Heart-Centered Livelihood

Changing the Way Things Are-- from “Downward Spiral Talk” to Possibilities

I’ve been happily listening to the enthusiasm with which people I know from all over the US and Europe have been talking about the springtime weather this year.  It’s the first thing anyone mentions in a conversation, as if all the large and petty problems of daily life can take backstage for a time while we watch the flowers bloom.

What a great perspective to have on life!  Of course, work challenges and life upheavals exist and play their part in how we feel about what we’re doing.  But we can choose how much of our time and energy we feed into ways of thinking and talking that uplift us, as well as those that spin us downward.

In their dynamic book, The Art of Possibility, authors Ben & Roz Zander describe the phrase “downward spiral talk” as “a resigned way of speaking that excludes possibility.”  A woman in her early 30’s, Susanna, talked to me about how she’d selected a career in food management several years previously based on her assessment that she loved food and had all the requisite skills. Then she lamented that she’d never had a job that she enjoyed in that field.  As the Zanders say, “Downward spiral talk creates an unassailable story about the limits to what is possible.”

In the course of our coaching together, Susanna began to realize that she was more than the sum of her parts.  In other words, in planning her career direction earlier, she’d left out considering her purpose, what was important to her whole life, what fueled her energy and got her excited about working in the world. When she realized that her passion in life was fundamentally to create community, she was able to look at work in the food industry with an eye to finding rewarding possibilities.

With this new vision based on a deeper understanding of herself, Susanna took over the management of a restaurant that shared activities with a local community center.  Instead of continuing the downward path of negativity and self-doubt, she radiated her sense of commitment to working and living out what was important to her.  She attracted new possibilities where she helped people connect and come together in enjoyable ways that led her to feeling successful in her chosen career.

How about you?  How would you like to open a field of possibilities in your career?  What’s a different perspective you can choose to hold and inhabit to create a new, positive direction in your professional and personal life now?

“Radiating possibility begins with things as they are and highlights open spaces, the pathways leading out from here.”

-- from The Art of Possibility

Career Transitions to Expand Your Life and Spirit!

Today as I was briskly walking around the waterfront, letting the lively bay breezes freshen my mind, I thought about people I’d worked with or heard about recently who’ve made or plan to make career changes for the pure joy of doing work that gladdens their hearts.  Some of these people have advanced degrees and experience in engineering and software technologies, and are seeking new ways to express themselves through work that is more people-oriented and calls on a very different range of personal and professional skills.

             One man I talked with about coaching, for example, wants to get out of a profession that is computer- and profit-driven, and instead work directly with people.  He has many areas of interest, from science to sports.  The main thing that’s important for him now is being actively involved in helping young people do things they really want to do-- and spending way less time at his computer monitor.  He’s now exploring working for a non-profit whose mission resonates with his new career goals.

             I also was recently contacted by a classmate of mine from Stanford University who’s helping organize a class panel for our upcoming reunion on “having second [career] chances”.  One of the people she was delighted by who’ll be on the panel had been a realtor for many years, and recently began living out his dream of being a blacksmith!  Why does a person go from selling houses to blacksmithing?  What’s his drive to do this?  Apparently, it satisfies a long-time creative yearning in himself.  He may well be making a good living at this, too (more news after the reunion!). 

            The drive to find work that deeply satisfies the needs of a person’s spirit can be so powerful that it blows right through the old messages of “you can’t” or “that’s not what you’re trained to do” or “you won’t be able to make a living at that.”  Time and again I’ve seen that if you’re intelligent and able in one career path, you can harness your intelligence, abilities, AND, most potently, your desire, into another career direction that’s energizing and rewarding to you.  If, also, you wish to make a positive difference in the world, one of the best ways to start is by loving the work you do and sharing the aliveness it brings you with others. 

            For those of you who are interested in exploring career transitions as a way to expand your life and spirit, 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.  For further information and to register, please go to http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations

                   Join in the Discussion! 

  • What is it like to feel alive in your spirit through your work? 
  • Have you been through a career transition that had a positive outcome for you? 
  • What changed in your life?  What did you have to overcome?  Why was it worth it?

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:  http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations

                 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?

Everything’s Connected-- Looking Outside the Well!

One spring evening when I was a freshman in college hanging out on campus, I met a stranger from another country who told me there were four phrases that were indispensable for getting you through life.  Occasionally several of them float through my mind, but one is always there-- “Everything’s connected.”  

            It’s a universal spiritual principle that all of life is connected-- and you can easily notice it in the realm of the physical world of the planet, as well.  For one thing, all of us living and non-living aspects of the world are connected in our dependence on the earth and the air and the sun for our existence.  For another, when we come together to work in a common cause or to celebrate, we can feel the energy that connects us all.  And yet, so many of us cut off our awareness of this connection, often because it seems easier simply to see things from a smaller perspective. 

            There’s a story about a frog at the bottom of a well always looking up at the small circle of sky at the top of the well.  A toad at the top of the well urges the frog to come up outside the well and see the grandeur and the bounty of the world.  But the frog refuses, not wishing to change her mind about what she already knows is there. 

            The people I see for coaching usually come with a particular goal-- for example, a career change.  I ask them to write down three goals, which surprises them when there was only one thing they wanted to change.  Often, they find their other goals have more to do with increasing their sense of well-being, having more quality time with their families, or committing to completing a creative project.  They’re often amazed that these different change areas are really connected-- that if they’re looking for work they love, they might as well also make sure they’re building in time to play with their children each evening or swim daily or write a chapter a week in their new book.  

            Everything’s really connected!  Just climb up out of your well and see all the possibilities around you.  Create your dance that touches everything you want to do and become!  Feel the all the possibilities that weave into your expanded reality. 

               Join in the Discussion! 

  • What was an experience you’ve had where you felt in connection-- with your deeper self, with others in a shared experience, with the world around you? 
  • What is the value of feeling that everything’s connected?
  • What is the risk in feeling unconnected?

Feeling Rhythm and Renewal for Career Change

As you may have read in my earlier blog posts, my early-summer trip this year to Sweden, The Netherlands, and Germany made me very aware that people can live with more of a sense of spaciousness and time for nurturing relationships, enjoying nature, and fostering personal creativity.  I also know that most people who come to me for coaching around career change also feel the need for work that embodies or allows for opportunity to live fully, within and outside the context of work.

            Wayne Muller writes in his rich and generous book, Sabbath

     “When we live without listening to the timing of things-- when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest, we are on war time, mobilized for battle.  Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing.  But remember:  No living thing lives like this.  There are greater rhythms that govern how life grows. . . To surrender to the rhythms of seasons and flowerings and dormancies is to savor the secret of life itself.” 

            The image one of my clients holds for his ideal work life is that of himself and others, including children, around a table in a kitchen together, working, cooking, and eating as a community.  At first, he asked me, Is this just a dream?  Can it really happen?”  Now he accepts that this image reflects who he is and the way he intends to live-- and has a career plan with this vision of his work as a central focus. 


1)   What does the natural rhythm of your life look and feel like? 

2) Does your work embody this rhythm?  If so, how?  If not, why? 

3) How do you honor your need for “rest, renewal, and delight” in your busy life?

Career Change in Stockholm

I’m visiting in Stockholm this week where my elder goddaughter, Andrea, age 29, is living.  Last year, she made a momentous career decision that took her to this city to live and work.  Having just graduated with her master’s degree in architecture in the Swedish city of Gothenborg, she decided that the real work she wanted to do in her life was to be a doctor!  She did well on her medical exams and is now a student at the renowned Karolinska School of Medicine in Stockholm.

    Her decision amazed me at first, but when I considered the matter, I could see how well-suited she was for becoming a wonderful physician.  Both medicine and architecture, as she pointed out, require an understanding of the interaction of systems.  As a doctor, however, her focus would be on giving to and enhancing people’s lives.  For a person like she is, who truly loves to help people, medicine gives her a means to that kind of fulfillment at a professional level.  

     Though she would’ve made a fine architect, it’s very wonderful to see her blossoming as she follows the passion that is truly hers.  Though she regrets sometimes not having started studying medicine at age 20, she also feels that she brings valuable life experience to becoming a doctor with her other work, some years of travel, and lots of experience interacting with a wide range of people.

     The lesson-- It’s never to late to go for what really matters to you, with work, relationships, and creative goals!

     Are you considering a career change in your life?  What motivates you to this?  What holds you back?  What is a step you can take now to explore this possibility?

Looking for Your Truth

"The pull into the truth of things is very strong.  Often the only way to resist it is to deny what we are seeing, to pretend our lives do not have to grow or change.  Yet when we do this, our spirit, which doesn't know how to pretend, keeps moving."  (Mark Nepo,   The Book of Awakening)

I love this quote because it's so undeniably true.  You only have to think ofsome choice point where you decided, or not, to move forward towards something that you really wanted to do or become.  If you let yourself go with the energy pulling inside you towards this new direction, letting yourself explore and feel the new experiences, something powerful emerged-- as when you were a crawling baby irresistibly drawn to pulling yourself up on the bars of your playpen to standing, seeing the world from wide new vantage point of your full height.

During a coaching session today, I asked a client-- a woman who has raised a family and is going through her first professional training program-- to take a leap, physically, towards her new direction in life.  She did-- & had the breakthrough realization that even more than becoming a professional paid for her work, she wanted to become "an expert."  Her heart's desire right now is to become masterful at the work she really wants to be doing-- & to let nothing stop her from this goal.  This is her truth now-- & it is leading her beyond unskilled service to others in her family and community into a new realm of commitment and knowledge so she can help others to her full potential through her chosen work.

It took her many years of life experience before she was ready to acknowledge the truth of her longing.  Now she literally feels inside herself that this is exactly the right time to commit to her dream.  She has cleared the path of her particular obstacles-- fear of not knowing enough to begin and fear of what others in her life will think-- and is going boldly forward.  It's a thrilling time for her to experience and a privilege for me to witness.