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The Curse of the To-Do List

hand with pen writing on paper - The Curse of the To-Do List by Annette SegalThe “to-do” list has become…..ubiquitous! (I love using that word.) Wherever your eyes fall, people are referring to them. Making them, checking items off on them.

There are new programs to bring the “to-do” list into electronic formats, mobile apps – anything to make the modest list into a 21st century technology., complete with colors, beeps and reminders – attachments to your electronic calendars. The bells and whistles are seductive and often very useful – up to a point. So what’s the problem?

Let me be straightforward. I like being organized as much as any modern day person. Everyday, I work with people chained to their “to-do” lists in the hope of “getting things done.”

I happen to be an executive coach/consultant and entrepreneur (not to mention, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, gardener, neighbor, writer, board member and more) so staying organized it vital. My daily tasks, like yours perhaps, range far and wide between my many projects, my home and garden, family, friends, wellness and personal development. Then there are the externally imposed deadlines I must meet – insurance payments, dog license renewals, and the like. I hate to pay late fees or fines, so staying on top of these is also critical to me. However, I know that there is something more important than simply checking off things that need doing.

I know my life matters…that it works best when I balance my many interests, passions, loved ones and tasks in a way that moves me forward into a vision I hold for contributing to the planet. Hopefully, you do too!

As an executive coach, I help leaders reflect on the “right” things – the things that leverage their intentions and projects – at home and at work . The things that make life yeasty and rich – meaningful. They begin with setting clear intentions, go on to prioritizing their commitments and working from that deep understanding.

This isn’t a new idea. It’s been around for a long time and many famous books and lectures refer to it. (Steven Covey wrote about it as did David Allen and scores of others.) But our culture has somehow lionized the “to-do” list as the vehicle for getting things done. And in the process caused a lot of confusion – which ultimately mean pain. Here’s how.

When activity (the endless items on the “to-do” list) controls your day, you are living into the great curse of modern times. What’s the curse? It’s the confusion between action (doing those things that further your clearly established intentions – priorities) and doing “stuff” that appears to need doing (which are endless) and which aren’t aligned directly to what is most important to you and most urgent in any meaningful way.

In the scramble to find more time, to get more done, to complete the list, people mistake one thing for another. Action includes activity but is the large, clear driver for getting the done the things that matter! Action has power – an inner dynamism. Activity are the smaller steps to achieving that dynamic vision for your life. And if you confuse the two, you often end up wondering why you feel unsatisfied, dispirited, unbalanced.

The antidote to the curse takes a little time at first, and pays off in clarity and purpose driven action. To establish the habit of beginning the day’s plan from the perspective of your intentions, you must first establish them. After a period of reflection on the domains of your life –  ntimacy, money/finance, career, family/friends, health/fitness, personal growth, fun/recreation, contribution, you set your intentions for each.

It may sound like: ACTION: health = eat well and stay fit (Activities = exercise 3 x’s per week, shop and cook organic, sustainable foods) Your planner placing the shopping day and times and items to purchase down and the exercise days and times on calendar.

I use the famous quadrant system each morning: 4 boxes labeled Urgent & Important (what matters most and has to get done today) Urgent & Not Important (externally imposed deadlines – pay taxes, for example that do not further my intentions AND must get handled) Not Urgent and Important (these align with my priorities) and Not Urgent and Not Important (my fanciful activities should a block of time suddenly appear). The last box I may never get to – or I may do on a break from the rest.

There are other systems to categorize your activities according to your priorities. Find one you like. Whichever one work best, it must begin with intention setting and prioritizing to be efficient and to be powerful….otherwise you find yourself lost in the spin of “I’m really busy…but what exactly am I accomplishing???”.

Afflicted with the curse of the “to-do” list, hundreds of thousands of folks keep endlessly repeating the phrase, “I’m so busy,’ without waking from the hallucination of being lost in rounds of activities that don’t reflect their values, deep concerns or intended outcomes.

Don’t let that be you! You are not a victim. Take some time to reflect on what matters most. Male a list. Number the items by priorities (soul-searching and hard but so worth it). Break the actions down into activities (steps)  in sync with a calendar. Include the externally imposed deadlines. Check your calendar against the top 10 priorities. Are they represented most often? If not, adjust! It will initially take some time, however soon, it will be an automatic planning habit that sets you up for balance, success and joy!

Work from that plan – a plan that takes all of your life into account, allows for the inevitable outside demands and leaves you, at the end of each day, clear about what you are up to in this world.

End the curse and step into that bigger, more meaningful life.

In Defense of Hard Work

In Defense of Hard WorkI’ve lived, learned and worked on the planet for a long time. One beautiful occurrence I note each day is the synthesis of lots of learning and lots of experience. And as a woman, mother, grandmother, friend, aunt, teacher, executive coach, reader, writer, entrepreneur, world traveler, neighbor – and more – those experiences come from many different streams of life. Like the many streams that ultimately become the ocean (and come from it) learning and living make for a delicious flow. And this flow impacts the work I do with leaders.

I love working with leaders – passionate, intelligent, ambitious, resourceful. I support them by offering up much of what I’ve synthesized in this long journey to NOW! What I cannot offer are easy solutions or quick fixes. Instead, I offer hard work!

These days lots of advice comes in the form of 10 Easy Steps or The 3 Secrets to Success, etc. etc. I don’t buy into that model of support. Its outside everything I know about living into a conscious, intention oriented existence that contributes to the planet.

This being human is complicated, mysterious and wondrous – but not without struggle. In my experience, those willing to take up the challenges, fail, get up and go on, make the best leaders. Why?

They grow compassion – empathy with each failure. They grow resilience. There courage increases tenfold each time they get up and try something else. They utilize feedback and leave the self-hatred on the cutting room floor. And they lead by inspiring others with their vulnerability and strength.

In my 66 years on planet earth, I’ve met so many people. I take time out occasionally though at regular intervals, to reflect on who has influenced and inspired me. And I sit in my deep well of gratitude.

Some peeps inspired by example and some by example of how not to be. All were teachers who taught me, and today, while I don’t value one type of teacher over another, I have had my preferences.

And circumstances change. Life is too dynamic an event to chain with rules. It is our creative responses to what shows up that is a measure of our epth, our leadership, our self-mastery.

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve. – Lao Tzu

Who has filtered down through the years as a valuable, precious teacher to me, are the people who acted with courage despite their fears, shared their vulnerability despite their strengths, stayed their course in the face of thorns and sorrows, spoke truth as they understood it, knew the real work was on themselves, and encouraged others sometimes with kindness, sometimes with challenge – knowing what was needed, when.

They are the heroines and heroes I look to when I think about leadership. They live outside the bounds of 10 easy steps and 3 secrets to success – as they live in complexity. They are always uncovering more and more of themselves, not settling for the smaller version.

No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always become a better version of yourself.” – Madonna

I do not believe in shortcuts in a meaningful life – only on my computer and perhaps, when I’m cooking. And though I love shortcuts, actually feel like I’m secretly victorious when using them, I know better than to assume there are easy solutions or quick fixes to what really matters. And so I don’t offer them in my work with leaders – seasoned or beginning.

Developing into the kind of person who can say at the end of a career, or better still, at the end of a life, that the journey was a well worn and challenging path, on which we struggled and also rejoiced, fell down many times but got up more and offered something of ourselves to the world, mostly holding hands, well – that hard work is what I’m talking about.

Won’t you join me on that path? There’s always a free hand ready to take yours.

Two Leadership Questions That Drive Real Transformation

The Missing Questions that Forces Transformation to Fail13525903_s

What prevents real transformation?

Even when time, energy and resources are dedicated to the change the number of successful transformations remains very small.


For leaders funding transformation (in themselves, their teams or their entire organizations) there are two questions that sadly go unasked. I know this from my experience working with intelligent, resourceful leaders in organizations such as Clorox, NASA, CISCO, Nikon and more.

I’ll get to the questions in a moment. But first, do you remember Dr. Jill?

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor—called by many who know her “Dr. Jill”—is a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. On the afternoon of this rare form of stroke, she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life.

It took eight years for Dr. Jill to completely recover all of her physical function and thinking ability. She’s the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey and how her insights impacts the work I do with leaders is worth noting.

As the brilliant people I work with realize what shifts, in their organizations, in their teams, in themselves are required to reach the outcomes they deeply desire, they unknowingly sabotage these very same profound efforts by not taking “feelings” and their body into account.

In fact, few leaders know how to talk about this. Part of the shift to creating learning cultures in which innovation and integration merge demands leaders expand the area to which they devote their attention.

In practical terms, leaders must learn to elicit, acknowledge, work with, and incorporate the emotions of their colleagues and themselves into the decision making process.

This type of expanded awareness requires support. The good news is that some enlightened leaders are seeking that support in service of their organizations (and their own growth). Those that are not, should consider it. Why?

When leaders have come to the point where they know that the old ways will not resolve todays problems, they often turn to systems thinking and design thinking. This opens the doors to fresh ways to approach intractable problems, asks top managers to become deep thinkers and is stimulating.

Many leaders embarking upon this path feel enlivened and engaged in deep ways.

While these efforts are important, critical even, they are doomed without a recognition of what we humans truly are and how we actually change. So applying that learning takes the organization  only so far.

Inevitably, the greatest ideas from the board room must be carried out by human beings, human beings with human frailties.

What inevitably arises, even in the most forward thinking, is anxiety and fear  about the uncertainty of “new ways”  – of looking at and doing things. When this very real resistance to change is ignored things begin to devolve.

If  leaders are not aware of the powerful grip fear and anxiety assert, they cannot manifest the change. Despite the cognitive recognition that change is required, people must come aboard. There is critical need then for acknowledging what gets in the way, asking for and receiving support from this real place.

If leaders are not in touch with the anxiety in themselves, how can they work with the anxiety and fear in their colleagues? And where will they develop the capacity?

Brilliant analysis is still just that – analysis – a cognitive quality. Decisive measures that grow out of the brilliant analysis seem assured to bring about the transformation. Yet without the integration of the feelings toward these measures, anxiety and fear sabotage the best efforts.

The sabotage, often unintentional, may come in the form of procrastination, gossip, boredom, poor assessment, negativity and countless other behaviors.

The persistent myth that we are “thinking creatures” and that transformation derives from cognition (without a nod to our emotions and patterning), takes its toll in millions of dollars but worse, in despair and disappointment. The worship of the mind above all else predominates in the West.

And the price is too high.

When well intentioned, intelligent and resourceful leaders find their best efforts going awry – they burn-out or become cynical or worse.

Dr. Jill has said that we take ourselves to be thinking creatures who feel, but we are actually “feeling creatures that think.” There is enough neuroscience to affirm this. One only has to read the latest findings on motivation, plasticity, mindfulness.

Luminaries such as Dr. Dan Siegel (Mindsight)  Dr.  Daniel Goleman (Focus) and Wendy Palmer (Leadership Embodiment)  repeatedly warn us that armed with cognition alone, we are poorly prepared for real transformation.

Regardless of which assessments leaders use to begin the transformation process, be it the DISC, Hogan, MBTI, Enneagram, etc. – unless the process they engage with integrates emotions, and the patterns that lie deep within the body, cognitive understanding, brilliant realizations and even deep desire, will not succeed.

Any profound experience of deeper development, true transformation, MUST include the emotional and bodily centers. Often inelegant, frequently unbalanced, rough and tumble move towards transformation,  integration with our intellectual center is required.
Otherwise, much wonderful effort goes to waste.

An important question for transformative leaders to ask themselves and those with whom they embark upon the change journey is “How do feel I about this?” “What intelligence is your body offering?” – questions rarely heard at the conference table.

These questions – to be asked again and again amidst the cognitive excitement flowing from great ideas, not only have their place – but MUST be part of any process for real transformation to occur.

Mindsight by Daniel J. Siegel

Here is the book that no leader, entrepreneur, coach or consultant can afford to miss! This groundbreaking book, from one of the global innovators in the integration of brain science with psychotherapy, offers an extraordinary guide to the practice of “mindsight,” the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence.

And these intelligences are showing up as the critical ones for GREAT leadership, in your organization, business and life.

From anxiety to depression and feelings of shame and inadequacy, from mood swings to addictions, OCD, and traumatic memories, most of us have a mental “trap” that causes recurring conflict in our lives and relationships. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, shows us how to use mindsight to escape these traps. Through his synthesis of a broad range of scientific research with applications to everyday life, Dr. Siegel has developed novel approaches that have helped hundreds of patients free themselves from obstacles blocking their happiness.

By cultivating mindsight, all of us can effect positive, lasting changes in our brains—and our lives. A book as inspiring as it is profound, Mindsight can help us master our emotions, heal our relationships, and reach our fullest potential and lead from a place of integrity.

Commitments: You’re Not F**ked Up, Stupid, or Incompetent

When you’re engaged in an endless cycle of “I should have…” and “Why didn’t I just…?”  that trap you like 25233024_sDante’s 3rd Circle of Hell, you’re missing a critical perspective! And you’re hurting yourself needlessly.

In The Inferno, the 3rd Circle was gluttony, and while I’m not speaking about food and drink, gossip, or things, I am pointing to the belief that “I can do it all – and well or “I should do it all”” as a delusion.

What if you are NOT  a “f—k up” or  “stupid” or “incompetent” or any of the horrible epithets you apply to yourself when you can’t live up to your intentions?

Let’s get real. You like many brilliant, resourceful people are suffering from competing commitments!

Competing commitments really trip us up, if we are unconscious of them!

Here’s an example: You desire to be at your daughter’s dance recital and you’ve promised to finish the final draft for your boss today! Its 6:30 and the draft is only a quarter done – but the recital begins in half an hour and its 15 minutes away.

Wasting time spinning out the “should haves” only adds to your frustration, anger, self-blame and shame.  You can berate yourself OR you can begin to see how the upset surging through you is the result of important commitments – your positive intentions.

Positive? Yes, strong commitments. Read on.

Using the example here what’s going on is that you’re committed to these:
1) have a strong relationship with your daughter ( including support)
2) being responsible in your career (including meeting deadlines)

Rather than being a “bad father” or a “poor time manager” you’ve entered into the dark corner where competing commitments merged. So what does this mean in practical terms? How can you avoid the pain of competing commitments?

You begin to clarify your commitments by determining your priorities. Rather than putting events, deadlines, actions to take on your calendar, you decide their place in the order of your priority…
asking yourself,  “ What am I committed to…” and creating a list, then actually prioritizing the top 5-7 commitments.

You’ll notice I ask you to focus on the most important commitments. That’s where the suffering arises when these compete for your time.Then you begin to plan differently.

Rather than deciding unconsciously what you will give attention from a stance of having your life imposed upon you by external forces, you take charge from a place of increased clarity. Suddenly the less important, the superfluous becomes clear. You CHOOSE based on the based on priorities you’ve deliniated..  You’re in charge.

The truth is that many conflicts can be avoided with this kind of  planning but not all.  If the context for the planning comes from a place of committed action (rather than checking off items on a “To Do” list, the decisions become better and  easier. The important things get handled and the superfluous falls away.

And when your commitments actually do compete, you recognize what is happening without beating yourself up. You have funded goodwill towards your actions that you can draw upon like a bank account.

With the question: What am I committed to guiding your activity, you can make clearer, better decision about how you spend your energy,your time.

Then you plan according to those priorities by asking yourself the question: “Is there a better way to meet my commitments?”

Yes, there is.


Thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If you’ve gotten value, will you please share this with people who need it on your favorite social networks?

And if you’d like a FREE tool to help you navigate your competing commitments (in just 5 minutes a day), then I invite you to click here. http://www.thevaliantgroup.com/products/

Balance is a cornerstone to living fully into your life.

So dear readers, we are taking a month off to rejuvenate, realign, re-create…

To inspire your own fresh vision, your sense of aliveness to gently reawaken, I’m sharing an excerpt of a favorite poem.

 SECOND SIGHT (excerpt)

Sometimes, you need the ocean light,
  and colors you’ve never seen before
    painted through an evening sky.

Sometimes you need your God
  to be a simple invitation,
    not a telling word of wisdom.

Sometimes you need only the first shyness
  that comes from being shown things
    far beyond your understanding,

so that you can fly and become free
  by being still and by being still here.

And then there are times you need to be
  brought to ground by touch
    and touch alone.

– David Whyte

Annette Segal
The Valiant Group
( 510) 722-3292 phone

Schedule an appointment with me

“Courage is a love affair with the unknown”  – Osho

The Secret to Staying Calm in Chaos

13264233-a-businessman-holding-an-umbrella-in-a-stormI’m a coach, so my clients (executives, entrepreneurs, consultants, coaches, and other high performers)  show up in my practice for all sorts of reasons. If I had to categorize them, I’d say most clients were looking for ways ‘to stay calm in chaos”. That’s what Sam was looking for when he picked up to phone to call me one Tuesday morning.

Sam had accomplished so much already. Yet now, he was facing a new challenge, feeling stressed and overwhelmed and needing to be calm and centered. He needed to make powerful, effective decisions despite the chaos surrounding him.

Sam (let’s call him Sam), a personable and intelligent man in his mid-30’s came to me when he was seeking work. He had left a prestigious position defined by constant conflict – a culture of anger and stress.

Happily married and the father of two little boys, he wanted to put his education and experience to work in a start-up with high potential for success.

Head hunters sought him out. He was getting impressive interviews, and getting call backs from HR, so what was the problem?

Sam wasn’t doing well in face-to-face interviews. Due to anxiety (leftovers from his last position, the confrontational style of some interviewers, money worries and problems with his young son) he came across as tense, slightly unfocused and rushed. His stellar education and previous experience weren’t shining through!

He knew he was reacting to the stress of interviews in a way that didn’t support his goal. He just didn’t know what to do about it, so we began working together.

First we discovered that when Sam experiences stress, his reaction is to want to “run away”. This reaction is hardwired into his brain stem and showed up each and every time he experienced any degree of chaos. We’d have to address this!

He soon came to understand that “flight” showed up in a concave chest (body language that transmits information), a raised voice, a rapid pace when he spoke which translated to “lack of confidence” and it happened each time he was triggered, even though he could now identify it.

Sam began practicing getting centered daily. With a few minutes of breathing practice – yes simple breathing exercises – in no stress and low-stress situations, he could create some space around his “reaction”.

In that space, he chose how to hold his body – upright and relaxed. From that posture, he was able to end his sentences with assurance, speak clearly and succinctly in his natural voice and stay calm, neutral and open to the interviewer.

For fun (and good practice) we role played interviews after centering practice to work on appropriate responses rather than his typical reactions. As he learned to respond, taking time to speak clearly, listen deeply and breathe, he smiled more, uncrossed his arms and leaned forward – always more inviting that his “collapsed” body language of early days.

Sam got so good at staying calm, keeping his body language open, being curious rather than intimidated and speaking with the confidence that showed off his knowledge and experience, that he landed a great VP of finance position in attractive firm (and helped his little boy through a difficult patch too).

Why did this work? Over 3 months, Sam was diligent about his practices. Oh sure, there were a few hiccups (like for most of us, progress wasn’t linear) but he kept improving. So much so that he gave me a glowing testimonial on Yelp.com

And the truly “good news” is that Sam now had the tools to use in any and all stressful situations.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. Good stress, like a promotion or marriage, or stress you categorize as negative around the loss of a job or a missed deadline all create the same reactions in your body.

Learning to recognize how you react, gaining the tools that support some centering – simply starting with your breath, allows you to be much more effective (and pleasant to be around) when that inevitable stress shows up.

You can begin the process by noticing your breath. Then without forcing a change in the inhale, begin extending the exhale – audibly, if you’re alone. Extending your exhale does a lot in relaxing the muscles of your face and upper body. It goes further by opening up the diaphragm. Fortunately, it also allows you to have a little more room in which to respond, rather than react.

Pretty simple but not so easy to remember when you need it most.

That’s why practicing in no-stress or low-stress situations is critical. If you practice for 28 days, you’ll create a new habit – a healthy one – that will pay off time and time again.

And how can you remind yourself to do this for 28 days? Set a calendar reminder on your computer, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, and put a sticky note on the dashboard of your car.

Take it from Sam, the rewards are tangible and huge.

Genesis: A Coach is Born

9649795_sEver have a question lead you into a new way of living? A few years into coaching teachers in San Diego, I smashed head first into a cast iron question. Ouch! Is everyone meant to teach – especially children? It interrupted my thoughts, took refuge in my dreams and generally made for a bitter companion. (The answer by the way is “No”.)

At the same time, I heard of a 3 day coach training event for experienced coaches in San Francisco. I read a book by the teacher/ founder of the school and signed up, because he was asking even bigger questions than I was. Little did I know that a movement from horizontal (skills based coaching) to vertical (developmental coaching) was about to unfold. And my life was taking on a new form.

What I discovered led me to a year long course in Chicago – a gateway into the world of adult developmental change that keeps me enlivened and engaged every day – sometimes frustrated and always eager to understand more.

Integral coaching is a developmental journey, a mystery and opening. It took me from master teacher, high school principal, teacher trainer, curriculum developer, editor and educational coach into realms I couldn’t imagine. Along the way I discovered the intelligence of the body, the significance of daily Sitting, the gifts of self-observation and the shifts made possible by rigorous practice. And that was only the beginning.

Here’s a little context…

I came to the USA as a young girl, living in poverty with my mom. Quickly I learned to navigate many worlds…in several languages. No wonder I became fascinated with linguistics and culture
and years later did my graduate work in cultural anthropology.

My poor mom, a Holocaust survivor, also had a severe mental illness. Out of the pain her condition imposed on all of us, my love of psychology – understanding the mind – arose. When things were really tough, books were a refuge – igniting a lifelong love of learning. Being a child of immigrants with a colorful cast of characters traipsing through our apartments, I listened a lot and learned as much from the non-verbal cues as from the 7 languages that were freely bandied about.

And from an early age, I loved reading to and organizing games – leading the younger kids – seeing myself as their champion. I started teaching when I was still a teen myself and kept going into a rich and meaningful career that included accelerated learning, experiential education, neuro-linguistic programming, learning styles and brain-based methods of reaching students. Oh and I co-wrote a funny book/game on the Enneagram. My own reading took me into philosophy, ontology, semantics, literature,, and neuroscience. And I traveled… a lot.

The story is complex (we all are) and changes locales often, yet a theme arises from the mist – I was always involved with development – of the mind, and then the body and spirit.

Finally, combining my own spiritual practice, Kundalini yoga practice and EVERYTHING  (with a capital E), that I knew, I began consulting and coaching under the name The Valiant Group – since courage in conversation and life was essential to me.

I’ve worked with clients at Busch and SpaWars, NASA and Twitter, Clorox and Genentech, Nikon and SD. City Schools. I’ve delivered workshops at universities across the country, taught in Moscow, Singapore, Capetown, S.A., and Greece and continue to be fascinated by the ways we humans encounter and expand our experience to fully live into our potential.

Who’s Running the Show?

Your stomach is tied up in knots. You need to tell a colleague what you really think, but you can’t…fearful of the reaction.

Sweat breaks out on your palms. You need to say ‘No” to an unreasonable request, but a voice within tells you saying no isn’t acceptable.

Who’s running the show? You or your inner critic?

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post said, “We may not be able to tune our inner critics out entirely, but we don’t have to let them run the show.”

So where did these inner critics come from? . Were inner critics always once outer critics? How did they get so powerful?

The popular thinking is that the outer critics were our primary caretakers. In order to have our safety, nourishment and connection needs met, we took on their priorities (and cut off parts of ourselves). Over time, their voices became our inner critic.

Now, in our day-to-day life we play out the tension between our (hopefully more) evolved, integrated  adult selves and the inner critic that arose in childhood. Yet, certain scenarios bring out the worst in us.

Is  there someone  at work who makes you hold back, too meek to speak?

Who is it you can see yourself wanting to give a quick kick to the groin? (Come on we all have these thoughts from time to time.) You don’t have to berate yourself for the thoughts. Berating yourself is a way of knowing you’re under attack by the inner critic.

You can do something useful about it.

Okay, go somewhere quiet. Now, imagine a recent situation and visualize your inner critic sitting across from you. Take a minute, two at the most and play the scene in your head where you say everything to this inner including, “F–K off”.

You may have to go back and re-do this scene several times. And you’ll have to defend against the next attack and the one after that. Your defense will come more automatically and will be shorter and shorter. How will you know you have tamed the inner critic?

Your body’s  intelligence will  become more familiar.  You’ll get to know   that place somewhere near your navel that will relax, not be so tied in “KNOTS” from the “NOTS” once you tell this annoying inner critic to back off.

And soon, without leaving the scene completely, your inner critic will learn that YOU are running the show.



Getting the Life You Want: One Daily Deed

aha womanAre you overwhelmed? Do you have BIG plans for personal improvement? Does every evening bring disappointment because you didn’t achieve all you wanted? Perhaps you are tired of striving and failing…hearing a harsh negative voice in your head put you down.

Here’s the good news. When you change (or build) one habit, that one action has a cumulative effect so taking on one shift, one change, or one new thing, makes a much wider impact than you plan.

Example: You decide to stretch every morning before work. You set an alarm on your phone for 7:10 and for the next 15 minutes, you proceed to do a series of stretching exercises. One new thing – and a fairly easy one with the support of your technology and an announcement to a few friends. Stay with me here….

Fast forward to the office. You’re reaching for a folder on a high shelf, and suddenly find yourself smiling. You remember that you diligently (and without much effort) remembered to stretched earlier that morning. A wave of good feeling (with the accompanying hormones) washes through you. You decide to have a nourishing salad for lunch rather than the calorie loaded office pizza.

Feeling proud of yourself for choosing a healthy lunch (why undermine those morning stretches?) you find ten minutes to step outside and walk briskly before heading into a barrage of meetings.

When you do enter the conference room, you’re feeling alive, awake and even a teeny bit enthusiastic – great energy to take into your meeting.

While walking and eating a healthy lunch weren’t commitments you jotted down on your TO DO list, the one daily deed you chose, stretching, led to a larger result – a cumulative, positive effect.

The “feel-good” hormones you produced were the gift that kept on giving…so you kept the momentum going without the requisite big push.

My point?

Rather than floundering in a river of changes, with lots of potential for failing and berating yourself (which you know leads to failure, not success) chose ONE daily deed. Write it down. Tell a few friends what you are up to. Find support for it – technological or human or both.

Then do it! That one daily deed.

Notice for a period of two weeks, what other positive actions you take. Jot those down.

Keeping that list and adding to it, builds momentum – both for the deed you’ve committed to and for generally increasing the benefit of a positive shift. Its a reward – tangible. This is important in building a habit.

Charles Duhigg in his bestselling book “The Power of Habit” teaches that habit relies on 3 parts: a cue, a routine and a reward. And this science of habit applies to you individually and to your organization.

The support you set up for your daily deed should include a cue (in my example, the alarm) like, an item on your To Do list. When you see the item, your cue, you don’t have to make a decision, you simply have to act.

Then you complete the action – the routine. In the case I use, stretching.

Finally, comes the reward. This can be physical – hormones saturating your system or acclaim- your tell your friends or a gift you buy yourself or anything you perceive as rewarding. You feel good about yourself now, and that sense of “goodness” carries over into other parts of your day.

Rather than going into despair that sounds like, “I’m not good enough” you can echo the message, “I completed my stretching today, “ which elevates your mood and moves you down the road to creating a new habit – one you’ve chosen.

So, begin with one daily deed – create a cue, complete the routine and reward yourself. That’s how you begin building the life you want.


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