Becoming Inspired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating Successful Change— Keeping the Spark Alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do to help keep this spark alive?

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

Success with Soul-- Garcia Márquez & Risking the Fear of Rejection

This past weekend I was leafing through my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, in preparation for my book reading next Saturday, April 26th, at Know Knew Books in Los Altos, CA.  I’d been saddened last Friday to read of the death of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, whose amazing novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was a lightning flash in the realm of world literature when it was published in Latin America in 1967.  Its creative language of “magical realism” and unequivocal stance again the dictatorships of Latin America, or anywhere, made a powerful impact around the world.            

Suddenly, I opened to page 30 in my book, and there, in print, was one of the most incredible examples of the value of risking rejection to live out a dream that I’d ever heard about.  Did you know that:

“Gabriel García Márquez’ iconic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude . . . suffered fifty-six publishers’ rejections before it was finally published in 1967” and that “ultimately, it was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982”?

Is there anything you’ve deeply enough desired that you kept persevering towards even as you were rejected over and over again?  In Success with Soul, I note that:

“Being ready to risk rejection works best when you’re committed to going for something deeply important to you.  When you really want something enough, your energy soars and you feel inspired to go forward towards it.  In fact, it feels like an opportunity to dare to live out something vital from within yourself.  It feels like air you’ve always wanted to breathe.”

I invite you (and others you know who’d be interested) to join me this coming weekend for a free reading from my book, Success with Soul-- and discussion that connects aspects of my book with your own curiosity and desire for professional and personal change:

When:   Saturday, April 26th
Time:     2 - 3 PM
Where:  Know Knew Books
               366 State St., Los Altos, California

I look forward to seeing you there!

Envisioning the Gifts of Change -- The Path from Hobbiton

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

A surprising holiday experience for me was seeing the film, The Hobbit-- based on J.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world adventure of the same name.  I’d enjoyed the book when I read it in my teens, but hadn’t planned to see the film.  However, curiosity won out, and I went.  To my astonishment, I now saw the story of Bilbo Baggins, hobbit/halfling, not as just an adventure story, but as that of a person propelled, however reluctantly, on a quest not of his making, but which he made into his own.

In the first chapter of my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I allude to the inner awareness and prickles of sensation that you sense before you actually “make” a change in your life:

"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 intuitively 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 gnawing dissatisfaction and lack of interest in what you’ve been doing for years."

In The Hobbit, Bilbo is presented with the second situation when the wizard Gandolf and a troupe of dwarves seeking to regain their homeland invade and take over his comfortable underground house with its stores of good food.  Why is this happening to me, he exclaims to Gandalf.  Whereby Gandalf counters, “What happened to the Took in you?”  (The Tooks being part of Bilbo’s lineage and prone to sudden happenings that disrupt the lives of the not-so-prone-to-change inhabitants of Hobbiton.)

Bilbo has no response to this and goes to sleep, awakening to find the dwarves and Gandalf gone.  Suddenly, his Took-ish self mixed with Gandalf’s promptings to wake up to the wider vision within himself and outside Hobbiton come alive in Bilbo, who picks up his walking stick and runs after the dwarf contingent to join in their quest.  He has decided to face this change by trusting that he has a reason to be there, though he doesn’t know what it is or what has really propelled him forth.

“Lifting these bars and opening your vision to the universe of your possibilities is the first daring step you need to take to see clearly where your heart wants you to go.”
-- from Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance

If you, too, are feeling the inner promptings to set off on your journey or quest towards change in your career or your life, remember what Gandalf told Bilbo-- that you may never come back to the place where you began and if you do, you will be different from the way you were when you left.  The implication is that, if you lend yourself to the process of change, you will gain the boon of understanding what it is to be fully engaged in the emergence of your whole life.  You may grow in compassion and in the wisdom of what it is to be human, as Bilbo did in his nearly fatal encounter with the deranged and wretched being, Gollum.  You will know yourself and what you are capable of offering and receiving.

“Now I can’t hear a travel story, watch a film, or read a book without asking, ‘What was brought home?  Where is the gift?  Show me
jewels sewn into the lining of your coat.  Where is the boon?’”
-- Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

  Now consider:

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

What is an obstacle you’re facing in setting out on your journey?

What are your inner and outer resources for surmounting obstacles and engaging in change?

What is the gift you want to bring back from your journey?

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

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

I had the most fantastic experience the other night listening to Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, at San Francisco Coaches!  I’d had a long day and felt I was pushing it to trek over on BART to Union Square for this meeting.  However, one minute spent in conversation with Gregg made my whole body light up with energy!  And hearing him speak for over an hour on the absolute need to listen to the call of your spirit to open your life simply charged the whole group of us.

Gregg was a journalist who got the call, but, as he writes in Callings, “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.

Afterwards, we found out that he had been a salesman for many years in Los Angeles, and over the past year had been having an insistent feeling inside that he was “dying” by living in LA.  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 career and a very different way of living that expressed his true self.

This was a dramatic example of a response to Gregg’s question, “How do you know if a call is true for you?”  In this case, Jim had a whole-body response that resonated in his soul-- namely, “I was scared to death-- and I knew I had to try it.”  And he did, 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 the 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! 

         “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you,
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.”

--  Jelaluddin Rumi

Enriching Your Life-- Taking the Time to Engage with Others!

The other day, I was waiting for a subway after a meeting in San Francisco.  I was just starting to read an engrossing book on the impact of an inspiring public speaker on a particular society when a distinctly British voice asked me which train he needed to take.  I looked up from my reading and saw an elf-like man in his mid-70’s with a twinkle in his eyes looking intently at me.  I gave him the information and picked up my book again.  He sat beside me, silent, but I felt his alert, alive energy, turned to him again, and asked him where he was from.

The next twenty minutes was one of the most extraordinary happenings of my life!  My companion (that’s what he felt like, though we’d only just met) was a professional photographer, formerly an engineer, traveled everywhere, and was interested in about everything.  Nimbly thumbing through photos on his iPhone, he toured me through his self-designed studio in London, introduced me to San Francisco’s jazz community, and engaged me in conversation about the endless possibilities of life.

Later I realized I’d almost bypassed this incredible opportunity to enrich my life by connecting with a chance-met person every bit as compelling as the public speaker I’d been reading about.  Or was it chance?  What is it that brings certain people into our lives at certain times?  What is there for us to learn in connecting with them?  What might we have missed if we’d refused to engage? 

One person I remember vividly over the years for what he taught me was a young homeless man sitting by an ATM in San Francisco where I was looking over my two checking account balances.  I had just gotten a second bank account for business expenses, and had not much money in either account.  When this man demanded my attention by asking for some money, I looked at him and said, “Why are you asking me?  I don’t have much money.”

       Suddenly he really looked at me, his eyes overflowing with compassion and said, “It’s all right, it’s going to be all right.”  I felt the warmth of the connection between myself and this stranger who was no longer a stranger.  I laughed then, realizing that I had the luck of having two bank accounts, but he needed a handout and was comforting me.  He laughed, too, and I gave him five dollars and thanked him for being there for me.

As authors JIll Lebeau and Maureen Raytis say in their wonderful book, Feng Shui Your Miind, “Look for synchronicities.  Pay attention.  Each time a synchronicity occurs, relax, allow yourself to truly experience the awe, gratitude and excitement . . . Let the positive flow of energy in.”

These so-called chance encounters are often the exact synchronistic experiences you need to transform times of limitation into awakenings that can change the whole flow of your life!

Creating Spaciousness-- and Finding What You Really Want

During the last week of 2010, I attended a meditation retreat in the countryside of Colorado, much of the time in snowy quietude.  I hadn’t really wanted to travel at that time of the year, since I had things I wanted to do and friends I wanted to be with at home before the new year started.  However, I’d made a promise to myself that I would do this, so I went.

What I found was what I remembered from earlier times creating a similar space for being in a deeper way with myself-- parts of me opened up that had been cramped and lost to view during the year.  My mind felt clear, my energy brighter, and I felt at peace with who I was.  The sense of striving and complexity of my professional and personal lives eased and simplified.  I had a renewed perspective of myself as relaxed into wholeness.

How had I forgotten how vital it is to take time out to renew and remember my true nature?  When I returned, I was very conscious of the sheer amount of distractions and choices required every hour of my waking day.  When I was on retreat, there was only thing to do at a time-- wake, meditate, eat, listen to a teaching, walk, eat, meditate. listen to a teaching, stretch, walk, eat, connect with the group, and sleep.  I remember having the powerful realization during one meditation period that I was very happy, that I felt at ease in my body and filled in my spirit-- and ready for all the possibilities of living fully!

For those of you who have been grappling with the many aspects of creating career and life transitions, busy every minute of the day, dealing with uncertainties and complex choices, I strongly recommend creating a way to feel spaciousness in your lives.  While a vacation getaway is important during the year, you can fashion your own way of taking briefer but potent timeouts daily or weekly from the demands of everyday life.  

Here are some examples from clients of mine that allow them to feel peace within themselves and know what they truly want -- 1) a nature walk by water or by your favorite trees, breathing in the fresh air; 2) a relaxing bath with soothing music; 3) a weekly yoga class with a favorite teacher who helps you open into the spaciousness of your own body; 4) taking time to sit in a favorite place drinking tea from a beautiful cup and just letting your thoughts roll by.

As Tarthang Tulku-- the promoter of the Tibetan Buddhist body-energy exercises called Kum Nye-- wrote:  “We all have had moments or times when we felt particularly alive, when the world seemed fresh and promising, like a flower garden on a bright spring morning . .  . The air pulses with life.  Our bodies feel healthy and energetic, our minds clear and confident . . . Nothing is fixed, and we feel spacious and open.  We act with perfect ease and appropriateness.”

I invite you to plan ways to bring moments and times of spaciousness into your lives so that you will feel the clarity and energy to go forward towards what is really important to you, with work and in the rest of your life.  Just as grace notes in classical music offer a pause in the melody to renew your enjoyment of the whole piece, so creating spaciousness through timeouts for your body and spirit reinvigorates your power to enjoy the unfolding of your whole life.

Join in the Discussion!

  • How have you created spaciousness and timeouts in your life?
  • How has this supported you in finding what you really want for yourself?
  • What are your concerns about creating spaciousness and timeouts in your life?

Designing Relationships to Bring Forth Positive Outcomes-- Part 1, Schools

Were your elementary school days as uninspired as mine?  Except for my first-grade and seventh-grade experiences, which were out of country, my elementary school classes were traditionally designed, meaning that everyone was supposed to do the same things together at the same level.  This boring and unimaginative style guaranteed that teachers and students had a distant relationship to each other. 

          That made it easier for our teachers to hold a win-lose perspective that assumed some students wouldn’t or couldn’t learn and would probably fail.  This, in turn, set up a losing dynamic for these kids that followed them all the way through high school. 

            The difference in classes I attended in Portugal and Japan was huge!  The teachers at these schools were, as you might expect, curious and interested about the world.  They were creative in setting up relationships with each student-- and were genuinely excited about motivating all of us to learn and explore-- a new culture, the parameters of science, the connections between history and literature.  In some way, each of us in these classes were encouraged to make contributions and discoveries that led to incredible group bonding and connection.  These teachers knew the value of giving student “an A” (see my earlier blog posts on this topic) right at the start by holding the positive attitude that each of us could and would learn if we were inspired to do so. 

            This encouraging educational experience may well have fueled an ambition of mine in my early 20’s to create inspiring learning opportunities for children in public schools.  At the time, there was a lot of drive in this direction by futurist and human potential leader, George Leonard (author of Education and Ecstasy), and Harvard educator, Robert Cole.  I was also fortunate to have intuitively chosen to get my master’s degree and teacher training at Bank Street College of Education in New York City-- a unique center designed to bring forth the best in children through training teachers in child-centered educational philosophy and techniques of engagement.

             I experienced the impact of this training when I was placed as a student teacher in an elementary school very much like the one I’d gone to as a child, although with a good percentage of immigrant students.  The teacher assumed that most of these more limited-English-speaking students wouldn’t and couldn’t learn, and just wanted them to pass and move on from her classroom.  In a totally uninterested way, she assigned me three completely unmotivated, 10-year-old Puerto Rican girls to teach the basics about life in Kenya.  With the Bank Street philosophy that almost everyone can become motivated to learn if you reach out and find a place of connection with their interests, I gave the girls “an A” in my mind immediately and looked for how to engage them.

              It was immediately clear to me that Daisy, Anna, and Solia had no idea where Africa was, since they only barely understood where they were in the United States. So I started by having them consider the needs and interests of all children everywhere (e.g., food, shelter, family, games).  Then they began to get intrigued about what was unique about life in Kenya, and where it was.  A shining experience in our work together was our field trip across Central Park-- only two blocks from where they lived and went to school, but a universe away from their daily lives-- to visit some travel agencies I’d contacted on 5th Avenue specializing in African tours.  The girls had made up a list of questions about Kenya with great enthusiasm, which they asked with growing confidence as they saw the interest and respect in the eyes of the travel agents. 

            We re-crossed the park to go back to school, loaded with colorful posters and brochures about Kenya as trophies of their triumphant trek to the other side of the city.   I could see the pride in their faces and the swagger in their walk at having prepared well to talk with adults who had cared to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for travel and other cultures with them.  Learning had come alive as new ways to relate with adults in the wider world who saw them-- not as marginal students-- but as young people wanting to explore and go forward.  It was so wonderful to see the power of this positive, affirming attitude in lifting the girls’ self-esteem and expanding their horizons!

             If you, too, want to design the relationships in your life to bring forth positive outcomes, I invite you to join me for a special, end-of-the-year tele-class-- “Creating Life Satisfaction-- ‘Giving an A’ to New Possibilities!” on Wed., December 8th, at 9 AM Pacific Time.  In this lively, interactive experience, we will explore the value of holding the intention to find the best outcomes in our interactions with others.  For more information and to register, please go to

                                          Join in the Discussion! 

  • What’s a memorable relationship you designed that created a positive outcome in your life? 
  • How have you grown and learned through engaged relationships with others at school?
  • What does it take to engage with someone in a positive way?

Opening Possibilities in Relationships-- “Granting Greatness” in Others

How about this for a powerful question:  “How much greatness are we willing to grant people?” (from the book, The Art of PossibilityHow much do we want to connect with the alive, passionate part of the people we work with, live with, and interact with at all levels in our lives?  How much of yourself do you want to bring to each relationship in which you’re engaged?  When someone offers you, for example, the beautiful Hindi greeting, “Namaste,” she is saying, “The spirit in me greets the spirit in you”-- which sets the tone for the highest level in your interaction together.  How does that sound to you? 

            As Ben Zander, internationally renowned conductor, says:  “The conductor decides who is playing in his orchestra . . . He can decide that they are bored and resigned, or he can greet in them the original spark that enticed them into music....” 

          In other words, each of us has the choice to decide how meaningful each interaction with another person will be, and therefore, to set the stage for outcomes that are satisfying and opening.  Simply by holding the attitude that the act of relating with others is an opportunity to “come alive and aware” together (D.H. Lawrence), you increase the possibility a thousandfold that this will, in fact, happen.  

            As a professional life coach and somatic therapist, I feel so very fortunate because I can almost always connect with people from the place of seeing the most possibility in any given situation for them to grow and evolve in their lives.  With a young, single woman in her early 30’s, for example, I allowed her sense of discouragement over her career path to be heard, while encouraging the part of her that really wanted a life centered in the warmth of home and hearth to come forward. 

             Our work together focused on building her trust in her intuition about the importance of home, while she continued to explore career options.  The critical factor was connecting again with the man who wanted to be her mate and build a home together.  Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable-- as was the way in which she then clearly envisioned her career path securely based on a foundation of home and family. 

            By helping her stay connected with the “spark” in her soul that wanted to come fully alight, she realized that she no longer had to feed the part of her locked into “the downward spiral” about what to do for work.  The larger questions that our authentic interrelating allowed her to pursue were: “How much greatness can I call forth in my life?  How will following my heart allow me to evolve a way to live and work that fully embodies all that I am and most desire?”  

            If you’re interested in exploring further the how to create richer, more satisfying work and life possibilities through developing quality connections, please join me in my upcoming tele-class, “Creating Life Satisfaction-- Giving an A to New Possibilities!” on Wednesday, December 8th.  To sign up, please go to the following link:

                                     Join in the Discussion! 

  • What makes you feel most alive and energized in relationships with others? 
  • How have you changed for the better the quality and productivity of a relationship with a colleague through an attitudinal shift on your part?     
  • How has someone helped you regain your excitement about a project or plan you really want to do?