How To Stand Up for Yourself (Video)

This week, one of my personal coaching clients had a fantastic realization, one of those moments that will stay with her for a good long time, and change the way she interacts with the world. In the coaching biz, we call this an A-HA moment.

She found herself in a situation where it seemed like all of her advisors were taking advantage of her kind, goodhearted ways. Simply put: she felt like a doormat.

During our coaching session, we came up with a simple activity that helped her map her values to the way she wanted to be — exactly how she wanted to stand up for herself — and avoid being too aggressive or being walked on.

Here’s how we did it:


The A-HA Minutes is a YouTube video series created by Allison Task, personal coach, highlighting moments of client insight in Allison’s coaching practice.

5 Coaching Questions To Celebrate Closure

One of my favorite aspects of coaching is that closure is built into the relationship from the start. As adults, closure isn’t build into our lives as frequently as was when we were children.

Think of activities or projects you’ve experienced with premeditated closure: there’s college, summer camp or high school. But as adults, closure is elusive. You rarely start a job or a relationship with the end in mind. We acquire, achieve, and gain…but reducing, rewarding and appreciating, the yins to our accomplishment yangs, are given less attention.

You Never Start a Relationship or Job Planning the Dissolution

Imagine, on the first date, summing up your dinner partner and issuing the following proposal: “I think this will last about 6 months, so let’s figure out how to have a GREAT time during our brief affair. I’m thinking Vieques, Rio, and some outdoor sex? I need a date for this benefit in April…and let’s avoid meeting parents, because…well, with closure just 6 months away, why add the stress.”

relationship coach

Finite and Fun

In some ways, that could be great.

It’s refreshing to keep the end game in mind, and the things you need to do to get there. A short term bucket list if you will. My clients decide what they we going to do in the next 3 months, and then go for it. Some of my recent clients have had the following goals: Address my financial challenges. Find more time in my schedule. Clean out the house chaos so I can move forward in comfort.

These goals were set in December, and here we are in March, with goals accomplished. And, as inevitably happens with coaching, in order to get to the big goals, first we dig underneath and clear out the bigger stuff that’s been blocking us in the first place.

My clients get it done. Week by week, item by item, with great enthusiasm, vigor, passion for achieving the goal, and ultimately, closure.

There’s something particularly wonderful about the last sessions, when clients get to review what they’ve accomplished in the last few months, and how, those goals that felt big and unattainable have come to pass.

Care to try it? You can always give me a call and work together on something big and hairy (we’ll break down that big monster into little fur balls).

Or, you can get the closure celebration you need right now. Here are some coaching questions that will take you there. Give yourself the space to answer — find a quiet room with a laptop or paper and pen. Take 20 minutes, minimum. The more you write, the deeper your satisfaction will be.

5 Coaching Questions To Celebrate Closure

– Remember March, 2015? What were you doing?  What are you doing now that would surprise you? Have you handled illness, moved, changed jobs or achieved a promotion? Managed children / parents? Taken on a new sport, instrument, built a garden?

– Looking back on last summer, what are you proud of? Vacations? Health goals? Making new friends or spending time with old friends?

– Is there a positive habit that you’ve developed since January? Eating less sugar, drinking less, going to bed earlier? Spending more time with family?

– Is there something that you’d like to do this spring / summer? Visit a local farm?  Join a co-op? Pickle vegetables? Host an Easter or Passover get together?

– Is there someone near you that you’re jealous of? What is it, specifically that makes you jealous? Is there anyway that you could add some of those qualities / situations to your own life?

The first three questions are helpful for looking backwards, taking stock, and giving yourself the opportunity to acknowledge an accomplishment. The last two questions will help you set goals for the future so that you can move toward a goal purposefully.

Set goals, and most importantly, celebrate your accomplishments. Not just turning 40, but what you did in the prior years leading to this point. What are you proud of that you — badass you — accomplished?

Reflecting and acknowledging your accomplishments reinforced them in your brain, and leads to more of the same.

Please let me know how this works for you!

What’s A Life Coach? (Video)

Part of the fun of working with a life coach is picking a partner who you connect with. After all, we’ll be working together closely on something that’s of absolute importance to you.

You may be wondering:

  • How is a life coach different from a therapist?
  • Are my questions that insightful?
  • What is it like to work together — am I upbeat? Is this fun?
  • Do I have an annoying Jersey accent?
  • What’s the point of a coach, really?

Here’s a little sample of me in my office answering the question “What is a Life Coach”. We’ll meet here in my office, or virtually via Skype or phone.My role is to be your advocate as you go for this big goal — something you’ve been working on and wanting to achieve.

We’re about to get to know each other really well.

So here’s what I’m like. As you can see, I’m pretty fired up about what I do.

Need More Time? Fire Your Staff

There’s a trend I’m noticing with some of my clients right now: They’re putting more hours in their day by getting rid of the weak links on their teams.

time management coaching

Don’t postpone the inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong, my clients are not “You’re fired!” type, who enjoy terminating their staff. They’ve given their staff every opportunity to succeed, and still….

Sometimes you just need to fire someone. 

I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Keeping an employee around, making lots of excuses, having talks, providing learning opportunities and otherwise shoring up someone who isn’t acting like they want the gig.

When you, as an employer, finally get to the point of letting that person go, it’s often been long in coming and it feels fantastic to have that release.

We dread the conversation — everyone dreads a break-up, but after the fact, most clients feel as relaxed and happy as Kermit in a field of daisies.

time management coach

When’s the last time you’ve felt this good at work?

And when you look at it through the lens of time management, the time you spend working to inspire someone who isn’t acting like they want to be there, well that’s rarely time well spent.

Plus, through the lens of team building, when you keep someone on who isn’t doing her job, they’re not only taking hours out of your day, they begin to sour the team. And the team may begin to question you’re judgment as a leader.

Top corporations have institutionalized firing, forcing reviews onto a bell curve so that the weaker players are continually culled. For some this feels Darwinian (and Microsoft has allegedly dropped the practice), while at other times it feels refreshing, keeping standards high.

Have you ever been fired? In retrospect, was this a good thing?

Or, are you in a situation where you need to let someone go? I’d love to hear about it.

Ever Throw the Game?

Have you ever decided that you couldn’t do something?

Maybe it was run a marathon, bake, or do calculus. Maybe you decided that you couldn’t play the piano, guitar, or figure out texting.

For me, it was coffee. When I graduated from Cornell with few job prospects, I went for entry level jobs. I ended up as an assistant to a CEO of a CD-ROM company, with an understanding that in 6 months he’d give me an opportunity to work in marketing.

I was a great assistant. I knew how to deliver service — I had bartended and waitressed for years. However. I didn’t want to be too good at assisting, if you catch my drift. I didn’t want to be irreplaceable.

And so, I made a terrible cup of coffee. Just terrible.

career coachingWe had a coffee pot and grounds, and I was supposed to clean it and prep.I was responsible for coffee, and coffee service to clients. How is it that an Ivy League-educated girl, with bartending and waitressing experiencing could NOT make a decent cup of coffee?

She didn’t want to.

I know I’m not the only one who does things like this. Last weekend, I was visiting my parents in Florida, and had to do some laundry. Laundry is a pretty straightforward activity. I walked toward the machine, arms full of clothes, and asked a couple questions over my shoulder. My mother said, “Don’t ask your father, he doesn’t understand laundry.”

My father is a smart man. He graduated from an engineering college and made a long career for himself in business. He knows stuff, especially about geography and history. He’s a fantastic card player.

I looked at my father and said, “That’s quite a racket you’ve got going on. You’ve got mom convinced you can’t do laundry?” He smiled without making eye contact. “I do other things.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

This choice, what you can or cannot do, comes up all the time for me with coaching clients. I have clients who have decided that they have no financial skills, or no cooking skills, or no time. Now financial and cooking skills are not talents you are born with — they are things you learn, either by exposure through your family routine as a child, or active study as an adult.

Not having enough time? Everyone has the same 24 hours. It’s how you use them. Is your commute too long? Are you watching too much TV? Vegging out with Facebook? Are you not getting enough sleep which renders you less effective all day long? There are always coaching

Personal choices are active. If I don’t want to make good coffee, I’ll never make good coffee. If you don’t want to cook, you’ll never pick up the skill. And if you decide to be excellent managing your finances, find a career where you’ll make a lot of money, or climb that fence, you’ll do whatever you believe you can do.

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.”

The Christmas Transition for Jews

Jewish ChristmasWe were so earnest. It was a sunny Black Friday, and my husband and I were excited to take our children to the zoo. No malls for us, no sir! Out in the world, faces to the sun, we’d open Turtle Back Zoo and be the first ones through the door!

We were still buzzing from our Thanksgiving. We had the ultimate invitation, from our walking-distance neighbor who happened to be my chef instructor at the culinary school I attended. The food was fabulous, and so were the guests down to the 5-, 6- and 7-year- olds who treated my 1- and 2-year-old children just right.

We met new people, played soccer with the kids in the backyard, drank wine and whiskey and watched football.

It was a glorious American day.

Something I’ve always loved about Thanksgiving is that there are no gifts, we just spend time together and eat. The religion is patriotism. There is no consumerism but there is consumption. Everyone is included; doors are open. And you know that at a million other tables across the country, the exact same thing is happening. We are together, separately.

At the zoo, it was clear that changes had been made. They were preparing for their annual “Holiday Light Spectacular”, so I was looking forward to snowflakes and animals aglow. I was not ready for what was there. Santa was out in front in a big sleigh with reindeer. Red ribbons and Christmas trees were everywhere. And that’s all good, except for one thing.

We’re Jewish. Ever since I married a Jewish man, and especially now as I’m raising Jewish children — the period from Black Friday to Christmas puts a little pit in my stomach. My children didn’t know who Santa was, couldn’t recognize a Christmas tree, and were perplexed by all of it.

And I didn’t know what to say. I was ready for a snowflakes and snowmen, not Santa.

After feeling very included, we suddenly felt very left out. We don’t have a Christmas tree; we don’t have Santa stories. When I grew up, I was able to “visit” these things, as my mother came from a Protestant family (she converted to Judaism before she married my dad), and my family was always invited for Christmas. Though we didn’t go to church, we had stockings, opened presents, and understood this as a time when we were celebrating with my cousins.

Although we had a different holiday at our house, we could enjoy their holiday with them at their house. Just like you can celebrate someone’s birthday even though it isn’t your birthday. You can still be included in the fun.

If I were to put my transition coach hat on, here are some things I’d say to myself:

  • Sounds like the Christmas transition is tough for you since you don’t celebrate Christmas.
  • Sounds like you enjoyed being invited to someone’s house for Christmas as a kid.
  • Have you ever invited someone not Jewish over for a Chanukah?

Yes. Yes. And no. And the thought of inviting someone not Jewish over here to spin dreidels and eat latkes seems like…well, why would they want to do that? Would that be fun or would they think it’s weird? I’ve never done it and I’m not sure why.

I suppose the only way to find out is to do it. And here’s where coaching comes in again: if the idea feels good right away, and it’s simple enough to execute, than it’s probably worth trying, yes?

Instead of focusing on that thing I don’t have, I can share that thing I do have. Everyone wins.

I’ll report back in a couple weeks to see how the Chanukah proposition impacts the Christmas transition. Until then, let me know what you think of the idea.