The What If Experience

Explore a new "What If..." question about life each week with some thoughts, some answers and some action steps. Share my journey of personal growth and living in possibility.
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Jan 15, 2017

Last week we talked about the idea and the process of choosing a word of the year. If you haven't listened to that episode, it's the lead in to this one and you can find here. But, if you already have a word for your year, let's talk about how that word can change your life.

Think that's overly dramatic? Doubt that a word can change your life? I mentioned last week that I've read stories of how the word of the year has transformed people's lives.


I also said that it hasn't worked for me.

I've always used it as a useful exercise in getting a feel for what I needed in the year to come. But, I'm being choosier this year. If I'm going to give my time and attention to something, it better give back to me.

You see, I want my life to change this year. I want it to change every year. I want to have grown into a different person by year end. Well, maybe not a different person exactly. Me, but a better version of me.

I shared last week that my word got all up in my face this year and chose me. Challenged me.

Ok. I'm up for that. But, I need to make it work for me, too. Even if you have a less sassy word, how can it be a truly useful tool for your year? Here are some ideas.

What To Do With Your Word of the Year

First, let's examine your word a bit more closely. You probably had some good reasons when you chose it, But let's get more specific and intentional. Take some time and figure out what you think your word should mean for you this year. This may change as the months go by, but write down a paragraph as a starting point. Yes, actually write it down. First, this will help you clarify and second, when you write things down, they're statistically more likely to happen.

For example, my word is CREATE. People know I'm an artist and may assume choosing create is related to my art. Even my son said, "Oh, you're already good at that." But, artwork is only a part of the picture. Here's my first go at a summary of what I want.

Create is a verb and I'll take consistent action this year to bring a new business, a simplified and styled home, meaningful family relationships, opportunities for travel and art into being. It is both a reminder and an imperative that I'm responsible for creating the life I lead. CREATE will mean effort, depth of thought, freedom and space for creativity, persistence, vulnerability, courage, focus and exploration. It will mean the intentional birthing of new things and all the messiness, uncertainty, and joy that brings.

This paragraph is more about intentions, meaning, ramifications and purpose than concrete goals (that comes later). What will your word mean for you?

Second, share your word with your family and friends. Or, with the whole world on social media. Ask them to hold you accountable to the concept of the word throughout the year. Nothing like telling your spouse that your word is "calm" and asking him or her to hold you to that concept. Are you willing to let your word actually guide your actions? Let others help you. Share with them what the word means to you and have some serious, in depth conversations about ways they can help you build it into your life. If you do so, you're already ahead of where most people let their word take them.

What else can you do? Since you've clarified what it means for you and invited others into your process, now, put your word in places you'll see it and be reminded of the influence you want it to have.

  • Make a screen saver or phone lock screen.
  • Write it on post it notes or on your mirror.
  • Write it on a rock and put it on your desk.
  • Create a piece of art with your word and hang it in your home.
  • Wear it on jewelry.
  • Put on the cover of your planner or journal.
  • On a note on your car dashboard.
  • Place it around your work and at home.

Next, use your word to set meaningful, concrete goals. I hinted at these before, but here are a few of mine in ultra basic, no-detail form:

  • Create a second business.
  • Create a simplified, meaningfully styled home (this means a ton of cleaning, curating, and re-doing)
  • Create relationships marked by love.
  • Create opportunities for travel.
  • Create more and better art.

Because my word is inherent in these goals and I've put in place a schedule and pattern for review and reflection, my word cannot help but inform my actions this year and in doing so, change my life.

I would love to hear how you plan to bring your word into being in your life. Email me or comment below with your  ideas.

Episode Artwork

What a strange experience to share this work, bur here goes. I've done the word "create" before. It was one of the first in my word series a few years ago. But, I was never happy with it. In doing it again, I'm reminded how difficult it can be to create a piece that's not something everyone's done before and not something completely cliche. Some works (for me) are far more about the process than the final result and this is a piece like that. Normally, I probably would not have shared it, but as cover art, I can't get away with that!

Creating is less about the butterflies and rainbows than most people believe. It's very much about the getting up at 5 am to work your art into an already full life. It's about doing it anyway when you don't feel the muse. It's far more about perspiration than inspiration. Artists need to create an atmosphere that welcomes inspiration...and inspiration is most welcome when it finds us working.

So, this piece was originally about that concept. Cut a circle, glue it down.

Show up. Do the work.

Cut a circle, glue it down.

Show up, do the work.

Cut a circle, glue it down.

But, part of the magic of doing art is that often in the process, things emerge that the artist doesn't overtly intend. This piece became about the color and joy that doing the work brings, regardless of typical success metrics. There's a figure immersed in the river of his creations. Most of the circles aren't perfect circles and they're all different sizes, colors and patterns. The imperfections don't matter - they're not even apparent in the overall symphony of the piece. And of your life.

It's not a clearly organized piece, but it's brightly alive and full of joy. Can you say the same for your life today? Because at it's root, this is about the color and joy a life of doing your creative work brings.


If you're interested in thinking through how you could encourage your word to change your life, sign up for my coffee talk emails and they'll help you think about that process this week.

Or, if you'd like more direct help applying any of the podcast topics to your life or business, feel free to contact me for a 20 - 30 minute free consultation through the coaching side of my business.

Episode Downloads

Coffee Talk worksheet and iPhone lock screen image

Jan 8, 2017

What if a word guided your year?

This week my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with people choosing their word of the year. I've been doing this for the past six or seven years. It's part of my beach process. A week at the beach with a great friend at the end of the year. We decompress, process the previous year and prepare for the next year. And one of the things we always do is choose a word of the year. We write in the sand before we leave and take that image away from the week with us.

We aren't alone. Millions of people do this (well maybe not the beach part). But, millions of people choose themselves a word of the year. There are books written about the process and people have found it to be a transformative experience. An alternative to New Year's resolutions that really works for them when resolutions don't.

But, it doesn't work for me.

I enjoy doing it and helps me clarify my thoughts and intentions about the upcoming year. And if you're about putting an intention out there for it to manifest, that's awesome. But, I'm not. I'm unwilling to leave it like that.

I'm done with business as usual this year. I realized last week that I can't list more than three of the last six years of words. My word of the year needs to WORK for me. It needs to provide value, guidance and clarity. Not just the first week of the year, but throughout the whole year. It needs to affect my thoughts and my behavior. So, we'll talk about choosing a word this week and next week how to make it matter throughout your year.

Choosing a Word of the Year

There's a lot of information out there about how to choose a word of the year. The first way to go about it is to let the word find you. Start thinking about it, pray about it, but don't really pursue it, let the word find you. You can do some exercises about what you want your year to bring, but wait for your word to show up and trust that it will.

That's totally legit, but If that's too intuitive for you, go with the second option which is to actively choose. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you uncover your word.

  • What type of person do you want to become?
  • How do you want to feel this year?
  • What kind of experiences do you want to have?
  • What results, effects, or changes do you want to see?
  • How do you want to live?
  • What do you want?
  • Looking back on 2017 a year from now, you want to be able to say, I was (what?) this year.

Or, write a paragraph about what you want in a specific area (business, relationships, health, etc), sum up the paragraph in one sentence and then sum up your sentence in one word. Or, ask what word will make the sentence possible.

My Word of the Year

I'll tell you my word for 2017. It's CREATE.

I wasn't even going to choose a word and then my beach week friend said she'd done her word in the sand and saved me the perfect writing stick and it was waiting for me down by the beach. Keep in mind, this is the morning we're leaving. I need to make breakfast, load up the car and get on the road home. But, the perfect writing stick and the "suck it up, Buttercup" challenge from my friend could not be denied. So, I went down to the beach and wandered around, stared at the surf and tried to decide what to write. This is not usually the process, mind you. It usually involves more time and thought.

I eventually decided the word would be love. Back at the beginning of December in my "Thoughts on turning 50" episode, I'd declared that if my next decade was marked by extravagant, servant-hearted love, it would be a success. So, I thought using the word love would be a good measuring stick as I went through this year. I wrote it down and went back to the condo like I'd checked that task off my list. I made tea, sat down and told my friend she'd called me out and that I'd chosen love.

She said,  "That's cool. Though, you should have chosen create." Because, I already have a mug with the word create on it that she'd given me for Christmas. I laughed and looked at the sea. And then I thought about it. I'd never considered create. I love words and create is so common. It's thrown about like confetti these days. It gets put on mugs for heaven's sake. But, create started talking to my soul and said this:

This year you want to create a life of love. A new business. Close family relationships and you want to develop your art. These things require intentionality. You can't think them into existence. You can't snap your fingers for them to appear. Creation involves an act of will. Of birthing. It's bravery. Exploration. Vulnerability. Focus. Attention. Deep thinking. Persistence. And margin - the space and time to allow your best work to emerge. Don't you dare dismiss me as not good enough. If you really want to bring these things into being this year, then I am more than enough to challenge you in that process. To remind you to act. To demand your full attention and your engagement. You are a maker. And I am your calling.

What's a girl supposed to say to that? I set the tea down and went back to the sand. I wrote CREATE on the shore and watched the sea take it away. I began my dance with CREATE there on the beach and we'll see what happens in the months to come.

I have to say that I'm feeling a bit excited and apprehensive at the same time. The word I've chosen in other years has never talked back to me. It's never argued it's worth. It's never gotten all sassy and demanded its place in my life.

What will happen this year if I hook my wagon up to a word with that kind of attitude? I guess I'll just have to find out.

Episode Artwork

The cover art this week is a little bit different. As I was thinking through all the options to illustrate this the concept of guidance or birthing ideas, I just wasn't getting anywhere. Nothing worked. Which, by the way, is incredibly frustrating when needing to produce an image on a deadline.

Instead, I was working on print orders for another piece I did recently. It's an idea I want to explore further and people had really responded well to it (hence, the print orders). I was thinking about what the next piece in the series should be and then had the concept pop into my head based on a Facebook comment (I know I was supposed to be working on print order, but I was probably getting an address from a message on Facebook).  And then I realized. This is the creative process. This is where my passion is this week. This is what CREATE should be guiding me in. This is what I need to be working on and this is what developing my work will be. It's this episode in practice. So, she's a cover girl this week for you.

The funny thing is. Without realizing it. Totally unintentionally (at least on a conscious level - you gotta love the creative process). She's looking at the world through lenses of love. My not-the-word-for-2017.

Episode Downloads

Coffee Talk Worksheet and iPhone lock screen

If you're interested in thinking through choosing a word as a theme for your year, sign up for my coffee talk emails and they'll help you work through that process this week. You can do that here.

Or, if you'd like more direct help applying today's (or any) podcast topics to your life or business, feel free to contact me for a 20 - 30 minute free consultation through the coaching side of my business. You can do that here.

Jan 1, 2017

What if you examined your life?

What would you find? What would you learn? What would you gain? What would you have to face? How would you grow? And, why would you bother?

That one, why would you bother...that question I can help answer for you. The other questions are going to depend on you, but I can tell you about the why. Taking time to reflect is the way to turn experiences into learning and learning into an intentional life. It helps evaluate your experiences, learn from your mistakes, and repeat your successes. It allows you to gain perspective that you don't have when you're in the trenches of your day to day activity. In business it's like the difference between working on your business and working in it. In our personal lives its unusual to take the time to think about where we're going and how we're going to get there.

Six years ago, I started doing an intentional yearly review and it's changed how I live and love my life. I take a personal retreat and ask big questions, process the previous year and prepare for the new year. It's provided a rhythm of reflection in my year that I now find indispensable. Because my goals are well aligned with my values, my real priorities and probably because I'm fairly goal driven, I've managed to accomplish a lot of what I set out to do in those yearly retreats, without too much checking in on them.

But this year I began to wonder what I could do if I was more intentional about reflection periodically throughout the year as well? I'm guessing it will keep me more accountable, more organized and more intentional. So, here's what I'm going to try.


If this is going to work for me, it needs to be simple, quick, repeatable and useful. I'll do it with my son and each night take 5-10 minutes and start a one sentence journal. Either one sentence about the day, or one drawing. This was something I did for the first half of 2016 and it was great for considering and capturing the most important part of the day. This is less about reflection on my goals than an intentional highlighting of meaningful moments of life, those small ones that slip away in memory so easily.

I bought a sketchbook for each of us today that has small perforated square cards. Perfect for containing the small drawings and limiting the effort required. I post them to an instagram account and then print them in books when it reaches 60 images. I love that my son will have a visual record of our days from my own hand.


There are all kinds of things I should do weekly...plan meals, check the upcoming week's calendar, laundry, grocery shop. You get the picture. I've been mostly haphazard about the way I've done them before and that's reflected in craziness during the week whenever I'm unprepared, which is far too often. This year, I'll be more intentional about setting aside Sunday evening for those tasks. The reflection portion should only take about 20 minutes and I'll ask:

  • What worked last week?
  • What didn't work?
  • What do I need to do about it?
  • Schedule weekly goal tasks (from the monthly list)


I'm going to take myself out to dinner! Doesn't self-reflection and planning sound like a good excuse to eat out? I'm going to set aside one evening at the end of each month and go out to dinner by myself. I'll follow the weekly format, but spend a bit more time. I'm trying some new tools this year and I'll be using those to see how helpful they are in this time as well.


Quarterly is for big picture thinking, progress checks and adjusting direction. Am I still heading the direction I want to? Am I doing what really matters? Have I gotten off course? Do I need to change the course? Some of this will show up in my monthly sessions, but those will be more tactical than visionary. Quarterly reflections are visionary. Ideally, I'm going to go away for an overnight or weekend. Right now, I'm planning on two of these sessions. One at spring break and one mid-July. So, not quite quarterly, but when combined with my yearly version, it will come close.


Well, this is my favorite...and the only one that I've actually done before consistently. It's become so valuable to me, so necessary to my life that I've decided to add the others to my repertoire. Each year (I've missed a few), a friend and I go to the beach between Christmas and New Years. We do vacation things, like visit favorite restaurants and take long walks by the ocean. But, we also spend a lot of time processing where we are and where we need to go. We talk. We read. We write. And we do it loosely, without much of an agenda. It's looked different each year, but has been exactly what we've needed each year. It's a time apart from daily life to find some clear mental space and the sound of the surf. It's coming away from the previous year with a chance to pause, rest, reflect, recharge and re-energize for the year ahead.

My annual trip is to the beach, but if that's not possible for you, don't let that stop you! Take a few hours away without distraction. Sleep in a friend's guest room overnight (make sure they know it's not a social call), or send your kids to sleep over at a friend's, turn off all distractions and make that your time. I promise you, the effort is worthwhile. it may feel foreign at first, it may be uncomfortable at times. It may require honesty and growth. But worthwhile? Yes. Definitely.

I'm nearing the end of that trip right now. My friend is in cancer treatments this year and so we're doing less, resting more. And mentally, I'm groggy. The ocean isn't clearing my head as quickly as it usually does. But, I do know this. This time to pause and reflect is precious. It's been key to my personal development, my divorce recovery, my business growth and the creation of an intentional life. I am so looking forward to what the addition of the other beats of that rhythm will add to my experience of 2017.

Here's how I see it working. During this yearly personal retreat, I make choices about where I want to be and what I want to do in the year or years ahead. I think about what's important to me and what I want to accomplish with my life. Each quarter I ask, "Is this still where I want to go? How am I doing getting there? And what are the keys this quarter to making those things  happen?" In the monthly "dinner with myself" sessions, I'll be really tactical about what it will take to get those things done. In my weekly and daily reviews...this is where the implementation happens. The everyday actions that lead to real results.

Episode Artwork

The art this week is about the patterns that the rhythm of the surf leaves on the shore. My hope is that the rhythm of reflection I will have in my life in 2017 will leave patterns that are just as visible on me.

Taking the time each year to examine my life has made the difference in my choosing my life intentionally rather than living in reaction to my circumstances. It's my life. I'm responsible for how I want to live it. I get to write my story and I want it to be a good one.

What if you examined your life?

Episode Downloads

Coffee Talk Worksheet and iPhone lockscreen

Or, if you'd like more direct help applying any of the podcast topics to your life or business, feel free to contact me for a 20 - 30 minute free consultation through the coaching side of my business. You can do that right here.

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