Revolutionize Your Conversations Now With Mindful Listening

Revolutionize Your Conversations Forever With Mindful Listening

Editorial credit: Sorbis

Have you ever been talking to someone only to feel as if they aren’t really listening to you? Do their thoughts seem to wander when you talk, only to interrupt you to get their thoughts into the conversation?

Or how about you. Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with a friend or partner, or sitting in a meeting at work and realize you have no idea what was just said? For the average person, this happens more often than we’d like to admit, perhaps more than once every day. You might even be interested in what’s being said but your mind has carried you into the past or future, to something that’s bothering you, or to your to-do list.

Listening seems like a natural skill that we all do, but not everyone remains present when someone else is talking. The most common thing for most of us to do is to start to think of our response instead of fully listening to what the other person is saying.

Thanks in part to the way the primitive brain evolved, our minds are always on alert for trouble or threats. If we’re not listening closely, our emotions may get involved. We may misinterpret someone’s words, and think they are saying something hurtful or uncalled for.

That’s why a technique called ‘mindful listening’ is the ultimate remedy. It encourages us to take a step back from our preconceived notions and focus fully on what the person is saying without judging them.

The Benefits of Mindful Listening

“Being listened to is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” ― David Augsburger

Empathy, connection and acceptance all begin with listening. These are some of the biggest things that we as humans want in our relationships. If we learn to listen first, I believe we can truly revolutionize all of our conversations with mindful listening.

There are valuable business rewards for practicing mindful listening, too. If you are in any role that requires you to influence others or convey your point of view, listening to their needs first is crucial. Any good salesperson knows to be quiet and pay attention to the customer when they speak – they will inevitably reveal many things you didn’t even consider. You can create collaboration with colleagues when their opinions are heard. Anyone who manages or leads others needs to listen closely. The most creative, successful people are experts at leading this way. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking and really listening to the answers.

Here are 6 mindful listening practices you can start using today to help transform your conversations:

1. Put your brain in gear before putting your mouth in motion. Instead of thinking through your response when someone else is talking, try to take your time. Focus on the other person’s words and what they’re actually saying without judgement. When it’s your turn to speak, mindfully pause and let the words come to you.

2. Be present. Let’s admit it. We all get bored, especially when we are talking to someone we know well. We may think we can predict exactly what they will say, so our minds wander. To pull yourself out of this habit, no matter how repetitive you think the conversation is, practice mindfulness by focusing on the words that are being said and the present moment. You will almost certainly begin to hear things you’ve never heard before.

3. Listen without prejudice. Try to catch yourself labeling the other person’s words, or putting them into a category in your mind. Take the words in without putting a judgment on the words.

4. Let go of agenda. Many successful people have been trained to focus on the outcome of every interaction. They may get what they want in business, but often “check out” when speaking to a friend, spouse or loved one. The conversation may seem irrelevant, because it isn’t taking them to their goal. The result is lots of hurt feelings when the other person’s needs, hopes or wishes – things they deem of utmost importance – aren’t heard. With everything we hear, we can’t help but attach our preconceived notions about how we things should go. But to truly listen mindfully, you’ll need to let go of having an end result and simply “be” in the conversation. Not only will you begin to enjoy the conversation more, but you’ll probably get more out of it, too. There certainly are times to steer a conversation towards a goal or desired outcome, but the bottom line is our loved ones need to be listened to without agenda.

5. Use body language. Making eye contact, leaning towards the person talking and even mirroring them can also help the other person feel heard. There is a whole science to using body language in interpersonal relationships and at work. To explore this topic further, here’s a Huffington Post article 15 Body Language Secrets of Successful People.

6. Prompt yourself to continue to be mindful with your speech. Summarizing the other person’s words (“here’s what I hear you saying,”) and asking for permission to respond (“I’ve formed some views based on what you said. Would you like me to share them?”) are great ways to remind yourself that you are actively, mindfully listening.

Implement these 6 tips in your daily conversations and watch as you become more likable, friendly and better able learn from every conversation you have.

Life Coaching for Mindful Living

at-desk-brightNeed an ally in this work? Changing our habits to become more mindful can be challenging. But I believe we can change our lives one day at a time. We’re not broken, and we don’t need fixing. 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 today for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to explore 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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The Most Effective Way to Change Your Life: Raise Your Standards

catharine-ecton-life-coaching

In my life coaching work with clients from DC and beyond, I work with people experiencing transitions. We often discuss that change is automatic:

  • The seasons
  • The year
  • The economic forecast
  • The aging process
  • Our children growing up
  • Our work situation
  • The political climate
  • … and more!

But our own personal progress is not automatic. We can evolve or get stuck. Even someone with a “perfect” life wants to continually progress and successfully navigate the inevitable changes that life brings.

Over time I’ve come up with some very effective ways for clients to make lasting change. Of course through life coaching, these ways are developed collaboratively with my coaching clients. But there are some commonalities to their very unique journeys that I’ve discovered, and I’ll share with you here.

1. Have a vision. Most things we tell ourselves we “must” do like goals or ambitions (to lose weight, to get a promotion, to make more money, to work out every morning) aren’t very inspiring. We have to push ourselves to do them, and achieving these goals takes all our force of will. More compelling is to ask ourselves, what will I create? For example, I can create:

  • A satisfying work life
  • An amazing relationship with my kids, spouse or partner
  • A strong, healthy body full of vitality
  • Financial abundance
  • An energizing morning ritual

This is our vision, the pull that excites us, gets us up in the morning and keeps us following through. It engages our emotions and energizes us. Yes!

2. Have reasons. When the inevitable challenges arise – the economy is stagnant, you’re tired and unmotivated, you get passed over for a promotion – you need reasons strong enough to follow through on your vision. This is where my life coaching clients use their most deeply-held “reasons” (a.k.a. “discipline”) show up for themselves and their deepest wants, dreams and ambitions. It’s in these challenging moments that your vision for a better life will carry you though. Do you have compelling “reasons” for the changes you want to make in your life?

Take the vision that absolutely excites and inspires you from step 1 and create sound, compelling reasons to follow through on this vision. For example:

  • How would you feel if in one year you had achieved your vision?
  • How would you feel about yourself?
  • How would you feel about your life?

It is so important to create strong enough reasons.  Having a powerful enough “why” will provide you with the necessary “how”.

3. Follow through every day. Can you remember a time – maybe when you were younger – when you were so focused on something that you thought about it every day? Maybe as a teen there was a rock band you really liked. Perhaps you had intensity about your favorite sport, or in college your favorite subject. Or maybe you can remember this intensity about your first crush. Whatever it was, it was so part of your focus, you had so much intensity of emotion about it and you reviewed it so often that you were almost able to draw it to you. When anything that would get you closer to this thing showed up in your life, you noticed.

It’s important to remember these times, because they prove that you CAN accomplish what you set out to accomplish when you follow through every day!

4. Develop rituals. Great athletes and musicians, the financially successful, those who have advanced to the top of their field, great parents, great spouses – anyone at the top of their game – all have rituals that make them who they are. Great singers take excellent care of their voices. They drink tea and lemon backstage before every performance. The physically fit work out regularly – and seem to enjoy doing so. Financially successful people pay their bills without fail and invest religiously. All of these people have non-negotiable rituals that make them who they are.

Along the same lines, don’t we all want amazing friendships, great love lives, strong families, fulfilling careers and vibrant health?

What cool little habits do you have that make you uniquely you? Maybe no one else does them – but this is why you get the great results that you do in that one awesome area of your life.

5. Raise your standards. Achieving lasting change is different than achieving your goals. You don’t always get your goals, but you always get your standards. There’s a familiar story about a baby elephant who was tied to a post by his circus trainer. When he pulled against the post, he couldn’t go anywhere, so he eventually gave up. Years later, when he was a fully-grown, two-ton elephant capable of pulling down the entire circus tent, he still accepted the constraints of the post and his shackles because that’s how things had always been.

What constraints are you accepting as a “given”? In life, we get our “musts,” not our “shoulds.” When something is a “must” it becomes part of our identity, our belief system. Doing it doesn’t require any willpower, because it’s who we are inside. The strongest force in your personality is the need to stay consistent with how you define yourself. Ask yourself: when did I decide to accept that limitation? We live out who we believe we are.

  • If it’s your “must” you find a way, in the face of all odds
  • If you do all your rituals, you have so much momentum to succeed

Catastrophic failure – failure of health, the loss of a job, the failure of a marriage – doesn’t happen all at once. It comes from all the little things we’ve failed to do:

  • Get up early
  • Make the call
  • Check the books
  • Eat your vegetables
  • Say you’re sorry
  • Go for a run

You do little things to make certain areas of your life a smashing success. That’s why you’re uniquely you – and you have a great life! But there is always room for improvement, and everyone wants to continually thrive and grow in their lives. During these periods of transition and “up-leveling,” it’s not what we get (more money, a slimmer physique, a great relationship) that makes us feel happy. It’s who we become in the process.

Life Coaching to Raise Your Standards

at-desk-brightNeed an ally in this work? Changing beliefs about who we think we are can be difficult. But I believe we can change our lives one day at a time. We’re not broken, and we don’t need fixing. 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 today for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to explore 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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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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