“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’”
—Audrey Hepburn, British film icon
I love this quotation about possibility. By adding one apostrophe, the meaning shifts from a negative to a growth mindset in which positive change becomes possible.
Change can be difficult but it’s not usually impossible. I’ve helped organizations improve their quality and efficiency, teams become energized and productive, and individuals boost confidence and meaning in life. The toolbox I draw from is filled with research-based tools from scientific fields such as positive psychology, the study of human flourishing.
Based on my own life journey and working with hundreds of others on theirs, I’ve learned that:
- It is possible to lead a resilient, meaningful life even during the bleakest times.
- There are research-based tools that can help us create an upward spiral of excellence and possibility.
- There isn’t a single pathway to flourishing in work or life. Each person is on his or her own journey. One key is finding the tools and approaches that work for you.
I can help you with that. I’m an author, speaker, and seasoned consultant and coach.
My own shift began in 2013 during an 11-month certificate program in positive psychology offered by the Wholebeing Institute. I found this program while searching for something elusive. Although I wasn’t certain what I was seeking, I intuitively knew that there must be more to life than struggling through a divorce, facing the devastating loss of my best friend to brain cancer, trying to balance work and family as a single parent, and navigating my own battles with cancer.
During the year-long recovery from my second round of cancer, I had lots of time to think about how hard everything seemed. But I couldn’t pinpoint what I was seeking to do differently.
People I work with are often seeking something elusive.
The tools I offer can help bring that into focus and shift toward new possibilities.
A few weeks into the program, we were asked to think of a time when we achieved something important, then note the personal strengths that contributed to that success. I went blank. I didn’t have the language to describe strengths, an awareness of how I expressed them, or the knowledge to engage them well. I remember feeling sad that I was so out of tune with the best in myself, although I was great at focusing on what was wrong.
This wasn’t surprising given my past work as a consultant and coach. Working with clients in the financial services industry and small business owners in the Chicago area, I focused clients on what didn’t work and how to correct it. I enjoyed the challenge, but over time the intensity drained rather than energized me. I was on the road to burnout.
The positive psychology program became an antidote to my burnout as I learned to cultivate strengths and positivity. To graduate, participants submitted a final project. Mine was entitled “Life is hard. Then you thrive.”
My project reflected the journey I was on. As I studied strengths and applied my own, I began to see my habits, relationships, and work shift from improving what’s wrong to building on what’s best. The project became a springboard to my current passion and specialty: teaching individuals and teams to enjoy the benefits of becoming strengths-based.
I was hooked. I applied and was selected to become a teaching assistant to support the positive psychology experts I had studied under. Over the next 4 years, I mentored dozens of people from all walks of life wanting to transition to something new, take positive psychology into their organizations and client practices, or simply learn and grow.
The personal and professional transformations I witnessed were astonishing. Some participants changed their minds. Some changed their habits. Some changed their work. I think it’s safe to say all participants were moved in small or big ways toward new possibilities.
I continued taking strengths courses and had the honor of supporting the experts at the VIA Institute on Character for two years in an online course that introduced mindfulness and character strengths practices in coaching contexts. And I received positive psychology coach training from the experts at Positive Acorn.
Focusing on problems and failures teaches us what to avoid.
Focusing on triumphs teaches us what to embrace.
I heartily echo these sentiments from Robert Quinn, a leading authority on positive organizational scholarship (POS). From consulting work that focused on fixing problems to working with individuals and teams cultivating the good, I’ve seen firsthand how outcomes change based on where one places one’s attention.
Sometimes it’s necessary to improve weaknesses and what’s wrong, but I find that as a society we’re good at focusing on the negative and less practiced at pursuing the positive. I hope to change that.
One of the tools I encourage is the 30-day practice. I first learned about the 30-day practice at the Wholebeing Institute. It promotes positive habit formation through small, consistent steps that support a meaningful goal. I’ve completed over forty-six 30-day practices that helped me boost my resiliency, enhance relationships, and achieve goals like finishing my book.
In 2018 I published my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best, and I launched Strength Based Living LLC, a business dedicated to helping people craft their work and lives around their strengths. I also lead 30-day practices for participants in the VIA Institute on Character’s MBSP program (MIndfulness Based Strengths Practice).
I love the scene in the movie City Slickers, where actors Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are chatting about life. Palance’s character, Curly, asks Crystal’s character, Mitch, if he knows the secret of life. Curly then provides the answer, holding up one finger.
Puzzled, Mitch asks, “Your finger?” Curly replies, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that…” Mitch replies, “But what is the one thing?” Curly answers, “That’s what you have to find out.”
I’m told by others that helping people shift into their authentic and best selves and creating an environment that makes that safe and possible are some of my gifts. Perhaps it’s even my “one thing.”
Have you discovered yours?
Now that you’ve met me, I hope to meet you soon!