THANK-FULLNESS: The Practice of Gratitude

THANK-FULLNESS: The Practice of Gratitude

THANK-FULLNESS: The Practice of Gratitude

November is a month full of giving thanks around my house. We celebrate Thanksgiving, and if you watched my theme of the month, you know I also celebrate my birthday and my wedding anniversary, too.

My birthday gives me the chance to appreciate all the gifts in my life.

My anniversary allows me to stop and appreciate my soul mate and the relationship we have been cultivating for over 30 years.

I get the opportunity for a lot of practice being thankful in November!

Join me this month as I dive deeper into the PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE. In my podcast episode “Practicing Practical Gratitude” I talk about three simple tips and practical ways to add gratitude:  NOTICE, FAKE IT, and SAVOR.

Notice is simply writing down a list of things you are grateful for today. People, places, things, situations. It can be anything! Aim for at least 5.

Fake it is faking a smile (or biting a pencil or your finger) which stimulates your brain to connect to appreciation emotions without even having to try!

Savor is taking a couple minutes to experience the sensations of gratitude by calling to mind one of the things you are grateful for and lingering in the feelings/sensations.

What if you did one gratitude practice every day this month?!

I invite you to experiment this month with a variety of ways to get grounded in the practice of gratitude – EVERY DAY! I promise it will rejuvenate your spirit and open your eyes to your rich, meaningful and magical life.

If you want a little more detail on any of the three practical gratitude techniques, head on over for a listen.

Comment below or send me an email (

Warmly (with a deep, easy, full breath),

Change is in the Air

Change is in the Air

Change is in the Air

Transitions are tough and exhilarating at the same time.

Just take a look at our Midwestern weather this time of year: you can leave the house in the morning shivering in your sweater and by lunch time, you are sweltering, ready to shed those socks and shoes for sandals! You just never know what the day will offer.

That particular lesson from Mother Nature helps me become aware of how my mindset creates struggle or ease in the midst of transition. When I hold tightly to my expectations and things don’t turn out the way I planned, I get pretty cantankerous. It is really hard to delight in a surprise October snow shower when I had my heart set on shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt.

So when I start to feel that cranky, agitated feeling, I step back and notice how I am contributing to the stress of this moment. 

I can choose to ruminate on my disappointment (I really wanted it to still be summer!) OR acknowledge my disappointment and focus my attention on something within my power (oh goody, I get to wear my cozy fleece jacket and wool socks!)

What is your attitude when change is in the air? Try this if you are feeling cranky:

  1. Stop whatever you are doing
  2. Soften or even close your eyes
  3. Take 3 nice, easy breaths — giving your breath your full attention
  4. Open your eyes and go back to whatever you were doing
  5. REPEAT AS NEEDED until crankiness subsides

Ready with socks and sandals!

Comment below or send me an email (

Warmly (with a deep, easy, full breath),

Coach Olk Breathe

Breathe Into Daily Transitions

Coach Olk BreatheWelcome to September – a season of transitions! The weather is changing, the school year is beginning, the new quarter will soon be starting at work. If you’re feeling more overwhelmed than usual… you are not alone! Almost every area of our lives is in transition right now.

Just think about this — From the moment we wake up, we are moving from one thing to another. Everyday tasks are full of little transitions. If you’re like me, you’re usually thinking two steps ahead – and feeling 3 steps behind. 😉

I’m brushing my teeth, thinking … I am running late; I’ve got to get that presentation finished before noon; Remember to send an email reminder about the back-to-school get together; Don’t forget to schedule the doctor appointment I’ve been putting off. I quickly say good morning to my family while rattling off the list of the day’s To Dos I want them to remember.

Sound familiar?! My mind is spinning just writing that!

Planning ahead is useful and necessary, but it often means I am not present in the moment. Life feels HARD and full of tension! So, what is a busy person to do? How can we move through transitions with more grace and ease?


If I anchor myself by breathing in those moments in-between and really pay attention to where I am right then – the transitions become smoother and I’m more centered.

Want to give it a try? Here’s some ways I experiment:

  • Take a deep breath when I’m done brushing my teeth.
  • Take a breath (and smile) before I say good morning to my family.
  • Pause for a deep breath before I open my computer.
  • Deep inhale/exhale before I take the first sip of my morning coffee.

I discover a quiet joy in those precious moments – even if it’s fleeting.

So this month, as you navigate the transition from August to September and all that brings, experiment with your breath. And notice…how does this one small thing make a difference in my daily transitions?

I’d love to hear the results of your experiments. Comment below or send me an email (

Warmly (with a deep, easy, full breath),

Ready For A Performance Evaluation Revolution?


[Cue music from Les Mis… “Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs…” 😉]

Performance evaluation strikes a chord of doom and dread in everyone’s heart.

It’s a common business practice with the best of intentions…

  • to bring out the best in people
  • to strive for optimal organizational results

But it has the unintended impact of creating tension, stress and disengagement for everyone involved.

It’s Engagement, People

In the realm of leadership development, research shows that engagement is the best performance enhancer. And people are more engaged when using and building on their strengths rather than working hard to improve their shortcomings.

So when the goal is building engagement in a team (pro tip – this is always the goal!), focusing on strengths is key.

I help leaders identify the strengths in themselves and in their team, as individuals and as a group.

With a clear awareness, successful leaders focus on maximizing the strengths of the individual and the team and proactively managing trouble spots.

Favorite Tools

I have two favorite tools at hand to work this magic:

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great assessment for identifying the strengths of individuals, whether working solo or on teams.

TIPS is a powerful assessment for evaluating the best use of talent in an organization. This unique tool identifies individuals’ preferred styles of thinking, working, living, interacting and innovating. With that information, leaders orchestrate a dynamic in which everyone’s strengths and talents are actively engaged in the right place and function for business success.

Celebrate Strengths

In a perfect world, corporations would redefine the performance evaluation, shifting it away from a stressful dissection of people’s shortcomings to an exploration and a celebration of each person’s strongest talents.

When employees know that leaders really see them and support them in their strengths, they can’t help but soar.


The Transformative Power of Accountability

A lot of factors come into play when we’re trying to move forward on something in life. One valuable tool for making progress is accountability. In its simplest form, accountability is just making a promise to do something, then having some way to track whether you actually do it.

Instead of tracking it yourself, it helps when someone else tracks it with you.

An accountability partner raises the bar. You might have tried this with exercise plans. While you might be tempted to skip a solo workout, you definitely think twice about rescheduling a tennis match because someone is counting on you.

When the stakes are higher or the goal is more complicated, an accountability partner does more than tracking and/or showing up. And that’s where an experienced coach comes into the picture. Being the perfect accountability partner is a coach superpower!

What Makes a Great Personal Accountability Partner?

First, there has to be mutual trust and respect. It’s got to feel safe, because it always feels vulnerable to invite accountability.

We have to be willing and committed to giving honest, direct feedback. We can be gentle, but we need to be truthful or else we’re no help at all.

We offer encouragement without judgment or attachment about the outcome.

It’s More Than a Checklist

Coaches know accountability is more than simply checking tasks off a list. We like to get in deep with all the subtle dynamics around your efforts. While we help track your progress, we also ask important learning questions to shed insight into your passion, your skills, your resistance. We help you rethink the steps you’re taking, offering fresh challenges and new slants. We help you re-engage with your goals when you’re struggling to focus.

A coach will dig a little deeper to help you understand your successes and your flops. A coach will ask you to reflect on what you are learning from those actions and inactions, and help you apply those insights going forward.

Accountability is quite a dance, and everyone has a different rhythm. As a coach, I’ve learned how to tune in to who you are and what makes you tick, so I can help you, with direct compassion, make progress on your goals and integrate the lessons you are learning along the way.



A Sparkling Theme for 2019

I am not a fan of resolutions.

They’re well-intended, but they don’t seem to last. We need something to anchor and guide us, to help us be our best.

Having a theme for the year is what works for me. It’s more inspirational.

The thing about resolutions is they set external targets. They are prescriptive, telling you what to do. While there is a certain power to their concrete and tangible character, they seldom stick because they lack inspiration.

Themes don’t expire, they inspire. They tap into our creativity and curiosity, rather than our willpower. They engage us instead of dictating to us. That’s why a theme lasts longer.

Review Your Year for the Pivotal Moments

Yahoo. Boohoo. Aha.

That’s the simple lens I use to review my past year, reflecting on events, accomplishments and moments.

Try it… Write down your “yahoo” moments of 2018. What are you proud of? What brought you joy? Maybe you’ll think of positive steps taking care of your health; quality time with cherished friends; redesigning your website or reorganizing the basement.

Now your “boohoos.” What tough things happened? Jot down whatever triggered your disappointments or sense of loss or shortcoming in the last year.

What sparked an “aha”? What did you learn? What truth were you reminded of?

Review your list. Say thank you to 2018 for the yahoos, the boohoos, the ahas. Feel your gratitude for all you learned.

Now crumple it, toss it out, and say goodbye to 2018.

A Theme to Inspire Your New Year

To figure out your theme, take a fresh piece of paper and write on top: “What Is Next.”

Jot down what comes to your mind and heart.

Ask yourself….

  • What do I want my life/career/work to feel like in 2019?
  • What do I want more of? Less of?
  • What fires me up, makes me feel more alive?
  • What scares me?
  • What are the challenges in 2019?
  • What do I want to focus on for the next year?

Noodle on these questions…. Instead of trying to figure out the answers, linger with the questions.

While you linger, drop your attention to your heart. Drop your attention to your breath. Don’t force it, see what comes.

As words, images or ideas surface, a theme might reveal itself. Sometimes it pops right out, other times it emerges as you noodle. Pay attention to what makes you sparkle, what inspires you.

Once you’ve got a theme in sight, take it out for a test drive. Live with it for a week or two. Does it resonate? Does it spark more questions? Revise and reiterate until it resonates, and let it guide and inspire you as the year unfolds.



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:


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 …

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.


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! 😉