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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Year´s Resolutions: Down to the Habits

In my latest column of the Presidio Sentinel ( I wrote about the importance of and myths around habits. Below you will find steps to make a habit change a breeze and success:
There is no way around it: In order to change a habit successfully, it needs to be a priority. Setting our mind to something and making that something come true because we are backing up our own decisions is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. It is very empowering and gives us faith in our own abilities and possibilities.

The next important ingredient to incorporating successful habits (or habits successfully) is to make room for general habit maintenance in our lives. Once we decided which habit we would like to incorporate, it takes a while for it to become a habit. During that phase we are generally aware of it and know what is going on. But once we have a habit established, it is well worth it to check in on a regular basis and see how it is going. Habits left unnoticed slip slowly, just below the radar of the daily grind business. I find the time after returning from a vacation particularly precious for checking in with habits. Then it is easy not to pick up some habits that we find undesirable, and we can consciously start up the ones we would like. The end of the year is another favorable time for that activity, when things slow down. The new year is not quite here yet, and the change into a new year makes it the perfect time to leave behind what is no longer needed or desired and to invite in the habits we want to embrace.

It takes boldness and courage to start up new habits. Enjoy being bold and courageous, and success will follow.

When implementing new habits, we need to be adventurous, inquisitive, curious, playful and forgiving. It is a path not yet traveled, so new situations will appear and are best met with the above traits.

During the time of a habit change, but also for life in general, it is most promising to be willing to be honest about what is going on, be aware of contributing factors and be present.

All of these steps make habit change and a conscious life design much fun and rewarding. Please remember, when you are dreading it, trying to squirm out of it or looking for excuses, it is not the way to go. Much rather than that, decide fully conscious to keep the status quo, quit complaining about it and carry out the undesirable habit proudly, until ready for true change. That way, the self does not get undermined and weakened and once the time is right, major shifts and changes are possible.

Wishing you much fun and changes beyond your wildest dreams. Life is a big adventure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

De-Stress and De-Clutter with a Simple Habit

During the first years of self-employment I was constantly stressed. Actually, I was stressed long before that, because in any job you have to be organized and the work load is usually bigger than the days are long. I developed a simple habit that helped me so much to not be stressed and feel productive and be successful. I need to share this and encourage you to try it on for yourself …

Do your days at work start with checking e-mails, often containing things that will never let you return to your originally intended day? It has been my daily experience for a long time. Not only did I not get to what I thought I would, but I also left the office feeling like I did not get anything accomplished, a typical Groundhog Day (the movie) kind of life. On top of that, I never seemed to get to decluttering the office, which made me feel even more like work is going to swallow me alive any day now.

After experimenting for a while with will power (never a good idea, since it is so limited in us humans), I combined a piece of advice from my wonderful coach-friend Kathy and my former professional organizer client ( and got two problems turned into a mightily empowering success guaranteed feel good tool:

I realized that I needed to accomplish certain things in a day in order to feel good about my progress at the end of each day. Now I take about a minute first thing in the morning (before reading e-mails!) to think ahead and wonder, which 3 things would feel great to have done by the end of the day. Usually they are things that I would like to procrastinate on, out of various reasons. There might be fear, worry involved, or I simply don´t know yet, how I will go about doing something, or even what my opinion on it is.

Every morning I come up with 3 top things. Then I commit to paying attention to them, to getting something done concerning the top 3. Sometimes I put more items down (actually, usually), but I make sure to highlight my top 3, because I want to feel good by the end of the day.

Now comes my second part of this: After using my smart phone (love the Got Milk App, or even just the task list option on my calendar) for this priority list, I got tired of it, since it was still too complicated, because I needed to unlock the phone, press buttons, select app, etc. each time I wanted to check on my list. I like simple. Finally, one morning I looked around my still not sufficiently picked up office and got a glance of my huge supply of post-it notes. The reason I have so many (different sizes and colors) is that it took me a long time to realize I don´t even like using them, I just liked buying them (joke´s on me). Remembering my professional organizer client´s tip to get rid of excess office supplies (I never had the heart to toss them, at least I stopped buying more), I gave them a try for my 3 priorities list.

It works great! Every morning, I use a post-it to write my priorities for the day on it. I even put the date on (it never hurts to get an early morning start on knowing which day we are at). I then place it on any location I like, sometimes the office desk, the computer, my phone, my pocket. I always know where it is, and I look at it often. It is amazing, how it keeps me on track. After each break, I check it and ask myself, which priority I want to tackle now. Sometimes I add items throughout the day. I made it my own little highlight of the day to crumple up the post it and toss it into the room (my cat loves chasing it) once I am done. Each day has become an energetic chase to this moment, it is so empowering and motivating.

I always make sure to honor my commitment to make myself feel good, productive and on top of things. It is so awesome to spend the evening feeling free and well on my way with my goals. No longer do I have the lurking feeling that some of the administrative things pile up and will come back to bite me. I naturally take care of them, one by one with this technique. My coaching practice has since picked up speed, I feel in charge and it is so rewarding.

I have also learned by doing it this way that things I would before procrastinate are always less work/scary/complicated in reality, that it is fun getting to the things that really count.

As always, I don´t expect you to believe me. Try it out and see for yourself. I wish you much productivity, success, fun and freedom (at least freedom from post-its it will be :-) ).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Courageous Decisions

If there is something that I can recommend as a sure way to live an amazing and fulfilled life, it is to make courageous decisions. This has nothing to do with risky behavior. And here is why:

Risky behavior: The rush of adrenaline, escaping the daily grind for just a moment, no matter the consequences or the cost. Now this is not the way to go for a steady increase of life quality and life fulfillment. How can making courageous decisions be then? And what is the difference?

I want to start with my observations of why some of my clients come out of coaching with a life beyond their dreams, while others quit the coaching process early and have achieved little towards their goals that prompted them to come to coaching in the first place. Whereas I have always the same 100 % support and my expertise and positive regard to offer, the outcome is quite opposite.

What´s the difference? There comes a point in the coaching process (as in life in general, for all of us), when a decision has to be made in order to achieve something different from the current outcomes. Einstein defined madness a continuing the same actions while expecting a different outcome. While the quote makes it so obvious, it is done all the time. People want to keep smoking, when they try to quit smoking, for example. That´s the reason they don´t succeed to quit. On the surface they know what giving up smoking means, but they want to continue with the habit, the ritual, not changing anything around it and about it. Again, this is obvious for the observer that it can´t succeed, yet the dynamic is just such: wanting different outcomes without changing anything.

I know from my own few courageous decisions in my life (which set things in motion to change my life beyond my wildest dreams) that there is a phase, when what is is not satisfying anymore. It´s like a piece of clothing that does not fit anymore. Yet is is so familiar a piece of clothing that we don´t want to give up on it at first. But as the dissatisfaction grows, the despair grows, life becomes dark, flat, listless. That is when a courageous decision is needed. It is the sure sign that what ails us can be healed with a realignment with what we are truly about. Somewhere we have left that path without noticing. It is time to set a new course.

Making a courageous decision is very invigorating. We get excited again about the world, people, about who we are, full of liveliness. In the very moment, we make that courageous decision, it is as if we are already there where we decided to go. It is no matter of should or must anymore. We WANT. We can easily do what it takes from then on. We are committed. I love that moment with all of my clients because I know how great they will feel, how much more alive they will be. I am sad for any client who chooses not to go there and does not give himself that gift of a courageous decision. Shady reasons are being mumbled, excuses and logical reasons why not, at least not now. Lack of time and money are the usual ones to be blamed. But it is just a sad excuse. Nothing is worth more than our own liveliness. Nothing. Once we caught on fire for our life, nothing can stop us. Also, we won´t need the adrenaline rush from any risky behavior, once we are on our own unique courageous journey. It is the best journey we could ever choose to be on. I urge you to keep your dream alive and not succumb to lame excuses. At the very least, see them for what they are - excuses - and ask what´s behind them: fear, fear of what? What would be the worst outcome if you tried? Even a failed attempt is so much better than never to try. Baby steps forward are enough. Sometimes it is enough not to go backwards, like using the same excuses as before. Just standing in the middle of the doubt, the fear, just letting it happen can sometimes be beginning of moving forward.

My wish is for all of us to always keep the commitment to ourselves to at least give it a try and take a look at it when it does not feel alive like life itself. Somewhere we left our path, but it is always there to go back on it. And that is when I celebrate with you like with any of my clients. Enjoy your journey!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Friend Without an Answering Maching

A dear childhood friend of mine could be seen as missing today´s abundance that technology has to offer. She does not use the computer at home at all (only at work). She does not do e-mail, Facebook, or even Google. She only got a cell phone for emergencies since the birth of her children AND her landline at home does not have an answering machine. 

How is this possible? Surely it must be because of missing funds, resulting in disadvantages in life for her. Well, I have never seen a more focused person, never complaining, always happy to see you and stop and chat. Within 4 years, she and her husband have had 3 children (ages 4, 2,5, 1). They also designed, built and moved into their unbelievably beautiful home, including sauna and spa area, guest living area, hosted several friends for days at a time AND opened up their own pharmacy (they are both pharmacists).

I find this the very best example of what focus can get us. It is also a great reminder that modern day life has so many time wasters that we might engage in mindlessly. So, instead of being on Facebook, my friend enjoys hosting her friends in her beautiful home. Instead of spending time on e-mail or engaging in phone tag, my friend communicates directly and sticks to the plans she made with others. With her, you know that she won´t cancel in the last minute because "something else came up". Unless it is an emergency, she will be there. She never engages in gossip either. Rather than doing that, she is interested in whomever she is speaking with. She enjoys running their pharmacy and helping people lead healthy lives.

She exudes a strong sense of presence with everything she does and is not plagued by constantly re-evaluating and deciding. Her husband and her discuss their future plans, then go about reaching them.

If you ask her, she will tell you that it was a little much to have the kids, build a house and move and open up a pharmacy all within a short period of time. But "you are in it and go on with it", she comments light heartedly.

I believe, this was all possible, because they do not have an answering machine. People who are close know when they can be reached. Others would most likely only take away their precious time anyway. Now that is bold, and I like it. I am not ready to disable my answering machine, but I do intend to simplify my phone situation by reducing the number of lines and devices. I did ditch Twitter and Instagram and instead I am checking on our bees in our back yard. Lots of buzz there…..

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Finding Your Passion and Sticking to It

When our family dinner got disrupted by two realtors going door to door to introduce themselves to drum up business, my husband and I pondered how hard it must be to do this job. It takes a long and dry road until one sale comes through and results in a pay check for them. I thoughts I could not do this ...

The reason why not is not a lack of abilities but because this is not my passion. Were it my passion and goal, I would not mind the many steps it takes to the finish line. What I am passionate about is my coaching business. A client on her own search for her passion and occupation remarked to me that I mentioned once to her how much I love helping people and that I must enjoy having found what I truly love to do.

This is made me think. I have found it, and I am grateful for it, for I had my own share of high ability/low passion positions (those are hard to leave, since it does not seem logical to do so). We all need that spark and that drive behind what we are doing to make it - not only bearable - but worthwhile, fun, fulfilling. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment, respect for ourselves, we feel balanced and are better at finding balance.

Signs that we are living our passions are:

- getting up in the morning plotting what we will do today and eagerly fitting the pieces together, coming up with new and creative solutions (even in jobs that at first sight seem boring)
- laughing at our own mistakes on the way and quickly incorporating what we have learned from them
- not counting every detour we must take, every do-over, but staying focused on the goal
- loving to share and talk about it if someone asks us to explain what we do, even if its because they are interested and might want to start doing that too
- seeing possibilities to expand, develop further, change
- not counting the hours spent on it, but rather sculpting the outcome and doing what it takes to get there without complaining or trying out shortcuts that are doomed from the beginning
- feeling gratitude for where we are in life and curiosity where it will take us next

I wish you much success in living your passions and hope you don´t give up if you are not quite there yet. Being passionate is an essential part of being. Do not tolerate living passion-less. Go find them and thrive!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Passion For?

Growing up in rural Austria of the 70ies, I did not hear much talk about passion from parents or teachers. Looking back though, I was already living them from very early on and chances are, so were you. As adults, our passions can help us during days, when things seem difficult or even dire and make us or break us in times of grief and transition …

Sitting on my beloved swing-set, watching snow melting away and snow drops break through the ice, inspired me to come up with my first poem and sang it over and over, so that I remember it to this day. At 13 I won the writing competition in my school. Writing carried me through transitions of moving away to college, break-ups, as well as helped me stay compassionate and yet unattached enough to the sorrows of my 10 000 callers at my my job at a psychology helpline. Yet, it took decades before I became conscious of being a writer and developing that passion further (as in this blog, my columns, published articles).

Another passion of mine showed up in my favorite childhood play, which was helping imaginary customers choose patterns for their homes from my napkin collection (which were the samples). I remember that I wanted to help them be happy with their environment and themselves. Being a psychologist and life coach is the adult translation of that passion to help people be happy with their lives, and a big part of who I am today.

These are two examples of passions showing up early in life and playing key roles throughout the life-span. We all have them. It is as if it is instilled in us and we are happiest if we make them conscious enough to incorporate them into our current lives and continue to develop them.

I have seen stamp collecting carrying people through times of grieving for a deceased parent, cooking and gardening being the only reason for someone with depression to get out of bed, singing help a client overcome stuttering in one case and decrease shyness in another. A friend overcame her "empty nest" with marketing her desired cookies and selling them on farmers´ markets, another one redefined meaning in life after years of infertility treatments by reconnecting with her passion for crafts and opening an online store with her handmade items.

We don´t need to turn our passions into a profitable business or make them even pay for themselves. What they add to our lives is far more valuable than money. They bring balance, fulfillment and meaning to our days short- and longterm and are invaluable times spent in our days.

It can be tempting not to see their intrinsic value and rationalize them away, after all, we are always too busy already. I strongly advise you to make them a priority and make sure your passions have a presence in your life. It may take some time and prompting to reconnect with them, but they will resurface.

Start with 2 questions:
What was your favorite childhood play? What did you want to be as a child, when your grow up?

May the passions run strong in you.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Courage - A Necessary Ingredient We All Have

Unconventional, without compromise, ambitious, or even stubborn have been words used describe me concerning my choices in life. I could subscribe to any of these terms. But one day, a dear friend added courageous to the list. It took me years to see that for myself, because

I grew up thinking that there were fearful people and there were courageous people, and we all just fell into either of these categories. Knowing myself and the many fears and agonies that any of my choices were accompanied with, I was certain I was of the fearful kind.

One day I heard an interview of a person I highly admired - mainly because of their courage. There this person was talking about his fears, and how this admission was often met with surprise. But he stressed that there was no such thing as a person without fear. Courageous people simply acted despite of their fears.

This statement set me free. I felt like my self appointed fear-category persona lifted up into the air. I knew instantly I could be a courageous person. All my choices so far were not enough to make me belief in my courage. It was this simple random statement on a random day.

I started looking for the courage hidden in all of my life coaching clients. I started seeing it everywhere. No matter what their past, their current situation, their outlook on future. Courage is always an option. We can always walk through our fears and thus leave them behind. Experiencing fear does not mean we are a fearful person.

It is such a thrill encouraging people to walk through their fears, head high and truly taking in the courage it takes to do that. It is easy to stay home and not show up for the event, the moment, the choice, the action that we are afraid of. But it feels so great to show up and no matter how the outcome is, we can at least say that we have tried. That alone is such a satisfaction, such honest and strong statement. It creates the basis for decisions in the future. Not showing up makes showing up next time yet a little harder, and so it goes.

Showing ourselves the courage that lies in us is such a moment of feeling alive. Mind you, I am not talking about risking our lives or engaging in any thrilling activities. It can take courage to show up at a meeting alone, to speak up in a group of people, to sing at a karaoke bar (yet to be walked through by me). Whatever it is, I encourage you to challenge yourself ever so slightly and enjoy the act of doing it.

We learn so much about ourselves in situations like that. It feels wonderful. Alive! It has once been said that we have only to fear fear itself. I take that as "Only be afraid of not showing up for your life".