Bad Advice

We have all received terrible life advice. Prescriptions for lasting love, stable careers, purposeful living, happy family life and fool-proof fashion. This advice is offered as pearls of wisdom and truth with a capital T. It can come from family, friends, websites, teachers- usually unbidden.

pearls-in-hand Sometimes this advice is just plain against human nature. Often, it’s just ridiculous.  Even good advice given at the wrong time or applied in the wrong place, or slightly misinterpreted, can slide into “Danger, Will Robinson,” territory.

My friend Richard, told me the worst advice he ever got was that he, “couldn’t have a singing career and a family.” He was at a crossroads, he believed that this decision was either/or. Sigh.

It took a while to hone my list of godawful guidance down to just a baker’s dozen of terrible teachings I’ve gotten. How do I know they were terrible advice for me? Take a wild guess.

I’m positive that I’ve given #s 5 & 6 and acted on #10 all too often. And #13, a piece of advice for an evolved being, who doesn’t need it by then anyway.

In no particular order of awfulness…

  1. Don’t cry.
  2. Wait for the exact right time.
  3. Wear plastic sweatpants to lose weight.
  4. If you give everything you’ve got to others you won’t need to give to yourself.
  5. If it makes you anxious, don’t do it.
  6. If it makes you anxious, do it.
  7. Never go outside with wet hair.
  8. Don’t even think you’re creative unless what you’re doing is completely original.
  9. Never quit.
  10. The best thing you can do for a friend is give advice (even if they don’t ask).
  11. Get even (as in, “Don’t get mad, get even”), you’ll feel better and they’ll learn how it feels.
  12. Hold onto it, you never know when you might need it.
  13. and the breezily & oh so easily said, always at the wrong time…Just let it go.

I’m sure you’ve gotten a bit of crummy counsel, even some doozies, of your own. Maybe given some too? Share in the comments!

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Wednesday Words: Worry much?


I don’t know about you, by my internal worry machine manufactures worries like a factory on a deadline. And yet, I’m posting Wednesday words today, Thursday, and not worrying about it. This departure is an intentional deviation from the usual second guessing and “what ifs” that can make up a significant portion of my inner chatter.

Unravelling the worry habit takes some doing – or some undoing, that is. I’ve been working with it for years. My clients struggle with it too.

The creative mind can be prone to worry.

Creative thinking always involves the question “What if?” What if I combine these ingredients in the sauce? What if  we make a phone that’s small enough to carry everywhere? What if people could fly? The “what if mind” is generative. It’s usually imaginative too,it gets busy picturing possibilities and conjuring scenarios.

Consider what happens when we combine that fertile imagination with fear, “What if I try and then fail?” “What if  I can’t manage all my To Dos?” “What if the interviewer asks me something I don’t know.” “What if I  miss the train? ” “What if what I want isn’t possible?”

What if you saw your ability to worry as creativity gone off track? Is there more space for you to deal with it? Is there an opening to approach the equation, imagination + fear,  differently?

Worrying is a poor substitute for action.

A client recently said, ” I fool myself into thinking that I’m doing something when I worry.” She’s right, worry has energy, it can make our heart race, thoughts travel through our minds sometimes far into the future, and then… and then…. This can feel like doing something. You’re not. This is a mind trap.

Human brains are wired for action. If you’ve been around children you know that asking them to “stop running” is much less effective than asking them to “walk.” Why? Because we respond much better to directives that require forward movement. Positives not negatives. Do this instead of Don’t do that.

Worry = Love. Not.

At every family gathering for what seemed like years, my stepmother pulled me aside to say,”Your dad loves you, he worries about you all the time.”  Have you been told that worry is proof of love, an act of love or care or concern. Is it? Really? Are you sure?

Many of us learned to worry instead of learning to do the things that actually are loving to others and to ourselves.

Habitual worrying has effects – worrying about them won’t change anything.

One consequence of persistent worrying is that It begets more worry.  Deeply unsatisfying, worry causes constricted muscles, headaches, unease and possibly dis-ease. Even more reasons to worry! Not only are we out of the present moment when we worry, but we’ve begun to,what the Buddha calls “bend the mind,” that is, we see more of what we think about and that becomes our reality. Yikes.

Worrying may be a habit (which provides some level of comfort) but it isn’t action, it isn’t proof of care, it alters your reality and it isn’t asking for what you want.

It isn’t even fun.




The First Time Artful Insight Collage Saved My @–

I would never ask you to invest time or money in something I haven’t used myself and seen make a difference for lots of people. Still, cutting and pasting images to tap into intuition has got to sound a bit “woo-woo” to some you, so I thought I might tell you a story or two.

Story #1 How Artful Insight Collage Saved My @–

I was excited when the chancellor of my graduate school program (I was 56) asked me to speak at commencement. Then I panicked. All of the sudden, it seemed that I knew nothing about what I’d experienced in those two years. I had no idea what to write. When I say nothing came…literally, nada. The voice screaming, “You’re running out of time,” got louder and I got more stuck.

 Just days til graduation, I considered cancelling. That would have felt worse. Then it dawned on me to use the Accessing Inner Wisdom(c) technique created by Mona Constantini that I’d learned in that very program. Two hours later, paper scraps littering my floor, I had a collage that gave me clues. Clues! The next day, I wrote the speech in one sitting. I got great feedback about it. The school featured it in their marketing materials. And I had fun! Here is the speech.

TGI collage

In the years since, I’ve adapted the technique to my clients, incorporating bits from Focusing and brain-based strategies creating Artful Insight Collage.

Story #2  Jeanne’s Job Review Turnaround

Jeanne was preparing for her end of year job review. To say she wasn’t looking forward to it is understatement. Though a highly effective professional, Jeanne was struggling with questions about her strengths, accomplishments and vision for the next year. Her confidence was flagging.

 After a 2-hour Artful Insight collage session, Jeanne validated her strengths, found words for what she really does well, discovered and affirmed her work values, and got some new ideas too! She found the process more profound than she imagined. It was a relief from “all that trying to figure it out.”  

 “No one was more surprised that I was at the encouraging insights I got. I confess, I was rolling my eyes while I did it.”                                                                                 Susan T. 

 People have used Artful Insight Collage to help with anything from gaining clarity about a specific decision, to insight into a relationship.

There are many more stories of new insights and surprising discoveries, yours could be one of them.

To sign up:

1.Pick a date.  April 30  Tuesday   6:30 – 8:30 PM or May 1  Wednesday   9:30 -11:30 AM

2.Call Pound Ridge Recreation to reserve (914) 764- 0947  (Mon. – Fri. 9am -4:30 PM)

3.Send a check for $20.00 made out to Town of Pound Ridge.                                           179 Westchester Ave., Pound Ridge, NY 10576

4.Show up! Conant Hall 257 Westchester Ave., Pound Ridge, NY  easy to get to directions

Questions? Feel free to email me or call  (917 450-1524)

Know someone who you think might like this, send them here

Wednesday Words

dancing-tree-optical-illusionLife isn’t about finding yourself.

Life is about creating  yourself.                                                                                   

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Not THAT Kind of Gratitude

When I first started hearing about the benefits of gratitude from the world of positive psychology, I resisted. In my childhood home, gratitude was spoken about in the same breath with “selfish” and “myopic.” Gratitude was a “should,” like those apologies I faked. Insisting I feel gratitude for what I had when I wanted more was manipulative and resulted in me questioning my confidence, dreams and ambition.  Who would want that?

I was also worried that there was an inevitable progression from gratitude to contentment and from contentment to laziness and complacency. I’m not alone in this thinking. It’s ubiquitous in our culture. You need only look at those around you (probably sitting close by) who have difficulty acknowledging their strengths or achievements for fear they won’t want to improve if not found lacking. This stems partly from a variety of societal influences (Judeo-Christian guilt, Calvinist ideas of moral living, Freudian distrust of our powerful unconscious desires, etc.) which evoke a lack of trust in ourselves, a version of fear.

When, I recommend gratitude practice for clients and practice it on my own, this is not the type of gratitude I mean.

For gratitude to be positive, it’s important to look at motivation for wanting “more.”  At the risk of over simplifying, there are generally two types of motivation.

One type has an edge. It has a grasping driven quality lacking joy; be more, get more, do more, have more than someone else! This type of motivation is often about the lack of belief in ones own worth. It’s driven by “I’m not good enough.” The “more” that gets generated from this source often doesn’t satisfy in any meaningful way and requires constant feeding to stave of feelings of emptiness. And, it also gives desire for “more” a bad name, because it breeds greed and the lack of empathy that goes with it.

Wanting more is fundamental to the human condition. In its purest form it’s the desire to express creation by blooming; by metaphorically and literally planting seeds to create more of what we love. It is recognition that life is always moving forward. Moving forward means “more” is coming. Until we are no longer breathing,there’s a “next.” If we believe this  inclination for more is something bad, something about which we should feel guilt or shame,then we shut down our life force.

More can come about because we recognize that a new expression is needed. Perhaps a truer manifestation of who we are now as we continue to grow. It could be in the areas of  how we work; a refined definition of purpose; a change in life balance; the desire for a new skill or, the way we are in our relationships (to name just some). This fresh something is what comes from connection to our innate creative nature as members of a generative universe.

So where does gratitude come into all this? Harvard Psychologist, Daniel Goleman, reminds us that gratitude requires awareness, recognition and acknowledgment. If someone gives us flowers, we must first be aware that we received something, recognize that it came from this other person who was thinking of us, and then acknowledge to them that we appreciate their gift. If you give something to me,  I see it, I feel it in my heart, and I give back to you by acknowledging your gift. We can be grateful to people. And, we can  open our awareness to the small and large everyday gifts that are always around us.  When notice those and acknowledge them, we can reach a levels of joy that’s often described as, spiritual.

Gratitude and the desire for “more,” are sister lakes watered by the same spring.  When we drink in the gifts around us, we become more aware of the unique gifts we bring to, and receive from, the larger whole. As we create ourselves we find more, we want more,  we want to give more, we desire to make more so we feel our impact on the world in whatever ways that has meaning for us.  Feeling gratitude for what we do have gives us access to the joy and grounding for that expression.