How to Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best SelfHolidays aren’t always “Jolly” days.  There are more errands to run, tasks to do, lists to make and follow through. We get stressed out trying to “get it all done” so that we can actually enjoy the season. Then there are the social gatherings, some mandatory and not always pleasant.  Sometimes it’s our own family interactions that put a damper on our best intentions to have a “Happy Holiday”.  

How can you shift this scenario and bring the “Happy” back into the holidays?  Try being your “Best Self”.

Carolyn Hax, a columnist for the Washington Post was recently asked how to define “Best Self”.  Here is how she answered that question in her column of Dec. 13th. “It’s when you like yourself. Or, when you’re getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses.  It’s highly personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strength:

  • Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?”  (This is also the key to joy in your chosen work)
  • “Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don’t inspire persistent doubts about whether they’re dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?  Are you that person to those you love?
  • When you are impressed by, grateful, or concerned about someone, do you show it?
  • Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences?”  (This is hard for many, but if you can consistently operate this way, you will stop blaming others/external circumstances for your life as it is, you stop being or feeling like a victim and instead begin feeling and being empowered)

Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Four Agreements; “Be impeccable with your word” and “Always do your best”.   Similarly, Hax asks the reader; “Do you honor your promises and commitments, to yourself and others?” and “Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others?”

How about dealing with your weaknesses so that you can be “your best self”?  Here are some of the questions Carolyn asks her readers to consider:

  • “Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?
  • Do you understand the boundary between you and others’ business, and stay on your side?
  • When you’re unsure, do you admit that and seek help?
  • When you’re about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing?  And imagine how its target will feel?”
I challenge you to consider these questions and be honest with yourself in your answers. This doesn’t mean berating yourself or wallowing in regret.   Forgiveness is a powerful activator for positive change.  Forgive yourself and others for not being their “best selves” and move on.  In every moment we can choose to be our “best self” and by doing so, we become more mindful and sometimes even “JOLLY”.
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!  — Dee

(To view Carolyn’s full article in the Washington Post on 12.13.2013 click here

Identify Your Skills and Talents and Find Your Ideal Career

glass squareAre you thinking it is time to get a different job or shift careers?  The first step is to identify your package of skills, talents, and natural abilities.  We all have abilities, life experience, knowledge, talents, passions, creativity, yearnings, interests, and skills within.  I imagine them as being different shapes, sizes, and colors–kind of like this picture I took of Dale Chihuly glass.

I find clients often assume that they are “stuck” in the same type job because that is all they have done in the past.  If we look beyond the job description and instead look within ourselves, we can discover a wellspring of transferable skills and hidden talents that can help qualify us for a variety of potentially satisfying jobs.  Let me give you an example:

Scott had been a master electrician for 15 years.  He climbed up ladders and crawled through ducts while wiring commercial buildings.  At 35, he was finding the physical demands becoming challenging and decided to explore a career change.  When I asked him what he liked best about being an electrician, he responded; “it is really satisfying to wire an entire system and then bring a building to life with the flip of a switch.” We began exploring how this could relate to other kinds of careers.  You see, if you start with what you really most enjoy about your work and look at where you can do something similar in a different environment, some times the ideal career reveals itself.  

After identifying his transferable skills and natural gifts, Scott decided to become a chiropractor.  He compared the work of being a chiropractor to his career as an electrician. In both cases he said; “you are working with the electrical system.  In the human body it is the nervous system but my role is the same.  Determine where the electricity is failing to connect and fix it.”  He went on further to say; “instead of working in a building with ducts and blowers to move the air and maintain the temperature and electrical wiring to circulate the juice, I work on the human body — it too has respiratory, circulatory and electrical systems.”

Today Scott has a thriving practice in Landrum, SC and says he just loves his work!  (He’s good at it too.  I often see him when I am visiting there.)

You never know what new wonderful career may be just around the corner.  Identifying your own skills and talents is the first step in exploring other kinds of work.   Need a nudge to start looking at your own?  Here is a list of Transferable Skills for you to select from.  After you identify the skills you possess, review the list and note those that you really enjoy doing.  Then mention those in correspondence with potential employers, emphasize them on your resume, describe them in interviews or launch a business built on them!  

YOU have a unique package of skills, talents and abilities.  Why not use them and live the work you love!




Passion at Work

Pattiy Torno

Pattiy Torno

What would it be like to be excited to “go to work” on a regular basis, to be brimming with creativity and inspiration, to be energized by your own efforts?  I have often asked that question in an effort to find answers to share.  Do you know someone who says they absolutely love their work?  Have you ever heard someone say; “I enjoy this so much I can hardly believe I get paid to do it”?  Who are these people and what do they do?  I found some shining examples during a recent visit to the Carolinas.

I spent an afternoon wandering the River Arts District in Asheville, NC a couple of months ago. “This unique neighborhood along the French Broad River is home to more than 165 artists with working studios located in 18 turn-of-the-century industrial buildings”.  I loved that people are welcome to wander in and talk with the artists, and if you’re lucky, observe them at their craft.  What really struck me was the unbridled enthusiasm of the artists I spoke with. Their passion for their work was a tangible living thing exuding from each studio I visited.  No one tried to sell me anything either.  I loved that!

Take Jonas Gerard for example.  Born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1941, he migrated to NYC and began showing his art on the streets at the age of 16.  Although he spent years working in the engineering field, his passion for his art eventually lead him to pursue it full time.  Largely self taught, he is best known for his abstract art.  He describes the essence of it as:

  • To unfold the spirit of self-exploration by painting (or creating) freely without restraint or self criticism
  • To develop a deeper trust in one’s intuition and instinct as they happen
  • To realize that letting go of set goals opens up a whole world of infinite possibilities

I think these are terrific goals for anyone seeking fulfillment in their work, don’t you agree?

William B.Leonard of Bold Life said; “it would be hard, maybe even impossible to find anyone who is more passionate and energetic about his work than Jonas Gerard.  He is an artist with the heart of a showman and he happily welcomes visitors into his studio to watch him work.  As he paints, he dances in front of the canvas to music that blares raucously from his cd player” and talks while painting saying that he has no idea where the music and paint will take him.”

Another studio I visited was Pattiy Torno’s.  When she was in high school she decided to head towards fashion design as a career.  She says on her webpage, “It was the only career I could think of that would allow me to earn a living doing what I love most—sewing.”  She apprenticed in the fashion industry in New York and then started her own business in the 1980’s as she wanted to get back to “the simple joy of playing with fabric.”  She began making quilts.  (See her picture above with a thimble on her finger and quilt behind her.) 

As I sat in her studio drinking herbal tea that chilly afternoon, I was struck by how much she truly loves what she does.  Pattiy shared her work and encouraged me to touch and try on her creations.  I walked out with one of her lovely fleece hats on my head. Whenever I wear it, I think of the joy of the artist who made it and it makes me feel good (it’s nice and warm too!).

Do you have passion at work?  If you are shaking your head, NO, you might re-consider if you feel or express any of the following:

Empowered, energized, excited, unstoppable, joy, entertaining, creative, evocative, motivated, a sense of flow, giving to others, or sharing your talents.

And, if none of those words apply, you might rethink your career path…. Life is too short to spend more than half your waking hours in passionless work.


Finding Fulfilling Work is Like an Easter Egg Hunt

It is Easter weekend and I find myself remembering my children at 3 and 5 excitedly exploring the house for the colorful eggs and other goodies (plastic wind-up chicks, jelly beans in pick plastic wrap and the like) left by the elusive bunny. I loved watching the kids dash from place to place excitedly shrieking with glee when they discovered an egg or foil wrapped treat. The joy in their little faces at uncovering an unexpected goodie was  truly a wondrous thing. Once the more obvious eggs had been located, the process evolved into a more serious hunt. Although the kids would diligently follow our suggestions of where to look, they were most proud and excited about the treasures they discovered on their own.

Finding fulfilling work is sort of like an Easter egg hunt. First you look at the obvious: what your education, skills and training qualify you to do and hope there is a match in the current market. When there isn’t, we need to look harder. Consider: How might your particular set of gifts, experience, and abilities benefit others? What talents do you possess that the world needs? Who needs your talents? This applies whether you are seeking employment or considering starting a business. 

We often fail to recognize that our gifts; things that come easily to us, can be marketable skills. Do you have a green thumb with plants? Are you creative in the kitchen? Do you tinker with cars or bikes on the weekends? Are you a movie buff that enjoys critiquing films? How might your interests, where your talents are often demonstrated, be applicable to the workplace? What are your transferable (non-occupational specific) skills?

I challenge you to look beyond your work history, your education, and your stated “qualifications”. Find those less obvious eggs and put them into your basket, for fulfilling work.

Career Independence

4th of July

Career Independence

As we celebrate the birth of our country on the 4th of July in the U.S., I got to thinking about what independence means from a career point of view.  For many people, the word career equals “full time job” and implies that we will be dependent on employers to derive an income for most of our adult lives.  Unfortunately with shifting economies and markets, long term employment is not always an option even if we chose that route.  Being someone’s employee is not always attractive either.  If you’ve ever considered starting a business or being creatively self employed, declaring career independence here are some things to consider:

What do you love to do that you do really well? For instance, are you a terrific organizer who excels at keeping everything running efficiently and timely? Do you enjoy re-doing closets and cabinets to make the contents more orderly and easy to find? Do you get energized by this kind of activity? If you answered yes to these questions, one of your skills may be in organizing. What can you do with this talent?  Here’s an example: Nancy McKinney launched her business; Successful Organizing Solutions in 1999 and loves being a “solo entrepreneur”. She added some coach training and received certification through BCPO, a professional organization in her field and has turned her talent into a successful business. Whatever you really enjoy doing and have competency in is worth exploring whether or not you could turn it into a business.

Who needs what you have to offer? Once you’ve identified your skills, talents, and passions it is time to determine where they may best be useful. Is there a need for whatever product or service you want to share with others? You may be the greatest cookie baker in three states but if there isn’t a need for a cookie store in your area it may not a good idea to start a bakery. Then again, there are many avenues to market products beyond having a bricks and mortar business. Gail Ambrious took her passion for chocolate and launched her business in 2004. Laid off from her “steady job” with the state, she decided to pursue her dreams and has since become known for “the best little box of chocolates” by the Food Network.

Besides what you are passionate about, think of all the life experience you’ve had, how might that be useful to others? How can you be of service in the world? Bottom line:  who needs what you have to offer?  Answer this question and you’ve identified your customer base.

Is there someone else doing the kind of business you are considering? Identify those people and organizations. For instance, if you are thinking of doing a doggy daycare, see who else has one and check it out. Note what you like and don’t like about their advertising, facility, customer service, etc. How do they get customers? How might you approach your target customers differently? What might you improve on?

Is being self employed or starting a business a right fit for your personality and lifestyle? If you’ve been an employee for years, you may find it challenging to switch your perspective to being the boss.  It can be tremendously fulfilling to create your own business, work when, where and how you choose to, and not have to get someone else’s permission. It also entails self motivation and requires you to be willing to accept failure, learn from it and keep moving your business forward.


The Key to Fulfilling Work – Look Inward

Are you scouring want ads, searching internet job sites, and checking out staffing agency listings in hopes of finding your next great career move? The truth is there aren’t so many employers looking to hire these days and the job market remains quite competitive. Maybe what you are looking for isn’t “out there”. There really isn’t a job description that says “this is your ultimate perfect work come apply now”. The thing is, we need to stop looking out there for the elusive fulfilling work and start looking inward.

In working with people on career change one question I hear frequently is: “How can I have work that is personally fulfilling, makes a difference, and pays the bills?” There is no easy answer to this question. Cheryl Richardson in her book Stand Up for Your Life says: “First, you must make your personal and spiritual development a top priority by following your own unique path toward healing and growth. Second, as you develop a strong character by doing this work, you are also charged with improving the world in some way.”

Personal and spiritual development requires you to look inward, to get to know your inner self. Who are you? What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What motivates you? What kinds of tasks do you really enjoy doing and do well? You don’t have to have all the answers at any given time but it can be extremely helpful to identify these.

Here are some examples:
• bringing joy to others
• building things
• teaching or mentoring others
• creating beauty
• healing wounds
• analyzing information
• finding a new or better way for something to function
• gathering data
• nurturing people

Think about what you love to do that comes easily to you. These are your natural talents or “gifts”. Next, consider how these talents are expressed in your life. Let’s say for example, you identified “teaching or mentoring others” as a core driver for you. How might you do that in your life? Is it something you do in your current occupation or job? Are you able to teach or mentor through other means such as volunteer work? If not, is there a way you can incorporate teaching and mentoring others into your life? Moving into the work you love to do and do well gives us energy, it feeds the spirit and more often than not, brings us a sense of abundance as well as increasing our cashflow.

If you have a sense of being prompted to move into a different line of work, consider what is missing in your current job or occupation. Could be a bit of looking inward is in order. More on this next post!

Respond To Your Calling

I believe that each and every human on the planet possesses a unique combination of gifts and talents that need to be expressed in the world. I view our physical being as the vehicle that houses our soul, our essence, our personality, through which these gifts flow.

What are you dreaming of doing, of creating, of finding? These thoughts are prompting you to take some action! We tend to sit in our minds complacently pondering the “what ifs” and wondering about the roads not taken in the past and years go by. Sound familiar? How about these thoughts: “I can’t switch careers now, I am too old” or “I’d have to go back to school and get a degree/training/certified”, or “the economy is bad, now is the wrong time for me to start a business”.

What are you telling yourself that is holding you back from pursuing your life’s work? Make a list, write it down and then go through each and every thought and look at it boldly and ask; “is this really true?” If your inclination is to nod your head just stop for a moment and watch the “proof” that your minds puts up. How do you know the internal dialog you are listening to is the truth? What if it isn’t? What if you could move beyond the naysaying in your brain and embrace a different perspective? Challenge yourself! What do you dream of doing, of becoming? Play around with ways you can share your talents, your abilities, your knowledge and skills with others. Who knows? You just may find yourself turning your dreams into reality!

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
That is translated through you into action,
And because there is only one of you in all time,
This expression is unique.

If you block it,
It will never exist through any other medium
And will be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is:
nor how valuable it is:
Nor how it compares with other expression.
It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly,
To keep the channel open.

You do not have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware and listen
To the urges that motivate you.”
–Martha Graham and Agnes Demille

Doing Work You Love

What is the purpose of working? Is it just a paycheck, a way to buy stuff? Or is it an expression of your values, talents and skills? For most of us in the U.S. it is a combination of both. Far too many of us view work as a necessary evil to be tolerated in order to live a preferred lifestyle. Given the number of hours we spend working, what does that say about our overall happiness? If we view work as drudgery, how can we experience a fulfilling meaningful life?

I propose a different perspective on work. How about looking at work as a vehicle to joyfully express your talents, skills, and creativity and make a difference in the world? It would be great if we came with directions for our life internally imprinted so that we’d know exactly what vocational path to travel. As the poet Rumi said, “everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in his (or her) heart.” It seems to me that doing work you love to do get’s you closer to uncovering your heart’s desire than doing work you dislike.

One way to identify potentially fulfilling kinds of work, is to look at your natural gifts and talents. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing and do well such as: building boats, organizing data, healing emotional distress, keeping track of timelines. Joe, for example, has a talent for taking complex technical information and translating it into terms non-techies can understand. Not only does he do this competently, he really enjoys the process. When he is working on a project, he becomes so engaged in it that he typically loses track of time. The hours fly by and he finds he is energized rather than exhausted at the end of his workday. Joe is perhaps doing “the work that has been put in (his) heart”, as Rumi states.

We often think there is some profound “calling” to heed and that one day we will figure out what that is. In reality, callings don’t often show up with a job title. Instead of seeking that perfect career, that “dream job” consider finding a way to create income doing those tasks you do well and love to do.

Megan is a mosaic artist who loves to take beautiful pieces of colored glass and make everything from bird baths to address tiles. She teaches classes on mosiac making, and sells her products from her home studio, at shows and on the internet.

Take a moment, make your list, and listen to what your heart is telling you. What do YOU love to do that you do well? Get input from your friends and family. You may be surprised at the talents they recognize in you. See if you can come up with a list of 10 things and then look at how you may be able to generate income doing some of them.

More on this topic next post!

“Everyone has a vocation, talent is the call.” -Emerson

Twelve Questions to Help You Find Your Calling

150 years ago peoples’ jobs were primarily determined by what they had a talent for – people worked at crafts and provided services based on their natural skills and interests. In modern times, most of us end up choosing careers for all sorts of reasons that have little or nothing to do with what we enjoy and are naturally good at. We end up in careers that are inherently wrong fits for us and we languish in cubicles or stress out in jobs we don’t like. What if we got in touch with our hidden talents and found a way to utilize our natural gifts to do work that we found satisfying, or even fun? Here are 12 questions for you to ponder to help you discover what might become your life’s work:

1. What do you love to do? Think about your hobbies, interests, recreational and volunteer activities. Most of us enjoy doing things we are good at, so our leisure activities can be indicators of your gifts and talents.

2. Recall an event when you were so absorbed in what you were doing that you completely lost track of time. What activity were you engaged in? How did it make you feel?

3. What do you naturally do well? What actions are easy for you? (for example: writing stories, fixing things, analyzing trends, cooking, organizing events, managing money, remembering facts, teaching, envisioning new ways of being, resolving disputes, creating beauty, etc.)

4. What are five things in your life, past or present, which you are most proud of or feel were your most successful accomplishments?

5. Is there a cause, a movement, or an idea that you feel committed to and passionate about? What would you “put it all on the line” for?

6. Think of a time when you experienced a breakthrough
Can you describe what you were doing and where you were when you had an “ah ha” moment?

7. Looking back over your life up to now, do you see any repeating incidents, patterns or themes? What can they tell you about what you like (or don’t like) to do with your time?

8. What do you daydream or fantasize about doing? Have you ever said, “Some day I’d like to do that?” What would that be?

9. Can you think of a time when you were watching or reading about another person’s accomplishment(s) and wished you could do that? Is there a person living or dead that you greatly admire? What do you most admire that person for?

10. Do you have a sense that you have things yet to accomplish? Try to identify those. From the perspective of being at the end of your life and looking back, what will it feel like if you never attempt to do these things? What do you still want to do in your life?

11. What kind of work would you do if you knew you could not fail and money was not an issue? Think big here!  Would you work on saving the environment, advocate for social justice issues, create art or write direct a motion picture?

12. What do you want to be remembered for? How will you have contributed to the world?

Julie & Julia, Accidental Entrepreneurs

This past weekend I saw a fabulous example of following your passion: the movie Julie & Julia. The movie is based on the true story of Julie Powell, a frustrated state worker who spends her days in a cubicle taking incoming calls in the aftermath of 9/11. In search of a way to deal with her frustration and soothe her aching soul, she decides (rather on a whim) to prepare every recipe in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She diligently works her way through the 536 recipes in 365 days and blogs about her trials and tribulations along the way.

In the movie we simultaneously get to view Julie’s experiences in modern day New York and Julia Child’s life during her years in France as she discovers her passion for cooking. As Americans in Paris in the 1950’s, Paul and Julia Child had a glamorous nightlife but when Paul went off to work at the embassy, Julia found herself looking for something with which to fill her days. After a few failed attempts at entertaining and educating herself, such as a hat making class which she found boring, and a bridge class with the same result, she decided to attend culinary school. Julia and her husband were enamored with the gustatory pleasures of French cuisine, and so it seemed natural that Julia would find her joy in taking classes at the renowned Cordon Bleu cooking school.

She delighted in the rigors of learning to prepare French cuisine, fearlessly attacking the tasks and holding her own in a class dominated by men. She thought about how wonderful it would be to have a cookbook in English so that “servantless” Americans could enjoy the pleasures of French cooking and collaborated with two French cooks in creating a mammoth manuscript.

Back in the states Julia Child not only got her book published but became the acclaimed “French Chef” on TV, introducing millions to the joy of boeuf bourguignon, chocolate soufflés, and the like. Julia never set out to become an entrepreneur, she simply pursued her passion and shared it with others. Similarly, Julie Powell rose to literary prominence after she was interviewed by the New York Times about her Julie/Julia project blog. Her story became a book and then a major motion picture. She has a new blog, was interviewed by Nightline (check out the clip, it has vintage footage of Julia Child!)and a second book soon to be released and isn’t working at that cubicle job anymore!

When we follow our passions, we flourish. We may find ourselves as these women did, making a living without a job.

“Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman