Sparkling 7: Advice Gems That Just Might Change Your Life


Bad advice is like a clumsy dance partner, it steps on our toes and turns us at the wrong time. Good advice invites us to dance with it, even if we’re not sure how.

Can’t say I always knew that these 7 gems were the nuggets I needed when they first came my way. But, something about each one lodged somewhere in me  so  I couldn’t forget it.

Perhaps that’s the way we know a gem from a fake…it sticks. It may not be comfortable but it resonates.

It’s possible that at least one of my Sparkling 7 can be useful or even epiphany inducing for you. If you’ve got some gems you’d like to add to our collective treasure – yes, please!

In random order:

1. Not everything requires a response.

Are you super duper available and patient? Do you pride yourself on being kinder to others than you are to yourself? Do you think that just because someone asks, the law of “niceness” requires you answer? You’re nice, even if the “asker” isn’t being kind or considerate? Do you get drained easily? Are your thumbs constantly poised to answer texts, tweets or email? These are clues that you might not believe you can delay a response. Do you know you are free to chose not to give one at all.

2. Worry is the least effective way to show love.

Worry is a habit that not only robs you of this moment but future moments too. Worry much?


3. Always carry mad money.

This was one of my mother’s gems. In her time, carrying her own money was self-preservation in case a date went badly, a subversive act for a young woman who was expected to rely on a man for safety & fun.  With her words in my ears,  I kept an emergency savings account when I was single and still do. And, as I get older, “mad money” represents  more than a financial cushion, it means nurturing sovereignty in all its forms.

4. Pause.

Taking a break is healthy, you know this already. There are a gazillion ways to pause, some of them not so beneficial for you, like smoking a cigarette. Certain types of pauses, especially those that help you connect to your body, bring about greater calm, steadiness, and focus. A “pause habit” can seriously alter your ability to find solutions to problems, and your self-confidence too.

pause button

Click the button

Hint: try this in place of any unhealthy habit you’d like to change.

5. Start where you are.

Seems too obvious to be on this list, but stay with me because this could turn out to be the most valuable gem yet. Though many of us have a sense of where we’d like to be in our lives, or the way we’d like to be in our lives, we are less skilled at discerning where we actually are. Imagine using a map from the wrong “you are here” icon!!

6. Sacrificing (giving up something deeply important to you) for another person is seldom a good idea for you, them and, or the relationship.

Sacrifice breeds resentment. Period.

7. Only you can prevent forest fires.

Smokey The Bear is a zen master. His message, that our actions have consequences, is intense because he knows that one thoughtless act can set something beautiful ablaze. If this was a  metaphor for life, how would you treat the things you take for granted?  The people? Your inner environment? I’ve set off a few “forest fires” in my life. because I blamed others for my unhappiness. Have you inflamed a situation with a word or action? Only you…


Zen Master

Would love to hear your gems!

Warmly, Judy

Judy Garfinkel
Life,Career & Learning Coach

917.450.1524 (cell)
Release yourself from stress, indecision and fatigue with a simple Pause 

Ask Judy #7 Fear: Part 1

miners hat“I want you to write a post about fear,” says Kate, as we step into the ink-black tunnel. She’s getting ready to work with a fear that comes up every time she tries to take this step. She wants the comfort of seeing some written guidance, some validation too.

(We’re really in her office, but I imagine us going forward into that forbidding darkness together, miner’s high-beams like third eyes, lighting the way).

So here’s some of what I know – Part 1.

It’s a truth that dealing with fear is ultimately something we experience alone. No one can do it for us. And because of that, we never have to do it; there can be no coercion.

Anyone telling you that you have to face your fear(s) may think they are helping you but they are not. They may believe that if you did (face your fears) you would be happier and they could be right. They may love you and want that for you, but they are not you and you have to be ready. Ready, and in charge of your own process – always.

 Because working with fear is internal  (it’s about you being with you) the work is in your hands. Happily, there are techniques to be learned and help to be had. An empathetic presence of someone else as your companion and guide can make all the difference. With these tools your “hands” grow kinder and will hold more with greater ease than you ever imagined. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself (again).

In Fear: Part 2  I discuss what makes it so difficult to deal with fear. Until then, you might want to give this activity a go (or not):

  • Identify a time you knew you were afraid.
  • Write a list of the sensations that helped you identify what you felt as being “fear.”
  • With all the self-kindness you can possibly stand, and the most honesty you can muster, list how you reacted to it. Here are some questions to play with:

What thoughts came up when you realized you were afraid?

What did you do?

What did you feel about yourself when you handled it this way?

Is this the usual way, or have you ever handled fear differently?

Play lightly, experiment, no outcome required.

Interested in coaching? Read more at  Move Into

Ask Judy #6 How are coaching and therapy different?

9 out of 10 potential clients ask this question. And cocktail party guests do too.

It’s an honest question.

Or, as my imaginary Nana used to say (or would if she existed),

“As long as you really want to know the answer, any question is honest.”

If you were a fly on the wall in coaching trainings and mentoring sessions you’d hear coaches offering perspectives on this very same topic. It comes up a lot.


To my mind, the most important difference between coaching and traditional psychotherapy has to do with premises.

Therapists work from the premise that there’s something wrong with you, that it has a name, and a course of treatment.

More detail: psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and MSWs, are trained to identify and diagnose specific problems that can be found in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). They are looking for what’s wrong – for emotional wounds or as the title of the big book says, disorders.  The methods they use to help heal these wounds and to cope with the difficulties that arise from them depends on the school of thought in which they were trained (Gestalt, Freudian, Client Centered, Psycho-Dynamics, Cognitive Behavioral etc.).

Coaches work from a different premise.

You are already healthy. Ta-da.

You may be stuck and unhappy, frustrated and uncomfortable, AND you are capable of accessing what you need in order to move forward within a guiding process provided by the coach.

Life coaching is about moving forward into a better situation. The focus is on possibilities and future goals.

You’re a whole person (obviously). You have feelings, thoughts, sensations; a past, a future, and a now. All of these are present when you work with a coach.

While a good coach (that’s me) knows when it’s useful to look at the past and understands the value of emotion in all aspects of making change, we are not therapists.

9 out 10 people who ask me the question know what therapy is, or have an idea anyway, but are less clear about coaching. They want to be assured that we won’t be spending endless hours reliving their childhoods.

Consider yourself reassured.

Even more about the differences here. Or, leave a comment.

Ask Judy #5 Turning Expert-Tease into Expert-Ease

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”        –The Wizard of Oz

Spoiler Alert:

It turns out that The All Powerful Oz, revealed to be a mere mortal, was actually a whiz at understanding human nature.

Recognizing that the deficits we perceive in ourselves are often fictions we hold as Truths (not smart, loving or brave), and the imperfections we hide are sources of strength, the Wiz’s gift to Dorothy and the gang was first, his unmasking, and second, the wisdom he had gained but hadn’t trusted to be “enough.”

Contrary to our cultural conditioning, there is power in showing and acknowledging imperfections. That power is authenticity.

It’s the Wabi-Sabi approach to life.

If you haven’t run across the term before, Wabi -Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic that deems only those artworks that are imperfect and incomplete as truly beautiful.

Wabi-Sabi embraces visible mistakes as part of craft and essential for expression.

If I had access to Google Images, there’d be a picture of a gorgeous Raku vase (mit cracks) right here.

I’ll leave it to you to make the connection between the art of being human and Wabi-Sabi in art.

Which brings me to expertise.

It’s really easy to get hung up on the word “expert,” especially when we apply it to ourselves. This was true for my client Liza.

She asked the question, “How can I think about innovating in my department, if I’m not really an expert?”

As is almost always true, there’s the question that Liza is asking and then there’s the question that is in the question. In this case, since I’ve been working with Liza awhile, I sense Liza is asking more than two questions, but for the sake of concision let’s start with, “How do I know I’m an expert?”

How many of us know this doubt? I do – all too well. It can stop us in our tracks, making the ground beneath us feel shaky- our voices weak, and timid.

Turns out Liza’s definition of expert is pretty narrow. For her, an expert is someone whose job is directly related to the exact training or schooling (certification/degree) this person received. And for her, years of practice don’t really count unless it is also in the area for which one was originally trained.

So, with this line of thinking, a 22 year-old who just graduated from college with a degree in marketing would be more of an expert than someone who got a degree in writing but worked her way up in marketing firms through jobs that eventually led to an Account Executive position.

Liza tells herself that because she didn’t get her degree in the field in which she has been working for years,  she can’t possibly be an expert. She had never thought to look at her experience as having actually learned. Like many of us, she was conditioned to look only for external indicators of achievement and knowledge.

Liza  had never thought to question her definition of “expert,” nor to think about how much she had learned on the job (we made a pages long list of all the useful things she knows related to her current job) that contribute to her…well, expertise.

She fell for the expert-tease.

Understandable. I recognize in Liza my own tendency to listen to the inner “critter’ who tells me that experts know it all already. People who are experts don’t feel unsure because they don’t have anything to be unsure about – ever. Right?

And, I recognize in Liza my own tendency to believe the critter that tells me not having learned something yet, not knowing something, and my mistakes, are absolute proof that I’m not an expert. Ouch.

Using Focusing and Critter-sizing (a fun way to talk to the animals, I mean, inner critters), Liza re-defined expertise to be this

* Expertise means being able to call upon my accumulated knowledge (no matter where or how I got it) and understanding with increasing ease and agility; applying that knowledge with precision  and flexibility, recognizing what’s missing or needed faster, and recovering from mistakes more quickly

* It’s an ongoing process of learning at higher and higher levels of mastery in a field where I choose to practice.


Ask Judy #4: The Problem With “Why” or Try a Little Tenderness

“Why” is a fantastic question. So, this post isn’t an effort to remove it from our language, or anything remotely like that. Lately though, I’ve been listening to how some of us use Why questions against ourselves, against other people or situations, mostly unknowingly, or let’s say, unintentionally.

For example, I have a client who has just begun to notice the power of her inner critters (critics). She has become aware of how difficult it is for her to accept acknowledgment from others, or celebrate her own strengths and accomplishments – big or small.

I’ll stop here and state how cruddy it is to want to feel good and to then notice the pattern of perpetuating the not feeling good. Ouch, yuck, and – what use is self awareness if I still feel cruddy anyway? Oh yeah, I know this one really well.

Back to my client, call her Teresa. Teresa wants things in her life to change. She wants out of the patterns that she sees are holding her back. And, she’s in that place where she’s sick of the old, but when she starts to get a glimpse of the new (and how to go about taking small steps to change her pattern) the Why questions start.

Why do I have this pattern?” Why don’t I just change already? Why do I always do this? And, my all time favorite, “Why, if I can see what’s wrong, don’t I just act on what I know?”

That last question can be the subject of this blog for the rest of my life, so let’s leave it alone for now and move on to, the problem with why. Don’t get me wrong, finding out  why a pattern began is valuable work. But, have you noticed that the Why questions above (or substitute your own)  really aren’t about loving inquiry into what might be under a pattern, but more of, well, blaming?

Mostly blaming ourselves.

Why, in this context, is about looking for what’s Wrong.  Under the guise of figuring it out, we look for the bad, or really, who’s been bad (and guess who that turns out to be?). And, on top of that, we’ve  convinced ourselves that answering the question will bring us the relief we seek. In my experience, this doesn’t happen. The answer isn’t in the reason, but in the relationship with the reason, but that’s also a subject for a future blog potentially titled, “Needing to Know.”

Back to Why. When working with young children, I learned pretty early that, why, as in, “Why did you hit johnny with that truck?” goes nowhere productive. When you ask why in that situation here’s what happens:

  • Jenna, who hit Johnny with the truck, may not know why.
  • Asking why makes Jenna feel stupid, confused and possibly humiliated that she doesn’t know, ’cause if you’re asking her, the expectation is that she should know.
  • AND, she probably hit Johnny because she was scared, angry, or hurt and she didn’t know how to deal with it.
  • That’s pretty overwhelming as it is, and Why from an adult just scares her more.
  • Scared = flight, fight or freeze.
  • The answers you will get at this point are; stone faced silence, running away, “I don’t know” or some version of, it was Johnny’s fault.

See how that works? This post is too long already, so I won’t go into what might be happening for Johnny.

We aren’t much different from Jenna except that now we get to be both scared child and interrogator.  Asking why, when we’re feeling terrible just adds to the confusion and/or self-loathing we already feel.  We think we “should” know, we “should” be able to do something about it and we “shouldn’t”  try anything new (or fall back while we’re learning) unless we can know why there’s a problem in the first place.  Gaaaah.

The first thing to do here is the opposite of analyzing the problem. Why can’t help us here. But tenderness can.  Finding some intentional practice of listening to ourselves with tender regard, as we would hold a tiny seedling that we need to re-pot, or watch a bird hatch from its egg, can bring relief. From here, we are free to know more about what we might really need to do to move forward.

There are lots of great practices to investigate. You might try Exploring the Perimeter, it’s a good start. When I’m really desperate, I pick a part of my body I feel pretty neutral about – like my thumbs- and I sense them (eyes closed) with as much patient gentleness as I can possibly stand for as long as I can.

Listening to Otis singing Try A Little Tenderness here couldn’t hurt either.

Ask Judy #2 Dealing with Avoiding

One of my clients spent many weeks creating a work plan. She likes this kind of thing. Just a few last pieces to complete,   and      she       was          avoiding             it.

We discovered, that for her, work plan = following orders, no choice, and resentment.

Turns out this plan was required by her boss, who my client experiences as, ”rigid.”

So we decided to do the Metaphor Dance. It’s a dance with words for when you need to change your relationship to something you want. It turns a business into a wagon train and doing the laundry into sending love letters (don’t worry it’ll make sense in a minute). That day, we turned Work Plan into The Perfect Dive.

My client had been watching the Olympics and was enamored of the divers and their grace and control. These are qualities she wanted her work plan to bring her, but it couldn’t because she needed to start with exploring and deconstructing.

Now, working on the Perfect Dive feels like this: awareness, belonging to her, control, form, sequence, beauty, inner guidance, confidence, and splash.  And, she feels like the plan supports her,   instead of being put on her by her boss.

Here are the steps (I know, I know) to the Metaphor Dance.  I’ll use some of my client’s words as examples:

1.  Write all the things that aren’t working about this thing you want, including feelings emotions, etc. And the things that are working too.                                                         *my boss made me, resentful, squished, controlled, tired, rigid, cold, organized, focused, dry, secure, farsighted

2.What does this remind you of?
*orders, the military, football team, things I’m not interest in

3.  Now describe how you want this to feel, what qualities you want it to have?

*grace, precision, detail, ease, control, body awareness, sequence, confidence, courage, inner-guidance, elegance, strength, freedom through form, splash

4.  What does this remind you of?
*diving, a perfect dive

There you have it.

AskJudy: I listen to clients; in-person, on the phone, via email and in the strange land of Skype. I love listening to clients and I’m learning to love Skype -kinda. In all this listening I hear questions: interesting questions. Questions that are asked in different ways but are essentially the same question, or fall into a category of question. This reminds me that if one person is struggling or curious then it’s likely that others will benefit from knowing about it. This includes me.

So in AskJudy, I post a question from a client, blog commenter or random person who emails me with one (a question)- Don’t worry, I won’t use your name without asking permission, that would be wrong.  And then I’ll answer it as best I can.

Bring on the questions!

Ask Judy #1 Practicing You

Here’s what happens.

I listen to clients; in-person, on the phone, via email and in the strange land of Skype. I love listening to clients and I’m learning to love Skype -kinda. In all this listening I hear questions: interesting questions. Questions that are asked in different ways but are essentially the same question, or fall into a category of question. This reminds me that if one person is struggling or curious then it’s likely that others will benefit from knowing about it. This includes me.

So in AskJudy, I’m going to post a question from a client, blog commenter or random person who emails me with one (a question)- Don’t worry, I won’t use your name without asking permission, that would be wrong.  And then I’ll answer it as best I can.

Bring on the questions!

Today’s question: “Why can’t I carve a pathway to the thing I desire?”

Wow, this is a pretty sophisticated question with many different answers depending on the context. The context here is that this wonderful person is hard at work on a big project. She really wants to do something for herself that would be fun, get her out of her home to meet people and which would contribute to her physical health and overall well-being. Substitute anything you want from your life in here.

She notices that even though she’s clear about what she wants, can see it and practically taste it; and even though she has great reasons for doing this thing, is really excited about  it, she’s been here before and has not been able to follow through on “things that give me pleasure.”

Sound familiar?

Another way I’ve heard this question asked is, “Why don’t I do the things I know I want?”

Well,there’s a lot here to, be sure, and I’m not going to get to all of it (some of it being specific to individuals) but let’s start with this : If you ask anyone, anyone, how to get good at something like painting, baseball, reading, or building boats inside tiny bottles, they’ll tell you …1,2,3 all together now — PRACTICE.

While we know this, and can often apply it to things like painting, baseball, reading etc., we don’t often think about practicing BEING US, our most authentic selves. Let’s face it, most of us weren’t conditioned to  value wholehearted commitment to ourselves (can you hear the voice saying, “That’s selfish?”) We were told that, what others think of us, or want for us was much more important. So no wonder we don’t have a sense of how to go about it.

The first step, the one we have the most control over, is  to commit to figuring out how to be ourselves. That means learning more about how I do “me” and how you do “you.”

And, that takes practice. Practice carves pathways –  literally, metaphorically, and biologically.

In what ways do you already practice being you? If you want, here’s where you can practice sensing your body. Do you need permission?