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.

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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.

Ever thought of finding your dream job in a flower shop?

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flowers2 As a career coach, one of the most common questions I hear is “what’s the point of knowing your dream job, no one is hiring in this economy.” To which I routinely reply – if you have found your passion you will be unstoppable. Finding or re-claiming your passion is what I usually focus on in the early work of coaching.

So here is a real life story. About showing up authentic and being at the right place at the right time.

In Bangalore, we have flower vendors at every street corner and if you want a special exotic bouquet you will go to a handful of flower boutiques run by proprietors who are passionate about flowers and beauty. One of these shops is owned by a wealthy and well connected woman. My client walked in there and they had a chat – within minutes, she had a referral for the owner’s friend who is running a hot start up. Fast forward a year later, my client is a vice president at the company and instrumental in shaping its future.

What happened? Opportunity often comes out of nowhere but if we are not open it will not find us. My own experience was going through a tough time in my life just having been layed off and also going through some dark personal times. A business acquaintance who I did not know that well but always felt we had a strong genuine connection, called me up and said “I want to hire you” – the job entailed some sacrifices including a long commute but his warmth and belief in me at that very moment was what counted. It turned into one of the best work experiences, one that shaped me and allowed me to find my own voice.

Have you visited a flower shop lately?

What got shamed out of you?

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little kids     My mentor Steve Mitten brought this up recently: Ask yourself, what has been shamed out of you as a child?”     What quality or skill you owned at a very young age got stolen because some person of authority declared it of no value, or worse, punished you for being like that?

Where does this shame show up today in your life?

The most powerful example came from a friend who told me her exuberance and love for jumping as high as possible in the air got shamed out of her as a child. When she finally reclaimed it as an adult, it got stolen again – just after her first on stage appearance as an acrobat, her partner of many years, broke up with her.  “I did not deserve to ever do acrobatics again.”

My own discovery is something I would not have considered: what got shamed out of me was the passion for running my own business – quite odd but now I understand. Partly because people misinterpreted the lifestyle of my own entrepreneurial dad as one of stress and never being able to go on vacation – today I understand that for him it was all Play – work was just what he loved and therefore he had little need to “take a break”. Also partly because I had amazing people to work with who understood my need for independence and allowed me to prosper in a corporate environment. Special thanks to Tony, Charlie, Rim and Tanveer.

Now, let’s take that Shame to the next level: What quality of yours did you have to suppress in order to survive in less than optimal circumstances?

Working with women who want to find fulfillment in a new career shows this so clearly: in order to be the mother they aspired to be, they had to let go of a lot of things. Like kicking ass in a job, or making more money than their spouse. Like deciding how and what to spend their time with. Being footloose and fancy free is impossible when you have an infant or a teenager to watch over.

This is what we talk about in IT’S MY TURN – it’s time to reclaim what got shamed out of you.

I invite you to think about what your Shame is, and when you discover it, how about  letting it back into your life?

Would you like to be 40% happier?

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Image I had a discussion recently about what makes some expats (here in India where I currently live) blossom and others get crushed under the circumstances of settling into a foreign culture. My folksy take on it was “who ever you are before you come here, India dials it up – if you are happy in nature you will have a great time here, if you are half glass empty type you will never feel at home here.”  Then I learned about some very relevant research on the subject, a study titled The How of Happiness.

University of California professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky has researched thousands of men and women. Her key findings are:

50% of happiness is genetic
10% come from your circumstances (living conditions)
40% is by choice

This is exactly what a coach does: guide people to define what those 40% look like and enable them to pursue it. I describe it as finding your passion, living from your strengths and not worrying about your weaknesses, accepting that we are not meant to be compatible with every job or team. Not sweating the small stuff but focus on the things that are under your control.

When somebody calls me and asks “do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?” I will inevitably answer:”There are no bad news. There are only good news and better news.” Today, my 16 year old son missed his school bus – at 7 am, for once I had no call scheduled and thought, ok let’s go for a drive.

So this was the good news # 1.

On the way to school, we had a nice conversation – any parent of a teenager knows how precious those moments are, when they want to talk without accusing you or the world. Then he blurted out: “I want to become a social worker.” To which I answered “That’s great news, you will be really good at this.” I could not really look at his face as we were driving thru Bangalore traffic (have to blog about that some other time) but sensed his jaw had dropped. He followed up with “But mom, I won’t be making any money.” To which I answered not too worry because passion will lead to success.

So you see, there are only better news. Hearing from my money-crazy son that he wants to first do some good before he heads into making his fortune made my day. Just like when he was little and thought about becoming a fire fighter, being a true hero every day of his life.

What can you do to access those 40% of happiness under your control? Here are some ideas for a great 1st step:

  • Commit an act of Self Love: indulge in something that makes you truly happy and while you are at it, remind yourself that you deserve every second of it.
  • Schedule yourself 20 minutes of Self Care to set the tone for the day. Some people meditate, others go for a walk, or sit in the garden listening to nature.
  • Try the 4 Corners of Happiness: check whether every day your are doing the following four things at least once: make progress on a goal, have a meaningful connection, give something to the world, and talk to a person that is important to you.
  • Or make up your own list of what feeds your Good Dog (There is a good dog and a bad dog fighting within each of us. The one that is going to win is the one we feed the most).

A letter to my coach

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Image This blog entry is dedicated to my coach Luis. He challenged me to write more articles because he likes to read them for himself. Wall of Self Glory, here is one entry for you! Luis is a great writer himself, so this means a lot to me. And it encouraged me to write a more personal piece, to share with my readers what it is like to have a great coach.

Thank you Luis for being my coach – your great voice assuring me it all can be done, your calmness in the eye of my storm. Sometimes I have nothing burning on my mind when it’s time for our scheduled session but I always go into them knowing forward motion is inevitable and talking with you will bring me great insights. Other times, when I go through rough times of parenting a teenager, or get hit by my very own limiting beliefs (aka self doubts) just knowing Luis is there to hold that space of calm for me and always, always enabling me to find great answers, is often enough.

I have never met Luis face to face, he lives in another continent, I see his photograph and he sees mine. I know he has two young daughters and a corporate day job. What comes to mind are these thoughts:

* virtual friendships are real
* my coach is my friend in a professional relationship
* being a trained coach myself, I am not any different from my clients: when it comes to seeing myself without layers of “stuff” I need professional help.

2012 was great, and Luis was such a catalyst. 2013 will be even more fun!

Playing with Ponies and the importance of Self Love

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Image Self Love is a difficult concept for many people. Oddly, society rewards misery – think about hearing stories of loss or trauma, and you will feel empathy, possibly reach out and try to comfort them. Similarly, people tend to find a sense of security in their own misery – because if things are bad, at least I won’t be disappointed. Trust in the future and true hope is quite rare.

Read the expert on Loving Yourself – Manuela Pauer“Are you missing out on the most important relationship in your life? It’s not the relationship with your significant other, your parents, or your children… it’s the relationship with yourself!”

Last week, a dear friend of mine lost her dad – even after he had suffered a long illness, it is very hard for her to live without him. To practice Self Love, she asked me to come with her and “play with the ponies”. We took two well behaved horses and rode through Bangalore Palace Grounds. For that hour, she was whole and could re-charge herself for what she is going through every day now, the deep sadness and flashes of memory of time with her dad.

I invite you to think of someone who inspires you, who draws you into a world that is light hearted, where lots of good things happen. You can see how a self-loved person is empowered from within, and from that position of strength is able to give so much to others.

Isn’t it time we truly loved ourselves?

It is what it is

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What day is today? It’s today.
My favorite day, said Pooh.

The other day, a client used this phrase in a completely new context. For her, it meant she is learning to accept that certain things are outside her control and not waste her emotional or physical energy on them. This is opposite to feeling helpless in life – which is what most people express through this phase.

In coaching, we call this the Outcome Frame – what part of this situation is under your control? Are there parts that are outside of your control that you could make controllable through creative approaches? At the end, we can only change what is under our control.

Number one under your control is yourself. How you react to things, how you let them affect you, what you learn from them.

Many reasons why we are not good at controlling ourselves, primarily shooting from the emotional part of our brain aka knee jerk reactions to emotional triggers. Observing yourself and understanding what happens is the 1st step towards self mastery.

Developing and mastering new good habits is a lot like getting off an addiction – you want it, there are people who can help you but in the end these new habits have to survive in stressful situations.

A coach holds this simple agenda for you: My new self and how to move towards it every day.

It is what it is.