Thoughts About Clutter 2/9/2018 0

The concept of clutter has been on my mind a lot recently. In part (in full disclosure) because I am co-facilitating a Creative Clutter Clearing: KMI Master Mind™ on this topic. However, clutter is also very topical in the media these days and clutter clearing is proliferating as an industry with books, TV shows, YouTube channels, courses and even coaches aiming to assist.
 
We live in a climate of excess. According to a study in a slate.com article written by Tom Vanderbilt, “One in 11 American households … owns self-storage space—an increase of some 75 percent from 1995.” And that was written in 2005! A 2017 9.4% SSA Self Storage Demand Study found that 9.4% of Americans rent a storage space. And I bet that stuff doesn’t bring happiness or a sense of accomplishment. Probably quite the opposite – as now it needs to be insured, cleaned, kept safe, and now stored.
 
As I look around at the stuff I have accumulated over the years – and if I’m honest, still accumulating - I dream of a simpler life. I watch Tiny House and minimalist videos. While these inspire me, they seldom sustain any significant momentum towards clearing my own excess of stuff.
 
And my clutter, isn’t just visible. It has spilled over into digital clutter. My iPad, cell phone and computer now need additional digital storage space. My email inboxes and e-folders are in constant need of purging. And then, there is my schedule and the thoughts I carry around in my head of things to do or that I could do.
 
My clutter left me drowning in piles of paper, puddles of despair, feeling immobilized and overwhelmed.
 
Until …
 
I started getting together with other people who are dealing with their own clutter issues. We gather online, learn tips, tools and techniques that can be explored and experimented with. We listen to each other, ask questions and draw out solutions that are personal and practical. We hold space for each other to set intentions and take action as we keep each other gently accountable. We also share giggles that keep the process upbeat and fun. We also take time to celebrate the Aha moments and small accomplishments.
 
But best of all, is the sustainable momentum that acts, as one participant describes, as “a gently propellant”, making it easier to keep going. After all, my clutter didn’t materialize in a day – and it is going to take more than a day to minimize it.
 
If clutter is something that you struggle with – consider joining our merry band of creative clutter clearers.

My Empty Drawer Project 1/19/2018

This is based a blog I wrote last year but never posted. In 2017 I committed to  emptying a drawer or a shelf each month. The results - read on to find out.

Original Blog

My most empowering achievement in 2016 was … drum roll please … an empty drawer.
 
Yup, you read that right.
 
In the fall of 2016 I co-facilitated Creative Clutter Clearing: a KMI Master Mind™ with fellow facilitator Donna Mills. A KMI Master Mind™ is process focused, and so I wanted to document my process of the tool, The 1/3 Rule, to share with the members during our Tips, Tools and Techniques segment.
 
The aim of The 1/3 Rule is simply to reduce the contents of a space, a closet or a drawer by 1/3. The space I choose was my bedside dresser which has 3 drawers. I emptied everything out, threw away a bunch of stuff, sorted and found a different home for some items and then returned the remaining items to the dresser.
 
Then, I decided to reorganize the space a little further. I decided to leave one drawer completely empty. I can’t remember exactly why, perhaps it was just a way to illustrate The 1/3 Rule.  Either way that empty drawer became a huge source of empowerment.
 
It was like a delightful little secret – a source of calm, control, an inspiration, a reminder that I can conquer my clutter. Occasionally, when the world felt like it was closing in I would just open the drawer to marvel at its expansiveness.
 
Life happens … one day in 2017 I opened the drawer and stuff had found its way back in. Ugh
 
That’s when I decided to start The Empty Drawer Project. I decided that each month I would empty one drawer or one shelf in one room of our house. A month gives me amble time to choose my target, plan and implement.  As of January 2018 I have 7 empty spaces plus I have eliminated an entire display cabinet and a set of shelves. A few other spaces have been significantly reduced in stored items.
 
What’s my bigger why? This challenge helps me to move towards my dream of building and living in a much smaller house. To be able to live a more simplified life that has less stuff to look after and be responsible for and more time for doing what I want. Less frustration at not being able to find things and less time to spent on cleaning and more on living.
 
Are you downsizing? Adapting to an empty nest? Perhaps you just want to feel a greater control over your surroundings. Whatever ever your reason you aren’t alone in your struggle clutter. And you don’t need to deal with it on your own. I invite you to check out latest online series of Creative Clutter Clearing: a KMI Master Mind™. Join us for one, some or all in these independent sessions.

My Elegant Eight for 2018 1/3/2018

Happy New Year, dear reader.

Do you set New Year resolutions?

Do you choose a word of the year or start a new venture in the first week?

I do choose a word/phrase of the year – or rather I let it choose me. For 2018 it is Open Delight. I have yet to unpack the deeper meaning behind this choice, but then I have a whole year ahead to see what reveals itself.
 
And yup – I’m a new venture kinda girl. This year I am taking my Ayurveda and Yoga Coaching certification with Carrie Hensley, and offering one of my own along with Kathy Kane – Your Creative Edge 2018 for women entrepreneurs. 
 
With regard to New Year resolutions, I’ve tried to release the need to set them – but I still think about them. It’s hard not to. This year I came up with a combination of resolution/intention and ideal day all wrapped up in one. I call it My Elegant Eight for 2018.
 
These are eight things I would like to strive to meet each day.

  1. EASE into my day. This includes a morning routine connected to my Ayurveda training.

  2. EXERCISE

  3. EAT mindfully. No more diets or restrictions – instead I want to learn to eat more mindfully. I want to rediscover the connection and joy of eating food without judgment or censor.

  4. ENJOY life and all the many blessings and experiences it has to offer.

  5. EXPRESS myself through my art and creativity.

  6. EXPAND my capacity to serve.

  7. ELEVATE my thoughts and connections.

  8. ENHANCE my surroundings. This includes being a good steward to the land, and also reducing clutter in my home.

I think these are doable. I find the alliteration playful so I'm more likely to stick with them. Now to see how 2018 unfolds and if it will be elegant!

How do you greet the New Year so full of possibilities? Comment below - I'd love to hear your process.
 
Wishing you a wonderful New Year.

​What to do when things don’t turn out as you meticulously planned. 9/26/2017

How boring life would be if everything were predictable.
 
In 2014, Pema Chodron gave the commencement address at her granddaughter’s graduation, which was then turned into a beautiful book called Fail Fail Again Fail Better: wise advice for leaning into the unknown.  It is based on this quote from Samuel Beckett.
 
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
 
As a former A++ personality with extremely high (likely unrealistic) expectations and perfectionistic tendencies, I grew up, like many, thinking failure was bad; something to be avoided at all costs. Ever hear the phrase “failure is not an option”? Hmmm in real life, failure is not only an option, it’s a reality and it‘s a good thing if we know what to do with it.
 
Failing means you tried. Failing means you were courageous and brave enough to risk failure while striving to succeed. 
 
It’s what you do with the failed attempt that matters.
 
Recently, a launch my business partner and I had planned meticulously failed to attract any customers. My initial response was, “What did we do wrong?” But that only lasted a minute or so and I soon turned the question around and asked myself, “What did we do right?”
 
Acknowledging what we did right was not just a feel-good exercise. It brought awareness to the things that we can do more of the next time.
 
Ahhh - the next time. Disappointment, discouragement and that yucky feeling of rejection can feel daunting. It’s what stops a great idea from seeing the light. It’s what results in shelved plans and projects. Lost and unrealized dreams.
 
Pema Chodron points out that James Joyce replaced failure with mistake. And she re-phrased his words like this:
 
“… mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things.”
 
Creativity is something I understand and can lean into.
 
Failure is also a time to look at the mistakes, not with shame but curiosity. What’s worked before? What else might work? What was in our control and what was just circumstances beyond our control?
 
Failure can be a huge energy drain or it can be a learning opportunity. And it’s always our choice. So, I think I’ll don my audacity suit and try again, even if that means making more mistakes.


Three things I Love About Small Questions 8/23/2017 0

Of the four foundational blocks of Kaizen (small thoughts, small questions, small steps and small rewards), I think small questions are my favourite. They are instant energy shifters. When I’m feeling stuck or find myself resisting something, a small question can quickly shift me into curiosity mode. I like to ask, what can make this task easier or more enjoyable? Or I will ask myself, what’s worked in the past? And what else could work?

Three things I love about small questions:
 
1. A small question is a great place to start.
Kaizen is a philosophy and a positive, engaging way of being that creates consecutive success moments - leading to sustainable momentum towards your goals. Any goal or journey starts with a first step, no matter how large or small. What I love about small questions is that they can be a first step. Asking a small question engages my imagination and my brain as it seeks to find answers. This activity sparks energy and excitement to start my project or endeavor.
 
2. A small question doesn’t need to be answered right away and will produce multiple answers.
Small questions are like brain candy! Ask a question and then let it go. The brain will begin to ponder and percolate away in the background as you go about your day. It will search for an answer and then another and another. Often the first solution isn’t necessarily the best. It might be the most common or the most comfortable, but it’s not always the best. Asking a small question over time will produce multiple responses and shift me into what Benjamin Zander (The Art of Possibility) calls possibility thinking.
 
3. A small question is always asked in the positive.
Small questions act like mini-mental pep talks because they are always asked in the positive. Wording the question in positive language results in positive solutions. And positive solutions are less likely to raise feelings of pressure and overwhelm. What is one thing I can do, right now, that will move me closer to being finished? What is something that’s worked in the past? How can I make this easier and more enjoyable? These questions give me a little surge of hope and build momentum.
 
Small questions are a powerful tool. And asking small questions is both an art and a skill that can be improved upon with practice. Small questions are a key part of KMI Master Minds™ and the KMI Master Mind™ training.
 
Comment below and share your experience with small questions. What are your favourite small questions? What do you love about them?

Whispering into the Void 7/20/2017

I started blogging for a couple of reasons.  First, it was the consensus that if you have an online business you need to blog.  Even if no one reads your posts somehow through the magic of metadata you will be promoting your business.  Since I haven’t blogged in almost 8 months, I guess that wasn’t motivation enough.
 
However, the topic of blogging came up again today in a group discussion.  This time it was combined with the topic of how to share your passions in your authentic voice.  This can be an especially hard thing to do for an INFJ that truly values her privacy.  This brings me to the second reason, and full circle back to my initial post in which I wrote: “… to release my voice within to join others around the world who are sharing their inner voices.”
 
A blog, even one that no one reads, can be a place to share my thoughts and ideas, my passions and pondering in my authentic voice.  I am releasing the need for it to be profound, polished and even professional.  I am ok with letting this blog be a place for my personal expression of things that are important to me and, hopefully, hold value for others.
 
What will I blog about?  I’m passionate about ideas and creative thinking.  About the tools that help to shift thought patterns and find new ways to look at familiar things.  Some of the ways I find new possibilities are through master minds and immersing myself in the creative process. And I use my training in Kaizen and Kaizen-Creative NLP to coach myself and others. 
 
As I write this I realize that these are areas where my personal and professional passions merge. I have just discovered the power of this intersection in sharing my authentic voice.  It’s the perfect place to park my soapbox.
 
What makes it easier for you to share your passions and pursuits, personal or professional, in your authentic voice?
 

How to Use Fieldstones to Get Ahead in Life 12/8/2016

My father, WJ McDowall, was an amazing teacher.  He was a high school teacher by profession, but he was also someone who knew how to teach.  He taught his students how to learn, not what to learn.  I know this because I was lucky enough to have him as a teacher in my last two years of high school.
 
At the beginning of each year he shared his ideas on marks and marking.  He told our class that he 

could give everyone the same grade - an A+ - but that we probably wouldn't want that. And when we thought about it, we realized that A+ would be meaningless because it would not reflect our efforts and achievements.  So he told us how to earn a legitimate A+ in his class by telling a story about going on a field trip. 
 
F = you fail to find the field
D = you find the field and stumble across a stone or two
C = you turn over several stones and see what’s underneath them
B = you turn over most of the stones
A = you turn over all of the stones
 
But to get an A+, you not only had to find and turn over and look under all the stones in the field, you had to find and step into the next field. It wasn’t enough to be able to regurgitate facts and figures or even to solve prepared problems.  An A+ was about finding the passion to set off on your own learning adventure.  In my adulthood I realized this story wasn’t just talking about his class, but about how to get an A+ in life, whatever you are doing. He was talking about how to get ahead by following your passions and interests.
 
Today I facilitate and train facilitators to lead KMI Master Minds™.  These are a different kind of master mind; master minds only found in the next field.  They blend Kaizen and Creativity within a flexible structure that naturally leads members to abundant opportunities to explore and elevate their ideas.  This in turn leads to self-illuminating Aha moments; those delightful and often subtle shifts that can propel a thought into action with a small step (turning over a stone) and sometimes a whole new possibility presents itself (the next field)
 

Open House - a guest post by Donna Mills 9/14/2016

Several weeks ago, I took a look at the topic of awareness in the context of some serious social issues—sexism and racism.
 
This led me to thinking about awareness in my everyday life.
 
About 15 years ago, my husband and I were thinking of moving. We spent a lot of Saturdays and Sundays visiting realtors’ open houses. (This was before the days of expansive virtual tours; what we knew in advance consisted of square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a photo or two in a newspaper ad.)
 
These homes were ‘staged’ to show off each house to its best advantage. Surfaces were clean and clear, walls were freshly painted, faucets and fittings were brightly polished, and accessories and paintings were artfully scattered about. We’d grab an information sheet, stroll through the rooms, and try to imagine ourselves living in that space.
 
After these open house visits, it was always a faint surprise to come home. We would look at our own surfaces, walls, faucets, fittings, and accessories. And our own kitchen, floors, and artwork.
 
It was a time of both appreciation and mild horror. In all of our open house visits, I never found a kitchen, coved ceilings, or hardwood floors—indeed, a house in general—that I liked better than my own. However, I also saw, with newly critical eyes, the shortcomings in our home—chipped paint, smudges on the cabinets, and cluttered drawers and countertops. After looking with dispassionate eyes at all of those houses for sale, I wondered what someone walking through my house would think.
 
It can be a challenge for me to back up and look at my own home with objectivity, especially when it comes to my possessions. To address that issue, this spring, my business colleague, Mary McDowall, and I created and facilitated a clutter clearing mastermind. It’s based on the unique KMI model, which combines personalized attention with the Kaizen philosophy of small steps to big changes.
 
That mastermind experience has gradually shifted the way I deal with my stuff. The tools, resources, and group interaction the mastermind provided gave me the push I needed. It was a gentle nudge towards creating an environment that suits me. And as a co-facilitator, my issues weren’t even directly addressed! Such is the power (and collective benefit) of this process.

Donna is a, IIHA-Certified Hand Analyst, Certified FranklinCovey, ARTbundance and Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach, KMI Master Mind Facilitator and Creative Clutter Clearer.  You can learn more about Donna on her website www.printsonpurpose.com.


Seeing With New Eyes 9/22/2016

I'm literally seeing with new eyes thanks to my new eye glasses.  About a month ago I was really struggling with my eyesight.  Prone to worrying, I thought I might be getting age related cataracts.  An eye exam revealed that my eyes are in great health but that somehow I had missed an eye exam and my prescription was four years old. New lens were required and why not get new purple frames too.

Seeing with new eyes though is an old concept.  Sometimes referred to as beginners' eyes, it is the ability that we all have to look at something familiar as if for the first time.  To see it with wonder and curiosity, delight and discernment. This is a great skill to practice.  Not only can it be fun and add freshness to your day, it helps to crank up your awareness level.  When you are dialled into awareness ... that's when the magic begins.

Read - The Second R 8/2/2016

Reading is an essential skill in our busy, fast paced, information driven world.  We read all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.  And yet, sometimes we forget to make time just to read.

If you are a book lover like me, you probably have more books than you have time to read. Perhaps you collect books or can’t pass by a bookstore without going in “just to look”.  I love independent bookstores and used bookstores the best.  (Though I must admit Amazon is pretty good at getting my attention and my money too!)  The result, and with no judgement please, is stacks and bookcases full of unread and partially read books.  And don’t get me started on my Kindle list!

Books provide me with many things from information and resources to an escape to new worlds or eras in time.  They give me pleasure and comfort, ideas and company.  My well worn and well read books are companions to my imagination and my heart. My unread and partially read books are opportunities and adventures waiting to be explored.  

These same books can also trigger what David Allen author of Getting Things Done calls open loops.  Unconscious or conscious demands for my attention to complete a task; in this case reading those books.  They also can be a source of clutter when I get too many books.  They begin to feel like clutter when I can no longer easily find and care for them.  Or when I keep them just in case I might read them again when I know that I will re-read only a few.  

Maybe like me, you also need time to catch up on your reading, or to review training or course materials to refresh your knowledge.  Perhaps there is an idea, a project or a decision that needs some research.

So what to do?  What if each week you could create some time and some space to relax and to read; to review and to research?  How would that feel?  How could you make this easier and fun?

Review - The Third R 8/4/2016

The third R in the 4Rs Circle stands for review.  

Now this might not be the sexiest R word in the dictionary.  There were actually a few other Rs that auditioned really well to be one of the 4. Review edged them out and this is why.

When you first read the word review did it trigger anything for you?  For me, I thought of reviewing notes for tests and exams.  And then work proposals or other people’s work.  To be honest, neither of these thoughts, although practical and necessary actions, really grabbed my attention.  Well at least not in the jump-up-and-down-I-can-hardly-wait-to-dive-right-in kind of way.

Part of the pull review had was how it relates back to the ‘open loops’ I mention in the blog post R is for Read. So many times I’ve signed up to take yet another course only to lose interest, motivation or run out of time to finish it.  The result is a pile of unfinished courses and a basket full of open loops.   These unfinished courses often leave me feeling disappointed in myself and let down by whatever promise “said course” was to deliver.

So why did I feel compelled to take all these courses?  Some were of interest but were about topics that I wanted to feel more competent, in control and confident about. What a course does is provide structure and an easy way to access the material, which in many cases is often available for free in libraries and on the internet.   Courses often come along with a time table, exercises and assignments, audio recordings and  or videos to watch.  When presented all nicely formatted they appear organized and very doable.  But when I try to fit them into life, they can send me into overwhelm.

Why review is important is because I probably don’t need to take another course.  I need to review the materials that I already have.  I get to refresh my knowledge of the information I’ve already read.  I even get to review what is still current and of interest and release the rest.

The 4R’s Circle: Relax, Read, Review and RESEARCH 8/5/2016

I’m not a researcher.  But Research seems to go along with Readand Review.  And if I have to research something, I enjoy it a lot more if I’m Relaxed.

Research isn’t just for academics.  When you need to make a major purchase, decide where to take your vacation, even the decision to join the 4R Circle, you will probably want to do a little research before finalizing your decision.

Perhaps you are researching a topic for a presentation you are giving.  Or developing a program or product that requires a deeper knowledge base from which to draw? Research is also what can elevate an idea or an inspiration into a passion and, for some, is just a pleasurable pursuit.

Regardless of the reason, your research requires resources and information.  It needs your time and focus.  And depending on the level of detail or the size and scope of your research you may need a system for capturing and organizing your research for easy and flexible recall.

Along with the need for research may also come resistance.  Resistance to get started or even to finish.  Kaizen small steps can help by breaking down the task at hand into ridiculously small increments.  So small that any feelings of overwhelm, procrastination or self doubt (aka that lovely inner critic we all have) don’t get triggered.

Having structure, a regular time and place to complete your research is also helpful.  The 4Rs Circle can provide the time and the place for you to focus in on your research.  Being in community with others in the circle offers gentle accountability and support.  In the 4R Circle I’ll also be sharing some capture tools with which you can explore and experiment.

Circles and Creative Flow 8/17/2016

Sometimes the voice inside my head is strong and clear.  Ideas flow like the purple ink in my fountain pen onto the page.  There is no hesitation.  The words take on a life of their own, sharing their story.  I marvel as they appear effortlessly before my eyes.
 
Other times, writing is a chore - a task that demands attention, irrespective of creative inspiration or convenient timing.
 
Today as I write this blog post I’m reminded that writing is a creative process.  Being in the creative process can feel fluid and magical like the first example.  It’s also perfectly normal, depending on where I am in the process, for it to feel hesitant, reluctant and painfully like a bandage slowly being removed.
 
One thing that I’ve found that helps me to be and to stay in the creative process – the smooth flowing part of the creative process – is connection and community.  The energy held and generated by a circle is simply wonderful.  It helps to maintain my focus, clarify my intention and increase my productivity.
 
In geometry a circle is sacred.  It represents “the one” from which all other geometric shapes are derived.  Its design lets it expand or contract and still maintain its shape.  It is the perfect shape for meeting as it allows all participants to be seen and heard.  A circle creates a container for collaboration, communication, connection, confidence and confidentiality.  It’s like a cauldron overflowing with creative energy that is accessible to all.
 
The circle is one of my favourite ways to be in connection with others.
 
That’s why the 4Rs Circle at The Purple Ink Café is organized this way.  The 4Rs: Relax, Read, Review and Research is about coming together to create time and space in your busy day or week to relax and finally tackle that stack of books or backlog of blogs you want to read. It’s about refreshing a topic or skill by reviewing courses and resources you already have on hand.  And if you have a presentation, a project or a personal passion that needs some research, this circle is for you too.
 
Why join a circle? It’s a bit like doing yoga or writing or meditation or any solo activity.  You can do all of these on your own, but the structure of a class often makes it easier to show up and the company can make it fun.  Even more, it’s the energy of the group that helps to sustain our focus, to hold a pose a little longer, strengthen our writing muscle or push through a block that may have been holding us back.

What do you think of when you hear the words master mind? 8/19/2016

I have to admit that a few years ago the first thing I thought of was the logic game Mastermind by Parker.  I'm actually pretty good at it.  Then my geeky side would bring to mind, pun intended, the talent of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and his mind-meld technique.

But before the game and before the science fictional talent, a man named Napoleon Hill coined the term master mind (two words) in reference to "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony." The concept grew and caught on and today people all around the world meet in master minds.  Some are large groups, while others are small and exclusive.  Today people meet not only in person but also through online groups and with video conferencing. 

For some, the term master mind brings forth images of men in business suits, high power and high pressure.  For others, what comes to mind are informal groups or circles of people with similar interests and pursuits looking to share information and receive support.

I've had the opportunity to participate in both large and small with varying degrees of formality. And I always felt that something was missing.  Something that I couldn't put my finger on. Something that would make the difference in how I could best participate and benefit. 

Then at the beginning of 2015, I connected with another Master Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach™,  Kathy Kane.  Little did we know then where that collaboration of minds would lead.  We met to discuss master minds and how to design one that better supported creative people and the non-linear creative process.  That meeting of the minds turned into something greater than we could have imagined.  And we both have big imaginations!

The result was a master mind like no other.  A KMI Master Mind.

First, we looked at all the things we liked about master minds (connection, community, idea development, accountability). Then we removed the things that didn't feel right.  High pressure from unrealistic expectations and a self-imposed sense of feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep up with the Jones.  

Next we added in creativity -oodles of it - in the form of creativity tools, idea generation and elevation.  We included creativity in the setting and structure with opening and closing rituals that included guided relaxations.  We embraced the Kaizen approach of getting things done through small questions and small continuous steps.  We found this way to be fun and filled with self-compassion.  We found ourselves enjoying the process more and focusing less on a rigid end result.  We began to build a steady momentum towards our goals, one that was easy to maintain and sustain. 

But that's not all.  We wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment during the master mind itself and not leave it with an even longer to do list.  So we added Parallel Universe Time™, a tool created by Jill Badonsky, founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™.  In each master mind session there is time dedicated to taking action - to taking a small step or two or three.  We wrapped all this goodness up in a flexible structure which follows a set agenda but leaves room for creative and intuitive detours.

And there is so much more ...   

I am a Writer 7/19/2016

I recently attended the kick-off event for a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Cafe led by our own Kathy Kane.  One of the very first things she said was “If you are here, you are a writer.”  

I found this oddly comforting.

I am a writer.

This is not how I would have described myself before.  But I do write.  I write this blog.  I write when I create new courses, website content and even new creativity tools.  

I am a writer.

I don’t need to be a great writer, or even a good writer to write.  It is the practice of writing that creates good writers.  And the Writers’ Circle is an opportunity to hone this skill in a creative and supportive space with other writers.

I found that as I wrote, I could tap into my unconscious thoughts, and ideas began to magically appear.  I was fascinated by how my brain effortlessly transformed my thoughts into hand actions that formed symbols on the page.  Symbols that convey meaning to a reader and bring my ideas to life.

Before this experience, to call myself a writer felt like a stretch, perhaps even pretentious.  But by calling myself a writer, I am not comparing myself to the great authors.  I’m celebrating the courage and the patience of creating a habit and building a writing practice to bare my creative spirit.  It is about trusting a process; a process so seemingly ordinary in our society that it is often taken for granted.

Writing is a truly wonderful outlet for creative expression.  One that I long denied myself because I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

What a wonderful gift to be able to call oneself a writer.  What a wonderful experience being part of a writing circle.

Are you a writer?

What do Kaizen and Mouse Poo Have in Common?

Originally published 5/5/2016

Other than being small, Kaizen and mouse droppings were the impetus I needed to tackle my clutter and clear my space.

As an introvert I need my space.  I crave space.  I long for a special space to call my own.

That special space came to me, via my husband, who gifted me with what I like to call my Studio Cottage.  At our marina there are two main buildings.  When a long term tenant moved out of one, I moved into their office space ... a room build within a large unheated quonset hut boat shed.  One wall is curved with two windows looking out onto Georgian Bay.  I painted it bright happy colours and had a new floor installed.  I swore that I would keep this sacred space clean and clear of clutter.

Several years later, many projects plus and the selling of my childhood home found that longed for sacred space a repository of stuff.

This past winter for the first time, mice found their way in.  They explored every inch and excreted everywhere.  Did I mention I have a phobia about mouse poo!  Ugh.  The combination of cumulated clutter and mouse droppings was too much, too overwhelming, way too big of an energy drain and so I just shut the door and walked away.

But as the weather warmed the space once again beckoned to me.  

I decided to use my Kaizen training and start small.  First I just thought about how I wanted the space to be.  I would mentally rearrange the furniture.  Small thoughts are so less overwhelming then big thoughts.  Clean one window sill was so much easier to contemplate than cleaning the whole space.

Then I added some small questions.  How did I want to feel in this space?  Not resentful and angry at the mice but creative, inspired, calm and rested.  How could I feel more of the latter and less of the former?  The great thing about small questions is they don't require an answer right away. Once asked, the brain percolates and ponders to produce plenty of possibilities.  

Next came small steps.  Small steps helped me to get started.  They helped me to break through the resistance I was feeling about tackling what seemed like such a huge and impossible task.  So with broom in hand I began a little at a time over, several days.  

I actually started to thank the mice because it made throwing things out so much easier.  Those ancient unfired pottery creations lost all appeal once they had mouse poo in them.  And so the contaminated objects found their way, one by one, into the garbage bin.

As the space became cleaner and clearer I started rearranging the furniture and fixtures.  I took some pieces out and swapped others for items that fit my needs and space better.  Is it perfect? Nope.  But it is so much closer.  And that is really what Kaizen is all about, moving in a positive direction closer and closer to your ideal.  The goal is not about reaching an ideal but growing and being enriched by the process of moving continually towards it.  

What I find so wonderful about the Kaizen approach is that using it reduces fears that can paralyze or overwhelm us.  I can be far more productive taking small actions and celebrating with small rewards, like time in my hammock, then in the past when everything had to be perfect or not worth doing at all.

8 Things About Me + 2

Originally published 4/19/2016

I'm currently reading Quiet !mpact: How to be a Successful Introvertby Sylvia Loehken. She totally normalizes being an introvert and offers great strategies for different real life situations. One challenge I have as introvert is talking about myself and what I do in the world. The following list gives you a little glimpse about me.

8 Things + 2 About Me

  1. I’m highly introverted so my ideal vacation is to go to an isolated island or a cabin in the woods by a lake and read or sketch

  2. I’m fascinated by ideas, especially where they come from and their evolution

  3. Numbers and patterns intrigue me and as an adult I discovered a new appreciation for math as a sacred language to explain nature

  4. In university I prefered the Bronte sisters to Jane Austen.  Now I have a growing collection of books whose characters are based on Pride and Prejudice.  I think the BBC production with Colin Firth might have had something to do with this.

  5. Together with my husband of almost 27 years, we have 3 beautiful, creative and talented daughters and a collection of pets

  6. I live in my hometown of Parry Sound and co-own a marina on Georgian Bay.

  7. I’ve always wanted to own a cottage.  There is something so relaxing about a cottage.

  8. Although I am a 5 in numerology, a 4 on the Enneagram the number 8 plays a significant role in my life.  8 + 8 is the day of my birthday, 8 x 8 is the year of my birth and I was married on 08 08 88.  And this year my beloved border collie Saul turns 8.

  9. Dragons, magical ponds and frogs have a habit of appearing in my life.

  10. I consider life to be one big creative project and so everything from routine tasks to art exploration are an opportunity to be in the creative process.

Did I Dot the "i" in Details?

Originally published 3/4/2016

New launches are exciting. There is a rush of anticipation, excitement (sometimes masquerading as fear) and a healthy dose of creative chaos.

Fellow coach, Kathy Kane, and I just launched our signature program, the KMI Master Mind Facilitator Certification Training.  Every time we thought we had everything ready it seemed like we discovered another layer of details.  Details became synonymous with delay.

Details, in general, are my death and my default.

My creative process is to think BIG, to think really, really big. Thinking big builds excitement and enthusiasm and I fall in love with my project. But when its time to get to work my default mode kicks in. I begin to think of every single possible detail that needs to be done. Ahhhhh   If I'm not aware this is happening it can be the death of a promising idea.

Enter Kaizen small steps to the rescue. Small steps create tiny moments of success to keep the process moving.  Kaizen small steps let you focus on just the very next thing to do.  And sometimes the very next thing is to walk away, to eat, to nap, anything but the details.

On February 20th we hit publish on our website and officially launched our training program. There are still lots of details to attend to.  Still lots to learn about launching. And I'm not sure if I dotted the i in details but that's OK.

My next small step is just to pause and look back at how far we have come. How much we have achieved and how excited we are to get started.

What strategies have you found for dealing with details? Share in the comment section below.

Yay and Yikes! Comparing Two Different Kinds of Master Minds

I received a newsletter from someone whose work I follow this week promoting her master mind groups.  My response after reading the headline was two-fold.  Yay!  Someone else is promoting master minds too.  And Yikes! She's promoting the same thing I am and at the same time.

As I read further the 'Yikes" began to fade away and lose energy because what my partner Kathy Kane and I offer is so very different. 

In the newsletter, the author described what I think may be a lot of people's experience with master minds.  It talked about the pressure this person felt being in the "hot seat" and how being in a master mind can be difficult and feel uncomfortable.  Even if the benefits outweigh these factors, why would anyone want to even consider a master mind like this? Especially since there is a kinder, gentler and equally powerful alternative; a KMI Master Mind.

The basic premise of a master mind is to gather people together and harness the skills, expertise, resources and connections to form a "super" or "master" mind to advance an idea or resolve an issue. Master minds work and they have been around for centuries.  Often they are used within a business context, but just about any area of interest can be the foundation of a master minding circle.

What makes a KMI Master Mind different?  A KMI Master Minding Circle is infused with the Kaizen philosophy and creativity.  This combination is a dynamic fusion of being in the process and getting things done in ways that build sustainable momentum.  It is process focused not results driven; creating opportunities for progress that are sustainable because you won't burn out from high pressure, competition and unrealistic expectations.  Instead you get to experience joyful abundance and the fringe benefits, as Jill Badonsky calls them, of being in the creative process.


Kaizen and the Power of Small

Have you heard of Kaizen?  

It is often referred to as small steps towards continuous improvement, but it is so much more. For me, discovering the gentle but powerful philosophy of Kaizen was life changing.

Lots of people and programs talk about small steps. There isn't anything really revolutionary about this wisdom. Mark Twain is quoted as saying:

 "The secret of getting ahead is to get started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

You may have tried breaking things down into small steps with varying degrees of success.  Or maybe when you hear small steps you think "Who has time for that?  Not me, I have too much to get done!"  I thought that too once.  Then I found Jill Badonsky's Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coaching program and I learned about Kaizen small steps.  

So what's different about Kaizen small steps?  Well for one thing they can be really, really small.  Laughably small.  So small that you can't fail to take the step.   

OK, I thought, I will give this a try.  My 'demon' is clutter and in particular paper clutter.  So my first small step was going to put one piece of paper away a day.  So for the next 30 days guess how many pieces of paper I put away.  Zero.  

This wasn't working.  What was I doing wrong!!

First, telling myself that I needed to do something every day was setting me up for failure.  A kinder way would be to say 'more days than not'.  Then if I missed a day I would still be succeeding.  And Kaizen small steps are about creating small success moments.

Second, I couldn't see how putting one piece of paper away would make even a tiny dint in my paper clutter.  I had falsely assumed that I needed to stop after completing my small step.  Kaizen small steps are meant to be continuous and led naturally into another small step.  It's ok to stop after one but not mandatory.

Third, I was resisting filing that first piece of paper.  I knew that Kaizen small steps can help to break through resistance and procrastination so maybe my small step wasn't small enough?  No, it was pretty small.

Finally, it dawned on me that I really didn't really like my small step.  Kaizen small steps need to engage your spirit and not just your logical side.    

So I asked myself the small question, "How can I make this more fun?".  The result was to engage my playful side.  I named my filing cabinet R.O.S.I. ( Receptacle of Significant Information). Over time R.O.S.I. developed a personality and filing became like feeding her.  I also had R.O.S.I. write me a letter and tell me what she needed and wanted me to do.  It became a game.  

And it became a learning moment. 

What I learned was that the Kaizen small steps are really small and engaging.   And with the right small step you can shift from inaction and stagnation to action and metal alertness with your imagination firing on all cylinders.  This tiny shift can be life changing.

As a creativity coach I help people to find their next small step so they can experience the power of small for themselves.  What small step might you try to build momentum towards a goal or dream you want to achieve?  Can you make it smaller?  Does it feel like the right next step?