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Bounce Forward

Markers Along the Journey

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Early this morning, I had the chance to walk at a local lake.  It was a chilly fall day and I bundled up in my scarf and gloves.  Trying to practice mindfulness, I notice the stillness of the water, the noise of the geese, and the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet.  A few lone fishermen were sprinkled around the lake…some standing along the shore and others in their boats.  I wonder if they, like me, feel the same sense of spiritual and emotional renewal in this sacred space of nature.

As I continued along the 2.6 mile path, I noticed a fundraiser for the St. Jude Children’s Center was being held.  Volunteers of all ages were preparing for the oncoming walkers.  Young boys were manning a water station.  Several adults were placing signs along the walkway.  Where the pavement split, there were arrows, ensuring event participants stayed on the main path.  There were also signs expressing gratitude and encouragement, and I couldn’t help but smile at the “You Rock” sign.  Further along the path, several teenage girls were bundled in their winter jackets as they stood on the bridge where a patch of ice was lurking.  “Watch out for the ice,” they said as I approached, while pointing to the safe side of the walkway.

Although not a part of the event, I couldn’t help but reflect on how nice it felt to be cared for and how important it is for each of us to establish our own ‘markers’ and support systems in life.  For me, a vision of what gives my life meaning and purpose, along with my core values, are the arrows throughout my journey.  And, yes, I’ve definitely gotten lost and missed those markers many times.  Similarly, I’ve often forgotten about those special individuals I know I can count on to tell me “I Rock” when things get tough.  How is it that we can miss markers along our journey?  As I finish my second lap around the lake, I take comfort in knowing that I can find signs if only I stop long enough to reflect and ‘see’ them.

Stop now and look at your own path.  What markers of direction and support do you see?  What might they be telling you?  Where alongyour path might you need more markers of direction or support?

Normal Doesn’t Mean Necessary

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This is a phrase I often use in coaching.  It means that, while our response to life’s challenges, including stress, overwhelm, fear, anger, and even despair, are normal, they aren’t necessarily required.  In other words, we can learn to be more resilient.  And, since life is full of ups and downs, the more effective we are at dealing with life’s challenges — big and small — the greater our capacity to influence our attitude, health, happiness, energy, performance and overall wellbeing. 

Try this:

First, pay close attention to how you naturally respond to adverse situations.  (As with one of my prior blog postings, here’s a good excuse to grab that journal or notebook!)


  • Your thoughts surrounding the circumstances.  What thoughts surface as you consider the adverse circumstance?  What do you consider to be adverse?  How does the situation impact different aspects of your life?  How might others view the same situation?  To what extent do you have control over the situation?  Why?  Why not?
  • Your emotions.  When faced with a challenging situation, what emotions or feelings surface?  When do you fall into helplessness or despair?  When do you feel anger and resentment?  When do you experience positive emotions, such as hope, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, passion or joy? 
  • Your actions.  When faced with adversity, what do you do?  When do you take proactive steps to mitigate or minimize the negative?  Under what circumstances do you actively engage in steps to resolve challenge you face?   Are there patterns surrounding your behavior?  For example, when do you find yourself dwelling in apathy…unable or unwilling to take steps forward (instead, you sit back and let the situation control you)?  When do you find you have the courage and ability to step up to the plate to take action?  How can you create more of the ‘triggers’ that fuel positive action, giving you more of what you really want in life?

Next, acknowledge what “is.”  Recognize that you are human and that the thoughts, emotions and actions you experience, whatever they are, are normal for you.  BUT, don’t stop there!  Remind yourself that normal does not mean necessary.

Challenge your thoughts…how can you positively influence, even if in a limited way, your life’s circumstances?   Go ahead, write them down!  Think of the most positive person you know.  How might he/she view the same situation?  What if the thoughts and beliefs you are carrying with you were not true?  What more empowering beliefs could you “try on” instead?   How do those new thoughts change how you see the situation?

There are always things you can do to influence circumstances.  For example, while you may not be able to control the fact that you have cancer, there are steps you can take to ensure quality of health care, surround yourself with supportive people, and practice extreme self-care (including eating and sleeping well, exercising, and engaging in activities that are emotionally and spiritually empowering, such as being outdoors or meditating). 

Recognize that the emotions you feel fuel the actions you take….or don’t take!  For example, when you feel apathy, you are likely lethargic, believing that you lack control over your circumstances.  Why bother taking action since it won’t matter anyway!?!   Similarly, when you feel anger or resentment, instead of taking action to improve events, you may look outwardly for people and/or things to blame instead.   Ask yourself what emotions would better serve you in life at this time.  What emotions would allow you to deal with the current reality?  What emotions, if embraced, would allow you to move forward?  Go there…imagine, as vividly as possible, what life will be like on the “other side” of adversity.  Then, determine what steps (even small ones) you can take to work towards that image.

With awareness comes choice.  By becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and actions when faced with life’s challenges, you can consciously leverage them to minimize the impact of challenging situations and move forward in life in a positive and powerful way.  

A Girl Named Allison

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Earlier this week, I had a follow-up appointment at my physician’s office.  There were several individuals waiting to be seen.  I glanced around the room after checking in at the front desk, noticing that everyone seemed in his/her own little world.  One woman was watching the television, glancing at her watch every now and again.  Two were leafing through magazines.  Another person brought a book and was reading.  The woman sitting next to me seemed agitated as she fanned herself with her hand.  There was no conversation.  No eye contact.  No smiles of acknowledgement.  After all, we didn’t know one another and were obviously much too busy, uninterested, and/or sick to bother with strangers.   

All of that changed, however, when a woman named Allison entered the room.  While I never learned her age, Allison appeared to be in her 40’s and was wheeled into the waiting room by her elderly father.  As she entered the room, she looked around, waved and belted out a huge hello to everyone.   While her father checked in with the front desk staff, Allison faced the waiting room chairs and cheerily said hello again.  Innocently, she asked each of us our name, questioned our age, and told us (individually) how “gorgeous” or “pretty” we were.  She commented on our clothing, asked about our children and, in one case, grandchildren.  She wanted to know what we did and if we liked it.  She proceeded to share funny stories about her birthday celebration in Las Vegas….which, as Allison’s father corrected her with a smile, turned out to be a day at a local casino instead.  Allison herself flipped through the pages of a magazine, laughed at the photos, and shared her thoughts as she turned the magazine around so we could see what she was referencing.  She thought the Geico cavemen were hilarious and decided she was going to marry one of the handsome models in a clothing advertisements.  As patients came and went, Allison proceeded to connect with each…saying hello or goodbye and acknowledging something special.  The women in the room laughed hardily as Allison told a young man, likely in his late teens/early 20s, that he was hot.    

Allison’s comments were beautifully simplistic, positive, filled with curiosity and wonder, and fueled by a seemingly genuine interest to connect.  As I was called back for my turn to see the doctor, I couldn’t help but reflect on the shift in the room because of Allison’s presence.  People were smiling, sharing stories with one another, and agreeing with Allison about things in life that were funny and beautiful.  It struck me that Allison had not only a sincere desire to connect with people but, despite any limitations she may have possessed, a strong intuitive ability to touch them at their core.  She reminded people what it meant to be human, to have challenges and, in spite of them, see life’s beauty. 

Hours after my doctor’s appointment I found myself still smiling and, at times, chuckling out loud.  What if we, like Allison, opened our minds and hearts to what’s positive, beautiful, and funny in life?  What if we took the time to make eye contact with strangers and smile?  What if we were genuinely and innocently curious and caring?  What if we looked beyond what’s wrong in life and, instead, focused more on what’s right? 

While I’m not certain, I think Allison knows that the answers to these questions have the power to influence not only our individual worlds but the worlds of those around us.  


When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”

                  – Howard Ikemoto –


Choose to Choose!

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Take a few moments and reflect on your life. What are the most significant events you’ve experienced up until now? Perhaps you’re thinking about graduation, your wedding day, or the birth of a child. While significant (and certainly not to be discounted), I want you to dig deeper. What experiences have caused you to see life differently? Which have awakened a deep, and perhaps previously untapped, awareness of what brings meaning and joy to life? Which moments were true moments of enlightenment…real turning points for you?

Go ahead, grab a journal or notebook and jot them down…I’ll wait.

Have a few ideas? Great!

As you reflect on your thoughts, you may notice the events that caused you to see your life most differently were the times that were the most challenging. They were likely times that tested you…requiring that you call on your inner-most strengths and resources to get you through. In coaching, we refer to these “oh, sh#*!” moments as “breaks in transparency,” since they tend to shatter the lens through which we previously viewed our world. The break interrupts the flow of our largely unconscious “doing” each day and focuses our reflective awareness on what now exists.

Think about the number of times you’ve hopped in your car and ended up at your destination…with little awareness of how you got there. You were on auto-pilot and, as such, your focus was not on the act of driving. Perhaps you were thinking about your lengthy to-do list or what you were going to fix for dinner that night. How might a flat tire break the transparency of driving? Create awareness and appreciation for the complexity of your car and the value it provides each day?

For me, going through cancer was a huge “oh sh#*!” moment. Perhaps this was on your life event list, too? And, while the experience of going through cancer…the diagnosis through surgery and treatments…was far from a party, it was that experience that caused me to change my life in a powerful and positive way. I discovered, through cancer, that I had been merely surviving life even BEFORE my cancer diagnosis. I came to understand that I was operating at the effect of life v. at the helm of my own ship. Cancer created new awareness and appreciation for what was truly important to me. It allowed….okay, forced….me to slow down and evaluate the answers to some pretty big questions:

• Do you operate with passion and purpose each day?
• Are you living to your fullest potential?
• Are you “being” and not merely “doing”?
• What dreams have you not yet fulfilled?
• Are you leading the life you choose?

You can never change the past, including the “breaks” that may have altered your transparency, but you can change how you choose to think about them … and, similarly, you can choose how to leverage the learning and growth the past provides to create what you want for your future. It’s your life.  What do you choose to choose?


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.” -Victor Frankl

Hello world!

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Whoo-hoo!  The first day of Bounce-Forward blog, a forum dedicated to providing ideas, tools, and a reflective space for those experiencing difficult transition at work or at home.

We believe it’s not the absence of challenge that determines a richly experienced and fulfilling life.  Instead, it’s how we transform ourselves during periods of significant change that allows us to expand our perspective and potential, realize greater well-being, and achieve more meaningful results.  Yes, both at work and at home!

In this community forum, we’ll explore ideas and distinctions from a variety of disciplines, including behavioral science, positive psychology, neuroscience, coaching, and business that, for many, have allowed them to achieve forward positive movement—through adversity to more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

From workplace dysfunction to personal tragedy,  it’s how we face and handle life’s challenges that make the difference between being stuck and bouncing-forward.  Here’s to bouncing-forward!

I welcome your comments, thoughts, suggestions and needs.