Wednesday, January 28, 2009


One of our deepest fears is being truly vulnerable. We all want to look good, to appear like we “have it all together,” and to not let anyone know that we may be hurting or struggling. How American! But there is something available to you and to others when you allow yourself to enter that vulnerable space.

When I talk about being vulnerable, I’m referring to that lay-it-on-the-line, put yourself out there honesty and risk that goes with sharing your whole self with someone else. It might be with one person, such as in a romantic situation, or with a group where you are disclosing something deeply personal, or even with yourself by admitting a hard truth that may feel difficult to be with.

When you are able to be honest with yourself, you are allowing an opportunity for growth. You may discover a blind spot or an attribute/attitude/opinion that is getting in your way. When you choose to share with others, you are not only letting them in and giving them a chance to connect with you, but you are creating space for them to be honest and vulnerable with you and/or with others. You may even be speaking something that resonates strongly for them, even if they are not able to admit it to themselves or you. By being bold and courageous, you demonstrate something powerful and give others permission to do it in their own lives.

I tend to be fairly public about what I’m going through in my personal life. With specific friends, I share so that I can get their input and perspective, and even open the door for them to reveal some things I can’t see for myself. On a larger stage, I try to disclose some uncomfortable truths as a way to practice vulnerability, and to create that space for others to feel safe with me (and maybe even others!) to share themselves more openly and honestly.

Consider for yourself when you notice your walls going up. What are your fears? What is stopping you? Where might you summon some courage and speak your truth? You may be surprised to find that the response you get is not the one you feared.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finding Your Voice

I have been in an inquiry lately about finding Voice. Voice can be defined as your calling; your “true self” expressed; who you are meant to be in this world and lifetime. It includes the four aspects of ourselves: the mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Dr. Stephen Covey (distinguished author, speaker and consultant) notes that each of us is internally motivated to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. Ultimately, this is what drives us in our pursuits, even if we aren’t fully aware of it. Covey offered up these questions to help distinguish the different facets of ourselves that make up Voice:

1. Mind: What are you good at?
2. Heart: What do you love doing?
3. Body: What need can you serve?
4. Spirit: What is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you feel like you should be doing? In short, what is your conscience directing you to do?

Consider these questions for yourself. They are very meaty and take some honest introspection and reflection. This is a gradual process, but the key point is to set yourself on the path. What might you, your family and friends, your community, and the world gain from you taking the time to explore how you can fully share your Voice?

On a Personal Note

This topic is a priority for me. I am still finding my Voice. I have invested many years in my own personal and professional development, have defined my larger purpose (I have a mission statement I’m happy to share), and have expanded as a human being in so many ways. But I am still tentative in my full self-expression because of my propensity to be a “good boy.” I want to look good, be good, do good, and not hurt anyone along the way. So, I find myself repressing at times when my Voice is aching to be heard. It not only is a detriment to me, but is ultimately robbing the planet of who I was born to be. As I continue on this journey, I’ll share what occurs for me that may be of service to you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More, Better, Different

When setting goals, I have seen clients and friends say they want more of something or for things to get better or be different. This can show up as wanting to lose more weight, make more money, or get a better job. However, by being vague, it is difficult to know when you have achieved your objective. And it is also challenging to create specific, measurable action steps to get there if you don’t know exactly where there is.

Consider declaring something specific. For example, instead of saying you want to make more money this year, define it as a specific amount and consider ways you can make it happen. This might be in the form of spending less through budgeting (net effect: more money in savings), or in taking on X number of clients, or creating a new job situation. Whatever the goal, set yourself up to win by being clear about what you are going after.

Remember SMART Goal Setting:

S – specific
M – measurable
A – achievable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant
T – time-bound, trackable

I have a PowerPoint deck I’m happy to share with you that explains this more fully if you’d like a copy. Send me an email to and I’ll pass it along.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Want Success in 2009?

A client of mine after the New Year said to me: “So I did the “Looking Back, Looking Forward” exercise [find it HERE]… now what?” Here are some thoughts about how to approach this:

Looking Back

My own coach has four questions that help to put closure around 2008 - so you can powerfully put the past behind you and move ahead into 2009. It can be applied to this portion of the exercise.

1) What did you accomplish that you intended to accomplish?
2) What did you accomplish above and beyond what you intended?
3) What didn’t you accomplish that you intended?
4) What would you like to be acknowledged for and by whom?

Take some time to write down these answers and share them with someone you are close to. That will help to close out 2008.

Looking Forward

As for 2009, how to go about it is up to you. This portion of the exercise is about creating a vision of what you want to be/do/have for the coming year. Some are continuations of something you have already been doing (keep smoke-free, continue going to the gym 2x a week), or might be new activities (be open to taking risks, take a vacation, lose 10 pounds).

Here are some suggestions for keeping your goals alive for yourself:

1) Just pick something and start. You will not take on all your goals at the same time. Pick the top 3-5 that you can start making a dent in right now, and begin practicing. You may even want to take on the easiest ones first, so you can experience immediate success to get you motivated.

2) Declare it. By keeping key friends informed of what you are doing, you are setting yourself up with a support system. Share your successes and challenges. This will not only help you, but will also motivate others and help them feel like they are not alone.

3) Partner with someone. Create structures or commitments to help keep you accountable. Find a workout buddy. Partner with someone to help you keep smoke-free. You don’t have to go it alone!

4) Use your calendar. Make sure you have time and space set aside in your day for your activities, goals, etc. If a competing priority comes up, reschedule that time – don’t just cancel it. By carving out the space, it is more likely to stay top-of-mind and you are more likely to do it.

5) Baby steps. Break your goals down into small chunks. See more explanation of this HERE. For example, if you want to lose weight or gain strength, set some targets for the next 3-6 months, then work backward to determine how you will achieve that target. Put in some milestones. Create some structures. But most importantly, don’t get overwhelmed by the bigger goal; remember that you only need to focus on TODAY.

Once again, these are not New Year's resolutions. Rather, they are what you want for yourself and your life for 2009. If you got even 10% of your Looking Forward goals, wouldn't it still be an amazing year?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Go on "Resolutions?" Donate to Charity!

Now that we are two weeks into the year, it is worth discussing how best to keep those commitments, goals, etc., that you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. Like I said in a previous entry, I prefer not to call them "resolutions" as that word is loaded with expectation/disappointment.

I ran into an article on (find it HERE) that discusses a great tool for sticking with those New Year's commitments - or more specifically, creating a palatable consequence for not fulfilling on them. Here's a piece of it:

Tallinn-based Pledgehammer gives people a way to make their resolutions public, whether it's stopping smoking, losing 20 lbs. or—to take an example from the more than 100 on the site—taking better care of one's tractor. When they make their pledge, users are asked to choose a deadline—say, by a year from today—as well as some amount of money to give to charity should they fail to keep their promise. Members of the site can create profiles and then post updates of their progress toward their goal over time, as well as cheering other people's efforts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Opening Up Space

Sometimes we just have way too much going on – so much so that we find that we just don’t have the capacity to focus on all that is important to us. We feel tired, stretched, and maybe even unfulfilled or ineffective. This is the time to take a look at commitments and see if they are still in alignment with what we want and who we want to be. If the glass is already full, anything added will cause it to spill. And if added with enough force, the glass may even crack and break. The metaphor points to the idea that if we try to do it all – and then some – we could overload to a breaking point. But we don't want it to get to that, so something needs to give.

Take a look at all that you are saying “yes” and “no” to. It might be commitments at work, home, in your social life, or even in your love life. Make a list in two columns. Then evaluate whether they are still commitments you want to keep. Consider distractions as well, such as physical or mental clutter (see a description HERE) as areas where you may also be saying “yes/no.”

Consider where you might be able to eliminate anything that is no longer working for you. Some things may be simple, like cleaning out a closet, or dropping membership to a committee. Other areas may be more complicated, such as a friendship that has run its course or a job that no longer fits your values. Do some reflection on how to be more vigilant about taking care of yourself by not over-committing, saying “yes” because you feel you should or will look bad if you “no,” and of course being thoughtful/respectful in how you decline.

But keep in mind: even in situations that might feel difficult to change, if you open up space in your life (time, energy, physical space), you are opening up the capacity for those things (a new job, a new relationship, rest/rejuvenation) that will better serve you in the long run. Without that space, you could not only miss it when it crosses your path, but when you do see it, you simply won’t have the room for it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Exercise: Looking Back, Looking Forward

I do an exercise every year (at New Year's and/or at birthdays) with clients that has two components: looking back at your successes and the things you've learned over the year, and looking forward toward what you’d like to create and undertake in the coming year. I do this in lieu of New Year's resolutions, as I believe resolutions have a very strong stigma that leaves people feeling as if they have failed in some way if they don't achieve them.

Here's what you do:

Create two separate lists: 1) Looking Back and 2) Looking Forward. Relax and reflect, without judgment, and record your thoughts. This can be a work in progress and can be revised at different points throughout the year – it should be a live document that evolves as you do.

Some tips:

  • Be realistic by setting achievable goals. Winning the lottery, for example, is out of your grasp.
  • Describe your goals in specific terms. Instead of "I don't want to be lazy," opt for "I want to exercise regularly" or "I will cut down on my television watching."
  • Break down large goals into smaller ones. For instance, commit to losing weight by resolving to join a gym and improve your eating habits.
  • Find alternatives to a behavior that you want to change, and make this part of your plan. For example, if you want to quit smoking, but have smoked to relax yourself, consider: What other forms of relaxation are available to you?
  • Above all, aim for things that are truly important to you, not what you think you ought to do or what others expect of you.

Lastly, here are some topics that you may want to include (for both lists) so that you can broaden your scope beyond losing weight and making more money:

  • Career: your real expression, not necessarily your “job”
  • Money: includes both your finances and your “job,” if it’s not your “career”
  • Health: mental, physical
  • Relationship: friends, family
  • Love: romance, partnership, dating
  • Personal growth
  • Spirit: relationship to self, universe, higher power
  • Community: contribution, involvement
  • Physical environment: home/work space, clutter, living location
  • Fun and recreation
  • Time/energy management: how you spend/utilize your time, what you say yes/no to
  • Communication: style, frequency, with/to whom
  • Miracles: if something amazing and unexpected were to happen this year…

Continue on to Part II of this exercise HERE.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Asking for Help

Individualism is a defining characteristic of American society. People in this country not only believe that success is attainable if one puts his best efforts forward, but are conditioned to think those efforts that garner the most respect and are at times considered “real” achievements are those that involve the struggle of a hero going it alone. The rugged cowboy and the self-made millionaire are two images that come to mind. It is because of this that many people fear being seen as vulnerable or weak by asking for assistance in getting where they want to be, in doing something that is important to them.

However, by going it alone, one is denying the full spectrum of resources one has at his or her disposal. Each of us has many people in our lives that have specific talents and expertise that can assist us in moving forward with velocity. Why reinvent the stone wheel when someone has already become an expert at manufacturing steel-belted radials?

Few of us would consider performing her own root canal or defending himself in court – there are individuals with specific training and skills that are better able to take on these activities. Yet, it can be common for us to overlook the fact that we are surrounded by people in our lives (some that we can even hire) that could help us to accomplish some of the goals we set for ourselves – often more quickly and easily.

Ultimately, asking for help is a sign of intelligence and courage. We would never consider pounding a nail into the wall with our fist. Why would we deny ourselves the ability to be more efficient with our time and energy by allowing pride and fear of others’ opinions to dictate how we get from point A to point B. A smart person is one who recognizes the tools and resources she has at her disposal and puts them to the best use possible. And sometimes that starts with asking for help.

Shoulding on Ourselves

If you are a human being, it is likely you grew up with instructions on what you should and should not do. While our family, teachers and society meant well – trying to provide a framework through which to guide your life and actions – these “shoulds” can often work against you in your adult life. We often limit ourselves in what is possible, what we are able to do and become, and what choices we can make with this restrictive word running through our heads. While this can be a helpful and protective mechanism, it can often result in us “shoulding” all over ourselves, limiting our freedom and ability to venture beyond preconceived boundaries.

Within the coaching experience, I believe that “should” can do more harm than good, and must be used sparingly. Even the obvious “shoulds” (I should take care of my children, I should not steal, etc.) need to be looked at with skepticism. Each “should” must not be taken for granted and instead evaluated on its own merit.

What are the root values beneath each dictum? What are you trying to accomplish by restricting or blindly forcing yourself one way or another? What would be the effect if you were to go in the exact opposite direction?

Once you have answered these and other questions, you are now in a position to choose. And, ultimately, that is the objective: to make an educated and well-thought-out choice. In the end, you may make the same decision that was connected with the “should,” but you will also understand why you are taking one course of action over another. With that comes freedom over “have to,” as you replace “I should” with “I choose.”