Everyday Challenges Solved with 5 Quick Questions



When it comes to dealing with life’s challenges, it’s easy to either get overwhelmed and jump the gun, or procrastinate and hope for the best. This is especially true if it’s a new situation that doesn’t seem to have an easy, cookie cutter answer. We want to use our instincts and move through life’s entanglements with ease, but instead end up mired or stuck at some half-way point as the problem lingers, causing further stress.

Let’s face it, on a daily basis we are barraged with choices. In today’s world especially, too many choices becomes part of the problem. In the last week I found this approach to be very helpful with a professional challenge (low summer enrollment), as well as in my home life (summer mom stuff with teens—need I say more?). It is versatile and anyone can do it.

First, put into one sentence the scenario you are struggling with. Once you have something tangible in mind, make it as concrete as possible.

Then ask these five simple questions:

  1. What is the best possible outcome?
  2. What is the worst possible outcome?
  3. What is the most likely outcome?
  4. Keeping #3 in mind, what is a reasonable step-by-step plan *you can do going forward?
  5. Once you begin the plan, what are the lessons learned for future, similar situations?

*Note, I italicized you can do in #4 because Take 5 only works if you take on the responsibility and action and not put it on someone else to solve.

What is especially fruitful about this sequence of questions is it can be applied to almost any problem. And this approach keeps us in a more neutral zone, away from over reaction and made up stories that we find ourselves imagining at 3am, when the reptilian brain is most active, resulting in distorted, worst case scenario thinking.

I also like this because it isn’t overly Pollyanna, yet allows room for positive thinking while also focusing on what’s most likely going to happen. This 5 step Q&A taps into our gut and gets us into a problem-solving mode quickly. Try it out yourself and see let me know if it works for you: julia@personalmasterycoaching.com

“Do the Opposite and See How That Feels…”


I was in a class recently called “Happy Yoga” and before getting on our mats for poses, the instructor had us dancing and holding up our arms to the song “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters. Not you’re average yoga, I know, and it turns out that song was the five-minute version… at a midway point my arms were tingling and aching for a break. I know I wasn’t alone. It was then when the instructor said something important:

If you are used to quitting, hold on. If you never give yourself a break, take one.  The point is, change your normal pattern and do the opposite and see how that feels.”

Wow, that hit home for me. We often go on autopilot when it comes to our natural inclination to push or to quit. I think most of us are decidedly in one camp or the other.   It has to do with the challenge at hand, our self-efficacy and the wisdom to know which goals are worth accomplishing and which ones aren’t.

True, finishing this disco song with my arms above my head wasn’t even a goal I knew I had before the class, but it did awaken in me my self dialogue about how I push myself, even when the stakes are low. I believe there is power in changing certain patterns, especially ones that get in our way. Learning to adopt a more intentional approach, one that offers more choice and less stress is my takeaway from the class. I’m definitely a work in progress, shifting away from taskmaster to a kinder, gentler inner voice.

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Repacking for the New Journey Ahead

201109-a-insider-man-suitcase I often work with clients who are in the second half of life, looking for ways to reinvent themselves while preserving who they are already. I call it re-launching life through leveraging past, present and future. It’s fun work, re-imagining possibilities and supporting what’s next.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of scaffolding together a new chapter is what we have to give up to make room for anything new to take hold. In the insightful book Life Reimagined by Richard Leider and Alan Webber, this action is called repacking, which asks “What are the essentials for the next phase of the journey?” Defining what is essential is personal and not one size fits all, that’s what makes each journey unique and meaningful.

Deciding on these essentials involves reflection and discernment, followed by action. Deep within us we know what we need to let go of to move forward, so we can make the wisest choices about how we spend our limited time in the second half. [Read more…]

Time Management is Energy Management

iStock_000017987518XSmall-300x300 (1)There is an energy account in us all and we feed it and drain it daily. When we think about each day and how we live it, here is a revealing and intentional question to ask: “Where does my energy take me?” This can be a helpful tool in general and especially in times of life transitions, when there are more unknowns than knowns in terms of what will be next in life.

Simply noticing what grabs our attention and seems novel and interesting can offer clues about what’s inside that may need more full expression. We can go about our day not noticing what attracts us so it continues to stay hidden, or we can be more deliberate about our moods and pay closer attention.

Granted there are many shoulds and to-do lists that demand our focus. And life can’t be all about what grabs us in the moment, but often we are on auto pilot not recognizing when it’s time to reflect and make needed changes to fill our energy account up with pleasures and fulfillment.

There are key times in most of our lives when the windows of opportunity open, when we can switch gears and take over the reins to make new and inspired choices, big or small, that can impact the quality of life and create more well-being.

What gets in the way of managing our most vital source, our energy, are our activities and relationships that drain us. What are yours?

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