World Tree Coaching Turns 3 and I Turn 40!

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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!

Back to Work and Out from Under These Boxes!

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Today, with the clouds overhead and the slow drizzle that is another typhoon-season rainy day in Tokyo – I begin to crawl out from under the pile of boxes that has been my life since mid-June. I’m thanking my lucky stars!

Whew! This transition summer has been the most challenging I think I’ve ever faced. This was the first summer I found myself with no childcare, no long vacation away (although we did enjoy 4 nice days at the beach), and no real down time. We went from our home, to 6 weeks in a temporary apartment to now our final destination. I’m worn out….but I am so excited to be here!

And – I am ecstatic to get back into the swing of work. I cut back on just about every aspect of work-life over the summer and I miss it! I miss sitting down to write, I miss my workshops and I miss my group and individual clients terribly!

I’ve also learned so much.

For one – the idea that I could do all of this without childcare was…wrong! That’s a big lesson. Even as my kids get older I find that with lunches and snacks (which is a whole, crazy experience for us beyond the norm – read about that here), and negotiating screen time, and all of their little projects, and all the lovin’ it takes to support these sweethearts who have moved more times than your average adult – WOW! – it’s a lot.

I’ve also learned (again) that work is not optional for me. When I’m not engaging my creative side, when I’m not changing my pace and creating space for people to find their voices through the coaching process and when I’m not writing – I just don’t feel like me. My professional life is not a side-gig. When I set it to the side, I feel the profound and nagging sense of having misplaced my keys or forgotten to turn off the stove.

And, on top of it all, I’ve been reminded of how much learning just goes on and on and on. Sometimes we have an opportunity to gain new knowledge about the way we work, live and love. And at other times, we’re simply being reminded of lessons we’ve learned in the past. That, in my mind, is the most rewarding way to live – never thinking it’s all wrapped up, but rather a series of tiny wrappings and unwrappings every day. And let me tell you – wrapped or unwrapped – I am happy to be out from under all these boxes!

So – let’s get this back-to-work party started! Join me for one of my upcoming workshops, groups or individual coaching opportunities! Click HERE for details.

Stopping – The Hidden Secret To Going Forward

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People often decide to work with a coach because they feel stuck. In fact, I’d say it’s the number one reason that people seek out my services.

For many of my clients, the natural response to this is to move, to make a change – any change – that can get them headed in the perceived right direction. Somewhere out there is a direction that just feels right, if they can just do enough of something…anything…they’ll feel better and the stars will once again align.

And here’s where I briefly become the worst enemy of the doers (and trust me, I know this because I’m naturally inclined as a big time doer myself). I suggest they stop doing! I suggest that maybe they put away the decision making process for a little while. Perhaps they walk away for a bit, imagine a decision doesn’t need to be made or simply maintain the status quo for a bit longer.

While this might seem like utter nonsense and completely antithetical to coaching (where you often hear or assume the goal is a big fat kick in the pants to take action) – it’s not. In fact, supporting my clients in taking moments to not do has become one of the ways in which I can rest assured that the changes my clients make are heartfelt, sustainable and true to their sense of values and integrity.

Here’s why…

The Sea of Voices

We spend a great deal of our physical, emotional and intellectual space surrounded by the thoughts and opinions of others. This is no big mystery – think about Facebook, the Huffington Post and Yahoo News. Think this! Do this! Take action now! We drown in this information. In ways both big and small this happens to us every day with our own decision-making. As a result, our own opinions about where to go next are drowned out by the perceptions of others.

When we slow down, we take time to recognize which voice is ours and which voices are those of our friends, our colleagues and our family members. We enable our voice to get a bit clearer and we become better prepared to filter judgment, criticism, self-interest and peer pressure.

Our Thought and Emotional Patterns

We often pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task and the truth is for many of us a certain level of multi-tasking is just a fact of life. If I weren’t able to cook dinner and also supervise my children’s homework then we would either eat very late or the homework would get done way past bedtime. It’s just a fact of modern life.

But too much multi-tasking puts our thoughts and emotional patterns on autopilot and that can be a major squasher (yep, toddler word) of effective and clear-minded decision-making. If we don’t take time to observe and develop a deeper understanding of the ways we think and the emotions we feel, then any changes we make are from the same places that got us where we are in the first place.

Simply boxing up fear, anxiety and worry doesn’t make those emotions disappear; it makes them come up in unexpected ways later. And pretending we don’t have negative thoughts about our skill level or believe others are judging our decisions doesn’t eliminate these thought patterns. We still make changes based on these thoughts – we just fail to recognize we’re doing so.

When we stop and take time to cultivate a better awareness of our thoughts and emotional habits, we better understand the forces that drive our decision-making and can adjust accordingly when we finally do decide to make a shift. (More on that here.)

Small Decisions that Hide the Big Ones

Small changes feel good. A new sofa. A new bike. A new coffee shop. A new television program. These little shifts can bring new life to the feeling that what we’re doing everyday just doesn’t feel right.

However, when we get to a place where we’re passionately searching for something new, these little changes can sometimes mask the bigger changes that we need to be making. It’s as if we’re throwing every possible tool at that broken lawn mower when the truth is it’s really just time to buy a new one.

When we refrain from the cycle of change-making – even for just a week or two – we can find that our minds and hearts are drawn to examine the larger, more significant changes that have been hidden under layers of fear.

Baby Steps Count

Our decision making processes sometimes benefit from a sink or swim approach. Take the leap. Go for it. Deal with the consequences later. Sometimes, but not always.

There is a whole lot to be said for taking baby steps and giving yourself time to practice and try out small answers on the path to the big decision.

And the truth is, you can’t do this if you’re always moving liking a bull in a china shop. Loud, clumsy and unobservant actions sometimes get you loud, clumsy and unobservant results that in a few months or a year will put you right back where you started.

So every once in a while, look at the big picture and say – what’s one simple thing I could do to get a tiny bit closer? What will that feel like? What will I learn? You’d be surprised the answers that can come from taking a more slow and gentle approach to the way you change. (More on that here.)

So with 2015 marching towards an end and 2016 set to be your year to do something different, make a change or (yes!) get unstuck – how will you change differently? How will you stop so you can move forward better than you ever have before?

All The Many Ways You Feel…

My Beloved Emotional Roller Coaster

So we made it! We’re back in Japan after fifteen years away and we’re back abroad after about 18 months in the States. There’s no other way to say it – YAY!! It feels so good to be back to our typical way of living.

I think in some sort of way I didn’t know it would feel this way. Maybe I didn’t even know how much I was missing our international life. Somehow I’m not sure I realized how being back abroad would feel more like home than “home” really did.

But you know what? The most awesome part of all of this is that despite feeling so good about being back – I don’t actually feel perfect! I don’t feel good all the time! I haven’t slipped peacefully back into life here oblivious to the ups and downs of culture shock. What I am doing is feeling all up close and personal with the whole range of thoughts and emotions that come from living life as an expat. Most of them are actually really nice and happy and welcoming, but some of them are, naturally, not sweet and cozy emotions.

Like anyone who is going through a major transition sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed, turned around, confused and exhausted. I’ve been doing this long enough that these feelings aren’t plaguing me all the time, but they’re there – sometimes really big and loud and sometimes just quietly in the background.

As strange as it may sound, I’m finding old friends in the whole host of emotions that live inside me when we’ve moved to a new place. These emotions are so familiar to me during transition. Even when they don’t feel so nice, I’m finding now more than ever I’m able to say, “Oh, it’s you again Anxiety-About-Getting-Lost-Down-Unfamiliar-Streets? Welcome home!”

What surprises me this time around (this is my sixth international move), is that these emotions don’t scare me anymore. I know they’re here. I know they’ll likely be gone soon and I know they may reappear from time to time. They are actually a part of me and a part of my expat experience that feel completely familiar. With all the new stuff, there’s something really nice about experiencing something I’ve known before, even if it is a handful of emotions most people would try to avoid.

And so, with the ups and downs and all the in-betweens, I think I can officially say – we made it! I’m home.

Minor Adjustment

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This week I changed one tiny little thing in my life. After 3 months of running on the treadmill at the gym at 6:00 AM while listening to NPR and watching ESPN on mute, I went back to running outdoors, in nature, without headphones at 8:30 AM. Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Wow! With just this one small adjustment (along with the perspective to see that it could work and I’d still get my workout in) I feel like a whole new person. For months I’ve been saying I wish I could get back to my outdoor workouts, but for some reason I just didn’t see it as a possibility. Crazy.

We do this, don’t we? With the big things it’s easy to see why we need to change. And, whether we’re motivated to do so or paralyzed by the options, the knowledge of this need to change is there big and bright for us to see. For the less obvious problems in our lives, we sometimes miss the need to change altogether.

In this case, I was still getting in my workout, it wasn’t totally un-enjoyable and I knew I had the whole day in front of me to do other things. So maybe it just didn’t seem like it was that big of a deal. And yet at some point I started thinking about the others aspects of my workout that go beyond the cardiovascular – the sense of being part of something larger than myself as the 100 foot trees rise above me, the deep breaths of the morning air, the sense that I can keep going as long as it feels good for me (because, let’s be honest, that’s really not the feeling that a treadmill induces). And when I thought of those things, it really helped me to recognize that I’ve been missing out on a lot more than I thought I was.

So running at the gym wasn’t really so much a problem, as a toleration. An acceptance of a way of doing things that was less than what I really wanted. Of course, sometimes we have to give into this, but here the only person I really had to answer to was myself. In the end, it was that easy.

Don’t like this all that much. Change it. Feel happier.

So let me pose the question then, to you. What tiny, little, almost insignificant thing are you putting up with that, if you were to change it, would make you feel happier, more in-tune or more satisfied? What would happen if you decided to make a little adjustment?

Need ideas?

  • Are your pants too big or too small? Could you buy some new ones?
  • Does your bike have a flat tire? Could you take 10 minutes to change it?
  • Do you really love fresh flowers when you walk in the door? Could you spend $10 a week to have a vase of flowers to greet you after a long day at work?
  • Would you like to take up a spiritual practice like meditation, prayer or contemplation? What if you did that for 5 minutes today…tomorrow…the next day?
  • Been meaning to get in touch with an old friend, but just can’t seem to send that email? What about today?

See how tiny these are!? How easy would it be? I’m all about the baby steps here. Go for it! And please drop me a comment to let me know what you’re changing. I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Autumn…I Really, Really, Really, Really Love You

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It’s fall in Washington, DC right now and the leaves are changing. I really, really love the changing of the leaves. I actually don’t know if words can express how I feel about the changing of the leaves.

For most of my life I haven’t lived in places where we have true fall. As a result, the whole thing is still kind of new to me. I’m quite awe-struck by it.

But I find it’s not just the fact that it’s so pretty and incredible. Nor is it the fact that, if you think about the science of it, you’re bound to be completely blown away. The truth is, I’m also amazed by the everyday-ness of it. We’re all going around, doing our thing and there the leaves are – doing their show, bright and blowing in the cooling wind.

This combination – of awesomeness and ordinariness – is really such an incredible metaphor for life. There are all these ways in which we should probably be more awestruck by everyday things like breathing and eating and sleeping and talking. And there’s all this incredible stuff that we get to see that’s totally not our typical daily experience – from the tiny degrees of separation between people (the interconnectedness of supposed strangers NEVER ceases to amaze me) to the fact that places like the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara exist.

Our lives are such a sweet combination of nothing new and something new. And, you know, I think when we allow the line between those two distinct experiences to get blurry we really enjoy the full flavor of life. That’s exactly the time when we begin to realize there’s nothing really ordinary in the stuff we do every day and, truth be told, we’d see a lot of amazing stuff happening all around, if we’d just take more time to see it.

Getting the Most Out of Your Expanded Comfort Zone

I remember, with an incredible degree of detail, stepping on the plane for my first, true international adventure. It was 1997, and I was in my sophomore year of college.

As I found my seat on the plane, I looked around at the other students who were also flying out of JFK that day – headed to study abroad programs in Spain. They all looked much, much cooler than me…or at least they looked much, much cooler than I felt.

They all had large travel backpacks. I had a hand-me-down suitcase from my mom. Most of them were smoking. I stifled coughs and gags and burning eyes as the cabin filled with second-hand smoke. Most of the students didn’t speak a word of Spanish…and apparently didn’t intend to learn any. I not only spoke a fair amount, I thought we were actually going to Spain to learn more.

As a rather extroverted Texan from a small town – I suffered a crisis of comfort zone. I felt completely out of my element. I feared I wouldn’t fit in or find friends and that I’d end up on a big (and scary) solo adventure. I suddenly realized I’d lived a very, very sheltered life.

I remember thinking at one point, “Well, I’m just going to have to do this on my own.” Then, little by little, I began to find the people with whom I connected. I made friends. I improved my Spanish. I traveled. At each step, I was stretching to the outer limits of what felt comfortable to me and to my surprise it felt really good.

As is the case with most expats – with time (and miles), the process has become easier for me. For all expats, it’s second nature for us to expand our definitions of comfort. We take on broader and broader views of what feels right and we become experts in things that once seemed unfamiliar. The gap between fork and chopstick, English and Arabic, handshakes and kisses on the cheek narrows. This is good for us, I think.

But, it’s also important to remember that this is just a start. Knowing that you’re comfortable in lots of different situations is one thing – understanding how the experience is affecting you is completely another. This is, in my opinion, one of those wonderful things about being an expat – the opportunities for personal development and growth are built into the lifestyle. And, while it can take time to find your own style (be it journaling, meditation, reflection or just plain talking it out with a friend), there are so many options for making an expanded comfort zone a true learning opportunity. Gets you thinking doesn’t it?

Are you interested in the idea of getting the most out of your expanded comfort zone? Do you want to take the strengths you’ve gained living abroad to the next level, but you’re not sure where to start? To get a better sense of what your expanded comfort zone really means for you – try this activity. It’s a FREE sample of one of the exercises from my new book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are. The complete book is also available on Amazon, Amazon.uk and Amazon.eu.

Knock on Wood…

Last week, my husband and I left the kids with my mom for a couple of hours and went to pick up a few things at Ikea. We had told her we would try to be back by noon. I was surprised to find at around 11:45 that we were already in line and ready to make our purchases. I turned to my husband and said, “Wow, we really will be home by noon. Yay!” Then I immediately began looking for a piece of wood to touch.

This habit – not really believing in any future certainty – has become a standard feature of my expat life. Before we started moving around the world, I don’t think I ever really thought about whether or not we’d make it to that party next week or that vacation in 6 months. I had a stronger sense that what we planned for would work out and I really didn’t think much further than that.

Now, after planes missed, vacations cancelled, unexpected earthquakes and sicknesses that have disrupted our normal flow of life – I’ve come to find it harder to feel convinced that anything is set in stone. I often begin sentences with things like, “Assuming everything goes as planned…” or “We’re hoping to…” I tend to laugh it off, but often when I find myself making a statement of certainty about the future and then qualifying it somehow with one of these phrases, I feel the unpredictability of life wash over me. I wouldn’t describe it as scary, but I would say it’s a regular reminder of how easily and quickly things can change.

But, if living this lifestyle has taught me anything, it’s the importance of moving on to our next big adventure regardless of the uncertainties that lie ahead. It’s not really bravery or even necessarily fatalism. It’s simply the knowledge that living life now, in the moment, is the only real option we have. And, despite the fact that the unpredictability can be difficult, I find that it’s also one of the greatest blessings of the expat life. We get to wake up everyday to the fact that we’re here, right now, with the option to live life to the fullest. There are fewer opportunities to sleep on the job. And, you know what? Even though it’s challenging at times, I think most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the Moment…

Last week we saw the new Richard Linklater film Boyhood. It’s on everyone’s minds. Having grown up in Central Texas (my hometown of Dripping Springs even gets the briefest of mentions), I found much of the movie mirrored my adolescence…only, of course, we didn’t have the Internet or Facebook or cell phones. But, I’m not the only one finding the images from the film stuck in my head. What is it about this movie?

Watching the film is like flipping through an old family photo album that covers an entire decade. It’s like watching your mom age right before your eyes. It’s like seeing yourself with chubby baby cheeks and then acne and then braces and then suddenly coming out of your shell all in three hours. It’s recognizing that you see yourself in the kid on the screen, but the also noticing that, wow, you really relate to the parents.

For most of us, this feeling can be unsettling. We like to ignore that time is passing. In this film, 12 years are wrapped into 3 hours so, unless you get up and walk out, you just can’t ignore it. These people are getting older! These people are making bad decisions! These people are doing dangerous things and (lots of times) nothing bad happens! These people are falling in…and out…of love! These people are having the times of their lives for now and then tomorrow who knows what will happen. So yes, it’s unsettling, but it’s also uplifting. It puts us all, the young and the old, right in the same place…or at the very least, headed in the same direction.

In the final scene, a young girl (a new character perhaps on the edge of taking a leading role) says (I’m paraphrasing), “You know the saying goes, ‘Seize the moment,’ but I think it’s more like the moment seizes us.”

Maybe it’s a bit of both. A two-way street.

Sure, sometimes we seize the moment and make it ours, but perhaps if we do life well, we find that we’re surrounded by moments that have the potential to seize us.

I like this twist on that famous line. I like the way in which it sounds like a call to wake up, to pay attention, to say “yes” a bit more to what’s happening around us. I think there’s a happiness booster in there too. A little less doing, a bit more listening and, I’d like to think, a lot more following your heart. Who knows, there may be some adventures out there just waiting to take you along for the ride.