Gratitude

Thanksgiving is coming up. How are you giving thanks every day?!

Did you know that gratitude is more than a thought or idea?

Gratitude is a way of being.

When we’re in touch with gratitude, it’s a full-bodied experience. That means feeling your appreciation when you are thinking about all of the things you’re thankful for. It is a game changing way of cultivating a deeper, fuller experience of gratitude. When we cultivate that fuller experience of gratitude on a regular basis, it enriches our lives.

Gratitude: An invisible, powerful leadership skill

Gratitude is a leader’s secret for success. When leaders are genuine in their appreciation, and they express it in natural ways, the people around them feel it and respond positively. Think of the changemakers you admire and the leaders you’d like to emulate. How is gratitude part of their magic?

When leaders practice gratitude as a way of being, they build a positive emotional reserve to draw on when faced with stressful situations, allowing them to stay grounded and present. Leaders connected to their internal gratitude easily express gratitude to others, which cultivates loyalty and goodwill, making individuals, teams and cultures more creative and effective.

Benefits of Gratitude

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. has devoted his career to studying gratitude. He has studied over a thousand people who kept a three-week happiness journal. Their experience found that gratitude:

  • Helps you sleep better
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Brings more joy, optimism and happiness
  • Motivates you to be more generous and compassionate
  • Decreases feelings of loneliness and isolation

So gratitude is really a superpower, in both personal and professional life.

Gratitude Tools

How can you develop gratitude as a way of being?

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has some great ideas. Here are two different ways to experiment with cultivating gratitude:

First, try a savoring walk: a quiet, solitary walk for tuning into mindfulness and appreciating your surroundings. Dew drops on leaves, trilling birds, the dance of sunshine and shadow: experience them fully with all your senses and feel your appreciation for them.

Another tool: a guided gratitude meditation, directing you inward to experience your appreciation of the people and things which make our lives complete.

Embrace giving of thanks as a way of being. Really feel it and savor it, then share it. You’ll be grateful for the practice.

Hear some of my thoughts on the practice of gratitude:

Mary

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance. People talk about it, strive for it, but is it really something we can achieve?

I don’t think so. Have you ever done balance poses on the yoga mat? Then you know that balance is a dynamic experience, built of movement and tension. It’s not something you achieve and put behind you—it’s an ongoing dance.

It’s a bummer when “work-life balance” is on our goal pedestal, because it isn’t an outcome. We walk around feeling like a failure because we can’t meet our own expectations.

So, instead of looking at balance as a discreet event, experiment with looking at it as a process. Notice what is working and what is not working. Ask…

What am I choosing now?
What is satisfying about the choice?
What is uncomfortable?
What do I need to shift?
How do I want to be in the midst of this ride?

Stop trying to juggle responsibilities and priorities. Instead, aim for finding your flow.

Flow, Not Balance

That’s how Dr. Christine Carter sees things, too. She’s a sociologist and Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She’s also a happiness expert and coach who hit the wall, suffering exhaustion from overwork as she coached the public in work-life balance. This experience inspired her second book: The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work.

In her view, the very idea of balance suggests that there’s a perfect, achievable ratio between work and pleasure/personal life, as if they’re mutually exclusive or a zero-sum game.

Instead, she points out that the quality of your professional life will always be dependent on the quality of your personal life. If you’re happy, you’ll be better at your job.

I agree completely. When we’re happy outside of work, we have more motivation, energy, creativity and grit in our work life. Want to improve your potential for achievement? Improve your personal life.

The Sweet Spot: Overlap of Ease and Strength

I love her image of the sweet spot: “the overlap between where we have the most ease in our lives and the place where we have our greatest strength. Think of it as a Venn diagram, with a ‘strengths circle’ and an ‘ease circle.’”

So that’s the image of balance I like to take away: a balance between these overlapping arenas. Some of us live in our strengths, some of us live in our ease. A healthy, sustainable, evolving dance between these two is the way to find joy and richness—not in balance, but in flow.

The Chatter of Your Inner Champion

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.” Marcus Aurelius

Yes, you have a brilliant internal resource I call your Inner Champion. With practice, you can connect with your Inner Champion and magnify your internal resourcefulness!

Let’s Connect with Your Inner Champion

Put your hand on your heart, get quiet, get grounded. Imagine that your heart is breathing in love and exhaling gratitude.

As you linger in that love and gratitude, listen for that part of you that always believes in you, supports you, encourages you, knows your heart.

It may show up as a slight smile on your face, a subtle nod, a warm feeling, or a kind voice. Allow this experience to become your primary focus. This is your Inner Champion.

Tune in to the energy, experience or voice of your Champion. Tune your internal radio station to this channel—it’s dedicated to believing in your magnificence and capability.
This voice ROOTS for you …
This essence CHEERS for you …
It BELIEVES in you …
It STRENGTHENS you …

Your Inner Champion might sound like a giddy ecstatic teenager or like a calm Yoda.

Practice Inviting Your Inner Champion to Speak Out

Once you’ve tuned in to this voice, you can connect anytime! Really attend, listen and notice—through the noise and distraction of everyday life—to the Voice of the one who cheers for you. Go ahead and practice tuning in as often as you can.

Put your hand on your heart and trust whatever comes—however it comes. Simply notice the wisdom. This part of you is always on your side and always knows your heart. Listen to her advice, and thank her for her constant presence, support and wisdom.

It may be awkward at first, but keep practicing. Just like working certain muscles makes them stronger, you can exercise your ability to notice the energy/presence of your Inner Champion, and you WILL get better at it. When you have clear and easy access to your Inner Champion, it’s a powerful counter balance to the negative self-talk so many of us have humming in the background.

Most importantly, when you face a challenge, you will have a solid connection you trust—that voice of wisdom will to speak to you.

Trust Your Inner Wisdom

Get acquainted with your Inner Champion, welcome her into your heart and spirit. Trust that your Inner Champion is always with you and guiding you, and her wisdom is inside whenever you need it.

Mary

The Power of Play

Play is healthy and healing. We know that intuitively because we feel it. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s not play.

Unfortunately, as we grow up and get serious about our education, our livelihood, our relationships, we get disconnected from play. We tend shift into a mindset that play is the domain of children or pets, and a luxury we can’t pursue in our serious efforts at adulting.

It’s time reclaim the joy and pleasure of play, recognizing that it’s actually essential for our well-being. That’s right, playing is self-care! I like the sound of that, don’t you?

What Is Play, Anyway?

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, studies the subject extensively and wrote a 2009 book titled Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. (He came to the topic from a surprising angle: He was studying the lives of mass murderers and concluded that they share a common lack of childhood play.)

Here’s how he defines play:

An absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self consciousness and sense of time. It is self motivating and makes you want to do it again.

 

Let’s break this definition down a bit…

  • Apparently purposeless: done for its own sake. Activities don’t seem to have value.
  • Voluntary: not required or obligatory.
  • Inherent attraction: it is fun, it feels good.
  • Freedom from time: you lose sense of time when you are engaged in play.
  • Diminished sense of self: you stop thinking, you’re fully in the moment.
  • Improvisational: There isn’t one rigid way of doing things. You never know what is going to happen.
  • Continuation desire: We want to keep doing it because it is pleasurable and rewarding.
  • There is no way to understand play without remembering the feeling of play: It’s a state of being.

And of course, it’s different for everyone. The woman who loses herself for hours fly fishing on a Wyoming river might pull out her hair if she were engaging in online gaming all afternoon.

What Does Play Mean to You?

If you are curious about infusing your life with a little bit of purposeless, enjoyable delight, stop and think:

What you did as a child that got you really excited? What gave you joy? What did you love to do, that you’d do for hours?

Linger in the memory—connect with that state of being! Guess what, you have just added a little play to your day.

Are You Ready to Play?

Play is vitally important. It keeps your brain healthy, flexible and growing. It makes you a better problem solver. It energizes and enlivens you. It renews your natural sense of optimism.

How will you infuse your day with play? You will enjoy it—I pinky, pinky promise! 😉

Mary

Too Much to Do: Four Strategies for Guaranteed Productivity

In my recent teleclass, Kelly expressed her goal succinctly: “I want to spin less and get more done.” Can you relate?

Journalist Charles Duhigg is an expert on productivity. In his latest book, Smarter Better Faster, he concludes that the most productive people have trained themselves to be productive, and most importantly, experimenting is part of the process. By trial and error, we build habits and contemplative routines that yield increased productivity.

The same tools don’t work for everyone, so don’t be frustrated if you’ve tried and failed some techniques: The winning technique for you is still out there — waiting for you to give it a try.

Here are four ideas to inspire your experiments:

1. Set a Stretch Goal

Take a few minutes to reflect on what is most important to you and WHY it’s important. The key to being productive is motivation. Understanding your “why” will help you stay focused and overcome obstacles.

For example, while having a clean house may be the goal, it’s not the motivation. The motivation might be “I am happier when I can find things easily,” or “my allergies do better when it’s not dusty,” or “I love having guests, and I don’t do that when it’s messy.” Once your motivational goal is clear, then make your TO-DO list, outlining the tasks that will get you there.

2. Keep a Not-Doing-Now List

Your Not-Doing-Now list is a parking lot. When your mind strays or another task tempts you, put it on your list and return focus to the task you’re committed to. Don’t multitask: ask “is this intrusion helping with my current task or not?” If the answer is “no,” park it.

3. Do the Hardest Thing First

It’s typical to tackle the simplest item on list. We get to check something off quickly and enjoy a feeling of moving forward. It makes us feel productive – but it only keeps us spinning. However, when you nail the hardest thing first, it frees you up.

My clients who’ve tested this one consistently say they feel so much better not having that big task hanging over their head all day long. It gives a sense of freedom, creating more energy and space to get more things done, and the rest of the day goes a lot smoother and easier.

4. Make a Daily Top-Three Commitment List

Review your master to-do list and pick three things that you are absolutely, 100% committed to completing today. Don’t take on another until all three are completed. This strategy helps me say “no” (at least not now.) When something else tries to sneak on to my schedule, I know what my priorities are.

Experiment TODAY!

Duhigg says one thing productive people have in common is a willingness to experiment.

I challenge you to choose one of these strategies, and commit to it for a day, or seven, or 30. Keep experimenting and be willing to train yourself into new habits.

What’s your first experiment?

Mary

WHAT’S NEW ON LINKEDIN: TIPS FROM JUDY ZIMMER

LinkedIn is THE place to make connections with colleagues, clients, prospects and more. It’s the biggest networking platform out there: it had 500 million users as of January 1, and 40% of them use LinkedIn daily. Isn’t that incredible?

Like any platform, it’s always changing, so I asked my colleague Judy Zimmer to share a few tips about recent changes with you. She’s a super-star LinkedIn expert, and you can learn more about her here: www.coachology.us.

Green Dot Indicates Active Status

The first new change Judy points out is the green dot in the messaging window, which indicates a member’s active status. It appears in two ways: a simple green dot means the person is on LinkedIn right now, and a green dot with a small white dot in the center means the person will receive a notification on their mobile phone when they receive a message. This allows LinkedIn messaging to function like an instant messenger. If you can catch them while they’re active, there’s a better chance of piquing their interest and getting a response. EXTRA TIP: Remember to personalize your message to increase the odds that they’ll accept you as a connection or reply to your message. Ask yourself: What were you excited about when you met them? That’s a great way to get personal.

Private Dashboard

Another significant new change is your personal, private dashboard in your profile. You’ll see some useful statistics: a set of three numbers telling you how many people have viewed your profile and your posts, and how many times you appeared in searches. Click on this bar to learn more about your searchers: where they work, what they do, and what keywords they used to find you.

EXTRA TIP: If the keywords you value aren’t in the list, make sure they occur repeatedly in your profile. In fact, your preferred term should be in your profile no less than five times: in headline, summary, experience, skills/endorsements and recommendations. Why is it so important? “Because the more clarity you have around keywords, the easier it is for people to come looking for you and the more people you can help,” says Judy.

Take Control of Skills and Endorsements

Lastly, scroll down below your Experience section to find Skills and Endorsements. This has been revised to make it easier for you to control which skills are featured at the top of your list. Click on the pencil to edit the list: by clicking on the thumbtack icons, you can select which three top skills you want to emphasize. By clicking on the four parallel horizontal lines, you can drag the skills to rearrange them. When people endorse you, they refer to this list, so make it easy for them to craft a useful endorsement for you.

It pays to be active on LinkedIn, and to get acquainted with the ins and outs. “There’s so much you can leverage, so many tools,” says Judy.

If you’d like some help with LinkedIn, reach out to me or to Judy, and polish up that profile!

WHAT WILL YOU UPDATE FIRST?

Mary

ACCOUNTABILITY: EMPOWERING CHANGE

ACCOUNTABILITY: It isn’t sexy – but it works

It’s a pretty simple concept that will make or break your success, but it’s got a bad rap. Just saying the word out loud – ACCOUNTABILITY — I can feel my defensive hackles rising. And I know better!

According to the dictionary, it’s about accounting for one’s actions. In the business world, it’s used to define expected outcomes and performance goals according to a timeline.

Here’s what it’s not: nagging, judging, forcing. Guilt trips.

COACHING DEFINITION: Am I Doing What I Said I Want To Do?

Accountability is a critical, fundamental tool for empowering people to make real and lasting change. I use accountability every day in many different ways to keep clients motivated and moving towards what they want to accomplish. It’s so basic, it sometimes seems invisible!

The art of accountability in coaching pivots on reflecting an individual’s goals, learning styles and motivation points. An accountability program which fits the person is a powerful tool for success.

Why It Works

Accountability in coaching works because:

  • It creates an external stimulus for transitioning from idea to reality
  • It’s a measuring tool for action and progress
  • It incorporates learning

Ultimately, it’s a structure which empowers people to make meaningful and lasting change.

Three Key Ingredients for Effective Accountability

When you commit to practicing accountability, there are three vital elements: Identifying a metric, tracking, and reporting.

METRIC: What will you measure/observe?

Identify what specific action you can track that will help you achieve your goal. Is your goal to write a book? Writing for 10 minutes a day would be a good metric. Trying to get more exercise? A daily walk may be your metric. Want more clients? Your metric might be reaching out to 10 prospects each week. Don’t make your metric “getting five more clients each week,” because that’s not within your control.

For the best chance at success, start small. Remember last month’s blog? Starting small helps guarantee success because you bypass the part of your brain that goes into overwhelm with big changes.

TRACKING: How will you keep track of what you are measuring?

  • Write it on calendar
  • Create a tracking sheet
  • Daily email/hourly text with your accountability partner
  • Record in journal
  • Maintain an end-of-the-day accomplishment list

Pro tip: try to make it a game. You are more likely to follow through if you make it fun!

REPORTING: Who will you tell?

Pairing up with an accountability partner is the critical ingredient for effective accountability, as well as effective coaching. But you’ve got to have the right person for the job. What qualities make a great Personal Accountability Partner?

  • A relationship of mutual respect and trust
  • Both parties willing and able to give honest, direct feedback
  • No judgment
  • Mutual encouragement without attachment to the outcome

What do you report?

  • Actions taken AND not taken
  • What am I learning?
  • How do I want to apply that learning going forward?

Accountability to Reach Goals and Fulfill Potential

By providing an external structure for measuring action and evaluating your learning process, accountability is a powerful way to discern whether the actions you take are creating the new improved reality you seek.

WHO ARE YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS?

Mary

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

Intuition: Your Most Overlooked Secret For Success

SILENCE…

BE STILL…

HIBERNATE…

This is the guidance my intuition is offering me in these cold, dark December days.

I got my first formal education about intuition while training to be a coach. The more I learned about intuition, the more I realized that I’d been relying on it for a long time–and that we’re all using it constantly. That’s right – everyone uses their intuition – even you!

Cultivating intuition is a primary goal for me as a coach. Your intuition is a powerful tool for being confident and effective in work and life. Every successful person I know relies on intuition just as often as they use other trusted advisors like financial advisors, attorneys or medical professionals.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition is a deep inner knowing. It’s a natural capacity we’re all born with like our sense of taste and smell or our capacity for language. We’re always unconsciously receiving data and allowing our conscious mind to interpret that data. Sometimes the information is subtle, sometime quite blatant. Unfortunately, we’ve been trained to disregard these messages. I invite you to cultivate your ability to perceive and process the information your intuition is giving you every day.

How Does Intuition Communicate With Us?

It’s different for everyone. We each have our unique personal style, and intuition reveals itself through a variety of channels. Here’s how Nancy Rosanoff in her book Intuition Workout describes it:

Intuition via the mental channel conveys images, symbols and words. You may experience it as persistent thoughts and hunches. You may be tempted to dismiss it as something you are making up. It may feel like past experiences or memories.

Intuition via the emotional channel manifests as feelings and emotions which you can’t explain. You like or don’t like something and you can’t articulate why. The feeling may be vague or specific, but they’re usually right.

Sometimes the information comes to us as physical sensations — the kinesthetic channel. Your signals may be tingling skin, goose bumps or agitation and restlessness.. You know the sensation is comfortable or uncomfortable and can’t explain it.

Intuition: A Priceless Tool

Your intuition sends you information through all of these channels every day.

Which channel is clearest for you?

How will you cultivate your intuition muscle?

What price do you pay for dismissing this powerful advisor?

When you develop and strengthen your ability to perceive the information your intuition sends, you cultivate a powerful and trusted advisor for success that dwells within you. It really isn’t a secret!

Mary