The courage to be yourself

The courage to be yourself by Toni McLellan

I’ve been writing lately on uncovering what you really want, ideas for what to do if you just don’t know what you want, how to handle it when things aren’t happening for you, and the value in surrendering to your deepest desires. Know what I think is really at the heart of all this stuff?

The desire to really be ourselves.

If we can truly be ourselves, we can pursue work that feels like home, instead of work that is only practical/safe, or that our parents wanted us to do.
If we can truly be ourselves, we can care for ourselves without guilt or apology.
If we can truly be ourselves, we can say both yes and no with clarity and a clear conscience.
If we can truly be ourselves, we can tell the truth to and be vulnerable with friends and loved ones without fear of judgment or rejection.
If we can truly be ourselves, we won’t feel the need to distract ourselves from our wild and precious lives.
If we can truly be ourselves, we won’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much (or the big stuff, for that matter).
If we can truly be ourselves, we will not only love, but truly like who we are — even when we screw up, big-time.

I’m not suggesting that being yourself means living without fear, or struggle, or bad days, or hard work. But man oh man, the life that’s possible when we get out of our own way!

Getting to this place takes time, depending on where you are in your individual journey. For some of us (::raises hand::) it can take decades of searching and stumbling around; talking with friends, loves, and trusted mentors. Reading self-help books, attending workshops and conferences and retreats. Therapy helps in some instances (it helped me through some serious rough patches like postpartum depression and grief). Coaching helps in others, like when you’re feeling stuck in the same patterns and can’t seem to break out of them, or like you keep having the same argument but with different people or are feeling stressed all the time but know deep down that there’s got to be a better way to live. I’m in coaching myself, in order to maintain my business and also to work on being the best self I can be so I can best serve my clients. It’s a good system. :)

It also takes commitment — to honoring yourself and your purpose here, even when it’s hard, even on days when you don’t wanna, even when people don’t agree with your choices.

I’ve written quite a bit about self-love in the past, because I deeply believe that it’s at the root of everything great that can come to us in our lives. It’s hard to build the life of our dreams if an inner voice is yammering on all day about how much we suck. Getting to the heart of who we are, gradually learning to remove the masks and self-imposed barriers to our individuality and authenticity, is some of the best work we can do in our lives, and it’s time that’s seldom wasted. Help is there if you want it, but you have to seek it out. Courage is there if you ask yourself, deep down, to muster it.

I’d love to hear from you about this: What would your life look like if you had the courage to be yourself?


How to suck at self-employment: Take no risks

How to suck at self-employment, a road map for solopreneurial failure by Toni McLellan

How to suck at self-employmentBe really, really, (really!) risk-averse.

SUPER-SIZED DISCLAIMER, hold the fries: If you’re new to my site, first of all: Hi and welcome! Also: Know one thing: If you have a job and want to start a business, I am *not* an advocate of quitting your job to become self-employed without having some sort of strategy in place. And I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all strategy out there, either. In general, taking a clear-eyed look at your expenses, trimming the fat, and crafting a plan to ease out of a job while starting your biz slowly on the side is a really smart move. So, anyway: I’m so NOT the coach saying “Just quit! It’ll totally be fine!” because that’s probably not going to work. (Am I wrong? Did you up and quit and it turned out totally fine? Write me and let me know what you did that worked — I love exceptions and I’d love to share your story here.)

That being said, there comes a point where you need to move from dreaming to doing. And when you start taking action, that will involve some risk. Most things worth having do, from intimacy to parenthood to skateboards. If you’re severely risk-averse, you might need to ease into this whole self-employment thing. There are some specific things you can do, from hiring a coach or mentor, working on building a new mindset, taking baby steps, etc. But the time will come where you’ll have to, as my mom said to my dad when he was dragging his feet about getting married, “Poop or get off the pot.” (I am the direct result of a romance for the ages. Also, in the interest of accuracy, if not romance, Mom said ‘shit,’ not ‘poop.’)

If the thought of taking chances is making you hyperventilate and also feeling like you have to pee a little, you have two options:

1) Don’t start a business


2) Become determined to get used to risk, change and uncertainty. The up side? You’ll also get used to trusting your intuition, calling your own shots, and doing work you really love*.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone. It’s okay to take a close look at your work, your inclinations, talents, and needs, and come up with a big ‘NOPE’ in response to going it on your own. And hey, some time in the future, that business idea might come back and you might feel more ready. It happens. But if it doesn’t, it’s really freeing to cross one thing off your list so you can get on with other awesome stuff. Clarity = always good! I do write other blog posts and an awesome newsletter on topics that will help you live a happier and more fulfilling life. And you can always stick around here for more non-fries and romantic stories about pooping. I won’t judge.

For those of you who feel nervous but still willing to give this a shot, it’s time to stop talking and start doing. It’s also time to start being willing to suck. Often. At lots of stuff. Mistakes and recurring waves of doubt and feeling wobbly are all part of the game here. I can feel you perfectionists quaking while reading this; it’s cool. We’ll get you through, maybe even with a few typose. (Heh.)

One of my mentors shared this quote often: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Are you ready? Gird your loins and join me here next week for more ways to suck at self-employment.

*Starting a biz doing work you love is my recommended course of action for, because why take on work you’re good at (or worse, suck at!) but hate? You can do that anywhere and with dental benefits. But I’m getting ahead of myself and this is a whole other blog post that will be called Go Into Business Doing Work You Really, Really Hate.)

Toni McLellan is a biz + life coach who used to suck at self-employment as a freelance writer and blogger. She sucked even worse at law school, which she attended to avoid getting a straight job. Learn from her mistakes and those of others she’s coached, interviewed, or spotted sucking in the wild.

It’s okay to let yourself want it.

Toni McLellan Coaching “It’s okay to let yourself want it.”

I said these words toward the end of a client session this week, and paused as we both let the words sink in.

We were talking about my client’s desire to reconnect with someone in her life, but this idea applies to so many areas of our lives: We want something, but we’re scared we’re not going to get it, and so we lob a softball pitch in its general direction and let it go at that.

The Universe is a naturally finely-tuned B.S. detector; it can sense when you’re not really trying. Like when you email instead of calling about important issues because you hate confrontation or don’t want to seem pushy. Or when you futz over getting your site or your copy just right instead of calling the 10 people you know would probably buy from you right now. When you vow to start again on Monday. When you list umpteen justifications for why you’re right without pausing to listen to the other person’s position. When you list 40 reasons why your idea or product or service is the best thing ever, drowning out any potential for questions, objections, criticism, or rejection (I call this “jazz hands” selling, and I see it a *lot* in online service businesses). When you tell everyone in your life except the one person who’s pissing you off how you *really* feel.

Deep desire is freaking terrifying, because it requires risk, and it requires real effort. Usually the biggest risk is vulnerability — to rejection, to mockery, to dismissal, to anger, to judgment, to being told you’re wrong, to hearing that they don’t want to be in your life any more. This applies whether you’re asking someone to call you back because you miss them or asking someone for a sale — these waters are deep, and they feel scary, especially if you’re used to staying on the shoreline, dipping you toe in on occasion, and running away.

So you put up walls, either by playing some form of almost-going-for-it softball mentioned above, or by dismissing any potentially good results before you even get going. “They’re going to reject/hurt me anyway, so why bother?” Because if you shut the whole deal down, there’s 100% chance you won’t be hurt or disappointed.

But if you’re willing to push through some of the fear that comes with risk to surrender to your deepest desires — for love, for connection, for belonging, for success, for peace with your body image, for mo’ money — whatever it is you most want, you’ll come out the other side a different person. Every time.

And then it becomes a “once you see it, you can’t un-see” it type of deal; once you survive a raw and vulnerable, open conversation where two people drop the need to run the agenda and exchange their honest feelings with compassion and desire to hear and be heard, you’ll crave more real connection, and settling for less starts to feel like living in a black-and-white movie, like something out of another lifetime. And once you take a chance and call that potential customer or client, or invite them to have a conversation where you get inside their world, find out what they most desire, and only *then* mention how your products or services might help them, you’ll toss your tap shoes into the trash.

Risk-taking is a form of rebirth. Vulnerability is homecoming. Success is sweet. And connection is everything. All of this gets easier with practice, with effort, and with refusing to give up until you have what you really want. Are you game?

“I still don’t know what I want.”

Even more great questions to ask when you're not sure what to do next.I’ve received some great responses from people about my last newsletter, which you can read here. A few “OMG this is just what I needed” mixed in with some “I don’t even know how to begin to answer the questions you posted.”

Good news! Totally normal on both fronts. If you’re still in a place of wondering what the heck to do with your life or in your work, let me ask: Did you sit down and answer any of the questions? (If you didn’t yet, commit to a time where you can sit down and really think about your answers to those questions. Feel free to hit ‘reply’ and share your commitment date and I’d be happy to follow up for accountability.)

If you did answer the questions, what recurring themes, ideas, or questions came up for you? I’d love to hear your experience with this work.

Okay, for the rest of you, who are still just feeling like “Dude. No clue. I can’t even.”

More journaling! Yeah, I know, I know. For some of you, that just isn’t a fun time. Feel free to do this as an audio or video recording where you just tell yourself a great story about yourself, or a vision board, or a series of sketches, or a straight-up handwritten journaling exercise. Bottom line: If you don’t think about this stuff in some concrete way, you’re going to either stay stuck or get swept up in the undertow of someone else’s life and plans for you. So stay with me and be open to trying some of this stuff.

Here’s your next thing to journal about, in addition to last week’s questions: Write about your ideal life. Where do you live? What’s your daily environment like (work and home)? Who is there with you at work and home? What sort of work do you do, and/or how do you spend your time each day? What are weekends/days off like? How much sleep do you get? What’s your predominant mood? How do you deal with crises or bumps in the road? Where do you travel, and what do you do? What to you eat, how do you move your body, and when and how do you rest and rejuvenate? Really go deep and imagine all of this in rich detail.

For both sets of questions I’ve offered over these past two weeks, here’s the most important thing to know when you don’t know what to do next:

Get out of your head and into the world and do stuff.

Try stuff. Make stuff. Ask. Talk to people. (Yes, really.) Move. Burn the biz plan and the road map while you’re at it, at least for now, just to get some flow going. Because nothing kills uncertainty and stuck-ness faster than action.

Be bold and try an approach you haven’t done yet. Think about someone you admire and consider what action they might take, and try it, or a baby step representative of what they’d do. If you usually work on things like this in a certain spot, try a new venue – another room, trade offices with someone, a coffee shop, the library, a public garden.

And don’t forget to approach this playfully. So often we take this stuff so seriously and feels weighty and severe. Contemplate a joyful existence where you’re lit up about how you’re living and working. What does that look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like? Who is your tribe? Who do you call when shit hits the fan? Who do you call to celebrate a big victory? Who do you go to for random hugs or freshly prepared snacks or foot rubs?

Why is action important even when you don’t know what to do next? Because you’ll get feedback. And through that feedback, you’ll be able to course correct. You’ll be able to decide “OMG I freaking love this!” (Me after my first 5K) or “NOPE. Never again.” (Me after my first paid photography gig). And you’ll keep trying. Lather, rinse, repeat. I use that phrase often in my work with clients, because the road to long-term change and achievement involves a lot of this process of trying, getting feedback, weighing options, choosing a next step, and then trying some more.

Note that there’s not a lot of “thinking” or “planning” in that progression. Worrying is not a part of this process. Worrying is banking on worst-case scenarios, and if you’re a chronic worrier, know that this is just another habit to trade for something that better serves you. How do I know this? I’m living it. I’ll write more about the worry stuff in coming weeks.

Keep thinking. Worry if you must. Let awful scenarios play out in vivid detail in your head. But please, add in some action. Start doing stuff, getting that feedback from other people, from the Universe, from your body, from whatever medium you’re working in. Assess, and then pick a next step and keep doing stuff. I know this will drive you procrastinators, thinkers, planners, and perfectionists absolutely crazy. “I can’t take action without a plan! What if things go wrong?” They will. And they won’t. And everything in between. But doing nothing leads to nothing, and is that what you want for yourself? I didn’t think so.

So get to doing stuff. And let me know how it goes.

How to suck at self-employment: An introduction

How to suck at self-employment, a road map to solopreneurial failure by Toni McLellan

I’m excited to introduce this new series on my blog!

How to Suck at Self-Employment is a tongue-in-cheek look at solopreneurship that biz owners and those who are thinking of starting a business will find entertaining as well as valuable. Learn from these mistakes, peeps with an entrepreneurial streak!

I’m going to cover topics like:

  • Assume you’re alone. Totally alone. So, so, so, alone.
  • Obsess over your competition.
  • Keep your head in the sand about money.
  • Feel totally bad about accepting money for your work.
  • Don’t promote your biz; nobody likes a braggy show-off.

You get the idea. It’s going to be fun and informative — a total win-win. I’ve been tossing this idea around for a while and am developing a talk about it, and totally think this could be a slammin’ e-book.

I’d love to hear from you: If you have ideas for this series, questions, or would like to write a guest post, please post a comment or email me. Of course, rave reviews and excited shouting are also always welcome, too.

See you next week with the first official installment of How to Suck at Self-Employment.

“I don’t know what I want.”

Questions to ask yourself when you are at a crossroads or wondering if there isn't more to lifeI’ve been hearing this phrase often lately. A job ends unexpectedly, a business stalls or its owner outgrows it, a long-term relationship ends. It can be really overwhelming and downright scary to want more for yourself and not have any idea what to do next.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you get clearer on next steps. I use these questions in my work with clients and people who sign up for free sessions with me (not sure how to do that? Click here to grab your free powerful hour of coaching with me!).

These questions can offer clues for both your life and your work. Maybe you want to move somewhere new or will have an empty nest soon. Perhaps you’re re-entering the workforce, sick of your day job, or want to start a business doing something you love.

  • A journal or word processing document
  • About an hour to concentrate and write freely
  • An inspiring environment is nice (I love cozy coffee shops – don’t forget earbuds and soothing music to drown out background noise; if you need silence, find a quiet spot that’s all yours for an hour)
  • Your full concentration; you’ll really want to put your heart into this work
  • A healthy dose of selfishness and pride. Yes, you read that right: If you answer these based on what you think will sound great to anyone but yourself, you’re wasting your time.

Got it? Great. There’s a long weekend ahead, and maybe you can steal an hour for yourself to dig into these questions. Ask yourself:

  • What do people praise or compliment me for? (Even if it seems really minor/simple, write it down.)
  • What do people ask me for help with? (Even if it seems really minor/simple, write it down.)
  • What comes easily to me? (You might have to dig deep for this one – you’ll find clues to this in the first two questions. Writing comes easily to me, and I know many people for whom writing feels utterly foreign; accounting is akin to wizardry to me, but might come as easily as breathing for you.)
  • What do I daydream about?
  • What stories/media am I attracted to? What characters, settings, genres, songs, really grab me?
  • What do I like to do in my spare time?
  • Where have I experienced success in the past?
  • Whom do I admire, or even envy? What is it about who they are or what they do or have that appeals to you?
  • (This is a biggie!) What do I do for fun that seems to make time stop, to the point where I forget to eat/check social media/watch the clock?

I know that on the surface, this looks like a light and fluffy journaling exercise, but make no mistake: Answering questions like these can become some of the most important work of your lifetime.

So many of us are cast off on a certain trajectory (“I got a degree in this, I have to find a job in that field,” “I’ve always done X,” “Everybody knows that when you A you have to B,” “I don’t really like it, but it pays well.”) But for many people, that story arc doesn’t really resonate, deep down. So you begin to feel restless, unsettled, wondering if there isn’t something more out there. Many people succumb to distractions, like eating/drinking/dieting/body nitpicking, shopping, or dicking around/arguing on social media, and the accompanying shame cycles that usually follow this tuning out. Those sorts of assumptions and habits can consume a lifetime and leave people wondering, “What if I’d done what I really wanted to, deep down, but was too afraid to?”

I want more for you, and I suspect if you’re reading this, that you do, too. And ‘more’ begins with asking questions like these. If you find yourself at a crossroads, a place of wondering “what’s next?”, or a sense of restlessness and questioning your current life, and you answer these exercises, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment here and share what you’ve discovered, or re-discovered about yourself, or you can always email me.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue this process, explore what to do with the answers to these questions, and start looking at what lasting change based on who you really want to be looks like. If you’re in the U.S., have a fun holiday weekend!

When what you want just isn’t happening

Recently, I wrote about what it (doesn’t) take to get what you really want. There’s no perfect formula, no guru to provide all the answers, no “having it all figured out.” This is kind of a relief, right? You don’t have to be perfect, or set out to be perfect, or know a perfect way to get what you really want.

But what if you know what you want, go after it, and find that it’s just not happening?

Above is a photo of my eleven-year-old son, who set out to start a Quidditch league in our town after learning that it’s an official college sport. (Haven’t read Harry Potter and not sure what Quidditch is? Read about it here and here.)

He spent the entire two hours of his year-end event at school walking up to kids and asking them to join his league. It’s important to note that this kid is an introvert who takes a long time to warm up to people. He struggles with making eye contact and he is easily frustrated. (Oh, and he gave me permission to write his story to inspire others.) As he strode up and down the aisles in the cafeteria, shyly asking kids to join the league, I knew my dad the sales rep would’ve been so proud of him.

I also remembered what it was like to figure out what I wanted to do – help people with big ideas who need help clarifying them and

“Hey guys! My website is live! Come and get some sweet, sweet service!”

::chirp-chirp-chirp:: Nothing but crickets.

I remember creating a retreat I was so excited about and so sure everyone would flock to, with lines around the block.

And three people showed up the first year. Three awesome people – people I adore – and if we got really creative, I could’ve asked them to form a line that went around the block. But it wasn’t the mega-event I’d envisioned.

Do crickets laugh?

My son got six signups that night, and two more after asking the principal to do an announcement on the last day of school. He called those kids, and he emailed them. The first practice date was set for a week later, and we arrived at the park, ready to get started.

And nobody showed up. Not one kid.


I took this photo of him, steadfastly waiting by our van for almost 30 minutes. He wanted to quit. He said his idea was stupid and nobody would ever think it wasn’t. He said this would never happen, so why bother trying any more? I knew he was venting. He was hurting, he was scared, he was experiencing what felt like a big defeat.

I knew it was the beginning of many, and that one day this defeat would feel like a victory because he survived it and kept going.

I told him that age eleven, he was already braver than many adults I know who are too afraid of rejection, making mistakes or failure to take even a tiny step in the direction of their dreams. And then I told him we came there to practice, so it was time to hit the field. And that’s how I found myself on a sunny day in early June, running up and down a grassy hill with a broom between my legs. We ran, and we laughed, and we left the park happier.

I don’t know if a Quidditch league will happen in our town. I do know I will support this kid in developing the resiliency to sustain his belief in the idea, and I’ll stand back, encourage him to give his best effort, and be proud of him no matter the outcome.

I’ve questioned myself often on this journey, but for me, giving up was never an option. I’ve had to shed old attitudes about money and success, about sales and marketing, about wanting everyone to like me, and about speaking my truth without cowering in fear of what people might think.

oday, I help my clients develop the skills to stick with something they really, really, *really* want. When you find your “why,” you’re going to need resiliency when things don’t go exactly as planned (or when they go terribly and only the crickets sing for you). And here’s the thing: Things seldom, if ever, go exactly as planned. So what do you do when that happens? Go with the flow, or dry up and blow away?

Some questions to ask yourself when things aren’t going your way:

*How long have I been at this? A week? A month? A quarter? A year? Things take time. In an age of instant gratification (drive thru windows, instant messaging, social media updates), it’s hard to remember this sometimes. Long-term lifestyle change takes time. Dream businesses take nurturing and marketing. Novels require time and regular effort to complete, let alone sell and promote.

*What actions have I been taking to get results? Are they high-value actions that lead to direct desirable results, or are they more passive, softball tosses hoping the Universe will swoop in and do the rest? (Example: Launching a website and kicking back, whistling to yourself vs. emailing, texting, and calling (even more powerful) everyone to tell them about your website, and planning a launch party where other biz owners/bloggers promote your arrival in advance to generate buzz).

*Where’s the silver lining? Always, always, always mine for lessons in your mistakes and missteps. If your first launch bombs, examine why. Talk to mentors or people who are further along in your field and ask them what they’d have done differently. If you started out wanting to run a marathon and pulled a hamstring muscle on your first week and your toilet isn’t speaking to you after that cleanse, maybe think about scaling back the training effort in favor of something more realistic and playful.

*Am I having any fun at all? Because you should be; in my book, you should be enjoying what you’re doing more often than not. The more you can make your effort feel like play, the better. If it feels like time flew by during your hours of effort, consider that a win.

If you have a story about epic failure to share, post a comment here and tell me what silver lining you found afterward.

The power of gathering to embrace your desires

Toni McLellan Workshop

Do you ever question whether you’re on the right path?

Or wonder if you’re silly to want what you want?

Or feel like you know, to your bones, that you were meant to do something, but feel totally daunted at the prospect of going for it?

This used to be a way of life for me, but now it mostly comes up when I start a new project or pursue a new goal that feels like a stretch. I think it’s a pretty normal part of the cycle of desire, action, and change.

Leveling up is hard, yo.

The other night, met a coach whose career is a few steps ahead of mine. Okay, several leaps ahead. It was so inspiring to talk with her and hear about how she’s growing her practice and business. But as I drove home, doubt started creeping in. Who was I to think I could operate at her level?

Hello darkness, my old friend.

When I arrived home, my husband showed me a blog post written by an attendee at one of my retreats:

“Remember that time when Toni changed my life? That was cool.”

(Testimonials don’t really get better than that.) It was such a full-circle moment for me. Two years ago, I had a dream of leading retreats for people who felt stuck and frustrated in their lives and work, who wondered if their dreams were silly or if the path they were on to pursue them was right. That dream blossomed into my coaching practice and current business that includes speaking, podcasting, workshops, more retreats, and other good stuff.

I knew in my gut that when more than one person gathered to share a dream, and then took steps to make it come true, the possibility and power behind that desire was magnified.

And I was right.

So. Still on the right path? Check. Silly to want what I want? NOPE. Know this to my bones I was meant to do this, despite some old, familiar doubts? Definitely.

Earlier this month, I hosted a gathering of women at my awesome local yoga studio. I began my talk by sharing how when I first started doing yoga, I couldn’t even do plank pose. Showing up week after week after week, deepening my practice, loving even the hard parts, yielded results for me like greater flexibility and strength and reduced pain, not to mention the energetic benefits of yoga. Underneath all of it: Deep desire and belief that I could achieve what I wanted, with support from my instructor and classmates.

We talked about what it means to go for what you really want and how clarity and focus is as important as those of practice, patience, and perseverance. That holding our desires in our minds was a baby step, but a really important one, because if you’re not clear on what you really want, you’ll end up feeling exhausted after spinning your wheels seeking change in all the wrong directions.

Then we got our creative jam going, making collages that represented all of the awesome we dared to invite into our lives. Lively tunes playing in the background, sipping wine or tea, noshing on hummus, cheese, fruit, and good chocolate. My kind of night!

I have no doubt in my mind that gathering to pursue our desires is powerful stuff. Sure, we need to take further action after the blush from the workshop, retreat, or coaching session fades, but that shouldn’t discount the importance of stepping up and sharing our intentions to thrive with other people who are on a similar path in life. There is power in numbers but there is also power in having someone else bear witness when we say “I want this for myself,” and seeing others nod their heads in understanding. Knowing we’re not alone and never have to go it alone in creating the lives we really want, deep down, is powerful stuff.

If you’re feeling called to gather with other people to clarify and amplify your goals, vision boarding is a great creative exercise that is not only a ton of fun, but a really effective way to gain clarity about what you want. I’ve heard from multiple workshop guests that the things they put on their vision boards really happened for them! If you’d like me to host a workshop in your area, please get in touch.

What does it take to get something you really want?

what does it take

Excellent question; I’m glad I asked it.

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t take:

  • Six weeks. (Heh. Not even close. Okay, if your dream is to spend six weeks drinking Tab, then yeah, sure.)
  • A trust fund or lottery winnings. (Because money doesn’t solve problems that weren’t caused by money in the first place.) Click to tweet this!
  • A degree or certification that takes years and student loans to acquire. (Unless your dream is to be a lawyer, neurosurgeon, or other licensed professional then yeah, that’s not a step you can really skip).
  • A perfect appearance. (Thank goodness!)
  • A massive tribe of followers.
  • An expensive website with lots of bells and whistles and the perfect business cards.
  • A problem-free life with no conflict, drama, or overwhelm. (Even people who seem happy on the surface/on social media struggle with these things in some form.)
  • Having it all figured out. (We are all making it up as we go along.)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write about the process of getting what you really, really want in life: Why this matters, some great ideas for getting started, (OMG it is SO not about “the perfect plan”), and common sticking points that freeze even the most intrepid of dreamers and doers in their tracks.

I will caution you: Pursuing one goal with gusto and gaining all of the knowledge, insight, joy, and freedom that comes with that can lead to wanting more for yourself, which takes more self-discovery work, planning, and effort. You may even find yourself wanting to level up in all areas of your life. This does NOT mean endlessly chasing self-help solutions, hopping from guru to guru, method to method, or program to program.

I’m all about guiding you toward self-alignment, not self-improvement, and I’m excited to share how this process can feel with you.

What I’d love to hear from you is: What do you really, really, really want in your life and work?

Hit ‘reply’ to this email and tell me if you’re not quite ready to share it with the Internet, or look for this answer this question on my Facebook page and answer it there. Because choices are awesome!

My workshops on the books for this summer so far will be all about connecting to what you REALLY want for yourself. Vision boarding is a great creative exercise that is not only a ton of fun, but a really effective way to gain clarity about what you want. I’ve heard from multiple workshop guests that the things they put on their vision boards really happened for them!

If you’d like info on upcoming workshops or if you’d like me to host a workshop in your area, please get in touch.

Invite change that enlivens you

Labels NL May 2014Last week I attended an inspiring workshop about the creative process hosted by my friend Nancy Merkling. Nancy is responsible for the awesome headshots on my website — a new one should be ready this week! (I change my hair a lot. It’s a thing now.)

At one point, Nancy asked the audience what their primary creative pursuit was, and what they did as a sort of backup activity. I felt something shift in me when she asked that question. For the past twenty or more years, my answer would’ve been clear-cut: Writing and photography. Wrote for a living and for the joy of it, took photos for the joy of it and occasionally used them in my work, too. It was a good system, all wrapped up in a bundle I called “storytelling,” because that’s what I’m really about, ultimately.

Only sitting there in that moment, I realized: Those aren’t my go-to pursuits any more. I still take photos (see above) to tell stories. I really enjoy writing this newsletter and other content for my coaching practice. I think I will always write and take photos to tell stories.

But my go-to now is . . . coaching, teaching, and speaking. Still storytelling, really. Also another bundle of pursuits, because my brain can’t pick just one thing, like, ever. This is now my primary creative pursuit, because my work is really creative and expressive, thankfully. As for my secondary pursuit? I’m not quite sure. Videography popped into my head and I got all excited: I love documentaries and short films and smart, nerdy TV, and I’ve been wanting to tell stories in a new medium for a while now, but didn’t want to take on a new skill. A few minutes after the workshop ended, I met a really nice local videographer. (Heyyyyy, Universe. Thanks for that one.) That got me thinking: What if I collaborated with someone to tell stories in this new medium?” What if, indeed.

Often in my work with clients, I’ll hear a phrase like “Well, I’m not ____” or “I never ___” Sometimes I’ll ask them to pause and examine that statement. “Are you truly not (good with numbers, brave, graceful)?” “Are you sure you never (have time to make phone calls, make the same mistake twice, argue with your mom)?”

I think there’s tremendous value in knowing ourselves. But there’s also value in discovering and honoring when things shift for us, whether from resentment to forgiveness and harmony or from writing to speaking/teaching/coaching. Or 35mm SLR photography to iPhoneography. Or stay-at-home parent to business owner (or vice versa).

Examine every reflexive response you make. “I’m just not patient.” “I’m not good with kids.” “I’m too introverted.” “I always take the high road.” “I tried X once; it wasn’t for me.” “My go-to creative pursuit is ___.”

Why? Because every new step you take on the path of life brings with it the potential to open yourself to new possibilities. Where you once may have felt “meant to be” a writer, or with someone you swore was your soulmate, or broke as a joke, things can change. Time and experience and new learning changes us. So does new belief — in yourself, in possibility, in new ways of being and honoring our gifts.

Two things to watch out for:
1) Some people worry about shifting their priorities or focus due to what people might think. “Will people think I’m a hypocrite? Flaky? Disloyal?” Maybe. Keep in mind that what people say to or about you is almost always a reflection of how they feel about themselves, and has little to do with you and your priorities, vision, and journey. Also, live long enough and you’ll know that people evolve, change, and grow. It’s evolution and applied wisdom, not hypocrisy, to change your mind based on new information and experience.
2) If you find yourself changing and shifting a few times a year, or even a month (been there!), that might be a call for support and clarity to bring you closer to the heart of who you are and what you want. I offer free sessions designed to help you hone in on what you most want and create a plan to go for it.

Nutshell? Knowing who you are and what you value most is essential, but so is being open to shifting as you gain new information and experience. For a decade, I loved being a professional writer. Until I didn’t. I used to be terribly shy (those who have met me: stop laughing! It’s true!). Now I have a blast speaking in front of a room full of strangers. Think back to the person you were a decade ago. Two decades. Maybe, like me, you loved great stories. Maybe you loved running around outside barefoot. Maybe you still do, but perhaps instead of running marathons, now you belly dance. Maybe instead of writing only in a journal or personal blog, you’re putting yourself out there to be published.

Invite change that enlivens you.