All posts by Kim Childs

Declare Your Independence

by Kim Childs, CPPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Delegate. ‘Nuff said.

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

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

Go ahead:

“I hereby declare that I will not ____.”

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

Coaching, Demystified

by Kim Childs, CPPC

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

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

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

In this way, life and career coaching is similar to athletic coaching, in which the athlete must do the work necessary to improve, achieve, and excel, while the coach offers support, strategy ideas, accountability, encouragement, and the tracking of progress.

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

During our sessions, I invite clients to set the goals and agendas, and I pull from my appropriate tool kits as needed. I send follow-up notes with reflections, further resources and co-created action steps. I cheer when I receive enthusiastic updates from clients, and extend compassion when they share their struggles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–“I’ve gained clarity of how I want to live in this world…I feel less owned by my commitments…and more capable of setting and keeping boundaries.”

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

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

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

A mentor of mine posits that coaches fill the wisdom gaps in this modern society of isolation and virtual connectivity, in which people may not have the same access to elders and role models in such places as religious communities, extended family living situations and other institutions.

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

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

We all need support for the game of life, and coaches are often wonderful companions and guides on the journey.

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

How I “Found” My Dream Job

By Kim Childs

When clients come in for career coaching, I tell them that there’s no predictable time frame for finding and landing a wonderful job. Much depends on their own clarity, actions, resources, and resourcefulness, in addition to external factors that are beyond our control. We then get to work assessing, exploring, and identifying, while I hold them accountable to the actions they plan, celebrate their breakthroughs, and help them stay optimistic and supported during doubtful times.

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

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

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

So yes, along with being an occasional know-it-all and helper, I was a bossy big sister.

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

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

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

As my own personal development became my primary occupation, I was led to live and later train at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I learned from some of the world’s best teachers of transformation. I’d never planned to become a yoga teacher but, in the midst of this major change, I had told myself that I wanted my next job to be one in which I “helped people and wore comfortable clothes.”


Two years later, I moved to the Boston area to lead my own transformational workshops and yoga classes, and write about conscious living.

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

I believe our ideal careers are found at the intersection of what we’re good at (aka our strengths, which you can assess here), love doing, and find meaningful. We then need to factor in our financial needs, and it’s extra fulfilling if our work serves “the world’s great hunger,” as theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote.

Here’s what else I believe:

–There are career clues in what you’ve always loved and enjoyed doing well. If you’re contemplating a career move, take 20 minutes to write about this. Learn to trust your gut and heart when saying “Yes” and “No” to opportunities (even when we don’t know what is next, we can get good at discerning what is not). Follow leads that feel enlivening, even if they make no sense. Give yourself permission to want what you want and hold firm to what’s essential to you. I’ve seen my clients attract dream jobs this way.

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

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

Doing work that we love is energizing, and feels like play. Using our strengths and skills in ways that are enjoyable and meaningful is essential to thriving in life. In addition to doing that in your job, other outlets include volunteer, family, creative and community projects.

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

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

Kim Childs is a 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.

Healing the Pain of Losing a Pet

Last fall, I was awakened one night by the insistent paw of my cat Sweet Pea, who was eager to head out on her nocturnal adventures. I followed her to the door, where she hesitated, as she sometimes did when the cold air hit her nose.

My beloved Sweet Pea

My Sweet Pea

“You want to go out? Go!” I said, impatiently nudging her so I could close the door and go back to bed.

I didn’t know it was the last time I would see her alive.

When Sweet Pea didn’t appear for breakfast and our morning cuddle, I set out to post notices and photos online and around the neighborhood. After a sleepless and agonizing week, and several false leads involving look-alike cats, I shouted to the heavens, “I need to know!”

The next morning, I discovered that my beloved little fur baby had been killed by another animal.

My anguish and anger kicked off a long spell of grieving. I took my cat’s death personally, and I took it hard. What I’ve since learned is that these are not uncommon responses. So many people who hear my story shake their heads in sympathy, recalling their own deep pain upon losing a pet.

“It’s been years, and I’m still not over it,” is something I heard from more than one person.

“The loss of an animal companion is incredibly painful,” says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, a teacher and coach at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. “They live so deeply inside our hearts. Free from the complications of human relationships, the unconditional love and companionship they offer us is magically bonding, and losing those connections is truly heartbreaking.”

Our animal companions mark our daily routines, Futuronsky notes, and our care for them is intimately woven into the fabric of our lives. We conveniently forget that we will most likely outlive them as we develop deep bonds with these affectionate, innocent creatures who ask so little and forgive us everything.

While we don’t typically get bereavement days for the death of a pet, and not everyone will understand our need to mourn, Futuronsky says we can heal by being true to our feelings and finding safe places to share them. “After my dog Lucy passed, I asked people to send me their remembrances of her, and I received pictures and memories,” she recalls. “My reaching out to others was supportive.”

I held a backyard memorial service for Sweet Pea, with neighbors who loved her. We sipped cider as we shared stories of her antics, and we sprinkled catnip on her grave to say goodbye…and thanks. I also received touching condolence cards from friends and clients, and a surprise bouquet of flowers from the elderly couple next door who wrote that they, too, were “heartbroken over the loss of such a delightful soul.”

The traumatic death of my cat came on the heels of my divorce and several other family losses and challenges over the past two years. This compounded and complicated my grief, as I learned from helpful and validating books and blogs on the particular pain of losing a pet.

Dr. Becky Schoenberg, a Boston-area veterinarian who focuses on end-of-life care for pets, says people who’ve lost animal companions need permission to grieve, a community of people who understand, good self-care, and memorial objects or ceremonies that honor the special relationship.

“Over and over, I hear people say, ‘This sounds silly, but I’ve never cried this much over a human loss,’” says Schoenberg. “I think their grief is sometimes accompanied by a sense of guilt or culpability, even when the animal’s suffering is completely out of their control. There’s something about the responsibility we feel for pets, and the ways in which we’re their source of everything, that makes it so hard to face their loss.”

Allowing ourselves to retreat from the intensity of these feelings, with such healthy distractions as good movies, friends, and recreation, is another important strategy for healing. It’s also helpful to remind ourselves that the pain will lessen in time.

Still, there might be moments—passing a pet store, seeing a photo, or discovering a chew toy under the chair—that trigger tears. It’s just part of the unpredictable nature of grief, and reflective of the love that was shared. I recently had one such moment while watching the movie I’ll See You in My Dreams, as the character played by Sam Elliot consoled Blythe Danner’s character, who had just euthanized her dog.

“It’s hard to lose somebody, no matter how many legs they have,” he said. “It just leaves a big hole.”

Indeed, these small creatures leave enormous holes when they’re gone, and indelible paw prints on our hearts. Our role, once their time with us is over, is to honor those relationships in ways that best serve and heal us. While there will definitely be another cat in my life, there will never be another Sweet Pea. I’m grateful she chose me, and for the time we had together.

Kim Childs is a Boston-based life and career coach who specializes in Positive Psychology. , creativity and spiritual development. She also facilitates workshops based on The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Visit to learn more and schedule a free consultation.

Reclaiming Our Lives

by Kim Childs, CPPC

In my courses based on The Artist’s Way, there’s an exercise that asks us to track our spending for one week. It’s designed to help us see where our money’s going and whether those expenditures reflect our true values. A similar exercise asks us to track how we’re spending our time for one week, hour by hour.

The results can be sobering for those of us who say we “can’t afford” and “don’t have time for” the things we desire, because they show us where we may be wasting not only money, but also our time and energy. Comparing what we say we want to do with what we actually do may lead us to realize that some changes are in order.

It’s the kind of accounting that prompts the question, “Is this really the life I want to be living?”

Without a doubt, we’re in the midst of a very noisy, distracting, anxious time in human history. We’re pulled in so many directions by electronic communications, omnipresent media and overfull schedules. People are working more hours and taking work home, and even kids have busier lives than ever. There’s a lot of pressure to do, go, keep up and produce, but at what cost?

If we don’t periodically check in with ourselves to ask whether how we’re spending the currency of our lives reflects our deepest values and desires, we risk losing our lives before they actually end. Such is the message of Bronnie Ware in her powerful blog, Regrets of the Dying, which cites the top five regrets of her patients in palliative care. Here’s what they said:

–I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

–I wish I didn’t work so hard.

–I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

–I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

–I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Do you see yourself in there anywhere? If so, pick the regret that most resonates and make a commitment to address it. I don’t necessarily mean adding to your “to do” list, but instead seeing where you can subtract any time-wasting, energy-wasting and even money-wasting activities from your life to reclaim resources for what’s more personally meaningful.

For example, if you have a latte habit that adds up to $25 a week, could that money be spent on a weekly yoga, dance or drawing class instead? If Facebook and TV suck hours from your life, could some of that time be redirected to conversations and visits with people you love or the pursuit of a new career or creative interest? Can you bundle work activities and errands in ways that free up chunks of time for fun, spiritual nourishment or self-care?

Of course, there are periods in life when the demands of family, illness, work or other obligations intensify and our time and energy for personal pursuits is limited. At other times, however, it’s more likely a matter of transforming any habits we’ve developed that rob us of precious resources and ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled.

To begin reclaiming your life, ask yourself these questions:

1 – What’s truly important to me in life? What do I love to do?
This takes getting quiet and turning within to hear the answers. In other words, it takes time and space for reflection – something that we don’t often allow ourselves. Give yourself an uninterrupted chunk of time, pen and paper at the ready, to explore and note your answers.

2 – Where do my current choices reflect that? Where don’t they?
This is where an inventory of how you are spending your time, energy and money comes in handy. Get real about the way you are actually using these resources, and see where you can reclaim some of them for your deeper desires.

3 – What is one small step I can take this week to reclaim my life?
After you’ve identified a place where you’re wasting time, energy or money, make a decision to plug the leak and use the reclaimed resource for one of your answers to question 1. Remember that small steps are easier to take, maintain and build upon. They’re also less threatening to the part of us that hates change.

Reclaim your life for what truly matters to you. It’s not too late.

Kim Childs is a 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 via phone or video chat.

Romance Your Life Right Now

by Kim Childs, CPPC

A few days ago I woke up on a cloudy morning with worries on my mind. Some journaling helped me to see that there was sadness beneath the anxiety.  As I finished writing, the sun poked through and I decided to go for a walk in my favorite park. There were just a few of us out there, which inspired me to greet every person I passed. My mood improved a bit with each friendly exchange and, on the way home, I had another inspiration…

I plunked right IMG_1482down and made a snow angel.

This playful act lightened my heart and made me smile, thinking of those who’d come upon my angel later on, perhaps at the very moment they needed a boost…or a blessing.

From then on, it was an awesome day.

Whether or not we have someone special beside us this Valentine’s Day, we can each take responsibility for romancing our lives – and ourselves – whenever we like. After all, how do we really want to treat the person we spend the most time with? Here are some ways to be your own valentine:

Create rituals – Each day, the demands of modern life and electronic communications are relentless. If we don’t deliberately take time for what we truly value, we’re always at the mercy of other people’s agendas. Daily rituals can include journaling, prayer, exercise, meditation, writing a gratitude list, setting positive intentions for the day, writing about what we’re looking forward to or what went well each day, or simply sipping  coffee or tea in sweet silence.  Rituals are about intentionally and consistently unplugging from the busyness of life to honor what is personally meaningful. Candles, incense and music can enhance your rituals, if that feels inviting.

Go play – Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, advises those who want to recover their creativity to take an Artist Date each week. Its sole purpose is to “refill the well” of inspiration and sensory pleasures. These self-directed play dates can include museum trips, concerts, dance and art classes, neighborhood strolls, walks in nature, visits to unusual shops, finger painting in the kitchen and dancing in the living room. Invite your inner kid to set the agenda, and show up with enthusiasm.

Fluff your nest – Do you live in a space that feels good and reflects what you love and value? Do you surround yourself with colors, fabrics, pictures or objects that delight and comfort? If not, begin to “fluff your nest.” It may begin with clearing clutter, which fosters calm and a sense of spaciousness, while making room for new things and energies. Start small, keep it manageable and appreciate yourself each time you let go of what no longer serves you.

Savor the good – The field of Positive Psychology recommends this practice as a way to improve mood and prime the brain for more positivity. It simply involves focusing on what’s good in our lives and saturating the mind with appreciation for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Throughout the day, pause to savor what’s good, including creature comforts, special people, simple joys and natural beauty. Pay attention to what life is constantly offering, even – and especially – during stressful times.

Pause to pat yourself on the back – It’s easy to go through life moving from one activity or achievement to the next and striving for new opportunities without pausing to acknowledge what we’ve done. While self-improvement is a worthy pursuit, it’s important to periodically note all that you’ve already done and accomplished in life. Try saying, “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough,” and remember to honor your strengths and talents, especially the ones that you take for granted.

Give thanks, often – Cultivating gratitude, another fundamental Positive Psychology practice, nurtures a lasting romance with life. Whether it’s noting and savoring things you are thankful for, or giving thanks for misfortune that did not happen and problems that have disappeared, there is always something for which to be grateful. An “attitude of gratitude” can create immediate feelings of abundance, and sweetness that lasts longer than a box of fancy chocolates.

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

Rethinking January

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As 2015 came to a close, I felt ready for a long winter’s nap in the wake of some family losses and hardship. “I want to take January off!” I told close friends, while going ahead with business as usual. Well, 2016 was barely a week old when an upper respiratory infection forced me to spend a lot of time “off,” reading all those books I’d wanted to read and starting the contemplative practices I was craving. th


In recent years, I’ve been rethinking all that gusto we have for new activities in January. I find winter a time for going in – literally and figuratively – and an opportunity for reflection and renewal. Taking cues from nature’s stillness at this time of year would serve us all well. And so, instead of writing a blog this month, I’m sharing this super helpful article by my dear friend and colleague Portland Helmich about making the most of winter.

Squash soup and a good book, anyone?

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.

Small is Big for Making Changes

by Kim Childs, CPPC

In my Positive Psychology training, I learned about the Japanese word kaizen, which kaizen1means continuous improvement and represents how Japan rebounded from the devastation of the Second World War. I believe in the power of small and sustainable changes toward any new goal we have. It keeps the brain from signaling “Danger, danger!” and triggering sabotage as we try to stretch beyond our comfort zone, no matter how positive the new direction.

That’s the thing about change. It’s rarely comfortable, so “Easy does it” helps.

In my own efforts to be healthier and happier, kaizen has shown up over the years as: a daily green smoothie habit that helps me to consume more veggies, morning journaling for clarity and self-knowledge, regular walks for exercise and stress reduction, and the practice of pausing to notice, question and adjust my thoughts when they’re headed downward.

In the New Year I’m trying on 2 days of weight training a week and 8 minutes of meditation each day (it’s just one of my favorite numbers).

While I’ll likely get to other agendas and improvements in 2018, these modest goals set me up for success. I’ve seen this in students and clients, too, as they make small changes that are easy to sustain and lead to bigger rewards. One client of mine has found that just 20 minutes of reflection and reading in the morning leads to a better day.

It’s helpful to attach new habits to existing ones, by the way. Examples include: composing a gratitude list while walking the dog, reciting positive affirmations when looking in the mirror, listening to inspirational teachers on the daily commute or in the kitchen, and practicing mindfulness in traffic.

The idea is to make small changes in favor of what really nourishes and inspires us, versus resolving to demolish bad habits, which can feel punitive. When we keep those changes small and enjoyable, we can maintain and build upon them more easily. This fuels our confidence and motivation to keep going, and that just feels so much better.

It’s also easier to rebound from slips when the change is small, and to get right back on track.

“As you know, most New Year’s resolutions are worse than useless; they don’t lead to real change and we feel bad about not sticking to them,” says my favorite neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. “But if you think of this as feeding yourself, being good to yourself, giving yourself a big wonderful gift each day, nourishing something that will pay off big for you…well, it sure is a lot easier to keep treating yourself well in this way.”

I wish you big rewards from small changes in 2018. May you devote more of your precious time and energy to what truly nourishes you and cherish your life one day, and one tiny change, at a time.

And if you want to share your small change below, know that I will be cheering you on!

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 Zoom/Skype.


Help for Hard Times

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This month, I’m personally processing another loss as I witness the suffering of so many around the world. I’m learning more about the demands and stages of grief, the words prayer-quotecards-201511-card-6-480x480and gestures that are most helpful to those who are grieving, and ways to cultivate gratitude and other positive emotions when times are hard. I plan to share lessons from this particularly challenging loss later on. Meanwhile, I’m offering resources that have helped me in the following posts and articles. I also recommend honoring difficult feelings in writing or with a good friend, therapist, coach, spiritual adviser or clergy member. Whether you or someone you care about needs comfort and support as we head into the holidays, it’s my hope that we practice extra kindness with each other and find reasons to give thanks amid challenges. Gratitude, appreciation and compassion are uplifting emotions and heart-expanders when hardships would otherwise make us want to close down.

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.


Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

by Kim Childs, CPPC

About 20 years ago, I was washing dinner dishes and listening to a lecture by a spiritual teacher when he said something that made me pause. Talking about how we humans often perpetuate our own suffering, he startled me with the words “Your mind is not always your friend.”542df4668ade92564c808fceeed153d0

“What?!” I exclaimed, as a former straight-A student who valued her intelligence and sharp mind.

But what this teacher actually meant is tidily summed up in one of my favorite bumper stickers, which says:

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

The number of thoughts we have per day is estimated to be upwards of 70,000, but what’s really worth noting here is how so many of them are repetitive, negative, critical and just plain unhelpful. Many are also untrue, and we really get into trouble when we latch onto those.

To the mind’s credit, it is biologically programmed to scan for danger and keep us vigilant and protected. It’s how we’ve survived as a species, and we don’t want to lose that handy facility. We want to respond to real (versus imagined) threats, keep ourselves from real (versus perceived) harm, and have good plans for handling real (versus projected) problems and crises.

The truth is that, during the course of an average day, much more is going right for us than is going wrong, which is why a focus on the negative is unwarranted. We need to challenge the mind’s tendency to make up and dwell on distressing stories before checking out the facts and considering other scenarios. I recommend the practice of questioning or “staring back” at distressing thoughts and finding truer, or equally true, and better feeling thoughts to counter them. Martin Seligman, the acknowledged father of Positive Psychology, calls this thought disputation. Here are some examples:

Painful thoughts: “Jane didn’t call me on my birthday. She doesn’t really care about me.”
Disputation: “Jane has always reached out to me on my birthday. She must be really busy.”

Painful thoughts: “My boss didn’t comment on that report I submitted. She must think it stinks.”
Disputation: “My boss has often praised my work. Maybe she hasn’t seen this report yet.”

Essentially, it’s about waking up from the trance we fall into of wallowing, obsessing and  ruminating over our most painful thoughts. I’m not talking about suppressing painful emotions, which are healthy and natural responses to life’s inevitable losses, violations and disappointments. But after we allow emotions to move through and guide us to any necessary actions, it’s time to move on and tell ourselves better stories about what’s next.

I love the saying, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination,” which tells me that, after making plans to handle any looming trouble, I should focus on what I desire to happen and what greater good is still possible. In coaching we call this a solutions focus.

Byron Katie is spiritual teacher whose own mental breakdown led her to create a thought challenge process called “The Work.” Designed to liberate us from painful thoughts and facilitate greater insight and healing, it involves writing down a stressful thought (e.g. “I’ll never pay off this debt.”) and then asking the following four questions about it:

–Is it true? (“Well, it sure feels true when I look at that credit card balance.”)
–Can I absolutely know it’s true? (“Not really, because unexpected income is always possible.”)
–How do I react—what happens—when I believe that thought? (“I feel constricted, angry, hopeless and desperate, which doesn’t support creativity or positive action.”)
–Who (How) would I be without this thought? (“Hmmm…probably calmer and more inspired to try new business ideas, make new contacts and be open to better fortune.”)

When I practice Seligman’s and Katie’s methods, I catch and dispute my worst thoughts before they spin out of control. This gives me access to inner resources, including creativity and wisdom. If there are actions to take and remedies to create for solving problems, I’m then prepared to take them and make them. I can then use my beautiful mind to ask, “What’s right?” and “What else is possible?” instead of “What’s wrong?” as the process of Appreciative Inquiry recommends. This builds on what’s working and cultivates optimism and energy for making choices that serve my greater good.

Now firmly in midlife, I can honestly say that this practice has changed my life for the better. If you’d like to try some Appreciative Inquiry, you can do so here right now.

Here’s to your beautiful mind. May you use it for good.

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.