Act Like An Olympian In Your Own Life


Since the snow continues to accumulate here in Iowa I thought I would try my luck at skiing on Saturday. My niece wanted to ski and Bob’s nephew wanted to snowboard and because they still think of me as the hip and crazy aunt who will try anything, I could not disappoint them.

I’m not really sure why I thought I could ski since I haven’t been on skis in over 20 years and I’ve never once had a lesson. Maybe it’s the subliminal messages the Winter Olympics athletes are sending us to get out and act like an Olympian in our own lives.

By attempting to ski I learned about myself, fear, fun, and falling down. As much as I like to think I’m able to listen to my body’s wisdom, my head hijacks whatever is attempting to communicate through my extremities at the first sign of danger.

In my case, this happened as soon as I slid by boots into the skis and attempted to maneuver over to the bunny hill. The ability to put one foot in front of the other without falling over suddenly became a monumental task.

What was I thinking?” became the only thing I was thinking. Until I fell and then, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” became the predominant thought.

Take off your skis!” Kat advised as I pondered how my knees and feet might work in unison with skis pointed in opposite directions.

You can do it!” Brad encouraged.

And I did.

After a successful run down “Rookie’s Ridge“, I moved on to the “green” hill where I wiped out a couple of times and skied right into a snowbank.

I think it takes most people 3-5 minutes to ski that slope. I’m pretty sure it took me 35.

Come on, Pen! Try going a little faster,” the young ones quipped.  It sure seemed like I was moving at top speed when I skied into the snow bank.

Luckily Kat and Brad were more patient than I ever expected them to be.  They even acted like they knew me when I came careening into the chairlift area.

Did I have a fabulous time? A humbling time would be more like it.

In my mind, I still believe I’m their age. It always shocks me when my body reminds me this is no longer the case.

But courage begets courage. I’m not sure I would have even agreed to try this had I not just started a mastermind group called Practicing Everyday Alchemy and been buoyed by the support and faith of a fearless group of amazing alchemists.

Every Olympian has an entire team behind them encouraging, supporting, training, and seeing them through their toughest and most glorious moments. Why wouldn’t I put a similar support system in place when I take my leap into the unknown?

Having just read an incredibly insightful book by Shawn Achor called Big Potential, I wouldn’t attempt anything worthwhile without assembling a star system that allows me to not only to tap into my potential, but the bigger potential of everyone in the group.

It’s often the tiniest of actions that catapult us out of our comfort zone and into what I call our evolutionary zone. Sometimes it’s heading to the slopes. Other times it’s passing on dessert or an alcoholic beverage.  It could even be cleaning out a room in order to create some breathing space.

What courageous acts –  big or small – have you taken lately?

Who makes up your star support system and allows you to shine your light in new and adventurous ways?

Please share in the comments below so we can celebrate your moments of magnificence with you and those who made it possible for you!


Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Take Your Time


When I lived in Santa Fe, I used to housesit and dogsit for people. When a friend’s mother  passed away, she asked if I would stay at her mother’s house until she and her sister decided what to do with it.

This was no ordinary house. This was a gorgeous ranch with a guest house in one of my favorite places on earth. I was sure everyone was mistaken and I was really the one who had died because this was my idea of heaven. The days I got to spend in that home among so many beautiful things were unforgettable.

My friend’s mother was a remarkable woman who had crafted an astonishingly elegant life for herself and the friends, family, horses, and canines that kept her company.

One evening as I sat on the porch watching a spectacular sunset the idea occurred to me that I couldn’t hang on to this place or this experience any more than my friend’s mother could. The only thing I could do was fully appreciate the time I had there.

This is why I’m so protective of this time at the end of the year and seem obsessed with making sense of the year coming to a close.  I’m acutely aware that, as the classic Seals and Croft song goes, “We may never pass this way again.”

So I want to make sure I’m present for it. That I don’t rush through it in my desire to move on to bigger, better, faster, or flashier. I want to take my time and give it the attention a full year of my life deserves. I hope you’ll do the same with yours.

With that said, I’ll take you through the rest of the Year in Review template and tomorrow I’ll give you a different one to look at the year ahead.

What were the products that rocked your world? Every year there is at least one thing I wonder how I ever lived without. Usually it’s an upgrade or improvement to something I use every day. It could be as simple as a new electric toothbrush, slim velvet hangers, a new skincare product, or an app that reminds me to meditate, move, or feed the fish. What are those things for you?

Who were the people who rocked your world? Just as there are products you can’t live without, there are people who make it all worthwhile. It could be your yoga teacher, your rabbi, a rock star, a writer, your next door neighbor, Alexander Hamilton, or the dog-treat-dispensing bank teller. I was inspired by so many people that this will have to be a separate blog post for me.

What books, blogs, movies, music, concerts, conversations, or workshop/seminars/coaching programs/retreats changed the way you think and feel? The thing I like to remember is I am only one thought away from a new perspective and a few dance moves or dog walk away from a better mood. As much as I like to think about things, I don’t act on them until I feel something. Often times I need a nudge in the form of reading material, listening material, phoning a friend, or giving in to the unbridled enthusiasm of two dogs who think they are going for a w-a-l-k.

How did your relationships change or shift this year? Did you get engaged, married, divorced, have a baby, lose a loved one, start a business, hire a coach, fire someone, rekindle a romance, move to a new neighborhood, or retire from your job? When your circumstances change, usually your relations shift as well.

What health, fitness, food, or spiritual practices did you try, tweak, test out, or keep up this year? Maybe you took up archery or turned into a total foodie, much to your surprise and delight. Maybe you started a hip hop class or became a Buddhist. Maybe you did a 21-day cleanse or tried acupuncture. Or maybe you suffered a debilitating illness that turned your world upside down and forced you to do everything differently. How have these new practices defined you or allowed you to reinvent yourself?

What is the smallest change you made that had the biggest impact? Did you start meditating for 5 minutes in the morning or stop drinking soda? Did you start leaving love notes in your spouse’s lunchbox? Did you take up taekwondo with your kid? Did you give up lattes for Lent and never looked back?

And finally, what were your greatest contributions this year? Maybe you spent a Saturday afternoon being a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. Maybe you took 3 carloads of career ready clothes to Dressed for Success. Maybe you sponsored a child, saved yourself and your children and left an abusive relationship, or fed some local families during the holidays. Whatever you did, make a note of it. It mattered.

Tomorrow I’ll look at what you want to call in for 2017.  But for today, take your time and tell me about your year in the comments below.




Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Day 4 – Plan D


It’s Day 4 of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge and today the letter “D” will be directing the show.

Words beginning with “d” are drenched with determination as if daring us to do something difficult, daunting, or demanding. 

Let’s face it, Darling, dealing with the holidays can be discombobulating.

So what do you do?

Well, my answer to everything these days (okay, maybe every day since the 80s) is disco. 

Before you dis this idea, don your earbuds or headphones, dive into the video, and discover for yourself how this dazzling display of dorkiness dispels any doubt that dancing develops the necessary dossier to deal with drama. 

A few of my distinguished friends and followers have agreed to be featured in this divine dance with me. Tom, Terry, Bob, and Barbi have demonstrated that disco never dies. I’m sure you will agree they are dynamite.

For more fun than Dominick the Donkey, drop in on the folks at JibJab  and let them help you make a decidedly different holiday card that will delight family and friends and delineate your card from dozens of others this year.

If that doesn’t drown you in good cheer, come back tomorrow when I dole out more advice with the letter “E” as our guide.

Dare to share your dancing dreams in the comments below. Be sure to click here to register for door prizes and other goodies dispersed throughout the challenge. A link will be provided so you can download your Holiday Survival Guide once you register.




Stuff Your Turkey, Not Yourself

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It’s that time of year when the holidays have a way of hijacking our attempts at remaining calm and practicing healthy habits. Today I’ll be sharing some tips to avoid overeating and over-stressing over the holidays on Paula Sands Live.

Here are a few strategies to get you from here to the New Year in good cheer.

HALT and Plan Ahead

Making decisions when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired usually leads to poor choices. Planning ahead when you have time to calmly think through your options and prepare healthy snacks will save your sanity by eliminating the emotional frenzy that comes with feeling famished.

Nourish Yourself Regularly

Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals or eating them on the run does not help you lose weight. In fact, it can lead to weight gain. Fueling yourself with whole, nutritious foods at regular intervals will help regulate your appetite, clear your mind, and keep you energized throughout the day.

Pace Yourself

Treat the holidays like an endurance event and train accordingly. Eating, drinking, or otherwise consuming your way through the holidays will only compound your stress. Take it one day at a time. If you blow it one day, don’t resign yourself to giving up until the New Year. Just begin again. Six weeks of bad habits is hard to overcome. Especially  when you can simply start over whenever you slip up. A new perspective is always one thought away.

Move Through Your Stress

Working out does wonders to help alleviate the stress that can accumulate at the mere thought of attending a party or preparing a family feast. Find a way to move that’s fun for you. It doesn’t need to look like exercise. Fire up your Wii Fit. Get out your bowling ball. Break out the ice skates. Rake up the leaves and then jump around in them. Recruit your family or a few friends to make it more likely you’ll stick to it.

Unplug and Get Enough Sleep

So much to do. So little time. Skimping on sleep will not only add to your stress but add to your waistline. Your body needs downtime to rest and repair. Unplug from your electronic devices in plenty of time to wind down so you have the energy to get up and face another day refreshed and rejuvenated. Never unplugging leaves you in an endless cycle of feeling wired and tired.

Be Grateful

Although the focus of Thanksgiving tends to be all about the food, it also includes the many people, things, and opportunities you have to be grateful for. If this is the one day of the year you look forward to feasting, by all means savor the flavor of your favorite foods. Do not obsess over calories. Feeling guilt or shame around food robs it of its pleasure. Take the time to be present and aware of what you are eating.  Get curious about where it came from, who prepared it, and the love that went into sharing it. Ironically, when you give a meal the time and attention it deserves, you end up feeling more nourished by less food.

When you reflect on how much you already have, you can resist the urge to fill yourself up with food, shopping, and other distractions. In other words, stuff your turkey, not yourself.

Join my Here to the New Year in Good Cheer Challenge starting on Black Friday and running right up to December 31st. Details to follow later in the week. Or email me at for updates.

For now, keep calm and gobble on!



The Wonder of a World Series Win


photo by Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Several years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a poem that became a book called,“All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”

Having watched my share of baseball lately I feel like I could write, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching the World Series.”

I don’t usually pay a whole lot of attention to sports teams or their players, their stories, salaries, stats, or celebrity status. But this year, I was looking for a team, a mascot, or a metaphor for my How to Get Your Groove Back coaching group that would mirror back the challenges we face in our ongoing efforts to own our throne and name and claim our power.

I picked the Chicago Cubs because I’ve spent a lifetime of summers listening, watching, and waiting for them to grow into their greatness. When my dad shared a copy of Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview with four of the Cubs on the cover early in the season, I suspected this could be the year the world would get a glimpse of what Cubs’ fans have believed for 108 years.

Little did I know how well this team would play their part or how much I would learn from watching them.

Here are just a few lessons learned from watching the boys of summer play their way into November.

  •  Start with the end in mind. Name it and claim it.  Know what you want and why.   What are you willing to do or give up in order to be, do, or have what you want?
  • Be all in. Show up and suit up no matter what. When you are attempting the impossible, every day is up for negotiation. Do you have it in you? Is it worth it? Only you can decide. And then you decide over and over and over again.
  • Your body is your friend.  Be in it. Embody. Get so comfortable in the skin you are in that when your body needs to bypass your brain, it knows exactly what to do.
  • It takes a village. You cannot get there alone. It takes a coach, a team, an infinite number of visible and invisible allies, adversaries, and loyal fans to bring out your best.
  • Be a good sport. Be generous. Be gracious. Be kind to all of those who are fighting the good fight right alongside you.
  • You win some. You lose some. Setbacks happen. Comebacks, too. Do not give up until you’re certain the game is over.
  • Stay flexible. Shake it off. Be willing to play whatever position is necessary and take one for the team. You never know when the sacrifices you make will pay off.
  • The better you get, the bigger the challenges. Never fear. You are equal to the task. Remember who you are, what got you here, and what you are capable of.
  • Expand your vision of what’s possible. Each experience opens up the door to another that may not have been possible until now. Why not you? Why not now?
  • Pray Rain. I had heard about this concept before but as I was meditating in my basement in an attempt to calm my nerves during the 8th inning of Game 7, the concept came up again.  The story goes that if you are in a drought, you don’t pray for rain.  That only acknowledges the lack of rain. You simply feel the rain on your skin, smell the rain in the air, and see the rain soak into the earth.  In other words, you allow the rain (or whatever you desire) to come forth, emerge, or manifest. You pray rain. Well, I went back upstairs to finish watching the game and guess what happened? Rain delay! And what happened during that rain delay? Jason Heyward reminded his team of who they were and what they were capable of doing and the rest is history.

Sometimes life is so surreal it’s mind-blowing.  And sometimes mystics disguise themselves as bubble-gum chewing ballplayers.

What about you? What lessons have your favorite teams, family members, or adversaries taught you about life?  I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

You Must Be Present to Win



I must admit.

I’m overly identifying with the Chicago Cubs this year so the spectacular four-run ninth inning rally that secured their win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night was more meaningful to me than most playoff games.

You see, early on I adopted these boys of summer as mascots for my How to Get Your Groove Back class. Jake Arrieta in particular seemed like the perfect poster guy for getting one’s groove back. He almost gave up the sport altogether when his pitching coaches couldn’t quite find his groove and released him from Baltimore.

Fortunately Chicago was able to help him find it. And then Jake was able to show the rest of the team how to find theirs. (It might have something to do with that Pilates reformer.)

After a lifetime of summers spent listening to the “lovable losers” on the radio, this summer I watched and learned from the victories and defeats of the Cubs like a vigilant den mother. And one of the things I learned is you must be present to win.

You don’t win by checking out, dwelling in the past, or projecting into the future.  If the Cubs had gone into the ninth inning on Tuesday night plagued by what had transpired in the previous eight, they wouldn’t have been open to the opportunities the ninth inning presented. They clinched the series by seizing every one of them.

That takes an unflinching commitment to being in the moment. That is deceptively difficult.

Last week I spoke to a student services group about resolving to evolve. The first of four actions I asked them to take was to embody. 

What does she mean by that?” you might ask.

I mean to be fully present in the skin you are in and to be open and aware of what you are feeling and to allow your body to provide you with all kinds of information.

Do I have a choice?” you might ask.

Yes and no.  If you’re reading this, you are in a physical form that you move around to do your brain’s beckoning. You feed it, clothe it, take it to work, and allow it to rest. So in one respect, you have no choice but to embody.

But anyone who suffers from aches and pains and a general distrust or disgust of their body will tell you how preferable it is to live life from the neck up. Their choice is to check out of their bodies as often and in as many ways as possible. They might choose to medicate or obliterate with food, alcohol, drugs, or their vice of choice in order to spend as little time as possible feeling what it’s like to be in their body.

As a certified eating psychology coach and fitness instructor, I see this a lot. Most of the people I work with have a very complicated relationship with their bodies. My desire to understand this relationship is what led me to become a writer and coach.

Here’s my take-away. The present moment is all we’ve got. It’s the only time and place where we can make things happen and move forward in our lives.

This means we need to be open to receiving feedback and support from all our faculties, not just our brain. Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can be a bully.

It can have me believing all kinds of things that are just not true because it’s feeling threatened or scared. That’s why I need an entire team of truth tellers located in my heart, my belly, my back, my legs, or anywhere that might get my attention.

I do not want to be stuck in the eighth inning where I might be down 2-5 with just my brain calling the shots. I need my body on board to rally and earn a shot at the World Series.

Bob likes to remind me it’s just a game and whether my team wins or loses, my life will be the same. He may have a point. Every team and every sport have come-back stories and heroes’ journeys stories and a hundred reasons why their epic victory is destined.

But I know on the days the Cubs win my world seems a little bit brighter or more hopeful. Not just because they’ve broken a curse or done the impossible or because my Grandma would be grinning from heaven to see her Cubbies win it all, but because of how they played the game. They model for me how to be all in and present to win. That’s something I can rally around.

Who does that for you? Share if you dare in the comments below.

Begin Again

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So what do you do after 31 days of getting stuff done?

You begin again.

You get more stuff done. Just keep swimming. Or writing. Or working on your projects, relationships, fitness goals, wedding plans, dream vacation, degree, or whatever your thing may be.

Because life isn’t just a sound bite of the sensational or a slice of nice, consistent progress. It’s the whole enchilada. It’s a series of fits and starts. It’s one step forward, two steps back. It’s continuously changing the toilet paper roll.

I keep this Begin Again stone on my writing desk to remind me that no matter how many words I’ve written, every day is an opportunity to write more and improve my craft.

Just as you would never expect one meal, one night’s sleep, or one workout to fuel you for life, you can’t expect to do a difficult thing once (like a 31 day challenge) and be good to go indefinitely.

Challenges catapult you out of your comfort zone and into your evolutionary zone.

This is where things get interesting. This is where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary because you have become extraordinary in the process. You may not have noticed the transformation because it occurred in the context of your ordinary life.

But somewhere along the way, the discipline, desire, and doing became ingrained in your brain. Not doing what your new habits dictate now probably feels stranger than doing them did in the beginning.

I have to admit, on Monday I felt a bit like our new puppy Ruby feels when she goes in her crate and Bob or I disappear for awhile. Although my house, my hubby-to-be, and my dogs were happy to have my full attention once again, I was feeling some separation anxiety from this community we’ve created together.

So this morning when Ruby woke up at 4:55am, I decided to use her wide awake time to begin again and write. Ruby also informed me that she would like her own blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account. Stay tuned for The Life of Riley (Ruby O’Riley). A zen dog with a blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account.  🙂

Habits are fascinating things. They shape our lives for better or worse. If you’d like to learn more about them, here are a couple of resources I recommend.

If you participated in our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge, I’d love to hear what new habits you formed.  If you didn’t participate but have some insights or experiences with learning new habits or breaking old ones, please share in the comments below.