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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.

Mary

 

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.

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

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

Transition Time

Picturesque Autumn landscape of sunset colored trees and warm colored leaves that covers the ground  ** Note: soft focus, best at smaller sizes

After a glorious summer filled with plenty of adventures (planned and unplanned), it is time for me to transition into the routines of fall. Sometimes the return to routine is refreshing; the predictability and regularity keeps me grounded and moving in the right direction. Other times it’s disorienting and overwhelming because it adds another layer of deadlines and time pressure.

In this month’s Your Growing Edge teleclass, I will share what I have learned about effectively navigating this transition.

I am looking forward to fall. How about you?

Warmly,
Mary

Savoring Summer Sunshine

Mary Enjoying Summer GrassGLORIOUS!

That is the best way to describe the most recent phenomenal streak of weather in my neck of the woods. The days are sunny and warm with bright blue skies and no humidity. There is just enough breeze to be comfortable in the shade. Every time you step outside, you can’t help but feel good. That summer sun just lifts my spirit.

Instead of coffee breaks, I sneak out for a nature break every chance I get. I am savoring these last days of summer and storing up plenty of summer sunshine memories for those cold, dark January nights!

How is summer nourishing your spirit?
Mary

Mary

Busy as a Bee

Busy as a beeExciting news from Coach Olk HQ! My new product, Activating Your Inner Champion, was one of 3 featured products in CHOICE, The Magazine of Professional Coaching. WOW! I am speechless. I’m sure I’ll recover soon and be blabbing about it all over the place. Stay tuned and in the meantime, click here to read about it.

May is full of all kinds of busy-ness personally and professionally. The end-of-school year events (field trips, concerts, track meets, banquets) merge with the onramp to summer activities (soccer games, picnics, graduations, vacations). In my day-to-day business operations, I am redesigning my website, welcoming new clients, exploring new training opportunities, and learning how to talk about Activating Your Inner Champion!

With all that busy-ness, it is so easy to get knocked off center. I can get so uptight, worrying about the things I need to do, the things I am not doing and should be doing, and all the things I forgot to do!

YIKES! Can you relate?

That’s why I invited Rick Carson, author of Taming Your Gremlin to YOUR GROWING EDGE, my FREE TELECLASS. Rick will share his wisdom for stopping that internal churning and reconnecting to our hearts.

Please click here to join Rick and me at the teleclass on May 14th at 11:30am CT.

Busy as a bee,
Mary