Encourage Your Brain: Your Brain Has a Delete Button

There’s a fun article in Fast Company that’s titled “Your Brain Has a Delete Button—Here’s How to Use It

The upshot of it is that the more we repeat a behavior, the more embedded it becomes. The neural circuits associated with the behavior get stronger. Practice makes perfect.

And, no surprise, the less we do something, those circuits actually get snipped while we sleep, which makes them weaker. The old saying, use it or lose it comes into play.

Here’s how the article describes this process, which is called synaptic pruning.

Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain. Some of these glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, raking up dead leaves. They snip and prune your synaptic connections.

The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Synaptic connections that get used LESS get marked by a particular protein. When those glial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy–or prune–the synapse.

We could go into the importance of sleep and naps at this point since this process happens while we sleep, but we’ll save that for another day.

So the question that arises is “What is getting the most attention in our brains?” Because whatever gets the MOST attention will NOT get pruned!

It turns out, we actually have some control over what our brain decides to delete while we sleep.

If we spend a lot of time replaying an embarrassing moment at work, that’s what is going to get reinforced. Even if we’re thinking about figuring out solutions to that embarrassing moment or something else that is worrisome, such as how you’ll get through a big challenge like a heavy workload or a financial concern or some relationship conflict, those glial gardeners in our brain are going to see that those synapses have been used recently, and not prune them.

The problem is, if there’s a sense of Red Zone around the thoughts – like, yikes, this is a problem I’ve gotta solve – the neural connections of “PROBLEM DANGER THREAT” are getting reinforced in our brains.

The way out of that is to think about the things that will serve you in solving the problem. It’s a subtle shift from “YIKES, this situation is troublesome” to “HMMM, I can use my strengths to take this action” or “WOW, I’m grateful I’m mastering this new skill to take action.”

When we focus on the solution, not the problem, we can turn into a synaptic superstar!


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Encourage Your Brain: Abusing Self-Care

We’re familiar with the concept of self-care—often made clear by the airplane oxygen-mask metaphor, making sure we put our oxygen-mask on first so that we can stay alive to help others. 

I am ALL FOR self-care. It’s critical. 

What I am NOT “ALL FOR” is when self-care gets over-used and abused … like a crutch to keep pushing ourselves beyond healthy boundaries.

Downstream vs Upstream Solutions

An article from Harvard BusinessReview this week suggests an interesting concept of downstream vs upstream solutions for burnout. 

Many companies have started getting on the self-care bandwagon by offering Mindfulness apps, gym memberships, and yoga classes as a way to support self-care. These are great, but they are downstream solutions, and, Catch 22, they end up putting the burden of self-care on the shoulders of the employees.

In reality, we need upstream solutions that get at the root of the issue, and the root of the issue comes down to the size of our workloads. 

Research from Gallup has shown that the risk of burnout increases significantly when the workweek averages more than 50 hours, and burnout rises even more substantially at 60 hours.

So how do we manage our workload, especially if you aren’t your own boss and report to others? 

The HBR article offers some solutions. I’ll share two of them, along with my brain-friendly interpretation of why these can work.


The first tip has to do with WHAT: Adjust your workload to a manageable level – easier said than done when you report to someone – so this is where coaching techniques can come in. Know what you want and need, and ask for it. This is a brain-friendly move to put us into a space of creator vs. reactor.

For example, do you want to skip a business meeting that isn’t absolutely necessary for you? Ask for it, or ask if it can be shortened by 10 minutes, or ask if it can be a phone call instead of a video call, which is often a bigger drain on the brain with reading visual cues. 

Another example – if you’re tasked with a Herculean business goal, ask for what you need. Maybe it’s more headcount to deliver on the goals. Ask for it and make a case for the ask with business metrics.

Our brains are happier when we know what we want—it puts us into focus and reduces overwhelm.


The second tip has to do with WHY: Find a sense of purpose in what you’re doing – the brain HAS to find meaning in what it’s doing. When we find meaning and get interested and excited about what we’re doing, healthy neurochemicals are released that reduce the feeling of burnout. If we’re engaged in things that aren’t meaningful or don’t make sense, we’re either under-stimulated or resisting and then don’t have the best neurochemical cocktail in our systems.

So, DO keep up with your self-care, fellow humans, AND, get clear on WHAT you WANT and WHY you’re doing it.


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Encourage Your Brain: I Am Contagious

I recently watched a TEDx talk by Vanessa Van Edwards called “You Are Contagious.” And she’s not talking about transmission of diseases—which is something we obviously need to be careful about these days. She talked about transmission of emotions.

There was some fun research cited about how our emotions are contagious, such as a study where participants were asked to smell something while they were in an fMRI machine. Unbeknownst to the people in the fMRI machines, they were smelling the underarm pads from two different groups: One group of sweaty underarm pads came from people who had been working out on a treadmill, but the other group was from people who had jumped out of airplanes.

The results? Smelling the sweatpads of the sky-diving people activated a fear response in the other person’s brains. Simply smelling someone else’s fear made the person fearful! The saying “I smell fear” is a REAL THING.

In another study, students were asked to sing a song into an accuracy software program. The experimenters had 3 groups: the first group was asked to just walk into the room and just start singing; the second group was asked to walk into the room and first say “I’m nervous” and then start singing; and then the third group was asked to walk into the room and first say “I’m excited” and then start singing. Here, the results were fascinating! The control group’s singing accuracy was 69%, the “I’m nervous” group was only 53%, but the “I’m excited” group had 80% accuracy!

So today’s tip comes with a hat tip to Vanessa Van Edwards – you can create your own emotional contagion – simply shift the frame of “I’m nervous” to saying, out loud, “I’m excited.”

And to create emotional contagion for others – ask them, “Working on something exciting?!”

If you’re excited about something, it can improve your performance and spread that positive emotional contagion.

I hope each one of you is working on something exciting!

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Encourage Your Brain: Great Lighting, Great Lens, Same You

True confession time – I don’t love getting my photograph taken. As we were working on our new website for The Academies (hoping to launch it soon!), and the team unanimously voted that my picture should be on the home page, I drug my feet and put it off for weeks!

And the reason I balked is that I noticed I’d been focusing on all my flaws – I won’t point them out because I’m not going to give it more attention and negative energy.

So, last week, picture day came. Because of the pandemic, the photographer’s working in his garage, which is pretty dark and cold in the middle of winter. And I’m kicking myself because I forgot to pack my lipstick – I don’t carry it much these days since I’m usually wearing a mask when I go out, so I’m feeling kind of unarmed without a lip gloss touch-up!

I sit down and the photographer shows me that his camera is tethered to his computer, which means as soon as he snaps, the photo almost instantly shows up on the laptop. And I have to tell you – even though I was trying to convince myself to be positive and feel good, I really walked in feeling like I was dragging a ball and chain!

But, once I saw the photo pop up on the laptop screen, I was shocked. The photo looked great! And I thought to myself, geez, Susan, what were you so worried about? These are turning out beautiful!

The interesting thing to me, from a brain perspective, is that the same Susan was there – regardless of the professional lighting, regardless of that fancy lens.

I’m the same person WITH or WITHOUT the lighting. So are you. How I feel about myself changes, but who I am does not change. How you feel about yourself may change, but who you are—the beauty of who you are and the value you bring to the world—does not change.

So perhaps there’s some circumstance in your life at the moment that’s inviting you to add a little extra light to be shed upon it … and a reminder of the good that is in you and waiting to be seen and appreciated … not just by other people, but by yourself as well.

Light and Love,


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Encourage Your Brain: Fake It ‘Til You Feel It, Then Feel It ‘Til You Figure it Out!

I ran across a study recently at PsyPost.org that talked about how “deep acting” improves interpersonal work relationships and work goal progress.

Deep acting means you try to actually experience the emotions that you want to display. So, basically shifting from a head-based ascent to a body-felt experience. For example, I can say I’m grateful for a difficult situation but if I don’t also feel grateful deep down I’m not deep acting.

What I love about this study is that it offers more brain-friendly proof that we can regulate our emotions to improve our relationships, and our goal attainment.

Now, here’s the danger I see with deep acting, and that’s if we don’t go deep enough with the acting, we’re just faking it or we’re in denial and burying stuff that shouldn’t get buried. Burying stuff that needs to be addressed is never a good thing.

So the question becomes how do you find the right balance? How do you know that your deep acting is working, and you’re not just burying stuff?

What I’ve noticed for myself is that “deep acting” is balanced when I see a change in my behavior. For example, being at the helm of my coach-training business, in addition to casting a vision for changing the world, I also have to pay attention to the numbers. So if the numbers don’t look great, and there’ve been several months where they didn’t look great, given the year we’ve all had, and I go into a deep acting space of being grateful about things but don’t make any changes, I’m in denial.

If on the other hand, I tap into deep acting, and truly feel grateful, plus start doing new behaviors—such as communicating with the team more often, marketing in new ways, amping up operational areas that need attention—then deep acting accomplishes what it should … I shift from denial to deliberately learning and engaging and growing.

So the bottom line is: we can’t slap a smile on a situation and simply fake it. We have to fake it ’til we feel it, and then feel it, ’til we figure our way through!

Light and Love to you, fellow humans, as you “Fake it ‘Til You Feel It, and then Feel it ‘Til You Figure it Out!”


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Encourage Your Brain: You’re Wired for Hope (Happy 2021!)

As we close out 2020, I’ve heard many people say how happy they are to have the year that brought COVID-19 closed out and behind us. That’s understandable.

And then the typical “it’s a new year” message is: let’s plan, let’s get some goals going, let’s get those bucket lists rolling, let’s do this thing!

Yes, hope is in the air.

So, being a coach who is fascinated by the brain, it led me to thinking about hope and the role that hope plays.

I found a few studies on hope and the brain and learned some interesting tidbits. Research from China, Malaysia, the UK, and the US all point to hope “mediating” anxiety. Or, put another way, hope intervenes for us. It helps prevent, or lessen, us feeling anxious.

We hope because we’re wired to hope. It’s not a Susie Sunshine kind of thing. It’s part of our DNA. It protects us, it makes us healthy, it gets us going, it puts us into creator vs reactor mode, and puts our brains to work on how to overcome whatever obstacles or barriers or speed bumps may be in our way.

And, the China study also discovered where hope resides, or lights up, in the brain, which is the orbitofrontal cortex, right behind our eyes.

Interesting that our eyes and this hope-seeking part of brain are so close to one another – it’s almost as if HOW we see things determines whether or not we experience hope.

If we see only roadblocks and difficulties, there’s no hope. If we see roadblocks and difficulties plus also see how we can navigate those obstacles, we have hope.

So, as 2021 rolls onto the calendar for all of us, here’s to our collective humanity – our human wiring to create and navigate toward whatever is meaningful to each of us.

Here’s to hope and our indomitable desire to see and do good.

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Encourage Your Brain: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

As we’re in the gift-giving season, I was reminded of the Kodak commercials that popularized the phrase “the gift that keeps on giving”—meaning something that invokes good feelings over time.

I’m still working on a few items on my shopping list, but I was also thinking of presents that we can give to ourselves. I have one family member who buys what she wants, wraps the presents, and places them under the tree. She knows what she wants, and gets it! (We’ll keep her identity anonymous, but I resemble that remark!).

So my message this week in the midst of multiple holiday celebrations is to give yourself a gift that will keep on giving. Here’s why. When you give yourself a gift – whether it be some time to catch up with a good friend, or a massage, or an afternoon curled up with a good book, or treating yourself to some flowers – your brain says:

“I’m important enough to be appreciated…

I’m worthy to be pampered…

I’m able to receive love!”

Self-compassion expert Kristin Neff speaks of self-compassion activating the oxytocin-opiate system in the body—and when the oxytocin-opiate system in our body is amped up, we ruminate less … and when we ruminate less, we have less depression and anxiety … something the world could do with less of, especially after a year like this one!

So, what’s your gift to yourself this holiday season? Something that will keep on giving. Something that will activate your self-compassion and boost your brain’s oxytocin-opiate system.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happiest of Holidays to you all!


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Apply This Mindset When Strengths Go Rogue

There are two sides to strengths. On one hand, they create value, thus creating a gateway to being accepted, belonging, and being of value to others. But strengths can also have a dark side if they are over-used. Instead of helping, they end up hurting … instead of equipping, they end up diminishing … instead of furthering the cause, they end up throwing a wrench in the works.

Gallup uses the terminology of Balconies and Basements to describe the difference between strengths at their best, and strengths at their worst.

The Biology of Balconies and Basements

Our biological state can have a lot to do with this best-to-worst variance. When in the Blue Zone of calm-connect/flow-flourish, our cognitive and relational abilities are enhanced. This permits strengths to generate ease, productivity, and wellbeing. In this state, strengths operate strategically and serve as “Balconies.”

Conversely, when in the Red Zone of fight-flight, strengths can become “Basements.” Our focus becomes narrow—like a racehorse wearing blinders, we can’t see the big picture. The broader periphery fades and we are dependent on someone else to see the strategic landscape. And because cortisol is spiked or sustained beyond what is good for us, a strength when used in the Red Zone becomes a caricature of its original essence—forced, overdone, and even contorted.

For example, the Balcony of the Analytical strength allows people to think through all the facts that affect a situation; yet as a Basement, it can turn arrogant or miss the human side of the equation. The Balcony of Adaptability creates an ability to be flexible; yet as a Basement, it turns to indecisiveness and lack of progress.

Upon recognizing that our strengths have gone rogue, it’s not unusual to feel bad—embarrassed, misunderstood, sad, frustrated, ashamed. These feelings often just cue up another round of being in the Red Zone.

It’s Not Your Fault…We’re All Wired This Way!

Don’t feel alone. Every human being on the planet has a tendency to over-use strengths.

Consider this biological-evolutionary hypothesis: If strengths give us a sense of value and belonging, then using them is based in an evolutionary drive to be accepted, appreciated, and included in our “tribes”—families, teams, friend groups, communities.

Yet in times of stress, our biological fight-flight reaction diminishes our cognitive abilities. And so we slip into default behaviors that make us feel safe—the familiar, reliable strengths that brought us acceptance and appreciation in the past. Unfortunately, they are used without the benefit of strategic thinking and relational engagement (the two key ingredients that often disappear in a fight-flight state).

And thus, Balconies turn to Basements, as strengths are over-used, warped, and distorted. Analytical rigor becomes analysis-paralysis; empathetic caring twists into drama-trauma; the reflective insights of intellection sink into rumination; and so on.

The Mindset of Compassion is the Way Out of the Catch 22

Self-compassion is the way out! Why? Because self-compassion shifts the body’s biology out of the Red Zone of fight-flight toward the Blue Zone of flow-ease. The steps in the table below can offer a self-compassionate path out of strengths in the Basement and back to strengths in the Balcony.

Download the Table Here

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Connection is Your Superpower

Our theme for the month is CONNECTION. Especially as many are still experiencing shelter-in-place conditions, or navigating the after-shocks of the pandemic and societal shifts.

Like many of you, I sit alone in my home office many hours each day. Despite the Zoom calls and classes, I notice that loneliness can creep in.

I find myself wanting to ask so many of you: “How are YOU … really?”

  • What are you going through, and how are you holding up?
  • What challenges are you facing and how do you feel about them?
  • Who is there, or not, to face the challenges with you?
  • Who is standing nearby, offering hope and calm to help carry on?


The Lorenz “butterfly effect” suggests that small changes can have large effects.

We can trust that small CONNECTION points can have large impacts.

  • Connection is energy: Expansive, reverberating, comfortable, warm, creative.
  • Disconnection is also energy: Contracted, separating, uncomfortable, cold, reactive.

It takes a bit of energy to initiate a reach out–whether it be a text, a phone call, a social media connection, etc. And yet, once I do, I notice the energy usually returns in exponential order.

To all of you who so intentionally and faithfully create CONNECTION with the people you live, work, and play with: THANK YOU.

You are adding expansive, reverberating, comfortable, warm, and creative energy to the world. It makes a difference.

I can feel it.

Can you?

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What Wants to Happen

Nature always teaches.

Observe it and find the next lesson to learn.

This picture of Horseshoe Bend speaks to what wants to happen.

That’s how the bend was formed. Water flowing its natural path.

There’s a bend in our country right now, as the conversation on racism grows and flows.

Where does the river want to go?

What wants to happen?

To find the path of least resistance, first, be aware of the resistance.

In this situation, resistance to me, as a white person, can look like “I’m not responsible” or “The problem is so big and I’m only one person” or “I don’t have the time or energy or money to take action.”

Resistance to “what wants to happen” drains me, you, all of us, of energy.

Flow toward “what wants to happen” creates energy. I see flow in the demonstrations. I hear it in the black voices: “I’m exhausted at this”…”you’re lucky we just want equality and not revenge”…”the system is built on faulty ground.”

What wants to happen?

Justice, dignity, equality, acknowledgement, restoration, opportunity, and change come to mind.

With love, healing, hope, and action…


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Acceleration — Speeding Up the Slowdown, Accelerating the Speedup

The last few months with the pandemic have been full of polarities and paradoxes.

Slowing down, speeding up.

The Slow Down

We’ve had to slow our lives down. And we’ve had to do that slow down FAST.

Overnight, everything stopped. No extra trips out-and-about for clothes shopping, or kids’ soccer practices, or dinner out, or birthdays, weddings, or Mother’s Day. No super-charged calendars that caused us to take for granted the color of the blue clear skies and the sound of the birds singing.

If you were sheltered-in-place with family members or a spouse/partner, things slowed down in that area of your life, too. When people are living on top of each other, there is NO speeding past the bumps-and-grinds that a close relationship inevitably brings. Things that bugged you in your partner became magnified because there weren’t the usual distractions we use to mask what needs attention.

As a friend of mine said recently, ‘yeh, it’s forced us to sit in our sh*t.’ Finally, things that hadn’t been addressed are getting addressed.

And on the professional front, slowing down to check-in with colleagues has become paramount. No more rushing past co-workers with a quick “How’s it going?” or “Did you have a good weekend?” Now, the question has become, “How are you … for real?”

Employees are at home parenting toddlers, home-schooling kids, or experiencing isolation. (A special shout-out to the single parents of the pandemic.) They need connection. They need heard. They need encouraged.

Nothing like the vice-grip of life to get our attention to focus on the important stuff … like people and relationships.

The Speed Up

The speed-up themes that seem most prevalent are the need to pivot, and pivot fast.

For many, product offerings that used to work stopped working. Marketing messaging needed adjusted so as to not sound tone deaf. Virtual working arrangements and team communications needed rapid attention.

Crisis Accelerates Two Things

Crisis absolutely accelerates:

  • Mindfulness: We’ve had to stop, pause, and ask ourselves what we’re actually experiencing, grieving, and needing?
  • Change: We’ve had to ask ourselves, what wants to happen? What would bring life and benefit and value to our current relationships, customers, community, and world?

How about you? What’s rapidly slowed down in your world? What pivots have you made … and been proud of? What is aching to happen in your life and work?


If you’re interested in career coaching, one of the programs we’ve changed up to meet current needs is our Certified Career Management Coach program. It’s now a fast-track 8-week accelerated course. Next class starts in about four weeks. Contact rebecca@theacademies.com for more info.

If you’re interested in keeping your teams connected using a peer coaching approach, ask about our upcoming “Create C.A.L.M. and Carry On” program! Contact rebecca@theacademies.com for more info.

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BIG NEWS! We’ve cut pricing in HALF! Here’s why…

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is allowing ACTP/ACSTH training organizations like ours to change its proportion of live learning hours.

Due to COVID-19, ICF recognizes that the world, now more than ever, needs coaches as we navigate the pandemic.

Career coaching is especially needed, given 26 million people looking for work!

That means, if you’ve ever wondered about getting an Academies’ career coaching credential, NOW IS THE TIME. We can offer you:

  • An 8-week fast-track to the Certified Career Management Coach credential.
  • A once-in-a-lifetime* opportunity to save approx. 50% on the program.

IMPORTANT: ICF is allowing this change ONLY through December 31st of this year.

That means:

  • WE are working feverishly to reconfigure our schedules and curriculum, so
  • YOU can take advantage now!

The next Certified Career Management Coach program starts May 20th.


Call Rebecca for more info at 559-547-8200 or email rebecca@theacademies.com.

This IS one small silver lining in the midst of an unprecedented unemployment rate!


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It’s OK to Want What You Want

What do you want?

Human beings were put on this planet to create! If we are not creating, we are stagnating and atrophying. Our “wants” are an individualized expression of our unique DNA, and they happen to be a beautiful vehicle for creating.

Give your wants some context. What do you want in your relationships? In your home environment? In your free time? In your career projects? In your work culture? In your finances? In your health? In your wardrobe? In your dinner tonight?

Some people use the term “goals” or “intentions” for “wants.” Whichever word you choose, think about what it is that you want to focus on creating. And, if you’re already regularly giving time to your “wants,” revisit them, refresh them, and give them some loving attention.

Why We Stop Ourselves from Wanting What We Want

Two possible suspects:

  • The How is Missing: When we consider what it is we want, and we don’t yet have it, our brains can immediately go in search of HOW to get what we want. If we have not been able to get what we want previously, the brain says, “no route to that destination—abort mission!”

    Coaching Tip: Never begin with HOW. Always start with the WHAT, and follow that with a WHY—why is this WANT meaningful to me. Once a clear vision is in place (WHAT), backed by meaningful values (WHY), it’s easier to perk up our attention and creativity and connections with others to figure out the HOW

  • The Ego Gets in the Way: As humans, we can easily succumb to peer pressure, even as adults. We think a lot about what other people think of us. Will they approve of what we want? And if they don’t approve of our choices, will they disrupt our relationship in some way—gossip about us, criticize, ostracize?

    Coaching Tip: Be compassionately curious about these relationships. Ask yourself, “What is the meaning I assign when [name of person] disapproves of what I want?” And, “when I think about that disapproval, what do I default to in terms of thoughts, feelings, and ensuing behaviors?” Mindful self-compassion is a great place to start creating different default thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

    Go Forth and Want

    As you finish out this day or look to tomorrow, what is it that you really want? The world needs your wants (and so do you). Put your thumbprint on your life, and on this planet!

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How Mindset Helps You Do More with Less

Picture this: You’re working at full tilt, nose to the grindstone, and you hear some version of the message, “you need to do more with less.”

You think to yourself, I’m already maxed out! I don’t have time for this!

There are plenty of formulas for managing time and knocking out to-do lists. In the old style of management, leaders shifted into command-and-control to do more with less—cracking the whip, tightening the controls, and driving employees harder.

This doesn’t work. Not sustainably.

To deliver impact in the midst of dwindling bandwidth and resources, start with mindset.

Why? Because our state of mind or perspective at any given moment can drive our definition of what is possible.

For example, from a perspective or state of:

  • Fear: With fear as the primary state, “Do more with less” signals threat. For example, if you don’t force yourself to work longer and harder, you might be out of a job. With fear, our impact is limited to putting out fires and problem solving the issue in front of us—we lose sight of the bigger picture.

  • Anger: From a state of anger, “Do more with less” may signal a frustration over corporate greed or frustration that others have it easier or aren’t helping as much as they should. Anger diminishes our ability to connect with others, which then limits our collective intelligence.

  • Courage: From a state of courage, “Do more with less” signals an opportunity to rise to the occasion.

  • Reason: From a state of reason, “Do more with less” becomes a quest to figure out the perfect formula for balance and productivity.

  • Connection: From a state of connection, “Do more with less” is an invitation to reach out to others and co-create.

I can find myself in any one of the above states/perspectives, but my goal is to lean into the latter state—connection. From this mindset, I can:

  • Be compassionate and honest with myself
  • Connect with others and appreciate their brilliance, and
  • Collaborate to create new ideas/systems/things

Doing more with less and delivering meaningful impacts starts with ME, in my most enlightened state (unhindered by lower states of fear and worry), connected with YOU, to create US.

Like an ant bridge, where ants link to one another to form a bridge that crosses a chasm, when we are connected and collaborating, we can get from here to there, with a sense of ease and wonder and delight.


Curious about coaching leaders to increase their engagement and impact in the midst of dwindling resources, limited time, and shrinking work-forces? Join our Certified Leadership Engagement & Impact Coach program (the next-gen of our capacity coach program)!

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Making the Unfamiliar, Familiar

Welcome to a brand new decade! We’re guessing that goals are likely top of mind!

Have you ever thought about your goals as a form of change?

Change is constant, as we all know. And yet it feels easier to embrace change when we’ve chosen it.

You’ve chosen your goals. You want them. You’re inviting change. Which means you’re entering into the land of the new and unfamiliar.

To make change happen, follow Marisa Peer’s advice: “you’ve got to make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar.”

Familiar to Unfamiliar

Neuroscientists say that 90-95% of our behavior is unconscious. We don’t think about it. It’s familiar, rote, habit. Maybe procrastination, people-pleasing, and playing small is familiar…unconsciously so.

Here are some examples of taking the “Familiar to Unfamiliar.”

·      If procrastinating is familiar, that behavior needs to become unfamiliar.

·      If people-pleasing is familiar, that needs to become unfamiliar.

·      If playing small is familiar, that needs to become unfamiliar.

You get the idea.

What’s Your Familiar to Unfamiliar?

Here are some simple steps to help bring those unconscious patterns to the forefront. The Behavioral Buckets of Thinking, Emotions, Actions, Triggers, Relationships can bring a level of mindfulness, so that you can begin to rewire important neuropathways for change.

Behavioral Bucket Familiar to Unfamiliar Examples Your Answers
Thinking Limiting beliefs, narrow-focused thinking, scarcity thinking, defensiveness “I think I need a PhD to be taken seriously.”  
Emotions Negative emotions that drag me down Guilt over not being more diligent; fear of failure  
Actions Non-strategic, favorite procrastination actions Checking email, getting lost in social media, alphabetizing my kitchen spice racks  
Triggers/Patterns Derailers … Temptations, over-indulgence (e.g., email or social media) Social media, comparing myself to others  
Relationships Energy vampires, draining relationships, safe yet small relationships My family member who always criticizes me; my neighbor who doesn’t know when to stop talking; my coworker who seems a bit jealous of, or uncomfortable about, my goals  

Fill in your own answers in the empty column above. Ask a bone-marrow friend to offer insights, as well. Once you’ve got some answers written out, face into them gently, and compassionately reflect on them.

Self-Compassion Tip: Every behavior is motivated by a desire to be safe, to feel accepted and valued. If you’re behaving in ways that don’t feel good, chances are you’ve done so to feel safe by not risking rejection … how human of you!

Unfamiliar to Familiar

More important, what’s the “Unfamiliar to Familiar” that would accelerate your goal attainment this year?

·      If you’re unfamiliar with staying focused, that’s what can become familiar.

·      If you’re unfamiliar with accountability, that’s what can become familiar.

·      If you’re unfamiliar with abundance thinking, that’s what can become familiar.

What’s Your Unfamiliar to Familiar?

Next, flesh out your Unfamiliar to Familiar buckets:

Behavioral Bucket Unfamiliar to Familiar Your Answers
Thinking Life-giving beliefs, open-focused thinking, abundance thinking  
Emotions Positive emotions that lift me up  
Actions Strategic, small-step, resilient actions  
Triggers/Patterns “Failure” is simply learning feedback …  
Relationships Bone-marrow buddies, inspiring thinkers, compassionate friends, self-compassion with myself  

Have fun creating all those new neuro-pathways this week, this month, this year, this decade, for this lifetime!


Speaking of change! The International Coach Federation has unveiled it’s new competency model. Coaches are going from 11 to 8 core competencies. We’re rolling them out in 2020. Come and join us and stay fresh with your coaching skills!

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Uncertainty, and the Certainty of Strengths

Uncertainty. We all face it—both the people you coach and you, personally.

We catch a glimpse of a dream. We set a goal. We lay out strategies and action steps.

And yet somewhere along the way, concerns arise, such as:

* How will I ever get there?
* How do I get around this roadblock?
* Will I have enough (money, help, cooperation, resources, ideas, customers)?

Uncertainty Is Certain

Uncertainty can send us into a tailspin…straight into the Red Zone of fight-flight-freeze-appease. That’s when all the doubts and second-guessing slip in, stalling us or throwing us off course.

Enter Strengths

Strengths are ever-present for us. Built into our DNA. Threaded in our neural networks. Strengths are rock-solid, supportive, strategic, and self-sustaining.

Strengths never leave us. Strengths never fail us. Never. You cannot escape your strengths.

Apply Strengths Now

Consider any challenge in front of you right now. Absent the frame of strengths, challenges can look intimidating and overwhelming.

However, when framed by strengths, challenges are more easily faced … they look like an invitation to rise to the occasion.

Speak out your biggest challenge. Perhaps it involves meeting a revenue goal. Then, pull out each of your top strengths, one at a time, and lean into the strength that makes the most sense for your goal.

Or, take your top five strengths and describe how each one might support you. For example:

* Learner: I will study how successful businesses have packaged and priced their services.
* Includer: I will reach out to a few key colleagues for their ideas, collaboration, and accountability.
* Activator: I will get going now—I’ll pick up the phone and reach out to these three people by the end of the day.
* Input: I will review some of the business development training materials I’ve collected over the years.
* Adaptability: I keep my antenna up around new opportunities that are emerging, adjust my strategies, and follow-through accordingly.

Strengths Are Appreciative, Not Depreciative

Strengths cause the brain to focus on what it HAS, not on what it doesn’t have. Strengths cause us to operate within the Blue Zone—calm, confident, connected, creative.

Strengths are the common-factor certainty in the midst of any uncertainty. Enjoy being strengths-strong today!


Learn more about coaching from a strengths orientation here

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Easier Done Than Said?

We all know the saying, “Easier said than done.”

  • It’s easy to say, for example, I want to lose weight.
  • It’s easy to say, I’d like more income.
  • It’s easy to say, I’d like to be more productive.
  • It’s easy to say, I want my team to reach their targets.

The less-easy part is the DO that leads to the DONE.

And more specifically, doing things differently.

Why do we not do things differently when we know we need to!?

Probably because we’re creatures of habit. Neuroscientists tell us that 90-95% of our thoughts and behaviors are habitual—habit is comfortable and requires little mental and physical energy.

Habit means we have a ton of muscle memory in our body that is running the show.

So if the body is running the show, we need to enlist the body’s support to help the brain get what it wants. That’s the key to making it “Easier Done Than Said.”

One of the best ways to get the body on board is to pay attention to your emotions.

This is where ICF Competency #9 Designing Actions comes into play.

Emotions are Memorized, Habituated, Familiar, Comfortable

Most humans have gotten really good at memorizing emotions such as worry, anxiousness, and fear. But what could our lives look like if instead our predominantly memorized emotions were gratitude, peace, hope, or fascination!

In a Red Zone of worry, our brain doesn’t get the oxygen needed to think collaboratively, creatively, and strategically.

Jill Bolte Taylor in her book My Stroke of Insight shares that emotions have just a 90-second lifecycle. If they persist beyond 90 seconds, it’s because we are re-inviting the emotion by ruminating on it. Do something often enough, and it will become memorized.

Design a New Action

Instead, mindfully ride the wave of any uncomfortable emotion for those 90 seconds. Breathe deeply, rhythmically, and evenly, as you think to yourself, “interesting… there’s a sense of worry I’m noticing in my gut, and I know that biologically it’s got just a 90-second life cycle.”

Once the 90-second cycle has completed, then consciously choose a new emotion you’d like to focus on: peace, gratitude, hope, or fascination.

This choice changes the physiology of your body to a Blue Zone state, and with the changed physiology, you give better fuel to your brain.

I love what Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says about this:

“the brain is 31% more productive at positive
than negative, neutral or stressed.”

Here’s to your 31% more productive!

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Remembering Patricia Reich: How Coaching Came to the Business School Space

The coaching world lost a beautiful presence and powerful voice with the passing of Patricia Reich this past week.

I first met Patricia in the early 2000s at a careers conference. She made such an impression on me at the time—engaging, thoughtful, sharp as a tack, impeccably dressed, and that gorgeous red hair!

She was an early-adopter of coaching, enrolling in our career coach training program while it was still in its infancy in 2003. Fast forward to 2008, and I received a phone call from her. The gist of it went something like this:

  • Patricia: “Susan, I’m now at Georgetown University at their business school. I want to talk to you about doing some coach training here.”
  • Susan [with some trepidation]: “Sounds interesting, Patricia, but I know nothing about the MBA space.” 
  • Patricia [calmly confident]: “That’s okay, Susan—you know coaching. I know the MBA world. I’ll guide you.”

And guide me she did. Not long after that, her Associate Dean Doreen Amorosa and I presented at MBA CSEA on the success that Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business had experienced by adding coaching to its career services approach.

With much credit to Patricia’s vision, 10+ years later, business schools around the world have followed that lead. She integrated coaching in her most recent role, as well, while serving as Assistant Dean and Executive Director of the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The entire coaching industry has mushroomed because of early-adopters like Patricia, with 25,000+ ICF-credentialed coaches world-wide now. Patricia spotted the trend early–and expanded it into the many corners of her world.

Aside from her professional vision, I will most remember Patricia for her giftedness for making connection. A few years ago when we were preparing to co-present at a conference, I was going through a painful transition as an empty-nester.

Our daughters are about the same age, and for years, our professional catch-ups always started with “before we get down to business, give me the daughter update!” And so I was expressing to Patricia what a poignant and tear-filled time it had been for me to send my only child off to college half a continent away.

As she listened, off of her tongue rolled the most heartfelt and apropos words: “A mother’s tears water the garden of her child’s life.” That phrase soaked my soul with comfort.

Surely there are tears now being shed by the many, many lives she touched. And I trust that they will water and grow something significant and beautiful, in remembrance of Patricia.

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Where Is Your Awareness?

We’ve all heard of the proverbial “elephant in the room.” As we dig into ICF Competency #8 of Creating Awareness, let’s zero in on another manifestation of that elephant. It’s the elephant in our BRAINS!

Ubiquitous, yet invisible, this elephant takes up an enormous amount of space in our brains . Left unchecked, it constantly produces movies in our minds —and rarely are these movies rom-coms and fairy tales … more likely dramas and horror flicks.

Our movie-making elephant narrates stories about our circumstances—judging everything as good or bad, safety or threat. It has a tendency to whisper worst-case scenarios.  And, it has a powerful ability to create and communicate a variety of emotions to our bodies.

These mind-movie messages are simply predictions—negative predictions about what might happen to us. The bigger the elephant, the more real it becomes to us.

And what feels real to us becomes reality to us. It’s the truth of what we’re experiencing.

Even if others see things differently.

Shifting Predictions toward Positive

How do you shift people’s awareness when those mind-movie predictions are all-consuming, or predominantly negative, or pervasive, or threat-centered?

Here are a few coaching tips:

  • Don’t try to fix the client. Trying to fix someone’s perspective basically means you’ve fallen prey to the same duality that the client has.
  • See the client from the vantage point of the North Star. When you look upon circumstances from afar, the timeline trajectory grows and things change perspective.
  • Assume there is some form of beauty in the client’s circumstances. What can you appreciate in this situation? Perhaps it’s an opportunity for the client to fully experience his power to create, or her opportunity to grow in some way.
  • Explore inherent ironies and reverse-engineer strengths. There is often an inherent irony in the client’s situation. For example:
    • The “project management” client frustrated by the job search can begin to project-manage his networking activities.
    • The “empathetic” manager who has trouble delegating can turn her compassion inward and notice the personal/family impacts of not delegating.
    • The “analytical” leader who is frustrated with over-due deliverables from direct reports can analyze how his assumptions have contributed to the delays.

When the elephant in our own mind is pervasively positive, we’ll be much more able to operate from a stance that helps our clients to do the same!

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Running as fast as I can…but getting nowhere.

In today’s busy world we are often pressured to do more with less. There is a way to increase capacity, but it’s not by putting your nose to the grindstone…find out how in this video.

The content from this video is taken from our Certified Capacity Growth Coach program. Our next cohort starts THIS WEDNESDAY, September 25th.
Learn more at: www.theacademies.com/capacity

In today’s work world, we’re so often expected to do more with less. We get the news that there will be a reduction in workforce, and poof… your team starts to disappear.

We’re already running at break-neck pace, and so, responsible human beings that we are, we run faster. But it can feel like we’re dragging a huge weight behind us.

And then with less people-power, we put in more hours … and yet we don’t feel like there’s enough time in the day to do all the things that need to be done.

And so, dedicated human beings that we are, we run faster.

And then we learn that the budget has been cut … we have to deliver the same or even bigger results with fewer resources.

And so, caring human beings that we are, we run faster.

Faster and faster, harder and harder, longer and longer … to get it all done.

But there’s a better formula for increasing capacity: one that doesn’t involve force, and one that doesn’t involve exhaustion.

It’s the Connect-and-Create process.

First, connect with yourself. Deepen your breathing, calm your mind, be uber-compassionate with yourself. This can help shift your brain state from beta to alpha waves, from Narrow Focus to Open-Focus.

Next, connect with others. Science tells us the social-bonding hormone of oxytocin helps both build trust AND helps us think better.

And, the research on collective intelligence tells us that when people come together and collaborate, they have a higher IQ than just the average of the IQs in the room. Literally, two or more heads are better than one.

So with this formula of Connect-and-Create, you have brighter ideas for working smarter, AND happier, not just harder. 

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Name the Elephant in the Room

The old saying “elephant in the room” implies that there is an issue that is so big, or complex, or unmanageable, or unsolvable that it’s simply easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. In other words, ignore it, and it will go away!

When coaching leaders, the elephant that feels unsolvable might be…

  • A colleague who has the ear and favoritism of the boss, thus causing your client to feel powerless.
  • Or maybe it’s a budget constraint that feels untenable.
  • Or maybe it’s an old Achilles heel that the client thinks is impossible to overcome (e.g., a hot temper, an insecurity, micro-managing…you name it).

Why Do We Avoid the Elephant?

As coaches, we might avoid addressing the elephant because

  • We’re afraid of it ourselves, wondering if there really IS an answer to it?
  • We afraid of our client’s response to it—What if they feel offended… what if they get mad… what if, what if, what if?
  • We’re afraid our client isn’t ready or won’t be able to hear it.

What Happens if We Avoid the Elephant?

  • We appear tentative, timid, or just plain chicken!

  • We lose the client’s respect because they sense we’re not courageous enough to be direct.

  • The client doesn’t get the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to stretch, to grow, to experience a win.

How to Name the Elephant!

Here are two suggestions for naming and playing with the elephant in the room.

(Note: these ideas assume that other ICF coaching competencies are already in place, such as ICF #3 Establishing Trust & Intimacy, and ICF #5 Active Listening).

  • The Curious Observation: The technique of making an observation is a good starting point for elephants. For example, the coach might say, with warmth and humor: “So I guess the elephant in the room here is the impact of the boss’s favoritism toward ‘Joe,’ who seems to have advanced dexterity at pushing your buttons.”

  • The Curious Question: You could also ask the client their thoughts on the elephant. For example, “Feels like there’s an elephant in the room—something that appears too big to solve … how would you name it?”

Play with the Elephant!

Once the elephant is named, it can be reflected on. It’s important that the reflection be from a stance of curiosity, creativity, and optimism. There is always a solution. Always.

Remember that “what we focus on grows.” If our brains focus on curiosity, creativity, and optimism (as opposed to unsolvable, unmanageable, difficult), then we’re guaranteed to notice new ideas and strategies.

Name those elephants! They can carry us into new and adventurous territory!

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Are Your Coaching Questions Brain-Friendly or Brain-Frazzling?

Have you ever been asked a question you knew the answer to but froze?

That frozen reaction was likely caused because the question elicited the fight-flight-freeze response in you. Your brain heard the question, but your body interpreted it as some kind of threat.

Neuroscientists say that the subconscious can process over 40 million nerve impulses per second, whereas the conscious mind’s prefrontal cortex, only 40 nerve impulses per second.

Let’s say you’re coaching a leader who is trying to land the next promotion, and she gets a behavioral interviewing question during her formal interview—“Tell me about a time when you…dealt with conflict on your team.”

While her conscious brain is trying to think of the right story, her subconscious brain could be working overtime, remembering an embarrassing moment or the painful fall-out associated with the conflict.

Her inner critic can show up with its own story of “you should have handled that conflict better… you really blew that… if you tell the interviewer this story, you might look incompetent, and then you might not get this promotion, and then all your coworkers will know you didn’t make the cut, and then what about the raise you were hoping for… your son needs braces and you want to be able to enroll him in that summer program that will help prep him for his college entrance exams … gosh, do I have what it takes to manage this role … and and and…)

As coaches, when we recognize the body’s natural tendency to shift to fight-flight-freeze, we can adjust our questions to lessen this reaction.

Enter Curiosity vs. Quiz Questions.

We can’t prevent the people we speak with from going into the Red Zone of fight-flight. Some questions we ask will be uncomfortable—both for the client and for you. You may be hesitant to ask a question for fear of making the client scared or offended, or opening up a can of worms.

So when you’ve got a question to ask your client that might be perceived from a fight-flight state, here are two brain-friendly tips:

Bathe it in curious compassion

  • Remember your common humanity—the client is doing the best they can, just as you are.
  • Remove judgment or bias from your questions.
  • Wonder where/from whom the client first conditioned himself/herself to fear whatever it is that’s causing concern.
  • Appreciate the client—his/her essence, highest self, strengths, journey.

Consider “buffering” questions:

  • “This might be an uncomfortable question, so let’s get it out in a safe space to explore…”
  • “A question is coming up, and it’s being posed from the position of ‘on-your-side advocate’ …”
  • “Just between you, me and the fencepost, what’s the scariest question you could be asked right now?”
  • “This question is being addressed to your higher self—that part of you that easily sees the big-picture trajectory in all of this…”

Avoid Quiz Questions, and enjoy asking Curiosity Questions! Coach on!

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Which Brain Are You Listening With?

Our mood, our experiences, our levels of reasoning—all determine how we listen, and how well with listen.

We can playfully consider these brain modes that may be driving our listening:

  • The Buddy Brain – the Buddy Brain is concerned with making sure everyone is happy, that everyone is being nice to one another, and that everyone is getting along. Our allegiances and preferences for certain relationships can get in the way of listening. For example, hearing this statement from a client, “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Buddy Brain may think to itself:

    “Oh, no! How dare they do that to you! … what a toxic environment you are working in … you oughta get out of there!” The Buddy Brain can get caught up with the details of he said-she said, and loses site of the bigger picture.

  • The Bias Brain – the Bias Brain listens in a judgmental or evaluative state of mind. It is listening with the filter of what it thinks is right and what it thinks is wrong—the right way to do things, or not. For example, hearing this statement from a client, “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Bias Brain may think to itself:

    “Of course you got passed over. You didn’t develop the leadership competencies the boss is looking for. You should have done more networking.”

  • The Builder Brain – the Builder Brain listens to understand within the bigger context, with an eye that everything that is happening to the client is creating opportunities to learn, grow, evolve. From this Brain, the statement “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Builder Brain may think:

    “I hear the emotion there … and the emphasis you placed on the word ‘again,’ as if you’ve tried everything you could think of and it still hasn’t worked.”

    After a statement like this, pause, listen for client’s response, respond, and then possibly offer this response, with compassion. “What are the leadership competencies the organization needs to see in its promotable people right now? … And what are the opportunities for demonstrating them?”

To operate from the Builder Brain, we need to curiously and compassionately see circumstances as opportunities and recognize our power to choose the powerful strengths/values/perspectives that will move us and our clients toward what they want to create.

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How Comfortable are You with Discomfort?—Four Insights to Build Coaching Presence

 Presence boosts two key competencies:

     1) strategic thinking and
     2) relationship engagement.

Lose your presence and you:

     1) lose your ability to think of options and solutions… and
     2) minimize your ability to create a sense of psychological safety for your client.

What triggers a loss of presence for you? Do you relate to any of these scenarios?

Fear of Offending
The person you coach may take offense at a seemingly innocuous comment you’ve made. This offense could be based on any number of variables—extra stress that you know nothing about, a prior history of trauma, a lack of sleep the night before, and more.

Our first reaction is often to apologize. As polite as an apology may be, within a coaching relationship, consider instead curiosity. For example, “It sounds like that comment triggered something—what came up for you when you heard it?”

Coaching Presence is the ability to 
deal with offended-ness with curiosity and compassion.

Fear of Reputation Loss
It’s human nature to want to be thought well of, to be accepted, to be held in high regard—especially when we’re getting paid to coach and be of value. When we fear others’ opinions, we begin to second-guess ourselves as coaches, and withhold saying what our internal wisdom is telling us. Although timing and tact are important, never withhold! Withholding is a cue to loss of presence.

Coaching Presence is the ability to 
value, love, and believe in yourself, even when others don’t.


Fear of Disagreement or Conflict
As a coach, it’s your responsibility to make observations about what you see happening in your client. For example, “[Client], when your boss says [x], it causes you to react and get defensive, with the impact being an escalation of tempers.” If your client disagrees with you, discounts the comment, or gets reactive, it can cause us to back-pedal or appease—both of which signal a loss of presence.


Coaching Presence is the ability to 
explore differing opinions without fear or embarrassment getting in the way.

Fear of Uncertainty or Lack of Answers
Many new coaches are uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity—and yet, these are part and parcel of coaching (and life). Nowhere in the job description for a coach will you find the words “omniscient” or “fortune-teller”! Avoiding uncertainty signals loss of presence.

Coaching Presence is the ability to
welcome uncertainty and ambiguity as doorways to creation.

Coaching Presence is the ability to be comfortable with the client’s, as well as our own, discomfort!

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Your Beliefs—The Best Way to Create Trust in Coaching

Trust is everything.

Without trust in a relationship, your client will withdraw. And with withdrawal comes withholding. And when withholding, the client hides.

Hiding is a defense mechanism that every one of us uses—to protect ourselves from being betrayed, or embarrassed, or judged, or rejected.

And when hiding happens, we block the client’s ability to be vulnerable, we disinvite honesty, and we squash authenticity. And the client cannot learn, nor grow, nor progress.

So how do we grow trust?

What if it started with our own beliefs as coaches? Our beliefs reflect our behavior—the words we use, the actions we take.

What if our beliefs displayed to the client these assumptions… 

  • I believe you are, and always have been, doing the best you can—given your role models, your hurts, your restedness/nutrition, your humanity.
  • I believe you are capable of making choices that will allow you to evolve.
  • I believe you are creative, resourceful, and whole (hat tip to CoActive Coaching).
  • I believe that Life is on your side, mysteriously recycling and redeeming every “mis-step” as part of the beautiful tapestry of your life.
  • I believe that for every fear, there is abundant provision for the need—the ideas, the energy, the people, the resources, the patience—everything…and that we’ll work together to discover that provision.

Do you believe these for yourself? For your clients? 

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Let’s Agree on What Agreements Mean


Do they bring to mind any of these thoughts?

“Don’t fence me in! … I don’t want to have to comply … I better get it right or I’m in trouble … I feel guilty because I didn’t do what I said I’d do!”  🙁

Why do we not always jump in and make agreements?

Maybe: We are afraid that what we want isn’t what the other wants.
Consider: This assumes that the two of you won’t be able to find creative options, alternatives, and solutions. This is an invitation to get creative!

Maybe: We don’t want to be held accountable or hold the other person accountable.
Consider: Do your agreements involve creating situations that you truly want?

Maybe: We don’t want to feel guilty if we don’t follow through.
Consider: How about giving yourself a dose of self-compassion when you don’t follow through? Welcome to the human race.

Maybe: We forget to be intentional.
Consider: Create tiny habits that help you be intentional. For example, as you pass from one meeting to the next, pause to take a breath and ask, what are our intentions for our time together?

Agreements are Good

So if you have any hesitations or negative feelings about agreements, consider associating them with positive meaning, such as:

  • Agreements help our brains to focus on what we want.
  • Agreements give us healthy boundaries.
  • Agreements are positive intentions in action.
  • Agreements lend us a sense of what to expect.
  • Agreements add a layer of psychological safety.
  • Agreements are ways of expressing respect to one another.
  • Agreements can and should be re-aligned when they aren’t working.
  • Agreements, when not met, are invitations to connect and co-create with our fellow human beings

What kind of agreements would you like to make with yourself?

What kind of agreements would you like to make with others?

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You Belong

Belonging means to be a part of something—part of a friendship, or a romantic relationship, or a work team, or a community, or a group working toward a common cause, or, or, or.

The longing to belong, like the longing to be loved, is wired-from-birth within each one of us—it is a human need that every one of us has. We find meaning and inspiration in connecting and co-creating with the people we belong to; and we find comfort and solace in walking through the moments in life that are disappointing or painful.

So in honor of the month of Love, consider these 28 belonging messages:

  1. You are loved…Love.
  2. You are wanted…Go.
  3. You are equal…Respect.
  4. You are human…Feel.
  5. You are wise…Know.
  6. You know…Speak up.
  7. You are creative…Create.
  8. You are brilliant…Shine.
  9. You are welcomed…Collaborate.
  10. You are accepted…Enjoy.
  11. You are enough…Be.
  12. You have value…Contribute.
  13. You are appreciated…Appreciate.
  14. You are connected…Find commonalities.
  15. You are perfect…Evolve.
  16. You are imperfect…Breathe.
  17. You are safe…Create.
  18. You are guided…Align.
  19. You have enough…Rest.
  20. You are protected…Accept.
  21. You are alive…Expand.
  22. You are beautiful…Blossom.
  23. You are in process…Be grateful.
  24. You are where you should be…Keep moving.
  25. You are energy…Flow.
  26. You are needed…Show up.
  27. You are powerful…Generate.
  28. You belong…Thrive.
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Connecting with “Yes-Perts” on my Recent E.R. Adventure

I’ve been a bit preoccupied the past few weeks, healing from a nasty fall on the dance floor that sent me on my first ambulance ride, a nearly all-night-long visit to the Emergency Room, and a follow-up surgery that yielded permanent “bling” to hold together my right wrist.

With this month’s topic on Connection, I wanted to share my Emergency Room experience with the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. I had the good fortune to have a terrific ER doc—calm, caring, and confident yet unassuming (at least, that is my recollection, which may be foggy, given the narcotics being pumped into my system at the time). X-rays determined that I had dislocated bones in my wrist, which was pretty obvious from the unnatural “S”-shape that my arm had turned into.

As the night wore on, the 5-person ER team discussed how to best manage this “relocation” process. I noticed that the ER doc in charge asked her team what they thought might work best to easily hold my fingers upright for the time it would take to put things back in place. Surprisingly, I was coherent enough at that moment to join the conversation and share with them the concept of “yes-pertise.”

Here’s the back-story on “yes-pertise”: A few days prior to my dance-floor mishap, my coaching colleague Kristy Posocco, who facilitates our MBA career coach program, had shared with me an article on “yes-pertise.” “Yes-perts” have confidence in their own expertise, yet are also open to others’ ideas. This can create magic, with increases in ideas, innovation, collective intelligence, camaraderie, and team trust.

I witnessed my ER doc demonstrating “yes-pertise” in her collaboration with her intern and team. And when I explained the term to the people surrounding my hospital bed, I noticed something change in the room. Prior to this time, the new specialists who had come in for the procedure had not looked me in the eye—they had been quite professional and efficient, but the connection of “human being-to-human being” seemed to be missing.

After the discussion of “yes-pertise,” the energy in the room seemed to shift. The team members were smiling more, we were making direct eye contact, and a lovely connection of common humanity ensued. I felt less scared and a bit less pain as a result. And, a week later, when consulting with the hand specialist about surgery, he commented on the good job that the ER team had done to patch me up. (You can see his handiwork in the accompanying pics!)

So, here’s wishing each of you a year filled with Connection on myriad levels—with colleagues, coworkers, clients, family, friends, grocery store clerks, random strangers, and (not that I’m wishing this on anyone), the occasional medical professional, who isn’t afraid to be a “yes-pert.”

The concepts of Connection and Creation are vital components of The Academies’ coach training programs: Certified MBA / University Career Coach, Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Capacity Growth Coach

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Giving to Yourself this Holiday Season

What’s on your wish list for the coming holiday season? Do you buy presents for yourself, wrap them, and put them under the tree for yourself like I do?!

Here are a Baker’s Dozen gifts you might consider giving yourself as we head into the holidays.

1. Quiet – set your phone on airplane mode for a few hours during a time of day that you’d normally have it on.

2. Imperfection – Allow yourself the grace of not earning an “A+” for every holiday task. For example, if you send out holiday cards or put up a tree, tell yourself, “it’s okay if I send out cards in January!” Or, “It’s okay if I decorate my tree with lights only…and skip the ornaments and icicles.”

3. Rest – take a nap if you feel exhausted…especially if you think “I can’t afford the time for a nap!”

4. Inner-Connection – reconnect with yourself; listen to what your heart is telling you, and then follow through with its message of wisdom.

5. Curiosity – consider one tradition of the season that you’d like to let go of.

6. Creativity – consider one new tradition of the season that you’d like to start.

7. Ease – Curiously seek ease when a task seems hard. Ask, “What’s a simpler way to do this?”

8. Gratitude – If you sense frustration, depression, or lack, pause and feel (as deeply as you can) a sense of gratitude for something/someone in your life.

9. Team Up – if you notice you don’t have an answer for something, reach out to someone. For example, if you’re baffled by what to get a certain someone, call a friend who might be able to brain-storm ideas!

10. Theme — invite yourself to have a theme for this month that makes life seem lighter, more joyful, more meaningful. What’s your theme?

11. Compassion — Extend compassion to those who may not be as mindful and enlightened as you are this season. Extend compassion to you when you forget to be mindful and enlightened!

12. Values – do anything that honors your values! If you love Learning, stop and watch a TED talk, read an “What’s Inside” chapter from Amazon, take a course…and then share with someone else what excited you about what you learned!

13. Laughter & Love – if you find yourself getting stressed over some holiday madness, stop and laugh about it. Think about all your other fellow human beings on the planet who may be experiencing similar stress and send them warm wishes of light and love.

Give to yourself one, some, or all of these gifts, and notice which works best for you personally. You’ll be a gift not only to yourself, but to others, when you do.


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Two Contrarian Choices for When You’re Not Feeling Grateful

It’s November. Thanksgiving is around the corner. It even hits “early”—in the third week of the month instead of the last. Are you ready? November. It’s here. The month of gratitude, thanksgiving, abundance.

Gratitude is a great feeling. It’s the gateway drug to all sorts of good stuff—more happiness, less depression, more empathy, less aggression, better health, longer life, and more.

But what happens when gratitude is not there? What happens when you just don’t feel it? Instead, you feel discouraged or tired or just plain blah.

If you can’t muster it, here are 2 contrarian quick tips for jump-starting gratitude.

TIP #1: DON’T BE GRATEFUL (for a bit)!

Compassionately acknowledge where you are. Rather than force yourself into feeling gratitude, try out being self-compassionate about where you are. Have a talk with yourself, or journal a bit. This is step 1. For example, “Okay, I recognize that I’m not feeling grateful right now. I recognize that what I am feeling right now is tired, a bit cranky, and a little scared about where all the money is supposed to come from for the upcoming holiday season.”

Caution: Don’t add on judgments or meaning to your acknowledgement, as this can give more space to the negative (e.g., don’t add, “I’m such a hypocrite—I can’t even walk my talk on this gratitude stuff” or “I should have saved more money for Christmas presents”). I repeat: don’t do this!

Step 2: Next, add gratitude for your self-awareness. For example, “And as I recognize what I’m really feeling, I’m grateful that I have the self-awareness to be able to know where I am. I’m grateful that I can allow myself to feel a full range of emotions without judging myself. I am grateful that I am continually learning.”

Step 3. Linger over the gratitude. Focus on holding it for 10 seconds longer than you thought you could. Picture a loved one as you linger over the gratitude. Or picture a Divine Being or white ball of beautiful energy. Your mind is a powerful tool for creation.


If you’re not feeling it, chances are someone else is. Connect with another human being, and you’ll boost your odds for gratitude. Oxytocin will be released, and that always makes us feel better. Consider connecting with:

  • A bone marrow buddy who knows how to listen empathetically, without guilting you into “you should be grateful!”
  • A random stranger in the parking lot or in the aisles of the grocery store—share a warm smile, let your eyes twinkle. Feel it.
  • Send an appreciation text to someone. In two sentences state a trait you admire about them. Press send.

Bottom line: Choose to do something mindful, self-compassionate, novel, or fun. Want more tips? Here’s an earlier blog on “Choose Your Mood”!

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What To Do When Your Toughest Critic Is You

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been my toughest critic.  When things are going well, leave it to the backseat driver in my brain to remind me where I fall short.  And when things are NOT going well…yikes. These are the things you need to remember when your inner critic starts piping up:

  • Your inner critic is probably wrong.  She’s everyone’s least favorite gardener who specializes in seeds of doubt, and someone really needs to keep her away from the vegetables.  Your garden is for growth and nourishment. No weeds allowed.
  • Judgment causes anxiety.  Trust me, no one needs more of that.  There are a lot of things that deserve your attention, but your self-criticism is not one of them.  Sure, sometimes we need to improve, and there are kind, caring ways to tell ourselves how to meet those goals.  Insults have no place in self-improvement.
  • One mistake does not define your character.  Forgetting a small detail one time does not make you incompetent.  Running late because your car broke down does not make you unreliable.  Give yourself room to learn. It takes time to navigate new environments and develop new routines and habits.  Mistakes are just part of the learning process.

In your life, you are behind the wheel, which means YOU are in charge.  It’s time to let your backseat driver out of the car. Drop her off at the next coffee shop, buy her a latte, and let her have some chill time.  You’ll appreciate the break.

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The Evolution of Mindfulness: From Mindful to Meaningful

The human brain loves to make sense of things—to categorize, to judge, to evaluate, and more. With mindfulness becoming a commonplace word in today’s corporate world, we have become much better at simply noticing… noticing what we see, what we think, what we feel, how we act.

More recently, researchers are positing the idea of not just mindfulness, but re-appraising our mindfulness into what is meaningful. For example:

  • Mindfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset.
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset. For me, it represents the faithfulness of Life to provide me with an opportunity to reflect back on the beauty of my day.

Meaningfulness reminds us of both what we want, as well as the values that are important to us.

Here’s another example of taking Mindfulness to Meaningfulness—this time in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances:

  • Mindfulness: “Hmmm… it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood toady; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too.”
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: “Hmmm…it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood today; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too. And what I really want is to use this as an opportunity to remind myself that I want to respond rather than react to challenging circumstances. This honors my values of creativity and positivity.”

When we connect what we observe (mindfulness) with what we want and value (meaningfulness), we shift from stagnation or victimhood into movement or creatorhood (that’s probably not a word, but I’ll be creative!). We can then say, “Here are some ways I can… (e.g., be responsive rather than reactive in this circumstance).”

Try it out today. Mindfully notice what you notice—without judging or ruminating. Then move toward Meaning by adding the “what you want” and “value to honor.”

May you have many meaningful moments today!

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

What comes to mind for you when you think of Fun? Off the top of my head, I think of:

A lovely cocktail of neurochemicals is released when we’re having fun—neurochemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.  The flow of these throughout our brain and body make us feel good, think good, and act good. (And yes, I just had fun breaking a few grammatical rules in that last sentence.)

Gamification—the application of game principles in non-game contexts—is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Gamification is growing with good reason:

Fun feels good.

And we like to feel good. The summer season seems to invite us to feel good and have fun. It puts us into planning mode, thinking about vacation destinations and fun activities that will create memories.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget about fun when there are pressing deadlines at work, shortages of resources, or squabbles at home. If we were to be intentional about planning some fun for our day-to-day work, we’d likely feel better, think better, and act better.

Here are three ideas for accessing fun:

  • Novelty: Doing things differently gives us a boost of dopamine. What could you do differently today?
  • Laughter: As obvious as it sounds, look for ways to laugh today. One of my favorites is YouTubing Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” routine … it always makes me smile.
  • People: Find someone to share your laughter with. It not only creates happy neurochemicals for you, it does for the other person, too … spread the wealth.

And, when circumstances feel difficult, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • “Where is the irony in this situation, and how can I smile at it?”
  • “If I were a comedy writer, how would I describe the current situation?”
  • “When it is six months down the road, how might I laugh at this circumstance?”

Have fun creating fun today!

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Rest: What It Secretly Says About Your Perspective on Life​

For years, I operated in high gear, busy-mode, proudly wearing my “busy badge.” Like a martyr, I would tell others about my 80-hour workweeks and how much I accomplished from day to day.

Maybe it’s the plethora of articles available these days on the importance of sleep, or maybe it’s that I’m maturing, but I’ve changed my tune on “go-go-go” mode these days. I am now a big proponent of rest!

Rest can take many forms. Beyond getting good sleep, rest can be going on vacation (I’m writing this from the cabin of my cruise ship, headed for Cuba). It can also be taking a nap, or putting your feet up for a few minutes, or stepping away from work for a bit to gain a new perspective.

Physiological Benefits of Rest (Obvious!)

Rest is obviously a biological need. Lots of important things happen in our brains when we rest. This Fast Company article explains it well. In short, our brain has a system that tidies up things during sleep, sorting and filing information, making sense of things, snipping connections not being used, and reinforcing connections that are being used.

Psychological Benefits of Rest (Not So Obvious)

Rest also has an important psychological impact. I have experienced that when I stop to rest, I seem to quietly acknowledge to Life and to myself that I am safe. Think about it—when we rest, we are not wearing our power suits, we are not in any sort of a power posture, and we are not engaging with others to create or problem-solve.

Instead, we are vulnerable when we rest—we are not on high-alert. Our body posture is passive vs assertive/aggressive. And we are not protecting or defending ourselves in any psychological fashion.

In short, we give the stressors of life a time-out. In fact, you could use REST as an acronym:


Experiencing a



It’s as though Life insists on us resting, just to remind us that, indeed, all is well…all is working out. When we rest, our world view shifts from a problem/scarcity perspective to an abundance/trust perspective. (Plus, we’re a lot more fun to be around.)

How will you REST today?!


Image attribution: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_mimagephotography’>mimagephotography / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Interview Openings? Or Interview Opportunities?

If you’re working with clients who are in job search mode, they’ll want to be sure to have enough interviews in their pipeline! More interviews mean more options. Too often, people in career transition pin all their hopes on just one interview, thinking their ship has come in, only to see it turn into a sunken dream. If you see clients who are experiencing this scenario, you know it can really take the wind out of their sails. On the other hand, there is nothing more empowering than having options.

To help your clients increase their options, increase their opportunities. Notice the emphasis on opportunities instead of the more common terms, postings or openings. There’s a world of difference between the two. Let’s take a look!


Openings: An advertised position soliciting a predefined skill-set to perform specific tasks.

Opportunity: An unadvertised position or situation where a job seeker’s skill-set can contribute to company/shareholder value.

Job Seeker Positioning:

Openings: In openings, the candidate has a tendency to come as a “supplicant” on bended knee, positioned in a role to sell and convince others of his or her worth.

Opportunity: With opportunities, the candidate has the ability to come as a “value proposition,” positioned as a business solution or service.

How Accessed:

Openings: Candidates comb through online postings and print want-ads to apply; human resources then winnows to make the volume of resumes manageable, eventually conducting a formal, structured interrogative interview process.

Opportunity: Candidates target companies, then read, research, and conduct “focused networking” with people who will lead them to conversations with decision makers; needs are uncovered and value-based solutions offered through an informal, fluid inquiry/discovery process.

Materials Needed:

Openings: Traditional resume and cover letter.

Opportunities: Knowledge of company/hiring manager needs and how the candidate’s strengths and brand can deliver a return-on-investment; targeted resume or SOS (solution or service) letter; project proposal.


Openings: Limited and restricted to those companies in hiring mode.

Opportunities: Potentially limitless and unrestricted, as the focus is about building long-term relationships while exploring opportunities and innovations that will benefit the company’s bottom line.


Openings: Typically stiff when advertised broadly.

Opportunity: Minimal; the candidate is often competing only with himself/herself.

Who Controls the Process:

Openings: Controlled by human resources; usually a predictable process 2-6 month process.

Opportunity: Controlled by hiring manager and decision makers; less predictable process.

Human Resources:

Openings: Actively soliciting and screening applicants.

Opportunity: The human resources department is often unaware that a “job seeker” is even on the premises.


Openings: The candidate is typically anonymous and an unknown commodity.

Opportunities: The candidate builds relationships that lead to being trusted and gaining insider status because of recommendations by colleagues, employees, and/or friends.

What the Employer Looks For:

Openings: Features (an ideal “wish list,” such as number of years of experience, degree, skill set, and so on).

Opportunities: Benefits (solutions or services offered) that will make the company money or save the company money, making the candidate a valuable asset that boosts the bottom line.

Employer’s Preferred Method of Contact:

Openings: Anonymous submission of electronic or paper resume.

Opportunities: Often email or telephone to start, and eventually face-to-face exploration, although it can start with face-to-face in informal business networking or social networking situations.

Understanding and embracing these differences will give your clients an edge in their search! You, as an experienced coach, already know this. The challenge is helping the client be open to this as well.

  • Start with some discussion to increase awareness around the difference between openings and opportunities,
  • Ask how effective the client has been focusing only on openings (probably not very!),
  • Inquire about what an opportunity would look like, and then
  • Explore how they can start looking for opportunities, as well as openings.

Clients will see a major shift in their search when they do!

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Create! No Creativity Required

For years, I struggled with the word “creativity.” I thought it was reserved for artists or actors or interior designers. I also felt “less-than” when it came time to express my vision for the companies I owned or the projects I led. In my mind, I just never seemed to be able to see very far into the future.

As I’ve study neuroscience and brain-friendly approaches to coaching, I’ve come to reframe the concept of creativity. Nowadays, I look at creativity from the viewpoint of simply being intentional about what I want, and exploring what part of that I can control or influence.

And, “what I want” can fall into a couple of simple categories:

  • How I want to BE
  • What I want to DO
  • What I want to HAVE

These Be-Do-Have categories are probably familiar to you if you’re a coach. We can play TinkerToys® with them as we approach any task that’s before us. For example:

When heading into an important meeting:

  • How do I want to BE?
    Perhaps it’s Curious, or Collaborative, or Assured, or Strategic.
  • What do I want to DO?
    Perhaps it’s Ask a strategy question, or Speak up 10% more than I usually do, or Tap into different people’s insights.
  • What do I want to HAVE?
    Perhaps it’s 3 new options for addressing a challenge, or a Clear process for moving forward, or Delegation of tasks with clear deliverables and timelines.

Try it yourself for anything that’s on your mind—whether an upcoming meeting, or a difficult relationship, or a project that is due, or a task you’ve been putting off, or a vacation you are planning.

Create means recognizing we have choice in the midst of EVERY circumstance. Choices about how we want to BE, what we want to DO, and what we want to HAVE.

Enjoy your CREATE-IVE juices!


Image attribution: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_alphaspirit’>alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Abusing Positivity

Positivity. Perseverance. Gratitude. There is much to be said for these traits. They are proven, brain-friendly strategies that boost perspective, resilience, and success. They can shift me from an attitude of “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.”

But, positivity, perseverance, and gratitude can also have a dark side when they are over-used and abused.

For example:

  • Positivity Over-Used: When I have 18 hours of work to be accomplished in an 8-hour day, I can warp positivity and think, “I can get this done! I’ll just multitask during that boring meeting that’s coming up at 3pm; I’ll do my conference call when I’m in the car; then I’ll just work a few extra hours after the dinner party I have to attend, and I’ll be able to get it all done.” The end result is that I exhaust myself, never stop to question whether there might be some boundary of delegation issues at play, and all the while reinforce in my mind the necessity of 80-hour-work-weeks to survive.
  • Perseverance Abused: When I have a project that is not going smoothly, I might narrow-mindedly continue to apply the same approach and “hammer, hammer, hammer” away at it. In the process, I miss out on the opportunity to collaborate with others on their ideas or try out a new tool.
  • Gratitude Gone South: When I have a difficult person in my life, I might amp up gratitude and think of all the reasons I appreciate and admire the person. All the while, I silence my voice and miss the opportunity to address behaviors that need to be addressed.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for positivity, perseverance, and gratitude (and many other useful mindset tools). But when they cause me to…

  • Stop deepening my thought processes
  • Bury my curiosity about different ways to approach challenges, or  
  • Avoid conflict and challenging conversations

… I have abused these beautiful tools. Can you relate?

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The Bully in the Brain

We’ve all heard of the Gremlin/Saboteur – my favorite description is “the Bully in your Brain.” And, as coaches, we watch for this voice in our conversations with clients.

To help your clients, remember these three “S’s” that are often at the root of the “Bully”:

Scarcity – “You don’t have enough (money, time, resources). You will be left wanting.”
Shame – “You are not good enough, perfect enough, talented enough.”
Shunned – “If people knew the real you, they wouldn’t like/accept/respect you.”

Why is it important to be aware of these bully beliefs? Because, no matter how great your strategy, your clients will NOT make progress toward goals if these underlying beliefs are in place. And yet, these can be sensitive topics for clients to explore.

In the Certified Brain-Based Success Coach program, we share a KEY TECHNIQUE that allows you to explore beliefs (for yourself, as well as your clients) without sending people into fight-flight-freeze!

Bottom line: truly transformational breakthroughs.

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When I Laughed In The Face Of Fear

As a child, I made my decisions about the world quickly and assuredly. I gave things one chance and if it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, I wouldn’t touch it again with a 10-foot pole for years. I once saw a fisherman gut a fish on a pier, which was, as you can imagine, HORRIFYING. I didn’t eat fish and chips for two years after that. Also on my blacklist included the dark, the vacuum cleaner, Chuck E Cheese, and roller coasters. Actually, let me clarify that last one – anything with a slight change in elevation.

Minnie Princesses

Because of this, Disneyland was my family’s choice of theme park. One year, I decided I was old enough to graduate from the kiddy rides to something a little more intense like Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones. Not quite ready for Space Mountain, but I was stepping up the ladder. My parents decided that my inaugural adult ride should be Indiana Jones. Knowing my history, my parents knew that this would be a very important experience: this moment would either allow all of us to ride something other than the teacups every year or we’d be stuck spinning around with toddlers until I could muster up the courage to try again.

BOOM, the ride takes off. We start jostling to and fro, flying around corners. My mom has locked eye contact with me. I’m staring at her and she can see my mind quickly deciding if I like this adult ride or not. I’m quickly deducing that I definitely DON’T. But before my mind can say NOPE WE DO NOT LIKE THIS and I start crying, my mom throws her hands up in the air and starts laughing.


Errrr, screech. My mind comes to a halt as I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that my mother is laughing! On this very scary ride!…Or is it really a scary ride? Just as quickly, my mindset shifts and suddenly I’m seeing the ride through her eyes. It’s not so scary. It’s kind of fun! It’s kind of silly! I break out into a huge grin and start laughing, too. We laughed past the giant snake, we laughed across the rickety bridge, we even laughed down the huge drop. I got off the ride and declared that I loved it! It was my new favorite ride.

I often think about this memory and now that I’m older, I’m so impressed with how my mom handled that moment. If she wrapped her arms around me and told me it would all be over soon, I would’ve cried the whole ride and written it off completely, but because she laughed and threw her arms up, my mindset shifted. Our brains are so powerful and have the ability to bias us, to make us decide if something is safe or not, good or not, scary or not. As a coach, look for the opportunities to throw your hands up and laugh. You may lead your clients to do so as well.

Thanks, Mom, for making me braver. Happy Mother’s Day.

Check out the first picture, yep, that’s me along with Susan’s daughter having fun on the teacup ride many years ago.

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Leveraging Gratitude in Career Coaching

Numerous researchers in the field of positive psychology have learned that gratitude impacts many areas of our lives, as the infographic to the right shows:

  • Happy people’s income is roughly 7% higher
  • Grateful people on average give 20% more time and dollars.
  • Grateful people will have 10% fewer stress-related illnesses, by more physically fit, have blood pressure that is lower by 12%.
  • Grateful people are 20% more likely to get “A” grades

For those who coach career changers, I wish there were statistics on how gratitude impacted career changers’ success rates! If there were such stats, I’m confident they would show that grateful job seekers network more easily, get jobs faster, and negotiate bigger salaries (this last one is borne out in the first bullet above, with happy people having incomes 7% higher).

Gratitude ushers in the concept of provision. It causes us to view the world through a lens of possibility instead of problem, to believe “I have everything I need … right now.” The negative emotions of fear, anxiousness, and worry are based in anticipation of not having enough …  not having enough control, time, money, energy, health, protection, resources, wellbeing, wisdom, appreciation, acceptance, trust, ease. Simply put:

  • Lack of enough is scarcity.
  • Plenty of enough is abundance.

Practical Application

So how do you leverage gratitude when coaching your clients? If you are working with someone who is bummed out over a job loss, be cautious about coming straight out and saying “what are you grateful for?,” because it can sound insensitive.

Instead, first acknowledge the pain. For example:

“I hear the frustration… not what you were hoping for.”

And then, consider saying something like”

“Without denying those feelings, what do you hope this situation will open up for you … make possible for you?”

This is a way of tapping the gratitude emotion without using the word “grateful” or “gratitude.” So, dear colleagues and friends, what do you hope your current situation will open up for you?!

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When Failure Isn’t What It Seems

By Rebecca Potts, Academic Services Coordinator

Failure is an ugly word.  It comes equipped with pointy fangs, twisty horns, and a dark cloud around it.  And it probably has really bad breath. Yuck.

But what if I told you you’re not looking deep enough?  What if there is more to failure than meets the eye? That when you pick apart the letters, you see that its fangs really aren’t that sharp, and they’re stuffed with some really fluffy filling called Opportunity.  And when you carefully examine its horns, you notice that they’re beautifully textured with a material called Vision and extend so high into the sky that you know from the top, you can see everything, you just have to start climbing.  And that dark cloud? If you look really closely, you can see a light far off in the distance, and no, it’s not a train. It’s called Hope. And you’ll notice, the more you get to know Failure, the brighter that light becomes.

If you think back to the last time you succeeded, you’ll realize that you probably failed a few times beforehand.  Each time, it may have felt discouraging and frustrating and you might have felt like giving up, but you didn’t. You kept trying.  You learned more, you grew more, and Failure was right beside you the entire time. So why did you succeed?

Because “Failure” taught you how.

So the next time Failure comes knocking at your door, invite it for dinner.  Let it get comfortable and don’t be afraid. It’s about to compassionately teach you a very valuable lesson.

Image attribution: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_drawkman’>drawkman / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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I Can’t Find My Keys

By Rachel Grima, Client Services Manager

When I was much younger my mom had this habit of putting her keys in a different place each night. Each morning we would be on our way out the door and my mother would exclaim: “I can’t find my keys.” Which led to her running around the house opening cabinets, drawers, looking under the dog’s bed, and everywhere else she could think of. Unable to find her keys she would offer me a quarter if I could find them. At that age, I thought a quarter was a pretty big deal! I had this knack for finding her keys even if she put them in the freezer or the flower pot in the backyard. I just had this sixth sense about where her keys were and usually, I was able to find them in no time at all and we would be on our way.

Already late, I would find myself strapped into the car and my mother launching into one of her great life lessons. Usually, our 30-minute car ride turned into 40 or 45 minutes because she’d be so impassioned in her speech that she would forget where she was going! We’d find ourselves across town and she’d exclaim: “Oh! I needed to turn right 10 blocks back.”

As a child, I promised myself that I would NOT be this way. I would never forget my keys and I definitely would never forget where I was going. Fast forward 15 years to a typical early morning, me frantically running around my apartment yelling at my husband and asking him if he’s seen my keys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught up in a story while I’ve been driving, and you guessed it, found myself across town 15 miles out of the way from where I meant to be.

It’s funny that as a child, in those moments, I focused on the things that didn’t really matter. I failed to see my mother’s wisdom, patience, kindness, and compassion, to name just a few of her amazing qualities. I told myself, “I would NEVER be” rather than, “I can’t wait to be.” This story often reminds me to view things in perspective. To not let fear of the challenge or fear of the unknown blind me from seeing the full story that contains an amazing and beautiful opportunity or experience.

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Throughout life, we never stop growing. I’m not talking about that Christmas cookie weight gain, I’m talking about the brain. Growth can sometimes look a lot like struggle, but it always leads to a stronger and more enlightened you. Let’s take a couple minutes and G.R.O.W. together.

GROW stands for Gratitude, Reach, Oxygenate Your Options, Walk Out the Win.

Gratitude: Did you know that positive emotions kick-start feel-good neurotransmitters? The more positive emotions we have present throughout the day, the easier it is to stretch, reach, and take actions toward success.

Positive thoughts active the prefrontal cortex (area of the brain responsible for making judgments and decisions). Conversely, negative thoughts activate the limbic system (fight/flight/freeze area of the brain that alerts us to danger and keeps us in panic mode).

Reach: Visioning is an important coaching technique that engages the neocortex (the center of higher mental functions in the brain). To vision is to imaginatively project yourself into the future to set goals.

When we picture our goals vividly, our brains reward us with a healthy dose of dopamine. According to Psychology Today, dopamine not only helps us to envision rewards but helps us take the necessary actions to move toward them.

Oxygenate Your Options: Our brains can naturally “see” more options, or even methods for coming up with more options when it’s fueled with oxygen and positive emotion.

Options dismiss and dispel the impression that we have no hope. They quell and quiet the fight-flight-freeze response and put us into possibilities-provision-perseverance mode.

Walk Out the Win: As you grow success in the garden of your brain, it’s really important to translate those thoughts and insights into action-traction… the phase where choices are made that move us forward.

As coaches, we refer to this as “action steps.” So today, I encourage you to treat yourself like you do your best client. Take 5 minutes, and consider your growth opportunities. What action steps can you take to make those come to life?

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Why I Don’t Want the Answers

By Rebecca Potts, Academic Services Coordinator

When I was in school (if I can remember that far back), I had two different types of teachers.  I actually had several different types, but let’s pretend it was just these two. One would open the textbook, read word for word what the author had written and teach me by telling me what someone else thought.  The tests were copies of the sentences we read, convincing us that memorization and critical thinking were one and the same. The other would teach by asking us to challenge what was on the page; to conclude on our own how the writer developed their theories and viewpoints.  They presented material and actually wanted to know our opinions and ideas about it. How would we change it? How would we build upon it? How does it make us feel?

Long story short, I learned a lot more from the teachers who asked me questions than the ones who handed me answers, which is no coincidence.  Humans tend to be very egocentric, meaning that we place the importance of our own beliefs and values above others. If it’s not our idea, it’s much more difficult for us to accept, which is why your kids don’t want to clean their rooms.  It was definitely not their idea. When we are given the opportunity to come to our own conclusions, we not only learn faster and retain more, but we also gain the ability to explain and defend our beliefs, which gives us passion.

So the next time your child has a dirty bedroom, make them think it was their idea to clean it. How? I have absolutely no idea. We’re coaches…you’ll think of the right questions!


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The Answer to Any Uncertainty

By Rebecca Potts and Susan Britton Whitcomb

Do you remember the days when you sat in class, staring at math problems or a dissected frog, holding your chin in your palms, thinking, “when am I ever gonna use this?”  I learned a lot during childhood that I never ended up using, but something I didn’t learn from school was what my strengths were and how to use them.  If I did, if we ALL did, we could equip our next generation (and ourselves) with the skills to navigate life from a position of confidence and creativity.  Instead we got Calculus.

Much has been written about using strengths for determining career direction or managing teams, but we can do so much more with strengths. For example, using strengths to help us:

Navigate uncertainty
Tackle tough projects  
Resolve conflict
Raise children
Motivate ourselves/others
Deepen relationships
Manage time
Manage health

When you’re faced with a situation that can have many outcomes, rely on your strengths. Choose one of your top strengths, and lean into it. Use it as a strategy to, for example, navigate the uncertainty. It will likely help you choose the correct proverbial door.  One of my top strengths is Learner, and as a result I tend to research a topic tirelessly until I know everything there is to know about it – which means I’m the person at the party who usually brings up something completely out of the blue and unrelated.  But, besides how fun my Learner strength makes me, it can also make me highly prepared to navigate uncertainty.  I can gather information about the situation and make decisions to act based on fundamental knowledge and preparedness.  No Calculus involved.  

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Make Fear Your Friend

Fear can often be a feeling that overwhelms us, or causes us to withdraw, or causes us to become defensive.

What if fear, instead, were a friend. Not a best friend, of course, and not someone you purposefully invite to join you at every appointment of your day. But, what if we framed fear as someone who shows up on occasion—even if unexpected, uninvited, or unwelcome—to offer us a message of insight.

What if you make fear your “friend.” Someone who is there simply to offer information. A piece of data. A clue about how to move forward. In this way, fear can have the ability to protect you, guide you, and be your ally.

Try it yourself. Name a fear you currently have. Next, have some light conversation with the fear. For example:

You: “What are you trying to protect me from?”

Fear: “Failing.”

You: “What strategy would minimize the risk of failure?”

Fear: “Just don’t do anything. That’s safest.”

You: “Thanks for showing up. I will find a more creative, proactive strategy. Bye.”

Or, your conversation might unfold differently, such as:

You: “What are you trying to protect me from?”

Fear: “Failing.”

You: “What strategy would minimize the risk of failure?”

Fear: “You’re not speaking your truth. Say what you need to say. What do you really want to say?”

You: “I want to tell my boss that if I take on another project, I’m afraid the other things I’m working on will suffer.”

Fear: “Take the word ‘afraid’ out and try it again.”

You: “I want to tell my boss that if I take on another project, the other projects will suffer.”

Fear: “Now make it about the bigger picture, instead of about you.”

You: “I want to tell my boss that these projects deserve focused attention to ensure success; taking time from one will slow down progress on the existing projects, and so let’s collaborate on which priorities would give the company the best returns.”

Next time you notice fear—worry, concerns, foreboding, anxious thoughts—try this. First, breathe! Then, give fear a bit of space to be heard, to inform you, to bring clarity about what you really want. Play with questions, such as:

  • “What are you trying to protect me from?”
  • “How would you guide me through this?”
  • “What might you suggest that would prevent this from happening again?”
  • “What new or (tried-and-true) strategy would move me forward?”



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Your Dog REALLY Knows What You’re Saying… So Do Your Clients

Fascinating research on canines reveals that your dog can tell the difference between being told “good-boy” in a neutral tone vs “good-boy!” with a praising tone. That’s right.

Neuroscientists discovered that the left side of the dogs’ brains lit up in response to the word itself, but when delivered with a praising tone, the right side also lit up.

It took both the words of praise PLUS the intonation to light up the reward center of the brain. Bottom line: your pet knows when you’re truly praising them vs. just going through the motions.(More info: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/dogs-know-saying-people-speech/)

And so do the people around us–clients, employees, bosses, team mates, family members, friends.

The next time it comes time to offer an affirmation, a praise, or a thank you to the people around you, PAUSE FIRST, and physically feel the appreciation, admiration, respect, love, etc. well up inside you.

Then offer your comments. Look people in the eye and smile when you say it … and see if that doesn’t cause greater connection (and some tails to wag)!!

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Dear Santa…I Want LESS This Christmas

I’ve been both naughty and nice this year, but I imagine that’s the case for every one of us who share 23 pairs of chromosomes!

As I think about what I’d love for Christmas, much comes to mind:

I want LESS:

>> I want to be LESS know-it-all, less always-have-my-act-together, less “right”, less “on”, less always-in-control, less expert, less, less, less.

I also want MORE:

>> I want to be MORE creative, more expansive, more easeful, more in flow, more calm, more safe, more bold, more carefree, more aligned with who I really am, more, more, more.

I can imagine that all of this is already mine, in fullest measure, right here, right now.

Thank you, Santa.

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Why I Am Not Ashamed of Shame

Shame. It’s an ugly word. It’s not something I’ve liked to talk about. But I’ve changed my mind on the topic lately.

These days, I love talking about shame…and credit Brené Brown for bringing this silent saboteur out into the open. (If you aren’t one of the millions who has watched her TED Talk on shame, check it out here.)

Here are three reasons I love talking about shame:

1) Awareness: Shame is the catchall for the silent-but-deadly negative narrative that can play in our heads. You know what that narrative sounds like, “You should have done better at that.” Or, “You didn’t spend your money wisely.” Or, “You over-ate.” Or “You [this]… You [that].” There’s no end to the litany of shaming we do to ourselves.

2) Compassion: Once the shame is brought into the light, we have a choice of what to do with it. Continue the cycle of shame, shame, shame, or put a different frame on it. When we immerse ourselves in compassion, we end the negative dissonance of behaving in ways that don’t align with our values. We begin to see why we’re doing the things we’re doing.

For example, “You over-ate” can shift to “You comforted yourself with food because you over-committed to people. And you over-committed to people because you want to please them.”

Compassion activates the oxytocin-opiate system in our body, according to University of Texas compassion researcher, Kristin Neff.

3) Redirection: Once we recognize the “why” we did something and see that it was likely based in well-meaning intentions (e.g., pleasing people), we can begin to look at alternative behaviors. For example, “next time I notice a tendency to over-commit, I will pause and buy myself some time—next time, I can say ‘let me get back to you on that after I look at my current commitments.’”

As a coach, notice the “shoulds” and the “shame” in your client’s vocabulary. Explore compassion with your client. And see if it doesn’t give your clients a boost when it comes to trying out new behaviors.


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Love Can Literally Grow Your Brain

Have you seen the disturbing brain scan of two 3-year-old’s brains side-by-side? Check it out here: https://www.learning-mind.com/child-neglect-effects-brain/

One brain in the picture is significantly larger than the other. The reason for such a difference is that the child with the larger brain was loved and nurtured, while the child with the smaller brain experienced extreme neglect.

The researchers posit that this damage makes it virtually impossible for the child to become a well-adjusted adult. The neglected child will be less intellectually intelligent, less emotionally intelligent, and more prone to addictions or a life of crime.

I have to wonder, however, if there isn’t some hope. What if we, as adults, lavished our own brains with love and nurturing? What if we practiced compassion on ourselves on a regular basis? Would it not result in you having a bigger, healthier brain?

Apply it now! Try starting with this simple statement: “I wish me deep and significant wellbeing.”

How do you practice loving, nurturing thoughts and actions towards YOU?


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What An Olympic Gymnast Taught Me About Coaching

I was sitting on my couch the other night, watching Dancing with the Stars and staring in awe as Sasha lifted Simone high above his head and twirled her around his shoulders.  They worked in perfect synchronicity; never missing a beat and landing safely every time.  It was easy to see that even though she was flying through the air, she was never in any danger of falling. I sat there amazed of their absolute trust and connection with one another.

That kind of trust is what makes any relationship strong and effective, especially when it come to coaches and their clients.  To see real progress in your clients, there must be a foundation of honesty, which will foster a bond of trust. Trust is built when something called “brain-to-brain coupling” happens. This is when the neural processes in one brain are coupled to the neural processes in another brain. Put in simple terms, it’s the place where you feel: “I get you.”

It creates a safe space for your client, allowing your client to feel heard—their hopes, dreams, frustrations, fears, and more. And once our clients know that we “get them,” they will be more open-minded.

If someone feels like they’re not being listened to, or if they feel demeaned or excluded, that places the person into a fight or flight mentality. Whatever you say, even with the best intentions, could be perceived as a threat.

It’s human nature to want to be understood, to be “gotten”, and to want to hear that you are not alone in the difficult circumstances. Someone is with you. You and I can dance in this moment, together.

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Self Care Is Not Selfish

By: Rebecca Potts, Academic Services Coordinator

Do you remember the last time you were on a plane?  Try not to cringe.  The half an inch of leg room, gluing your arms to your sides so you don’t touch the stranger next to you, eating nothing but incredibly salty peanuts and tasteless pretzels for the next six hours.  Mentally preparing yourself for this wholly unpleasant experience by practicing your contortion skills and willing yourself not to have to use the bathroom for an unnatural amount of time.  Then, it’s time for the safety spiel, and this is the important part.

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you.  If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

There.  That’s the important part.  If you’re travelling with someone who needs help, put your mask on first and then help them.  Common sense, right?  But think about this: how many times have you exhausted yourself helping others?… or said yes when you knew you would regret it later?

In school, in coaching, in life, we tend to help others when we haven’t worked on ourselves first, and when you put someone else’s mask on before your own, you’re setting both of you up to fail.  Before you take on another person’s responsibilities, or put their needs before your own, remember this: self-care is not selfish, and it will make you much more capable of doing better for the people you love in the long run.  Put your mask on and breathe.

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Truth Statements

A coaching colleague recently passed along a reframing technique from Blue Ocean Brain. The technique involves creating “Truth Statements,” which helps reprogram our brains from ruminating on negative thoughts to reflecting on positive thoughts.

One example of a Truth Statement offered by Blue Ocean Brain is this:

“After making a mistake at work you can reframe the situation by saying, ‘I make mistakes because I am constantly experimenting in order to make things better. I learn faster because of my mistakes.’”

Because one of my StrengthsFinder strengths is Maximizer, I couldn’t help but think about tweaking this powerful technique to wring out as much brain-friendly juice as possible. Try on these tweaks:

1. Swap out neutral languaging for any “sad” words. In this case, the word “mistake” may elicit negative emotions such as sadness, frustration, shame, guilt. Replace the sad word with something neutral, such as “this circumstance.”

2. Incorporate your strengths. For example, identify one or two strengths that could be at play, such as creativity or innovation or strategy.

3. Next, add a positive emotion to the statement. For example, gratitude, as in “I’m grateful that…”

4. Experience it. Cue your body to feel the positive emotion. Add the word “feeling” to the statement. Pause to access and experience the feeling as deeply as you can.

Putting these four tweaks in place, the statement now reads (color-coded from the steps above):

I’m feeling grateful that this situation is allowing me
to see how my creativity, innovation, and willingness to experiment
(aka bravery) allows me to learn even more quickly.

Your turn. Think of a negative thought you tell yourself and apply the above ideas. Enjoy!

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The Power of Negativity

Do you remember last week when your boss asked you to take on a new project and you doubted your abilities? Or when you let the unhappy client you were working with get you down for the whole day? What about when you had that second piece of cake and totally regretted it?

Negative thoughts can be powerful; powerful enough to distract from the goals at hand and how capable you are in the face of them. But what if we took a different approach to our negative thoughts? What if, instead of ignoring them, we learn to use them to motivate us? To get rid of distractions? To grow?

The goal is not to be rid of negative thoughts, but to learn to use them as an invitation to pivot to positive. To eliminate the power they have when we fear them, and to give them a voice instead. To allow them to spur your creativity to tap into your strengths, to recognize the power and choice that you have, to be on top of the circumstances instead of the circumstances being on top of us. The negative thoughts want to be heard too – so let them be! Eventually, you’ll notice they’re a lot more positive than before.


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Stop Caring about What You Don’t Care About

I binged on TEDx Talks this past weekend. One title really caught my attention:

“The Magic of Not Giving a F***”

My apologies, in advance, if the title is offensive. If it is, replace the unpleasantry with the word “care,” as in “The Magic of Not Caring” But I happened to appreciate the f-word because of its shock value. It wakes me up and makes me pay attention.

And that’s what a lot of us need to do. Pay attention. Pay attention to what we’re caring about, or what we’re not realizing we’re caring about that we really don’t care about. (Could you follow that!?!)

Because when we don’t care about something but we pretend we do care about it, we feel obligated, put upon, frustrated, and out-of-sync with ourselves.

So I made myself a list. Here’s what I don’t want to care about, that I do care about, that I wish I didn’t care about:

– I don’t care if my mother disagrees with me.
– I don’t care if my dear friend thinks I’m not spiritual enough.
– I don’t care if I disappoint a neighbor by saying no to her invitation.
– I don’t care if I offend someone when my comment was made in love/respect/curiosity, with no intention at all to offend.
– I don’t care if I don’t get it right/perfect/A+ 100% of the time.
– I don’t care if I miss a deadline, or two, or three…
– I don’t care if I don’t have all the answers.

The reality is, I’ve probably made up in my own head negative worrisome stories about how other people are thinking that aren’t even accurate!

So how about you?

– What would you like to take off of your “care” list?
– What would you be relieved to say “no thank you” to?!
– What would you do with the extra energy that comes from that sense of relief?

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Why, Sometimes, You Need To Go Backwards To Move Forward

Last month, my boyfriend and I went on a road trip.  He told me about an awesome “shortcut” that we just had to try out, and, sure enough, we ended up 10 miles down a pothole-ridden, dead-end back road with no cell phone service and an extra 45 minutes added to our drive time.  We drove back down the road, bouncing over dips and craters, me fuming in the passenger’s seat because we were late, and him trying to convince me that it didn’t matter.

Life is exactly like that.  Sometimes, you take a wrong turn; a “shortcut” that takes you way off course, and you realize far too late that the right road was in the opposite direction.  It’s possible that you’ll get lucky, and the right and wrong roads will connect at some point, but more often than not, you need to turn around.  When you’re 10 miles down the wrong path with no directions, going back the way you came can also seem like the wrong way.  But remember – every step backwards is one step closer to the right way.  So, take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and start walking.

What are the circumstances/habits/relationships in your life that would benefit from a turn around?

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Decorating Your Life

Creating your life is like decorating your house. You look around and think, hmmm, that blank wall needs something…what might look good there? And then you get an idea or start looking around at options and, voila, find something. Sometimes you decide to tweak it. Sometimes it’s just perfect right out of the gate.

In the same way, you decorate your life. You notice what you WANT…you get ideas…you explore options…you make choices…you tweak…you enjoy.

What do you WANT today? In your work? In your leisure time? In your relationships?

Happy decorating!

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Do You Ever Beat Yourself Up?

>> If you are going on a 50-mile journey, do you berate yourself at mile 1, and mile 2, and mile 7, and mile 37 because you’re not there yet?

>> If you have planted a garden, do you shame the plants that have not yet flowered?

>> If you are pregnant (or someone you know is!), do you belittle the little being inside for not being ‘finished’ yet?

Many of us are great at shaming ourselves! When we haven’t made enough money, lost enough weight, followed through on a bright idea, churned out every deliverable on time…we start the negative narrative in our heads that says we aren’t enough, weren’t enough, or didn’t get it right.

The reality is, we are always in process. Always. Always. Always. It is never finished. We are never finished. The people around us—clients, team mates, bosses, family members—are never finished.

That lack of finality can be difficult for our brains to be content with. When you experience this sense of discontent, pause, breathe, and revisit a favorite mantra, such as “Life is a gift, not a test.”

Join me today in the invitation to not beat yourself up … and enjoy the journey.

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We Choose Our Moods

“I’m just in a bad mood.”

Sometimes you know why. Things didn’t go well at work. Something didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. Someone said something that didn’t sit well. The boss is in a bad mood. You name it.

Sometimes you don’t know why. You can’t put your finger on it. You just know it’s there.

Either way, the bad mood creeps into your being, seeps into your thoughts, causes you to tense up, be on guard, see the world through a dim and shadowy lens.

We like to think we haven’t chosen this bad mood. We like to think it just happened. We like to point to external circumstances. We can justify the mood: “If you only knew what’s going on in my life, you’d be in a bad mood, too!”

Circumstances are realities. Moods are choices. Yes, we might slip into a bad mood inadvertently. But we don’t have to stay there.

Moods determine our perception of how much control we have.

Recognize that the mood is likely because something in your circumstances is not what you want. You aren’t happy with the “reality” of what’s going on in your world. You have evaluated the circumstances as wrong, bad, scary, unfair, etc.

A negative evaluation invites negative emotions—emotions that will deplete your ability to think strategically, creatively, innovatively, collaboratively. You are now at a disadvantage. The circumstances are now on top of you instead of you being on top of them. Like being on a teeter-totter with a 1,000-pound gorilla, you’re stuck up in the air, powerless to do anything because of the imbalance of weight.

The paradox is that if you choose a different (good) mood, you have greater power, greater weight, greater grounding. And from that good mood, you activate a different part of your brain, your body relaxes, and you engage with the circumstances (and life) with greater ease.

What mood will you choose?

What are your strategies for leaning toward a good mood?

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Tension—Is It Expanding or Contracting You?

Where are the tensions in your life? How do they show up? Are they masquerading as…

* Relationship conflict (differing opinions, methods, values)?
* Perceived lack of resources (money, time, ideas)?
* External forces (such as bosses or customers) that want you to do things with your time that don’t seem meaningful to you?

Tension is defined as an external force applied to an object to stretch or extend it. If we push against the tensions in our lives (e.g., differing opinions), we contract and shut down. We feel threatened by opinions that are different from ours. We become smaller or quieter in some way…we lose our truest voice.

If we allow the tensions to stretch and shape us, mission accomplished. We are bigger, stronger, deeper, more solid. We are more ok with who we are, and ok with others being who they are.

Move with, and not against, the tensions in your life.

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Are You Coaching a Micromanager?

Confession: I just micromanaged a relationship, and it did not end well. Here are some insights from my experience!

What is micromanaging?

It’s insisting on things being done our way because our way makes us feel comfortable, safe, and in control. It makes us feel like we can know what the outcome will be. It’s a way of managing stress, or perceiving that we are managing the stressors of the unknown, ambiguity, risk.

He has gotten where he is because he’s been successful doing it his way. And yet, this is also an opportunity for the micro manager to grow as a leader who knows how to tap other peoples drinks, different from his, to bring something bigger and could be accomplished on his own.

What are the unintended consequences of micromanaging?

When we micromanage, we diminish others. We send a message that says ‘you aren’t smart enough,’ ‘my way is better,’ or ‘I don’t trust you.’ Or, we send a message that says, ‘hierarchically, I am above you, better than you, more powerful than you.’

When we micromanage, we also diminish our options. We see our one way of doing things, which shuts down our creativity, brainstorming, and engagement with others to hear their ideas and solutions.

How to use coaching skills to move forward.

First, apply compassion. The micromanager (whether you or your client) has good reason to micromanage. Our motivations are often bathed in good intentions. We want to help. We want to be thoughtful. Or maybe it’s that we want others to trust us and have confidence in how smart we are.

You may ask, “What if I am older and wiser and more experienced than the person I am trying to micromanage?” In these situations, apply curiosity. Ask the other person, “What are your thoughts about [x]? … How would you approach [y]?”

When coaching a leader who is micromanaging, use active listening. For example:

“I hear some concerns about letting them do it differently than how you want it done … like they’re not respecting you in doing it your way … or it’s not going to be as efficient done their way … and you’ve got these deadlines that you’re juggling.”

Ask several curiosity questions, and leave plenty of silence and space for reflection and answers between the questions. For example:

* Sounds like you want it done your way. …

* What are the risks of having them do it a different way? …

* How would you manage those risks? …

* What message are you wanting to send when you tell them to do it your way …

* And what message do you think they are actually receiving? …

* How is that impacting things?

Letting go of control increases your options, deepens relationships, and empowers the people around you!

Our next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach program begins September 7th. Contact Rachel Grima at Rachel@theacademies.com or 559.547.8200 if you are curious to learn more!

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How To Handle Uncertainty

How do you handle uncertainty? How do your clients handle uncertainty?

Uncertainty comes in all shapes and sizes:

> Will there be enough paycheck at the end of the month?

> Will we make our financial goals at the office?

> Will so-and-so fly off the handle when I deliver negative feedback to him?

Uncertainty is often fraught with worry, anxiety, and worst-case scenarios. We can project into the future an outcome—usually negative—for how the situation will resolve.

And as we project negative into the situation, we subtly tell our brain to be on the lookout for those negative things. And, voila, the self-fulfilling prophecy takes effect.

In coaching, support your clients to learn how they best manage uncertainty. Here are a few ideas:

> Reframe the uncertainty as “opportunity.”

> Visualize yourself being successful in the various ways the situation might play out.

> Brainstorm how your strengths support you in walking through the uncertainty.

> Use mindfulness and observational techniques, such as “I am curiously noticing that I’m projecting a negative outcome for the future. I am now choosing to envision a positive outcome.”

> Breathe deeply. Breathe again. One more time.

Try on a few of these ideas today for any uncertainty you’re facing. Enjoy!

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Hanging on to the Negatives?

Do the people you live with, work with, or coach cling to negativity? If so, there may be a few reasons they do. Consider these possibilities:

Payoffs: What are the payoffs of negativity in someone’s life? Perhaps it’s a sense of martyrdom, or maybe the person enjoys being the center of attention because of the drama associated with negativity.

Perceptions: The perception that they won’t receive the empathy or relationship we need from others to feel heard, supported, or significant.

Comfort zones: If negative emotions are the norm, shifting to positive can be uncomfortable and scary. Emotions are part of our human nature, both positive and negative. But elongating negative emotions is a learned behavior, which, thankfully, can be unlearned!

Confusion: We may be confused about how long it’s “acceptable” to experience negative emotions—the bigger the trauma/loss, the longer it can take to recover.

If negative emotions are hanging on too long, be reflective and curious about whether any of the above may be at play. Negative emotions should never be cuddled, cherished, or treasured because they end up draining us of our ability to think clearly, feel good, and take strategic action.

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Using 3 Brain States to Connect with Others

I watched an interesting video by educator Becky Bailey who discusses “three states of the brains” that impact our behavior. She outlines them and their functions as follows:

Survival State: This is the brain in “freeze” of the proverbial fight-flight-freeze response. It is concerned with survival—protection, safety. When we are in survival state, we are not engaging the smartest part of our brain.

Emotional State: This is the brain in the “fight-flight” mode. Our emotions hijack us from thinking clearly in this state. We say and do things that we later regret because emotions have gotten the better of us. We are often thinking of ourselves in this state—preserving our reputation, protecting our financial resources, defending our rights, etc.

Executive State: This is the brain in “flow-flourish” mode. Here, the prefrontal cortex is engaged, such that we think more clearly, creatively, and collaboratively. However, if we do not feel safe or emotionally connected, our executive state kicks into plotting, scheming, and protecting.

With an awareness of these three brain states, we can better understand how to connect with others, whether they be family members, coworkers, bosses, employment interviewers, clients, etc.

To address the Survival State in others, help them feel SAFE:

How do we help someone feel safe? It’s tough, because we cannot control the other person’s thoughts or feelings. But we can use body language, tone of voice, facial expressions that will cue the person to sense that they are safe with us.

To address the Emotional State in others, SERVE:

We serve others by understanding what their needs are… and, to the degree it is appropriate for us to engage, serve them in meeting those needs. For example, if interviewing for a  job, asking the interviewer: “What are your top 3 priorities for this position in the nex 6 months?” or if speaking to an employee, “What resources do you need to complete this project on time?” This conveys that you will add to and not drain the relationship.

To address the Executive State, SOLVE:

We solve by being strategic, collaborative, and action-focused. Strategic involves being curious about the bigger picture, as opposed to having a narrow-minded, myopic view of the situation. Collaborative means to engage others’ strengths in the process—e.g., “Jane, I know you’re great at Intellection—what ideas have you been chewing on about this project?” Action-focused involves taking actions, which can include thinking differently, managing mood better, and/or executing on ideas.

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4 Positives of Negatives

The “negatives” in our lives—negative circumstances, people, thoughts, feelings, habits—are rarely things that we would choose or embrace. And yet, they show up. And the longer we try to ignore them, the longer they tend to stay.

If we flip the negatives upside down and look for the positives in the midst of them, we can diffuse and dissipate the effects of the negative. Here are four ideas to reframe and flip negatives into positives:



Negative emotions often tell us that something isn’t right or that something is missing that you personally value. For example, if you have a boss who is pressuring you to work a lot of overtime on a regular basis, you can notice your negative emotion of anger or frustration as a flag that says, “wait a minute; I need to set better boundaries for myself because when I don’t, it affects my resilience, creativity, health, etc.”


Maybe you’ve felt the negative emotion of embarrassment or shame from a mistake you made—perhaps you felt you did not do your best or you did not measure up. With the Evolution/Solution idea, the negatives could be an invitation to learn a new skill or try out different behaviors.

Rejection Protection/Course Correction

Many of us have experienced the pain of not getting a job we wanted. This can often be life leading and guiding us toward a different path. For example, if someone does not get a long-hoped-for job promotion, perhaps it will be the impetus to pay attention to another long-held desire, such as starting a business.


Negatives can be a reminder, cue, or trigger to activate or generate positive emotions. For example, if you have a coworker who complains a lot, use the person’s negativity as a cue for your own positivity—to feel gratitude, love, pride, etc.


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The Brain Science of Not Having People on Your Side


When our coaching clients feel excluded, or not part of the “in” group, the same region of their brain is activated as when they experience physical pain.

So whether your client bumps her shin into the corner of a coffee table or bumps her ego, the same part of her neocortex—the dorsal anterior cingulate—will light up. So says professor of social neuroscience John T. Cacioppo in his book Loneliness.

That means that when your client doesn’t make the interview short list for her dream job or her boss quietly omits her when it comes to asking for ideas and opinions from the team, your client’s brain will light up with signals that say “I am in real pain.”

What else happens when we experience that feeling of not being accepted? Cacioppo’s research reveals some sobering impacts:

  •    Our cognitive capacity diminishes (more so for strategic thinking than for memorization of rote information).
  •    Our emotions take a dip (or crash).
  •    Our behavior reflects less concern for the future consequences of our actions, and is more interested in immediate gratification.
  •    And all of these things actually change the way our DNA is expressed, such that it impacts our immunity and our heart health.

In other studies by sociologist Robert Weiss and social psychologist Roy Baumeister, research participants who were purposefully manipulated to feel disconnected and excluded were:

  •    Less willing to donate money to a student fund,
  •    Less willing to offer to help a stranger following a mishap staged as part of the experiment,
  •    More inclined to take irrational, self-defeating risks,
  •    More prone to procrastinate, indulging themselves with pleasurable tasks when they needed to be studying for upcoming tests
  •    More apt to over-eat (in a study by Cacioppo, it was discovered that the calories of fat consumed increased by 2.56 percent for each standard deviation increase in loneliness as measured by the UCLA Loneliness Scale

What’s a coach to do? Consider the following:

  •    Be that person to your client—be on their side (yet with radical candor); believe in them!
  •    Share some of the biochemistry science with your client behind what happens when we don’t have people on our side
  •    Explore who the client’s “bone marrow buddies” might be … or how to cultivate them
  •    Collaborate on self-compassion exercises the client can use to avoid self-sabotage!


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Brain-Based Techniques for Success: Which paradigm is your client operating from?

Which paradigm is your client operating from?

As you know, using a brain-friendly approach in coaching is a passion of mine. I’ve heard from many people in our coach community who report an increase in confidence, competence, and compensation when using the brain-based techniques.

One of my favorites is discovering which paradigm your client is operating from. Is it a paradigm of “Threat” or is a paradigm of “Safety”? The graphic below outlines the differences between Threat and Safety. In Threat/Defend mode we perceive that we don’t have enough, that life is unfair, that things are broken, and more. In Safety/Create mode we perceive that we do have enough

What’s the default for you? For your team? For your clients? For your family members?

Tip: Tap into gratitude to quickly tip the scales from threat to safety!

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Never Ask Your Job Search Client THIS Question

“How’s your job search going?”

Seems innocuous enough, right? And to be sure, some days it may be a safe question. But more likely, it will elicit a number of emotions and thoughts that can put the client into the Red Zone (that state of fight-flight-freeze-frantic-fearful-frustrated). The question may lead to the client…

> Getting defensive

> Feeling shame

> Berating him/herself

Instead, here’s a suggestion for a different type of question that a colleague of mine at the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business came up with recently:

“How much of an opportunity have you had to focus on your search?”

The question can bypass or alleviate the potential for the defensiveness, shame, or berating. From here, the coach can follow with comments/questions such as:

> You’re in the right place now… let’s look at how to get some traction going.

> What’s worked best so far? … let’s look at how to leverage that and add any other strategies as well.


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Dealing with Downward-Spiral Memories

Memories can appear from out of nowhere. The brain can bring them up in 1/16th of a second. We may see, smell, hear, think, taste, or feel something and it mysteriously serves up a memory that discourages and derails us.

When that memory is negative, consider this sequence of steps so that it doesn’t undermine you or keep reoccurring:

Greet It
Don’t deny or tamp down the negative memory. Note that “greeting” a memory is very different than “welcoming it with open arms”! Simply be reflective and aware that the memory is there.

Give it a New Label—Positive, Compassionate, Developmental
Relabeling negative memories can help keep them from re-appearing. It’s as if the old memory will stay there until you do label it with something positive, compassionate, and developmental in nature. Perhaps this is because the brain has a positivity bias. If you refuse to re-label the memory as positive, you’re working against your biological nature. Once the label is positive, the memory doesn’t need to keep coming back.

For example, the old label might be: “this situation was embarrassing.” The new label might be: “This situation is where I learned that I was only trying to protect myself by turning to [name the ineffective behavior], which didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for. I now know that I can respond differently if that happens again.”

Giftwrap the Re-labeled Memory
Now that the memory is no longer negative, wrap it or cushion it with a positive emotion, e.g., gratitude, peace, love, etc.

Go to a Strength
Finally, handpick one of your core strengths that you’ll lead with if similar triggers re-appear that originally caused the negative memory. For example, if Strategy is one of your strengths, what will your strategy be for responding to triggers.

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Listen Responsibly! Heroin & Music Effects On Brain

Do you have a song that just sends you into the stratosphere?

I have a few…several from Adelle’s latest album…several from Maroon 5…several from Il Divo…and a number of classical pieces. When I cue these up, in a matter of seconds, I’m bouncing, smiling, and soaring.

And now we have scientific evidence of why that’s so.

Researchers at McGill University used a drug that dulls the ‘hedonic’ system of the brain, blocking specific opioid receptors—the same receptors that are excited by heroin.

They then played music to test subjects—pieces that would normally be described as their favorite songs—but with the opioid receptors blocked, the test subjects responded with little emotional reaction. “It’s not doing anything for me,” said one test subject, even though he knew he loved that particular song.

Bottom line: the phrase, “music is my drug,” is true.

So, be responsible and pump up your play list … on your next coffee break, on your commute, as you begin your next team meeting. A happy brain is a brilliant brain!


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How to Exit the Hamster Wheel of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance—the discomfort that comes from holding two competing beliefs—can create a stall or standstill for your coaching clients.

It might show up in forms such as…

> A client who wants a career in the arts but has family/spouse/parents who are pushing for medicine/engineering, and yet the client wants to honor these people
> A client who knows he/she should be networking, but doesn’t make time for it
> A client who wants to work for Apple or Amazon or Goldman Sachs, yet doesn’t have the experience/competencies/GMAT to compete.

From a coaching standpoint, it’s important to stay curious and compassionate, and first observe the dissonance, such as:

> “The tension is there…you are leaning toward x career yet want to honor your parents.”
> “I get it…you know that networking is important yet how to find the time isn’t totally clear yet.”
> “It’s like it’s not adding up…you want X, while the recruiters want Y (a GMAT score of…).”

After naming the tension and getting some input from the client, follow with action strategies:

> “Let’s talk about how to reconcile that.”
> “Let’s explore some ways to make that happen / take control.”
> “Let’s strategize on how to lessen that gap / create a bridge-job plan.”

This helps the client to take steps to reconcile the dissonance and exit the hamster wheel!

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Evidence That You ALWAYS Have What You Need

I often say “You have everything you need, right now.” Sometimes, that statement can be hard to wrap our heads around because we are so conditioned to look for the MATERIAL evidence that we have what we need. But “everything you need” encompasses more than just the material. It is our thoughts that lead to the creation of the material, so let’s start there.

Think about your STRENGTHS. They are evidence of the ever-present “everything you need” in this world. Strengths are signs that we have what we need already, right in front of us, right here, right now. Strengths give us the tools to create, to strategize, to take action.

Whatever you might be facing today, look to your strengths. One of them will equip you to create the inspiration you need, the ideas you need, the action you need to take.

For example, here’s how a few different StrengthsFinder strengths apply if you are looking to dig yourself out a downward spiral:

>> Connectedness – “one who seeks to unite others through commonality” – Someone with the Connectedness strength could reach out to others to connect, refresh, and recharge.

>> Analytical – “one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances” – Someone with the Analytical strength could objectively analyze his circumstances to recognize that one or two set of circumstances should not cause his viewpoint to be “universalized” to all circumstances.

>> Input – “one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use” – Someone with the Input strength could look up research studies on motivation, optimism, or future-mindedness to jumpstart motivation.

What strength will be your focus today?

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Julia Child Wasn’t Always Julia Child

I watched one of my favorite foodie movies this weekend, Julie & Julia. Based on Julia Child’s start in cooking and intertwined with blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first cookbook.

Several lines in the movie caught my attention:

“Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child.”

If you’ve been stirred to do something big but think to yourself, “who am I to …” — remember that everyone who is famous today was not born famous (save a few royals or the progeny of a movie stars).

They all started somewhere. When Julia Child got married, she could barely boil an egg, or at least that’s what was portrayed in the movie!

“You have no real talent for cooking.”

This line of dialogue in the movie is attributed to a Mrs. Brassart, the head of the French cooking school Julia attended.

There will always be naysayers in our lives—people who think small, people who are jealous, people who are threatened by you.

When you encounter them, simply recognize the fear and scarcity in their thinking, consider whether their concerns might give you ways to improve, and then move on.

Julia Child loved food. Go do what you love. And you’ll be famous—or at least admired by yourself, as well as those who watch you do what you love.

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The Danger of “UNIVERSALIZING” Bad Circumstances

Universalizing is a process where we take one “bad” situation and allow it to seep into every circumstance. For example,

“I tripped over the dog this morning … the whole day will go badly.”

Or, “My manager was abrupt with me this morning … no one likes me.”

Or, “My team isn’t pulling together … I’m never going to be a great leader.”

If you (or the people you work with) have a tendency to universalize unwelcome circumstances, learn to isolate the situation. If something went “wrong,” name 10 other things that went “right.”

What we focus on grows. Your brain, at this very minute, is engaging in synaptic pruning.”

> The things that are focused on (e.g., the universalizing of all that is wrong) create synaptic connections that are strengthened and added to.

> The things that don’t get focused on (e.g., all the other good things that we don’t articulate or contemplate) get marked by particular proteins—those synpases in the brain are then “pruned.”

You’ve heard that “perception is reality.” Indeed, it is. Because our brains create more beliefs that support what we focus on.

Start universalizing the good, and you’ll experience more good!

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You Are Perfect. Right Now.

“I missed two items on the exam.” I heard this from a coaching student last week. He smiled and went on to say, “the perfectionist in me wanted to get 100%.”

I asked him, “How is missing two even MORE perfect than getting a perfect score?” This led to an interesting conversation that uncovered these possibilities:

> Perfection is present everywhere. Right here. Right now.

> Unexpected or unwanted circumstances cause us to learn, which causes us to grow.

> There is always more growth to be had. If we are not growing, we are stagnant, atrophying, boring.

> Perfection cues our brains to focus on: “I am enough. I have enough. There is always enough.”

> When we focus on the “enough” that surrounds us, we feel safe.

> Feeling safe allows us to feel better, which allows us to think better, which allows us to behave (take action) better, which allows us to get more of what we want.

How are your unexpected or unwanted circumstances actually “perfect” for you today?

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Share Your Message. Someone Needs to Hear It Today.

I have heard from several coaches recently who say they hesitate to blog or post. Why? Here were their reasons:

> “I don’t have anything new to say.”
> “I’m not as experienced as other people.”
> “There’s so much competition out there.”

At the root of these concerns is a sense that “I am not worthy … I am not enough … I am not needed.”

Seriously? Can you imagine saying those things to a client? You would never! So don’t say them to yourself either!

Get out there and share your message of hope and wisdom. And, if you DO have something to say that’s similar to what others have said, consider this:

> It’s the truth and needs repeated.
> You have a different sphere of readers than your colleagues.
> Your unique experiences shape your perspective, which shapes the way you say things.

I am writing today to repeat something you may already know but need to hear again:

> You are worthy.
> You are enough.
> You are needed.

Now get out there and share what’s on your heart!

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Invent A Holiday

pexels-photo-249209 (2)If you were to invent a holiday, what would you celebrate?

We just finished Valentine’s Day, and there are more holidays and celebrations on the 2017 calendar, to be sure.

I wonder how people came up with holidays in the first place! In some cases, the holiday may have formed out of simple moments of gratitude that grew over time (e.g., Thanksgiving). Others might be more intentional, such as with the loss of a magnificent person whom we want to remember (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.).

If you were going to create a holiday or celebration, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL IT?

How would you celebrate it?

How would you make sure it didn’t become commercialized, filled with obligations and expectations?!

Chances are that your holiday is rooted in a VALUE that is important to you. When we pay attention to our values, we live in gratitude and creativity and ease. When we ignore our values, we find conflict and stress and frustration.

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How to (Literally) Create Good Coaching Chemistry

Glass-flasks-chemistry-lab-get-what-you-expect-expectationsIt is life-changing to have someone in your life who “gets you.” Someone who sees you and understands you and believes in you.

Tom Rath, in his book, Vital Friends, studied homelessness and was curious about what allowed some people to conquer such dire circumstances, while most did not. His research was eye-opening. Rath discovered that the homeless people who “made it out” had an answer to the poignant question: “Who in your life expects you to be someone?”

Take a moment right now and bring the person to mind that best fits this description in your life—someone who believes in you, expects you to be someone. Now, take the next 60 seconds to bask in the good feelings of remembering the impact this person has had on your life. Feel it in your bones. Feel it in your soul. Let it wash over you like a wave.

Congratulations. You just released oxytocin into your system. And you probably feel better as a result.

So is this just all warm-and-fuzzy nonsense? Science tells us otherwise. In various studies, oxytocin has been shown to:

  • Ease stress—Anxiety, stress and depression abates after injections with oxytocin.
  • Improve our ability to interact with others—Inhaling oxytocin significantly improved the ability of people with autism to interact with others and also reduced autistic individuals’ fear of others.
  • Foster generosity—Individuals who inhaled oxytocin were 80 percent more generous in deciding how to split money with a stranger, and the hormone seemed to affect their sense of altruism as well.
  • Induce sleep—Oxytocin released in the brain under stress-free conditions naturally promotes sleep. (And, let’s be honest, most of us don’t get enough of this!)

The other important brain-friendly consequence of oxytocin is that it relaxes us. Our body language loosens up, the tension in our face drains away, and our smile warms into a natural Duchenne smile. The people we are interacting with “read” all of this in both subconscious and conscious ways and, in turn, let down their guard, as well, creating more authentic and transformative coaching conversations.

Dose yourself with some oxytocin today and notice the difference it makes in your coaching connection!

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Make “V” Day, “Me” Day

brain heart shaking hands aligned coherence 123rf 15817148_sValentine’s Day – “V” Day – is good, right? It’s an opportunity to remind those around us of our love and appreciation.

But this Valentine’s Day, I’m also inviting myself to do something a little different. Instead of it just being “V” Day, I’m also making it “Me” Day…by loving myself.

This is NOT just about self-care, like having space to do the things that feed my soul.

This is more about absolutely loving who I am, how I’m wired, what makes me special. It’s about giving me the forgiveness and grace to not have it all figured out, to not be perfect, to not shame myself for the areas of my life that I haven’t gotten a gold star on.

That spells LOVE. Complete love. Real love. And the more I apply it to myself, the more I am filled to overflowing, and the more it spills out to those I live, work, and play with… such that they don’t feel the strictness by which I judge myself also morphing into an unspoken judgment about them, as well.

When we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, it sends the subtle message that we expect the same of others, even if we deny it. It’s an unintended consequence of shaming ourselves.

So this “V” Day, don’t forget to do a little lovin’ on yourself!

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Why Your Client’s “To Do” List Isn’t Getting Done

As a coach, you’ll find that most clients come to you with a goal. They also come with the expectation that a “To Do” list of strategic actions will be the bridge between where they are now and where they want to be.

And that is true…to a degree. The people you coach do need a “To Do” list to DO the things that will get them from point A to point B.

What’s also true is that they need a “To BE” list. Why? Because if they have a To Do list and the To Do list is not getting done (which is very likely, right? … they would not have come to you in the first place if they were already getting their to-do’s done), then we need to get at the root of what is stalling the To Do list!

First off, at the top of the To Do List, let’s add “Think differently.” Or better yet, “Feel differently.” When we feel differently (e.g., better), we think differently (e.g., better).

Then, create a To BE list. Here is my personal “To BE” list:

  1. Inspired.
  2. Self-Compassionate.
  3. In flow.
  4. Curious.
  5. Collaborative.
  6. Unrushed. And patient.
  7. Resilient.
  8. Self-Compassionate. (Yep, listed that twice on purpose.)
  9. Assured (that everything is working out for me.) Everything!
  10.  Grateful.

Start with yourself. What’s on your To BE list? Then try undergirding your To Do’s with your To Be’s and see what happens!


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We All Lose When Your Brain Goes into “Duality” Thinking Mode

theacademies-ec067ae8-0708-4955-8f79-89d327ba61a6-v2Is your Brain in the mode of “Duality Thinking”? Duality thinking sounds like, “me vs you,” “us vs. them,” “one group vs. another.” We see Duality Thinking played out in teams, in business, in families, and more.

When you engage in Duality Thinking, you’re concerned about something that’s very different from how you are. Our brains are wired to see differences as threats, which only increases our sense of Duality, which down-spirals us into feeling more threatened.

The minute we feel threatened, we diminish our capacity to see different viewpoints. And we send off subtle signals in our facial and body language that we are a threat to others. Others then pull back, and the snowball of threat and defensiveness and disengagement snowballs.

The opposite of “Duality Thinking” is “Unity Thinking”: commonalities, shared humanity,  “you win means I also win,” “I win means you also win,” a universal abundance that is more than enough for all.

With Unity Thinking, we operate from a place of safety and curiosity. Our curiosity causes us to recognizes that someone simply thinks differently than someone else.

Don’t be threatened by someone being different from you. Be curious about the commonalities. And when it comes to reconciling two very contrasting thoughts, we can find unity in our shared humanity.

It comes down to the value of human life. If we can agree that the value of human life is the proverbial plumb line, that’s where we can reconcile differences, so that everybody wins.

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What Experience Is Shaping You?

03potterswheel400x282I started teaching a new coaching class recently, geared toward coaches in university/B-school settings. Co-facilitating with Ellen Bartkowiak, we did a fun icebreaker, asking this question:

What was your first job (beyond perhaps babysitting) and how did it shape you?

Everyone had fascinating answers, and I’ll share mine here.

I was 16, between my junior and senior year of high school, doing admin office work in a cantaloupe-packing shed. A few nights before the harvest season began, the shed mysteriously burned down (perhaps related to the fact that the company and the union were at loggerheads?!). The company was able to find a backup facility 10 miles away, but it was woefully antiquated, which meant working long, long hours, seven days a week. Some nights we didn’t finish until 9 or even 10pm, and then you were expected to be back the next morning around 7. The overtime pay was great, but it was exhausting.

My takeaway: I learned an agrarian work ethic that taught me about grit and served me well all these years as an entrepreneur. Sometimes too well. There have been days when I didn’t know when to quit. Thankfully, I have started to learn that pushing-pushing-pushing isn’t always the right answer.

We all have circumstances that shape us. Let each one shape you gently, so that it serves you, rather than you serving it.

What about you? What was your first job and how did it shape you? Tell us in the comments!

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The Next Time You Get an Urge To Say “BUT” When Coaching Someone, Don’t!

When you’re having a coaching conversation with a leader*, notice how many times he or she uses the word BUT. And then, notice how many times you use the word BUT.

When you hear BUT from your coaching client, in essence, that person is saying, “I like my way better.” Or, the underlying message may be “I don’t have time to do this” or “I don’t know how to do this” or “I’m afraid it will impact my reputation if I do this.”

And, when you hear yourself say BUT, in essence, what you are saying to the other person is: “You’re wrong. I want you to think like me. Agree with me. Do it my way.”

And then human nature takes over within the other person, and his/her brain says, “I don’t want to be wrong, or look like I’m wrong, or look like I’m too stupid to think of what you just thought of.”

So instead, try out one of these ideas the next time you get an urge to say “BUT” to one of your coaching clients:

“I hear that the frustration that so many things are getting in the way of achieving this goal of yours. It’s as if 90% of the pie is getting allotted to what’s getting in the way; and 10% of the pie is getting allotted to what you want differently. What might happen if you gave even 10% more to the what-you-want slice of the pie?”

Another coaching technique is to notice whether you, as the coach, are experiencing frustration about the client’s litany of yes-but’s. If so, consider this honest and authentic approach:

“Jane, I hear you. I hear your roadblocks and frustrations. It’s the predominant story-line—the star of the show in this Broadway production of your life. You came to coaching because you had some new goals. I could sit here and remind you of those, and I could hope that those reminders would put your goals back to center stage. That’s where I would personally love to see the storyline go.

“And, perhaps the more important question is, how do YOU remind yourself of what you really want? How do YOU make those goals the star of the show, instead of just an incidental extra?”

Remember: When coaching, never resist the resistance! Instead, be curious about it, explore it, and see what it is masking. It’s often a clue to great progress.

* This technique works regardless of the relationship, whether as a coach coaching a client, a leader leading a team, a manager managing an employee, a facilitator facilitating a workshop, a parent parenting a child, a spouse/friend relating to a spouse/friend, etc.

—Coaches: Join us for the next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach training program, starting November 2nd! More info: www.theacademies.com/celdc

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Coaching Strategies for the Employee Who is Not Ready for Promotion (But Thinks He/She Is)

climb-corporate-ladderIf you’re coaching employees within your organization who want to get promoted yet aren’t quite ready to get promoted, what do you do? The situation may stem from an employee who is a Millennial that wants to see promotions happen fast, or the employee may be someone who’s been with the company a while and feels that seniority should qualify him/her for a promotion.

And yet, something is missing—a skill set, a breadth of experience, a level of professionalism and discernment—that the employee either doesn’t see or doesn’t agree with. Assuming that motives, strengths, and interests for getting promoted have been discussed, consider some of these coaching strategies:

Coach using ICF #3 Establishing Trust:

[connect, show that you truly ‘get’ them] “I hear you when you say that it’s your turn, your time. And I hear the frustration that it’s not happening quickly enough.”

Note: It’s critical that you NOT follow this connection with the word BUT, as in “but your manager has a point” or “but you need to be patient.” The BUT basically says, “let me show you where you’re wrong” and destroys the connection you just made.

“Sounds like you’re fed up with getting plenty of opinions! What do you not want to hear at this point?”

Coach using ICF #7 Direct Communication:

“You mentioned your manager said you were ‘not ready’ and that you ‘just need more experience and to hang tight.’ What does ‘hang tight’ look like to you… [and] what does it look like to your manager?”

“Your response to the manager’s delay is also part of what he will be evaluating in terms of your readiness. What do you want him to see? … What would cause him to trust you? … What would cause you to trust him?”

Coach using ICF #8 Creating Awareness:

“How do you interpret his statement of ‘you’re not ready’?”
“And, how do you think your manager interprets that statement?”

“Sounds like you are interpreting this as punishment! What do you notice when you go there? … If you could play with giving him the benefit of the doubt, what does that open up for you?”

Coach using ICF #9 Designing Actions:

“So you’ve got a manager who is, as you say, ‘bad at developing people.’ How do you not let that get in the way of your success, without burning bridges or doing something rash?”

Learn strategies like this and more in our Certified Career and Talent Development Coach program. Starts Tuesday September 20th! More info at www.theacademies.com/cctdc

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Life’s Vice Grip, or Life’s Hugs?

2 little girls hugging happy friendship self-compassion 123rf 35601053_lHave you or your clients ever felt like Life had you in a “vice grip”? A vice grip is something unpleasant that you (or your clients) would love to get out of, and yet you can’t!

For example:

  • Uncertainty of any kind!
  • Bills that need paid and not enough money.
  • A relationship that’s causing angst.
  • A job that is killing you, but feeling like you can’t quit.
  • New skills that need mastered without the hope you can learn it all.
  • Important projects that need done and not enough time, focus, or energy to finish.

The vice grip can feel like an intersection of uncertainty, pain, fear, lack, and loss of control. You want things to change. You want it to be fixed. Or you wonder if it’s possible to be fixed. Or you wonder if anyone even knows what you’re going through, or cares.

Being a student of emotional intelligence, I’ve been acutely aware of how my current vice grip is causing me to react (I’ll skip the details—suffice to say that I can claim several of the bullets above … and I’m probably in good company!).

I vacillate between being nervous and scared, then kicking into action to control whatever controllables I can, then back to being nervous and scared, then wondering if things will work out, then back to being nervous and scared, then taking action, etc. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.

In the midst of all of this, I stumbled on an article about why hugs are important. Hugging allows us to relax, and enables us to be more resilient. The writer suggested an exercise, for example, that when a spouse comes home from work, the other spouse should greet the partner with a full-frontal hug—and hold the hug long enough until each feels the other relax. (Absent a spouse, look for a friend, family member, or even a pet to try this out—it works!).

And then I saw a bigger-picture connection. Maybe life’s vice grips are really Life’s full-frontal hugs—circumstances allowed into our lives that cause us to hold tight to our values, tap into our strengths, believe it will all work out . . . and relax.

And like the full-frontal hug exercise, we must hold on until we relax. And with that relaxation, we find the calm-connect and energy-action to meet the possibilities in front of us. With gratitude. With creativity. With perseverance. With love.

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Let the Problem Solve You

domino effect 123rf 5000396_sLife can be an unending series of challenges—often referred to as “problems.” On the work front, our problems may center on how to reach a revenue goal, how to find the right talent, how to resolve conflict, or how to find more time in the day.

It feels good to rise to the occasion and resolve an issue. Logical creatures that we are, we engage our brains in solving the problem. For example, when conflict arises because of a lack of communication, one “solution” might simply be to share the information more systematically. Continue reading

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A Positive Perspective on the Rat Race

man maze 123rf 12001021_sThe Rat Race usually conjures up images of a draining work routine, devoid of purpose and rife with pressures to deliver or be ditched.

No fun. And not good for our brain-body health either.

Here’s a different take on the Rat Race—one that could actually strengthen your brain health, as well as your work-life-leadership success.

UC Berkeley neuro-anatomy researcher Marian Diamond has studied the impact of the environment on brain development, and the likely link between positive thinking and immune health. Some of her research is described in Betty Friedan’s book Fountain of Age.

Diamond placed one group of rats in bare small cages by themselves; others were placed in larger cages holding 12 rats, with many objects and mazes to explore, climb in and out of, and manipulate. All were fed the same diet, but the “enriched environment” rats had the added element of tender loving care from the laboratory researchers. And, they had the objects in their cages changed every week.

Not surprising, the “enriched” rats showed a significant increase in the size of the brain in every dimension.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The maximum life span of a rat is 1,000 days, compared to 100 years in humans. Apparently Diamond’s rats in the bare cages rarely made it that long. But in another experiment, she took 766-day-old rats (equivalent to 75 human years) from the bare isolated environment and moved them into the enriched environment.

These geriatric rats became significantly smarter in learning how to make their way through a maze. Upon their death at around 900 days, their autopsied brains (despite the deterioration that had already taken place) showed increased thickening of the cortex compared to the isolated rats in the bare cages.

Too often, we perceive the ever-changing demands of our work environments as negatives—“it’s a Rat Race.” But what if the opposite is happening? Those demands and complexities can actually make your brain healthier (and cause you to live longer) when the perspective is that these are opportunities to:

> rise to the occasion and solve problems,
> connect and collaborate with others, and
> navigate through novelty using your strengths and creativity.

The next time you’re feeling stuck, embrace it as an opportunity for brain health and longevity!

NEXT BRAIN-BASED COACHING CLASS STARTS TUESDAY APRIL 26TH! www.TheAcademies.com/cbbsc/ or call 877.659.3769

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Be Like Einstein—Flunk Your Weaknesses

12891697_10207254038884206_6491111703156921347_oEinstein was brilliant, as we know. So brilliant that at the age of 16, two years earlier than his classmates, he sat for entrance exams to get into the prestigious Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. But he flunked. Sort of. He excelled in the physics and mathematics segments, but he failed the non-science subjects.

Why is this relevant? We don’t need to… be well-rounded. We need to be brilliant. And brilliance comes when we do what we’re best at.

Friends, colleagues, and fellow executives:

* stop trying to be good at everything
* stop beating yourself up for not being good at everything
* stop comparing yourself to others (unless it totally inspires you)!

* start spending more time in your sweet-spot of strengths
* start using those strengths to determine how to off-load or lessen the importance of other tasks
* start acknowledging and enjoying your strengths … notice how they support you in making decisions … hand-pick one of your strengths to lead with as you take on an upcoming task.

There is a widely quoted saying about Einstein. He was once asked how many feet are in a mile. Einstein’s reply was:

“I don’t know, why should I fill my brain with facts I can find in two minutes in any standard reference book?”

Now there’s someone who knew how to play to his strengths and not get distracted with the detritus of details.

Enjoy your brilliance today!

www.TheAcademies.com | 877-659-3769

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decisions concerns 3d white man 123rf 11949811_sEver try to tame your thoughts? There are reports on the internet that we think some 50,000 thoughts a day, apparently according to the National Science Foundation, but I haven’t found the research to back that up.

It did get me thinking though (okay, there’s 1 thought…only 49,999 more to go today). Our minds are incredibly distracted. Right now I’m thinking almost simultaneously:


> I hear my dog snoring
> The wash needs put in the dryer
> I’ve been sitting too long
> I need to stop & eat some protein (is that 1 or 2 thoughts?)
> I should be writing curriculum
> Maybe I am writing curriculum and just don’t know it
> I’ve been sitting too long (x2)
> I wonder when my husband will get home

(only 49,991 or 49,990 to go)

When we’re too distracted, we lose sight of what’s most important. We don’t make meaningful choices. And life is about mindfully meaning-making. Ergo, too much distraction = a dead life (is that an oxymoron)?

If we want alive lives, we need to focus. And the focus must be on the right things.

If we could make a great deal of our “50,000 thoughts a day” ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, we would see abundance, feel abundance, live abundance. Abundance of creativity, time, relationship, resources, solutions, provision. Now there’s a thought.

What focus would make you feel alive today!


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Ask: How is This Tied to My Decision Making?

brain bubble maybe_ 123rf 37575287_sStuff happens. And it’s easy to think that things are just random incidents. Maybe so. Maybe not.

I was reading an article recently on the 7 Daily Habits of Great Leaders. One of the “habits” was to “Be Vulnerable”—specifically, own your mistakes. One of the best questions the author suggests in this regard is . . .

“How is this tied to my decision-making?”

Interesting question.

If your team member doesn’t deliver in the way you expected her to, “how is this tied to my decision-making?”

Maybe you didn’t explain expectations clearly. Maybe you need to work on accountability. Maybe you need to train differently. Maybe you need to look at putting the person into a role that better suits his strengths. Maybe you need to let the person go if all of the above have already been tried. Maybe…

If your prospective customer says ‘no,’ “how is this tied to my decision-making?”

Maybe the decisions could be that the customer will say yes down the road, maybe it’s not the right customer for you, maybe your explanation of relevant benefits could be tweaked, maybe it’s an opportunity to trust that the right customer is around the corner. Maybe…

Of course, never beat yourself up over the “Maybe’s.” Be curious, be reflective, and be experimental in how you might do things differently.



Photo Credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_fberti‘>fberti / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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A Free Technique for 7% More Brain Power

meditating-brain zenUp your alpha waves! A recent study from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine found that introducing a low dose of electric current can enhance the alpha brain wave activity and boost creativity by 7.4%.


Forget the $40/bottle jelly fish supplements for a “sharper mind.” Just be mindful.

While the UNC researchers used artificial electrical stimulation to boost creativity, you don’t need to go to a laboratory to make it happen. Fortunately, there are other less-invasive methods. The researchers identified meditation and mindfulness as effective. Both are free and easy. Well, maybe not so easy.

We are easily distracted. This is actually a learned state. We have learned to allow our minds to hop, jump, skip, float, and flit from thought to thought to thought to thought. All. Day. Long.

Answer: Meditate.

If meditation is outside of your norm, start small. Spend 1 minute (now, or very soon) continually drawing your attention to the word “abundance.” Ignore that you probably can’t entirely focus on “abundance” for a full minute (just yet) … make any distracting thought a gentle cue to come back to the thought of “abundance.”

calming-mind-brain-wavesTry it. Just 1 minute. Then notice what you notice. Most likely, a greater awareness of abundance.

Research reveals that meditation adds to the cortical thickness in your brain, which enhances your ability to connect different pieces of information in new and creative ways. Voila. You just made yourself 7% smarter/more creative.


Photo credit: http://www.freemeditation.com/articles/2009/09/10/calming-the-mind/


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Life Change Lessons Learned from Daylight Savings Time

10930116_10207131958432271_8184802817037398513_nThe clocks changed one week ago today. Do you notice it still? Chances are you did for the first day or two, but by now, you’re probably in the swing of things. You barely notice that getting up at 7am (or 6am or 5am) is really getting up at 6am (or 5am or 4am) on your body clock, right?

Why is it the new norm? Three reasons:…

1. It’s a small change – It’s just 1 hour. Not 2 or 5 or 8.

2. It’s a social norm – Most of North America, Europe, and the Middle East observe it. If you don’t ‘get on board,’ you’re living in an alternate reality.

3. You’ve accepted it – You’re not fighting yourself every hour of the day or reminding yourself each morning, “it’s really 5am, even though my alarm clock says 6am.”

What if we did the same with other changes we’d like to see in our lives? Take being happier (we all want that, right?), for example.

1. Small change – Start small. For example, pause at 9am and 9pm each day to feel/experience 90 seconds of gratitude.

2. Social norm – Surround yourself with people who are happy, who study happiness, who research/write about happiness (check out Applied Neuroscience Institute on Facebook as a start).

3. Accept it. Lovingly – Stop judging yourself for not having mastered whatever change you’re after. Start accepting where you are as “enough” and “abundant,” right now.

What do you want your “new norm” to be?!


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Your Brain on Questions: Curiosity or Quiz?

Consider these two types of questions when it comes to talking with your colleagues, employees, managers, friends, and more. Each type of question has a very different impact on how our brains respond!

Invite Curiosity Questions:

  • Open ended. Starts with “What” and sometimes “How?”
  • Releases dopamine and other “happy” neurochemicals.
  • Helps keep the brain in a flow-flourish state (Blue Zone).
  • Invites the brain to find new answers that might not have been there before or were buried and had not come to the surface.
  • When “new dots are connected,” insights come and an upward spiral begins.

Avoid Quiz Questions:

  • Close-ended. Start with “Why” “Can” “Will” “Do” “Have you?”
  • Releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin.
  • Helps put the brain in a fight-flight state (Red Zone).
  • There is a race in the brain to find the “right” answer, and if he/she doesn’t, there is a subtle or overt sense of failure or worry about being “less than” all the other people who supposedly have figured it out already.
  • The downward spiral deepens.
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3 Things Employees Never Want to Hear from their Internal Career Coach

Do you coach employees who want to get promoted…but aren’t?

Frustration, anger, confusion, worry can begin to plague the employee. When people are experiencing these emotions, there are a few things they do NOT want to hear!

Such as,

  • “Just be patient”
  • “You just need to network more”
  • “Think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective”

Although these three comments (e.g., pieces of advice) may, indeed, be important, they may not be helpful. So what’s a coach to do?

Exercise Compassion

  • Notice your response to the situation separately from the employee’s response to the situation. When we keep ourselves out of the fight-flight zone, we don’t exacerbate the situation.
  • Think/feel “compassion” versus “crisis.” Compassion allows us to be more present, engaged, and intuitive about how to be and what to say. (Note: The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University and other compassion researchers note that different neural networks light up in the brain when we focus on compassion vs crisis/problem-solving; we are more strategic and big-picture oriented with the former, and more problem/threat-oriented with the latter.)
  • If you are silently making negative judgments, such as, “this guy is really over-reacting,” bring yourself back to compassion by silently saying to yourself something like, “this is really important to him; he’s doing the best he can at this moment; he’s come in to talk about it, which is a good thing.”
  • A simple acknowledgement can be helpful, e.g.,: “I hear the weight of this. You were really counting on that position coming through.”

Never Resist the Resistance

Resist the urge to cover over, tamp down, or ignore the emotions!

  • “I hear the frustration, and I’m not going to tell you to ignore it. That emotion is a signal to pay attention to, so that you can do something constructive from it.”
  • “Frustration is often a sign that we feel like we don’t have control… [and later ask] which elements of this CAN you control?”

Ask Questions

  • “What do you NOT want to hear right now?”
  • “What do you need to be your best right now?”
  • “What’s the difference between responding to this and reacting to this for you?”
  • “How do you want to move forward?”

The next time you encounter frustration, anger, or other negative emotions from a coaching client, resist the temptation to cover over, tamp down, or ignore the emotions!

Certainly, don’t leave the client wallowing in negativity, but as part of the process, recognize that these emotions can be valuable “data points” that can be clues for how to move forward!


Interested in more ideas like these for coaching employees? Our next Certified Career & Talent Development Coach program starts Thursday, Feb. 25th.








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What Do You NOT Want this Year?

The start of a new year is an opportunity to clarify what you want. You probably gave some thought to goals, and there are some who probably went so far as to commit them to paper and share them with an accountability partner.

Whether you established goals or not for 2016, give some thought to what you DON’T want for the new year.

I’ve chosen a pretty big “let-go-of” list—one person laughed out loud when she heard it! … as if it was impossible! I don’t blame her. My list is a lofty one, and includes items that society has subtly and overtly taught us to do for decades. Here’s my “Big 3” let-go-of list: Continue reading

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Be Strengthened by a Mighty Heart

We say that people who do amazing feats (like ice-climbing) are brave and courageous. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. uses the phrase “a mighty heart.”

When you experience the sensation of an upspiral—that sense of optimism, possibility, hope, strength—you create a chemical cocktail within your brains and body that floods you with “positive” neurochemicals. You become more calm, creative, resilient, and strategic. You shift from “fight-flight” into “flow-flourish.”

You can easily change your internal chemistry by simply focusing on what you want. If you want to feel more hopeful, pause for 60 seconds to stretch slowly, take a deep belly breath, close your eyes, and—to the deepest degree you can—feel a specific positive emotion (e.g., hope, gratitude, love, peace, etc.).

Doing so will slow your heart rate, release a concoction of “happy” neurochemicals (such as dopamine or serotonin), increase blood flow to the “smart” parts of your brain, and cause you to both think and feel better (and even live longer).

May the days of your 2016 be met with a mighty heart!

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Atop my Christmas Wish List Is…

What’s on your wish list this season? Techno-tools? Trendy gadgets? Time with family?

I’m dreaming big these days, so high atop my wish list is . . .


And if I can’t have world peace, I’ll go for individual peace. Peace is:

  • The absence of worry, stress, and fear.
  • The absence of excess adrenalin that robs our immune system of resiliency.
  • The absence of a cluttered, unfocused, fragmented mind.

Why is peace my ultimate gift? Because . . . Continue reading

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People Bring Both Their Brain and Body to Work-Pay Attention to Both

brain measuringThe business world worships brains! It revels in the brain’s ability to quantify, analyze, sequence, strategize, execute. A big brain is brawn in the business world.

But people don’t just bring their brains to work—they bring their bodies, too … which brings us to an important piece of anatomy that every coach should be aware of.

Continue reading

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Job Search Strategy-Balancing Mindset & Mechanics

Got coaching skills? And now looking for more mechanics?!

At The Academies, I’ve stressed the importance of balancing the M&Ms—the Mindset & Mechanics—in order to accomplish goals:

     Mechanics = developing and executing great strategies.

     Mindset = thinking and feeling optimistic, buoyant, resilient.

Here’s a quick M&M tip/technique to share with job seekers that balance both Mindset and Mechanics.

TIP: Our brains don’t enjoy realizing we’ve been wrong or uncourageous, so if you tell a job seeker that they need to double or triple their networking time, they may nod their heads obediently but their brain may be saying “I can never do that” or “I don’t even want to do that!”

An M&M Technique

If your client is hesitant, that’s when the “incremental increase” technique can come in handy. Ask your job seeker client to draw a pie and divide the pie into wedges that represent where he is spending most of his time in the job search. It may look something like this first graphic, with the greatest amount of time spent on searching online postings and tweaking the resume.

Tweaking Time Spent in Job Search - Before

Next, ask the client to shift those pie slices to show just a 5-10% increase in the areas that would give him the most leverage. For example, reducing the time on online postings by 5-10% and increasing the time talking to real human beings by 5-10%!

Tweaking Time Spent in Job Search - After

Small increments create big results. We can easily solve for 5-10%. If your client increases 5-10% each week, in a month, there will be 20-40% improvement!

More tips on how to improve your client’s job search strategy here!

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Overworked & Underwater? An Unlikely Fix & Free Solution

I’m a movie fan and recently saw “90 Minutes in Heaven.” It’s about a man in a horrific car accident who was hit head-on by a tractor-trailer rig. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident occurs on a narrow bridge, which blocks up traffic for hours. One of the people in that line-up of stalled cars is an ex-Vietnam medic and pastor. He asks the EMTs if he can pray for the dead man… and does so. Miraculously, the victim (Don Piper) comes back to life, after 90 minutes of being dead.

The remainder of the story chronicles Piper’s excruciating recovery. In the hospital, he is given a push button that allows him to self-dose himself with pain killers, presumably morphine.

hospital button pain relief morphine dopamine drip 123rf 27365148_sSo here’s the connection for our own lives as executives and leaders. We were designed with our own “morphine button.” For alliterative purposes, I call it the “dopamine drip.” Our body’s natural neurochemicals—such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins—can flood our systems and enable us to feel better.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to push that button! Instead, our attention is drawn to

  • our lengthy to-do lists,
  • the misunderstanding with a team member that just happened,
  • the worry about whether we’ll meet next quarter’s budget numbers, and more.

If we were to pause throughout the day—even in the midst of the crisis du jour—and hit our own personal “dopamine drip,” we’d find that:

  • the to-do list is shorter than we thought (or doesn’t all need tackled today),
  • the misunderstanding can be resolved (and might even be a blessing in disguise), and
  • the budget numbers can be tackled (often with more energy and creativity).

Hit the dopamine drip yourself, and see what you notice.

One quick way to dose yourself with dopamine is to take 60-120 seconds and read a short article or watch a video on a topic that fascinates you.

How do you hit the “dopamine drip”?

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Coaching Insights What the Pope’s Visit Taught Me about Change

pope-francis-coming-to-america-2015If you watched the news lately, you know that the Pope visited America last week. I have a different faith tradition, yet truly appreciated seeing him conduct mass at Madison Square Garden, talk to Congress, feed the poor.

But something less-publicized is what really impressed me. Apparently the Vatican recently decided to honor Martin Luther. You remember that little spat back in the 1500’s that led to Luther being excommunicated? Five hundred years later, Luther’s name will be given to a prominent hilltop square in Rome. Talk about unity. I imagine God is smiling about that!

The Coaching Application

This made me wonder… what are the things that we believe today that we might not believe tomorrow? What are today’s stories, myths, frames that we have created, hold dearly, and cling to tightly when, come tomorrow, we will think differently about?

What does it take to be open? Here are my personal musings on the subject:

  • A sense of gratitude – a sense that we are wired from birth to be curious and continually learn, evolve, and shape our reasoning
  • A sense of peace – a sense that we will be okay if we explore and adopt new beliefs, even if others around us see things differently
  • A sense of love – a sense that we are being cared for by God, with a daily invitation to see more clearly the love that is surrounding and leading us

What are the new beliefs taking shape in your brain? Happy pondering!

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Anatomy of an Insight From Rattled to Receiving

Ever struggle with needing an answer to a perplexing situation?

As coaches, we love those moments when we (or our clients) have those “ah ha” moments. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to have “ah ha” moments in the presence of stress.

In brain-friendly coaching, there is a sequence that our brains go through when we move from “needing an insight” to “getting the ah-ha” to “being able to act on it”:

Anatomy of an Insight

Here’s how each of the rows plays out:

  • Really Want: The need for insight often starts with the lack of it, meaning we need something—a question solved, an idea sparked, a material need fulfilled. This is the “really want” in the first row of the diagram—there is an unrealized goal, a predicament, a challenge.
  • Rattled: With the lack of an answer, we often find ourselves racking our brains, stressed, and slipping into scarcity mentality. This, of course, shoots cortisol through the system, causing us to think even less clearly and creatively.
  • Relax: To invite insight, it’s important to relax. To breathe. To shift into flow-flourish instead of fight-flight. Studies have shown that people solved problems better when they were in a higher positive mood. From here, we can use a metacognition technique, a process that puts us into an Alpha Wave state, where we block out external stimuli and reach inside for answers.
  • Receive: Often, the insight will come as a result of being in the Relax phase. With the insight, new neuro-connections are made. Relief and hope ensue, with their accompanying rush of positive neurochemicals, and we feel energized.
  • Respond: To solidify the new neural pathway, we must respond to the insight. We can write it down, talk about it, draw a picture of it, sense it with our various senses, visualize it, and describe it in greater detail. And voila, new options are created.

What’s your favorite way to calm your brain and get into that relaxed state? How do you help your clients do so?

Here’s to the ah-ha’s your brain is waiting to reveal!

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Career Coaching Motives and Motivations for Management

If your work includes career coaching inside organizations, you’ve likely had coaching conversations with individual contributors who are looking at getting promoted to management.

Oftentimes, employees equate longevity or seniority with moving into management, but that is not necessarily the case.

Consider some of these coaching topics when having the “I-want-to-get-promoted-to-management conversation!”


What is the employee’s motivation for being in management?

  • Is it primarily the financial rewards?
  • Desire to develop others?
  • Greater influence?

When coaching, we need to get to the root of why this new position is meaningful.


  • Which of the employee’s strengths prepare and equip them for a management role?
  • How have they already been using these strengths to manage, if even informally or organically?


  • What are the employee’s expectations of the manager’s role?
  • How will that differ from their existing role?
  • Will there be longer hours?
  • Greater responsibility?
  • Greater risk?
  • More politics?

What do all of those changes mean to the employee?


  • What are the gaps between where the employee is and where the employee wants to be?
  • How do the influencers within the organization perceive the employee?
  • Is he/she too inexperienced? Too soft? Too brash? Too naïve?
  • What are the organization’s unspoken concerns that may be difficult to unearth?

Game Plan:

If management does makes sense for the employee, what does the game plan going forward look like?

  • Who are the advocates that need to be engaged?
  • What is the timeline?
  • How does the personal brand need to change or shift?
  • What are the skill sets that need emphasized?
  • What are the wins that need to be had and communicated?

Moving into management can be a fantastic developmental opportunity for employees. Bottom line: When you find the meaning in the midst of it, you’ll find the “lever and fulcrum” to change the employee’s world!

“Give me a lever long enough
and a fulcrum on which to place it,
and I shall move the world.” ~Archimedes

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MBA Career Coaching – The Fall Calendar Crunch

It’s crunch time. I hear from MBA coaching colleagues that their Fall calendars are filled with back-to-back student appointments, employers on-campus for info sessions, student prep for the national MBA conferences, and more.

My first summer job during high school was as a secretary for a cantaloupe processing facility. When the temps heated up to 100+ degrees, the melons had to be picked, processed, and refrigerated immediately or they’d rot in the fields. We put in 14+ hour days to keep up with the workload.

When the days are long, with no end in sight, how do you not just survive, but thrive? Here are a few coaching thoughts from our MBA coach certification program:

Lighten your share of the load:

How balanced are your conversations with students? If it feels like you’re “pulling teeth” to get students to contribute to the conversation, reset expectations. If it feels like you’re the “vending machine” dispensing direction, suggestions, and to-do lists, pull back a bit and ask a few more questions.

For example,

  • “I’ve been doing all the talking, and yet this is about you and what you want. What thoughts are coming up?”
  • “How are you uniquely equipped to make this happen?”

Listen for Energy:

Like a Geiger counter, listen for energy—whether a lack of energy or lots of energy.

  • Noticing areas where the student is blasé or nonplussed tells you there isn’t much motivation there.
  • Hearing where the student has passion for an industry or enthusiasm about a past success tells us there is potential motivation there.

Here’s a fascinating quick video on why energy and emotion is important for decision making.

Leverage your own Strengths:

We emphasize that students use their strengths in their career choice and job-search strategies. We can also be intentional about our strengths during this stretch season. For example, consider a “strength du jour” strategy for each day the week, such as

  • “Individualization” today—”my individualization skills allow me to see what makes each student tick”; or,
  • “Maximizer” tomorrow—”my ability to find shortcuts will help students with their job-search strategy.”

Deloitte noted that among worldwide top-performing teams, the ability to use one’s strengths each day was the #1 success factor (data shared in keynote presentation at the MBA Career Services and Employer Advisory Council conference in Dallas, June 2015).

Wishing you time to “eat your Wheaties,” as well as enjoy the journey, as you run the Fall marathon!

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Career Coaching – A Subtle but Subversive Yes-But To Be Aware Of

When coaching clients through career change, we can encounter a lot of different yes-but’s from clients, such as, “I don’t have enough time, confidence, money, support, etc. to make a career change.”

Here’s another “yes but” that may be more subtle: identity.

The topic of identity can range from feeling insecure to not wanting to upset the status quo to struggling with pride. One of these statements may capture how your clients are feeling:

  • I just don’t have the confidence to move ahead. I can’t imagine myself doing something new–I’ve been a _____ [fill in the blank] my whole life.
  • I’m just not sure I can be really good at this!
  • I have feelings of unworthiness–I just don’t deserve to pursue this new direction. People will likely think I’m being presumptuous and wonder, “Who is she to think she can do that!”
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to pursue a career course that just doesn’t fit with who I am.
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to NOT change . . . it’s as if I’ll upset their status quo if I change!
  • I’ll inconvenience my _____________ (spouse, children, family, friends, colleagues) if I pursue that course of action.

Ideas that you might explore in career coaching:

Perpetual Progress: As members of the human race, we are meant to grow throughout our lives, not just during school and college years! (Fun neuro-nugget: Our brain size stops growing once into our twenties, but the development of new neural connections can happen into our eighties, nineties, one-hundreds.)

  • Ask: So you’re in your 40’s now. What did you not think was possible in your 30’s that has become possible today? How about in your 20’s? Teens? What opens up for you from that trajectory viewpoint?

Themes, Not Titles: When our identity is rooted in the significance of being a purposeful human being and not based solely on what we do for a living (the lie of “I’m valuable because I’m an attorney/manager/engineer”), we can make greater progress.

  • Ask: “Absent the typical titles, who are you at your core, essence, being? How does that ‘you’ show up in some of the career directions you’re considering? How does that bring value to the people who would benefit from that part of you?”


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A Neuro Nugget to Increase Open-Mindedness

open minded brain zipper yes 123rf 16948941_s

As coaches, how do we support clients to be more open-minded?

In a word: curiosity.

First, a neuro-nugget on curiosity. The right hemisphere of our brain is responsible for taking in new information, connecting it to other things we know, and more. The left hemisphere organizes the information, distributes it into memory, and routinizes it (aka habit).

Continue reading

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Career Coaching: What’s Beneath the Change?

Clients come to us with a variety of career goals—a promotional opportunity to win, a major career change to navigate, and so on.

Underneath any of those goals is a common theme:


Some transitions are welcome; others arrive uninvited.

Some are obvious:

  • Graduation from college and time for a first “real” job,
  • A divorce that requires returning to the job market,
  • The need to get away from “the boss from hell”

Others are more subtle: Continue reading

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Models and Frameworks

I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to ideation. Chewing on ideas, building frameworks, creating models, crafting mnemonics, finding ways to connect-the-dots… It’s one of my God-given strengths. And it comes in handy, since I’m often writing curriculum, books, and blog posts.

Model-making can also become one of my weaknesses when I inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) fall in love with my model and hyper-focus on it, to the detriment of my clients.

Continue reading

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Indecision on an Important Decision? Some Wisdom from Ikea

I helped my daughter get settled in her first apartment recently. As an out-of-state student who lived in the dorms the prior two years, she didn’t have a stick of furniture to start with. Translation: time to visit Ikea!

girls-mom-couchWe met up with her new roommates and the roommates’ parents to tackle the enormous showroom floors at Ikea. Here’s a picture of all three roommates (and all three moms) testing out a couch that we settled on.

After navigating the IKEA warehouse area and checkout, we crammed all the heavy boxes into the car in the midst of Texas humidity, timidly drove the tollway in an unfamiliar rental car with now-limited rear-view mirror visibility, and eventually dragged our 80-pound boxes up several flights of stairs. Ugh!

Then the fun began: figuring out how to put it all together. I have to admit, my daughter was a champ—much better than I was. She and her roommates and one of the dads did the lion’s share. At one point during desk assembly, everyone was stumped on how it was supposed to go together.


That’s when my daughter said something that was simple but profound:

Continue reading

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Cortisol Creep–The Subtle Signs of Fight-Flight

brain temperature cortisol creep 123rf 20043998_sUgh.      #sigh      “Seriously?!”

We’ve all had these thoughts float through our heads at one time or another. We might not pay much attention to them or consider how they affect us. And yet, science tells us that they do affect us.

Mark Waldman (author of one of Oprah’s “Must Read” books, How God Changes Your Brain) explains in a TEDx talk that if you were to be put you into an fMRI machine and shown the word “NO” for less than one second, it would “release more stress neurochemicals than can possibly be good for your body or your brain.”

Continue reading

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Every Thought is an Affirmation

Affirmations not working?!?! Consider this: Every silent thought or spoken word is an affirmation! Yes, every time we think a thought or open our mouths to speak, we signal our mind and body with positives or negatives.

If our thoughts are negative, we have affirmed to ourselves that those thoughts and feelings are true. For example, have you ever heard these negative thoughts from an out-of-work job seeker? Continue reading

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Pretending at Positivity? 3 Brain-Based Coaching Exercises to Test

blog 1A colleague recently brought up an interesting question. She wrote: “I am finding [my new brain-based client] to be very optimistic…perhaps unrealistically positive. What’s a coach to do when she senses the client may not be telling herself the truth?”

Here are three suggestions for coaching exercises:

What’s New?

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Coaching Leaders Out of Fight-Flight and into Flourish-Flow

Do you coach leaders and executives?

If so, you probably already know that they face a great deal of stress. Part of our job as coaches is to help calm the leader’s frazzled and fragmented brain so they can refocus on a vision and tap into strengths-based strategies to move forward.
Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Mind Your Freedoms

brain handcuffsIt’s the 4th of July weekend as I write. I’ve often imagined that the veterans who fought overseas for our FREEDOMS might look at people like me who got to stay home, safe and sound, and think, “you have no idea.” And they’d be right.

As I journey deeper into understanding brain-based coaching, I also often find myself saying, “I had no idea!” I am only beginning to unlock the FREEDOM OF MIND that is available in an ever-increasing upward spiral! For example: Continue reading

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The Coach’s Secret Weapon—Powerful, Priceless, Free.

How do you feel today? If you’re “up,” you have a good chance of being creative, on-task, and resilient. If you’re “down,” you are more likely to be unfocused, enervated, and unsettled by doubts, worries, and frustrations. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Does Optimism Mean You Have to Be Happy All the Time?

3Does optimism mean you have to be happy all the time? As humans we experience a wide range of emotions. On the negative (“minus”) end of the spectrum, those emotions can include worry, fear, anxiety, hate, worry, frustration, bitterness, jealousy. On the positive (“plus”) end of the spectrum, we have love, joy, peace, gratitude, hope, and happiness. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Span & Subtleties

logo-cbbs-coach-150x150For many years, I wasn’t aware of how “routinized” my ability to worry, catastrophize, and feel guilty had become! It was a habit that I hadn’t realized was part of my daily life. And with every worrisome thought, I caused a chemical release in my system that took me even further into a subtle but impactful state of unsettledness, second-guessing, and insecurity. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Speed & Sustainability

brain coach 4I’ve been on a journey of becoming more Optimistic over the past few years. I’ll admit that, for many years, I lived with a tendency toward feeling “guilty” and even a bit “fearful” about getting everything done or having the business I needed to make ends meet—I was often the first to: Continue reading

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Relegated to 2nd Class Success when You’re Carrying a 1st Class Ticket?

plane-and-ticket2I’m writing this from 30,000 feet, aboard an American Airlines flight as I head to Dallas to see my daughter. I fly First Class whenever I can (the benefits outweigh the cost) but when I went to book the ticket a few months ago, I saw a $169 deal on a seat in the main cabin that was just too good to pass up. Continue reading

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Are You Listening?

Listening is the bedrock of coaching people in transition. You are likely an excellent listener already, given your profession, training, and experience.

Check in with yourself by trying this listening quiz.

How’d you score? If you are interested in bumping up your skills in listening, read on for some tips!

Listening Strategies for Coaching

  • If you ever find your mind wandering while coaching try this technique. Silently say the words of the speaker to whom you’re listening for a few minutes; if you are telephone coaching, you can even mouth/whisper (inaudibly) the words – do this for only a few minutes at a time as an exercise to help you focus.
  • Coach with your eyes closed (if you are telephone coaching).
  • Listen for the Big Agenda (long-term goals, bigger perspective, patterns, options, opportunities).
  • Appreciate the client for some aspect of their personality, career, strength, etc.
  • Take brief notes.

Listening for the ABCDE’s

Initially, you’ll be listening for what’s important to the client in order to clarify and identify goals. Once goals are established, you’ll begin to listen for other elements, such as the strengths and competencies the client has, as well as the blocks or areas of unawareness that are preventing them from moving forward. Consider this ABCDE template to deepen your listening skills.


What is drawing the attention of the client? Is it something that is in line with the stated goals or something that’s distracting them from their goals? For example: Your client has set a goal of increasing her visibility among key networking contacts. She has committed to clearing some space in her calendar in order to devote 3 hours a week to relevant activities, and yet unexpected assignments and other important projects are getting in the way.


What belief system or ways of thinking does the client have? Are any thought patterns preventing forward movement and success?


What competencies can the client tap to accomplish the goal? Magnificent goals have a much higher chance of success when they are rooted in the client’s strengths, so be sure to tap into strengths.


What is the client doing that will help him reach his goal? What is the client doing that will prevent reaching the goal? Listen for habits or activities that will reveal answers to these questions.


What is the client’s energy level? Is he/she taking care of him/herself—eating right, exercising, getting enough rest—so that the energy level will remain at peak? If there doesn’t appear to be the needed energy, it may be a clue that the goal is not aligned with the client’s passions. Or, it may be that the goal is in sync with passions but the client needs to say no to other energy-draining activities. The latter can include enhancing delegation skills, doubling up on tasks (e.g., participation in a professional organization or a project that also brings opportunity to build relationship with key networking contacts).

How about you? What are you listening for?

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Encourage Your Brain: Show me your hands! Science-backed tips to connect on Zoom

These days with so many Zoom calls, most of us only see each other from the shoulders or neck up. And that has some interesting and unintended consequences for our ability to connect with one another. It turns out that the brain gives 12.5 times more weight to hand gestures than to verbal cues.

This stems back to humanity’s ancient days when we weren’t sure if someone approaching us could be deadly – we need to know if that person is friend-or-foe. Are they friendly, coming with open hands, or are they hiding a rock or knife in their hands?

This hand gesture finding is shared in the book Human Lie Detection and Body Language 101, by Vanessa Van Edwards, who also has a fascinating TED Talk about this. Edwards is a behavioral investigator and studied what made TED talks go viral. In her analysis, she learned that it was hand gestures that made the difference. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures in 18 minutes; the least popular used 272.

So, let’s get back to our Zoom meetings. To help send the message to the other people on the Zoom meeting that you are metaphorically a friend, and not carrying a spear or rock, consider a couple of these hand-motion ideas:

  • Wave to people when you join the call. Try using both hands as you wave.
  • When you are sharing an idea, consider an appropriate hand gesture. For example, if you want to say “two ideas are coming to mind as you say that” – lift your two fingers lightly.
  • When you want to convey empathy or something that’s true for you, put your hand on your chest.
  • To be inclusive, draw a circle with your fingers to show that others are welcome to contribute.

Check out this great article in Work and Money for more suggestions.

That’s all for now. Waving bye-bye!


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