Tag Archives: growth

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.

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.

When my oldest son was two and a half, we were putting in a new garden. Part of the process included shoveling loads of rocks from a giant pile into the garden beds. Despite his diminutive size, my son shoveled and shoveled all day, dirty sweat dripping from the tips his long golden curls, dust covering his oversized, white t-shirt, smudges of sand in every rolling crevice of his pudgy face. And he just didn’t let up. He had some monster baby steps to take that day.

I like to tell my clients that baby steps count. They usually respond with a shy laugh. The idea, I think, is that somehow baby steps (even if they do count) are not really up to the level of grown-up accomplishment. Perhaps taking baby-steps is for people who can’t quite make it, I can imagine them thinking.

But what I really want them to hear is that baby steps are a key element to success. Referring to something as a baby step does not diminish its capacity for significance or greatness. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here’s why…

The lead-up is huge.

Think about all the time that an infant puts into deciding to walk. She gets up, she falls down, she starts over. She tries again. She thinks about it. She employs trial and error.

The determination that it takes to get up the nerve to try something new is part of the process. You do the exact same thing in preparing for your baby step. All that work - the lead-up, the trial and error, the critical thinking - is an integral part of the process of doing something challenging.

Everything a baby does is badass.

This is a fact. Babies and toddlers accomplish so much in all those tiny steps! We don’t ever tell them, “Not good enough today baby. You were a little wobbly on the sit down.” Never. We recognize that they’re doing something new and that that alone is worth recognizing.

The same is true for you. We all live each day with our own set up hang-ups and baggage. Sure, we’d like to believe that every last thing we accomplish is done with complete confidence and ease, but that would ignore the fact that life is filled with an amazing number of challenges, shifts, changes, let-downs and surprises. Sometimes “just” showing up means you’re accomplishing some pretty amazing feats.

Babies are freakishly strong for their size.

Right?! Like my son with the shovel – they have no sense of what could possibly hold them back. Babies get a lot of shit done from their pint-sized frames. In fact, the higher, the heavier, the louder – the more committed a baby is to taking it on.

You too are stronger than you think. Anyone who’s ever faced a major hurdle and found themselves quick on their feet, anyone who’s taken on an unbelievable upset with grace and anyone who’s sacrificed their comfort for that of a friend or family member – knows this. When you take on something really big – you find strengths you never imagined you had.

Babies go for it, regardless of the outcome.

Babies might learn what to fear, but at the outset – they are amazingly fearless. They don’t worry about falling because somewhere deep down, their instinct tells them that falling is part of the process.

Hey! You do that too! Even when you think you might not succeed, you try. You give it your all because you know that living from your values, connecting to your authentic self and finding purpose means sometimes you have to be daring.

So there you have it. Baby steps. Every single one’s worth it…so start counting.

 

Happy, happy New Year my dear friends!

I can’t quite figure out if I should spend some time here writing about the insanity of 2016 or if I should just ignore it and get on with the show. I mean, in all honestly, what does that horribly bizarre and traumatic year have to do with my work here?

Let’s be honest – probably a lot. Because if there’s anything we can learn from the strangeness of 2016 it’s that we don’t get a time out, we don’t get a do-over, and at the end of it all, we’ve got only one chance to live (hell, even Princess Leia didn’t get a free pass!).

What we do get is the opportunity to live each day from the heart and to spend time in reflection so that we can see the chances we’ve missed and then do a bit better the next time.

These are messages we can take to heart as we move into 2017.

I love New Years! While I’ll take the party and the champagne and the late night, it’s the next morning that really makes me swoon! When I see in front of me the clean slate of the New Year I cannot wait to get movin’. Brand new. Tabula rasa. Not even a tiny scratch.

It inspires me. It makes me giddy with the notion that, even though we can’t do the previous year over, we can put one foot forward to making this year better primed for learning and growth.

I’m not really much of a resolutions person, but I am very much a reflections and intentions person. In the transition from one year to the next, I like asking myself lots of questions. In fact, you can see some of my past New Year questions here, here and here.

This year I’m asking a lot more questions about how I can make a difference, spread love, fight for social justice and make a difference where it matters most (no matter where I happen to be living).

I’m asking myself more questions about how to better demonstrate love and acceptance. I’m reflecting more on how to live fully, how to learn more and how to create more time for fun and spiritual reflection.

I’m asking myself how best to continue to integrate my personal and professional life so that they’re not balanced ends of the scale, but dance partners adjusting to an unpredictable stage.

I feel super curious right now about each and every moment. This is another fallout from 2016, I think – when everything seems unpredictable, all you really can do is pay some serious attention.

While the questions are always evolving, my answers are guided by the 3 words that make up my personal mantra: Peace. Love. Family.

So far it feels really right. I have high hopes for 2017. I think you should too!

So again - Happy, Happy New Year to you! Thank you to those of you who’ve worked with me this year and to those who have supported World Tree Coaching!

If you're thinking of taking the coaching plunge - be sure to checkout my coaching programs here and my new discounted rates and sponsorship spots here.

I look forward to hearing from you in 2017!

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!

What Are Your Words to Live By-

For almost two years now I have been toying with the idea of taking my Mantra Builder groups virtual. I already see most of my clients virtually - either by Skype, FaceTime or through good old fashioned phone calls. However, trying to figure out the logistics for a virtual group seemed a bit more challenging.

Of course, it shouldn't because it's just a group conference call. Right?! My concerns have been the garden variety worries that the connection would be poor, the nuance and energy that exits in a face-to-face group would be missing...and really, just the ordinary long list of doubts that creep in when you're thinking of doing something new.

Well- enough of that! I'm gonna' do it! I LOVE the idea of doing this group with people who are in different countries. Actually, I always love doing this group, but I am even more excited about the possibility of bringing people together across the miles.

And that's where you come in. If you've landed on this blog post it's likely because you saw this announcement on social media. You're feeling curious and ready to learn more about yourself, improve decision making, answer the question "What am I doing?!" and (finally!) create a sense of home no matter where you are. You might also like that I said that you can get this for a super steep discount.

Here are the things you need to know:

  • The group meets for 3 sessions. You can learn more about my Mantra Builder Groups here and read reviews here.
  • There are 4 2 spots open.
  • Technically Speaking: The sessions will (likely) take place over Google Hangouts - I've found that connection works better than Skype most of the time. You'll need pretty good internet access. We will probably do a test login a week in advance. You'll need about 5 minutes for that.
  • Schedule: Tuesday, October 25; Wednesday, November 2; Wednesday, November 9. All meetings begin at 8:00PM Tokyo time on the days above. The sessions are 75 minutes.
  • The dates and times for the group are in Tokyo time. Please check your time zone to see if these will work for you.
  • The regular fee for my Mantra Builder Groups is $150 per person. Since I'm testing out the group in virtual format - this very first Mantra Builder Virtual is only $50 for the whole series!
  • REGISTER HERE.

Worried-

If you know me personally or have read my blog you know that I'm a bit of a natural worrier. As my dear friend Angie says, I "hum anxious." But I've also come to accept that a little bit of worry is a fundamental part of what makes me, Me. I've even come to see it, dare I say, as a predictable, albeit somewhat untrustworthy, friend. I thoroughly believe that getting up close and personal with my own worries has actually made me worry less and has enabled me to better support my clients who are facing worry.

So - when tasked with choosing the topic for our latest episode in our video series, Life, Money and Globetrotting - I could resist. Worry! Who knew talking about worry could be so fun?

In this episode we talked about how to:

  • prioritize tasks that contribute to our sense of limited control,
  • recognize the up and down nature of worry and
  • find our own worry limits, support systems and strategies for addressing worry.

I think you're going to love Episode 6! Watch it here.

Our Life, Money and Globetrotting conversations are part of a monthly series. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about upcoming episodes. And be sure to check out Hui-chin's blog Moneymatters for Globetrotters or follow her on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel to get regular updates about upcoming episodes.

Thanks for joining us! Our October episode will be live on October 17 at 10AM Tokyo time (GMT +9) and 9PM EST (Sunday, Oct. 16). We're still deciding on our topic for Episode 7 so please stay-tuned (by connecting with us at one of the places above). We've also changed platforms (bye-bye Blab) and are now live streaming our episodes on YouTube through Google Hangouts. Subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel above for easy access to past episodes. Thanks for listening!

Oh my! We are already five episodes in to our Life, Money and Globetrotting Series! It has been so fun to have these discussions with Hui-chin. One of the things I keep finding is that even though she and I come from different professional backgrounds, we have very similar views on how to address common expat challenges. In that sense, Episode 5 - Celebrating Failure, really embodied the interconnectedness of all aspects of the expat experience.

So...FAILURE! That's a big one, no? Who really wants to talk about failure? We do! We do! The truth is, both Hui-chin and I believe that failure is really just a stage in the learning process. The biggest challenge we face is not learning how to avoid failure, but rather learning how to grow from it and adjust our choices for the next time.

I think you're going to love this episode! Watch it here.

Our Life, Money and Globetrotting conversations are part of a monthly series. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about upcoming episodes. And be sure to check out Hui-chin's blog Moneymatters for Globetrotters or follow her on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel to get regular updates about upcoming episodes.

Thanks for joining us! Our September episode will be live on September 20 at 10AM Tokyo time (GMT +9) and 9PM EST (Monday, Sept. 19). We're still deciding on our topic for Episode 6 so please stay-tuned (by connecting with us at one of the places above). We've also changed platforms (bye-bye Blab) and are now live streaming our episodes on YouTube through Google Hangouts. Subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel above for easy access to past episodes. Thanks for listening!

The Expat Essential

There’s this one wall in my house that is both a highlight and a challenge of our international life. It’s our family photo collage.

A display of dozens of people and places, it's the wall that people walk up to, stare at and ask about when they come over for playgroups or dinner. It’s the wall that reminds us, despite all of the moving, that we come from somewhere. It’s the wall that my children use to educate themselves about their cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents because, admittedly, they don’t see them in person all that often and it can be hard to keep all the names straight.

But, that giant wall of frames is also a challenge because we come and we go and lining up all those photos just right takes time. When we arrive somewhere I get out the hammer, the nails, the step stool, the level and get to work. It usually takes several hours to get everything looking just right. After it’s all said and done, I have my husband come and (hopefully) confirm that it’s all straight and balanced. All the while knowing that, it will all have to come down again sometime in the relatively near future.

When I think about it, the whole thing is so very much a metaphor for our lifestyle.

I look at all those photos and I see our story. We have a history. We go from place to place collecting major life events. Just like anyone (even people who never move) our stories are the layers of life that make up who we are and how we see the world. Even if we’re moving, we keep becoming. Sometimes that can be hard to see because each time we move our story seems to start over. The past can get lost when we say goodbye to somewhere. The future always has a level of uncertainty. And yet - we are still us. We have a history.

But because all of this moving makes our life more complicated, we also have to have a whole additional set of tools to put our story together, to ensure that it’s heard and to reassure ourselves that it will live on. When I begin the slog that is hanging up our family photo collage, I don’t just need a hammer. This is a complex and often overwhelming task that is definitely not for one tool alone.

As expats we need a whole tool box of tools to tell our stories and remember who we are.

We need a (gently wielded) hammer. We must find ways to give ourselves a little push here and there. We need something that makes a difference when things aren't moving the way we want them too. To create a sense of purpose and passion, we need to feel we have some power over our situation. We must develop the skills to stand up for ourselves and for our needs. We must create a medium for our stories and speak them in voices that can be heard.

We need nails. We need something to make our stories stick. We benefit from telling them over and over again. We need photo albums and journals and Facebook posts and blogs to remind us that the things that happened to us really did happen because without the constancy of place, there’s high potential the stories (and subsequently our selves) will be lost.

We need a step stool. We have to find ways to reach outside our comfort zone and get support in accessing the parts of ourselves that don’t come easily. If you’re introverted, meeting new people can feel like the most dreaded task. If you value your professional life, leaving your career behind to follow your spouse can cause you to feel a complete loss of identity. So you need support. We need something to boost us up to the places that are naturally hard for us to reach.

We need a level. The most successful expats find balance between the various parts of their lives. That balance is different for everyone, but the key element comes in taking time to reflect on what matters to you (and your family) most and arranging your life around those values.

Finally, we need a second set of eyes. There are many aspects of the expat life that feel solitary. Loneliness happens to all of us at one time or another. However, we must surround ourselves with people who can help us find our way, can call us on our bullshit from time to time and can remind us of all the strengths we bring to the table. All those photos on my wall get crooked from time to time. As expats we need that second set of eyes from a trusted person to remind us when we’re off kilter.

It seems like a lot, but it’s doable. In fact, we develop these tools every single day. We do it with patience and attention to the ever-changing circumstances in which we move. And sometimes we face (or make) a big mess.

But, in true expat style, we reach in our tool belt and find just the right thing to get the job done.

Be kind to yourself.These past couple of weeks I’ve been reading Dr. Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. I’ve been familiar with Dr. Neff’s work for several years now, but this is the first time I’ve read the book.

Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. I know I’ve become much more self-compassionate over the years, but I didn’t start out that way. It certainly didn’t come naturally to me.

I think having kids switched on a light bulb in my mind, but I also started practicing mindfulness meditation the year after my oldest was born so perhaps the two are linked. At any rate – I started realizing that, more than anything, I wanted my children to be accepting of who they are. Of course, I also want them to learn to be kind to others, to be prepared to learn new things, and to see the ways in which their own choices are intricately woven into the experiences of others.

But I came to realize that the two didn’t have to be separate. You can be true to yourself and still see that your natural habits (perhaps impatience or irritability under stress) might negatively impact others. By being kind and accepting of yourself you give yourself the gift of learning – of saying to yourself, “You know, I can see it’s super hard for you to take a deep breath here, but I think you’ll feel better if you do.”

Anyway, all of that made me realize – if I want that for them, I should probably be making some efforts to do the same thing for myself.

Here are some of the ways I’ve brought more self-compassion into my own life in the past few years:

  1. I take breaks when I need them. This is a hard one for me. I like to be “doing,” but accepting that sometimes taking a break makes me more able to accomplish the tasks I have before me has been huge.
  1. I make every effort to approach myself without judgment. I have personality traits that can make life difficult for me. I can be impatient and I am kind of an anxious person. But instead of criticizing myself for these traits, I try to remind myself that I can respond differently to these natural tendencies if I choose to. More than being something I need to change about myself, these traits are things I need to know about myself so that I can make the best possible decisions for my life and in my relationships with others.
  1. I practice developing a relationship with all of my emotions. There are no good or bad emotions – just the way we feel at a given moment. But, it’s true that some emotions feel good to us and some feel awful. It’s not always easy, but I try my best to welcome all of my emotions as they come.
  1. I seek out the support of people I trust. This has been a big one. For much of my life, I felt the need to hide what I was truly feeling. I tend to be a pretty happy, optimistic person, but no one has only one channel. I don’t think when I was young I ever learned how to really express the whole range of emotions well. Fortunately, in my mid-twenties I started experimenting more with being open about my experiences (both positive and negative) with others. It was amazing to see the benefits of this. I found it alleviated some of my stress and worry, it strengthened my relationships with others and it made me see other people, as I had always wanted to be seen – as someone with a diverse range of feelings.

These are just a few of the ways that I’ve been able to be more loving with myself. We have a tendency to think that in order to succeed we need to be hard on ourselves, but contrary to what some people might assume – these shifts have enabled me to become more productive, more creative, more connected to the people I love and more able to see both ups and downs as part of the inherent human condition.

If you’re interested in becoming more self-compassionate, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Neff’s book. It is full of wonderful information about the science of self-compassion, but it’s highly accessible and also includes real life examples (including her personal story and struggle with self acceptance) and exercises you can do to boost your self-compassion. You can also test your level of self-compassion with her online quiz.

Be sure to also check out my blog post on how to take a break when you need one.