it’s all about the people: how to create a support team

#CCTP2015 is kicking off this weekend.

(!).

It’s hard to believe, but a year ago we ran our inaugural training of the Courageous Coaching Training Program. I say “we” because initially, the two beautiful souls Valerie Tookes and Rachael Maddox were only going to assist during the kick-off retreat weekend that’s held outside of San Francisco, before the rest of the training goes virtual. At the end of our weekend together, I proposed that we keep-on keeping-on, because we were having a seriously fun time.

Valerie Tookes   Rachael Maddox
valerie2015   rachael2015

 
The experience of working with others collaboratively has created the most fun, most nourishing, most supportive year of my business–ever. Hands down. I wouldn’t think it would be possible to beat that, but this year, four of our 2014 graduates are coming on as mentor coaches:

 

Lara Heacock   Michelle Crank
lara2015   michelle2015
 
Molly Larkin   Natalia Chouklina
molly2015   natalia2015

 

How to Create A Support Team

Follow the energy. Just paying attention when you talk about an idea reveals everything–what happens in your body? Are you excited and lifted up? Or are you feeling, on some gut-level, like something just isn’t quite right or might not work out. As I learned in 2014, “as in the beginning, so in the middle, so in the end.” If you feel uncomfortable the first time the idea of working with someone is presented to you, there’s a reason for that.

Get clear on leadership structures. Yeah, it’s more “democratic” if everyone is in agreement and no one leaves the table until that agreement is reached. But, um, that also takes a lot of time, and things that take time drain spontaneity, creativity, and innovation, not to mention…it’s exhausting to go five rounds until everyone is happy. If everyone is in alignment about who is making the final call and what the roles are, things go much more smoothly.

Let people show off their particular genius. I wholeheartedly believe in what these women have to offer. If any of them were to lead a class next week and ask me to act as wing-woman, I’d sign right up to support them, sit back, and watch their genius at work. Each of these women has a lot in common with me, but they have many things that are different. Their perspectives and invitations round out everything.

Don’t ask for hand-outs. Your support team needs something, financial or energetic or otherwise, in exchange for their time. I’m putting my peeps up for a weekend in a four-star hotel with catered meals on my dime, and that’s just for starters (there will be other surprises in store, ladies!). Asking people simply to volunteer their time “just because” while you sit back and rake in the dough on a paid offering? Not a classy move. Consider that energetic support is also an exchange.

Think of them as family. Your support team is your chosen family. You’ll inevitably have moments of getting sick of one another, or thinking, “That move wasn’t knocking it out of the park” about someone’s choices or even feeling avoidant around doing the actual work. Yet there’s something about sticking together through both the highs that are exciting and the moments of ho-hum, that creates something bonded and brilliant: a sisterhood.

I can’t wait to play, this weekend!

Feel like following along, this weekend? Hit up Instagram and search for the hashtag #cctp2015.

 

being put together

You run a business AND you have a baby–how in the world do you do it?
You’ve got your shit together.
I can’t believe how much you can get done.

These are the things that people say to me. They are not totally untrue statements–more like top-layer statements that speak to pieces, but that don’t completely express the entire picture.

I’m a fan of the entire picture. This is what would bring any blurry edges into full focus:

I carry within me an essential strength. That is what people are picking up on, when they make these statements. Strength brings with it an energy that can be felt. I have had a baby, and I am tired most of the time no matter how much sleep I get, yet there is an essential foundation to who I am that remains unshaken.

That strength has been consciously curated over the past decade. When I think of the difference between how I looked at life ten or fifteen years ago, versus how I look at it now, I see that my entire psyche has been under renovation. I have rebuilt my internal house, one room at a time. Lots of dust and rubble. “Consciously curated” means a thoughtful, intentional process of rebuilding.

I make faster strides whenever I am not self-conscious. This is true of all of us, of course, but it occurs to me that this is important to share. On a deep level, I give little energy to reclaiming my pre-baby waistline, or to whether or not my house is messy, or to whether or not I’m wearing yoga pants for the umpteenth day in a row.

What I Care About

I care about coming up behind my husband while he chops the salad, after the baby is asleep, putting my arms around his waist and burrowing my head against his back.

I care about my daughter’s laughter; I care about how many different contortions I can make with my face so that she’ll laugh again, and again, and again, and again. I care about how she feels against my body when she’s snuggled close, asleep.

I care about the little ding in my inbox that someone is starting the Courageous Living Program. I care about how I smile and send them a prayer that they didn’t even know they had coming, that it will do good for their life and the people they love. Ripple-effect courage; my favorite kind.

I care about my life coach training trainees, and their hopes and dreams for themselves. I care about them waking up in the morning and looking forward to Monday, to their work, to their day. I care about them moving past the fears that say “Who do you think you are?” and I care very much about the day when they’re going to say to the world, “I’ll show you exactly who the fuck I am–let’s change the planet.”

I care about eating fresh, unprocessed, good food. So I add to my list meal planning, grocery shopping, and then I chop-chop-sautee-stir-bake-nom-nom-nom.

I care about my closest kindreds and connecting with them and telling them about when I’m pissed and when I’m happy. I care about knowing that I have people in my life with whom I can tell the truth, and tell it clean.

I care about releasing anything or anyone that makes life feel less than fabulous, even if the release is painful. Even if there are some parts that are good and that will be missed.

I care about creating a life that gives back. I care about not telling anyone about the things I do that are about “giving back.” I hold those cards close to my chest, because getting credit isn’t the point. I do good because the world requested it by showing me that someone was in need, not so that I can score points or public approval.

I care about saying “no” when I mean “no,” and “yes” when I mean “yes,” and meaning it absolutely every single time, and not betraying myself by saying one when I mean the other.

Being Put Together

I have a business AND a baby, and I don’t even really know how I do it.
Sure, I have some shit together, in the conventional sense.
I can’t believe how much I get done, either.

And I get tired, or wish I were back in half-marathon shape, or look at my to-do list and think of how that equals so many hours in front of the computer and OMG I can’t look at any more fucking pixels, I just can’t do it. I snap at my husband: “Am I the only one who can remember to put away the fucking butter?” I get cut off in traffic and glare at that driver and think unkind thoughts and don’t care who he is or what is important to him or whether or not he had good reasons for rushing, it is only ME in that moment–me, and HE cut me off, HE was wrong, HE was the shitty driver.

I’m not so very put together, so much as I hold the different pieces with care, and don’t expect any of them to fit back the way that they used to, and most of all–I appreciate what shows up, for exactly what it is.

I appreciate my joy, my fear, my expansiveness, my soul courage, my insecurities, my confidence–all of the contradictions.

I exhale, bend forward, inhale, rise up slowly, arms over head, exhale, hands over heart.

I laugh and laugh with our daughter in my arms as my husband pretends to chase us, back and forth across the living room we go, laughing; to her delight we do it again and again and again, and he wraps his arms around all of us and it is everything–

and that’s when I feel most put together, most like I’m winning at life.

 

how to be happy

When you ask people to get right down to it, they want to be…happy.

Consider anything that you do, even those things that are difficult: get up early in the morning for a run; work on your marriage; start a meditation practice. Why are you doing it? Because you want to be happy.

But then there are those times when, no matter what you do, happiness feels like a bus that’s just never arriving. You got yourself to the right stop, on time, and the schedule says that the bus should arrive, but the Happiness Bus is leaving you alone on that corner (and you feel convinced that everyone else is on that bus, without you).

In other words, you’ve tried all of the “stuff you’re supposed to do, to get out of this funk.” You’ve gone to yoga and had your green smoothies and you floss and wear a seat belt and perhaps even go to some workshops or read some self-help books on “how to be happy,” but it just isn’t happening.

I’ve been there (as you’ll see). This post is for you.

Yes–Happiness IS about what you do

Perhaps someone has said to you in their Zen voice, that “happiness is not something that you do; happiness is what you are.”

When I was clinically depressed (I don’t consider myself to be, anymore), comments like that made me want to say to the person, “Way to be an asshole, buddy.” I wanted to be met where I was at, seen fully, and supported as I lifted myself out–not told some pithy self-helpy nonsense that didn’t really make sense to me because I felt so lost and alone.

I do think that it’s true that on a fundamental, soul-level, happiness is what you are.

I also think that it’s true that if you want to be happier, if you want to tap into what you truly are, you’re going to have to make some choices. These choices will involve “doing stuff.”

At your core, you are light n’ joy–of course. But you can’t see the light when you’re hiding out in a dark room. The first thing you’ll “do” to decide you want to be happier will be make a choice: I want to be happier, and I’m willing to make different choices.

Biochemistry, or Choice?

A quick note: is happiness biochemistry, or choice? All the best research indicates that it’s about 50/50. We’ve got a basic “happiness set point” that we’re born with, and that’s 50% of the deal. The remaining 50%, however? It’s not genetics; it’s choice.

Some of the choices you make do influence biochemistry (the hormones and systems in your physical body), and emerging science indicates that biochemistry does influence how genes express themselves.

Bottom-line: no one is pre-disposed to be 100% miserable. You can capitalize on genetic gifts and even make choices that influence them.

The Basic Happiness List

When I was clinically depressed, I wasn’t miserable for lack of trying. In the Courageous Living Program, I share more of the story, but the long and the short of it is that for me, climbing out of clinical depression meant doing things very, very differently.

I was reminded of how tough depression feels, in the weeks after my daughter was born. I was sleep-deprived, recovering from a c-section, and trying to survive my body’s hormonal roller coaster. It is an almost impossible feeling to describe to anyone who has not had children; I simultaneously felt more joy than I could imagine when I held my daughter close, and yet I felt so hopeless and low as the weeks dragged on and I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever function in my life, again. I remember walking through Whole Foods one evening, looking at all of the other shoppers and thinking strange, surreal thoughts. I felt disconnected from reality.

I was falling, fast. I could feel an impeding meltdown–and I am not using the term lightly–in every cell of my body. It scared me.

So, I sat down and I made a baseline list of things that I needed to do, every single day, to pull myself out of this. It was a similar list to the things that I started to do to emerge from the clinical depression that has plagued me in my twenties. I didn’t necessarily phrase it this way, but in summary, it was something like this:

Drink a ton of water.
Get outside for a once daily walk, even if it’s only five minutes.
Meditation, even if it’s only five minutes.
Salad, daily. (Note: this does not say “eat a perfectly clean, organic, raw foods diet, with no chocolate for the rest of your life.” One salad, each day. That’s it).
Dance to a song.
Daily gratefuls with my husband.
Mild yoga stretches.

These were the things that I knew would be both mood boosters as well as biochemistry influencers. The hardest was number five, because I felt like a fool, swaying my loose, awkward, postpartum body to a song even in the privacy of my home office, but I did it.

The Harder Happiness Choices

But those are only the basics. There were other, harder happiness choices that I needed to make when I was emerging from clinical depression in my 20s. Choices like:

1. Distance yourself from negative people. This meant not speaking to anyone–family members, old friends, and at one point in graduate school, the world’s absolute worst Mean Girl roommate–who brought me down. Later, yes, I’d need to learn the lessons of personal responsibility, not giving others enough power to “bring me down,” and seeing the wounds that were behind their craptastic behavior. But when I was trying to throw myself a life preserver? No contact. Stay away. Wide berth.

2. Surround yourself with fabulous. Fabulous music, fabulous people, fabulous food, fabulous clothes. I systematically started to eliminate the un-fabulous and bring in more fabulous. This was a conscious undertaking into really understanding what I thought was fabulous, as opposed to what people stereotypically think of–things like gorging on sweets or blasting upbeat music. I was interested in what spoke to my soul, what was quality. I didn’t want to wear a single item of clothing that had me think “meh” when I looked in the mirror. I wanted song lyrics that felt like they’d been written as a love poem just for me.

3. Follow the whims. I took random drives, making turns down unexpected side streets. I grabbed a notebook and went to a cafe I’d never seen, before. I wandered around new sections of the book store. I drove past a trail head, turned around to park, and hiked it even though I wasn’t wearing the right clothes or shoes. I woke up and thought, “I want to go to the beach” and spent the entire day getting there, only to arrive at sunset when it was turning cold. (P.S. It was worth it).

4. I changed my language. I was working intensively with my coach at the time, and he challenged me to switch “had to” into “get to.” I turned “can’t” into “I’m not choosing to” or “I don’t want to,” because they were more honest phrases. The linguistic interruptions stopped me in my tracks, every time.

4. Conscious crying. I had to cry. I had to grieve. I imagine that from child hood alone, all of us have at least a year’s worth of crying in our bodies. I got to it.

What Happened After I Did All That Stuff

When I distanced myself from negative people, I was able to see more clearly what it was that I truly wanted, without being influenced by them. I was able to see how I could create it, without hearing their wet blanket womp-womps.

When I surrounded myself with fabulous, life started to feel more fabulous. I was more discerning about what really made me happy versus what “should” make me happy but just didn’t quite click.

When I followed whims, I met more interesting people, I laughed more, I got more curious about life. When I got curious, I felt like maybe more was possible than the misery I’d been mired in.

When I changed my language, I was confronting every single self-imposed limitation that I’d created in my head. When I confronted limitations, I realized how few of them really existed. Hello, powerful.

When I consciously cried, I freed up–on a somatic, bodily level–all of the pent up pain and hurt. I needed to cry it out. I found that when I gave myself full permission to cry, rather than trying to hold it all in, what was on the other side of those tears wasn’t as scary as I’d been afraid it might be.

 
This is how to be happy , really. To be happy is to be connected with ourselves and others. To be happy is to feel grounded in who we are, to feel our power. The joy can’t stop, won’t stop, when we pave the way.