Opening the Big Picture

Transitioning out of Limitation to the Big Leap Forward in Your Career and Life!

I’d like to share a personal experience and some insights on envisioning your work path from a larger perspective from my forthcoming e-book-- Successful Transitioning to Work You Love: Inspiration for Those on the Path to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance.

For myself and many people I’ve coached, seeing our professional future and the picture of our lives based only on our past experience, training, education, and family expectations was a logical point of view that limited our ability to make a fulfilling change.  Only when we began to envision a career and life as an integrated whole based on what truly motivated and inspired us in the present were we able to go forward and create satisfying, lasting change.   

I remember my first major career transition-- from a nonprofit program director to a somatic therapist.  When I was 38, I’d just finished working for seven years as the director of a successful non-profit educational program in San Francisco, and I was burned out.

I realized that the part of this work I really cared about was interviewing, supporting, and writing articles about the volunteers, finding out what motivated them to make this kind of commitment in their lives.  I loved hearing about their excitement in making a difference in the lives of young people, supporting literacy, helping teachers offer more to their students, and becoming an active part of their community.

But this was only twenty percent of my work week.  The rest was administrative tasks to support the project and the organization-- and I felt a lack of engagement, a lack of meaning in how I was spending most of my time on the job.

The shift happened at a slow-simmering pace, partly because-- as I realize now-- my original vision for myself was so small, and I had absolutely no support in creating this transition.  If only I’d had a life coach then to help me envision work and a life that felt authentic to me!  As it was, I was only capable of imagining going on to direct other programs at larger organizations-- not that I could radically alter my career path.

It was only after continuously experiencing a sinking sensation in my belly after each new interview that I realized I didn’t want to manage programs at all.  Then one day I saw the movie, Dirty Dancing, which just blew me away with the passion and enthusiasm of its performers! I felt my energy soar, lifted by that free-spirited dancing into another level altogether.

After that, I reconsidered my career direction again and realized I intended to do something radically different.  I was going to explore the possibility of becoming a somatic therapist.

Why somatic therapy?  Several years earlier, I’d tried different types of alternative healing to help with menstrual cramps and tension headaches that seemed intractable and were able to make several days a month a misery.  I finally met a somatic therapist who connected me to the power of touch by simply placing his hand on my belly with great presence.  I felt this tremendous energetic opening of golden light flowing from my body and a sense of being vibrantly alive.  The message I got instantaneously was, “Your life is too cramped and narrow.  You need to open to wider-- and wilder!-- possibilities.”

This was the beginning of my intuitive knowing that I wanted my primary work to be directly with people, allowing them to feel that kind of energetic opening for themselves and be inspired to make the life changes that mattered to them based on that energy.
For me, it was a gigantic leap into a career vision that I didn’t even believe was possible, because it was so entirely different from anything I’d ever done before.

Fortunately, I found a mentor who supported me in making this huge shift in my professional identity.  When I later decided to take yet a new leap into becoming acareer and life coach, I had the support this time of a coach who helped me navigate the transition into the “wider-- and wilder!-- possibilities” that came to infuse my whole life with richness and purpose!

If you’re interested in exploring your desire to take the leap into “wider and wilder” career and life changes, please join me for my upcoming teleclass-- “Successful Transitioning to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance”-- on June 6th and June 13th, 2012, 9 - 10:30 AM Pacific Time.  You’ll be receiving more information about this in a couple of weeks.  If you have any questions now, please contact me at

How to Do a Major Life Change-- Hold the Largest Possible Vision!

How do you know when it’s time for a major career or other life change?  Sometimes you’re in a situation where a new opportunity presents itself, and you may be highly motivated to go for it.  Sometimes an incident happens that radically alters your life, and you have to decide how to face this change.  Or you may have a growing awareness of dissatisfaction and lack of interest in what you’ve been doing for years.

     The one sure thing is that change is upon you, and your choice becomes how to envision its possibilities.  In my own life, and in those of my coaching clients, what I’ve noticed is that holding the largest possible vision of their potential at a change point can be a great catalyst for the most rewarding transitions.  Not all visions have to be earthshaking in their dimensions.  But they do have to shake you up and sometimes rock your foundations.

     I remember my own career transition from a nonprofit program director to a somatic therapist.  The shift happened at a slow-simmering pace, partly because-- as I realize now-- my original vision for myself was so small.  With no support in creating this transition, I only imagined that I could go on to work at other, larger organizations-- not that I could radically alter my career path!  It was only after experiencing a sinking sensation in my belly after each new interview at other, larger nonprofits that I realized I didn’t want to manage programs at all.  I wanted to do direct personal development work using the body-based techniques that I had found so inspiring and helpful for myself.

     For me, it was a gigantic leap into a career vision that I didn’t even believe was possible, because it was so entirely different from anything I’d ever done before.  But it challenged and caught my interest!  And it came true, with support from my new mentors, within a year.

     Then there are people like super-athlete, Grant Korgan, who became paralyzed from the waist down in a snowboard-mobile accident.  It must have been devastating to experience such a blow to his body, but Korgan’s statement (New York Times, 1/29/12) was:  "I feel like everything happens for us, not to us.  You can decide what you want, that you choose the direction you want to go. That's been the key for me, focusing on what I want, regardless of circumstances.”

     In Korgan’s case, his dream was to trek to the South Pole in Antarctica-- and two years after his accident, he did it, with a great team of supporters, including his wife and two friends who were trekking experts.  That was a huge vision, even if he’d been an athlete in the best physical shape possible, who could move on his own power.  But he did it, thanks to his determination, intensive physical therapy, engagement with his trekking friends in planning and logistics, and constant spiritual affirmation of the value of achieving his goal.

     "I used affirmations to keep me moving forward," Korgan said. "I began silently saying to myself, 'I am strong, I am healthy, I am healed, and I am working toward my goal of reaching the South Pole.' I eventually began to say these statements aloud and my teammates would often join me. Then, I said to myself daily, 'Although my body has been broken in the past, my spirit never can be. I am unbreakable.' 

     Remember that your vision is the culmination of the desire of your true self to blossom and be revealed in the world through the energy of your body and your spirit.  Below are some tips to remind you how to begin this experience of opening to a dream, a new career, or another life direction you most desire:

     1) Hold the largest vision possible for yourself-- one that captures who you really are and what you really want now!  If you’re limiting your vision to only what you know and have done already, you may feel a sense of constriction or lack of energy in your body.  Let your vision grow until you feel expansion through your whole self, body and spirit.

     2) If you can’t hold this vision all by yourself (and most people find it challenging to do at first), find the right kind of support to help you do so.  Sometimes you may need to bring in new people who aren’t so invested in your past career or experiences and who are open to new possibilities for you-- new friends, a mentor in this new direction, a life coach, etc.

     3) Use affirmations such as Grant Korgan’s (above) that tap into your inner power to go forward.  You do not have to know that a particular outcome will happen.  All you have to do is hold the space for belief within yourself that it can.

Creative Problem Solving with Leaders as Heroes and Leaders as Hosts

Right now, I’m really excited about the October 22nd leadership event in Oakland, CA-- “A Call to Fearlessness-- Discover Your True Leadership Voice to Create Community and Joy!”-- featuring internationally acclaimed trainer/educator/author Margaret Wheatley and songweaver Barbara McAfee, sponsored by Bay Area Coaches. In fact, this event is making me consider more deeply styles of leadership, and exploring what is most important to me in claiming my own “leadership voice.”

Wheatley poses the question of “leader as hero or leader as host” as a way of introducing two very different ways of viewing leadership.  Leaders as heroes like to be visibly in charge, with all decisions in their hands. In Wheatley’s latest book, Walk Out Walk On (co-written with Deborah Frieze), she comments that this style tends to go to a place where “leaders lose trust in people’s ability to self-organize and feel the need to take control . . . compliance becomes more important than creativity.”

“Leaders as hosts,” on the other hand, encourage others to create solutions to problems by inviting people to share their creativity and insights together as a community, facilitating from the bottom up rather than commanding from the top down. These types of leaders, who “walk out” of groups where an excess of top-down leadership stifles creativity and ownership by other group members, “champion values and practices that respect people, that rely on people’s inherent motivation, creativity and caring to get quality work done.”

So I’m really looking forward to being at this event and hearing how might Wheatley address the Steve Jobs phenomenon-- that of a “hero”-style leader who brought Apple computer to an apex of international success while continuing himself-- and exhorting Apple techies to be-- unrelentingly creative and “caring to get quality work done.” If he’d lived, could Steve Jobs have saved the world and its numerous problems with a leadership style that was undeniably top-down and heroic, but also compellingly creative?

Actually, what Wheatley suggests is that “pioneers” whose work and leadership is outside the box in terms of creativity in solving problems need to have a framework of “community” that actively “[encourages] one another through the trials and risks natural to those giving birth to the new in the midst of the breakdown of the old.” In his own way, Steve Jobs did create such a community-- one that included the technological wizards who implemented his visionary products, the financial backers whom he convinced to back these products in advance, and the consumers worldwide who loved owning/holding/using Apple products of all kinds.

What both Wheatley and Jobs hold in common is the understanding that leadership that helps solve large, systemic problems involves “people who have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. [They] use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.” Though their “caring” is about different aspects of humanity’s well-being and movement forward, they both have supported people worldwide in perceiving new options for how they live and work in the communities of their choice.

For further details and registration for the Bay Area Coaches leadership event, “A Call to Fearlessness-- Discover Your True Leadership Voice to Create Community and Joy!”, please go to   [Note: Coaches can get 5 CCEUs (2 in core competency) for attending the October 22nd event or registering for the event simulcast.]

Everything’s Connected-- Looking Outside the Well!

Below is a rerun of a blog post of mine from a year ago that I'd like to share again on the topic of connection.  Have you got the outlook of the toad?  Know anyone locked into a limited and unproductive outlook like the frog?  Enjoy this story!

One spring evening when I was a freshman in college hanging out on campus, I met a stranger from another country who told me there were four phrases that were indispensable for getting you through life. Occasionally several of them float through my mind, but one is always there-- “Everything’s connected.”

It’s a universal spiritual principle that all of life is connected-- and you can easily notice it in the realm of the physical world of the planet, as well. For one thing, all of the living and non-living aspects of the world are connected in our dependence on the earth and the air and the sun for our existence. For another, when we come together to work in a common cause or to celebrate, we can feel the energy that connects us all. And yet, so many of us cut off our awareness of this connection, often because it seems easier simply to see things from a smaller perspective.

There’s a story about a frog at the bottom of a well always looking up at the small circle of sky at the top of the well. A toad at the top of the well urges the frog to come up outside the well and see thTe grandeur and the bounty of the world. But the frog refuses, not wishing to change her mind about what she already knows is there.

The people I see for coaching usually come with a particular goal-- for example, a career change. I ask them to write down three goals, which surprises them when there was only one thing they wanted to change. Often, they find their other goals have more to do with increasing their sense of well-being, having more quality time with their families, or committing to completing a creative project. They’re often amazed that these different change areas are really connected-- that if they’re looking for work they love, they might as well also make sure they’re building in time to play with their children each evening or swim daily or write a chapter a week in their new book.

Everything’s really connected! Just climb up out of your well and see all the possibilities around you. Create your dance that touches everything you want to do and become! Feel the all the possibilities that weave into your expanded reality.

Confidence and Possibilities-- Entering into the Flow

Last spring I wrote several posts about one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.  Because I’m giving a presentation on this book at Books Inc in Berkeley, CA, on July 31st, I’m going to draw from it again in this post to explore in a different way the quality of confidence that I wrote about last week.

The Art of Possibility assumes that each of us has the potential to re-examine our assumptions about life and expand the way we live by having trust (“con-fidere”-- with trust) in our own hearts and spirit.  When we approach each moment with openness to the possibilities there, we move past fear and into a way of life that flows.  As the Zanders say, “Life flows when we put our attention on the larger patterns of which we are a part . . . Life takes on shape and meaning when a person is able to transcend the barriers of personal survival and become a unique conduit for its vital energy.”

As you enter into flow, you approach a new level of confidence-- one that relies on a sense of bodily grounding, a conscious trust in the gravity of the planet to hold you steady as space opens for you to reach out in your work and your life in new ways.  When you are able to release limited assumptions of what you are supposed to do or how you are supposed to love, a whole new world opens that gives you room to breathe and dance and create!

Maureen Raytis, co-author of the lively guidebook to inner spaciousness, Feng Shui Your Mind, relates her moment of epiphany as she caught herself in her usual habit of rushing home in her car:  “For some reason, that day I noticed that I held my breath through the yellow light . . . Why did I need to amp it up like that? . . . That’s when I started to take notice of all the little stressors of the day . . . Every time I noticed my tendency to hurry, I would stop and start breathing deeply . . . I’m sure you can imagine how this perception-- that there is enough time [and space]-- changed the quality of my energy and my life.”

So here are some inquiries (big questions with many possible responses beyond “yes” or “no”) from The Art of Possibility that I invite you to play with to extend your awareness of the small things that are involved in creating a sense of flow and confidence in your life:

  • “What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what

I see?”

  • And then-- “What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me

other choices?”

What insight are you taking away with you now about stepping past the stress of fear and limitation into the flow of spaciousness and confidence?

The Power of Change-- and What Makes It Successful

Like many people, I’ve been following the uprising in Egypt over the past couple of weeks with hope and amazement.  To have a groundswell of people from all sectors of society coming together as peacefully as possible to call for a government responsive to people’s needs is an enormous expression of frustration with years of repression.  As a life coach, it’s fascinating to see on this large a scale, important coaching principles come to life-- to have a vision, claim your own life, acknowledge and move past your fears, be called forth into a new way of interacting, and step forward into your dream.  In Egypt, the protesting population are doing all of this-- or learning to do so.

On another change front, I recently participated in one of a series of interviews with professionals in law, financial planning, career coaching, health and fitness, etc.,  facilitated by my coaching colleague, Edi Spanier-- called Divorce by Design-- for the benefit of women in the process of divorce.  Divorce is a huge life experience that is often fraught with emotional and financial misery.  However, going through a divorce is also a time when many women learn to take charge of their lives, decide what’s really important to them, and learn new skills to make this possible.

In both these situations, there are people who have reached the point where enough is enough, and a separation from a habitual way of life is vital in order to live with aliveness and fulfillment into the future.  So what can we learn from both these situations?  What makes for change that is powerful and effective?  In my personal and professional experience, a transition to a new reality that is transformative and lasting, not reactive and limited, needs to include the following:

* A vision of where you want to go

* A plan for getting there

* Willingness to take certain risks and be open to new possibilities

* Support (therapy, coaching, family, community) that validates your vision, your feelings, your needs, and your learning-- and help you take appropriate action

* Understanding what resources you require and how to find them

* Patience with and commitment to a change process that doesn’t always seem clear or possible, and may end up looking different from what you expected

Finally, a truly successful, lasting change is the result of a transition in which the vision (desired career, new way of living, a new form of government) you have held and created for yourself is fully in alignment with the person you really are.  Change that fulfills you is part of a journey in which you are committing to a fuller, richer way of being and living-- and trusting that this is possible for you.

Envisioning 2011 -- What Will Open the Door for You?

The beginning of the year is when people particularly feel that there are possibilities for incredible things to happen-- at work, at home, in their personal lives.  Visioning workshops and seminars are popular, from individuals seeking support for personal development to executives needing to call forth their leadership potential.

Last night, I participated in the first meeting of the year of San Francisco Coaches in which we were invited to share our vision for our businesses in 2011.  As I was taking the subway from Berkeley to San Francisco for this session, I pulled out my trusty copy of-- no surprise here to readers of my blog postings-- The Art of Possibility.

Opening the book at random, I found I was at p. 169, “Vision.”  Speaking of synchronicity!  A couple of the criteria for “vision” caught my eye immediately:

  • A vision articulates a possibility
  • Speaking a vision transforms the speaker.  For that moment the “real world” becomes a universe of possibility and the barriers to the realization of the vision disappear. 

During our visioning session, I could feel the support of the group in hearing the possibilities within each person’s vision for the development of their businesses.  I particularly felt an expansive energy moving within the group when we focused on the personal transformative possibilities within the business vision  Two men were planning early retirement from corporate jobs to create their own coaching businesses.  One of them was already anticipating the shift in his whole life as he moved from a schedule focused primarily on corporate goals to one in which he would have the time (and would need to take the responsibility) for his health and fitness, a quality relationship, and a sense of balance in his days.  “Speaking a vision” was indeed transforming the speaker! 

            I’m committing myself now to “a universe of possibility”-- that the work I do in helping professionals find careers that inspire them and lives that are rich and rewarding overall will create an infinitely expanding community of people supporting the well-being of society and our planet.

     Join in the Discussion! 

  • What is the door of possibility that wants to open for you right now?
  • What is your largest vision for yourself and your life in 2011?
  • Where is the support for you to live out your vision?

Spiritual Living and Coaching-- Going for the Bigger Picture!

Imagine that you’re awakening early and joyfully to a new day, with the sun shining gold over steep rock walls-- and the only sounds that of a river rushing over stones in the background, bird calls piercing the air, and intoned chanting from a nearby meditation hall.  This was my experience last weekend at the Zen monastery retreat center of Tassajara in a canyon below Los Padres National Forest in the vicinity of Carmel Valley, California.  

            For 48 hours, I just soaked in the exquisite pleasure of walking, bathing, swimming, eating, and simply being in the harmony of sensational natural beauty combined with Japanese-style architectural simplicity.  My spirit soared out of the confines of city and daily life.  Sitting in an outdoor mineral water pool, with the scent of bay laurel in the air and complete tranquility around me, I felt beautiful and radiant, inside and out. 

            So-- how do I bring this all home so I can live every day in the expansive Tassajara spirit?  How do I market my work as a coach and somatic therapist at the computer, and still feel my spiritual self that resonates to natural beauty? 

            Fortunately, I had a wonderful coaching session for myself (yes, coaches benefit from getting coached, too!) from “metaphysical coach” Keri Lehmann, MCC, who helped me affirm the value in being more purposeful about who I really am.  For me, this means acknowledging my connection to the spirit of nature and the universe that is larger than myself and animates my body, my life.   

            A new practice I developed with Keri is this: Before beginning my social online marketing in the morning, I go outside and connect with the air blowing around me, the passion of the sun (even if behind the fog), the clear presence of water in the Japanese stone washing basin, and the firmness of the ground under my feet.  I rest in my conscious connection to what is beautiful in the world around me and in myself.  At that point, I’m ready to begin again to connect with the work I do and the rest of my daily life with its meetings, errands, and other focuses.  I feel the Tassajara spirit and know I’m carrying the larger picture of my life within me, whatever I’m doing.  

                                JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION! 

• What is it to live in the bigger picture? 

What is your image of living with aliveness and expansiveness? 

• What are some steps you’ve taken to live on purpose with what is alive in you? 

Knowing What Is Fulfilling to You to Make Compelling Changes!

Recently, I’ve been considering a very important tool in life coaching called “Values,” which helps people become aware of what makes their lives meaningful and fulfilling.  Values are personal reflectors of what really matter to each of us-- and have nothing to do with family or social mores.  Values are intuitive and heart-centered-- not head-based or what we’ve been taught is the “right” way to work, relate, and live.  Values can be anything that give richness and worth to what we do and how we are.  “Beauty,” “Integrity,” “Nature,” “Family,” “Authenticity,” “Relaxation,” and an infinity of others can all be values, depending on who we are.

             That’s why understanding your values is such a vital beginning step in the coaching process.  They are guide posts to what you really care about.  Without exploring them fully, you are likely to feel disappointed in the actions and decisions you make, whether around your career, your family, or personal development.  As you become conscious of what is really important to you, the changes you make are much more likely to be satisfying in any and all areas of your life.

             In my upcoming, 2-part tele-class, “Coaching 101-- How to Make Career & Life Changes That Matter!”, I’ll be helping participants focus on what they find fulfilling as a foundation for making choices about career and personal transitions.  For more information, please click on this link--

             If you have any questions, please contact me at


  • What are some of your values?
  • Why do they matter to you?
  • What can you not live without in your life?

Creating a Path with Heart for Your Career & Life Transitions

Last week I gave a tele-class with this title for about a dozen people, most of whom were graduates from Stanford University, my alma mater.  One was a freelance writer wanting to open her life to include a satisfying intimate relationship.  Another was a mother who yearned to get back into the world of work as a professional with a world health organization.  In general, the participants were intelligent people seeking ways to expand the parameters of their lives and move into a greater sense of wholeness and fulfillment.

What I found with the people in this group-- as with many others I've worked with as a certified life coach and somatic therapist-- is that the willingness to bring forward your deepest desire is often the beginning of a spiritual awakening, a way of knowing your wholeness as a person and joy in living.

In this class, we walked the basic steps for creating a path with heart (or in other words, your dream) in your life, which are simple and often overlooked, because they are require going deep into yourself.  The first is Awareness, or bringing into clarity what it is that you truly want and what this means to you.  Here are some questions to evoke awareness-- What kind of change would you like to bring into your life?   What's the risk?  What's the gain?  What would bring more joy and fulfillment into your life?

Step two is Visioning, or allowing yourself to enter fully into the change you want to make through inner visualization or creating a picture of what you want through external manifestations such as collage or computer design.  Some questions to evoke Visioning are:  What are the colors of your dream?  What are you feeling & where are you sensing it in your body?  What are you really wanting?  What is the look of how to live fulfilled?  Because fear often arises when the door to change begins to open, it's important to feel supported by a good friend, a caring family member, or a life coach as you dare to envision a life or a career that is larger than you may have dared to dream ever before.

The third step is Intention, or claiming your dream and your direction for change.  This step is vital for making changes that matter.  An intention can be very simple.  For example, "My intention is to make three job-related calls today."  Or it can be more expansive-- "I intend to create a place of beauty in my kitchen to inspire me every day."  Or it can be one that may shake up your life as you know it-- "My intention is to spend a year painting in Italy."

Creating a path with heart to change your career or your life in some significant way asks that you first go inward and know what makes you feel alive and true to yourself.  Then you can take action that is right for you, and find the support you need to go forward into the realm of your heart's desire.