Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Decades passing

Last week I renewed my professional membership in the International Coaches Association and ticked the box "10 +" for the number of years that I have been coaching.  This year marks the 10th anniversary of my coach training and the discovery of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  That year was also my 50th birthday year and a year of unparalleled growth in my career, stepping into vastly more responsibility.  I passed the exam for my real estate license and married off a daughter (now, that was FUN!).  Perhaps there is something to marking the passing of a decade that speeds up the process and gives a deadline to completing something.

Pondering how I want to mark this year has been an interesting process.  I have bounced between worry that it isn't going to turn out to fulfill my high expectations and consciously letting it flow and unfold as naturally and organically as possible.  I have some big projects in the works and as I chip away at each one over the period of a week, I can see some progress and try to be gentle when it feels I am stalled.  My intention for this year is to have a blend of completions and beginnings, with just the right balance of play and effort.  I have no grand plan other than a promise that I will have one great celebration or experience each month this year.

So far, I have been to a live rock show, something I haven't done in years, celebrated with indulgence the abirnerfersary of the first date with my sweetie (42 years ago!) and this month I will see Elton John play live for the first time and take on training in a program of Systems Thinking that fascinates me (that is two for March).  The rest of the year stretches out in front of me and I am approaching it with curiosity and a sense of fun to be had.

The world looks very different now 10 years later and I am spending some time considering the changes for better or worse.  Now, with two marvelous grandsons to play with, living with my sweetheart in the neighbourhood I dreamed of, spending my time directed, for the most part, in what I want to be doing, I don't know that I could have predicted this wealth of happiness that I experience.  There were days 10 years ago when I would stand in the shower before heading to the office in Vancouver and wonder how much longer I could keep up the effort and energy it took to work that job with the responsibility and travel.  Life feels simpler and easier now even though it remains complicated and complex at different turns.

I have conversations with my 70 year old future self and contemplate what life will look like in another decade.  This past 10 years were not foreseen by the Carol preparing for work in North Vancouver, so I expect the next will be just as surprising.  Time to put some messages in a bottle for that "old gal" considering how to commemorate 2027.

What is the note-to-self that you want to forward ahead 10 years?  What will you be celebrating?

Friday, February 3, 2017

If you had a "do-over" in your life, what would it be?

It has been a strange winter in my part of the world.  Today, I am gazing on snowflakes gently drifting past my window (which I am encouraging to gain momentum and give me a decent snowfall since I don't have anywhere to go this afternoon).  I am not winging south to the sun this year, so I have been more focused on the weather here than usual.  I did think this morning how nice it would be to have sufficient disposable income to travel at my leisure and know there was more money in the bank than needed in my lifetime.

That led me to consider the concept of "do-over".  You know, what Billy Crystal talked about in City Slickers, where you get to start again.  I pondered where in my past I would choose a different path if I had the chance to revisit certain pivotal decisions.  Like the time when my parents offered me a trip to England if I gave up my boyfriend who they considered a bad influence (I am still married to him, 38 years today, as a matter of fact).  Or the travel across Canada proposed by a second cousin so we could finally meet after being penpals for over a decade (decided it was too much money and I have now lost touch with her).  And the time when I gave up on a fledgling business, threw in the towel with significant financial consequences (the product we were working on is now sold throughout North America with reasonable success).  Crucial choices that had I gone the other way, my life would be very different.  Better?  Who knows? 

What became clear was that I wouldn't be here and I don't want to trade this.  I have shared before how truly happy I am with my existence, the people in it and the directions I am exploring.  Once again I became aware that all of those twists and turns have landed me in this wondrous moment.  The multi-verse me may have had the experience of the roads not taken and it would be marvelous to compare notes at some point when I have completed the journey this time round.  But for now, the snow has mostly turned to rain that will nourish the crocuses and snowdrops bravely heralding the spring ahead.  

What about you?  When you reach back to remember those moments when your gut told you the left turn vs the right turn would impact the future, would you choose differently if you could do it over?  Where do you think you would be now?  

One thing is certain, there was never a horse that I should have bet on to win against the odds or one number missing to win the gazillion dollar lottery.  And since I really have no regrets about the choices, I can be content with where I am!  I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Best year yet?

When I first had the word "breathe" tattoo'd on my wrist, I had no idea how often I would glance at it, trace the letters and be grateful for the reminder to consciously do something that is supposedly so without thought or effort.  What became clear was the difference made when I did bring focus to my breath to stop and be aware.  

Lots is written about awareness and mindfulness today and I still experience the outcome in my life as if it is magic.  Pausing to breathe in and out instantly pulls my 90 mph mind from the Indianapolis 500 racetrack blurring through the windshield perspective.  Miraculously, with nothing more than a breath, stillness, just for a second, overtakes the anxious whirring.  A  reminder of this minor wonder was worth the curious bee sting sensation that accompanied the inking of my body.

I approached the beginning of this year with a troubled feeling that I was already behind.  I had the nasty flu that flattened many people over the holidays and looking at the unsent Christmas cards on my desk this morning, I realized that I wasn't getting those two weeks back and it was time to move on to embrace the potential of 2017.  I have a marvelous day book for the year titled "Make %*it happen", with the "S-H" artfully blacked out on the cover.  It is a "Call-to-action" or CTA as my brilliant marketing colleagues would say.  And it is a theme I am very ready to welcome this year.  

This will be the 60th spin around the sun for this body.  It feels momentous and worth celebrating.  It will coincide with the completion (if the good lord is willin' and the crik don't rise too much) of my Masters degree and the sesqui-centennial for Canada.  There will be all kinds of events and fireworks displays which I will take full advantage of to mark my birthday year.  There are also notable opportunities unfolding related to my degree program and advancing my coaching practice and I am really excited about the next twelve months.  I feel prepared to be fully at work, exercising my awareness muscles to gain more capacity to be in the moment and yet gazing ahead.  

Writing, journalling, sharing thoughts and dialogue will enhance my experience and allow me to engage with others to further the happenings.  What is your Call to Action?  What will make this your best year yet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Balancing the Give and Take

As I looked at my calendar for this month, I noticed there are a number of pro bono engagements, times that will not be fully compensated, at least in a monetary sense.  I am writing a final paper for a course in Leadership and have been asked to describe my leadership philosophy.  Well, I thought, mine must be "give it away".  Often the flip answers that I say to myself in the Q & A time that goes on in my head are worth pausing to consider.  What is it about this desire to bestow something to someone that can have it return such value to us?  

It is not as though I provide anything less of myself to my non-paying clients.  Quite the opposite, I am almost more free to share all of me because there is no assigned value to live up to.  I am coaching or advising them purely because I want to see them glow.  There is nothing in it for me other than being present to the absolute magic that occurs when another human being gets a measure of themselves and sees their world from a brand new perspective.  I have known for a long time that is priceless.  And as I puzzle my way through this, I wonder how this balances out in the karmic world?  Will it lead to the life I envision simply because I am willing to be generous now?  

You may have noticed there are more questions than answers here (which probably doesn't bode well for the 1500 word paper due at the end of the week...).  There is still the concrete, in the world reality, of paying rent and buying groceries that doesn't get handled just because I have shining eyes from my last fabulous conversation.  I can consider a world where remuneration might be that my housing is covered or someone provides me with meals for a week but I don't yet have the structure built to participate in my life that way.  I have a sense we are moving towards that but for now my freedom to travel, to eat at wonderful restaurants and indulge my loved ones is based on my bank balance not whether I have sufficiently balanced giving and taking.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Showing up in the world

As I notice my reluctance to complete the task of polishing my website so it is shiny and ready to be seen widely in the world, I get to consider what may be behind my hesitation.  I have always thought of myself as an introvert, a shrinking violet and an easily forgettable little person.  I have come face to face with a different person who seems to bear little resemblance to who I know myself to be.

I have tackled my Masters program with zest and enthusiasm and it has resulted in academic excellence.  It turns out that I am pretty good at this school stuff and I love the challenge of expressing myself in a scholarly manner.  More than that, it has been impossible not to notice that I have an impact on the groups/classes/cohorts I am engaged with and that my input and opinions have been welcomed and appreciated.  Not something I expected.

The fact that my MBTI came in solidly as an extrovert and no one else was surprised is another indication that I may not have been as self-aware as I claimed to be.  How could I have missed what others have clearly seen?  What would have me want to be invisible and keep pretending that I am?  I am reminded of trying on a pair of pants in a shop last summer and the clerk saying that I should try on the small.  I said, no, that couldn't be and she said why wouldn't you want to be a size small?  In pondering on that, I wonder why I wouldn't want to be out there and overt instead of covert?

Well, I won't get all therapy-like on you here, as much as I am sure there are explanations in my childhood.  Suffice to say that I am ready to be conspicuous and noticeable.  Launching my website with my newly branded self is a great next step.  Stay tuned, here we go...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Is it really working?

Bounty.  That is what summer means to me.  Bountiful sunshine, warmth, time, gardens, fruit, indulgence.  That is what I am experiencing in my life right now which sometimes occurs as truly magical.  And being the small human being that I am, I also observe the shadow thought that follows... is this really working?  And by "this", I mean the amazing unfolding of my life with all of my fondest desires and dreams coming true.  And what is more, the teensy possibility that it is working out there in the rest of the world?!  The Guardian from London has reported that we are entering a post-capitalist era.  I am excited about that, even though my proclivity for online purchasing may come to and end, I am clear that would be a good thing for the planet (although I may need to increase my wardrobe and pairs of shoes before we shut it all down - wait a minute, is buying shoes from Tom's capitalism?  Doesn't it count as doing good?  I digress...).  

In the world that I have imagined, we have found a conscience collectively and are working to make it better for each other and rely upon fun and silliness as a measure of success.  Many times I have been reminded of my kumbaya attitude, which you may be interested to know is actually in the Urban Dictionary, defined as "blandly pious and naively optimistic".  Well, I wouldn't go so far as blandly but I can see why some people could see me that way.  However, I have been toying with, allowing myself to briefly touch upon the thought that life could be this grand always.  What if each day was completely incredible and there was something to smile about at each turn?  It could be that The Universe is right that life is "brimming with adventure, abundance and infinite possibilities" (huge shout out to Mike Dooley who leads the way for so many!).  Is it that easy?  Is it really working?

Now, I know that toilets still need to be scrubbed, gardens weeded and sh*% happens.  I am very conscious that I was blessed to land where I did at birth.  Not everyone grew up without ever being really hungry or fearful.  But it proves to me that it is possible.  The very fact that I do experience this wonderful existence means that others do too.  And we all could.  

I am going to dwell here in this place of contemplation of a turning.  Moreover, I want to look back and see that I lived through this turning, that we will recall the time when the shift did occur and the optimism became reality.  I am responsible for my part.  I actively share my beliefs about a glorious future and I have recently noted my willingness to be disturbed as Margaret Wheatley describes. This relatively new inclination to be pushed out of my comfort zone of thought has opened new avenues and given me a grateful perspective on the non-kumbaya folk, as that is where the new ideas come from. Margaret Wheatley put it perfectly when she said "we don't have to agree with each other to think well together".   

Come and think well with me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A new contract for life

I always thought that I would write fiction and perhaps that is what this is. It truly is fiction if the words only stay locked in your brain.

Thoughts this week about a contract with yourself/with others/ a different kind of employment contract.  What if we wrote out our terms and conditions with our employers that went beyond the dollars/hour (week, month, year) and the usual blah blah blah about hours and roles and responsibilities.  What if it described how it would feel to have success, recognition and satisfaction?  What if it detailed your long term dreams and ambitions?  What if the opportunity to have a nap on Tuesday afternoons was included?

Now, Google may have already had this brilliant idea and re-written the usual working agreement, but I suspect most of us are still signing work papers that look pretty much how they did 60 years ago.  And yet this document and the implications for how you spend your time govern most of your waking hours for most of your adult life.

We have been told we now have the freedom to have multiple jobs, several careers, pursue our passions and not be stopped by reaching age 65.  60 is the new 30, right?  You can carry on living (working) your dream until you die.  How enlivening is that?  How much does that make your blood pump faster and your breathing increase?  I would bet that if it does, it is because you might feel a little panicked.  Oh sh*^, I have to keep doing “this” for the rest of my days?  Crap, I would like to go back to the fantasy of “Freedom 55” please.

But this idea of a contract or agreement that sets out much more than the bare bones of how you want it to be has expanded in my head.  What if pre-nuptials took a different look at what the expectations are of that partnership?  What if we re-wrote a contract with our children every year of their lives?  What if we revisited our relationship with our elderly parents – reviewing how we want that to look on a regular basis?  And our close friends?  Could we be more clear on how friendship is described and circumvent some of the pitfalls there?

There are many places we fail to describe how we want it to go, especially when time goes by and we gain familiarity with each other.  We live with discontent and sometimes downright anguish without a clear description of what would be perfect.

As I begin the journey of post graduate education – really at the early steps right now, application in, first on-line course, a recommended pre-requisite, started 2 weeks ago – I have come face to face with how little of my life has been described in sufficient detail to increase the likelihood of success.  Even at this late stage (let’s just say the “Freedom 55” boat has left the harbour), I am extremely challenged by the necessity of a structured business plan for the next 15 years of life.

I am in the situation that at least some of my peers are in.  We didn’t pursue careers, or in my case, even higher education.  We just kept working the next job that came along, sometimes moving up the ladder, sometimes not lasting that long.  Kids and all the endless hours of commitment to raising a family were along the way, as well as supporting a spouse in their pursuit of success or advancement.  Speaking for myself, I came up for air at about 50, realized that I had no plans for retirement, no funds set aside for my golden years, no mortgage that was just about paid off to secure a home for the future and no idea what to do about all that.  In fact, at that time, I was working with a group of fabulous people who averaged 15 – 20 years younger than me so I just kept working my fanny off to keep up.

When that job ended, another not quite 5 year engagement (pretty much the maximum time I spent in any one place), I had a patchwork resume, a little bit of self-directed education which thankfully left me with a certificate in professional coaching and some vague thoughts about a loosely described future doing what I loved, coaching others.

Not sure what else to do, I high tailed it into college, jumping into a 2 year program in Human Resource Management.  It was fantastic and I adored the challenge of post-secondary education.  For the first time, I was directed to think in a different way, dive deeply into a program that offered many pieces of education which I was interested in.  Being a generalist course, it didn’t really prepare me for much and as I found out part way through, I couldn’t even join the professional HR organization because I didn’t hold an undergrad degree.  Not well thought out.  However, the love of higher learning was sparked and I committed to completing a Master’s program, eventually.

Fast forward a couple more years of scraps of part time work, occasional contracts, facilitating coach training and time to ponder a future that seems to be gaining speed in becoming the present.  A friend’s recent death from cancer, three months after diagnosis -  not the first friend I have lost, impacted me differently this time.  The trite expression of realizing how precious life is and how little control we have over the eventual end of it actually stuck this time. 

During a long awaited holiday with my husband in Mexico, I began to notice my resistance to saying yes to my dreams.  How hop-scotching through the stages of my life without fully landing on any square has habituated me to a life that will be fulfilled one day – maybe, possibly, if the stars line up, if my kids or mother don’t need me to rescue them, if I can justify the money, or, or, or….  In other words, never.

I don’t have a terrible life, don’t get me wrong.  I have few regrets and maintain a happy, optimistic view on the world.  I am loved and deeply love others.  I practice gratitude and appreciation every day and reap the rich rewards of that perspective on the world. The question remains about kicking it up a notch as our old friend Emeril would say.  And that is going to take an elaborate, explicit blueprint; a new contract, if you will.

As I prepare to write the Personal Statement required for the application to the Master’s program, I am finally preparing to write the Personal Contract for me for the balance of my life.  The focus entering this program has created is the opportunity to articulate exactly how I want this to go.  I will keep you posted.