Fire Starters

Fire Starters

Act in ways that make you feel what you want to feel. ~Danielle LaPorte

I started listening to The Fire Starter Sessions a few days ago.  I was already familiar with Ms. LaPorte’s take on aligning your actions with what she calls “core desired feelings,” but listening to these audio sessions has been a good reminder to actually take that advice.  I spend a lot of time as a wellness coach asking about what underlays a desire to lose weight or stop smoking or get in better shape.  In a corporate coaching world, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to pick up the telephone for appointments, much less talk about what they truly desire for themselves.  But sometimes we go there.  Sometimes people are willing to look deeply into what is driving them to want something different. And it’s always a feeling. Continue reading “Fire Starters”

Weaving With Invisible Thread

Weaving With Invisible Thread

The first person I called after four weeks of training to be a corporate health coach was a gentleman named *Charlie.  The appointment was at 7pm on a Tuesday in April, and I had literally all day to prepare and worry about how it would go.  When the witching hour finally rolled around, I dialed the phone, had my paper at the ready to take notes and half hoped that he wouldn’t answer.  He did answer, and at the end of the conversation, he had a goal to play basketball once a week and eat one less serving of pasta when spaghetti was on the table for dinner.  (No easy feat when one is Italian and spaghetti rules the meal plan.)  And I knew that he had a six year old daughter going through treatment for leukemia and that he felt powerless in the face of something so important that was outside of his control.  In twenty minutes I learned what made this person who I’d probably never meet get up in the morning and what drove him to take care of himself.  I learned about some of his challenges, and I learned of his struggles to stay on track.  I asked him what his vision of a healthy life was, and he told me it was to be his best self so he could give his daughter the dad she deserved.  Most of his story I’ll never know, and he didn’t have to tell me the parts that he did.  But he chose to share, and I chose to listen, and now our stories will forever be intertwined. Continue reading “Weaving With Invisible Thread”

Living Through Strengths

Living Through Strengths

Performance reviews. Assessments. Evaluations. The dreaded annual review. Most of us have run into some kind of quality assurance technique while employed in the American workforce, or at least know someone who has.

Evaluations are a regular part of life at my place of employment and something that I am very used to by now. Typically I get good scores and the evaluation includes plenty of praise and positive acknowledgement, along with whatever constructive criticism is appropriate to the work that is being evaluated.

Usually I can look through the evaluation form, note what needs to be noted, and move on. I can accept feedback when needed, use it appropriately, and in turn notice the strengths of others and acknowledge them along the way. I do pretty well, really.

Most days, doing pretty well is enough. But sometimes I get the feeling that there is something missing. That I could still do better. That enough isn’t actually satisfactory. That if I’m not constantly evaluating how I’m doing and striving for something better, there’s something wrong. That in acknowledging others, my voice gets tired and there’s not much left for acknowledging myself.

Even though I can plainly see the strengths in others and even verbalize them regularly, I don’t always notice and acknowledge them in myself. I have a tendency to want acknowledgement but brush it off when it arrives.

I crave being recognized for doing well but hardly know how to react when that craving is satisfied.

When I receive feedback—even when it’s positive—my default reaction is usually set to “how could I do this better?” It’s easy to get stuck inside the idea that there’s always room for improvement, and then turn a blind eye to what has already been improved or what doesn’t need to be.

There is nothing wrong with striving to better one’s self, growing professionally, building skills, or figuring out how to be more effective at what we choose to spend our time doing. But I think that sometimes we spend all of our time figuring out how to better ourselves, how to grow professionally, how to build even better skills, or how to be even more effective.

We get so caught up in growing and getting better that we forget to honor the life we have right now.

I know I get caught up in our culture’s mantra of “more, better, faster” more often than I care to admit.

What if I could take my usually positive outlook and mold it into a way of being that sets my default to accepting wherever I am in my job, or my relationships, or my life situation? What if I could celebrate what is?

What if I could put the focus on the strengths and gifts that I have—like being able to see the good in a challenging situation, or finding the joy that hides under anxiety, or baking a really good loaf of bread, or always knowing where the keys are—and then accept whatever comes from that focus?

What if we all focused on what we already excel at, or what we have bettered already, instead of that thing we feel is a weakness that needs fixing?

Perhaps the intent to celebrate the perfection that we already are would allow us to evolve into a collective that is founded on acceptance and peace and less focused on longing.

Maybe accepting the perfection that lies beneath our struggles can help move us into a space beyond what we think is possible—a space that knows no limits and a space that is simply enough. Period.

Seeking to grow and building on knowledge and presence of being invites excellence by creating space for that excellence to exist and thrive. But perhaps we cannot expand without first truly seeing ourselves as complete.

It could be that the excellence I invite by way of acceptance is different from what I have been taught to strive for over the years. It could be that “living my strengths” means moving slower, or pushing forward less. It could mean resisting the urge to try to be something I’m not. It could mean listening to understand more and listening to respond less.

I think it also means stopping to notice the beauty of a pebble in the rain, or hearing the gentle rustle of leaves when the wind changes direction, or feeling the warmth of the sun after the fog lifts.

It means looking into the eyes of someone different and seeing truth reflected back.

It means accepting ourselves as whole and complete, and letting that acceptance grow into our own version of perfection.

I could say there is no such thing as a perfect life and that there is always room for improvement and growth. I think I’d be right.

I could say that every life is perfect if allowed to be. And I think I’d still be right.

Living through strengths is not easy. But living through our strengths sets us up to find our unique version of perfection.  Accepting whatever that perfections looks like reminds us that we are enough.

Read the original posting at Tiny Buddha.

Living well through small steps.

Living well through small steps.

Do you live well?

It might take a moment to decide how to answer that.  Most of the time, I feel like I do live well.  For me, living well means finding a way to be true to the things that I value most: leading a life of simplicity, being satisfied with enough, embracing the natural world and empowering those whose paths intersect with my own.   It means being able to adapt to the misfortunes and troubles of a human life, living fully in each moment, and holding a sense of joy at my center.   Resiliency, along with a joyful presence, allows me to be fully alive, fully engaged in my every day, and fully able to be the person I am called to be.

Caring for myself, creation and others allows me to live as whole person – mind, body and spirit.  Wellness is multi-dimensional and requires alignment of our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual bodies.  Finding our balance between these areas helps us to live fully: As a joyful, resilient people that can achieve wholeness in the midst of a sometimes broken world.

What is most important to you in regards to your wellbeing?  What might you need to do differently to keep working toward being your best self, full of joyful presence and living well?

The following questions can be helpful in figuring out a plan to move forward toward making optimal wellbeing a reality:

1)      What’s working now in my health and wellbeing?

It can be tempting to go straight to what feels wrong with your lifestyle, or what isn’t working right now.  As you begin thinking about what you might want to do differently, take some time to reflect on and acknowledge what you are doing well already.

2)      What’s my vision for change?  What is making change important?

Identify what is causing you to desire something different in the first place.  It is one thing to say, “I want to lose weight.”  It is another to say, “I am at a healthy weight and have a renewed sense of self, increased my energy and am able to participate fully in my life with confidence and ease.”  When you figure out what is making you want to do something differently, your choices are fueled by inspiration, and your intent becomes reality.

3)      What strengths can I bring to my change process?

Everyone has unique qualities and strengths – think about what you do well and what allows you to be successful.  Maybe you have a knack for remembering people’s names and thrive on challenges.  Maybe you are detail oriented and like structure.  Maybe you are an empathetic listener and need alone time to think.  Whatever makes you you is something that can be identified and drawn on to set the stage for success.  When you know what you do well, you have a foundation on which to build.

4)      What are my greatest challenges to changing, and how can I work around them?

Most of us have things that get in the way of moving forward with our desired changes.  Make a list of the challenges that might get in the way and identify possible ways to work around them.  There are no wrong or crazy ideas.

5)      What are my first priorities for change?

Figure out what needs to come first.   Maybe you want to lose weight to increase your energy, but you aren’t sleeping well at night and tend to stay up too late which makes choosing healthy food and getting any exercise that much more challenging.   Perhaps your first priority will be to avoid screen time after 9pm and spend your last waking hour in dim lighting, doing something peaceful to ensure a refreshing night’s rest.  Getting to the root issue is essential to lasting success.

6)      How ready, confident and committed am I to taking the first steps toward my vision?

Setting realistic goals and backing up those goals with firm commitment is a cornerstone of moving in the direction you wish to go.  Do whatever it takes to build confidence in yourself, even if it means starting with a 5 minute walk, once a week, or smiling at the person stuck in traffic next to you.  Every success has to start somewhere.

7)      What will I do this week?

It’s up to you.  No one else can decide what you need to live well, and no one can live for you.  What are you going to do for your precious self, as you awaken to your own abundance through taking small steps?

Remember that no success is too small to acknowledge and celebrate.  Joy is on your side, so you should be, too.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver



I usually spend my days in a home office, in a house that is surrounded by woods and wildlife, talking via phone to individuals who lead pretty ‘average’ middle class American lives. I recently took on a new assignment that includes traveling into the city once a month to meet face to face with women who are transitioning — transitioning from being homeless, recovering from substance abuse and addiction, healing from mental illness or instability, and learning how to care for their families again. This experience is still young, but has already caused me to look at some things through a different lens and has reminded me of the power of perspectives.

Ralph Blum once wrote, “The obstacles of the past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.” I would guess we’ve all heard this sentiment in some form over the years-it’s nothing new to promote the value in looking for opportunities that arise from challenges, or to notice an open window when the front door is closed. During the first day of face to face coaching with the women who are taking part in the program I was reminded of Mr. Blum’s statement more than once.

I was reminded of it when my first appointment of the day walked into the conference room, and I greeted her by pronouncing her name wrong. After correcting me, she seemed disinterested in doing much talking, and I wondered how we would fill the next half hour if all the answers to my questions ended up being “I don’t know.” Eventually she shared that she wants to lose 30lbs, hates jogging, doesn’t eat fried foods, drinks a lot of sugary coffee, and has used diet pills before, albeit unsuccessfully. She wants to tone up, feel better, and be comfortable in her clothes and in her life as it looks now. She sees Mondays as windows of opportunity to use the exercise channel on TV to get a workout in after her son heads off to school and is confident she will follow through. She manages stress by smoking because of the “me time” it provides, and is ok with that for now. Her energy by the end of the meeting was tinted with appreciation that she wasn’t being told what to do. I told her that I shared her confidence, and she went back to her day.

I was reminded of it again when my second appointment arrived, sporting eyelash extensions and plenty of sass, exclaiming “Girl, I need to look GOOD.” I asked her what she wanted to do to work toward looking good, and she shared that losing 10lbs and eating less ’soul food’ would probably help. She is going to stop buying and cooking family sized quantities of food since most of her kids are grown and living on their own. She is going to call a local fitness club this week about a Zumba class because she loves to dance. She is committed to learning to cook differently so she can keep enjoying her soul food, but in a healthy way. Her 2 year old son is her inspiration, and she feels he is a gift from God – a reason to heal herself, get sober and be present for his life, since she wasn’t there for her older children. At the beginning of our conversation, she was talking about looking good, but by the end she was sharing what truly matters to her and showing me pictures of her toddler. She’s using her past, even with its hardships and disappointments, to build a future that she is excited about.

And I was reminded a third time when my last appointment showed up in the early evening, dragging from a long day on the job. She gave me a sheepish grin, and I could tell she almost blew it off- but came anyway. She started by saying she has no idea what she wants to work on– just that she wants to be less tired all the time. Despite her long work days, she’s thankful to be working, and wants to keep it that way. She came up with a plan to head out walking immediately after getting home from work (before relaxing) and sit on a stability ball when watching TV. She doesn’t think it’ll give her more energy, but she is willing to give it a shot anyway, because she used to do it and felt better then. Her face lit up when I handed her some info on reducing unhealthy fats (after she mentioned wanting to cut back) and she read that applesauce is a good replacement for vegetable oil in baking. Someone told her that the other day, but she didn’t think it was true. She left for her son’s football game with her head a little higher. Sometimes a little validation goes a long way.

The agency that is supporting these women has a motto that states, “When the world shouts give up….hope whispers one more time.” I’m curious to see how these women use their hope to embrace gateways that have the potential to lead them past whatever obstacles arise in the present. And I’m curious to see how looking at the world from the perspective of a formerly homeless woman will impact how I operate in my own life. I have a feeling it may help me to judge less and listen more deeply, opening the windows that frame the true story behind what is apparent on the surface.

The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.