Dana's My Coach

Find your game… play… repeat.

How to Not be Bored…or Scared…

Halloween is a day when you get scared on purpose. But most people don’t need a special holiday to get scared. We can scare ourselves plenty good just from thinking about committing to something we don’t know the outcome of, or, by doing something we may fail at. Apparently, fear of failure and fear of the unknown are two things many people greatly fear.


Eleaonor Roosevelt said to do something everyday that scares you. Why? Because then you can keep doing what scares you. If you practice trying something you may fail at, or, start something when you are not sure where it will lead, pretty soon, it becomes easier and easier and it’s less and less scary! When you choose to succumb to fear and limitations, however, your lifestyle and experiences become smaller and narrower. You may have an illusion that a life with limited choices and the same experiences would eliminate stress, but instead, it can create more stress. It simply is bad for your health to be too bored!


In fact, I have seen people spontaneously combust from being too bored for too long (I was almost one of them!). They weren’t bored because they didn’t have anything to do, they were bored because they had too much of the same kinds of things to do, day in and day out, with no hope of ever having more exciting problems. Instead, it’s the same problem, same worries, same protagonists. Boring is bad for your health because by nature, humans grow, as does everything in nature. We must take new form and seek nurturing in our environment, like a plant stretching toward the light. If we resist that growth pattern, what can our bodies and minds do but turn inward. Deterioration starts. Do you know how many people start having their health fail as soon as they retire? A lot! If you can, postpone your retirement and instead try to play at work. Work is not the opposite of play, boredom is. Live like you are as curious as a four-year-old. Four-year-olds know something most grownups don’t, how to play!


If you’re still not sure how to change your state of boredom, just look at the characteristics of play. Leading child development and play expert, Marjorie Kostelnik says “play is…sensory, imaginative, cooperative and/or competitive (in other words done with other people for the fun of it), voluntary, and non-literal.” Are you getting the picture?


Goethe said, “we are shaped and fashioned by what we love”. Maybe what he meant was to let yourself be shaped by what you play.


Are You Ready to Meet Someone Interesting..Would You Believe it’s You!?

Have you met yourself lately? If not, let me introduce you to…YOU! If you haven’t encountered a surprising aspect of yourself lately, maybe you needed that re-introduction.

Do you remember the famous song from the band The Who. (an oldie but a goodie!)

“Whoooo are you? Who-Who…Who..Who??” Research on human developmen indicates you could ask yourself that every day and still never get a complete answer! Why? Because we grow. Our brain parts that determine personality and behavior grow (ergo change).

Today I realize I am meeting myself …again…for the first time! Has this ever happened to you?

Just when I thought I knew my likes and strengths and pitfalls and methods and quirks…all by heart…I realize I’ve done it again.

I’ve gone and….ADAPTED! Human theorists like Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget say when we are born (humans, I mean) we begin to go through different phases of development. And, this continues FOR THE REST OF OUR LIFE!

Of all the ways to explain how we progress through various phases, one constant is that to successfully pass through a phase of development, one has to feel challenged, and then find a way to balance the tension between social demands and our own desires, and go on.

When you do that, voilà! (imagine a dramatic flip of the magician’s cape here) you have grown stronger, smarter and probably better-looking. (just kidding about the last part, but maybe it’s true!)

Whether you agree with evolution or not, there is pretty solid evidence that all species (no matter how we came into being) continue to adapt to their environment, based on what keeps them alive. I was surprised to find that this includes humans!

Returning to school to get my Master’s after a long avoidance …er I mean absence from University campuses, allows me to compare who I was back when I received my Undergraduate degrees and who I am now.  What a difference!

I see my brain has adapted to life and environment…dropping unnecessary or nonfunctioning parts…the natural selection process at work! In my classes they call the process ‘synaptic pruning’, or the brain’s way of getting rid of pathways that don’t serve the body or mind as an organism anymore, and instead focusing energy on growth of the more important synapses…or brain pathways.

Now, I think of my professors as peers, rather than towering giants of intellectual superiority. In fact, I am older than some of my professors! Also, I get excited to participate in class discussions instead of embarrassed (or even catatonic). Lastly, one of the biggest differences is that back then I was a kid. Now I’m raising kids, and helping others raise kids too. Again, what a difference!

In truth, I am not special. Everyone is constantly changing and evolving. Even a person who looks to be completely stagnant, or ‘stuck’ as you may call them, they are changing! How could they not, we are with every breath, closer to death or closer to aliveness. The key is to be able to meet yourself wherever you are. Meet yourself and be present with what you encounter. You may not look perfect, but presence may be a more important goal than perfect.

Can you do that? Can you love whoever you turn out to be? Yes. You must!

My Name is Not ‘No’, it’s ‘Yes’, or at Least ‘Maybe’

Have you heard that new pop song by Megan Trainor called ‘My Name is ‘No’?  In the song, you hear the refrain, “My name is ‘No’, my number is ‘No’, you need to let it go.’

It’s a lot of ‘No’s’ in one song. I’m not sure, but if my subliminal messaging were programmed with this song, I think it would lead to a lot of nothing.


You hear what you expect to hear and see what you expect to see. It’s a natural cognitive process called ‘selective perception’. It means, in short, we get what we think we’ll get and we see what we expect to see. Many of our thoughts and perceptions, unfortunately, are occurring without us even being aware of it!

If your subconscious mind is conditioned to expect to get ‘No’ then most likely you will get ‘No’s’ when you ask or seek out something. Unless, of course, your subconscious actually thinks you’ll get ‘Yes’. In which case, you will get ‘I don’t know!’

If you are not sure what all this means, ask yourself how many times you have had an idea to do something fun or different lately. Now, look back and count the number of times you have actually moved on any of those ideas. Compare the numbers.

If you’re like most people, the number of ideas you have had by far outweighs the number of action steps you have taken. But before you start chastising yourself for your inactivity, you need to realize how it happens. Besides, no one likes to be scolded!

Often, when you don’t take action steps to change your daily routine, it’s because the subliminal message you are giving yourself is ‘No’. This puts you in a resistance position. If this happens, you have essentially programmed yourself to lose your motivation before you take any action.

The Dalai Lama said, “…the easiest path to happiness is to do something.” If you want to change something in your life, you need to do something. If you don’t know what to do, then think about what you want and then make a move in that direction. Even the simplest move can generate a result, or a reaction.

Say you want a new living environment. A first step could be to drive around neighborhoods looking for one that inspires you. You’re taking a step in a direction!

What I know about steps is that one begets (fancy word for ‘leads to’) another. But most importantly, and here is THE KEY, when you take that step, you must have NO ATTACHMENT to how it turns out. Just take the step. Once you take it, you will intuitively know the next step. Pretty soon you are covering lots of ground! It’s called momentum. You’re getting somewhere.

In my life there have been periods of time when many things happened, and periods of time where not much happened. When I was bored, nothing happened and I ended up more bored. In the times where a lot happened it was because I told myself ‘yes’ and made myself do what I wanted to do.

For example, in the year I graduated from college, I went from working at a school library to being a bartender at a steakhouse in Koln, Germany. Also, in the timespan of one year (a different year!) I got married, appeared in a show on a stage in New York City, delivered twins and moved across country to Austin, Texas.

Also, the last few years have been full of activity…and especially these past few months. Since April I have taken the GRE, been accepted to a graduate program that will expand my business and skillset, sold my house and moved my family into a new home (my dream house!) produced the 35th episode of the One Minute Parent Video Segments, grew my practice, and will soon send my sons off to Middle School! Clearly I have been saying ‘yes’ to myself, and in turn, people have been saying ‘yes’ to me!

In between here and there were stretches of boredom where seemingly nothing new happened. These clearly were the times when my subconscious was tuned into channel ‘No’ and I was set on the setting of resistance.

Much of the fun and exciting changes I’ve experienced were not what I thought was possible. So how did any of these things start?

None of it happened overnight, but after a series of many steps. With getting accepted to school, it started with a trip to Half Price Books to pick up a copy of the GRE study workbook. Then, some research on the internet. Then a conversation with my realtor and dear friend Emily Apollo (while we were perusing neighborhoods where my dream house might be) told me about where she went to graduate school. I looked into it and found the ideal program for me.

I took little steps, one after the other, without knowing how or if they’ll lead anywhere. It makes sense to me because I already have a bias toward action. I like to check things out. Encounter. I’m not afraid to be surprised, to be embarrassed, disappointed…and follow my gut.

Over years (yes I am getting older!) I have found not everyone is like this. Many people are afraid to hear the word ‘No’. Imagine if I had gone to Half Price Books and asked for the GRE book and they said ‘No’. Would that mean academic career, graduate program over? Of course not! That’s so silly! I would simply ask them to find me the book! And if they said ‘No’ to that, well, guess what, I would go to another bookstore, or Amazon, or the library or ask a friend. The point is, the point doesn’t matter! What matters is the process. Stay on progress with the process.

If you want new things to happen…it doesn’t matter what things…maybe things you haven’t even thought of yet, or things that your cognitive mind cannot even understand, then you need to change the background music playing in your head. Change it from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ or even ‘Oh yeah baby!’

Here are some musical programming suggestions:

“I Came to Win” by Nicki Minaj

“Life is a Highway” (and I’m gonna ride it all night loooong!)

“Let’s Get it ON”!

But, if for some reason you just can’t get out of that “NO” groove, just call me, cuz’ you know what I’ll be singing!

What are your songs for inspiration?

Got Thoughts…or Your Thoughts Got You?

or ‘How to Know if You are Thinking Your Own Thoughts or Someone Else’s and What to do About it!’

Fireworks, beer and barbecue were on the agenda for most Americans last week when we celebrated Independence Day. When the U.S. defeated Great Britain over 200 years ago, we won the right to govern ourselves…a great source of pride and celebration. And with good reason! Living in a Democracy means we have more freedom and more rights than many other nations on earth. It means, in short, we Americans have the right to think for ourselves, to express our thoughts, and even vote in accordance with our thoughts.

But are we really exercising our hard-won right to think for ourselves? Hmmm…

Maybe, maybe not.

From the time we are born, ideas, behaviors and values are downloaded into our brains and incorporated into our being, similar to how apps are installed into computers. Scientists who’ve argued for decades whether we are influenced by our genetics or by our experiences and surroundings in the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture…now agree the answer is…. ‘Both!’.

You and I were raised by humans so therefore we suffer (and also benefit) from the ideas, opinions and experiences embedded by our social environment. When socialization (the technical term for learning social norms and mores) is beneficial is to learn things like when to shake hands, when to say, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. But when it starts to go awry is when we learn what to be afraid of (ie. Stranger Danger!). Much of the info being downloaded into our brains as we are growing is useless, damaging or both. For example, are all strangers dangerous? Of course not! All of our friends were strangers at one time. Dr. Gwen Dewar says, “I am struck by how many people seem content to impose unreflective, conformist thinking on children.”

Even more important than teaching children to follow society’s conventions is to raise humans who can think and identify real events, make decisions, and recognize their own power in doing so. Actually, it serves them better to operate this way, rather than to adopt our distilled and sometimes-delusional world views and methods of interacting.

How do we teach this important skill to kiddos even while protecting them from danger? First, we can improve our own ability to think and make decisions, then share a little at a time what we are learning…like osmosis.

For example, I recognize that I am sometimes lazy in my thoughts and let others’ opinions creep into my consciousness. Also I have a bad habit of letting other people make assumptions about me without correcting them. In other words, sometimes I’m guilty of operating on autopilot. Does this sound familiar? I believe I am not alone. Usually we are not aware of when we do this though, so becoming aware is a big step forward.

For decades, social psychologists have known about a phenomenon called ‘groupthink’. It occurs when a group of people values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It can be any group (a family, company culture, team…), we are all susceptible, and it’s happening all the time. Groupthink has lead to some of the worst decisions, the most famous being the epic failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. It occurs when every individual in a group makes an assumption that other people are exercising critical thinking so they don’t have to question or engage in any decision-making.

Why ?

Maybe it’s because of a fear of what people will think of us if we don’t agree, or maybe it’s because we don’t want to take responsibility for the outcome, and would rather hide behind a collective decision, rather than make a stand. Neither scenario puts human tendencies in a very good light, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Last night some friends and I were at a restaurant listening while a waiter was going over the specials…speaking very rapidly. My friend stopped him and said “I don’t know what you’re saying.” In that moment I felt how trustworthy my friend is. To you, this may seem like a small detail, but it takes courage to break another person’s reality and state clearly how yours is different. In fact, self-actualization is defined by ‘reaching one’s potential through …a thorough grasp of the real world.’ Small steps like my friend letting the waiter know he was not reaching his goal of communicating bring us all closer to self-actualization. She pointed out her reality, knowing it was different than his assumption of it.

Young’uns who are not encouraged or allowed to experience the results of their choices…and in this way connect with reality.…cannot hope to ever reach self-actualization. Many parents are so frightened for their children, they constantly step in to manipulate the consequences of their children’s decisions. Such a child will surely struggle later in life (and perhaps struggle even now!) to distinguish why the world does not respond to his or her ministrations like mommy and daddy do.

If upgrading your thinking processes sounds to you like not the funnest project, just imagine the benefits. If you train yourself to make true and accurate observations, to allow yourself and your children to enjoy the results of your choices, and recognize you are in control of every aspect of your life, then you will really be a great model to your friends and children!

Also, you may be the next Thomas Edison or Madame Curie. In fact, right now I bet you can point to at least 10 things you enjoy in your world that are the result of someone thinking ‘out of the box’, or ‘against the grain’. If everyone subscribed to their culture’s homogenous thinking, no innovations would be possible.

Recently, I went with a group to the Museum of Science and Technology. Science has come a long way! And progress always happened when someone had the courage to dissent from mainstream thinking. People used to think the world is flat. Then, when they learned the world is round, they still believed the sky was flat, like a vast disc.

Thanks to Copernicus who, through tinkering, created the first crude telescope, came a more accurate grasp of the sky. Then, Galileo took the concept and created a more sophisticated version of the telescope so that he could study the stars. He reported his findings that the sky is a vast multi-dimensional network. Not a flat disc at all.

If we try to change from following mindlessly preprogrammed thoughts, let’s think about the opposite, mindFULness. Experience as many moments as consciously as possible. In a coaching relationship a coach can help discern whether your thoughts are yours or someone else’s squatting in your brain?

Through inquiry, you can discover the origins by yourself too. When you can feel a thought or idea lodged somewhere in your physical body, that is a most sure sign that the thought was installed in you. If it it’s organic, you can know it by how it feels. It is part of you.

One idea I grew up with …as a little girl growing up while the feminist movement gained momentum… is women should be independent. I internalized that so well that I became truly independent as a young woman, and truly alone! It made me sad.

Luckily, I met an incredible coach who helped me distinguish that belief was not mine. Even though I love empowerment and respectful treatment of women, at the same time, one of my biggest strengths is receptivity, so complete independence is not true to my nature. Making that distinction helped me learn to accept and receive help, input, friendship and love from others. At first, it did not feel natural (and still doesn’t sometimes). Prior to questioning my beliefs I could never imagine being as intimate with people as I am now. The gift of intimacy comes from a give and receive exchange. It makes me happy to feel interdependent, rather than independent.

Happiness is a true test of whether you have your own thoughts. When an idea comes through my consciousness that makes me feel excited and alive, that idea comes from my own heart and essence. Maybe someone made a suggestion or planted a seed that caused a connection, but if it feels good it is more likely to be congruent with me…my values.

If you’re still not sure, what you can do is to act and observe. When you take action on a belief how does it feel? How does it work for you in your life? Recently, a client was suffering from the thought that she needed to get a job. I suggested she apply at the TexMex Cantina across the street from where we were meeting which had a ‘help wanted’ sign. She did not light up at the suggestion and her face darkened. The suggestion of course was only a test. Her response told us both clearly that her idea of getting a job was not organic, and not what she needed to focus on in that moment.

Through inquiry we discovered the origin of the belief, released it and then formed a new plan based on her pleasure and coming straight from her heart. You know what? The plan coming from her heart and her essence, the one that makes her feel alive and aglow…that’s the plan that’ll work!

If you want your plans to work, get your thinking to work! Work for you, instead of against you, that is. You can stop being a victim of your own thoughts. But getting your thoughts to work for you does not mean getting smarter. Actually, since the discovery of groupthink and the damage it can do, a new school of thought studying how to raise intelligence in teams, rather than the opposite has emerged.

Studies overwhelmingly show that groups who get the best results and make the most effective decisions are never the groups with the smartest people, but they are the groups with people who listen to each other and give honest and accurate input to each other.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead, test out your thoughts and take action on them…only a small step is necessary to make a test. Our greatest thinkers agree action is key to thinking better. “Happiness consists of activity,” says John Mason Good.

“Activities that give us durable happiness are the ones we have a hand in creating. We don’t just sit back and receive pleasure. We actually generate the pleasure ourselves….that makes happiness ‘renewable.” says Sonja Lyubormirsky

If that doesn’t convince you, Dalai Lama said, “The easiest route to unhappiness is to do nothing…the easiest path to happiness is to do something.”

What beliefs are you questioning? I’d love to hear! Also, what are the 5 best innovations that came about during your lifetime, and what innovations do you want to see happen? I’d love to know!


Do You Know What Makes You Special?

Do you know what makes you so special?

Chances are, you don’t. In fact, what makes most of us special is also what we most fear revealing or even realizing about ourselves. We spend much of our formative years trying to learn to fit in and not be noticed. Being noticed in school or at home often meant being punished.

Avoiding punishment is not a recipe for success…unless you are living in a fascist regime, which in America or Western Europe we are not.

Looking at what makes us unique may even make us feel a little bit embarrassed about ourselves. But it is actually valuable to look. Differentiating ourselves in the market, or ‘branding’, depends on combining our uniqueness with our skills in a way that stands out.

But standing out, as stated earlier, can be problematic! We’re not supposed to do that, your ego might scream out to “STOP”! However, noticing, distinguishing and allowing yourself to play out your most unique qualities is the best predictor of whether or not you will reach your professional and personal goals.

Whatever is your greatest fear is exactly what will cause you to fail. If you don’t have the will to drive past your fear, your business…your dream cannot survive,” says U.S. Navy Seal and Training Consultant, Clark Stuart.

It is also said ‘Behind your greatest fear is your greatest gift’. For example, someone may say, “Oh I would never be a singer, I have a terrible voice.” In fact, this would tell me that their voice is their greatest talent. But after exploring maybe we would find they are not a singer, but a storyteller or jam poet or even a professional sound maker like Bobby McFerrin.

If in business, you are afraid of making a fool of yourself by selling badly, being too pushy, or indeed, selling at all, you will not likely ever earn the money you need and desire. Unless at some point you are willing to go ballistic and look foolish, or in other words, ‘put yourself out there’ with your product or service, you cannot surpass your income limits.

What makes you stand out is also your innovation. Muhammad Ali was special and innovative in that he combined boxing with God. Before he came along, we had not seen that particular innovation before. In a rare interview in England, Muhammad Ali shares his spiritual beliefs with the audience. He has total conviction about God. He also has total conviction about winning and being the best. This conviction and willingness to speak out loud about it was his specialty.

New business models like Upwork and Fiverr are channeling the art of matchmaking into business by connecting people with highly specialized skills and the people who need these skills, a.k.a. clients.

For example, I have a former client who loves dragons, cats and puppets. Her linear business is graphic design. On websites and through word of mouth, she has been able to get hired for jobs involving these things. Why was she hired for these jobs? She made it clear she has these ‘quirks’ or things she is passionate about. She also wrote a book about cats, called ‘Chicken Kitten‘, which she illustrated, of course!

Now, she has a brilliant calling card to show what she is capable of and also show her specialty. By the way, are you noticing that ‘specialty’ and specialist’ both have the root word of ‘special’? Yes, you’re welcome for pointing out the obvious! (one of my not-so-unique talents ;-).

What I’m saying here is to remind you, but also to remind me. What I used to fear most as a self-conscious and shy child is my own sound. When I was around people I tried not to make a sound, not even with my breathing. Well you can probably guess that behind the fear of being heard was also a great desire and perhaps a gift for expression.

After years of committed effort and energy toward reaching the goal of being self-expressed my life pretty much evolves around expression now. It is one value that is evident in how I raise my kids as well. My sons and I are confident in expressing ourselves, whether it’s onstage at the school talent show, or in front of an audience of professionals at a conference, or in the privacy of our home working out an issue with each other or doing a filming project or a collage. Last December, we even appeared in a play together!

I have seen many parents who are afraid to be honest with their kids, so the kids don’t necessarily learn how to express honestly or be with others who are expressive. But, how else will kids learn emotional durability and strength, if they don’t experience it in their childhood? In this way, parents can pass on their fears to their children and continue the cycle of suppressing one’s specialness.

Emory University School of Medicine published findings from a study showing that kids inherit their parent’s fears. Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations.   Changes in brain structure were also found.

“The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations,” the report concluded.

Another reason it is worth it to invest time, energy and intention to drive through my fears is so that I don’t infect other people with them…namely my kids! Me writing this blog is one way I keep myself accountable to driving through my fears of expressing. See the tendency to keep playing small and staying in hiding with your specialness doesn’t go away!….at least not that I know of.

Even people like Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk who blog several times per day and seem so bold, still probably deal with resistance and fear. If you also need to push yourself to drive through your fears, just remember, fear is not permanent or terminal, and you can get to the other side of it! So whatever you hesitate at, whether it’s pressing the ‘publish’ link on your blog post, picking up the phone and dialing, or raising your hand with a question next time you are in a presentation, try this next time, “Go for it!!”

For me, I will keep writing, videoing and calling…as long as you keep reading, watching and picking up the phone! Thank you for helping me drive through my fear!


Here are ten questions for self-exploration…to lead you on a path of uncovering your hidden specialties!

1-What am I grateful for?

2-What do I love?

3-Why am I happy?

4-Who am I mad at?

5-What am I most committed to?

6-How committed am I?

7-What is my intention?

8-What is my wish?

9-Why am I here?

10-What am I afraid I am?


Happiness is NOT a Given!…Unless You’re a Givin’ it to Yourself!

Flowers, chirping birds and blue skies…these are things that make us happy, right? Now spring has arrived we have all this in abundance, but is everyone happy?


While flowers may cause you great happiness when you look at them, flowers do not care about giving you happiness. In fact, nothing in nature cares about your happiness. It’s not supposed to. It just goes on being itself whether we like it or not. Some may say that is very selfish of a flower to not care about your happiness. In reality, nature doesn’t need to care in order for you to be happy, and nature doesn’t need you to be happy either. If nature needs anything it needs you to stay out of its way.


Yesterday in my yard I discovered a bird’s nest with an egg in it. When I looked around I noticed two birds perched on the fence across the street. Watching me VERY closely. I stepped forward to get a better look at the nest and it only took two seconds for me to feel flapping wings around my head. Those birds did NOT want me to get any closer to their egg! Yet, it still made me so happy to see that perfect egg, a sign of new life in my tree in the front yard. When my sons saw it, they thought the Easter bunny had come late. We all laughed and had joy. But the egg didn’t care. It just sat there being perfect.20160407_195446


Only one thing can make you happy, you. If you don’t believe me, just think about the best thing and the worst thing that happened today. Now ask why was the worst thing the worst and why was the best thing the best? It’s because you decided it was so. If someone presents you with flowers, you make a decision to enjoy them and allow yourself pleasure. You may also decide NOT to enjoy the flowers and NOT allow yourself pleasure. It seems like an easy decision to make to be pleased by flowers, but you may have a very good reason for choosing NOT to do it.


If it’s up to you to choose, you can be happy about anything. Take for example a dead lizard or a handful of dirt. Yesterday my gardener presented me with both these things and it made me very happy. I was ready for it…my happiness spigot was in the ‘on’ position. There have been days when the happiness spigot was in ‘off’. But yesterday, I chose ‘on’. I prefer this way of being, even though the full spectrum of feelings is just fine. I want to learn all I can about turning my happiness spigot ‘on’ independent of what the birds, sky, flowers or anyone else does.


“Flip the switch!” my mentor in business and coaching used to say if someone had a bad mood or drama. With his prompt I usually was able to flip it. But when he isn’t around I have to flip my own switch. I am just learning, but if you’re curious how to do this, I can break down into three steps what I have learned.


If you are like me and love games you should already be starting to feel a little bit happy. One, two, three steps and then bingo! …A result! That is a game. I enjoy small games, but bigger ones make me even happier. In the absence of a game, sometimes my spigot gets stuck in the ‘off’ position.


So here are the steps to get to ‘on’.


1.) Attend to your immediate environment. Get in a place that is more pleasurable. For example, go outside in nature, look at something beautiful, or get in the water. All three of these things have the power to set off pleasure receptors in the brain by attuning the brain to the present moment. In ‘Go Wild’,
Dr. John Ratey espouses the value of replicating life as a hunter/gatherer. Having a heightened awareness about the present moment releases dopamine in the brain and results in pleasure.


“Our pleasure circuits are attuned to awareness and the unexpected. A state of peace is not the absence of challenge…if anything it is the focusing of alertness in preparation…an exacting state of mind.”


2.) Set down heavy baggage. If there is a thought floating in my head that has to do with the past or the future and it makes my heart sag with grief or constrict with fear, that is a thought that is heavy. In order for the thought to take up less cargo space, it must be set down! If visualization helps you, then you can imagine a big bulky suitcase sliding down the chute (like in the airport) in your mind and watch it getting a nice kick from an airport attendant that sends it flying right out the doorway of your ear! It lands in the back of a garbage truck that happens to be driving by.


3.) Make a heart connection. Certain people in my life have the ability to help me get in touch with my heart no matter what the circumstances. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “’understanding’ is love’s other name.”


You surely have people like that in your life. These are people who positively impact conditions for you to be happy. They don’t make you happy or even give you happiness, but they have the ability to make it easy for you to choose happiness. When you find these people stay in touch with them! Ask to do projects with them, move in with them, or marry them (or all of the above!)


Just don’t expect them to make you happy, because they won’t. Only you can. They will just go on being themselves, like a perfect egg, sitting in a nest.


“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.” Thich Nhat Hanh 

Give Yourself the Gift of Admiration for Valentine’s Day!

For Valentine’s Day I Want You to Take a Good Look…and admire your creation! You have worked on this masterpiece forever! Perfecting, polishing, tuning, and repairing! You deserve to be acknowledged for what you have done. Make peace with actions you took and decisions you made. All of it lead to who you are and the life you are living today. Give yourself the gift of admiration. In fact, give yourself a hand and show you some love!

One of my sons is a master at loving and accepting himself no matter what. I wish I had his talent. I spent much of my young life in self-criticism. It felt bad to even look inside my own heart because I was afraid I would find more pain and judgment there. But then, something changed when I learned how to look at myself with appreciation and wonder, instead of criticism. It was a blessing! I still have to re-learn it again and again. It takes time, believe me! I give thanks to my son for the reminder.

In “The One Minute Parent” book I outline how my kids have a daily game to earn points with tasks, decisions and attitudes. Last Saturday, I noticed my son had not been doing his kitchen job (clearing the table) for several days in a row. He receives a natural consequence (loss of points) so I knew there was no need to scold or punish. But I was just curious so I asked him, “I noticed you haven’t been clearing the table this week, why?”

He looked at me for a long time and said completely without guile, remorse or shame, “I think I’m just lazy ‘cuz it seems like a lot of stuff to put away.”

I was so proud! Here is a boy who was able to do what I spent many years trying, learning and struggling to do…accept a weakness, be totally honest about it, and still feel ok with himself!

My heart swelled and I looked at him with admiration. “Thank you for being honest.” He nodded and went back to drawing.

Now, this may seem unlikely but actually he has been more willing since that conversation to help out in the kitchen. He even helped me bake cinnamon rolls yesterday! What I learned is he thrives when he feels accepted and acknowledged. Instead, of criticizing or trying to change him, I accepted his weakness (doesn’t like to do chores) and acknowledged him for his strength (honesty). As long as I do this, he is willing to play a game with me.

Seeing how this works with my son, I am using on myself, too. What if more and more I accept my weaknesses, and acknowledge myself for strengths, and for all the things I do that work throughout the day?

If I accept myself, it doesn’t have to mean I give up on changing. In fact, change is more likely to happen if I start from a place of self-acceptance and love. Feeling good makes me feel like playing. Playing is what matters.

In fact, ‘Game Theory’ is defined as the ‘study of how people behave in a strategic environment.’ Simply said, ‘people change their behavior when they are in a game.’ The secret to change yourself and others, seems to me to be to make it fun to play with you! Are you having fun with you?

If not, it could be that you want to learn how to play and be playful…or, maybe you’re playing the wrong game. Or, like many people you suffer from criticism or a negative mindset…focusing on what’s wrong rather than enjoying yourself…like most of us did when were children.

But growing up means you have to learn how to be accountable and act like a grownup. Here’s the rub…if we grow up by forcing ourselves to be serious and suppress joy, that way of being becomes a mindset, and a deeply entrenched habit. Eventually, will power gives out.

What if you can change your autopilot mode and reinvigorate yourself to be accountable, but not by force or fear, rather through play and playfulness. It can be done!

Arianna Huffington says, “Reprogramming the autopilot takes different amounts of time for each of us…Willpower alone is not enough. As a number of psychological studies have shown, willpower is a resource that gets depleted the more it’s used.”

More important than willpower, is willingness. Willingness to keep playing a game. Willingness to love and accept yourself. Willingness to get up and try again.

My son is willing to keep playing the game with me. And more important, I am still willing to play the game with me. I am because I have made readiness a practice. Now, I take a little time every day to explore my wishes, desires and actions. I do this through the lens of appreciation and acceptance.

An old friend used to joke whenever asked if he was ready, “I was born ready!”

Well, we were all born ready, and then some of us lost the readiness, but then some of us got it back, and then lost it again, and then got it back…

Do you want your readiness back? Start with appreciating yourself. You’ll be surprised what you find out you are ready for…once you feel good.

Are Your Resolutions Relevant? Here’s How You Can Tell…

Since I started my business 15 years ago what saddens me most is when people I’m working with set goals they don’t want to reach.

You may ask why would someone set him or herself up for failure? It’s a good question! Actually, I don’t think anyone does this on purpose. Let’s look at it for a moment.

In a coaching interview with a client what really matters is what truly lights up a person. If someone says their goal is to make more money, sure I can help with that. But If someone says to me they want to make more money, and then quietly lean in and reveal an even deeper desire that totally lights them up, I can DEFINITELY help with that. And, what’s more, THEY can help with that! They can help themselves reach the goal, because they WANT to reach it! I know because when they light up they are inspired.

To win my kids’ cooperation, I literally set the task I want them to do in the path of their desire. For example, “You can play Minecraft now and on your way to pick up your iPad, please pick up the trail of shoes and pencils on the floor.”

Learning to set goals around what is in sync with your true ambitions and desires is tricky. How do you do it? First, be curious about your curiosity! What do you research in your free time? What are you obsessed with? What do you daydream about? Answers to the above questions are clues to your natural reservoir of curiosity, or energy. Create goals that move you in this direction, because this is the direction you want to go.

Are you starting to get the picture? When you set a goal to avoid your pain rather than in pursuit of your pleasure, it just doesn’t stick! If my sons only had the goal to pick up all the shoes and pencils on the floor, they would never do it! Life for them would become meaningless. Without Minecraft in the equation, no goal is worth reaching.

This works with self-talk too. But first you have to recognize when you are not setting inspired goals. For example, if you experience pressure to pay off a particular debt and you set financial goals to pay off the debt. You are very unlikely to be successful. Reaching a goal to avoid pressure (pain) is just not inspiring and diminishes our energy and motivation, rather than the other way around.

Losing weight is similar in that if you hate how you feel and how people look at you, you may force yourself to go on a diet. You are unlikely to reach and maintain that goal as well. You are pressuring yourself to avoid your negative feelings and it is not a fun way to live.

Since the start of a new year is usually time for ambitious people to make a change, it is the most common time for people to push themselves in a direction they don’t really want to go. Statistics show most New Year’s Resolutions fail.

I don’t speak of these follies lightly and in no way intend to discourage you from setting goals. Hopefully, forming a more realistic outlook will help you fine-tune and dig a little deeper when you are searching for a goal that you can actually achieve. You will achieve what you WANT to achieve. So what do you WANT?

If you want to enjoy successful achievement, choose a goal for your own desire, not just in response to what you think others are judging you for. Trust me, most people are more interested in judging themselves than in judging you. So, don’t worry about what people think! And, don’t force yourself to agree with the public opinion. Others have no idea what you want or what you are capable of.

Instead, pay attention to the natural current of your desires. It may take a few moments of quiet before it surfaces. But it is not far below the surface, and it is only for you to know and see, not everyone or anyone else. You may choose to share it, however. That is your prerogative.

Maybe it is money that inspires you at a deep instinctual level. I have found roughly one third of people I interview are intrinsically motivated by money. For them, money goals work great, and they are very likely to be successful and wealthy.

Or, instead maybe for you the juice in life is in connection and appreciation, or winning and conquering a great challenge. Imagine different scenarios involving each of these qualities and see which one excites you the most.

Be honest! If you follow your natural flow of curiosity, you are likely to be successful in all areas of life. You may value power over money, or vice versa. Or you may value peace over either one. Your game will be very different in that case.

Relationship is a hot topic for many people’s New Year’s Resolutions. Someone may want to end a relationship, start one, or improve the one they’ve got. In almost all cases, they are trying to escape pain. If someone is looking to start a relationship, they are trying to solve a loneliness problem. If they are trying to improve the one they’ve got, well, it goes without saying there must be pain, or they wouldn’t feel the need to improve it.

All these are wonderful goals, and having a goal (even an uninspiring one) is better than nothing at all. But you won’t reach a goal if it’s not your top priority. Find a goal that accesses your true desire and you have found a goal you can be successful with.

Here is a personal story that gives an example of a goal you can be successful with. When I decided to take a year off from having relationships, I made the goal to find a community of like-minded people where I could form friendships and be accepted as a mom as well as a businesswoman. Soon, I became so busy, involved in PTA and other non-profits, participating in church and other social events and projects, that I didn’t even miss dating!

When finally I was ready to seek a relationship, I had already a much richer social life, more confidence….and more to bring to the table in my partnership. During previous times in my life that I was searching for a partner simply out of loneliness, those relationships were always doomed…and often painful.

In this most recent case when I was able to identify my true desire (connection and belonging) I could create a goal that was easy to achieve…because I wanted to achieve it! Truly and deeply! Indirectly it helped with loneliness and helped me be ready to find a really great partner when the time was right.

So to help you choose your goals, keep in mind the question ‘what am I measuring?’ Seth Godin mentions several common ways to track if you are reaching your goals. You can measure ‘smiles, comments, traffic, cash, media response, friends, peers, insiders, outsiders…’.

Looking at it this way; what do you consider a win? Being at the top of a money game or a power game? Or, simply being connected with lots of loved ones or fans …these are all different games.

And, if you want to be more successful in your business or career, take heed to Brene Brown’s words that ‘your creativity and art is what is in your soul to share’.

Conversely, I say that whatever your soul wants is what you need to set as a goal.

If you want success in reaching your goals this year and to learn how to choose the right goals for yourself, you can choose one of Dana’s My Coach long-term programs. Click here for a description of the Soul of Entrepreneurship Coaching Program. A step-by-step way for you to be the architect of a great career or business…one that incorporates all your talents, desires and personal mission.

Or, if a more harmonious and cooperative family life is your wish, click her for a description of The One Minute Parent for Life Coaching Program.

If you are like so many who decided to really tackle their health this year, but you also know a diet isn’t going to address your issue, take a look at the Healthy You for Life Coaching Program. It is a year-long exploration, growth and learning in the area of all around wellness, confidence and balanced health.

If you are not sure what you want, or what is right for you, please contact me directly: Dana@DanasMyCoach.com to set up your free mini coaching session. We’ll find out together!

“True happiness and true freedom come from living a life of purpose.” Leah Iny


Thank You For Sharing Your Story-Life!

Do you remember the last time you heard a really good story? I do. It was the last time I talked to you!

Maybe you thought you were rambling or talking too much…but actually you were giving me great pleasure! And I can prove it. Neuroscientists say human beings are wired for stories. Not only that, it makes us high. Literally.

Researcher Paul Zak proves listening to and telling stories causes hormones to release into our bodies such as oxytocin. This is like a feel-good drug that promotes bonding, empathy, meaning and connection.

In addition, people who appreciate the story-like aspect of life are more likely to enjoy themselves and succeed. If you are courageous enough to admit your life has a beginning and end…and in the middle a lot of plot twists, surprising characters, tragedy and humor…then you are embracing the story-like aspect of life. It’s a special way of being and it takes courage. Yay for you!

You are in good company. Tim Urban is a researcher who’s spent years following the decision-making habits of billionaire Elon Musk (founder of Tesla, among other things). Urban’s found a simple way to describe the formula for his success. Believe it or not, Musk’s way of being and doing has to do with viewing his life as a constantly unfolding story, with himself as the central character.

You can read about his recipe for being a successful and impactful operator. Sadly, to use the recipe successfully, you have to have the right ingredients. Knowing his true goals, and having an accurate read on reality are what Musk calls the ‘secret sauce’ in other words quality ingredients. In the overlap of his true goals and his reality is the ‘goal pool’ where his options lay. He creates a strategy from the goal pool and then directs his power toward implementing the strategy.

Sounds easy, right? But that’s not the end. Musk seems to view his goals as constantly evolving, as is his view of his reality. Each step he takes, each thought he has, changes the recipe. Each new feedback or observation must be constantly filtered in and layered over the previous ‘facts’ and rewriting the script accordingly.

What he calls ‘reasoning from first principles’ is the basis of his modified strategy. It’s a science term meaning starting with what evidence shows us to be true. In order to see what is true evidence requires accurately assessing events around him, and his own desires in relation to that world.

No small feat! Many of us are so eager to slap a quick and simple definition on an outcome, we avoid really seeing and feeling the world around us; we fail to derive real meaning, accurate reflections or appropriate responses.

Musk can and does do all the above. He is able to refresh his view independent from his past or his opinions. He adjusts his strategy based on the new (and accurate) data constantly flowing in through his senses. Urban defines Musk’s ‘brain software’ with four major decision-making centers in the list below.

1) Filling in the Want box

2) Filling in the Reality box

3) Goal selection from the Goal Pool

4) Strategy formation

Even more importantly, he can always accurately tune into his own desires. In other words, he always knows what he wants. How many of us can say that? Too often we become tainted by others’ agendas and suppress our own. But if we forget about our desire, we have no motivation to reach a goal. Therefore, how can your power be directed toward a goal if you don’t have any power?

What it seems to boil down to is Musk accepts the story-making aspect of life. He treats himself as the main character who continuously impacts and is impacted by which set he’s in and which characters he’s interacting with. Every story has a main character and the plot consists of the character doing something and things happening. There’s comedy and drama and tragedy and conflict…it’s all part of the plot! New things happen and complexities arise, often very unexpectedly!

If you have kids in your life, you must be aware of the constantly changing nature of life. Kids are always discovering new pieces of their puzzle. One of my main goals as a parent is to let my kids learn how to apply new information about themselves (or in coaching language the ‘pieces of their puzzle’) without interfering. Even though I make a conscious effort, I fail often.

Recently, my sons and I were at an orientation for a middle school that my sons may want to apply to. The presenter said the school specialized in pre-law and some classes could earn high school credits. I thought to myself “Oh, they are not interested in law classes!” But then I questioned the statement and realized, I am the one not interested in law. I have never wanted to study it or be a lawyer. My observation is that I prefer collaboration and lawyers seem to tend towards conflict.Software-Strategy-Loop

I turned to my son and whispered in his ear, “Do you know what a lawyer is?” He turned to me and nodded. I then asked, “Have you thought about doing that as a profession?” He said, “Yes, I think I’d be good at that!” and his face lit up. Later, when I asked him why, he said that he liked the idea of speaking up for people, fighting for justice, and being right. I can vouch that all this is true.

Luckily, I caught myself when I made the assumption he wouldn’t want what I don’t want. I’m getting used to the idea now…. I mean having a son as a lawyer wouldn’t be so bad! Our story-life is in the making and the plot thickens…

Happy Be-Your-Own Boss’s Day…and How to Be a Great Boss to Yourself!!

Friday was ‘Boss’s Day.’ If you are a boss you received flowers, balloons or gifts as an expression of gratitude from your staff. If you have a boss you were the one who did the giving, or at least you had to organize someone else to do the giving.

For those of us who don’t have a boss and aren’t a boss of others…in other words, free agents, we did neither. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was Boss’s Day until I stopped by my son’s school to surprise them with lunch and saw two girls in the office with flower bouquets.

“For me?” I asked innocently. “No! For the principal, it’s Boss’s Day!” they said.

At first I thought, “we don’t have a holiday for free agent entrepreneurs! Where is our holiday?” And then I realized since I make my own hours, I live everyday as a holiday. In fact, not many people with a job have the flexibility or freedom to do what I did last week…stop by my children’s school in the middle of the day and surprise them with hot wings. I am grateful for this freedom. I am also grateful I have become a boss I like.

When I first started my business years ago, I used to work so hard and have very high expectations. I was frequently disappointed and critical of myself. Now, after working with hundreds of other free agents and self-employed business people, I realize I am not the only one who has done this. I was a bad boss, never satisfied.

Then I learned to be a better boss. I began to forgive and accept my results, and acknowledge myself no matter what. Over time, I even learned to focus my core business on the people, environments and activities that I really enjoy. I learned to take my pleasure very seriously! That is when I went from being a good boss to a great boss.

Unfortunately, despite the many boxes of candy, balloon bouquets and flowers that were given out on Friday, there are not very many truly great bosses.

In fact, many people are afraid to give up health insurance because they are afraid of their medical costs. But, when one lives and grows a business or career with an awareness of the activities and people that bring pleasure rather than stress, sickness and injury are much less likely. Therefore, medical insurance is under-utilized rather than the other way round.

“Disease happens when the repair process is not keeping up with the damage process,” says Esther Sternberg. She found in her research this damage/disease cycle is happening “in the majority of companies in the U.S. and the majority of American’s lives.”

How to address this? Well, someone is benefitting from the American tendency to earn income in ways that make us stressed and sick. But not the people getting sick!

A telltale sign your job or work environment is causing irreparable damage is that on your day off, you need a day or two just to detox yourself and get your energy back. If you are frequently sick, that is another sign. If either of these situations describes you, your first question for yourself is what is it you do to restore your energy? (do NOT say ‘watch TV’, TV only increases your numbness and diminishes your awareness of how to restore your vitality.)

Maybe you answered you like to garden or play with your pet, or tinker in your garage…whatever it is you do to restore your spirit, must be integrated into your daily life, preferably as a project or a part of your job. Only then, have you turned around the odds that your job stress is causing more damage than you can ever repair. In this scenario, your healing process is built into your daily routine.

Now, you (hopefully) are wondering, ‘what if what I do to restore my energy has no place in my business or job?’ That’s ok! I have an answer for that too.

Every successful business that lasts grew out of someone’s need to do activities that heal themself. In many cases it came out of a desire to serve others in a way that feels good and moves money. Sometimes money doesn’t even move in the beginning.

When my partner and I first moved our home base and our business from New York to Austin 11 years ago, one of our first projects was to interview successful and innovative business people with a live audience and film it. We edited and sold these both as singles and DVD sets afterward. People often asked what was the business model for that project…not understanding at first that it was a project that fed our business and us in a way other than direct payment.

“Organize your business to earn profits and you will work very hard for dwindling returns. Grow

your business around people, and they will heap benefits on you for years to come,” says Business Coach and Career Architect Martin Sage.

With this line of thinking, we were banking on people rather than profit. We were expanding our business by expanding our connections with people. The connections did lead to profit, in some expected and in many unexpected and delightful ways.

For one thing the project lead to many friendships that I still enjoy today…like Gary Hoover who was one of our interviewees. He was also at one time a customer who bought the set of Austin Stars of Business for $100. It was a great pleasure to make that sale and I felt honored to have him as a friend and customer! And I still do!

That was the beginning, now I find every day meeting with my clients, whether it’s in person, in groups or over Skype with someone far away, it always feels like something heals in me because of the connection. It is truly a pleasure when I can be of service. It feels good. I want to be used because I want to be useful. It just so happens my business has grown out of these pleasurable relationships. Many successful entrepreneurs who value their well-being like me are also creating and growing businesses and business projects out of a desire to serve.

For example, when I interviewed Gary Hoover he talked of starting his first bookstore ‘Bookstop’ around the time his friend John Mackey was expanding his organic grocery business, now known as Whole Foods. “We were talking about the various challenges we faced and I was drinking a soda. John started imploring me to stop drinking soda; he was trying so hard to convince me of the negative effects of the chemicals in my can of soda. That’s real passion for his mission…and his mission is his business.”

His passion may actually come from a desire to reverse the damage process…a desire to heal. His product in itself is healing and repairing our bodies. And his stores provide a healing and healthy environment for both his employees and his customers. I do know several people who work there and they confirm the environment and systems all support healthy organic human connection, as well as physical health. It is, in short, a place to feel good. I think he is a good boss and perhaps even a great boss.

George Bernard Shaw said, “…I’m of the opinion my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.”

If it feels good to you, it can feel good to others, and your service may be to find a way to provide this feeling to others. Over the weekend, my sons when to a party where a nerf gun specialist dropped off bags of ammo, all the guns you can imagine and a whole set up of inflatable barricades all over the yard. Within minutes about 15 boys were in hog heaven shooting and dodging foam bullets. That’s what one man calls fun, and look how he turned his fun into a business!

While guns are not my cup of tea, I have nurtured, honed and fine-tuned my business in a way that only extremely fulfilling relationships and services are necessary for me to engage in. That’s how I have learned to be my own boss.

In fact, to reward myself for completing this blog post, I’ll go have a smoothie at Whole Foods. On second thought, maybe I’ll take a coffee instead. Yes, coffee it is! And that’s the hardest decision I’ve had to make all day!

Tips for being a good boss to yourself:

If you are tired, rest.

Make appointments with yourself for what you want to get done

Integrate time for movement and being outdoors into your day

Acknowledge what you accomplish, even if it seems like nothing.

Reward yourself each time you complete a task.

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