One Small Step

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

If you know me at all, or have seen any of my talks, then you know that my family and I sing our way through life. There is a song to go with just about everything, and when there isn’t one we know that fits, we make a new one up. This morning, as I began to write this article, the voice of one of my favorite musicians popped into my head, singing a song I haven’t heard in a while. The song is called “One Small Step” from her album The Freedom Music Project. Great album, great voice. Check her out. Julie Silver’s “Step by Step,” from Reunion, popped in next. Gosh, that CD was the inspirational soundtrack I chose for over a year of my life. I sang with Julie as I drove kids to a new school, stomped on a treadmill, and took on some pretty scary material in my writing and in my life. (For those of you with inquiring minds who want to know, much of the material appears in Chapter 2 in the book I’m sending around for publication possibilities. Keep the faith.) No surprise that both women would come to sing to me this morning as I write about taking one small step. You know how you build a wall? One brick at a time. You know how you write a book? One word at a time. You know how you raise a kid? One sleepless night at a time. You know how you love the people who drive you mad? One thought of gratitude at a time. Goals without clear action steps often die a quiet, slightly tortured, death. If we were to take our goals and skip the step of breaking them down into teeny, tiny action items, those goals would remain just that: goals. Goals are great for party conversation. You are welcome to try out a few of my favorites: “Hey, I’m going to do a triathlon next year!” Or, “Did you know that I’m writing a book?” They are fun to talk about, but not something you go home and whip up while watching the news. You know you are up to something worth doing if your goal intimidates you. If you know, without a doubt, that you are going to accomplish what you are saying you will do, then your goal is probably not challenging enough. You run the risk of getting too bored to bother. When you set a goal, you want to tremble in your boots. You want to be jazzed about the possibility while wondering, “How the heck am I going to pull THAT one off?” Once you have the ‘trembling in your...

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Song Walks

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

I do my coaching and writing work in the best office in the world. Yes, it’s in a fabulous location and has great sunlight that only a corner office can provide. Yes, the women who work in the other rooms in the suite light up the entire space with their presence. They transform lives daily with through healing massage, and do their work with profound humility and grace. Yet, the very best part about where I go to work is that there is a beach two minutes down the road and there are no sidewalks between our building and the beach. I work in New England where ‘beach season’ is, at most, ten weeks long, so most of the time there is a deserted beach two minutes down the road from me. You might think that a quiet office building would be an ideal location for a writer and coach. Ha. Clearly, you haven’t seen my creative process. In deference to the CPA that works in the office one floor down, and those amazing healers with whom I share walls, I take my creative process outdoors. The cars driving by as I walk to the beach have their windows slammed shut, and the seagulls don’t seem to care what I do at their beach. The truth is that I sing myself into my work. I move my body, I breathe deeply, and I sing. The bigger the project, the louder the song. Before any big writing can come through, I go through something that looks a bit like what I imagine a Broadway audition entails. Warm-ups first: arm flapping around, vocal exercises, a bit of cheering and whoo-hooing. A little dancing to someone else’s music. Then, when I’m sure no one taller than 4’ 4” is looking, I let ‘er rip. Big sounds that rise up from my belly. Jaw dropped and roof of my mouth raised. I hit notes that make Parakeets flip. And volume? I sing to a stadium of imaginary people. The singing frees me up. The oxygen feeds my brain. Parts of my right brain are activated as I sing and neurons start firing in new directions. Then, at last, when I am ready write, I head back to that beautiful office space to put pen to paper and fingers on the keyboard, grateful to work in the best office in the...

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Breathe, Baby, Breathe!

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

What do competing in a triathlon and dealing with a tense situation in a board meeting have in common? The better you breathe, the better you’ll perform. I am fascinated at how many times the simple act of breathing comes up in my coaching work. In times of stress, people forget to take the breath they know they need. Without this breath, people are prone to react without taking a moment to think before responding. To give their brain a hit of O2, clients and I work together to create physical reminders in their environments and subtle structures in their routines that prompt them to remember. Then I, soap box queen of meditation practices and mindful breathing, nearly forgot to use my own tool. Three weeks before my first triathlon, I was keeping my friend company in the hospital as she prepared for heart surgery. She asked how the training was going, and I confessed my insecurities. “I’m swimming,” I told her, “but I’m scared and slow. The biking is okay. I have no idea if I’ll have the stamina to run after doing the first two.” “It’s all about the breathing, you know,” she said. She reminded me that, in addition to singing professionally for several years, she had spent hundreds of hours with serious athletes while they were training. “Your success is directly tied to how well you breathe. Work on your breath, and you’ll be all set.” She was right, of course. I took care of my breathing, and my body was fine. I swam, I biked, and I ran. I even laughed and joked. What about in the boardroom? I don’t know about you, but breathing is not the first thing I instinctively think about with budget papers in front of me or when terse remarks begin to fly. Yet, I’m training myself to pay attention to my breath in those circumstances too. Let’s put it this way. How likely is it that you are going to come up with a great insight or witty remark if you are holding your breath and cutting off the oxygen supply to your brain? A deep, mindful breath can do a world of wonders. I remember overhearing a dad coaching his two young daughters during the first 5K I ever ran. “Take a couple of really deep breaths,” he said to them about half-way through the race. “You want to clear the old air out.” I love that image. Whether you are exercising, reaching into your big toe for one more ounce of patience during an interminable bedtime, or listening with shock and horror at what your colleague just shared, take a deep breath. Exhale. Clear the old...

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Stop Reading

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

What? Did she just say, “Stop reading?” Yes, I did. Read this article first, though, before you stop. Here’s the deal. For many creative endeavors, research is a good idea. If you are choosing to write or speak about a topic that is new to you, finding out what is already written about that topic helps you sound smart and keeps you looking like the informed, hip person you want to be. Yet, there is a downside to living in Google-land, and it’s not just information overload. Within a click or two, you will likely find someone who said what you were going to say, knows something more on the subject than you thought you knew, and possibly has much more poise and grace than you think you do in presenting the information to the world. Just this evening, I spent a few minutes reading an article by a well-known author and life coach. Turns out my whole theory of why learning to play the cello and learning how to swim as an adult freed me up to be a better writer, coach, and parent not only has a name—“deep practice”—but also a boatload of scientific research to back it up. Terrific, I thought. This article says everything I was going to explore, but better! I had the same experience while cranking out my book proposal. I flipped open a few pages written by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, and felt my creative juices begin to evaporate. “I’ll never be able to write like her! She has such a way with words!” It was at that point that I banned myself from reading my beloved Annie while working on a writing deadline. You have something to say in a way that only you can say it. Sure, the information is out there, and yes, someone else is passionate about the same thing you are. If you look long enough—and depending on your level of vulnerability, one or two minutes can be plenty long enough—you will find something that convinces you that you really didn’t need to be doing what you thought was important in the first place. At that point, or better yet–a few minutes before that happens–stop reading! Just stop. That thought, idea, inspiration, good idea or creative impulse came into you to be explored, grown, and birthed. Let it breathe before you shut it down. Don’t use research as a distraction or as evidence of why you need not move forward. The stuff you’ll make up is hogwash. Self-sabotage. Creative, I’ll give you that, but not ultimately very useful. Stop reading. Right now. Go play. Go create. I mean it. You’re still reading? Get outta...

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Exercise, Shmeckercise

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

I love that I don’t really have to spend anytime here touting the benefits of exercise. Weight loss, reduced cholesterol, and elevated mood and energy—really, no infomercial needed at this point to market exercise as good thing to do, right? Yet, what’s one of the biggest areas of challenge clients want to address? Getting more exercise into their schedules. What’s the one of the first things to drop off the schedule when crunching against a deadline or parenting a sick child? You guessed it. The big ol’ E word. As I see it, there are two major issues that show up. If you have the first one solved, bear with me for a paragraph. Back in the olden days, exercise came with a level of practicality. You milked the cows, you plowed the fields, you washed the laundry in the river. If you didn’t exercise, you didn’t eat. The motivation to exercise was pretty high. These days, people find exercise BORING. What’s the motivator? Going round and round on an escalator belt? Thank you, no, I’d rather–fill in the blank: do laundry so I have clean underwear, make school lunches so my kids eat, work enough hours that I can pay my mortgage, and on it goes. To establish a consistent exercise routine, one needs to be extremely creative in tricking the brain into playing along. When I first started walking on the treadmill, television worked. Then I changed over to talking with my dad on the cell phone while he walked in a different state. When I picked up the pace and started running, I moved to music. Learning to swim was an unexpectedly good next step for me. I had no time to get bored while I was working hard not to drown. When I mastered the basics, I found I was having more fun than I figured was really permissible if I was going to call it “exercise.” Which leads me to my second point. Once we find a way to have fun and enjoy ourselves while exercising, the activity often gets ditched in deference to the things we think we should, ought to, better be doing instead. Lesson planning for tomorrow’s class? Essential. Enjoying myself for a half-hour in the pool? A luxury. Again, we are practical people by nature, and essential wins out over fun time and time again. What if, what if, what if, we took on that having fun is essential? What if we believed that half an hour of taking care of ourselves, having a great time, was actually the most important thing we could do to keep our bodies running well for everything else? Given all that we are asking...

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