6 Essential Practices for Hard-to-Reach Stressors

This summer we’ve decided not to go home. We’re here, in Tokyo, living out our sweltering summer amidst the asphalt and kakigoori (also known as the best thing made from ice ever invented).

My mom’s here visiting. That’s super nice. Occasionally she comes to see us and get a taste of our life between worlds. I’ve been talking to her quite a bit about the stress of this lifestyle. It feels particularly acute because we’re here and not in Austin. I always feel like the only place in the world I’m supposed to be in the summer is Austin. It makes the universe feel a bit off kilter to be here and not there.

I realize in talking with her that it’s not the everyday stressors of expat life that most get to me (although, of course, there are many), but rather what I think of as background stressors. The deeper, more intimate questions of – Will all this work out in the end? What does our retirement look like if we’ve never had a home? Will our kids wish they’d stayed in one place? Where will we be living this time next year? What does it mean to be an American overseas during times like these?

When we think about stress-management and self-care – we often think about the everyday skills and habits that help us deal with the surface stressors of life. Going for a nice long run, getting a massage or calling a friend largely helps us handle that sort of stress.

But background stress is different because it can be hard-to-reach and difficult to figure out what’s actually going on. It lurks under and behind everything we do. It nags – like losing your keys or forgetting the name of that girl you used to know in middle school, the one who moved to Hawaii. Those stressors are there whether we notice them or not and they pile up. Background stressors can leave us feeling unexpectedly down, lost, irritable or just plan weird.

While having positive self-care habits like exercise, sufficient sleep and healthy eating definitely help ease the intensity of background stressors, I’ve found that these stressors also take a separate and distinct type of engagement.

To deal with the challenges that hit at our egos, our values and our sense of purpose – it’s important to develop habits of self-reflection and insight. Taking the time to look more closely at who we are and how we fit in the world can be difficult. Sometimes the effort can feel daunting. We may not be sure we’ll like what we find there. On the other hand, deep down most of us know it’s important to do this type of inner work so that we can grow and develop into our full selves.

One way to cultivate a more reflective state is to develop practices that naturally foster paying attention to our experiences. These skills can help us turn towards what’s going on inside and around us, giving us more information about the source of background stress.

This can include practices like:

Attending to Judgment – Learning to become aware of our judgments and assumptions.

Attending to Emotions – Asking ourselves what we’re feeling.

Attending to Physical Sensation – Paying attention to our body and asking what it may be trying to tell us.

Cultivating Stillness – Spending time in “not doing” to see what insights might come.

Engaging Ambiguity – Learning to become more comfort with what we don’t or can’t know.

Aligning with Vision – Asking, “Who do I want to be in this situation?”

These practices (from the Personal Leadership model for intercultural communication) are great for those moments when you feel that nagging sense of uncertainty. Those times when you sense something’s not quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it or those times when you feel like you’re just floating along – neither completely engaged nor disengaged.

Sure, you’ll still go for a run, call a friend, write in your journal or enjoy a little “me time,” but for all the stress that just keeps on giving learning to turn your attention towards what’s going on, just might be the key.

To hear a bit more about these practices in detail, check out this blog post from my 7-Part Facebook Live video series – What Does It Take to Practice Mindfulness? To learn how you can apply these practices in your own life, consider joining the fall session of Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments.

Five Ways Mindfulness Helps Me Find Home

It’s no secret that I’ve found a daily mindfulness practice to be a key ingredient in my ability to manage the ups and downs of our international life.

Despite common misunderstandings about mindfulness practice, it’s really not all that complicated. Mindfulness is quite simply the practice of paying attention and seeing clearly what’s happening while it’s happening.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that, in the unpredictability of expat life where pretty much everything can feel strange and unfamiliar, becoming more mindful can help us navigate our experiences with increased ease and resilience.

Here are just a few of the ways that’s played out for me.

Mindfulness allows me to practice feeling homesick…and also not homesick.

I make a point of reminding the people in both my personal and professional life that there are no “good” and “bad” emotions. Emotions are neither positive nor negative. Sure – some feel better than others, but ultimately, everything we feel comes from somewhere and serves a purpose in helping us navigate our experiences.

Mindfulness practice enables us to pay attention to what we’re feeling without trying to:

  • change it (what we often try to do when we’re feeling emotions we don’t like),
  • chase it (what we like to do when an emotion feels good) or
  • judge it (what we do when we feel our emotions don’t align with how we’re “supposed” to feel).

When it comes to living life around the world, practicing mindfulness by developing a more reflective and compassionate relationship with our emotions can support us in learning how to deal with whatever comes our way.

Mindfulness helps me see home as a state of being created in my own mind.

Another key element of mindfulness practice, is learning to see things as they really are, not simply as we want them to be. Mindfulness inspires us to ask questions about what we’re witnessing and examine what we find there. While this isn’t always easy, being able to tune in to life as it truly is is a huge benefit of mindfulness practice.

What does this mean practically speaking?

Imagine I’m telling myself, “I hate it here! I’m never going to fit in. There are no work opportunities. This is a disaster!” Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate our ability to feel lost or overwhelmed, but it does enable us to stop and examine our perceptions. I can then start to ask questions like:

  • How much of this is really true and how much of this is a story I’m telling myself?
  • Is there anything that is working right now?
  • What can I learn here?
  • Are there things that I don’t hate?
  • What previously unnoticed options do I have in this situation?

Now, that doesn’t mean you suddenly start loving a place that just isn’t working for you, but it does help you get more creative, offering you the opportunity to make decisions based on a clearer, more thoughtful way of seeing.

Mindfulness reminds me to notice the details.

One of my most treasured benefits of maintaining a daily mindfulness practice is the way in which it has deepened my ability to pay attention to the “small” things.

When we move from place to place, it’s so easy to think that we should be unfazed. It becomes common, I think, to feel that we’re able to adapt at a moments notice and that our unbelievable flexibility means we can make these shifts with little or no disruption to our body or our mental state.

When we develop basic, everyday mindfulness skills, we engage the practice of slowing down and seeing the little bumps in the road. Sometimes small disruptions – the noise outside your new apartment that causes you to sleep poorly, the times you spend hungry because you’ve yet to stock your pantry, the frustration of slow internet connection that means your calls to your best friend are mess of static, feedback and silence – can actually have a huge impact.

When we take a moment to be still and really pay attention, we may notice the physical sensations, the emotions, or the discomfort of uncertainty that live in that space. We learn from seeing those places of unease and becoming mindful of them enables us to make much-needed adjustments.

Mindfulness encourages me to practice ritual.

Before we started our international life, I wasn’t really someone who stuck to a routine. Sure, I attempted to create positive habits (going for a run, reading before bed, etc.), but I never felt much pressure to really keep up with them.

Moving from place to place has made my healthy habits all the more important and my mindfulness practice supports me in staying awake to their significance in my life.

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation inspire me to establish rituals and routines because the habits themselves (whether seated meditation or simply performing tasks with attention and care) foster dedication. In other words – by committing myself to being more mindful in my choices, actions, observations and interactions, I’m laying the foundation for commitment to other positive health habits as well.

Morning meditation, a daily jog, cooking healthy meals, taking frequent work breaks throughout the day and reading before bed are habits that I rely on during transition to create a sense of inner balance during upheaval. Additionally, when I notice these habits slipping, it’s my commitment to everyday mindfulness practice that helps me return to these supportive rituals.

Mindfulness supports me in building relationships.

A great deal of mindfulness practice is about developing an awareness of our inner dialogue – our thoughts, emotions, and judgments. However, it’s important in mindfulness practice to recognize the way in which our relationship with ourselves (and this internal dialogue) relates to how we connect with others.

Mindfulness helps me to take time with people. It supports me in active listening so that I can better understand how the moving experience affects my husband and children. It enables me to slow down and see better the ways in which those around me may be suffering or the ways in which they’re brought to life by something new in our world.

Moving is almost always a time of great stress. It’s a time when our tempers are short and we’re more likely to lash out at those around us. Mindfulness doesn’t always prevent that from happening (we’re all human after all!), but it can give us the skills to turn back to generosity and kindness when we realize we’ve behaved poorly towards others.

And, mindfulness helps us make friends. Research says that our ability to understand our own emotional experiences makes us better at understanding the experiences of others. That, in turn, makes us better friends – and that goes for the friends we’ve left behind and those we’ll make in our new home.

What about you?

Do you have an informal mindfulness, meditation, or spiritual practice or other ritual that supports you in practical ways as you move? If not, what would it take for you to start something like this?

Share with me in the comments what’s worked for you or what’s sparked your interest in reading this post. Click here to learn more about how I can help you bring these skills into your own life.

Coaching Opportunities in 2018

In the past two days I’ve had the incredible pleasure to conduct “get-to-know-you” sessions with the participants in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments program. This 12-week mindfulness skills program will support clients in learning the practical, accessible mindfulness skills offered through the Personal Leadership framework and provide coaching support as the participants implement these skills into their daily lives.

It has been so fun to engage in these conversations! Each of the participants is coming to the program from their own unique desire to live more engaged and more connected with the world around them. I have loved sharing with them the details of how we’re going to be talking about real world skills, actual day-to-day practices and ideas that they’ll be able to implement not just in times of balance, but in times of upheaval.

Please stay-tuned for updates (by liking the World Tree Coaching Facebook page or by joining my email mailing list if you haven’t already). I’m hoping to have completed the beta phase and to begin accepting clients for the program in late-April 2018.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m now booking individual coaching clients for 2018. After some time off for the holidays (and to get my beta-testers moving through their program), I’ll begin seeing new individual coaching clients in mid-January.

If you’ve thought about coaching before, but aren’t sure it’s the right fit for you, please click here and schedule a time for us to talk more. This no-obligation session is a great way to see how coaching could support you in reaching your goals, managing transition, gaining clarity and maintaining (or regaining) balance as you enter a new year. Coaching is a true gift to yourself. There’s nothing quite like it!

As a special offer, all new clients who register between now and December 18, 2017, will receive a free copy of my book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are (a $20 value) along with a voucher for $25 off the coaching program of her or his choice.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 the year you get moving where you want to go!

Back to School and Back to YOU!

Let’s face it – you love your kids, but you might…just might…be happy they’re all back at school. Right now it’s possible you look like the lady in that photo…right?

If there’s one thing I hear from friends, clients and colleagues alike right now it’s that a return to the school year means a return to regular schedules, normal bedtimes and a better sense that you can come out from under everyone else’s stuff. It’s heavy under there!

And that means it’s the perfect time for you to turn the focus back in your direction for a bit.

I want you to do that! I love more than anything supporting people in reaching their goals, finding their sense of self and moving forward one step at a time in connecting with what matters most in their lives.

Join me in celebrating this newest transition by taking advantage of my latest coaching program offer.

From now until the end of September 2017, take 20% off your coaching program fees. Click here to see if you’re eligible for additional discounts. Installment plans are available for my 8- and 12-week programs.

If you’re ready to get started – simply email me at jodi at worldtreecoaching dot com.

Have you been thinking about coaching, but you’re still not sure if it’s right for you? Never considered coaching, but now you’re kinda’ curious?

Read what past clients have said here. Or click here to schedule a time to chat with a FREE, 45-minute consult session!

You Are Layers Upon Layers Upon Layers

Every one of us is made up of layers and layers of experience. Our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our success and failures and our dreams and nightmares are all part of who we are.

For those of us who live a globally mobile lifestyle, those layers are further complicated by the fact that we can be one person in one place and an entirely different person in another. Or, at least, it can often feel that way.

I hear this so often from my coaching clients. One of the most common expat feelings is the sense that some of our most cherished personal qualities get buried under the stress and anxiety of moving from place to place. Alternatively, some of the parts of ourselves that we most desire to change, end up sticking around because let’s face it – doing our personal work is hard even if we stay in one place.

But with practice and dedication, we can learn to reveal more of our layers. As we do this, we begin to live more as our complete selves which, in turn, can help us feel more secure, confident and fulfilled – even if we’re moving around a lot!

Here are just a few ways some of my most successful clients have learned to honor their multi-layered selves:

  • They take time to find out what those layers are. Make a list of the keys areas of your life. I like to include these 7 areas: emotional, spiritual, professional, social, intellectual, practical/physical environment and health. For each of these areas, write down some of your most important needs, priorities or values.
  • They practice saying, “I am…”. I am a writer, I am an artist, I am a poet, I am a runner, etc. Do you have a passion or skill that you feel shy about sharing? That’s normal, but with practice comes acceptance – from yourself and from those around you.
  • They tell people what they’re working on. Whether it’s something you’re proud of or something you’re hoping to change – don’t keep it a secret! Getting trusted companions involved in our growth helps us feel accountable to the changes we’re hoping to make and it reveals layers that may not always be evident to the outside world.
  • They share stories. Story telling is a great way to learn more about the complex layers of our lives and it also helps others (especially when we’re making new friends in a new place) see how dynamic we really are.
  • They commit to being a good friend. One of the best ways that we learn about ourselves is to invest in relationships. Taking time to honor the people around us enables us to bring forth our best selves. Read here for some of my favorite skills of socially adaptable expats.
  • They ask a lot of questions…and then they ask again. All the time – to themselves and to others. They get really, really curious.
  • They know that the things they love are not frivolous or silly. If you have a unique interest of hobby, recognize that this interest is a key part of making you feel like yourself and then find people with whom you can share this interest.
  • They stop shrugging. This is so common! I do it all the time! When we have something special to share, when we receive a compliment, when we have the opportunity to open up – we often do it with a shrug of the shoulders. In an effort not to standout, we hide behind the shrug. Instead – square your shoulders and go for it! Own up to all the layers of yourself!
  • They never stop growing! Give yourself space to revisit things that are working well for you and areas in which you feel stuck. Get help when you need it. Remember – you’re always a work in progress – layer after layer, year after year.

Living a globally mobile lifestyle doesn’t have to be an excuse for staying in one place on the inside. Your layers are amazing – let them show!

Expat Lessons from my Unexpected Garden

I’ve always loved to be in gardens, but I’ve never really been a fan of actual gardening. This is because my mom used to make us pull weeds in the Texas heat with all those sticker-burrs and fire ants.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate gardening a little bit more. It’s fun to plant seeds and see things grow. It’s nice to feel like you’re doing your part for the world of the globally mobile by putting down some roots, even if they become the victim of forgetful watering.

A few weeks ago, I found myself the reluctant recipient of a community garden plot. I say reluctant because, to be honest, I wanted the plot when I applied for it a year ago, but then realized it was a good thing I didn’t win that lottery because there’s no way I had time to tend a garden. As the year passed, so did my gardening ambitions.

But there it was in my inbox – Congratulations! Welcome to the Community Garden!

Great.

Surprisingly, my reluctance turned, quicker than I had expected, into enthusiasm. Maybe I could turn this little plot into something. Maybe. After a few days of indecision, I went and bought some dirt and some seeds. Then I dragged myself over to the weedy patch of neglected earth and started working….and learning.

And who would have guessed – when you dig in the dirt and think about, “How’d we get here?” you end up with an all new opportunity to reflect on life overseas. Here are few of the lessons that have come to me between rocks and ants and mystery sprouts.

Don’t overthink past decisions.

You’ll do all sorts of weird things in the midst of transition (like apply for a garden plot) that will later seem ill advised. That’s okay. Maybe they will indeed turn out to be questionable or maybe they’ll turn out just right. Either way – it’s how you choose to handle them in the moment and going forward that really matters.

Remember you have choices.

Nobody says you have to do anything forever. What freed me up to finally say yes to the garden plot was the realization that I could say yes now and if it didn’t suit me – turn it over to someone else later. This is a good reminder for this lifestyle. While it’s not always easy (or even possible) to bailout entirely, remembering that we have choices is a nice reminder that we keep moving because we choose to, not because someone’s making us.

Nobody knows what you like except you.

Plant whatever you want to. I knew we would be traveling a lot this summer and I dreaded the idea of a bunch of herbs and vegetables growing wild and crazy so I just bought some flower seeds. This is an important point to remember when we’re setting up home somewhere else. There’s value in listening to the advice of those who’ve gone before us, but ultimately our responsibility is to creating a home that feels right for us, not for the Jane-expat next door.

Mistakes are part of the process.

Accept a certain degree of “failure.” Something’s eating the leaves of my sunflowers. Part of being a gardening novice is not-knowing. I really have no idea what I’m going to end up with or, frankly, what I’m doing at all! As expats, we benefit from accepting that we’ll make mistakes along the way, learn from them and grow to do better next time.

Surprises can be the biggest delight!

Getting this garden plot was not on my list of things I wanted to do this year. Last year it sounded great, but now I am in a completely different frame of mind and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to care for it. But in saying yes, I found the little moments that make the garden worth it a million times over – watching over the growing flowers with my daughter, picking weeds and getting dirt under my nails, watering in the quiet space of the late afternoon as people wander home from work or school. The surprise is that it’s become my thing. Totally my thing that I care for and nurture – an unexpected gift hidden in plain sight.

And that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? We think we’ve got this thing all figured out, but then right in front of us are more lessons hiding in the weeds of the everyday experience of living around and around the world.

How are you weathering this latest transition or planning for the emotional ups and downs of the one just around the corner? Check out my coaching programs here and latest seasonal offers here.

These Things Have a Way of Working Themselves Out

Last night my husband and I drifted off to sleep talking about where we might live next. We have two more years here before we move and since our oldest will be in high school by then it feels like there’s a lot more to figure out.

But, in all honesty, this has been pretty much how we fall asleep every night since we’ve known each other. Having lived overseas off and on for the past 20 years (has it been that long!?) hasn’t done anything to alleviate the slow list of countries, their advantages and disadvantages easing from my sleep-drunk mouth as I settle into my pillow.

I think the final words last night were something like, “Latin America…sure. Maybe. Or maybe somewhere in Europe.”

I thought we were done with the conversation, but clearly my brain wasn’t.

The Dream

We were driving, driving, driving – all packed in the car. Me, my husband, our 3 kids and (interestingly) my mom. It was a beach town. Hilly and beautiful, but full of people and obstacles in the road.

I was trying to find a parking space. “Get that one!” my Mom says.

“No. It’s too small. It’s only for those small cars.”

“But it’s so close.”

“I know, but I tried it. It’s too small….I’ll try again…yep, too small.”

Then more driving. The roads are getting trickier and curvier. There are steeper cliffs and tighter turns. There are more impossible parking spots. The view is nice though.

Finally, we come to the perfect spot, but the entry into the spot is super steep and at a jack-knife turn. I look over to see a family (coincidentally the family of another expat friend I’d just been talking to last night) standing in the parking space.

“Oh, they’re in our way. I’ll just get out and ask them to move.”

I get out. We all get out.

Then I realize I haven’t put on the parking break. The car begins to roll. I’m too late to stop it! It goes sailing, down the hill and over the cliff crashing into an antique store at the bottom of the hill.

“Crap!” I think. I check to make sure we’re all okay.

And then we just stand there watching.

We weren’t even all that afraid. No one freaked out. One guy stopped and took a photo.

We were just there watching and thinking, “Hm.”

Hm…indeed.

Personal Leadership Training of Facilitators Program – Whidbey Island

I cannot wait to tell you all about the training I went to in the US last week!

I’m a highly visual person. My brain works like those scenes in The Lego movie when the master builders start making new creations. Often it feels like things are just floating around and then the missing piece is discovered and then suddenly –click, click, click – it all comes together.

I’ve been feeling on the verge of that sort of all-clicking-together sensation for months. Last year I listened to this podcast on the Personal Leadership framework for working across cultures on the Tandem Nomads podcast. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of PL before – it combines all the different sectors of my professional experience and it also aligns brilliantly with my personal spiritual and world view. As I learned more about the PL method, I knew that I wanted to become trained as a facilitator and begin integrating the work into my personal and professional life.

Finally, last week I attended the Personal Leadership Training of Facilitators program on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

I’m so excited about this that I find it a little bit challenging to find the words!

Perhaps it’s best to simply sum up what PL is.

The Personal Leadership framework was originally created in the mid-90s by three intercultural trainers/educators who felt that the individuals with whom they worked needed a better way to handle the challenges of intercultural communication. They found that being kind and smart and interculturally competent wasn’t necessarily enough to give people the tools they needed to deal with complex problems in culturally complex settings. So they set about developing a set of guiding principles and practices to help people.

Perhaps the primary context for PL is not that it’s simply something we do at work or with a particular team or group of people in a designated setting. PL is a framework that you can use across your life. PL is supported by two foundational principles – mindfulness and creativity. It is based on the assumption that paying attention to the world around us and approaching challenges from a place of creativity can guide us to making better decisions. Establishing these principles as the way in which we engage with the world enables us to engage from our highest and best selves.

This is something that seems obvious, but one of the things I’ve often run into as a coach is that knowing this and actually doing it can be incredibly difficult for people. The creators of PL recognized this as well and so they established some practices that could help people get to this point. These practices are based on research in multiple fields including – leadership development, intercultural communication, positive psychology and whole-person self-development, among other areas.

Personal Leadership is put into action through the practice of 6 simple tools – Attending to Judgment, Attending to Emotion, Attending to Physical Sensation, Cultivating Stillness, Engaging Ambiguity and Aligning with Vision.

Our training was designed to help us learn how to integrate the PL practice into our own personal and professional experience and to give us tools, activities and a framework for bringing these practices to the people we serve.

As I mentioned before – it was awesome!

The highlights for me were:

  • The incredibly well done integration of the personal and professional aspects of PL. I’ll admit my one hesitation before registering for the training was that the spiritual nature of the practice (no doubt there is one) would detract from the training platform. In other words, despite being a very spiritual, somewhat dreamy person myself, I worried that there wouldn’t be enough science, research, fact or practical application to support the training. It’s not that I didn’t think PL was based on those things….I just wondered how you could successfully bring both. Our training team did an exceptional job with this. In the sense of content – this was classic training format. There was a lot of play, but we were there to work. We were held accountable and we had things we were required to do – most importantly, to show up fully.
  • The combination of multiple learning formats throughout each training day. This was key to supporting us in being fully present with tons of information. There was never a dull moment. In fact, I’d say it’s the first training I’ve ever been to where I don’t remember feeling bored at one point or another. I was never bored. Every moment was thought provoking and engaging.
  • The people. It’s probably not surprising that the Personal Leadership framework attracts people you’d like to be around. This training brought together incredibly thoughtful, insightful, smart and reflective people. There was so much humor and camaraderie combined with real reflection on everything from personal experience to social justice. The space felt really safe. I love my fellow participants. It’s one of those moments where you realize if you’d never had the experience you’d never know these people…admittedly I have those experience a lot in this lifestyle. This one was particularly special.
  • Also, the Whidbey Institute is incredible! Being close to nature, eating from the earth and having so much stillness enriched our learning and, for me, was very much needed after 18 months in the world’s largest city.

Really I could say so much more…but I’ll wrap up here…

Over the next several months I’ll be working to integrate the PL platform into some of my coaching programs and into my group work and workshops. If you’re part of the US Embassy community in Tokyo – I have an hour-long mindfulness program coming up in April. I’ll be integrating some PL components into that. I may also be doing a two-hour mindfulness program with FEW Japan sometime in late Spring or early Summer. We’re still working out the details, but I plan to include some PL perspective in that as well. I’ll post more info on that here when I have it.

Mostly I’m hoping to simply be creative with this! To play and to see where all this leads. I’m looking forward to trying things out and working with some individual clients to support them in engaging a PL practice in their own lives. Stay tuned for specific opportunities, but feel free to email me if you’re interested in learning more. I’d be happy to offer individual coaching or to design something for your group. In other words – let me know if you’d like to be a guinea pig! This is amazing work and I’d be thrilled to have you along on the journey.

UPDATE: Check out my whole line-up of PL and Mindfulness related programming here – including my 12-Week Online Mindfulness Program and my Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop

How Paying Better Attention Can Create a More Fulfilling Expat Experience

We’re all watching the world go by. We absentmindedly read the news, scroll through Facebook, eat lunch with one eye on our laptops and drive home without even remembering how we got there.

To be fair, it’s a little bit harder to become fully zoned out when you’re living outside of your home culture. Not paying attention could land you eating some bizarre, new food or telling the cashier, “I don’t need a bath,” instead of “I don’t need a bag” (true story). So naturally expats tend to be a bit more observant.

But, no matter where we are, we get into habits in our daily routines. We take our feelings, our thoughts and our actions for granted. Much of the time we don’t even notice that the strain in our neck came after the disagreement with our spouse or that the third cup of coffee fuels the sloppy emails or late night media binge.

I believe there’s an additional layer to this for people who are living away from home. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are complicated by the unpredictable and unusual way in which we live. There are more distractions…and simultaneously more ways in which to pay attention.

Often, people who thrive in this lifestyle do so by learning to pay better attention and by adopting a level of intentionality in their daily lives despite all of the spinning around them.

When I talk with people about this, no one ever disagrees. Yes, of course, we should pay attention to what we’re feeling and thinking. But, how? Should I journal? Talk with a friend? What about going for long walks…listening to woodwind instruments over the sounds of the sea…drinking one less gin and tonic?

Sure. But really, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

There are surprisingly easy ways to adopt a higher degree of intentionality in the things we do. And, contrary to what you might think, it can start in small and specific ways at any point in the day.

When we’re able to pick a couple of things to do on purpose, we’re strengthening the part of our brain that pays attention. At first we simply pay attention to a couple of seemingly innocuous events, but before we know it, that heightened sense of awareness has come to support us in noticing the more significant ups and downs of our daily experience.

But pay attention to what?

I like to say, “Think of yourself as a scientist.”

In that vein, paying attention can be anything from really noticing the sensations of washing your hands to making a head-to-toe scan of your body when you sit down at your desk each day. It can include actually observing yourself making your coffee or sitting on the train, noticing the world around you (not reading your phone).

Brainstorming a list of ideas is a great way to start. And there’s nothing that says you have to choose everything you write down. Maybe just one to start and then add two or three as the weeks progress.

What you’ll notice is that the noticing, instead of the brushing-aside, becomes the habit. The paying attention starts to feel normal. It’s an exceptional way to tune in to your daily experience. And that, in turn, creates greater insight and can improve decision-making and relationship building.

None of this happens over night. It’s like doing push-ups. You get stronger and more skilled, little by little, until (before you know it) you’re aware of things you never noticed before.

If you’re stuck – this exercise might give you some insight into how to try out paying attention.

I also love this TED talk about developing habits. I watched it as part of a Personal Leadership program I’m participating in. While he’s not exactly talking about paying attention, the presenter’s ideas for micro-practice could help you establish a regular routine for paying attention.

And, if you want to get a better sense of how to observe your thought and emotional patterns, check out this activity from my book, The Expat Activity Book, here.

World Tree Coaching Turns 3 and I Turn 40!

happy-happy-birthday

Every year around this time I reflect on the big leap I took to start my own business.

Now three years in, I reflect on how freakin’ scary it was! How even making my first professional Facebook post felt like I was inviting all of my worst fears to come and take up residence in my daily life.

What if I fail?

What if no one takes me seriously?

What if I’m not good enough? Kind enough? Smart enough? Savvy enough?

What if I don’t like this thing at all?

Well, if there’s anything that working with coaching clients for 3 years will teach you it’s that those thoughts are normal, you’re not alone and when it’s all said and done, each and every one of us is capable of coming out the other side of fear stronger than when we entered.

This World Tree Coaching anniversary moment is made all the more poignant in that this week I will also reach my own birthday milestone – the big 4-0! FORTY!

I remember the 40th birthday parties of my parents’ generation always included fake gravestones and black streamers. Thank god we’re not in that place anymore! Times have changed! I think forty seems pretty awesome.

I love my work as a coach and writer. I adore with every part of my soul sitting down and supporting someone as they walk through fear and come out the other side. I love the challenge of it all and feel stretched every day to be a better coach and to tap into my strengths and confront professional challenges. I can’t claim the hard parts are easy…but I do love them!

And I also love how this work forces me to get comfortable with all the many ways we feel. The losses, challenges and passions of my clients remind me of those places in my own life. My coaching work is about my clients, but I feel like it’s a jackpot of incredible luck that I get to learn along with them.

This year – above all else – I will be celebrating! Come do that with me!

In celebration of these milestones, I am offering 5 special coaching spots at a fantastic reduced rate.

Why 5? Because that’s the space I have and I like the number.

Why the reduced rate? This is totally the social worker in me. It probably means I’m not the world’s most savvy business owner, but I love sharing things. I’m not kidding. I LOVE sharing! So, while I can’t give things away for free (all the time)…I can share the shit out of my services. My financial planner probably thinks I’m crazy.

Okay, so maybe you think you might be one of the five and maybe the price seems right, but you’re still asking – Why life coaching?

Here are my favorite things about life coaching:

Life coaching is about helping you find your strengths and use them.

Life coaching helps you get to know yourself better and cut through that annoying voice in your head that tells you things that aren’t true…or tune in to the voice that totally nails the truth every time.

Life coaching supports you in the practice of living in balance between the heart and head.

Life coaching helps you learn to say yes and no better.

Life coaching is both challenging and fun…it’s like a marathon without the sweat, chafing or lost toenails.

Life coaching gives you a personal cheerleader (That’s me!) to nudge you into really living because, seriously, you are not getting any younger!

Sound good?

Here’s who I’m looking for:

I’m looking for those people who’ve thought about coaching and thought about coaching, but just don’t quite send the email.

I’m speaking to those of you who are super curious about the changes you want to make, but also feel scared about what you might find on the other end. Hint: Being scared is okay and there’s really no reason to do it alone.

I’m looking for those of you who just feel really, really ready to grow, to learn and to have someone (finally!) listen.

And I’m looking for those of you who feel all over the place and who regularly ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing!?”

Just 5 spots. Details here.

See you soon!