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Living On Purpose

Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Thanks and Giving

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

“I stopped by the grocery store and was behind a young mother,” Lana said as we began our coaching session. “I was picking up cupcakes for Tommy’s Thanksgiving party, where I am headed after our coaching session.”

“What about the mother piqued your interest?” I asked.

“I felt uncomfortable watching her dig through her purse trying to muster up money for her groceries,” Lana said. “I overheard her telling her children that she couldn’t afford any pumpkin cookies. There was no irritation in her voice, simply matter-of-fact.”

“As she walked away, I built her story in my mind,” Lana continued. “It included her husband losing his job and taking a lower paying position that only covered the essentials.”

“It’s interesting how our mind fills in the blanks,” I said.

“The clerk rang up the cupcakes and I easily paid for them,” Lana said. “It seemed unfair that I could indulge in something as decadent as cupcakes for a classroom party, where there will be tons of snacks and some food even tossed out in the end ….and this woman could barely buy the basics.”

“Tell me more about those feelings,” I prompted.

“We’re not rich by any means,” Lana began, “but I’m not in the predicament that I assumed this woman was in. During the holidays it seems more prevalent how some families struggle and others don’t. We talk about eating until our buttons pop, sitting on the couch watching football while we drink eggnog, while other families may not have enough money to buy a turkey!”

“I would guess there are many families in each of these categories – some with enough and some without,” I said. “How are you going to spend Thanksgiving this year?”

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“The kids are coming home, and up until now, our plan has been of the ‘button-popping’ variety,” Lana explained.

“You sound disappointed,” I said.

“I’m excited to see the kids, but again, it feels selfish and greedy to sit around and eat. There is a gap between how our family celebrates and how the woman at the grocery may spend her holidays.”

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“What could you do to close the gap?” I asked.

“I’ve heard of people volunteering to serve at the soup kitchen, but I want it to be more personal,” Lana explained. “I’d like to help one family have a nice holiday season. If I could contact that young mother from the grocery store, I would…but that’s impossible.”

“How else could you help a family during the holidays?” I asked.

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“I could ask the principal if he knows of a family who may need and would accept help, anonymously, of course. I’d be happy to buy ingredients so they could celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, I would ask my family to help plan and shop for the food so we could all participate.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” I said. “How can you make this happen?”

“I’ll talk to the principal today,” she said with excitement in her voice. “It’s a win-win-win. I feel I’m helping to close the gap; another family gets to celebrate the holidays, and my kids learn the benefits of helping others. This year I will both give thanks for all of my blessings and enjoy giving to others. Isn’t that what this holiday season is all about?”

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Coaching Challenge:
No matter what your financial situation is, how can you include both “thanks” and “giving” into your holiday celebration?

What Temperature is the Water You Live In?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

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Wheel of Life Circle onlyI ran into someone the other day and he started to talk about a life change he had recently undergone. He explained how he never realized how much strain he had been under until he changed jobs. Looking back he saw how his work schedule had imposed on his ability to be present for his family, which ultimately resulted in a divorce. His previous work schedule had nearly consumed him and threatened everything that was important in his life.

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Now that he had moved on, he could see where he had been stuck and said he regretted not having made the change sooner. Why don’t we change when everything around us is screaming – “GET OUT!”?

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I told him the story of the frog in the pot. If you try to put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If, however, you put the frog into a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog gets used to it. Once it realizes it is boiling, it can’t jump out because it is either incapacitated or dead. We don’t take charge and make changes because we don’t pause long enough to realize that the temperature is rising and it’s getting hot!

How often do you check with your inner voice? What is the temperature of the water in your life? What are you tolerating in the important areas of your life – Career, Spirituality, Recreation, Romance, Health, Living Space, Family, Finances? We get SO busy that our alert systems shut down. The battery dies…and so do we, slowly.

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Life Coaching is a great place to notice the temperature of the water you swim in every day. Are you treading water, swimming laps, gliding underwater, sinking or boiling? In this analogy, perhaps coaching can be seen as a life raft in the middle of the ocean of life. Coaching pulls you out of the water long enough to breathe, reflect, rest, and decide what’s next.

By simply noticing where you are, you’ve taken the first step and can make some powerful choices to move your life forward. Right now, make a commitment to yourself – it may be a very small step — to move forward. The real question is, if you continued to actively make small steps forward, where would you be in a week? A month? A year?

Coaching Challenge: Draw a circle and divide it into eight even pieces. Label the wedges: Career, Spirituality, Recreation, Romance, Health, Living Space, Family, Finances.  The center of the circle is 1 and the outside edge of the circle is a 10. Rank your satisfaction in each area of your life with a 1 meaning least satisfied and a 10 meaning completely satisfied.  Then draw a straight or curved line between the dots to create a new outer edge. What does your wheel look like now? Does your wheel look like a flat tire? If this was a real wheel, would the ride be smooth or bumpy?

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Note: This exercise is included under “Client Resources” on the Living On Purpose Website. To do this exercise, click here.

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Finding Purpose in Everyday Chaos

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Deb is on a journey to discover her life purpose. She originally came to coaching because she longed for “more.”

From the outside, Deb’s life seems to be in order. She is married to a supportive, loving man; her kids are doing well in school; she enjoys her career as a school teacher; and yet there is an ever-elusive longing in her soul, a sense that she is meant to do and be something more.

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In one of our early sessions, we explored what “more” looked like. It was difficult for Deb to describe. It’s hard to put into words a concept that hasn’t fully formed in your mind. I tried a different approach.

“If you could describe ‘more’ as a feeling, what would it be?”

“Exhilarating, but peaceful,” she answered.

“When have you experienced this feeling before?”

“The first time I looked at my son, it was a miracle. I felt larger than myself,” she paused. “It felt like ‘more.'” We sat with that a moment and let the feeling fill the room.

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She broke the silence by saying, “I don’t feel that way very often. I feel like my life has been reduced to the tasks of everyday life. I cook, shop, do laundry, help with homework, and try to find moments of peace. The last thing I want at the end of the day is “more.” I’m overloaded with my day-to-day responsibilities …but they don’t feel like part of my larger purpose.”

“If you were working on your larger purpose, how would you be spending your time?” I asked.

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“I would enjoy quiet time, write in my journal, do yoga and read books,” she replied. “But in my world, those times are rare. With the demands of my job, my family, and my volunteer responsibilities, I don’t have the time or the energy. I’m frustrated with the mundane and it’s all around me.”

“How do you feel when you are doing things that are in line with your larger purpose?”

“I feel like I’m making a contribution, like I am in service to something larger than myself.” She continued, “I have something to share and am willing to do what it takes – even if it means having to sacrifice– to walk this path.”

“Give me two routine tasks and let’s describe them from the perspective of ‘mundane,’ and then from the perspective of ‘purpose.'” I suggested.

“Our laundry is a never-ending cycle of gathering, sorting, washing, drying, ironing, putting away, wearing, gathering, etc.” she said and then struggled to find the purpose behind the task. “When I do the laundry, I am in service to my family and sacrificing my needs because it’s important for them to have clean clothes. Looking at it this way, doing laundry might be more purposeful than I realized. “

Deb continued by describing the routine aspects of teaching. “Mundane tasks include creating lesson plans, grading papers, and classroom management.” She paused in thought; a reflective smile appeared on her face. “Teaching can also be quite purposeful. For example, when I have witnessed someone learning to read…it’s phenomenal. That is when mundane turns into purposeful.”

“I’ve never really thought of laundry or grading papers as being purposeful. I guess it’s how you look at it,” she shared.

“It reminds me of the story of a man who came across three bricklayers,” I said. “When asking the first one what he was doing, he said, ‘laying bricks.’ The second one replied, ‘Making a brick wall,’ and the third one said, ‘Building a cathedral.”‘ ( All three were performing the same task, but had completely different perspectives.”

Deb’s homework was to write down five routine tasks and describe the mundane and the purpose in each. I wonder if she will look at this assignment as mundane or purposeful.

Coaching Challenge: List five routine tasks. Describe how each task feels mundane and how it feels purposeful. How can you continue to see and feel the purpose of each of your daily tasks, even if they feel mundane? Find one word to remind you to view each task from a purposeful perspective. Post it in the place where you perform the task. For example, write the word “PURPOSE” on a piece of paper and hang it in your laundry room.

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I’m Bored. Now What?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

In the middle of a recent coaching appointment, both the client and I had a huge realization. She was completely bored with her life! As we were talking about a decision she was facing, it wasn’t the opportunity that was appealing; it was the thought of welcoming change – any change – into her life that had caught her attention.


“What’s challenging to you right now? What is exciting in your life? Where do you find passion?” I asked. To each question, she gave me a puzzled, almost painful look. She did not have an answer.

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Finally, she explained, “I work hard and am successful in my career. I got married, had kids, survived divorce and am now working hard to keep some balance in my life. Life feels functional; I have a lot of responsibilities and I find that the only real challenge is juggling the activities in my life.” But where was the passion?


It’s easy to see how this can happen. When we were in school, our goal was to graduate. Then we wanted to get a good job. Next it was to meet someone and get married, have kids, be a good parent, etc. Now that we’ve done all that, what are we moving towards? The first part of life seemed so structured. We knew what we were “supposed” to do and what was “normal” and what came next. But who makes the rules and sets the goals now? What is “supposed” to happen next?


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“Imagine that you are the writer and director of a movie – your movie,” I said, introducing an analogy for us to play with. “The stage is set, several plot lines have been introduced, and there is a cast of characters with you as the lead. Tell me how the story unfolds. What happens next?” Sounds pretty open-ended, right? The irony is that this much flexibility can be stifling!


She looked at me, completely stuck. I pressed, “Where is the passion?” She had become so busy just managing her day-to-day life that she had forgotten.


We then reconstructed and described each of the eras of her life. We began in childhood and moved on to the School Era, the Single Years, the Relationship to Marriage Era, the Family and then the Divorce Years, which brings us to now.


We brainstormed her future Eras. The next one was called Back to Me. Travel Time came next, which naturally flowed into the Relaxation, Retirement and Grandparent Eras. We talked about each one and built a loose framework for her future. As we watched the chapters unfold, she saw where she was now with more perspective as to how it fit into the rest of the story.


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By creating descriptions for each time period (including the tone, color, theme song, motto, etc.), we provided clarity and dimension to the various segments of her story. Excitement grew as her entire life began to feel more alive and connected. Ideas sprang forth that took completely by surprise and the boredom disappeared. We had, in effect, re-energized her life by adjusting her perspective.


Stepping outside of the day-to-day responsibilities can help to gain a broader perspective. This macro-view provides the big picture along with the details…and how it all fits together to make up your life. By knowing where you’ve been and where you plan to go you gain a better understanding of where you are right now. Isn’t life really all about right now?


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Coaching Challenge: Review your life and write down the major eras. Describe each segment by answering the following questions:

•    What is the overall theme of this time period?

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•    If you had to describe this era with an article of clothing, what would it be?

•    What is the lead song on the soundtrack of this era?

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•    What kind of car do you drive?

•    What would a bumper sticker on your car say?

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Now list the upcoming time periods in your life. Create the macro view. Then focus in on each one and answer the questions above. Have fun with it. See where you are going. Imagine the possibilities, and feel the passion!

The Beauty of Doing Nothing

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Anyone who knows me will laugh at the headline. I rarely do “nothing.” I’m like a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed at night for fear of missing something. Add in a family, my own business, and an eager desire to stay in shape, learn, and be involved and you have the makings for a very busy schedule. “Multi-tasking” is my middle name!


My clients will also get a chuckle out of the headline. Each time we meet, they leave with a homework assignment– which does not imply doing nothing. This isn’t the kind of homework you remember from school. These are self-identified, self-directed assignments to help the client move forward.


In the novel, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Italy in hopes of discovering pleasure in new and different ways. In the book, she contrasts Italian and American cultures. She explains that in America, we don’t know when to say enough is enough. We tend to overdo everything and there is never enough time to get it all done. She asserts that Americans really don’t know how to do nothing. In Italy, however, they have mastered the art of il bel far niente – the beauty of doing nothing. In Italy it is the ideal…the goal of all of your work. It is the same in many spiritual philosophies. To master enlightenment often equals letting go and doing nothing.


I contrast this philosophy with my own life and with the lives of several of my clients. Take Sarah, for example. She is the owner and CEO of a mid-sized company. The past ten years have been a balancing act, to say the least. She started her company when her kids were little as a way to continue her career, but also to be at home with the kids. As they grew, so did the business as well as demands on her time.


Sarah can vacillate from being enthusiastic and wanting to take on the world, to feeling pulled like taffy. We looked at her calendar and there were only slivers of time in between the almost-fully blocked schedule. In each area of her life, there were people who needed things from her and she gladly gave as much as she could.


Last week she was talkative but exhausted. Sarah said that when she gets stressed, she goes into overdrive, trying to cover all of the bases. She gets a certain thrill in “getting it all done!”


“Take a minute to catch up with yourself,” I said as she flew through the door. We sat in silence for a few minutes to allow her to find her center. She explained how stretched she had been feeling emotionally, physically and mentally. “You GIVE energy most of the time – to your job, your family, etc. When do you RECEIVE energy?” I asked.


“I don’t have time and I feel guilty if I do,” she said.


Using the metaphor of a bank account, I explained that she can withdraw “energy” whenever she needs to AS LONG AS she has taken time to replenish the account.


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She said, “It’s like the emergency instructions on an airplane…put your mask on first and then assist others, right?” She understood so now the challenge was to help her integrate this concept into her life.


We brainstormed her homework assignment. She agreed to create a Replenishment List, which would include five activities that GIVE her energy (fill her energy bank account). Once the list is completed, she agreed to enjoy (with no guilt) at least two hours a week doing something from her list.


Wouldn’t it be great if we would have had homework assignments like that in school?


Coaching Challenge: Create a list of five activities that you enjoy. If you feel selfish or self-centered when writing this list, you are probably on the right track. Over the next two weeks, find two hours a week to relax and enjoy any of these activities. To remind you of how important this is, create a sign that says, “il bel far niente,” which is Italian for “the beauty of doing nothing!” Hang it on your bathroom mirror so you will remember to do your homework.

Change Your Story to Change Your Life

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Over the holidays I attended several parties and practiced the fine art of small talk. It begins with your name, a brief description of who you are and what makes you and your life important. It sounds like this: “My name is Sheri. I am a Life Coach. I am married and have three kids.” And then they tell their “story.”

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Our “story” is how we describe who we are. Although it is an easy way to relate to people, it often becomes the way that we pigeonhole ourselves. As we say and hear our story over and over again, we begin to accept that this is who we are and all we will ever be. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” becomes our mantra. However, that mantra can keep you stuck when you tell the same story long after you’ve outgrown many parts of it.

Parts of the story can include phrases like, “I’m no good at math,” or “I’m not good talking to people I don’t know,” or “I’m always late.” It becomes a chicken and egg type of question. Is your behavior the BASIS to your story or is it the RESULT of your story? What is the cause and what is the effect?

Since the coach-client relationship is more than small talk, it’s easy to catch when a client is trapped in his or her story and see opportunities to explore new chapters and variations of the story.

Jan was a new client who felt stuck. Her “story” consisted of being a housewife, raising two children and working part time. During our first meeting, she explained how unimportant these things felt to her. She cried as she described how empty she felt. Her “story” had become a re-run. It was predictable, boring and old.

As we explored further, Jan had several ideas, ways to paint the story different colors and write new chapters, but she was scared to admit that she longed to do so. One of the best ways to help her was to suggest stepping WAY out. So, when she mentioned her love of writing, I suggested writing a story and submitting it to her favorite magazine. “Wouldn’t it be great to have your story published and have thousands of people read it?”

There was dead silence. “I could never do that!” she said. “But I could draft a story on raising two boys,” she said. “I have a good sense of humor and could tell some funny anecdotes. I’m not sure if I would submit it to a magazine, but I could write it.” There was her first step. She was actively changing her story!

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The great thing about your story is that you are the author and have complete control over how it is told. It can be changed at any time – if you decide to do so. Maybe if you change your story, you can also change how you experience your life. “I’m good at math…good at meeting new people and I am usually on time. “

What is the story you tell about yourself? Do you enjoy it or are you sick of it? Add in something new, exciting and true every time you tell it. It is much more entertaining to both you and your listener. Perhaps if you change your story, you will change your life!

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Coaching Challenge: Think back to the last time you introduced yourself or related your “story.” Sit down with a friend or write in your journal your current story. What do you tell yourself and others? Does your story lead you towards your purpose in life?

If you feel stuck in your “story,” then change it! Be creative! Explore what would make it exciting, brilliant, dramatic, or fun. Then set a goal to re-write the story. When was the last time yours was updated? Your story is how you describe your life. What story are you telling? It’s probably the same story you are living!

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I’ll Be Happy When…

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Ever find yourself postponing your happiness? It sounds something like this: “When I get my promotion, I’ll be happy,” or “Once I meet Mr. Right, life will be great!”

If this sounds familiar, you may be relinquishing your power to be happy until some outside force deems it is time.  Often when the one thing you imagined would make you happy finally happens, you find it isn’t enough. Then you wait for something else to happen. It’s an endless pursuit, a game you can never win.

You may have played the game yourself. It goes something like this. “I’ll be happy when I graduate from high school…or college…get my first job…get married…have kids, etc. We long for something, get it and move on, without realizing that “it” didn’t bring the happiness we had anticipated.

Last week one of my clients was interested in a new job. “I’m not happy in my job…but this new one is ideal,” she told me. “I know that if I get this job, I’ll be happy.”  Will you really?

She felt unhappy, and the immediate solution was to find something new and move on…which she had done several times over the last five years.  I asked her, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how satisfied are you right now in your job?”


“Is five enough?” I asked.  “What would it feel like to be at an eight?”

“It would feel great. This new job is an eight and I want it. I won’t settle for less than an eight.”

A week later, she called after she had interviewed for the “eight,” and had come away feeling unfulfilled. It didn’t feel like an “eight” any more and had slipped to a five.

She questioned if she should take the job, even if it wasn’t an eight and paused, realizing she had answered her own question.

She decided to stay in her job and I challenged her to find ways to move it towards an eight. I encouraged her to clearly define what an “eight” looked like and use that definition as a gauge for future decisions. For some people an eight might be, “having a boss who shows that she appreciates me,” or “spending no more than two hours a day on the phone,” or “working with people who operate as a team.”  To remind her of this standard, I asked her to write “8+” on a post-it and hang it on her bathroom mirror. 

I then used a metaphor to explain the importance of being specific but not rigid. When shopping, one of the most frustrating times can be when you need to buy an outfit for an upcoming event and have no idea what you want. On the other hand, going shopping and knowing exactly what you want can be equally frustrating – especially if you are not willing to compromise.  The spectrum runs from being so specific that nothing works or so open that you’re unable to discriminate.

 “Be creative and describe what you need,” I encouraged her. “And, if it still doesn’t work, then use your definition of an eight as your gauge for future decisions.”

The next time she calls and starts to play the “I’ll be happy when” game, my quick response will be, “Is it an eight?”


Coaching Challenge:

Think for a moment about one less-than-satisfying area of your life. You want MORE. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being completely satisfied), where are you now? Then determine the standard from which you will gauge future decisions. Is eight enough? Do you want a ten?

Use your imagination and create the ideal situation for you. What does your eight look like? By being more specific, you can more easily gauge what you want and recognize it more quickly.  If you tend to be too specific, then look for the components that would make up the ideal job. For example, instead of identifying THE job you want, describe what makes that job important to you (flexible hours, atmosphere, location, etc.). Then use this list as your criteria for future decisions.


What’s the Cost of Staying Stuck?

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

The other day I was talking to a hair stylist about life coaching. People find themselves in the stylist’s chair revealing very personal experiences, feelings, hopes and dreams. For some reason, just sitting in the chair helps people to relax and relate. As I explained how coaching helps people get “un-stuck,” the stylist’s eyes lit up as I explained that coaching helps people who desire change, long for movement and clarity, yet often don’t know where to start. It’s not counseling or therapy where you’re dwelling on the past,” I explained. “It’s more about movement and looking at where you are right now and where you want to go. It could be answering questions like, ‘what have I wanted to do, but haven’t?’” She immediately rattled off two or three clients who could use this type of service and then paused as if she were answering this question for herself.

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We all know someone who seems to have the same old drama going on in his/her life. This is the person who gets you on the phone and goes on and on and on about the same thing. “And then she said…so I said…and it just isn’t fair, he shouldn’t be doing that.” But when you ask your friend how she is going to move forward in the situation, she is either speechless or begins to tell you more about the he-said/she-said story. It becomes an endless loop. One of my clients recently said coaching has helped her realize how many choices she really has. In our coaching sessions, we might begin with something that is happening in her life and then look for even deeper meaning including values, goals and expectations that perhaps are not being met. I ask her what changes she’d like to make and brainstorm ways to make it happen. As her coach, I become her accountability system to make sure she is not just talking about it, but really choosing to make movement. It’s very action and results oriented which most people find very empowering. The next time you find yourself or someone close to you relating their “story” and describing what he said/she said, etc. ask, “Do you want to remain stuck? What do you get out of being the victim? “She may not answer “yes,” but her continual ongoing story, will help you to realize what is really happening and give you the option to remove your energy and attention from her drama. If you choose to stay in her stuck energy, aren’t you really choosing to remain stuck yourself? Coaching Challenge: Take a few minutes to answer the questions (in a journal, if possible):

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  • What am I tolerating in my life?
  • Where do I limit myself?
  • What are the possibilities?

By reflecting on these questions, you may reveal some places in your own life where you might be stuck. Realizing this is the start to moving forward. Are you ready and willing to move forward?

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Don't Wait to dream: Life is too short

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Several times last week, I was reminded of how precious life is.

Someone I knew lost her husband, who died suddenly of a heart attack. Another friend called to tell me her 12-year old had been diagnosed with cancer.  Another woman’s 23-year old son was killed in a hunting accident. We hear about tragedies like this every day and realize that life is so precious. It could end at any time.

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Many of us don’t live our dream. In fact we don’t think or talk about it for fear that we might sound stupid. “Why talk about something that might never come true?” we ask ourselves. We move through our comfortable routines day in and day out. But when does “comfortable” become “stagnant” or even “suffocating?”

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The newly widowed woman reminded me, “Tell the people you care about that you love them every day, because it may be the last time you see them. You never know.” I carried these words home with me and individually told my husband and each of my sons that I love him. As the kids went off for school, I heard my friend’s voice reminding me, “it may be the last time you see them…” It’s so fresh right now, but in a week or two, it will probably go back to normal. I’ll be busy, kiss them goodbye and expect them to be home after school.

If you’ve ever done the exercise, “What if you found out that you had 6 months (or less) to live…” you know that with the time clock ticking, your priorities tend to change. A new sense of courage and boldness come through and you describe really living your dream.

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Life coaching presents opportunities to discover and talk about finding the dream and moving towards making it happen – without the six-month time clock.

The other day one of my clients was talking about his dream. I could hear and feel his passion. His eyes lit up and his voice became more animated; he was alive and shining in his brilliance. From that point, we uncovered ideas and ways he could manifest his dream more fully. Not to say that we didn’t bump up against his inner critic or saboteur a couple of times – you know, the voice that tells you that you can’t do something.  But even that we tackled head-on.

Then we added some brainstorming, action plans, homework, commitment and accountability and suddenly, he started moving towards his dream. He said he was a bit scared and felt he was outside of his comfort zone, but he was also alive! It was a safe risk.

In effect, the time clock is always ticking. Don’t wait to dream. Step out now and move forward with passion and strength. Let your brilliance shine through. Live!

Coaching Challenge: What is your dream? When was the last time you thought about it, talked about it or took a step to make your dream come true? If it’s been more than a couple of weeks, it’s been too long.

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In a journal or with a friend describe your dream. How would your life look if your dream came true? As you are writing, note what you feel. If it is passion and excitement, when was the last time you felt like this? Do some brainstorming and come up with one action step you can take that will move you towards this goal. Make the commitment to yourself and take one tiny little step toward the dream. Note your feelings and then make a commitment to take one more step.  You are now two steps closer to making your dream come true. Even if it’s scary, you are alive!