Exploring Habits

I’ve noticed that when people think about habits they are usually focusing on what they perceive as bad habits and looking to break them.

Good habits / Bad habits, either way they structure our lives.

Habits are activities that have connected to our autonomic nervous system and have quietly transformed what we do into routine. Habits are structural in the way that they impact our lives. And the beauty of that is that we don’t have to expend energy deciding over and over again. I don’t have to decide whether to have my first cup of coffee in the morning, or whether to give my daughter a hug and a quick kiss before she gets on the school bus, or whether to review and update my list of tasks for tomorrow at the end of my work day.

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Gretchen Rubin speak about her new book on making and breaking habits.  One thing she said really stuck with me, “What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while.” I got a subtle and significant perspective shift when I went from thinking about habits to thinking about what we do everyday, and my practice design “elf” awakened.

So, if daily habits are the architecture that structure our lives then the practice of tracking and appreciating what we do on a daily basis for a week could be very illuminating. Tracking something puts your attention on it and attention is a form of currency. (This is what I call a Noticing Practice.)

Start a list of your daily habits. Add to it every day for a week. Then at the end of a week give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to reflect on your list.  A few key questions might then be:

What abilities am I maintaining and even building with my habits of doing?

What neural pathways am I maintaining and building with my habits of thinking?

What are the things that I’m doing every day that presence* what matters most to me?

Then pick a few new habits to invite into the daily-ness of life.

And if, during your noticing practice you trip upon a few habits that you want to break, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Framework is a great resource.

If you’d like support with venturing further into inviting new habits into your daily life, or breaking a few, you can contact me by clicking here.

*Note: I’m using presence as a verb here, meaning to be able to sense and bring into the present. See Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute

Getting More Productive: Tip #2 - Taking pleasure in the doing . . .

Before I close up my week and slip into the long weekend, I want to keep my promise to offer a tip  on productivity. For this one I’m sharing a childhood memory and a poem with you. May these two offerings enhance your celebrations of Labor Day.  I'd like to focus on the beauty of summer and the power of being present in a productive moment.

One of my treasured childhood memories is of working alongside my grandmother at her clothesline on a summer day. Here is a snippet of memoir written back in 1995.

My Nana kept clothespins in a ruffled apron made of blue-green chintz in her laundry room. She’d tie that apron around my waist and then we’d go out together. She’d carry the big basket filled with wet laundry and I’d trundle along behind her, apron pockets loaded with clothespins bumping against my knees.  I followed her out, out through the shade of the Linden trees and down a little hill.

There, behind the barn, was an expanse of yard where she and my Papa had strung multiple cotton lines across a wide span. My job was to hand her clothespins from the deep pockets of the apron.  The sheets would take on the scent of grass and sun as she shook them out in the air.  One by one I’d hand her a clothespin and watch how expertly she worked.

I reveled in standing next to her between layers of wide white sheets.  We stood there together amidst a flutter of white, laughing and talking. I’d watch her every move as she stretched each huge cotton rectangle taut along the line and set the pin carefully in the corner. The order was important: sheets, then pillowcases, then the kitchen towels. 

I loved everything about Nana and her clotheslines, and summer. Working alongside my Nana was like being inside of a hug.

And a poem . . . .


These shriveled seeds we plant,

corn kernel, dried bean,

poke into loosened soil,

cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into

perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips

This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten

smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket

and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address

so the name balances like a cloud

in the center of sky

This page I type and retype

This table I dust till the scarred wood shines

This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again

like flags we share, a country so close

no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them

The hands are churches that worship the world

Naomi Shihab Nye


The rewards of truly successful entrepreneurship are freedom and fullness of a high order.

Striving for excellence. Fulfilling your promise. Maintaining forward motion on a daily basis. Like leadership, entrepreneurship requires that we trust in our expertise while maintaining a steadfast commitment to the learning curve. Entrepreneurship requires a relentlessly high level of engagement. There is an “it is all up to you” quality to running a business that insists that we continually develop many aspects of ourselves. Entrepreneurial success resides in being versatile and expert. It is by nature a risky proposition that demands we approach life with an everyday courage; it constantly challenges our ability to be aware and stay a purposeful course.

Entrepreneurs call a coach into their corner to help them to fill this tall order. Bill Gates, in his May 2013 TED Talk, expressed an idea held in common by many of our nations most successful entrepreneurs: “Everybody needs a coach. They give us feedback and help us improve our practice.” As I see it, entrepreneurship is indeed a practice—it could even be described as a set of business and personal practices—and to sustain success, it requires a commitment to self-development.

Each of my clients arrives with challenges that set the trajectory for the coaching program that I then design specifically for them. As they “work” the program, they develop new approaches and capacities, deeply practical and sometimes transformational in nature, to the challenges they face. I offer an integral perspective—one that is balanced, comprehensive, interconnected, and whole. As my client, you will find much needed support in the coaching relationship. You will have someone with whom you can think things through, someone who knows the territory of running a business and self-development, who keeps your confidence, and is on your side. You will learn how to uphold the critical work-rest-play balance more effectively in the face of urgency. Some results that entrepreneurs have come to expect from working with me are an increased ability to:

  • Envision creatively
  • Act strategically
  • Hold and position the value of their product or service
  • Create effective structure and business practices
  • Know when to let go and when to hold fast
  • Connect more effectively with others
  • Deliver on intent
  • Create value for their stakeholders

At the outset, allotting the time and money for coaching feels like a leap, and may even appear to be a luxury. Upon completion of a successful coaching program, it is invariably seen as an essential investment.