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.

Welcome 2015!

AWESOME

Happy New Year from World Tree Coaching! As I find myself today coming out from the isolation of having been home with my kids for almost three weeks, I realize I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

Actually, I was realizing that all along. Only now that I sit down in front of my computer and take the steps to get organized do I realize what all that entails.

While I’ve been pretty quiet on the blogging front these past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the New Year and what this time of year means to most of us. Even if you’re not a resolution-maker, there’s something about the New Year that forces us to examine the past and look ahead to the future.

Right now all over the internet you’re going to see post after post telling you exactly how to create your resolutions, keep your resolutions, fine-tune your resolutions, pick the best resolutions….and even some that will tell you to ditch resolutions all together. So much telling!

In light of so much telling, I’m going to try not to get too tell-y or preach-y here. But, I would love the opportunity to remind you that genuinely reflecting on who and where you are is a good thing. In fact, whether you’re really a resolution-maker or not, probably one of the best things you can do for yourself in 2015 is take a nice long look in the mirror and get up close and personal with the person looking back at you.

So in the spirit of curiosity and inquiry (not telling), I’m just gonna’ pose a few questions…

Is it possible that all you really need to get started on 2015 is to love yourself a bit more?

What would happen if you were to stop putting yourself down, comparing yourself to others and wishing things were different than the way they really are?

What if, even though there are things you’d like to do differently, you told yourself that you’re really enough just as you are?

Imagine confronting life’s challenges (spoiler alert: there’s no escaping the hard times) knowing that yes, you are really doing all you can.

And, what if, after taking more time to know and be yourself, all that other stuff you’re adding to the resolution list seemed so much clearer?

And what if all this wasn’t just silly, cheesy, random fluff?

It’d be pretty amazing, wouldn’t it?

Throughout 2015, my goal will be to continue helping people rediscover that they’re enough…more than enough really. I want my clients, my friends and my family members to know that their challenges and their strengths work in tandem to create a fully capable and loving person. Confession: I even want to keep reminding myself of that.

So, Happy New Year from World Tree Coaching. May your year be filled with plenty of time to be you. And, in being you, may you find the clarity, hope, love and fun you’ve been searching for.

I’m currently scheduling clients for February and March. If you’d like to work with me in 2015 – click here to learn more.

One Simple Tip for Being Your Own Kick in the Pants

So here’s something that I didn’t expect to happen today. And no, it’s not the British woman talking to the vegetables at Whole Foods (“Which one of you lovelies is going home with me today? Huh?”) or the fact that a rock from a weed whacker flew up and shattered the glass to our patio door (looks oddly beautiful in the way it’s falling, piece by piece, minute by minute to the ground).

The unexpected turn of events started out like this: I began the day feeling a bit gloomy. I had advertised some great new coaching rates earlier in the week and I didn’t get the client boost that I was hoping for. I’ve been working on putting together a group coaching program that will work with The Expat Activity Book, but I was having a case of, “Is anyone really going to want to do this?” And then I found myself scrolling through Facebook instead of actually focusing in and getting down to work. “Enough of this,” I thought.

So, in an effort to kick myself into gear I decided to write my own coach and tell her the areas where I thought I might need some support. I thought, “I’ll tell her the things that aren’t happening and make a plan for how to set my goals into motion.” This, by the way, is a great way to maximize a coaching relationship. Coaches LOVE hearing how their clients are going to make things happen and part of a coach’s job is to hold his or her clients accountable so sending an email like this to your coach will always shake things up. BUT – that’s not the Kick in the Pants Tip you’ve been waiting for…so keep reading.

Anyway, ever a glass-half-full type of person, I decided to scrounge together some successes to start off my email. Coaches like that too, by the way. They REALLY like it when you take credit for the awesome things you’ve done…even if you feel like you’re scrounging to find them.

But, here was the cool thing! Once I started writing the successes – the new client I just contracted with, the copies of The Expat Activity Book I sold, the positive feedback I’ve gotten for my blog via Facebook and Twitter I kind of felt like, “Hey! That’s not too bad!” You’d think I’d be a bit more familiar with this sort of thing, being a coach and all, but like anybody, sometimes I lose sight of the hard work I’ve put in and what the positive outcomes have been. Then I felt like I was on a bit of a roll. I began to think about lots of things I’ve been doing in the past month to take care of myself and my family. I felt my energy and my spirits lift almost instantly.

This all might sound a bit boastful, but it’s not meant to be. What it’s meant to be is a reminder to take some time to really honor yourself for the amazing things you do every day. Want a simple task to help you focus in on your accomplishments? Make a list of them! It’s that easy! You’ll be amazed at the way it positively impacts your confidence AND gives you new energy to focus in on the things that may be holding you back. So go ahead and get started. Grab a piece of paper and just start listing. And when you’re done, take a look at it and say, “Wow. You might just be pretty awesome.”

Finding Your Inner Cheerleader

Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately – Do we sabotage our success at certain things by purposefully limiting our enthusiasm, our curiosity or our genuine interest? I’m thinking specifically about things like greater happiness, better diet, improved exercise or expanded faith or spirituality – although I’m sure there are others.

This has been on my mind for two reasons:

First, the topic came up in a class I’m taking. It’s an online class on the Science of Happiness and is being offered through the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. In the first week of the course, in addition to learning about the scientific research behind what makes people happy, we were encouraged to take up a week-long happiness project. The task was based on the benefits of gratitude and we were asked to write down each day, for a week, 3 good things that happened each day. As part of the instructions we were told that we would likely benefit more from the activity if we set aside any notion of it being “hokey” or “woo woo” and really got into it.

The other reason is this – I’m a pretty enthusiastic person. I get excited about things. Even things about which I’m skeptical or unsure, I’ve found I’ve always been able to rein that in a bit and remember to just go forward with a positive mindset. Recently, I expressed to my mom my thrill in finding a babysitter that would be a perfect fit for us. Her response? “Well, don’t get your hopes up.” “What?! What’s wrong with hopes up?” I thought. I mean, I’m well aware that it might not work out, but when good things happen, I kind of like to enjoy that feeling.

So, back to the sabotage. Social worker, researcher and author, Brené Brown, (kind of) covers this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection (although she doesn’t use the word sabotage). She writes,

We hustle for our worthiness by slipping on the emotional and behavioral straitjacket of cool and posturing as the tragically hip and the terminally “better than.” Being “in control” isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.

She’s talking about this in the context of the ways in which shame gets in the way of what she calls wholehearted living. Regardless of why we do this, I think it’s safe to say that we do. I believe that most people are naturally curious, generous, loving, and open to possibility. But, our fear of failure, of looking stupid or even looking too smart, too goody-goody, too emotional or too cheesy makes us hold back – especially when we’re trying something new.

This is an especially challenging issue for expats, because we’re ALWAYS in new situations and faced with a decision to go for it 100% or to hold back and see how things go. And here’s where my question lies. If we were to stop holding back, would we be more successful at living our transitions in ways that are more true to ourselves? I really think so. But, what if opening up to your natural curiosity and inner-enthusiast doesn’t come easily for you? I’ve listed a few starter ideas below. Go ahead and give them a try.

  1. Find an enthusiasm buddy. Know someone that seems to get excited about things? Tell them about a change you’re wanting to make, a new activity you’re hoping to try or a dream you’re ready to pursue and see if he or she will cheer you on.
  2. Try it out in private. Love to sing, but feel self-conscious? Listen – that’s what the shower and the car are for…right? Take advantage of privacy to get comfortable with your enthusiasm. Working on giving it your all when you don’t have an audience, can free you up to let that enthusiasm trickle out to other places.
  3. Get enthusiastic about the little things. Found a dollar bill in your pocket? Yay!! Did you manage to get the kids out of the house with only one small meltdown (yours or theirs – doesn’t matter)? Yee-haw!! You rock! No accomplishment is too small for you to celebrate when you’re working on an enthusiasm boost.
  4. Celebrate someone else’s success. Sometimes being enthusiastic for other people can be easier than admitting to ourselves that we’ve got something to be excited about. This doesn’t need to be fancy. Simply saying, “Wow! Good for you!” can be enough. If you can manage to cultivate excitement and interest in someone else’s accomplishments, you’re teaching yourself how to get excited about what you have in store.
  5. Write down 3 things you love and totally, absolutely and completely admit it. Personally, I think there are few things more attractive in a person than someone who can admit that they love something that’s traditionally seen as nerdy, uncool, strange or silly. And my husband grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons so you can trust me on this one.

Still curious? Wanna’ boost your natural enthusiast? Check out my FREE pdf of this activity on accessing your curiosity from The Expat Activity Book. It’s sure to help you focus in on raising your enthusiasm and might just help you find success in a new endeavor!

emerson quote - enthusiasm

 

H.A.L.T. for Expats

My greatest stressor in the first week in a new country? Hunger. I find the combination of either having no food or having had someone I barely know attempt to stock my pantry to be incredibly overwhelming. And knowing I’ll soon have to walk into a strange supermarket and purchase unfamiliar products with prices that mean nothing in a language I barely speak all while my stomach rumbles is more than enough to bring my stress levels to almost unbearable levels.

And then on top of the hunger is the exhaustion. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more tired than I did the morning we arrived in Paris for a three-day layover, halfway to our new home in Madagascar, with a 2 month old, a 4 year old, a 6 year old and a 100 pound dog (that almost didn’t make the flight). I lived for days in a fog that wavered between dream and nightmare.

Oh, and then there’s the loneliness. I make friends pretty easily and with time have learned to lay my heart on the line…better to be heartbroken when we part than never to have spent those long mornings over coffee getting to know a new friend. But even for an extrovert, there’s the sorting and negotiating of new friendships that takes time. In those first few days or weeks in a new place, my single most persistent thought is, “Why have we done this again?” I don’t think I’m alone.

And after all of the hunger and exhaustion and loneliness, a kind of underlying grumbling can start to bubble to the surface. I don’t anger easily, but that’s a choice. And, it’s a choice laid in the foundation of the pep talks my husband and I do before a major transition. The night before we head out, bags packed, children settling down to sleep, we tell each other, “We’re in this together. We’re a team. We’re each doing our best with a very difficult and stressful situation. We will think before we speak. We’ll use nice words.” It works…almost always.

For us expats, these feelings are all just another part of our unique normal. But recently, I came across an acronym that I’d never heard before. It’s called H.A.L.T. and it really, really spoke to me. It’s a reminder for how to keep yourself in check when you’re facing extreme stress.

The gist of it is this – in times of extreme stress ask yourself, “Am I……”

Hungry?

Angry?

Lonely?

Tired?

If the answer to any one of these is yes, take care of that problem first before you act or make any major decisions. Okay, so sometimes it might be easier said than done, but I like it as a bit of a twist on the traditional “count to 10” recommendation. I like it because, in the expat life, it’s so completely and utterly dead-on. We don’t just experience these situations, our lifestyle causes these situations! I like it because I feel it’s the type of thing you can plan for in advance. I like the idea of writing down each condition in bold letters on a piece of paper and brainstorming how I could handle each one. Because, if you know that (1) each of these things is going to happen and (2) you’ve prepared for how to deal with them in advance, you’re much, much more likely to be able to handle all of the stress that comes with moving.

But you know, the thing I love most about looking at the H.A.L.T. model for stress management is that every single person on the planet has been hungry, angry, lonely or tired at some point in his or her life. The great gift at looking at these conditions as stress contributors is that, firstly, we can all relate to these states of being and, secondly, we’re free to personalize our responses to them. There’s a great gift in the fact that they’re both universal and highly adaptable. They represent a freedom to plan for your stressors in a very concrete and predictable way.

So next time you’re experiencing a big transition or find yourself overwhelmed by stress, ask yourself how you’ll halt and then take the next steps towards finding a more positive way to get through. I think you’ll find dealing with being hungry, angry, lonely or tired first, goes a really long way towards sanity.

 

Bring on the Celebration!

This week I accomplished a major goal I had set for myself back in September. I completed the Coach U Core Essentials Coach Training Program and logged the necessary coaching hours to graduate. It felt really good to have set a goal for myself and have completed it – especially given the major life changes my family and I were handling in the middle of it all. I patted myself on the back. I carefully and fully marked through the lines on my agenda that said, “Take final exam” and “submit graduation paperwork.” Then, I got on with the rest of the week.

On Wednesday I met with my mentor. At first I forgot to even mention that I had graduated. When I did finally remember to tell her, she said, “And what did you do to celebrate?” Celebrate? Ummm…well…nothing. And then I got to thinking – I don’t really celebrate much at all. Actually, let’s put it this way – I live more or less in a constant mode of celebration. I do celebrate life and all of its ups and downs every single day. I take time to stop and smell the roses. I spend time doing things I love. I make time for things like pedicures and massages and date nights with my husband.

But, when it comes to celebration for the sake of celebration – I just don’t do it and now I think it’s time I started. It seems to me that celebration is more multifaceted than I first envisioned. I’m a dedicated celebrator of the accomplishments of my kids, my clients, my husband, my friends, my family and life in general. I think what my coach was getting at when she asked me about my celebration habits was more about drawing out an even deeper layer of richness to life and, perhaps even more importantly, making those experiences a part of my everyday mindset. In other words, living life to the fullest is great (and constitutes a form of celebration), but perhaps I’ve neglected to build on that.

My coach’s suggestion was to make a Celebration Menu complete with appetizers (which I think could be small, little celebrations), entrees (heftier, more substantial celebratory activities) and desserts (maybe the most indulgent of celebrations). I love this idea! I love it as way to really stretch my brain to expand the notion of celebration. I like the idea of including things I’ve said for years I want to do and rewarding hard work with pure fun, joy or soulfulness.

So, I’m including my Celebration Menu below. Now, I’m curious – what would yours include?

APPETIZERS

Get a pedicure at a nice spa instead of the place down the road that does a good job, but plays soap operas on the TV and smells like polish remover.

Get an afternoon coffee and sit and read at the coffee shop.

Buy $10 worth of cute office supplies (I’m obsessed with office supplies…and they’re a tax write off)

Take the kids to Dairy Queen to share in the celebration.

ENTREES

Go on a fancy date night – not a typical jeans and t-shirt date night.

Invite a few friends out for drinks and dinner – my treat!

Take a hip-hop dance class.

Go shopping by myself.

Spend an entire day with my husband, walking and talking.

Take all day to do an art or sewing project – uninterrupted by work or children.

DESSERTS

Attend a 2 or 3-day meditation retreat.

Spend $50-$100 on something really special that I would love to have, but would not normally buy.

See a play.

Go to a concert.

Major Milestone

Today I watched my 6 year-old walk across the stage at his Kindergarten graduation. He’s the same kid who almost died four months ago. The same kid who played one day with his friends and then left almost everything he loves, with no prior warning, to get on a small plane to a hospital in a country he’d never been to. The same kid who gets four shots a day and anywhere between six and twelve (or even sometimes more) finger sticks over the course of each and every 24 hours.

And, he’s the same kid that is a natural with anything that requires running or jumping or sliding or involves a ball. He’s the kid who can now read, add single digit numbers with no fingers (usually) and tell you what items on your plate contain carbohydrates. He’s the kid with the killer blue eyes, the mischievous, pure-love smile, and the blonder than blond, still baby-fine hair. He’s the one who’s grown over an inch since January. He wears either (and only) soccer cleats or cowboy boots…always. He’s the one who loves hugs and babies and super heroes.

He’s nothing short of incredible – when the going’s easy and when the going’s just plain tough.

Not to exaggerate here, but really, aren’t we all? I don’t know about you, but I look at my children, my husband, my family and my many friends in all of the corners of the globe and I think – these people are Amazing!

While it may seem that sometimes (or lots of times) we arrive at every major milestone rather easily, the truth is – it takes a lot to get here. It takes a lot to get wherever you are. Whether you’re dodging bullets or vomit, climbing mountains or stumbling over Legos – if it feels easy, it’s easy because you’re good at it, you hold your head up and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. If it feels difficult, it’s difficult because you’re human and sometimes life throws us some really nasty stuff. We all fall on both ends of this spectrum – the person who sails through and the person who gets thrown off course.

Let’s remember this for ourselves and for the people who surround us. Take some time today to say, “Close call! Good job! Way to hang in there!” or “Wow, you’re getting good at this! Hard work’s paying off! Nicely done!” No judgment, just love, for all the dedication it takes to get here.

A Messenger in Nature

Every morning, after taking the kids to school, I go for a walk or run at the hike and bike trail near my parent’s house (where we’re staying until we head on to Washington DC in August). The trail is full of amazing wildlife – herons, frogs, insects, vultures, and deer.

One of my favorite everyday sights is the snails. Each morning the trail is covered with them. White, silver, grey, black, brown. Short and fat, long and skinny, slow moving and slower moving. They lumber across the paved trail, leaving behind their slimy paths that are then left glistening in the sun, creating an intricate map of their comings and goings along the pavement. There they are slowly, slowly, every morning from one side of the pavement to the other.

I’ve come to love them. And, as these walks are invariably an opportunity for me to reflect on the ups and downs of our nomadic lifestyle I can’t help but think more and more that these snails are trying to tell me something. So much like us. Slow down. From one end to the other – you’ll get there.

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Resolve to be Curious

It’s that time again. You know what I’m talking about – New Year’s Resolution season! We’re drawn, quite naturally (and historically, if Wikipedia is to be trusted), to the idea that the New Year is a perfect time to make a change, to shake things up – to be better! I couldn’t agree more.

But, most research reveals that very few people – something around 20% – actually achieve the goals they set at the New Year. There are thousands of articles and blog posts that claim to know why this is. I’m not really going to venture to guess. It seems quite simple to me – what works for one person would drive another individual to give up after Day One. We’re all different and your guess is as good as mine as to why some people find the New Year’s Resolution system to be inspirational and others find it to be a giant, looming, impossible invitation to failure.

I wouldn’t be one to say, “Don’t waste your time.” There’s certainly something to be said for setting goals. And, creating a framework for achieving those goals really works for some, maybe even most, people. If you know it works for you – then go for it.

But, if you’ve tried to set New Year’s Resolutions in the past and failed (repeatedly) – you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to try something different. Here’s a list of questions that might point you in the right direction. They’re in no particular order and I don’t claim to know what you’ll find on the other side. Nor will I make recommendations for what you do with the answers you find. But what I can say is this – regardless of what you resolve to do – no one fails at reflection, exploration or contemplation. So if you must resolve – maybe just resolve to be…curious.

20 Questions to Ask Yourself in Lieu of New Year’s Resolutions

1. What do I really, really, really, really want?

2. Of all the things I do, what do I enjoy doing most?

3. What am I afraid of?

4. What part of my self am I working hardest to hide from others?

5. What am I both good at and enjoy doing?

6. What am I good at, but don’t enjoy doing?

7. Who are the 5 people in my life that most inspire me? Why?

8. What are 3 times in my life when I was faced with a decision and I made the right choice for me at that time?

9. Who am I judging? What does it say about me that I’m holding that judgment?

10. What aspect of my life gives me the greatest sense of purpose?

11. Who are the people in my life with whom I feel the most me?

12. What are 3 things in my life that I am tolerating?

13. Where do I want to go that I’ve never been before?

14. What do I want to say that I’ve never said?

15. Who in my life loves me most of all?

16. What emotions or feelings freak me out?

17. What would I prefer to do less of?

18. What would I prefer to do more of?

19. When do I feel closest to God? (God, as you define it – whatever draws you closer to your spiritual center)

20. If tomorrow were my last day, what would I let go of?

 

 

 

What’s Your Mantra?

I posted a great video from Brené Brown on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page today. I find her bravery, wisdom and just plain human-ness incredibly compelling and insightful. There’s so much to learn from her research into what makes people tick, what motivates us, what makes us live fuller, braver and more completely and, in the end, what factors join us in a spirit of wholeheartedness.

In the video – which you can see here – she references the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The quote is commonly referred to as the Man in the Arena quote and it comes from a speech delivered by Roosevelt in 1910, in Paris. I can’t imagine a soul not being moved by the powerful and heartfelt strength of these words. How true they are.

But, in my quick (and admittedly rather limited) research into this quote I stumbled upon something perhaps doubly powerful – the comments section of the websites where the quote is presented. The beauty of these words has and does serve as a mantra for many. Many commentators speak of failure and rebound, loss and discovery, heartbreak and new love fortified. Many simply said, “Words to live by.”

From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Mandela to Mo Willems (not kidding here – few things can inspire my inner child like Elephant and Piggie) words can very much be what we live by.

So, what words inspire you? What’s your mantra? What messages do you carry with you, in your heart and your head, that move you on through thick and thin, around the bend and back again? Here’s a gentle reminder to keep them close – on your desktop, your fridge, even scribbled on the back of your hand on a particularly rough day (although I’m guessing Roosevelt’s a little lengthy for this one). When your heart feels heavy, cuddle up to these words that give back, hold them close and keep right along your windy, pebbly, occasionally bumbling path. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.