dolphin.” As I guided him through each perspective, I encouraged him to stand in different places, close his eyes, breathe, feel the sensations in his body, and visualize his internal energy level, “environment,” and attraction to that perspective.

He felt the fear in his contracted body sensations of the "Critic" as he thought about working outside the familiar corporate container. The “Critic” reminded Matt that it would not be easy to have the same level of financial ease and daily structure outside the corporate environment. Matt felt a deep weight inside his chest, as if his heart were closing down.

Ultimately, however, Matt chose the the “Dolphin” perspective to help him find a way to work “outside the box.” He realized that his new “Dolphin” attitude gave him energy for taking action on his dream. It also supported the purposefulness of his commitment to his family and the environment. It felt good, both physically and emotionally — excellent intuitive reasons for going with his new choice!

Matt then learned about the steps he needed to take to start his own consulting business with pro-environment action groups, and began doing this kind of work on a part-time basis. As he stepped into his chosen way of working, he said he felt as if "a huge weight had released from his chest" and he was "coming back" to who he really was.

Synchronistically, the company he worked for was downsizing, and offered Matt the option of leaving his corporate position with a sizable severance pay. Because he was now emotionally and financially prepared to leave, Matt's career transition became a deeper, transformational change. He left a career whose purpose was defined by others— and became a person who worked and lived out his own, immeasurably more satisfying purpose,

What Makes Taking a BIG RISK for Change Worthwhile?

Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking a 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. 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. My client Jessica was a parent considering whether to publish a book she'd written about a controversial subject she was passionate about— bullying in public schools. Her son had been bullied when he was younger, and this had seriously impacted his sense of well-being.

But for her, even thinking about publishing this book was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or or her ability to fly. 

Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck, almost paralyzed, with fear. She'd written her book, but was afraid to publish it because of possible harmful consequences to her and her family. So 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, with her son in college, she felt a renewed inner drive to publish and voice her concerns about bullying at school.

Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. In this way, I heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied and whose lives at school became a horror. She began to feel compassion for herself in her struggles with her fear of creating this genuine transformative change. She also felt more supported and grounded in planning for a big leap forward.

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 new and larger possibility in your life. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. Taking on the challenge of making a change that emotionally engages you is what makes taking the risk worthwhile.

Jessica now saw the risk she was taking as "My BIG Adventure!" What will be your reward? I asked her. She replied, "The adventure itself, learning to fly freely by motivating others to stop bullies in schools!"

Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take to accomplish her mission. 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). She could be trained in making emergency landings (learning how she could handle criticism of herself and her book); and very importantly, learn to not to be hijacked by 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 with positive reviews from teachers, other educators, and 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 of her vision to change public school culture by creating 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— making a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. In transforming her fear of taking her BIG RISK to go forward with her book publication, Jessica felt empowered to meet the challenge 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




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.

Self-Compassion— Easing the Path of Change

There's been so much out there on the internet this past year about compassion— not just for others, but also for ourselves. Why do we need to be compassionate towards ourselves? When is this necessary? And how can self-compassion help us ease the potential for failure when we take new risks to change the way we work and live our lives?

In general, I feel that many people I've met in my life tend to be much kinder and more supportive of others on a regular basis than of themselves. There are reasons for this in our upbringing. Many of us were taught at home to be kind and to consider the feelings of others. But how many of us were brought up to be gentle and considerate of ourselves when we've made mistakes or had a hard time at school, work, or in a close relationship? Many high-achieving people I know were more often taught to get up and go at it again, without learning to acknowledge that we're allowed to make mistakes and be less than perfect— and still be caring and effective people.

In an interview on the radio show, Wise Counsel, Kristen Neff, PhD.— author of the book, Compassion-- The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and co-creator with Christoffer Germer of the highly regarded Mindful Self-Compassion training program— she states that "probably the number one reason people aren't more self-compassionate is that they confuse it with self-indulgence. They really think that they need self-criticism to motivate themselves, and that if they were kind to themselves, they would basically let themselves get away with anything."

Neff adds, "It's almost easier to give yourself compassion if you're thinking of yourself as someone else." If a friend were upset, for example, that she didn't do well with a job interview, you would be very unlikely to take her to task, tell her how she's always so unprepared or unfortunate— those things you're so much more willing to tell yourself. Does batting yourself on the head over and over help motivate you to try again, perhaps in a new ways using some different skills? Probably not!

So as a professional who helps people make career and other life transitions, I'm grateful to Neff and others who are actively researching the role of self-compassion in working and living our lives fully. A key finding is that it's much more motivating to treat yourself humanely, with kindness and understanding, than endlessly criticizing yourself for wrong turns, lapses, and errors of judgement.

I'm glad to be reminded of this, since one thing I know well from my clients' journeys and my own is that making changes and taking risks— even to manifest the dreams and goals you really want— can be very challenging at times. The bigger the changes you go for, the more unknown the territory, the greater is the likelihood of missteps and big mistakes.

That's why in the form, "What I Ask of You," that I give to all new clients, I repeat the message about self-compassion during the process of making changes several times in different ways:

- Just do your best. There is no “perfect” way to do things.

- Remember that change-- even change that we choose for ourselves-- is reliably uncomfortable at times.

- Accept both your successes and your failures along the way. Every step you take is good learning that can help you create your vision for yourself.

- Be compassionate towards yourself.

In my exploration of other research projects on how being compassionate to ourselves can positively affect our ability to make positive changes in our lives and in the world, I was also intrigued by this insight from Jean Fain, psychotherapist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School, and author of the book, The Self-Compassion Diet— A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness: “Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan. Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.”

So in your quest for achievement-- with your new eating habits, your work, or your relationships-- remember that you, like everyone, will screw up or just plain fail in certain ways, at certain times, in the journeying. You are not alone. You do not have to punish yourself in order to make positive changes in how you work, live, and are within yourself. This is what it is to be human. We are fallible, AND we can learn from our mistakes and hold the light for ourselves, as well. As poet Mary Oliver writes:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

So the next time you feel you're off-track, stop, take a few deep breaths, rest your hand on your heart with loving understanding for your discomfort, know you can learn from your mistakes, get up off your knees, re-calibrate your course with caring and compassion.

Love from the Heart of Wood— A Valentine to Passion, Boundlessness, and Resilience!

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here’s a classic romantic love poem stanza I’d like to share for Valentine’s Day! What I get from it is that love is boundless, passionate, and enduring. Elizabeth Barrett Browning grew up in London in the 19th century, an invalid under the restrictive oversight of her Victorian father. She freed herself through expressing her soul through her poetry (for which she was famous). This ultimately led to her meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the poet Robert Browning, who literally helped her liberate herself from her father’s home— leading her to a new life in Florence, Italy, where she blossomed, as a person and a writer.

A different sort of valentine, but one that shares Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s feeling for the passion, boundlessness, and endurance of love are the words below of George Pocock— the migrant English builder of state-of-the-art crewing shells (boats) in the first half of the 20th century. Pocock was also the soul partner of the varsity crewing coach, Al Ulbrickson, at the University of Washington, brilliantly detailed in the book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

As mentor to Joe Rantz— a member of the crewing team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Pocock would meet with Joe to talk with him and help him find his inner core as an athlete and a person:

Joe crouched next to the older man and studied the wood and listened intently. Pocock said the rings told more than a tree’s age; they told the whole story of the tree’s life over as much as two thousand years. Their thickness and thinness spoke of hard years of bitter struggle intermingled with rich years of sudden growth….

As Pocock talked, Joe grew mesmerized. It wasn’t just what the Englishman was saying, or the soft, earthy cadence of his voice, it was the calm reverence with which he talked about the wood— as if there was something holy and sacred about it— that drew Joe in. The wood, Pocock murmured, taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here….

Pocock paused and stepped back from the frame of the shell . . . carefully studying the work he had so far done. He said . . . it wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually . . . When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.

What is love? From these special "valentines," I believe that feeling and sharing love is the foundation of all the well-being and success in our lives-- because love endures in the heart of the wood, is resilient, has infinite beauty and undying grace, and is, finally, larger than ourselves and who or what we love.

The World Series and Beyond-- If You Can’t Trust Your Gut, Get a Coach!

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that no matter how much you did you simply couldn’t change the outcome so that you felt alive and purposeful?  Sometimes it takes someone else with the experience and ability to see your potential to help you break out of an inner prison and live out your true purpose.

Read on and consider what the San Francisco Giants’ baseball team manager, Bruce Bochy, did for Travis Ishikawa to build his confidence and motivation to the point of hitting the winning home run that’s sending the Giants to the ultimate baseball competition, the World Series.

“For all the wives or parents who might be trying to convince a baseball player to grow up and abandon his dream, Travis Ishikawa just ruined things. In this most unlikely of post season runs [for the San Francisco Giants], the moment belonged to the most unlikely player of all. A 31-year-old journeyman who had considered abandoning the game just months ago.”--Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/17/14

A journeyman, in baseball speak, is a player who’s been around, maybe playing more in the minor leagues than the major leagues, not accepted as a primary player on a major league team, at least, not for long. (Think Robert Redford in the film, The Natural.) What fascinates me most about the Giants is the back stories of its players and in particular, now, Ishikawa, age 31 (starting to get old for baseball) and how he was even on the team that day at all.  Earlier this year, Ishikawa was talking with his wife, wondering if his dream of playing baseball for a major league team was over and he should try some other line of work.

Then last Thursday, the Giants won a crucial, nail-biting game against the St. Louis Cardinals due to Ishikawa’s towering home run during the last inning, sending the Giants on to the World Series!

What made Ishikawa break on through to the other side?   There were many factors.  One, certainly, was that he kept patiently practicing throughout his time of self-doubt.  However, a huge break for him was that the Giants’ head manager, Bochy, saw untapped potential in Ishikawa that he himself didn’t see, mentored his development over the first few months, and backed him at a critical moment in that final game when he might have been pulled out for letting the other team score.

All of which led to Ishikawa being at bat and making a vital home run just when it was needed most. “‘I’ve got to thank Bochy, Ishikawa said, “He knows what he’s doing. I trust his gut.”

That’s the important thing-- when you’re feeling stuck and finding it hard to trust your own gut, it’s vital to have someone at your back who sees and trusts what you can really do-- and helps motivate you to do it. That’s a big part of why and how coaching works-- beyond baseball-- for people who who need support in building their self-confidence and achieving the successful outcomes they really want!

The High Cost of Ignoring Your Calling-- or Why to Work and Live Authentically!

Following the recent publication of my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I’ve received more inquiries from people from a wide variety of professions, from medicine to engineering, from architecture to the food industry, in non-profits and private companies, about their deep desire for authentic work and lives in balance.  The blog post below on this topic is based on a talk I had with Gregg Levoy, motivational speaker and former journalist, and is excerpted from my book and from an article published in 2011 in the International Coach Federation e-zine:

Gregg Levoy was a journalist who got the call, but, as he writes in his book, Callings-- Finding and Following an Authentic Life, “Like most people, I will not follow a calling until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so.”  In his own case and those of others he has interviewed, he has noted that “the more we make a claim for our own vitality, the more we help others do the same.”  And what is vitality?  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 the short amount of time we have on this planet.

Drawing from American Medical Association research findings that “the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings” (when many of us are going back to work after the weekend), Gregg noted that many people are, ”more precisely, going back to work [they] don’t like, work that doesn’t match [their] spirits, work that can literally break your heart.”

What fears have locked you into a corner-- loss of income, what others will think of you, no future security (rather less of this these days), no longer belonging to a certain group, losing prestige?  When is the cost of ignoring your own inner promptings for change too high?  How much do you have to suffer or stuff down in your body and spirit before you listen to your own true needs and take the first step towards liberating your self, your work, your life?  How much suffering are you causing others by not heeding your own call for professional and personal fulfillment?

I shared with Gregg the story of a man I met many years ago at a weekend retreat on “The Genius of Place” by my friend, Bob McGahey, in the Quaker-based community of Celo, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville.  Jim was new to the area and rather quiet, but when Bob talked about listening to the calling of one’s spirit and the land, he stepped forward, turned paper white, and fainted on the spot.

Following this dramatic scene, Jim told us that he had been a salesman for many years in Los Angeles, driving thousands of miles a year, and was feeling burnt out.  So he began exploring alternative places to live and work in the United States.  Over the past year, he said, he had been having an insistent feeling inside that he was “dying” by living in LA.  So he began exploring alternative places to live and work in the United States.

On a hunch, based on some reading he’d done, he came out to Asheville, saw an ad for Bob’s retreat, and felt that he was called to be there.  Shortly thereafter, he gave up his job and home in LA, and moved to Asheville to begin a new way of working and living that let him be part of a more accessible, smaller-city environment.

I remember Jim often because of his visceral response to Gregg’s question, “How do you know if a call is true for you?”  Jim’s call was so powerful that it resonated in his body and soul.  In his book, Callings, Gregg described the impct of a major career risk he took:  “I was scared to death-- and I knew I had to try it.”  So did Jim-- and it worked.

So if you’re feeling on the edge, uncomfortable in your career despite material advantages, or as if you’re just coasting through life, not living out your potential that wants to be expressed, just listen, truly listen within yourself.  You may well be feeling a calling to wake up and take the step that can make all the difference in your life now!

What Is It to Succeed with Work and Your Life?

This past weekend I saw an incredible play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, Chinglish-- David Hwang’s mind-bending play about cross-cultural miscommunication-- and I couldn’t stop talking about it for hours afterwards! Since I’ve been writing an ebook this year about transitions to work you love that expresses your own authenticity, I particularly resonated with aspects of Chinglish that moved in this direction.

We first meet Daniel-- the American protagonist and owner of a small family sign-making business-- as he is acquiring a personal translator to help him in his business negotiations with local Chinese politicians and government bureaucrats. What the audience gradually learns is that Daniel desperately needs a contract with the Chinese in order to support his business and, thereby, redeem his self-esteem, which was mangled from a disastrous ending to his former career.

In the chapter in my book called “Defining Success in Your Own Terms,” I note that:

Often, a successful career or other life transition depends on your choosing a perspective to live with that gives light and meaning to your new direction. You may possibly not get the job you most wanted, but staying open to the possibilities of another one that you do get can bring unexpected rewards, such as new learning and new directions you might not have dreamed of. Or you may meet someone who helps change your life.”

This is what Daniel experiences as he moves out of both linguistic and cultural ignorance in China to the new understanding that what he knows and expects is heard and understood entirely differently by the local government officials he needs to convince to buy his services. He moves in “new directions” he would never have dreamed of by allowing himself to be guided by an initially hostile woman, Xi Yan, the Vice Minister for Culture. For reasons only gradually explained, she becomes an ally, helping him redefine success for himself.   In the process, he becomes a person with far more understanding of the bewildering wonderland of cross-cultural and woman-man miscommunications.

I wonder what Daniel would say if I asked him (as I do the readers of my book), What did you need to change in your attitude or perspective to feel successful in your work and your life as a whole?” I suspect he might say “letting myself stay open to possibilities in the face of complete misunderstanding of my words, my intentions, and my culturally shaped expectations.” For it was only in this way that his shame could transform into unexpected redemption for his work, and for his whole life.

When have you made a change in your attitude or perspective so that you felt successful in your work and your life as a whole?

         Some Action Steps for You!

1) If you’re planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, get tickets for Chinglish at Berkeley Repertory Theater-- until October 22nd!

2) If you, or people you know, are interested in finding work you love with a life in balance, keep reading my blog posts this fall for previews from my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance.