Asking for Help is a Strength, Not a Weakness

Monday, August 2, 2010 12:47
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

Though I believe in that principle wholeheartedly, and often remind my coaching clients that reaching out for help is a strength, I recently realized I needed to take my own advice more seriously …

Like many of you, I was born into a family that believed in self-reliance and toughing it out regardless of what “it” happened to be. Then there’s our culture, which doesn’t exactly promote the idea of asking for help. Many of us were taught, either implicitly or explicitly that reaching out is for wimps, that asking for help is a weakness, not a strength.

Over the years, I’ve learned to ask for and accept help. But I also know that when we’re going through a difficult transition, it’s not uncommon for us to fall into familiar but not so healthy patterns.  And that’s exactly what was happening for me several months ago, when my mother became seriously ill and was nearing the end of her life.

Though I was doing my best to suck it up and tough it out and look strong, on the inside, I felt sad and helpless. Everyday, I was losing my mother a little bit more, and my heart ached, literally. But I was determined to hide my vulnerable side, that soft underbelly of mine that would tell the world I was hurting. Without realizing it, I had fallen back on that old, familiar belief: that asking for help was a weakness rather than a strength.

Luckily, I have an amazing coach, who helped me see the errors of my ways and offered to “be there” for me, whenever I needed her. She also lobbed a friendly coaching challenge my way by suggesting that I reach out to friends and relatives for help and consider accepting the assistance offered to me.

Doing so has reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life. It’s also made me realize that “help” can come in a colorful array of packages. Some of the things I’ve asked for are:

  • More hugs and snuggles from my husband
  • Email check-ins with my coach
  • More alone time to recharge
  • Help preparing dinner
  • Time to hang out with friends and have fun
  • Periodic phone conversations with friends who are able to listen to what I’m saying without offering advice or judging me for how I’m feeling
  • Recommendations for funny books and movies that would help me shift my perspective when life felt too heavy
  • Extra date nights with my husband to strengthen our bond and bring balance to stressful times

So, how do YOU feel about asking for help? Do you consider it a strength or a weakness?

What stops you from reaching out for help?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

When dealing with a difficult transition, give yourself room to breathe and “be”

Monday, June 28, 2010 19:59
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

Over the past six months, as my mother has grown more and more ill, I’ve come to an important conclusion: I don’t have to suck it up and pretend everything’s OK.

Everything ISN’T OK. My mother is dying, and it’s painful to watch the whole of her slip away a little bit more everyday.

So after many months of struggling to keep up with all my usual commitments, I finally gave myself permission to cut back on the things in my life that weren’t absolutely essential, so I had time to be there for my mother and family, and so I had time to breathe.

So, I cut out extracurricular activities that were sapping me of energy. Pared back on obligations that weren’t absolutely essential. Recommitted myself to staying healthy, balanced and fit through yoga, meditation and exercise. And streamlined the marketing of my coaching business. As a result, I finally have room to breathe and be. Finally!

Now, don’t get me wrong. None of this came easily. I hate the idea of “quitting” or “letting people down,” and like many women, I secretly wish I had the speed and stamina of Wonderwoman.

In fact, I even tried playing Wonderwoman for awhile. Though that had its benefits, pretending to be my favorite superhero left me feeling exhausted and irritable in the end and not so Wonderwomanly.

I tell you all this to remind YOU, that you don’t have to suck it up and pretend to be Wonderwoman or Superman, or whoever your favorite superhero may be. If you’re going through a tough time, there’s no need to carry on as usual. You can stop and take stock of your life. You can decide what to keep and what to cut. You, and only you, have the power to take charge of your life.

Which superhero do you pretend to be when you’re going through a tough time?

Do you tend to “suck it up” and carry on as usual or re-adjust your priorities during difficult transitions?

What has helped you take charge of your life when you’re going through a tough time?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

Dealing with job loss? During your job search, don’t wear your anger into your interviews

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:49
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

Anger. It’s a common reaction to job loss, and while there are those who may tell you to ignore your anger or push it away, in my experience it’s the people who do just that who are most likely to lose control or let their anger leak out in a job interview.

Allow me to explain. Several months ago, I was working with a coaching client named Randy (not his real name) who had been laid off from a job he loved at a large accounting firm. When I talked to him, several months after being laid off, and asked him how he was dealing, emotionally, with losing his job, he said he was “fine” and “totally over that.”

After I probed a little deeper, however, Randy admitted that he was still angry at his boss for letting him go from a job that had given him a great deal of enjoyment through the years. Although Randy was a successful accountant who had received consistently positive performance reviews at his last position, when it came to his job search, he was running into barriers.

In gently questioning him about what was happening, it became clear that Randy’s anger was getting in his way, during job interviews. When prospective employers asked him how he got along with his last supervisor, Randy had trouble deciding what to say. “The truth is I hate him,” he told me one day. While Randy never said as much, in a job interview, he admitted that he’d sometimes say things that weren’t terribly positive about his former boss. Oftentimes, he’d sail through the first interview, without a problem, but by the second and third interviews, when he’d let his guard down, he’d let little zingers slip out. Or he’d notice that there was hint of sharpness in his voice as he described the working relationship that he and his former boss had shared.

When I asked Randy if he’d ever talked to anyone about how he felt about losing his job, he dismissed the idea with the wave of his hand. “Talking’s not going to solve anything. I just need to find a new job. Then I’ll feel better.”

Randy’s reaction was a common one. Our culture tells us to “get over it” and “move on.” But when we are so fixated on “moving on” that we don’t take time to grieve our losses, it can come back to haunt us.

That was happening to Randy. His anger was slipping out in subtle ways in job interviews, and the people he was speaking with were picking up on his attitude. And when employers have the choice of hiring an angry person versus someone who’s content, guess what? They’ll choose the happy one.

Once Randy was willing to talk with me about the anger and pain he was feeling, he fared much better in job interviews. Over time, he let go of his grudge and forgave his former supervisor, and when last we spoke, he’d landed a new job he enjoyed even more than his previous position.

Before he was able to “move on,” though, he needed to process his feelings with someone he trusted. That is often the case whether you’re  dealing with job loss or the loss of a loved one or any other life transition. Because before we’re ready for a new beginning, we must move through our feelings.

So, what about you – do you still harbor angry feelings toward your former employer?

How would your life be different if you were able to work through those feelings?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

Dealing with Job Loss? Volunteering can help with your job search and boost self- confidence

Saturday, April 24, 2010 10:46
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

Were you recently laid off, or have you been out of work for awhile? If so, consider volunteering.

Although it may sound strange to consider giving away your time when you could use some cash to pay the bills, volunteering can go a long way toward helping you through what is often a challenging time. As a coach, I’ve worked with a number of clients who have seen positive results by volunteering their time.

Volunteering can help you:

  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Rebuild your self confidence
  • Gain new skills
  • Network with new contacts who could help you in your job search
  • Make new friends
  • Provide you with a sense of belonging
  • Demonstrate to a prospective employer that you would be a good employee
  • Give back to the community

While only a few of the clients I’ve worked with have parlayed their volunteer work into fulltime jobs, everyone has agreed that volunteering enriched their life, during a time when they were feeling anxious, lonely or disenfranchised.

What are your thoughts about volunteering to help you deal with job loss?

How has it helped YOU?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment, here, on Stepping Stones, by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

Dave Grier: Flying High on his Dreams

Thursday, April 1, 2010 8:20

By Ellen Brown

Dave Grier

Note: The story below is one in a series of articles I’m posting about people who have inspired me by overcoming life’s obstacles. I hope you find the story inspirational. It was originally published in Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Center newsletter for patients and their families, and is reprinted here with the permission of Cleveland Clinic.

Although Dave Grier has dreamed of becoming a pilot, since he was a boy, for many years, the dream seemed out of range, first for financial reasons, then because of medical issues. But today, at the age of 51, Mr. Grier is more committed than ever to living his dream and is well on his way to achieving it. The student pilot passed ground school with flying colors, and completed his first solo flight in October.

Mr. Grier, who is a two-time recipient of liver and liver/kidney transplants, hopes to one day launch a non-profit organization that flies transplant patients to Cleveland for their surgery and follow-up appointments. While there are some nonprofits that already provide such services, none of the pilots on their crews are transplant recipients, and Mr. Grier believes it would be inspiring for transplant candidates and recipients to know that they are being transported by someone who has traveled a similar journey.

Mr. Grier, who received both transplants at Cleveland Clinic, the first in 1997 and the second in 2007, explains his journey as a pilot this way: “After my first transplant, I pretty much knew that I couldn’t get my medical clearance passed because I was a transplant patient, and the FAA has some pretty high standards.”  But after recovering from his second transplant in 2007, he had some time to think, and his dream of becoming a pilot kept rising to the surface. Maybe he COULD actually become a pilot, he thought. Once he was strong enough to leave his hospital room, he went down the hall and hopped on the Internet. After doing a little online research, he found that there WERE a number of transplant recipients who had become pilots.

Mr. Grier remembers returning to his room with a big grin, with the knowledge that achieving his dream WAS possible. A year later, after fully recovering from the surgery, he applied for medical clearance for becoming a pilot, and on July 16, 2008, he had his clearance in hand. To say he was happy is a great understatement. “I was going to do a cartwheel in the post office when I got the clearance in the mail, but I didn’t want to explain it to the police,” he says with a laugh.

Recently, he accumulated enough in-flight hours so he could begin flying solo. Before he is allowed to have passengers accompany him on flights, he will have to pass a couple more tests, a fact that doesn’t seem to faze him.

Mr. Grier says his dream of helping transplant patients keeps him on track, so does his desire “to pay it forward” after being the fortunate recipient of the gift of life (from organ donors), not once, but twice.

For years, he has been giving back in a variety of ways. Today, he serves on the board of directors for TRIO, and for a time, he was the volunteer coordinator for the Minority Organ and Tissue Education program, where he had the opportunity to share his story and talk about the importance of organ and tissue donation to children and adults.

He’s also volunteered for the past few years in Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Center, where he meets with patients who are awaiting or recovering from transplants. Mr. Grier says he loves to see patients’ eyes light up when they realize he’s there to talk to them about his experience, as a transplant recipient. “When I tell patients I’ve had two transplants, I notice that their attitude changes,” he says. “A lot of times they sit up in bed and pay attention. I think it’s really important for patients to talk to people who have undergone transplants and recovered. And I love being able to be that someone.”

To read more about Dave Grier’s high-flying adventures, visit his blog, Transplanted Pilot, at http://transplantedpilot.blogspot.com/

Copyright 2010 Cleveland Clinic

Sign up for my newsletter with tips for dealing with your difficult life transitions and download a free mp3 to help you overcome insomnia at http://www.ellen-brown.com

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH, who works with clients all over the world by telephone and Skype.Dave Grier


My Favorite Annual Transition: the Transition of Winter Into Spring

Sunday, March 21, 2010 13:34
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite transitions is the transition from winter into spring. Maybe if I lived in a warmer climate, I wouldn’t feel so much anticipation. But because I live in the Midwest, where it’s cold and not so sunny for nearly six months, I feel like celebrating when I see the first spring flowers poking out of the soil.

It’s an exciting time of the year when patches of snow are replaced by greening grass and splashes of purple and yellow and violet. Suddenly, there is a sense of hope and possibility that seemed absent just days ago.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. You can see the change in people’s faces. There is a lightness in their step, a sense of relief, a certain look about them that woo-hoo, they made it through …

And yet, the change of mood makes me wonder … What if we could feel that sense of lightness and possibility, that new spring feeling not just on March 20th, but everyday?

We DO, of course, have the power to feel that way, but we need to make that conscious choice.  To feel the hope even on days when the residue of winter obscures the green of spring, even on days when the sun is playing hide and seek.

As a coach, I am constantly reminding my clients (and myself) that everything in life is a choice.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment, here on Stepping Stones, by scrolling down the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

What’s Holding You Back? How Our Limiting Beliefs Stop Us From Life Changes

Friday, March 19, 2010 13:33

By Ellen Brown

Have you ever noticed how your limiting beliefs sometimes stop you from pursuing new opportunities? I consider myself pretty open-minded, but I recently noticed how my OWN limiting beliefs were holding me back.

Luckily, it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world. For months, my husband, Jeff — who is also my web developer and SEO guy all rolled into one — had been nudging me to start a Facebook Fan Page. But I scoffed at the idea. Facebook is okay. But I’ve never been a huge, fan, no pun intended.

When I hang out on Facebook, I often feel like I’m killing time. Yacking about useless stuff. So when I considered the idea of sinking more time into something I didn’t really enjoy, the thought wasn’t all that appealing.

Then, the other day, we were working on updating my website, and Jeff said he’d read that Facebook was visited more frequently than Google and that having a Facebook Fan Page could really help with search engine optimization.

“Hey, why don’t we set up a Fan Page NOW?” he said. “It won’t take much time at all.” The idea, admittedly, didn’t excite me. But if it wasn’t going to take that much time and might help me connect with people and improve my Google rankings, I thought “why not.”

I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was to set up the initial page (please join me here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ellen-Brown-Certified-Professional-Coach/347591665890 )

Even better? Before I knew it, I was actually having fun dreaming up new content to create and different ways I could connect with people dealing with difficult life transitions.

Though my page is still in its embryonic stages, I’m excited about my new venture and the endless possibilities to reach out to people and create a sense of community.

When I think about how much I resisted creating a fan page, how I was practically kicking and screaming until the very end, it makes me smile.

Resistance is a funny thing. We may have some pre-conceived ideas about people or places or things, but when we let go of those beliefs and move beyond that resistance and take a leap of faith, we’re often pleasantly surprised.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear what you have to say about how our limiting beliefs hold us back. Please leave a comment here, on Stepping Stones, by scrolling down.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

In the meantime, please join me on my new Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ellen-Brown-Certified-Professional-Coach/347591665890 And while you’re there, please join in the conversations on the discussion boards. I hope to see you there soon!

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

Dealing with Job Loss or Death of a Loved One? Being in the present moment is the key to inner peace and happiness

Saturday, March 13, 2010 12:26

By Ellen Brown

When we’re dealing with difficult life transitions like job loss or the death of a loved one, it’s not uncommon for us to focus a little too much on the past and the future. We may ruminate about the day our supervisor delivered the bad news. Or we may obsess about how we’re going to make ends meet without the help of our life partner.

Experiencing these feelings is natural, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that we try to bury them. But there’s something to be said for balance and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, and being with “what is” today. At a workshop I recently attended on Complicated Grief, the featured speaker, a grief counselor for the Hospice of the Western Reserve, highlighted that point.

The presenter talked about how people who are faced with the sudden death of a loved one, experience a great deal of pain, and need to learn how to live with the pain, rather than pushing it away or self medicating themselves with alcohol or drugs. She recommended a number of helpful strategies, including staying in the present moment, which she said helps ground us in our current reality and is the key to bringing more joy into our lives.

What she described really resonated with me and surprised me.  While I’ve been practicing the art of living in the present moment (sometimes known as mindfulness) for years, with the help of books by great spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh, I hadn’t really thought about the connection she was discussing. I hadn’t really considered how we often live more in the past and future, when we’re navigating difficult life transitions. But it’s true, and I’ve certainly witnessed that tendency in myself and in many of my coaching clients.

It’s understandable that many of us feel anxious and in pain when we focus on our regrets about the past and our fears of the future. But when we shift our attention back to the here and now, and listen, really listen to the Robin singing just outside our window or allow ourselves to savor the delicious meal set before us, we often feel more peaceful and happy.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that mindfulness is a happy pill. But it can be a helpful tool to have in your toolbox. So, if you’re dealing with a difficult transition and notice yourself slipping into the past or future a little too often, you may want to try this exercise to help you return to the present moment:

Take a few deep breaths, noticing the rise and fall of your belly. Feel your feet against floor. Look around you. Notice what you see. Reach out and touch something and notice how it feels.  Become aware of the sounds around you. You’re now in the present moment.

Please keep in mind that learning to live in the present moment is a process, so be gentle with yourself, when you notice your mind drifting. Then take a deep breath and bring yourself back to the here and now.

If you’re going through a tough time, in what way would it be helpful for you to live in the here and now more often?

How has mindfulness helped you in your life?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones by scrolling down.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

Job Loss: Focus on Your Strengths and Successes to Rebuild Your Confidence

Monday, March 1, 2010 17:24
Posted in category Career Transition, Job Loss

By Ellen Brown

There’s no doubt about it: losing your job can crumble your self-confidence. While that’s not always the case, it’s often true whether you were fired or laid off, due to company downsizing.

But the problem is this: if you need to search for a new job, having a crisis of confidence can get in your way. Big time!

Such was the case with Colleen,* a successful attorney I worked with a few months ago, as a life transitions coach. Colleen was one of nearly 50 people in her firm who lost her position, due to the Recession. Though Colleen clearly had a great deal going for her, she had a tough time articulating her strengths, and since she had been unemployed for more than nine months, her self-confidence was slowly eroding.

As a coach, one of my goals is help clients like Colleen explore their strengths and successes, so they can feel more confident and present themselves in a more positive light, whether they are networking or interviewing for a new position. Because if Colleen couldn’t name her strengths and describe how her skills could benefit another law firm, there was little hope that she’d be able to do so on a job interview.

Before Colleen could sell herself in a job interview, she needed to feel good about herself. There are a lot of ways to help people re-build self confidence, including visualization and affirmations. But one of my first goals was to help Colleen get a better handle on her strengths and successes. Toward that end, I asked her a series of questions, which I requested she answer in writing, between coaching sessions. Some of the questions focused on work; others explored other aspects of her life.

Here are a few of the questions:

  • When, in your life, have you felt the most successful, in general?
  • What are the greatest strengths you bring to the table as a prospective employee?

  • What were your greatest successes in your last job?

  • What lessons did you learn in previous jobs that you can carry forth into your next position?
  • Tell me a little bit about when you have felt the most successful in terms of your personal relationships.
  • What are you doing in your life today that makes you feel successful?

If you’re dealing with a crisis of confidence, you might consider answering some of these questions. While doing so probably won’t provide a quick fix, it will likely shift your feelings, some. Because when we are focus on our strengths and successes, rather than our “problems” and weaknesses, we generally feel happier.

If you’re dealing with job loss, how has your outlook on life been affected, if at all?

What have you done to boost your self-confidence?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by scrolling down and leaving a comment, here, on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with job loss or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

* The name of my client was changed to protect her identity.

Dealing with Job Loss? Choose Career Club Carefully

Saturday, February 20, 2010 8:54
Posted in category Career Transition, Job Loss

By Ellen Brown

After writing my last blog post on the benefits of joining a job club, a number of people reminded me of how important it is to choose your club carefully. Why? Because there are no one-size fits all clubs. And at some clubs, there’s a little too much negativity permeating the air. And you don’t want to leave the meeting feeling like you need to shower off the toxic sludge.

So, here are a few tips on how to choose a club:

  • Check out a number of clubs and, as they say, “try before you buy.”
  • After attending a meeting, notice how you feel. Did you feel supported and encouraged? Or did you leave feeling beaten down and hopeless? A good club will leave you feeling uplifted.
  • Look for a club that will allow people to express their feelings without allowing them to vent nonstop. While venting can be helpful, too much negativity can bring a club down. And it’s good to have a balance between sharing feelings and sharing strategies to propel your job search forward.
  • Notice whether everyone gets a chance to participate, or whether there’s someone who hogs the conversation and choose the former.
  • Find a group that fits your style. For example, if you’re more of an informal person, you may prefer a club that meets at members’ homes rather than one that’s held in a church or synagogue.
  • Be aware of your feelings about other participants. Do you feel a kinship or camaraderie? To what extent did you connect with people? It’s hard to tell whether there’s a connection on the first visit, or even on the second or third, sometimes,. But you can usually tell if you feel comfortable or not. I, personally, think it’s good to feel both supported and challenged by other participants, so that you can feel safe about sharing your experiences but challenged to grow.

So what do YOU value most in a career club?

What do you find most helpful in such a group, and what do you find most annoying?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my webs at http://www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.