Positive Intelligence- Mental Fitness

PQ: My Newest Tool for Mental Fitness

Positive Intelligence- Mental Fitness

We’re in an auspicious time – the beginning of a brand-new year! Hopefully you’ve crafted a fresh set of intentions, goals, and/or resolutions to inspire and support you in 2022.

Did you put YOU at the top of that list? No doubt you want to bring the best of yourself to your challenges, circumstances, and relationships this year.

So often we bring our worst – not our best – to our goals and intentions. We inadvertently add stress through our own negative mental machinations. Anybody else worry, fret, ruminate about what could happen or what did happen or what might never happen?! GUILTY!

So how do we meet the challenges of life and work starting with our best — confident and resourceful?

You’ve gotta start with your mental fitness.
It’s the foundation for success in every aspect of your life.

The Positive Intelligence (PQ) program is the newest addition to my life AND my coaching toolbox! With PQ, you learn to strengthen your Sage (your authentic, natural, creative self) and quiet your nasty Saboteurs (those judgmental internal critics lurking in your brainy brain) through daily practice. PQ integrates all of the effective tools and techniques I used with my clients over the last 20 years. Even better, it’s built on research from neuroscience, cognitive behavioral psychology, performance science and positive psychology! Of course, the best part of the program is the App that makes it super easy to build your mental fitness muscles EVERY DAY!

This program has made a huge impact on my own life. I’m more grounded, open and resilient. I spend less and less time in negative spirals in my mind. I have a more positive outlook and challenges are tricky but not stressful. I’m less cranky overall – just ask my family!

In the spirit of my theme of the month – everything is new – I wanted you to know that the PQ program is the new, exciting part of ALL of my coaching engagements. Stay tuned — there’s more to come in 2022!

If you want to strengthen your mental fitness to effectively and confidently accomplish your 2022 goals, send me a message!

Questions, comments, suggestions? Comment below!




I love December. It’s a month of contrasts. There is the frenzied energy of year-end activities and holiday celebrations.  And then because we only have 6 hours of daylight — there is the quiet energy of HIBERNATING — tucking in under a warm blanket with a mug of hot cocoa for a low key evening.

And then there’s the YAHOO/BOO HOO/AH-HA activity I do with my coaching clients.

Here’s how it goes: 

We start with YAHOO:  exploring all the things that were good about the year: accomplishments, achievements, and good times. 

Then we visit BOO HOO: the disappointments, things that didn’t get done, and the tough moments. 

We wrap up with AH-HA: capturing the important nuggets of learning from the year. 

Most of the time, at the end of this activity, my clients create a simple ritual for saying Good Bye/Farewell to this year. (Tossing the list in the fireplace/fire pit is my personal fave!)

I love doing this activity with my clients and for myself. It wraps up the year so that we start the New Year fresh. Want to give it a try? CLICK HERE for the worksheet that will walk you through the activity. I hope you like it!

Warmly – with hot cocoa and marshmallows,


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 (Mary@coacholk.com).

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 (Mary@coacholk.com).

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 (Mary@coacholk.com).

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

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.

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?



Retreat: An Essential Daily Practice

It is a gray and chilly day here in Minnesota. Every now and then a few snowflakes drift by. What a perfect day for a retreat!
Today in the Growing Edge Teleclass, my friend and Retreat Coach Extraordinaire, Michelle Burns, treated us to a lovely mini-retreat. She guided us to an inner landscape of renewal; helping each one of us experience a wonderful, relaxing, peaceful retreat. Here is where I went…

In less than 10 minutes, we felt refreshed and refueled.


All of us left the teleclass with a renewed commitment to carve out some sacred down time each day. Some people will be taking walks in nature. Others will be creating time to meditate. Still others decided to create Technology Free Zones during their week. I renewed my commitment to no screen time for 30 minutes before bed each day.

With the barrage of constant connectivity from cell phones, emails, mp3 players, texting, iPads, laptops, etc. — we need down time to reconnect with ourselves to know who we are and what we want.

How are you going to create a retreat for yourself today?

Click on the comment link below and tell me!

PS. If you want a two hour time block for yourself, join Michelle and me for a VIRTUAL RETREAT on November 20. Click here for the details


Your Invitation to a One-Hour Vacation!

Usually, I host The Growing Edge teleclass on the second Thursday of the month. In July, I will be away on vacation so I won’t be hosting a teleclass.



How would you like to join me for SUMMER VACATION?

Since there isn’t room in my minivan for all of you to ride along with me and my family to Michigan, it will have to be a virtual vacation.

Here’s how it will work:

Sign up for a one hour vacation WITH YOURSELF on July 14 at 10:30 AM CT. That’s right – take a one hour break in the middle of the day. Step out of your usual routine and do something special that YOU will really enjoy.

  • Spend time sitting in the sunshine in your favorite park.
  • Visit that museum you have been meaning to get to.
  • Treat yourself to a meal with someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Go for a bike ride.
  • Take a historic walking tour.
  • Read a cheesy novel.
  • Rent a Segway or Vespa and toodle around town.
  • Sun bathe (with sunscreen of course!)
  • Take a nap in the hammock.
  • Drive the scenic route on the way home.
  • Play backyard baseball or a pickup game of basketball.
  • See a movie….

So, will you do it? Will you join me and take a mini-vacation on July 14? If your answer is YES, I WILL, register below for YOUR VERY OWN ONE-HOUR VACATION!

If your answer is YES, then Register for One-Hour Vacation in This event is a teleclass.  on Eventbrite for YOUR TICKET TO YOUR VERY OWN ONE-HOUR VACATION!

Hello Darkness

“Hello Darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again…”

P. Simon 1964 “The Sound of Silence”

I love the quiet darkness of winter. It brings a peaceful calm to my heart and mind. In the midst of a frenetic time of year, the darkness invites me to sit down, to slow down, to just be in this moment. When I embrace the quiet darkness, I am treated to wonderful surprises – the sharp contrasts of the shadows cast by a full moon, the fiery brilliant colors of the sunrise, a wonderful sensation of being connected to everything and everyone! My heart tingles with aliveness! I am grateful for the invitation to slow down and come home to me.

Thank you Winter Solstice!

What surprising invitation do you find in the quiet darkness?
Leave a comment and let me know!