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

RESTORE YOURSELF WITH RETREAT: Yes, I’m looking at you!

Making conscious space for retreat is essential to rejuvenate. Call it energy, mojo, juice, passion or productivity: We aren’t bottomless wells, we need to replenish our energy to survive.

A Small Retreat Has a Big Impact

When we hear “retreat,” we often respond “not me–I don’t have the time” (or the money, or the freedom).

I challenge you to re-think what a retreat can be. Maybe you’re thinking of a cabin in the woods for a few days–what a wonderful option! However, you can savor the benefits of retreat on a much smaller scale: Even a minute or two devoted to breathing deeply and clearing your mind can be a nourishing, potent retreat.

Every effective, successful leader I know has learned to dedicate time for renewal and restoration. I encourage my clients to cultivate a regular practice of retreat. These are some of the ways they rejuvenate themselves:

  • A daily walk in nature, a run, a bike ride
  • Turning off all technology at 8 PM
  • Visiting a retreat center for several days or a week
  • Turning off radio and technology for the commute to or from work
  • Daily quiet time: Meditation or faith practice

Retreat as a Means of Focus

You can even cultivate the practice of retreat to support your work life: Perhaps set aside a power hour (or even a half day) of uninterrupted work time each week, with closed door, phone and internet off, no meetings, no calls. You could schedule a quarterly check-in with yourself or a trusted accountability partner, to eclipse the day-to-day to-do list and evaluate the bigger picture.

Engaging in Retreat Will Make More of the Time You Have

It’s easy to resist the idea when your schedule is already complicated and demanding. However, that’s precisely why it’s essential to claim time for peace, quiet and solitude: in order to refuel and find balance in the face of urgency.

Retreats are essential to living a full life. We need to rest and revitalize ourselves physically and mentally: like sleep, it’s a physical necessity. Experiment with the different scales of retreat: I know you can commit to a ten-minute retreat daily, or even consider a whole day of personal retreat time each year. One way or another, you’ve got to refill your tank to keep the fires burning.

How will you claim time for restoration, refueling and rejuvenating this week?

Mary

Play to Your Strengths

You can be anything you want, if you just work hard enough.

Hmmm, really? Ballet dancer, opera singer, nuclear physicist–are those pursuits really available to anyone and everyone?

Not many people buy that cultural myth anymore BUT underdog stories of triumph over adversity are still captivating. The research in the field of Strengths Psychology suggests that the real triumph comes to those who capitalize on their strengths. Instead of employing superhuman effort to correct deficiencies and overcome shortcomings, how about putting attention and energy towards making the very most of your strengths?

Why labor upstream when you can glide downstream?

Correcting weaknesses is like trying to swim upstream: The fight against the current will wear you out, and you simply can’t make good progress. Try playing to your strengths, and you’ll know you’re swimming downstream, your efforts boosted with ease by your natural gifts. There’s no stopping you!

When you play to your strengths, it’s naturally easier to accomplish more

In the workplace, statistics indicate that only 20% of folks use their strengths daily. That lucky 20% are more efficient, effective and productive. Most importantly, they’re happy. When you know and play to your strengths, life bursts with ease and satisfaction!

Cultivating strengths takes less effort and brings far greater results

We’re bombarded with a societal message to be balanced; to be well-rounded; to labor at transcending our shortcomings. Let go of that mandate and cultivate your strengths:

  • Stop agonizing over what you don’t have: Celebrate what you DO have.
  • Discover the role you were born to play and realize the ease and zest fulfilling it.
  • Don’t strive for balance–it’s an illusion anyway. Strive for fullness. Intentionally imbalance your life towards what makes you feel strong.
  • Always sweat the small stuff: Know and act on the specific details of what invigorates you.

How will you play to your strengths today?

Mary

Change is in the Air

Cold fall or winter evening. People resting by the fire with blaTransitions 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 can 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!
Mary

International Coaching Week 2016: SPECIAL DEAL!

ExperienceCoachingWebBannerThe International Coach Federation (ICF) has designated May 16-22 as International Coaching Week. Professional coaching is a powerful experience that is shifting corporate culture from command and control to collaboration and creativity. Coaching is developing stronger leaders, better communicators, more productive employees and increasingly positive people.

Want to give coaching a try? During International Coaching Week, I am offering a 30-minute one-on-one coaching session for just $50. Regular price is $400! At such a reduced rate, spots will fill up fast. Starting May 16th, contact me to reserve your spot. Only a limited number are available. Prices go back up to regular rate on May 23rd.

What do you Cherish?

Remember this golden oldie?

That’s my theme for this February: CHERISH. I love the tender, sweet feeling that this word (and that melody) inspires. I am excited to notice what I lovingly adore, what I treasure, what is close to my heart.

How about you? What is it that you hold dear?

Cherishing my connection to you,
Mary

Cultivate a Practice of Gratitude

What a Fall it has been! Just when I thought my schedule was settling into a routine, something surprising would get added. Sometimes it was a happy event like a new, exciting work opportunity. Other times it was an unexpected tragedy such as the death of a dear family member. I am so grateful for all the reminders I have plugged in to my day-to-day life to remind me to BE HERE NOW. That focus keeps me in the vibrant reality of the moment — whether the moment is delightful or heart breaking. When I practice — BE HERE NOW — it gets easier and easier to relinquish my age-old habits of worrying, ruminating, or blaming when life doesn’t unfold as expected.

During the month of November, GRATITUDE is the experience I plan to cultivate. How about you? What are you focusing on this month?

Warmly,

Mary

Turn the page

It is October 1st and we turned the page of our old fashioned wall calendar this morning.

October 2015

October 2015

It was exciting to take a peek at all the adventures this month has to offer. To top it off, we even have real Fall weather today – a cool morning and a bright, sunny blue sky day! Just a few minutes outside reinvigorates and grounds you. Boy, do I love those basics.

Today is even more exciting because it is DAY 1 of my 30 day commitment to clearing out the clutter in my life. Every day for the next 30 days I will GIVE AWAY or THROW AWAY something. At the end of each week, I will donate the items to our local thrift store. Here is what went into the GIVE AWAY pile today…

Going to Goodwill!

Going to Goodwill!

Would you like to join me? I know I do better with an accountability partner! That reminds me, I will be talking about all kinds of tips for making accountability more engaging in my FREE TELECLASS this month. Check it out!

HAPPY AUTUMN!