Ready to Cook More and Weigh Less?

If you’re over your Whole 30 resolution, and would still like to drop some weight for the New Year (or just eat home cooked food and feel good about it), have I got a treat for you!

Maine Blueberry Cake

Eat more, weigh less!

My first Craftsy cooking class, COOK MORE, WEIGH LESS has just gone live!

Click on this link to see a trailer about the class, and receive a 50% off coupon if you’re interested in seeing the class and enjoying virtual one-on-one cooking classes with me!

Let's have fun in your kitchen!

Let’s have fun in your kitchen!


Set A Resolution that Works

I love this time of year. The week between Xmas and New Year’s Eve gives me ample time to look at the year I’ve had, review the macro, the micro and set a resolution for the year to come.

And I realize that, as a life coach, I may get unusually excited about this stuff. (I even review my client’s accomplishments and send them little lists). I also realize that not everyone else feels the same way I do about taking stock. That’s what makes a horse race.

Four years ago, on my honeymoon, I forever changed my approach to resolution-making. My husband, well, let’s just say he’s one of those horses that would prefer not to do all this soul-searching and resolution making.

Life Resolutions

You know your partner almost as well as you know yourself.

That said, he had become my husband, and we were in it for good or for bad, for this New Years and those to come. Since he was…reluctant at best to spend days looking at the year behind and the year to come, I had to find some way to make this more palatable for him.

That year, we decided to make resolutions for one another. And I know what you’re thinking…that would be a great opportunity to give your partner resolutions like “give me more backrubs”, and “do more dishes”. You’ll have to step away from that fantasy for a bit and do some real soul searching — not for yourself, but for someone else important in your life. You want to show them things they don’t see, opportunities they don’t even realize they have.

You can do this with a parent, a child, a best friend or a spouse. The point is that our closest allies have a wonderful perspective on us, often better than we have on ourselves. They may know what we need better than we do. Only a partner could come up with a resolution like, “You need to stop and acknowledge how wonderful you are more frequently.” And they will never, ever ask you to lose 15 pounds.

We started making year-end resolutions for each other at that time, and we’ve kept it up ever since. It’s fun, supportive collaborative, and if done well, it often feels like someone is giving you a gift.

I can still remember the resolution he gave me that year. We were having a hard time getting pregnant, and for my resolution, he asked me to “Believe in abundance, in all things.” I resisted, but eventually yielded to his belief in me and my future. That was my most profitable year of business, and the year I became pregnant…with twins.

We’d talk about the abundance every month of 2012, until it was clear that maybe we had more than enough.

Please let me know if you choose to try this approach, and what you come up with for each other. Oh one last tip — with resolutions, as with all things, less is more. Be sure to make no more than 3 resolutions, or else they just won’t get done. Click on these links more tips on setting SMART goals and effective resolutions.

And if you do want to lose those 15 pounds, you’ll want more than will power, you’ll need an effective plan. Here’s a great one.

All the best for a spectacular New Year!


The Key to Change? Turn Off to Turn On

A nutritionist, a lactation consultant and a life coach were chatting at a holiday party. They were lamenting their clients’ biggest challenge: the ability to focus.

The nutritionist said that she was going to stop offering home visits for her clients, because the clients couldn’t focus when she was with them in their homes. “I just see them looking past me, nodding, and I know they aren’t hearing a word I say. They just can’t focus.”

The lactation consultant shared how bad she felt that she had to ask her clients to come into her office with babies just one or two months old. “But if I go to their house, a 90-minute consultation becomes a 3-hour endeavor! They just can’t focus.”

The life coach (me) shared that although she coaches clients via Skype and on the phone, it’s becoming harder to do so. “Ten years ago, I’d ask them to sit in a quiet room, with paper and a pad, away from media. And they would do it. Now, they tell me they’re doing it, but I can hear them checking email, going online, and answering the door while they’re in the middle of a session. I can just feel it when they check out. Which is wild to me — because after all, this is their time for themselves.”

We three agreed that although we are in a culture of time poverty, much of it seems to be self-inflicted. Can you step away from media for an hour? Of course you can. Focus is the key to change. And we agreed that when their clients get a chance to step away, take a quiet moment from themselves and be present, the health effects are tangible.

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

We sighed and walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, where we met a yoga instructor. We explained our frustration, and she told us about a NPR story she was listening to recently about an artist (Marina Abramovic) who was asking all patrons to “check in” for half an hour before they could engage in her latest performance. She requires the audience to remove all devices (including watches), and wear noise canceling headsets for half an hour before a pianist performs the Goldberg Variations (by memory). This brings the audience and the artists into a collective present, from which they are better prepared to engage with the music.

(If you’re interested in attending, the performance is continuing through tomorrow, December 19, at The Armory in NYC.)

Turning off to turn in, and ultimately on is the very baseline of coaching. In fact, I had one client who preferred to work on the phone (versus in person) because she found that while speaking to me in person, she would say certain things to elicit a response from me — a positive look or a smile. She was less true to herself and her own thoughts in the social setting of my office.

When coaching clients, I am not imparting wisdom, or sharing information they need to retain. I am asking you to clear your space, and clear your head to allow yourself to think.

It is amazing how difficult that can be to just clear the space (and trust me, I get it — there’s a lot of comfort in “doing” — just ask anyone trying to meditate for the first time).

Life coach

Be present.

But clearing the space, or turning off to turn on is a most important thing. Without it, you’ll be stuck in the rut of your current thoughts, unable to move up, out, and ultimately on.

One of the best part of being a coach is giving someone else your complete and total focus — meditating on another, if you will. It’s why my husband likes to watch sports; he can get completely engrossed in something inconsequential (my words), and relax.

And yes, cell phones and ubiquitous availability are at the heart of this problem. But there’s another way; and this article offers 9 good reasons to turn off your smart phone.

Just a couple helpful reminders from me, Marina, and Inc. magazine in this togetherness time of year.

Resolutions: Where Do You Want To Be?

I think we’ve got this whole resolutions thing backwards. When we think of the classic New Years resolutions, like “lose weight, spend less time on Facebook, drink less”, it’s more to do with NOT doing things, than actively adding things you want.

transition coaching

Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, By Lego

And eating less, drinking less…that’s not fun. Sure, maybe it’s what needs to get done, but the emphasis is on avoidance, not abundance. If you’re interested in setting up a SMARTer goal, see my blog on the topic. This will help you focus on the end you want, not the pain of getting there.

There’s an exercise I love doing with coaching clients that is particularly powerful at the resolution time of year: a GAP analysis. You look at where are you and where you want to be.

A good framework for setting up the GAP analysis is the Wheel of Life (apologies for all the coach jargon). The wheel simplifies areas of life into clear categories.

Transition Coaching - Wheel of Life

Whole Life Model

If you’re interested in taking a quick self assessment, you can do so here.

New Years is a fantastic time to take a look at where you are within these categories, and think about where you want to be — in a year, five, ten, even 20 or 30 years down the road. Dream, and dream big!

So you have a column for where you are, and where you want to be (as many columns as you like for as long term as you want to dream). Then fill in the “GAP” with the the steps you need to take to get there.

For example, when I was in my 30s, I really wanted to have a child. In the GAP, I wanted to find a partner. As I grew older, and the partner wasn’t appearing (and my time horizon as well as biological ability to have children was shrinking), I looked into alternative solutions: next thing I knew, I was reading Knock Yourself Up and joining Single Mothers By Choice. Could I have that child without a partner? As it turned out: YES!

The goal stayed the same, but the strategy changed, so I gave myself more avenues toward reaching the goal that were not dependent on another person arriving in my life.

Not only is the Wheel of Life / GAP analysis a fantastic exercise for the resolutions time of year; it’s the gift that keeps giving. Keep a hold of it, and check back in year after year to watch how your goals and achievements stay linear — or not.

Today, you may be a woman who wants to find a partner, have a child and be outta this stifling corporation. In five years you may have a partner, a couple of kids and running a successful company. As JP Morgan said (according to the Internet), “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

4 Powerful Words Change Family Dynamics

For those of you who think the most powerful words  are “I love you,” try again.

It starts with “I love you”, right? After that, maybe there’s an “I do”, after which you adopt a fish or a frog or a fuzzy something or other. Then maybe you create some new people. Sure, “I love you” kicks it off.  It’s a powerful phrase, but…

There are more powerful words.

After you’ve created a family, have begun nesting, and yet — that familiar gender (or role) inequity that you promised would never happen to you happens…

There are more powerful words.

When there is one adult that goes out, and one adult that stays with the children, or better yet two adults that go out, and yet one adult that fields the lion’s share of the childcare responsibilities (the one who manages doctors appointments and birthdays…)

There are more powerful words.

The four most powerful words you can utter to your partner, after you’ve added new lives, a lack of sleep, and unprecedented responsibilities to your world, the four most family dynamic-altering words you can say as soon as you walk through the door are: “How can I help?”
Relationship Coaching - Allison Task

Think on that for a second.

It’s become a bit of a mantra in my house. I have three children under three, as well as a teenage stepdaughter, who has teenage stepdaughter needs. After I had my third child (in 18 months), it didn’t take long  before I was tired of hearing what everyone else needed (or anticipating the needs of those who couldn’t speak). What I needed was someone to help me.

And so I asked my husband and stepdaughter, if, when they walked through the door, the first question they could ask was “How can I help?

After all, our house was as together as a house with three under three can be. Which goes to say, not very together.

As soon as they started using the mantra (and following up on the request that was made), that pile of dishes in the sink, that dirty diaper that needed to be changed, that hungry child who wanted a snack —  suddenly, those TO-DOs are crossed off my list, and as if the question asker had waved a magic wand.

And who is that magician? That person solving my problems, meeting my needs, reading my mind (ok, they asked the question and I told them what needed doing, but that’s really not as important as they fact that they are now doing what needs to be done) My husband. My stepdaughter. Any adult who walks into my house and says: “How can I help?”

By asking the question, I, the caretaker of the moment, gets rid of the task I want to do least. Can you imagine? Someone walking through the door, asking what needs to be done and then doing it? On a regular basis?

elephant family dynamicsCan we collectively breathe a sigh of relief?

It’s the greatest phrase since I love you, and I say greater, because the I love you is implied. And to it is added “we’re in this together”, “this is our family”, “I got your back” and “thank you, for managing our home while I was at work/the gym/out with friends”.

Give it a try. And please let me know how it goes with your family.

Career Coach: Set a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

Career Coaching SKillsA very significant component of my coaching practice is goal setting. In order to reach a goal, one has to set them.

Recently, I was working with a client who was concerned about her finances. She said that she wasn’t being paid enough, and I asked her how much she needed to make to feel comfortable. Her response, “That’s a good question. I should know that, shouldn’t I? I can’t believe I don’t know that!”

And then we figured it out. It’s easier to achieve a goal when you know what the goal is.

The key to goal setting is making a S.M.A.R.T. goal. If you’ve been to business school (or worked in a consulting firm), you likely know what this is. If not, let me introduce you to the rosetta stone of effective goal setting (most frequently attributed to Peter Drucker).

S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Let’s walk through these.

A specific goal is quantifiable. Losing weight is a goal, losing ten pounds is specific. Writing a novel is a goal, writing an outline and the first 75 pages by December is specific.

A measureable goal means there is a metric that you can use to see if you have achieved the goal. See above. You’ll know you’ve achieved the goal when X happens.

Attainable means that this is something that you can realistically do. You can make this happen; it is within the realm of possible. You have the time and the capacity to make this happen. If I really wanted to shake Hilary Clinton’s hand, I’m pretty sure that with the right amount of time and effort I can make that happen.

Relevant. Is this goal connected to something bigger in the world, in your family? Does it matter in your world, and in the grand scheme of things? Do I really care if I shake Hilary’s hand? I don’t. So it’s probably not going to happen because I’ve got other things I’d rather do. Anyone can run a marathon if they put in the time and effort. But is it relevant for you right now?

Time-bound means that you give yourself a time limit. Nothing motivates like a deadline. I could lose 10 pounds in 3 months. I could not lose 10 pounds in one week (healthfully, at least). And sure, I could definitely lose 10 pounds in a year, but at some point it will stop being relevant.

If there’s something you want to do, see if you can set a S.M.A.R.T. goal to get it done. And if you’re curious about whether or not it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal, email me. I’d love to see what you’ve come up with.


The Best Question a Life Coach Can Ask

The Best Question a Life Coach Can Ask

What would thriving look like?

As a coach, I listen and ask questions (in that order).

Here’s how I know I’ve asked the right question: you stop your flow. You’ll look up or down; you look away. If we’re talking on the phone, there’s a longer than normal pause.

And that’s my goal – to help you step away from, and get perspective with your own thoughts. You’re here, talking to me, because there’s a question that’s tugging at you. Making your brain circle, get fatigued, and not focus on answering the problem, but focusing on the problem itself. We want to move toward the solution, not sit in the problem.

There is one question that is incredibly effective, and I know this from being on the receiving end. This is the question my coach asked me in our first session that made me stop and re-frame my focus.

Ready for it?

Really ready?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Here it is:

My coach asked me, “What would thriving look like?” 

That’s it. Five words. And it probably doesn’t read like much on the screen, so say it out loud.

What would thriving look like?

Here’s why this is the best question a coach can ask. Let’s parse it out bit by bit:

  • “…thriving…”. You know what thriving means. It’s a plant in full bloom. A kid who loves to play sports running on the field. A dog chasing a ball. Thriving. You have an image of this, and there’s momentum to it. We’re not talking about “success”, “doing well” or “happiness” – these words are loaded and complex. Thriving. It’s an active straightforward word.
  • “What would…” This question invites a possibility. Woulds and coulds are possibility words. Nothing committal. And nothing judgmental like their arch-nemesis, “should”. (More on that damaging word later.) It’s the ultimate set up for a hypothetical question, inviting you to brainstorm, allowing you to imagine the possibility of something. No commitment. Just dream.
  • “…look like?” Instead of asking that thriving “is” – is is a static word, (just ask Bill Clinton), I’m asking you to literally describe what it might look like. You want to lose weight? Tell me what you want to wear, and where you want to go when you hit your goal. Now let’s make that happen.

Or, you want to love motherhood?

OK. Are you lying on a hammock with your baby? Or are you reading a book while the baby is napping and you get a break? You want a happy marriage? What does thriving look like? Is that snuggling in bed watching Steven Colbert or is it climbing Kiliminjaro together?

When I ask you to picture the end state, that helps you to imagine it. And a picture of your future is worth a lot more than 1,000 words. Once you have that delicious image in your mind; you’ve got a great motivation for creating, and implementing a plan to make it happen.

That, my friend, is the essence of coaching: listening to you and asking really good questions that help you answer your own questions.

So, the next time you find yourself going around on a problem, ask yourself, “What would thriving look like?” Or better yet, ask the question of a good friend or partner if you see them spinning. Stop. Listen. And help them go for it. Look them in the eyes and ask, “What would thriving look like?”

Then have a good look at the picture that is painted for you.