It was a long way before we got to our next stop on my cross-country trip with my daughters.  I started to stir–“Mom, you were sleeping.”  I answered quickly, “No, I was just resting my eyes.” You’ve probably said the same thing–when you’re in that half awake/half asleep state.  It could be in the car or on the couch “watching” TV.  You’re there, but not fully present–not fully in gear.

Many of us go through our lives or parts of our lives like we are resting our eyes.  We’re going about doing what we need to do–eat, go to work or school, work out at the gym–you know, the daily routine.  But we’re not really conscious.

There were times in my life where I caught myself dozing–just so I could survive what I was going through.  I’ve heard others (including myself) describe it as being numb. I’m convinced being numb serves a purpose–for awhile.  Perhaps it’s the body’s way of protecting itself during times of crisis.  We are doing the best we can, but there’s not much energy left over to do much else.

Then one day, an opportunity presents itself that gets you excited or maybe you get to such a low point that you start crawling your way back up!  You realize something’s been missing.

When was the last time:

  • You felt the exhilaration of going outside of your comfort zone and learned something a little bit (or a lot) beyond your reach?
  • You felt happy to go to work on Monday morning?
  • You had a good belly laugh?

If you can’t remember, what are you going to do about it?  Discover the confidence you can get by achieving new goals.  Achieve a better balance to your life!  Find a job that doesn’t feel like work.  Isn’t it time you got back into the driver’s seat of your life?

In one short week, I received palpable reminders of what love is all about

  • attending a surprise celebration for my former church choir director and organist, Westminster Presbyterian, in West Chester, PA;
  • the launch of my signature speech and introduction of my“The 7 Keys for your Great Corporate Escape;”
  • and upon my return home to NC, learning of the tragic head-on collision which claimed the lives of two of my dearest friends and neighbors.

Here are a few of those reminders: (or, should we call them lessons?)

Now is all there is

Several months ago when I learned that the choir was going to surprise Bob Morris and Glenn Kinckner by commissioning a piece of music dedicated to them in honor of their exceptional dedication and service to the church, my first inclination was to say, “I would love to go, but I can’t really afford to make a trip up there.” I could hear Suze Orman’s voice in my ear asking, “Is it a need or a want?”

I knew this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events, and what better way to show them how much they and the choir has meant to me over the years. Knowing that I had several open invitations for a place to stay, I decided to somehow find the funds.

It was a glorious day I will never forget. Typical of Bob—when he saw me in the congregation, he mouthed the words, “Why aren’t you singing with us?” A few minutes later—he found out why. As Bob got up to direct the 100 choir members (no surprise, everyone made a point to be there that Sunday), he was told to sit down by the pastor. Not only was Bob and Glenn truly surprised, but was blown away when the composer, K. Lee Scott appeared to direct the choir in his new original work dedicated to them “O Send Out Your Light.”

Any doubt I made the right decision dramatically vanished the very next day as I arrived home to learn of my friends Adele and Jack Kightlinger’s death. (By the way, Suze does say, “People first…”)

Cards, calls, hugs and other acts of kindness

I am struck how seemingly inconsequential gestures of caring add up. As we shared memories of Adele and Jack this week, we realized they often were the ones knocking on the door of a brand new resident. Sure, I knew they did that for me, but I didn’t realize they did it for everyone. This simple act went a long way in helping so us feel welcome in our new home.

Adele was known for spontaneously sharing special goodies with the people around her. If someone had just come out of the hospital or was feeling under the weather—Adele was right there with a plate of something. (And, she was a terrific cook and baker to boot!)

One of the things I loved about the Westminster Choir was the way you always felt special. On any given Sunday, there could be between 50 and 80 singing. But you never felt like a small fish swimming in a big pond. If you weren’t there, you were missed. When Bob would see you the next week, “Where have you been—missed you.” or, “Look who’s back!” And at choir rehearsal, we would regularly share prayer requests and sing Happy Birthday to those with a birthday that week (in 4 part harmony, of course).

Gone too soon

Many times this week I heard myself thinking, “I only knew Adele and Jack two years; it wasn’t long enough.” Then I realized, suppose I didn’t move here and didn’t become friends with them? As I mentioned in my eulogy, I am choosing to focus on the two years I did have with them. I guess when we allow ourselves to feel love it means we risk grieving if we lose them. But for me, the trade-off is worth it. I am honored to have known them for whatever time I had with them.

Recognize when love is given back to you

When you start a new business, there are a lot of firsts. When I decided to go out of my comfort zone and present my signature speech in front of a live audience, a fear quickly cropped up—suppose no one shows up?

Not only did I have 8 people attend my dress rehearsal here in Asheville, but I had 22 people take the time to attend my program in Delaware. When I think back to who attended, they were people who know me or knew of me through others. I felt the love and the caring they showed me by their presence. Thank you all again.

The folks here in our townhome community know that Adele was a special friend to me. I can’t tell you the number of people who have called or stopped in to ask how I’m doing. We have learned that our community means more than just doing activities together—it means caring and being here for each other.

Of all people

Upon hearing about Adele and Jack’s death, I heard someone comment, “…of all people.” I knew what they meant. They were role models of how to live life. They showed love to their family, were thoughtful and giving to their friends and were of service to those in need.

Somehow we want to believe that such good and wonderful people don’t die early or don’t suffer any difficulties. We know that is not true–we all have had pain in our lives, the good sometimes die young and there seems to be many imbalances of fairness in the world. But I can’t help but want others to say the same about me when I die, “…of all people.”

***

Lessons and reminders are one thing—but what will I do differently?

I will pick up the phone, send a card or email when a friend comes to my mind. How many times I have thought about a friend or someone in my family and failed to write that note or call them. I am reminded of the importance not to put it off.

I will continue to offer little acts of care to those around me while they are alive. I will say thank you more often. (See below for some of my first efforts.)

I will allow others to show their gift of love to me. I would much rather be the one to appreciate other people than to accept when those acts are sent back to me. If we all did that, however, we prevent others from giving their precious gift of love. It needs to be a complete cycle.

I will admit when I need some support instead of suffering in silence. This is a tough one for many people—including me. Just the other day as I was grieving and feeling close to tears all day, my friend Kathy called. Luckily, she didn’t accept my weak, “I’m fine” and challenged me by saying, “No, you’re not–let’s get together.” We did and I felt much better after a few minutes of sharing.

I will live a life the way I want to be remembered. Bob, Glenn, Adele and Jack are examples of people who live their passion and values every day. You don’t have to be a Mother Theresa to make a difference. We all have unique gifts, how can you share them with others? How will you let people know you care about them? What is the legacy you want to leave?

I will drive more carefully. We know that speed was a factor with the other driver and perhaps she took her eyes off the road for just a split second. We’ve all done it—I know I have. It only takes a second to change our lives forever.

My wish is that this serves as a reminder for you for what is important in yourlife. I would love to hear what you have taken away after reading this and/or your own intentions. Please make your comments on my blog.

A special thank you to Bob and Glenn

I remember walking into the choir room for my very first rehearsal that first Thursday. Even though the room was filled with people, I felt welcomed. You took the time to introduce me to others and immediately I felt apart of something special.

The choir continues to grow and attract new members—it is obvious why. Not only is it because they want to sing with such exceptionally talented leaders, your passion is contagious, you demonstrate your love for everyone and God in everything you do.

Whether it is singing in a Christmas concert, a memorial service, the Choir trip to Europe—the many memories and friendships will always be a special place in my heart.

In Memory of Adele and Jack Kightlinger

Many of my friends thought I was crazy to move to a new location without knowing anyone. Adele and Jack quickly became special friends, not only in the neighborhood, but attending the same church.

Adele was one of my biggest fans. She was the one who encouraged me to hold regular Group Coaching sessions for the neighbors and she often reminded me how much she has learned from me. In turn, she was my role model for living with grace and loving life.

Before we met them, Jack was the official White House Photographer from President Johnson through President Reagan and Adele spent many years as an RN. Jack was smitten with Adele ever since they were 13 in grade school—surely soul mates for their entire lives. You couldn’t meet any more unassuming, warm and caring people who were proud of what they have achieved, but lived for the people they loved, including their three children and four grandchildren.

Like many people, I spent most of my life focused on making other people happy. Although I didn’t do it consciously, I tried to change myself so they would like me. I was basically a human chameleon–matching whatever expectation I thought was needed or wanted.  After many years of trying to be the perfect kid for my parents, I tried to be the perfect wife, the perfect housekeeper, the perfect mom and of course, the perfect employee.

I would be crushed if someone criticized me.  My internal interpretation (not consciously) was that translated to they didn’t like me–meaning–I was a failure. I’m no good.  If I said something that my boss disagreed with, I would quickly think, “Why did I say that, what a stupid thing to say.” I often found myself reviewing my words before I would speak–I must say the perfect thing so “they” will like me.

After years of attempting to please everyone else, I realized I didn’t know what pleased me.  Although my friends probably never noticed, I didn’t have opinions about controversial topics and more often than not, I would simply go with the flow. I was actually pretty successful at people pleasing, but eventually, I met my match–someone I felt just didn’t like me. Unfortunately, it was a person I reported to, so it put me in a downward spiral.

Eventually I got low enough to start my climb back up.  One of the first things I did was simply watch and listen to others around me.  I became an observer–paying attention to what was happening while withholding judgment.  I gradually started listening to my own voice–even though at first, I may not have said the words out loud, I was aware of what I wanted– “What movie did I want to see?” “What do I think the answer is?”

I became aware that the question I was afraid to ask was THE question everyone in the room wanted to know (when someone else asked that very question).  Eventually, I got brave and spoke up.  Sometimes what I said or asked changed the whole decision or discussion and I got more courage to try it again.

I learned to share the compliment or thank a person–instead of just thinking it.  Many times the individual would comment how much they appreciated what I said and I was so grateful that I didn’t keep that compliment to myself.

I admit I sometimes slip and get back into my people pleasing mode.  But I’m kinder to myself because I realize I’m doing the best I can at this moment.  And when decisions need to be made, I am aware of my preferences and can make a choice how to proceed from there.

So for the latter part of my life, I am perfecting being the most real, authentic me I can be.

“Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken.”  Author Unknown

When I considered a move to Asheville, my mind quickly went to leaving the wonderful friends I would be leaving where I lived for the past 8 years.  My heart sank; boy, I would sure miss them.

But then I realized if I hadn’t taken the chance to relocate with my company and move to Delaware, I wouldn’t have met them in the first place.  I then found it fascinating to go back over my life and think about all the changes in my life that have lead me to find so many wonderful people.  I stopped when I got to Madeline whom I’ve known since I was three.

At a recent relocation workshop I facilitated, several people confessed their biggest concern about moving was making new friends.  One participant repeated a saying I remembered my mother telling me years ago, “It’s hard to make friends when you’re old.”  I’ll admit I even said it myself–but now I realize it is a limiting belief.

I’ve been trying to figure out how this cultural belief evolved.  My friend Marie is 81 and she continues to make friends.  Alice, age 90 who recently moved here to be near her daughter, plays bridge every week with her new friends in the assisted living facility where she lives.

Friendships blossom with a common bond.  Certainly work is a natural breeding ground for friendships since so much time is spent there.  But other places could be church organizations, volunteering, life-long learning classes, etc.  You need to be willing to take a chance and invite them to coffee, lunch or another activity.

As I write this, the girl scout song I learned in my childhood, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold” is playing in my head.  How wonderful that along the way some of my silver friends have turned to gold.  I celebrate and value my golden friends and look forward to getting to know my silver friends better.

I had always been amazed how compassionate I am to other people, yet when it comes to me–I can be very brutal.  Now being a life coach, I help my clients recognize this tendency in themselves.

One of my clients remarked how selfish she was and wondered what she should do to change that.  After questioning her a little more–she was simply taking care of her needs.  She didn’t neglect her spouse, her children or her friends.  But when she decided to join an activity or go to lunch with her friends, she defined that as being very selfish.

Women in particular, become victims of this type of cultural conditioning.  It starts when we are very young and we are reminded that good girls think of others before ourselves.  This continues to be reinforced and it quickly becomes ingrained in us.

Check in with your heart before agreeing to something–is a great first step in self care.  It doesn’t mean that you always do what you want to do–but that you are in touch with what you want to do.  Take a little time each day to do something that is fun or enjoyable for you.

When a plane takes off and you hear the attendant’s instructions that if you need oxygen–you need to take care of yourself first, and then you tend to your child.  The same goes true for self-care.  If you neglect yourself, you soon lose the oxygen and energy to take care of anyone else. Children learn by watching how you treat yourself–not on what you say to do.  Become your own best friend.

Do you find it difficult to take care of yourself?   What can you do to bring more joy into your life?

It was 2007 and I had just moved into my new house and the movers had left my furniture, along with a mountain of cartons. I was anxious to get out of my depressing motel room where I stayed for 3 weeks, but had one more night. I had to get up early because my pre-ordered blinds were going to be installed at 9:30 a.m.

My biggest worry for that morning was getting Luna, my cat, into her carrier. I packed up the few remaining things and returned to my room for my unwilling passenger. I casually (so Luna didn’t suspect anything) set up the carrier and when Luna walked out in the open, I grabbed her. Just as I anticipated, she stiffened up, pushed her hind legs and got away from me. She quickly ran under the bed where it was safe.

Now what? Talking to myself, I heard myself say, “I knew this would happen.” Oops. “I’m a coach. I know how we create our world by our intention and energy.” I was convinced Luna would fight me because that’s what I expected.

I decided I would calm down and visualize placing Luna in the carrier easily. I sat down, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and did one of my favorite meditations. Within five minutes, Luna jumped on my lap. I petted her and after a few minutes, calmly picked her up and placed her in the carrier. She never moved or tried to get out of my hands or the carrier—even as I was zipping it up.

Did you ever walk into a room and notice someone who is obviously angry or upset? Without saying a word, you knew—it was their energy. Luna reminded me how powerful how our thoughts can impact our energy and our results.

Do you pay attention to your thoughts? If you find yourself in a funk — think back to what you were thinking a few minutes ago to cause your mood.  The good news is that you can control your thoughts.  Don’t like what’s playing?  Maybe you need to change the channel.

“It is not the situation. It is your reaction to the situation.”
~ Bob Conklin


I’m an only child.  My mother was 42 when I was born.  Perhaps it was because she waited so long to get pregnant or her unhappy marriage, but it was obvious I became the light of her life.  I can remember her telling me  as a little girl, “I want everyone to like you.”  There were times after family events that she would criticize me because I just wasn’t funny or talkative enough.

It was a message I heard oh-so-well.  Matter of fact, trying to get everyone’s approval haunted me throughout most of my life.  I didn’t always acknowledge the power it had over me.  It all came to a head when a new manager was hired back in the late 90’s.  I had this instant “knowing” that he didn’t like me–right from the beginning.  The biggest problem was–I reported to him.

I did my Jane thing — trying to change myself, hoping he would like me if I did this or that.   When it didn’t work, I’d try something else.  Within a few weeks, I was crushed to learn he decided I wasn’t “strategic enough” and hired someone over me.

I took it all very personally–I hired a coach to help me deal with the situation. One of the things she told me was that he was my soul mate.  Huh?  She went on to explain that a soul mate is someone you learn from.  I was really p–sed that everyone else seemed to get romantic soul mates and all I got was him!

There were times when I threw my hands up in the air in frustration.  “Help me out here, God–what IS it I have to learn?”  I guess I’m a slow learner, because it took me several years (six to be exact) to understand some of the things my coach had told me–what I had to learn from this man.

So, even though it took awhile, I finally got it–I was enough just as I am.  I needed to understand that I had to just be me and didn’t need to change myself to fit anyone’s expectation (it doesn’t work anyway).  After spending a life time getting people to like me–I met my match with him.  It was a hard lesson — but it eventually released me from a lifetime of having to anticipate what others wanted.  I finally found freedom to just be me!

People pleasing is a “disease” that a lot of women suffer from.  What about you?  Is this something you struggle with?  Have you overcome it or are you still troubled with it?

I thought about becoming a Coach for about ten years–but everytime I did, I dismissed it — saying, “How could I ever do that?” “I don’t have enough confidence/skills etc.” “What do I know about starting my own business?” “How could I support myself?”  I had a different excuse for every day.

Once I got laid off from my human resources position in Corporate America, I knew it was now or never.  I decided to go for it.  The idea of all I still needed to learn was overwhelming, but I hired an experienced Coach to help me–it was a great decision.

Looking back, I definitely under-estimated my abilities.  As I began taking steps, the next steps became clearer and easier.  I learned to look at the road in front of me and not get overwhelmed with what was down the road. And another thing that happened was I became more confident.  “Geez, if I got to here, surely I could get to there.”

That first step was certainly a leap of faith, but it felt like the right thing to do!  The two questions I now ask myself are: “At the end of my life, will I regret not going for it?” “What’s the worst that can happen?”

I utilize my intuition to tell me what to go for.  It hasn’t let me down yet–I never leave home without it!

For years I didn’t recognize them.  But now I realize they were actually little tiny dream-lings.  (I know that’s not a real word.) These reoccurring thoughts were dream seeds and once I gave them a little ray of sunlight (aka — considered them possible) — they flowered and blossomed.

Like the time I was trying to decide what college I would attend.  I thought about  music and writing which were talents I had and loved.  I didn’t think I was good enough  to major in music (limiting belief–big time)!  I seriously considered journalism, when my mother reminded me she could only afford a teacher’s college.  “Be a teacher, you’ll have your summers off.  If you still want to get into journalism, you can do that later.” (on my dime, of course)

The idea of writing a book someday–was always there.  I would often dream what my book would be about–maybe the dramas I had in my life; maybe a compilation of my adventures and my friends’ lives.  I never quite figured it out–but I often mentioned it to my friends as a life-time goal of mine.

Then, there was my desire to move to a warmer climate.  It started while I was (probably) shoveling snow in Rochester, NY (probably) in April.  As my friend described her recent visit to her cousins’ home who had just moved to North Carolina, I could feel a curiosity and desire–thinking how nice it sounded.  During the 35+ years since that first discussion, my ears would perk up anytime I met someone from that area–and asked them lots of questions.  I always felt I would end up there someday–but imagined it would be because of a job.

My desire to become a coach was a younger dream than the other ones I just mentioned.  But after getting laid off  in 2006, I finally allowed myself to put away all my excuses and fears and I signed up for a certification program.  Then, as I was finishing up my coaching program, the dream to move to a warmer climate came bubbling up.

Yes, I did move to North Carolina–in 2007; and although my book hasn’t been written yet — a draft is completed and I have no doubt that it will be written soon! Once I started listening to my heart, it was like I had opened a faucet and water (dreams) started gushing out.

What about you?  Do you have any wishes that keep re-appearing?  I’d love to hear your stories of dreams you’ve had for years that finally materialized!

Most of my clients come to me and say something like “I feel like there’s something more, but I don’t know what that is.” I always answer, “If you feel there’s something more, then there’s something more.”
There are a lot of people that are happy the way their life is. They are content or at least, accept things as they are. So I am convinced that feeling needs to be addressed.
I have buried my desires and dreams several times in my life–during a bad marriage and a difficult job situation. You numb your feelings to get through it. While this may buy you some time — eventually, it will come bubbling back up until you meet it square in the face.
The trick is to un-numb yourself. It takes a bit of time and faith. It’s something you can’t think your way through. The best thing to start doing is to warm up your joy meter. Look around you and identify what brings you joy. Start feeling again!

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Although I had your business card for a few weeks, I hesitated calling you until one day, I just felt inspired to contact you. Am I glad I did! After applying for literally hundreds of jobs this past year with not even one interview…after sending the résumé you created for me, not only did I get the interview, but I got the job! I feel that God inspired me to move forward and sent you into my life when I needed it the most. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
—J. Bloomfield, Asheville, NC

 

So, thought I'd brighten your day!  My new supervisor complimented my resume. She said she liked the summary at the top. She also commented that she wasn't positive that my background would've jumped out as a perfect match, but it was written in a way that highlighted my skills as a match for her needs. The resume you wrote for me did much more than any of those things, however. It changed the way I view myself.  It supported me, and gave me a confidence that I was lacking at that time. When I first saw your draft, I didn't immediately connect with it, yet I knew it was all truth. It grew on me, or I grew into it. By the time I walked into those last 2 interviews, I had a new confidence. Something deeper than just knowing I could do the job. I knew I was the right choice. That confidence, that knowing, attracted those jobs to me as surely as my credentials well presented.  It was both, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
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I have built my business through satisfied clients so I cherish testimonials. One of the most stand-out testimonials that was given to me was shared by a client I coached to help her with an upcoming interview.

This client told me later, that she had met a woman at a community event. Jen shared about looking for a position and was telling her about the "biz coach" who prepped her for the interview. The other woman mentioned how she found this excellent person to do her resume and that the résumé itself was highly complemented on in her interview. And best yet, she got the job in the end! In a few minutes, they deducted they were both talking about the same person…ME!

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