I first “met” Lea in book where she was listed as a resource for working from anywhere. I immediately put down the book and raced to take a look at her website. As I read through her site, I remember thinking “wow, she’s someone I’d really like to talk to.” And, in the beautiful way the online world works, I have. We’ve had conversations about a multitude of things, both hers and mine, and I’ve discovered that she is indeed a kind and brilliant kindred spirit. I knew she would resonate with the phrase from my manifesto “it’s OK to love a multitude of things & want to do them all.” You will love her practical advice on how to deal with your multitudes!

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Focus. Niche. Specialize. Become known as the “go to” gal for all things…for all things…um, what?

My path to the here and now is littered with so many online projects gone by that there must be a digital graveyard somewhere, full of the sites I’ve built then discarded.

I shouldn’t be surprised. My original career path – as a management consultant – was chosen precisely because I couldn’t pick just one thing to be when I left university. “How on earth am I supposed to know what I want to specialize in, when I haven’t tried any of them yet? This will expose me to a wide range of things from which I can then choose something to specialize in”, I told myself confidently back then.

12 years on and I’m still waiting to find that one single thing to specialize in.

You know the question already, you’ve probably asked yourself the same thing a million times: When you could be good at anything, how do you choose what to actually become good at? To become known for? To become the go to person for?

I don’t have the answers for you. I’m still someone who has 3 websites on the go at the same time (4 if you include the one I help my husband run too). What I do know is that this is the way I’m built. This is how I like to operate. This is me, at my best. And it’s probably you too.

I do have a few thoughts on how to make it work though:

- On how to achieve some focus so you don’t end up too scattered – time- and energy-wise – with a million and one projects on the go at the same time.

- On how to present yourself to the outside world so you don’t confuse people with the multitude of strings to your bow.

- On how to actually achieve something with the projects you do run with so they fly and don’t languish on the back burner for months at a time.

I’ve arrived at these conclusions through a lot of trial and error, through a lot of experimentation, through a lot of frustration and plenty of struggles. And ultimately through getting more things wrong than I have right.

Here are a few things which have worked for me that may help you too:

  • It can help if you can wrap things up within a common theme or mission. Mine, for example, is empowering people to find more freedom in their world. Through education, through travel and through building businesses online. Find a common thread, an over arching mission, and it’ll help guide your decisions of which projects to pursue because they fit, and which ones to drop because they don’t.
  • It can help if you have a home base online – yourname.com – which functions a little bit like your online CV. It’s a home for all the other projects you do and it gives people an insight into you, the entrepreneur behind the multiple successes under your belt. This doesn’t tie you or your name to a specific theme, topic or industry. Use yourname.com for this purpose and you can create as many other websites as you like. ;)
  • It can help if you build your relationships based upon shared core values and common world views, rather than topics, themes, niches or industries. Hobbies, interests and even passions come and go, but values never do. If you share these values and beliefs with your right people, you’ll be together for life.
  • It can help if you not only accept but also embrace and celebrate the way you are, and put it to work for you. For it is WHO you are, as well as HOW you are and it’s HOW you can be the best you ever.

 

Lea Woodward is a mother, wife and serial online entrepreneur. She is the founder of Startup Training School – an online school empowering women with the tech skills to get their business online – and Location Independent to help entrepreneurs and employees work from anywhere. She’s currently on a drive to help 1,000 women get a WordPress website up and running on the same day with a global online event, ONE K in 1 DAY (Join her? It’s free!) and is also on a quest to make the perfect set of cake pops – all tips welcome!

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If you are new to the site (and welcome to the many of you who are!), you may not know that I am celebrating the two-year birthday of amultitudeofthings by inviting some of the friends I have made through my travels in the online world to guest post on my site. I have asked them to choose a phrase from my manifesto – the words that guide me in living my life – and write about what that phrase means to them.

Cigdem is one of those friends. She’s a remarkable woman with a talent for bringing other remarkable women together. When I talk with her, she always points me to something I could do or consider. It’s no wonder she chose “you can do it” as the phrase she wanted to write about. Yes, you can do it. Really.

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Author and historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

She is right. Totally.

It’s only women who go and just do it no matter what that rock the world, change lives, and shift mindsets. They do it against all odds.

You, gutsy woman!

Your primary duty is to actualize your heart’s yearning for it is the mainstay of your existence and bliss. And your intrinsic power to give birth is your most precious treasure. It’s your birthright.

Your circumstances, conditions or resources may appear inadequate.

The people in your life -even those who are the closest- may say you are a dreamer.

All of your bridges may have burned down, and you may have lost all of your fortresses.

You may feel exhausted, deprived or just very, very lonely.

You, gutsy woman, even under such circumstances and conditions, you can do it!

The power you need is present in the ingenious, womanly blood flowing through your veins.

And those pioneers who have already started living their own dreams with love and integrity are shedding light on your path.

Here are some of them:

Desiree Adaway did it. She brought up her children as a single mom, leaving her heart behind at home with her kids every morning as she left to go make a living. At the same time, she built her own business from scratch. Now she helps organizations design programs that create unrestricted revenue and advocates and helps them create momentum.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jenny Bones did it. One day, Jenny found herself on her way to Detroit to stay with a man she’d only ever known via the Internet. She had a few black trash bags full of clothes and 87 cents in her pocket. This once-successful project manager who took clients out for three hundred dollar dinners every week was now virtually homeless and completely broke. Today, Jenny has a radiant business and illuminates the lives of others by teaching them how to change their world through their words.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Julie Daley did it. She became a mother at 17 and a widow at 38. She graduated from college at 45. And she began to write and dance only after she was 45. Now Julie is a breathtaking dancer, writer and a guide to women who are ready to give birth to their new consciousness.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Heather Plett did it. She experienced rape, the death of her son, the mental illness and multiple suicide attempts of a loved one, the killing of her dad in a farming accident, and quitting her secure high-paying government job. Now she compassionately and successfully guides women on the path through chaos to creativity.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jennifer Ogusola did it. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, journalist Jennifer transformed the message of her disease into her dream business of hand-made journals. Today she has a thriving business that also feeds her soul.

YOU CAN DO IT!

LaVonne Ellis did it. She let go of anything that didn’t nourish her heart anymore and chose to give birth to her dream project through collecting the life stories of real people. Now she writes and shares true stories with a burst of flavor on her own online magazine.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jackie Walker did it. She went through divorce, loss, alienation, and bankruptcy. And yet, anyone who knows her agrees that she is the ultimate symbol of unconditional love, hope and joy. She radiates her world. And recently, she has started The Mothering Revolution.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Alison Gresik did it. She battled severe depression, but she didn’t give up writing. In 2011, she embarked on an open-ended trip around the world with her family. Since then, she has written her memoir and even raised the money needed to self-publish it through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Susannah Conway did it. One day in 2005, the man she loved died very suddenly from a heart attack. She didn’t even have the chance to bid him farewell. As Susannah moved through the stages of grief, she dove into photography and writing, which helped her unravel and heal herself layer by layer. Now she helps other women transform their lives through her workshops and books.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jen Louden did it. She is not only the “comfort queen” who wrote multiple best-sellers and was on Oprah, but she is also the “depression warrior queen” as she has dealt with depression most of her life. In spite of all the crazy, heart-wrenching things she went through, today Jen is the icon of self-care and self-compassion as well as a true example of selfless devotion and service.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Sandi Amorim did it. A sad event brought her face-to-face with the naked truth: she could no longer take life for granted. Since then, she has been on a mission to obliterate “someday thinking” from the face of Earth. Along that journey, she has positively influenced and genuinely helped other fiery women.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Meg Worden did it. At one time, Meg’s life got so out of control that she found herself in an unsustainable and sinking relationship while epically self-medicating and selling ecstasy pills for a living. What’s more, she ended up incarcerated in federal prison. Today, Meg is an esteemed nutrition coach who teaches women how to radiate from the inside out. She’s also writing her memoir.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Brigitte Pilloud did it. She left corporate America after 15 years of progressive employment in strategic marketing and product development. She was totally burned out. Now Bridget is an intuitive guide, a healer and an energy shifter. She loves to prosper and never gets tired of reminding other women that they were born to prosper as well.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Kris Carr did it. She got cancer and decided to call it sexy. She didn’t listen to the naysayers who said one couldn’t talk about cancer being crazy sexy. Against all odds, Kris built her crazy sexy empire, leading the way to finding health and fulfillment at the same time.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Ronna Detrick did it. Ronna used to struggle to find God in her own life. Her ability to believe, to have faith and hope were waning away when she decided to take her faith in her own hands and look into the depths of her soul. Today, God speaks to Ronna when she writes. And she leads provocative conversations on God and women in her sacred community.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Lianne Raymond did it. She lost her mother as a child, married her high school sweetheart, lost her baby, became a teacher, almost got divorced but restored her relationship. And along the way, she became a life coach while still teaching high school psychology. Today Lianne informs, inspires, and nourishes women on their journey and shows them the way that leads to living with wild abandon.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Andrea Olson did it. As the queen of multipotentialites, Andrea refused to choose one thing. Instead, she tried a multitude of things at the risk of being labeled as a rebel and a dreamer. She became a lawyer, a realtor, an economic development professional, a college administrator, and a few other things in between. Now she helps other women craft a new story, one full of infinite possibility.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Yael Daphna Saar did it. Yael’s mother killed herself when she lost her fight with postpartum depression. Yael was six-years-old. Later, Yael suffered from postpartum depression too. Three times! Today, she’s on a mission to liberate mothers from their postpartum demons by disarming guilt and teaching self-kindness.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Lee Brochstein did it. She went through divorce three times. Her life was shattered thrice. But she’s not sorry. Because now she’s teaching women that there is life, hope and “a better you” after divorce.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Tamara Holland did it. Post-conviction death penalty lawyer Tamara figured out that what she and the world really needed were more enthusiasm, color, whimsy, and creativity. Her children were grown up and out on their own, so she took courage and started her creative greeting card business. Recently, she made an agreement with a major greeting card distributor that will produce and sell her cards nationwide.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Nina Yau did it. After completing business school and well into a standard corporate life, Nina chose to leave the 9-to-5 lifestyle and buy a one-way ticket in order to lead a life suited to her truth. Nina’s first official print book will be releasing on August 1.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jennifer Boykin did it. Jennifer held her baby girl while she died. However, she chose not to honor her dead child by becoming a martyr to her memory. Instead, she honored her girl by allowing her to become a chapter in an otherwise very long and beautiful unfolding story. Now Jennifer is the midlife midwife to women, whom she encourages to take responsibility to reinvent their lives at midlife and beyond.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Anna Guest-Jelley did it. She struggled with low self-esteem, warped body image and dizzying migraines. She had been on 65 diets. She starved, binged, broke down, and wept. She also experienced death, loss and unspeakable grief. When she hunted for community, she found echoes and misunderstanding. One day she turned to yoga, but she was told she was too fat to do it. So Anna started the Curvy Yoga movement, wrote the book of curves, and today she inspires women all over the world.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Jen Vertanen did it. She used to hate her career, resent her life and battle depression. She felt like a mess. Today, she’s on a mission to help women craft a wholehearted life through sharing stories and creating everyday adventures.

YOU CAN DO IT!

I did it. I went through a draining marriage and an exhausting divorce. I experienced dire conditions as a single mom and worked at a day job while doing non-stop freelance work in any free time I had left. Sleeping three hours a day had become my routine. At the end of 2010, I moved with my son to the States to be with the love of my life and left behind everything I had without blinking an eye. In a little more than a year, I built a strong network and a successful business in a foreign country and in a language that is not my mother tongue. By the way, I did all of that as a hard-core introvert. Nowadays, I hold intimate conversations with gutsy women about mindful living and sustainable business.

And you can do it too!

Nothing is unrealistic when you believe you can do it.

We all have stories. We all have wounds. We all have scars.

But that doesn’t mean we are broken. We are alive and kicking.

It is through your story, your wounds and scars, gutsy sister, that you have all the power and potential to understand, transform, create, and heal – to bring about change and make a difference in the world.

You have all the wisdom, riches and colors to craft and live your life on your own terms.

You, gutsy woman!

You are fertile with ideas, dreams and your creative creed.

Remember this:

If you can imagine it, you can do it.

If you can visualize it, you can do it.

If you can desire it, you can do it.

You are a seedpod of awesome possibilities. Allow yourself to burst open!

Now go do it! What are you waiting for?

You already have everything you need!

Cigdem Kobu is a business growth coach and catalyst who believes business is fun when it nourishes your heart first. She holds visionary conversations with gutsy, creative women about mindful living and sustainable business. And she leads a private circle of cohorts where women solopreneurs learn, create and prosper together. Cigdem is also the curator of A Year With Myself, the most comprehensive program for women who are ready to change their lives from the inside out. Follow Cigdem on Twitter @CigdemKobu and Facebook and sign up for her weekly Wicked Awesome Life newsletter.

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At the outset, I should tell you that I am not the least bit musical so anything that I say about music that doesn’t make sense – forgive me now. I once tried to learn how to play the violin and my teacher begged me to stop. If you were to ask me the name of a tune, I probably wouldn’t be able tell you – even if I’ve heard it a thousand times. If you asked me to sing a song, it would surely be a painful experience for both of us.

But I love to listen to music. Classical. Rock-and-roll. Reggae. The Blues. Each style is suited to a different mood and inspires different emotions. Yet, all share the mystery of harmonious composition.

Harmony – agreement, accord, a pleasing combination, synchronization.

My thoughts have felt anything but harmonious for the last several months. Jarring notes have been less than pleasing to my internal ear. I have been in a place of discord.

And I must say it:  I have felt as though I have lost track of what is possible for me.

Quite a confession, wouldn’t you say, from someone who purports to travel in the realm of possibility?

I am sure I am not alone. We have all been in places in our lives where nothing seems possible. Where our choices seem to be ones that don’t lead us to where we think we want to go. Where the possible outcomes of our choices feel underwhelming rather than over-the-moon.

Definitely not a place where the heart sings.

The other day, in yet another round of listening to my internal song (the one that says you can’t have it all), I realized why nothing has felt possible for me.

I have been stewing in a sea of seemingly inconsistent wants and wonderings for my life.

Wanting to:

  • Eat donuts and lose weight.
  • Make tons of money and be a stay-at-home mom.
  • Travel for months at a time and have a mini-farm.
  • Live in the city and live in the country.
  • Be a good steward of my resources and buy high-priced, high-quality goods.
  • Be known for being active in my community and live privately.
  • Talk with the angels and travel in political circles.
  • Find a nice guy and never go on a date.
  • Wear yoga pants and look professional.

These wants have felt inconsistent to me – as if by choosing one thing, I automatically eliminate the other. Because I don’t want to choose only one thing, I have chosen nothing; leaving me feeling like nothing that I want is possible.

My wants have been singing a chorus of “either-ors.”

Either I can eat donuts (and gain weight) or I can lose weight (and never allow another delicious, chocolate-coated donut to cross my lips.)  Either I can make tons of money (and never be at home because in order to make serious money one must leave the house) or I can be a stay-at-home mom (and subsist on noodles since I’ll never earn enough money by staying at home or working from home).

I could go on … but I won’t. You can see the fallacy of this logic, can’t you? I can see it as I write it. But, when you are living it, it’s a different story altogether.

When looking at your options, your wants, your choices, it is easy to fall into the either-or trap.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Another way exists. One that is more harmonious.

The way that encompasses “both-and.” The way that creates harmony.

It is possible that I could eat donuts and lose weight … if I actually exercised. It is possible that I could make tons of money and be a stay-at-home  mom … if I leveraged a business vehicle or career choice.

It’s all in the way I choose to frame the choice – to compose the music of my life.

The musical nature of reality and the soul entails the coming together of differences. To a great extent, the art of music is a process of “arranging” different themes, pitches, rhythms, and timbers, and in a musical psychology, our various moods and traits each could find their place in an emotional harmony and counterpoint. Thinking psychologically, we often try to eliminate inner conflicts and competing desires and longings, but thinking musically, we may be able to find a way to appreciate the many elements that make us up and allow them to be independent and yet in tune with one another…. [Harmony is]… a way of joining many different tones not only so they sound good together but also so they can then progress to the next set of tones in a meaningful and creative way. ~ Thomas Moore, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

It is possible to create a harmonious composition with seemingly disparate wants.

Marrying disparate wants merely requires you to open up to enough to acknowledge that your wants can live together – if you use your creative ability to weave them together in a way that is appealing and meaningful to your ear.

It starts by recognizing that no musical composition would be complete without high notes and low notes, fast tempos and slow tempos, loud tones and soft tones.

Our wants are similar. Some register high on the scale of wanting (I want it right now) and others low (I want it someday). Some are so hot that we feel ready to ignite and others provide a steady, low-burning flame. Some shout until we no longer can hear ourselves think and others whisper to us in the shower.

But we can blend them together – in time, sequence, pacing, and perspective – to create beautiful music. With a little imagination. With a little patience. With a little soul-searching.

We can create a harmony of both-ands. Beautiful music indeed.

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I was not surprised when Julie told me she wanted to write on trusting yourself – that those words resonated with her from my manifesto. The first time I met her and looked into her eyes, I thought, “this is is a woman who sees and trusts.” For those of you in a state of transition, take heart from Julie’s beautiful words … and trust.

Women’s wisdom: we carry it in our bodies, our hearts, and in our souls. Somewhere we learned to discount this gift of wisdom. Somehow our trust in ourselves was eroded as we began to trust ‘those who are supposed to know’ instead. But deep in our bodies, we know.

I’ve been in an in-between space for months, now.

My work in the world is changing. I knew my direction was changing somewhere inside before I consciously began to align with this internal knowing. This seems to be how I am with change. I don’t embrace it easily, yet I do embrace it eventually.

In this in-between place, the knowing can be fuzzy. There can be confusion. We lack clarity. And as Thoreau wrote, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

I’ve been in this lost place…and I haven’t wanted to feel the lostness. I’ve tried to scale the walls to get back onto sure ground, but there’s no going back. That sure ground was never sure…I just thought it was. It was a plateau for a period of time made out of my mind wanting the status quo to be solid.

But now, I am in this lost place. I see some things, and there is much that has not yet been revealed.

The funny thing is, it won’t be revealed until I receive the confusion that is here. That is what is true.

People write of surrender, or letting go, and perhaps many other phrases. Adyashanti, someone whose wisdom I respect, speaks instead of receiving what is here. Receiving is a very feminine aspect. Women know how to take things in. We receive all the time, yet are we being discrete in what we take in? Can we take in the knowing we have within our own beings? Can we receive the road the soul is longing to travel?

Rumi wrote, “There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?”

Do you feel this void in your soul? Do you hear a voice calling you to turn within?

This candle in your heart is your knowing, your light.

Spirituality is really about unlearning, unveiling, and seeing through the conditioning that veils our own knowing. There comes a point where the soul calls and we must make that choice whether or not to trust it, to face it.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain… People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.~ Carl Jung

When we take time to be still, to consciously ask to be filled with that which the soul longs to know, something happens…we receive exactly what is ripe and here for our own soul’s unfolding.

So take some time to be still and ask to receive.

Sit with your awareness in the heart. See it as a vast window into consciousness. When the heart is ready, the door will open. Receive yourself into your Self. Ask for the capacity to trust in that which you know to be true, and that which you don’t yet know. This isn’t about getting anything. Getting something is very different than receiving. Receiving is opening to the grace that is present, that is longing to feed your soul.

Grace is the sustenance you crave.

We make the darkness conscious when we kindle the candle of the heart, when we open to receive that which longs to fill the void in the soul.

I have a glimpse of this light and the power of it can cause me to shrink away from what I know to be true. And, this shrinking is painful to my own soul. This is the doorway for me to walk through, the same doorway we all must walk through if we are to face the beauty of our own souls, and live from the only place of integrity a human can know – the integrity of the soul.

Learning to feel and trust what is real and alive within is both a difficult and joyous journey. It’s a spiral journey that unwinds all that is not true to reveal the essence of the truth of you.

 

A dancer at heart, Julie would love nothing more than to live her life and do her work from the dance floor. Ten years in the practice of 5Rhythms has opened her to the joy and wildness that is at the heart of women’s creativity. A writer, teacher, coach, and yes, dancer, Julie savors life playing with her wee grandchildren & serving the women and men who are called to work with her.  Julie is happiest when she is breathing through her feet.

 

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You may have seen the poster in the side bar on my site that contains a number of phrases. It is my manifesto for amultitudeofthings. Each phrase describes the way I have chosen to live my life and how I would invite you to live yours. This summer, I’ve asked my friends to adopt a phrase of their choosing and to write about it so that we may all be reminded and inspired. First up is my dear friend, Ronna. Enjoy!

Andrea’s poster is pinned to a bulletin board in my kitchen. It’s been there a while so I don’t always notice it; sort of a fixture in the room now. But when my eye does catch on the page, the blue and black ink, the varying font sizes, I almost always see the same two words: No Regrets.

And I wince a bit because I’m pretty sure she included them just to provoke me.

My life was filled with regrets.

Choices made. Far more not made. Miscalculated risks. Uncalculated risks. Not risking enough. Words spoken. Far more, unsaid. Feelings expressed. Far more withheld. The list goes on and on. It was pretty overwhelming, depressing, and dark.

Maybe it’s because I’m older (and hopefully a little wiser), but I don’t live with much regret anymore. Frankly, I don’t have the time, energy, or patience for it! It doesn’t serve in any way at all. It is a looking back and wishing things were different. It is a looking back and bemoaning what didn’t happen…or did. It is a looking back. Past tense.

Now, I’m all for good reflection, learning from mistakes, and paying attention to patterns in order to move forward in healthy, strong, and informed ways. But regret is none of these.

Regret is a stuck-place, a spinning-place, a hell, really. It is not where I want to be.

I want to move, to stride, to step forward into and through oft’ hard lessons; each inviting me to new levels of strength and tenderness, capacity and courage, truth and vulnerability. And most of the time, these days, I do. Present tense.

Here’s what’s true: we are amazing beings with vast and endless capacity to change, to learn, to grow. So make choices. Take risks. Say what you want to say. Feel what you really feel. No matter how raw, how choppy, and sometimes even ungraceful and hard it might be.

No regrets. Just opportunity. Future tense.

I’m still pretty sure Andrea put those words on her poster to taunt me. Or maybe she put them there to remind me of just how far I’ve come; to remind me that more is yet ahead. Mmmmm. Thanks, Andrea.


Ronna Detrick loves nothing more than having provocative conversations about God and women. She realizes this is an oft’ taboo topic which, quite frankly, makes her want to talk and write about it even more! She’s been blogging for over seven years, providing Spiritual Direction even longer, and figuring out what it means to live someplace between faith and doubt for as long as she can remember. Subscribe to her epistles, occasional revelations, and sacred writ. Get to know Eve (one of her very favorite stories) in brand new and desire-filled ways. Join her for Sunday Services or Soulstice. Lots of rich, sacred community – for you.

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My daughter is graduating from kindergarten this week – if you can call the transition from playful learning to “serious” learning, a graduation. She is beyond excited to be a first-grader but, even more so, she is eager for the summer ahead.

She is ready to milk cows. Plant a garden. Make batik fabric. Paint paintings. Craft necklaces. Go swimming. Hang out at the river. Find shells at the beach. Ride a horse. Visit the zoo. Learn how to do a cartwheel. And on and on.

She’s ready for all the amazing things that her summer surely holds.

She’s ready to go to that place where anything can (and just might) happen.

Do you remember that place?

It is where out-of-the-ordinary experiences and simple pleasures co-exist to weave the magical. It is where anticipation and excitement fuel your perspective and open your eyes to the possibilities. It is where you swim deeply in the flow of life and time seems to expand in response. It is where you fall into bed each night exhausted – in such a good way – by the pleasure of being present for each delicious day.

It is that special place called summer.

Most of us have only been to that place as children. As adults, summer becomes just another season. A season with more things to do, take care of, and accomplish. We forget that summer is special. Summer invites us outside – not only out into nature but to things outside our normal routines.

Summer invites us to transformative spaces.

As children, we grew during the summer. We gained inches in height. We made leaps in knowledge. We added to our stores of experiences. We cultivated every form of play imaginable. We arrived back at school in the fall so transformed that our friends sometimes didn’t even recognize us at first glance. Magical.

As adults, we simply hope we have time to do something “relaxing” during the summer. With all the busyness that comes with the management of our daily lives, we have, understandably, lost touch with the transformative power – or the magic – of summer.

But summer is still there waiting for us to reclaim it in some small way – by having dreams and making plans. By holding the expectancy of what might be. By savoring the wait and, when the experience finally arrives, by relishing every detail.

Summer begs us to engage in personal enchantment.

If you are having trouble accessing that enchanted place, take yourself back to your kindergarten days. See yourself before the doors of your classroom on the last day of school as they swing open to release you to deep blue skies and sweet, warm air. Feel the exquisite joy as you run out the door, your body vibrating with untapped energy, knowing that you have the whole summer to play and explore. Imagine the skip in your step as you make your way home thinking of all the things you want to do.

Experience the heady moment of wonder when you realize that anything might happen.

When you get to that place, you’ll know you’ve arrived at summer.

Magical. Enchanted. And full of possibility.

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If you are on the path of embracing your possibilities, whether that means ditching your expensive education to try something in a completely different field (been there and done that) or pouring your heart into a nascent business while conscientiously handling the responsibilities of your day job (been there and done that), you may have already discovered that it can be a rocky road – especially when it comes to getting support from those who love you.

Although it seems like those who love you should be your greatest supporters, cheering you on and telling you that you can do it, often the exact opposite occurs.

You get looks that blister. Silences that burn. Words that scald.

Words that make you feel like you are crazy for wanting what you want. Words that make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Words that suggest entire worlds are going to fall apart.

Not exactly what you would hope for when you are bravely striking out to craft a live you love.

I’ve done many things in my life to honor my possibilities. I’ve made significant career changes. I’ve started businesses. I’ve taken leaps where there was no foreseeable net. Each time, words like these have joined me on the journey:

  • Quit living in a fantasy land.
  • Now that you are over (fill-in-the-blank-age), you might want to start getting serious about what you are going to do with your life.
  • What gives you the confidence to think you could run your own business??
  • You are selfish.
  • You are self-centered.
  • What are you thinking?
  • Grow up.
  • Get a state job. It’s safe and secure.
  • You can’t throw away that good education.
  • Don’t be a quitter. Just stick it out.
  • You need to be responsible.

Feeling the love? Hearing the cheers? Sensing the support? Probably not so much.

Pursuing my own possibilities has, at times, been uncomfortable. It has been untidy and messy. It has been incredibly muddy and unclear. It has been fraught with unanticipated challenges. It has achieved less-than-perfect results.

Looking in from the outside, my loved ones must have thought my choices were completely wacky. And, to be honest, sometimes they appeared so. They were made without specific plans or an idea of exactly where I was going or what I was doing – which is hardly the model proposed by most career and business advisers.

Instead, my choices were made by listening to the authentic whispers of my heart.

Whispers that only I could hear. Whispers that required me to trust that I knew what I was doing.

And, it has worked out OK.

Sometimes better than OK.

Most of the time, pretty damn good.

Which makes sense, right? With all great experiments, you’ll have successes – some so-so and some simply spectacular. You’ll also have failures – minor ones that barely cause you to wince and incredibly painful ones that cause you to wonder if you’ll live to see another day.

But you wouldn’t have anything, success or failure, if you didn’t start. If you didn’t try.

Your efforts to embrace your possibilities may not be perfect. You may take some hits – big ones and small ones – but odds are you will still be standing at the end of the day. I’d call that a success.

Which brings us back us back to the question of why loved ones feel compelled to send us on our journeys accompanied by unkind words.

Obviously, because they are afraid. They are afraid we will get hurt. They are afraid of risk itself. They are afraid because they’ve been burned when reaching for their own dreams. They are afraid of what changes in us means for them and the status quo.

So they say unkind things born of fear.

Fear produces incendiary words to consume the dream and the dreamer in an effort to keep everyone safe.

The next time you are offered scalding words by those who love you most, apply a soothing balm and carry on.

Thank them and wish them well.

Understand they may not be as daring as you are.

Acknowledge they may be distracted by their own fears and projecting them onto you.

Believe their motivation is to do you a kindness and to protect you from harm.

Know what they say is really about them and how they view the world.

Imagine they are really saying, “I love you. I’ll be there to catch you if you fall.”

Ask them to think kindly of you and the life you are choosing to lead.

Remember you are an amazing, courageous and capable.

You can do it. Can you hear the cheers???

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The other night, sitting at the dinner table munching our way through a pizza, my daughter looked at me and said, “You know mom, I am pretty wise.”

“Of course you are,” I replied, wondering where the conversation was going. She just continued eating and we moved on to dessert. Discussion over.

A few nights later, she approached me with a tiny notebook, half the size of a deck of cards, and a pencil. I was on the couch taking a quick break before I launched into the evening’s must-do activities.

Sitting down in front of me, she said, “Mom, I think we should make a list.”

“Oh, do you want to write the grocery list?” I asked, less than enthusiastically. The idea of spending the next hour spelling out each word for her in order to “write” the grocery list wasn’t what I wanted to do. I just didn’t have the time.

“Don’t be silly, Mom,” came her reply, “I just want to write a list of things that feel good.”

Hhhhmmm. This was new.

“Why do you want to that?” I wondered.

“Because I’m trying to get into a routine, Mom,” she said as if I were dim-witted.

OOOOKKKKK.

“Well, what would be on your list?” I probed, trying to understand what she was getting at.

She tapped the pencil on her mouth a few times before answering. “I think my list should have things on it like reading, resting, walking, bird watching, drawing, and music. Oh, and kissing you.”

My heart melted. I got it.

We spent the next few minutes together crafting her list and getting each word spelled just right on the minuscule notepad. When we were done, I watched her carry the list into her room and set it on the nightstand next to her bed so that she would “remember her feel-good routine.”

In the quiet that followed, I couldn’t help but reflect that my daughter was indeed wise. She knows things that most adults have forgotten.

She knows that it is important to regularly include things in your life that make you feel good – not just the things you have to do or want to accomplish, but the things that make you feel good right now.

More importantly, she can actually name those things that make her feel good. Simply. Clearly. Declaratively.

She is in touch with herself and it intends to make it a habit.

And she’s only 5 years old.

We all know that feeling good is nice but most of us have ceased to make it a priority let alone a habit. But we should. Feeling good serves a very important purpose – one that matters to the wildly amazing life we imagine in our hearts.

Feeling good fosters a positive perspective.

Not exactly news, I know. After all, every self-help book out there talks about having a positive attitude. The point that goes missing in all the talk around having a positive attitude is a subtle one. It’s not just about having a positive attitude. It’s about cultivating the positive in all its forms.

Positive perspectives. Positive experiences. Positive emotions.

Because the pay-off is huge.

Quite simply, cultivating the positive – the feel good things in your life – can enhance the possibilities you see, help you build the resources to respond, and allow you to choose your options from a place of strength.

I’ve known this for a long time. Intuitively. It’s why I write what I write here.

But someone has actually researched this and come to the same conclusion.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has delved into the value of positive emotions and discovered that they “broaden-and-build“:

…[U]like negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions, positive emotions do the opposite:  They broaden people’s ideas about possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions than is typical. Joy, for instance, sparks the urge to play and be creative. Interest sparks the urge to explore and learn, whereas serenity sparks the urge to savor our current circumstances and integrate them into a new view of ourselves and the world around us.

Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative….

By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being….

…[T]hese same good feelings, cultivated through natural and ordinary means, are the active ingredients needed to produce an upward spiral toward flourishing. ~ Barbara L. Fredrickson, PH.D., Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life

The formula for an amazing life seems pretty to be pretty clear based on this research:  foster the positive in your life (the feel good stuff), watch your possibilities expand in response, build new resources to embrace those possibilities, and end up with a life you love – a life that simply thrives.

I think it may be time to get crackin’ on that feel good list, don’t you? After all, if a 5 year old can do it, it can’t be that hard and it might just be the key to everything.

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Every so often, I discover that the gorgeous plant gracing my bathroom has fallen over in despair. Its graceful branches flop over the side of the container and hang there. Wilted. Dejected. Lifeless.

I have forgotten to water it – again.

So I splash a drop of water on its depressed form and pray that I haven’t left it too long, that it may be revived and restored. Each time, I am convinced it’s on its last legs and won’t make it. But, somehow, it does. That small amount of water – that focused bit of care and attention – brings it back to life.

Aside from the fact that any plant should be wary of having me as its caretaker, there is an important lesson to be found in those sagging branches and withered leaves.

What is neglected will certainly not thrive – and, worse yet, might not survive.

If you don’t take care of something – if you don’t nourish it – it will waste away and die. If you only give it sporadic attention – as I do with that poor plant – you might see it survive, but you will never see it burst into bloom.

Sobering and glaringly obvious.

But how often do we ignore the obvious and hope for the best? Think that somehow things will take care of themselves and that everything will be OK?

If you ask my plant, the answer would be: too often.

Our lives are littered with the relics of neglect.

They are easy to spot if you look closely. They might be the dust bunnies that have gathered under your bed because you have neglected your home. They might also be your burgeoning debt because you have neglected your finances, your strained relationships because have you neglected your emotions, or your bulging waistline because you have neglected your health. They might even be the barren days that populate your weeks, months, and years because you have neglected your life.

At this point, you may want to jump into a frenzy of action and shout, “No, I will not have it,” and begin to attack these neglected items with extreme discipline and acts of will until you become a twisted whirlwind of activity that ultimately leaves you exhausted and despising everything about the process.

But there is another way.

You can choose to nurture those neglected areas of your life. Gently. Compassionately. With love.

Nurturing starts with noticing what hurts and what needs to be healed.

Nurturing asks you to dig deep within yourself to cultivate the conditions for flourishing; slowly, patiently, one revelation at a time, until you are rich with possibility.

Nurturing invites you to cherish the process by acting tenderly, lavishing consistent care and attention, and fostering a climate of encouragement.

Nurturing demands that you protect all that is growing within you as if it were a child – fiercely, loyally, and with heart.

Nurturing allows you to love new ways of being into life so you don’t just survive but thrive.

What needs nurturing in your life right now?

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She stood in my kitchen, arms folded tightly across her body, as she told me about the tremendous opportunity to pitch her fledgling business idea to some big companies. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Yahoo! How fun!!” I said.

She looked at me, arms pulling even tighter across her body, and said, “I’m scared.”

Not quite the reaction I was expecting. Nervous, maybe. But scared?

When I probed deeper, I discovered the fear was based around talking to the CEO’s of these big companies. What could she possibly offer them? What would she say? How would she act?

I reminded her that everyone puts their pants on the same way and suggested she might just want to make friends.

That stopped the conversation in its tracks.

Make friends? In a business conversation? Really?

Yes. Really.

In almost any context, making friends makes all the difference.

Making friends has the power to shift things from the impersonal to the personal, from being a number to being a person, and from being an unknown to a known.

When it’s personal, the conversation changes – whether that’s with the cranky receptionist who is so harried that she can’t find you an appointment until next month or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who dines with dignitaries and travels the world in a private jet.

Thankfully, making friends is not hard to do. It’s just that most of us have gotten out of the habit.

Once upon a time, when you were in kindergarten, you were a natural at making friends. You looked at everyone and said hello. The path to friendship was built on small acts of sharing -  like your skinned knees, the pet rock you called Charlie, or the peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches your mom packed for lunch.

In kindergarten, you assumed that everyone wanted to know and like you.

The funny thing is, they still do – even though you are a grown-up and know all of your imperfections so well that you could write a book about them.

Even more, people want you to know and like them.

They simply want to be seen and heard, just like you.

So, how do you make friends wherever you find yourself?

  • Look at people – look them in the eye so they know you’ve seen who they are.
  • Say hello – great them with warmth and welcome.
  • Start a conversation – ask them about themselves (where they got that beautiful purple scarf, the last place they went on vacation, what their favorite color is, how they made that delicious-looking lunch, where the gorgeous photo in their office was taken).
  • Listen to the answer – really listen, absorb the nuances of the response and let them carry you to the next part of the conversation.
  • Share something beautiful you’ve observed about them – sharing lets the person know they’ve been seen and heard (wow, you have the best sense of humor, are so adventurous, have a beautiful smile, an amazing sense of style, a lovely family).
  • Let the conversation be about them – your turn will come.

Simple conversations like this can put you on the path to friendship.

If you are out of practice, start slowly. Practice with the person in line next to you at Starbucks. Practice with the moms on the playground at your child’s school. Practice with the accounting manager at your office. Be sincere. Maybe you won’t become best-friends. Maybe you’ll only be acquaintances. But, one thing you won’t be, is strangers.

And, you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity for friend-making presents itself in your life. You may be nervous but, you won’t be scared.

When was the last time you made a friend?

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