Questions and Answers

Sometimes inspiration comes where you least expect it. This morning, a new client of mine, who says she is eagerly anticipating exploring her path forward with me, (as I am with her) wrote that she saw an art poster while on vacation that inspired her, and that said in part:

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing the unanswerable questions in good company.” (My google search to discover to whom to attribute this quote led to Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, pioneer in the mind/body holistic health movement, inspiring me to explore her messages further).

What I, as a professional coach, love about this particular quote is how it succinctly describes the connection, the challenge and the charm inherent in a great coaching relationship.

Aren’t we all looking for the secret of living well? Asking the questions; pursuing the unanswerable ones; desiring good company in our exploration?

And yet the few words in the quote suggest so much else. That questions are paramount in our exploration. That there may not be answers to everything, but value in the exploration nonetheless. That searching for the answers alone can be a lonely road. That living well is a desirable goal. And so much more.

What do you see/read into the words above?

In the spirit of this new year dawning with its hopes, desires, expectations, and promises, I invite you to ask the unanswerable questions, and choose good company with which to do so.

How Stories Connect Us

Last evening I attended the monthly meeting of a women’s networking group I belong to in Kingston, Ontario where I live. Instead of the usual dinner and speaker, the evening was entitled All About Us. Whoever felt so moved, got up during dinner and told a story from her life tthat illustrated something about her that likely few in that group knew.

One woman told a story about being adopted and searching for her birth parents, one about how she met her now husband on an island in the Caribbean, one introduced her sister who was her guest and spoke about how much they and their siblings meant to each other having survived, and perhaps in spite of, a difficult childhood. Even I told the story of my connection with my ‘special friend’, a young boy who was abandoned by his mother who I became a ‘big sister’ to when he was 3, and is who now a grown man and part of the family I have with my life partner.

The stories were heartfelt – some were very amusing, some hilariously funny, some touching, some quirky, some sad yet uplifting. What they had in common however was that they all opened a window to seeing someone in a new way, a pathway to perhaps a different kind of conversation with people many of whom had been just acquaintances before.

And it made me think about how often we cross paths with people, and say something not much deeper than ‘hi, how are you? nice to see you’ and about what we miss when we don’t take the time to chat longer and learn more.

What would be possible if we took the time to inquire a little deeper? How could a story enhance that connection?

Reminder to self: Next time, spend more time with acquaintances in a real conversation, share a story, look for the story, and be open to a new and rewarding connection!

Giving Thanks

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It’s Canadian Thanksgiving, and there is so much to give thanks for. Today I am grateful for my wonderful life – for my generous-hearted, loving husband Rick, for my growing families (my first family and my acquired family through Rick); for finding my passion as a coach and the very special clients I have been privileged, and are privileged to work with; for my health; for my amazing friends, for the opportunity to travel… and so much more.

I have just come back from a week in beautiful British Columbia, participating in the beginning of a year-long intensive program with Marlena Field and 7 other amazing women, as we immerse ourselves in body-centered coaching, developed and taught by Marlena.

I am grateful for being able to continue learning in this way and trust that what I gain from this immersion will benefit me personally and professionally, and by extension everyone I interact with.

Today the sun is shining in a beautiful clear blue sky, the air is crisp and cool, the trees vibrant with fall colour….. Life is good.

What are you grateful for today?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all.

Joy of Summer

Maybe it’s because I live in Canada, where winters can be long, and oh so cold, and the days sadly short. In winter we hibernate, though that has its own benefits – to be explored at another time. However, there is something about Summer that brings warmth to the land and to each of us who partake of all it has to offer.
What I love is the languidness of it, the slower pace, the gatherings of friends and family when kids can run and hide outdoors and let their imaginations run free. Even though there is warmth (sometimes) in April, May, June, and for sure in September and October, somehow summer seems just to be July and August (shades of school-days?). And how swiftly it goes by. Here it is the beginning of August and with plans already made for September, I can see its end, not far ahead.

But why do I project to its end? Why not just enjoy and revel in each long day to its fullest?

Wise people over the centuries have encouraged us to live in the present moment. That in truth is the only moment we have. Of course there is value in recalling the past (both sweet and painful memories) and imagining and anticipating the future. But today, this moment, is what I have now.

Sitting here in the morning light as the sun rises out my window, reflecting, appreciating and being grateful for all that is good in my life.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

When I was a teenager, anxious for my life to evolve faster than it appeared to be doing, my Mother’s response to my angst always was: ‘your time will come dear”.  Though annoying and frustrating at the time for me, her refrain proved true and wise.
Today my life is full and rewarding, and I am truly grateful for it.
The road ahead sometimes holds a vision of the destination, sometimes a mystery. But it is always there to explore, to follow, to divert from, to use as a guide, to plot our progress, to meet others, to find our way.
My mother’s wisdom was about faith in oneself, an optimistic belief in what the world has to offer us, and about appreciation … and patience.
On this Mother’s Day I remember my mom with love and gratitude, and realize how her view of life is a part of who I am and how I live my life.
On this Mother’s Day, what are you noticing or remembering or being grateful for from your mother, that is part of who you are and how you live your life?

At a Crossroad

People often ask me what brings clients to coaching.  The answer is different for everyone, but there are common themes.  And the clients that do come my way usually say a variation of the following:

  • I’m at a crossroad
  • My work/my life isn’t satisfying/challenging/fun….
  • I know I’m not doing what I’m meant to be doing
  • I feel stuck
  • I don’t know what my next step should be
  • I feel like I’m in a fog
  • I want to change things, but don’t know how
  • If I could just figure it out…

There are times in our lives when all of us find ourselves at a crossroad.  The path we have been going down, while it may once have had appeal, had status, is lucrative, or even challenging, is not bringing deep satisfaction, joy and fulfillment.  It feels like it’s going nowhere. Like you are going nowhere.

However, when you stand at a crossroad and look up and around,  what you begin to see is an opportunity to change direction, to follow a new path, to discover what lies on the road ahead.

The known is comfortable – until it isn’t anymore of course.  So the first step to change is recognizing and accepting the discomfort or dissatisfaction.

The second is allowing yourself to stand in that place long enough to understand the messages it has for you.  Sometimes that’s painful – at first – but eventually it brings enlightened awareness about what really matters to you.  You can see, and almost taste, the possibility and probability of change.

When that happens, a shift occurs: the new road appears, and beckons, and with a little courage and encouragement, you step out of stuck and into that which you have longed for.

Have you ever been at a crossroad?   Did you change to a different path?  How did you do it? 

Or are you there now? If so, take heart. Allow yourself to feel what is true about that for you, what you long for.  Know that if you are willing to listen to and explore what messages are there for you, the change you desire is well within your reach.

Navigating the Road Ahead

Have you been for a long walk lately, on a path or road you’ve never travelled on before?

If you did, what did you notice along the way?  Were you fixated on what you could or could not see ahead? Were you excited or anxious about what might lie around the next corner? Did you notice the log or rock in the middle of your path, and if so, did you skirt around it? step on it?  jump over it?

Or what about the path or road you are familiar with? Do you pay attention to it, or just routinely cover the distance to where you are going, your mind busy elsewhere?  How often do you look behind you, peer in the rear view mirror, or do you keep your gaze on the road ahead?

I once broke my arm on a walk on a park trail that was partially groomed, but allowed to be natural, with roots sticking out here and there.  Apparently I was supposed to watch my feet (as my friend informed me a bit too late), and which doesn’t happen when one is gazing at the beautiful forest all around.  So now on nature hikes, I try to watch where I’m stepping, while at the same time popping my head up often, so as not to miss the sights around me.  (It works, sort of.)

The road, or path, is a wonderful metaphor for how we choose to be in all aspects of our work and family lives.  If we are looking over our shoulder too often, do we run the risk of turning to salt, like Lot’s wife?; if we gaze too far ahead without noticing what’s at our feet, or around us, do we trip and fall?  But if our gaze is fixed on our feet, do we even see the path that awaits our discovery?

What do you notice about the way you navigate the paths you choose to follow?

First Steps

This morning I woke early, restless, and picked up a book on my bedroom bookshelf that I realized I’ve had for a long time and not yet read.  “Dropped Threads” is a beautiful compendium of personal stories about women’s lives, edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson. I was on the third story by Isabel Huggan when a sentence leapt out at me.

In her musings about life learnings, Ms. Huggan observed:  You cannot know the path through the forest until your feet are making their own footsteps in the ground.

I like how this statement simply captures the notion that our journey is our own.  To me it means that the path is a unique one and that the road ahead will only be discovered step by step, with intention, curiosity, and determination to move forward.  No-one else can walk there for you, or for me.

So my questions to you this morning are:

  • What is true for you about your own path and the road ahead?  
  • Where have your footsteps led you till now, and where might they be taking you?
  • What is your first step?

Ending the Struggle

I always surprise myself when I (re)learn something I already knew.

Playing with my new business Facebook ‘page’, I begin to define and refine what I am about as a coach, as a person.

For years, I allowed myself to struggle with how to ‘brand’ myself in my business. I say ‘allowed myself‘ because it didn’t have to be a struggle. Clearly I chose ‘struggle’.  Or maybe I was just evolving – slowly 🙂  I wondered why it’s so easy for others; so hard for me (maybe I made it hard?  ouch.)

A good friend, Jeannie Campanelli is the The Inner Confidence Coach.  I admire her ability and commitment to reach into her heart and soul, see clearly and define her path in service of others.  She tells me that I try too hard to be perfect. (she’s right of course).  Or another coach friend, Thea Sheldon, The Prime of Life Coach (who was my own coach for a few years and whose website reflects the wonderful, wise and adventurous woman she is), is also clear about who she is and the service she provides.

Both of them and many others I have observed, have been successful by tapping into their own core values and life experiences – the very thing I encourage others I coach to do.  Except I forget how to do it for myself.  ‘The cobbler and her shoes’ perhaps?

I finally, finally listen to myself and realize that I know deep down that my path is helping others find theirs. It’s that simple, that easy. I know that because of how long it took me to see and believe in my own.  And I know the peace and joy that comes from having powerfully chosen, as Thea used to remind me ‘to do it my way’.

So if you noticed the two-year hiatus in writing in my blog, know that was the period of ‘struggle’ or the time of resistance, or the fallow time, where everything evolved as it was meant to.  I’ve got my mojo and my inspiration back. It feels awesome.

A question or three for you.  What do you know about your own path of discovery? What is possible if you just let it happen in its own good time? What are you making hard that you could make easy?

A Focus on Transitions – the Centrepiece of Change

There’s something about the end of summer and the impending arrival of Fall that really resonates for me, and I suspect for may of you. It’s part regret (that the days are becoming shorter), part satisfaction (for having revelled in all that summer has to offer), and part eager anticipation of the opportunities that miraculously seem to appear when September arrives.

A friend (who pays attention at many levels to what is going on around her), mentioned, as we sat under a magnificent apple tree on an indolent, warm Sunday summer afternoon, that the past few months have been for many people she has observed, a time of transition. And I thought how true that was for me, for family members, for a number of my friends, and for many of my coaching clients.

And her remark got me thinking about transitions – and about what a valuable platform that is from which to view the role of coaches and other helping professionals who work  with people and organizations in these times of incredible change.

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