Encouraging Creativity

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.

What Would It Be to Create Your Own "License" to Fulfillment?

Do you wish you had a career that let you take risks, experiment, and feel creative fulfillment?

Do you wish that work for you was as fascinating as play is for a child?

If so, you'll be intrigued as I was by a recent post from my colleague, Linda Graham, MFT— "Orville Wright Didn't Have a Pilot's License"— that gives another perspective on the groundbreaking work of Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of "the first fixed-wing powered aircraft." Their professional expertise was manufacturing and selling bicycles. Their hobby and passion was creating flying machines.

In other words, they had no experience flying planes, no credentials, and no pilot's license because there was no plane available to them to fly until they invented their own. The world of flight and transportation was revolutionized by the Wright brothers' vision, persistence, and willingness to risk their lives in a creative venture few could imagine at the time.

What would it be like to give yourself your own license to connect with your creative juice on your authentic life path? Give yourself your own license to fly? Anywhere? Anyhow?

I was reminded of the career trajectory of Dana Gioia— currently California's Poet Laureate and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)— in reading a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, "Poetry for the People."  Dana created his own "license" as a poet the other way around. First, he got his degrees, including an MBA at Stanford's School of Business and an MA in Comparative Literature at Harvard. Only afterward did he find and follow his professional path as a writer, translator, and purveyor of poetry to the people.

How did this happen?

I met Dana at a poetry reading at Stanford University when he was a business school graduate student. He stood out because he was dressed in a suit— not the usual attire for students who came to poetry readings. When I spoke with him, it was clear that he was dedicated to writing poetry, yet he was going back east to work for General Foods Corp.

How, I wondered, could Dana hold that seeming dichotomy— mixing a corporate business career with a passion for creative writing? As it turned out, he balanced his work at General Foods by writing poetry after hours and having a family. At a certain level, it was a happy time in his life— until the sudden death of his infant son.

Deeply in grief, Dana found himself in a profound life transition. His formal degrees helped him in certain ways professionally. However, it was this shattering, life-altering experience that freed him to give himself his own "license" to come out in the world as a poet and a champion of poetry for people. It was then he realized that "what really mattered to me was my family, my writing and my sense of my life as a spiritual journey."

Whatever had taken him into corporate work (perhaps a good, steady income), was no longer important to him. The vision he had for the next phase of his life became radically different. He bowed out of the corporate world and into a new, creative beginning.

Going back to his Chicano, Sicilian, and Mexican working-class family roots and love of poetry, Dana wrote a seminal article, "Can Poetry Matter?" that critiqued mainstream poetry for acting as a closed door that left out most people. This led down the line to his becoming chairman of the NEA, in which he developed the popular program Poetry Out Loud and campaigned to make NEA grants available in every congressional district in the US. Now, as California Poet Laureate, Dana feels that "the challenge of the arts in the 21st century is to discover how to create a cultural conversation that is as inclusive as possible."

I'm looking at the photo of Dana Gioia's smiling face as he stands in front of the tangled boughs of a live oak tree in northern California, where he lives with his family. Clearly, he's found true fulfillment, personally and professionally, in giving himself the "license" to return to the creative touchstone he knew for so long was right for him.

What is something you feel passionate about that you'd like to bring into the center of your work and your life?

What do you need to free inside yourself to make this happen?

What would it feel like to create your own "license" to fulfillment?

Creating Transformative Change Through Authentic Conversation

What is conversation, and how can it be a way of creating transformative change in your life? At its most basic level, it's a two-way path, a respectful give-and-take requiring that both participants feel free to express what they're noticing and experiencing.

A recent post by my colleague Linda Graham, MFT, introduced me to Sherry Turkle's book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, in which Turkle explores the qualities of dedicated, person-to-person conversation that enrich people's work and lives. Such talks include the right not to say everything perfectly, to stumble at times, to hesitate as a new thought comes through, perhaps stimulated by something the other person has just said. Moments of shared quiet and reflected feelings are also very much part of a rich conversational flow that may seem at times to meander, but is actually diving deep into what is productive and necessary for authentic change to happen.

Authentic conversation is valuable in the moment it's happening, and also in the ripples it extends into the lives of those in the conversation— and beyond. Consider the fascinating ways in which Japanese artistic techniques influenced European and American artists and art from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries (as I learned at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco's recent exhibit, Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists).

This global conversation came about, in large part, through the freedom to exchange new ideas and artwork among merchants, artists, and writers traveling to, and from, a Japan newly opened to trade and cultural exchanges with the West. As with all generative conversations, transformation happened because the participating artists— notably, the Impressionists and Whistler— began interacting in bold new ways with color, diagonal lines, and the Japanese angles of view with which they were now in contact. From this came the daring leaps of imagination that created radically different types of painting masterpieces never before seen in the Western world.

The coaching conversation, too, is an opportunity for connection that expands people's visions and ability to move forward in new ways.  In partnering with a coach, a person engages in a new way of speaking with someone that frees their their hearts and imaginations to explore new ways of perceiving situations they couldn't see before.  That, in turn, can lead to unexpected possibilities and desired changes.

Below, for example, is a coaching conversation I had with Frances, a retired professor in her mid-60's who was considering a new career, moving out of the home she'd shared with her beloved husband, and coping with a broken foot.  It was a transformative experience for my client in that she achieved an attitudinal shift that was very helpful to her in handling the significant changes she was going through.

Frances) I'd like to explore today what it would be like to live in internal peace.

Eve) What would it be like to live in "internal peace"?

F) (Pause) The more I don't "do," the more I improve my search for internal peace. Living without my husband, being by myself consciously in the dining room where we spent so much time together. I can no longer run from myself. Not being able to move well physically can be a blessing. I'm forced to learn more deeply about myself.

E) I'm feeling so much presence in your dining room now. What is it that you feel about the dining room and your husband as you make plans to move from the house?

F) In the dining room, he and I would share intellectual things together. He read Shakespeare to me. Though I've run from the dining room for the past years since my husband died, now that I'm spending time here, I'm having some of my best memories of our time together. (Pause)

E) A room of love and connection. Now that you're not running from this, what's important about being here for you?

F) (Pause) For one thing, the dining room is the warmest room in the house. During this cold month while my foot heals from the surgery, I've come here to be warm.

E) You've been attracted here by the warmth. What is it to feel the warmth in this room?

F) I can be silent and focused on my body without being physically and mentally uncomfortable. I'm totally me here. I feel I can enjoy being there because I'm physically warm. Warmth plus soothing means peaceful. I have here a sacred sanctuary. There's beauty here in this place, and love that my husband gave this to me. Nobody can take this from me. (Pause)

E) What can you visualize now about how to carry the peace and beauty with you, wherever you go?

F) I can see the river outside coming through the valley. This is the image I want to take with me. The river sold me on this house when my husband bought it. I love it. (Pause)

E) What is it that you love about the river?

F) (Pause) A sense of flowing and movement. Transformation. Water moves on, and is never the same, impermanent. The river goes by but stays. Letting go is not giving up. I need to meditate, allow these thoughts to come and go. Making sense and not making sense. Just being. Instead of dashing around all the time.

E) You're not dashing now.

F) (Laughs) That's right, and I'm at peace with that for now.

Creating Confidence for Action-- One Step at a Time!

Below is an updated post from a few summers back with a message that seems just as fresh to me now as then— about how useful it can be when making career and life changes to remember what it's like to be on holiday, just doing what you want to do, whatever interests or excites you, one thing at a time….

I'd just returned from a wonderful trip to Tuscany with my extended family of friends from Sweden and England, including my two goddaughters, all living together in an old country house a little north of Pisa. Living together for a couple of weeks in a relaxed style in the foothills of the Alps brought home to me the great quality about vacations, which is-- no matter how easy-going or strenuous they are, they let you live with growing confidence and fulfillment while doing just one thing at a time. You may be mountain climbing, sightseeing, writing a novel, or cooking pizzas in an Italian bread oven, but whatever you’re doing, that’s it. Just one thing at a time.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, limiting your action to one thing at a time can be a very effective approach for change-making when you're feeling tense and uncertain, when you want to act more confidently, and with greater ease. Give yourself some time out to deeply relax inside.
Feel your feet on the ground and take several deep breaths in and out from your belly.  When you feel calmer, choose one action step that calls you, and give this your full attention.  Now you are setting the ground for following this new direction with a sense of purpose, power, and enjoyment.

In my book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I use the following metaphor about learning to dance to explore the process of building your confidence by taking just one energizing action step forward:

Stepping into the dance of self-confidence is much like being asked to step onto the ballroom floor by (you hope!) a skilled and passionate dancer who is happy to guide you through new steps.

What does it take on your part? Excitement about getting into the rhythm of the music…A willingness to be challenged…A willingness to be supported in learning the steps.

What will you get by stepping into the dance? The joy of a new freedom of movement…A new sense of relationship to dancing…Connection to other dancers…Finding out how much more you can do when you have support…Feeling your inner knowing as you integrate the steps of the dance into a flow of rhythm and movement…Readiness to embrace new challenges.

As another example, I was coaching a man in his fifties who was in transition from his engineering career, and struggling with all he had to do, as he saw it, to get his new business under way. He felt tense and exhausted, seeing no end to his to-do list-- and no way to have a balanced lifestyle either, with an intimate relationship, recreation, or just time off for himself.

So I challenged him to put on the back burner five items from his list for a month, and then choose one new action step to take. For a few minutes, he was appalled, feeling that his life now would have no structure and that everything would simply fall apart. Then he re-examined his list and noticed that he didn’t really need to create a new page for his website or even start a blog. What he really wanted to do was begin to establish some ne
connections with possible partners for his business venture. Suddenly, he felt energy rush through his body and a sense of possibility! He also felt renewed enthusiasm for reaching out for a relationship on an e-dating site.

All of which brings me to a post, “Just One Thing,” that I receive from Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Creating a Buddha Brain: One Step at a Time. I love his ongoing suggestion that we can make powerful, positive changes to our outlook on life and in the actions we take by approaching every challenge one step at a time. I know now, from my own experience and that of others, that this approach really works!

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!

Living out Your Authenticity and Aliveness: Interview with Suzanne Ness, Certified Life Coach and Creator, MobileCoach app

In my ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I put a lot of focus on the rewards of learning to work and live from your own center, from being, in fact, the person you really are.  In the chapter on authenticity, I say:  “Think of people you know whom you enjoy being around because they love being who they are and doing what they do.  Because they work, relate, and engage with full aliveness, with every cell of their body.  Because they shine with the joy of living and working with purpose.”

That’s why I’m introducing you now to my colleague and friend, Suzanne Ness, certified coach, speaker, corporate trainer, business owner, and online adjunct professor of management from Chicago, Illinois.  Suzanne and I went through the certification program at the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in 2007, supporting each other then through now in the different phases of our career development.  I can always be sure with Suzanne that she will be excited about new coaching techniques, new plans, and anything I’d like to try out with her.  She is a real ally in all matters of growing, evolving, andt transforming from what is to what is even better!               

So Suzanne and I decided we wanted to share with those of you on our respective email lists our most recent projects.  I’m sharing with you news of Suzanne’s MobileCoach app-- (itunes) http://mobilecoachapp.com/-- while she shares with her email group some information about my ebook.

And now, here’s Suzanne, in her own words:

Hello!  This is such a special opportunity to “meet” all of you who have been attracted to the work of my colleague, Eve Siegel.  Eve and I really enjoy supporting each other as we expand our professional coaching by creating new learning tools and experiences to share with people wanting to create positive, heart-centered career and life changes.

As for me, I love what I do in every area of my life.  I’ve created a way of living that allows me choice and freedom with my time, a way to be flexible and available for my children when necessary, and a chance to do work that inspires me and others to pursue learning, personal growth, and transformation.

I think my greatest gift is my passion for learning and helping others get excited about what is possible in their lives.  I’m good at creating a safe place where people feel empowered to try new things, take chances, and work through the challenges of making changes that are the most meaningful.  As the saying goes in coaching, “no one engages a coach in order to stay the same or to stay in the same place.”  I partner with my clients to help them stand in the “discomfort zone” long enough to allow change to happen.

I have great curiosity and drive for adventure.  I eagerly try new things, take chances, and encourage my clients to do the same.  I am driven by a desire to learn all I can and to help others notice and recognize their own authentic self and the greatness that exists inside everyone.  I often say that I get to witness miracles every day-- when people reach goals they didn’t think possible, or begin embracing something or someone in a new way, it changes everything for them and that is awesome to watch.

I came up with the idea of MobileCoach while I was training for my first half-marathon run.  I had some clients then who would check in for our scheduled calls, but only seemed to need 20 minutes with me, though they had scheduled and paid for an hour.  I realized that it was the accountability that mattered to them, and that there were people who would benefit from a self-guided tool that allowed them more freedom and flexibility to work through.  I was also using a daily training tool to help me train for the half-marathon.  I put the two ideas together, and MobileCoach was born!

MobileCoach is a 28-day guided tool for setting goals and making meaningful change.  Each “day” offers a different activity, exercise, or inquiry designed to help move a client forward.  It includes video, inspirational quotes, and even downloadable worksheets and articles, all designed to support someone through a change process.  As with all products, it is constantly evolving and improving.

This app has helped people make difficult choices such as getting medical tests done or starting a new hobby or business venture.  It is not a replacement for coaching; it is an enhancement or start for someone who is ready to begin making meaningful changes.  The tools and exercises were created out of my own experience as a coach and through my process of growing and stretching myself.  Right now it is only available through iTunes.  However, I am in the process of making it available for Android within the next year.

In the meantime, here are 3 of my favorite tips for creating a more fulfilling (or authentic, creative) way to work and live:

1) Identify what you love to do.  Then begin creating your life around what you want, based on what you love to do.  Surround yourself with things that represent what it is you love.

2) Find an activity that stretches you- for me it is running.  I was never a runner, but for the last 4 years, I’ve been running in events that keep me focused, require discipline, and scare me just a little…

3) Reach out and make meaningful connections with other human beings, be it friends, family, an intimate partner, or colleagues.  Share your dreams with them and have them partner with you in pursuing a life you love-- and encourage them to do the same.

You can contact Suzanne at suzanne@livingforwardllc.comor 815-608-0252
(web) www.livingforwardllc.com          (itunes) http://mobilecoachapp.com/

What Will Inspire You to Get Out of Bed & Do What You Really Want to Do?

Now that the high of New Year’s greetings with friends and colleagues is passing, and you can still see the pristine, snowy ground of a new beginning, what did you say you really wanted to do?  And by when?  Have you gotten out of bed yet and begun . . . any part of this?

I’m thinking of Hildegarde von Bingen-- the renowned 12th-century mystic,  artist, writer, composer, healer, and spiritual leader, living on the Rhine River in Germany-- who had her own call to action at age 42, thirty-four years after she began living in a convent and several years after she became its head prioress.  Though active and successful in her religious community, she was often ill and laid up in bed, unable to speak or act. 

    What kept Hildegarde in bed-- and what did she really want to do?  During her illnesses, she experienced amazing visions that she longed to express, but felt powerless to do so.  She was literally silenced by the patriarchy of the church; and had no support to live out her true purpose, which was to express her deepest spiritual visions.  Finally, it seems, she got sick of being sick and silenced.  “Beaten down by many kinds of illnesses, I put my hand to writing.  Once I did this . . . I received the strength to rise up from my sick bed, and under that power I continued to carry out the work....”

As a somatic therapist, I’ve often witnessed the way your body-- with symptoms severe enough to keep you lying low-- can force you to realize that you’re not doing what matters to you or not speaking with your true voice.  Then you have the choice, as Hildegarde did, of lying in bed and giving up your power-- or heeding the symptoms as your wake-up call to take action on your own path to fulfillment. 

Even more importantly, as Gregg Levoy notes in his book, Callings-- “When we sleep, we do not sleep alone.  Some of the great myths-- Sleeping Beauty, for example-- speak about the truth that when we sleep, all around us also sleep.”  So only when we awaken, can we support others and the whole world in their awakening.  The simple act of getting out of bed and beginning to do what we know is important for us to do, consciously and compassionately, will have a very positive impact on our whole society.

Getting in touch with her own inner well of courage, Hildegarde sawher symptoms for the wake-up call they were and got out of bed to write with her true voice.  It was then, in mid-life, that she went forward to live out her destiny as a creative and powerful political and spiritual force in her own time-- and to leave an incredible legacy of music, art, and writing whose beauty and power we still feel now.

  So I’m curious--

- Is there anything keeping you in bed, not letting you live out the call of your spirit
and what you really want to be doing now?

- If so, what would inspire you to get out of bed and into your real, authentic life?

- How loud does your wake-up call need to be?

- What kind of support do you need to wake up and begin to do what is really
important to you, now?

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 www.bayareacoaches.org.   [Note: Coaches can get 5 CCEUs (2 in core competency) for attending the October 22nd event or registering for the event simulcast.]

Shaping Your Retirement-- Creating Structure to Live out Your Dreams

Retirement from work isn’t at the top of everybody’s mind, but one way or another, it will happen.  But when?  Under what circumstances?  And then what?  Are you retiring from one career path in mid-life and starting another?  Or are you older and considering ending your paid career in order to live in a very different way-- one that perhaps more fully realizes the dreams you have and the person you’ve become at this stage in your life?

This month I’ve worked with two people going through the process of retirement at the traditional time in their mid-60‘s.  Both of these people-- a man, George, and a woman, Pat-- have gone through their financial and insurance planning in preparation for the next step.  They recognize, though, that more is at stake than finances.  For them, this is a major life transition encompassing life purpose questions, concerns around aging and energy, and at the most basic level, the shape of one’s social and personal lives when an outer job structure is gone.

For George, the process of giving up his secure government job became easier as he spent some months in our coaching exploring his “artist and performer” self-- the part of him that was vibrant, colorful, and alive to the beauty of painting and photography.  He developed and led walking tours to highlight the art and architecture of city neighborhoods, photographing the tours, and creating a website to advertise them.  As his calling became clearer, he envisioned a way of life and a weekly structure to his time in retirement that gave 50% of the energy he’d put into his job into being the artist and performer he’d always longed to be.

Pat, on the other hand, had developed no particular vision of how she wanted to live in retirement.  She was ready to leave her corporate management position and felt she wanted time to explore cultural and volunteer possibilities in her community.  Within three months of leaving her job, Pat felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities she’d assumed in taking on two volunteer positions.  As an experienced manager, she’d naturally gravitated towards management positions, even as a volunteer, but with them came the claims on her time from which she had just decided to retire!

Exploring her feelings of overwhelm in coaching, she began to understand that she really needed some time and space to experience what it was like to have freedom from over-scheduling her life.  In order to do that, however, Pat realized that she needed to pull back on her volunteer time commitments, even if she felt insecure for awhile without the sense of structure they provided.  Paradoxically, her new structure needed to be more flexible and more open to feeling what was important to her before she could make new choices about what to do.

At any age and stage, retirement is a process, with new considerations about the quality and direction of life.  If you’re older (or very fortunate), and making money is no longer a criteria determining your choices, what would you want to do with your life? How would you like to feel during the day?  How much time, space, and energy do you need?  How will you claim that?

Freeing Time for Living the Way You Really Want!

I’ve been meditating about time for the past couple of days since I gave a coaching consultation to a woman in her 50’s concerned about how to have time for her high-level professional career, her marriage and teenage kids, and stay healthy.  As usual, the big question was, “How do I find enough time?”

In my mind musing, I recalled that as a child, my personal life was divided into family time (meals, chores, holidays, travel), school time (classes, homework) and “free time.”  I loved free time, especially the summer holidays when the hours seemed to stretch out endlessly as I played with friends, lay on the grass watching clouds, biked, and swam.  My father also contributed to my feel for the value of free time, since he firmly believed that a day off from school or work each week (Wednesdays) was a useful break from routines that could stifle creativity.

No, I didn’t get to stay home from school every Wednesday (my full-time working mom had a different point of view), but this rather novel perspective from a parent has helped me learn to prioritize intuitively what’s really important to me through my life.  By doing so, I’ve found that there’s almost always been enough time to live the way I wish, even when that seemed like quite a challenge.  What a paradox!  But such is the power of intention.

There are many excellent systems for learning to manage time incrementally, saving 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there by eliminating wasteful habits and so on.  However, the vital starting place is becoming aware of what’s already in your life and what you want to bring into your life that really matter to you (family, career, friends, creative projects, fitness, time just for you, travel, etc.).  This will help you clarify how you really want your life to be and ultimately, the time you’ll need to make this happen.

The next big question is “How do I create a beginning?”  I suggest you start by giving yourself the gift of some free time.  Sit or walk comfortably in a serene environment and breathe so that you feel the easy movement of your body from within.  Feel that time is endlessly extending itself within you, that you have all the time you need.  From this place, allow yourself to envision the shape, look, and feel of the life you long to be living.  What are you doing?  Who is there with you?  What are you creating?  How strong is your energy?  If you feel anything blocking your experience, continue breathing and just notice any fears, concerns, or images that arise.  Be aware of them, then let them go (you can always come back to them later).  Return to your inner place of spaciousness and be with the vision of your life as would like itWhen you come back from your time out, write down what you wish to remember. 

As the rock and soul group, The Chambers Brothers, sing in their shimmering song, “Time”:  “Now the time has come/ There are things to realize/ The time has come today.”  My question to you is, “What is the work you long to do and the way you want to live that’s worth freeing time for now?”  Once you’re clear about your intention, you can learn how, and get support for, making the time you need to realize your dream.