Why Hire a Coach

Be as you wish to seem.” – Socrates

We all have dreams and wishes in life. Sometimes our wishes come true and our dreams come to fruition. As a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Wellness coach, that is often why clients seek me out to begin with – to achieve a cherished dream or goal. And my objective for my clients is always that they will see their wishes come to pass.

Only in coaching, we do a lot more than wish! Dreams and goals have to be backed up with a deliberate plan, and that plan has to be put into action. There will be bumps in the road, and sometimes detours, when Life will intervene. What role does a professional coach play in the process?

  • Athletic coaches help athletes train and improve their skills and performance, individually as well as in teams. Acting and voice coaches zero in on making the most of those talents. Life coaches help clients identify their strengths and values, clarify goals, and maximize potential.
  • A well-trained coach can help a client recognize what might be holding them back and find ways to get “unstuck.”  Using their professional skills and objectivity, they can help the client find a path to the Bigger Picture of their goal, and design a step-by-step strategy to get there.
  • Clients come to coaching because, for whatever reason, what they have been doing in the past isn’t working. A coach’s ability to reframe a particular situation or challenge can offer a new and much-needed perspective that enables the client to move forward with a renewed approach to their circumstances.
  • Empowering clients to discover, and capitalize, on their Signature Strengths is an important part of coaching. Recognizing and applying core strengths in the pursuit of goals has been demonstrated to lead to greater happiness, well-being and success in work and in life.
  • Having a positive attitude is a key component of success in life, but just as important is positive action. Taking positive actions – what you do – changes who you are which, in turn, produces different results. One of the hallmarks of the coaching relationship is accountability, that is, defining and taking actions towards objectives. Having accountabilities provides a structure for the client and also serves as a learning tool in the coaching relationship. If a particular action doesn’t work as planned, client and coach can revisit and revise that strategy. This collaboration can open up a fresh approach to a previously frustrating situation.

Increasingly, coaches specialize in areas such as health and wellness, small business, re-careering and parenting, among others. It’s important to ask a prospective coach what specific education and training they have received, what credentials he or she holds, and what their areas of specialty are. An excellent resource is the International Coach Federation (ICF); http://www.coachfederation.org/ which requires members to complete stringent educational and training requirements, as well as continuing education.

A coach can be a valuable ally in making your dreams come true. Take your time and choose one that’s the right fit for you.



Stay the Course!

As you’re reading this, we’re already almost halfway into January of 2015! Crazy, right?

Did you start out on January 1st with a goal or intention in mind for the coming year? While we may start out with the best of intentions, it’s a fact that most of us don’t succeed when it comes to our New Year resolutions, or goals. If you started out the year with great ambitions and are starting to waiver, you’re not alone and all is not lost. You can get back on track and stack the odds of success in your favor.

One of the main stumbling blocks when it comes to making changes is dealing with setbacks. And, trust me, you will have them. We often think of making changes as being a decision making process. You decide to lose 10 pounds (or quit smoking, drink less, meditate daily, get organized) and then you follow through on the decision. Only it doesn’t go that smoothly. You lose a couple pounds, then fall off the healthy eating wagon, gain them back, and think, “See, I just can’t do it. I keep trying, but losing these last 10 pounds never happens.” Or you’re meditating every day for 20 minutes – and making it a priority – until the morning you’re running late and it falls by the wayside. And then it falls by the wayside the next morning, but you’ll do it later in the day. (You forget…..) Another year’s resolution, down the well-travelled drain…….

Another familiar scenario is the “Well, it’s just the way I am, I’ve always been this way, I just don’t seem to be able to stick to things” explanation. Maybe a family member or early teacher said things that reinforced this particular notion about yourself and you’ve been carrying that around ever since.

There’s a concept in coaching called the “Inner Critic.” You know the critic. It’s that voice we all have in our head that comes up at times and judges us, makes us feel guilty, or inadequate, or unworthy. Often, we’re not even aware of it. Another name for it is The Saboteur, because it can quietly but effectively sabotage our efforts to change by undermining our confidence in ourselves. As above, it often originates with a past authority figure. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you do now.

Here are some ways to deal with challenges, setbacks and quiet the Critic:

• Instead of seeing a setback as reason to throw in the towel, realize that it is only one occurrence in the much bigger picture of your overall goal. Everyone experiences challenges on the way to a Big Goal. It’s part of the process. If you realize that setbacks are simply part of the journey, it can go a long way towards keeping you going.
• Use setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Did you arrive at dinner starving because you skipped lunch and end up blowing your entire eating plan? Ok – next time, do things differently. If lunch may be on the run, brown bag it, including some protein and fruit. A little pre-planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on track with your Big Goal.
• Realize that you’re not alone. Anyone who has ever succeeded in realizing a goal has encountered their fair share of hurdles along the way. Know that going in, and that recognition alone can often keep you going when nothing else will. Decide that you will persist.
• Self-blame is counter-productive. Recognizing that your Inner Critic is on a rant (inside your head) is the first step in silencing it. Silence that critical voice within by refusing to acknowledge it, tell it to leave the room. If you’re a visual sort, draw a picture of it and sit on it. Whatever. Just don’t let it take over and hold you hostage. Perfection is a myth.
• Talk it out. If you simply cannot regain a healthy perspective, talking it out with a supportive person can make all the difference. You get it out of your head (where it’s doing you no good) and an objective friend can often provide a more balanced view to help you reframe things, and get back on track.

It’s been said that change is a process, not an event. Any process will have ups and downs, obstacles and achievements. It’s all part of it. As long as you keep going, you are in the process of getting to your Big Goal, so persist. Keep going. Pick yourself back up. Because you can.

So What (Exactly) is Grit and Why Is It important?

Clients come to coaching because they are ready to make some sort of change or improvement in their life. They’ve come to a place where the status quo is no longer acceptable. It may be due to health concerns, a change in circumstances or something else, but whatever the motivation, some type of needed change is indicated. Sometimes they feel ready to change but aren’t sure how to proceed. They may have started down the path only to find themselves stuck or sidetracked, maybe more than once. Change – real change that becomes a part of one’s life – usually is not met by a quick fix. It’s a process. Sometimes changes are made only to be met with backslides, or a return to old habits or patterns. Change can be challenging and tricky, and almost invariably at some point we are going to come up against a wall. That’s where grit comes in.

Grit has of late become a buzzword of sorts being tossed around in some circles. But what is it and why is it important in the quest for change?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grit in behavior as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Another definition is, “The ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-positive-bold-green-can-ends-row-dull-gray-can-t-illustrating-success-oriented-attitude-white-image30559044University of Pennsylvania psychologist and researcher Angela Lee Duckworth, who has conducted studies on the subject, defines it as “passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals,” and believes it to be a (maybe the) central predictor of long-term success. You could also call it mental toughness.

If “being gritty” predicts achievement, how do you know if you have it? And how can you get it if you don’t?

There isn’t always consensus about exactly what constitutes grit, but certain character traits appear to be key:

  • Having a clear and focused goal, along with the ability to avoid distractions and stay focused;
  • A strong motivation, a will to persist;
  • Self-control – the ability to delay short-term gratification, in favor of the long term;
  • An optimistic, positive outlook – the ability to meet challenges with confidence in one’s own abilities and the belief that things will work out;
  • A growth mindset, i.e., the ability to look at challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as “failures.”

We all recognize the importance of determined and persistent effort in the pursuit of a goal. What appears to differentiate grit seems to be a capacity to maintain one’s stamina over a long period of time despite the inevitable setbacks and adversities inherent in long-term goal achievement. Without the necessary grit – a quality which seems to come from deep within – even the most talented or intelligent among us can get discouraged and thrown off track. As Angela Duckworth says, “Grit is sticking with your future — day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years — and working really hard to make that future a reality. It’s living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Happy Halloween and Headspace Review

Wow – 2014 is flying by! Driving in the city this week I watched as hundreds of golden leaves blew from trees and piled up on sidewalks, and now Halloween is right around the corner!

As we head into November, and start planning for Thanksgiving, life can start to feel more harried and quiet spaces more elusive. I really think that, ultimately, “life” is not necessarily the culprit here, but what goes on in my head (or doesn’t) as the pace starts to feel like it’s picking up. I’ve discussed the value of meditation here before, and science keeps coming up with more research on its benefits. Particularly in this age of distractibility, it’s a great antidote to lack of focus, with its emphasis on single-minded attention. Practicing meditation regularly can, over time, lead to a decrease in stress and worry, and an increase in wellbeing and enhanced performance, among other things.

When I talk to people about meditation, one of the most common things I hear is “I can’t meditate,” because “thoughts keep going around in my head.” I want to share a secret: – I’ve been meditating on and off for nearly 30 years (mostly on) and guess what – thoughts keep going around in my head, too! It’s part of the process, and some days are just better than others. However I start out, I almost always end my meditation feeling more calm and centered, more spacious, then I did going in. And that seems to carry through into the rest of my day.

Recently, I felt in the mood to try something different so I tried an online offer I had come across called “Headspace.” Headspace calls itself “Meditation made simple,” and says you can “ Learn online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day.” It was conceived by Andy Puddicombe (whose voice also guides the meditations) – a meditation and mindfulness expert and ordained Buddhist monk.

Even though I’m not new to meditation, I was in the mood for something different so I signed up for the free 10-day trial.

What I like a lot:

Very user-friendly. The website has a clean design, is easy to navigate, and has lots of practical information about meditation and mindfulness.
Anyone can find 10 minutes in the space of a day to be quiet, clear their head, just be. (If you can’t, there’s other websites out there that can help….)

Andy Puddicombe has a friendly, gentle and unassuming style and so the meditations come across as soothing (at least to me.) Plus, he has a rather nifty British accent if you like that sort of thing.

The mobile app is great if you are on the move, travelling, or otherwise removed from your computer so you can take time out whenever and wherever it suits you.

If community is important to you, you can find one here. You can submit questions for Andy, interact with others, share your own stories and gather ideas for how to integrate your meditation practice into your life.

You have lots of options. You can continue with a 10 minutes a day practice, and move on to 15 or 20. You can also choose from meditations that are specific to an area, say, performance or when you need a quick time out to regroup (entitled SOS.)

Here and there, a short video begins a session with helpful tips, such as how to deal with those pesky thoughts that keep coming up.

All in all, I liked my trial enough so that I signed up for a subscription. (I have no affiliation with the site, by the way.)

As meditation and mindfulness practice becomes more mainstream (Oprah meditates daily and has for years, as does Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, and the Seattle Seahawks!) information and resources are growing. You might try: Deepak Chopra’s Center for Well-Being, http://www.chopra.com/welcome-to-the-chopra-center, which has a free library of information, along with guided meditations. Another good one is Dr. Barbara Frederickson’s website: http://positivityresonance.com/meditations.html. Dr. Frederickson is a leading researcher on positive emotions and the considerable benefits of meditation in enhancing those emotions. This website includes a variety of guided meditations including loving-kindness meditation, among others. My all-time favorite basic primer on meditation is: How to Meditate, A Guide to Self-Discovery, by Lawrence LeShan, and there are a wealth of others out there.

Explore and try different ones out – there are lots of options, and not every meditation style will be a “fit” for you. If you find yourself feeling happier, calmer and more focused, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Have a magical Halloween!

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.” Ovid

I recently stayed overnight at a yoga and meditation retreat. It’s the second time I’ve done this, and it amazed me (again!) what a difference just 24 hours away can make. The center I went to is little more than an hour’s drive from my home, in a remote area in the mountains, without cell service or internet. If you struggle with being unplugged for any length of time, it may not be the place for you. (Then again, it might be just the place for you!) In addition to being a yoga and retreat center, it’s a working ashram and spiritual community for those who live there and operate it. That particular concept might be off-putting to some, conveying some type of mysticism, but the fact is I have never felt anything but a warm welcome and invitation to partake as I choose to, or not, of the various offerings throughout the day. The teachers and staff are wonderful, and seem about as mystical as my next-door neighbors, albeit a bit more unhurried and centered, as far as I can tell.

The center offers what they call “anytime retreats,” which basically means you check in and stay for as long as you like – a day or a week – and a variety of yoga and meditation classes to choose from, starting at 5:00 am. (I have yet to appear before 7:00 am breakfast…..) From there, you have free time to hike the surrounding trails, take a private yoga class, schedule a massage, or relax and read – your choice. There are morning and late afternoon yoga classes, followed by meditation if you wish (I did.) Meals are vegetarian and served community style. Everything is fresh and organic, much of it grown on premises. Not to mention plentiful and delicious!

The idea of a retreat from daily life isn’t new. Throughout the ages, men and women have sought to take time out for renewal and inspiration. These days, a retreat can be a breath of fresh air in the busyness of modern living. The concept is simple – taking time away from your daily life and circumstances. It’s a time apart from our usual pace of routine and responsibilities, time for some quiet and peace. Given the way our lives are usually structured, with work, family and other responsibilities, having a day of quiet can almost seem like an impossibility. That’s why I liked the idea of an overnight – a day – something I can easily schedule, with a little planning.

It worked! In just a little over 24 hours (2 yoga classes, two meditation practices, a hike and some lovely meals later) I felt great – restored and energized.
The retreat schedule closes with saying: “We hope your stay at our ashram has left you relaxed, refreshed, and ready to face the world again.” It sure did.

Resources: There are lots of centers around the country and abroad offering facilities for structured and unstructured retreats for individuals. Some cater to a particular denomination, and many do not. A good place to check out what might be near you is: http://www.retreatfinder.com/

Summer Checklist

I received an email recently with an apology for a late reply, saying “Summer should NOT be so busy.”   Wow, I agree!  Summer is traditionally a time to slow down, and let go of some of the busyness that occupies us at other times of the year.  The idea of “The Pleasant Life,” a term coined by psychologist, Martin Seligman, is that of taking time to savor and appreciate life’s basic pleasures – family and friends, a sunrise or a summer breeze, a good meal, wonderful music.  Summer is the perfect time to do that.  So, instead of my usual to-do list, I came up with a summer checklist.  I’ve written about the value of being intentional, setting an intention for the day or a specific situation, and letting it guide us.  Here’s my intention for this Summer of 2014.  I’m creating it now so that I don’t find myself, come Labor Day, wondering:  “What happened?  Summer should NOT be so busy!”

  • Take more photos – of whatever, just for fun.
  • Eat outside more often – whether out or at home on our deck.
  • Canoeing or kayaking on Evergreen Lake.  (My teenager is renting boats there this summer, so I have no excuses….)
  • Hang with my family.
  • Appreciate spending time with my wonderful friends.
  • Slow way down – (on it.)
  • Walks and hikes in nature.
  • Salads and fruit salads.
  • Almost anything tastes better grilled.
  • Always a good book (or two!)
  • Sunscreen (ok, I tend to be on the practical side.)
  • Biking!
  • Giving myself time to daydream  or do nothing.
  • Writing – whatever – in my journal.
  • Summer movies.
  • Did I mention practically anything outdoors?
  • Keep it simple – Ask myself the question:  What brings me joy?  Do that!

Coach’s Action step:  What’s on your summer checklist? What would you like more of? Slow down and take a few minutes today to set your intention – there’s lot of summer left!