Tag Archives: change

In the Middle of Turmoil

My coaching client sighs. “I think I need to take a break from coaching. I’m so stressed at work and at home, I feel like I’m swimming in a riptide. Once I’m back safely on shore, I can have more ground under my feet and continue.”

I never force anyone to continue coaching, but when I hear this, I am hearing a need for coaching, not a break from it. I feel like saying, “There is no shore; your whole life is a river.” (I realize I shifted the metaphor from ocean to river.)

rapids_mountain_river__images_desktop_wallpaper-widePart of the need to “feel ground under your feet” is the word we use to describe someone stable and balanced: grounded.

We associate balance with control. With knowing what will happen next. But that’s largely an illusion driven by hope. We are always in the middle of something–a project, a crisis, a celebration, a decision, a career, an identity. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, but it does mean that plans change, shift and become impossible without much warning.

Life is a river, and we are always floating, swimming, paddling. There is not a time when everything is suddenly perfect and the world stops so we can enjoy floating blissfully.

whirlpool-1-300x224Grabbing enjoyment when you recognize it is a skill that coaching teaches you. So is adapting to a fast-paced life and dealing with change without falling apart.

Coaching works in the middle of turmoil–because it mixes support with accountability, and courage with action. Coaching works best when the client is open to life and change, but it can help people adjust when the world is not stable under their feet. If it’s stable now, don’t expect it to stay that way. You won’t be surprised when change shoots under your feet.

-Quinn McDonald has had her share of change.

 

Checking in on The Word of the Year

The year is touching the half-gone mark. How is your word serving you? Does it seem like a touchstone? A millstone tied to your ankle? Do you remember it?

Did you have to dredge it up like a boat mooring that’s been submerged all summer?

Your word for 2014 doesn’t have to stay the same for the whole year. If it’s not surprising you, helping you, teaching you, it may be time for a switch.

I’d chosen “scatter” and it is the word that has gotten the most mileage since I started words of the year. I wanted to try out new ideas, techniques, coaching styles. I wanted to write and draw, do collage, teach, re-design my studio, find a sport I like so I can do more of it. I’m exhausted. I also wanted to start a newsletter, network, build an audience, find a niche, create a Facebook Page for Inner Hero seekers. It was overwhelming and I knew I’d do poorly on most of it. Because most of it wasn’t grounded on any one value, one idea.

I’m not sorry I chose “scatter” –I learned a huge amount, including my limits.

An old-school distilling device.

An old-school distilling device.

So I’m stepping up to say I’m changing my word. Halfway through the year, I have experienced the joys and perils of “scatter” as much as I needed to.

I’m choosing “distill.” Almost the opposite of scatter.

I’ve filled the pot on the left with ideas, techniques, to-do lists, explorations and experiments. Now I’m going to think things through, let them ripen in the glow of the Operating System of the Universe and see what drips out. This feels really good.

I’ve been doing minimalist collages and that feels like it needs more time and development. So do some classes–writing classes–poetry and capturing some personal Truth–what each of us know about our life, but have wasted time allowing others to define for us.  And finally, I want to honor the Inner Hero.

How is your work serving you? Is it time for a Mid-Summer Change of Heart (and Word)?

-–Quinn McDonald is watching summer settle in and is emotionally estivating.

 

 

 

Changing Like a Butterfly

The caterpillar is programmed by destiny to spin a cocoon and emerge a butterfly. No one knows if the caterpillar is aware of what happens during the process. No one knows if the butterfly remembers being a caterpillar.

"Learning to Fly" © Quinn McDonald  Collage: Monsoon Papers, handmade paper, sun-bleached paper, ink on mixed media paper.

“Learning to Fly” © Quinn McDonald Collage: Monsoon Papers, handmade paper, sun-bleached paper, ink on mixed media paper.

People are different. We don’t develop a chrysalis, change and emerge, fully different. Ours is a harder way–small steps every day. We change because we keep choosing t0, day by day, decision by decision. Despite the advice and change-back messages from reluctant friends.

It is hard, making the choice to change. It means we deliberately give up one thing to choose another, often unknown.  It means we risk losing friends who don’t want to get to know us all over again in our new forms.  Some friends will turn around or branch off.  We can’t control their decision not to change.  The line between controlling our own lives and not controlling others’ lives is often blurry.

For some of us, the change is emotional. We choose to forgive bad parenting, and accept what we did get, and thrive despite of it. We choose to leave a job that pays well but doesn’t meet our values.

Our transformations are as amazing as a caterpillar’s. For all of us who have survived, who have chosen to heal ourselves, to push into growth,  to keep going no matter how hard, we have chosen a life of growth and transformation.

We know change is possible and sustainable. Sometimes it’s a secret. Sometimes we reinvent ourselves several times. We can have more than one career, one set of friends, or one job in a lifetime. It’s the same you, with all your emotional baggage, but you have chosen different destination. The one that leads to satisfaction. Maybe happiness.

–Quinn McDonald knows that the longer it takes a butterfly to get out of the chrysalis, the stronger the butterfly becomes and the longer it will live.

 

Reading Isn’t Believing

As a blog omnivore, I read a lot of advice, thoughts, and beliefs of other writers and artists. It’s a big world, populated by writers of every emotional and spiritual stripe (and rant).

Smart-is-when-you-believe-half-of-what-you-hearThe last two days, I’ve been reading about other people’s success stories about blogging and book promoting. (I have a tendency to read about what’s on my plate). Interesting what happens in my brain (maybe yours, too) when we read something new that we don’t agree with. The other person must be smarter. Particularly if we don’t know them. Because no matter what our experience is, surely the other person is smarter, richer, wiser, and a better all-around human being. (Inner critic alert).

I’m amazed at my own gullibility. “Content is no longer king,” says one blogger, and I gobble up his article, afraid that one of my basic truths has vanished. “The reader is king!” he proudly proclaims, “content doesn’t really matter.” Oh. And what is King Reader reading? Content. And why will King Reader read the content? Because it is interesting to King Reader. So, finish the circle, content is still king.

“If you are still doing book signings, you are over 60 and a dinosaur,” says another blogger. Her idea is that everything is virtual, and social networking is the only action that sells books.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure people buy books for lots of reasons, and a good reason is to meet the person who wrote it and talk to them if they are available. And that means I want to make myself available. Because people who are satisfied tell others. (Not as many as people who are unsatisfied, which is motivation enough.) But can’t I do both? The Inner Hero book had two launches (one in California and one locally in Phoenix) and is having a fun run on several people’s blogs.

Before you believe everything you read (I call this “the last person I talked to is an expert” syndrome) run it through your value-meter. I’ve been writing for a long time, and content matters. If an article is cheap starchy filler, I leave faster than a barefoot pedestrian crosses a freshly-tarred street.

imagesMy value-meter knows that meeting people face to face and hearing their stories is what made me write my book in the first place. I heard so many people say, “I’m not really good at anything” while hungering to make meaning in life,  it was impossible for me not to write the book.

Of course, I also learn a lot from reading blogs.  I’m happy to explore new ideas, and I’m a big fan of change. But change for change’s sake rarely sticks. Change is fueled by current failure, pain, or general misery.  What makes change possible is that the current plan isn’t working.

What works for someone else might not work for me. And if it doesn’t match what I know to be true from my own life, it’s probably not true for me. My life is a big circle, and I invite a lot of people in. But it doesn’t mean I have to follow them around in circles.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach whose coaching practice is based on working with deeply-held values and, well, change.

Facing Change

Hear the word “change” and you are likely to break out in a sweat. We like things the way they are. Even if we don’t like the way things are, it’s better than what we don’t know.

change-4-1imepycWhat makes change so awful?  One answer is that we are not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. . No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied.

Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we wake up in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard,  without time to plan, we go back to old emotions, old ways of behavior.

My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.

When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?

The second part of change we hate is the strong belief that everyone’s life should be easy and steady. A change that isn’t pleasant is a threat to security. We are rooted in the belief that life needs to be the same every day. And by “same” I mean sunny, emotionally fun, and upbeat. That’s an unrealistic expectation of any life. A big part of life is making it through rough spots and building up experiences.

Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.

-–Quinn McDonald likes change. And that explains a lot.

Creating Our Character

Sometime in our life, we take on a character–just like in a novel. “I’m the black sheep of the family,” we explain. Or, “Yeah, I’m the family historian,” or even, “We’d never have family reunions without me. I love organizing them.” Those descriptions are true, in the moment. It gets a bit stickier if we believe them too much ourselves.

labelsIt’s a small step from having done some daring things in the past to thinking of ourselves as the black sheep of the family who will never amount to anything.

In the novel of our lives, the hero will come around and fix us and save us, generally just in time to live happily ever after.  In real life, we keep choosing ways to not amount to anything so we can continue to be the black sheep and. . . keep repeating the same mistakes, bad choices, and foiling anyone who wants to help us.

The trouble with living life as a novel is that a novel ends because everything is resolved. If we resolve our lives, there is nothing left to do. So we avoid resolving or changing, often waiting for the hero to do the job that is ours to do.

DesertbookAnd should the hero show up, well, we go to the beginning of the novel and start over, proving we are the black sheep. When the real life hero decides that life needs more balance than a one-way struggle to re-engineer a dedicated black sheep, it’s easy to decide it’s the wrong hero.

We can live an entire life making everyone else wrong while we dedicate ourselves to the label we don’t need. We all have a choice of the reality we want to live. We can create the reality that sheds labels and makes us. . .responsible for who we want to be. Yep. The hero you are waiting for is you.

It’s a big world. You don’t have to live the old reality. You can walk out of that novel and look where you want to go. Then head in that direction.

What if others try to stick that label back on you? That’s their reality. You are just walking through it. Choose your own reality. Live it to the fullest.

-–Quinn McDonald is cheered by what she experienced last week on Madeline Island. She’s looking where she wants to go.

Making Change Work for You

We are now four days into the New Year–heading toward a week. How are those resolutions coming? I’m not a fan of resolutions, but I am supporting several people who made resolutions to change. They aren’t having a good time.  Because even when you want to change, it isn’t easy. What makes change hard? Two major factors: yourself and others. The rest is easy.

Change can get derailed if you don't enlist your family and friends to help you.

Change can get derailed if you don’t enlist your family and friends to help you.

When you decide to change, you have your past to wrestle with. You choose the path to change and suddenly your inner critic pipes up. “What’s so wrong with who you are now?” “Love yourself the way you are, change is a sign of self-hatred.” “Can you really keep up this behavior?”

If you want to change a habit, you’ll have to substitute the new behavior for about two months. That’s as long as it will take you to establish the new habit in place of the old. Most people say one month, but two is more realistic.

One to substitute the new action and make it a habit,  the next to overcome the pushback from your friends and family. No doubt about it, they will be the longest two months of your life. You will invent a thousand reasons to go back to the old behavior–it’s your birthday, you just started a diet, you are stressed, now is not a good time. But like having a baby, there is never a perfect time, you have to gear up, crank up your determination and get busy.

Just when you do, your friends will start chipping away at your resolve. They will give you excuses to fail. They will tell you they like you the way you are. They will whine that you don’t need to change. Why are your friends so focused on sabotage? Because if you change, they will have to change. They will have to get to know the new you, they will have to change the way they treat you . And your friends don’t want to change. It’s too much work. It is a lot less work to complain until you quit changing.

Your friends can be persistent and threatening. Most people don’t like confrontation, and they do like their friends, so they cave in and go back to being “normal.” And there goes the path to success.

If you are determined to change, tell your friends you plan ahead of time and enlist their help. Ask them to support you before the chorus of complaints begins. Often asking for support not only makes friends understand that this is important to you, it helps you be clear about what you want. And talking about the change helps you be clear about what you want for your future.

That doesn’t mean your friends will always support you, but it gives you a better start. And a good start is the best way to start toward a good finish.

Quinn McDonald is changing. And it’s damn hard.

Re-Packing Your Brain

Bo Mackison is a photographer, and a busy one. She has an art festival coming up in Milwaukee this weekend, and we were talking about her preparations. Bo was describing her organization habits; she mentioned her one special container that has the electronics to make sales, change, and keep track of sales. She calls this box “the brain.” In a rushed voice she said, “And after all that sorting, I have to re-pack The Brain.”

We both laughed at the image of re-packing your brain, and then we saw the deep wisdom in that simple phrase.

Every time we start a new project, change our business, choose a new perception, we have to “re-pack our brain.” It means opening your head to new ideas, taking out old thoughts, habits and assumptions and taking a good look at them. Maybe you shake those assumptions up, get the wrinkles out, maybe you toss it into a pile to re-use as a dust cloth.

In re-packing your brain, you allow yourself, new ideas, new paths. You make more room to add new thoughts and new perspectives.

And then, when your brain is re-packed, you head out into a new day with a new-found eagerness.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She re-packs her brain at least one a season.

Choosing Change

Caterpillar ready to spin a chrysalis.

The caterpillar is programmed by its DNA to spin a cocoon and emerge a butterfly. In the process, the caterpillar turns to undifferentiated goo and then reforms as a butterfly. No one knows if the caterpillar is aware of what happens during the process.

People are different. We don’t know how to spin a cocoon, and we would be scared if we could. Yet we can choose transformation. It is hard, making the choice to change. It means we deliberately give up one thing to choose another. It means we risk losing friends who don’t want to get to know us all over again in our new forms.

But some of us do choose. We choose to move to a new place and start a life over. We choose to forgive bad parenting, and accept what we did get, and thrive despite of it.

Transformation begins

That transformation is as amazing as a caterpillar’s. For all of us who have survived, who have chosen to heal ourselves, to mother ourselves, to keep going no matter how hard, we have chosen a life of growth and transformation.

We know change is possible and sustainable. Sometimes it’s a secret. Sometimes we reinvent ourselves several times. We can be more than one person over a lifetime. We can change our life.
We have a choice.

 

Quinn McDonald witnesses transformations as a coach. She celebrates change.

Images: top: Obsession with butterflies. Bottom: restoring the landscape.com

The Beauty of Change

This palo verde is in Arizona. It’s been trimmed, and it’s bare.

When I arrived in Wisconsin, the trees were leafing out. Seeing big-leaved trees again was great, they had just started to unfold and fill the trees. By the time I went home three days later, the trees had come into their shapes.

Change. We hate the idea, but we live it every day. The trees changed every day I was there. They were changing when I watched and when I didn’t.

Evolution is not something limited to ten thousand years ago. Evolution happens every day. We adapt, we behave a new way, it works, we keep doing it. We’ve changed.

Leaves are starting to push out, dark and fresh green.

Adapting is the stepping stone to flexibility. Flexibility is the doorway to creativity. We explore, we create, we invent, and we grow. Creative evolution. We change without really noticing it, just notice that our art is getting easier. More satisfying. More natural. Until we have fully leafed out and ideas come to rest in the shadow we cast on the earth.

Tree in progress to becoming.

Quinn McDonald is an artist who writes and teaches what she knows. It changes from year to year.