Tag Archives: life coaching

Making (and Taking) Time to Create

At the end of August I wrote about Heeding the Call to Create and promised that my next post would be about finding time to create. In the interim we went from Panic to Peace  with Hurricane Irma.  I also realized it’s not so much about finding time as it is about making time. So today I’m going to fulfill that August promise before September is over!

Current journal and tea – morning routine

Back in 2014 when I first started a regular “writing habit” I was thoroughly convinced that I didn’t have time to write. Even though I’d been wanting to write since I was a kid and over the years I had filled dozens of tiny spiral bound notebooks with my scribbling, I kept telling myself I didn’t have time. I was too busy. I wrote on the train on the way to work. I wrote when I was sad or angry and needed to get my feelings out. But I didn’t make it a regular part of my life. It was something I wanted to do but I was too busy.

I remember the first day I sat down at my great-grandmother’s Singer foot pedal sewing machine and started writing in a full sized journal. I set a timer for 15 minutes. I could hear my son in his bedroom, probably needing my attention at that very moment. I could feel my anxiety rising as I thought about getting dinner ready. “I really don’t have time for this.” But I sat and wrote and when the timer rang I closed my journal and put it away. And then I did it again the next day. Gradually I built up a new habit. A month or so later I read The Artist’s Way and decided to start doing Morning Pages. That required more commitment than the 15 minutes a day of “Scanner” notes which I’d been doing, While Julia Cameron claimed that you could write 3 pages longhand in 20-30 minutes I found that it was more like 35-40 minutes for me. But by that time I was hooked. I started getting up at 5:30 in the morning to give myself the time to write. And it felt great. I haven’t stopped since and it’s been over 3 years of daily writing. Yes, I even wrote before, during and after the hurricane! If you’re interested in starting a regular creativity habit, read on!

The first step is awareness that this is something you really want to do. Is there something that you always tell yourself “I’ll do that when I retire”, or “When I’m on vacation I can do that, ” or perhaps it’s “When the kids grow up”? It might not feel like a step in the right direction, but simply admitting to ourselves that there’s something that we want to do FOR ourselves is a big deal. The idea of writing regularly had been with me for several years before I started doing it. What’s been tickling the edges of your consciousness for months or even years?

The next step is looking closely at your current time commitments. Those fifteen minutes between homework and dinner didn’t seem like much time but they were enough to get me started.  Fifteen minutes was the most I could commit to when I first started. And since my goal was to write by hand it was important to start small. If you don’t use those muscles they get sore! If you’re telling yourself you can’t find fifteen minutes in your day take a closer look. Do you use Facebook? Instagram or other social media? Do you watch television? I don’t want you to stop reading, because I believe the suggestions in this post can help you find time for your own creative practice, but you’re online right now.  Get really honest with yourself about how you spend your time. You may even want to track how much time you spend online using a tool like Checky or Moment. I was surprised to read that people are spending up to 23 hours a week online and texting in this Business News Daily article.

Another way that we convince ourselves that we don’t have enough time is by doing things for other people that they could be doing themselves. This happens most often when we have children who will happily absorb all of our time if we allow it. Setting limits and sticking to them may seem hard or unfair. However, in the long run if you’re being unfair to yourself, you may become resentful. Let your children do some of the things you’re doing for them and give them the satisfaction of gaining independence.  Another way our time gets absorbed is by taking care of a loved one who is elderly or has health issues. Ask for help if you need it and take some time for yourself. Otherwise you’ll burn out and may end up with stress related health issues yourself.

Some of us (I’m not guilty of this one) also spend a lot of our free time cleaning house. When it’s all said and done do you want to be the one with the sparkling toilet or would you rather have made a beautiful painting, written a poem or story, or participated in a community theater project?

Finally, look at how much time you’re spending on work and determine if it’s a wise investment. One of my clients was staying well beyond the eight hours a day she was being paid for AND working on weekends. She wasn’t being paid overtime and the company didn’t demonstrate any appreciation for her extra effort.  When she stopped spending more than 40 hours and started taking back her time, her life improved and now she’s dreaming of what she really wants to do. If you’re putting in a lot of extra hours or obsessing about your work even when you’re not physically doing it, please pause to consider why and what you could be doing instead.

Starting a new habit can be challenging and sticking with it can be even harder. I loved the suggestions in B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits TED Talk and it helped me to make writing part of my life. Start very small, tie it to an “anchor” behavior which is something you always do (like brushing your teeth), and reward yourself when you do it, even if it’s only to give yourself a “high five” in the mirror! The reward might be something intangible like the great feeling you get from knowing you’re creating something important to you. You can keep your habit in place by putting in on your schedule. I write my creative times on my calendar, just like a regular appointment and I stick to it. On those rare occasions when “Morning Pages” become “Evening Pages” I still know I’ve accomplished my creative goal for the day. You can also check off your creative goals from a “to do” list and it’s satisfying to see those check marks adding up.

Another step in developing a creative habit and making it part of your life is accountability. I was initially very shy about my writing but I joined an online group (which has since dissolved) led by Courtney Carver. The members of the group supported one another in our writing endeavors and provided feedback. If you tell someone else  that you’re going to blog every two weeks or write in your journal every day or paint for 15 minutes a day it helps to have someone to check in with. This can be a friend who will cheer you on or you can look for a group. There are groups on Instagram that have challenges to post a creative project daily for a week, a month, 100 days or even a year. Depending on what your creative output and commitment is you can can always find inspiration and support for your goals. Just don’t fall victim to “compare and despair” and feel that your work isn’t as good as someone else’s work! And yes, I realize I just recommended cutting down the amount of time spent online but it is a way to find encouragement and support.

For some people investing in their creative habit will help make it stick. I joined a class on children’s writing led by Jon Bard called “It’s Your Time” and the fact that I had paid for the class was a good incentive for me to continue writing. You can also work with a coach who will help you through all of the steps, from being aware of your creative calling, to making time for it, developing it into a consistent practice, and providing accountability for you to continue.

A few of the over twenty journals I’ve filled since I began making time for my creative practice.
And a few more…

Is there something in your life that’s calling you to create? Please share in the comments. Start with a few minutes a day, you never know where it might lead you… And now I’m going to paint for a few minutes before I start preparing dinner!

My antique suitcase full of journals…time to buy another!




Heeding the Call to Create

For many people the idea of creating something on a regular basis is full of barriers.  “I’m not creative enough” or “I don’t have time”  are two of the main excuses we use.  I used both of them for many years and yet I kept feeling called to be creative. When I was still teaching I had opportunities to be creative with the children I taught, but I never gave  myself permission to go beyond art projects suitable for a class of 4-5 years olds.  While I kept journals for many years it wasn’t something I was willing to share with anyone. I didn’t feel like I was creative enough for anyone to want to read what I wrote.

The more I reach out to people, the more I realize that I wasn’t the only one with those blocks. I see people on Instagram who are just beginning to dare to share their work and I know they feel vulnerable. What if someone is critical? What if no one “likes” it? I read others’ blogs who are just starting out and I recognize that feeling of wanting to apologize before I even hit send. What if no one reads it or what if it’s boring or what if there are spelling or grammar errors and it seems


The first time I went into Blick art supplies I was completely intimidated. I felt like a fraud! Only real artists were allowed to shop there! But everyone was nice and I even stuck around for a demonstration and bought some watercolor pencils. The first time I published a blog post I was terrified! It took all my courage to hit the “send” button.

But sometimes I hear from someone that my words made a difference for them. That in combination with someone else’s words or an image or an idea that had been floating around they became inspired to make a change in their life. And it’s bringing them joy.  That reading my book with their child was fun and they stayed up past their bedtime to finish it. Or I might hear back from a friend that a picture I shared on Instagram reminded them to feel gratitude for the little things.  And that’s all it takes to make me realize that my fear is just fear. That sharing our creative ideas is good not just for the person creating but also for those that receive it.

Most of the time when I paint something  (on canvas, with acrylics!) I don’t share it, but invariably when I do people are kind. There is a community of people who create for the joy of it. Some of them are making a living at it and  others dream of making a living at it. But the real reason we’re creating is because it lights us up.  We create because we love it. And because we are called to.

If you’re feeling called to create, what’s stopping you? Is it fear? Are you creating but not feeling “good enough” to share? If you have blocks and want help getting over them I’d love to talk with you about it. And if you’ve gotten over your fears and are sharing your gifts I’d love to celebrate with you!

My next post will be about the second excuse; “I don’t have time.”

Until then, Happy Creating!



Perfect is the enemy of good

There are all kinds of reasons for not finishing something and getting it out into the world. For more years than I care to count, I’ve had a vintage metal lawn chair that belonged to my grandmother, Dean Donovan, on my dad’s side of the family. It found its way to my house in Miami, a little worse for the wear, but still a very serviceable chair. It’s comfortable, rocks just a little when you push with your feet against the ground, and brings a lot of good memories.

I forgot to take a picture before I started sanding, but you can get a good idea of what it looked like.

For a long time it has sat on my back porch, covered with a towel, slightly rusty, sometimes used by the cat. I rarely sat in it and it always made me a little sad to see it there. Many years ago my husband stripped off the original navy blue paint and another layer of forest green paint and sprayed on a coat of primer. And for some reason, it never got finished. I kept telling myself I would paint it someday but I was worried about getting it right.

I love the lopsided smile that says “Yes! Paint me!”

This week I got a sudden desire to paint the chair. Monday afternoon I went to Home Depot (site of my previous run in with the roofing project!) and bought a beautiful light aqua color of Rustoleum spray paint. My husband has a nifty little electric sander and collection of sand paper. The primer and rust came off pretty quickly and in two days the chair was sanded down to bare metal.  On Wednesday I sprayed on the first coat of paint and although there were a few drips and a bug or two flew into it, it looked pretty good. Today I put on the second coat and let the chair dry in the sun.

The paint job is not perfect. If it were, I’d probably be afraid to sit in it! But it’s done, it’s good enough and I will enjoy it for many years to come.  As I’m starting my new business I find myself getting caught up in the same kinds of procrastination. What if my website isn’t perfect? What will people think? What if my intake form is missing something? What about scheduling and blog posts and having the right niche?  So I’m putting it out there as I build it, knowing it’s not perfect, but realizing that sometimes it’s more important to have a comfortable chair than a perfect chair. Is there something that you’ve been putting off because you want it to be “just right”? I’d love to talk with you about it, and if the weather is nice I’ll be doing it from my back porch, sitting in a comfortable chair that’s been around for a long time.

p.s. Speaking of imperfection, my friend and fellow coach, Tina Peacock, let me know that she wasn’t able to respond to my last blog post because the contact information wasn’t set up correctly. I tried to fix it but I don’t know if I did it right! So if you want to contact me just send me an email at mialotus@yahoo.com 

I would love to hear from you!

The Gift of Being a Beginner

In the interest of being a beginner I’m going to share a story about roofing with you. Why roofing? Read on!

When my mother-in-law first mentioned that she wanted to replace the roof of the wishing well that has graced her front lawn for over 50 years I was excited. I like working with my hands and it seemed like it would be a fun project. How hard could it be?  I arrived one morning, bright and early, with my hammer and hat and got to work tearing off the old roof.  Likewise, when I first decided to sign up for life coach training I was excited and enthusiastic. How hard could it be?

I was a little unsteady on the step ladder and really had to reach for the top row of cedar shingles. My father-in-law came out and offered some of his tools, including a couple of crowbars and some nail pullers. By the end of the first day I had filled two large garbage cans with deteriorated shingles and was feeling a great sense of accomplishment. I took pictures as I demolished the roof so that I would know how to put it all back together. After my first couple of life coach classes I was feeling pretty good about it. There was a lot of material to learn but I knew I could do it.

That night I fell asleep, tired and happy. I woke a few hours later in a panic. What the hell had I done? I didn’t know how to build a roof! I didn’t know what materials I would need or how I was going to get huge sheets of plywood up on the roof or really anything about roofing! I had jokingly told my father-in-law that I would look it up on YouTube but now I realized that I might have bitten off way more than I could chew.  I finally fell back asleep and the next day started doing some research. Home Depot looked like a good place to start. After a few sessions of watching videos and listening to the Master Life Coaches we were invited to start practicing with one another. I panicked. The first time I tried to speak on a group call my heart was pounding so hard I thought I might pass out. What the hell had I done? I had no idea how to be a life coach!

I found a couple of useful articles and printed them out. I was able to calculate approximately how many shingles I would need to replace the ones I’d torn off. I spent some time on hold with the wonderful folks at Home Depot and both times I was ready to place an order for shingles and plywood for delivery I managed to hang up the phone with my chin. Instead of spending more time on hold I decided to wait. We weren’t ready for the materials yet anyhow. We were assigned to small groups of four people to practice together. The other three women in my group were bright, funny, empathetic and willing to make mistakes and learn from one another. I began to feel like maybe I could do this after all.

When I went back to work the following week my father-in-law came out to look at the plywood that was under the tar paper and realized that a lot of it could be re-used. That was a relief! We spent some time cutting a piece of plywood that he’d been saving since my husband was a young boy and they had dismantled his bunk bed.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! And don’t tear something apart that doesn’t need to be torn apart! My one attempt at using a circular saw while standing on a step ladder could be seen either as a failure (the saw kicked back out of the plywood) or a success (I still have all ten fingers and both arms).  All this practice was beginning to have an effect! I gained some confidence as I listened to the other coach trainees (or cadets as we are fondly called). We had a wonderful Master Coach, Bev Barnes, who led our first practicum and she encouraged us to use the tools we were learning and gently helped us through the rough bits. I coached in front of the other 12 or so cadets on the line and emerged with all my fingers intact.

The next stage of the project involved finding out why the roof was slanted at an odd angle on one end of the wishing well.  After emptying the base of the wishing well, we realized that the bottoms of the 4 x 4 beams that were holding up the roof had been destroyed by termites. Instead of tearing them out completely we were able to shore them up using 2 x 4s and some ingenuity on the part of my father-in-law. More tools were brought out, jacks to prop everything up, a level to make sure that each side was the height, a drill for screwing in the 2 x 4s. I was feeling more comfortable with the tools by now and had also remembered how much I used to enjoy working with my own father when I was young.  I was able to choose the right tool for the job, including chisels, wire cutters for pulling nails, and found out the best way to remove wet tar from skin is with WD-40! By the end of the second practicum we had learned more life coaching methods and it felt more natural to apply them. I was spending less time worrying about “doing it right” and more time helping the people I was coaching.

Once everything was level we placed more tar paper (also known as roofing felt) over the plywood and nailed it down. I started out with my heavy wooden handled hammer then switched to a lighter weight hammer. I got into the rhythm, eventually getting to the point where I could get a nail flush with the roof with 7 bangs.  It felt pretty good although later that night my right hand hurt so much I skipped my yoga class! At the end of the second practicum we were told we could start practicing with “civilians”, people who weren’t in the coach training with us. I reached out to a couple of people I knew and  they agreed to be my guinea pigs. I practiced the tools that we had learned and it gradually got easier.

Before the next working day I went to pick up the new shingles at Home Depot.  While I was there I also bought some sky blue paint for my front porch ceiling and had a nice chat with a gentleman who was visiting from Ohio and doing volunteer repairs at a church in Miami. He was encouraging about my roofing project. I was feeling confident that I could do it. In December I started telling others about what I was doing, just chatting and offering to help. I wasn’t so self-conscious about it as I had been when I first started out. I was gaining some confidence but still felt shy about telling people I was a life coach.

After a false start where I had to tear off the top of a double row of shingles that had been matched up instead of staggered, I got into the rhythm of nailing on the new shingles.  They were all different sizes and some had knots or holes in them and weren’t able to be used. We stopped at 3:00 so I could pick up my son from school, just before completing the top row.  I continued to coach friends, relatives, acquaintances, and other coaches. Some people I only coached once. It’s not always a good match.  I’ve coached others weekly and we’ve made real progress. I love the feeling of being “in flow” that comes sometimes when I’m coaching and I feel energized and happy when I finish a session.

On Saturday I got a call from my father-in-law that he was going to finish putting on the metal cap and the last row of shingles. My mother-in-law was due back from Chicago on Sunday and he wanted to have the project finished. While at first I felt disappointed that I wasn’t there to see it completed I realized that I’d done what I needed to do and could let it go. As my clients learn how to apply the tools to their own lives they don’t need me to be there for them, they can complete the work themselves. And I can offer my services to someone else who needs some help getting started.

We had a great group coaching session today with Master Coach Jackie Gartman. She invited us to give ourselves the gift of being a beginner. What this means for me is that instead of feeling the need to be a “perfect coach” (whatever that means!), that we instead allow ourselves to be beginners and to enjoy it. If you’re interested in being a beginner with me, please contact me about coaching (or roofing!) I’d love to tell you more!