The Non-Negotiables

In this interview on balancing parenthood and work (something we struggle with in our house), Brene Brown said something simple yet powerful. When asked about how she structures her day, she identified her non-negotiables:

I don’t negotiate sleep, exercise, or healthy food. I can’t show up for my life when I’m tired, eating crappy, or not exercising.

Isn't that the truth?  A couple of months ago, during a period of time when the baby thought it would be nice to get up and eat three times a night, my husband and I were non-functional.  Our thinking was fuzzy. I lost  patience & presence with my older kids. I  found myself reaching for energy in the form of Coke Zeros and anything  I could eat from a bag while standing up.

Since then, we have turned things around in the sleep and eating departments and we are working on the exercise. This means that sometimes, for the sake of sleep, a pile of dishes is left in the sink overnight or work is left undone.  It means more frequent trips to the grocery store to buy fresh food.  My next step is opening the calendar and scheduling walks.

My husband and I  also recognize that if our current way of living does not support what's most important (time with family, our health), it's time to make bigger decisions about how we live and work.

What makes your life work? A morning run? A walk during lunch? Reading the paper? A daily green smoothie? Time to pray, write, or paint?  Family dinners? Date night?

What supports your values? What sets you up to do what matters? What will you not negotiate?

You Are Invited to Find Your Purpose

Your soul came in with a plan.

Your life has a purpose.

But what if you're not sure what the plan or purpose is?

Or what if you do know and you're stuck under your desk feeling terrified to take that leap (You are not alone!)?

This post is to let you know that Martha Beck is teaming up with physician author/blogger Lissa Rankin and author/ life coach Amy Ahlers to help you uncover your life's purpose.  The trio is offering a free class they are calling a "no holds barred tele-jam" on October 10th as an intro to a new telecourse.

Find Your Calling Tele-Jam   with Martha Beck, Lissa Rankin & Amy Ahlers LIVE worldwide event on 10/10 at Noon PT/3pm ET Listen via webcast or phone.

I just signed up.

You can register for the free call here.

If you can't make the call, no worries. Register & they will send you the recording.

The details were sent early to Martha Beck coaches. Here is what they will cover in the free tele-jam:

  • The magic hot tracks formula for tapping into your life's purpose (go on a safari with them!)
  • How a Down syndrome baby, a suicide, and a brain tumor changed everything (and led to hope, magic, miracles and life purpose)
  • The road map for finding your calling and how to identify where you are right now (so you can feel peace about your process)
  • Why the question "What do you want?" may be the WRONG question to ask yourself (and the juicy, hot, kick-ass question to ask instead)
  • The single most important, and almost always overlooked, tool for figuring out why you're on the planet (sometimes the most powerful things are the simplest!)

We are told that Martha, Lissa, and Amy are going to spill the beans about how they found their own callings.

"See" you on the call!




when your life doesn't look like an ad

I had what I call an"ugly phase" this past February. I was due to give birth to my daughter. You're probably thinking it was pregnancy that caused this ugly period, but actually, that wasn't it. Other than a ginormous (my husband's word) belly (which is one of those things you sort of expect when you're expecting), my body seemed relatively intact. Here is what happened.

I was home all day, working very little, alternating between resting and slowly checking nesting items off of my to-do list. I would literally complete one simple task (start a load of laundry) and have to sit down for a few minutes to recover (see belly description above). And (here's the key), I had the TV on for hours a day. The line up started with the Today Show and ended with Dr. Oz in the afternoon. So as I walked around the house and sat for short spells, I caught snippets of segments and...plenty of ads.

Unaware of what provoked my thinking at the time, I noticed myself going to my shopping lists and adding beauty and health care items like eye cream (I wasn't sure what to use but felt certain I needed something) and supplements.

I felt uglier after watching all of this TV. And don't get me started on the makeover my house needed.

Society via the media has expectations not only about how we look, but everything about us: how much money we need, how to spend it, how to decorate our houses, what activities to choose for our kids, what food to eat, how to spend our time...

According to research by James R. Mahalik, Ph.D. at Boston College, society’s top expectations for women are to be: nice, thin, modest, and use all available resources on appearance. To conform to norms, men need to: be in emotional control, put work first, pursue status, and be violent.

These expectations wear us down and set us up for believing we are not enough as we are, that we are the only ones who don't have it all together. They get in the way of our self-confidence. When we believe these expectations are the "norm," they trigger shame.

According to Brene Brown, Ph.D., shame is "the intensely painful feeling or experience that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." It drives us to work hard to keep everything just right on the outside so we will fit in and people will like us. And we all experience it.

Dr. Brown offers an antidote to shame: critical awareness. Think of it as a coaching tool to apply to all of those "have to" and  "should" thoughts. Here's how you do it.

Notice what triggers shame for you. Including "appearance and body image" (an "almost universal" shame trigger), Dr. Brown has identified 12 categories in which women, in particular, struggle with feelings about themselves:  motherhood, family, parenting, money & work, mental & physical health, sex, aging, religion, being stereotyped & labeled, speaking out & surviving trauma.

Reality-check your expectations (those "should" thoughts) in your trigger categories by questioning them.  Dr. Brown lists different sets of questions in her two books, I Thought It Was Just Me and The Gifts of Imperfection. I combined and adapted her questions:

  • How realistic are my expectations, especially considering my life circumstances? Is what I am seeing in the media (magazines, TV, movies, Facebook, photos, music) showing real life or fantasy?
  • Can I be all of these things all of the time?
  • Do the expectations conflict or compete with each other? Can they really exist together?
  • Do these expectations reflect who I want to be (what matters to me) or what others want me to be?
  • How do I try to manage other people's perceptions of me?
How realistic is it for you to lose 60 pounds as quickly as Beyonce did (unless you have nannies, personal trainers, chefs...)?  Can you really simultaneously have small children and pets running around a house that looks like a Pottery Barn catalog? Or work full time and care for your teenagers & aging parents? For a man who has been laid off, how is he supposed to look invulnerable, put  his non-existent job first, and climb the ranks?
We think we should look confident, but how can we feel confident when we internalize expectations that are unrealistic, competing, and of little or no value to us?
And don't forget that it's all supposed to look easy, even if it wears you out on the inside.
I remember Oprah stating at one point, that she decided not to have children because she couldn't be the parent she wanted to be and career woman she was .  She must have realized that she couldn't be both at the same time.
I know critical awareness has helped me feel more compassion toward myself when I am caught up the unrealistic, competing expectations - when I think I should have been able to cook a healthy, homemade dinner, sweep the dog hair from the floor, and paint my toenails (Who am I kidding? That doesn't even make the list these days!) after addressing the higher priorities. I hope you see right through your "shoulds" too.

For more about what gets in the way of confidence and how to let it go, join The Confidence Course. Starts June 12!

what keeps you up at night?

My 5-year-old recently asked me to read her a book that turns out, belonged to my husband when he was a kid (that explains the yellowed pages).  In the book, There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer, a little boy tells us how he handled the nightmare in his closet.

The boy was afraid to even look at his closet, but one night, he decided to get rid of the nightmare once and for all.

The boy shot the nightmare, who began to cry. The nightmare wouldn't stop crying, so the boy took him by the hand and tucked him into bed.

And the nightmare stopped crying and fell asleep next to the boy.

Of course, I couldn't help but see the parallels between the boy's nightmare and the thoughts that keep us up at night. And just like the story, when we fight and struggle with our fears and think they shouldn't be there, they persist and get louder.

In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach, refers to the "dragons" in our minds:

Women have always known how to deal with the dragons hiding under beds or lurking in closets. We turn on the lights and reassure worried souls with love. We need to slay the dragons in our minds the same way.

So instead of trying to get rid of your worries & fears, get to know the nightmares and dragons who are just doing their job. Shine your flashlight on those thoughts and see them for what they are: words and pictures in your mind. Love and thank your mind for being normal in its endless production of worries. Show yourself compassion for caring about your life and the people in it. Then the dragons won't bother you as much. Then the nightmares will fall asleep. And so can you.

What keeps you up at night? Is it money worries? Work stress? Feeling like you are wasting time? Relationship problems? Uncertainty? Not knowing what career to pursue? Too much to do? Over-analyzing the day's interactions and wishing you could change what you said or did?

I really want to know because I want to use my coaching knowledge & experience to help us all sleep better. Comments welcome below or here on Facebook.

A Letter To My Daughters

A year ago, I wrote a Letter To My Daughters, Ella & Maddie, to express my hopes for their lives.  I shared the letter on my blog because I have the same hopes for all of you. Since then, we added a third little beauty - sweet, cuddly, delicious Molly...

For Mother's Day, I re-visited the letter and tweaked it just a bit...

Dear Ella, Maddie and Molly,

First, I hope that our home is a place where you feel free to be yourselves – where you can proclaim your brilliance and awesomeness and also share your fears and doubts – where you know you are loved and accepted and always belong.

I hope that you take care of and love yourselves – that you nourish those beautiful bodies and you are kind to yourselves in your thoughts. As you grow older, I hope that you surround yourselves with people who reflect your kindness, encourage your growth, and extend the safe place to fully be yourselves.

Life is messy and imperfect and sometimes difficult. As much as I would like to protect you from all of that, I know my work is not to shield you, but to help you navigate the challenges, make room for mistakes, and believe in your ability to do hard things. Whatever life brings, you will handle it. God always has a plan for you.

I hope you discover work that lights you up, that calls upon your strengths and allows you to contribute to others’ lives.

Every day, I hope you do what is most important to you. I hope you define success as doing just that. I hope you give more consideration to being the person you want to be than to what others think of you. I hope you know that your worth is not dependent on titles or accomplishments, that you are always enough. I hope you choose growth over perfection. And that you don’t take it all too seriously.

I hope you enjoy peace and savor beauty.

I want you to know that Daddy & I and your grandparents, aunt, and uncles love you so much and are so happy that you are all here.

Finally, I hope that you continue to treasure the relationships likely to be the longest you will ever have – those with each other.

I love you, Mommy

The Confidence Course

How would your life be different if you had more confidence?

There is a Confidence Revolution here at Blueprint. Next in a sequence of offerings is The Confidence Course starting June 12th.

This telecourse is designed to help you develop genuine confidence to perform better in your career & relationships.

Perhaps you would like to be more effective working with clients, building your business, seeking a relationship, starting an important project, parenting, or socializing.You may have an upcoming interview, presentation or event, or are considering a change. Perhaps you would like to be more focused & engaged, self-accepting, or authentic in your relationships.

Confidence helps you to be more of the person you want to be.

The 4-week course addresses the following:

Class #1 (june 12)

  • Identifying how your life would be different if you had more confidence ("The Life Change List") and pinpointing which of the five main causes of low self-confidence may apply to you in a particular area
  • Uncovering your thoughts that cause worry, self doubt, shyness and fear
Class #2 (june 19)
  • Practicing a variety of tools to detach from thoughts that sabotage your confidence
  • Clarifying your values, the person you want to be in your life, what matters most to you
Class #3 (june 26)
  • Handling fear and anxiety so they have less impact on you
  • Building shame resilience
Class #4 (june 28)
  • Being present, mindfully engaging
  • Taking confident action
The Confidence Course includes: four live calls (60-90 minutes each) on three Tuesdays and one Thursday at 5:00pm PST, mp3s recordings of calls (so no worries if you can't make classes), e-mailed worksheets, and lists of additional resources for the investment of $97. The first three participants to register receive a complimentary individual coaching session ($110 value).
How to register? Simply e-mail me ( with subject: Confidence Course).


Questions? I would love to hear from you:

Preview: This course is not about controlling your feelings, thinking positive thoughts or "faking it." It's about pulling your time & energy from managing perception and putting it into doing what matters.It's about being who you want to be and making your life work. And it's going to be fun!

"Your approach to confidence is very innovative and groundbreaking/paradigm-shifting" -Kim, lawyer in Ontario, Canada

Book Club Night

Have you read or thought about reading Martha Beck's new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World? I devoured it and then went back for seconds and thirds. The book is about uncovering your true nature to let it direct your choices.  To give you a taste, you'll find these two questions on the back cover:

Question 1: How the hell did I get here?

Question 2: What the hell should I do now?

I am hosting a "Book Club Night" at my house in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 22nd to dig deeper into this book and you are invited. We will discuss and practice exercises in the book, eat yummy food, sip wine, try green smoothies and leave with goodie bags (and hopefully a peaceful, connected perspective).

More details are found here on my website. Interested? Questions? Just e-mail me.


Small Change, Big Impact

A friend recently asked me how I stay so calm. I am certainly not always calm (just ask my kids), but one change I have noticed since training as a coach is that things don't bother me as much.

What I mean is that the little things (a messy house, fighting kids, the long list of unfinished tasks, drama, a broken car) don't stress me out like they once did and even big, scary fears aren't as powerful.

When I consider what has helped me, there is one simple thing I now do automatically that I know has made a big impact.

I have learned to be very aware of what I am thinking.

It  may not sound like much, but simply noticing the thoughts going through your mind gives you some space and detachment from those thoughts. And if those thoughts are unhelpful (you know the type - What will people think...I don't have enough money...I can't get it together...I'll never be able to leave this job...I can't handle this), they will have less power to cause you anxiety, stress, and fear.

To increase your awareness, become a detective or  scientist who is objectively studying your mind. When you feel stress or tension, observe the words in your mind with curious interest, not judgement. Oh, I'm thinking that if I say the wrong thing, my boss will regret hiring me. It's that same old "she doesn't like me" story. Isn't that interesting (Naming your thoughts/story like this creates even more distance).

To uncover deeper thoughts causing you stress, take the situation that is bothersome and ask yourself, What am I making this mean? Why is that a problem in my mind?

Simply just notice what comes up.

I love working with people who know nothing about coaching. If you are unfamiliar with life coaching, but are open to powerful, practical tools to increase calm and handle stress & anxiety, I have a 3-session Declutter Your Mind program for you.

What's Next For You?

In case you are subscribed to my blog, but not my newsletter, here is the February newsletter. It's chock full of practical relationship advice and new offerings including a way to figure out What's Next and a Book Club Night that includes green smoothies and goodie bags.

Hand Over Your Worries

A friend of mine recently told me about "worry dolls." According to the story, when the Mayan people have worries, they tell them to the dolls and place the dolls under their pillows at night. In the morning, the worry dolls have taken away their worries.

Sounds like a coaching tool! Any strategy that helps give you space from your unhelpful thoughts (worrying is never helpful) contributes to your presence, peace of mind and well being (and sleep!). Lately, with so much on my mind, I have imagined placing my thoughts on my nightstand before bed or seeing my worries contained in a bubble in the air. You might see your worries (the actual words of your thoughts) going by on cars driving past your home or hear your fears to the tune of Jingle Bells or Happy Birthday (try it).

I bought some worry dolls at Cost Plus as stocking stuffers for my girls, but I think they can come in handy for us adults, too. Sweet dreams.

Troubled? Then stay with me, for I am not. ~Hafiz, ancient Sufi

Photo by Geoff Captain.

Life Tips for O Magazine

I'm always excited to receive an e-mail from O Magazine (who, by the way, seems to employ only very nice people). When the marketing director asked if I would like to write tips for a Phillips advertorial, of course I was in. The guidelines were: 5 tips on living a more fulfilling and thoughtful life. I tried to capture the most helpful advice I give clients and myself - little things that make a big impact.  If you have the November issue of O Magazine, you can scan the bar code (with a "QR code reader") to view & share the tips. Here they are ...

1. The most important question you can ask to live a fulfilling life is, what is most important to me? Who is the person I want to be? What do I want to stand for? When you figure out what you value, the parts of your life fall into place. 

2. As you go through your day, simply notice the words going through your head. Are these thoughts helping you be your best? If not, can you let them go - on balloons floating up toward the sky or waves crashing into the ocean?

3. Ground yourself in presence through your senses. Focus your attention on the sensations of a hot shower, the light in your child's eyes, the piece of chocolate in your mouth, the sound of your own breathing.

4. Let yourself feel what you feel. Resisting or distracting yourself from uncomfortable emotions is a way to get stuck. Accepting what you feel and what is going on around you is the path to positive change.

5. Practice gratitude. Even when you are struggling with a problem, say thank you because you know that you will make it through, that your deepest struggle is your greatest source of strength and confidence.

Discover ways to increase your confidence in 2012- Sign up for the free blueprint newsletter.

Steps to Designing Your Ideal Life

If you were to set about designing your ideal life, you may consider where you want to live, who you want to love, what you want to do for work...But instead of starting with your ideal circumstances, start with who you want to be.

Instead of asking, "What do I want my life to look like," ask, "Who is the person I want to be in my life?" What sort of action do I take everyday in order to be that person? Take a look at  How To Live the Perfectly Unbalanced Life for tips on clarifying your values & describing the person you want to be.

You can honor your values and be your best self in almost any set of circumstances. I've had a few clients come to coaching with the question of whether or not to leave their marriages. This is no small problem and only my clients can decide for themselves. But what I suggest is this: First, let go of trying the change the other person and focus on being the person you want to be - perhaps that is someone who is loving, eats healthfully, and is engaged with her kids. When/if your marriage interferes with you being that person, then perhaps it's time to consider leaving. If a friend or partner was physically hurting you, then you would leave (this is an extreme example that does not apply to my clients). Your relationship would be keeping you from being someone who takes care of her health and safety - things you value.

So maybe you don't like your job. If you can't quit or you're not sure if you want to, how can you be your best self at work? How can you be the uplifting boss, the lifelong learner, the supportive co-worker? Be that person now, regardless of the details of your actual work.

Then, when you get to considering the circumstances or goals of your life, ask "What circumstances best support me being the person I want to be?" What supports my growth and what matters to me?

What career supports your value of being a present parent? What city or neighborhood supports your appreciation of beauty and nature? What friendships nurture your authentic self?

The things that are part of your right life support what you value and who you want to be.

Have you signed up for the free Blueprint Life Design newsletter? Don't miss the updates, tips, photography, products, book recommendations, and coaching specials.

Photography by Geoff Captain.

Letter To My Daughters

Inspired by Michele Woodward, I wrote a letter to my daughters to express my hopes for their lives. I decided to share the letter here because I have many of the same hopes for you...

Dear Ella and Maddie,

First, I hope that our home is a place where you feel free to be yourselves - where you can proclaim your brilliance and awesomeness and also share your fears and doubts - where you know you are loved and accepted and always belong.

I hope that you take care of and love yourselves - that you nourish those beautiful bodies and you are kind to yourselves in your thoughts. As you grow older, I hope that you surround yourselves with people who reflect your kindness, encourage your growth, and extend the safe place to fully be yourselves.

Life is messy and imperfect and sometimes difficult. As much as I would like to protect you from all of that, I know my work is not to shield you, but to help you navigate the challenges, make room for mistakes, and believe in your strength and resilience. Whatever life brings, you will handle it. God always has a plan for you.

I hope you discover work that lights you up, that calls upon your strengths and allows you to contribute to others' lives.

Every day, I hope you do what is most important to you. I hope you define success as doing just that. I hope you give more consideration to being the person you want to be than to what others think of you. I hope you know that your worth is not dependent on titles or accomplishments, that you are good enough to do anything. And that you don't take it all too seriously.

I hope you enjoy peace and savor beauty.

I want you to know that Daddy & I and your grandparents, aunt, and uncles love you so much and are so happy that you are here.

Finally, I hope that you continue to treasure the relationship likely to be the longest you will ever have - that with each other.

I love you, Mommy

How To Live the Perfectly Unbalanced Life

A balanced life sounds like the right life, right? There are magazine articles, experts, and ads showing us how to balance all of the parts of our lives, giving enough attention to each so that one does not tip the scales and throw our lives completely out of whack. But I am starting to think that this is goal of balance is not helpful. It may lend itself to living someone else's life and not your right life.

Being well-rounded is highly overrated. - Danielle La Porte

So I propose the perfectly unbalanced life - A timespan that reflects who you are and what is most important to you. In the perfectly unbalanced life, you schedule your time based on your values. You consider your natural preferences, strengths and realities of your life when choosing what to do. You cut or limit tasks that are not important to you.

What does this look like? A perfectly unbalanced life may mean that you never watch the news or American Idol because you spend your nights starting a business, writing, rocking a baby, or teaching a class. You may may leave work to care for an ill parent or work two jobs to pay off debt.  Imbalance may mean that your kids don't play sports or that you spend most evenings on a field because that matters. You may have volunteered in the last election or not voted at all.

This weekend, maybe you went for a hike instead of  returning all of those e-mails. You forgo carpooling and cooking dinner for a while to train for the half marathon. You may have tended to your garden for hours today or paid someone to mow your lawn. Perhaps your budget reflects your value of education, travel, or therapy.  You never get to deeply cleaning your house because you are deeply engaged with your family or friends.

You may never do things you think most people do. You may spend an inordinate amount of time doing what most people don't. It's up to you to determine what is most important to you.

Follow your own path, and let people talk. -Dante

This life  involves saying "no" and  feeling  uncomfortable at times. It may mean struggling with others' opinions about what you should be doing (especially at your age or this day in age), but ultimately recognizing that the "shoulds" and "have tos" are not helpful. A perfectly unbalanced life evolves as your priorities and life circumstances change.

Here is the real beauty of the perfectly unbalanced life: By addressing what is most important, you make your life fulfilling and meaningful. Right. Now.

Unbalancing your life starts by getting to know yourself better. Here is a way to get clear on your values for direction on how to spend your time:

  • On  a piece of paper,  list the different domains of life - Health, Work, Marriage/Relationship, Parenting, Personal Growth, Spirituality, Leisure, Community, Family Relationships, Social Relationships.
  • Under each domain, write down the sort of person you want to be in this area. What do you want to do? What do you want to stand for? I find it most helpful to word this in terms of ongoing action. For example, under Parenting, I wrote down, "being present & engaged with my kids." Under Social Relationships, you may write, "being a supportive friend." If a domain is not important to you, leave it blank. It's good to know.
  • Now, look at each domain and mark on a scale of 0-10 how important this value is to you right now, 0 indicating no importance and 10 indicating very important (It's ok if some areas have the same rank).
  • Then, go through each domain again and mark on the 0-10 scale how effectively you are living this value right now and subtract from rank of importance.

The larger the difference for the domain, the more important it is for you to address it, to tip the scales in its favor. Throw yourself into this value. The difference between how much we value something and how we act on it is a source of suffering. This exercise shines the light on where to direct your time & attention to achieve that perfect imbalance.

Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are more people who have come alive. -Howard Thurman

Wondering what Confidence Coaching is? It's a game changer.

How To Have a Fit Mind

How would you like to be psychologically healthier and more flexible? That is, how would you like to be in the present moment, open to your experience, and able to take action toward what is most important to you, while handling life's problems & challenges more effectively?

I've designed a series of tele-classes based on my training as a Martha Beck coach, my experience coaching clients, and the research and techniques of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I use these tools in my own life and I'm excited to share them because I believe they are useful to everyone. The first two classes in this series (Clear Mind Clutter and Clear Emotional Clutter) are held this week and next (February 24th and March 3rd). The classes will help you identify and detach from unhelpful thoughts and accept difficult feelings so that the thoughts and feelings have less impact on you. So you can live your life with more freedom from fear, doubt, stress and anxiety. So you can take steps in a direction that is important to you, that fills your life with meaning and purpose.

The cost for each class is $20 or you can join both classes for only $30. Sign up here.

I hope to see you in class!

In case you're not yet a newsletter subscriber...February 2011.