Sunday, September 30, 2012

Violence is Never Acceptable: Taking Back my Power

Last night I found myself watching an older movie in which the main character was being physically abused by her fiance. The abuse was shrouded in secrecy and silence. But the telltale physical marks and the character's increasingly timid and frightened demeanor, especially in response to talk about her upcoming nuptials to her abuser, soon betrayed the secret. I was reminded of my own experience with physical abuse in childhood and emotional abuse in adulthood.

Violence--emotional, physical, sexual, or the threat of these--is never acceptable. And violence is certainly never the victim's fault. You didn't cause it, you cannot control it, and you cannot cure it. Over time, violence has a way of promoting secrecy because it pummels the victim into compliance and silence. The victim learns to put up with the violence out of fear of reprisal, that coming forward will have worse consequences. Add to this, the fact that victims of abuse can feel so broken in spirit, they don't fight back. And the downward spiral continues, where the victim of violence eventually victimizes her/(him)self. The impact is far-reaching, affecting so many of our relationships with others and with ourselves.

There is a cyclical nature to violence: the violence occurs, there is a period of apology and "I'm sorry, I won't do it again," followed by the honeymoon period or good period, then wham! another violent act occurs. Sometimes, like an ocean, the waves of violence keep coming, and the good periods get shorter. In order for this cycle to end, it must be broken--you must step out of it.

Violence often escalates. Both emotional and physical abuse have the potential to escalate, and there exists the risk of death. You must make yourself and your children safe. Do you have a safety plan? A safety plan is your out, what you will do in the event that you absolutely must leave. This means having a packed bag ready with all your basic essentials, including passport, health cards, extra money and prescriptions for you and your children, as well as a safe place to go.

If fear is keeping you anchored in a dangerous relationship, break the silence. We are only as sick as our secrets. Reach out--tell someone you trust. Mobilize support and allies. You deserve to feel safe and protected, and no one has the right to take that away from you. No one has the right to hurt you, bully you or emotionally batter you. Yet that huge first step begins with you; only you can save yourself.

What is your safety plan? What is your out? What might stand in your way and how might you take action to save yourself and take back your power?

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Are you sandwiched between two or more different shifting priorities? What does that feel like?

Let's behold the phenomenon of being sandwiched by first visiting some definitions:
  • Sandwiched: Caught in the middle between two elements, as in the filling of the sandwich between two slices of bread
  • Priorities: Important or taking precedence
  • Shifting: Implies change, moving from one place or direction to another, never the same

How are you sandwiched? Perhaps you feel caught between your job and your personal life in your quest for greater work-life balance. Maybe you're experiencing an empty nest and feel caught in the gap between having raised a family and what's next in your search for new meaning. Or perhaps you're part of the growing phenomenon of the sandwich generation: caring for aging parents or a relative while balancing the delicate needs of your own life, work and family with self-care.

What thoughts or perceptions fuel these feelings of being sandwiched? We've heard it said that nothing lasts forever...not even difficulty. Priorities stem from our values; however, priorities do shift. We often find ourselves renegotiating our priorities. And we must remind ourselves that we are not alone--there are others we can defer to, delegate to, and confer with along our journey.

Empowerment coaching can help you sift through your perceptions about your changing priorities and explore what's keeping you anchored. It can help you to peel back the layers of your sandwich and break free with a new perspective, setting goals for results that move you forward in your professional and personal life.

How does your sandwich look? And how would it look being empowered and moving forward?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Year from Today, I...

Where will you be one year from today? Have you ever thought about how you might create your year in advance? In The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander (2000), Zander explains how he asks his undergraduate music students at the beginning of the year to write a letter giving themselves an "A" in his course, highlighting the growth they've achieved in one year and telling the story of what will have happened to them a year from today. They are to give as much detail as they can in line with the extraordinary grade of an A:
In writing their letters, I say to them, they are to place themselves in the future, looking back, and to report on all the insights they acquired and milestones they attained during the year as if those accomplishments were already in the past....Everything must be written in the past tense (Stone Zander & Zander, 2000, p. 27).

In books such as The Secret (Byrne, 2006) and The Key (Vitale, 2008), these authors talk about the concept of living as if. You live in the present as though you already have what you wish to attract. This link lets you do just that--write a letter to yourself, phrasing your letter as if you'll have achieved your goals--and that you'll receive back in a year via e-mail. Go to:

What two to three personal and professional goals are you setting for yourself so that this time next year, when your letter arrives, you smile and say: "Wow, look where I am from one year ago!"? How will you give yourself an "A"?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BE the change

You've likely heard Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world." It's a beautiful thought that gives hope and it can be motivating! In light of a coaching conversation I recently had with someone dear to me, I'm tweaking this gem to bring this wisdom closer to home: BE the change you want to see in YOUR world. Yes, your world!

How often do we find ourselves saying: "If only ....[someone, something, etc.] would do this, then I would be happier, feel better.... [fill in the blank]? Essentially, we give our power away to something or someone we cannot control. And with all due respect, being the change we want to see in the world seems lofty. So we can start by changing OUR own world. And we can do this with relative ease, breaking down the unmanageable into small manageable steps and then taking those baby steps toward change.

Something I've learned in my relations with people, and sometimes with people to whom I've ceded my power, is that I cannot control their side of the fence. It may be messy, dysfunctional, frustrating, and downright abusive, but all I can be accountable for is my side. While I'm busy looking at them and what I'm not liking over there, what am I overlooking that is right in front of me? What can I do to change my world?

A career change starts with researching the possibilities. Reorganizing and de-cluttering begins with one shelf or one drawer. Changing a relationship starts with setting a clear boundary. We have the power to BE the change, indeed we do.

It all starts with you! What small step can you begin with right here right now to effect change? How are you the change you want to see in your world?