All posts by Kim Childs

Coping and Hoping in the Coronavirus Crisis

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As we attempt to protect ourselves and others, stay informed, and live our new lives in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we’re all riding waves of fear, worry, grief, anger, and shock. There is no guide book for navigating an unprecedented time like this, and so we’re each coping…and even hoping…as best we can.

I’m admiring the resilience and resourcefulness of my coaching clients these days, as they make the best of being home amid the closures and cancellations of just about everything, and even work on projects they hope to pursue once the crisis is over. I’m hearing reports of relationships being renewed and deepened via phone and video chats, old pastimes and pleasures getting dusted off and enjoyed, families co-creating healthy new schedules and better work/life balance, more time in nature, a sense of shared vulnerability and humanity, and novel ways of conducting happy hours, movie watching, and board games virtually.

None of this would have happened without a dramatic disruption to life as we were living it, which in many ways was way out of balance.

I love this list of “Daily Quarantine Questions” that’s making the rounds of social media, to help us use this time for our greatest good. As a Positive Psychology Coach, I know that one of the most important questions we can ever ask ourselves in challenging times is “What can I control?” Right now my answers include: following CDC recommendations, the amount of news I consume, my response to the news, the way I treat and interact with others, and fortifying my immunity (lemon ginger water, Vitamins C and D3, and zinc are some of my go-tos, and there’s great info in this article from my colleague Lisa Ollmann Mair).

I’m also tending to my mental health, and trying to take things one day at a time when my mind wants to entertain terrifying worst case scenarios, which is entirely too possible these days amid all the uncertainty.  Some days I succeed, and some days I succumb. As author Tama Kieves writes in a recent newsletter, “Yes, wash your hands. But wash your mind, too. Where did you get infected? Where did you lose your balance? Pay attention. Be part of the contagion of love.” For me, this means practicing extra kindness, compassion, patience, and tolerance as I move about the world (virtually or from 6 feet away) and see how differently people are dealing with this crisis.

Creating and consuming positive content on Instagram and Facebook is another way I try to be part of that “contagion of love.” I shared this touching father-daughter duet of “The Prayer” because it moved me to tears (I lost my own dad to lung disease two years ago, and we shared a passion for music), especially as I heard the words, ”Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace, give us faith so we’ll be safe.”

Another favorite is this poignant poem from columnist and author Laura Kelly Fanucci, about how this time can enhance our appreciation for what we once deemed ordinary:

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theater
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
Life itself.
When this ends may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay that way — better for each other because of the worst.”

I wish you and yours good health, great coping and hoping skills, and something better when this is over. And if you think I could help, please reach out.

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 consultation or sample coaching session in person or via phone or video chat.

The Power of Your Pen

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As I’ve said here before, a simple practice called Morning Pages changed my life in 1997. Done at the start of the day before other agendas beckon, they are a fundamental part of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, a book I’ve taught and used with clients for nearly 20 years. The idea behind them is to meet ourselves on the page  and see how we’re doing each morning by writing, uncensored, by hand, for about 20 minutes until three pages are

While most of us are more used to typing than writing these days, there is a visceral difference when we use a pen.

“When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves,” says Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. “We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection to ourselves and our deepest thoughts when we actually put pen to page.”

Throughout the years, my clients and I have had powerful experiences with these pages, where questions, complaints, fears, revelations, worries, insights, and ideas share space with “to do” lists. One of my clients says that the pages “take the weight off” the issues he’s writing about. Another says she notices a qualitative difference to her day—and less obvious mind chatter—when she does them.

I firmly believe that we learn more about ourselves and make room for healing  when we vent, process, celebrate, plan, and voice truths – both inconvenient and profound – on the page, and there’s ample research to support this. If daily journaling sounds daunting, there are other writing exercises that I recommend to my coaching clients for greater clarity and self-growth.

Here are some to choose from:

–At night, list three things that went well for you during the day and note why they went well. This exercise comes from Martin Seligman, the “father” of Positive Psychology, who says that it boosts optimism and reduces depression over time. Adding why things went well helps us to replicate successful strategies and acknowledge our own agency.

–At night or in the morning, list three things for which you are grateful, and why. Create a new list each time, calling the items to mind with heartfelt gratefulness. The leader in gratitude research, Robert Emmons, has found that a practice such as this benefits both mental and physical health. It also inspires us look for things to write down throughout the day, making us conscious appreciators.

–Write affirmations or statements of your ideal self or life, and post them where you’ll see them often. Make sure you believe them (i.e. they are true or could be true in time with behavioral or attitudinal shifts) by editing the statements until resistance evaporates and finding evidence to support them. Example: “My work makes a difference in the world in ways that delight me and inspire others.”

–Write a letter to yourself that starts with “Dear (Name), I love (or admire/respect/appreciate) you for ________ and later transitions to “And I forgive you for _________.” Have Kleenex and lots of self-compassion on hand.

–Write a personal mission statement to guide your actions and choices. One way is to start with “I think the world needs/would be a better place if _________________” and follow with “and I can _________ by ________.” Mission statements should reflect your deepest values and pull in your strengths and abilities. Example: “I think the world needs more kindness and I can help by writing about it, appreciating people, and practicing kindness with everyone I meet.”

–Re-story a painful event from your past from a new perspective, recalling the events in a factual way and looking for the learning, growth, changes or blessings that resulted from the event. Learn more about that technique here.

–Set a timer for 20 minutes and write about your Best Possible Future Self. Repeat for a few days, and whenever else you like. This exercise, adapted from researcher Laura King, is a snapshot of your life in a future time when all of the areas that matter to you have gone as well as they possibly could. Write in the present tense, as in, “I am living in a home filled with art and collectibles from my world travels. My health is excellent and my work as a coach is fulfilling and lucrative.” Add details to make it more vibrant. One student who’s been doing this exercise was told that it could actually lead to the fantastic future she’s scripting. Her reply? “Even if it doesn’t, it’s still fun.” Exactly. The very act of writing in this way can boost our mood for the rest of the day, while it directs us to choices and decisions that can craft the desired future.

Intrigued? Find a favorite pen, a notebook or journal, and start writing. It’s best to begin with one practice and repeat it consistently before adding another.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation in person or via phone or video.

What to Do When You’re Feeling Blue

by guest blogger Karen Jones

On this journey of life, it’s completely normal to have times when we feel down. And while these states do pass, it sometimes feels as if they won’t.  We can move through them more effectively – and even joyfully – with some tried and true practices, though, so here are some of the things I do, and recommend to others, to feel better:

Reach out to help someone else
No matter what has me down, it works for me 100% of the time to think about someone I know who could use a little attention/TLC, and reach out to them. The magical combination of:  a) taking my attention off what’s bothering me, b) helping someone else and making a difference for them (usually an instant boost for the giver as well as the receiver), and c) the passing of time, really does help me to feel better, and soon!

Get your body moving
Exercise, in whatever form works for you, produces feel-good chemicals in our bodies. How handy to have a built-in factory that produces drugs that can make us feel better!

Remind yourself that you’re just having feelings
Think of them as a storm that’s passing through – and that they will pass. I usually find it helpful to remember that what I’m feeling is a result of what I’m thinking, and that I have the ability to shift my thinking…even a little bit (and even by just reminding myself that the feelings will pass!). Keep in mind that feelings are not facts.

Reach out to someone who truly cares about you, and ask them for help
Just as you feel better when you help someone, you get to give someone else that gift  when you reach out and ask for help. This can be super tough to do when we’re feeling blue, but even if you just dial their number (or send an email, or text) and say “Hey, I could use a boost from you,” it’ll help to shift your mood, and maybe even boost theirs.

Go for an effective distraction
Since our mind can only really pay attention to one thing at a time, there are times when the best thing to do is get immersed in a good book or movie, and give yourself a break from the blues. There was a time in my life when the distraction I chose was shopping (right after my first husband and I split up), and I racked up a ton of credit card debt as a result. That is not something I recommend, but other distractions include getting outside for a walk, cooking something delicious, or engaging in a creative, cleaning, decorating or organizing project.  

Write it out
There’s a lot to be said for just putting pen to paper and expressing everything that’s on your mind. It can not only relieve the pressure of keeping it bottled up, but, if you’re like me, you may learn something about yourself (or your situation) as words flows out of the end of your pen, and gain new insight.

Snuggle up with a teddy bear and cry it out
I think the first teddy bear I ever had was in my late 20s, and it was because a close friend basically made me buy one. I felt foolish, but he was so right. Curling up with that bear (it was big enough for that) and crying my heart out was very effective at helping me through the blues. Cuddling with a beloved pet can work, too.

These are my own tried-and-true methods. If you’ve got others that do the trick for you, I hope you will do them…and feel better soon!

Guest blogger Karen Jones is a dating and relationship coach and teacher, and founder of The Heart Matters. She also offers workshops for men and women, and group coaching experiences. Learn more at

Feel Your Way into a Happier New Year

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Many of us are tempted to make resolutions or set intentions as January arrives. It’s hard to resist the promise of a fresh new year, full of possibilities and opportunities to make changes in our lives for greater well-being and fulfillment. By spring, however, many of those plans and good intentions have typically been compromised, abandoned, or forgotten.

There’s a different way to design the year ahead, based on how we want to feel in the coming 12 months. Since most of the plans we make for change are ultimately designed to help us feel better, why not identify that feeling state first, and line up actions and choices that will support it?

This way of approaching the new year is more of a “going toward” than a “moving away from” method for greater happiness, notes Kripalu faculty and presenter Toni Bergins, creator of JourneyDance™.

“When we make resolutions, we are usually hoping to change a behavior we don’t like, or make ourselves do something we’ve been putting off,” says Toni. “So many resolutions fail because they are made from a mental state of not having what we want. When we get our body and joyful emotions into our wishes, we gain more potential for success.”

Sometimes we may have to begin by noticing any undesirable states we find ourselves in as January approaches, and identify their opposites. For example, several heartbreaking personal losses this year left me feeling depleted and more alone. In 2019, I therefore desire to feel enthusiastic (which literally means filled with the divine) and connected.

Next, it’s important to ask:

  • What would that actually look like? This finds me envisioning my daily life, and special occasions I’m looking forward to, and imagining how feeling more enthusiastic and connected would look in my activities and interactions. For instance, I envision myself headed to the gym feeling lucky to have an affordable membership, enjoying the music as I work out, and making friendly conversation with staff members. I also see myself scheduling weekly tea and lunch dates with soul-nourishing friends, and being authentic and present during our time together.
  • How can I support myself in feeling (enthusiastic and connected) as often as possible? Among other ways to support myself, I’ll keep my body and brain happy with exercise, hydration, good nutrition, and rest. I’ll say yes to only those invitations that excite me, and practice enough self-care and pleasure to approach obligations from a place of fullness. I’ll also feed my spirit with the kinds of music, books, movies, people, and gatherings that I truly love.

Throughout the year, I’ll likely need to keep reminding myself that I desire to feel enthusiastic and connected, and stay open to attitudes, choices, and habits that support those feelings. One strategy is to write the words “enthusiastic” and “connected” on my phone, calendar, and other things I look at throughout the day. This will offer me opportunities to regularly reflect on those desired feelings; ask myself, “What would help me feel more enthusiastic or connected today (or in this moment)?”; and invite my creative mind to produce ideas.

Toni says she desires to feel more joy in the new year. “Every day I’m going to do something that brings me joy,” she says. “That means playing more, making music, dancing, cooking and making beautiful food, and working less on my computer—unless I’m writing, which brings me joy!”

Of course, we all have less than joyful moments in life, which is when remembering how we desire to feel—and having tools to get there—can help. “When I start thinking negative, fearful, and worried thoughts, I use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping or my MindBusting™ technique to shift my thoughts as quickly as I can and avoid that rabbit hole of old patterning,” says Toni. “I also remember to stay present in my body and get inspiration from spiritual teachers when I need it.”

She’ll also be doing lots of dancing, of course, in her weekly Kripalu R&R classes and her JourneyDance programs and teacher trainings. “Music and movement transform my mood and shift my energy within minutes,” says Toni. “They let me express whatever I need to, and open my body and heart.”

Now there’s a lovely feeling state for the new year: openhearted. If that appeals to you, consider what it would look like to be more openhearted each day (including towards yourself), and what supportive practices, choices, thoughts, and attitudes would help you feel that way as much as possible. Once you make plans to ground this or any other feeling you desire in concrete routines and rituals, write (or illustrate) the word and keep it somewhere you’ll see it, often, as you feel your way through the coming year.

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

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.

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, ages 20-something to 70-something. I can, however, identify what often unites them: they have discounted their desires and 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.”


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.