THE HERO’S JOURNEY – part 1

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My mentor Steve Mitten introduced me to the teachings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell was an American mythologist and professor at Sarah Lawrence College who made a lifelong study of mythology, religion and myth, in cultures all over the world. Campbell is perhaps best known from being interviewed by Bill Moyers in the PBS special titled “The Power of Myth”.

From his lifetime of studies Campbell came up with the concept of the Hero’s Journey, as an archetypal pattern reflecting some of the most predictable stages of change present in the sacred teaching stories in all cultures.

The work of the Hero’s Journey rise out of the observation that the principal journeys we take in life follow a timeless theme. There are recognizable stages, important thresholds, natural consequences, mysterious forces and extraordinary outcomes.

In a typical Hero’s Journey, the hero (or heroine) gets called to an adventure, and must overcome their reluctance and many obstacles along the way. Fortunately, they can also run into helpers who can support and encourage them. Eventually they end up facing their principal ordeal, which is a challenge they cannot overcome being who they currently are. The Hero must transcend or grow beyond their current limits, doubts and fears to move forward.  This always involves going within, and bringing forth the treasure, strengths or gifts there.

Once the hero finds the way to bring forth their best, the principal ordeal is resolved, and they can move on to complete their journey.

Inevitably, the hero succeeds and returns wiser and more fully alive.

The Hero’s Journey is exactly what everyone embarks on who wants to make a significant change in his or her life. It is not easy to make changes and here is why: we are hard wired to maintain the status quo. The 2nd oldest part of our brain is the emotional brain and its main job is to do what is known and safe. This is quite useful when you drive home without thinking about the route or find your socks in the closet. But when you have rationally decided that it is time to change something, the emotional brain is not your friend.

Here is an interesting fact: only one in seven people will make a change they rationally want.

Based on a study by Harvard professor Robert Keegan we now understand how hard it is to make lasting changes. Check out this video for a quick introduction to his work “Immunity to Change”.

If you work with an ICF certified coach, you stand a much better chance to become the one in seven to make a lasting change than trying on your own. As a coach, I am here to assist you to develop realistic goals – no point in trying to change somebody else but focus on what is under your control – learn tools to avoid the voice of sirens luring you back to your old ways and claim the life you always wanted.

Many people ask me what made me move to India, leave a comfortable life behind, uproot my family and move to unknown shores. For starters, I thought I knew India because of previous travels but within a few days of living there I knew that was not the case. Living in a place without infra structure (yet appearing to be glitzy and fast paced), dealing with a very different mentality and culture, missing friends and clean air – it quickly came down to: what is the opportunity here?

For my teenage son, it was making his mark in a fresh social group, doing community work and growing resilient against the onslaught of daily mishaps such as no shower or electricity. My husband became a thought after public speaker and certified yoga instructor (in addition to his day job of running a 2000 people facility). For me it was letting go of a lot of baggage such as defining myself by my corporate career. I found a new career I love and discovered the joy of running my own business.

The key was to remember and honor the goals that had made us leave our home, observe what was happening and adjust course as necessary. Just the like the Hero, it was a rough ride but at times hilarious and for sure, I met some guardian angels on the way who I will never let go off, no matter how many miles or difference in upbringing separate us.

Part 2 – Meeting tricksters along the way,  to be continued.

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THE FOUR CORNERS OF HAPPINESS

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TOUCHING THE FOUR CORNERS OF HAPPINESS

Imagine a square and its four corners. The idea is to touch each activity or component at least once a day and observe what effects this new habit has on your day. If you touch all four of them you will have a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence and simply feel good about your day. On the contrary, if you are having an off day and feel overwhelmed or sad, or just like it was not a day to brag about, you will notice that you did not touch all four corners. The key is to “own” this new habit, which takes some practice. It helps to put a reminder to touch the Four Corners in a place that you frequently visit, maybe your desktop, your fridge or your bedside table.

1st corner: Making progress towards a goal.

Notice how it is not about checking off a goal but acknowledging progress made towards something important to you. You can break up your goals into milestones, or you can use the “rule of three” by setting three realistic goals for your day. We all know that perfectionism is just another definition of insanity but inadvertently we become unrealistic about our daily goals.

Look at your calendar, see what’s happening today and make a plan that can work. And if it does not, analyze the cause; what distracted or derailed you and how can you learn from it?

2nd corner: Connecting with people you love and inspire you.

People who inspire you are like a warm ray of sunshine – they lift your mood, they make you more self-confident, the world just feels better. It can be the minimum wage worker who opens the doors to your favorite coffee shop early in the morning and always smiles at you, it can be a colleague who brings energy to a boring meeting. It can be a child playing in the rain with that pure self-absorption only little ones carry. Actively connecting with them rather than standing by will release some of their energy on you.

Picking up the phone or sending an email to someone you love but never make time to talk to is just as important. Saying thanks to a person or an organization that helped you, or writing a review for someone who did. Do not just think about them but actually do it.

One of the most successful management consultants, Marshall Goldsmith makes it one of his daily habits to say thanks to someone from his past.

3rd corner: Making a contribution.

This one can be connected to the other two but is also a goal in itself. Whatever you are passionate about in the world, make a contribution towards it – the environment, improving people’s lives or simply making someone’s day by helping out or listening.

Once again, this does not have to take up a lot of time. Being aware of it and pro-actively seeking out the opportunity to contribute is all it takes.

4th corner: Self care

Now this is a hard one for many people. While the 1st three fall neatly within our goals and acceptable things to do, self-care does not. If you have ever experienced putting on your exercise clothes in the morning and never made it to the gym or out on the trail because other stuff took longer than expected you know what I mean.

BIG mistake. By engaging in the activities and experiences that you love you become more energized, better able to handle stressful situations and serve the people you love. Whether this means to exercise, meditate or sit and watch the birds, it is like taking your car for a tune up.

Just recently, one of my clients told me how she survived a very confrontational business meeting because she had made the time to run on the trail earlier in the morning. Even more so, after the meeting the head of the group came up to her and invited her to explore more opportunities with them because she showed such amazing grace in the eye of a storm.

Let me underline this with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “I meditate every day except when I get busy then I do it twice as long.”

Lipstick Money

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Image Last week, I went to a women’s group meeting, where the term Lipstick Money came up repeatedly. By women who described the various part-time and substitute jobs they have held while enabling their husbands’ careers, moving across the US, moving across the world.

Here is my calculation: personal assistants and nannies get paid 20 – 30$ per hour. Let’s assume the women only worked a 40 hr work week in their PA/ nanny jobs aka being a stay at home mom, their annual wages are 40 – 60K. If their husbands would have hired someone for this job, this would have been paid out of after tax income so the real earnings for stay at home moms are close to 100K pear year.

Hardly lipstick money.

This group had been reading  Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg which is a very empowering book for women who are in the workforce and love to learn how to be more successful. But for women who chose to stay at home, leave the workforce for a while, the book makes them feel like they have achieved nothing,  if they worked it was for lipstick money.

Sandberg points out one of the key pitfalls young mothers get trapped in: at the time their children are young, the investment in their career can be a negative return. See above, 100K earnings spent on a nanny, and sometimes 40 hrs won’t cut it because your job requires you to travel. That explains why women with post-graduate degrees – who easily earn 6 digits income – drop out of the workforce the fastest: 50% after 15 years from graduation. Sandberg argues that you should look at the investment over the life time of your career.

What she forgets to mention are the women who truly love to stay home with their young children.

At another meeting last week, this time with a high-powered delegation of US women business leaders, I repeatedly heard the speakers say: “Whatever you are facing at the office is never as scary as raising two teenagers.” Thank you for sharing the truth!

They also meant, as women in the workforce, remember how strong you are at home, how good you are at keeping the Big Picture in mind, juggling emotional and real upset while on a tight time budget. So take that skill to work with you.

And don’t be afraid to look at the gap in your resume, smart employers will know the difference. There is never a gap in a-work-at-home woman’s life. To get you started on using your real life experience in a resume, take a few moments and write down:

– what are my tasks and responsibilties as a mom
– what are my biggest achievements
– what do I enjoy most about being a mom

Then, turn these personal statements into real life job descriptions, you will be surprised to see who you are in a professional sense. To learn more about how to go from stay-at-home to having a fabulous career, please connect with me.

Is today the day you want to live like forever?

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Recently, I was reminded of the famous Steve Jobs’ quote:

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Peruvian Paso Horse Breeder, Lima Peru 1)

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I like to suggest some background to asking yourself this question:

* Are you making progress towards your larger goals?
Even if it seems slow and stuff gets in the way that’s outside your control, are you moving forward?

* Are you spending time on the things that feed you, like exercising, meditation, laughing with friends?
To be your best, nourish your soul. Do not sell yourself short. Mens sana in corpore sano.

* Even if you are handling tasks you’d rather not – like doing the laundry or filing your taxes – do you honor them as part of the life you want to live?
My yoga teacher once showed up insanely happy for our lesson telling us students that today he was the guy who is paying the bills and ordering the towels. If he had to do it he chose to do it with zest.

* Is the vision of your life big enough to excite you?
Like Stephen Covey said: “Have the end in mind“. Is your end in mind what you would choose over and over again?

* Do you honor your Values?
Values are not morals, they define what makes you happy and what ticks you off. Sometimes we push them aside with words like “I should” or “I can’t” but if that goes on for too long you are paying the emotional price.

* Are you with people who inspire you?
This is so simple yet we need to remember it: Think of who you encountered today, in person, on the phone, on the internet? Focus on the ones that left you smiling, that gave you a rush of confidence or told you something that you find really useful. Now seek out more people like that and leave the others in the shadows.

So, what’s your answer today?

1) about this photo: I went to Lima on a “spousal trip” where my husband had meetings in the city. His local colleague asked me what I would like to do. I told him I wanted to ride a real Peruvian Paso – for some of us horse lovers the Ferrari of horse breeds. That weekend I found myself at the beautiful hacienda of one of the top breeders who took me out on a ride, allowing me to ride his amazing horse. It was one of the days I will never forget.

Career Choices for Expat Spouses

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If you come to a country where you are not allowed to work as an expat spouse, the stamp in your passport visa page can be a big shocker “not valid for employment or business”. This effects pretty much anyone who followed the Call to Adventure to accompany a spouse to a foreign country, unless you move within the European Union or are eligible under some rare free trade agreement.

Recently, I came across an article perpetuating the myth that expat spouses cannot and will not find legal employment. One job searcher was quoted as saying: “The fact that as an accompanying spouse I would need to return to my home country to apply for an employment visa and the inherent bureaucracy and uncertainty in the whole process put the companies off making a job offer.

chickpet

Really, is that true? How about paying for this trip and related expenses yourself – you are already in a high income bracket with your spouse’s expat package, you are about to earn money in an executive position – so why not invest some of your own money into a new job?

Another common myth is that “no one will hire me because they know I am only here for a few years.” Think about why your spouse has a limited time contract in this country – because there is only so much time local companies want a foreigner to contribute. Chances are your spouse can get an extension if this turns out to be important. Many companies allow valued foreign workers “to go local” after their initial contract has expired. The key is to carefully choose the unique skills you bring to a future employer and tell them why they need you for this job. 

Looking for a career or thinking of starting a business as an expat spouse is a bit more complex but overall, not different from doing it at home. If you are from the US or Europe, your home country economy is not doing so well. If you live in a thriving 3rd world country like India your opportunities are huge – as a foreigner, as a well-educated executive or scientist, as someone with a killer business idea.

Look around you – there will be people you know who have done it. Ask them about their story, observe what’s really different about their attitude. They will not tell you about the obstacles they faced, they will talk about the passion for their job, their business and how excited they are with their career.

I have coached many people to do exactly that – reinvent yourself while being an expat spouse, find your passion and leave all doubts behind. 

Are you living in a sitcom?

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Image What’s your favorite show? For many years, it was Seinfeld for us which is slowly being replaced with more contemporary shows. In my family, we still refer to classic episodes such as “the Soup Nazi” as if they had happened for real.

Imagine, if we were able to see our lives as sitcoms – fun and entertaining stories, written by witty people, show casing humanity at it’s best – always a bright side to consider, laughing about mishaps and never ever taking life too seriously?

Like when my friend and I got chased by a rabid donkey and the horses took off in hot pursuit – truly scary but in hindsight, too funny and always a great story to tell, how ex-racehorses could not catch up to the donkey. Or me being so overly busy that I left my beautiful flowers in the parking lot of the shopping area only to have my friend stop by later in the day and take them home to enjoy for herself.

Living in a sitcom means nobody ever dies and if they do, it is funny.
Getting ditched by your boyfriend leads to more fun adventures.
Loosing your job means you can watch your own show from the couch all day.

What it really means is  – what good came out of something bad?

It’s a tough question, and cannot be asked unless one is ready. Let me share what good came out of my very own sitcoms:

– I understood that my dad had lived his life to the fullest, dying mid stride.
– True friends rise from the ashes.
– Don’t reward bad behaviour even if it hurts.
– The party goes on as long as you are having FUN.

Happy Hour is 9 to 5

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9 to 5

Recently there has been a lot of press how Corporate America is awakening to employee happiness, balance work and life and thus increasing productivity. If you are from Europe, this is nothing new – six weeks of vacation and union audited work hour limitations.

One of the most inspiring talks about what’s wrong with today’s workplaces I found at:  Jason Fried of 37signals:http://bit.ly/Uc96q8

But here is my own epiphany: I was never unhappy in my work, the various companies I worked for. Yes, some days sucked but overall I LOVED my career.

Now, as I coach women on re-entering the workforce after staying home with their children, I realize how privileged I have been: great peers and inspiring bosses who were my mentors, a supportive husband who loves being single dad for a while.

Growing up, there were not many women role models in the 70s and 80s but the few I knew were powerful. Like my aunt Martha, a banker who told me “it is so much easier to walk out the door with a briefcase than staying home with an infant” and with that mindset raised an amazing boy who is now a succesful doctor and family man.

Or my best friend growing up, her mom taking all the responsibility as her genius  father was off to saving the world. Her mom raised a well-balanced girl and kicked ass as she rose to the top of her profession. I fondly remember her vanity of buying designer high heels which was the only fashion attribute visible under her lab outfit.

Many women did not feel that calling in their early careers. Maybe they were mismatched from the get go, a smart student pushed into engineering while suffocating her creative side. A young employee working in a company that did not  share her value system yet being too busy to notice.

For women re-inventing themselves once their kids are old enough, this is an amazing opportunity: What is my passion and who deserves me as an employee or business partner?

I invite you to explore What Good Came out of Your Past Decisions?

If you chose to stay home to raise your children, many many great things. If you chose to pursue your career, just as much. But here is the trap for every woman no matter which fork in the road she followed: it was never good enough.

Stay at work – what kind of mother am I?
Quit my career – where is my independence, why am I squandering my education?
Loose the sparkle in my relationship – time to shop at Victoria Secret?

The truth is, we all want to be perfect, living up to the Barbie Doll image which we despise yet have so happily replaced with the Well-toned-well-read-calm-and-relaxed-mom-juggling-an-infant-or-a-rabid-teenager-who-has-it-all (fill in the blanks…)

Ultimately, happy hour can only be 9 to 5 whatever your job is –  CEO of Corporate America or of Your Family, it’s all about the CONSCIOUS choices we make.