Tapping Into Your “Horse Sense”

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” -W.C. Fields

horse-sense-for-coachesI was mesmerized by the interactions of a horse, unresponsive to training so far, and a professional “horse whisperer.” As the two interacted inside the ring, the trainer moved around the horse watching, walking, talking, petting, directing and even complimenting. After 45 minutes, trainer and horse had become partners. The horse whisperer was able to guide the horse to follow him, do figure eights, turn around, back up and more. What began as a tentative encounter ended as a veritable horse/trainer ballet.


Last week I had the unique opportunity to witness Louis Wood‘s work with an untrained horse out in horse country just outside Washington, DC. I attended this leadership program, the same one chosen by hundreds of Fairfax County First Responders, as continued professional development so I can stay on the cutting edge of leadership training and psychology to serve my Washington, DC life coaching clients better.


Later seated on the horse, Wood was able to move in different directions without using a bit or reins. He used his knees and heels to motivate the horse to move, without whips, tugs, pushes or food rewards. After an hour of this, the owner of the horse was brought in to saddle up and ride. In short order, she was astonished as she too was also able to ride and guide her horse bareback, under Wood’s close supervision.


“Horse Sense” for Professional Life Coaches

Before there was Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ), there was “horse sense.” The opposite of “book smarts,” “horse sense” is a great term for the practical knowledge and good judgment about ordinary life that so many people exhibit.

The term is completely applicable to the leadership principles and coaching competencies Mr. Wood embodies. His approach to leadership development is incredibly helpful for those who wish to engage the heart, mind and body to create meaningful partnerships with clients and colleagues, using the beautiful metaphor of his work with a 2,000 pound horse.

“Horse Sense” and Emotional Intelligence

According to psychologist Dr. John D. Mayer, who has published extensively on emotional intelligence, here is what EI is NOT:

  • Agreeableness
  • Optimism
  • Happiness
  • Motivation
  • Calmness

Someone with a high EQ DOES have the ability to:

  • perceive emotions
  • access and generate emotions to assist thinking
  • understand emotions
  • regulate emotions (of both yourself and others)

getting-my-horse-senseHorse whisperer Louis Wood would never have been able to accomplish what he did with the horse if he relied on his personality traits alone. Sure, he was a charming guy. But his “horse sense” had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with his ability to perceive, understand and regulate both his own and the horse’s emotions. He was able to take charge of and control what happened next with the horse because of his ability to manage the “mood” in the ring.

People who are considered to have high EI can solve a variety of emotion-related problems accurately and quickly. They can correctly perceive emotions in other people’s faces, gestures and words, and what the emotions convey. For example, they know that angry people can be dangerous, that happy people want to relate with others, and that sad people often prefer to be alone. High EI people can manage their own as well as other people’s emotions. They know how to use the “mood” in their own lives to promote specific types of thinking. Solving problems requires less cognitive effort for those high in EI.

This is why the old-school methods of “breaking horses,” according to Mr. Wood, are not only outdated. They’re less effective. In the same way, I find that when many of my life coaching clients come to me, they’ve (unsuccessfully) tried all manners of self-flagellation, guilt, pushing, striving and grasping to get what they want. This is why life coaching with an ally or guide like me can be the one thing that helps my clients break through to a new way of living.

You’re No Horse … I’m No Cowboy

washington-dc-life-coach-catharine-ectonAs a Life Coach, I am friendly and a people person. I develop great relationships with all of my clients, and we have fun with coaching. But first and foremost, I am not my clients’ friend. My primary role is as their advocate. My clients have come to the realization that they don’t need another parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker telling them what they should be doing. They are ready to pursue the life they were born to live, and have always dreamed of – not to please others or fulfill someone else’s dreams, hopes or aspirations for their life.

As your Life Coach, my job is to move with you, ask questions to bring you to “aha” moments, and work through my proven coaching methodology and toolbox to help you along in the process of self-discovery. It has nothing to do with me or my personality traits, and everything to do with helping you live life to its utmost potential. Unlike a friendship that involves give-and-take, a life coaching relationship is unilateral – it’s a one-way street exclusively focused on you and your goals.

Like the horse and his trainer, we establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect. We observe, watch, listen, and feel to learn from each other. (Read more about how Life Coaching differs from therapy or the advice of a good friend.) This type of relationship allows my clients to work through goals, achieve them and have a fulfilling life without so much frustration and overwhelm. I love the metaphor, but we can agree: you’re no horse, and I’m no cowboy. But if you sometimes feel like a racehorse, primed and ready to break through the gates and run the race meant for you (but not able to quite see what’s holding you back) schedule your free initial Life Coaching consultation today. We’ll chart the processes you need to remove fear, jump over roadblocks and squash any anxiety around them. Let’s explore how you can have what you want and live with more ease and freedom … the kind of freedom that comes with living life on your terms.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.


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Life Coaching for Motivation: How I Got My “Zip” Back


As a Life Coach, I’m endlessly fascinated by the topic of motivation. It seems to be at the core of so many of our struggles as human beings. You might be surprised to learn that I too struggle with motivation! I had begun to feel my early morning swims were becoming routine. Sure, I connected with people I enjoyed. It was great exercise. But I had stopped competing about three years ago. I began to ask myself, what was I doing it for?

My new swim coach

Dr. Delghi: my new swim coach is also a chiropractic doctor

Then recently, L4 changed coaches. Coach Delghi, pictured with me at the pool above, is also a chiropractic doctor. When she started working with us, she spent time asking the right questions:

What are your goals with swimming?
What do you hope to accomplish at practice today?
Why are you here?

Even though these were the exact same questions I had been asking myself, working with Coach Delghi I felt a renewed connection to the sport I love. This is because of 3 Cs that I also practice in my life coaching:

  • Connection
  • Caring
  • Capabilities

Connecting to someone who cares, who has capabilities and with whom I have a connection is helping me stay focused.

Life Coaching: How to Stay Motivated

Scientific American recently posted an article about motivation that backs this up. Researchers looked at students, athletes and employees, and identified three critical elements of long-term motivation:

Autonomy. Feeling in charge, self-directed or pursing an activity for its own sake (the opposite of feeling “forced” to do something) predicts how motivated people are to stick with a particular course of action.

Value. Reflecting on why an activity is meaningful to you specifically, or how it aligns with what you value, can make you feel more invested in it.

Competence. Plain and simple: if you’re good at something, you’re more likely to keep doing it. But what does that mean for those who are trying to master something new?

  • Researchers found that those who credit innate talent for their own personal successes tend to give up more easily when facing a new challenge.
  • Those who talk about getting there through “a lot of hard work” are able to sustain motivation longer.
  • Believing in yourself, and the value of your hard work, is key to keeping you inspired.

Life Coaching: How to Find Your “Zip”

So what are my goals for swimming? I told Coach Delghi I’m working on my “zip”. Here’s how:

  • Practically, I’m not trying to swim faster.
  • I’ve begun counting my strokes and breaths, working on becoming more efficient as I swim down the pool. I asked Coach Delghi how many strokes and breaths she takes. She’s such an efficient swimmer, I realized her count was above and beyond what I wanted to try for. Just working on minimizing my own strokes and breaths one at a time has really helped me focus.

The result: I’m not on auto-pilot anymore when I swim. I’m focused, putting more energy and thought into each lap.

Working towards an unrealistic goal can get frustrating, and can actually sap our motivation. The timing has to be right to take on a new challenge. Being in cruise control was fine for me last year last year. Sometimes switching it up to a new activity or regimen (like when I tried kickboxing) is more helpful.

But now I’m on a roll, and the momentum is carrying me forward. When I get home in the mornings and find my husband just waking up with his morning coffee, I feel ready and excited about my day. I’m already in first gear, ready to shift into second. It puts me in a positive and energetic mood for my day. I even find myself thinking, “maybe I should get back into competitive swimming …”

My “zip” spills over into other areas of my life and day. I find I have more energy, I’m thinking more positively, I have more focus, and more interest in connecting my “lessons learned” in swimming to new areas of my life.

Remember: The kind of “zip” I’m getting from swimming is a feeling. Feelings come from within, not without. I believe that when we work on creating the feelings we want from within ourselves, we inevitably watch the whole world open up like an oyster.

at-desk-brightIf you get stuck, enlist an ally to help you in this work. I’m here to help you. Call Catharine Ecton Life Coaching or schedule your free Life Coaching consultation today. In my blog about Life Coaching vs. Therapy, I discussed the differences and reasons why you might want to hire me as your life coach. You can also learn more about how Life Coaching differs from from friendship here.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on lighting up your life, giving it more purpose and meaning. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.

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How to “Become More Creative”

How to Cultivate Creativityin Your Life

This life coaching blog post was prompted by an insightful reader question last month:

“I noticed that one of your suggestions is to be creative. This raises the question for me, what would this look like for me? I wonder how many people get ‘stuck’ on that packed hot little word, ‘creative?’ “

Thank you so much for your question! Indeed “cultivating creativity” can be a big, intimidating goal, yet we know it’s one of the highest human impulses. Our culture often labels creativity an innate quality or natural gift. But many agree that creativity is a skill to be learned, practiced, and developed, just like any other. Here are 5 things you can cultivate in your life that may lead to more creativity:

  1. IMPERFECTION. Not everything has to be perfect before you write the next chapter, submit your resume, start networking, put your painting in an art show, sign up for an athletic competition. Perfectionism can be a form of procrastination. Another way to stay in your comfort zone is saying you “aren’t quite ready yet.”
  2. IMPROVISATION. Too much planning implies you have everything under control. Creativity challenges the status quo and gives you license to explore new territory.
  3. NONCONFORMITY. Twyla Tharp, dancer and author of “The Creative Habit; Learn it and Use it for Life,” suggests you stir up your creative juices by asking: Why do I have to obey the rules? Why can’t I be different? Why can’t I do it my way? These are impulses that drive creative people … and are questions the self-labeled “non-creative” people can ask themselves. Using creative thinking and an approach to your situation that is different from your norm can bring new ways of perceiving yourself.
  4. CURIOSITY. Maybe it is time to question the wisdom of always doing things the same way. Sometimes an imperfect balance can help you achieve more than perfect harmony.
  5. SPACE. Are you giving yourself the “space” to be creative? It’s easy to fill our lives with things, obligations, a quest for more. Of course, we want to fill our lives with more beauty, love and joy. But the problem comes when our quest for more (even if the quest is for “more creativity”) is built on “not enough.” We rush around, stress ourselves out and fill our lives with excess and still feel a lack. No amount of doing or getting or “trying to be creative” will be enough because it’s based in lack and scarcity. If you feel you lack creativity, perhaps it’s time to cultivate the SPACE to be creative (a desk for your paintings, a quiet spot to write, a secret thing you’re working on that no one else knows about, a time of day or place in nature just to BE).

Ground Rules for a Perfect World by Twyla Tharp

       No one present who does not belong – no observers.
       All the time in the world. No worry that you will be thrown out or
       that you will go in to overtime. 
       No goal other than to try things.
      No fear of failure; nothing will fail.
      No obligations other than to do your best. 
       We entertain each other: I challenge them, and they challenge me.
      Each date completes itself. The next day is new.
  • How do you see the conditions of your own perfect world?
  • What must you have and what can you do without?
Even this blog is a departure from my usual style … it is more creative! Thinking about creativity reminds me that we have the ability to make choices and build creativity on the solid skills of what we know and do best.

Want to “be more creative” but not sure what that will look like in your daily life? Perhaps you need an ally in this quest. Together with my clients, we find ways to move forward, achieve balance and fulfillment, and create a meaningful, fully-engaged life. Here’s how:

  • I am an Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Certified Professional Co-active Coach (CPCC), and completed my Master’s Degree in Education (M.Ed.) — think of me as a highly-credentialed personal trainer for living your best life
  • I use navigated conversations, powerful questions and encouragement to help uncover the best in yourself
  • Unlike self-help books or the Internet, I will work collaboratively with you. Unlike your friends and family, I’m an expert at the process of changing behavior … which is much more valuable than instructions or advice when you truly want to make a change.
  • As a trained and certified Life Coach, my job is not to ‘instruct’ or ‘advise’ you. My job is to help you explore and come up with the best choices for you based on where you want to be, and develop a concrete plan with actionable steps to get there.

I believe we can change our lives one day at a time. We aren’t broken and don’t need fixing. We have everything within ourselves to create the life we’ve always dreamed of. We are teachable. We can change. With the right tools, a few powerful questions and the intention to create something great, we can get to where we want to be. We don’t even have to know what “our best life” looks like, just that we want to live it.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on cultivating creativity together. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.


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On Listening to the Radio … and Being in the Driver’s Seat (Of Your Life)


At the beginning of the new year, I stopped listening to the radio in my car. This may seem a strange new year’s shift to make, but hear me out. Suddenly I have become more aware of and engaged with my surroundings. I am more present while driving. I appreciate the beauty all around me. I have thought about the people crossing in front of me at crosswalks and imagined their lives. I have lost some of the stress and sadness I have when I hear the news. This little change has had surprising impacts.

Rest assured, this isn’t the only change I’ll be making in 2017. Imagine we are starting the year with a whole new slate of opportunities. I’m not talking goals and resolutions. I’m suggesting looking at your time and attention differently from how you did last year.

What are the risks and what are the rewards of adding play, fun, genuine satisfaction of completing a project (big or small), developing new connections and celebrating personal satisfaction at the end of the day?

You have an opportunity every day to become more creative and less routine.

Life Coaching: Take the Wheel

You can do this with little changes, like I did in the car. I realized after I switched the radio off that I had been allowing what I heard to determine what kind of day I would have. With this small shift, I can decide what kind of day I want to have and then choose what “inputs” to let in. These small choices help set our focus, attention and intention in the right places. Instead of constantly living our lives reacting to the world around us, we can set our intention and choose the life we want.

The route to a satisfying quality of life begins with being aware of what you are doing and making the decision you want to improve on what works for you. Here are some examples:

  • Doing fewer things but doing them better
  • Talking more deeply with your family and friends
  • Finding new ways to motivate yourself at work
  • Being creative every day.

We tend to look at being “busy” as a hallmark of success. Really? I believe that “busy” word holds us back from an authentic and happy life.

In fact, it can have a negative effect and drag you down.

Listen to your own voice when you tell someone you have been “very busy”. How do you sound?

at-desk-brightWhy struggle with yourself? Don’t put off all those things you want to do, to be, to experience and to love. Find fun, find play and add them to your schedule. Re-organize your days with a new kind of busy and see where that takes you. Take the wheel and spend your time on things that excite you. With you at the wheel, your life will certainly have more of a chance of going the way you want it to.

Life Coaching with me uses exercises, tools, navigated conversations, and powerful questions to help you focus on creating your best life one day at a time. Imagine how you will feel about 2017 when this year is over.

What did you do to make it work for you?

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on setting powerful intentions together. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.


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Life Coaching: To Feel Alive, Try Something New

When was the last time

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Those who know me personally or who follow my life coaching blog might be aware that early morning lap swims are my thing. I began swimming for exercise later in life, and even swam competitively for a time. I’m an L4 Master Swimmer at American University, and it has added so much to my life.

Many of my clients come to coaching feeling stuck, stale and looking for change. Powerful questions are part of my life coaching toolbox. One of the most effective questions I ask my clients is:

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

I then listen for clues to help a client take baby steps to breathe new life into their situation.

One of the best ways to become “unstuck” is to get out of your comfort zone, take a risk and do something completely different.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

People who know me well know I also practice what I preach. I am constantly trying new things. Part of the coaching philosophy I learned during my life coaching certification with the CTI (co-aCTIve) Institute, an organization with a 25-year track record of success whose founders were among the initial pioneers of the life coaching profession, has to do with staying in balance. The CO represents “being” and the ACTIVE represents “doing”. As a life coach I have learned that it takes constant work to keep yourself balanced on the seesaw of “being” vs. “doing”. For me to feel good about my professional work I know I have to keep growing, learning and staying in balance. To stay fresh and invigorated I knew it was time to try something really different and stretch myself emotionally and physically.

I had always been curious about kickboxing, but was too intimidated to try it – and too much “in a routine” – to branch out. Swimming is quite a workout. It keeps me in shape. It’s my go-to “me time.” It’s quiet, solitary and there are no mirrors. I already have all of the gear I need.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

at-desk-brightKickboxing was WAY outside my comfort zone, so I decided it was the perfect “new thing” to try. I researched a class and found the one for me. I have to admit I was a bit relieved when I learned that we would not be hitting each other – or bags – during the class. I wouldn’t need any fancy equipment.

Still, it was a pretty intimidating situation to walk into. That first day I immediately noticed that the teacher was younger than me, in her 40s, very fit and had on the cutest kickboxing outfit. And there were mirrors everywhere!

Kickboxing could not be further from my comfort zone! Help, what was I doing?

But I had committed to this, so in I went that very first day. I hung towards the back of the class so as not to draw to much attention to myself. The music was LOUD and as the class began, I noticed how fast-paced the moves were. “What have I gotten myself into?” my inner voice cautioned. Then another voice, the voice of my inner life coach asked me: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

I could possibly be embarrassed. I might get really sore. I could be the worst person in the class. But then I reminded myself that none of those “worst case scenarios” were really that bad. I was creating most of them in my mind.

When trying something new, I advise my life coaching clients that the worst thing that will usually happen is what you tell yourself in your own mind. The good news is: you have complete control over what you tell yourself!

The potential rewards outweighed the possible risks, so I started in with kickboxing. As I studied the teacher’s movements and did my best to follow along, I noticed there were various degrees of physical fitness in the room. Some of us stuck to our own pace, not going as fast with the movements. We didn’t all have the fanciest workout clothes. At the end of that first class, every single person in the room was smiling.

Seven months later, I have surprised myself: I am still kickboxing! I found something new I love. I’ve met some interesting new people, and I am energized by it. My teacher would be happy to know I’ve even woken up some muscle groups I didn’t even know I had!

Why I’m Always Trying New Things

By trying something new for the first time, you might discover:

  • Adding a new skill gives you challenge and adventure, crucial values for someone feeling stale,
  • Learning something new requires focus and concentration, which keeps your brain cells stimulated and growing.

The Brain-Science Behind “Novelty”

Shonda Rhimes’s bestselling book “Year of Yes” is a case study in the power of trying new things. In it, the author (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and several other popular TV shows) discloses that she actually is an introvert who rarely tries new things. During her “Year of Yes,” she challenged herself to say “yes” to things she never would have before, and the results are life-changing.

When you try something new – like putting yourself in a new environment or trying to learn a new thing – your brain sits up and takes notice. Researchers have shown that the brain requires energy and focus to create a new “mental map” of its surroundings. The newness creates a sense of the unknown, even possible “danger”. For our ancestors, this “danger” was quite real: there was no guarantee that, when exploring an unknown part of the woods, a lion wasn’t going to jump out at any given moment. The alert, vigilant brain is the logical survival response. A release of hormones like norepinephrine and dopamine are part of this response, and can make us feel more alive and connected to our surroundings. Who doesn’t want to feel invigorated, excited, aware or “in the zone”? When things go well in a new situation, we interpret novelty and the associated feelings as good, even great.

Sitting in the same place all day at a desk – taking the same commute home every day – going to the same gym – eating the same meal and relaxing in front of the TV – provides zero novelty. Your brain can actually disengage with its surroundings and you might even go into an imaginative state. Don’t get me wrong: there is a time and a place for daydreams and imagination. But with this as the daily routine, it’s not hard to see why many people feel numb, like they are on auto-pilot. Many of my clients come to me when they are feeling unfulfilled or with a nagging sense that they should be doing more with their lives. When we try new things, we add excitement to our lives. We test ourselves, we learn and we grow.

“A lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.” Shonda Rhimes

Trying New Things Can Help You to Be Present

There’s no denying it: when you are completely engaged in what’s happening around you, you feel GREAT. This kind of feeling not only creates joy and happiness, but also helps to increase performance, productivity and creativity.

This is why traveling to a new place, taking a class or changing up daily routine can help you see everything in a new light.

Beware of attaching a desired “outcome” to every new thing you try. The best part of trying something new might not be immediately apparent. Sometimes the “new thing” can be slowing down, taking a walk in the woods behind your house, playing a game with your family or cooking a beautiful meal. Falling in love with what you are doing in this moment or “being present” is the key. From the most mundane of things to peak experiences, living with gratitude for what is allows every moment to be a celebration. Read more about gratitude journaling – another way to feel great, fast – here.

Warning: Trying New Things Can Be Contagious!

One morning in the pool locker room, I shared my kickboxing experience with a few of my lap swim buddies. The “try something new” challenge became contagious! A friend finally tried a Soul Cycle class she’d been wanting to try with her daughter, and other friends are planning new adventures too. Trying new things has taken on a life of its own, and we’re all riding the wave!

Life Coaching and Trying New Things

Are you ready to work with me, asking the powerful questions that can take your happiness, self-confidence and personal satisfaction to a whole new level? If you feel disengaged, like you’re on auto-pilot or less-than-totally-turned-on by your life, contact Catharine Ecton Coaching today. Here are some of the things my clients say they’ve gained as a result*:

  • Inspiration
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Awareness
  • Ability to go outside their comfort zone
  • A feeling of fulfillment
  • An alliance with me
  • New perspectives
  • The ability to stay focused
  • Better decision making ability
  • Peace & contentment
  • The ability to see themselves in a positive way

*All of the above drawn directly from my many happy client testimonials! Read all of my Life Coaching testimonials here.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.



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Life Coaching: 5 Life Lessons from France


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Spending the past two weeks in Paris with some of my grandchildren gave me the opportunity to observe and enjoy the playfulness, rich lifestyle and pure pleasure the French take in their daily lives. It is a culture devoted to beauty, tradition and pleasure. I hoped it would inspire my life coaching in DC, but I may have underestimated how much. I am more excited than ever to return home with my “French lessons” in mind.

For the French, the human experience is more about being than doing. Coming from the other side of the pond – and our success-driven DC culture specifically – I’m more aware than ever of the American messages to go bigger, harder, stronger. The French mindset is a refreshing perspective. We can achieve our goals in life … but we can also appreciate the journey. Call it what you will: taking time to smell the roses, being present in the moment. It’s the whole point of living an exceptional, meaningful life.

Here are five take-aways that I’ll be bringing to my coaching:

french-flowers1. Slow Down. Walk by a French cafe and you won’t see people frantically texting on smart phones. Instead you will see them sipping a cafe creme, savoring a croissant, reading and talking animatedly with a friend. With the American focus on productivity and over-scheduled lives, maybe we should take a moment to breathe, create a ritual for ourselves to relax and set aside some unstructured time doing what we love to do. Whether it is drinking good coffee, painting or reading, this time can be restorative on many levels.

2. Enjoy Life & Good Food. The French seem to have their cake and eat it too. Are they genetically gifted? I don’t think so! They appreciate the art of fine dining. They savor fresh vegetables, ripe fruit, bread from the oven, wine from local vineyards and critique each meal with an artist’s eye.

3. Move More. The common myth is that French people don’t exercise, and it’s true that you won’t find many Parisians jogging. But the truth is that the French do exercise … a lot! … because it’s part of their lifestyle. They are less sedentary, drive less, walk a lot, take the stairs, play games, swim and dance. Movement is a way of life, not something they drive to the gym for. While I won’t be soon giving up my morning lap swim ritual, this trip reinforced my belief that moving my body is a gift that I appreciate and indulge in daily.

4. Stress Less. In DC in many circles, “stress” is a badge of honor. Living a busy, harried and frazzled life is somewhat endearing. The ideal is a brainy, conflicted, even neurotic persona, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally or Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Many women with no clinical issues spend a lot of time in therapy, but still don’t feel particularly great about themselves. In contrast, my Parisian friends are calm, discreet and decisive. They have frustrations and disappointments like the rest of us, but always carve out time to appreciate the simple pleasures of being with friends and family and enjoying good food. It was contagious being with others who don’t apologize for truly enjoying themselves.

french-square5. Simplify. Why do the French seem to have more time to enjoy life? In part they haven’t inundated themselves with massive debt, too much “stuff” and over-booked calendars. The simpler your life, the richer it becomes. This trip reminded me to keep paring down, to simplify and create a life of meaning. A legacy for my grandchildren is to value the joy found in simple pleasures.

If you feel you’re in a rat race, on a hamster wheel – when you’re going through the motions and not really living your life – the hardest step is committing to change and focusing on what brings you true joy. If you are craving an exceptional life full of joy and fulfillment, consider working with me through Life Coaching. With the right tools, navigated conversations and the intention to create something great, you can discover ways to live your best life. Let’s get started now on identifying what you want and find a way to get you there.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person.

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Life Coaching vs. Therapy: What’s the Difference?


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Are you a DC professional unsure whether to hire a counselor/therapist or a certified professional life coach? The boundaries between life coaching and therapy are not always clear, but making the right choice between one or the other can make a difference in whether you get your needs met or not.

Key Differences between Therapy and Life Coaching

Improving Lifestyle vs. Changing Worldview. As a Life Coach, I help clients set up a plan to change their lifestyle, improve their business, or cultivate new relationships. Therapists work with people who have problems with thought patterns, emotional difficulties, or ingrained behavioral problems due to past or recent wounds, trauma, or a chemical imbalance that affects the way they see the world. If you are experiencing stress caused by your lifestyle choices, a coach can help you best. If you have anxiety caused by emotions and thoughts that emerge from how you see and interpret the world, a therapist or counselor will be a better choice for you.

Providing Accountability for Tangible vs. Intangible Goals. As a Life Coach, my clients set up measurable goals and we decide on tangible actions that can be taken to reach those goals. For example, someone working on changing his career will set a series of small goals that advance him towards that change. His goals may include updating his resume to his new interests, talking to experts from the field he wants to work in, or asking potential employers what skills and traits they value the most in their employees. The goals therapists set up with their clients may not be as obvious: they are directed at changing internal emotional distress, destructive thoughts, and problem behaviors. Sometimes counselors rely on their clients to self-report and determine if there is actual improvement in these “intangible,” somewhat unmeasurable goals. Sometimes they use evaluation tools to determine the client’s level of progress.

Taking Effective Actions vs. Using Effective Strategies. As a Life Coach, I work to move a client forward towards reaching his or her goal. The main focus is on taking a series of effective actions towards the goal. A therapist explores the origin of problems and finds new ways to confront those problems, focusing on effective strategies. The therapist holds the client accountable on using these new strategies, and the goal is consistent behavior.

Level of Personal Disclosure by Therapist/Coach. As a Life Coach, I tend to be more personal. This means I will work as your partner in a personal relationship that best meets your needs. Therapists disclose rarely, and usually only if they feel that their story can greatly advance the client’s healing process. For more clarity on what the Life Coaching relationship entails, see my blog post Life Coaching vs. Friendship.

The Logistics of Coaching vs. Therapy. Logistically, there are a few differences between life coaching and therapy as well. Life Coaches do not have country or state barriers to practice their discipline, and can comfortably coach via the phone or Skype. A therapist’s practice is limited by geographical location, and in some cases a therapist is not allowed to counsel severely distressed clients on the phone or via the internet. Insurance companies often cover the cost of counseling or therapy, but do not cover Life Coaching.

Indefinite Sessions vs. Planned End Date. Counseling/therapy can sometimes be a slower process than coaching. This is not always the case, but as general rule of thumb it is common to spend a year or two in therapy working on a comprehensive plan addressing your past, present and future. Life Coaching with Catharine Ecton begins with a three month commitment, and usually focuses on accountability for a very discrete goal or set of goals. Life Coaching with me usually includes a planned end date, within six months to a year of our initial session.

DC Life Coach Catharine Ecton

I believe that by working collaboratively we can change our lives one day at a time through Life Coaching. My clients come to coaching with the belief that they have everything within themselves to create the life they’ve always dreamed of. They are teachable. They can change. With the right tools, a few powerful questions and the intention to create something amazing, we can get to where we want to be. We don’t even have to know what “our best life” looks like, just that we want to live it.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person.

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Washington DC Life Coaching: How to Stop Making Excuses Now!

headshot-facebookI was recently interviewed by America Within as a Washington DC Life Coach who can help people stop making excuses. The fact is, I’ve become something of an expert on excuses.

As a Life Coach, I’ve heard all the excuses in the book. Here are some common ones:

  • there’s not enough time in the day
  • I’m too busy
  • I’m too old
  • I’m too young
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m over-qualified

Excuses can also take the shape of “blaming others”:

  • they are so stupid (not to hire me)
  • what is wrong with him (boss, boyfriend, parent)
  • nothing ever works for me
  • why bother

It can be difficult to move out of a mood of pessimism, stress or negativity to stop making excuses and take charge of the situation. I am a Washington, DC based Life Coach who can help you change your mindset away from defensive and aggressive thinking and behavior. My coaching helps clients focus on making a real, effective plan.

Excuses are obstacles that can keep you from change, personal growth and the things you want for your life. Read on for the full interview and tactics you can use to stop making excuses now.

AW’s Interview with Life Coach Catharine Ecton

AW: Are excuses a topic you coach on?
CE: Yes. Clients who come to me for life coaching are looking for help to make changes, move forward in their lives, feel fulfilled and find support in making a big decision. Many want the accountability of working with a coach to overcome procrastinating about making the changes needed to reach their goals.

AW: Why do people make excuses?
CE: It is not easy to leave behind your old identity: familiar habits and ways of behaving, the job you have been doing, the person you have had a relationship with for years. It is easier to find excuses and reasons why not to move forward to a place that requires new commitments. This is when people say they feel stuck. Getting unplugged from a stale or tough spot and finding the courage to stop making excuses requires breaking out of one’s comfort zone and creating new beliefs and actions that will bring results.

The shift can be emotional and challenging but the rewards are huge. A client recently told me, “your life coaching helped me assess where I was, figure out where I wanted to be, and find tools to keep obstacles from blocking me. It was amazing how much fun we had getting me unstuck.” I think most of my clients will agree that Life Coaching truly is a fun process. Read more Client Testimonials here.

AW: Are there tactics people can use to overcome making excuses?
CE: Yes. As a Certified Life Coach I have the tools, training and expertise to develop a plan with each client. We work to let go of past behaviors and excuses and take steps for new beginnings through:

  • examining where you are and where you want to be
  • verbalizing thoughts and beliefs about what works, and
  • taking action that builds on strengths and personal values.

One of my favorite quotes about making excuses is so simple: “The first step to getting anywhere is deciding you are no longer willing to stay where you are.” -Russell Peterson

I am a Life Coach based in Washington, DC and can develop a great coaching relationship with you wherever you are. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone. I can accommodate out-of-area or on-the-move clients via Skype and have worked with clients as far away as California and Dubai.

Those who live in the Washington, DC area have the option of meeting with me one-on-one at a convenient, mutually agreed on location. Do you want to stop making excuses, get unstuck, start achieving your goals and begin living the life you’ve always dreamed about? Contact me today! Let’s move forward together.

Read the full America Within article here: 5 Common Excuses to Overcome Right Now.

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Life Coaching with Catharine: My Background

headshot-facebookIn past blogs I’ve written about what I do, and why it’s important. Today I’m going to take a deep dive into my background and training, and how my journey has informed the deeply satisfying work I do as an enthusiastic, passionate and effective cross-cultural adjustment mentor and life coach in Washington, DC.

Cross-Cultural Adjustment: The Early Years

Since 1990, I have been working with groups and individuals who are relocating to the US from overseas, or from the US to an overseas destination. I know how important it is to identify and explore the stages of adjustment because I myself have relocated, both within the US and abroad, over 15 times.

After completing my Master’s Degree in Education (M.Ed.) in the early 1980s, I began my career helping people relocate. I was a consultant at the Department of State, Foreign Service Institute, training groups and families in cross-cultural adaption. I introduced workshop participants to the stages of adjustment and the challenges and rewards they can expect the first few months in a new culture. During this time I was also able to undertake intensive study of Spanish, French, and Japanese languages at the Foreign Service Institute.

In the early 1990s, I worked for the Marymount School in Paris, France training faculty members on ways to introduce and discuss relocation and cultural differences in the classroom. I wrote a curriculum called KIDS ON THE GO for use in international schools that explores cross-cultural adaption issues for youngsters. I worked individually with students on challenges they faced adjusting to a new culture and I spoke with parents identifying the stages of adjustment during their transition. I gave talks to groups on the various stages of cross-cultural adjustment and suggested tools for adaption.

In Washington I worked at the Washington International School as the Development Coordinator in charge of publications and volunteer programs. Many families relocated from overseas and sought support and advice on adapting to a new school and new culture. I was able to continue to follow my passion of working with people in transition, helping them find their niche through school activities.

After a move to New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina presented me with opportunities to work with people experiencing profound loss and disorientation. As a consultant and volunteer I gave families support and encouragement and listened to options for moving on emotionally and figuratively, away from the devastation.

My Training & Certification as a Life Coach

I decided to use my experiences and training to create a totally new career as a Life Coach specializing in cross-cultural adjustment. As a lifelong educator, I wanted the best training and coaching credentialing available, so I could in turn offer the best possible service to my clientele. I also made sure I spoke with several Life Coaches I knew and respected to get their take on coaching.

What I learned is that Life Coaching as a profession is relatively new, and at the moment is not regulated. Unfortunately, some folks who coach have not been trained, coached or credentialed themselves. There is no minimum for training or exam that every coach must pass before setting up shop as a professional life coach. Some schools offer programs where you take three hours of training, read a book or watch a TV program. As a result, the quality of coaches vary dramatically. Jennifer Corbin, the president of Coach U, one of the largest and oldest coach training organizations in the world, has said “I strongly suggest working with a coach that has been accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). The ICF provides independent certification that is the benchmark for the professional coaching industry.”

I completed life coach training at The Coaches Training Institute (CTI), an organization with a 25-year track record of success whose founders were among the initial pioneers of the life coaching profession. Seven Habits author Stephen Covey praised CTI’s manual Co-Active Coaching, and the organization boasts rigorous and consistent standards for its students. I learned their training methods while participating in classroom work, coaching practicum and teleconference coaching. It complemented my background as a life-long educator perfectly. I was proud to become certified as an Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Certified Professional Co-active Coach (CPCC) after a rigorous multi-day examination.

My Work as a Life Coach

All of these experiences and training inform the work I do today as a life coach for those relocating to the US from overseas, or from the US to an overseas location. I train others to learn to let go of an old community and build a new one with enthusiasm as they adapt to a new culture. I specialize in Relocation Coaching for individuals coming to the US from other cultures, especially Japan. I have a passion for and extensive personal experience with the Japanese community both overseas and in the US. I have helped employees of the World Bank, Foreign Service, International Monetary Fund, residents at the International Student House and other international professionals examine their cultural awareness, personal authenticity, intentions and choice to create and live extraordinarily fulfilling lives. Learn more on my Relocating from Japan page.

Life Coaching and You

Are you crossing the pond? Crossing the country? Changing jobs? Leaving your marriage?

If a change in your circumstances requires leaving your community, letting go of an old identity, making personal changes, giving up your job, language or culture, you are in transition. A change like this can knock you flat – or it can offer an opportunity to develop new parts of yourself. Contact me for guidelines and tools to help you adapt to your new situation and let’s chart a new course together.

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Life Coaching for New Beginnings in a New Year


Life Coaching in Washington, DC

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When I talk with people in the Washington, DC area, early on in the conversation the question “what do you do?” inevitably comes up. Our success-oriented culture here in the DC area places strong value on “what we do” for a living. As a Life Coach and Mentor, I enjoy telling people about what I do, why it’s so important and fulfilling to me personally.

What is a personal coach, mentor or life coach?

Why are so many executives and individuals in the DC area using the services of a life coach to catapult their careers, break free from 9-5 jobs, and to create better, more fulfilling, richer lives?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches, and I’m a member. ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” The Coaches Training Institute, where I received my certification, are global experts in ICF. Learn more about my background and training here.

Life or personal coaching is gaining mainstream recognition as a growing field to help people reach their goals and improve life satisfaction. Much of the research that has been done on coaching is on the impact and return on investment of executive coaching. But a recent study of former United States Senate interns in Madison, Wisconsin by ICF and Pepperdine University showed that those who received coaching increased their life satisfaction and improved their lives in the following ways:

  • overall life satisfaction
  • goal attainment and personal development
  • setting concrete, measurable goals
  • effective at creating change
  • seeking new solutions to old problems

What does a Life Coaching relationship look like?

In the interest of effective time management for my clients, I coach 90% of my clients over the phone. I can accommodate out of area clients via Skype and have worked with clients as far away as California and Dubai.

Those who live in the Washington, DC area have the option of meeting with me one-on-one at a convenient, mutually agreed on location. Typically, my clients like to start out by setting the tone of the coaching relationship by meeting for the first time face-to-face. Above I’m conducting one of these initial “get to know you” meetings with a new client for the first time over lunch.

Each coaching session is a one-hour intensive one-on-one conversation. The methodology is based on a partnership I create with my clients. The client sets the agenda and decides the subjects for life coaching. At minimum the meetings are twice per month, but some feel that weekly sessions work best for meeting their goals. I ask for accountability on our mutually agreed upon goals. I follow up and keep close track of progress through emails and reminders, and I ask for a three month (six session) commitment from all new clients.

How can Life Coaching help?

I provide life coaching to clients who are at a crossroads, looking for new beginnings, and want to get organized to move forward. Learn about each of my services. I specialize in:

As I mentioned earlier in this post, our success-oriented culture here in the DC area places strong value on “what we do” for a living. As you gather with colleagues, friends and family this holiday season, think about how you feel when asked “what do you do.” Is it what you want to do? Are you feeling fulfilled by what you do? Are there other things you want to be doing, whether professionally or in your personal life? Are big changes coming in 2015?

Make the new year the time you make a fulfilling life choice – whether you are relocating, changing jobs or adapting to another culture. I will help you find balance and purpose with a personalized plan that provides tools, skills and knowledge to face a transition with confidence. Call me today or use the tool on my homepage to Schedule Your First Complimentary Appointment. I look forward to working with you to create the life you’ve always dreamed of.

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