Tag Archives: Personal Leadership (PL)

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!

I first started learning about mindfulness about 10 years ago when my oldest child was a toddler. My initial response was – “No way!” I couldn't imagine how slowing down and paying attention to what I was thinking and feeling would really make that much of a difference.

I kind of liked being a hotheaded, quick-thinker and gut-action sort of person. I wasn’t sure I wanted to change. And yet, I also had the nagging sense that I couldn’t continue along the path I was on…especially once I had children.

I found myself frequently overwhelmed and exhausted, playing the same stories and insecurities in my head over and over again. It just didn’t feel like that was sustainable either.

So, with the encouragement of a dear friend, I decided to take a mindfulness meditation class. It’s an understatement to say it changed my life. But, while I came to very much value the sense of calm and insight I gained from mindfulness meditation – it was the daily practice of mindfulness – of paying attention to what was real, of creating a less judgmental awareness to what was happening around me – that gave me the greatest sense of my ability to stay balanced and get through challenging situations, especially as we began living a life overseas.

A short, simple, frequently applied definition of mindfulness is: non-judgmental, in-the-moment awareness. The truth is though, I don't think that really helps most people gain that much understanding. If you’re considering working with me – either individually or in a group or workshop – reading these common questions and my responses can help you get a sense of my perspective on mindfulness.

Professionally, I find the greatest joy in supporting people in understanding how they can practice everyday mindfulness (what is often referred to as "informal practice"). I help people bring mindfulness out of the clouds and into their real lives. I'm not a meditation teacher or affiliated with a particular faith or religious practice.

Here are some of the most common things I hear about mindfulness:

“Mindfulness? I could never do that!”

I think what people are saying here is that it feels too overwhelming to learn another thing. And I get that – I was once there too. It can feel like there is no way we could possibly grasp what can seem like a pretty esoteric concept.

I believe, however, that we are all born with the skills of mindfulness – to pay curious, deeply engaged attention to our experiences and to the world around us. Just look at babies! Our natural inclination is to look closer. By learning simple, accessible mindfulness skills to tune in to our emotions, thoughts, physical sensations and more – we’re simply reconnecting with abilities that have faded with time.

And sometimes what people are saying is that it seems impossible to find a way to fit this into their daily lives. I'll get to that in a minute...keep reading.

 “I can’t meditate.

I’ll be honest, anyone can meditate. But, let’s say you don’t want to, or it turns you off, or it feels somehow counter to your spiritual or religious views. That’s okay. Really. Meditation is an incredible tool for connecting in the moment and becoming more mindful. It’s a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. But, from my perspective, it’s not the only way. Meditation is about creating stillness in the mind (not completely clearing the mind) and there are certainly other ways to do that – running, yoga, knitting, cooking, even brushing your teeth(!) – can all be ways to practice becoming more mindful.

“I don’t think it’s normal to be happy all the time.”

This is such a common and unfortunate misconception about mindfulness. Mindfulness is not about being happy all the time. It’s about seeing all emotions as the come, being able to observe them for what they are. It’s true that the practice of mindfulness can help people become less bogged down in feelings like sadness, anger or envy, but that’s not really the goal. Learning everyday mindfulness skills can help you better connect to whatever it is you’re feeling.

“I really need that!”

I hear this a lot. So many people say that they’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, but they’re not sure where to start. Check out some of my favorite resources at the end of this blog post. Or join one of my upcoming workshops.

“I’ve been reading about mindfulness, but it’s hard for me to practice. I keep forgetting.”

This is so common! I’ve definitely had periods of time when I felt really distant from my mindfulness practice. This is why I am so passionate about teaching everyday mindfulness skills through the Personal Leadership model.

I fundamentally do not believe that mindfulness has to be an all or nothing experience or that it has to be something lofty or vague. I would like to see mindfulness become less about Instagram photos in Bali (#mindfulness) and more about “Shit! I just spilled coffee all over my shirt and my kid doesn’t have her shoes on and we’re going to miss the bus.”

To me – that’s what it’s really about and whether we sit down for 30 minutes on a cushion or practice taking 10 deep breaths through tears, mindfulness is something we all need more of. It doesn’t mean it’s easy…but it can be more simple.

I'd love to hear from you and learn how I can support you in bringing more mindfulness into your daily life. Please consider joining me in an upcoming workshop or click here to learn how we can work together one-on-one.

A couple of nights ago we faced a life-threatening health emergency with one of our children. Our middle son has Type 1 Diabetes. It’s well controlled and even though it’s a big part of our lives, it mostly now feels like a background fact. It’s been almost 4 years and, except for his initial diagnosis, he hasn’t faced a single emergency or hospitalization…until the other night.

One of the most upsetting things about what happened is that it was a simple mistake – picking up the wrong insulin and injecting him with fast-acting instead of short-acting insulin. He was fine in the end, but the whole thing was really scary. I won't mince words here - it was potentially fatal.

I hesitate in some ways to make this statement - it seems so cliché - but mindfulness totally saves me in moments like this. In looking back, I can see how having spent years practicing more mindful responses to stress (as opposed to my old way which was full-freak-out) has helped me even in the most critical of moments.

When things like this happen, the definition of mindfulness comes into vivid focus. And I'm reminded that this is why we practice, practice, practice at tuning in...even when we don't always feel like we're "succeeding."

I'm in no way different from anyone else. Next time I might lose it. But the practice comes to you when you need it. It's like running a marathon. Even if you haven't trained, you'll probably be more prepared if you're running a few miles every day than if you're sitting on the couch watching movies.

Everyday mindfulness is about seeing life as it is. It is about paying attention to what is really happening, taking in what we witness there and moving through that experience to the next place. It helps us to live more in tune with ourselves and with those around us. It helps us move closer to being the people we really want to be in the world and it supports us in getting back on track when we've lost our way.

It does not mean avoiding stress. It is not about pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It’s not about making yourself feel calm or relaxed all the time. It's not about being perfectly happy with every moment. It's about living fully aware of the way things really are and responding from that place so that we live more fully.

Mindfulness also helps me to recognize that my natural tendency is to chase worst-case scenarios, to imagine endless what-ifs. It helps me get up close and personal with that fact of my personality. There were certainly moments the other night when I thought - "What if...!". I know I'll mess up and fail and feel overwhelmed a million times in my life. Sometimes I worry that the next big "catastrophe" will be the final straw to stability. We all do...right...just me? When I'm mindful, I'm freed to see that that's only one part of the story.

When things are well, mindfulness helps me notice and be grateful. When things are tough, it provides the little bits of light in the woods.

The good news is, none of this is rocket science. We can all practice becoming more mindful. These are skills we all have – listening to what our bodies are telling us, naming and honoring all of the emotions we feel, seeing the ways in which our assumptions get in the way of more creative solutions to the problems we face each day.

Often, we’ve simply unlearned these abilities. Moments like this really remind me of why it’s important to keep relearning. It’s like going from black and white to full color again and again and again.

What if you could face all sorts of challenges and still hold yourself together enough to come out the other side wiser, stronger and still laughing? Maybe not every time, but at least some times...or even just a bit more than you are now.

It sounds impossible and yet these skills exist. Mindfulness is not the cure-all for all of the things that we face in life and certainly, many life events are so painful we can’t even bear to consider them. Trust me, my brain has gone there.

But what if you have an entire toolbox of abilities that you’re not accessing? What if you could rediscover those tools, learn when and how to access them and put into place the habit of using them every day?

You know, it might even be simpler than you think.

Want to learn how you can bring more mindfulness into your life?

Join me for my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop. We’ll be using the very practical and totally accessible methods outlined in the Personal Leadership program. Read more about PL here and check out my reflections on becoming a PL facilitator here.

Or, check out these resources below. Note - this list is far from exhaustive. These are some of my favorites.

Websites/Apps

Headspace (website and app)

Insight Timer (app)

Soundstrue.com

UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center

University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness

Mindfulness/Meditation Teachers to trust:

Tara Brach

Jon Kabat-Zinn (Google him for more info)

Jonathan Froust

Jack Kornfield

Sharon Salzberg

Pema Chodron

Books

Making a World of Difference: Personal Leadership a Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices - Schaetti, Ramsey and Watanabe

Wherever You Go There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living – both by Jon Kabat-Zinn

10% Happier – Dan Harris (This is a great, easy to read book for people who find themselves somewhat skeptical about how to go about living more mindfully.)

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (not specifically mindfulness, but still a good resource)

Thinking about joining my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop in Tokyo? Wondering how you might put the skills you gain to use?

Here are a few highlights of how becoming more mindful has made a difference in my life with kids.

Top 10 Mindfulness-Saved-Me Moments in Parenting

  1. When shopping for 2 hours in the same store while trying to breast feed, change diapers and keep my 3 month old from crying.
  2. While straddling my kicking and screaming toddler so that I could brush his teeth.
  3. When sitting in a chair rocking and rocking and rocking for hours hoping the baby would fall asleep.
  4. When they have a really bad day. When I have a really bad day.
  5. When my child says, “Let’s run!” “Let’s race!” “Let’s play cars!” for the one hundredth time that day.
  6. When my child says, “You’re my favorite person in the world mommy. Will you be with me forever?”
  7. When my son almost died in a foreign country.
  8. When my husband doesn’t do it the “right” way…or when I don’t.
  9. When they say, “I wish we just stayed in one place,” and when they say, “I hope we do this forever.”
  10. When the Internet tells me something I do (or do not) need to know about raising children…always.

Click on the link at top to register today! Also be sure to check out this free download of my chapter on mindfulness and parenting from Raising Kids in the Foreign Service.

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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