Becoming Inspired

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?

Lighting the Spark-- Creating Connection Through Your Passion!

In Greek mythology, possibly the most important character as far as humans are concerned is Prometheus-- the Titan intermediary who brought the divine spark of fire from the gods as his life-supporting gift to people.  For daring to carry this spark of flame, his passion, from the heavens to his earth-bound fellows, Prometheus was severely punished by being chained to a rock and having Zeus’ own eagle pluck out his liver every day until he was finally rescued by Heracles.  Despite his suffering, Prometheus was passionate that all humans have access to that divine spark of fire that can inspire greater vision and connection with its illumination and healing warmth. 

            The book,The Art of Possibility, claims that “our universe is alive with sparks.  We have at our fingertips an infinite capacity to light a spark of possibility.”  I would go even farther than that-- I would say that each of us has a personal responsibility for finding ways to share our passionate sparks with others so they themselves will catch the sparks and go further in living out their own passionate dreams.  

            In just the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing these sparks igniting enthusiasm and a sense of possibilities all around me, even in difficult or grim situations, such as: 

  • Girls in Pakistan demanding and getting opportunities for quality education in impoverished communities where families traditionally cannot afford it and do not value it 
  • Tim Lincecum (pitcher) and Edgar Rentaria (ace batter) of the San Francisco Giants pulling themselves out of crippling slumps in late summer to inspire their team to win its first-ever World Series baseball championship this fall 
  • A Stanford classmate who is thrilled about his transition from overseas aid projects toa new job promoting the rights and well-being of severely needful patients in a mental hospital 

            One of my clients recently expressed this sense of wanting to give something of meaning to society with a new career that allows her to use her “passion and enthusiasm,” as well as her particular skills, to connect people with resources that will make a difference in their lives.  As The Art of Possibility states, “The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate, . . . [lighting] sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions.”  What greater gift can we give or receive? 

                                    Join in the Discussion! 

  • When have you lit a spark in others that has validated their own passion and let their true selves come forth? 
  • Which people and/or experiences have lit this spark in you?  What kind of difference has this made in your life?
  • What is your biggest dream for passionate connection in the world?

Attuned to Possibilities-- Eyes Wide Open for Success!

At one point today during my tele-class, Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?, I talked about the value there can be in endings, even when you didn’t choose to end something (a job, a relationship, etc.).  One participant said that was true for him, since he’d recently been fired from a position that he felt he’d outgrown, but couldn’t make himself leave because of his salary.  However, when the choice was taken out of his hands, he felt far more relief and a sense of possibilities than loss.  Losing his job had the effect of making him see more clearly what he really wanted to be doing.

            How do you know when a change is presenting you with a richer opportunity for growing your life?  At the beginning of the illuminating book, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, is a fascinating example of how attitude can affect sales potential:

          A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business.  One sends back a telegram saying, “SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES

          The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES

             Who’s right?  Both are.  But whose perspective captures the greater sense of potential?  Who would you want on your sales team, in your office, in your life?  In my experience as a coach and an evolving person, I find that the more you say “yes!” to new opportunities, the more they come your way and offer what you need to grow and feel successful at work and in your life as a whole.

                         Join in the Discussion!

  •  What kind of opportunities have opened up for you during times of change?
  •  What have you said “yes!” to recently that created a positive outcome in your life?
  •  Think of someone you feel has a deeply satisfying life.  Does he or she tend to have a positive attitude towards possibilities that arise?

Bringing It All Back Home-- A Traveler’s Perspective

Since my return from my trip to Europe recently, I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a traveler.  Not a tourist out to see only certain sights, but someone open to new discoveries, new interactions, new ways of being.  Open to change-- and to being changed.  The essence, in fact, of someone who’s doing coaching or considering it!

            Right now, I’m really enjoying the book, Travels with Odysseus by Michael Goldberg.  Using the classic Greek explorer, Odysseus, as a man whose voyage home after the Trojan Wars becomes fraught with unplanned detours and unusual encounters with guides and provocateurs, Goldberg looks at what it means to be a “traveler”:

           “Since ancient times, The Odyssey has been known as the journey that each one of us . . . must take to return Home, to who we really are and what we are supposed to become.”

             When we really travel and engage our deeper self with our outer experiences, we begin to learn what really matters in our lives.  We find guidance in others we meet along the way who connect us to our heart’s longings.  This, in turn, leads us to how we wish to live and what is meaningful for us to do in our time here on the planet.  Again, this is the essence of the coaching experience.

             In my upcoming, 2-part tele-class, “Coaching 101-- How to Make Career & Life Changes That Matter!”, I’ll be helping people experience what it’s like to create professional and personal changes they truly desire through the “engaged traveling” process of coaching.  If you’re interested, please click on this link--  If you have any questions, please contact me at

                       PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES--

          What does does it take to be an “engaged traveler” in your life?

       • What new perspectives or changes have opened for you by taking a new path in your life?

Going for the Unknown in Weimar, Germany

 I’m not there yet, but Weimar has been a place of mystery and enticement to me ever since a German architect friend of mine, Carsten, told me I should go there.  So far, what I know is that it was home to two of the best-known German poets, Goethe and Schiller, who were also great friends.  So this will touch the poet in me! 

    Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary just to go for a dream, to follow a longing for opening and wonder, without worrying about how it will fit into your career plans or search for a good mate.  Sometimes, you have to do something for your soul that may not matter to anyone else.  As Thomas Moore writes in his book, Care of the Soul:  “‘Soul’ is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.”   

    This depth and heart-quality of living life are what gives life its richness and meaning.  The search for a place with a magical name or a work path that is different from anything you’ve done before or a taking out a moment of your busy time to read a poem or listen to a bird sing-- all of these add to the quality of our lives.  This “soul” in our lives is the zest that gives our lives the delight worth living. 

       What are some “soul” moments in your life?  How have they helped you in your career and life transitions?