Great leaders inspire us. Great leaders galvanize action and create change.

My question is: who’s the greatest leader of your life?

If you answered,  your parents, that’s incorrect. If you answered, your spouse or significant other, that’s also incorrect. If you answered,  your boss, the President, a celebrity, or some other public or political figure, that’s incorrect too. These people can be important. They can be essential elements of your support network and can play influential roles in your life, but they are not the greatest leader of your life.

It’s actually a trick question. Because, to me, the answer is clear and there is only one answer. You are.

That’s right, you are the greatest leader of your life. If this was your answer, Congratulations! If it wasn’t, no worries. It wasn’t my answer for the first part of my life either.

You may not think of yourself as a leader because you’re not the CEO of a company, the president of an organization or the head of a major movement. And, even if you are, you probably aren’t the best leader out there – I know I’m not the best, but I’m pretty darn good and certainly my personal best, but I also know that doesn’t mean you and I aren’t leaders and aren’t great leaders at that. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have power and influence.

You are certainly influenced by many people, some charismatic leaders and even some not so good leaders. But, the most important and powerful leader in your life is you. And, that’s because you have the power of choice.

You might say, what? Come again? I have obligations, responsibilities, bills, a mortgage, a family, a job, I have to do this, that or the other thing. I didn’t choose to be [insert your personal circumstance here]. I don’t have a choice. That’s all true. I hear you and it’s perfectly understandable if you feel this way.

That’s the way we’ve been taught to think and feel about our lives – that that there are specific things we need to do, say, be and look to be successful and happy and those things are determined not by us, but by someone else. At one time in my life, that’s what I thought too. But, it’s simply not true.

That’s because you have the power of choice. You have free will – the absolute power and ability to choose who and what to follow. And, you, and only you, choose the life you lead. Why not make it one you love? My father used to toss his head back in laughter, showing his broad, bright, white smile through his curly black beard and say, “I love the life I lead!” Now, I find myself doing and saying the same thing- though , thankfully, with just a smile – no beard here.

Granted, I didn’t choose to be blind. But I absolutely choose the life I lead. Every day, I choose my outlook, my perspective, my attitudes, intentions and beliefs. And, those choices guide my actions. I chose to be truthful with myself. I chose to take an honest, open inventory of not only my strengths, gifts and talents, but my values and priorities as well as my flaws, weaknesses and imperfections and to see myself for everything I am. Then, I chose to act in alignment with who I understand myself to be.

When you hear my story of overcoming my blindness and how my happiness and success is due to the power of the human spirit, know that it was a choice. It would have been just as easy and perhaps easier for me to choose not to pursue my dreams – after all that’s how I was leading my life for years. Still, know that the human spirit is always there – it’s part of being human. But to benefit from its tremendous power, you have to choose to use it. I chose to tap into the power of the human spirit and lead my life from the beautiful perspective of that place. I believe you have this choice too.

Even though I have graciously received support from many people and places, I am the greatest leader of my life. Who’s the greatest leader of yours? Is it you, someone or something else? The choice is yours.

A little love note, gratitude letter and invitation to you from the bottom of my heart.

After hitting publish on last week’s blog post, I was nervous and a bit regretful about letting it hang out there and sharing exactly what’s going on for me. But, the outpouring of support I received from you assured me — I did the right thing.

It’s so easy to hide our true selves and our real-ness. There is a ton of pressure to save face and put up phony facades to mask our most authentic selves even with the people we love, trust and can help us the most. Am I right? Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking fabulous on the outside if that is who you are and that reflects your true essence on the inside. What I’m talking about is actively pretending and hiding what you’re going through when what you actually need and want is support and understanding. When you hide what you want and need from the people who can give it to you, it’s incredibly difficult to actually receive the support you’re longing for. And, without that support, it is virtually impossible to move through what’s going on for you whether it’s getting your footing on new work duties or troubles at home in your relationship. You alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone.

So, I urge you, right now, break it down, be real and reach out to someone you trust because there is strength in vulnerability and freedom in authenticity. I know that first-hand and have been shown that time and time again. Every time I go deep and show a little more, no matter how nervous I am or scary it seems, blessings abound. So, no more hiding, I’m coming out to play with you. Won’t you play with me? Thank you for being there for me and I am honored to be here for you.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful lyric from one of my favorite musicians, Bob Sima (his music is uplifting, inspirational, real, plain ol’ tap your toes and clap your hands good and he’s joining me next week for a Google hangout). He sings, “Right here and now, The realest real can be I’m gonna do my thing and be myself and set the both of us here free. When I show you anything less than my beautiful mess, I lose my authenticity.” I want that freedom for you. Show me your beautiful mess so we can do this thing together and create a life you love living!

With love and gratitude,

Angela – your inspirational transformation coach

I got called out and called up – big time! It was the most emotionally exposed I’ve felt in a long time. It was real, raw and righteous. I can’t believe I’m sharing it with you, but I am because it was just that powerful.

This past weekend I attended a spiritual wealth retreat for women entrepreneurs in Pacific Grove, California, hosted by the lovely, powerful Sage Lavine. I almost didn’t make it because, quite frankly, I wasn’t convinced I’d fit in with the women or that I’d get the support I was looking for from the group. Also, I encountered several crazy mysterious flight delays and cancelations that made me think maybe this is a sign I’m not supposed to go (magically the delays and cancelations disappeared after I proved I was willing to do what it took to get myself to the conference – imagine that?!).

sage-and-angela

Anyway, after Day 1 of the conference, I called my husband on the phone and told him how I was feeling okay, but not really supported. I was feeling isolated, like no one really got me or what I was up to with my speaking and coaching business. Out of seemingly nowhere, he asked, “well, what are you doing to show them who you are?” My answer, absolutely nothing. I was hiding myself, playing small, holding back, not sharing my successes, my strength, my vulnerabilities, my vision because I didn’t want to come off arrogant or make anyone feel bad.

Then, on the morning of Day 2 as if perfectly planned, in steps by Sage. What’s on her agenda? Yep, an exercise where we have to share all of the stuff I was hiding and holding back. And, what’s more, she came right up to me before the large group share and privately asked whether I was ready to bring my voice into the room. I said, yes. When I shared with the group – all 70+ women in the room – I held nothing back. I stood, trembling, on the verge of tears at times, and shared exactly what had and was going on for me. Sage held the space, lovingly pushed me further outside my own limiting beliefs and brought light to what I unknowingly was telling myself by continuing to hang on to those limiting beliefs – I was refusing to recognize when other people saw me as the living breathing embodiment of my vision. Do you get me? The story I was telling myself prevented me from playing full out. I was creating my own struggle, my own imaginary battle where I was small, everyone pitied me and I had to prove them wrong. In actuality, I had never been more supported! Right then, right there, Sage and my sister entrepreneurs embraced me – figuratively and literally! Each one of my sister entrepreneurs was moved to tears, inspired and grateful for having witnessed me be authentic, vulnerable and step into the middle of my power.

My question to you — when have you been convinced that you were on your own? That no one understood what you were going through? That other people think of you as being small or unimportant? That other people are preventing you from making the major difference and big impact that you know in your heart you were meant to make? That no one appreciates you for the gorgeous lovely lady leader that you are? I totally understand your isolation and frustration. I’ve been there, too. If you want to play big and live into your true brilliance, you’ve got to claim it. You’ve got to say yes and then step right into the middle of your power and magnificence. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but if you don’t, you are cheating not only yourself, but the world. SO, please, reach out for support, share your voice, step into your power and let your light shine!

Maya Angelou herself said “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” So, I’m writing this blog in recognition and celebration of Dr. Maya Angelou, an inspirational writer, poet, activist, teacher, guide and one of my she-roes who passed away last Wednesday at the age of 86.

It is amazing the impact Maya Angelou made on my life by simply opening her heart and letting her words flow onto the page and out of her mouth. After growing up reading Dr. Angelou’s books and poetry, a few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Angelou speak live and in person. Even at her advanced years, her voice still was strong yet sweet, peaceful yet powerful – that iconic voice of hers. When she spoke, I listened – not just with my ears, all of me. She spoke straight to my soul and lifted it up. Though the factual details of my story are unique to my life, I too experienced the deep, earth shattering pain and loneliness of being a caged bird. Even though I am now free of that cage, thanks to Maya Angelou’s teachings, I will continue to sing my song.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” another memorable Angelou quote. It seems difficult to imagine a time when Mama Maya’s words will be forgotten – But, what I do know is that her wisdom and lessons about life never will be forgotten only uttered by others in their own voices and maybe it will be forgotten that she once said them. But her message and spirit will live on. She made me feel powerful, she made me feel courageous, she made me feel hopeful, she made me feel everything I was and am and made me feel proud to live into my dreams.

Thank you Dr. Angelou; from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your courage, for your voice and for living into your highest and best purpose. I am forever changed and tremendously grateful.

Every morning I get on the bus, my conversation with the bus driver goes something like this:

Driver: Good morning, Angela. How are you?
Angela: I’m doing pretty good. How about yourself?
Driver: It’s [insert the day of the week].
Angela: Yes, it is. And how are you? (Inevitably, she’s happiest and most enthusiastic on Friday.)

Are you like this? Are you a TGIFer – only happy when it’s the last day of the traditional work week and the start of your weekend? Does the day of the week dictate your mood?

It’s wonderful to look forward to future events – we all do it at one point or another. But only being happy and thankful when it’s Friday? Really? Why leave yourself at the whim of something so arbitrary and outside of your control? Friday comes once every seven days, lasts for 24 hours and then it goes again. What’s so special about it and why choose to be happy or happiest only on Friday? And, even more than that, why limit your happiness and restrict your gratitude to this one day? Don’t you want more for yourself than that? I know I want more for you.

Let me tell you something, Friday, itself, isn’t what makes you feel happy and thankful. What makes you happy and thankful is what you think and feel about Friday. Let me break it down even further. You choose to be happy and thankful on Friday because you want to be. So, if you can choose this outlook on Friday, you can choose it on Monday or any other day of the week. That’s right. Happiness, thankfulness, it’s a choice.

I challenge you to choose it. Find something to be happy about and thankful for each and every day regardless of the day of the week. Seriously, start small if you have to, but do it. I promise you, you’ll feel much better.

If you’re a woman, you likely are very aware that women in professional workplaces inevitably encounter barriers, boundaries and obstacles. There are glass ceilings, communication barriers, walls and divides keeping women from reaching the professional successes they want. There is a very narrow path women must follow if they want to get ahead. You can’t be too assertive for fear of being labeled a bitch; you can’t be too passive for fear of being called weak. You’re definitely not one of the “good ol’ boys” and though there isn’t a sign, you’re pretty sure “No Girls Allowed” is the unspoken policy. So, what do you do? Do you conform and walk the narrow path and see how far that takes you? Is it possible to be yourself and be successful professionally as a woman?

I was recently at a gathering of highly educated and successful women for a professional development retreat and one of the participants asked this very question – Is it possible to be yourself and be successful professionally as a woman? Is there room in the traditional workplace for women to be authentic women? There was a long silence followed by no real answer.

Is this you? Are you like the participant above? Do you feel stuck – like you’re endlessly trying to get ahead? Are you tired of the resistance you encounter as you climb the corporate ladder or navigate the career jungle gym? Are you wondering whether you’ll ever be able to just be yourself? Are you waiting for the answer?

Well, here’s my answer. I believe there absolutely is room for you to be yourself and be the successful professional you want to be. And, I don’t believe you have to be at a company like Google or Facebook for it to happen – though being a part of a progressive, supportive company certainly helps. I know this without doubt because I’ve done it and I have helped other women to do it.

One person told me, as a blind woman, the best I could hope for was to be a vender selling candy bars and newspapers in the lobby of the courthouse. But deep down, I knew I wanted more – whether I was actually capable of more, I didn’t know for sure at that point – I thought maybe they were right. Maybe all there was for me was selling dry goods. But, I still wanted more. I wanted it so badly I was willing to create the path – my own path and see where that path took me. I wanted success on my own terms and the more I learned about myself, the more of me that showed up ready to create more success and more happiness.

So, yes, there is a way to go beyond the common obstacles women face and open the door to a world of happiness and success. When you fully embody who you are, when you fully show up with all that you are – knowing your strengths, gifts, talents and challenges, which is when you truly are unstoppable. That is when you are able to lead, direct, manage, collaborate, create and succeed with ease and grace. It is absolutely possible. The only question then becomes are you willing to create and walk your own path? You don’t have to and can’t do it alone, but you, alone, can do it. Are you willing to do it?

Have you ever gotten so upset that you just had to take a stand and voice your opinion? Even if it might get you in trouble or make you a lone rebel? I recently took a stand for coaching and it, literally, landed me in the back of the room in the corner. Can you believe that?

I value personal development, education and self-exploration. So, when I was invited to attend a fairly well-known 3-day “breakthrough” program, I cleared my schedule. After all, I knew several people whose opinions I trusted did the program and raved about it. I was enthused and eager to see, firsthand, what this “breakthrough methodology” was all about and what I could get from it for myself and my coaching practice. I’m always looking for and developing new tools to better serve my coaching clients. I walked into the room open and optimistic. A third of the way into day one of three, I was squirming in my chair while rapidly and franticly alternating between fanning myself with my hands, massaging my neck and shoulders, ringing my hands together and rubbing my face and forehead. I was doing all I could to calm myself down until I couldn’t take it anymore. I said to no one in particular “I can’t take this. I’ve got to get out of here,” stood up and walked out of the room.

One of the volunteers followed me out and asked what was going on for me. I told him that I couldn’t bear to watch the program leader invalidate and disempower one of the participants on stage and call it coaching. Yep, I proceeded to explain to the volunteer that, to me, the program leader was purposely eviscerating the woman in order to break her down and then break her through. It was harsh, in your face and wholly unnecessary. She could and had been breaking herself down all on her own and didn’t need a coach to do that. I continued to explain that, to me, coaching is built on mutual trust and respect and is a safe, empowering and sacred space where I focus my complete energy and attention on supporting, guiding, and unconditionally loving the person I’m working with. I not only see in my clients what they are unable to see in themselves, I help them see, believe and live into it. Do I push and stretch my clients to go beyond what they think they can do and challenge them to grow, evolve and adapt their outlook? Absolutely. But, that’s after I understand their core values, get clear on exactly what they want out of coaching and assess their capabilities. Do I hold my clients accountable for what they say they are going to do and what they want? You’d better believe it. But, that’s because I am fully invested in helping them get what they want. The volunteer’s response to me? This program isn’t what you do. It’s a different methodology.

And, you know what? The volunteer was 100% correct. The point is there are many styles and methods of coaching, certain styles work for some. My style is collaborative and constructive. It is my mission to motivate, educate and inspire my clients to reach their maximum potential, share their unique gifts authentically in their work and to ultimately create balanced personal and professional lives they absolutely love living. That’s what I do and what I stand for.

After taking a few minutes to breathe and center myself, I went back in and finished the program. I spoke up a few more times over the next two days. By the end of the day on Day 3, I was seated in a reserved seat in the very last row all the way over in the corner! And, I was thrilled about it! I stood for what I believed in and, even though, the breakthrough program decidedly wasn’t my style and not for me, the experience did help me get abundantly clear on my method of coaching.

So, what’s your stand on coaching? Have you ever worked with or thought about working with a coach? What do you want to get out of or accomplish through coaching? What style of coaching appeals to you most?

Do you ever wonder how other people achieve balance in their lives? They’ve got a ton of stuff going on, but they always seem so with it and together? Or they’ve been thrown a ton of obstacles and somehow they still keep on keepin’ on? I get this question a lot from clients and used to struggle with it myself until I learned balance is really only about 2 things – having a focal point and being flexible.

If you’ve ever watched a light post in the wind, it flexes and sways. Yes, this strong steel post responds to its environment so it can remain standing and shed light – and it was built this way. Why, you ask. Why don’t they just build them strong enough that they don’t sway? Because if it’s built too rigid, it will snap. Ya get it? How apt is that? If you are too strong, rigid and focused singularly on maintaining balance, you’ll snap.

If you want to remain standing upright, you need to consistently and repeatedly readjust and choose to return to that place of balance. It’s not a decision you make once and then it’s done. It’s a choice you make and then continually recommit to keeping. And, the choice you’re really making is: (1) to stay focused on what’s important to you – to get and keep your priorities straight; and (2) to let go of the inevitabilities that you can’t control.

Your focal point is that thing on the horizon that keeps you level and on course. In life, your focal points are where your values and dreams meet. Keep your internal gaze there while you adjust and engage with what’s going on in your life right now. If your focal point is that your highest value is family and your dream is to rise to the top of your profession, find the point where they meet. Will realizing your dream allow you to provide opportunities and experiences for your family? Then, adjust your actions so that, when you’re with your family, you’re showing your family you value them by giving them the opportunities and experiences you can at that moment, and, when you’re at work, you’re moving yourself forward. But family and work aren’t always separate, they overlap. That’s where flexibility comes in.

Flexibility comes from conscious surrender – doing what you can and letting go of what you can’t. I, personally, love reflecting on the serenity prayer for this. It goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” So, again, if your focal point is family and professional growth, then you can’t change the date of that birthday or anniversary so accept that important dates and events are when they are, but you may be able to change how you schedule meetings or when you celebrate special occasions with family.

Remember, balance is a state of being in equilibrium where your energy and attention is directed and distributed in a way that you feel poised and stable and you are emotionally, mentally and spiritually steady. That place is unique to you. Accept wherever that point of balance is for you and move toward it.

I ain’t your mama, but, it’s time to get your priorities straight my love. Do you ever struggle with trying to do so much that you feel like what you’re doing isn’t what you should be doing? This is a symptom of not being aligned with your core values.

Back when you were very young, somebody likely told you what your priorities should be? Clean your room. Do your homework. Sound familiar? And now, you’ve got TV shows, magazines, bosses , significant others and various gurus telling you what you should be doing, right? It’s easy to feel like there’s so much to do and that you’re being pulled in multiple directions with a continuously growing list of things to do.

Personally, I don’t believe in telling anybody what to do – at least not when you don’t know what that person’s core values are. In fact, it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to figure out what you, yourself, need to do if you don’t know or aren’t crystal clear on what your own core values are.

Core values are what YOU (your own understanding) know to be your highest truths. In other words, they are the universal principles nearest and dearest to your heart. They are the concepts and ideals you desire in your life, the principles that guide you and the characteristics you demonstrate, spread or admire. They can be things like freedom, honesty, compassion, respect, love, etc.

Take time and come up with the 3 to 5 values that resonate the most deeply with YOU.

It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s true or present in your life to the extent you’d like right now. If it resonates deeply, at your core, then it’s likely one of your core values. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s only the answer that works for you.

What core values are most important to you? What are your guiding principles?

Now, it’s time to get your priorities straight. And, in this case, your priorities are your core values. Once you figure out your core values, you can tune in to what’s going to be most supportive to you and your values. You also can focus your time and energy on the activities that are most aligned with your own values. This will aid you in determining how to spend your time and direct your energy. When you’re feeling scattered or unsure of what to do, you can simply ask yourself, “How does what I’m doing connect to or align with my core values?”” Or “What activity or task will bring me closest to experiencing my core values?”

For example, if one of your core values is empowerment, does/how does what you’re doing empower you? And even if it’s a necessary task that you may not enjoy, like cleaning the oven, you can ask yourself, “How can I do this in a way that is more empowering to me?” Believe me — there’s a way. Let your creative mind find the solution – perhaps, hire someone to do the job or psych yourself up by putting on some empowering music or making it your “me and I” time. It may never become your favorite thing to do, but you can certainly connect it to a core value. When you connect an activity with your core values, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how things naturally begin to straighten up and you find the perfect order for doing things in your own way and in accord with your own understanding.

Ever struggle with stepping outside your comfort zone? You want to take up a new hobby, start a new exercise class, spice up your relationship or get back in the dating scene. The idea sounds great, but when it comes down to it, you simply can’t step outside your comfort zone. Sound familiar? Well, this post is for you because I’m going to reveal exactly how to move past this obstacle.

Stepping out of the comfort zone is a problem a lot of my coaching clients face and understandably so. My question for you is why in the world would you want to step outside your comfort zone? Quite frankly, to me, it sounds…, well…, uncomfortable!

So, let’s get clear and accurate from the start. You don’t really want to step outside your comfort zone; you want to expand your comfort zone so you can explore new areas, discover new interest and grow and develop as a person, right? Okay, so, that’s where you start – with Y.O.U. (your own understanding) of yourself, the boundaries of your current comfort zone and the new situation where you want to be comfortable. Let me let you in on a not so secret secret, the common denominator between where you are and where you want to be is you. And, the only place where you have to be comfortable is in your own skin. So, where else would you start but there?

Being comfortable in your own skin wherever you go and whatever you do is the ultimate goal and there are several more aspects to getting to that goal that I don’t have time to get into in this post, but this is the frame through which you can start to view opportunities that expand your comfort zone. Now, it’s time for you to enter and expand your comfort zone by answering three comfort zone questions. I use this technique all the time. In fact, I used it just the other week when I sang the first and only song I’d ever written in public at a creativity workshop. I’d never sung solo in public after age 8 or so, had never written a song before that day and almost didn’t do it because I thought it was totally outside my comfort zone.

Here are the three questions to Ask yourself:

1. What about doing this new thing makes me uncomfortable? This only works if you’re completely honest with yourself. Remember, no shame, no judgment.

For me, in that workshop, I didn’t think I could sing well and was afraid that the other people in the workshop would laugh at me and talk bad about me. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by doing something I’m not good at. Feeling embarrassed and looking incompetent made me uncomfortable.

2. What will I potentially give up and/or gain, if I do this new thing?

For me, I would give up the opportunity to sing with Bob Sima, a talented musician who I deeply respect and admire and whose powerfully inspiring music I listen to almost daily. I would gain confidence and would have the experience of being carefree and just having fun.

3. How will I really feel about myself if I do it? And, if I don’t, how will I really feel about myself then? Again, this only works if you are honest with yourself.

If I didn’t do it, I would have kicked myself and regretted it. If I did it, regardless of how it sounded or what happened, I would have been proud that I at least took advantage of the opportunity and had the experience.

After I answered these questions, I took a deep breath, opened my mouth, sang the sweetest notes and loved every second. It was an absolutely incredible experience. The other workshop participants joined in the chorus and it was pure magic. None of this would have happened if I didn’t get into and expand my comfort zone.

So, what would you do once you expand your comfort zone? Try the technique above and let me know how it works for you.

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