Life Coaching to Make the Most of Springtime’s Energy

life-coaching-transitionsSpring is green, new, alive. The childhood stage of the seasons. As nature wakes from its winter slumber and you observe the first pale green leaves unfolding, you might feel a renewed energy to tackle your to-do list, or start a new project. As a Washington, DC life coach, I know that during this time I’m going to get lots of new questions from my clients about what they should be doing, or how to manage their to-do list.

Focus on Fulfillment

We try to be the best we can be by scheduling ourselves, writing to do lists, and taking classes. What we really need is time management to do what we love … that is also fulfilling. Discover what fulfills you by getting in touch with who you really are:

  • When was the last time you received a compliment that really made you feel good? What were you complimented for?
  • In what types of activities or pursuits do you really shine?
  • What feels like drudgery?

Most adults already know what they do well, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. We often do certain things out of obligation, because they’re trendy, because our friends are doing them, or because we have a degree or specific training in something. Ignore all that noise, and instead listen for the voice nudging you in a certain direction, rather than focusing on what you think you “should” be doing.

Awareness + Action

Elite athletes and those seemingly “natural” leaders we have all observed throughout our lives are good examples of people taking joyful, systematic steps to reach their goals. These people know their strengths and are unapologetic about them. They have keen self-awareness of their goals and strengths (“knowing”), and back this up with organization and action (“doing”). They methodically manage their time and energy. At the end of the day, they are able to perform at a level that surpasses most people’s imagination by knowing themselves. (Read more about how to approach your life like a professional athlete here. Read about how great leaders are able to rise above negativity and other people’s opinions here.)

Life Coaching Steps to Make the Most of Springtime’s Energy

Step 1: Think about your “curiosities” or “interests”. You can’t have too many! Consider and play with the many things that interest you, without agenda. Recognize and label what works and build on that. (Read my life coaching tips on how to discover your childlike curiosities here.)

Step 2: Set some “homework” for yourself and pursue it without agenda. Here are some suggestions:

– Want to learn to grow your own food or flowers? Matthew Keller, postdoctoral fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in Richmond, studied 500 people in the U.S. and Canada and found that the more time people spent outside on a sunny spring day the better their mood. Your local nursery or home improvement stores may offer introductory and advanced gardening courses. YouTube is a treasure trove of information on organic gardening, how to deal with specific pests or what variety of tomatoes does best in Washington, DC.

– Want to read more, but are stuck in a rut? Visit your local library and talk to one of the librarians there about your interests, create Goodreads.com account and connect with some people who share your interests or better yet start a book club. There is no better motivator to get away from your daily grind and into reading than a fun monthly meeting with interesting people you can laugh with.

– Have a topic you want to learn more about? Discover some new podcasts. Starting your day with gratitude journaling (I wrote a how-to here), setting positive intentions and listening to a podcast on iTunes or elsewhere is one of the most uplifting ways to infuse your day with new ideas, excitement and possibility.

Step 3: Remember to capitalize on the action of springtime. Like a kid enjoying the warm weather, tell yourself it’s okay to create, express and act on a feeling of exuberance and fulfillment. Practice mindfulness and gratitude for who you are, and what is good in this moment, right now. Let the new beginnings you are witnessing all around you move you to act in authentic ways that fulfill you.

at-desk-brightIf you get stuck, enlist an ally to help you in this work. My clients overwhelmingly tell me that they’ve discovered fulfillment through life coaching, and a whole new approach to their lives. (Read my many happy client testimonials here.)

Contact me today 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 Love Your Life & the World Around You

life-coaching-loveOscar Wilde once said: “To love one’s self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” It’s true that a life of romance begins and ends with you. Yet, just focusing on loving yourself may not be enough.

If you have been working on self-help and self-love in the name of “being a better person” or “bettering your life” … yet are still consumed with anxiety, doubt and worry … you may realize that you need something different.

When it comes to the whole self-love movement, here’s what I believe:
focusing solely on loving yourself can be a lonely, isolating endeavor …

But when you focus on loving your life & the world around you … everything changes.

Over the course of our lives, we often forget that we have this very impressive skill: the ability to generate our own feelings. Like an artist painting a picture, you are the person who has the power to depict how you will show up each day. (Read more about the power of intention here.) And what is love but a strong emotion? So, instead of looking for love outside of you, why not bring passion into everything you do – getting dressed in the morning, cleaning your house, your office job, even packing your kid’s lunch?

When we show up in our lives passionately, love has no choice but to find us. We become more keyed-in to what we love, things that are already there in plain sight – and in turn even more passion begins to find us. This sounds like staying right where we are, the proverbial “blooming where we’re planted.” But loving our one, precious life could be the key to not only navigating life’s major transitions successfully, but also to creating lasting life changes.

Could loving your life and your world really be the greatest love of all?

You decide. Here are 7 examples that rely heavily on my philosophy as a Life Coach. Please note these are not the be-all-end-all to loving your life and the world around you, but just a list of things to spark your creativity.

1. Stand for something. By devoting your time and energy to a cause bigger than yourself, you elevate the conversation, connect with people who share your values and improve the world around you. A win-win-win!

2. Find time to laugh. Your calendar is full of appointments and obligations. Why not prioritize a glass of wine, a coffee or a “game night” with a friend or family member who makes you laugh? Studies continue to show it really is the best medicine.

3. Practice gratitude. Train your brain to see the blessing in everything. Create a gratitude ritual and build it into your day. Read through your gratitude journal on days when your mood needs a boost. (Learn how to keep your own gratitude journal here.) These small habits can have hugely transformative effects.

4. Accept help. There is an art to accepting offers of help and compliments gracefully. Learn and practice this. It will help you tune in to the beautiful life you are creating.

5. Create space. Why do we fill our lives with so much, all the time? Instead of trying to control, schedule or manage every aspect of your life, give the world the chance to surprise you from time to time. In my travels abroad, I’ve learned that the French are very good at this. Learn more about creating space from my post last month about creativity.

6. Chat with one new person every day. Make it a point to say “hello” or compliment at least one stranger at your local coffee shop or at work. Express gratitude to your bus driver or to anyone who serves you during the day. You might be surprised at how many conversations this starts, and how many interesting people are all around you.

7. Put a “velvet rope” around your life. We often spend precious energy “dealing with difficult people,” but there is another way. Remember that it’s up to you to decide who you let into your life and how deeply – and that excusing yourself from a conversation, changing the topic to something more constructive, deleting an offensive post on your Facebook wall or “unfollowing” someone on social media with no further comment can be easier than you think. You don’t necessarily have to end a relationship over bad behavior, but creating boundaries and “sacred space” will help you fall more in love with your life. If you are naturally guarded, this can mean taking a look at who is already inside your “velvet rope” and being more open to new faces and souls that inspire and lift you up.

at-desk-bright

Life Coaching: Love YOUR Life More

For all of these reminders, falling in love with what you are doing, a.k.a. “being present,” is the key. Whatever it is, from the most mundane of things to peak experiences, living with gratitude for what is allows every moment to be a celebration.

Need an ally in this work? I believe we can change our lives one day at a time. We have everything within ourselves to create the life we’ve always dreamed of. 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 if you need an ally in this work. 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
 Quiet.

       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)

take-the-wheel

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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Setting a Positive Intention for the Holiday Season

how-tohave-a-betterholiday-season_-set-a-positive-intention-3

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During this time of year when the days are short but the to-do lists are a mile long, it’s easy to start living life on auto-pilot. Here are some signs you might be:

  • Your “to-do” and “have-to” lists are endless.
  • You feel disconnected from nature.
  • You feel disconnected from other people.
  • You feel disconnected from your true desires.
  • You know exactly where you’ll be in 5 years – and it’s not exactly where you want to be.
  • You chose your current situation (like your career, location or what you do day-to-day) to please others, not yourself.

If you’re living life on auto-pilot, you might not be living your best possible life. Stopping to set an intention can be a great way to begin to shift things.

The change you create when you decide to choose a different intention can have an impact on your life right now and actually help you have a better day. Here are some quick ways to make sure your focus, attention and intention are in the right places.

1. Who do you want to be?

Most people focus on how much weight they want to lose, what job title they want, what kind of relationships they want in their life or what material possessions they would like to have. In setting a powerful intention, ask yourself who you want to be. Step back from past efforts to reach your “goals” and decide to be different. Be gentle. Be wise. Be someone who is creating a great life or a better career or financial health. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s one that can help you make a leap from living in a “lack” mindset to living a life of abundance.

2. Paint a picture of how you will show up today.

I’m not saying you have to bust out the watercolors here, this is a metaphor. Like an artist painting a picture, you are the person who has the power to depict how you will show up each day. One of the best things you can do is to consciously depict who you choose to be each day, by consciously setting your intent and reminding yourself of your dreams and goals. Gratitude journaling, a mantra in your morning yoga class, or any practice that works for you can help connect you to something deeper than your email Inbox or the news report on TV. Instead of constantly living your life reacting to the world around you, set your intention and choose the life you want. Make it your work of art.

3. Write it out, take it with you.

If you read my post about How to Keep a Gratitude Journal, you know that starting the day by being thankful has been scientifically shown to improve people’s lives. If you already have a morning ritual like coffee, yoga, a morning run or walking the dog, try setting your intention then. You can write out your intention on an index card that you carry in your briefcase or notebook. Keep it on your dashboard or tape it to a mirror – anywhere you’ll see it during the day. Review it before walking into an important meeting, and read it aloud when you can – especially when you are tempted by old ways of thinking.

4. During the day, watch your words & thoughts.

Check in with yourself during the day. How often do you worry, become anxious, fearful, or negative? How often do you talk badly about yourself, use negative words, or complain? These thoughts and words unconsciously send you out of your intent. Just observing them can be enough. Or, you can try to spin your negatives into a positive. For example, when I walked into my first kickboxing class I had immediate fears and anxieties. I quickly replaced them with my intention: that I was going to try something new, because trying something new was of value in itself. I reminded myself that it was going to be worth it.

5. Take action now.

Self-help is great, and many have benefited from self-help books and programs of all kinds. But self-help thinking can be limiting. It says, “I have to get it all fixed before I can move on to better things.” All of the working-on-yourself can keep you from really living your life. Life Coaching thinking says, “What would happen if I acted now, in spite of how I’m feeling about my life, or my capabilities?” Rather than focusing on yourself as a project, focus on your LIFE and making it better. Take ownership, take responsibility, take pride and place value on your time – and be the “boss” of your life. If you’re curious about difference between life coaching and therapy, click here.

6. Get Outside Help: Enlist a Buddy or Life Coach

As with any change, it is so much better when you have an encouraging partner to help you in this work. I have provided these suggestions to get your started, but sticking with it is where many of my clients have stumbled. To enlist the help of a powerful ally, call Catharine Ecton Life Coaching or schedule your free Life Coaching consultation today.

Are you living a life of “have-to’s”? If so, you might find your life becomes a bit dull and predictable.

You could:

  • Simplify your gift-giving with a gift swap or Secret Santa.
  • Give the gift of time to someone you love.
  • Swap out a tired holiday tradition with something that excites you, or that you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Take a cue from nature’s hibernation: shorter days and more darkness are a signal to take it easy and rest.
  • Set your mindset on giving and receiving.
  • Enjoy gifts of winter beauty, holiday lights, and the joy of children.

Everything in life is a choice, even during the holiday season. A life of “have-to’s” creates more stress, overwhelm and discontent. The adventure is in swapping out our “have-to’s” with “want-to’s.” Instead of constantly living your life reacting to the world around you, set your intention and choose the life you want. Make it your work of art.

at-desk-brightMany of my clients have told me that working with me through Life Coaching has given them the opportunity to discover their values, be intentional about their goals and to make a plan, take action to realize them. Here are some of the things my clients say they’ve gained as a result of working with me*:

  • 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 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 for Transitions: Adapting to Change

darwin-quoteRegardless of who you voted for, I think we can all agree that there’s more than enough being said the topic of the U.S. Presidential Election. I think we can also agree that something has gone very, very wrong when:

  • Friendships end over political views.
  • Family members do not speak to each other because of politics.
  • Ugly personal attacks play out on social media.
  • Violence unfolds on our streets.
  • Adults act like children, resorting to name-calling (calling political candidates “liars” or “bigots”).
  • We tear down women for their weight, looks, or modes of self-expression (from commentary about Hillary’s weight or “pantsuits” to shaming our First Lady to-be).

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and many of us are considering how we will handle gatherings of people we deeply care about, but with whom we might deeply disagree. How do we cope when we see this negative energy all around us?

Right now many of my clients are coming to me asking what they should do about these hot-button issues, how to deal with the inner turmoil they are experiencing, and how to handle the conflict they’ve had with loved ones.

No matter what side we are on, whether we feel the outcome of this Presidential election reflects our views or not, we need to remember we always have a choice.

We can choose:

  • to be continually curious about it all
  • to ask questions
  • to stay informed
  • to study up on the issues we care about
  • to stay in our own business, and
  • to stand up for what we believe is right.

These are the things we do have control over.

While we might not be ready to “calm down,” we can agree to act more like emotionally mature adults who are capable of expressing our opinions with respect.

We are beginning a period of gradual adjustment to a new political culture. It is important to hold on to your identity and values during this period. You may need to accept different behaviors, language, and decision-making while letting go of routines you have followed in the past.

Life Coaching: What You Can Do Right Now
A new environment can be a shock, and adjusting to it will be a process. There will be a special poignancy and even grieving for some as you leave the old ways behind and move in a new direction. How you handle this determines the course of your life for years to come. You have the choice and the opportunity to reconcile differences, recognize your own limitations, be open and accepting, and suspend judgement. Focus on your passion and where you find fulfillment. The Huffington Post has suggested many constructive ways to live out your passion and values through volunteering, donating to a cause you believe in, or simply caring for yourself. Make sure these things are always part of your day and your life.

at-desk-brightLife Coaching will give you the concrete strategies you need to keep you on track with your power, passion and voice. Many of my clients say I’ve helped them tap into their most deeply-held values and helped them have more self-confidence to create what they do want. I have helped clients start new careers, businesses and projects based on the things they are most passionate about. Contact me to schedule your complimentary 30-minute session. We can begin to chart a course out of all of this negativity and step into a fresh start together.

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Life Coaching: Top 3 Signs You’re Bringing the Office Home

top-3-signs-youre-bringing-the-office-home-3My hard-working Washington, DC life and career coaching clients often struggle with finding a healthy work-life balance, and “bringing the office home” with them. Most are high-achieving people, yet still unsatisfied with their lives. I put this list together to help high-achieving people learn to unplug from work and really begin to live their lives to the fullest.

Life Coaching Tips: Top 3 Signs You’re Bringing the Office Home

1. Your family life, hobbies or outside interests are suffering.

If you have nothing to talk about besides work, you are often late to family events or cancel on your kids, friends, spouse or friends you used to enjoy. Maybe you’ve stopped exercising or quit a personal hobby in order to achieve work goals. Perhaps your kids complain that you’re on your phone or computer too much. Any of these point to an over-focus on work at the expense of your home life.

2. At work, you find yourself spending too much time on social media, or sidetracked by Facebook.

Procrastination when you’re actually in the office could signal you’re putting in too many hours at home or on the weekends. You’re on overload and your brain needs a break. Instead of taking a real break outside the office, you’re sitting at the computer being unproductive.

3. You can’t get to sleep at night, or you wake up panicked about work.

This is a classic symptom that you’ve brought the office home with you; you’re unable to let go and the stress is ruling you 24/7. Not pleasant!

3 Tips from a Life Coach: How to Leave the Office at the Office

1. When you first get home, put your phone, laptop and all electronics in a drawer for at least an hour and do something totally unrelated to work.

This creates a little space between you and your work day. You’ll be able to prioritize the things you care about outside of work better after spending time regrouping.

2. Get outside, preferably somewhere other than a city street.

A walk in nature does a lot more for you than simply help you relax, though in our fast-paced world that’s significant in itself. It can also boost the immune system, relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, reduce fatigue and improve mood. Take a walk through natural surroundings like a park if you are urban (a city street has unfortunately been shown not to convey the same benefits!) and leave your electronics at home. This will fuel your creativity, which will actually help you achieve more at work.

3. “Unplug” by a set time every night.

Have a set time when everything will be turned “OFF,” no exceptions. Sending email or messaging colleagues at odd times like in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning destroys personal boundaries between work and home life, and signals that you’re always available.

Why Leave the Office at Work?

1. Increase productivity / creativity.

This has been scientifically proven! Down time is when you come up with your best ideas.

2. Get better rest.

Sleep is the most important time for your body to heal both physically (boosting anti-cancer cells) and emotionally (dreams to help you work through your daytime stresses).

3. You need a life outside of work!

We’ve all heard the old adage, at the end of their life, no one ever says “I wish I’d worked more.” They often say they wish they’d spent more time with their family, been there for loved ones, traveled somewhere interesting or tried an activity totally unrelated to work. Also, how boring is it to talk to people who have no interests outside of work? Don’t be that guy. Get a life – if for no other reason than to have more interesting stories at cocktail parties!

at-desk-brightThrough my work as a Life Coach, I’ve noticed that “workaholics” almost always have an issue with self-worth. They rely on external validation from bosses, colleagues and clients, work from a place of fear and allow others to determine their value. I work with my clients to instill an unshakable sense of self-worth which gives them the ability to set boundaries on their work life. They are then able to stay true to their most deeply-held values and work with a sense of freedom and abundance.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on helping you achieve a healthy work-life balance. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you for your free consult. 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: Get off the Hedonic Treadmill

get-off-the-treadmillMy DC Life Coaching clients often tell me that they feel stuck, like they’re on a treadmill. I recently learned about this concept, the “hedonic treadmill” and it fascinated me. Many psychologists and behavioral scientists have studied this phenomenon, and it may be a key to helping us live happier lives.

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the tendency of people to return to the same level of happiness – even in the face of major positive or negative events or life changes.

For example, researchers have found that if Sally gets a raise – wins the lottery – or even becomes a quadriplegic – she will initially experience a change in happiness levels. Very quickly though, she will become accustomed to the change in circumstances. She will quickly return to her original level of happiness. I have observed many clients and friends in similar situations during my time in Washington, DC.

During the late 1990s, the concept was modified by Michael Eysenck, a British psychologist. His “hedonic treadmill theory” compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place.

Let’s say we decide to start running in Rock Creek Park to get in shape. At first this new activity gives us a boost and good feelings. But the sense of achievement can wear off eventually. Boredom can set in. We don’t get the good feelings any more. Now we even feel guilty if we miss out on the daily exercise. That’s the “hedonic treadmill.” Similar to substance addiction or tolerance, a person has to do more and more to get the same effect.

Another example of this is someone who gets a raise, and moves into a bigger house. She might enjoy great feelings for a short time, but “keeping up with the Joneses” in her new neighborhood saps her earnings. She becomes accustomed to the new lifestyle and ends up at the same happiness level she was before. My DC clients report that this is an exhausting and self-defeating enterprise!

Life Coaching to Get Off the Hedonic Treadmill

So what can lead to lasting changes in happiness levels?

Modern materialism coupled with our natural desire to always want more, better, or newer means that just about everyone has experienced “hedonic treadmill fatigue” at some point in their life.

My Life Coaching clients often say they are tired of the same old same old daily routines, exercise plan, job, unsatisfying relationships and feeling of disconnection – from family, friends and neighbors. Our sessions together take them out of their rut and inspire effective work towards personal fulfillment that lasts.

Here are some “how-to” techniques – proven ways to boost happiness levels:

  • Helping others. Charitable actions have been confirmed to have enormous positive effects on personal well-being. One study found that those who displayed charitable actions developed stronger relationships with others, developed an appreciation for their good fortune, even improved their immune function.
  • Self-denial. Intentionally “going without” something you enjoy for a short time can actually make you happier. For example, ride your bike or walk to run an errand or your commute instead of driving. Denying yourself makes you appreciate the thing you love more once you have it again.
  • Live in the moment. View life as a process and events as “mini experiments” instead of a pass/fail test. Take the long-view and focus on what you’re learning and be happier.
  • What would you do if today were your last day? Jolt your system to attention and ask yourself this question when faced with a decision of any kind. You’ll gain perspective and motivation to be true to your guiding values.
  • Stay connected socially. Gathering a supportive network around you – whether friends, family, colleagues, or neighbors – has been shown to positively impact happiness levels.
  • Be the boss. A sense of autonomy or control over your life has been shown to be important to achieving long-term happiness and fulfillment. In taking control, we must not just follow our desires but choose which of our desires to follow. If you believe you often conform to social pressure, base important decisions on what others think or are very concerned about what how others evaluate you, you might not be the boss of your life.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation and we can work on getting you to more lasting levels of happiness and personal fulfillment. 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.

Want to get off the treadmill for good? As a DC Life Coach, I’m here to help. Call Catharine Ecton Life Coaching or schedule your free Life Coaching consultation today. In my blog about Life Coaching vs. Therapy, I discuss 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.

 

 

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Light Up Your Life: What Schoolchildren Can Teach Us

the person you become-2Fall can be a refreshing new beginning for my Washington, DC area life coaching clients with its cooler weather and new routines. I am brought back to my children as young kids, and their sense of excitement, anticipation and even nervousness about the new school year. Who would be in their class? What would their teacher be like? What would they wear on the first day? I also remember shipping them off to college, or starting at a university campus myself as a young person. That sense of freedom, new people to meet, new things to learn, new books to read and endless possibility was like electricity in the air.

I believe that regardless of our age, we can and should tap into this type of wide-eyed enthusiasm during this time of year. What can you learn this year as the country’s young people return to school? How can you cultivate your interests and give your life more meaning?

Try Something New

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, and while this can create anxiety, it can also release “feel good” hormones.

When you are engaged in what’s happening around you, you feel great. This kind of feeling not only creates joy and happiness, but also helps 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.

What about my “Passion”?

Many of my clients ask me, when making a career or life change: “People tell me to follow my passion. I don’t know what it is!”

The problem with the recent fixation on “finding our passion” is that people frequently have many interests. The “passion” question is confusing when one interest doesn’t stand out as being more ardent than all the others. So why not ask the plural: what are your passions?

Focus on Your Curiosities

What makes your heart pound and flutter when you leave work for the day? What feels like drudgery? What gets you excited when you face a Saturday with no agenda in hand? How can you make time for the things that really light you up, or where you really shine?

If you no longer partake in the activities or hobbies you’ve enjoyed since childhood, why have you stopped? When was the last time you read a really great book, took a class you loved or engaged with a fascinating teacher?

We often do certain things out of obligation, because they’re trendy, because our friends are doing them, or because we have a degree or specific training in something. Ignore all that noise, and instead listen for the voice nudging you in a certain direction, rather than focusing on what you think you “should” be doing. It’s okay to do things that are outside the box. They may not even make rational sense, and this might produce some anxiety. It’s okay to try something different simply because it piques your interest. (Read about the time I took up kickboxing – yes kickboxing! – here.) Remember: living an authentic life doesn’t come from people-pleasing, it comes from just being you.

Do the Work Gently: Show Up for Yourself

Once you decide what you are going to pursue, have a to-do or “homework” list that is flexible and changeable. If having a healthier lifestyle really lights you up, your list might include hiring a nutritional coach, downloading some exciting recipes or simply going for a walk. Setting realistic, measurable goals and holding clients accountable for their progress is my specialty as a Life Coach. When the work also aligns with their values, it happens more effortlessly.

Many of us are not used to seeing self-discipline in a caring way – as a way of showing up for ourselves, our interests and our desires. This makes doing the work possible, without self-flagellation, guilt, doubt or drudgery.

It’s one thing to work from a place of excitement, purpose and joy. It’s a completely different experience to work in an attempt to prove yourself and gain accolades from others. So take care to do the work gently. Do not use discipline as a workhorse to get to where you think you “should” be.

Working a day job while discovering and pursuing your passions demands a lot of time and focus, but you can honor both needs: one for economic stability and the other for authenticity. Even if we don’t work a day job, are going through a job transition, are retired or otherwise, it is easy to get sucked into the routine of life, never really doing anything that truly lights us up. But balancing career, things we “must” do like chores, and family or social life with our personal interests is critical to leading a full, enriched life with meaning.

Beware of attaching a desired “outcome” to every new thing you try. The best part of trying something new or tapping back into a forgotten interest 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. Just focus on what makes you feel more like you.

Recess

Remember having an hour of recess to just run, play, and jump? Carve out a little time each day or each week to give yourself a break, whether that’s doing a paint-by-number, or dancing to your favorite song. It may seem ridiculous at first to “schedule” this time, but it will help you have the discipline to show up for yourself. Don’t have any agenda for this time, but you might be surprised at what bubbles up. Human beings’ greatest creativity and solutions to ongoing problems sometimes are found when we simply disengage and give ourselves time to just be.

Light Up Your Life Like a Kid Starting School

First: Drop the frustration, burn-out and overwhelm about this very loaded “passion” idea. Think about “curiosities” or “interests” instead, and add them to your syllabus for this fall. You can’t have too many! Consider and play with the many things that interest you, without agenda. You may want to try things people have thanked you for, something you’ve always been good at, something you value or that lights you up. At first this might make you feel nervous, and that’s okay. Be childlike, and don’t feel the pressure to commit to just one thing. This is your life. Enjoy the process.

Then: Set some “homework” for yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • Want to read more fiction but don’t have a favorite author or are stuck in a rut?Join a book club.
  • Have a latent interest in science you never pursued? Research local parent/child STEM clubs and activities.
  • Have an interest in aquaculture or marine biology? Book a private kayak tour with a local environmental center.

Finally: Remember that passion is a feeling. Feelings come from within, not without. Like a kid starting school, create a feeling of passion from within yourself and 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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Life Coaching: Feel Better by Watching Your Words


Feel Better_
Here are some quick ways to take control of your speech, feel better and communicate more effectively with more intentional words.

Be careful with:

Never and always. They are extreme, final words.
– Break the habit of using the word depressed to describe yourself.
– Avoid the word hate. Again, too extreme and could even deplete your energy.
I can’t. You might end up believing this about yourself!
I doubt.
I’ll try. As Yoda famously said, do or do not do. There is no try.
I don’t have the time, or impossible. These are very self-limiting.
I’m afraid not. Avoid saying you’re afraid of anything, even in this figure of speech.
Just: “I just want to check in and see…” “I just think…” makes you sound apologetic and defensive. Take out the “just” and sound more confident, without really trying.
Actually: “I actually disagree…” “I actually have a question.” The actually makes you sound surprised or sorry that you disagree or have a question, which may connote incompetence.
“Does that make sense?” You want to check with the other people in the conversation to make sure you’ve been clear. The problem is, you come across either as condescending (i.e. they’re “too dumb” to follow what you’re saying – probably not what you want to say!) or you imply you’ve been incoherent. More than a little self-sabotaging.
– Drop “I don’t know” from your vocabulary. It’s a dead end phrase! And, I find that typically, the people I work with in Life Coaching DO know. (My job as a Life Coach is to help them really see and embrace that.)
Other qualifiers: “I’m no expert in this, but…” or “I know you all have been researching this for a long time, but…” You’re trying to soften what you’re saying, but you’re also undermining your own opinion. Be careful!

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These simple swaps will help you speak more positively, establish better leadership and get better reception from others:

Instead of I should, say I am choosing to, I would like to, or I don’t want to. This way, you avoid being the victim of your speech.
When someone asks how you’re doing, instead of saying I’m fine, say fantastic, great or something equally positive. Say this several times and see if you’re not feeling fantastic by the end of the day.
When you are agreeing, simply say yes. “Sure”, “all right”, “okay” and “yeah” sound reluctant.
If you catch yourself complaining, add the word and – and a solution. So if you hear yourself saying, “I’m tired,” add “… and I need to get some rest.” “I forgot … and I’ll set a reminder.” You are now providing solutions, which spins even a complaint into something positive and forward-moving.
Change your don’t to a do. Instead of “don’t throw the ball inside,” even your children will listen when you say “throw the ball outside.” Or, tell someone “I like it when you put your dirty socks in the hamper.”
Instead of telling someone I missed you, just tell them how great it is to see them. Live in the present instead of associating negative emotions with your meeting.
Always use yes, and … instead of yes, but “Yes, and” allows you to work through conflict in a healthy manner and helps you move forward.

Positive words to use whenever you can:

  • Certainly
  • Great
  • Definitely
  • I can
  • I will
  • I know
  • I will make the time
  • I am confident
  • I believe
  • All things are possible

Speaking with power and intention creates a sense of accountability and commitment to get the best from yourself and others. Your challenge is to consciously avoid using words that take away energy and commitment from your interactions, and ultimately, your actions.

DC Life Coach Catharine Ecton

at-desk-flippedSpeaking with power and intention will certainly help you feel better; this is one of the tools I use when talking about change with my clients. I believe that by working collaboratively we can change our lives one day at a time through Life Coaching. With the right tools, a few powerful questions and the intention to create something great, we can find the answers within ourselves … and get to where we want to be.

As with any change, it is so much better when you have an ally to help you in this work. To enlist my help, 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.

Many of my clients have told me that working with me through Life Coaching has given them the opportunity to discover their values, be intentional about their goals and to make a plan, take action to realize them. Here are some of the things my clients say they’ve gained as a result of working with me*:

  • 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 bullets 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 and we can work on making your life a more powerful, positive one 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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