Archives for the month of: February, 2015


The chant of the little engine that could is a child-like reminder of the role expectations play in performance. Henry Ford put it this way: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.

In training for my coaching certification I was introduced to a model developed by the Self Management Group. Performance is the result of the interaction of Talents, Opportunities and Habits. Talents are our inherited potential. We can develop it up to a point. We can prepare ourselves to take advantage of Opportunities, but we are dependent upon if and when they come along. The greatest leverage in the performance equation comes from our Habits. The dynamics over which we have the most control, habits influence whether and how we expand our talents and manage opportunities.

There are two kinds of habits that influence performance, habits of thought and habits of behavior; our attitude and our effort. Pulling a long train of cars up and over a mountain pass was a huge challenge for the little engine. With an optimistic attitude and a sustained effort she did it!

Returning to expectations, how many of us limit our potential by expecting too little of ourselves? And how many of us pass on the sustained effort it takes to pull an apparently heavy load?

Let’s ask ourselves. What train load of cars awaits our engine? What attitude will serve us best in hitching up? What will it take to move forward each day a little bit at a time until we reach the top of our mountain pass?


At our 50th high school reunion almost five years ago, several of us found ourselves at dinner together. Connected that night by the promise in our conversation more than memories of our adolescent past, we agreed to stay in touch. Since then we have had over thirty conference calls and several in-person gatherings.

An email this week from one of our group struck home. At its core was a simple and profound call to action in our attitude. It is particularly poignant for those of us elders facing the passing of peers and the loss of capacities we once took for granted.

My friend is a gentle, strong, persistent, mindful and very caring individual. Her husband has been battling cancer for the past twelve years, and she has been by his side every step of the way. Taking advantage of a positive energy plateau in his treatment cycle, they are right-sizing. Her email describes sorting through and disposing the accumulated stuff of many years. She notes that the most difficult aspect in letting go of “things” is the memories associated with them, and she shares some examples.

And then she says, “I remind myself – love the good that is, not what is lost.”

What a great reminder to each of us personally and professionally: tune our attitude to focus on that which is going well, the beauty around us that awaits only our attention and the love that asks only to be received. It is a matter of mindfulness for the moment rather than what was or might have been.


How often each day do you cross a threshold? Probably many times, when you stop to think about it. Every door you pass through is a threshold from one space to another.

In the familiarity of our daily routines most of us don’t pause to think about it. Even when we close a door to achieve privacy or to contain a pet, stepping across sills doesn’t rise to our awareness. That is, until we come to a new one.

A threshold grabs our attention either when it beckons us with opportunity or threatens us with adversity. Leaving home for the first time called to many of us, as did committing to a relationship and pursuing our dream. Something compelled us to leave our zone of comfort to embark on a path of learning. For others of us the loss of a loved one or a job or the arrival of an invading disease impelled us into a new realm of discovery.

We know we are on the verge of a new possibility or threat when it involves risks and it demands our response. Our fear buzzer goes off. Adrenalin rushes to mobilize us, our signal that what we are facing is significant down to our core. We are at a defining moment on the brink of action. There is no turning back.

What is the threshold before you today – Defining yourself anew after ending a relationship? Committing to another day of sobriety? Taking that next step forward on a postponed path of heart? Whatever it is, embrace it with the knowledge that retreating may be safer in the moment but in the long run debilitating to the person you could be. And, remember, there is a company of sojourners who will support you over the brink and beyond.


Do you remember the last time you were blindsided, when your words or actions or those of others caught you by surprise and threw you off-balance? Maybe it was at home, or maybe it was at work. Maybe it was in a special relationship or in your role as leader. Like a troll springing suddenly from under the bridge of our routines, it can happen anytime or any place, usually when we’re least expecting it.

It happened to me this week in a very mundane set of interactions. The details are less important than the fact that the episode triggered a response from my darker energies. The shadow followed me around most of the day…until a familiar question seeped into my funk: “What wants to happen here?”

It is an excellent coaching question that I first encountered several years ago in a workshop facilitated by Alan Seale. Through his teaching and coaching Alan encourages us to tap into the energy of our feelings in order to discover the potential that waits. Seeing and honoring the potential provides a powerful antithesis to the apparent negative block of the moment.

The question acknowledges at least two things. First, whatever we are doing or feeling isn’t working for us, probably because our ego has taken over. Second, maybe things are not working for us because there is a greater potential waiting to be released. Alan characterizes that greater potential as our soul and its mission, which may be 180 degrees from our current impasse.

The next time you’re stuck or surprised by your troll, it might help to ask yourself, “What wants to happen here?” Seeking the answers may open a whole new horizon.