Taking Risks

Resilience—Empowerment for the Launch You Need to Make!

As a life coach, most of the requests for my work are from people who want to make heart-centered changes in the way they work, mentor other coaches, or re-balance the way they live. At another level, I’m attuned to the level of resilience they have that will support them in making the changes that really matter to them. This is important, since creating significant changes that feel deeply satisfying usually requires taking risks and shifting some habitual ways of doing and being. 

As Linda Graham, MFT, says in her recent book, Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster, resilience gives us "the power — the flexibility— to choose how we respond. It takes practice, and it takes awareness, but that power always lies within us." Resilience develops in us with the love and acceptance of who we are by our parents and/or other key people in our lives. It continues to expand as we allow ourselves and are encouraged to keep growing and developing our inner potential of skills and interests.

This is what Carol Dweck, author of Mindset— The New Psychology of Success, calls the "growth mindset." If you've grown up with this attitude that you can do things differently and make positive changes in your life, you're more likely to be able to learn from inevitable failures and errors and continue to move forward. You may even make a huge leap that could be a major mistake, but becomes instead a highly fulfilling outcome that takes you by surprise!

Take Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde. As a smart, good-looking, popular college student, she has doting parents and friends who support her in her goal to meet a wealthy man to marry and support in his upward-bound career. She clearly has great poise and confidence in herself. Her first re-defining moment comes when she applies and gets into Harvard Law School to win back her prep-school boyfriend who will also be in her Harvard Law School class.

Now her resilience quotient is really tested. Coming to Harvard is for her like going to a college fraternity party, and she hasn't a clue about this new culture she's entering with its own brand of intellectual expectations. She has enough confidence in herself that she doesn't give up when treated as a social and academic outcast. However, she keeps hitting walls and feeling stuck because she's not yet clear about either what's really important to her at this time in her life or how to empower herself by accessing her potential. [Note— Helping clients achieve this kind of clarity is an important part of the work of trained life coaches like myself.]

Her inner "aha!" moment arrives when— dressed as a "Playboy bunny" at a party of her classmates from the law school— she finally sees that this is exactly how her former boyfriend really regards her. Still in costume, she goes to buy herself a laptop computer for classes that very evening and for the first time gets serious about studying law on her own terms.

If Elle Woods had asked me to be her career-transformation coach at a low point in her Harvard experience, I would be very curious and interested in exploring the quality of her resilience under considerable personal challenge. Her fearlessness, warmth, enjoyment of adventure, and compassion for others are at the heart of her ability to reach out to people in friendship and to share her own vulnerability. 

I'd also help her become aware of the kind of support she already had from several influential mentors at the law school. In what ways did they help raise her confidence in her potential and abilities to become highly successful as a lawyer? What did she learn from them about her own resilience at just those times when she lost the sense of who she really was and her purpose in being at Harvard Law School?  

A key question here for Elle Woods is, "What do you need to believe about yourself to take all your fearlessness, warmth, adventurousness, and compassion for others to shine as an outstanding lawyer in your own, authentic way? 

Resilience in coaching, then, is what you can learn to build and draw upon to go further than you ever imagined. Coaching helps you develop awareness of your own resilience to turn professional and personal challenges into new ways to live out the life you really want. The more resilience you develop, the more you'll empower yourself to launch into the full range of your inner potential for working, creating, and living well!

Are You Following Your Yellow Brick Road?

When my brother and I were children, we loved being read to by our father at bedtime, most memorably, from the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The pure, imaginative escapism of journeys to a magic country that no one could see from the outside, where inanimate objects were alive, animals talked, and even children had the power to create transformative changes was the most wonderful experience!

So when I recently discovered the book, Finding Oz, by Evan Schwartz, I was intrigued to find that this master storyteller and creator of one of the most influential American childhood books— The Wizard of Oz— had cycled himself through six failed careers by the time he was forty, when he began to get traction as a published author of children's stories. Prior to that, he was a chicken breeder, a traveling actor/playwright, the sales publicist of an oil lubricants store, the owner of a variety store, a traveling salesman of fine china, and a newspaper writer/publisher.

Winding through the twenty-three years he devoted to these career paths in hopes of making a steady income to support his wife and their family, was his own "yellow brick road"— his passionate love of making up and telling stories, particularly to children.

On your own path to finding work and a life you love, what can you learn from L. Frank Baum's journey on his "yellow brick road"— his dream path straight from the land of Oz?

Notice what blocks your path— Usually what gets in the way of finding work you love and making other life changes is fear of losing what is familiar, risking financial loss, fear of judgement by others, and uncertainty about the shape of the future. Baum's ever-present challenge was "the fear of failure" about how to make a profitable living, especially as the stakes got higher with a wife and four boys to support.

As Schwartz writes about Baum a few years before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: "Frank was always in danger of becoming a slave to his fears, not unlike the famous traveling companions who enter the perilous land outside the Emerald City, where they press ahead in constant fright of both the known and unknown forces of the forest."

Recognize the golden road within yourself— What's interesting is the length of Baum's meandering career trail, and how long it took him to accept the gift of his true nature as a storyteller and author. In each of his undertakings, Baum— an optimist by nature— achieved some measure of success. However, his heart was not really in being a business owner, which he refused to accept until his journalism and final sales ventures collapsed financially.

His storytelling, he felt, had to come out the back door of the work he did for a living.  He believed the overriding message of his time and his culture, that real work was primarily buying and selling material objects or necessary services. Storytelling was fantasy and belonged only to childhood. (Note that The Wizard of Oz was one of the very few American children's books when it was published in 1900.)

Interestingly, however, all of his six careers before becoming a published author required that he create and tell stories.  This was his own golden road, the path of his authentic self.

In these occupations, his stories were for adults— about why people would live better, happier lives with his exotic chickens, adventurous plays, oil products for their new-fangled machines, products designed just for pleasure, and human interest tales. The environment he lived in did not make it easy for him to visualize a future as a well-paid author. For that, he needed the support of his spiritual allies.

Accept the support of allies to help make powerful changes— Who were the allies who most supported Baum's spirit through the long haul of his inner transformation?  First, his sons, who adored their father and his wonderful stories.

His second major ally— his formidable suffragette and Theosophist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage— had initially been more of a wicked witch in his life. She'd felt that he'd gotten in the way of her daughter Maud's being able to finish her college degree at Cornell (true) and that he wouldn't be able to support her daughter financially (not true).

However, as her own spiritual life evolved under the influence of Theosophy, she became the closest person in his life to see that Baum's "right livelihood" must have its foundation in what was quintessentially himself— in telling and writing children's stories. It was also she who discovered the growing trend in magazines for story writing for youth and got Baum excited about this new professional possibility.

Inspired by her insight into his true self and her support for his new career direction, Baum, it seems, transformed Matilda in his Oz books into Glinda, the Good White Witch.

Know when it's time to take the leap— and take it!

When he was 40, Baum was diagnosed by his doctor with a weak heart that could no longer take the stress of being a traveling salesman. Plus, his children were unhappy with him away so often. At this point, Baum took the leap and made the decision "that there was a future for him in crafting tales for children," and began writing stories for which he was paid and published.

Two years later, in 1898, following the death of his mother-in-law and fearless ally, Mathilda, "suddenly, this one story moved right in and took possession," as he wrote his publisher. Later, he said in an interview, "It was pure inspiration. It came to me right out of the blue . . . I believe the magic key was given to me to open the doors to sympathy and understanding, joy, peace and happiness." He drew on what he knew— the bleakness of the Kansas countryside in the 1880's, tornados/cyclones, oil as a means of bringing machinery to life, farms, witches (the denigrated power of women that Mathilda had written about) and the human spirit, embodied in the girl adventurer, Dorothy.

And so the story of "a yellow brick road leading to a city of emeralds" was born. As Schwartz writes, "[The yellow brick road] would be the path where the spiritual adventure unfolds." The challenges that Dorothy and her companions meet on the yellow brick road were the challenges that Baum himself met on his journey towards right livelihood, which also led him to self-awareness, confidence, aliveness, and well-being.

What is the destination of your yellow brick road?

What are your particular challenges on your yellow brick road?

What do you need to meet and transform these challenges into successful outcomes?

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!

Evoking Your Passion for Life with Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion by Gregg Levoy

I was delighted to get an email recently from a favorite human-potential speaker of mine, Gregg Levoy, letting me know that his new book, Vital Signs— The Nature and Nurture of Passion, is coming out on December 26th. His first book, the bestseller, Callings— Finding and Following an Authentic Life, is one of those touchstones in my life that I often revisit for its inspirational insights (contemporary, historical, and literary) into creative, authentic ways of living and working. Because of its personal resonance for me, as well as the lively elegance of its writing, I used quotes from it in my own book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance.

With Vital Signs, seventeen years and several significant life passages have passed for Levoy since the publication of Callings. This time he explores the particular ways he has learned to cultivate living with passion— cultivating wonder, the quest route, the call to wildness, the way of love, authentic expression, and taking risks. In Vital Signs Levoy is more personally revealing and willingly takes more risks, sometimes stripping himself— literally, emotionally, and spiritually— before our reading eyes, to let us feel “what inspires passion and what defeats it. How you lose it and how you get it back.”

When I opened to the first chapter, “Eyes Wide Open— Cultivating Wonder,” and read, “Years ago I saw the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti perform….,” I was hooked, because years ago I, too, had heard Pavarotti sing and had had the same experience— that “it was impossible not to recognize that Pavarotti’s voice was heart-stoppingly beautiful, like nothing I’d heard in my life….”

This sense of the wonder in being fully alive and engaged in an experience that heightens one’s senses and one’s spirit is what I, too, have learned to cultivate and embrace— and seek to share with others through my work today.

Throughout this book, Levoy shares from a wide range of sources what it’s like taking on and renewing a passionate stance with the deepest relationships in your life— with the longings and sensations in your body, in intimacy with another, with the wildness within yourself longing for expression, and in risk-taking that cracks open your fears and touches your spirit.

As in Callings, Levoy in Vital Signs draws from a rich, quirky, anecdotal brew of his own life stories and those of other life adventurers, mythology, art, music, biographies, philosophy, and science to share how people throughout the centuries have learned to re-discover and re-ignite passion in their lives from the same materials that haunt us in our own lives— our dead ends, stuckness, depression, and failures.

One of these stories is that of my friend, Bonnie O'Brien Jonsson, for whom the trauma of having her father declared missing in action during the Korean War ultimately led to her facilitating dozens of Year-to-Live groups (based on Stephen Levine's book, Year to Live].  In these groups, participants act on the assumption that they have a year to live, and are guided through a series of experiential exercises designed to help them come to a deeper understanding of the value of living fully in their lives now.

Basically, Vital Signs is a wonderful, highly readable book for gaining new perspectives on re-lighting the flame of your own passion when the demands of daily living or the weight of past misfortunes drain you of energy and curiosity.  I strongly recommend it for inspiration that can kick you forward towards the changes you long to make to re-connect with your alive and vibrant self!

Below are a few examples from Vital Signs about reconnecting with passion that I really enjoyed and would like to share—-

What we’re after isn’t the wildness that’s divorced from cultivated life and exists only in outbacks and hinterlands, belonging only to other species and other eons— though we seek that, too, sometimes. We’re after the wildness that exists alongside daily life . . . It surfaces in those rich and raw emotions that occasionally manage to claw their way out of the bag of behavioral restraint and in those moments when you act with spontaneity— from the Italian word “sponte,” meaning, once again, “willful,” “of one’s own accord,” “obeying natural impulses.”

The rub is that to take advantage of the healing power of a confiding relationship, you’ve got to actually confide. You’ve got to reveal things that many people are terrified will lose them the very love they’re after. Meaning that the hunger to be safe works against the hunger to be known, which will have to fight against a stiff headwind to gain purchase in your psyche and your relationships.

Just prior to quitting my job as a reporter, I had lunch with a mentor of mine, and when I mentioned my fear of failing at self-employment, he said, “Gregg, if you’re not failing regularly, you’re living so far below your potential that you’re failing anyway.’ Which reminded me why I had lunch with the guy maybe once a year.

But whether life came about through accident or intention, through natural selection or God, whether we believe every atom in the universe is saturated with infinity or divinity or lime-green Jell-O, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s amazing any of it is here. And equally amazing that each of us is connected to the passionate force that put it all here.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 eve@kailaslifecoaching.com.

Learning from Japan-- When Is It Time to Ask for Help?

Around this first anniversary of the devastating triad of natural and man-made tragedies in Japan, I’d like to share my blog post of about a year ago with a great story from a small Japanese town in the affected area north of Tokyo.  The messages from its mayor are universal, timeless, and vital to our evolution as beings on this planet.

Almost a year ago, there was a very moving UTube video [“SOS from Minamisoma mayor”] of the mayor of Minamisoma-- a small town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, devastated by the March earthquake, tsunami, and threat of nuclear meltdown-- desperately but with dignity asking for help for his town’s citizens who still remained.  These people (only a third of the original population, those who weren’t killed, missing, or evacuated) were trying to support each other under the dedicated leadership of their mayor, Mr. Sakurai.  However, they couldn’t get help from outside the town, as delivery trucks with food and gas refused to come within 18 miles of the city because of potential radiation hazard.  People were starving, and without heat or even gas to leave the town.

Feeling unheard and unsupported by the Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and the local media, Mr. Sakurai agreed to talk in a video for UTube.  Later, Mr. Sakurai said he “credited the large-scale response to his video with helping those who remained in the stricken city to carry on.  ‘Suddenly, the world was extending its hand to us . . . We’ve learned that we are not alone.’”  Food and other relief supplies were then being delivered to the town by non-profit agencies, helping its people to begin to live their lives again.

People making career changes also need to consider, ”When is it time to ask for help?”  How do you know when you cannot do what you need to do by yourself?  How stuck or desperate do you have to feel before you reach out for the help you need?

Career and life coaches in the United States often work with people who struggle with our national ethos that taking care of all your problems yourself is the only acceptable route.  When they finally start working with a coach, they realize that finding the right kind of help for dealing with problems and making changes is a tremendous relief. They receive affirmation for their dreams and plans, plus appropriate support for moving forward into new areas of their lives. They also learn that asking for help before getting completely burnt out or stuck makes their lives much easier.

Mayor Sakurai was forced to give his speech on the video at “the darkest moment in the disaster.”  He and his townspeople reached out to the world-- and people all over responded.  As Mayor Sakurai and his town discovered, “We’ve learned that we are not alone.”  The lesson is, none of us need to be alone in our search for support in reaching our goals.

In fact, asking for help is really a mutually enriching experience.  When you ask for help, you allow others who help you live fulfilled by giving them the opportunity to share something they have of value with you.  At the end of his speech, Mayor Sakurai concludes, “Helping each other is what makes us human beings.”

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