Tag Archives: baby steps

“What Fulfills You?”

“What fulfills you?”

When we run into someone, we usually ask “How are you?”  Since it’s rhetorical, this question usually garners the expected superficial response, “I’m fine, thanks, how are you?”  The question doesn’t dig deeply, doesn’t attempt to make a meaningful connection.

I recently assisted at a 3-day Fulfillment class with CTI, the Coaches’ Training Institute.  Students had come from varied backgrounds in terms of geography, career, and life experiences.  I volunteered to assist the leaders and help to make sure things ran smoothly.

In our first exercise, everyone circulated, introduced themselves to another person and asked, “what fulfills you?”  It was fascinating to see how fast we got to know meaty things about each other:  what we do for fun on a Saturday, who we spend it with, where we like to travel on vacation…

…in short, what lights us up and made us feel alive.

Aliveness and connection are the foundation of a fulfilling life.  I see this emerge in my coaching clients when they move towards what they’re passionate about.  It’s easy to be complacent and pretend that what our heart tells us isn’t really important.  We resist what’s new because the unknown feels scary.  We settle for what we don’t enjoy but think ought to be ‘good enough.’  Sadly, this leads to flatness, deadness.  Picture a heartbeat on an EKG that has flatlined.

In contrast, coaching offers a vision of life that is resonant and full of purpose.  Values are clarified, goals are determined, and actions are aligned with values.  Now, that’s a life with a pulse!

Living a fulfilling life is a radical act.  A coach finds out what someone really, truly wants to do, and asks them to take action to get it.  How often are we asked what lights us up, and are held accountable for taking baby steps toward making that happen?

How many times do we think about taking that step, then back down, shrugging it off?  “Maybe one day–if things change…maybe not.”

What’s a radical act for one person may not be for another.  Someone who never exercises may find that working out 3 days a week is radical and life-changing, while someone else may sign up for a triathalon.  We are all unique.  The important part is what that action means to us as individuals–what direction it has us pointed in, what we learn, and how we grow from doing it.

We have the power to visualize a fulfilling life and to go out and get it.

Call or email me for a free 30-minute sample coaching call today.

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Seeking Adventure in Small Ways

On Sunday, I went to three cafes and spent time in three towns.  In the morning, after singing at church, I picked up breakfast at a cafe before driving to Weequahic Park where I walked around a lake.  Later, on my way to play the organ (at another local church), I sipped a decaf latte on the bench of a cafe facing Independence Park, around the corner from my house.

That evening, my husband and I were ready for another outing, so we drove to Belleville, adjacent to Newark, and ate dinner at Topaz Thai.  I was happy to discover there was a Thai restaurant within a 20-minute drive from where we live.  I’ve missed eating Thai, Indian and Ethiopian food regularly since moving here from Brooklyn close to three years ago.  In my neighborhood in the Ironbound, Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian food predominate.  I’m still exploring all of the nearby towns and discovering what cuisines they have to offer.

After dinner, we drove a few minutes down the road into Lyndhurst and enjoyed a bavarian cream lobster tail and pignoli cookies from an Italian bakery.  Then my husband realized we were practically in Rutherford, which was home to William Carlos Williams, so we looked up his house and checked it out.

I started a notebook the other day to keep track of some of these outings.  It actually has three sections, “Music” (where I record the pieces I’ve practiced on the organ), “Outings” (for hikes, new towns, new places), and “Special Projects” (various priorities).  I process and remember things better by writing them down, so this helps me remember that we hiked in the Palisades two weeks ago, or practiced a Bach prelude and fugue that I want to revisit soon.  I don’t write everything down–but I like writing down what’s important to me.  The act of writing it affirms that it’s important.

I’m grateful that I live in a city that has such easy access to many different types of places.  I also feel grateful for having honored my desire for a little excitement.  Maybe it wasn’t a trip to Europe–but even a little outing, devouring Thai food, bavarian cream pastry, and seeing W.C. Williams’ house, in three new-to-me towns, temporarily satiates my yearning for excitement and adventure.

I suppose it’s adventure on a modest scale, with a lowercase “a,” quite different from ones I’ve taken in the past such as circling around Sicily for a week, or living in Paris for a year.  Yet when those capital-A Adventures on a grand scale aren’t possible, modest adventures go a long way.

Yesterday was quieter.  I cooked breakfast, did some cleaning, worked out at the gym, went to the hardware store, played the organ for a bit, gardened, had two client calls, and talked with family.  A quiet, productive day–and for today, it felt just right.

It always feels wonderful coming home after being out, and conversely, going out after staying at home for awhile.  Something about the varied pace feels important.  I need stability, and I need excitement.  When my schedule doesn’t allow for more, simply walking around a lake or trying out a new restaurant really does provide that sense of newness and discovery.  My need for fun and adventure can be honored by seeking out simple pleasures.

Which needs and values are you honoring?  Which ones are getting stepped on or overlooked?  Small tweaks to our routines can make a big difference.  A small step can often have a huge imapct.

Harnessing the Creative Process

Creativity is such an important resource for both our professional and personal lives.  Whether you work at a large corporation or are an entrepreneur, whether you are a marketer or a musician–all of the above which have applied to me–creativity allows us to think in new ways, unearth novel solutions, and construct the world we live in.

Think of a seven-year-old with a Lego set.  From our earliest days, we are primed to create.  It transforms work into something that is both playful and productive.

So how does creativity happen?  Where does it begin, and how can we follow it to completion, rather than giving up?

This recent piece on the HSP Health Blog explores the creative process in concrete, tangible ways.  The key steps are:

  1. Determine what you want to create:  a new system for working as a team?  A piece of music, writing or art?  Visualize the results to build resonance and commitment.
  2. Identify where you are today.  If you want to publish a novel but have never written more than a page, that’s good information.
  3. Focus on the next steps to take that will bridge the gap between where you are and where you’re going.

Step 3 is critical juncture and is often where people throw in the towel.  However, rather than grow discouraged, focus on Step 1 again to recommit to your purpose.  Then return to Step 3, breaking down what needs to be done into mini-goals.

The piece also specifically explores creativity’s benefits for highly sensitive people.  It proposes that HSP’s often experience less agency when working with others, since they are outnumbered.  In contrast, by tapping into creativity, they can better control their agenda.  Using their natural creativity, allows HSP’s to be more influential.

Much like the seven-year-old with the Lego set, seeing our dreams come into reality is satisfying.  It offers a sense of purpose and completion.  Creativity is about more than having an idea.  It is about making something new in the world–taking something that is within us, following the thread of our vision, and bringing it out into the world so others can also experience it.

When I coach clients on creativity, we explore all three of the above steps to identify a purpose or goal, articulate the current reality, and brainstorm ways to bridge the gap.

If a goal has enough resonance, the work that needs to be done will be clearer.  Focusing on just one small step at a time builds momentum.

Are you working on a creative project?  Have a vision or goal but seem to get stuck before the finish line?  Email me now at marywcrow@gmail.com to schedule a creativity coaching call.  I offer a free session to see if we would be a good match for each other.

Wishing you great creative success!

-Mary

The Secret Catalysts in Successful Career Transitions

I recently participated in an interactive talk given by Ron Renaud, “Unleash the Power of Your Values.”  Ron is a senior faculty member at CTI and author of “The Uncompromised.”  He has identified four personal standards that allow us to live more authentic lives, in line with our unique values.  These standards are:

  1. Enthusiasm: a positive attitude, energy.
  2. Courage: doing what’s challenging and what most won’t do.
  3. Endurance: physical, emotional and intellectual energy to consistently and sustainably do what must be done.
  4. Integrity:  doing precisely what you say you’ll do; requires self-knowledge & wisdom.

How do these standards unleash the power of our values?  For example, if independence is a high value of mine, by practicing enthusiasm, courage, endurance, and integrity, I will attain a greater degree of independence.  Similarly, if community is a strong value, these standards can help me build a stronger sense of community.

In a future post, I’ll delve more into endurance.  As a runner, I know the importance of looking at the long haul and keeping at it.  It won’t do any good to run 1K and stop if it’s a 3K race.  This concept is so critical and it’s the reason I named my coaching business Passion + Persistence.

For now, let’s look specifically at the four standards as they pertain to career transitions.  A career transition could mean seeking a promotion, or changing fields.  In order to build a successful career and identify job opportunities, both inward and outward perspectives are required.  Let’s break this down further:

An outward perspective asks questions such as:  what is the market like?  How many job openings are in that field?  Where does one find those types of jobs–in a large or small company, at a nonprofit or an academic institution?  In which parts of the country?

Looking inward is at least as important.  An inward perspective seeks to know:  where do I see myself in five years?  What types of tasks have I enjoyed the most in my past jobs?  What values most fulfill me at work–creativity, security, autonomy, or interdependence?  Do I enjoy mentoring others?  Do I like to engage frequently with coworkers or to have long stretches of time alone?

Self-reflection leads to self-knowledge and, ultimately, yields greater job satisfaction.  Moreover, it makes it possible to have a more profound impact on the world.  When we understand our own values, we live and work more authentically, because we’re going with, rather than against, the grain.  Our natural talents and abilities find fuller expression.  We are doing what we were meant to do in the world, and equally important, being who we were meant to be.

Reflecting on the parts of ourselves that we both like and dislike grants the power of choice.  Am I nurturing?  Intellectual?  Playful?  Driven?  Am I jealous of coworkers? Do I fear economic insecurity?  It’s powerful to choose which parts of ourselves we’ll hold onto, and which parts we’ll change.

Once we see ourselves as we are, we can choose to let go of the obstacles standing in the way of our own success, and embrace those characteristics that make us uniquely ourselves–whether we are fierce, radiant, intuitive–whichever traits make us the most alive and allow us to share our greatest work with the world.

Yes, it’s important to study the market and to be realistic about our options, when considering a career transition.  It’s also critical that we not choose passively, or out of fear that we won’t find anything better.  By delving deep into our vision of our future selves, our best selves, we can choose wisely when considering such a transition.

Where do you see yourself in five years?  Where are you now and where do you want to be?  What’s one tiny baby step you could take this week to move towards that vision?  I invite you to consider how you might use the standards of enthusiasm, courage, endurance and integrity to move closer to it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment or share this post.  Wishing you great success and authenticity in work and life!

Purpose, Persistence…and Shoveling

In the past week, something like a foot of snow has fallen in the NJ/NYC area.  Probably more, I’ve lost track.  I do know that there are gigantic mounds of snow by the curb where plows have consolidated it, making street parking difficult, and at several intersections.  I have to take running leaps to avoid drenching my boots and socks in soupy slush.

It was so pretty when it was snowing:  big, fluffy flakes, drifting down, blown diagonally, sometimes briefly even lifted straight up.  The park across the street was blanketed in white.  Kids made plump, smiling snowmen that gave me a lift on my walk to the train.

Then came all the shoveling.  Usually my husband takes care of it, but this weekend he’s out of town, so it fell to me.  Frankly, I didn’t really know that I could shovel.  Like parallel parking, my first, knee-jerk reaction is to  assume I can’t do it.  I’m afraid I might hit another car or back into a telephone pole.

I do know, however, that we learn by experiencing life, doing things.  And that includes making mistakes.  My husband has never shown a glimmer of fear about parallel parking, and he actually has backed into a telephone pole.  So why does my mind still want to believe that he’s the expert and I don’t know how to do it?

Since I was nervous about making some egregious shoveling error, or committing a neighborly faux pas, I actually did some online research first.  I read about using the wind to your advantage, and the importance of dressing in layers (10 minutes into it, the exertion makes you rip off outer layers  like an onion).

Finally it was time to actually grab a shovel and dive in.  It had rained, so the snow was slushy and twice as heavy.  The shoveling  doesn’t have to be perfect, but the shoveled walkway does need to be (literally) passable.  I wanted to be considerate to our neighbors and tenants, and didn’t want it to pile up until it had become too much to tackle.  With that in mind, I shoveled twice on Thursday.  I tackled a little at a time, and chipped away at icy spots.

snowI was so happy to come home Friday night and again see the fruits of my labor.  The clear pathway.  The mountain of snow by the street.  No icy or slushy patches to speak of.

My mind often tries to play tricks on me–one of which is the story, “It won’t work out.”  I’m surprised to see, time and again, that with a little grunt work and persistence, I get the results I want.  That “protective” story that things will be very hard and won’t work out in the end, is proven over and over not to be true.  “Hard” is not the same as “can’t do it.”  Do I know everything before I’ve started?  No.  Do I figure things out in the process?  Yes.

Persistence matters.  Most people who are successful got there by chipping away at what they initially didn’t know how to do, bit by bit, like a block of ice.  Backsliding can be a part of the process.  Instead of throwing the shovel down, we take a deep breath, acknowledge our progress, and get back to work.

Results come from breaking down goals into manageable steps and taking action.  But they only happen if we pick up our shovel.

Living Joyfully

Each January, I choose a word for myself to set an intention and a tone for my year ahead.  Over the past year, my word has been “joy.”  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t feel joyful every minute of every day.  It can be easy to get distracted by dirty dishes, vague fears, or even a rainy day.  I can momentarily lose my focus.

But more and more often, I find that the negative stuff that stands in the way of living more joyfully–boredom, fear–is just that, momentary.  And they can be great teachers.  If I feel anxious about the future, I can use my senses to bring me back to the present.  If I’m lonely, I know how to pick up the phone and call someone I care about.  Rather than stuff the initial feeling, I’m learning to get really curious and invite in what it can teach me.

I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been acknowledging I don’t know what the future will bring.  I no longer even want this superhuman ability.  I want to be fully present in this day.  I want to receive the gift of moving through an uncomfortable feeling, not judging but befriending it, and taking baby steps to move into a better place.

I have heard this process described as telling the feeling “thank you for sharing,” then going ahead and acting as if.  Moving through it, not being blocked by it.  When I choose to take the next right action, and the one after that, and the one after that, I’m affirming that feelings aren’t facts, and life just keeps getting bigger.

For me, that can mean bundling up and heading out on a cold night to practice the organ, even if I feel like sitting at home eating brownies, because I know once I get there, I will feel alive and will be moving toward my goals.  I will be living joyfully and in connection to my core self.

It can also mean doing most of the dishes (who needs perfectionism!), taking a hot shower, and crawling in bed with the cat for 8 hours of sleep.  Self-care can take different shapes from one day to the next.  As long as I’m moving toward my goals in the most important areas of my life over the course of a week, then I know I’m on track.  If I tell myself it’s too hard, or focus on the negative, I lose sight of the positive baby steps I’ve taken that add up over time to a fuller, more authentic life.

I’d love to hear from you!  What’s blocking you from experiencing a more joyful life?  When do you feel most joyful?