Who defines your quality of life? Hint: it’s an inside job

Photo by Ivars Krutainis

Photo by Ivars Krutainis

I recently had an interesting discussion with a woman who sat next to me at a café in Montreal. She was reading a magazine and at one point, it dropped on the floor. When someone handed it to her I overheard them commenting: “Oh you’re reading The Economist. I like that magazine.” The woman replied, “Yes, it’s scary stuff.”

After a few minutes I said to her: “Sorry to bother you, but I’m curious about something. Why would you read something you describe as scary?”
She told me that she wants to stay informed, even if the news is scary. I told her my personal point of view, which is that I usually limit myself to the news headlines, since they usually give me all I need to know. Naturally, if a story really interests me, I will dig deeper, but I don’t want my peace of mind disrupted by reading in depth about bad news over which I have no real control.
As we discussed the ‘scary’ issues of the day, we spoke about gas prices and the transparency of the federal government, then the conversation turned to local and provincial government. The woman told me that although she is a lifelong Québec resident, she no longer feels welcome in the province because of certain policies of the provincial government.
After we discussed the policies a bit, I asked her where she was going to move. She told me she has no real plans to move, she just doesn’t feel welcome anymore. I asked her if she’d ever had any personal interactions with people that left her feeling unwelcome. She agreed that everyone is generally pleasant and easy to get along with, but for her, the fact that “they” could have voted for the current government carried more weight than how she is actually treated on a day-to-day basis.
This brings me back to my original question: Who defines your quality of life?

You always have a choice

One of the aims of my free online course, the Chooseday Challenge, is to help people understand that they always have a choice. While we can’t choose what others say or do, we can absolutely choose the meaning that we assign to their words and actions.
For example, the woman at the café could have chosen to give more weight to governmental policies OR she could have chosen to give more weight to how her fellow citizens actually treat her. She chose governmental policies and as a result doesn’t feel welcome in her homeland.

It’s an inside job

I also want to emphasize that we can each choose the impact that we allow external forces to have on our quality of life. Beyond choosing the meaning that we assign to the words and actions of others, we can always choose to limit our exposure to any negative external forces. That could mean choosing to limit your interactions with negative people such as co-workers, friends or family. It could mean changing jobs. Or letting go of unhealthy and/or dysfunctional relationships. And in the case of the woman in the café, it might include actually making a plan to move to a ‘more friendly’ area of the country. I can’t imagine choosing to stay in a place where you say that you feel like you are not welcome.

Claim ownership of your life

For many people, accepting that quality of life is an inside job is a very difficult pill to swallow. Perhaps they simply feel powerless at the hands of outside forces. Or they may just be incredibly hesitant to take on any personal responsibility for how they feel on a day-to-day basis. I understand that claiming ownership of your life can be a big and frightening step towards choosing the life you want, but I also know that it is the only surefire way to achieve peace of mind. Feeling like you’re at the mercy of outside forces keeps you in reaction mode and doesn’t allow any freedom for self-expression or creativity. It’s also a very slippery slope which can lead from feeling powerless to identifying yourself as a victim. And there is nothing more crippling that living in a mental state of victimhood.

From victim to victor

gandhiWhen we make a conscious decision to move out of reaction-mode and into action-mode, our lives really begin to shift dramatically. Let me be clear, it’s not that the outside world will necessarily change – but who we are in the context of the outside world will absolutely change.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. One thing I wish people would realize about that quote is that ‘be the change’ does not necessarily have to be about changing THE world – it can be about changing YOUR world.
It’s YOUR life. You only get one and it’s happening RIGHT NOW. Choose the Life You Want! It really is an inside job.

You Can Do It – Don’t Mind The Gap

mind the gap

photo by limaoscarjuliet

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Problem with Having Good Taste, about the fact that many of us suffer from ambitions that outreach our ability. We want to do good things, but when we try – we find out that our skill levels just aren’t there yet.

And the key word is YET!

In the article, I embedded a video from radio host and producer Ira Glass. Ira discusses the fact most creative people start out with a gap between what they want to produce (because of their good taste and high standards) and what they’re actually capable of producing. I encourage you go to back and read that initial blog post, but first – watch this excellent short film that illustrates the sound bytes of that interview.

I know I’ve been threatening to write my second book for some time now. I believe that I discovered this short film today because the Universe knew I needed a reminder (aka: kick in the pants) to get to work! So stay tuned for the book and more.

What will you do with this information? Will you let it move you across your gap? Why not use the comments section below to publicly state what you’re committing to achieve? We’re all in this together!

As I said in the other article: “I’ll race you to the other side of the gap!”

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Vaccinate Yourself Against the Virus of Negativity

photo by tranchis

Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting on a bus or in a crowded waiting room when someone close by, with a very runny nose and sore-looking, red, watery eyes, starts coughing loudly and sneezing. They look and sound absolutely miserable. You suspect they have a bad cold, maybe even the flu. What would you do?
I imagine you wouldn’t rush to take the empty seat beside them. And I highly doubt that you’d choose to share their pen or drink from their water bottle. You’d likely want to keep your distance for fear of getting infected. Perhaps you’d wash your hands a little more thoroughly the next time you’re in the washroom. And I don’t think anyone would blame you at all.
So why don’t we treat negativity the same way?
Yes, from time to time we all get ‘infected’ with a dose of negativity. For most of us, it’s short lived and we’re able to combat it and get back on track. Some people have a prolonged bout and have a more difficult time shaking it. And then there are those who suffer from chronic negativity.
When you run into someone who is suffering from negativity, why would you choose to expose yourself to their ‘virus’? Why let their skewed attitude and perspective impact your happiness, confidence and optimism?
In my coaching practice, one of my favorite tools to use with clients is a personalized ‘script’ designed to combat the effects of years of negative thoughts, habits and beliefs. In addition to helping undo the damage of years of negative programming, it also acts as a safeguard for the present and future.
The Script is a vaccination against falling victim to negativity and self-doubt.
I like to think of it as a vaccination against falling victim to negativity and self-doubt. From news media, and gossip to the fears and doubts of people around us, we are constantly bombarded with negative messages. The script helps to guard us against internalizing any of this negativity and becoming infected ourselves.
The Buddha said: “What we think, we become.” So why not make a conscious decision to think positive, uplifting, loving and encouraging thoughts? The health of your body depends on the fuel you feed it and how you move it. Likewise, the health of your mind depends on the thoughts, habits and beliefs you choose to surround yourself with.
Choose wisely!
If you’d like to see what a personalized script could do for you, I suggest you start by scheduling a free 30-minute introductory coaching session with me.

Am I worth it?

"Am I worthy? Do I deserve it?"

“Am I worthy? Do I deserve it?”

Do you deserve it? Are you worthy?

When I start working with a new coaching client, once they’ve stated their goal or objective, I always ask them those questions. I know – they’re big, bold, in-your-face questions; but they are important questions to ask early on.
The fact is, there’s no use choosing, hoping, dreaming, praying and working for something you don’t believe you’re worthy or deserving of having, being or achieving. If you don’t believe you’re worth it or if you don’t believe you deserve it, there’s not a coach in the world who can help you achieve and maintain it.
Generally, when I ask clients those questions, people fall into one of three groups.
  • The first group simply responds with something like: “Hell yes, I’m worthy of having it and deserve it!” (I love working with these people, because their attitude means they’re already halfway to having what they want.)
  • The second group usually responds more tentatively with something like: “Well, I think so.
  • And the third group often seems shocked and confused by the question. Once they reflect on it, they usually respond in a hushed voice. Sometimes they’re truthful and tell me that they don’t believe they’re worth it or deserve it; and sometimes they lie and say that they do believe they’re worth it and deserve it.
Henry Ford famously said: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.”
The same holds true for your beliefs around worth and deserving. In my experience, it is very difficult for people to have, be or do something that they don’t believe they deserve and are worthy of having, being or doing. And if they DO manage to pull it off, it’s usually temporary.
i_deserve_success_love_and_happiness-564496If you’re feeling a sense of dread right now, because deep down you don’t feel 100% worthy or deserving – never fear, all is not lost. Part of what I do as a coach is to help people override any subconscious programming that holds them back. Then we move into reconditioning the self-talk so that it works in your favor, supporting you and moving you forward towards the achievement of your goals.
Our beliefs and attitudes are incredibly important in life. Believing that we’re worthy of love, success and happiness is a critical foundation when you set out to Choose The Life You Want.

Interview with Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit


Are you wondering: ‘how long does it take to create a new habit?’ Or perhaps you want to know: ‘what’s the best way to break a bad habit?’
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
I recently interviewed Charles Duhigg, author of the New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit. Charles is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. I reached him at his office in Brooklyn.
In our interview, Charles explains the habit loop and how we can tap into the power of Cue – Routine – Reward. He also provides some strategies for successful New Year’s Resolutions.
Please enjoy (and share) the interview and feel free to add your habit tips in the comments section.

Listen to my interview with Charles Duhigg (recorded 19 December 2013)

Escape the Trap of the Comfort Zone

I'm Not FinishedIn my role as a life coach, I am constantly helping people to get out of their comfort zones. In my role as a Certified Master Coach Trainer, I am constantly training coaches to help people to get out of their comfort zones. So I was very excited when I recently had an opportunity to work on my own comfort zone.
I recognized all of the tell-tale signs that I had fallen into the trap of being comfortable with my situation.
  • Feeling content
  • Feeling like you’re in a good groove
  • A slight gnawing feeling that there is more waiting for me
  • A nagging fear that the groove could develop into a rut before I know it.
So, I did what needed to be done. I voluntarily ventured out of my comfort zone. For two hours I put myself into a social situation that was outside of my normal scene and waited for the growth to kick in.
Instead, what kicked in was FEAR – with a capital F!
Within 10 minutes of walking into the situation, my stomach was in knots and I became aware of a voice in my head:
“I don’t belong here.”
“What was I thinking?”
“I have no business here.”
“This isn’t for me.”
“I should just be happy with what I have.”
I had the very strong urge to leave.
Thankfully, I recognized this fear and voice for what it is. Stephen Pressfield calls it The Resistance and its job is to keep me firmly where I am.
Getting outside of your comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. And yes, it can trigger fears and insecurities. The trick is to recognize these for what they are – insidious voices in your head trying to keep you from becoming the person you know you can be. Trying to keep you from choosing the life you want. They try to pass themselves off as voices who care about you and want to keep you safe and secure, but they’re not. They are simply the personified resistance to your personal growth and expansion.
Safety and security has it’s place, but humans are pre-programmed to eventually leave that place and constantly strive for more. If we really required safety and security, we’d never leave the cradle. Learning to crawl and then taking your first tentatives steps exposes you to a world of potential dangers. Of course it also exposes you to a world of wondrous opportunities to learn and grow. It’s exactly the same when we become adults.
In my own situation, I fought the urge to flee and instead sat with the uncomfortable feelings. I turned my attention inward and listened carefully to the dialogue, looking for clues as to what I really needed to do. Soon, the answer became clear. I needed to keep moving forward – despite the discomfort. I need to leave the cradle once again. I realize that this means I risk falling and banging my knees and elbows, but I also realize that it will be worth it. It always is.
I’m not finished learning. I’m not finished growing. I must constantly choose the life I want.
And the same goes for you!

The Price of Not Paying Attention


photo by: fs999

Change happens. We all know that. Sometimes change happens in an instant.
  • A car crosses the centre line of the road.
  • The phone rings at 3 am and the police are on the other end of the line.
  • The doctor holds the results of your latest test and asks you to sit down and close the door.
In all three scenarios, lives are forever altered.
Other times, change happens so slowly and gradually that it’s almost imperceptable. It happens while you’re not paying attention. (I’m sure you know how to boil a frog, right?) That’s the sort of change I want to discuss today, because not paying attention can be painful.
No one gains 10 extra pounds overnight. We gain it one meal at a time. One snack at a time. One decision at a time. And it’s not that we’re constantly making bad decisions. But when there are more bad decisions than good ones, the scales start to tip, figuratively AND literally! We wake up one day and suddenly we need to use a different hole on our belt.
One day this past August, I found that I couldn’t put my belt on at all. No, it wasn’t that I had gained too much weight, I simply couldn’t get my hands behind my back to feed my belt through the belt loops without excruciating pain in my shoulders. I was very concerned because I never had problems like this before.
However, once I stopped to think about it, I realized that I had been noticing small, daily changes in my range of motion. I simply chalked them up to “stiffness” and kept going, telling myself: “Who has time to pay attention to stiffness in their shoulders when they have a busy life to lead?” But by mid-August the stiffness had turned into full-on pain whenever I tried to reach behind my back. A quick visit to the doctor confirmed that I had the beginnings of a rotator-cuff injury… in both shoulders.
“Why, oh why hadn’t I paid attention?”


Because I was telling myself that I was “too busy” to take a few minutes to stretch or to adjust my posture, I am now paying a much higher price. I am seeing a physiotherapist who is working with me to get my range of motion back and to heal the damaged tendons and ligaments.
And guess what she did at the end of our first session? She used a special tape to tape my back and shoulders. The tape itself doesn’t provide any special benefits – it’s simply there to serve as a constant reminder to keep my shoulders back and in the correct position. In other words, it’s there to help me pay attention!
Are there any areas of your life where you should be paying more attention? Think about your health, your finances, your relationships – are there any small signs that things are starting to slide out of balance? If so, I strongly advise you to start paying attention and making small changes.

No Unsung Songs

Sonata Music

image credit: jrossol

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Perhaps you have music in you. Have you always wanted to write a book? Or a screenplay? Paint a paining? Or a create killer new App?

We all have something to contribute to the world. And maybe it’s not just one thing – maybe it’s a collection of things. Maybe it’s a lifetime of things. Whether or not you act on any of this this will depend greatly on whether or not you believe that you have a duty to leave a legacy. And whether, as Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, you refuse to wait until the timing is “perfect”.

Maybe your legacy is to create something physical – a bridge, a building, a book or a painting. Maybe your legacy is to create something that transcends time – music, great thoughts or ideas that change the future. Maybe your legacy is simply to leave your positive fingerprint on the generation that comes after you.

A legacy, by definition, is something that is bigger than it’s creator. It endures and it continues long after we’ve moved on from this earth.

So, what’s your legacy?

Whatever it is – DO IT! And DO IT NOW!

Let’s have no unsung songs. No unwritten books. Unpainted paintings. NO REGRETS!

Personal note: This summer, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I was drawn to purchase a ukulele.  I just kept seeing them everywhere and hearing about them, so I decided that I should at least explore this strange little instrument.  I went to a music store and got the full rundown on all things ukulele from one of the staff.  Two days later, I returned to the store and bought one.

Now you need to understand that although I have a great appreciation for music – I have never had any luck with actually making it.  As a child I took guitar lessons which were frustrating and painful.  In high school I tried my hand at singing onstage at a school variety show. All I can say about that experiment is THANK GOD it was before everyone had a video camera in their pocket!! But the ukulele was different.  Only four strings, light, small and really easy to learn (see a TED talk from Josh Kaufman that backs me up on this.)

When my kids saw the ukulele they were super intrigued.  My son wanted me to show him how to play.  Within a single evening he could play seven songs! He declared that he wanted his own ukulele for his birthday which was just a few days away.  So we went back to the music store and got a second one.  And within a week we had returned for a third one so that my daughter could play too.

There is something so magical about the three of us all playing and singing the same song!

And last night, I was by myself and decided to look for more songs that I could learn.  I remembered the old country songs that my father loved when I was a kid.  A quick internet search and I was playing Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson songs that my dad used to sing to me as he bounced me on his knee. The next time my kids are with me – guess what songs I’m going to teach them?

My father died in 2000.  My kids never got to meet him. And yet, thirteen years later, I am creating a link between my father and his grandkids through music. (Thanks for the legacy Dad! xo)

What about you? If you’re just not sure what you want to do – I recommend you check out my online course – Dreamstorming.

It’s a self-paced online course designed to help you get in touch with your true dreams. To discover and uncover the things that mean the most to you. It focused on six main areas:

  • Finances
  • Health & Fitness
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Lifestyle
  • Legacy

Please – do yourself (and the world) a favour – don’t die with your music still inside of you!