Optimal Performance and Amazing Outcomes


Over the past 5 years I’ve increasingly been focused on the role of wellbeing and resilience for great leadership.

You sleep well and are well rested, so then you make smart choices about what you eat and drink, and then you have the energy to move and exercise, and then your body and brain are at their best, working together to support optimal performance so you can achieve outcomes that matter.

When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally.

It’s a virtuous cycle. When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally. We are better able to pay attention to the wealth of data available to us – to our experiences and the physical and emotional feelings we have, to what is going on for others in our family or teams, to what’s happening in our environment. And we are better able to turn these signals into insights that lead to ideas and vision, intentions and plans, questions and choices, and decisions and actions. Bottom line: we awaken to the opportunities before us and are best equipped to seize them.

My team creates leadership experiences for managers and executives. We’ve created online self-paced learning modules and delivered in-person learning events that deepen leader’s appreciation for the importance of taking care of themselves so they show up at their best and deliver amazing results.

There’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it.

While it’s important to learn the facts about how something works and to understand its scientific underpinnings, there’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it. Someone can tell you the importance of movement for fueling your creativity and show you all the physiological connections, however, it’s not until you actually move and notice its effect on your thinking that you’ll be inspired to move as a strategy for getting your ideas flowing.

Below I’ve captured some approaches we’ve been using to create a more holistic experience for our leaders.

The Overall Experience

  • Starting and stopping meetings at times that allow for eating, exercise and recovery time
  • Honoring mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon breaks where nutritional food and healthy liquids are available and there’s time to move around the building or environs
  • Offering a quiet room and hosting morning yoga and mindfulness sessions
  • Offering group walks and morning bootcamp exercise sessions
  • Providing optional 1:1 and group coaching for fitness, nutrition, and leadership
  • Hosting healthy receptions and interactive dinners that allow people to decompress together as they appreciate good food
  • Posting inspirational quotes around the venue to open thinking, offer fresh perspective, shift mindset

During the Sessions

  • Beginning sessions with a clear sense of purpose and storytelling to create personal connection
  • Applying design thinking and other interactive strategies that engage everyone, get them up and moving and interacting
  • Checking in on energy level throughout, incorporating stretching and movement to keep minds active
  • Building in pauses to reflect on our personal experience, consider learning, identify decisions, commit to actions, celebrate accomplishments, for example

Think about your day as an experience. Are there any of these approaches you could apply to your work and life? Are you planning your day so you have time for what’s important? Are you taking breaks, eating nutritious food, moving and exercising, feeling energized, socializing, interacting and engaging, reflecting on your experiences, finding purpose, staying inspired, feeling energized, celebrating your accomplishments? What one thing could you start today to create more of what you want?

Try a little “experiential experimentation” and give something new a try.

If you identify anything you do in your work and life that we might translate to our leadership experiences, I’d love for you to share!



Being Resilient: The Role of Regular Recovery

Sense of Purpose: The Pathway to Success

What Yoga Taught Me About Being a Leader


* I took the photo during a morning run along country roads when staying at the Double JJ Ranch near Rothbury, Michigan.


BE who you are


Ever feel like you don’t fit in, like people around you expect you to be someone different than you are?

I remember when I first felt like that at work. I was about a year into a job with a global consulting organization. As a consultant, I needed to get certified to advance my career. For someone starting their career or coming in from another consulting organization, the structure provided a clear and logical path. For someone joining with a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and deep specialized expertise and experience, the on-ramp was not at all clear. I recall telling a friend that I felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I didn’t fit in, and it was uncomfortable.

I’ve noticed that feeling arise at various points in my career, especially when embarking on something new. I’ve noticed it showing up again recently – not surprising really given the magnitude and speed of change in the workplace. Now, with the wisdom of experience and the gift of awareness, I’m more prepared. I’ve let go of the notion of being weird and embraced being unique. I’ve learned that what makes me different can be the richest source of my value.

These ideas are reinforced with the focus in many organizations on inclusion and the value of diversity (read more). In the business environment, data about the benefits for innovation and productivity are key. In my heart, it’s simply the feeling I get when I truly see someone for who they are and when I feel seen for who I really am.

I’m learning to find the line between healthy conformity and being in integrity with who I am. Leadership training, coaching, mindfulness, and life experience have increased my awareness and compassion. It’s still a work in progress, although I am better able to listen to that quiet voice inside that asks ‘are you sure?’ and to pay attention to that part of me that that knows when something isn’t right. Being in integrity with who I am and what I value has become essential to my well being. Each time I am challenged to fit in, the need to be in integrity strengthens, and I let go of a little more of the fear that in the past would push me to be like everyone else.

I’ve found that when I wake up to something – like the importance of acknowledging who we are and what makes us each unique – so many signs and supporting mechanisms rise above the noise to point me in the direction of my truth. This is Me is one of those things – may it inspire and touch you.

I offer a few questions that I’ve been reflecting on to help me explore my personal truth. May you find value in reflecting on what matters to you and how you respond to the circumstances of your life.

  • When do I feel like I have to be someone other than myself?
  • How does that make me feel?
  • Are the expectations to be something else real?
  • Is there some ‘add-on’ story that I’m making up?
  • How might I be confirming my own fears?
  • What’s the tradeoff of behaving to fit in?

Let me hear from you – What helps you be strong and confident and alive to who you are?


Other related posts:


* I took this photo on Highway 151 in Iowa coming home for a ski trip in Galena, IL.

2017’s Wisdom

Pines in Iowa.jpgI always find this season valuable for reflecting on the year behind and envisioning the year ahead. To support my focus, I’ve been reviewing my experiences and what I learned in 2017, that it might support me in fully living 2018.

The ideas I shared in in last year’s blogs aren’t necessarily new in my thinking; however, the way they are expressed and the context in which they come alive for me continues to evolve. Below are the golden nuggets that I’m taking away to carry with me into the new year. I thought you might enjoy the opportunity to revisit the themes and see them compiled together.

  • A growth mindset involves being curious and open and using questions to deepen our discovery and explore our experiences more deeply. (What did I learn?)
  • Power comes from how we show up, and what’s possible is shaped by the tone we set through our actions, words, and energy. (Setting the tone)
  • Value and contribution arise naturally when we focus on bringing our best to the needs, objectives and challenges of others, organizations, and the world. (The Path to Social Eminence in a Digital World is Value Creation)
  • A key to unlocking collaboration, innovation and the best in others is being present and giving people our full attention. (Diggin’ me diggin’ you)
  • In every moment, there’s opportunity to look inside and outside of ourselves for insight, with incoming information enriching our perspective. (The Truth About Feedback)
  • Every interaction is an opportunity to build strong relationships through not only our words and actions but also the unseen energy of our intentions, attitudes and the beliefs we hold. (The Invisible Touch)
  • Confidence comes from taking small steps toward what we value and from experimenting, learning from our actions, and building on our success. (small steps toward success breed confidence)
  • We can listen to what’s happening in our minds, adjust the words and tone, and focus our thoughts to align with what we want to achieve. (Mindset is the engine that powers success)
  • Focusing on our wellbeing enables us to respond versus react to stressful circumstances at work and home. (Regular recovery is essential for being resilient)
  • Visualizing success is a valuable tool for gaining a clear sense of purpose that pulls us toward important outcomes and brings our energy to things that make a difference in the world. (Sense of Purpose – The Pathway to Success)
  • We always have an impact, even when we do nothing–sometimes especially when we do nothing. (You always have an impact)
  • Mental calmness and composure are available when we are present and aware of what’s happening and focused and intentional about how we respond. (Equanimity)

I’m curious if any of these are particularly resonant for you? The 2nd to last one about our impact has been very ‘sticky’ for me. It was first uttered to me in 2005 by Therese Kienast at the Radical Leadership retreat I attended, and it has been a beautiful echoing reminder ever since to be aware and awake and at choice.

And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.

~ Reinar Maria Rilka


* I took this photo in front of our house on one winter.



Perhaps you are familiar with the word ‘equanimity’. Or, perhaps it’s a new word in your vocabulary. Before I knew the meaning, it suggested to me a sense of balance, something solid to stand on. I really like this word.


What does it look like when there’s equanimity?

Presence. Focus. Understanding. Openness. Possibility. To me it looks like leaders who listen with curiosity, who open to not knowing, who see and respect everyone, who bring humanity into the workplace. Leaders who dream with purpose and passion and believe that great things are possible through intentional thought and productive action.

How do we find equanimity?

Myriad ways. We’re all different. Our paths are different. A big part of finding equaniminty, seems to me, is awareness: awareness of the stories that play in our minds. Followed by intention: intentional shifting of words and thoughts that are not serving us or others. Reframing our negative stories. Paying attention to what’s working. Visualizing success.

At the heart of our thoughts are words. Powerful words. Words shape what’s possible. I’ve read that we have somewhere between 16,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s A LOT of thoughts…a lot of words. Words that carry meaning. Words associated with feelings. Words tied to experiences. Words allowing us express how we feel. Words helping us envision our dreams. Words that impact us, physically, emotionally, mentally. Words that impact others, how they feel, how they are inspired to act.

What words repeat in the stories running through your mind? How are these words serving you?

Sometimes my stories are mean and ugly and hurtful, like little wars – that hurt me, that hurt others. Sometimes they are beautiful songs – that touch me, that touch others. I like the songs better than the war. And, while I’m still accepting that I’m not perfect and that life is simply a mix of what I might call good and bad, where I can, I am noticing and being intentional about my impact – on myself and on others. I am shifting and making adjustments when I notice words and thoughts that limit me so that I can respond versus react.

Take time to pause and connect with what’s important. 

One of the ways that I support myself in finding the words that serve best is taking time to pause, time to connect with what’s important. That might be time with my husband, Jim, walking together side-by-side in nature. That might be time with my girlfriends, sharing our experiences and connecting with each other. That might be reading something inspiring and reflecting on its meaning.

And, that might be practicing mindfulness meditation with my lovely friend Katiuscia Berretta. Over the past several years, I’ve had the honor of learning about mindfulness and the neuroscience of meditation from her. We just completed leading together our fifth mindfulness practice series at work. One of the beautiful gifts of this series was a guided practice Kat led that was focused on resilience and equanimity – it invited us to be like a bamboo tree (which was inspired by Osho’s Be A Hollow Bamboo). I’ll close with a poem that came to me after our practice together. May it invite the possibility of equanimity for you…

BE like the bamboo tree
by Vicki L. Flaherty

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your roots deep in the earth,
enduring cold winter storms.
Accepting the snow on your branches
until you can no longer.
When the white heaviness falls away,
let it go – and gently bend back.
Resilient, now stronger.

BE like the bamboo tree.
You stretch toward the sky,
standing strong in the summer sun.
Swaying in the warm breeze,
to mother nature’s song.
As the light shines on you,
receive it – and grow.
Resilient, now taller.

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your branches hollow.
No judgements or beliefs inside.
Just this openness inside you.
A place of deep knowing,
where nothing is needed.
Present with this spaciousness.
Resilient, now fully awake.

Related posts:


* I took this photo of a clover flower over the summer when on a trip to Michigan.

You always have an impact


This week is the 10-year anniversary of my ‘blogging’ about leading with intention. I put blogging in quotes because when I started, I was emailing a monthly communique, rather than posting to a blog.

To celebrate the occasion I thought I would share my original communique, mailed on 10/30/2007, following a session I co-led with Therese Kienast and Diana Bing at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchanges in Paris, France and Orlando, Florida, called Unleashing Your Possibilities. The foundation of the experience was radical leadership.

So, here it is…

Set aside a few minutes for YOU!  Read this note and try the exercises at the end.  Go ahead, take a small step today that will move you forward in creating what you want and unleashing your possibilities!

You Always Have an Impact

Do you know that you always have an impact, even when you do nothing–sometimes especially when you do nothing.  You affect and influence meetings and decisions.  YOU!   What’s created during a meeting when no one responds to questions or comments?  What happens to the energy when no one is really present and engaged?

It just takes one person to speak up in order to create a shift.  Have you experienced that?  A meeting is dull and blah, blah, blah and then all of a sudden someone says something and people start tuning in and sharing their ideas?  It can be anyone that speaks up, the lowest paid person on the team to the highest level manager or executive.  Sometimes people wait for the appointed, formal leader to show the way.  But, you know what? Sometimes that leader actually needs YOU to show the way.  As employees and human beings, we have full permission to speak up and share our ideas–in fact, it is our responsibility.  It’s part of what’s expected.

And, speaking up can create a shift in different directions—what you say can pull a meeting down when the point is off task, or when what’s shared is critical rather than constructive.  OR what you say can lift a meeting when the point is spot on and moves the agenda forward.  Be conscious of the tone that you set and the shifts that you create, and choose from your heart.

Something to Think About

Consider the impact you have and how you want to show up…

  • What impact are you having?
  • How are you showing up and what is it creating?
  • Are you creating what you want with the way you show up?
  • Is there something different you want to create?
  • What can you do to create something different?

Try This!

  1. Right now, think about the last meeting you were in and consider these questions:
  • How did you show up?
  • What was your experience of the meeting?
  • How do you think your presence influenced the meeting?
  • How could you have created something different?
  1. Pick a meeting you are attending tomorrow.

Before the meeting, get clear on:

  • What do I want the meeting to be like?
  • How do I want to show up?
  • What do I want to create for the meeting?

During the meeting, tune in to these considerations:

  • What is happening for me right now? How do I feel?  What do I want?  Am I engaged and interested?  When am I tuning out, and why?
  • What is happening for others in the meeting? Do others appear interested?  Are they engaged?
  • How is the meeting going? What’s it like?  What kind of experience is it?

After the meeting, ask yourself the questions you considered in Step 1.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Gail Blanke

 * I took this photo in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. My husband, Jim, and I had an impact on the sheep grazing in the pasture as we passed on the stony path. Right after this, all three ran in the opposite direction. ;]

Sense of Purpose – The Pathway to Success

2016 Vacation2 096.JPG

“The two most important days in your life

are the day you were born

and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

Ever reached a point where you feel you’ve lost your way…disconnected from your sense of self…discouraged and spent…heading down a path that’s not the way you want to go?

I have. (And not just once 😊) I’ll catch myself running along a path that I didn’t consciously choose, moving so fast that my surroundings are a blur, and more importantly, with such speed that I’m not even sure whose feet are racing against the ground. Fear seems to pull me along – and wear me down.

Then something invites me to pay attention.

Ironically, the very work that sometimes lures me down the path also invites me to slow down enough to think, see, hear, and feel my way on the journey. My work is laser-focused right now on “leading with resilience” – being our best when it matters most to us.* It’s about using science-based mindset, movement, nutrition, and recovery strategies to fuel ourselves, to support us in expending energy for what’s most important and in getting the rest and rejuvenation needed to perform what’s next. It’s about the social connection that is crucial for health – and that could just help us live longer. (Having Social Bonds is the No. 1 Way to Optimize Your Health) It’s about having a clear sense of purpose that pulls us toward important outcomes – bringing our energy to things that make a difference in our world.

“Clarify your purpose.

What is the why behind everything you do?

When we know this,

it is very empowering and the path is clear.”

– Jack Canfield

When the obstacle on the path is so big that it blocks my way, then I am forced to pause, and consider what I really want. I start working with visualizing my success, creating clarity about why I’m here on this planet and what fulfills me. I tune my sense of purpose. I set my compass so that I can see the path that points me in the direction I really want to go. I find that I do this over and over. I once thought I could nail down my purpose and be good to go for life; however, since I am continually transforming and things around me are changing, my vision for myself morphs and evolves.

I continue to practice checking in on the stories that I make up about what’s happening, rewriting them so they are aligned with what I value most. I review actions I’ve taken, seeing where I’ve leveraged my strengths, where I’ve made progress, what I’m learning.

“Mistakes make you wiser,

heartbreak makes you stronger,

and wrong turns often take you

to the right place.”

– Unknown

And, just as importantly, I consider what I might have done differently, reliving things I’d like to do better –  actually visualizing myself doing them successfully. I create new pathways in my mind for success. Really, science tells us that trying new things stimulates new neural pathways in the brain, and if we consistently work them, we build new habits that can support us.

Did you know that our minds don’t differentiate between visualizing ourselves doing something and actually doing them? Think about it, have you ever thought about something and reacted physically, emotionally, and mentally as if the experience were real? Or relived in your mind something you’ve already experienced and opened the very same physical, emotional and mental response?

Maybe one or more of these questions will invite you to visualize your success in a way that helps you be your best when it matters most:

  • What matters most to me?
  • What does success look like for me?
  • What energizes me?
  • What depletes me?
  • How do I fuel my success?
  • What am I learning?
  • Where am I making progress?
  • Where do I want to perform better?
  • What strengths do I have?
  • How are thoughts serving me or getting in my way?
  • How am I caring for myself physically, pscyhologically and emotionally to be my best?

 “The meaning of life is to find your gift.

The purpose of life is to give it away.”

– William Shakespeare

Some articles you might be interested in:

Building Resilience as a Leader: Thriving in the Face of Change

Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks

The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success

* I love this phrase – being your best when it matters most to you – which I picked up from Sink, Float, or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance – It Happens by Choice and the TIGNUM workshops I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. (Check out the TIGNUM Thoughts blog to learn more about their philosophy and approach.)

** I took this photo in the gardens at Knappogue Castle in County Clare, Ireland.

Regular recovery is essential for being resilient


Bouncing back from the many daily challenges we face doesn’t just happen. Moving through change with grace is not something that lucky people are fortunate enough to experience. No, responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances is something that we have to choose.

Responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances

is something that we have to choose.

To be resilient, it’s important to incorporate habits of wellbeing into our lives. Scientific evidence continues to show how our brains have ‘neuroplasticity’ and can be shaped, for example, by learning a new skill. We can design our lives so that the intentions we set, the choices we make, and the actions we take support us in being our best with regularity.

I’ve been reading Sink, Float or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance, It Happens by Choice and learning about habits related to mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery, and the interplay among them. It’s one thing to know that a positive attitude, moving throughout the day, eating healthy foods, and sleeping ~8 hours a night, for example, are good for you, it’s another to apply that knowledge on a consistent basis.


Moving like the energizer bunny 24/7/365 leads to burnout. At some point we become just plain exhausted.  We become physically tired, emotionally drained, and less able to cope. Our bodies were not made to sprint marathons! They were meant to expend energy and then to rest – more like a series of sprints with rest and recovery between each one. The optimal performance strategy is to vary the magnitude of our energy in cycles of peak performance followed by rest.

Consider these questions to enhance your awareness, the first step in creating personal change:

  • How do I feel throughout the day?
  • When is my energy is low? high?
  • How do I respond when I am tired? rested?
  • What can I do to improve my sleep?
  • What do I (can I) do to maintain energy and focus throughout the day?

Ever notice that you are tired, but you push on, believing that if you just do this one more thing, you’ll be in a better place? If you’re like me, that doesn’t usually work out so well and often leads to one more thing and then errors and inefficiencies.  Sometimes, of course, we are in a demanding situation that we cannot just step away from. Engaging in high performance strategies can support our moving through high pressure moments as effectively as possible.


Try these strategies to move through high pressure moments:

  • Take a few intentional breaths – either a long inhale to energize or a long exhale to relax, to refocus.
  • Drink some water – our brains are 80% water and when they are not optimally hydrated, our cognitive function can be reduced leading to reduced cognitive function and ‘fuzzy’ thinking.
  • Eat something nutritious – a fun way is to see how many colors you can include.
  • Do a few stretches  which can enhance your creativity and boost your energy and mood (go here for some suggestions for moves you can do at your desk).

The number #1 thing we can do to strengthen our ability to move through a challenging day is to get enough sleep, which for most people is ~7-8 hours per night. Research shows there’s a link between sleep and effective leadership, yet 4 out of 10 (43%) leaders report not getting enough sleep at least four nights a week.

Consider how much your job requires you to perform the following activities, which are especially impacted by lack of sleep.

  • Focus and avoid distractions, while, at the same time, see the big picture
  • Recognize patterns, generate creative ideas and effectively solve problems
  • See different perspectives by encoding, consolidating, and retrieving new information
  • Weigh the significance of different inputs accurately, avoid tunnel vision, and minimize cognitive bias
  • Help, understand and trust others, interpret their emotions, and stay positive while engaging with them

Didn’t get enough sleep and struggling? Consider a short power nap. A consistent recommendation is to sleep no more than 20 minutes. Just sitting at your desk and resting with your eyes closed in the dark for 5 minutes can be a pretty powerful recharge, too.



If you like this post, you might also be interested in these blogs:


* The photographs were taking in my backyard. The closing image was created from a photo I took at Dilek National Park in Guzelcamli, Turkey.

Mindset is the engine that powers success

Leadership Quote4

Have you ever done something you once thought you couldn’t do? When I was younger, I believed I couldn’t run a marathon. I thought: “Only ‘real’ runners do marathons.”, or “My knees can’t handle it.”, or a million other limiting beliefs repeated in my head. On my 30-year anniversary of running, I realized I am a real runner, and that if I want to run a marathon, I just have this one life to do it, and I’m not getting any younger. My beliefs had limited what I thought I could do, which kept me from taking certain actions. Then actions and results I’d taken over time (i.e., a long history of running) shifted my beliefs and thoughts about what’s possible, leading to different actions and results – I successfully ran that marathon.


“It is better to believe than to disbelieve;

in so doing you are bringing everything

 to the realm of possibility.”

– Albert Einstein

Our beliefs and thoughts determine our actions and the results we achieve. In turn, the results we get affect our beliefs. There’s a powerful interplay between what happens mentally (what we believe and think) and what happens physically (the actions we take and results we achieve). What we think – the words and tone we use, the stories we tell ourselves – has a direct impact on how we behave. We can move from the impossible to the possible with a shift in our thoughts and beliefs.

 “We become what we think about all day long.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do we shift our beliefs and thoughts? We pay attention what’s happening in our minds. What we say in our heads all day provides a kind of feedback that we can use to make adjustments in our behavior. And, we employ practices to help us move in the direction we want to go. For example, we can reframe our thoughts and focus our attention. And do it in a way that builds a habit by consistently applying the practices.

When we notice unproductive or negative self-talk, we can REFRAME our thinking, adjusting the words and tone to be of greater service to ourselves. Reframing involves changing the ‘frame’ through which we view an experience, while leaving the facts of the situation alone.  Reframing can help us be more confident or inspired, for example.

“Your own words are the bricks and mortar

of the dreams you want to realize.

Behind every one word flows energy.”

– Sonia Choquette

I’m on a mission to remove the word “overwhelm” from my vocabulary. I’ve noticed myself saying “I am overwhelmed” when I have a lot to do. When I feel like I have more tasks to complete than I possibly can in the available time, I am taking a deep breath, with an especially long relaxing outbreath and inviting a new perspective in my self-talk: “Yes, right now there’s a of opportunity to do stuff that makes a difference. What’s the most important thing for me to complete right now? Let’s start there and then revisit to determine what’s next…” I am using the word ‘overwhelm’ as a trigger to take a deep breath, and then the deep breath as a reminder to invite a new perspective. By doing this each time I notice, I’m creating a habit that shapes a mindset in service of positive action and results.

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

When we notice that our thoughts are scattered, we can FOCUS and direct our thoughts, which can lead to outcomes such as greater productivity and better decision making. When I notice I am multi-tasking to get as many items off my to-do list as possible by the end of the day, I invite myself to be intentional about what I’m doing by shifting my body into what I call an ‘awake posture’ (learn more here). Shifting the experience in my body invites me to set my mind by clearing my head and consciously refocusing my attention.

“Powerful people decide where, how and what

they are going to use their precious energy for.

Whatever you’re giving your attention becomes your intention.”

– Therese Kienast

Question to contemplate:

  • What beliefs do I hold that may limit what’s possible?
  • What thoughts consistently run through my mind? What stories do I repeatedly tell myself?
  • What words and tone do I use in my self-talk?
  • What one small action might I try to tune in more to my thoughts and beliefs?
  • How might I grow awareness of my breath? Of my body? Of the interplay of my physical and mental being?
  • How might reframing or focusing practices support my success?
  • Where do I place my attention? What does that say about my intentions?

* I took the photo in Baltimore Bay in County Cork Ireland.

small steps toward success breed confidence


Great leadership depends on confidence. Great leaders are conscious of their power, believe that they will respond in the most effective way, and carry a quality of certainty that is sensed by others. Confident leaders inspire confidence in their teams. Confident leaders point in the direction of possibility and start by taking steps toward the seemingly impossible. They learn from their failures and build on prior successes.

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”             – Theodore Roosevelt

Confidence is not something that you have or don’t have. Confidence waxes and wanes. Confidence can depend on the circumstances and may be more challenging when facing something novel. Confidence can depend on how we are feeling physically and emotionally, with lows more likely when we are not taking care of ourselves. Confidence can depend on our mindset and our ability to shape our thinking positively toward action.

“Self-confidence is the memory of success.” – David Storey

Confidence builds as we experiment, discover and learn. Success – even the smallest instance – breeds confidence. Taking small steps toward what we value and consider important builds confidence. It is quite possible to move from hardly knowing anything to being quite proficient, even an expert. Take driving, for example. You don’t just get in a car one day and become a great driver. Learning to drive requires a desire to drive and lots of learning. It’s amazing, really, what consistent practice does: you can move to the point that you know something so well you can do it in autopilot.

“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” – Unknown

Where in your life would you like to be more successful? Get started by building a clear vision for your success, taking small steps in the direction of your success to build your confidence, and creating a support structure to enable your success. One small step at a time, fully supported, and fueled with openness, curiosity, and courage, you’ll be building the pathway to success, and with it the confidence you need to stay the course. Once you’re in motion, the hardest part is over!

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Clear vision: If you don’t know what you want or what will make you happy or successful, how do you move toward it? Life and other people have a way of moving you along. The risk is that you end up somewhere that makes them happy and not you. To have greater clarity about what you want – your aspirations, dreams, goals in work and life – you have to take your foot off the gas petal along the always-on freeway. Clarity comes by slowing down long enough to tune in to ourselves and listen to our hearts and minds, and to sense what is happening, where we are and where we want to go. Seeing where you are going helps you feel stronger and more courageous about taking steps in that direction.

“Success is not a big step in the future; success is a small step taken right now.” – Unknown

Small Steps: With your goal in mind, identify what one step you can take right now to move toward it. It doesn’t have to be big – in fact, it should be a small step. The idea is to build on small successes. Defining that first step – or other subsequent steps – too broadly could have the opposite effect you’re going for. Instead of feeling confident about your progress, you might eel inadequate and defeated.

“If you can conquer your physical and mental wellbeing, you can conquer anything in the world.” – Unknown

Body care: Feeling sure and confident increases when our minds are in optimal condition. And how we are in our minds is greatly affected by how we are in our bodies. (I learned this from Rolf Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat and Meditations on Intention and Being.) I’ve found a very powerful way of shifting to a place of greater confidence is by pausing periodically throughout the day to notice my posture. Often, I’m hunkered over my keyboard, shoulders tense, my chest and stomach scrunched. Noticing this, I move to a more relaxed and open position (learn more about what I’ve come to call my ‘awake posture’).  Eating and hydrating properly, incorporating movement into our day, and allowing recovery time are also critical ways for enhancing our performance – and thus, boosting our confidence. (Read more of Dr. Jacqueline Lee’s tips on sustaining peak performance.)

What one small step toward success will you take today to boost your confidence? A first simple step might be to schedule time on your calendar – time when you push the pause button, sense what’s happening, gain insight, and set intentions. Start small – it could be 5 minutes at the start or end of a day or during a mid-day break. Some questions you might consider are provided below. Take a question a week and see where you end up at the end of a month.

  • How do I define success?
  • What does success look like?
  • Why is success important?
  • How will I know I’ve achieved success?


This blog is inspired by reading Fearless at Work: Timeless Teaching for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, who sees confidence as “no matter what work offers up – success or failure, happiness or disappointment, recognition or indifference – we can unshakably rely on ourselves to be self-assured, resourceful, and at our ease.” What I love about Michael Carroll’s books is that I can read through one by focusing on a chapter at a time, usually using one a week to inspire new ideas and habits (Another of his books is Awake at Work, and Mindful Leader is on my what’s next wish list.)

Dive Deeper

You might be interested in:

  • Inc magazine’s feature by Peter Economy: 5 Powerful ways to Boost Your Confidence, including being prepared by learning as much as you can in your areas of expertise and creating “great lists” of things you are thankful for and things you have accomplished.
  • Leo Babauta’s list of confidence boosters on his Zen Habits: Breathe site: 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence, which includes starting something you’ve been procrastinating about, setting goals, and focusing on solutions.

Related posts

  1. Sustaining Confidence
  2. Shifting Our Victim Mindset

* I took this photo of a dianthus in my backyard this spring, and I shared it here because to me it has a confidence about it.

The Invisible Touch


“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”

~William James

This past week I received an email from someone who attended a session I led on being social in a digital world. She was thanking me for something I said which inspired her to write a blog that she was sharing with me. While I certainly had hoped back in March to influence the group by sharing with them, I didn’t fully realize how something I would say might truly inspire someone to action.

As I reflected on what happened, I sensed this ‘invisible touch’. I saw how the way that I showed up, the words I chose, the intentions I set came together to reach someone in a way that I didn’t predict.

Six email for Jun17

Read Six’s thought-provoking and inspiring blog: Human evolution – For our next chapter let’s reinvent our humanity.

Six writes about the power of creativity, adaptability, and empathy as sources of change and evolution, and she invites us to embrace those aspects of our humanity that make us unique. Part of what makes us special as humans is our ability to engage with each other, to form relationships, to co-create together. How we show up and seize the opportunity of our interactions is truly a special power that we all possess.

I’m reminded that every interaction is an opportunity and that being present as we engage with others provides the nutrients for building strong relationships. It’s not just the words we use or the visible actions we take, there is an unseen energy in the intentions, attitudes and beliefs we hold and in how we carry ourselves. Sometimes a kind of ‘magic’ happens when two people come together, open up to possibility, and trust each other and the space they share. This magic can take us to places and outcomes grander than we could ever have imagined.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

 ~Jackie Robinson

Can you recall a ‘magic’ moment where something invisible happened when you were with someone? Have you ever been made aware of how something you said or did shaped the actions of someone else? How you see your power to influence and shape the world – for yourself, and for others?

Here’s to truly being present for the magic of the moment and fully experiencing what’s possible when two people come together. May you grace others with the invisible touch. May you receive the invisible touch.

* Image: I took this photo at Newhall Refinery on my recent visit to California. I saw something magical about the 3 vases sitting together on the table. Together they created something that inspired me – they touched me.