Step Into Public Speaking

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As a young elementary school teacher, on Back to School Night, my naturally high pitched voice went even higher, even tighter and I spoke very fast. (Okay, it happened in other settings too. Think Minnie Mouse on steroids.) The excitement, stimulation, and nerves of speaking in front of all the parents influenced my speaking presence. Luckily, I was teaching in NYC where there are lots of theater professionals. Parents of a student invited me to their voice and communication workshops. Both workshops were transformative and gave me a chance to experience myself in entirely new ways.

Even so, growing as a leader and a communicator took time and is still an ongoing process. My passion for coaching communicating with presence and power grows from my own journey of becoming an effective speaker and leader. Periodically, I will use this blog to share some tips that I find working for me and my clients.

How do your nerves show up when it’s time for you to speak in front of a group?

Do you feel as if you are outside your body watching what’s happening?

Do you freeze and forget what you wanted to say?

Do you say the wrong words, say them too fast or too slow?

Do you feel short of breath? Does your pitch go up like mine did?

Do you have painful breaks between words while thinking of what to say?

Or do you ramble as the adrenaline drives your mind forward?

Here are a couple of tips for calming nerves and centering that have helped me and some of my clients. (You may also want to visit the Lighten and Let Go page to help you relax in advance.) You can use these tips to build your confidence and skills with any kind of public speaking, whether it is informal with friends, in leadership or presentational contexts.

Ground Yourself

You can do this sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground or in a standing position:

Shift your attention to the ground beneath your feet and the sensation on the bottoms of your feet. Feel solid and connected to the ground.

Imagine a purple crayon outlining your foot starting at the big toe, going over the other toes, around the side of the foot, around the heel, around the arch and back up to the big toe.

Imagine coloring in all the space within the outline and creating a purple stamp with your foot as you let your weight and awareness drop to your feet.

Do the same thing with the other foot, or do them at the same time.

Imagine all the muscles in your body melting like wax on a candle into the ground beneath your feet.

Breathe

Before you start your presentation:

Take some evenly paced inhales and exhales before you start speaking. This cues your nervous system to relax. Count 1-2-3-4-5 on the inhale and 1-2-3-4-5 on the exhale.

During your presentation

Take a breath before the beginning of your sentence. Just putting attention onto breathing as you begin a thought or a sentence will naturally slow down your pacing and bring your thoughts and body more into alignment. It will also help your nerves stay calm.

When you lose a word or forget something you wanted to say, taking a few seconds to breathe will help it resurface.

Connect with Your Audience

Imagine that you are the hostess of a big event. Act as if the meeting space isyour home and welcome everyone with your body and your eyes. Feel the welcoming energy and your body will reflect that open invitation.

Send smiles with your eyes. You don’t have to have a full smile if it doesn’t feel appropriate or natural. What’s important is that you are really seeing people and that they feel seen. Try catching the eye of an audience member and let your eyes connect for a moment, just enough to welcome that person with your eyes. Notice and allow the discomfort that may arise. Ironically, if you go with the discomfort you will appear more welcoming than if you try to hide or avoid the discomfort.

You may want to practice these tips at home on your own first and notice how they feel in your body. The more you can grow a physical awareness of how it feels, the easier it will be to use these tools when you want them.

Contact me for a complimentary coaching session to grow your impact as a speaker and as a leader.  If you are local, check out my events page for upcoming workshops.



Leah Zimmerman Headshop
Photo credit: Leila Sacks

Leah is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach who specializes in working with highly educated professional moms who want to reduce stress and bring more creativity, energy, and inspiration into their lives. Leah blends her backgrounds in leadership development, education and the performing arts with evidence-based practices to help women lead more integrated lives. Contact Leah for a complimentary coaching session and to learn more about coaching.

To Reduce Stress, Free Yourself From The Word “Should!”

Woman standing by the sea with her arms open wide.
Photo credit by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

Margaret Atwood writes in The Blind Assassin “Should is a futile word. It’s about what didn’t happen. It belongs in a parallel universe. It belongs in another dimension of space.”

How often do you think about what you should have done?

What you should do?

What you should think?

Shoulds are often weighted with judgments, assumptions, beliefs, and fear.

Carrying should thoughts is a heavy burden and carrying it every day can add a lot of stress to everyday things.

For years, my front porch has been filled with dead plants, dead leaves and looked like it belonged to deserted owners. Oh, the shoulds that could so easily infiltrate my thinking to me from that small little piece of cement in the front of my house!

“You should clean the porch.”

“You should sweep the leaves.”

“You should take time to make it look nice again.”

“You should be better at taking care of the house.”

The truth was that while I would have liked to have a clean and more inviting porch, I just didn’t care about it enough to make it the top of my “to do” list. I forgot about it most of the time and spent my time on things that I valued more.

So, I accepted it to be the way that it was. It became a joke among friends that our townhouse unit could be identified by the dead plants on the porch. Every once in a while, I would be out there and think “we should really clean this.” My should came from external sources about what a porch is supposed to look like, and how someone might judge my homemaking. Since it wasn’t intrinsically motivated or connected to what I truly valued or found important in my life at the time, I let the thought float away.

Here are some questions to help you approach the should’s in your life differently, and if you’re daring, let them float away.

How would you end these sentences?

I should be better at ___________.

I know I should __________, but I don’t.

Pick one of the thoughts that came up as you were filling in the blanks. How would your life change if you let go of that should thought? If it just didn’t exist anymore? To feel the difference, imagine that you did the should or that it ceased to exist. Can you feel that lightness?

“But, I can’t let it go!” you say. “I really, really should do it.”

 Okay, then. It sounds like you have some strong feelings around the should. If you are determined to hold on to your “should” thoughts then do so. You may need them and be ready for them at another time. I am not telling you what you should do. (See what I did there?)

If you’re willing to explore alternatives with me, read on:

Let’s start by identifying the source of this should.

To prepare for the next question, sit for a moment letting out a deep breath and listening to the room around you. Listen for the background sounds and sounds in the distance.

After you read the next question, turn that same listening attention towards yourself and listen for an answer.

From whence comes this should? Is it a should that is emanating from your external environment, from peers, family, societal norms, from something you heard or read?
Or is it a should that emanates from within your own self?

Now listen for an answer.

If your answer is that it comes to you from external sources, then next consider if it provides you with any meaning or if it’s something you value. If not, you may want to consider letting it go at least for now.

If it does have meaning and personal value to you or you answered that it was intrinsically motivated, then it probably is truly a want. It’s something you feel that you should do because it’s something you want to do.

If it’s something you want to do, can you identify what’s in your way?

Is your should too heavy to deal with?

Shoulds carry a lot of weight. The longer we carry them around the heavier they become, the heavier the burdens that we carry.

If this should could be represented by an object, how heavy does it feel on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being as light as a soap bubble and a 10 being as immovable as a boulder?

You always have a choice to let go of the should all together, or lighten the load by relieving yourself of the judgment or by facing the obstacles.

The most common obstacle is fear. Nervousness, anxiety, procrastination, and avoidance are signs of fear. It could be fear of failure, fear of success, fear of feeling incompetent, fear of confronting something or some other kind of fear.

Some questions to ask yourself:

How strong a priority is this for me? Can it wait? (The dead plants on my porch waited for years! Just ask the friends who poked fun at us.)

What would be the worst thing that could happen if you never do this should?

What do you need in order to feel free of this should?

What magical solution, if it existed, could unstick you?

What little bit can you do just for now?

How much does your should weigh now? I hope it got a little lighter.

Repeat all of the above anytime for improved results!

To explore more about releasing any of your shoulds, releasing judgment or getting unstuck, contact me about a complimentary coaching session.


Leah Zimmerman Headshop
Photo credit: Leila Sacks

Leah is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach who specializes in working with highly educated professional moms who want to reduce stress and bring more creativity, energy, and inspiration into their lives. Leah blends her backgrounds in leadership development, education and the performing arts with evidence-based practices to help women lead more integrated lives. Contact Leah for a complimentary coaching session and to learn more about coaching.

Three Quick and Easy Ways to Bring the Benefits of Mindfulness Into Your Day

 

 

It seems as if everywhere you look, someone is touting the benefits of mindfulness.

What is mindfulness and why is it something you might want to know?

Consider mindfulness as a way of letting go of the mind, of releasing thoughts and becoming more aware of oneself as a living being. In addition to releasing stress, this tool can give us an opportunity to slow down time, gain perspective, feel more in control of our own emotions and respond to people in ways that are more aligned with our values and reduce stress.

Of course, that’s if you can figure a way to build it into your day!  

To help with that, I’m giving you three very short and easy experiences meant to introduce to you the benefits of mindfulness. In a short time, using these tricks, you can taste what mindfulness has to offer. While they each take a minute or less, you will feel more of the benefits if you can do them longer or if you can do them frequently.

1) Have you ever seen something in the distance and looked ahead with curiosity trying to figure out what it is?
Or saw something so colorful that it filled your attention for a moment?
Or walked down a street lined with trees in bloom just taking in the flowers?

Living in NYC and walking a lot, I noticed how walking outside on beautiful days, I could get so attentive to the colors, textures, people, places that my mind felt clear. I could look ahead as if what I was seeing was a two-dimensional photo and take it in visually, without naming or judging it. I didn’t even know about mindfulness then! With practice, it has become a powerful tool for me, giving me a chance to let go of thoughts and re-center myself within moments.

Try this:

Walking or sitting, shift your attention from your thoughts to your senses. Find something that can fill your visual field.

What colors do you see?

What shapes?

What textures?

What lines?

What is in the forefront what is farther back?

Investigate it with open curiosity:

What does it look like right now?

What else can you notice about it?

Even if it only holds your attention for a few seconds, it gives you the beginning of learning how to interrupt your habitual thinking patterns.

To try for longer you may want to think about exploring the visual details of one thing in your view.

Can you trace the outline and contours with your eyes?

Can you notice the small details in the surface and texture of the item?

If/when your mind wanders, just bring it back to the exploration.

 

2) Listening hard for something directs our attention away from our thoughts.

I use this sometimes when I am teaching a group of students to bring their attention to their surroundings. Oh, the quiet that it creates! 

Try this:

Midstream the chatter in your head, in a conversation with yourself, take a moment to listen to yourself and wonder, “What am I going to think next?”

What happens? Wait for an answer. 

Could you notice how your mind waited, listening for a second?

Try it again. “What are you going to think next?”

Don’t think.

Just listen.

Let the thought come.

This gap between thoughts opens the possibility to interrupt thoughts and to experience a moment with a clear mind.

Do this a few times during the day, and investigate what that gap in the thinking feels like.

This is a short but powerful exercise. The impact comes from exploring the gap between the question and when the answer presents itself. If you can even feel a micro-moment of stillness, you will have begun to experience a mindful break.

If you do this often enough and combined with the other exercises, you may find yourself able to listen for longer periods of time without the soundtracks in your head filling the silences.

 

3) A short meditation: sit and count your breaths. It’s that simple.
This is how I got started meditating every day. I just sat down and counted my breath as I inhaled and exhaled. I liked imagining the waves of the ocean coming onto the shore with the exhaled breath and drifting towards the sea on the inhale. Hearing the exhale as if the waves were lapping the shore helped me stay focused. You may find something that works for you. 

Try this: Find a comfortable place to sit.

Close your eyes, or let your gaze fall on something so that you notice the peripheral vision.

Imagine your eyes spreading towards your ears. 

Notice how your body shifts when you rest your gaze and shift your attention.

Next, without moving your gaze, give some attention to the air going in and out of your body. Just notice how it feels.

Then start counting. 1–inhale, 1-exhale, 2-inhale, 2-exhale.

If your mind wanders before 60, notice it. Let it be in your awareness as you continue counting breathes from the last number that you remember.

To do it for longer, just keep breathing and counting. Inevitably your mind will wander. That’s great! When it does, you have the occasion to bring it back to the breath. Each time you bring the attention back to the breath, you exercise your mindfulness muscle! As you practice and advance, you can let go of counting and just focus on feeling the inhale and exhale in your body.

While there is a lot to read about mindfulness, the best way to learn about how it can help you is to experience it for yourself. I hope these three easy to do strategies give you a taste of what is possible.

To read this blog in pdf format click here: 3 Quick and Easy Ways to Bring the Benefits of Mindfulness Into Your Day

Contact me for a complimentary coaching session to explore more ways that you can integrate more of the benefits of mindfulness into your life.

Leah Zimmerman Headshop
Photo credit: Leila Sacks

Leah is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach who specializes in working with highly educated professional moms who want to reduce stress and bring more creativity, energy, and inspiration into their lives. Leah blends her backgrounds in leadership development, education and the performing arts with evidence-based practices to help women lead more integrated lives. Contact Leah for a complimentary coaching session and to learn more about coaching.

How to Step Into Your Power

A male lion at rest looks to the right.
Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

What does the idea of “stepping into your power” suggest to you?

Here are responses from some professional mothers who have attended a workshop on the subject:

  • Getting control of one’s emotions
  • Centering one’s self
  • Being able to speak calmly and logically
  • Being able to hold one’s own boundaries
  • Feeling grounded

What resonates with you?

Where in your life do you already feel powerful?

Here is what some women have said. Notice the verbs that they use:

  • When I’m loving my children
  • When I am serving others
  • When I am self-aware and am caring for others
  • When I am accepting
  • When I am influencing others
  • When I am igniting other people’s inner sparks

Anything sound familiar to you or give you ideas for yourself?

What is Power?

Our personal power comes from within when we accept our full being when we let all of who we are show up and communicate with a sense of wholeness. When we dare to be our full selves even if we experience a world that is trying to diminish us.

Whereas control comes from grasping at what we are afraid we can’t contain, power derives from a deeper place.

Imagine the difference between a grasping clenching fist with knuckles facing up and fingers folded inward, and an open palm rising. One tries to close around something in order to contain it, the other opens up towards possibilities. The grasp is what happens when we reflexively hang on to something we are afraid we will lose. The open palm starts deeper in our body and literally uplifts as it raises someone or something. One pulls inwards towards ourselves and the other extends outwards, an invitation to include others.

Who Am I to Assume Power?

Often as women, we are reluctant to speak with confidence and conviction. We don’t want to sound boastful, step on anyone’s toes or make anyone feel bad. So, we pull back. We apologize with our bodies, our words, our tone of voice.

Which of these behaviors sound most like you when you feel less powerful?

  • Pulling your body inward such as tucking your arms close to your body, crossing your legs, or hunching your shoulders.
  • Ending a statement as a question
  • Using your hands and facial expressions in ways that pull focus from your words
  • Laughing as you speak
  • Speaking softly, hesitantly and carefully
  • Mumbling, dropping the ends of sentences

Simple Exercise for Experiencing Power

Here is a simple exercise that can reveal to you the ease of feeling your personal power.

Answer each question in your head, then answer out loud:

  • What is your name?
  • How old are you?

Can you notice and feel in your body the easy confidence and conviction behind your answers?

You have nothing to prove, no uncertainty to overcome, no fear of offending anyone, of seeming overbearing or of being wrong. There are no emotions to hide, it just is your name. You are expected to know your name and age, and to be the expert about those personal details. Thus, you allow yourself the confidence and conviction in your answer. Most likely, you did not show any of the equivocating signs that I mentioned above.

What if you could bring that ease, certainty and relaxed authority to elsewhere in your life?

Give Yourself Permission

“Be loud and wrong” is the nicest thing I had ever heard anyone say to me in an audition. Permission to be loud, out of bounds, and wrong gives us immense freedom.

Years ago, when I was teaching in an elementary school in Texas, we had a program where teachers donated one free period a week to tutor a fifth-grade student who was struggling with state standardized test. In our first session, I watched my student nervously take a practice test. In the second session, I told her, “Today, just go for it. Go ahead and get them all wrong.” That was all she needed. From then on, she always answered everything correctly. It was a lesson I will never forget. Just having permission to be wrong replaced her fear of being wrong and changed her performance.

What freedom do you need to feel powerful?

Free from perfection?

Free from mistakes?

Free from always being nice?

Find the Courage

How might it be easier to step into your power if you knew that you could handle any fearful challenge that arose?

Amy Cuddy teaches us that we can feel like Wonder Woman and gain some of her strength and courage by posing like her. Stand with your feet shoulder-distant apart, put your fisted hands on your hips.

Feel what it’s like to open between the shoulder blades take up space and feel physically expansive. Can you feel the strength? Can you find more courage standing in this pose?

Feel the Support

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” What are you looking for elsewhere in the world that you can find within yourself if you only dared? Plan some ways that you can give this to yourself. One way is to surround yourself with people who believe in you.

Who in this world supports you and figuratively stands with you and behind you? Feel those people’s presence with you as you take risks.

Try this exercise:

Sit in a chair with a back support and let your feet gently touch the ground. Feel the bottoms of your feet and the surface area that makes contact with the floor. Know and trust that floor is supporting you. Feel your weight on the chair, know that chair is holding you up. Lean into the back of the chair. Feel the surface area of the chair make contact with your body. In your mind draw those points of contact. Now let go into the chair and the floor. Trust all that supports you in the world.

If you can trust that you are supported, that all will be okay, how does that free you?

What does the idea of “stepping into your power” suggest to you now?

Hopefully, with these strategies, you can gradually step into owning more of your own powerful presence.

To take a bigger step, sign up for my newsletter to learn about upcoming live and online workshops or contact me for a complimentary coaching session.

How to Raise a Child

Recently while appearing in Seussical the Musical, as Mrs. Mayor, I had a breakdown in Act 1 when I saw the “ceiling peeling” and the “flooded den” as a result of our son JoJo’s “thinks.” I vented frustration with my husband Mr. Mayor about raising our child, “Where are the instructions on how to raise a child? Who has all the answers? I don’t know…”

Have you also wondered about the instruction book for raising children?

It’s virtually impossible to write one definitive book because every child is different, every parent and every family is different, and there are so many possibilities.

Coaching, on the other hand, is a customized conversation that facilitates insights and discovery for the client. In an individualized conversation, parents have an opportunity to develop content for their own instruction book.

What if Mrs. Mayor could have worked with a coach? How might that have changed the story? Listen closely and see if it gives you any ideas for working with your child:

(For the ease of imagining and sharing this session, Mrs. Mayor will not be speaking in Seussian rhymes. We will, however, retain her use of the word “thinks” as a noun for things that have been thought.)

Me: I’m so pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mayor! Thank you so much for the honor of coaching you.

What’s going well for you these days?

Mrs. Mayor: Oh, I’ve been so worried about our speck of dust and what will happen to Who-ville. But, Horton has found us! We are safe on a clover. Well, for now. Oh! And the PTA has scheduled a bake sale coming up soon!

Me: That sounds huge! It must be such a relief to be safe on a clover. Congratulations!

What excites you about the bake sale?

Mrs. Mayor: Oh, I promised 10 pill berry bush pies! They are always so popular and sell out quickly! The proceeds will go to the Grinch’s Christmas Fund for Orphan Children.

Me: That does sound exciting! How dedicated of you to bake 10 pies for the bake sale!

Mrs. Mayor: I’m also excited for my husband’s opportunity to lead us, and for us to be safe. He’s just been elected and upstanding behavior is expected of our son JoJo. But, I am so worried about my son’s thinking! His teachers have nothing good to say about him. He gave Miss O’Dooley a nervous conniption! His thinking takes him places where no one has been! Then yesterday, we came up the stairs to discover that the ceiling was peeling and he had flooded the den. My husband and I just don’t know what to do!! We are beside ourselves!!

Me: That sounds very hard for you and your husband. It sounds like you know you want your son to stop having thinks that flood the den.

Do you have an idea of what you would like for him to do?

Mrs. Mayor: Before this thinking began, he was a perfect little boy, he did everything that he was told, he didn’t make any messes, his teachers all loved him because he did everything just the way that they asked. He even got an award once for how well he colored inside the lines!!

Me: It sounds like you are pretty sure that it’s all the “thinking” that’s been changing his behavior. and you’d like for him to stop!

Mrs. Mayor: We want him to think, we just want him to have normal thinks!

Me: What would normal thinking be?

Mrs. Mayor: He needs to stop turning minnows into whales!

Me: “Turning minnows into whales!” It sounds like he likes to have creative and inventive thinks. What a great strength!

How might you guide him towards using this strength in a way that feels more aligned with your vision for your family life?

Silence as Mrs. Mayor thinks and reorients around this question.

Well, what do you think?

What strength does your child overuse in ways that frustrate you?

How might you answer this question to guide your child to use her strength in ways that feel more productive and aligned with your vision for your family?

Does this question give you any new thinks about the instruction book for raising your child?  

Discover new insights for your own personal parenting instruction book through a complimentary coaching session.


Leah Zimmerman Headshop
Photo credit: Leila Sacks

Leah is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach who specializes in working with highly educated professional moms who want to reduce stress and bring more creativity, energy, and inspiration into their lives. Leah blends her backgrounds in leadership development, education and the performing arts with evidence-based practices to help women lead more integrated lives. Contact Leah for a complimentary coaching session and to learn more about coaching.

 

How to Believe in Yourself Right Now

henri-meilhac-155942-unsplash.jpgSo many of us professional women who have succeeded at multiple levels of school, and may even be in powerful or respected positions, are still trying to follow all the rules and the meet expectations. We’re always ready for some external authority to look at our life, and highlight with a red pen everything that we are doing wrong. We talk to ourselves about where we fall short of who and what we want to be.

Is that true for you as well?

At this time of writing, my own self doubt starts:

How do I say what I want to say? Will I find the words? Will I engage the audience in something that matters to them?

Does this line of self questioning sound familiar to you?

I learned a helpful trick for handling the anxiety jumping around in my stomach during my “slow year.” Overstressed from multiple factors, my body shut down and could barely move. I tired easily. Everything felt heavy and extremely difficult. I had to slow down my reality to match body.  Eckhart Tolle teaches that we can always handle the moment that we are in. This became my guiding principle. Instead of anticipating the intense fatigue or pain that would come with the entirety of the activity, or face the pain and fatigue worrying that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, I focused on exactly what I was doing in that very moment. I learned to handle each micro moment as it evolved.

Too often, you get stuck in a negativity loop, questioning, doubting, feeling the anxiety which escalates your doubt. Negativity narrows your focus, you see only a narrow path ahead of you.

So, how do you open the path to wider possibilities?

You can learn to trust yourself in this moment and to have faith in your future self. You have to believe that who you are in the next moment, hour, day, year, decade, will be someone who can handle each thing as it comes. 

So, I respond to myself, “Trust yourself. Keep writing, keep engaging with the thoughts and the words, and it will come. Give it the time and attention, and something will emerge. Keep going, just keep writing, and something will connect. You’ve done it before, and you will do it again.”

A woman at a wood counter by a window with plants with a bought coffee, writing in a journay
Photo by Hannah Olinger via Unsplash

Now that I am fast again like everyone else, I remember these tips when the self questioning starts:

  1. Keep reminders for yourself of when you have been successful at a challenge. Take time every day to reflect on your strengths and your successes. Try the What Went Well exercise. This Positive Psychology exercise brings into your awareness the strengths you already bring into each moment. Do it for a while, and you will feel an easy shift.
  2. Build relationships and contact with people who believe in your potential, who can see where you are going and not only where you are right now. Who is someone who believes in you that you can talk to more often? Notice as you go through the next few days, several weeks, who might already believe in you if really took the time to listen? How can you fill your life with these voices?
  3. Remember that you can always handle the moment that you are in. Take everything moment by moment as I described above. Instead of thinking, I only have a few hours to get this done with the underlying fear of failure gnawing at you, say to yourself, I need to do the most I can and the most focused work I can right now. What does right now need to look like? What will help me right now to do that?
  4. As soon as you finish reading this, send a message containing number one and two to a professional mother in your support network. Make that person’s day by showing that you remember their successes and by being the person who believes in her.

It takes time to develop new strategies and habits of thinking. Be patient. It’s always okay to start over again exactly where you are right now.

Coaching customizes a conversation for you that engages you in having your own insights your own process for believing in yourself. Get in touch with me for a complimentary session.

 

 

What Can King Triton (from Disney’s The Little Mermaid) Discover in a Coaching Session?

Walt-Disney-Book-Images-Sebastian-King-Triton-Flounder-Princess-Ariel-walt-disney-characters-37767703-500-313
Introduction: 

When King Triton discovers that Ariel has been visiting the surface and the human world, he forbids her to go back there again. With all his masculine strength and power he pronounces that she will not do that again. With special light and sound effects, he makes his point heard, his decision final, his determination clear and his power known. Ariel responds by moving towards someone who will listen, understand and try to help her. She moves forward with her plan independently, unaware of the risks that await her. Later in the show, Triton will try to save her soul from Ursula the sea-witch.

Power plays and controlling circumstances are lose-lose scenarios. While the parent (or teacher, manager, leader) may win her way in the short run, it is usually at the expense of the child’s sense of self and/or trust in the relationship between the parent and child. Sometimes a parent may seem to win, but the child just continues doing things secretly just as Ariel does. Other times, in slow subtle ways, the child retreats from doing much at all. Most often when the adult chooses control and authoritarian rule, the choice for the child is powerlessness or anger and rebellion. So what is a parent (teacher, manager, leader) to do?

Maybe listening to this coaching session will help you start to think of ideas.

Leah: It’s nice to meet you King Triton. I’m truly honored for the opportunity to coach you. So, what is something that’s been going really well for you? Maybe something that inspires you?

Triton: My daughters are the jewels of my kingdom. They light up the dark seas, and bring joy to my life. They bring light and laughter to the court!

Leah: (Catching the light tone of his voice) How lovely to hear you talk about your daughters with such delight! Your voice lightens when you talk about them.

Triton: (Laughs) I suppose it does. And yes, they are delightful. And, with six of them, I have no challenges. They are sweet, obedient and easy to predict…

Leah: Six?!

Triton: Yes. I really struggle with the seventh. Ariel. She seems to have a mind of her own and it’s not any place where I can find it! I found out she’d been to the surface and been with humans. She’s been collecting a lot of human stuff! She has no idea what a danger humans can be to us. I’m so afraid for her.

Leah: It sounds like you care deeply about your daughters and their safety.

Triton: Yes! It’s my job to protect them. How can I protect her when she goes beyond the boundaries of the kingdom. She doesn’t understand… (his voice trails off)

Leah: (after a pause in case Triton has something to add) You have used the word understand a few times now. You want to understand Ariel, she doesn’t understand the dangers.

Triton: Hmm, yes. If I could understand what she was thinking, or if I could make her understand the dangers…

Leah: So, how could you do that?

Triton: Well I told her that she is forbidden to go to the human world again! I used my King voice, my trident and my powers to show her I was serious and I meant it!

Leah: And did that help her to understand?

Triton: Of course it did!

Leah: Really, that’s great! ….How do you know?

Triton: (Silence) Hmm… Now that you ask me…I just thought it was obvious that she heard me. She did react…

Leah: Just now when you said that you forbade her to go to the human world, and showing that you were serious, your whole tone changed. It sounded harder, brasher.

Triton: Hmm.

Leah: It didn’t have the love in it that I heard earlier in our conversation today.

Triton: Ohhh.  (Quiet as his brain starts to make connections)  So, are you suggesting that she only heard the anger, not the protection?

Leah: What do you think she saw and heard from her father in that moment?

Triton: Hmm (Starts to laugh) I guess I sounded like my own father, pretty angry. He could be scary. I didn’t really understand him until I became a father…

Oh. I see. She might not really have understood at all. Then what do I do? How do I help her to understand? (He gets quiet again thinking…) ….I don’t want to tell her all the things that have happened to us because of humans… Unless…. maybe that’s how she will understand?

Leah: It sounds to me like even though fear of what could happen drives the way you communicate, you don’t actually communicate the fear.

Triton: I never thought about it that way. But! A king is supposed to be strong and obeyed! Not fearful and….vulnerable. I’m not supposed to show her my fear.

Leah: (playfully) Hmm, I wonder which rule book says that? I haven’t seen it…

Triton: (his voice lightening) True, true… (Laughing ) That’s because nobody ever had seven daughters before!!

(They laugh together.)

Triton: Okay, so if I want her to understand, I have to find a way to tell her about the danger and that it makes me fearful. Ugh, I don’t want to talk about my feelings! (Some light laughter…)

Leah: Do you have to?

Triton: Hmm…Can I tell her about the dangers and get her to understand it without telling her how it makes me feel? I could do that. I’ve never taken her to the museum of the sunken ships and showed her the canons and guns humans carry…

Leah: Sounds like you are starting to have some new ideas!

Does this resonate for you as a parent and help you think about any new possibilities?
If King Triton’s goal is to keep his child safe, what else might he try?

Bring your coaching goal to the open group on Tuesday 11am PT/2pm ET.  Sign up here. 

 

 

Getting Unstuck (#1)

I was on a coaching call with a client who in addition to recovering from a traumatic car accident needed to replace her car quickly. She was stressed and not able to decide between two possible car purchases. At first, when I listened it sounded like she thought they both had merits and was torn between two different, but equal choices. Further, into the conversation, it became clear that she did favor one car over the other. If she had a preference, why was she stuck with indecision?

Why was making a choice so hard?

Two city "one way" signs stacked perpendicullarly
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

As I listened, she described the advice that she had received from relatives that conflicted with her own instincts. It became clear that she was stuck because she feared various criticisms and judgments that would follow the purchase of the car that she favored. She knew exactly what each member of her family would say. She also had her own imagined criticisms she heard in her head. The expected negativity from others paralyzed her.

Finally, I posed the question, “What if you could trust that everything would be fine whichever choice you make?”

There was quiet. Then a much calmer and lighter voice responded. The Volvo. The question had released her from the arguments in her head and helped her to see what she wanted with more clarity.

How often do we all get stuck because we fear what’s ahead?

If you could look ahead with trust that it can and will work out okay, what would that change?

How might that change the way you show up? The way you approach the situation? How might that offer new possibilities and new solutions?

Sometimes just moving from fear to trust can change everything!

When we are afraid, we contract inside ourselves, we live small. Similar to how a deer freezes in the headlights, we stop moving.

When we allow ourselves to feel the positive emotions that might come from having what we want, or when we allow trust and faith, we open ourselves to more possibilities.

Who could you be right now if you trusted yourself? What could you bring to this situation if you knew it would be okay?

Woman at the shore with her arms open wide and face tilted to the sky
Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

 

Sprout Life

Close up of sprouts (maybe beans) just an inch off the ground.
Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash
What is the life energy that opens in a seed and moves up, pushing its way through the ground to find the light? What is the source of this driving energy?
Is it related to what keeps someone going despite the overwhelming challenges that they face?

How does a woman who couldn’t even lift herself out of a chair, stand or take a few steps on her own start to teach herself to eat and walk all over again? How does someone whose income disappeared get through each day and find resources to survive? How does someone who hits rock bottom, find the will to climb back up?

The person in the story might say, “I had no choice. I had to keep going. What else am I going to do?”

If there is “no choice” than what is it? Somehow despite feeling that one has reached a physical, mental, or health disaster point, something within can sprout new life prompting drive and perseverance. Could it be a similar energy to what pushes a sprout through the ground into the light?

Maybe just as the sun shines energy, there is an energy that moves through living beings, keeping us growing like a sprout.

Maybe the energy that moves through living beings is always there, always dynamic just not in ways that measure change. Perhaps a tree is not as still as it looks, nor is the image we see in the mirror that seems to be the same day after day. Maybe things that we perceive to be separate and apart, a tree, a person, an animal, are interconnected through the life energy that moves within and between us, or simply that it’s something we all have within us.

I wonder if we are so focused on our day to day problems that we miss noticing the energy that holds us up against gravity, moves us forward, keeps us wanting, yearning, and looking ahead. Instead we think hard about what we need to do, about our problems, about the things going wrong. Ultimately, the thoughts themselves about our problems become the biggest obstacles we face.

Our bodies know how to sense danger and react, they know to be hungry, to feel full, to fight colds and disease, how to feel love, how to feel happy and sad, how to keep moving, how to sleep. Our bodies will do all these things. Like the baby who wants to walk, like the sprout in the ground, our bodies connect to a system of energy that wants to keep going.

What if we could trust that system just a bit more, and let go of the need to feel fully responsible for everything that happens to us? To trust that our bodies have a deeper wisdom?

What if just as they know how to survive and heal in many situations, they can lead us towards positive solutions in our day to day experience?

Research shows that our minds and bodies are more connected than we have thought previously.

What if we could trust our own instincts?  How might that change the way we approach our next steps?
What might the freedom from control bring instead?

 

5 Free Mother’s Day Gifts for Yourself (whether or not you are or have a mother)

Catch a Smile: Build your positive emotions!

You know when someone smiles at you in such a way that you catch it and smile back without even thinking? That feeling of connection that lights you up? It can be sharing a funny story with the check out person at Trader Joe’s, getting together with a friend, or smiling at a neighbor on the street.

Creating moments of connection with another person creates what researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls “positive resonance” that can boost your positive emotions which contribute to your overall health and well being. “Under the influence of positive emotions, your sense of self actually expands to include others to greater degrees.”

Collect Hugs: Give yourself a big dose of Oxytocin!

One young woman has her arms around another. They lean into each other with their cheeks touching.

Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle” or “love hormone.” It is a key player in establishing our attachments and bonds to other people, but it also has immediate benefits for hugging. It calms anxiety and stress, increases trust and connection. It’s what makes holding a baby and cuddling with someone we love so relaxing.

Do something playful, silly or funny!

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According to the National Institute of Play, play relieves stress and builds resilience. “It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” So, you’re never too old to play.  Let loose a little, play pretend, tell jokes, and make people laugh!

Find the flow!

hannah-olinger-549282-unsplashDo something you love at just the right amount of challenge so that it captures your attention, time disappears and you get lost in it.  Research shows that this state of “flow” improves your emotional regulation and your productivity. You may experience more confidence, self esteem and find more meaning in life.

Experience Awe

hans-veth-402052-unsplashWe experience awe when we encounter something so vast and exceptional that we struggle to comprehend it. It can be seeing the starry sky from the desert on a clear night, watching Niagra Falls, standing on a mountaintop, encountering a breathtaking work of art, or watching someone display Olympian skills that surpass our imagination. The positive emotions experienced through awe can promote health and well being. 

Whether or not we are moms, many of us are caregivers of some sort and could derive happiness and long term benefits from these five experiences.

 

 

 

Parenting by Heart

Inside a heart the words love 24 hrs
Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

How do the choices you make every day as a parent align with your goals for your child, for your family life?

I was still in the parking lot when my distressed daughter called me. One of her costumes had not made the trip with her to the theater for the final dress rehearsal of her upcoming dance recital. We lived 30 miles away, and had just slogged our way through rush hour traffic to get there. I had plans to eat dinner with local friends and didn’t want to cancel for this.

Inventorying the choices, I couldn’t help but register the various parent voices and opinions that exist in the parent-sphere. I thought about the parenting paradigm of not helping, letting the child deal with the consequences as a learning experience.

What am I enabling if I go home and get her costume?

Why not let the child learn to remember by negative example?

Was I hovering and protecting too much if I got her costume for her?

Road sign showing a choice of left or right turns
Photo by Pablo García Saldaña via Unsplash

Years ago, as a new mom holding my infant daughter, I had the realization that what I most wanted for her was to learn to trust herself. I knew that meant cultivating that trait or skill within myself first.

So, that’s what I did.

After some disappointment, heavy sighing, and hearing all the arguments in my head, I decided to follow my instinct. I told my friends I’d be late for dinner, and got back on the highway. (Thank you friends for waiting for me!)

Later that evening, in the car ride home, my daughter thanked me and said that it made her feel good that I had helped her. It made her want to reciprocate.

That’s when I understood what my instinct had meant. I had lived my values of kindness and compassion in the way I treated my distressed daughter. Listening to her, I knew that for who my daughter is at this moment, for who I am right now, I did what felt right. Hopefully, she will remember the event as a positive example of caring and kindness.

By now, you probably have an idea of what you would done in a similar scenario with your child.

How would your choice have aligned with your goals for your child, your self, your family? What would feel right to you?

Would you like an opportunity to reflect on your values, and how to align your parenting goals with them? Join us for our next webinar, or contact me for a complimentary coaching session.  

 

Holy Work

Image of a detail from the painting Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam that shows their forefingers almost touching. God's finger is reaching forward, Adam's seems to be a little bit lifted, but the wrist is limp.

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Do you experience moments that transcend the normal every day and could be considered holy in their own kind of way? Where? How?

The ancient tabernacle as described in the Bible had an outer courtyard, then a structure that had within it the smaller Holy of Holies.

The Israelites gathered in the courtyard, the priests could enter the structure and only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies on Yom Kippur. The more intimate the space, the holier the space. And the holiest of holies was the priest alone with God.

I’ve been wondering if the Biblical tabernacle could be a metaphor for our body and the holy of holies the intimacy of our own heart. Our outer surfaces, like the outer courtyard, interact with our environment and the people we meet and greet each day. They are our first step of interaction. Within us we have the torso that houses all of the important organs. Could this be like the structure inside the courtyard? Then within the structure, there is an ark, within that ark God’s word. Could our heart be that core within the ribcage within the torso?

There are many people I enjoy seeing and who see my outer surfaces. A smaller number of people who hear more of my inner thoughts and feelings, then a unique few with whom I open the intimacy of my heart. When there is someone with me listening, present and caring as I open the depths of my heart, it can feel quite divine. I transcend the everyday, when I connect with another person one heart to another.

As a coach, I have the honor of being present with people as they move through the layers of their own being towards discovery and shifts that open the world for them, empowering them and enabling them to see new possibilities. Inevitably, it moves me as well closer to my own Holy of Holies.

It is a holy moment to be in the space with someone when they have such huge revelations about things that are so intimate to them.

Can you imagine an intimate space that feels sacred to you?