What’s So Great About You?


Stone WalkwayIt’s a true fact that we tend to discount those things that come most easily.

I’ve seen it so many times – whatever you do effortlessly causes you to say things like:

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Anyone can do this.”

“No one needs to pay me for this – I’m having too much fun!”

And then someone calls you out, gives you a compliment, says, “Wow, you are so good at this” and you pull yourself up short and say, maybe only to yourself, “Really? Am I?”

Because plenty of us think the only work that matters has to be hard. And that anything worth having takes toil, stress and perseverance.

When things come easy, all of those learned, ingrained platitudes fall away and what are you left with?

Effortless expertise, that’s what. Also, flow. Creativity. Purpose. Accomplishment.

My heart fairly bursts when I read that last line again.

See, it’s not that I forgot that we tend to discount that which comes most easily – I can’t forget it, I say it to my clients all the time. But it certainly seems I forgot to coach myself on this subject.

Here’s how it happened: Last week I led a two-day retreat for coaches on business-building. They came from Montana, Hawaii, California, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina and the Washington, DC-area, and each dug deeply into a new framework I created for the event called “The Shoulds Map”. It was a powerful, meaningful process and every person left with a solid path forward toward success.

It was moving, resonant and inspiring. 

Afterwards, one of the participants – an executive coach with 21 years of experience – said, “You must facilitate a lot of groups. You are so good at it.”

I tilted my head to the right and looked at her as if she had just spoken to me in ancient Greek. Or maybe tongues.

Groups? Sure I do groups. What’s the big deal? I’ve always have done groups. Groups, mostly, who want to – need to – get something done. Yeah, I do groups. Sure.

But do I promote groups? Do I talk about it? Do I highlight this skill? No, not really.

I sort of take whatever group work comes my way because group facilitation is so freaking easy for me.

And, we’re supposed to sellsellsell those things that are hard, right?

Sheesh. Look at me over here not walking my talk.

So today I’m talking about my work with groups who want to/need to get stuff done because I need to claim it. Ready?

I’m so good at facilitating groups that it feels effortless.

There, I said it.

And I’ll bet that there’s something you do that you need to claim. Something that’s so easy it feels effortless. Something so easy it doesn’t even register as that valuable to you.

Whether your skill is crunching the numbers to create the kind of financial analysis that seals the deal, or innovating spectacular interior design, or educating a room full of kindergartners, owning your particular thing is a huge step toward turning things around, being a good self-advocate and becoming a really happy, successful person.

So, I went first and now it’s your turn – let me facilitate this for you: What are you going to claim today?

The Books I Recommend Most


Lovely reader David suggested I create a list of the work-and-business-related books I recommend most frequently to clients, friends and the occasional passerby. “What a grand idea!” I exclaimed, after reading David’s email suggestion.

In making this list, I first thought to sort them by category or subject matter but then realized that many of the overlap and reinforce one another. Plus, sorting is hard work.

So, below find the 20 books I recommend most frequently and heartily:

For those who are starting anything new: The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up To Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkinsfirst 90 days

For those who want to get organized, be more efficient and freaking nail it: Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson

For those who need to focus on interpersonal relationships and communications: No One Understands You And What To Do About It by Heidi Grant Halvorson

For those who may be an eensy bit glass-half-empty: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

For those making change: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

For those who aspire to go bigger: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

For those changing jobs: Career Strategy: Find A Job, Grow A Career by Michele Woodward

For those who want to amp up their motivation, or the motivation of others: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

tipping pointFor those who want to influence others: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

For those who feel swamped when having difficult conversations: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Patterson, Grenny, et al.

For those who would like to lead or who are leading: The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness by Deepak Chopra

For those who might find themselves stuck and dealing with deep-rooted shame: Daring Greatly:How The Courage To Be daringgreatly_final525-resized-600Vulnerable Transforms The Way We live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D.

For those who might have tiny perfectionism and control issues: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed  To Be And Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown, Ph.D.

For those who need to understand forgiveness: How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To By Janis Abrams Spring, Ph.D.

For those who’d like to understand why men hog the remote: What Could He Be Thinking? by Michael Gurian, Ph.D.

For those who seek meaning and purpose: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor FranklGeography of loss

For those dealing with loss and grief: The Geography of Loss: Embrace What Is, Honor What Was, Love What Will Be by Patti Digh

For those focusing on integrity, honor and their own alignment: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

four agreementsFor those who would like to write: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

For those women finding themselves in mid-life crisis: When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

Are there other books I recommend? Sure, but these are the ones that most often get recommended to my clients as they work toward their goals. And, just a note, every link you see on this post is directly to Amazon.com. If you purchase through one of these links, I will make a small commission (very small, trust me). Just want to be upfront about that.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about these books – have you read them? Have they affected your life?

I sure hope so. Because they certainly have affected mine in ways large and small, and continue to do so every single day.


Change One Thing To Be Really Happy


If you ask what’s my baseline, fundamental belief about the world, I’d have a fairly simple answer.

You see, I believe that there are really only two ways to go through life.

You’re either someone who believes (let’s call them Camp A) that there’s never enough and you can’t trust anything, or (Camp B) you believe there’s plenty to go around and you trust most things.

Camp A’s motto is “I got mine. You go get yours.” Or maybe it’s “I got mine and now I’m going to prevent you from getting yours because there may not be much left and I may want more tomorrow.”

Camp B’s slogan is “I got mine. Want some?” Or maybe it’s “I see you don’t have any. How can I help?”

Since they don’t trust – anything – leaders and managers who come from Camp A tend to micromanage, bully and disparage. They push overwork, over-achievement, over-delivering because it means more for them! But there’s never really going to be enough because “enough” doesn’t exist in their mindset, does it?

Now, people who come from abundance and trust are quite different. As leaders and managers, they mentor, teach and lead by example. They know that trusting employees to work from home or take twelve weeks off after the birth of a baby is an investment in their people’s  quality of life and creates high-performing, committed workers.

So, in shorthand:

Abundance means there’s always enough.

Lack means there’s never enough.

Trusting that things will work out for the best means that they often do.

Trusting that things will always go south means that they often do.

The camp you fall into on this defines the quality of your life and the richness of your experience.

Best-selling writer Jonathan Haidt, who’s been called a “top world thinker”, wrote a book called The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom in 2006. In the book, Haidt offers a formula for achieving happiness, represented by:

H = S + C + V

(Math! In a Michele Woodward blog post! Alert the media!)

H stands for your overall happiness. S represents your “Set Point”, C is the conditions of your life (do you have a long commute? A happy marriage? A leaky roof? A bum knee? A beautiful garden?) and V stands for the voluntary things you choose to do (anything you do that brings meaning or brings pain).

And, of course S is all about whether you come from abundance and trust or lack and fear.

The interesting thing is that simply changing one part of the formula makes a huge difference in  your overall happiness. Want to guess which one?

That’s right, diligent readers – your set point makes up the biggest part of your overall happiness. So, while you can change the conditions of your life by moving closer to the office, fixing the roof or getting physical therapy for your knee, and you can certainly choose to do more meaningful things, but the real payoff comes from shifting your set point.

Whatever you can do to let go of fear and allow more trust will pay off.

Whatever you can do to remind yourself that there’s plenty of good stuff out there for you will pay off.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Seems like there are plenty of people who will invite you into Camp A, ask you to take a chair and settle in for a long, long sit. They’ll also tell you that people in Camp B are foolish, naive and stupid because the world is a hard place and you have to fight and scratch to get what you need in this life.

But I’ll tell you something – people in Camp B are happy. They really are, profoundly and innately. And they can be productive, successful and at the top of their game. Their lives are not struggles – in fact, their lives seem inordinately lucky, kind of effortless and even blessed.

It’s pretty sweet.

So, how about this? How about you start your membership in Camp B today? Start by noticing when things go your way. Keep track of times when there is more than enough. Remember that all trust begins with trusting yourself – so do what you can to stop the second-guessing, the self-doubt, the self-disparagement.

Step by step, move by move, opportunity by opportunity, you will build your trust that the world is actually full of wonderful things for you, and for others.

There’s plenty of room in our tent here in Camp B, and there’s space for you right here next to me.

Let’s Talk About Joy



Close Up Of Soap BubbleIn my line of work, I often meet people who feel like their job needs to be… well, work.

It’s supposed to be hard, a challenge, a trial, wearying.

It has to be a difficult challenge, a burden, a slog.

So, when I say to them, “Let’s find a way to base your career on joy”, they look at me as if I just got off the last train from OutThereville.

For these dear, harried souls, “joy” and “work” are never used in the same sentence. Never. Ever.

Of course, until they meet me.

Because I know that when you base your career in something that’s joyful, work doesn’t feel like work - it feels like a pleasure. Like an adventure. Like the most exhilarating learning you’ve ever experienced.

When you can find the joy in what you do, then stuff like toxic people, or unexpected roadblocks, or other setbacks become simply Things That Happen. When you’re operating from a true, deep love of what you’re doing, Things That Happen…happen. And so you deal with them and get back to doing what you love.

Sure, maybe wiser and more experienced, but still deeply joyful.

You want a real world example, don’t you?

So, recently, I had a colonoscopy. Immediately, you’re thinking “joy!”, aren’t you?

When I met with the doctor before the procedure, he told me that he had learned how to do colonoscopies when he was in the Army in Vietnam. I said, “Wow, you must have seen the technology change so much between then and now.”

He looked at me curiously, then said, “I sure have!” and went on to tell me, with a lot of enthusiasm, what’s changed. In that moment, I saw that my doctor loves his work. Loves it. Finds it fascinating. Appreciates the work he does. Feels joy.

And he does colonoscopies for a living.

Someone asked me yesterday how they could have a “bigger” career. How could they push past the barriers and boundaries they encounter and live large?

I replied with: “Start with joy.” Because with joy as your foundation, things come so easily. People find you a pleasure to be around and want to do business with you. Opportunities come. Doors open.

Life gets rich and full.

So, maybe it’s time for you to take a close look at your life. Where are you on joy? How can you get more if you don’t have enough?

How can you shift from the limiting idea that a life worth living is by definition a hard-fought battle, and move toward the bounteous idea that the best life is one founded on pure, unadulterated joy?

Because if you can, everything will break wide open for you.


Believe Your Way Forward


Slack line in the city park.

Time after time, a huge truth is revealed to me:

Whatever you believe becomes your reality.

About six months ago, a woman came to me for coaching. A Vice President in a Fortune 50 company, she was worried because someone was promoted over her.

Someone younger.

Someone male.

And, in her late 50s, she wondered if she was getting sent a message. Perhaps she was getting sunsetted. Maybe they were getting ready to let her go. Maybe this was her terminal job and she’d never ever get hired again.

After all, who hires someone who’s 57 years old?

As a result of these assumptions, she worked extremely hard and went above and beyond to deliver results. Early mornings, late evenings, travel, conference calls, meetings and paperwork. She did it all.

And it felt like no one noticed. And it was never enough.

When we first met, her stress level was through the roof. I mean, stratospheric.

I knew what she needed – she needed  to rebuild her confidence and develop a strategy to manage the worry. She also had to figure out what was true about her work situation.

Because what you believe becomes your reality.

And she surely believed things were pretty terrible.

Long story short, among the things we did was to create a strategy for her to become more visible – in the office and out of the office. So, when offered a speaking role at a big conference, she said yes.

No, wait a minute. She said, “Yes!!”

Afterwards, people gave her amazing feedback about her presentation and she felt really good about how the whole conference went.

Then, one day, her phone rang. It was the CEO of a boutique-y company that excels in her area of expertise. In fact, they are more highly regarded than her company in this particular area.

The CEO said, “I’ve had my eye on you. Will you come work for me?”

Would she? Let’s see – more money, better title, solid-line reporting to the CEO.

And suddenly the assumption that no one hires a 57-year old woman went out the door.

And a new truth was unveiled:

“I am appreciated for what I do.”

Which is something pretty wonderful to believe.

So let me ask you: What reality are you believing into existence?