Tag Archives: personal growth

Career Transitions

Today I did something scary.

I left a music job that I’d held for several years, because I knew it was time for a change. I’m resuming blogging and reconnecting with my community of other coaches and clients, past and future. I have been on a brief maternity leave from coaching and I miss the creativity and connection that this work brings.

In part, I’m leaving my music job for family reasons. My husband is taking five classes on top of doing property management. We frankly have limited family time, and hope to better design the time that we spend together as a family. Therefore, it helps for my work hours to be flexible.

I feel vulnerable sharing about this transition. Change is scary, yet I aspire to bravery, which I see as powerfully taking action in spite of fear. In fact, at the heart of a coaching relationship is willingness to step bravely in new directions that are personally or professionally meaningful.

I coach most often in a few key areas:

  • Career Transitions
  • Health
  • Work/Family Balance

These areas of focus are not accidents! I left a corporate career and turned down an offer from The New York Times to do be an entrepreneur and achieve a more satisfying work/life balance. My husband and I have two wonderful boys, a spirited 3 year old and an almost 4 month old. I have been an avid runner, yogi and hiker at various points in my life (so important to my self-care and physical and mental health).

As a coach, I rely on both evidence and intuition to elicit your wisest, bravest, most confident and curious self. I am fully confident that you are the expert on your own life. The coaching process and methods that I employ make these parts of yourself fully accessible as you decide what’s next and take action.

It’s your life, your vision! I empower clients to clarify and attain their vision. I will provide you with unwavering support and hold accountability as you move forward powerfully towards what you want.

Curious to try coaching? I offer complimentary 30-minute sample calls to see if we would be a good fit. Email or call me to set up a time! Know someone who could benefit? Please feel free to refer me.

Warmly,

Mary Crow

Passion + Persistence Coaching

mary.w.crow@gmail.com

(646) 831-5126

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Choosing Powerfully–In Spite of Fear

As cool fall weather is sweeping in, I’m enjoying seeing all of the yellow, copper, and red leaves, some still on the trees and others that have fallen. I have a lovely view of trees in the park across the street from my house. As I write this, the golden leaves match my living room curtains, making me grateful for both the beauty of nature and the comfort of home.

I used to work at a corporate job in midtown Manhattan and didn’t have very much time to spend at home, especially not in the afternoon. Mid to late afternoon has become one of my favorite times of day, when the sun sweeps across the sky, lights up the living room with its southern exposure, and sets elegantly over the park.

A couple of weeks ago, on an unseasonably warm October day, I took a solitary hike in the Watchung Reservation here in New Jersey, and basked in the beauty of majestically tall trees, sunlight playfully dancing on leaves, and birds singing their avian hearts out.

More time appreciating nature is just one of the rewards of having listened to my heart and followed the path that was right for me–changing careers and stepping into a very different lifestyle than I once knew. It was scary to leave the corporate career that I’d always known. It felt secure, dependable, safe. I was offered a position at the NY Times and had to rely on my coach to help me see that there was something else my heart was calling for. Something less known, but more in line with how I want to express my values today.

Through coaching, music, and preparing to be a mother soon, I’m living some of my deepest values: beauty, creativity, personal growth, curiosity, compassion, caring, health, family, and flexibility. Being rich isn’t on this list. I care about security and frugality, but only in service of my core values. Fear of not having enough no longer rules me.

Life can still be stressful. As I write this, my grandmother is in the hospital after having a stroke. I’m filled both with love and gratittude for my relationship with her–and the good that she has done for so many people in her 95 years–as well as fear and sadness.

This week, I also I went to traffic court. I wrestled with the checkbook to try to make sure I wouldn’t bounce a check. I tracked down electricians and several heating specialists, as part of my responsibilities as a landlady. These are necessary, if frenetic and unpoetic, parts of life. As someone who is an intuitive introvert (to borrow from Myers-Briggs), engaging in a lot of extroverted sensing can feel taxing to me, and takes recovery afterwards.

Yet, my life is essentially exactly as I would wish it, just for today. I have much room for growth, but right now, I’m celebrating what’s good. I’m savoring the fruits of how I’ve chosen to craft my life. My work is deeply meaningful to me–I get to help others be at choice in their own lives. I get to champion them as they create what they want, and celebrate what they’re learning.

I also get to design my own schedule and incorporate self-care. For the first time ever, I get to go to the gym for an hour and take a short nap most afternoons. I alternate between work and my personal life throughout the day, rather than work in an 8 or 9-hour block of time. This may not work for everyone, but it’s ideal for me.

Why can it be terrifying to leave what we know, what has its merits and we consider pretty good, in pursuit of something different, better?

Our saboteurs can be sneaky. I have a “good-enough” saboteur who points out that what I have isn’t bad, so why rock the boat? That belief can literally keep me stuck in a place of dissonance for years. Another saboteur masquerades as trying to protect me: “you’ll get hurt, it’s better not to try.” This often comes from fear of failure or not having enough. It takes good coaching to help me see more resonant perspectives that can move me forward towards what I really want.

Power comes from choosing consciously. My future self is already living her ideal life, fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams. I get to play with discovering what that life is like and who that future self is. Then I get to step into it–again, and again.

Singing Italian in a Jewel Box

At a friend’s suggestion, I recently made a list of challenges and achievements, and discovered that many of my greatest accomplishments have been things that scared me silly at the time.  Here are some items on that list:

+ Lived and studied in Paris
+ Ran a half-marathon
+ Finished first on my team in a regional cross-country race on a rainy, muddy day
+ Canoed through rural Quebec
+ Studied Italian and traveled through Sicily
+ Studied and played organ professionally

All of these experiences involved adventure and challenge. Some entailed physical anguish:  aching at mile 10 of a half-marathon or portaging on a canoe trip.  Other times, the anguish was mental: realizing I had a ways to go at speaking French fluently or being a virtuoso at the organ.

Stretching my limits is both exciting and nerve-wracking.  Since it’s Easter weekend, I’m doing a lot of singing and playing the organ–activities that are very rewarding but make me nervous, because improvement is always possible. When I’m offered an opportunity to play, my inner response tends to be, “This makes me nervous, and I really want to say yes.”

I’ve played the piano since I was seven, but only started learning the organ a couple of years ago.  It’s easy to think people will notice every mistake, but the truth is, no one’s standards for my playing are as high as my own.

Before playing, I often think, “It won’t be perfect, but it will be beautiful.”  This mindset helps me to stay present.  Playing is worth the nervousness–it’s creative, rewarding and fun.  It’s also gratifying to see my progress, no matter how slow.  It gives me a sense of achievement, and hopefully has a positive impact on others.

How can we light the path to our achievements?  Visions can be powerful tools.  I use visions in many areas of my life:  work, family, health.  My “music vision” continues to evolve, but core components are a pipe organ, choir loft, beautiful sanctuary with stained glass, singing a foreign language, decently paid, and pastoral support.

One church where I played last summer checked nearly all of these boxes.  It was gorgeous, like a jewel box or music box–a music box decked with jewels, perhaps.  I played on a 3-manual pipe organ and sang Italian hymns.  It had a choir loft, so I didn’t feel conspicuous.  It didn’t check one or two boxes, but otherwise, it was a music dream come true.

I knew less about the pipe organ when I began playing at that church than I do today.  When I sent in my resume, it was because I believed that I knew enough to get started, to pick up what I didn’t know, and to do a good job.

I had enough passion that I took the right steps to get hired, and filled in the gaps later.  I studied registration more closely–principals,  flutes and reeds; 8, 16, and 4 foot stops.  I learned about couplers.  At first, I relied primarily on pistons (pre-sets), but after a few weeks, I was doing my own registration (or selection of stops).

My vision got me to that point of playing the organ and singing Italian in a jewel-box of a church.  I can look back at various mistakes I’ve made–playing at the wrong time, missing a note or two, ending a hymn too soon–and congratulate myself.

Why?  In most lines of work, someone who is successful fails more than someone who isn’t successful; she just recovers more quickly from her failures.  Who remembers a missed note–or even notices? If I always played it safe, I wouldn’t leave my house.  Some of my “peak experiences,” or vivid memories that reveal my core values, involved stepping way out of my comfort zone, being scared silly, and taking action anyway.

Speaking of leaving my house, the first month I lived in Paris, I barely ventured outside my new neighborhood as I acclimated to new surroundings and a new language.  Yet by the end of the year, I felt at home in the City of Lights.  My comfort zone had widened.  I had learned to navigate the subway, shop for groceries and order lunch at a cafe–all in French.  I certainly hadn’t felt comfortable doing those things when I arrived.

Passion conquers fear, but not without courage and persistence.  We need to be willing to fail, and keep moving forward anyway, to make our dreams a reality.  So keep failing, keep succeeding, and you’ll move ever closer to your wildest dreams.

What is something that you’ve achieved in spite of adversity, because your passion was greater than your fear?  What challenges have you taken on because deep down, you knew that you had it in you?  Most importantly, how can you apply that learning to what you want next in your life?

Reaching for the Stars

I have always been an amateur psychology buff.  In college, I had a class in perceptual psychology,  but mostly I have dabbled in it on my own.  It is part of what led me to coaching.  I am endlessly curious about how our minds work, how we see the world and interpret what we see–what information we gather, and what meaning we assign to that information.

Over the years I have taken a few personality surveys.  I have also encouraged my loved ones to take them, with varying responses.  They aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK.  Personally, I find it fascinating to reflect on what drives and motivates us, what makes us flourish.

I find Myers-Briggs (MBTI) to be revealing and mostly on-point.  Like any paradigm, it has its limitations, but most of its insights resonate with me.  I took the MBTI twice, several years apart.  Interestingly, while my overall type hadn’t changed, my Intuition (I) and Judgment (J) factors had both mellowed considerably–allowing more room for their counterparts, Sensing (S) and Perceiving (P).  I believe we have innate preferences, but through our experiences and choices in how to see and engage with the world, we change.

Another survey I like is the VIA Character Strengths Survey, which measures 25 character strengths and lists them in relative proportion.  My top strength was “Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence,” followed by “Gratitude,” “Love,” and “Perspective.”  For me, this test is revelatory because it points to what I need to flourish–where I thrive and what saves me, as it were.  My top strengths remind me that to be happy, and fully myself, I need to seek opportunities to enjoy beauty, to love and be loved, and to practice gratitude.

How do I do this?  For example, taking my top strength, I look for oases of beauty in the drought of what could otherwise be a sterile week:

  • On a lunch break, I find refuge in a park around the corner with a waterfall and yellow hyacinths in bloom.  It truly restores me.
  • I make time to play the piano, organ, and sing.  Even on a busy weeknight, if fills me up and I leave feeling like myself again.
  • I listen to and watch others who are more talented than I am.  It inspires me and makes me feel alive.

Looking at our less-developed strengths is also a good learning opportunity.  One of my “less developed” strengths is “Bravery.”  The creators of the VIA survey write: “Identify an area in which you generally shy away from confrontations.  Practice the phrases, the tones, and the mannerisms that will enable you to effectively confront the situation next time.”

My first reaction to reading that was, “Are you kidding?”  Identifying confrontations is about the last thing I want to do.  My mind isn’t naturally wired for it.  Nonetheless, our minds are pliable–we can actually forge new neural pathways by changing our thoughts and habits.

And thus, we change and grow.

stars

Coaching asks for openness to seeing ourselves as we are today, seeing ourselves at our most magnificent core, and dedicating ourselves to moving bravely toward our truest self.  It can be a little scary.  At my Fulfillment class at CTI, one of the leaders drew this picture of our comfort zone, with stars outside of it, illustrating that to reach for the stars, we have to step outside our comfort zone.

So, if we’re uncomfortable, we’re doing something right.  Yet we don’t have to be constantly uncomfortable.  We’re allowed to take a step or two forward and stay there–or dance up and down the steps we’re familiar with–till we’ve gathered the resolve to take another step.  We get to be at choice.

CTI led us in a visioning exercise to develop a life purpose, phrased as “I am the ___ that ___.”  I was initially drawn to the image of a lighthouse, that illuminates others’ strengths.  Later, I was drawn to the vision of a lake where I canoed in rural Quebec, out of which came this working life purpose statement: “I am the deep lake that holds beauty within and around it.”

What does it mean and what is its impact?  I can honestly say that I don’t completely know, but that it centers and directs my life journey.  There is something compelling about the beauty of nature, art, music and writing that inhabits me–even simply the appreciation thereof.  What does it mean to hold beauty?  I hold it in my eye, ear, mind, and heart.  How will it impact others?  That story is still unfolding.

What are your top strengths and values, that when engaging in them, you feel the most like yourself?  Who are you at your deepest, most magnificent core?

I’d love to offer a sample phone call to explore your values and what you most want.  What matters?  What are you drawn to?  Call or email me to set up a session to move toward the stars.

Practice Balance by Saying Yes and No

Like many, I’m in the habit of using Google Calendar to schedule a lot of my comings and goings.  I used to only use it for appointments.  Recently, though, I’ve started jotting down reminders like going to the gym, practicing the organ, or doing grocery shopping for the week ahead.  It’s especially helpful for mundane tasks that I’m tempted to avoid, like scheduling a doctor’s check-up.  While most of what I do in life is not on the calendar (nor do I wish it to be), it helps keep me on track and reminds me of where I have chosen to put my focus.

Do I always stick to my decisions? If not, am I still on track?  This evening’s calendar reads: “7:00 practice organ, 8:00 zumba, 9:00 blog,” yet it’s 7:00 and I’m writing my blog.  So how do I know when I can, in good conscience, blow off the gym or whatever projects I have going on?  How do I know when improvising my evening is practicing self-care, or even when it is more productive than what I had planned, rather than a form of laziness?

At the Coaches’ Training Institute (CTI), where I’m training to become a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, I’ve been exploring such concepts  as balance and fulfillment.  While most of us long for balance and fulfillment in our lives, the many options which confront us often become obstacles if we try to say yes to all of them.

When we say yes to anything in our lives, we necessarily say no to something else.   One simple tool that can help clarify our choices is making a list of things in our lives to which we say yes and no.  This morning, I woke up at 5:45, an hour earlier than usual.  I took advantage of the time to write such a list over a cup of coffee:

Q.: By hiring an accountant, what would I be saying yes and no to?

YES: Having more time for myself and with my husband.

NO:  Spending three weekends doing our taxes.

Q.: By seeing a doctor for a check-up, what would I be saying yes and no to?

YES: Self-care.

NO:  Deprivation, procrastination.

Becoming clear on the values attached to various options enables us to choose consciously how to move forward.    Normally, I would automatically rule out hiring an accountant on grounds of expense.  However, applying this tool makes it clear to me that important values are involved.  The time I will spend with my husband and by myself is of much greater value than the fee charged by the accountant.

So tonight, I ‘m saying yes to reflection, writing, relaxation, watching the sunset over the park, enjoying being in our peaceful home with the cat curled up next to me.  I don’t really need that zumba class (after all, I walked to and from work), but I do need to keep up the momentum with my writing.  Therefore, I’m saying no to zumba and practicing the organ.

It’s a good feeling to honor what we need on a given day, even if it’s different from what’s on the calendar.  Even better, when we do it in order to honor a value, we can do it free of guilt.

How do you honor your values when life gets busy?  Where are you saying yes?  Where are you saying no?

If you’re interested in working with me one on one, visit my coaching page for how we can connect.  I’d be happy to offer a complimentary sample coaching session.

In Transition: Home and Other Improvements

No one likes to live through the process of doing a significant home improvement.  But we all crave the result.

This is what our dining room looked like when we were most of the way through having our floors refinished and walls painted.  You can see we managed to move the piano back in, not an easy task.  You can also see there were several annoying tasks left to be done:  removing the painter’s tape.  Moving the china cabinet back in, along with the china, and trying not to break anything in the process. Adding crown molding, which we’ve postponed for several months.

Living through this process meant that we had no access to our living and dining rooms for much of October, and limited access in November until we found time here and there to get things back in place.  Today my husband and I would probably both tell you it was so worth it.  And we would also say having it done (finished, finitio) is so much better than going through having it done.

So many things in life are only tolerable because we’re able to maintain a vision of what we hope the result to look like.  Because we preserved an image of a home with refinished hardwood floors in the place of ratty old carpet (not to mention a replastered ceiling after removing the old drop ceiling), we were able to accept the compromises that come with living in transition:  having extra stuff packed into the bedrooms…not being able to watch movies in our living room.  Because we had a vision we were moving towards, though, we could put those sacrifices in perspective.  After all, they were temporary.

I can often be impatient about living in transition in the context of my own personal development–which is, of course, most of the time.  I am never a finished product.  But I dislike weathering the discomfort of opening myself up to being molded.  How will I look and feel after a change has occurred?

Old habits can be so comfortable that I’m tempted to resurrect them long after I know better.  Why not worry and future-trip…won’t that make me powerful and solve everything? Once I have started practicing a new behavior, it takes awhile before it feels “good” or comfortable like the old one did.  Like wearing a new pair of boots.

Today I believe there’s grace in waiting, not knowing, becoming, discovering, uncovering, practicing.  There’s a beautiful paradox in having a vision of my best self and best life that I’m growing into, yet not really knowing, and staying open to the unknown, that gives me faith to persevere.  I have many great teachers along the way who keep me on track.

Even if the process of change can feel icky, today I recognize if a behavior feels new and uncomfortable, I am probably doing something right.

In the case of our home upgrades, the sacrifices paid off.  We no longer have pink walls and ’70’s-era carpeting.  If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.