Practical actions and inspiration to change your life.

Last updated April 2, 2018, 7:26 a.m.


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Lessons on Fear and Change from Mark Twain and My 10-Year-Old Twins

When I was 16, I decided to leave my small hometown of Beaverton, Oregon, where I’d lived since birth, to go overseas and study in New Zealand.   I have no idea how I made this decision, or why I wanted to leave home, but the idea quickly got legs and before I knew it, there I was, boarding a plane and madly hugging goodbye my friends, family and my high-school sweetheart. I got on the plane, walked down the aisle to my window seat, sat down…and promptly burst into tears. Crying quickly escalated into hysterical sobbing, much to the alarm of the poor man in the next seat.  He tried to calm me down and asked the flight attendant for a cup of water.

I tried to take a sip, but I was crying too hard to even choke it down. Right then, I made another big decision – I hurried off the plane, and ran screaming after my taken aback parents. They were having none of it. They reminded me I had made a decision to which I was now committed and sent me right back to my allocated seat to follow through on it.

After this dramatic start, the rest of the journey was uneventful. Well, to be honest, I can’t remember much of the rest of my journey.  Just a quick phone call from a pay phone in L.A. to let my parents know I got there safely, and then, my next clear memory was walking into arrivals and looking around, though unsure as to what I was looking for. Then I saw the sign, ‘Welcome to New Zealand Tracy’ – and there they were, my Kiwi family! My host Mum, Dad, Sister and Brother.  They took me home and settled me in my new room.   They gave me a quick tour, I met the neighbours – one of whom was the principal of the school I was to attend –  and we ate.

I’d like to report that at this point I was wondering what all my pre-departure hysteria had been about, but no, I wasn’t done with the crying. Not even nearly. All I remember of those first few weeks were the endless tears and aching homesickness – oh, and the beating myself for not ‘thinking it through’. Surely if I had have thought this through, I’d be back home now instead of sobbing down the line on my once a week, very expensive phone-call home?

My host Dad gave me some very specific advice: ‘Stop blubbering’. Easier said than done. One evening, lying on my bed, sobbing and trying to make sense of it all, I reached out for a small book of quotes my mom had sent along with me – clearly for just such an occasion! Flicking through, this one grabbed me:

Explore Dream Discover

I ripped it from the book, jumped out of bed and pasted it on my mirror.

I wouldn’t say I was any less homesick after reading it, but I did get a wake-up call about the opportunity I was missing by focusing on what I’d left behind rather than what I now had in front of me. I knew I needed to embrace this big change that I had, after all, brought upon myself. I was going to start looking for the positives in it and most of all, stop the exhausting slog of fearing it.

And, yes, you’ve guessed it – New Zealand turned out to be a complete blast.

This quote served me well then and many times over the years since. It’s been a reference point for many life-changing decisions – more travel, new directions in my career, relationships…

As I work with clients, fear of change comes up constantly – a simple but profound and often paralyzing fear of moving forward into the unknown.

Even when people know that they need to do something different and that staying the same will come at a great personal cost, the barrier of fear seems impassable.

Even when people know exactly what they want to do and actually believe they could be successful doing it, still they hold back in the face of the great unknown.

Of course, fear has been a major asset to mankind. We wouldn’t be here now if our ancestors hadn’t responded to it and so taken precautions to steer clear of all the giant sabretooth tigers roaming around. It’s the same fear, still hard-wired in us today, that keeps us on the lookout for threats to our safety and well-being. Any sense of our ‘being under attack’ will bring out our innate fight or flight responses.

The challenge is identifying what it is that we are actually scared of.

If we do this we can begin to get some perspective on what we’re up against. Are we talking sabre-tooth tigers or not making the same income in the first year of a career change? Are we talking about telling our parents we’re over studying law and want to open a café? Are we talking about a threat that’s not even real e.g. thinking you could never afford to work part-time to spend more time on a creative interest when you haven’t even done the math? Get pinning that fear down – know your enemy!

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my twin daughters about the topic of fear of change. One daughter, in particular, had recently made a very significant change – to stop gymnastics. Even at the young age of ten, she’d already dedicated 5 years of physical work, mental effort and sheer determination to participate in a sport she’d loved. So much of her young identity was wrapped up in ‘being a gymnast.’ She knew it was time to move on, but she wrestled with the decision, and even more so, with the idea of change. She worried about what the rest of the group would think. She worried about missing her twin sister who would continue to go to the gym every week without her. She worried that it was the wrong decision even though she knew it was absolutely the right one. She was living proof of something I see all the time – knowing a change is RIGHT for you frequently isn’t enough to make following through on it any easier.

My conversation with the girls got us to brainstorming motivational quotes that would help people face their fears and move through change.

Later that night, after I had put them to bed, one of them came back out, with a journal where she’d written down her own sayings – all straight from the heart and Google-free!

Of course, I’m biased, I love them all, but here are my favourites:

  • If you let fear take over, you will stay in the same place, but if you take chances and risks, you will always move ahead.
  • Change is a new opportunity for greatness.
  • When you’re scared to change something in your life, remember that when you take challenges and risks, it will move you forward to your next destination.
  • When your fear takes over you have to break through. Be brave, and always remember you can’t let fear take over the change you need to make.   

And the best till last…

  • Change is like a roller-coaster. A mix of emotions. The ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. But the ride always stops and you’re always glad you did it.

Wow, the 16-year-old me on the plane to New Zealand could have done with such wisdom – let alone the grown-up version of me! So, next time there’s a change you need – or just desperately want – to make, a change you know is right but you’re still hitting a wall of fear, take note of Mark Twain…or my 10-year-old daughters.

Be brave. You got this!

The post Lessons on Fear and Change from Mark Twain and My 10-Year-Old Twins appeared first on Possibility Change.

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Battling Fear at 14,500 Feet

“C’mon Dad, it will be fun!”

My oldest daughter Bailey kept saying that to me, but I couldn’t get past the feeling I was going to throw up.  Two summers ago I was about to turn fifty and wanted to do something I had never done before.  Bailey thought that skydiving would be the perfect activity for me – she had done it the summer before and loved it – plus she wanted to go again.  I can assure you that of all the things I was thinking of doing, jumping out of an airplane never came close to making the list.  As I age, I seem to have developed a growing fear of heights.  The mere thought of doing it made me break out in a sweat.  I was genuinely afraid.

I got up close and personal with fear back in 2006, when my wife and I were both diagnosed with cancer just six months apart.  There’s a whole new intensity to fear when you stare death in the face.  I’ve learned a lot about fear and how it affects us.  In fact, as I look back at my life, I realize that fear is something I’ve dealt with quite a bit.  I’ve almost embraced it to a certain degree.  I certainly don’t mean I like it, but it drives me in many situations.  The motivation to “not fail” pushes me as much as the prospect of success does.  I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but to this day I am still motivated that way to a certain extent.  I fear not being the best husband and father I can be, so I am driven to live up to some unreachable standard I set.

In my previous job, I worried about all the potential issues that could keep things from running smoothly, and I knew if I addressed them, we would do well.  I fear my cancer could come back, so I pray, work out, do yoga, and drink these smoothies in the morning that look like something I’ve seen in a six-month-old’s diaper.  Hold up before you picture me in alone in a dark room watching Matlock reruns.  I consider myself an optimistic, happy person, but fear is definitely something I deal with on a semi-regular basis.

So, back to the part where I’m trying not to puke.  After several requests from my daughter, I finally said yes…and she looked almost shocked.  I told her I needed to do something that I was really afraid of doing.  I told a friend/co-worker what we were doing, and she wanted to go.  We had a 3 hour drive to the jump site, and everyone was getting anxious as we got closer.  We drove through some beautiful countryside once we got off the interstate, but then we passed a small cemetery and everyone made some nervous jokes about it.  Then, we passed another cemetery…and another one. THREE cemeteries on this rural two-lane road in the last 10 miles of our trip!  I asked if so many people died jumping out of airplanes in this area that they needed to keep building more cemeteries to bury all the bodies!

We arrived and they were over an hour behind schedule, so we had to wait…at least it gave us time to watch the video version of the waiver we signed that mentioned death no less than twenty times.  As we finally piled into the little plane, I buckled onto my tandem partner Ronnie that would make sure we did everything right.  The short ride to altitude was brutal for me.  As Bailey stepped to the door, she looked back at me and said “You good Dad?” with a thumbs up.  I said yes as they rolled out.  I immediately looked behind me and said “RONNIE I AM NOT $%*#$*% GOOD!”  He said, “It’s going to be great…besides, it’s too late now anyway”, and we tumbled out into what almost looked like a fake picture below me.

The next five minutes were some of the most amazing, exhilarating, and gut-wrenching of my life.  It was so beautiful and peaceful – except for the parts where I was screaming.  I prayed to God for the parachute to open, but mostly I told Him how thankful I was for my life and being with me through good and bad.

Author Jon Acuff wrote a book called Start and the subtitle says “Punch Fear in the Face”.  Remember that the next time you tell yourself that you can’t do something because you’re afraid or it makes you uncomfortable.  I talk and write a lot about getting out from underneath our blanket of “comfortable” and doing those things that we’ve always just talked or thought about.  Sometimes it takes more than just throwing off that blanket – you’ve got to punch it in the face.

The post Battling Fear at 14,500 Feet appeared first on Possibility Change.

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How Could This Happen To Me?

How could this happen to me?

How could I develop an autoimmune disease at the age of 36?

This was not supposed to happen. Not to someone in their 30s, not to someone who had dedicated their life to health, wellness and fitness. Not to a microbiologist turned personal trainer and yoga teacher. Nope. That’s not how things worked. I had practically guaranteed good health and quality of life well into my 90s.

Although the first 3 decades of my life hadn’t necessarily been easy, I had faced, and triumphantly overcome, varying challenges including caring for a terminally ill mother, a mentally ill sibling, and owning my own business in the mix.

I was capable, resourceful, intelligent and had a proven track record I could deal with some of life’s ugliest moments.

But… I did have this one requirement underlying it all… One necessary ‘condition’ that allowed me to be the ruler of my world: my health.

My personal credo was:

I can deal with anything life throws at me

So long as I have my health…

One must have health if they want to be in control of their life, right?

The one thing I believed was absolutely necessary for me to face any and all challenges life threw my way – my health – was taken away. Never to fully return to its prior pristine state.

My new norm included extreme, mind-boggling fatigue, memory loss, severe migraines, fevers, swollen joints, extensive hair loss and throbbing pain throughout my body.

All these symptoms and more appeared in an unpredictable pattern that made it impossible to figure out a way to manage.

Interspersed were days where I felt relatively ‘better’ (as in, being 75%).

Gone were the days where I experienced a pain-free day.

My life spiraled into one continuous chaos.

I could not care for myself – basic self-care like showering, laundry, dishes, groceries, putting gas in my car, not to mention going to work… every single thing required inordinate amounts of energy of which I had none.

I’d try to do my dishes and tidy up but the exertion was too much and would land me in bed for days. Doing groceries AND carrying them home became a herculean effort. I’d force my body through my Mon-Fri job only to lay comatose for 48 hours before repeating the torture.

I fell into a deep, dark hole.

My future looked grim and my hopes began to dim.

I had no assets to fall back on, I wasn’t married and my family had distanced themselves, while the prospect of being able to work in any career was looking difficult.

If I couldn’t maintain a job and basic self-care, what was next? A caregiver? Social assistance? And further than that? What would the rest of my years look like?

I felt doomed and hopeless. I could see no possible positive outcome for my future.

I kept waiting for the universe to shift, for some external force to change my life.

My thoughts consisted of “if only” statements.

If only… I had enough money I could hire help around the house with domestic duties.

If only… I had a different job, one with a less toxic environment I’d manage better.

If only… I didn’t have to work at all, that would be the answer.

If only… I had a spouse, someone to lean on, my life would be easier.

I was angry. Bitter. Pissed.

I kept wondering where was all that good karma I had put out into the world all those years? All those countless acts of kindness and being a caregiver for family – didn’t they count for anything?

I was a good person. I had assumed that good karma meant what goes around comes around and now that I desperately needed help, it ought to appear.

And then…

One of my pivotal moments (there were several in a series over time) arrived in the form of a quote that I saw on social media:

A bird sitting in a tree

Is never afraid of the branch breaking

Because its trust is not on the branch

But on its own wings.


I realized I was focusing only on the branch… on the earth being taken out beneath my feet, on some external force changing my circumstances and hadn’t for a moment considered my own power and role in my life.

Because of the assumption that health equaled freedom and power I took the absence of full health to mean imprisonment and powerlessness.

I realized I thought I didn’t have wings because I didn’t have my health.

I thought my circumstances dictated my destiny.

But I was wrong.

The power lay within me, not outside of me.

My life was determined by me; how I reacted to those circumstances, my perspective, my mindset, and choices were all up to me.

Health, while being precious and a privilege, was not everything.

I stopped worrying about the ‘branch’ and began cultivating trust in myself.

Instead of looking ahead to the future and wondering ‘How will I manage? How can things get better?’ I chose to focus on my strength and resilience; on the fact that I was still on the planet and breathing in spite of it all.

I have wings. I have power.

Maybe not the way I used to or how I imagined it, or what I would prefer, but so long as I am breathing, I am a living force.

The same is true for you, dear friend.

The life force that you are is everything. THAT is what directs your life.

You are a conglomerate of cells; a conglomerate of energy; you direct that energy whichever way you wish… so spread your wings and trust in the power that you are.

The post How Could This Happen To Me? appeared first on Possibility Change.

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What Changed When I Stopped Consuming and Started Creating

“Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.” – Barbara Januszkiewicz

I grew up like every other teenager of the 80’s and 90’s – watching MTV. I was obsessed with Madonna, moshed my teen spirit with Nirvana, then entered the dark side of pop with Nine Inch Nails. I loved all of it; the music, the visuals, the performance. I decided that I too was going to become a rock star and perform on MTV.

So I set off to work to make that dream come true.

Until this artistic awakening, I had taken lessons in piano and dance, but doing my own thing was a completely different ball game. There were no notes to follow, there was no choreography to obey. I needed to decide for myself what the notes and the steps were going to be. This required a whole new way of thinking, seeing and listening.

Consuming is easy. Getting inspired is easy. Following instructions is easy. But when you go from a consumer to a creator, you start to think about things you never thought about before.

It is equally overwhelming and exciting. I wasn’t always sure I was going to be able to do it. Yet, when I shifted from a consumer of music to a creator, my life changed profoundly.

For the first time, I started to listen to things I’d never listened to before, like the drums. Not just the beat that made me dance, but really, the sounds and the sequences.

For the first time I started to really appreciate the power of the bass guitar, and the huge part it played in music. How was it possible that I’d never really heard it before?

I started to pay attention to what all the different instruments were doing and it blew my mind.

Music opened up to me on a whole new level. It was richer and more fascinating, and I started to appreciate it so much more than I had ever before. It became more layered and multi-dimensional.

Becoming a creator and not a consumer turned me from a receiver into a producer. Life didn’t just flow over me, but I became keenly aware of what was happening all around me. Everything became potential material for my creative pursuits.

I became an active gatherer-hunter of ideas. Ideas kept popping in my head all the time, and I had to capture them quickly before they would escape me. I started to carry a notebook with me everywhere.

Everything became interesting. I collected stories, moments, feelings, anecdotes, quotes, and jokes. I started spotting interesting names, logos, and colors everywhere. My notebook became my favorite thing, my treasure trove.

Eventually, I did reach my dream of being on MTV. It didn’t happen by luck or by accident. It happened because of this shift.

Maybe I could have been one of the hopefuls, joining the queues of talent shows, thinking that someone would create me. Most likely I would’ve not done very well because no one can create anyone, we have to create ourselves.

Music was my first muse. It taught me everything about being a creator. It awakened all of my senses and it opened up the world for me. Becoming a creator has changed the way I do everything in life.

The world is so full of stuff that it’s easy to sit back and just consume it. Creating is hard, it quickly makes you aware of your shortcomings and your lack of knowledge.

Yet, moving from a consumer to a creator in every area of life will open your eyes and your senses to so many fascinating things. Everything is a story. Everything can be a seed for an idea.

You will become infinitely curious about life. The world will become richer, and a more interesting place to be. What a beautiful way to move through life, don’t you think?

My Challenge to You

Have a think about all the things that you consume and love. Is it books, music, perfumes, fashion? Maybe you love looking at someone who can dance really well. Or you love eating mother’s cooking. Or perhaps you admire someone who knows how to code, or builds shelves or fixes cars, but you’ve never thought you’d be able to do something like that.

Instead of observing and consuming, I challenge you to pick one of these things and try to become the creator yourself. Ask someone person to show you the ropes. Spend a bit of time on YouTube tutorials. Join Skillshare. Start with something small and simple.

Share your experience in the comments! What changed?

The post What Changed When I Stopped Consuming and Started Creating appeared first on Possibility Change.

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7 Ways To Start To Value Yourself

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

One of the biggest myths we feed into is that setting ourselves as a number one priority is selfish and unkind. Truth is, it is the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and for others. Our loved ones gain when we are in a good space and when we have all our energy at any given moment. People benefit when we are whole and life opens when we are thriving. Yet, we’re so conditioned to believe that things will fall apart and it is not ethical to put the person who lives inside your heart, body, and mind first.

I remember before I met my husband, I started to pull back from some toxic relationships in my life. I allowed myself to be taken advantage of; let myself be taken for granted. They demanded so much but gave so little. My time, my finances, my heartfelt, “I will stretch until I break, as long as you don’t have discomfort.”

When my priorities shifted and I started giving a little more love to me. Not only did it feel amazing, but I had to have this love within me before I could give it freely to someone else. My new found happiness was poorly wished upon. And instead of attempting to fix those relationships, I stood my ground with “I am loveable and worthy” mantras. I focused on the blossoming relationships and let go of the suffocating.

Making yourself a priority enables you to be a better person, not just for yourself, but for the relationships your forge along the way. The choices we make from a more loving space are far more beneficial than the ones we make from a place of guilt, lack and overextending.

Below are seven ways to start to value yourself and make yourself an important person in your life. Besides, everything starts with you.

1. Stop comparing yourself

Comparing ourselves to others is a losing battle. Not only do we look for things we lack, but we find ourselves in the feeling of lack. Unless you have been in their shoes, view life the way they do and gone through their experiences, you are comparing yourself to information that can in no way be accurate. Comparing takes the focus off you and onto that person, yet your power lies in things you can affect in your life. You are a unique being and there is nobody in the world like you.

Start to shift your focus on things that are going right in your life and pay attention to the person looking back in the mirror. He or she has their own unique attributes. Let go of the inner perfectionist and start to appreciate your smile, your talents, what you have to offer. Starting to see your value is the fastest way to shift focus to the right place.

2. Don’t settle

Some people stay in jobs they don’t like just because of the salary. Others settle in relationships that no longer cause their hearts to race. Some of us stay with friends who deplete us because we long for any kind of company. Whatever your settle, it’s not worth the cost. You deserve peace of mind and to be outrageously happy.

If you are constantly saying to yourself, “There has to be something better than this”, you are probably settling. Don’t settle for less. Seek out to find your best.

3. Start appreciating

Appreciate the bed you sleep it. Appreciate your significant other. Appreciate the clothes you have on your back, your car, your food. But mostly, don’t forget to appreciate what you bring into the world. Start to see the joy you bring to others. Give thought to the impact of that joy and its ripple effects. Just because you are not aware, does not mean it has not extended itself further than you can imagine.

The more you appreciate, the more good will flow into your life.

4. Foster healthy relationships

Let go of or at least distance yourself from anything that causes you to feel less than good. Find yourself in the presence of people who bring something significant into your life. Make it a point to have at least two people who feed your spirit, encourage your dreams and accept you for who you are. No alterations. Cultivating strong, nurturing bonds encourages us to remember we are not alone and keeps our hearts open.

5. Learn to say No

While we are here to help one another there will be times we’re tempted to do things at the expense of our own well-being. Sometimes when we give more than we can we don’t allow the other person to learn from or have their own experiences. Continually doing things out of insincere obligation can lead to resentment. Instead, honor yourself by doing what feels right for you.

‘No’ can be liberating, because when we say no to others we are saying “yes” to ourselves and we’re in alignment with our values. Allow yourself to say no once in a while. This practice will improve your self-esteem and create a space for people to value and respect you more.

6. Set healthy boundaries

Having clear boundaries is vital to establishing that relationships are mutually respectful. Believe it or not, but putting “up” boundaries actually creates freedom because when our wishes are clearly defined, there is no need to put up walls. Boundaries reflect our self-esteem and our values. A healthy self-respect will teach others how to treat you.

And when the occasional person attempts to push against your lines, simply keep your feet placed firmly on the ground.

7. Follow your heart

We all have something that makes us come alive and gives our lives meaning. Don’t forget to listen to the part of you that drives your bliss, and be aware of your idol wants and those little things that distract you. Focus on your purpose because dreams never really go away. They simply get postponed.

Our passions can be as little or big as they are, and we can have one or a multitude of them. Listen to the things that are ticking at your heart’s door and find a way to do one thing at a time if you can. You can encourage yourself to do it all and to find a way for life to support you while you do.

Everything in our lives starts with us and ripples into our relationships. So it only makes sense to give yourself as much love, nurturing and joy that you would look for in others, or that others would seek in you. By living the best life we can we inject these ripples to go out with love, beauty, and kindness.

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