Small Is the New Big: Take Small Steps to Achieve Big Change

Recently, I rediscovered a book that has been on my shelf for years, called One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer. I love it so much that I want to share it with you.

Dr. Maurer’s big, audacious, surprising notion is that we don’t need to take (and in fact aren’t served by taking) big, audacious, surprising steps. Instead, harness the power of small steps. It’s called the Kaizen Way, after a Japanese principle of manufacturing improvement.

Big Changes Tend to Backfire

The idea here is that those crazy big steps, promises and pivots encouraged by our “CAN DO” culture, are actually more likely to spark fear, overwhelm and cause frustration. When we make big promises, our subconscious puts up big resistance, and while we might start off with a bang, we’ll ultimately lose momentum and feel discouraged. By taking small steps, we avoid setting up that dynamic of internal resistance, finding a natural, graceful way to move securely toward our goals.

Playful, Creative Change Instead of Forcing It

Change – big or small – is scary. By practicing the strategies of the Kaizen Way, we work around our brain’s natural fear response. These strategies lay down new neural pathways that unleash our brain’s natural capacity for creatively and playfully creating change, instead of forcing it.

Instead of making big promises, figure out small steps. Here are three of the six small steps outlined by Robert Maurer!

Three Strategies of the Kaizen Way

Number 1: Ask Small Questions, Repeatedly

Our brains LOVE to play and questions help open the door to our natural creativity. Small, gentle, open-ended, positive questions allow us to tip-toe past the fear and playfully explore! Big questions may trigger our automatic fear response.

Here’s how it works: Instead of asking yourself “how can I lose 30 pounds?” try asking “how can I be physically active today?” Instead of wondering “how can I find my soul mate?” wonder “what would an ideal mate be like?”

Part of this strategy is repetition: ask yourself repeatedly over days or weeks. Post your questions in places where you see them regularly. Mull it over, don’t force it…But do noodle on all the possible answers to your questions. Try writing the answers down.

Number 2: Think Small Thoughts

Dr. Maurer explores the technique of mind sculpture developed by Ian Robertson. With this strategy, you use your imagination/mind to develop new skills. Mind sculpture is more than guided imagery, visualization, or just thinking. It is a total imaginary immersion, engaging all the senses. When you practice mind sculpture, you use your mind to fully immerse yourself in the activity. Your brain believes that you are actually engaged in the activity. This way of practicing engages your mind and neutralizes fear at the same time.

Number 3: Take Small Actions

This is the heart of the Kaizen Way. No matter how much you entertain your brain with puzzles or questions or mental rehearsals, at some point you have to take action in order for change to unfold. These actions need to be so small and seemingly insignificant that they trick that brainy brain of yours! They might even seem small, trivial–even laughable. But they will comfortably, naturally, organically lead you to a second step, then a third, and so on until you have accomplished your goal!

Examples include marching in place for one minute (instead of pledging 45 minutes in the gym), going through one quick conversation in your French textbook (instead of vowing to do a whole chapter), or cutting down your portion size by one bite at each meal (instead of cutting out a meal).

Gentle, Playful, Compassionate Change

The Kaizen Way is a life-long practice that kindly and respectfully encourages you to move towards your goals. Don’t force these small steps: They only work if you allow them to work in a comfortable and easy manner.

All change takes time. Building these new habits requires compassion, trust, optimism and patience. Be kind to yourself, and open to the possibility that small can be huge.

Mary

WHAT’S YOUR THEME FOR 2018?

Now that we’re a few weeks in to 2018, how’s your mojo?

The new year brings the excitement and magic of new beginnings. I love the fresh start, blank page, anything is possible feeling. It energizes me wondering What will this year bring?

You know what doesn’t inspire my mojo? Resolutions.

Invigorate Your New Year with a Theme

Instead of the dread of resolutions, I get my inspiration from a theme.

What themes have kept me revved up and committed to my best, most satisfying life?
Here are a few from the last few years:

“The answer is always there.”
“Yes! Bring on the best!”
“Now is the time for Wild Ass success.”
“Let’s Dance”

They’re dynamic, playful, full of energy: they reflect me. More importantly, my themes inspire me in all areas of my life, grounding me and keeping me focused throughout the year.

Craft Your Theme for 2018

Would you like to try creating a personal theme for your fresh new year?

Grab two pieces of paper and let’s get started. We’ll start with a look back at last year.

Yahoo / Boo-Hoo / Ah Ha!

This is a great year-end exercise. Think back over 2017 and write down…

Yahoos: What were your best moments? What did you accomplish or achieve? What are you proud of? What
delighted you?

Boo-Hoos: What were the tough spots? What didn’t you get to? What were failures or disappointments? Where were
the sad moments? What do you regret?

Ah Has: What did you learn?

Pause. Review. Say Thank You for the experiences of 2017. Really feel that sense of gratitude – from your heart.

NOW…say Farewell: fold up your paper and set it to the side. Better yet, tear it up and throw it away! ADIOS!

2018–What Is Next?
Take sheet number two, and write at the top: 2018–What is next? Reflect on these questions:

  • What do I want my life and career to feel like this year?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  • What do I want less of? What can I let go of?
  • What fires me up? What will make me feel more alive?
  • What are the challenges?
  • Where can I be more courageous?
  • Where do I want focus?

An Exercise of the Heart, Not the Mind

Let the answers come – this is not something to figure out in your head. In fact – put your hand on your heart, and ask What Is Next? Jot down what comes to you.

Notice any consistent threads? Sometimes a theme pops right out. Other times it takes a while for the words, images, or ideas to emerge.

There is no right way to do this. Allow yourself time to percolate on the questions and answers. It takes time and attention to craft a theme that sparkles and excites you. When you arrive at your right theme, you’ll know–you’ll feel your creative juices surge.

That’s how I felt when I came up with my simple theme for 2018: “Let’s have fun!!” I invite you to find your own perfect theme for the new year, and let it feed your mojo!

Mary

Your Comfort Zone

Mary says: “My job as a coach is to challenge you to go outside your comfort zone, to try something different to help you land in that space of what’s right and true for you.

Sometimes the challenge is one of tenderness and gentleness. That same client can at times require the drill sergeant who says get it done and get it done now. That is what I love about coaching – it is so improvisational.”

Ask The Coach – Free Teleclass

Ask the Coach!
Thursday, December 9
10:30-11:30am

Here’s your chance to ask a seasoned coach all the questions you have about coaching!

Have you ever wondered …

  • How does coaching work?
  • How often does a person meet with a coach?
  • What makes coaching effective?
  • How long do people work with a coach?
  • How do I find a good coach?
  • What does coaching cost?
  • Can I have more than one coach?

Sign up today and bring YOUR questions for a lively conversation on December 9th!

Register for Ask the coach! in This event is a teleclass.  on Eventbrite

Talk to you soon!

Mary

Let Your Heart Shine!

“Appreciation can make a day. Even change a life.
Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

~Margaret Cousins

Take a moment and think about the last time you expressed your appreciation to someone…



Who was it?

What did you say?

What was the response?

What were the physical sensations you noticed?

Expressing gratitude is a courageous act of vulnerability. In the moment of sharing appreciation, we open up and reveal a piece of our tender heart and our authentic selves shine through.

When we take the risk, a rich, vibrant, human connection is made – even if the moment is fleeting. What a gift!

In the week ahead, practice random acts of gratitude! Each day, look someone in the eye, express your appreciation and feel your heart shine.

You Can’t Say Yes To Everything!

Five Practical Strategies for Getting Stuff Done

Stressed BusinesswomanSo you find yourself in a whirlwind – so many things to do and it doesn’t seem as though you are getting anything done! That’s when I get cranky, irritable, and out of sorts.  This is not me!  What happened and how did I get here?  Does this sound familiar?

In the Growing Edge Teleclass last month we spent time exploring some practical, effective strategies for finding the way out of the whirlwind and back to sanity.  Here are the top 5 strategies from our conversation:

1. Remember — Saying YES means that you are saying NO. Before you say YES, take time to examine the ripple effects.  What you are saying NO to when you say yes?

2. Chunk it down!
a.    Instead of a project list, make a list of tasks and start with the easiest tasks to complete.
b.    Set a time focus:  What do I need to do this week? Or this month?  Only work on the tasks/projects that need to be completed in that time frame.

3. Do only one thing at a time.  STOP MULTITASKING!

4.    Daily Commitment list. Each day choose a few items from your “TO DO” list that you are 100% committed to completing today.

5.    Buddy up. Partner with a compassionate, non-judgmental friend/co-worker who will help you be accountable.

What strategy will you experiment this month? Let me know your results!

Compassionately yours,
Mary

The Power of Simply Noticing

I free myself not by trying to be free, but by simply noticing
how I am imprisoning myself in the very moment I am imprisoning myself.

Rick Carson, Taming Your Gremlin

During the last month I have been asked to SIMPLY NOTICE from a variety of teachers and in a variety of settings. Simply notice what I am feeling or thinking in a given moment without an imperative to DO SOMETHING. Simply notice my breathing. Simply notice the thoughts that cross my mind. Simply notice the tension or sensation in my body. Simply notice the color of someone’s eyes or the sound of their voice.

Here is what I discovered so far:

1. I spend a good deal of time doing! On a typical day in my office I am talking to clients, hosting teleconferences, sorting through email, networking, scheduling, writing, etc. I step out of my workplace and into cooking dinner, supervising homework and music practice, scheduling, laundry, etc.

2. When I am not busy doing, I was astonished to discover how much time I spend going over and over something in my mind. My TO DO list gets a regular mental review. The argument I had with my husband or my kids gets rehashed. My worries about my family get turned over and over. My business adventures take up my thoughts. Sometimes the thinking is incubating new ideas or activities but there is a lot of time spent ruminating!

3. The practice of SIMPLY NOTICING had a fantastic effect. I feel free. I feel the weight lift from my shoulders. I feel calm. I am empowered – in any moment I can stay preoccupied with my activity (mental or physical) or simply notice my deep breaths or the cool fresh air on my face or my daughter’s delightful laughter.

How does simply noticing empower you?

Living With Possibility

The blank page…
The pristinely white fresh layer of snow…
A new year…

Aren’t these vivid, tangible metaphors inspiring? I get to write my own story, make my own path, and set my personal intentions.

What DO I want?

Sometimes the prospect of endless possibility is paralyzing. It is so big, so wide open that it overwhelms me. I don’t know where to start. I am frozen, not empowered!

And then I take a deep breath and come home, home to my heart.

Today, I am surprised to discover that my heart is brimming with joy and satisfaction. I had no idea how full it is. I feel the heart to heart connection to those I love and those that love me! As I linger here, I can feel the swirling juice of life course though my whole body. I see faces, recall sweet moments, sink deeper into that ever present pool of love.

Wow … who knew? I have been so caught up in the hubbub of activity, I lost track of simply being. Now I know what I want for today. I want to carry this delightful heart-filling joy with me as I go on through my day – coaching my clients, prepping for my class, cooking dinner, connecting with my husband and children. Coming home to my heart, I can carry my being into the doing of the day.

How are you living with possibility today?

Living with your Crabasaurus

Some days I am irritable, crabby and grumpy – a downright Crabasaurus. I notice it more often this time of year. It could be because the schedule at our house is extremely busy with work, school, music lessons, workshops, sports, meetings, volunteer commitments, etc. It could be because it gets so dark so early this time of year. It could be because I am not getting enough sleep.

Regardless of the reason, my typical reaction is to chide myself, “I have nothing to be crabby about. I have a nice home in a safe neighborhood. I have 3 healthy happy kids and a devoted loving husband. I have work that I love….” That litany of judgments doesn’t help at all. It just makes me even CRABBIER!

So I have been experimenting with making room for the Crabasaurus – including it, welcoming it instead of ignoring it or trying to push it away.

One immediate effect of including it – a huge sigh of relief. I literally breathe easier. I don’t have to DO anything – just be in this moment. Another interesting result – I notice an increase in compassion and tenderness toward myself. I am a normal human being just trying to do my best and sometimes that means I am grumpy.

My 3 kids just came home from school. From the sounds of it, I might have 3 hungry little Crabasaurs on my hands. I guess I’ll have to make more room at the dinner table.