Be Intentional

Brave Journey, a Reflection on 2016

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared tow hat lies within us. Ralph Waldo Emersson

In 2016, I had the privilege of being in coaching relationship with one brave soul after another. Together, we experienced the incredible freedom that comes only in the tailwind of a great act of personal courage. Similar to the aerial dancer who flies from one tethered safety line to the next, these acts of courage often contain a breathtaking “no hands!” moment.

Photo by Sonia Cirse

Photo by Sonia Cirse. Edited by De Yarrison.

Growing forward always involves that confronting moment when we know we can no longer hold onto what’s been. We must let go of “the way it is,” leave our comfort zone, and take an untethered step out in the direction of what will be now. The vulnerability of that moment gives life to strength and courage that we may not have known we possess. How exhilarating!

I am grateful and blessed to have supported leaders journeying into and through that bold moment this past year! I’ve summarized below accounts describing some of the terrain we’ve crossed together and the essential shifts that resulted. I hope you will be as inspired as I am to get a glimpse of what’s possible!

We bravely faced our fears of failure and admitted our over-controlling behaviors.

Situation: A client was stuck in unproductive thought patterns and behavior patterns towards co-workers and direct reports.
Shift: recognizing and releasing self-judgments and unrealistic self-expectations. Learning to relate with compassion and acceptance towards oneself, which naturally led to relating more compassionately towards others. This has fostered more positivity, trust, and openness in relationships (both at work and at home).

We bravely faced self-imposed conditions and limits on one’s worthiness, i.e.: “I’m not valuable unless…” “If I don’t do _____, then _____ will happen.”

Situation: A client and small business owner was overwhelmed with busyness and exhaustion, which was taking a toll in important relationships.
Shift: Recognizing the fears that were driving behavior (fear of disapproval, of not getting things done, of failing). Shifting the inner conversation from one that placed conditions on self-worth, to one that is self-supportive and self-accepting. This is leading to the ability to honor one’s own needs and take better care of oneself physically and emotionally.

We bravely faced the uncomfortable truth that how we are regarding ourselves and our performance is not the way others’ may perceive us.

Situation: a leader was unknowingly perceived by peers as territorial, defensive, and lacking confidence.
Shift: Took responsibility to be intentional about one’s presence and one’s impact on others. Began asking the question: how do I want to BE in this meeting / conversation / relationship? And then self-managed thoughts, words and actions to make that so.

We bravely faced the incredible dichotomy of letting go of control in order to experience peace-of-mind.

Situation: a client was faced with life-changing circumstances that were neither desirable nor within her control.
Shift: Discovered deep inner strength, enabling a rich journey through frustration, fear, anger, and sadness into acceptance and hope in new possibilities.

Wow, huh!? Do you see yourself in any of the situations described above? There are typically common themes surrounding our individual stories.

Onward! 2017 with Intention

At the end of every day, we have a story to tell. We write that story moment-to-moment, through every decision made, each word uttered into our relationships, and how we choose to see or regard the people in our lives. In the situations above, change happened because individuals were ready to honestly look at the current story they were existing within. And upon realization that the story was not one they wished to continue, they tore off a fresh sheet of paper and began drafting the next chapter by reflecting on questions such as these:

What comfort zone am I hanging out in that is no longer serving me?
What unhelpful or unproductive thoughts am I giving my mental energy to?
What have I been tolerating that it is time to say no to?
What positive qualities am I ready to own and to express freely?
What must this next chapter of my story include? What are my non-negotiables? (i.e.: higher priority on my physical health, more authenticity or speaking what is true for me, invest more of myself into my relationships, practices that enhance my peace-of-mind, etc.)
When I look back on my work and life in 3-months, 6-months, etc. what do I want to see? How do I want to feel?

How about you? What are you ready to invite more of in your life this year? What is the untethered step awaiting you? I would be honored to support you as you ready yourself for that bold moment! Here’s to a courageous 2017 together!

All best wishes,

Click here to find out more about coaching with De.

Let’s BE the Change

Be the change

“We must Be the change we wish to see.” We hear this quote so often. Recently, I wondered if I really understand what it means. Or if I know how to actually go about “being the change.”

I often think about what I want more of in my home, reflecting on what I’d like to see different or better within our family environment. Let me share a story that illustrates one way I “became the change I wished to see.”

My daughter, Abigail, had a tough school year in 5th grade. Math, in particular, was not much fun. Frequently, Abigail would lay in bed at night and tell me that she was worried about a particular class, a particular teacher, or afraid she would forget all the state capitals she’d just named earlier in the evening. Knowing what was happening in her heart and in her mind, I wanted for her to have more self-confidence; a stronger belief in herself and her capabilities. I also desired for our home environment to provide more affirmation for one another.

So I made it a point to regularly let her know that I believe in her. That I know, whatever she is faced with on any given day, she’s going to handle it. I set an intention to provide the confidence for her that she was unable to provide for herself at that time.

This awareness and intention setting on my part helped her inner dialogue change from “I can’t,” I’m afraid,” “What if…” to something much more affirming and reassuring. And her inner shift was made possible through conscious action on my part to BE those very qualities I wanted to see more of in my world.

How about a workplace example.

I was coaching a team the other day. After a couple of activities that surfaced undesirable aspects of the team’s dynamic, someone said, “They just need to stop talking and do more listening.” This was followed by a few more comments of what “they” need to do. I asked if anyone was familiar with Gandhi’s wisdom of “being the change” and what did they make of it. We used the opportunity to, individually, write down the 1 or 2 qualities that we each most wish to see more of in our “world.” And to come up with 1 or 2 specific ways in which we could BE that which we most wish for.

For example, qualities desired included: positive, empathetic, non-judgmental, and curious about others. Specific actions identified included: be vigilant in my self-awareness to surface my own negative thoughts and criticisms of others, and to look for opportunities everyday to positively acknowledge a teammate.

This is the opportunity we have each day. To contribute to the desired environment in our relationships, our homes, our workplaces – not by simply wishing for others to change – but by BEING the change ourselves. By taking initiative to create what we want, rather than complaining about what we don’t want.

I want my household to be a more peaceful place, I start by being peaceful.

I want my team environment to be free of blame and judgment, I pay attention to my own blame or judgments (even when they’re unspoken), and I work to release them.

I set intention to let go of what’s undesired and step more fully into what IS desired. When I bump up my level of intention and engagement, I become an active force for the desired change. Rather than remaining a passive force for tolerating the status quo.

We, each one of us, have the ability to impact positive change. Our family, our team, our community, will become the desired family, team, community when each member embodies and personifies the desired change. So let’s – you and I – go first.

What is the change that you want to see in your world? More love? Gratitude? Trust? Forgiveness? Joy?

Let it begin with you.

Flipping my Lid

james allen thoughts

In order to get intentional about our leadership presence – how we show up in situations & the tone we want to intentionally cultivate – it’s necessary for us to become familiar with our reactive or automatic thought patterns and behaviors. You know the ones; something happens and I’m thinking this thought and saying these words before I even realize it! No conscious effort at all. That’s reactivity.

And it’s a pretty unintentional way to lead (and live!).

The alternative is responsiveness. To respond to the people or circumstances around me, rather than react to them, requires intention.

Responsiveness is being present and attuned to myself as well as to others. Responsiveness is calm, mindful, and intentional.

These two functions, reactivity and responsiveness, live in completely different parts of our brain. Take a look at this video clip of me talking about this to the women attending a leadership conference for mothers, called MOMCon:

And what about in our workplaces? What does “threat” look like in your workplace today?

A co-worker challenges your idea – Threat.
You’re behind on a deadline and not getting the cooperation you need – Threat.
You’re explaining a new process to an associate and he or she doesn’t understand and you’re both becoming frustrated – Threat.
You get the idea…

Fight or flight reaction is triggered, adrenals engaged, cortisol is flowing. Here’s the So What: all of this is very energy intensive and sucks resources away from my higher thinking, which goes right offline. As you learned in the video, we call this “Flipping my lid.” So now, just in that moment when I need more than ever to manage my emotions, to empathize and get curious about the other person’s experience, I literally CAN’T! That function of my brain is temporarily disabled!

I want you to watch for this happening over the next week. Watch for it happening in you and in others. You can literally see when someone’s lid is flipped and they’re working from reactive defensive mode, rather than open listening mode. Without that higher part of the brain available, it is physiologically impossible for us to listen fully to one another or to effectively reason. We must first get our whole brain back online. How? More to come…

In the meantime, the exercise below will help you tune in to your own reactive thoughts.

Exercise: Pattern Interrupt

Purpose: to become more familiar with your automatic reactions when in flight or fight mode. And to interject something new, something different, into all that automatic thinking.

  1. The first thing to do when you become aware that you are triggered and running in reactivity mode… Breathe. Taking a few deep breaths gives your nervous system a moment to calm down and allows your “lid” to close (i.e.: higher brain functions to come back online).
  2. Interrupt the flow of automatic thoughts by interjecting a self-supportive statement, such as “It’s ok. You can do this.” or “Slow down. You don’t have to say anything right now. Just breathe for another moment.”
  3. Once you feel yourself calming down and you sense that you’ve regained access to your whole brain, ask yourself a question to help you consider additional perspectives. Here are a few examples:
    • What’s significant or important to me about this? Do I know what’s significant or important about this to the others involved?
    • What’s my greatest concern or fear about this? Do I know what others are concerned about?
    • What assumptions am I making? Have I checked out my assumptions with others involved?
    • How else can I think about this right now?
    • What is the next wise action I could take?

Practicing this “Pattern Interrupt” type of exercise encourages us to develop flexibility in our thinking and to think more expansively. And as the quote by James Allen at the top of this post implies, choosing our thoughts with care and intention, will positively impact the quality of our experiences.

With all good wishes,

Leading Myself

Lead myself

“Roughly 50-70% of how employees perceive their organization’s climate can be traced to the actions of one person: the leader. More than anyone else, the boss creates the conditions that directly determine people’s ability to work well.” Primal Leadership; Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee

Wow, that’s a heavy responsibility. As Shakespeare so succinctly stated:

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” – William Shakespeare

You and I, as the leaders in our organizations, significantly influence how people feel about their job. Committed to achieving great results or satisfied with meeting minimum expectations? Sense of team and camaraderie or every man for himself? A fan/cheerleader for your organization or bad-mouthing you behind closed doors?

Leadership Presence.

I create the tone or climate around me simply by how I show up each day. Before I’ve said or done a thing, my presence alone communicates to others. My facial expressions, body language, pace at which I walk & speak, my attitude and the energy or “vibe” I carry into the room with me. It’s all information for those around me. And they will respond accordingly…

Imagine this…
It’s the beginning of the day and I’m sitting at my desk. A colleague comes by to say hello, and looks like he wants to chat. I stop what I’m doing, turn and face him squarely, and return his greeting.
IMG_9243What adjectives would you use to describe what you see or experience from me? When I do this demo in my live workshops, I often hear adjectives like: welcoming, genuine, warm, open.

Now imagine this…
It’s the beginning of the day and I’m sitting at my desk. A colleague comes by to say hello, and looks like he wants to chat. I pause what I’m doing, turn towards him with one hand still on my keyboard, and offer a quick “Hi.”

IMG_9250What adjectives would you use to describe what you see or experience from me here? At live workshops, this time I often hear: busy, stressed, better not bother you, focused.

All I’ve done is say hello (in one way or another) and we’ve got several different perceptions about me. And from each person’s perception flows assumptions, judgments and conclusions. Conclusions about how he or she will choose to interact with me today: how open or forthcoming she will decide to be about that project status, whether or not he will come to me for the support he needs, and what kind of grumbling or praising will be said about me over lunch.

I am the one who created the conditions for the environment and relationships I now find myself in.


So how can I do my best to ensure that the climate or tone around me happens ‘by design’, rather than by default?

Leadership Rule #1: The most important person I lead is myself.

Emotional Intelligence is all about being aware of MYSELF; and using my self-awareness to manage myself. Managing my thoughts, mood, body language, and behavior in order to intentionally influence what is happening around me. To ‘move others’ in a way that sends them in the direction I want and need them to go.

We know that we reap what we sow, right? Below are three self-reflective truths of a wise leader, that help us look carefully at our sowing and reaping:

  1. When reaping something in our team or organization that is unhelpful or undesirable, the wise leader looks first at SELF.
  2. The wise leader has the humility to recognize that he or she is somehow creating, contributing to, or at the very least, allowing the undesirables circumstances to manifest.
  3.  The wise leader asks him/herself questions to explore his/her role in what’s being reaped:
    • How have I been showing up? What’s the tone I’ve been setting through my presence?
    • What am I doing or saying that may be contributing to the undesirable circumstances?
    • What do I want MORE OF now (i.e.: collaboration, ownership/responsibility, positive attitudes)?
    • How will I intentionally BE in order to lead the way in creating more of what’s desired? (i.e.: how will I BE more collaborative; how will I BE more responsible; how will I BE more positive).

This is not to say that the leader does not also expect others to behave in more desirable ways.

Of course we do. And, in order to successfully reap what we want more of from others, we must first sow the seeds by modeling the way. As wise leaders, we are super intentional about our OWN thoughts, words, and behavior, ensuring that we are in 100% alignment with the expectations we have of others.

Exercise – My Leadership Presence

I’ve recorded a 9-minute audio visualization that will help you think about and envision your desired leadership presence. Download the audio file here. Download the accompanying worksheet here.

  • I suggest listening to the audio all the way through once WITHOUT the worksheet. Give yourself a 9-minute space to simply sit back, close your eyes, and envision the various aspects of leadership that the audio file walks you through.
  • Then get out your worksheet. Listen through the audio file a second time (if desired) to help you reflect on the worksheet questions.
  • The worksheet concludes by having you create a couple of “I am …” statements about your leadership. For example, “I am a clear communicator” Or “I am curious about others’ needs.” Choose one of your “I am” statements to be intentional about this week. Perhaps you want to work on your listening, or attentiveness, or balance of asking vs. telling. Whatever it is, choose the I am statement that affirms and reminds you of your intention. Begin each day, each meeting, each interaction by telling yourself, “I am listening fully” or “I am attentive to the needs of others” or whatever is true for you. By consistently acknowledging and affirming the behaviors I desire to exhibit more of, I am telling my brain that this is the way it is. My brain responds accordingly by creating the neural connections to support my affirmation. The net effect is that, over time, the desired behaviors become habits.

All good wishes,


Ordinary Treasures

Cultivater gratitude

November is my favorite month of the year. I think of it as the Gratitude Month.

While I practice gratitude all year long, I find that November offers an extended opportunity for me. Besides the obvious – Thanksgiving –  November is also my birth month.  And the cooler weather means hot tea, wool socks, and fleece blanket; all providing perfect impetus to spend time reflecting on my year. What has been birthed in me or through me this year? in my work? in my family? Who and what am I thankful for in my life?

This November in my gratitude practice, I became acutely aware of the Ordinary Treasures in my life. My Ordinary Treasures are all those little, everyday things that make up my ordinary, and yet special, life.  For example, the warm, sunset glow that fills my workspace at home (I painted the walls a lovely apricot color a few years ago). Or the connection and gratitude I feel after a coaching session with a client. Or the sound of my kids making pancakes together in the kitchen.

It is my ordinary treasures I would most miss if they were suddenly gone from my life.

Researcher and author, Brene Brown, interviewed hundreds of people who have been through awful tragedies such as losing children, genocide, and violent personal trauma. She reports that she heard a consistent theme in her interviews, over and over and over again: “I don’t miss the extraordinary moments I’ll never have because of this loss. If I could go back in time, I’d be grateful for all the small, ordinary moments that I overlooked every single day. I didn’t realize the meaning they held until they were gone.”


As we approach Thanksgiving, I invite you to reflect on the ordinary treasures in your life. What are the moments, the people, the places, that make your ordinary life uniquely yours? The view from your kitchen window, the sound of little feet (or big feet!) walking across your house, the ability to run, work you enjoy, hot beverages, prayer time, fleece, music, your pet, a new book to read…

During this Thanksgiving week, keep your camera close by and snap a few pictures of your ordinary treasures as you notice them. Compile your favorite photos into a collage.

My collage is below. I set it as my screensaver so I will be reminded throughout the day, of what makes my life so wonderfully ordinary.

Wishing you and yours a very blessed Thanksgiving!


The Truth of Sufficiency

beauty of sufficiency smaller

In one of my women’s coaching groups last week, we opened up the topic of “I am not enough.”  “I am not enough” is a message of “The Lie of Scarcity.” The lie of scarcity tells us we are not enough: not pretty enough, fast enough, productive enough, don’t have enough money, don’t have enough time, didn’t get enough sleep, on and on and on. And, let’s remember, this is a LIE. Author, speaker, and activist, Lynne Twist writes about 3 myths of scarcity in her book, The Soul of Money. The three myths are:

Scarcity Myth #1: There’s not enough. Not enough to go around. Not everyone can make it. Someone will be left out. What’s one of the first games we learn as children? Musical chairs. Someone will be left out – there’s not enough chairs for everyone. We’ve defined our world, and ourselves, as deficient, as lacking.

Scarcity Myth #2: More is better. More of anything is better than what we have. Wherever we are, it’s not enough because more is always better. More Is Better drives competition, accumulation, acquisition, greed, heightens fears and quickens the pace. And none of it makes life more valuable.

More Is Better distracts us from living more mindfully & richly with what we have. We miss or overlook our immeasurable inner gifts. All the great spiritual teachings tell us to look inside to find the wholeness, the fulfillment we crave.

Scarcity Myth #3: That’s just the way it is. And there is no way out: There’s not enough, more is definitely better, and the people who have more are always people other than us. That’s just the way it is can leave us feeling helpless, hopeless, and cynical.

We must let go of “that’s just the way it is,” even if just for a moment to consider there is no “way it is” or “way it isn’t. There is only the way we choose to think & act and relate with our circumstances.

It’s important for us to understand and be able to separate these myths from what’s REAL FOR US. From what is internal, authentic, and aligned – the Truth of Who We Are. Our Truth lies in Sufficiency. Sufficiency – what a beautiful word! Enough. You are enough. I am enough. I have enough. God is always enough.

Sufficiency resides inside each one of us. It is not a measure of more than enough. Sufficiency is not a quantity or an amount at all. Sufficiency is a consciousness, an intentional choosing of how we will relate with the circumstances of our life. Sufficiency is engaging in life from a sense of our own wholeness. Lynne Twist writes, “I suggest there is enough in nature, in human nature, and in the relationships we share with one another to have a prosperous, fulfilling life, no matter who you are or where you are in the spectrum of resources.”

I created a 2 ½ day women’s retreat which looks in depth at the topics of Shame*, Scarcity, and most importantly, Sufficiency.

More to come about my retreats, along with the Fall/Winter retreat schedule.  For now, please know that your Truth resides in Sufficiency, not in Scarcity. Spend time each day noticing where you are/when you are indeed enough – because I am 100% certain that you are.


* Scarcity – I’m not enough – is at the root of a deep emotion called Shame. Shame goes deeper than a feeling of failing at what I do. Shame is a nagging sense of failing at who I am. And shame seems to be the universal companion of women.  A great book on the topic of shame, scarcity, and sufficiency is by Brene Brown, “I thought it was just me, but it isn’t. Making the journey from “what will people think” to “I am enough.” That title says it all, huh!?)



Change starts with confusion

One constant we can always count on is that life will not remain constant for long. Here are a few of the transitions happening in my world at the moment:

  • My kids’ school year has ended
  • My church Pastor is retiring at the end of June (yay for him, sad for me)
  • My husband just started a new job
  • My little sister turned 40 yesterday! (Yikes, I feel old).
  • My niece is having a baby.

I’m sure you have a list of changes or transitions occurring in your world too. Life is not a static event, is it?

Change is inevitable. Change is also often associated with words like: hard, difficult, stressful. Have you noticed this? Our human brains like predictability and familiarity. And when we encounter the inevitable uncertainty and unpredictability of change, our mind works to make sense of the new feelings, new faces, new structure.

I watched this process unfold within my 8-year-old son recently. Several days in a row, in the midst of any random activity (dinner, homework, playing with his sister), he started crying. When I asked him what happened or what was wrong he said, “I don’t know. I just feel so sad.”  So I cuddled him up and sat with him through his sadness and tears.

It took me a few days of this to realize that his tears and sadness were a reaction to the impending end of the school year. And while, of course, he could not wait for summer vacation and for school to be over, this presented him with a lot of uncertainty. For the past 180 days (not counting weekends and holidays) his daily doings were structured for him. Full of predictable patterns, events, & people.

Here’s the “so what.” Even when the change is something we’re looking forward to (summer vacation), our organism still has a reaction to “different.” Our reactions might include discomfort, concern, worry, fear, as well as excitement and anticipation. That’s a lot of energy and emotion moving!

How about you? What is your default thinking or default reaction to ‘different’? How are you at balancing your desire for certainty with your ability to be ok in uncertainty?

As with most everything, the process begins in our own minds. Here an exercise to leave you with:

  1. Uncertainty and change = something will be different. Different is neutral. Different only becomes something other than neutral when we attach thoughts of good, bad, worry, negative, positive, etc.
  2. Tune into your inner conversation around change. What is your inner dialogue like when something unpredictable happens in your day (i.e.: something gets canceled, someone needs something that you were not planning on providing today, someone in your life has their own plan for the day that seems in conflict with your plan, etc.). Write down the words or phrases you hear yourself thinking when you are presented with change or “different”.
  3. Look at what you wrote. What impact do these words/thoughts have on your emotions, attitude, behavior? Is that impact ok with you? If it’s not, what new thoughts or words would serve you better?

With all good wishes,
De Yarrison, CPCC

Dare to Be Personal

deviation for progress


A few posts back, I introduced the Language of Empowerment replacing generalities in our conversations with language that is more specific and more personal. You can read the article here.

A specific language shift that I introduce to my clients and the teams I work with is changing “It” or “You” to “I” in order to:

  • Clearly ask for what I need
  • Own my feelings or my experience of a situation
  • Say what is true for me, even if it is different than what is true for you
  • Share what I want, what I wish for, at the risk of feeling vulnerable

Here’s an example.


“You know how when you are really tired and you just need to take a break?”

Specific, owning my experience and asking for what I need:

“When I’m really tired, I need to take a break.” OR “I am really tired right now and I’d like to take a break.”

Period.  Clearly say what I need.

I was with a team last week talking about this language shift. One of the women on the team commented that she found herself in a conversation recently where the other person was telling her something like the above statement, “You know when you…”  She said she was thinking to herself, “No, I don’t know what that’s like” or “No, I don’t do that.” Rather than say what was true for her – and thereby disagree with the other person and potentially take the conversation in a different direction – she agreed with him.  In her words, “he’d just told me how I feel, so I agreed with him so he’d get to his point.”

This happens all the time, doesn’t it?


Taking personal responsibility for how we feel and for what we need is practically forgotten in our culture today. To say what’s true for me, without diluting my message feels a little too bold. Making a specific request of someone (respectfully of course) in service of meeting my own needs feels “pushy” or potentially offensive to the other person. Sharing with you what I really want, or what I hope for, feels risky and vulnerable.

Boldness, truth, clear requests, and vulnerability are necessary! They are necessary attributes for cultivating meaningful, enriching relationships with other people.

Brene Brown, researcher, author, & speaker says that being fully seen and known by another person is what we fear most. And being fully seen and known by another person is what we want most. Hmm…at once, scary AND satisfying.  Sounds adventurous!

Dare to make your communication more personal. And to take responsibility for what you need, what you feel, and what you want.

HOW?? Start with these 4 steps below :

  1. Replace “you” with “I”. Notice when you use the word “you” when you really mean “I.” (As in the example above). Speak more directly and clearly by daring to own your experience. The use of “You” when we mean “I” is a generic way of speaking that lumps me together with others, which feels less risky. For example, change “When you’re in a meeting and you know you have a different idea, and you…” to “When I’m in a meeting and I have a different idea, I feel ______ and I need ______.” Owning our experience and our needs may feel awkward or vulnerable at first. That’s ok; and often expected when doing something  differently. AND, I’ve found that I feel more empowered and more confident as result of taking responsibility for my own experience. Try it!
  2. Replace “they” and other pronouns: “They won’t have it finished until Tuesday.” “This is how they do it here.” Of whom are you speaking? Replace the generic pronouns with a more specific identifier.
  3. Replace the word “it” in your sentences.  The word “it” is a generic fill-in word for the subject of many sentences: “Thank you. It is helping.” “We planted it in the garden.” “I’m not worried about it.” “It is difficult.” I find this tip especially good to be mindful of when emailing others. After you type an email, go back and re-read your email, looking for the use of “it.” Anywhere you typed “it”, see if you can make your communication clearer or more specific by replacing “it.” Clarity and specificity, especially in emails, helps us have less misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
  4. Replace “it” with “I.”  For example, change “It was good to see you” to “I enjoyed being with you yesterday.” Oooh, the second sentence feels more personal and maybe a bit vulnerable (say the two sentences aloud to experience the impact). Great! I believe more personal, more connection, less distance, less generics are precisely what we need today; And will lead to more empathy for one another.


Ready to lead & live with greater intentionality?  Perhaps a coaching engagement with me is your next step? Let’s talk!

What Game Will I Play?

Lake George

I recently spent a few days at a lovely retreat center on Lake George in upstate New York. Rick Tamlyn’s Bigger Game Expo was what brought me to that beautiful place. As I sit reflecting on the many incredible stories from incredible people who are out in the world “changing the game”, I thought of a story I wanted to share with you.

This story comes from a book called “Love Beyond Reason” by John Ortberg, and it goes like this…

“This is a story about a fourth grade class where the teacher introduced a game called “balloon stomp”. A balloon was tied to every child’s leg, and the object of the game was to pop everybody else’s balloon while protecting your own. The last person with an intact balloon wins.

Balloon stomp is a zero-sum game. If I win you lose. Anyone else’s success diminishes my chances. I must regard everyone else as someone to be overcome, someone to be rooted against.

Balloon stomp is a Darwinian contest- the survival of the fittest- and since ten-year-olds are Darwinian people, they entered into the spirit vigorously. Balloons were relentlessly targeted and destroyed. Some children hung shyly on the sidelines, but their balloons were doomed just the same. The battle was over in a matter of seconds. Only one balloon was still inflated, and of course, its owner was the most disliked kid in the room. It’s hard to really win at balloon stomp.

Then, a second class was brought into the room to play the same game, only this time it was a class of mentally handicapped children. They too were given a balloon; they were given the same instructions, the same signal began the game.

This time though the game proceeded differently. The instructions were given too quickly to be grasped by these children. In all the confusion the one idea that sank in were the balloons were supposed to be popped. But instead of fighting each other off, these children got the idea that they were supposed to help one another pop the balloons. So they formed some kind of balloon stomp co-op.

One little girl knelt down and held her balloon in place, like the holder for a field-goal kicker, while a little boy stomped it flat. Then he knelt down and held his balloon still for her to stomp. On and on it went, all the children helping one another in the Great Stomp. And when the last balloon was popped, everybody cheered. Everybody won.”


Imagine how different each experience described is, one from another. What might the kids in the first class have experienced at the end of the game? Defeat, disappointment? Possibly self-criticism? What about the kids in the second class?

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever had an experience of everyone winning together? What was it like? How did you feel about yourself and others?
  2. How will you choose to play your game today?

Writing our Story

Writing Blog

Everyone loves a good story. My favorites are ones that have adventure, romance, and humor. Most stories follow predictable patterns or themes, such as:

  • Conflict between good and evil
  • A central problem or challenge, followed by various activities leading toward a solution
  • Individual growth (i.e.: from selfish, uncaring and critical through an awakening moment or incident into a “good” person)
  • Relationship triumph (boy meets girl, boy & girl fall in love, boy & girl live happily ever after)

And then, sometimes, a story surprises us by purposefully NOT fitting into a pattern. Robert Munsch’s “Paper Bag Princess” comes to mind. The princess was aggrieved by a fire breathing dragon who burned down her castle and all her belongings, and took her Prince hostage. Rather than playing the victim, the princess dons a brown paper bag (because all her clothing was burned), hikes across the countryside to the dragon’s lair, outsmarts the dragon, and frees her Prince. Upon realizing how conceited and wimpy the Prince is, she ultimately decides not to marry him.

I use Munsch’s creative tale to illustrate the point of this article: We will either live our lives according to some default storyline OR we will live into a new story; one that magnifies our inner gifts and empowers us to access the highest, truest, and best version of ourselves.

For example, a few years back I became aware that I was living in a story that I hadn’t intentionally or consciously written for myself. It was a default story. I was living out the storyline of “abandoned girl” who believed she could not count on others and that she must do it all herself. She must be self-sufficient, strong, and prove herself capable in all matters. The main character in my story was controlling, driven, unintentionally selfish and dis-empowering to others. And boy, was this story laden with victim-mindset beliefs and self-limitation.

This was not the story I had imagined for my life!  I wanted to be graceful and compassionate. I wanted to do work that I loved and that makes a difference in the world. I wanted to be a loving, calm parent and spouse.

Well, the tension mounted in my story long enough… I was finally awakened, picked up my pencil, and the next chapter began to unfold, consciously and by design. You can read all about it when I publish my book 🙂


The “HOW”

Writing your life’s story, chapter by chapter, with intention, is a continual process. What’s the story that is creating your current reality? Perhaps it’s a story entrenched in an old pattern, such as mine was. The exercise below will help you reflect on your story to date and decide how you’d like it to unfold from here. Grab your journal and a pencil!

Following the exercise, I offer a couple of resources to help you get started.


Life Story Exercise

What if today begins a new chapter in your life – one that was NOT pre-written for you? You can write it anyway you wish. Reflect on the questions below to find out how this chapter begins…

  1. What default messages do you no longer want to be in your story? (for example, I knew I had to let go of my default message, “You cannot count on other people. You have to do it all yourself.”)
  2. What are the best qualities, values, or behaviors of the main character (that’s you!)? Which of these qualities, values, or behaviors will you exhibit more in your next chapter?
  3. What will your relationships be like in your next chapter? Remember, you get to make up the story anyway you wish. Envision what you wish for in your relationships, and then write it down. Read my article about Being the Change you Wish to See.
  4. What surprises will this chapter hold? Any exciting twists or turns? We might as well have some fun with this 🙂

Helpful Resources:

Download my free Life-by-Design e-book. This is a great resource with some practical HOW-TO steps.

Like my Facebook page for daily inspiration, ideas, and resources.