People don’t hire a life coach so they can keep operating in their comfort zone. Rather, people hire a life coach to dare them to leave their comfort zone. I’m hired by people who are motivated to make a change, or changes in their life. Change cannot be made in the confines of our comfort zone, within the confines of our fears. So we have to dare to explore the edges, and to go beyond our comfort zone, a space that is full of uncertainty and that requires we be vulnerable.
In an effort to deepen my relationship with a client, or to better understand where they are with respect to where they want to go, I’ll often ask a client, “Where are your edges?”
To grow and develop — and follow our bliss — we have to explore the edges of our abilities.
I’m talking about leveling up, and I’m so compelled by its value that I’ve built Epic Life around the concept.
In leveling up, at some point during the adventure, I am not enough. I will not have what it takes. At this point I can make a choice: I can quit, or I can continue — learning the skills I need along the way. The adventure becomes a journey of personal discovery as I’m forced to explore the edges of my abilities — to see what I’m made of, and also to discover what’s possible.
If we are to live our best, most epic life, we must be at these edges often.
Living at the edges is not unique to outdoor adventure. Often we are at our edges at home and at work.
Exposure. Or, scrambling up the last section of Mt. Whitney's Mountaineering Route.
Think of some of the most nerve-wracking moments you’ve experienced — especially ones that you consciously chose to be a part of. I remember when my friend, Debbie Cohen, chief of people for Mozilla, so generously offered to host a brunch at her San Francisco home for women corporate leaders in her circle so that I could practice my pitch/presentation for Epic Life. I would have been nuts to say no, right, especially given corporate women are my target market. So I said yes. But as the event drew closer, I started negotiating with myself, and looking for a way out. It was all too much. It was too big. What was I thinking? Despite this second-guessing, I hung in there with my commitment to the brunch presentation.
On the morning of the presentation, as women starting arriving at Debbie’s, with about five minutes to go before my presentation was to begin, I retreated to a guest room and became paralyzed in fear. I can experience those emotions of stress and fear by recalling the experience. I was hunched in a chair trying to get myself together, to get “in state.” But instead I was freaking out, nervous and sweating. Hiding, really. I second-guessed myself and my presentation, and Epic Life. “What if these women don’t find what I have to say compelling? What if they’ve heard it before? What if nobody but me cares about what I am here to say?” And so on. Finally, it was time to present, and so I left my hiding place and entered the living room to give my presentation.
The presentation went well and the women were lovely. They provided enthusiastic support for my message and my business, while providing valuable feedback. Even if the presentation were a bomb, the experience of leveling up (raising my game) would have been beneficial in that it caused me to develop new skills and to “cowgirl up.” The experience made me better. And I’m grateful to Debbie, one of the biggest champions of people I know, for giving me the opportunity to rise up.
Just daring to level up is the equivalent of standing on a summit of a mountain. While I love standing on the top of a summit, in my humble opinion, daring to start up the mountain in the first place can be more significant than standing on top of it.
An example of leveling up in my personal life would be the fact that our oldest son, who just turned 13, will be going on a jet, alone, to a junior leadership conference on the East Coast for a week. That will not be easy for my husband and I, and Wolf’s brothers. I will be a mess putting him on a plane. Yet, it will be an amazing experience for our son.
Ascending the couloir, while being short-roped into my summit team.
There are many more experiences like this that I could list. I challenge you to reflect on your own experience of living at your edges.
Regardless of how different our experiences may be, the emotions related to each are the same: fear, stress, anxiety. During these times at our edge(s), we yearn for safety.
Recently, I had the tremendous honor of climbing Mt. Whitney with Backpacker magazine editors and readers who raised a combined $250,000 for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that provides wilderness mentoring and experiences for disadvantaged urban youth. (Thank you to Sierra Mountaineering International for the phenomenal guiding)
It was an amazing opportunity to raise money and climb a mountain for such an important cause. And, sure, climbing Mt. Whitney would be an awesome adventure that would give me another interesting story to tell. But more importantly, the adventure would require me to be at my edges. Frequently. So of course, I said yes when my friend, Jon Dorn, informed me there was available space on Team 4, and invited me.
Ascending "The Ledges" on Day 1.
Yeehaw! (On the summit of Mt. Whitney.)
Since returning from the adventure, I have reflected on the many times I was operating at, or beyond my edges during the adventure.
–Backpacking with 11 strangers. (I knew two of my teammates; the other 11 would be people I would meet in person for the first time) As usual, per these epic adventures, I left Mt. Whitney with many meaningful new friendships.
–Being in unfamiliar country. It would be my first time to the area.
–I had to wear rigid, really warm mountaineering boots. This may not sound daunting to most, but to me, someone who typically hikes in trail-running shoes and who has blister-prone feet, it would be uncomfortable for me.
–The Ledges. On our hike in, shortly after leaving the Mt. Whitney hiking trail, we’d have to ascend “The Ledges,” which were composed of about 400′ of granite slab(s) we’d have to use hands and feet to get up and over.
–Loaded. I would be hiking with a 44-pound backpack on my back. (Normally I hike with 15 pounds on my back)
–”Wag bag.” Alert! (Sorry for the gross nature of this item) This perhaps was the most difficult (uncomfortable) aspect of the entire adventure. We were each given a wag bag at the start, and instructed that during the adventure, “#2″ had to be done in the bag — our same bag — and hauled out with us at the end of the adventure. I totally understand and appreciate the need to do this. If it weren’t for the wag bag requirement, the High Sierras around Mt. Whitney would resemble a poop landfill. Still, it is not natural to poop in a bag, over the course of 4 days, and then haul it out. Talk about leaving your comfort zone… By the way, clients and future clients, as far as I know there won’t be any wag bags on Epic Life’s adventures.
–”Self conscious sleeping.” Sonja, one of my two tent-mates, gets credit for this phrase. I, too, would call myself a self conscious sleeper. In a tent with two other women, I worried about snoring or talking in my sleep. As a result, I didn’t sleep very well.
–Ice axe, crampons, helmet, short ropes. These are things I hadn’t used in combination before, and the fact that we’d be using them at all meant the stakes were higher than they are on most of my outdoor excursions. The terrain was steep, frozen in areas, and loose in others. Using all of these tools was a new experience for me.
–”Shitty shit.” This is the term we coined for the loose scree that was on a very narrow and steep couloir that we ascended and descended on summit day. One thing that hiking on the scree reminded me of is that even if you take your steps very deliberately, it’s still possible the entire earth below your feet will give way. It’s the same in life when we dare to go off-trail, or/and higher.
–Class 3 & 4 climbing. The last “obstacle” to Whitney’s summit was a 400′ foot rock climb/scramble. While this section was not that difficult for me, personally, the exposure was significant, and therefore left me feeling apprehensive.
All of the above were opportunities to practice being uncomfortable, to practice leaning in and daring to go beyond my comfort zone. The result of doing so is self discovery. I return more, and better, than I was before.
What is an edge you want to be dared to explore?
(I want to give a special thanks to Jerry and our sons for their continued love and support, and to all of my family and inner circle of friends, to Jon Dorn, and also to Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer for daring me — and to all of my family, friends, colleagues and clients, who make me better, and who generously donated to the Mt. Whitney climb! Also, thanks to Mike Lilygren and NOLS, who helped me “gear up” for the adventure. THANK YOU!)
I’m climbing Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Lower 48, in less than a month. Sure, it will be epic and unforgettable, and all that. But that’s not why I’m doing it.
I thank you in advance for watching this short video, and for considering helping me climb Mt. Whitney. You can also learn more about the climb, and my reasons for doing it here.
“In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” ― Rumi
I am not a very still person. Add to that, I tend to be future-minded. I’m often not fully in the present moment because I am lost in thought — usually about ideas, motivations, dreams — you know, possibilities. It is not a bad place to be. After all, dreams tend to be exciting.
But I value the present. Time is one of my greatest values. I want to fully experience the time I have with my husband of 20 years, and our three young sons, my parents and grandmother and sisters and brother, my friends, colleagues and clients. It is why I live on purpose and encourage my clients to say no to things that suck the life out of them, and yes to things that give them life. Living our epic life means making each day count and living more consciously. Living our epic life means daring to choose how we’ll experience (rather than spend) our time.
I know we are human beings, but most times I would be best be described as a human doing. I want to be more of a human being.
In an effort to start each day in a more reflective, “being” state, I talked Jerry and the boys into doing Deepak Chopra’s Soul of Healing Affirmations every morning. Since Jan. 1, we’ve been doing this every single weekday morning before we each head out the door to school or work. Since our first son was born, almost 13 years, ago, we started a tradition of doing a brief “family prayer” to start each school/work day. This is a homemade prayer that is filled with mostly gratitudes. Nothing fancy, and it doesn’t take much time. Now, we’ve simply added one of the aforementioned affirmations/meditations to it. It has been an amazing experience, so I wanted to share about it in case you want to try it for yourself or your family.
For starters, these affirmations are short. Each track ranges from 1-4 minutes. So it’s not really a good excuse to say you don’t have time.
There are 26 tracks, and you can get them for for free on Spotify, which is how we stream/listen to it each morning. Each of the affirmation titles start with a letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. They are Acceptance, Bonding, Compassion, Divinity in Me, Empowerment, Fear, Giving, Higher Self, Intention, and so on, until you get to Z, which is for Zero.
Our sons are ages (almost) 13, 11 and (almost) 6. Except for Wolf, the oldest, the boys were not super excited about adding these meditations to their morning. But over time, it’s been a great experience.
We follow up each day’s affirmation by (usually me) asking, while around the table at dinner time, if anyone thought or incorporated anything from the morning’s affirmation into their day. There are lots of days when most of us have done so. This can only be a good thing, as the affirmations teach us to be patient and compassionate toward self, and others.
Finally, don’t take my word for it that mindfulness has tremendous value. Neuroscience is now supporting long-time Wisdom teachings — that practicing mindfulness, which Jon Kabat-Zinn describes as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, on a regular basis teaches us to be able to choose how to direct our attention. Instead of reacting we can create a pause to notice, and then determine if we want to engage a thought or emotion. Kelly McGonigal’s Neuroscience of Change, A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation, is a great source for anyone interested in learning more about the science behind the mind. McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford, and a yoga teacher and author of the aforementioned book, as well as The Willpower Instinct.
Many corporations and organizations are implementing mindfulness practices into their work, including Google (with their popular, fast-growing model called Search Inside Yourself program), as well as apps such as Headspace, which is a simple and awesome app for your smartphone that guides you through 10 minutes of mindfulness (doing nothing), and HeartMath’s app called GPS For Your Soul, which is endorsed by Arianna Huffington, and is an awesome app that measures your stress levels and then provides guides, which can be borrowed or created, to help you relieve high stress right when you need it.
I have 2 spots remaining on the roster for the May 16-20 Zion National Park Women’s Adventure trip. I dare you to answer the call to adventure… This one is going to be fun and unforgettable. To whet your appetite, check this out. Email me ASAP if interested!
I just returned from the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. What an awesome experience. I am filled with new insights, inspiration, hope, and overwhelming evidence that a “course correction” is in the works. Some 25 percent of corporations are incorporating mindfulness into their organizations.
The increasing, ever-enabling technology has been a gift to us in so many ways. We are able to have more relationships, to do more, and to do it all without restraint of time or geography. Many of us are “on” and plugged in 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The down side is that it’s getting harder to unplug and to be present during areas of our life that are important and meaningful to us. Our phones have become like what Alone Together author Sherry Turkle calls “phantom limbs.” We are so distracted by our devices.
Wisdom 2.0, founded and organized by Soren Gordhamer (author of Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Teachings for the Creative and Constantly Connected, and a mindfulness leader who, as project director for Richard Gere’s public charity, Healing the Divide, organized the Healing through Great Difficulty Conference with his Holiness the Dalai Lama), is an event that brings together thought leaders who, through interviews and presentations and engaging conversations with those in attendance, attempt to answer: “How can we live with greater presence, meaning, and mindfulness in the technology age?”
The conference beckoned me because it converges all of the areas that I’m most interested in, in my life and work: Technology, mindfulness, compassion, entrepreneurship & business, and neuroscience.
In short, Tan provides evidence that we can do very simple exercises to train ourselves to be more compassionate and charismatic. For example, he challenges us to pick two people every hour, look at them, and in our minds, wish them happiness. This takes about 10 seconds, and according to Tan, this simple act makes us energetically give off compassion, which spreads to those around us.
I was so moved by the presentation that I shared the video with my husband and our three sons, who are ages 5, 10 and 12, the first morning after my return. Then, that evening, during dinner, everyone shared that they in fact did that, and that it felt good to do something that might benefit others.
I will be blogging more about the presentations and insights I gained from the conference over the next several weeks, so I hope you’ll check back often.
Thanks for reading my blog, and for stopping by Epic Life.
I have been attending more funerals these days. I attended the funeral for a friend’s mother last week, and this week I’ll attend the funeral of a former high school classmate.
Whenever I hear of someone’s passing, or attend a funeral, I experience sorrow and compassion. But immediately following these emotions, something happens to me.
If you could do me a favor, think for a moment about the last time you attended a funeral or learned of someone’s passing. After the sorrow, what comes up for you?
For me, I experience this sudden urgency about my own life. I reflect on the people in my life, the work I’m doing, how I’m spending my time, and so on. I start making promises and deals with myself. Examples include: I’m going to be more present in my children’s lives. I’m going to listen more to them and play more with them. I’m going to tell Jerry more often how much I truly love him. I’m going to spend more time with my parents and my other family members. I am going to thank all of those who have made a difference in my life. I am going to be a better friend. I’m going to tell people how much I like, love and appreciate them. I’m not going to take this day for granted. I’m going to do this thing, or that. And so on.
I’m inspired, and the deals are made.
But then soon after, the awareness and urgency wears off.
My mission at Epic Life is to help others live as if they’re dying — to make each day count, and to “take stock” frequently. Because, while it’s a cliche, it’s also a fact: we have just this one life. None of knows for certain we will have tomorrow. This bothers me because I love my life and if I live another 40 years it won’t be enough.
I’m not afraid to die. It’s just that I love living and have a lot of living still to do.
What if we could live more often in the awareness and urgency that I describe above? I think it would be an amazing gift to do so.
I recently read 30 Lessons For Living, by Karl Pillemer, a professor in human development and gerontology at Cornell University — and director of Cornell’s Legacy Project. One of the chapters I refer to often is about how to live a regret-free life. Pillemer’s advice, collected from more than 1,000 people who are over the age of 65, includes: 1) Always be honest; 2) Say Yes to opportunities; 3) Travel more; 4) Choose a mate with extreme care; and 5) Say it now.
I like #5, in particular, because I think it’s common for many of us to procrastinate about the things we really want, and need, to say.
Another inspirational source that I watch once a month is Ric Elias’ 6-minute Ted Talk about when his plane was going down. In the video, Elias shares what he learned when he thought he was about to die. It’s great stuff from someone who fortunately lived through the experience. May his words inspire the rest of us.
What are the promises you want to make, and honor?
As a life coach, I encourage and help people to play big. Playing big means honoring your values, and standing up for yourself, as well as the people and things that are important to you. Playing big is not selfish. Quite the contrary, as this blog post will hopefully demonstrate.
For several weeks I have been fasting for 24 hours on Wednesdays. I go hungry while raising awareness and donations for local causes in my small community that help provide for the hungry and those in need.
About 6 weeks ago, during one of my fasts, I was explaining to a store manager about a program I was fasting for in hopes the business would donate (which they so generously did). A lady overheard me, and soon after, pulled me aside to ask me more about the program.
She appeared to be a woman who did not have very much. I told her $5, $10 — heck even a couple of bucks — would make a big difference for someone. She left, and a moment later returned with a $100 bill for me to donate to the cause.
I asked her for her name so I could properly thank and acknowledge her. She wouldn’t say her name. She explained that her name didn’t matter, only that she wanted her money to go toward helping someone in need. I thanked her, and assured her it would.
What an amazing example of a compassionate human being.
This woman, whose name I will never know, played big, anonymously. I am grateful for having made her acquaintance, and for being witness to such anonymous compassion and generosity.
I am a life and leadership coach. A person hires me to help her/him do hard stuff, to make difficult change in the interest of living her/his most epic life. I love that this is why people hire me. It’s one of the main reasons I became a life coach — to “dare” people to do things that scare them and that are difficult, but that will cause them to become more.
Angels Landing, a hike that includes 1,500-foot dropoffs during the last half mile, is not for the faint of heart.
Change and growth only happen when we dare to leave our comfort zones.
At Epic Life, I offer clients who are interested, an opportunity to join me on a guided epic outdoor adventure. Check out this Zion women’s hiking adventure trip planned for May 16-19.
In addition, I’m partnering with the National Outdoor Leadership School to provide a 6-day epic backpacking expedition, called “Epic Women,” in my back yard, the Wind Rivers of Wyoming. In addition, I am permitted to guide clients on hikes in Grand Canyon and Zion national parks. (For more about this Epic Women expedition/program, NOLS published this article about the adventure.)
Zion is one of my favorite places in the world. If you’ve been there, I am sure you agree with me. It is a magical place. There are several hikes in Zion that serve as relevant metaphors for clients hiring me to do things outside of their comfort zone.
There are chains on Angels Landing, which are much appreciated.
One such hike is Angels Landing. It’s a short, hard hike — five miles roundtrip, with 1,500′ of elevation gain. What makes it epic are not its distance and ascent, but rather its heights and exposure. With its narrow ridge and 1,500-foot dropoffs on either side of you as you ascend its last half mile, the hike is not for the faint of heart.
Which is why it’s a perfect experience for my clients.
There are chains to hold on to as you ascend and descend Angels Landing. Even if you’re not afraid of heights chances are you’ll have a white knuckle grip on the chains, because the “What ifs” are all too clear (glaring).
What I’ve found is that the same emotions and behaviors that often occur during an epic hike or wilderness expedition are the same ones that occur in the front country — at home or at work. These are the emotions that, when triggered, try to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. They are the emotions that instruct us, “What if…,” or “Hold on tight,” or “No way,” or “I don’t want to,” or “It’s too scary,” or “I can’t,” or “I will make a fool out of myself,” and the list goes on, of very compelling, reasonable reasons we should guard the status quo and stay where we’re at — and to not dare to go beyond it.
Hugging the wall. Or, holding on for dear life.
Practicing doing uncomfortable things and going beyond our normal ways is valuable in our effort to discover, and live, our best life. Experiencing a guided epic hike with me/Epic Life is one way to practice doing this work, while also enjoying an unforgettable adventure and scenery that inspires for a lifetime. But you don’t have to hire me to do this work. I dare you to think of something you want to do, but are afraid to do, and then do it. Start with something small and keep practicing. This type of practice has the potential to lead to huge change.
[NOTE: To those who may respond to this post by saying, "But I don't want to risk my life!" I would say this: I'm not looking to be reckless. In fact, I'm here to help you reclaim your life, and in some cases, to help you save your life.]
Finally, as if the scenery on my recent Zion trip wasn’t enough, my friends and I got this amazing sight of a California condor. This is a rare and magnificent bird that is gradually making a comeback. The bird’s wing span is almost 10 feet! Enjoy, and thanks for reading/watching.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
I have always loved this quote. I’m blogging about it today because I have been thinking a lot about “scary” and fear. I think if fear is present in our life, it means we’re pushing our boundaries. It means we’re not playing it safe. This is how we grow and become more. This is how we discover and live our best, most epic life — by daring to leave our comfort zone so we may confront our fears.
I have a challenge for anyone who reads this and is game: Today, when you have a decision to make, instead of choosing to take the familiar/logical/easy/certain/”safe” route, I dare you to go off-trail — to choose a new/different/uncertain way.
I would love to hear if you try this, and what you discovered as a result of doing it.
Thank you for reading — and thank you in advance, for sharing.