Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year!

It's Leap Year, so we have the gift of an extra day today. Every four years a day is added to the calendar - except for years divisible by 100 but not by 400. Leap year is a structure that allows us to keep the seasons in sync and prevents the drifting of Spring over decades from the end of March to the beginning of March. It keeps the calendar time clock that we live by running smoothly.

If I have this right, it means that Pope Gregory XIII (who came up with the leap year plan in 1582), recognized the importance of adding structures to keep things balance and in sync. He sounds like a man ahead of his time. Perhaps he would have made a great life coach.

What if we each were able to recognize when we are "drifting" out of balance? What if we become more aware of when we are out of sync with our body clock? What if we each took a bold action step to compensate for imbalance? How might you do that for yourself?

I'm thinking that putting a structure in place for myself once every four years, except for years divisible by 100 or 400, is not going to be enough. (Luckily we don't have to worry about that divisible by 100, but not by 400 again until the year 2100.) However, that means that I would only have an opportunity to re-set the thermostat in four years. In four years I will have been using a lot of extra energy to run things full blast.

What is my version of a leap year structure? What helps me to keep the clock I live by in sync and in balance? In what ways do I start drifting away from the things that are most important?

Who knew there was so much to think about on this date of February 29th?

One final question - How are you going to spend the gift of an extra day today? Spend it wisely because you won't get another one until the year 2012.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Ultimate Gift

For those of you readers who have followed my blog long enough to know that Sundays involve a long ride on the trainer, you may be wondering what movie I watched this past weekend. I watched "The Ultimate Gift" which is based upon the best-selling novel by Jim Stovall. The story is based upon a young man (played by Drew Fuller) who embarks on a journey to claim his inheritance from his wealthy grandfather (played by James Garner). The grandfather gives the grandson twelve tasks, which he calls gifts, to complete. The gifts include the following:

1) The gift of work
2) The gift of money
3) The gift of friends
4) The gift of learning
5) The gift of problems
6) The gift of family
7) The gift of laughter
8) The gift of dreams
9) The gift of giving
10) The gift of gratitude
11) The gift of a day
12) The gift of love

One of these resonates with me in particular - the gift of a day. Perhaps you have heard the song by Chris Rice entitled "Life Means so Much". Part of the lyrics are as follows:

"Every day is a journal page.
Every man holds a quill and pen.
There's plenty of room fro writing in all we do & believe & think.

Every day is a bank account.
Time is our currency.
No one is rich, nobody is poor.
We get 24 hours each.
So, how are you going to spend?
Will you invest or squander?
Try to get ahead or help someone who is under?"

Each day we are all writing our story, making an entry in our journal. How we choose to spend the moments of our day reflect who we are and what is most important. Or at least, that is the way it is supposed to be if we are living the perfect day.

Did I invest wisely today? Or did I squander my day away on unimportant things?

In the special features portion of the DVD, Jim Stovall (author of The Ultimate Gift) says; "the meaning of life is to find our gift and the purpose of our life is to give it away".

What is your gift?
How are you giving it away?

Friday, February 22, 2008

If no one reads it, does it still have an impact?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a noise? As I was writing a recent posting for my blog, I wondered what the impact might be if no one reads it. Even if no one reads it, I believe it does have an impact. If nothing else, it allows me to contemplate some of the ideas in my head and "publish them" in the written word form.

I have a good friend, and fellow coach, who talks about the importance of "publishing" your ideas, intentions and goals - stating them out loud for others to hear. This increases the level of commitment from the realm of intention to the realm of action. Once I have had the courage to dare to say it out loud, there is an accountability piece that automatically follows. It is about being in integrity with one's self. Am I true to my own word?

What are the ideas or dreams that you haven't dared to publish yet? Doesn't the world deserve to know about them?

Perhaps there is an author in all of us. We all are writing our life story each day by the choices we make, the actions we take, and the words we say out loud. How is your life story coming along? What is it that might have the readers (those around us or even the world) on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens next?

So my challenge to any of you might be reading this blog posting - leave a comment and "publish" one of your ideas or dreams. If there are no comments, I'll assume no one was reading and I'll still know there has been an impact.

Signed, Just one tree in the forest (by the way, one of my nicknames is "Tree Girl")

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Because I can"

I have two short stories for you today. I know you might be thinking to yourself; "her stories are never short".

Our weather here in the midwest has been challenging this winter. The cold temperatures, dreary skies, snow and ice are becoming tiresome for most people. The other morning my husband was getting ready for work on yet another very cold day. He said he would much prefer to stay in bed (where it is nice and warm) than to go outside. I replied; "That's interesting because I'm sure Cyndie would much prefer to go outside than to stay in bed.

For those of you who may not have been following my blog recently, Cyndie is my husband's cousin's wife. She has now been in the ICU for a full two weeks following a serious car accident. The circumstances that have so radically changed her life were out of her control. The accident was not her fault. Thinking about how much she would love to be able to get out of that hospital bed and venture out into the cold midwest weather, certainly gives another perspective.

On most Wednesday mornings I meet a runner friend at 5:30 AM to run a 6-mile loop around the neighborhood by her house. This morning she called shortly after 5:00 to say that she was sick and would not be running. Hmmmm.... the wind is coming out of the north at 19 mph. The temperature is 6 degrees with a wind chill well below zero. A perfect opportunity for me to skip the run.

And then I thought about Cyndie. Cyndie would love to run. Her ankle was badly shattered in the accident, her pelvis was broken, among other things. For Cyndie, the ability to run six miles is not part of her current reality. As another good runner friend of mine put it (when asked why she runs); "Because I can".

So I ran this morning. It was cold. Very cold. It was windy. It was dark. It was snowing. It was a beautiful morning to run because I can.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Shower Uppers"

As a life coach part of my mission is to help my clients "show up" big in the world - to show up as big as they really are, even if they have forgotten for the moment, or have not believed in their own ability to do so up until now.

Good intentions alone are not enough. Actions alone are not enough either, when unaccompanied by a compelling purpose - the "why bother" part of things. When you put those two things together then you have created something powerful. For example, I intend to complete Ironman Wisconsin 2009 within the cut-off time. I know the "why bother" part of the action follow-through. That compelling purpose and clarity bring the intention and actions together to create my desired outcome.

Laura Whitworth was one of the co-founders of the Coaches Training Institute. She died last February after a two year battle with lung cancer. I only met Laura one time - at a regional coaching conference. Even then, I didn't actually meet her one on one. I was in the audience as she gave a keynote speech. I was immediately struck by her powerful presence and the impact she created in the room.

Laura kept a blog during the course of her illness. Sometimes her postings were about her illness and the treatments she was going through. Always her postings were about challenging those of us who were reading to live intentional, powerful and impactful lives. The following excerpt is taken from a posting Laura made in her blog a little over a year ago:

"As it turns out I have my own certain sense of what the term ‘show up’ means. Surprise. (-; My definition of what it is to ‘show up’, may differ from yours, so I want to warn you ahead of time that I am going to speak emphatically and decisively about ‘showing up.’ I’m going to borrow from others, and I am going to push for us to align around the importance of distinguishing this concept. Please stand by your definition of what it is to ‘show up’ and take in my input as food for thought. To ‘show up’ means to ACT. To ‘show up’ is a verb, it is an action verb, it requires intention and an act of WILL. ‘Showing up’ is Action. Not thinking about, wishing, hoping, accidents, pretending, or talking about. To ‘show up’ is visible. It can be seen in the world by others. By you. If you should even pause to look, cause most often you don’t. You are already moving. To ‘show up’ is something we choose. AND it is a way of life. We choose to ‘show up’ for this or that, and we choose to ‘not show up’ for that and those. And still, there is in each of us a ‘shower upper.’ Some of us show up a lot. Some of us a little. Some hardly at all. And some of us don’t have the distinction, to ‘show up,’ so are unable to access the power when we are and when we are not ‘showing up.’

...Now here is something very important to say here -- there is NO requirement that one has to ‘show up.’ There is no HAVE to. As a matter of fact if we think we HAVE to ‘show up’ at anytime or anywhere, then we have lost what it is to ‘show up.’ Try this on: One piece of evidence of someone who ‘shows up’ comes when that someone says (or acts) “no, I will not be ‘showing up’ for xxx.?” “I will ‘show up’ for yyyy.” Or, “I’ll let you know what I will show up for when I am clear about that myself.”

Because to ‘show up’ is a stand, a stake, it is the intention that you couple with the act of will. Both the intention and the action are required to ‘show up.’ And we cannot authentically choose to ‘show up’ for everything. As a matter of fact, if we try to ‘show up’ for everything then maybe we are simply trying to be pleasers instead of people who have chosen to ‘show up’ in life." (End of excerpt)

I love the distinction Laura makes about choice. We can choose to show up or to not show up. When the "not showing up" for something is intentional, that choice in and of itself is actually showing up authentically as we want to be.

Laura gives us a way to measure whether or not we are showing up. For the data lovers among us, she provides a method of measurement. Is it visible - can our "showing up" be seen by others? Is it observable by the world?

It reminds me a little of the Henry David Thoreau quote:

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Start with the castles in the sky part. What's your intention? Imagine your dreams, from the smallest of dreams to the really big dream... What's the bold adventure?

Then start the building process, the action part, so that your dream is not just a mirage, only seen by you, but not by others. Begin with a blueprint and then one action step at a time, brick by brick bring your vision into reality.

Welcome to the world of "shower uppers".

If you would like to read more of Laura Whitworth's writing, you can find it at:

Friday, February 15, 2008

There are no Ordinary Moments

My husband's cousin's wife was in a serious car accident eleven days ago. The day, I would assume, started out much like any other day. She was on her way to work when she was hit head on by another car. At that moment her life changed. Life has changed for those around her too, as her family struggles to deal with the aftermath of the accident - long hours in the ICU, doctors, consultations, optimistic signs, setbacks, worry and overwhelming fatigue.

The only moment we really have for certain is this moment. This moment now. We squander away so many moments as we move mindlessly through our day. Can you name three of the most special moments you've had so far today? How about yesterday?

I lost a very good friend to leukemia about a year and a half ago. During one of our last conversations together she talked about the effort it required for her to first sit up in the morning. The process of moving herself to an upright position was exhausting. It took her almost 15 minutes to accomplish this task. Her message was clear - there are so many things we take for granted.... the ability to sit up, the ability to breath, the ability to run.

There is a zen buddist (I believe) exercise that poses the question; "What if this were the first time or last time to do something?"

Young children are so delightful to watch. They are excited about the first time they see something or experience something. And they are just as excited about it all over again tomorrow.

Our granddaughter Madison took us into her bedroom to show us her new Brio train table set-up. The first time she escorted us into her bedroom to show us, she was so excited as she exclaimed; "Cool, awesome". The next time we visited, she grabbed our hands just as excitedly and took us to view the train set again with another; "Cool, awesome". She continues to take us hand by hand to view this remarkable thing everytime we visit.

I'd like to think I can keep this perspective in mind. The truth is that it will gradually fade away, until the moment when life changes everything.

If you could say a prayer for Cyndie in this moment, that would be; "Cool, awesome".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Perfection, victory, invulnerability

So, I watched the Peaceful Warrior again yesterday while doing my bike workout on the trainer. I wanted to catch some of the phrases that particularly stood out for me. It is a little difficult to write down phrases while riding at 86% of your maximum heart rate. And of course, you have the whole sweat dripping on the paper challenge - which tends to smear the ink.

The following is what I can decipher from my ink smeared piece of paper with the sloppy handwriting:

The quote I would like to explore today is; "Being a warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. It is about absolute vulnerability.

Huh? In the world of athletics, the focus is generally about precisely those things. Running the perfect race. Obtaining victory at the finish line. Being invulnerable by avoiding injury.

There just may be an assumption to challenge in my way of thinking. Have my previous athletic goals come about as a result of perfection, victory and invulnerability? Or, have those three things actually gotten in my way?

Time to have a close encounter with the "if I really tell the truth" mirror. The truth that is reflected back to me is that being too focused on perfection, victory and invulnerability has very much been in the way.

Focusing on perfection tends to lead us to focusing on doing things as well as another person. It takes us to that "if only... I could be as good as that person" way of thinking. When I'm doing that, I'm moving further away from my goals, rather than closer to them.

Focusing on victory may have a very narrow focus. Victory may be defined as reaching a specific time goal, achieving a breakthrough in training, finishing an event, beating someone else... The greater victory may be believing in myself especially when the time goal doesn't happen, the training has a plateau or setback, or where I finish in the overall results.

Focusing on invulnerability keeps me from admitting to myself the very things that are getting in my way. To admit the vulnerabilities requires that I own my imperfections. Perfection is not obtainable.

The really scary place? I'm comfortable in the athletic world. It's much easier to accept and own how focusing on perfection, victory and invulnerability get in my way in the world of athletics. How does it get in my way in my personal life? In my relationships?

I think I'll ponder that while I go do my bike workout... :)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Are you listening?

I found the following quote on one of my coaching forums:

..."When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person." ~ Rachel Naomi Remen MD

It's not so much that we want our problems to be fixed, as it is that we want to be heard - we want someone to really listen. How often do we really listen? My guess is that we do a pretty good job convincing ourselves we are good listeners, but we can all improve our listening skills.

And then....

We can start to listen to our own inner voice. What about the homeless parts inside of ourselves?

Imagine being angry, upset, sad or afraid. Being able to talk to someone who does listen, allows us to find a safe place to park that feeling - a parking lot of sorts. After talking it through, being listened to, the anger, sadness or fear can be safely parked in the sanctuary of another's willingness to listen.

So try this as an experiment - the next time someone around you is complaining, listen for the request or the fear that is underneath the complaint. Perhaps you can provide a sanctuary for that individual - for their homeless parts.

The next time you find yourself complaining, ask yourself what the unstated request or unexpressed fear is beneath your own complaint. Then consider who might provide a sanctuary for you. How might you create a sanctuary for yourself? What things or places bring you a sense of calm, a chance to replenish or renew?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oops - Forgot to take out the Trash

Last night we had heavy rain and thunderstorms. It was also garbage night. Since the weather was not conducive to hauling the garbage cans down the driveway, we forgot until this morning. I should add that my husband is almost always the one to take the trash out to the curb. I'm typically the one who rounds it up from the various locations inside the house, but I rarely if ever, take it down the driveway and to the curb. That may be more than a coincidence.

This past Sunday I watched the movie "Peaceful Warrior" while riding my bike indoors on the trainer. The movie is similar to "Karate Kid" in that there is a student and a master. The master is there to teach the student what he needs to learn about himself and the pursuit of his goals.

One of the things Socrates (the master) talks about is the importance of "taking out the trash". The trash refers to the junk that clutters up our minds and gets in our way of moving forward. Typically trash comes from thinking either about the past (previous failures, experiences, voices of other people) or the future (what if...). Worry is rooted in thinking about the past or the future. Taking out the trash allows us to be fully present in this moment - now.

Before I began my pool workout today, I decided to take out the trash first. I let go of my self-limiting perceptions of my swim ability, the awareness that my technical skills are not quite there yet.... I let go of the worry about the future - the next 60 minutes or so of future (how would I ever manage to get through those 10 repeat 50 yds @ VO2 max pace, how would I recover enough to then tackle the 5 repeat 100's and the 400 yds of kicking) and the future of tomorrow, the next few months (will I ever become a skilled swimmer?).

I just started swimming. Every time the trash would start to enter my mind, I would take it out and set it on the pool deck. After all, I could always pick it up again after my workout if I really wanted to.

Not taking out the trash gets in my way. There isn't a sanitation collection service to come and take out my trash for me. I have to be aware it is piling up and then haul it out to the curb myself.

Now if I can just remember....

Monday, February 4, 2008

No Kidding - Stepping Over the Line

Excuses - we all find them handy to use at times. What are the stories we tell ourselves? Are we such good storytellers that we then actually believe the story? I consider myself to be a pretty good storyteller. I'm also fairly trustworthy, so I'm even more likely to believe my own story!

I'd been telling myself that I intuitively know when I am in my target heart rate zone when training on my bike or running. I know because I can gauge my perceived effort. I also told myself I could not afford to buy a new heart rate monitor, especially since I was getting along fine without one. I also told myself that I already train hard. I've run 53 marathons. I know what hard effort feels like. I don't need a heart rate monitor to tell me that. Or do I?

This Christmas I asked for a heart rate monitor from my husband. He got me one! Then the heart rate monitor sat unopened on my dresser. I almost felt like it was watching me each time I would pass by, wondering when I would step over the line and commit.

Time for some new creative storytelling. I told myself I was too busy to read the instruction booklet in order to figure out how to set the appropriate target zones. I will get around to it eventually, when I have some free time.

Here's the reality - I already have the time if I'm really committed to it.

It's time to be called into action. Am I ready to hear the call? I've done a great job of not hearing the call before. I had an old heart rate monitor with a dead battery. My triathlon coach diligently sent me training schedules last year with all the numbers for my target heart rate zones nicely calculated for me to follow.

I followed the workouts. I didn't know if I was training hard enough, because I chose not to worry about the lack of heart rate monitoring. In other words, I wasn't totally committed to achieving my goals. I didn't give myself every opportunity for success. I was my own "self-limiter".

Today I stepped over the line. Today I committed to my goals for 2008.

Today I took read the heart rate monitor instruction booklet. I figured out how to use it, which buttons to push and how to input my target heart rate zones...

and then I got on the trainer to do my first bike workout wearing my heart rate monitor. It feels good. I'll see you at the finish line.