Category Archives: General

Disarming Fears, Tapping Magic

by Kim Childs, CPPC

When people ask me what kinds of clients I mostly work with, I don’t have a pat answer because I’ve worked with both men and women, aged 20-something to 70-something. I can, however, identify what unites them: they have believed their doubts and fears to the point of inaction. They come to me to get unstuck, get clear, get out of their own way, and get moving and on track toward the life they’d prefer to be living.

First, however, we need to meet their fears, and disarm them enough to access the magic of action.

I have a healthy respect for fear. It’s hardwired into our brains to keep us alive, and it’s a good thing to trust when it’s warning us of real danger. The problem is when it occupies the driver’s seat so much that everything feels dangerous. In other words, we should trust fear when it’s telling us to pay attention and steer clear of that erratic driver on the right, but challenge fear when it says that only well-tread, familiar, comfortable roads are safe.

The fears my clients and I work to disarm include those about such expressed desires as: changing careers, leaving toxic jobs or relationships, speaking truth, going for creative paths and projects, standing up to bullies, embarking on a dream trip or project, and taking a road less traveled despite protests from loved ones. Unlike the healthy fear that keeps us from entering a dark alley in a dicey neighborhood, these other fears do a disservice by blocking us from trying the very things we truly want to do. They therefore must be challenged.

Here’s the process:

–Take a good sized piece of paper and write a heading that represents the thing your fears are warning you against (e.g. Starting my Own Business)

–Draw a line down the center of the page

–On the left side, list all of your fears about this endeavor, no matter how irrational, juvenile, petty, embarrassing, or ridiculous they may seem. Leave nothing out. Often, it’s a very young part of us that is most afraid. Honor it.

–Once you’ve done that, appreciate your fears for having your back and trying to keep you safe.

–Connect with the wisest and most loving part of yourself. This may mean physically getting up and changing positions or chairs (or rooms) to get a new perspective. You could also place a hand on your chest and try breathing in and out of it for a few moments, to get in touch with the desires and wisdom of your heart.

–In the right column, address each fear from this wisest and most loving part of yourself, asking these three questions:

  • 1) Could that really happen? If the answer is no, as sometimes happens, move to the next fear. If there’s even a slight “Well, maybe…” ask:
  • 2) If so, how could I work to prevent that from happening?
  • 3) If so, how would I handle it? (This latter technique is borrowed from Susan Jeffers’ classic book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway)

My clients give this process a name that make sense to them, and repeat it as often as needed when blocking fears are identified. Again, blocking fears are the kind that crop up when a heart’s desire is identified, and quickly shoot it down. This exercise usually reveals a next step toward the desire, however small, once the grip of fear has loosened. Which brings me to…the magic of action, as best illustrated by this famous quote from Scottish explorer W. H. Murray:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”

I can’t tell you how many times I, and my students and clients, have identified a desire, committed to its pursuit, and been met by an amazing coincidence or synchronicity that enables the fulfillment of that desire. Examples include: meeting a stranger who is doing the thing we want to do; discovering a class, group or book on the very subject we’re exploring; receiving unexpected money to fund that new project; finding the dream job; or receiving the next piece of a creative project while doing something seemingly unrelated. I have countless examples of this in my own life, and a powerful dream that backs it up.

And sometimes it really does feel like magic. I like to say that the Universe’s hands are tied until we take action. Then, it sometimes practically falls over itself trying to help.

The other thing about action is that it’s energizing and motivating. It’s also informative, even – and especially – when we fail on the way to success. And it puts us in contact with the people, places and things that could further the realization of our desires, unlike, say, sitting on the couch with a remote in hand and lots of wishes in our head.

What is one thing you’ve been wanting to do but afraid to try? Once you’ve calmed your fears about it with reason and contingency plans, as outlined above, identify an action and take it.

Invite the magic, see what happens, and report back to me. Okay?

Kim Childs is a Boston-area certified life and career coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, soulful living and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or video chat.

Summer “Soulcation”

Last summer, I enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime journey to South Africa, where I toured the country performing with my chorus and experiencing moments of awe, joy, and connection that will last me forever. This summer I took a different journey – inward – to process the recent death of my father and some other personal losses and endings. As grief forced me to slow down and attend to my deepest needs, I made space to nurse my aching heart and sagging spirit. I took time off from teaching and marketing while continuing to work with clients, which kept me connected to my passion for helping others tend to the needs and callings of their own souls and spirits.

The result, my “Summer Soulcation,” taught me more about what truly nourishes me. I’m sharing some of what helped me here, in case you, too, want to put more soul into the rest of your summer:

Music – Most mornings, I would listen to acoustic guitar music as I read spiritual literature and wrote in my journal. Sometimes I swapped in the traditional music of Mali, which can be hauntingly beautiful and full of desert longing. In the evening, my favorite reggae artists often inspired dancing in the kitchen as I prepared dinner. Other nights it was piano jazz and a glass of wine. My summer splurge was a weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival (in torrential rain and blistering heat, but the music was worth it and it made for a good story), and I sometimes met friends in bars to hear blues, soul and R&B bands.
Q: What music stirs and satisfies your soul? Play some, and maybe even sing along.

Movement – I walked the nearby bike path most days – faithfully, if not always briskly – to move my body and process grief in a physical way. As mentioned above, I sometimes danced at home, and one night I joined friends at an open air dance party in the center of Cambridge, covered in sweat and soooo not caring. I did some gentle yoga and stretching on my bedroom floor, trusting the wisdom of my body to move and release as needed, including tears. I also swam whenever I could, letting the water bathe me inside and out.
Q: What movement does your body crave these days? Do it.

Nature – The big reason I walk the bike path near my home is that it offers a cathedral of trees, a bevy of birds, an array of flowers and plants, and green grass and blue water in the nearby park. On days when I felt particularly empty and alone, Mother Nature was a soothing companion, and I swear that loving spirits often rode on the wings of the bees, butterflies, and dragonflies I encountered nearly every day. I also brought nature’s gifts inside in the form of mini bouquets that provided cheer and beauty, and herbs and veggies from generous gardens. The ocean, my happy place since I was a child, was a priority once a week if I could swing it. Sometimes my own tears merged with the salt water.
Q: Where in nature do you feel soothed and inspired? Go there.

Connection – As time went on, I realized that I needed real connections and friends more than social media interactions, so I limited my Internet presence to posting helpful things on my business page and account. The extrovert in me became more of an introvert this summer, as I chose one-on-one visits over most parties and gatherings, save for my women’s circles. When I needed companionship, I chose people with whom I could be authentic and accepted for who I am in all my messy humanness. My therapist and minister fell into that category, too.
Q: Who helps you feel most seen, heard and loved ? Connect with them, in person.

Solitude – Being single and self-employed, and working from home quite a bit, I’m used to spending a lot of time with myself. I took it to a new level this summer, trusting that it was just what I needed. Sometimes my solitude included prayer and meditation. Sometimes it found me staring up or out at trees, sky, and clouds, and sometimes it involved crying. In any case, I learned that I really do enjoy my own company.
Q: How can you enjoy your own company more? Try it.

Reading – I dove into fiction and spiritual memoirs with gusto this summer. I also read People magazine cover to cover when I needed something easy and entertaining. I find that other people’s stories help to inform my own sometimes, and books took me to places my feet could not this summer. Summer reading also takes me back to the innocence of childhood. And yes, there was also plenty of cinema therapy in my summer.
Q: What kinds of books take you on the journeys you most need these days? Read them.

What’s on your list of soul-nourishing activities? If you don’t have such a list, I suggest you sit yourself down somewhere lovely, with a cup or glass of something delicious, and make one. Then follow what it recommends, this summer and beyond.

Kim Childs is a Boston-area Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, soulful living, and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in her Arlington, MA, office or from anywhere in the world  via phone or video chat.

Lessons From My Father’s Life, and Death

by Kim Childs, CPPC

We lost my sweet, salty, quirky, loving dad last month after a heartbreaking battle with COPD. He hung in there long and strong, until he couldn’t, and died just short of his 81st birthday this weekend.

Peter Barry Childs was a Cape Cod native, born into a large Irish Catholic family and raised in Centerville, MA. He went to Barnstable High School and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard, was a volunteer firefighter, and ran a highly respected and successful tree care company for 35 years on the Cape before selling the business to my brother Pete.

A certified arborist, Dad taught us to respect and admire trees, nature, natural beauty, and critters of all kinds. We spent countless family hours on the back deck of the house he built in West Barnstable, where he and his dear “Happy” (aka Mom) created a magical sanctuary full of trees, flowers, flowering shrubs and birds of all kinds. Several years ago, this haven was declared a “Backyard Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation.

Dad was a diehard Boston Red Sox fan who played baseball in high school and – many decades later – in the Cape Cod Old Timers Softball League. I’ll never forget standing outside a Cambridge bar on October 27, 2004, calling Dad as both of us cried with joy for his favorite team’s triumph, as last. Dad also helped me to appreciate music, introducing me to ‪Louis Armstrong, ‪Ella Fitzgerald, ‪and the Beatles before I was even in grade school. As I mourn Dad’s passing, I’m noting some other things I learned from his life, and death:

Pursue your life’s work. The day my father died, I chose to show up for my clients and students. The next day, I gave a long-planned talk on Positive Psychology before traveling to be with my family, because I believed he would have wanted me to. Dad lived his purpose, played by his own rules, and cared deeply about his work as the founder of Peter B. Childs Arborists. He operated the business with integrity and took pride in his work, refusing to cut down trees “just because someone wants a water view.” Dad didn’t quite understand the whole life coach/workshop teacher thing, but he told me that he was proud of my courage and ability to follow my calling. He’d often ask me, “How’s business?” with genuine interest and goodwill, and I know he’s still rooting for me and my success.

Express yourself. Dad didn’t hold back – for better or worse – when he had an opinion. As my brother recently said, “With Dad, you always knew where you stood.” When he was well, Dad sent us kids newsy little notes and cards, sometimes accompanied by newspaper clippings full of his editorial comments in the margins. There were also jerry-rigged gadgets and notes all over the house, some featuring his unique vocabulary words, like “E-shua” (meaning sure) and “yot yots” (people he didn’t quite, um, respect) and “hackers” (often reserved for sloppy tree care companies).

Always apologize. Dad and I hit lots of turbulence in my teens (partly because we both had strong opinions, and partly because he struggled with his own demons), but we later grew to admire each other’s journeys. Dad often expressed remorse for those tough years, and, when we fought in recent years, he’d be quick to apologize for any outbursts, asking, “Are we friends again?” It was as if he knew that time was limited, and didn’t want conflicts to linger.

Be generous when you can. In recent years, Dad’s post box and voicemail box was full of solicitations from the numerous charities he gifted. It kind of drove Mom nuts. When Dad came into a small inheritance several years ago, he shared big chunks of it with us kids. One of Dad’s last acts of generosity was to gift my ex-husband, a fellow workin’ man, with the 2007 Nissan pick-up he could no longer drive.

Pets matter. My cat’s name is Petey, largely in honor of my dad, who had cats and dogs his whole life. In our family, we enjoyed the antics and affections of Peppy, Delphi, Hidey, Duke, Cricket, Rusty, and our sweet golden retriever, Ginger. Dad delighted in their companionship, and wept openly whenever we lost one of these beloved pets. Last month, my brother Mark brought his golden retriever Rex to the Cape from New York, to comfort my mom in her suddenly empty house. One morning, as I was crying, and hugging Mom as she cried, Mark wrapped his arms around us both. Next thing we knew, Rex jumped up on his hind legs and joined the group hug. It was a moment that would have cracked my dad up, and maybe even made him cry.

Let people know they matter. As I read the condolences and remarks of strangers (to me) who lives were touched by Dad, their words tell me that he often left them feeling better about themselves. One of his neighbors called him “the proverbial good guy.” It reminds me of Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Dad had his salty moments when he was triggered, but the predominant word that I hear about him, including from the nurses who cared for him at the end, is “sweet.”

Thanks for making and loving me, Dad. Rest in peace, and be free.

Kim Childs is a Boston-area certified life and career coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or video chat.

Whose Permission Are You Waiting For?

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As I headed toward my 55th birthday this winter, I started to think about my intention for this next chapter of life. I decided that feeling more empowered was the overarching goal, and adopted the cartoon character Kim Possible as my role model. About the same time, I read a horoscope that said 2018 was “the year to kick your own butt.”

My role model, Kim Possible

Pondering this directive, I realized that kicking my own butt involved trading complaints and excuses for choices and actions that would take me toward what most I desire to be, do, and have at this stage.

So far I’ve been cleaning up my diet and finances, doing some weight training, and studying shamanism as part of my desire to claim my personal power.

I’m beginning to think it also involves a bit of growing up – or waking up – at midlife.

As a life and career coach, I adore hearing about my clients’ baby steps, giant steps, breakthroughs and triumphs. There are two phrases in particular, however, that really make my heart sing. When clients say, “I’m finally giving myself permission” or “I feel so empowered,” I know they’re on the road to making lasting changes from the inside out.

It’s easy to fall into patterns of living our lives based on the expectations, approval, opinions, needs and paths of other people. It’s scarier to take the reins of our own life, identify our heart’s desires, and bravely walk the road less traveled. So many of my clients show up ready for change after spending years in a career they “fell into,” a dis-empowering relationship role or identity they’ve never questioned, or a life full of deferred dreams and postponed pleasures.

There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves whether the choices we’re making are born of desire or default, and whether the life we’re living is truly our own. We then need to give ourselves permission to get clear on what we want, and go for it.

Last month, I had to set a boundary and take an unpopular stand in a group I belong to. At first it felt terrifying to go against the grain and risk criticism, but I later felt a strong sense of peace and rightness that told me I’d made the right decision…for me.

Just as our choices can be empowering or dis-empowering, so can our language. I once whined to a friend and fellow coach that I was in the middle of a crisis. Without missing a beat, she gently asked me, “Is it really a crisis, or an opportunity?”

That’s the annoying thing about friends who are coaches – they rarely let you get away with acting like a victim.

Of course, we all face difficult times when it feels as if we’re powerless over challenging circumstances. Allowing our authentic emotions to flow and getting the support we need are the first strategies to employ.

But no matter what happens to us in life, we can aim to take charge of the space between our ears. A colleague recently told me that she’s reading The 7 Day Mental Diet and trying the practice of noticing and releasing negative thoughts and savoring positive ones. “Realizing the control we have over our thoughts and emotions feels delightfully empowering,” she says. “I hope to make this new response an automatic habit because it’s significantly easing the flow of my days.”

If you’re ready to live a more personally empowered life, I invite you to try on these questions whenever you begin to feel powerless:

How am I not a victim here? How am I not trapped, or powerless?

What can I do to feel more empowered in this situation?

What do I desire instead of this, and what is one small step toward that?

What kind of support do I need?

What possibilities am I overlooking or dismissing?

If a deeper part of me chose this hardship to grow, heal or learn, what might I be gaining or learning?

Is there something I need to give myself permission to do or say?

As you explore these questions, ideally in writing, let your answers begin to direct you to more empowered choices, and give yourself permission to make them. In the meantime, Kim Possible and I will be rooting for you, and kicking some butt.

Kim Childs is a Boston-area certified life and career coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, soulful living and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or video chat.

Going Back in Time to Move Forward

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This month, we “fell back” an hour when Daylight Savings Time ended, to gain more light before moving into the shorter days of winter. Likewise, when we’re preparing to move forward in life, we may sometimes need to first go back in time. Just as an archer prepares to shoot an arrow by pulling it back to prepare, focus, and gather momentum, we can constructively revisit our past to propel forward movement.

If we want to pursue a goal or make a big change, yet find ourselves staying stuck, it may be that old wounds and painful stories need healing to reclaim energy from the past. If we want to try something new but doubt our ability to do so, we can recall past triumphs and successes to remind us of what’s possible. Here’s how:

Forgive them, and yourself. When we feel held back by past experiences involving abuse or mistreatment by another, a forgiveness process can liberate us from the toxicity of resentment and dis-empowerment. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior or staying in relationship with someone who has hurt us. It’s something we do for ourselves to stop feeling victimized. In the words of Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Sometimes our limiting stories and beliefs are rooted in regrettable actions we took that damaged our self-perception. In these cases, we need to find ways to let ourselves off the hook. “View your life with ‘kindsight,'” says author Karen Salmansohn. “Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping your forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking?’ breathe and ask yourself the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?’”

If you find yourself ruminating over long-ago actions or hurts that keep you from forgiving and moving forward, try this exercise:

• Write about the upsetting experience as you recall it, releasing all of your authentic emotion into your story.
• Write about the experience again—objectively this time, like a good reporter, including “just the facts.”
• Write once more about the experience, from the perspective of the wisest or most spiritually evolved person you know or can imagine, consciously appreciating any growth, lessons, gifts, clarity, strength, resilience, or wisdom it yielded.

Mend a broken dream to pursue a new one. Sometimes past failures and broken dreams can form a kind of emotional or psychic “scar tissue” that blocks us from identifying or pursuing new desires. We do this in order to protect ourselves from more pain and disappointment, but it keeps us from fully living our lives. I found myself in this place after my divorce, and realized that I needed to grieve and mend the broken dream of my marriage in order to live into a new chapter. If you think you might be experiencing something like this, try the following exercise:

Part 1: Write your honest answers to these questions:
• What was I hoping for when I pursued that dream?
• What actually happened?
• How did/do I feel about that?
Allow any and all painful emotions to surface as you write, and offer compassion to yourself, using words such as, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I know it really mattered to you.”

Part 2: Assess the failed dream and ask yourself these questions:
• How did I/others learn, grow, benefit, or strengthen from what happened?
• What is my new dream?

Yoganand Michael Carroll, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, recommends using yogic tools like pranayama, postures, and specific meditations, in conjunction with writing exercises, to change the energy of painful stories. “We get stuck in these boxes of our belief systems, and our painful stories carry energy,” says Yoganand. “If I can put myself in a place where my energies will become mobile, the story can melt and shift. If I’ve had an experience of being free from the structure of the story, it’s less binding when I come back.”

Yoganand says that making space for another perspective is key to liberating ourselves from our painful beliefs and stories. “If it can only be this way, I’m bound, but if it could be this way or that way, it gives me wiggle room. It’s like a knot that’s tied. If we get a little bit of wiggle, we can get free.”

Go back for reinforcement. The past can also be a source of good news and encouragement when we’re attempting to break free of problems and try new things. So many of my coaching clients who find themselves in miserable jobs need prompting to recall past jobs when they’ve felt happier, or more capable and competent. In coaching, we look for exceptions to what clients feel are permanently tough situations, to borrow energy from what’s working (or has worked) to fuel new solutions. Questions that help unearth that energy might be, “When is (or was) that not the case?” and “When have you enjoyed that (job/relationship/project)?”

When we’re caught in the grip of the problem, it’s easy to forget the times when we’ve been resourceful, resilient, and triumphant in similar situations. I had to do this not long after starting my coaching business, when it was not producing the financial success I desired. When I recalled that I’d been successful in all of my previous careers, and reminded myself that this was my biggest business venture yet with lots of learning curves, I felt better and more energized to put in the necessary work to grow my practice. If you’re similarly stuck, try looking for exceptions and recalling your best moments thus far, to remind yourself that even better times may lie in the future.

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

(Note: This article was written for the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and the original version appears here.)

The Courage to Ask for Help

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Last month, I noticed my coaching client scribbling earnestly during our session, as we were discussing the difference between willpower (“I want to ___”) and way power (“I may need help, training, instruction and a plan to ___”).

So what was my client writing? “Asking for help is self-care.”

Indeed.

For far too many years, I was self-reliant to a fault—trying to assume control, figure things out by myself and hide my needs and insecurities from people as best I could. I feared being vulnerable, being disappointed, appearing stupid, burdening people with my needs or arousing their criticism and condemnation. I acted as if I had it all together, and sometimes it appeared that I did…on the outside.

It took a crisis to show me that “I’ll do it all myself” is a lonely and ineffective way to live.

I was 34 years old and delivering a newscast in my former public radio job when a panic attack – live, on the air – rocked my world and dismantled my facade of control. It also sent me on the journey of recovery that ultimately launched my career as a coach, teacher, and writer of personal transformation.

The panic attack left me with no choice but to ask for help. I enlisted a variety of traditional and alternative healers and landed firmly in psychotherapy, 12-step groups, and countless personal growth workshops to address old wounds. Emotional and psychological healing became my occupation, even as I kept reporting the news. About a year later I left my job and moved into a yoga center, where the seeds of my current career were planted and nourished.

It took a village to get me through those years, during which time I learned a lot about the courage of vulnerability, authenticity, and opening up to receive. I’m grateful to each and every helper on my journey, which will always be a work in progress.

Another thing I’ve had to wrap my mind around is that so many people want to help, and they may even feel honored when we ask. Last week, I was a hot mess over a family issue (and a badly timed technological problem…but is there ever a good time for that?) and I reached out to a dear friend. She stopped what she was doing to listen, and help. I thanked her profusely the next day, still wrestling with old feelings of guilt for “bothering” someone.

Her reply, so beautiful and surprising, was, “Thank you for being in my life.”

Last year I decided to take a dream trip to South Africa with my chorus. Struggling financially in the wake of a divorce, I needed help paying for it. I applied for a scholarship and received a generous one from the chorus. Following the lead of some fellow singers, I launched a fundraising campaign for the rest of the expenses and received even more than I’d asked for. It was a miraculous and humbling experience that left me full of gratitude and marveling at the generosity of people.

We often ask for help when we’re on our knees, literally or metaphorically. It’s typically what brings clients into my office, when the pain of staying stuck or unhappy has become too much to bear. The same client I mentioned above remarked during our initial consultation that, “I used to think life coaches were only for corporate executives, and then I read a book that said anyone can benefit from working with a coach, so here I am.”

Needless to say, I was thrilled about that book, and my client’s breakthrough.

If asking for help is a skill you’d like to learn and strengthen, I recommend starting with small requests as you work your way up to bigger ones. Remember that most people like to help because it feels good, and takes us out of our own problems. Recall all the times and ways you’ve gotten a boost from being helpful, and give others that same opportunity.

I also recommend doing it before a crisis hits, but we don’t always have control over that.

None of us can do this life on our own. Asking for help is brave, smart, productive, and a sign of strength. And sometimes it can lead to miracles.

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/Zoom.

When Dreams are Delayed (not Denied)

by Kim Childs, CPPC

About 20 years ago, I heard a phrase in a 12-step meeting that lodged itself firmly in my head:
God’s delay is not God’s denial.

Today I have several examples, and not just in my own life, of how this phenomenon plays out. No matter your religious beliefs, embracing the notion that some dreams may take longer to manifest than we desire, and turn out even better than we imagined, can ease frustration and fuel optimism.

To put it another way,  very few of the things and changes I’ve desired in my life have happened on my timetable, and many came to pass in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen.

Sharing songs, and love, in South Africa (photo credit: Bill Torcaso)

Case in point: Five years ago, I heard that the delightful Boston-area chorus, Sharing a New Song (SANS), was headed to South Africa to tour, perform, and connect with singers in that amazing country. I so wanted to go to South Africa, and I sooo wanted to go as a singer, and the timing was…so very wrong for me. With more than a little sadness, I surrendered to my circumstances and wished the chorus members a wonderful time.

And then…

Last summer, I went to a musical birthday party and learned, through a serendipitous conversation, that SANS was returning to South Africa in 2017. Free to go this time, I joined the chorus, applied for a scholarship, launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover the remaining costs, and went – all expenses paid – on a truly marvelous trip during August, a month when my workload is super light.

Could I have orchestrated this same magic five years ago? I’ll never know. What I do know is that dreams have no expiration date, and that holding them in our hearts while loosening our grip on how and when they’ll come about can yield miracles.

Earlier this summer, I led a Dream Boot Camp for five wonderful clients, one of whom manifested a desire she’d held dear for two decades. Once the shock wore off, she told me about the history of this particular dream.

“Twenty years ago, my company had a big layoff, and people who’d been there a long time were let go with several months’ severance,” she recalls. “I kept thinking about what I would do with that kind of time…finish my book, work on sewing projects, and finally get my house the way I wanted it. I wasn’t chosen for the layoff, but I started making plans to take a year off work, saving money and trying to get my various projects in shape.”

My client kept saving money until she was within a year of being able to make her bold move. This summer, much to her surprise, she was laid off with several months’ worth of severance pay. It’s not exactly what she envisioned 20 years ago, but it may be better.

“What I’m doing now is very different from what I’d have done back then,” she remarks. “Now the time is mine instead of having to put my kids first. Plus, my house is paid for and the kids’ college is funded, so the amount of income I need for a sustainable lifestyle is much less. I’ve also got 20 years’ worth of savings and research behind me.”

A friend of mine tells another story about attracting a wonderful job that looks nothing like what she imagined when she set out to find one several years ago, armed with her hopes and a list of desired criteria during a very challenging time in her life.

“I wound up working at a church office in Connecticut, of all places!” She exclaims about the job that meets so many of those criteria. “I am a native New Yorker and an attorney. This is the last place I thought I would be, and this job uses all the skills not listed on my resume. I’m the one who plans office celebrations, and being here has given me clear ideas about an office party planning business, for which I’m now taking classes.”

What dream of yours might be worth turning over to a higher intelligence and acting on – one step at a time – with respect for divine timing?

Patience and persistence paid off for Rory Michelle, who sat in my workshop on The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity several years ago and quietly voiced her desire to write and sing songs. Soon after, she began to do it…consistently, with great enthusiasm. Today, she’s a singer/songwriter, recording artist, producer, and composer, with a few albums under her belt and this new, charming video about nourishment of all kinds.

Here’s to your dreams. I invite you to hold them in your heart, take inspired action, and trust life’s unfolding.

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.

To Africa…With Love

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This summer I’m headed back to Africa, a continent beloved to my very soul. My connections to the land and people run deep, perhaps even beyond this lifetime. Here’s why…

In the fall of 1996, I was invited to visit my friend Liz in Zimbabwe, where she was doing economic development work. I jumped at the chance to make my first trip to Africa, and arranged to fly from New York to London to Harare, the capitol of Zimbabwe. Not long after we left London, I fell asleep. When I awoke a few hours later, I looked out the window and saw orange lights below. Confused as to why I could still see the ground, I asked the flight attendant where we were.

“Those are gas flares from the Algerian oil wells,” she told me. As I realized that I was flying over the African continent, I started to cry. Something deep inside me felt like it was coming home.

The journey to that moment (in this lifetime, anyway) began in 1988, when I met the masterful Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. A voice student there at the time, I got to sample Olatunji’s powerful drum and dance classes, and I was hooked. When I returned to New Jersey, I fortuitously stumbled upon a new African drum class that was meeting above the local health food store. We became a performing ensemble and gave ourselves the ironic name Drums and Roses.

The ensemble eventually broke up, but my love affair with African drumming and music was on for life, embracing many styles over the years, and introducing me to such iconic artists as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, Oumou Sangare, and so many others.

In Zimbabwe, I went to clubs and outdoor concerts to dance and hear the legendary performers Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi. I became smitten with the hypnotic music played on the mbira, or thumb piano, and delighted in the infectious pop music played in buses and taxis. Although the country has suffered terribly under the AIDS epidemic and its despotic leader, the Zimbabweans I met were warm and sunny, the land was majestic, and the wild giraffes, zebras and elephants made me squeal like a child.

My passion for African music is one reason I went to Morocco in 2002 for the annual Sacred Music Festival in Fez. I even stayed an extra week to attend the traditional gnawa music festival in the coastal town of Essaouira. Morocco, with its seductive blend of African, Arab and European cultures, colors, textiles, spices and sounds, was a feast for all of my senses. And in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, many of the people we met in this Muslim-majority country were grateful for our tourism.

In 2005, my affection and concern for Africans led me to volunteer with an organization that was serving the Sudanese refugees who’d landed in the Boston area. I was assigned to help a young family in a nearby town and I grew to love and admire them, and all the other refugees, for their incredible resilience and dignity in the face of unimaginable challenges and losses. To this day, I feel like a proud and lucky adopted member of the South Sudanese community that has blossomed around me.

It was drumming that took me back to Africa in 2007, when I followed my Senegalese teacher to Dakar to learn more about the complex drum and dance styles of his country. Two days into that trip, I met the sweet man I would later marry. Although the marriage did not survive our differences and difficulties, the love did, and we are forever family to each other. I’ve learned firsthand the about the hardships and heartbreak of African immigrants abroad, the generosity of African love and family, and the famous teranga – hospitality – of the gracious Senegalese people.

My next destination is South Africa, where I’ll spend three weeks in August performing all over the country with my delightful chorus, Sharing a New Song. Our itinerary includes joint concerts and informal singalongs with South Africans, a possible workshop with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, sightseeing, cultural exchanges, whale and penguin watching, a trip to the infamous Robben Island, and a three-night stay with the lions in Kruger National Park (Oh my!).

I wonder…what magic awaits me this time in the southernmost tip of that vast, rich and exotic continent?

What or where is your “Africa”? Is there a place, culture or music that resonates with your very soul? How have you followed that call? I’d love to hear about it if you care to share in the comments below.

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.

Tell a Better Story

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Last year I was working with a client who was preparing to retire from a long and successful career. She named a desire to work part-time in a new field, and her face lit up as she described what she’d like to do and why she wanted to do it. It was clearly a long simmering passion.

As we identified her next steps of research and action, her face darkened. She began to voice doubts about her ability to transfer her impressive life and work experience to a new pursuit for which, from my perspective,  she was sufficiently qualified and definitely trainable.

“So you haven’t inquired yet, but you’re telling yourself that they wouldn’t want to hire someone like you because you haven’t worked in that field yet?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, getting pensive. “I guess that’s a story.”

We agreed that it was. And like most limiting stories we tell ourselves, it was worth examining.

Remember the old joke about how, when you assume, you make “an ass out of you and me?” While a little crude, there’s truth in there about the danger of making assumptions. My client was not alone in telling herself a story that prevented her from taking action, asking questions, and obtaining information that could debunk her assumptions. On the flip side, we sometimes do take misguided action based on unchecked assumptions, and later regret them.

I know that I’ve made up stories about why someone doesn’t reply to my email, include me in an invitation, or return my call. Quite often, those stories are unpleasant, painting me or the other person in a bad light. That’s when I have to remember the words of a dear and wise friend on this subject:

“If you’re gonna make up a story, make up a good one.”

This is also known as giving people (and situations) the benefit of the doubt. Think about that oft-used phrase. Injecting our painful stories with some doubt or curiosity, making room for other possibilities and perspectives, makes us feel better and expands our thinking and creativity. This leads to more constructive action, which can lead to better outcomes.

I often invite clients to do this with painful episodes from their past that are still holding them back. Sometimes these experiences involve abuse or mistreatment from another, in which case a forgiveness process can liberate us from the toxicity of resentment and a disempowering world view. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to hang out with those who harmed us, it means we stop harming ourselves by feeling permanently victimized.

In the words of Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Sometimes our limiting stories and beliefs are rooted in regrettable actions we took that damaged our self-perception. In those cases, we’re often being harsh and not letting ourselves off the hook.

“View your life with ‘kindsight,'” says author Karen Salmansohn. “Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping your forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking?’ breathe and ask yourself the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?’”

If you find yourself long ruminating over past actions or hurts that won’t let you go and keep you from forgiving (yourself or others), healing, and moving on to your greater good, try this exercise:

  • Write about the experience as you recall it, full of your authentic emotion about it.
  • Write again about the experience objectively, as a good reporter would, with “just the facts.”
  • Write once more about the experience from the perspective  of the wisest or most spiritually evolved person you know of, consciously appreciating any growth, lessons, gifts, clarity, strength, resilience or wisdom it yielded.

Use that brilliant, inventive mind of yours to make up the best stories you can about what’s possible, what you can do to improve situations and relationships, and what good could come from bad. Let those better stories guide your actions and choices.

In doing so, you make yourself the author and victor in your own life.

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.

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.