How Did You Know?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anais Nin

I was recently honored to receive an email from an old colleague who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and reached out about my adventures in South America and my book. She asked a question that I’ve been asked before and one that I have been on the asking end of, so I thought I’d answer it here…

The question: “How did you know ‘enough was enough’ to follow this path?” I’m going to draw the conclusion here that “this path” is in reference to my decision to leave the corporate world and to go wander in South America…to make a big change and do something different.

I love hearing stories of people’s adventures. My favorite question might be “What’s your story?” and then to wait eagerly to see what they’ll say and what they’ll highlight. While it’s natural to focus on the outcomes and the “highs” of a journey, I am constantly fascinated by the spark that ignites the chain reaction in someone’s decisions, priorities and path in life…like asking someone how they met their true love. Did you know right away? What did it feel like? How did it happen? Tell me everything!!

When I trace back my own story, the starting point could be in any number of places really. My memory, which is often selective, tells me that the final trigger came most strongly after returning from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. My close friend and I had gone there for a month to celebrate our 30th birthdays after planning for four years and it was like a sneak preview into what could be.

We came back from South Africa changed. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything felt possible after that. Having that dream for four years had kept us exploring and growing and learning through the challenges and barriers we had both encountered during that time. There was a goal and a dream, and it was undebatable.

There’s a quote from The Alchemist where Pablo Coelho writes, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and we had directly experienced this. We had tasted what it felt like to be whoever we wanted to be, laughing, dancing, singing, exploring, embracing every present moment and we were rewarded tenfold.

With this came a big responsibility. How would we keep this alive?

When I went back to work in a tiny office that we were not so affectionately calling “The Cave”, I knew that I had to decide to live differently. I didn’t know what career I wanted to move to and so I decided I needed to go figure that out. I started with what I did know…I love to travel and I learn a lot from getting out of my comfort zone.

That is how I knew. And once I knew, I didn’t really have the option to turn back and ignore the feeling. In full disclosure, it took two more years of preparation before making the leap, but I always knew I would and I was working towards it that whole time.

Anyone else out there have stories of big life changes and how you knew when “enough was enough”?


If you like this post and want to talk about this topic together, I am now offering sessions in 30 minute chunks of time to do just that. Think of it as targeted coaching. 

The same goes for other topics addressed in previous blogs. Sessions are $20/30 min and can be scheduled by filling out the form on my website.

Please consider following the blog and checking out the rest of my website. You will find photography, writing focused on travel, transformation and gratitude, as well as updates on my upcoming book.

What I Learned from Leaving

I struggle to leave places. I don’t like it at all. To look at the stars one last time before closing my eyes or to stand at the shore looking out on the water before turning my back on it or to say “I love you” one more time before hanging up…it is torture. Even if I want to go where I am going, it is hard for me to leave and I really feel it intensely. So why ever leave? Especially if you are happy and content and love where you are? I don’t like it, but I have gotten better at it because I have realized some things. I leave because sometimes this is exactly what you need to shake things up and to appreciate where you have been.

It is exactly what you need to draw your attention and your senses to what it is that you love about where you are and to give yourself focused time to love it in the special way that you can only love something that is fleeting…longing as if it has already been taken from you or as if it is something you yearn for and have not yet found, while having an intense presence and focus in order to capture the well of emotion such that you can store its essence deep in the memory of your heart and body forever to recall at will and go back there.

It takes the Truth in the journey of life that everything is always changing, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and it makes you conscious of that. Well, it does for me. I am not talking about running away from anything. It is exactly the opposite. I notice what exactly it is that I am sad to leave and it makes me run towards more of that in my life, both while I have it and in new situations.

A lot can happen when you leave. You realize where you came from and you wonder about where you are going. You maybe have fears. You maybe have hopes. You maybe have decisions to make. You have an approach, whether conscious or not, for letting go of what was and embracing what is and opening yourself to what could be. You have the opportunity to take what you learned, what you loved and to apply it in a different context and in doing so, integrate it into your life more fully.

Leaving does not have to be moving cities or countries. It can happen even when you go to travel for a holiday. It can happen when you move from one house to another, one neighborhood to another. It can happen when you leave your bed in the morning. It can happen when you get totally immersed into nature for a day and then cross the threshold back into civilization. It can happen in a relationship with someone you love deeply who is just not the one.

How would you live your life for the next month if you knew you were leaving to a new place at the end of it? Would your senses be on higher alert? What would your priorities be? Who would you want to spend time with and how? Where would you wander? What new things would you do that you’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten around to? Where are your favorite places you would go and what would you realize about why you appreciate them? What would you feel grateful for? What would you realize about what you have learned and experienced there?

I just left a magical place, where I have had six months living on a lake in the mountains of Patagonia, surrounded by stunning, pristine nature and warm, fun, authentic people. I feel that I lived more consciously during my time at the lake, as I was so aware that I was only there temporarily and wanted to take advantage of that. I think I am leaving there living my life more in this fashion, understanding more about the nature of a full and consciously lived life. Life too, is temporary.

I am so sad to leave, but it is sadness that is grounded in the deep happiness and gratitude for having been there and knowing that although I am leaving, it is forever a part of me.

Countdown to 2015 – 1 – Oh Darling, Let’s Be Adventurers!

It’s the final countdown or rather the final blog in this series of personal development practices for an inspired and adventurous 2015. Thank you for following along and I hope it has been a fun and interesting mini-journey.

Here is where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

2 – Into the Depths of Our Unconscious

drumroll for number 1….

Well, it has to be adventure of course…getting out of our comfort zone and diving into the unknowns.

If you’ve been following along, you are likely aware that I have my own little adventure going in the form of a kickstarter campaign called: Let’s Go on an Adventure!

It is a two-part project that includes writing and publishing a book telling the story of my transformative adventure and also an interactive guidebook with practices and exercises such as those presented in these blogs that are intended to help someone on their own personal journey of self-discovery or change.

Tomorrow is the last day of my campaign where I will either be fully funded or go back to the drawing board. Whatever happens, I’m humbled by the support and grateful for the opportunity and courage to put myself out there and be vulnerable. It’s been challenging for me. Thank you and if you are so inspired, please check out the campaign.

So adventure…why am I so addicted to it and why do I think it is so important?

Well nature and adventure have been the two most significant transformation tools in my life in the way they challenge me, teach me and inspire me.

One of the most defining characteristics of adventure, in my opinion, is that it involves unknowns….maybe surprises, an element of spontaneity, a willingness to explore and get out of your comfort zone and away from what is familiar.

I think it is important to get out of our comfort zones because that is where the growth happens. Our brains strain to keep us safe and protected and do so by clinging to what is familiar and efficient, while our souls long to explore and discover and learn and grow.

Maybe I am suggesting that we trick our brains into seeing change and growth as an adventure, so that we acknowledge the unknowns and we get excited about them instead of triggering fear responses.

They have a lot in common actually ‘adventure’ and ‘change’….unknowns, a goal, no guaranteed outcome, tools/practices that can help, something to be learned; a physical, mental, emotional and often spiritual element. And yet even just focusing on each of those words seems to bring up different feelings, emotions and thoughts.

Adventure is often treated like a choice and like a luxury for those who have the courage and resources, whereas change is inevitable, hard and sometimes even dreaded. “Change” often gets a bad rap and yet changes are happening all the time; it is one of the guarantees, the truths of life.

So what if we approach our life changes, goals and intentions like adventures? I believe it can shift our perspective and ultimately influence the outcome.

When something is an adventure, we often look for ways through…ways around obstacles, people to help.

We dream big and we share our experience with others.

We tend to focus on the positive, the new and the exciting with childlike wonder.

We tend to assume that it’ll be a success and that even if we don’t know the outcome, it will be fun and we may learn something along the way.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

So what would it look like if we treated changes in our lives as adventures? How would our approach evolve if we set intentions for where we want to go with our lives with curiosity, excitement and determination?

When I decided that I was going to head off to Argentina to do some wandering, I started with practicing a bit close to home. I started going to movies, cafes, restaurants, and bars by myself. I had earned a short sabbatical at work and used it to take myself on a road trip in my home state of Colorado. I traveled to Costa Rica by myself for a week. I went on a vision quest in the mountains of Colorado. I started trying new things that I had never done before.

By going into the unknowns, especially when going alone, you are automatically rewarded with the opportunity to learn about yourself. What turns you on? What turns you off? Where are your limits? What are your fears? How will you face your fears? Just how resourceful are you? How do you handle challenges? Are you curious? What thoughts or questions are sparked? What surprises you?

Being surrounded by unknowns heightens your focus on what makes you, you. When things are unfamiliar, they draw your attention and maybe beckon a new approach or response or perspective and so there is this expansive, growth quality inherent in going into the great unknown.

I acknowledge that certain fears are rational and are there to keep us alive. I get it. That’s pretty important. I’d dare to say that most of our fears are irrational though and it is incredibly freeing when we can dig into them, understand them and set them free.

We can do this by choosing differently….by saying, “Hey there fear, I see you and I raise you some courage and a new perspective. I’m going to befriend you and we’re going to do great things together…but I’m in charge.”

We can do this by asking what the fear is really about. Where did it originate? What triggers it? What are the emotions and feelings behind it? Where/when else have I experienced those feelings being triggered? What is my process for attending to those feelings? What do I notice about my energy when confronted with one of my fears? How are my fears taking away my power? How are they helping me and how are they keeping me small? What is my fear response? Does it influence the source of the fear when this response is activated? What are some other responses I could have instead?

To be clear, I am not suggesting repressing fears, pushing them aside and pretending they don’t exist. Yikes, no. They are there as tools to tease us and maybe even torment us, but then to teach us. Often our fears and our shadows hold the keys to our greatest desires and our greatest gifts. When we get to the other side of them it is absolutely glorious.

The more I spend time confronting fears and the more I spend time trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone, the more I enjoy life. Truth.

I learn, I grow, the new experiences beget still newer ones…new connections and relationships, opportunities, lessons, insights, growth, transformation, fun and adventures.

It’s like the universe is there to reward the brave and courageous and when that becomes you, you feel like, whoa….that’s cool, now I have more energy and space for being alive.

“Be alive your whole life.” ~ Bumper sticker anonymous

…and let’s make it an adventurous one, yeah? Who’s with me?

Thanks again for coming along for this ride. Now go do something new today.

You Can’t Change Without Changing

You can’t change without changing. Now that seems a bit obvious. I started using this phrase with clients though because I was discovering a phenomenon of sorts. The desire to change was there, or sometimes even just the realization of the necessity to change and yet they were stuck. I started witnessing this with friends in their personal lives as well. But really, let’s be honest. I started noticing this in me.

“Oh that’s not how we do things here.”

“That’s not me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I would if I could.”

“It’s not working.”

It is natural to want to start making changes slowly and subtly while still hanging on to the comfort of what we know even if it is the very comfort that we wish to leave. The brain is an efficient organ that survives on recognizing familiar situations and putting the familiar responding circuit into action. Therefore, it actually experiences something new as a threat, or in the very least, something what it is: new! A new response is called for and this is outside of the majority of the tasks that the brain performs. Remember that we also have brain cells in our heart and our gut, which can explain the pangs of knowing that we get when you can “feel it in your gut” or your “heart is telling you to do something.” It really is a full body experience to change. So we need to break these old circuits to create something new, if you want to look at it from a neuroscience perspective.

I also like to look at it from a more emotional and/or spiritual perspective, and that is to say that we have to create the space for change…sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally, sometimes in our minds. At a minimum we need the space in our awareness.

personal example:

Stuckness: I have been dreaming and planning a move abroad, and I am ready, but I have this house and a mortgage. It would be great if the house could be a form of savings for me. It won’t rent for enough money; it won’t sell. This has been going on for months and months. I am stuck.

Letting go: The house represents my ego and my old way of being and is keeping me anchored to my old life. For what I am about to do, it is best for me to let it go and sell it. What do I need to do to get this house sold? Who can help me? It is possible. (and it was)

Now this is a personal example and I’m just giving the minimal details. It took me a lot of work to decide that was the right decision for me. As I sat and cried while writing out the check for the amount of money I lost. I thought, “Am I absolutely crazy? No, I just believe in my dream this much and I am taking the leap.” And imagine how tough it was one year later to hear of friends buying and selling houses within hours. When I tell people I meet here in Argentina, “I sold my house and moved abroad,” they often say something along the lines of “That’s incredible, but I just don’t understand why you sold your house??” I don’t know the Spanish yet for how to say, “Great question! Well, it represented my ego, my old way of living, an old failed relationship and I was ready to let go and create space for new!”

So a few simple thoughts to help trigger the unsticking process:

Play the “what would it look like” game. Let yourself dream and create a vision. When you make the change, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will you be doing and how will your situation and people around you respond? How will you know when you are there?

Then look at what is standing in your way. What is in your control and what is out of your control? Be honest about this. Great news! You can’t change something out of your control so you can cross those items off of your ‘to do’ or ‘to worry about’ list. Rather, look at any road blocks and barriers you see and focus on how you can navigate them. Sometimes you can break them right down. Sometimes it involves much more work and you might even feel you are getting away from the original point. Go back to your vision exercises. Don’t try to skirt road blocks; they’ll show up again. That’s a promise.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know” – Pema.

When taking the leap, acknowledge the role in your life that the state you are leaving has played. Creating space for new can often feel like a mini death of sorts. It is important to acknowledge what was good, what you can take with you and to grieve the loss.

Reach out to others for help.

Be honest with yourself.

Now jump.

I like to use the analogy that I had to use to try skydiving for the first time. Just jump out of the plane and then let the rest happen…let the view zoom by, let the parachute do its job and trust that it will, enjoy the float back to solid ground. You have to let go though. Now I’m not saying we should just run and jump out of a plane the second we realize we want a change. Rather, letting go and fully saying yes to the change is often the last part, the hardest part and what can keep us stuck. So get yourself ready, jump and enjoy the ride.

This can apply to tangible situations like I described for myself (selling a house), but also to growing yourself as a person, relationships and other less tangible transformations.