Mending Broken Dreams

by Kim Childs, CPPC

At some point in the process of recovering from my divorce, I realized that I was having trouble dreaming new dreams. While I’d done a lot to heal the emotional pain of my failed marriage, this was something different…and deeper.

Eventually, I came to realize that I needed to mourn the dreams I’d had for me and my ex-husband that didn’t come true, and the hopes and plans I had for my own life when I got married.

“I feel as if I need to hold a funeral for my marriage,” I told a dear friend. “It was one of my biggest dreams, and it died.”

“What you really need to grieve are the expectations you had for your marriage,” she replied. “Your dreams are still there.”

I’d heard this kind of message before from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, who’s helped millions recover their dreams and creative desires from the ashes of failure, shame, disappointment and discouragement.

“It’s important to give yourself the dignity of grieving your wounds, creative and otherwise,” Cameron writes in her new book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. “Many times people will acknowledge their wounds but feel they should somehow be beyond them.”

In other words, we cannot heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.

By grieving and honoring unrealized dreams with self-compassion, we can “metabolize” the pain and prevent emotional and psychic “scar tissue” from building up and blocking us, says Cameron. Otherwise, these unhealed wounds may cause us to lose faith in ourselves and hesitate to pursue, or even name, new dreams.

Margaret Lynch, an author and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert, has a term for these often unrecognized losses: goal traumas. They occur when cherished dreams fall apart despite earnest efforts, hard work and sacrifice. Lynch says that goal traumas may leave us feeling less trusting of ourselves, other people, and whatever higher power we believe is in charge. We might then resist getting our hopes up and setting big goals, letting “Why bother?” and “What’s the use?” replace “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”

Goal traumas need to be healed, and the first step is to grieve what didn’t happen, and admit that it mattered.

“If those tears have never been cried for you, you need to cry them for yourself,” Lynch writes in her book, Tapping Into Wealth. “Until you honor the grief, loss and pain, it stays stuck.”

Heeding all of this wisdom, I gathered some friends and held a “Funeral for a Dream” ritual. We each brought a failed dream to honor, mourn, and transform. They included aspirations that centered on love, family, creativity and career.

Here is the process we used:

Part 1 – Write your honest answers to these questions, allowing any emotions to flow in the process:

–What was I hoping for when I pursued this dream?

–What actually happened?

–How did/do I feel about that?

Sitting in a circle by my friend’s fireplace, we took turns reading our answers aloud and receiving the gift of compassionate witnessing. After I named the dreams I’d had for my marriage and wept over how they’d gone so wrong, my friends looked into my eyes and said the profoundly healing words that no one had said about my divorce, including me:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

One by one, we named, witnessed, and honored our pain. We then gave it over to the fire of transformation, burning the papers on which we’d each told our tales of heartbreak. Afterwards, we cleared our energy with simple shamanic practices and prepared to rise from the ashes.

Part 2 – Assess the failed dream and ask:

–How did I/others learn, grow, benefit or strengthen from what happened?

–What is my new dream?

My friends and I again read our answers aloud and acknowledged our growth, gifts, and resilience. We then named some new dreams for our lives and offered cheers and words of affirmation to support each others’ forward movement.

By the time we ended our ritual, we each felt lighter, brighter, more energized, and loved for the whole of who we are – failures, painful stories and all.

If you feel you have a goal trauma or failed dream that’s “stuck” somewhere in you and keeping you from going for new dreams, I invite you to try a process like this. Enlist the support of friends or helping professionals if you sense you will need that. Be gentle with yourself before, during and after, and drink lots of water afterward to flush your system.

As you endeavor to heal the pain of dreams that didn’t (yet) come true, take heart, and dare to dream again. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Slowly, I identified and began to pursue new dreams (one of which you can help to support here, if you are so inspired!). Interestingly enough, some of these new dreams came straight from the ashes of my failures.

In fact, I believe they could not have been born without them.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and soulful living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

The Power of Four (Questions and Agreements)

by Kim Childs, CPPC

I’ve been immersed in personal growth work for 20 years and, while my aim in coaching is to bring forth my clients’ own wisdom, I also love referring them to teachers who’ve helped me on my journey. Two of my favorites are Don Miguel Ruiz and Byron Katie, who offer us four simple yet powerful questions and agreements for better living.

Katie is famous for creating The Work, her signature program of inquiry that teaches us to identify and challenge any thoughts that are causing us to suffer.  In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround. It can do fatal damage to the painful stories and assumptions we cling to that keep us feeling right and justified (as opposed to happy).

Here are Katie’s questions to ask when a thought we’re thinking is creating suffering (e.g. “Tom thinks I’m incompetent.”):

1. Is it true? (Do you think yes or no? If no, move to question 3.)
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. W
ho would you be without that thought?

By asking questions 1 and 2, we may now realize that we’ve been making an assumption. Moving on to questions 3 and 4, we see how thinking this way feels lousy, causes stress and affects how we behave (especially toward Tom). If the thought still feels true, however, we’re invited to examine the consequences of dwelling on and projecting it, and the option to let it go for greater inner and outer peace.

Next, we move to the turnaround, which is a re-phrasing of the thought for a new perspective and awareness. Turnarounds here could be “I think I’m incompetent” or “I think Tom’s incompetent” or “Tom thinks he’s incompetent” To identify the right turnaround, find three specific examples that point to its truth. This may take some digging, but it can lead to some good”Aha” moments.

The Work can yield more thoughtful, less judgmental ways to operate in the world and unhook us from the habit of letting people and things disturb our peace. Ultimately, it shows us our own part in causing suffering, and the ways in which our unchecked assumptions can wreak havoc in our lives and relationships. “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being,” Katie writes. “Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional.”

Ruiz, who grew up with Mexican parents practicing ancient Toltec traditions, shares that culture’s wisdom in his popular book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. In it, Ruiz offers practical steps for long-term personal transformation with such agreements as:

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

These agreements fall into the the “Not easy, but worth trying” category of practices for happier living. Even Ruiz acknowledges this challenge in the book.

“You need a very strong will in order to adopt the Four Agreements—but if you can begin to live your life with these agreements, the transformation in your life will be amazing,” Ruiz writes. “You will see the drama of hell disappear right before your very eyes. Instead of living in a dream of hell, you will be creating a new dream—your personal dream of heaven.”

I can’t say for sure that I or any of my clients are living in a “dream of heaven” all the time, but they report good outcomes from practicing these four questions and agreements, as do I. Why not try them at home (and everywhere) and see if you feel better, too?

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Reframing Failure

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Last month I was helping a client prepare for a job interview, which also meant bracing for the possible question, “Can you tell me about one of your past mistakes or failures?” We discussed how to answer that question both honestly and positively, by telling a story about the growth, learning, character development or gifts that resulted from the failure.

“Oh,” said my client, brightening, “like when I tell my son that he can always learn from his mistakes, right?”

Yes, exactly, because failure is essentially feedback.

I know it doesn’t feel that way at first, and I believe in fully having our sadness, anger, disappointment and other very understandable emotions when we fail, because it’s no fun. And yet, failure is inevitable in this human life and actually part of what grows us into better, wiser people.

“Learn to fail or fail to learn,” is a quote I heard over and over from my Positive Psychology teacher Tal Ben-Shahar, who openly used his own failures and struggles as teaching moments and encouraged me and my classmates to give ourselves “permission to be human.”

In other words, failure happens and the more we get used to it, the less we’ll suffer.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, takes it a step further, writing that, “All creative success requires creative failure.” Notice that she doesn’t use the word involves, but requires. I find that both humbling and liberating, allowing me to learn from the process and allow for progress, much like Thomas Edison, who famously said of his long road to inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison is reminding us that those 10,000 ways that didn’t work were stepping stones and essential opportunities to learn and improve his product each time. Without them, there would be no light bulb. Take that in.

Failures, setbacks and other painful life experiences can grow our wisdom, compassion, resilience and strength, if we allow them to. They may also take us to a more beautiful place. Nature gives us examples in the pearl, which is scraped and shaped by sand in the oyster, and the butterfly, which results from the complete breakdown of the caterpillar. These messy and essential processes are echoed in the Buddhist saying, “No mud, no lotus.”

It’s a mantra I need to remember each time I fail, along with the instructions to keep going.

Coach and author Marie Forleo says in this great episode of MarieTV that failure simply means you were brave enough to try something. “A fall isn’t final unless you stay on the ground,” she reminds us, adding that getting right back up means you are no longer the person who fell/failed, but the person who got back up.

Nice. I once had a powerful dream about that very notion, and it’s recounted here.

So while failures hurt and disappoint, the needn’t derail or stop us. Once we’ve had our very human reactions to them and paused to honor the success we were aiming for and the hopes and dreams that are still alive, the best thing to do is get back up, brush ourselves off, and ask, “What can I learn from this?”

Followed by that all-important question, “What’s next?”

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

The Case for Love and Kindness

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As we prepare to celebrate the annual feast of Thanksgiving, it’s an anxious time in America. How are you doing? Feel free to let me know. I’m listening, and holding us all in compassion.

Meanwhile, I’m truly grateful for you – my students, clients, readers and kindred spirits – and for the important work that I get to do in this world. Last week I received an early holiday gift from a former coaching client who reports doing well and says, “I want to thank you again for all your help and guidance. It has made a real difference in my life.”

Among other tools, helping others and sharing kindness is a sure way for me to feel better when the going gets rough in my life and in the world around me. I’ve been finding ways to practice it online, in my circles, and in my neighborhood this month, and it always does my heart good. Researchers have learned that this “tend and befriend” response to life’s big challenges can lift our mood and lower our stress hormones.

My favorite neuropsychologist Rick Hanson has written more here about the benefits of “loving someone” for greater happiness and well-being. He says it’s a proven way to feel better under stressful conditions that leave us rattled, frozen, or unclear about what to do. “After awhile, you do what you can to change things for the better, but often there’s not much you can actually change, and sometimes nothing at all,” Hanson writes. “Still, there is always one thing you can do, no matter what. You can always find someone to love.”


Petey, and his paws

Loving others can range from kind words and gestures to activism and community service. What can you do this holiday week to make someone’s day better or care for someone in need? Hold this intention and see who shows up to be on the receiving end of your love and kindness.

As for me, I have a new being in my life who showed up just in time to help me tend and befriend. Petey is three months old and full of sweetness, playfulness, and affection. While I’m the one giving him a home, food, toys and love, he’s the one “rescuing” me during a tough time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I’m grateful for love, kindness, good people and purring kittens.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Antidotes for Anxious Times

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Earlier this month, a former client asked for strategies to deal with the current climate of  stressed-shutterstockhostility and anxiety in America and around the globe. In addition to trying on some recommendations, my client decided to volunteer with a local political organization in order to feel she was “doing something” in these challenging times.

I applaud everyone who’s focused on being the positive change they seek in this world right now. It’s why this quote, from historian and activist Howard Zinn, is one of my favorites.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act…”

Focusing on what we can do and control in anxious times is not only energizing, it creates the kind of future we desire to inhabit, one brave act at a time. Here’s a round-up of some ideas for staying calm, centered, and connected to what most matters when the world seems out of control:

–Take inspired action. Some of my friends who’ve volunteered with political campaigns and cast early ballots in the U.S. presidential election report that they felt better after doing so. “It felt like a big exhale,” said one, while another chimes in, “I try to take what action I can to make a difference…it’s empowering to focus on what I can do, and to try and get out of victim mode.” Also, helping others feels good and it’s a win-win.

–Step away from the screen. My friend Deborah Sosin, a therapist, mindfulness specialist and self-described “diehard news junkie,” says that even she needs to unplug from the media at times. “So much exposure to traumatic news and images can trigger anxiety, depression, substance abuse, insomnia, and a range of stress reactions,” she says. In a recent essay, Sosin wrote about the tension between wanting to be informed and wanting to take care of herself. “If I tune out, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world,” she remarks. “I can’t watch anymore, at least not for a while. And I still care.” Sosin, who’s also written this award-winning picture book about a girl who finds the world too overstimulating, notes that our children need breaks from the media, too. “Put all devices aside for a while and go for a walk with them. Notice the sky, the trees, and the grass,” she says. “If your kids ask questions about the news or politics, answer honestly and simply, then redirect the conversation to something in their lives, in the present moment.”

–Play. “I’m making a conscious attempt to do things I enjoy,” reports a friend. “It’s like a small energy bar of good feeling in the midst of all this chaos. Also, I make sure I have music in my life, whether it’s playing invisible drums along with my car stereo, a dance aerobics class, singing in the shower, or shimmying in the hallway on the way to a staff meeting.” Play boosts our mood, and those positive vibes can likewise uplift those we encounter.

–Self-soothe, and move. Several people note that practicing yoga, meditation, or Reiki help them maintain equilibrium. I need my morning rituals and daily walks to ground myself. It helps that I do them near trees, open sky and a lovely pond, as exercise and time in nature are natural relaxants and mood boosters. Finally, one very simple practice when stressed is to place a hand on your heart, take a few conscious breaths, and say to yourself, “Right now, in this moment, I’m here and okay.”

–Put things in perspective. Another friend says that remembering that the world has survived major shifts and crises before helps him stay calm. “Nothing that is happening right now is all that different from anything that has happened in the past, at least in the greater scheme of things. Light and dark forces are always seeking to balance each other out, and the world is certainly in a transition…” He advocates spiritual practices that keep us connected to the light, within and without. I further recommend a daily gratitude practice, or a nightly “What Went Well?” exercise.

–Keep things simple. What items can come off your schedule or to-do list when life is challenging? Which routines can you simplify? Which invitations and requests can you decline to make more space and time for what you truly need? Simplify, for peace of mind.

–Escape. Entertaining ourselves is also good medicine in troubled times, whether it’s comedic parodies of political candidates, cat videos or uplifting movies. One friend of mine is currently finding comfort in Star Trek reruns. “Seriously, a little escapism with clear enemies and reliable victories is sometimes just what the doctor ordered,” she says.

I agree. Beam me up, Scotty!

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Afraid to Shine?

by Kim Childs, CPPC

When I help clients and students go for their truest desires, we quickly bump into any fears that are getting in the way. While fear of failure is certainly high on the list, fear of success can also be there, and it’s a sneakier saboteur.

Why would we be afraid of having, being and doing what we most wish to have, be and do? Well, because it might shake things up in our lives and relationships, rattle our self-image, create new challenges and uncover inconvenient truths. In other words, it may require some uncomfortable changes and we tend to resist change.

But what if it’s also because we fear outshining others and standing out?


Her royal majesty, QEII

As a child, I was smart, pretty, talented, and compassionate. One day, I learned that some less fortunate girls in the neighborhood were calling me Queen Elizabeth.

It wasn’t a compliment.

That stinging memory surfaced in my mid-30s when I was taking a creative recovery workshop on The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and had to identify disparaging voices from my past. I realized that this incident was connected to my fear of shining, because shining – to me – meant that others might feel threatened, that they wouldn’t like me, that I’d leave some people behind, and that I’d end up…alone.

Can you see how those jam-packed assumptions would cause me to sabotage myself?

As I worked to heal my inner child’s sense of shame, guilt and unworthiness, there came a time when hiding my light was no longer an option, because I wanted to offer my gifts to the world, and help others to do the same. Yet now, firmly in my 50s, I still occasionally hear that snarky inner voice asking, “Why should you have it all when others suffer?” and “Who do you think you are?”

What I truly believe about who we really are and why we’re here (besides loving and helping each other on this precious planet) is summed up in a message that came to me during a meteor shower many years ago:

See the night sky, and know…that you are made of the same stuff as those stars in your eyes, and that your time on this earth is for shining.

And yet, we often resist shining for fear of what others might think, and fear of acting “too big for our britches” or being “too full of” ourselves. (Who else should we be full of, I wonder?)

I don’t advocate walking around with bloated egos and arrogance, but with genuine pride in our abilities, talents and accomplishments. It’s the kind of emotion that motivates us to keep improving, as children’s educator and animation philosopher Alexander Grace says in his video, Are you scared to be proud of yourself?

“Pride is one of the first emotions felt by human beings. When an infant masters a new skill, like standing up or walking, a feeling of pride naturally follows this achievement,” Grace notes. “Being so pleasurable, pride works as an emotional reward mechanism, prompting children to master new skills, develop new talents and push themselves to greater achievements.”

Notice how quick we are to shower children with “Good job!” when they’ve done the smallest of things, yet we often withhold that praise from adults, including ourselves.

The fear of shining and the reasons for overcoming it are dramatically expressed in this famous passage from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

As I often point out to clients and students in my workshops, our light may sometimes bring forth another’s darkness. While this is something to be aware of, it’s never a reason to hide, shrink, or withhold our gifts from the world. It is a reason to be a little self-protective at times, and careful about the people with whom we share our most tender dreams and longings.

And it’s definitely a reason to surround ourselves with kindred spirits, fellow seekers, and those who will support us on the journey and celebrate our successes. I’m grateful to have such people in my inner circle today.

Who do you think you are, dear one? As you clarify this, I hope you dare to shine, because the world needs your light.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Race, and Relations

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This summer, I was too horrified and sickened by the latest incidents of racially charged violence in America to comment on what I was seeing. As reactions flooded social media, I kept quiet because I didn’t know how anything I said could make any difference.Black white hands heart

I waited for the right words to express what was in my heart, and finally one came: relationships.

I believe that relationships – as much as protests, civil disobedience and legislation – can heal racism. I believe this because I’ve seen it and lived it. And while I may not have the solution to our racial problems, I have my story.

Black lives have always mattered to me, from my playmates in kindergarten (where I was among the few white kids in class) to the friends I made as a child and teenager on Cape Cod, the colleagues and co-workers I befriended during my radio career in New York City and Newark, NJ, black women who became soul sisters, and the gospel musicians and African drummers I’ve played and sung with around Boston.

I can’t imagine my life without these people and relationships, and the rich gifts of black culture, music, literature, art, and politics that have colored and shaped who I am. Both reflect the kind of multicultural world I’m most happy living in.

I married a black African who never knew racism until he landed in this country to join me. I watched as formerly racist family members embraced and grew to love this noble, sweet and big-hearted man. I watched that big heart break as he experienced discrimination, humiliation, racial profiling by police on the roads and in white neighborhoods, and the pain of being excluded from his chosen profession by tradesmen who couldn’t see past his color, and foreignness.

Still, I know that my ex-husband opened minds and hearts by simply being the only black person that some Americans had ever had in their home, neighborhood, workplace, or family. He, in turn, has learned a great deal about other cultures from living here.

About 15 years ago, when the “lost boys” and girls of war-torn Sudan arrived in Boston, I saw a whole community of suburban white families take them in and begin to call them sons and daughters. I’m lucky to know these amazing, resilient “boys and girls,” who’ve gone on to raise families, earn degrees and forge career paths here. Meanwhile, their American “parents” beam with pride and love, becoming surrogate grandparents to a new generation of Sudanese-American babies.

The town I now live in is predominantly white, so I’m grateful to see people of color when they cross my path. I might make eye contact, smile, or ask the time, even when I could easily check my cell phone. I do it to engage and say, “I see you. Welcome.”

But there are also times when I watch myself choose to ask questions from the white person behind a desk or cash register, instead of the black, brown, or yellow one. I then ask myself what bias or stereotype I’m operating from, and challenge it.

And so I will keep examining my prejudices, cultivating relationships with people who are different from me, and educating myself. I invite you to do the same, as do Jeremy Adam Smith and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, who say in this important article that, “We all carry prejudices within ourselves—and we all have the tools to keep them in check.” They offer these six ways to reform the racist inside all of us (which they call “implicit bias”):

  • Consciously commit yourself to egalitarianism.
  • But recognize that unconscious bias is no more “the real you” than your conscious values. You are both the unconscious and the conscious.
  • Acknowledge differences, rather than pretend that you are ignoring them.
  • Seek out friendship with people from different groups, in order to increase your brain’s familiarity with different people and expand your point of view.
  • It’s natural to focus on how people are different from you, but try to consciously identify what qualities and goals you might have in common.
  • When you encounter examples of unambiguous bias, speak out against them. Why? Because that helps create and reinforce a standard for yourself and the people around you, in addition to providing some help to those who are the targets of explicit and implicit prejudice.

“Those are steps you can take right now,” the authors say, “without waiting for the world to change.”

My local news channel recently reported that Boston police officers are deliberately developing relationships with community leaders, residents and teen empowerment groups in predominantly black neighborhoods to try and prevent the horror we’ve seen elsewhere in America.

I’m rooting for them all.

A few weeks ago my ex-husband was pulled over by a white police officer for exceeding the speed limit in a white community. Upon examining all the pertinent documents, the officer said, “It’s your birthday? Okay, I’m just gonna give you a warning this time. Happy birthday.” My ex-husband then proceeded to his new job at a predominantly white workplace, where he was surprised with a birthday card and gifts.

It was a good day in that corner of America.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Declare Your Independence

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day weekend with barbecues, fireworks, games 62839-Freedomand gatherings, I invite you to consider where in your life you desire more freedom.

Are you tied to commitments and obligations that no longer truly serve you? Are you striving for the elusive goal of perfection anywhere in your life and trying to maintain impossible standards? Do you keep yourself constantly plugged into other people’s messages, memes, needs and agendas?

One clue is to look for where thoughts of, “I should…” are lurking behind actions and choices that drain you or stress you out.

In other words, if you are “should-ing” all over yourself, it might be time to clean up that mess. (Insert winking emoticon if offended by my vulgarity…)

As I’ve said here before, our time and energy are our most precious resources. In fact, after basic financial needs are met, feeling rich in time is a better predictor of happiness than having a supersized bank balance. Alas, few of us give ourselves time to even think about what we’d do with more free time and energy, let alone cultivate it.

My fellow Americans, 240 years ago the founders of this great nation declared their independence from the tyranny of British rule. Where and how can you reclaim your own sovereignty from the tyranny of your “to do” list, the endless demands of omnipresent media, and any self-imposed, unrealistic expectations? Some ideas include:

–Pause and breathe. Even a few seconds will help, according to Abby Seixas, a psychotherapist and author of Finding the Deep River Within: A Woman’s Guide to Recovering Balance and Meaning in Everyday Life. Seixas says that we desperately need to reclaim our own depth and sense of what matters most in these noisy, distracted times. Her book offers wonderful tools for this process, and the first and simplest is to “remember to pause and stop the busyness and the doing, doing, doing to gather ourselves to ourselves.”

–Decline some invitations. Even fun can be stressful if our calendar is overfull. Say no sometimes, which really means saying yes to yourself, and don’t succumb to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome, as there’s no pill for that…yet.

–Let good enough be your new perfect. Now – in your home, appearance, achievements, work, and self.

–Consume less media. Eleven years ago I interviewed women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup, who told me that Americans ingest more information in a day than our ancestors took in over a year. “We were not designed to handle the hand-picked, specifically-orchestrated-to-background-music bad news of the entire planet each and every day in our living rooms or bedrooms,” said Northrup. In other words, our biology hasn’t caught up to our technology. Be more discerning, and give yourself permission to unplug more often. I promise you won’t miss much.

–Raise your hand less often. Put yourself atop the list of people you want to help. After that person and other immediate loved ones are taken care of, see which causes and committees you genuinely want to assist. Allow others the chance to step up and serve, too.

–Face the “must dos” with appreciation. When staring down dreaded tasks, try saying “I get to” instead of “I have to” to inspire a better attitude. In other words, consider the privileges that lie behind doing laundry and taking out the garbage, namely, that you have abundant clothes and a trash collection service or station when many on the planet do not. If and when your task list is overwhelming, learn to:

–Delegate. ‘Nuff said.

So what’s your declaration of independence this July 4th weekend? Mine right now is:

“I hereby declare that I will not let undone work and unanswered emails keep me from meeting friends for cocktails on the eve of a holiday weekend.”

Go ahead:

“I hereby declare that I will not ______________________________________________.”

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Coaching, Demystified

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Athletic coaching may be as old as the Olympics, but life and career coaching is barely 30 years old as a proper profession. It began in the late 80s with American financial planner Thomas Leonard, who realized that many of his clients wanted and needed more than investment tips to meet their life goals.

The techniques Leonard developed to help his clients complemented, but differed from, those practiced by therapists, mentors and consultants, and this is still largely true for life and career coaching. Leonard went on to create Coach University in the early 90s and train others in his methods, thus establishing a career option that flourishes today.

Fundamentally, life and career coaching is a supportive relationship between the coach and “coachee,” in which the coach does not give advice but helps the client to call forth and cultivate his or her own wisdom, strengths, clarity, courage, motivation, self-confidence and ideas to meet goals of many kinds. Coaches listen objectively to clients’ concerns and desires, ask powerful questions, hold clients accountable to the actions they commit to, and celebrate their forward movement.

There are as many coaching styles as there are coaches. My own approach encompasses the research-based practices of Positive Psychology for more joyful and meaningful living, the techniques of The Artist’s Way for more authentic and creative living, and my training as a Kripalu yoga teacher for more spiritual and holistic living.

During our sessions, I invite clients to set the goals and agendas, and I pull from my appropriate tool kits as needed to help. I send follow-up notes with reflections, further resources and agreed-upon actions. I smile like a kid on Christmas morning when I receive enthusiastic updates from clients, and I extend compassion when they share their struggles.

I have great affection for my clients, and I’m always rooting for them.

What are the results, and what does the process feel like on the client’s end? I asked my own clients to chime in and they said things like:

–“Coaching offered non-judgmental acceptance, mirroring to help me see myself, great listening, and quality questions that helped me dig deeper into what I thought I knew. I left with my head held high and with more energy and aliveness.”

–“Coaching helps me bring my game to the next level through the presence of a witness to my process and help in challenging my negative assumptions.”

–“I knocked off projects that had been hanging over my head for years.”

–“My mind is constantly going and over-analyzing, so I needed someone who was structured and looking out for me. Coaching helps me focus on a specific thing, even when I have many ideas, and that helps me move forward.”

–“I went in hoping for career guidance and never expected to learn so much about myself or develop so many valuable interpersonal skills.”

–“Career coaching is a great way to jump-start a career change. The coach probes your ideas, provides feedback, and helps you define ‘homework’ to speed the process. You get more organized and begin flying over the obstacles in your path.”

–“I’ve gained clarity of how I want to live in this world…I feel less owned by my commitments…and more capable of making boundaries without falling prey to the idea that I should always be super busy and have something to show for it.”

–“Coaching helped me identify the things that light me up, verbalize how to make them part of my professional life, and develop a plan to make that happen. It can be hard to do all that alone and without a ‘thought partner’ who helps you explore things you might otherwise dismiss.”

–“Coaching gives a broader, bigger picture than therapy. It allowed me to explore who I am, take that broader picture, shift my perceptions, and open up to further discovery. Therapy gets to some of the deepest emotions, and it’s important to acknowledge that coaching and therapy are related.”

Having benefited from both therapy and coaching in my own life, I sometimes refer clients to therapists if that feels like a precursor, or complement, to our  work. A colleague of mine writes this about the difference between the two: “A therapist looks into your past to help you understand the present. A coach works in the present to help you to create the future. Therapists delve deeply into emotions. A coach recognizes the importance of emotions but does not focus on them.”

One of my mentors posits that coaches fill the gaps in a modern society of isolation and virtual connectivity, in which people don’t have the access to elders and role models that they used to in such places as religious communities, extended family living situations and other institutions.

Compared to counselors and mentors who are paid for their advice, however, coaches refrain from giving it. While there is a time and place for advice, in coaching we assume that our clients are wise, resourceful and creative enough to identify their own answers and action steps through our work together. A client of mine once remarked, “You are the only person I know who doesn’t have an agenda for me and is completely on my side.”

Nonetheless, I do help my clients to brainstorm and strategize, and I sometimes challenge them to venture out of their comfort zones, based on their stated goals. In this way, I can feel a bit like an athletic coach. One client made me laugh recently when she said, “You’re my personal trainer of mental exercises!”

We all need support for the game of life, and someone to inspire and challenge us to be better. Coaches can be wonderful companions and guides on that journey.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and spiritual development. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

How I “Found” My Dream Job

When clients come in for career coaching, I tell them that there’s no predictable time frame for finding and landing a wonderful job. Much depends on their own clarity, actions, resources and resourcefulness, in addition to external factors that are beyond our control. We then roll up our sleeves and get to assessing and exploring, while I hold them accountable, focus on the positive, and celebrate their breakthroughs.

But there’s something that I never say out loud to clients, which is that my own dream job was nearly five decades in the making. After all, who has that kind of time?

But seriously, what I mean is that the journey to my becoming a coach, teacher and writer of personal transformation has been in process since I was a child, with clues that were always there, and some interesting detours and rest stops along the way.

As a kid, I could sometimes be heard “coaching” my fellow performers (onstage, alas…) in school plays. I also had a tendency to befriend children who seemed lonely or outcast. Later on, I built a fort in the backyard and pretended it was a classroom, dragging my little brothers in as students.

And so, along with being an occasional know-it-all and a bossy big sister, I was always a helper.

In high school I began writing essays, and letters to the editor about issues that were important to me, like world peace, authenticity and freedom of expression. While my girlfriends were reading Seventeen magazine, I was devouring self-help books and studying feminism and nutrition. I also formed a support group with friends who, like me, were grappling with eating disorders.

My college years were spent exploring my passions and love of travel while planning for a career in journalism. After meandering through jobs in publishing, public relations and philanthropy in my 20s, I landed in public radio and stayed there for a decade. I loved using my creativity, telling stories and reporting about people who were overcoming the odds and making a difference. My favorite moments were those of meaningful connection with my subjects and listeners.

All of that changed when a panic attack, on the air, in the middle of a newscast, set me firmly on the path of recovery and healing at age 35.

As my own personal development became my primary occupation, I was led to live and train at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I learned from some of the best teachers of transformation in the world. It was there that I eventually began leading workshops and yoga classes, and writing about conscious living. Two years later, I left to continue this work in the Boston area.

In my late 40s, I learned of an opportunity to study something called Positive Psychology, and my whole being said, “Yes!” I trained to become a coach and teacher in a field that echoed so much of what I already practiced and believed, and it’s the work I plan to do for the rest of my life.

Our ideal careers are found at the intersection of what we care about, what we’re good at (aka our strengths, which you can assess here) and what we love to do. We then need to factor in our financial needs, and we get bonus points if our work serves the world.

Here’s what else I believe:

–There are career clues in what you’ve always loved and enjoyed doing well. If you’re contemplating a career move, take time to write about this. Learn, too, to trust your gut and heart when saying “Yes” and “No” to opportunities, and follow leads that feel enlivening, even if they make no sense. Give yourself permission to want what you want.

–Nothing is wasted. I regret none of the stops on my career journey, because they all got me here. I even use bits and pieces from seemingly unrelated past jobs in my current work. See all of your life experiences as opportunities to learn, discern, gather, grow and prepare.

–You might not always make a lot of money doing what you love. When I first landed in Boston, I worked for the circus to supplement my income. Cirque du Soleil, that is (that was me shouting, “Programs, get your programs here!” and selling overpriced merchandise). Years later, I worked as an administrative assistant for three years, while continuing to teach and write on the side, during a time of transition in my personal life. Today I’m grateful for multiple income streams, and good credit.

Doing work that we love is energizing, and feels like play. Using our strengths and skills in ways that are enjoyable and meaningful is essential to thriving in life. If you can’t quite do that in your job, find other outlets, such as volunteer, family or community projects.

You’ll have to build courage muscles to keep going for what you want when the going gets tough. Staying true to ourselves and our ideals is not easy, but it’s so worth the rewards of living with integrity and personal satisfaction. Get support, whether professionally or in the form of “believing mirror” friends and family members. Appreciate and reward your own bravery, too.

Here’s to your own quest for fulfilling work, and those lucky enough to be on the receiving end of your strengths and passions.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and spiritual development. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.