Stepping Beyond Your Fear

I stood alone at the base of the granite rock face. I’d hiked over 1,000 miles, but nothing I’d encountered was as challenging as the trail in Maine. I was more than a little afraid.  If I was going to climb over this rock, then I would have to do it on my own.

I had come this far and I wasn’t going back. I took a breath, cinched my pack straps and folded my poles. Now, I could use my hands. I climbed forward, one foot at a time. I grabbed for roots when I could and I trusted my shoe wouldn’t slip on the tiny ledge of rock. Little by little I climbed, up and down, over and over. Twenty days later, I made it. I stood atop Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.

I had no choice but to pull myself out of my fear. Each time I find myself stuck in a scary place, I go back to that moment to rediscover how I can learn and grow.

Start with one small step. Let yourself make the smallest step you can. Confidence grows by taking action. Small steps over time add up. Once you’re moving you can make adjustments to your path.

Review your successes. Find the part of your problem that looks like something you’ve tackled before. When I gazed up that steep rock in Maine, I realized I had already learned everything I needed to know. I had climbed every mountain on the AT since I began the trail. Recognize how your accomplishments have given you the skills you need for your new challenge.

Widen your perspective. Back up and see the big picture. Whenever I reached a viewpoint on the trail, I stopped to see how far I’d come. Three summits away, I could see where I had breakfast. Step back from your project for a broader view. Even better, go for a walk to clear your head.

Envision the completion. Take a few minutes each day to envision everything working out perfectly. Be detailed and specific. Add in sights, sounds, smells, color and emotion. Relish the feeling of success. I pictured standing at that Katahdin sign many times when I was still huddled in my tent miles and miles away. Allow yourself to savor the moment. Then get back to your journey.

Gather your allies. Ask for help from those who know you best. They’ll remind you why you’re meant to achieve the goals you’ve set. The support I received via letters, calls and Facebook messages from friends and family during my 2,000 mile journey was invaluable. Your friends and allies will give you energy and renew your hope. They see your capabilities and believe in you.

When you’re facing a challenge, know your fear will not disappear. Once you realize this truth, you will be free to move forward and accomplish your goals. Georgia O’Keefe said it best:

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck, Still: How to tell if you're doing enough.


Are you doing enough? Recently I've heard so many people - clients, fellow coaches, friends, me sometimes - despairing that they aren't doing enough.  They aren't as awesome as their peers.  Or as some internal ideal. Everyone else is so much more PRODUCTIVE. I've been reading books like Today Matters and Die Empty, which are inspiring and motivating and remind us to get off our butts and do something - to stop hemming and hawing and just go... But these books don't actually tell you to "just go." Because just going isn't necessarily what you need to do.  There are two kinds of "just going".  The first is desperate going so you can say you're moving.  So you don't have to feel like you're being too much of a lump.  So you can jog along and say, "See?  I'm doing something!"  It feels jangly.  It feels electric, but in an uncomfortable, static-y way.  It feels like too much caffeine.  It feels like an out of control spring, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.  It feels frantic.  Sometimes it feels aimless - either like a hamster running in a wheel or like a pinball ricocheting off of lots of light-up bumpers, racking up "points" but getting nowhere.  Let's call this kind "spinning." Spinning can feel exhilarating at first, but it quickly devolves into unfulfilled exhaustion.

The second kind of "just going" feels fresh and adventurous.  Maybe there's a slight tinge of fear, but it's more like anticipation.  It feels solid and grounded but light at the same time.  Like setting out on a hike on a sparkling summer morning. Or picking up a paintbrush and beginning to cover a canvas with color. It feels like possibility.  It feels creative and it feels fun. It's connected to something bigger. Let's call this kind "Sauntering".  Sauntering is moving forward but without hurry or stress - in a relaxed, but purposeful manner.  Not frantic and fast, but at a comfortable pace.

What about not going, you ask?  When does that make sense? Is it always time to move?

Not necessarily.  There are two kinds of "not going" too. The first kind is fear-based.  It feels frozen, heavy and scared. It feels cut off.  It feels like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth, or tires mired in mud.  It wants to climb back under the covers. Maybe watch some TV.  Let's call this kind "Stuck."  Stuck is just how it sounds.  And it feels awful, even when we try to avoid the feeling by snacking, napping, hiding, or distracting ourselves.

The second kind of not going is peaceful and restful.  It feels clear and conscious. Being present and not doing makes more sense for the time being.  It's sometimes paired with planning or visioning.  It's sometimes gearing up for something big.  Let's call this kind "Still."  Still is quiet on purpose.  It's realizing that some of the best ideas only happen when we give ourselves time to percolate, marinate, meditate - time to relax and dream.

I've felt the effects of Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck and Still in recent weeks, and what I know is that I'm so much happier when I'm shifting between sauntering and still.  When I'm spinning and stuck, not so much.  Here are four simple steps to help you recognize spinning and stuck and move toward sauntering and still.

1. Pay attention. Look closely at exactly what you're doing.  Keep a log of your actions (or inactions) - in 15 minute increments, just for a day or two. Be honest!  I can get stuck in a Facebook vortex faster than you can say, "kitten video!" And if there's printed matter in front of me, I can read until an hour or two has drifted past.  It takes brutal honesty to confront where your time is actually going.

2. Ask yourself if you can align enough of your actions with your larger vision or purpose.  If not, then you're probably spinning or stuck.  If you don't even know what your larger vision or purpose is, it's probably time to get still and focus on that first.

3. Check in with your body and your emotions.  If your feelings are positive and your body feels light, you're more likely sauntering or still.  If your feelings are negative and your body feels heavy, you're more likely spinning or stuck.  *Warning:  Sometimes stuck and spinning can feel positive at first - kind of like the initial sugar high before the crash.  Be attentive to your overall emotional state, and the feeling in your body.

4. Reflect at the end of the day, each day for a week.  Are you content with the way you spent the day?  Can you point to some action or some experience that feels like it's connected with your big picture goals? (Back to #2!)  Do you have a nice mix of happy action (Sauntering) and relaxed recharging (Stillness)?

Just having these four categories helps me be honest with what I'm doing.  Once I'm aware, I can choose to make a change.  It feels great to climb into bed after a day of engaging Sauntering mixed with restorative and reflective Stillness. And it feels like enough.  Days like that remind me of the quote I used to have on the wall of my classroom: "Vision without action is only a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world."

How about you?  Where do you find yourself spending more time - spinning, sauntering, stuck or still?  When you're spinning or stuck, what strategies do you like to use to move back into sauntering or stillness?  How do you like to address the voice that says you haven't done enough?  Share your ideas in the comments, or email me, and let's continue the conversation!

White horses and the power of intention

I just returned from a sublime week in California, wrapping up my Master Coach training with Martha Beck herself.  It was beyond special.  I've had difficulty figuring out how to describe the experience with words. There was a convergence of beauty and energy of place, people, horses and nature.  There was a collective intention to learn, love and share.  I am beyond honored to be called a Master Coach, and of course I'm still learning and always will be. While I was working on my application for the Master Coach program back in March, I created a super-quick vision board one morning.  It looked like this:

horse vision
horse vision

My favorite part of it was this woman draped in filmy orange fabric, a beautiful white horse behind her, its eyes peacefully closed.  This was my intention for the horse coaching that I knew would come at the end of our training.  At that point I just wanted to survive the horse coaching.  I didn't know too much about it except that you couldn't hide anything from a horse.  I had a crazy idea that the horses would gaze deep into my soul, find me wanting, and ignore me or run away.  So this image , which I gazed at for many months leading up to my horse experience, well, it was there to comfort me.  Maybe I would be like gauzy-dress-woman and a white horse would follow me.  Peaceful.  (I ignored the reality that the horse was probably blinking from the wind machine that had the model's hair going all crazy like that.)

So, the months went on.  I completed myriad assignments. I received helpful feedback.  I cried some.  I hid some.  I stepped out some.  I tried all kinds of crazy ideas.  I took some risks.  I did my best to be present and to show up.  And finally, the time came to show up in person at Martha's ranch.

I arrived just a little bit early with Erin, a fellow Master-Coach-to-be who was familiar with the ranch and the horses, as she's an expert Equus coach. (Thank you, Universe, for making those arrangements!)  We had time to go see the beautiful labyrinth, which meant walking through a fenced area with horses.  Two white horses!


So there I was.  Me and a white horse.  No boundaries between us.  Plenty of room for it to ignore me and stay far away, disappointed with my lack-luster soul.

Ah, but that's not what happened.  No.  This horse came right up to me.  Snuffled my face with his sweet velvety nose.  Exhaled his grassy breath onto my cheek.  (How had I never had that incredible experience before?)  We took a selfie together.  Erin said it appeared that he was very agreeably posing with me.


Wow.  We hadn't even gotten to the horse coaching day and my vision had come true, minus orange see-through dress and wind machine.

Now I see white horses everywhere.  I saw this beautiful one yesterday.


I bet he dresses up like a unicorn for Halloween!

I saw a spotted white and tan horse today, but didn't take a picture.  I'm seeing them everywhere, in catalogs, in paintings. Nearly every day, a white horse.  For now, they're talismans of what's possible, just like it said in the appropriately orange words I glued across gauzy-girl's waist.  "Think what's possible." So much is possible.  Me.  A master coach.  Hanging out for a weekend with Martha, Koelle, Jennifer, Bridgette.  And my wonderful Master Coach cohort. Learning.  Teaching.  Sharing.  Being.


So much is possible.

Vision boards help  me with my intentions.  They provide images for me to connect with, perhaps even on a subconscious level.  And they are so much fun! If you're in the New Orleans area and love vision boards and wigs and dancing, it's still not too late to sign up for WIGS and WIGS this Thursday, November 14.  Who knows what you might put on your board that may come true in the best way? Intention is a powerful tool.

And if you see a white horse, please say hello for me!

Badger on the left, Buddha on the right...


I love visualizing my intentions with a vision board.  Seems that right now I'm  channeling equal parts honey badger (regular badger standing in on left) and Buddha (up on the right.)  I'm still not sure what the upcoming trip of a lifetime will be; interestingly, every day is part of that "trip of a lifetime", isn't it?  And that's the frame of mind and type of action (and sometimes inaction/rest) I'd like to cultivate.  I'm interested in a way of living that's sustainable, not just for the planet, but for my soul.What does it mean to channel equal parts honey badger and Buddha?  For me it means plenty of risk taking, going for it, trying things, leaping, being fearless, having fun (honey badger) and also plenty of serenity, presence, rest, awareness, calm, compassion, and love (Buddha).  Equal parts doing and being.

Sometimes it's heavier on the being. Less writing, less posting, less sharing, less social media. More time in the grass with the cat, watching the blue jays in the back yard, or visiting with friends in real life while not worrying about "checking in" or photographing my cocktail or my food or our happy faces (although I do all of those too, sometimes!)

Sometimes it's heavier on the doing.  Creating and teaching classes.  Hosting events.  Sharing inspiration.  Trying something completely new.  Dealing with my ever-overflowing email.  Going to parades, parties and plays. Photographing everything!

Tomorrow night I'll be hosting a vision boarding party that includes plenty of wildness-- we'll all be in wigs, we'll be going out dancing, we'll even see some burlesque(!) But first we'll begin with setting our dreams and visions to paper, lovingly, with images and beautiful printed words.

Then Sunday, I'm hosting a wordless walk in the springtime swamp, right at sunset. Quiet, restorative, relaxing.  Definitely focused on being.

Do you feel like you have an equal balance of doing and being in your life right now?  Is there one side you'd like to cultivate more? More Badger?  More Buddha?

If you're looking for more being, try taking a wordless walk in nature. Sign up for my updates and you'll receive my free Wordless Cure for Busyness kit, complete with wordless walk directions and wordless video clips for little tastes of calm.

If you're looking for more doing, grab some friends and plan a fun event out - brunch, dancing, or even a vision boarding party!  Here are some simple directions: All you need are magazines, scissors, glue sticks, poster boards and some ideas about what you want in the future and how it's going to feel.  Find photos or images that make you think of the goals and the feelings you've chosen, and collage away! Then, most important, look at your vision board every day.  Access the great feelings you'll have when your visions come true.  Imagine it as if it's happened.  When you do that, you'll be amazed at what begins to appear to help your dreams come true. It's not magic, really - it's turning toward what's possible.

Hey! I think I'll host a free virtual vision board party on the evening of May 16, 2013! (I came up with this idea as I wrote this blog post, really! Very badger!) That would be fun!  If you want to get more details, make sure you're signed up for updates!

Buddha. Badger.  What do you need?  Make it happen.

One year in the life of an entrepreneur - woo, work, and moving "any amount"

bent spoon
bent spoon

Wow.  Just about a year ago, I completed my coach training. The official date was February 29.   That morning, I bent a spoon that I thought was unbendable.  Not with my mind, with my hands, but it still felt like a feat.   (Spoon bending is kind of woo-woo and my science teacher side thinks it's ridiculous and a little hoax-y, but when I was able to bend a spoon that I had never been able to bend before on the final day of my coach training program, some woo woo part of me thought that was pretty cool. And then it almost immediately went back to being skeptical!) Since that spoon bending morning, I did a lot.  I coached and coached.  I hosted a book club about Martha Beck's new book, Finding Your Way in a  Wild New World, my first foray into conference call tele-courses.  I met Martha and over 300 other coaches at an incredible conference in Arizona.  I made stickers with my own Wild and Precious word collage and shared them with everyone. I got certified! I made a beautiful blank journal filled with inspiring quotes and my own photos. I hosted two amazing retreats.  I created a signature local experience called WIGS and WIGS.   I started a Facebook Page.  I started a Meetup group. I coached and coached!  I cleared out boxes and boxes of old papers and flotsam and jetsam from my 16 year science teaching career.  I created a five month course for women planning to hike the Appalachian Trail, and 20 amazing women joined it! I participated in two amazing months-long mastermind experiences with other talented coaches. I coached and coached.  I hosted eighteen wordless walks in the swamp.  I learned how to use programs that let me email pretty newsletters.  I emailed pretty newsletters!  I started using a real online appointment scheduling program.  I got a business banking account and a real business license! I cleared out boxes of old holiday cards and old clothes and other clutter that was lurking in the nooks and crannies of our home.  I read dozens of books about time management, de-cluttering, entrepreneurship, and all kinds of other coach-y stuff.  I created a course about managing money indulgently, and 31 fabulous women signed up!  And all throughout, the coaching and coaching - my clients are incredible and it's an honor to be by their sides while they transform their lives in big and small ways.

Sometimes I was good about telling people what I was doing, sometimes I kind of flew under the radar, sharing mostly with friends and family, wondering who else would be interested, or just being a little too scared to be "out there."  But the more I go ahead and sing what I do from the rooftops, the more wonderful opportunities, gifts and amazing experiences come my way!  So I'm learning to be braver.

This entrepreneurship stuff - it's wild.  Even when you surround yourself with people supporting and guiding you who've built incredible businesses, you still have to take your own steps, every day.  No one's going to do it for you, and no one's going to fire you if you don't do it.  You're suddenly only responsible to yourself, and that's a very interesting challenge!

So I learned to do something "any amount." When my yoga teacher is trying to help us correct our form in a pose, she asks us to make a small change with our bodies.  She says things like, "Bring your right hip up any amount." or "Spread your collar bones any amount." or "Lengthen your left torso any amount." Her message is that any incremental shift is valuable - we don't have to be perfect in our poses, but our awareness of where we're headed helps us move toward our goals, even when we can't quite perceive the body part moving at all.

That's how I've felt about this whole year.  I've been making shifts, trying things, moving this here and that there, any amount.  My posture might not be perfect, but I'm showing up.  And I've gained so much from my efforts, even when they're not quite "right".

Could I have done more this year?  Yes.  Could I have grown more quickly?  Yes.  Could I have been more focused, less inclined to nap, more consistent about blogging, sharing, communicating, planning, being strategic, less inclined to meet a friend, go for a walk, sit in the grass?  Yes. Could I have fixed the thousand things I can't stand about how this website is right now instead of taking the time to shop for and cook yummy local food, or curl up with a cat and a book, or climb into the tub, or go for a bike ride with my sweetheart?  Yes.

But there's the trick.  While building this business, I'm also doing my best to live my one wild and precious life.  To take a week off to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  Another couple of weeks off to explore the mountains of Colorado.  A week on the beach in Florida. All year I've taken enough time to sleep well, nearly every night. I listen to my body, and I haven't been sick a single day!

Sure, I've wasted my share of time.   I've watched way too many cat videos, read too many comments on articles I was only marginally interested in, watched too many Cake Bosses and 30 Rocks and Parks and Recreations on Netflix streaming.  I can avoid my work with the best of them, even after reading every Steven Pressfield book out there.

Nevertheless, overall it's felt like a year of miracles, especially when I've embraced the "woo" side and let the magic happen.  Wise owls appeared.  I spontaneously got to go see Madonna after putting her on my vision board. I created things, put them out in the world, and people signed up! Overall I've been challenged, inspired, and happy.

And here's what I've learned, boiled way down:

Four things to remember when you're working on something big: 1. Once you can envision it, it's really possible!  But you have to be able to picture it first. That's where vision boarding, writing and dreaming really help. 2. Start taking the steps.  Turtle steps.  Do anything.  Any amount.  And keep repeating. 3. Let yourself freak out, take a break, avoid, nap, temporarily run away.  It's ok.  Just come back to it when you're ready and start again. And try not to worry. 4. Embrace the woo.  Magic really is available to you. Look for it in the simplest things. Find it in nature, or in your imagination. Abandon your inner skeptic occasionally and let the unicorns prance around in your head a little.  Bend a spoon or two!

I'd love to hear what you do to keep the momentum going with a big undertaking, a new project, or exciting endeavor.  Share what's working for you in the comments!