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5 Lessons for Trusting Gut from a Recovering Rule Follower

Intuition Guiding Meerkat

Are you a rule follower that becomes frustrated when people break them? When things don’t go according to plan, does it cause anxiety? If reality doesn’t match expectations, do you get annoyed? If so, then read on!

I’m an organized planner by nature. I find comfort in structure and I love when there are rules and formalized processes so that I have a box to work within and a path to follow. It gives me a sense of stability. (Sound familiar?)

Spoiler alert: Life and people don’t operate this way.

When I get caught in the minutia of the plan, the way things are supposed to go – and more often they don’t – I have become frustrated and confused. I usually attempt to right the course and get back on track. And in my corporate career, I was paid very well for this skill. My motto was: “Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.”

I once heard a coworker say, “Disappointment is expectations minus reality.” His point was to set expectations reasonably. My desire was to elevate reality and fill the delta. That meant I pushed my employees hard and myself even harder because heaven forbid that my boss could ever be disappointed in the results.

Coaching has been an interesting experiment in allowing myself to follow intuition instead of a process. Yes, the tools we’re taught have a specific formula that we practice past the point of competency into habit. I’ve noticed something interesting happening now that I have engrained these tools.

I’ve started to play with them. I’ve given myself permission to veer outside of the process. I follow that little voice inside that says, “probe here…ask this…” Pre-coaching, I’d call that “winging it.” Something I would never have attempted for fear of failure.

You know what? It works. Even better than following the process.

Recently I was given an assignment to provide feedback to a coaching peer on a particular pre-recorded session (with permission from the client). In my mind, the rule was to identify where the coach was following the process and where she strayed. Then, we were both asked to assess that feedback with six of our peers listening in. (No pressure!)

She had accepted all of it as-is. My internal monologue reaction was, “Push back. Tell me where I’m wrong.” When I probed a bit as to why, she revealed a limiting belief that perked my ears. With her permission, our feedback exchange morphed into doing The Work ™.

In that moment, the formal series of questions fell away and I felt into what wanted to be asked next. I let my intuition guide each step as we took it. Was it exactly how we were taught? Partly. Was it messy? Sometimes. Did she find insights? Yes.

I broke the rules twice. First when I veered off expectations given by our instructor to discuss feedback about feedback. Second when I remixed The Work ™. And it was fine! More than fine. Not only did the sky not fall, but it also achieved the intention for which we set out to accomplish.

If I may impart any lessons from this experience to you, it would be this:

  1. Rules are intended to be a general guide and there are always exceptions.
  2. Processes help create habits, but if followed too rigidly, they can inhibit innovation and growth.
  3. Trust your intuition. You know what to do.
  4. Let your intention be the cornerstone for action.
  5. At the end of the task or project, did it work?
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How to Avoid the Compare & Despair Trap

Long Road

It’s easy to get caught in the compare and despair trap when others appear to have more, achieved farther and look better. From this limited perspective, we can always find someone who has “figured it all out” leaving us to judge our own lives harshly in the shadow of their apparent success.

I’m not immune from this, either. I am a relatively newer entrepreneur who is hustling to grow her small business. If I’m tired and allow my mind to compare my business to the myriad of successful coaches, authors and photographers out there, my ego can find lots of proof to support why I am not as spectacular. It’s all in my thoughts and perspective.

Social media is breeding ground for the compare and despair syndrome. Most folks only share the shiny-celebrations unless they’re looking for attention for the misfortunes. Let’s take Instagram as an example. Its purpose is to perpetuate pretty pictures of perfection. Pinterest is similar with its gorgeous, professionally taken photos representing what we assume is an average Jane selling her smart, creative DIY solutions. All germinating admiration and, in extremes, jealousy for what others can do or experience that we can’t or aren’t.

As a former coaching instructor once said, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” Things aren’t always as they appear. We only have to look at celebrity suicides to recognize the picture on the outside doesn’t match the storm raging on the inside.

It’s understandable, though. Our mind is always searching for context and where we fit in the world. Our logical brain is labeling and organizing. Socially, we naturally create a pecking order. So, what should we compare ourselves to if not others?

When you start to judge yourself, my suggestion is to compare your current self to your former self. Where are you now in relation to the past? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? What growth has happened? Where are you better off than before? What skills, knowledge and experience have you gained?

When I can see myself through the lens of former versus current self, I acknowledge the many ways I’ve grown, learned and successfully moved my business forward. I appreciate my accomplishments and challenges I’ve overcome. I notice the powerful impact I’ve made in a relatively short time. I give myself permission to learn from my mistakes and travel at my own pace.

As long as we are moving forward – and everyone who is not in a coma is – then we’re doing this thing called life the right way. Each of us will have a different experience. Pitfalls and setbacks are growth opportunities. Struggles are guidance systems. Happiness is all in our perspective on how we choose to look at it.

Some of my greatest gifts were also my hardest challenges. My hunch is, if you can find a way to give yourself credit instead of tear yourself down with comparison, you’ll also find self-perpetuating motivation and strength.

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How to Find Your Driving Motivation & Why it’s Important to Achieve Your Goals

Lion Scratching Head on Bush

What we think we want is not always what we truly want. Often, there is a deeper desire hidden underneath the surface. When we connect with that driving motivation, it helps guide us more clearly.

The longer I coach and the more people I work with, I’ve realized that most often our root desire is freedom. (The others are either joy or connection. For the purpose of this blog, though, we’ll focus on the most common.)

Take any goal or desire, and ask yourself, “Why? What do I get from that?” until you can’t find another driving motivation beneath the last.

Let’s take money, for example. Often my clients come to me with a goal to make more money. When asked what more money (or a certain goal retirement amount) will get them, their response is “stability” or “security.” When asked what stability or security gives them, they usually respond with some sort of variation of, “the freedom to do whatever I want.”

If I have a client who wants to lose weight, we often find she simply wants to feel confident or accepted. At the root of that is connecting with the freedom to be herself without fearing other’s opinions. Sometimes it’s even finding freedom from her own self-judgment.

Another client wanted to be healthier. What did he think a healthy body would get him? The freedom to do all the activities, and go all the places, he enjoys.

My entrepreneurial clients, who are building their own businesses, are driven by the freedom that enables. They’re free to work on the projects they want to, work with the clients they want to, hire the people they want to, and set their own schedules. They have the freedom to work wherever they want, however they want. That autonomy is much juicier to them than the alternative of working for someone else, who would dictate their time, projects and goals.

Why do people enjoy vacations? Yes, it offers the opportunity to recharge our batteries. It is also a socially acceptable excuse to spend that time completely autonomously.

If you want to lounge all day and dance all night, you have the freedom to do so. You are free to go wherever and do whatever you want (within budget and legal constraints, of course). You are free from household chores, errands, work responsibilities and whatever burdens you carry at home. And if you’re like me, I also give myself the freedom to eat and drink whatever I want because, hey, it’s vacation!

What is it you want? Ask yourself “Why?” Dig into what that thing will give you. Keep asking until you’re at the root cause, your driving motivation. You might surprise yourself where you end up.

Once you find your driving motivation, ask yourself if there are other ways to achieve that right now. Finding that feeling state doesn’t necessarily require reaching big, far-off goals. It can often be found in simpler, quicker ways.

Use this driving motivation as your touchstone for decision making. When deciding between two paths, which one will get you closer to achieving your root desire — whether that be freedom, joy or connection?

I’m curious what you uncover. Please share your experience with this exercise in the comments!

 

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Stop the Pretense of Success to Actually be Successful

Sprout in Hand

Building a business from scratch is extremely hard. AND it’s profoundly rewarding. There’s truth in the expectation that entrepreneurs will invest about two years of solid hustle before their business is profitable. I’m proof to support that.

It’s like planting a seed. It takes time, tender care, the proper environment and resources (sun, water, nutrients) to grow. You may not even see the sprout break ground until it’s time, and yet so much is happening under the surface to get there.

For the first two years of my business, I admit that I didn’t want anyone to know that I only had a half-dozen clients. I didn’t lie about it; I just danced around the answer without giving one. Like somehow not being an instant, rolling-in-the-dough success meant that I was failing.

I knew my clients were glowingly happy with our sessions and offering unsolicited referrals and testimonials. I was learning, growing and building expertise in a completely new industry for me. And yet, I had attributed my value as a coach to how much money I was making…to what was showing on the surface.

I feared that if my clients (or potential clients) knew they were only one of a handful that they’d assume I must not be good at what I do and go find a better coach. (Talk about limiting belief!)

Then I explored Acuity (a scheduling SaaS) and saw the feature “Make me look busy” with the customized option to block any percentage of time available. I realized that I’m not the only one pretending to have more clients than I do. To be a feature, this must be an in-demand need of small businesses. Make me look busier than I really am.

So I started having blunt conversations with my peers. Even the excellent coaches that I greatly admired weren’t as busy as I’d assumed or they let on. They were relieved to know I wasn’t either. Well, imagine that.

Anyone who sells overnight success with a simple and glitzy, new fandangle process is preying upon our desire for instant gratification. Like the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Yes, manifesting is real. It’s not all work. Resting and playing as forms of self-care is an important part, too. And yes, overnight demand explosions happen…but it’s the exception, not the rule.

The Hero’s Journey is real. It requires persistence, patience and passion. If you are passionate about it, it makes all the patience and persistent effort worth it. Coaching, to me, is absolutely worth it. I love what I do. I even love the planning, marketing and learning how to run my business better. I would start at the beginning and do it all again if I needed to because I love being a coach. It’s one of the best feelings in the world when my clients have insights and breakthroughs.

The sooner we own up to the fact that starting a new business takes time and a whole lot of effort, the sooner we can all be more successful because we stop comparing ourselves to others who are also pretending to be wildly successful. We can stop believing that we must be doing something wrong because our peers have more clients than we do. Or thinking the coaches who are charging more must be better coaches. When we release those limiting beliefs, we actually do better and accomplish more.

I’m breathing easier knowing that it’s supposed to be hard and take time. I can relax into the process and allow it to unfold as it is intended to. For all you entrepreneurs out there with a vision, keep going! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t worry about your speed, you’ll break the earth’s surface when it’s time; and when you do, we’ll all admire the sprouting beauty.

 

 

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How to Achieve Big Goals in 5 Simple Steps

Post It Notes on White Board

Setting intentions is powerful. For those who’ve worked with me in one-on-one coaching sessions, you may be familiar with Wildly Improbable Goals* (aka WIGs). The process to achieving any dream is simple:

  1. Write down a WIG. (And make it a BIG, BEAUTIFUL one!)
  2. Map out the steps to get there.
  3. Plot smaller turtle-steps that support the big steps.
  4. Add turtle-steps as you learn more about what is needed to make it happen.
  5. Take turtle steps one-by-one toward your WIG.

A couple of my WIGs from a year and a half ago (August 17, 2017 to be exact) are close to becoming a reality. I wrote on a post-it note: “Publish and sell my photography.” On another one I wrote: “Publish a book.” I put these up on the right side of my wall, and three feet to the left I put a post-it with the date. In between these, I put steps two through four above on post-its.

Some initial turtle steps were simple, like:

  • Find a photographer mentor
  • Write daily (which became weekly)
  • Join a writing group
  • Take a publishing course
  • Watch post-processing how-to videos

Turtle-step by turtle-step I’ve moseyed closer to these WIGs by combining them. And guess what? I’m so close I can see the finished copy of what will be a photo-with-journal-prompt book.

Using nature as a wise teacher, I’ve captured the metaphoric lessons she teaches us paired with my photos. And I use coaching-style questions to help the reader find their inner answers through writing.

Magic unfolded as I worked toward this vision. I found a fabulous writing group, Community of Creatives, led by the Courageous Wordsmith Amy Hallberg. I met fellow coaches, who had published their own novels, that became my dear friends, editors and sounding boards. My community rose to support me by choosing their favorite photographs and encouraging my ideas and concepts. I have designers from my former career that I can call upon. It all came together beautifully in perfect timing!

Now, I’m in the final stages of self-publishing and it feels so delicious!

Achieving your WIGs is possible with perseverance, patience, seeking knowledge and turtle steps. If you’re looking for a coach to help you bring your dreams into reality, let’s talk!

*The concept of Wildy Improbable Goals, and how to get there, was developed by Martha Beck.

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Fear Part II: Each of us is Worthy

Wiley Coyote

No matter how many times I do The Work, I’m still in loving awe of the wounds that continue to surface and be released. In the words of Lloyd Dobins, “Continual improvement is an unending journey.” I will not stop seeking spiritual growth because the freedom it brings is so delicious.

Most recently, I’ve been working on my fear of public speaking, which was born from an incident on a stage where my mind was wiped clean of all thought and my tongue disabled. Since that Spring of 1997, any time I was called on to speak in front of more than a couple strangers, I felt fear.

My heart rate drummed like pounding rain, my palms would sweat, my tongue would feel like sand, and the words I searched for would swirl around evasively in my mind. Most often, I would write down what I wanted to say before I ever spoke…practicing it over and over again in my mind, and then repeating verbatim when the time came.

The more this happened, the more reinforced my fear became until it was a belief that my brain and body would betray me.

At first, I uncovered and dissolved this limiting belief by turning it on it’s axis and realizing that it sabotaged me from going down a path that wasn’t my calling. It actually saved me. Had my time on stage worked out, I might be an actress or a news anchor. That’s not my intended path.

Yet, the public speaking fear continued to grip my heart like vice clamps.

The real culprit was worthiness. Resistance was using my fear of not proving worthy enough. Who wants to listen to me? What do I have to say that is of importance? My words are not worth people’s time.

Aha! There you are, you sneaky little painful thoughts!

Thanks to a very dear friend and fellow coach, we looked at this silly – yet paralyzing – belief group and found plenty of proof to the opposite.

I am worthy of people’s time and attention. What I have to share has value. My story and my experience is mine and mine alone. No one before me and no one after me has lived my life. While there may be some commonalities, for sure, it is uniquely mine. AND SO ARE YOU AND YOURS!

On a call with Martha Beck, she shared, “There are only about five stories ever told across all time, and still we all want more. We want to hear it over and over again.”

Think about it. The best-selling books, blockbuster movies and Tony-Award winning musicals are all the same stories about the same struggles with the same archetypes told in different ways, with different backdrops, characters and voices. Yet we still can’t get enough of them. And we continue to create more in unique and innovative ways.

What I have to say may not be for everyone, and I actually prefer to reach only those who need to hear it. And it may not be life changing. Yet planting seeds is still a necessary step before ever picking fruit.

Each one of us is worthy.

What story do you have to share?

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Fear Part I: How to use Fear to Find Your Gifts

Zip Lining in Zimbabwe near Victoria Falls

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he defines one of the greatest tools in the arsenal of Resistance – the blocker of creative and spiritual growth – is fear. Resistance feeds on our fear. Not only our fear of failure and all the perceived ramifications that would entail, but also fear of success.

“Fear…that we can access the powers we secretly know we possess. That we can become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are…We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are….That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity.”

Why do we fear our greatness? Why do we shirk away from owning our gifts?

According to Pressfield, and I wholeheartedly agree, “We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us.”

I worked with a friend on her fear of owning her clairvoyance. When it came down to it, she was afraid that if she misinterpreted an intuitive hit, people would think she was a fraud. And worse, she would stop believing in herself and her gifts.

It’s the Pandora’s box that once opened, cannot be closed. Once we embrace who we are meant to be – that amazing, fabulous, glittering Self that we are – we have “come out” to the world. And that is scary. I know because I’ve lived it.

It took about a year, but I “came out” as a woo-woo spiritual healer after changing careers to become a Life Coach. I “came out” again to my husband and family as someone who can feel other people’s energy and physical pain as my own.

When I was at a friend’s birthday party, I shared with a new acquaintance about some mind-body connection tools that healed my chronic back pain. His response was, “Oh, so you’re the spiritual weirdo my wife was telling me about.” (And to think I didn’t even tell him about my new and full moon rituals!)

It didn’t bother me, because I knew he wasn’t my people. I’d already found my tribe!

As soon as I had claimed these gifts and embraced what that meant for me and my future, a whole new world opened up to me. All of a sudden, I was meeting new people who shared these gifts. More than I imagined was even possible.

I feel like Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, except instead of dead people, it’s healers with empathic, intuitive and clairvoyant abilities. (Don’t get me wrong, I now have friends who see dead people, too…but I digress.) They’re everywhere and they’re wonderful!

Now it’s time to tackle my remaining fears, one of which is public speaking. The fact that Resistance is using my fear against me only means that it is something I must do. It fits into my purpose and is a step up in my spiritual growth (and potentially helping others with theirs).

Now is the time to act. To be brave. To be a courageous bad-ass. Using all the coaching tools in my arsenal, and asking others for help, I’ll beat Resistance – because I must.

What is your fear? Coaching can help you tap into your gifts and beat resistance! Let’s talk!

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Integrity is Congruency Between our Inside and our Outside

Equus Coaching

I had the pleasure of attending an Equus Coaching workshop this past weekend. It was both fascinating to witness and personally informative to participate in. In essence, the horse is a mirror for your integrity.

If you’re not familiar with Equus Coaching, it involves utilizing your personal energy to invite, send and guide a horse around a pen. Think non-verbal horse whispering.

Horses, by nature, are extremely sensitive creatures. They pick up on every subtlety and will respond accordingly in an instant. If you’re nervous, they are and will bite on the fence or paw at the ground warily. Alternately, if you’re relaxed, they might roll around in the dirt or yawn.

There is no faking it with a horse. Despite what your outside may portray, he is reading everything your inside is doing. If these aren’t congruent, the horse doesn’t trust you. After all, it’s about survival of the herd.

As one of our instructors, Jennifer Johnson, said, “If you aren’t present and [your mind isn’t] in your body, how can they expect you to serve the good of the herd? How can you alert them to a predator?”

If you are scared and acknowledge that with honesty and awareness, without pushing it away or disassociating, the horse will trust and connect with you. Your outside matches your inside.

Going into this experience, I had an expectation that the hardest part would be convincing my horse, Smokey, that I was a leader and to follow me around the pen. I took horseback riding lessons as a child and genuinely love the species, so thankfully this part came easily. I was pleasantly surprised at how natural it was to invite Smokey to walk with me.

When it came time to shape my energy to guide Smokey around the perimeter by simply standing in the middle and shepherding him with my energy, I managed to do so. Where I became stuck was in getting him to increase his speed by adjusting my energy-volume.

Jennifer asked, “What are you feeling right now?”

“Excited and elated,” I said. “My heart is all tingly and swirly.”

“It doesn’t look like that from here,” she responded. “What is your behavior?”

“Calm and grounded,” I replied.

“So why aren’t you acting more excited?” she said.

“I don’t want to spook him,” I said.

“Where does that reflect in your life?” she asked.

Insight struck. “Marketing my coaching practice,” I said.

I have had a limiting belief that if I am too open with how much I love coaching, how beautifully amazing the coaching tools are for self-healing, and am not presenting a calm, cool and collected exterior that I’ll spook potential clients…or even my current clients, for that matter.

This is my new commitment to you: I will not hide my light and enthusiasm for coaching and life. If it’s “too much” for you, I accept that you are not my tribe and I wish you well on your journey. Namaste!

Photo Credit: Elicia Nicoll

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Learning to Trust Myself & My Body

Lizard Brain Reaction

Yesterday, I conducted a workshop on chronic pain and how our bodies communicate to us through physical sensations because they love us.

The irony is, I have a fear of public speaking and my body knows this. The mere thought of speaking to a group of people I don’t know seizes my chest, sweat pours out of my pores and I stop breathing. When I am on a group call, I often write down what I want to say so that I can read it, otherwise my brain can’t find and formulate the words it intended to say.

When I was seventeen, I was on stage for a competition. At the beginning, all I had to do was walk to the microphone and state my name and hometown. That’s it. Sounds easy, right? I thought so, too. No biggie.

Except when I got to the mic, my mind was blank. Completely frozen. I was wordless in a not-so-mindful way. I stared out at a crowd of what felt like 3,000 people.

The audio-engineer turned down the music. He probably thought my voice was too soft to hear over it.

Silence.

Then someone in the crowd yelled, “You can do it!”

I stuttered what I think was my name, didn’t bother with a hometown and ran off the stage.

This memory plagues me anytime I have to speak to any more than three people I don’t know at once.

To add irony to irony (is that a thing?), I’m a Life Coach and I know that it’s all thought-based, lizard-brain, text-book “freeze” response.

I’ve tried EFT tapping, which helped bring it from a 9 to a 5. I’ve done various work on dissolving my thoughts such as “I will freeze again” and “I will sound like a bumbling idiot.” I regularly do Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds, breathing and guided meditations.

Any new tool I am exposed to, I try. I even had a fellow coach suggest I introduce myself, and begin a relationship with, my Future Self. She was very nice, by the way. Yet, my fear and anxiety was not alleviated. I was still not sleeping and my talk was two days away.

The day before I was to speak, a dear fellow coach suggested we try a different approach, “Let’s envision thawing out your frozen state.”

The visualization meditation helped immensely to alleviate my pre-speech jitters, and in doing so I had the insight that I’m choosing to do the speech despite my fear.

Why did I agree to speak?

Because I believe learning to communicate with your body and to understand its messages is life-changing. Because people who live with chronic pain don’t have to. Because my story, my experience, can help others and that’s worth so much more than my fear!

The morning of my workshop, I received a video in my inbox featuring Dr. Chris Germer, who had also suffered for years from the fear of public speaking. He, too, tried every tool he could find to alleviate it.

Until he realized it wasn’t about fear and anxiety…it was about shame. About feeling worthy. What he needed was self-compassion and to trust himself.

That’s when the light bulbs went on. I had been going about it the wrong way.

I was giving a speech on how much our bodies loves us and supports us. I know from profound experiences that I can trust my body to do what is best for me.

Once I could surrender to the belief that whatever is intended to happen will happen….once I could see myself in my audience…once I could understand our common connection…I believed I was worthy to speak to them. Worthy to share my message that could help them alleviate their pain.

My pre-speech ritual began with grounding and centering, a loving kindness meditation, some EFT tapping, a dose of Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds, and a surrendering of trust to the moment.

You know what? I didn’t freeze. I had some second-guessing of myself in the beginning, but it moved forward. I found a groove and it flowed. I was myself. For the first time in 21 years it felt natural.

If you fear public speaking, try giving yourself some love, kindness and compassion.

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What House Projects & your Personal Hero’s Journey have in Common

Building a Dog House

For anyone who has ever started and completed a house-remodeling project – whether that’s redoing a kitchen or bathroom or maybe it’s a simple updating of a patio deck – you probably know that it never goes exactly as planned, no matter how much planning you do. There is always some unforeseeable hiccup that knocks things off course – sometimes slightly, other times way off course.

For those who haven’t personally undertaken a house project, maybe you’ve seen HGTV’s popular Property Brothers enough times to realize that the unexpected is to be expected. And that it’s all part of the process. (And frankly makes it more entertaining to watch.)

This is the process we call a Hero’s Journey. When we take all that we’ve dreamed up and envisioned in our minds eye and bring it to life. From sketches and measurements to purchasing materials and beginning the work.

And then wait – some new piece of information is revealed. The original plumbing was leaking and now there’s wood rot that needs to be addressed. Or there are issues with the foundation stability. Or there’s a ventilation pipe in the wall that was to be torn down. Or the cabinet company ordered the wrong dimensions and it will take another month to get the right ones in. Whatever the hurdles might be; they halt progress until addressed.

The same is true for any big vision you have for your life. Any dream you want to make a reality.

We can plan, plan, plan for each step of the way and there will inevitably be unexpected hurdles. It will always be harder than we expected…and that’s ok!

When we can settle in and realize that there are supposed to be hiccups, that there’s no way to predict every possible outcome, nor can we be expected to have all the information before it’s revealed…then we stop resisting and start leaning into the process.

Rather than believing, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” we instead believe, “This is an interesting new development. The plot thickens!” We shift our mindset and that shifts our emotional and behavioral states.

We become adventurers, explorers and students of the world. We learn, we absorb, we trouble-shoot and we gain so much more from the process than if it were to go exactly as we planned. And each victory tastes that much sweeter. Each obstacle we overcome is a badge of pride.

Because if you’re truly passionate about your dream, your hero’s journey will be worth it – AND it will feel like play!