Living Authentically

Learning From Japan - What Matters to You Most Now?

In the wake of Japan’s recent devastating earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear reactor breakdowns, there have been many stories about how people there have responded to the emergency situations and the survival aftermath.  In my mind, it’s brought up the question of what is truly important to each of us, and how we live that out.

A New York Times article of March 17th about reactions of people in Tokyo, about 170 miles south of the earthquake’s epicenter, said that “most Japanese are trying to uphold the ethic that they are taught from childhood:  to do their best, persevere, and suppress their own feelings for the sake of the group.”  The group ethic is strong-- which can be stifling for individual self-expression, but also insures the willing support of the community for its own survival.  As an electronics technician in Tokyo said, “I can’t [leave this area] because I have to work my hardest [now] for my customers.”

Up in Sendai, close to the epicenter, an American resident wrote in Ode magazine that “it’s utterly amazing that where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines . . . The Japanese themselves are so wonderful.  I come back to my shack to check on it each day . . . and I find food and water left in my entrance way . . . People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help.  I see no signs of fear.  Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

From both these sources, it’s clear that in Japan, during times of need, at least, the value of “community” is a strong one, transcending individual fears, doubts, and confusion, and supporting the whole society.

Now I’d like to riff off the Japanese experience to explore what matters most to you at this time.  Do you want more social cohesion or more opportunities to expand your dreams for personal fulfillment?  Is there a way to balance the community values based on a more traditional society with the sense of expanded possibilities for individuals more prevalent in a more free-floating society such ours in the urban United States?  We might also ask, can a more individually oriented society come together as well in emergency conditions?

As a life coach, I support many people who have come up against a wall where they lose confidence about going forward towards new, more satisfying careers.  Their biggest fear is often what their family-- spouses and parents-- reflect back to them about the consequences to family stability of not continuing along the paths of their earlier training and work.  To which other questions arise-- What is it to be truly secure?  When do we need to trust our dreams in this regard?  Where do we really find our support?

Building Life-Enhancing Relationships -- “Giving Each Other an A”!

This past week, I was really charged up with the combination of participating in my Stanford University alumni reunion and reading the book, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.  

            One aspect of this book that struck me at my reunion was the part the authors call “Giving an A.”  By this they mean allowing people and experiences to be what they are and could be-- not limited by your own expectations.  Most people I met at my reunion said that this one was the best ever, and I agree.  My feeling is that every successive five years when we come together, we allow more of ourselves to be seen-- not just the parts of us that appear to be successful in the world.  At this reunion, there was definitely a sense of trust that who we are-- and what we’re doing that’s opening us to who we are-- was of interest to others.  In the context of having graduated from a very competitive university, this more open way of interacting with each other constitutes major personal growth! 

            At earlier reunions, more people interacted from the “measurement” perspective of “what grade did you get?” that was the norm during college and “how well are you doing?” that was prevalent as people were starting to activate their careers.  A number of years later, my classmates and I have grown into the “possibilities” perspective that sees people as whole and evolving.  There’s so much more energy and authentic connection when you relate in this way!  We’re not limited by others’ expectations of how we should write or take exams, how many trips we’ve taken or how much we make a year.  We care more about how fulfilled and expansive each other’s lives have become-- and are becoming. 

            “When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves . . . This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.” (The Art of Possibility).  Isn’t this the essence of how to create and sustain life-enhancing relationships-- whether with your soul mate, the store clerk you see every week, a casual acquaintance on a subway, or even someone whose political views you don’t understand at all?  It’s also the essence of how to create value from any new experience you embrace. 

                        Join in the Discussion! 

  • What are some relationships you’ve given an A to in your life?
  • What’s been of value to you in these relationships? 
  • When have you given an A to a huge step forward in your life?  What opened for you because you did this?

Perspectives on Transitions as Transformation

As a life transitions coach, I’m intrigued by Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author, Eat, Pray, Love) new book, Committed, in which she explores the multiple meanings of marriage to people at different times and places in history.  She has a compelling reason for doing so, since, in order to live in the United States with the man she loves who is Brazilian, she must marry him.  However, since both she and her partner have gone through painful divorces, neither has wished to remarry.  Only the demands of the immigration laws of the U.S. make them consider that marriage for them is a necessity. 

            So here is Liz’ dilemma about this situation:  We must (due to legal requirements) get married.  However, we have concerns about whether marriage can sustain the loving connection that is the basis of our relationship.  She is now 15 years older than when she was first married.  This is a transition that tests all her conscious and unconscious assumptions of her individual and woman’s rights and desires against the background of societal/familial needs for order and continuity.  Is it OK to insist on love (not just security or being “well-matched”) as the foundation for one’s marriage?  Is it all right to love someone and want to live with him and yet not want/need to have children?  Can marriage sustain a woman being a working professional who loves what she does? 

            As I read this book, I thought to myself, “I wish I’d had coaching before I got married!”  I thought of all the questions and concerns I’d had about formal, societal commitment to another person.  I truly wish I’d been able to work with someone who could’ve guided me through a process of exploring what I really wanted in my life (my purpose) and what kind of person I wanted to be.  It would’ve been good-- for my whole life-- to have looked more fully at how marriage fit in with my own personal needs and vision.  Or how the structure of marriage might provide a catalyst for growth and development.  It would’ve been helpful to feel that I’d looked at different perspectives beforehand for such an important transition in my life-- and that of my husband-to-be, as well. 

            Recently, I wrote an article (“Purpose and Renewal in Life Transitions”) for a website dedicated to issues around transitions ( In it, I came to the conclusion that“transitional periods can feel less chaotic and more valuable if they’re experienced as part of a natural flow towards self-renewal and living with purpose.  To stay fulfilled, resourced and balanced as you move forward in life, it’s vital to stay mindful of the powerful need and movement within yourself to unfold into your full potential.” 

            When you learn to approach transitions-- marriage, career, retirement, creative projects, etc.-- with the conscious intent to “unfold into your full potential,” something comes alive in you that makes the output of time, emotional concerns, and energy well worthwhile.  For those of you who are interested in exploring your current transitions as transformative opportunities, I invite you to join me for my upcoming free tele-class, “Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?” on Wednesday, October 6th, at 9 AM Pacific Time.  For further information and to register, please go to

Creating Transitions -- Who’s in Charge?

Since I’m planning a tele-class on what transitions are about, I was looking again at William Bridges’ defining book, Transitions.  What really struck me in re-reading the first chapter that he calls “The Need for Change” is the organicity of transitions.  As he says, they happen naturally in all living creatures:  “Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations.  Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to change-- until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms . . . the hibernation begins.  With us . . . the functions of transition times are the same.  They are key times in the natural process of self-renewal. 

            I’m imagining this re-framing of transitions as “key times in the natural process of self-renewal.”  As in the somatic trauma theory of Peter Levine, PhD (author, Waking the Tiger), animals have the inner survival mechanisms to allow sudden and slow-moving changes of all kinds to happen without permanent distress.  Humans, on the other hand, with our more complex brain and upbringing processes, unconsciously learn to resist and question the process of change-- or transitions-- making it harder in our bodies and minds to accept that these can be a “natural” part of our own “self-renewal.” 

            On a different tack, in this week’s New Yorker magazine (9/13/10), an article called “Power Lines” explores the mystique behind a major inspirational documentary, The Secret.  Three years ago, Oprah Winfrey introduced Rhonda Byrne, creator and producer of The Secret, and some of her colleagues on her show by saying, “My guests today believe that once you discover the Secret, you can immediately start creating the life you want . . . They say you can have it all, and in fact, you already hold the power to make that happen.” 

            As a career and life coach, I’ve guided people into feeling this power to move successfully through their transitions-- from feeling stuck in some work or personal situation, to exploring the place of not-knowing and going deep into their own selves, to moving forward into a new, more rewarding direction.  They were empowered to create a new reality for themselves through learning to focus on what really mattered to them.  And yet, this new reality was born of both their desire to take charge in their own change process-- AND their acceptance of the natural movement of the change process within themselves.  By learning to connect to that universal flow, they accepted their role as co-creators of change and did not have to work so hard to reach their desired outcome.  

            It’s clear that a transitional period in your life can feel easier and more acceptable if it’s experienced as part of a natural flow towards self-actualization-- or being fully who you are.  Unlike the redwood tree in my backyard that sends its roots as far as it can, we humans often struggle to accept our instinctive desire to grow and manifest deeper and fuller aspects of ourselves.  We acclimate to others’ expectations of ourselves in order to be accepted as part of a family or a work team.  And yet, to stay fulfilled, resourced and balanced, we need to stay mindful of the powerful need and movement within ourselves to unfold into our full potential. 

            For those of you who are interested in exploring this aspect of transitions as a natural time of self-actualization, I invite you to join me for my upcoming free tele-class, “Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?”  For further information and to register, please go to:

                 Join in the Discussion! 

  • What is an ending that you feel coming up in your career/life now?  How do endings make you feel? 
  • What is a transition you’ve gone through that had a lot of impact in your life?  What has opened up for you because of it?

Claiming Your Voice for Successful Action!

“In the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for legs . . . Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with change or variety or newness or with improving our condition.  The catch is when we are asked to give up our voice in order to move freely, when we are asked to silence what makes us unique in order to be successful.”   (Mark Nepo)

             I was reading this passage and thinking of clients of mine whose concerns around being professionally successful are really issues about the loss of their voice and of speaking their truths.  I wondered, do you really have to give up your voice (the ability to speak your truth) in order to have legs (success and mobility in the world)?  That’s an odd condition, I feel, that you would have to exchange one for the other, when, in fact, you need both to make changes that are fulfilling to you.

             I’m thinking of one of my clients, a woman in her 50’s who was in a transition from stay-at-home mom to becoming a professional.  Her goals in coaching with me were all about becoming successful in her career. 

             Then during one session I commented on the lack of inflection and expressiveness in her voice.  I knew she was enthused about her new career direction, so what was this about? I asked her.  From this question came a surge of responses from deep within herself that she hadn’t expected, mostly reflecting the way she used to give and do for her family, without questioning what was important to herself.  When her youngest child finished high school, she allowed herself to go for a meaningful career, but still found herself giving time and energy to relationships that gave little back to her. 

             She hadn’t recognized that while she was changing outwardly, she was also changing inwardly-- and that she needed to re-create the conditions of all of her life to move forward in her career path.  She needed to create boundaries in certain relationships and become more open in others.  She needed to use her voice to claim what mattered to her-- WHILE she used her legs to go forward professionally.  Now I can hear in her voice the enthusiasm and engagement she was experiencing in the work she has chosen.  She has brought her voice in alignment with her legs and her energy to living a full, rich life of her choice.

             In my upcoming, 2-part tele-class, “Coaching 101-- How to Make Career & Life Changes That Matter!” starting July 14th, I’ll be helping people like you begin to create the professional and personal changes you wish by claiming your voice and your energy to move forward.  If you’re interested, please click on this link--  If you have any questions, please contact me at

                       PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES--

 1) What holds you back from asking for what you need and want?

 2) Is it necessary to give up speaking and living authentically in order to be successful?  Why?

 3) How have you created a fulfilling lifestyle by expressing your voice and using your legs?

Knowing What Is Fulfilling to You to Make Compelling Changes!

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

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

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

             If you have any questions, please contact me at


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