The Sky is the Limit – Three things I’ve learned about Success

What does it mean to be “successful”? I have long thought that success is an unobtainable nebulous thing that I was destined to never experience. Why never, you ask?

I could not pinpoint the exact source of the messages, likely it came from hundreds, if not thousands, of societal hints and nudges around what success is. As a child of the 70’s I heard pretty clear messages about what success looked like:

  • Hitting the books – getting an education is important and you are only truly successful if have a formal post-secondary education. And God-willing at 18, you had the exact knowledge of what you wanted to be/do in life and were able to pursue an education in said career choice. Sounds pretty good to me.
  • Climbing the corporate ladder – in the workplace I think the most prevalent message I heard was that success has a direct correlation to how high you move up the proverbial corporate ladder. Makes sense.
  • Raising little humans – if you are raising a family, you are successful. It is one of life’s most amazing accomplishments and from what I can see one of the hardest jobs out there – which by the way, there is no formal education to prepare you or no corporate title that you can delegate diaper changing to. Raising an actual human – Wow!

I will never doubt that these are indeed yardsticks for success.

But if this is the only truth, I am a dismal failure. I’ve completely failed at life. Yet I do not feel like a total failure, so there must be more. Let’s explore three things I’ve learned around what success has looked like in my own life:

  • The bumpy, definitely not a straight line, career path – moved to a ski town when I was 18, partied and ski-bummed for a good portion of my 20’s, worked a bunch of different jobs, a few false start career moves, and finally at 30 went to a local college and got a diploma. I love that I tried out several different jobs in my 20’s and spent a lot of time exploring what I liked and did not like. All of it served to bring me where I am today. I love the work I am currently doing complete with all the bumps and bruises along the way. I feel happy. This must be success.
  • It takes a village – I don’t have kids. It just never happened. But I have an amazing community-family. I have nieces and nephews that light up my life. I have a husband whose kids are wonderful humans. I have friends that lift me up with their love, grace, and uniqueness. I have a network of people that inspire me. I have a broad family tree – deep roots of life sustaining energy. I have an amazing husband that ticks every box. Oh, and I am a fur-baby mama! My cup is full. This must be success.
  • It’s a great day to be alive – thank you, Travis Tritt. I know how lucky I am to live where I do. I have a mountain literally in my backyard. I hear birds chirping every morning. I feel safe. My husband and I have a modest house that, well, feels like home. In five minutes, I can be in the forest breathing in the deep mossy air. And life is happening – there are ups and downs; white-water-hang-on-for-your-dear-life one day and clear smooth sailing the next. I get knocked down, I stand up, sometimes with shaky legs, dust myself off and keep going. I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is life in its perfect messiness. I love it. This must be success.

What about you? How would you define success in your own life?


“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” ~ Arthur Ashe

Smooth Sailing Ahead – Three Things I’ve Learned About Gremlins

Picture this: I’m excited about a new adventure I’m about to embark on. I am feeling the glow of what’s to come. Off I go – ready to take on the world – I know I can do this! Like Rocky Balboa – I’m a tiger, baby!

And then wham!

Out of the blue a little imp, sitting crossed legged on my shoulder whispers in my ear “Who do you think you are?”

What the hell? Where did you come from?

And then the little imp says a bit louder “This is really hard, are you sure you can do this?”

The self-doubt starts to creep in. I start to worry if I’m cut out for this new adventure.

And then the little imp, now standing up, shouts in my ear “You will fail. You should stop this madness!”  And I do. I stop. The imp, AKA, my gremlin, has got me on the ropes. I’m KO’d.

Does an inner dialogue like this sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. I suspect most if not all of us have some type of gremlin trying to work it’s fearful, play-small voodoo on us. But the good news is that we have a choice. Albeit challenging, we get to choose what to do with this gremlin. I’ve tried the full-out battlefield, take the gremlin out-at-the-knees out approach and it does not work. For me, my gremlin is always there, so I’ve learned over time a few strategies that seem to work to help me navigate this inner saboteur.

Here are three things I’ve learned on how to manage my gremlin:

  • Get to know this character – for the longest time my gremlin was a big unknown to me – oh I knew it was always there – but I was a bit afraid of the damn thing. So, I started to get to know my gremlin. I asked myself what it looked like, what was its purpose, what does it say to me. My gremlin is a troll like creature, constantly telling me I’m not good enough. The more I got to know my gremlin, the less scary it was and the more I felt able to work with my gremlin. I realized my gremlin is not my enemy and is actually working hard to keep me safe. And to do this it uses fear to keep me small. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear, she has a wonderful strategy about inviting fear into her life and working with the fear, creating space for it, respecting it but stating very clearly that it is not going to call the shots.
  • My #1 Fan – once I started to get to know and work with my gremlin, one strategy I engaged that really worked for me was My #1 Fan. My gremlin is a loud-mouth and likes to hog the spotlight and I figured there had to be another, more positive voice that was not being heard. So, I asked myself: “If I had a #1 Fan, what would it be saying right now?” And voila, another voice piped up, albeit quiet at first, with positive encouraging words.
  • Don’t give in, don’t give up – My gremlin tends to just show up at any given time, always uninvited and slightly obnoxious so I have to intentionally and regularly reach out to my #1 Fan who tends to hang out in the background, like the shy girl at the high school dance. And yes, there are times when I’m a punching bag while my gremlin and #1 Fan duke it out. Sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes my gremlin prevails and I am bruised and sore. And more often now, my #1 Fan KO’s the gremlin and I’m off on my grand adventure!



“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Making it Stick – 3 Things I’ve Learned about Goals

When it comes to setting goals (or intentions or resolutions), I am gung-ho to start. I am an eager beaver. I am full steam ahead. I throw myself head first into it. Then something happens and I lose steam. I start procrastinating. I make excuses. I stop reaching for the goal. I let fear and doubt creep in and I’m derailed. Ugh, total failure.

Okay, I know I’m not a total failure. I’m being a bit dramatic here to make a point about setting goals.  You might be familiar with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals or BHAG’s (big hairy audacious goals, to which I must say that there is no goal I want to be hairy – just reminds me of gigantic creepy crawlies).

SMART goals and BHAG’s (and many others) are a good framework and provide a solid guideline to setting goals. And I’ve learned that hard way, through amazing failure and a few fantastic successes, that there are some critical elements when setting (and ultimately achieving) a goal.

Three things I’ve learned about setting goals:

Heart, baby – Goals need to have some spark and fire for me. It needs to meaningful and ultimately tied to how I want to feel when I achieve the goal. It’s the big WHY. The big-kahuna of purpose. Without this, it’s dead in the water. How do I know it has heart? I ask myself: Am I excited about the goal or even about the steps it will take to achieve? Does it fill up my cup? Is the goal aligned to me, my values, what’s most important to me?

Simply achievable – It has to be manageable given everything else going on in life cuz life is busy. I have the best success when I can break it down into the minutia. The simplest steps with the most realistic of timelines. And then I take one simple step at a time. Pace will be different for everyone. In order for me to achieve, I need to be realistic about what I can actually do. It has occurred to me that when I break the steps into micro-steps, I do not get overwhelmed and I build my confidence in achieving the goal.

Little wins – I’m human. I need some instant gratification and to know I’m doing a good job along the way so there needs to be some milestones or little celebrations along the way. After all, it’s about the journey as much as it is the destination. When I was building my coaching business, I still remember when I got my business number. It was a great day, I was able to stop and say Wow…I’m legit! And take a moment to sit in this little success.

“If you want to accomplish the goals of your life, you have to begin with the spirit.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

The Ripple Effect

The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines the ripple effect as a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.

We know the analogy of dropping a stone in a lake and watch the ripples spread out. One small act or action has an effect on something, someone else and onwards. Or if you are old enough, you might remember the Faberge commercial (and so on and so on…)?

This struck me recently as a former colleague came up to me and stated “Cindy, you said something a few years ago that really stuck with me and changed my approach to my career.”  She went on to tell me what I had said to her – and I had no recollection of the conversation or the so-called advice I had given her. But my words had an impact on her and luckily, in this case it was a positive impact.

How many times might I have said something flippant or dismissive that had a negative impact on someone and that impact created an unintended negative ripple effect? And I had no idea.

Whether you are a leader in an organization, a team member, a member of your community, an auntie, a father, a friend…it does not matter…each one of us have an impact, a ripple effect of our words or actions.

My struggle is that I may have a positive intention in my actions or words, but the impact may be quite different. So how do I not walk on egg shells, worrying about every little thing I do or say? I do have some control over this aspect – I’ve seen this quote show up in my news feeds a few times in the last few months (hmm – universe might be trying to tell me something?):

Before you speak, let your words pass through these gates:

“Is it true?”

“Is it necessary?”

“Is it kind?”

Simple, right?

Consider the dictionary definition again a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence. Usually unintentional – whoa!

So how can I be more intentional in the potential effect? I have a choice. I have a choice to pause before I speak, to set a positive intention in whatever small, brief interaction I am having, to ask myself “Is this true, necessary and most important of all, kind?”

And I’m human, I will mess up. But if I can pause for a second most of the time, my deep hope is that the ripple effect of my words and actions will spread kindness and love.

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” ~ Dalai Lama

Hustle and Bustle Oh My!

Christmas parties, seasonal drinks, shopping frenzies, serving 20 people your 20 pound turkey, stuffing, peas, potatoes and pie – it’s almost impossible to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of December. Never mind the immense pressure to do Christmas “perfectly” – this month is one of the busiest…highly demanding and often very challenging for many people.

And yet, when I turn the calendar on December 1st, I feel a sense and almost desperate need to slow down to push away the hustle and bustle. Hence, an internal struggle that ensues to want to sucker punch the chaos of this month, while being head bonked by Christmas music (just picture the awkward wrestling match between Westley vs Fessik in the Princess Bride).

In Ayurveda practices, this time of year in aligning to the rhythms of nature (particularly where I live in the Northern Hemisphere), it is the natural time of year for resting, for nourishment, for quiet. Which makes sense to me – bears are slowing down, seeking their winter den. Trees have dropped their leaves and are preparing for the winter ahead. The days are shorter and darkness is upon us for longer periods of time. My natural inclination is to curl up on the couch, read a good book, sip a cup of tea, pause.

And reflect.

Turning the calendar to December is my cue to take a deep breath, to close my eyes and as I come to the end of the calendar year, to reflect.

Reflect back on the year. What went really well? What am I most proud of? Where did things go sideways or unexpected? What was challenging? Where did I make a positive shift? Look back on the year, reflect on the journey and then thank the year that was and let it go.

By letting it go, as much as I am able to, I start to create space for what’s to come.

So to balance the artificially imposed hustle and bustle of December, I am going to focus on connecting not elbows-up jostling for the cabbage patch doll; on sitting in joy and in sadness; on opening up to real stories and shutting out the relentless news/gossip/fear-mongering; on more time in nature – less time on technology; on more time reflecting and saying thanks to the year that was.

Life Coaching – Is it really for you?

I love where our world is at right now. Yes, I know there is a lot of strife, but amidst all that, I love that there are so many people wanting to help and serve others to live healthier lifestyles, reach personal goals, launch a business, have a bigger impact at work, get that promotion or follow a dream. Coaching is one of the biggest trends right now, which I believe has the staying power and is here for the long haul. As long as people want to continue to grow, take steps forward, uncover their purpose, realize a dream, or get-unstuck, there will be a place for coaching.

I’ve been asked by friends and colleagues “Is coaching really for me”? And I answer this question pretty much the same way every time. Coaching is for everybody and anybody, if you are willing to do the work.

My first real experience of coaching was when I was in high school, with my basketball coach. At the time I was a self-centered teenager so didn’t really give him the props he deserved. But in hindsight he was, what I would consider, a great coach. He gave the team a goal: a vision to reach the provincials. He brought out the individual strengths of our team members. He held us each accountable for showing up and doing our individual and collective work. And he made us work hard! He ran dribbling drills, running drills, foul shot drills, offensive plays, defensive plays – he pushed us and made us practice and practice to prepare us for the real show. I didn’t love those drills, those hard practices, but I realize now the importance of learning, making mistakes and trying again in a safe environment – to be able to perfect (as much as a pimply narcissistic teenager could) the skills we’d need to get out there and be a contender (cue Rocky music). And he showed up. Every single practice. Every single game. He was positive, fired-up and encouraging. He was all-in. While there were fans in the stands, I’d argue that he was our #1 fan. And here’s the thing… we did really well with him as our coach. We made it to provincials and played well all year long. I’m not convinced we’d have done so well without him.

Flash forward to 2007 when I started my life coach training. At first I thought sports coaching and life coaching were completely different. But they are more alike than I originally thought. Life coaching is about supporting the “client” to get clear on their own dreams, purpose, goals or intention. It is about helping, in a safe place, to try things out before taking it back to the real world. It is about tapping into strengths and bringing out the best in you. It’s about helping you tackle obstacles. It’s about motivating you to step outside that super-safe comfort zone to live the life you crave. It’s about having a #1 fan (your coach) to celebrate the small steps as well as the big wins. Much like my basketball coach, a life coach is on the side-lines, but in a good way – cheering you on, supporting you, helping you pick up yourself up after a tumble, brush off and try again.

So is life coaching for you? It all depends on your readiness and willingness. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and do some work (sometimes outside your comfort zone)? Do you have dreams or goals you want to realize? Obstacles knocking you off course? If so, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Not every coach is the same. In fact, this is where is can be overwhelming but also an important part of finding the right coach. There are coaches that specialize in areas such as health, executive, business start-up, career etc. For example, when building my consulting business I hired a coach/mentor with entrepreneur and business expertise. If you know you have something specific you want to tackle consider a specialized coach. If you are not clear or have broader needs, consider a life coach. Ask friends or colleagues for a recommendation.
  2. Be sure to talk to a few different potential coaches. The coaching relationship is based on trust and it’s got to be a fit for the coach and the client. You are spending your well-earned dollars on a coach, you need to trust them and feel comfortable working with them. Interview a few coaches to determine who is the right fit for you.
  3. Take the leap. Commit and get started. If you go into it with an open-mind and ready to do the work, you might just amaze yourself at what you can do. Oh yeah, and have fun!

Lawn Chairs. Lager. Love.

Lawn chairs, lager and love. My husband and I are walking on the beach in Tofino. With a weather forecast that predicts solid pounding rain for a week, we’ve donned our slickers and headed out to witness the fierce stormy beauty of the west coast. As we head back to our place, the rain subsides, the clouds break and the sun starts to peak around the corner. In this rare moment of reprieve, I say to my husband “Let’s grab our chairs, a few beverages and come back out to soak up these few rays”, to which he replies “Lawn chairs, lager and love, what more could one want.”

Huh. What more could one want? I repeated his words to myself and the simplicity and perfection of what they meant. I’ve been guilty of over-thinking, over-planning and over-analyzing, and over-complicating things. Often I get overwhelmed by all of this until I get some real perspective, get grounded and remember – it’s actually simple.

Simple for me is a tuning out the distractions, the noise – like a clearing away of the overgrowth and seeing the path emerge in front of you. When I feel that sense of overwhelm or confusion, I ask myself three simple, yet powerful questions:

  • What do I want?
  • What’s getting in my way?
  • What one step can I take right now?

When I decided to make my side hustle of coaching and consulting a full-time gig, I asked myself these exact questions. It helped me to get to the heart of the work I want to be doing and the big job of tackling my fears and obstacles that, in the past, would stop me dead in my tracks. Instead of allowing my fears to knock me off course, I kept asking myself, what is the one (often small) simple step I can take right now to address this fear? Then I would take that step and ask the question again. Rinse and repeat. Lo and behold I was clearing the way – the more I tackled, the clearer and frankly easier the path became

So here I am today, launching my full-time coaching and consulting business. I’d be lying if I did not say I’m a tad bit nervous. And I’m excited and hopeful. And it’s simple, I want to help people in their journey.

Lawn chairs. Lager. Love.