While the holiday season can be fun, for many it is a hectic, pressure-filled time. Between gift buying, holiday guests, family, cooking and traveling, we often don’t truly get to enjoy the season. However, there is something you can do to reclaim the joy and serenity often lost during this time of year: PAWS! PAWS is an acronym to help you remember to indulge in Patience, Appreciation, Wonderment and Silence.
Patience: Long lines at the stores, traffic, travel. All of these things can conspire to steal your serenity and joy. Try an extra dose of patience. Give yourself extra time to get around and lower your expectations. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry! Rushing around not only makes you crazy but often means you are missing out on what is around you. Try to breathe and be in the moment. Instead of seeing sitting in traffic or standing in line as a waste of time, reframe your thinking. No time is wasted time when you are mindful and present. Try being where your feet are. I recommend literally looking down at your feet and becoming aware of being grounded. Patience also means being patient with yourself and others. Instead of staring daggers at the back of the person ahead of you at Starbucks with the coffee order longer than a CVS receipt, try giving a smile to someone. A little kindness can brighten the day of someone else and leave you feeling better too!
Appreciation: Another thief of joy that rears its ugly head during this time of year is comparing: looking at what others have that you don’t. Social Media doesn’t really help. People are posting images of their beautiful families, vacations, decorated homes and holiday tables. We often make the mistake of comparing our insides to the outsides of others without really knowing the full story. The other mistake we make when comparing is that we don’t do so fairly. We tend to look only at others who we see as having more. This too should be reframed. I recommend NOT comparing at all but if you are going to do so, do so fairly. You also have to include people who have far less than you. Rather than comparing, try just looking at all you have and appreciating that. Focus on all the gifts in your life and spend time appreciating them. A great tool for this is a Gratitude List. Every day think of (and perhaps write down) at least 5 things for which you are grateful. Again, slow down and look around you. You will see much to appreciate. If you want an added dose of appreciation, remember those people I mentioned above who have less than you do? Another great tool to increase your appreciation is to be of service to others. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer/be of service during the holiday season. Toy drives, coat drives and feeding folks are a few popular ones this time of year, but there are no doubt, people, right in your family or community who could use some extra help or care.
Wonderment: For many of us, when we were children, the holidays were a magical time. The colorful lights, the music, the TV shows and the presents! Do you remember when you believed in Santa Claus (if he was a part of your tradition)? We used to put cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer on the hearth in the basement and in the morning, they were always gone! He had left fat pillow-cases of toys for my sister, brother and me! Maybe for you, church or temple was a special time. I remember magical Christmas Eve Mass, the candles, beautiful songs sung in Latin and the smell of frankincense in the air. As we get older, most people lose this sense of wonderment, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Think of what you can do to connect to the magic of the season. Maybe it’s as simple as really seeing what you are doing when decorating your home or taking a drive to enjoy the decorations in your neighborhood. Maybe you can start or resurrect a tradition. My sister and I meet for brunch and last-minute shopping every Christmas Eve. I also love visiting my favorite Christmas tree every year (see pic at right)! It stands in front of the Capitol Building here in DC and it’s beautiful (better than the National Christmas tree and no crowds). Think of something you would actually enjoy and do that thing!
Silence: Rumi said, “Live outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence.” He also said, “Listen to the silence. It has so much to say.” In many parts of the world, this time of year is Wintertime with shorter days, weaker sunlight and cold temperatures. This is also a time when animals hibernate, trees lose their leaves, fields lay dormant and there is a general slow down in nature. The forests become quiet, ponds, lakes and creeks freeze and people spend more time indoors. With all of this comes silence. And, stillness follows. The holiday season, with all its business, can still be a time to indulge in the gold that is silence. As a matter of fact, going into the silence and being still is a perfect antidote for the madness of the season. Even short periods of silence can be therapeutic. Pause, be still, breathe, listen. I find Winter the perfect time for meditation and contemplation; a good time to look inward and find the stillness. A good time to rest. Rather than rushing around, what if you were to go with the slowed-down flow of winter? Start by lowering your expectations of perfectionism. Look for or make quiet time. If even for just a moment. Try it today. Carve out a little niche for yourself in which to be still and listen to the silence. Revel in it. Tip: turn off all your noise-making devices for just five minutes a day and sit in quiet meditation. Come back and tell me what you noticed.
After a rather intense period of activity on my heroine’s quest to achieve my Vision of Success a.k.a. working, my inner voice told me I needed a sabbatical. I was feeling fatigued and run down (both early signs of burn-out)! I was also mentally and spiritually tired because in the quest for my Vision I had been doing too much striving, which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. This dynamic can become very unhealthy and dare I say, even a bit insane. Luckily when this happens I know where to turn.
The second step of Alcoholic’s Anonymous‘s twelve steps states, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I needed to strengthen my spiritual connection. One way I know to strengthen my connection with my Higher Power (my Goddess) is to completely unplug from the world and get back to my Self. Given this, I decided to take a mini-sabbatical, a month-long solo retreat on Ambergris Caye, Belize! Trying not to be too ambitious (less striving return), I’ve set only one rule and four intentions for this adventure: 1) painting (because it’s something I enjoy but haven’t done any new landscapes since these), 2) contemplating Book III of my Adventures of Isabelle series, 3) getting my Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification and of course in between all of this 4) doing some serious chillin’ which means beach time, eating, napping etc. The rule? NO WORK ALLOWED!
Thanks for joining me on this phase of my journey! I hope you enjoy it and come back for more! This post like many of my travelogues will combine my musings, written descriptions and video compilations of the gorgeous sites and sounds as my adventure unfolds so check back every couple of days for updates and in the meantime please enjoy my first vid: “Getting Here!”
Days Zero, I and II: Recon, Grocery Shopping and Ak’Bol
I arrived Belize City late morning on Wednesday cleared customs and got on an earlier Tropic Air flight than I had scheduled headed for San Pedro. The 15-20 min flight in their little island hopper is a thrilling ride with a gorgeous view of the multi-hued Western Caribbean ocean below. I was met at the San Pedro airstrip by the driver for the house I’m staying in while on the island. Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed in his un-airconditioned mini-van taxi cab was how bloody hot and humid it is. The last time I was here was in the winter season and I immediately began to question my intelligence in choosing to come to Belize in mid-August! At first, I asked to stop to get groceries to take to the house but after a stop at a grocery store that only had Folgers and Kirland’s brand coffee, I decided to just get to the house and worry about groceries later.
Soon I found myself on a sandy “dirt road” apparently approaching the house (for privacy reasons I will insert house name and link after my sojourn). We entered the house from the beachside and after a cursory introduction to the house, the driver was gone. I stood looking around the living room kitchen area where he had unceremoniously dropped me and my luggage. It’s a lovely little 2-bedroom house. I quickly found the bedroom because I knew this was the only room with AC which was blessedly on and went and sat on the bed to collect myself. Eventually, I dragged my bags into this sanctuary from the heat and opened the bags intending to unpack. After not sleeping the previous night and a 6:00 flight this morning out of Dulles it didn’t take me long to abandon “settling in.” I conked out till the next morning!
Thursday was about recon and getting settled but the first stop was coffee. Luckily for me there is a neat little coffee shop called Marbucks attached to the Daydreamin B & B across the sandy lane from my place. I also ordered what was to be my first of many breakfast sandwiches (egg, cheese, spinach and avocado in a plain bagel) and ate and drank taking in the lovely little place with its central pool which is more like a fountain in which you can swim.
After breakfast, I was off in my little golf cart, rented for the month. I headed about 5 mins north first to check out (Ak’bol Yoga Resort) a place where the owner of Marbucks had told me I could swim off the pier, then south to town. After crossing the tiny Boco del Rio bridge I was officially in town. I drove down Middle Street taking in all the sites and sounds of San Pedro before turning around somewhere near the airport and heading north along Front Street which took me past the open town square where two years ago I’d danced in the New Year with my then-boyfriend. I saw the town pier and recalled sitting on it, my feet dangling above the water eating chicken and rice from a takeaway container while a spotted eagle ray glided through the water just below us. It had been relatively cool then compared to the sweltering heat in which I now found myself.
Next stop, the little grocery store on the circle in which a statue of St. Peter stands surrounded by all sorts of marine life. Provisioned up with coffee and breakfast fixings I hightailed it home to finish unpacking, shower off and lay in my air-conditioned room to cool off. I ended the day returning to Ak’Bol Yoga Resort for a very satisfying dinner taken on the sand in front of the bar while looking out at the sapphire blue Caribbean sea.
Day XIII: Having Too Much Fun to be Blogging Daily!
August 27: I’ve been on Ambergris Caye 13 days now and a few days back I realized it simply isn’t realistic for me to do a daily blog. I can’t do everything I want and relax and blog daily so instead I will write little periodic updates with the things I most want to remember and take away from this amazing trip. (I made recordings of my memories and they are transcribed below with the dates on which they were made.)
August 17: Laying outside on my deck moon bathing. I’m struck by the fact that I will probably miss the wind most of all. Moon bathing, being buffeted by the wind, watching the black palm tree dancing wildly, animated by the wind, the moonlight glistening off its fronds as they slap in the breeze imitating the sound of rain.
A Pictorial Gratitude List
August 24: Driving into my little sandy yard with my Breadfruit and Almond trees I’m struck by how much I am going to miss this little wooden house on Ambergris Caye and that there are certain things I want to remember. I want to remember today: painting all morning then going for a late lunch at Ak’Bol, the sweet taste of the stewed chicken, the first taste of coconut milk in the rice and beans hitting my taste buds, the sweet ripe fried plantain, that feeling of bliss. I want to remember laying on my back in the yoga palapa out on the water while the wind gently caressed my legs. Swimming my laps in the warm Caribbean waters then just snorkeling, playing with the large crab with one claw valiantly ready to do battle with me, painting his one good claw at me and even jumping up making a stabbing motion at me, a mammal about 100 times his size and how this made me laugh! Chasing a yellow stingray who glided among the sea-grass. Ending my swim holding onto the wooden algae-covered ladder looking at the little tiny baby stripped sergeant major who I could not believe could be so small and all of the little beautiful hermit crabs with every variety and shape of shell with their colorful spider-like legs.
August 28: Yesterday I took a drive out to Secret Beach (see my video review below). What I don’t want to forget is the excitement I felt driving through the mangrove swampland; so wild and untamed and how on the way back I just had to stop because I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of God’s world. Of course the thrill of seeing an alligator gliding along in the water next to the road once back in some semblance of civilization (was on paved road by that point). I had not swum at Secret Beach instead drove straight to Ak’Bol on my return to go for a refreshing swim and to get the road dust off of me. When I plunged into the water off of the ladder I was stunned to see a very large Loggerhead sea turtle right in front of me! He/she was about 2.5 x 3 ft and covered in algae and had several remora of all different varieties and colors hanging on to it. In my excitement, I made the mistake of immediately trying to swim down to it which send him flying off to quickly vanish in the blue murkiness of deeper water! Why did I do that?!
After my lovely swim, I lay in a lounge chair looking out to sea as the Sun began to make her exit for the day. Two brown pelicans came in to view and my eye was caught by the fact that they were flying in tandem! Following each other’s every movement; soaring banking against the wind, circling, going higher, gliding then finally both plunging toward the sea, beaks pointed down, wings drawn in. They made very little splash as they entered the water. The larger of the two came up with a fish but his partner had to duck his/her head under again to come up with a fish. Since pelicans do not have sexual dimorphism and because they only mate for a season and even then only nest together, I had no idea if what I was witnessing was a male-female couple, just two friends or something else entirely but I enjoyed imagining a romance where they enjoyed the ariel ballet of a tandem flight followed by a tasty seafood dinner!
My Review of “Secret Beach” (not so secret)
August 30: The smell of burning trash, which will forever transport me to my childhood visits to Jamaica, roused me from my sleep this morning in time to greet the dawn. Because I had not smelled this pungent smell before from inside my house I got up to investigate. Stepping out on my front porch I was met with the sight of a water-color landscape, the sea like glass reflecting the most gentle hues of blue and rose pink! It seemed all about me was stillness until I became aware of the rustling and scurrying in the bushes of the animals waking up. Birds were singing and twittering to one another and gliding past heading south as if they had to be in town early to open shops. As I took the stairs onto the beach and out to the sea wall crabs scurried away and a large grey iguana ducked back into his hole. I stepped along the concrete wall to sit on one of the pale yellow wooden lounge chairs and as I did I saw two slow-moving hermit crabs in beautiful shells clinging to the edge of the wall that ran perpendicular to the shoreline. I tried the chair closest to me with my hand and found it dewy so I squatted on it to regard the lightening dawn. For some reason, early mornings in the Caribbean always make me think, this must be what the first mornings on earth were like. In too short a time the mosquitos found me easily on this windless morning and ruined my peace (as they always do!) so I quit the shore and hurried back to the safety of my elevated dry porch. From here I watched what I assume was a mating dance between two small birds. One would advance a bit and the other back up then they circled and repeated the process each time getting only incrementally closer to one another. The dance seemed interminable and as the tension (for me grew) I suggested audibly that they “get it over with” but I don’t think they heard me because when I finally went back inside they were still hopping and popping around.
September 7: I will not soon forget the amazing times I had SCUBA diving, both my training and pleasure dives. I’ve compiled some highlights in the below video. If you wish to see more vids check them out on my YouTube Channel @TheSuccessDoc
First presented by: Nicole Cutts, Ph.D. June 12, 2019 at the American University Key Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.
session draws on somatic coaching techniques: utilizing theory and practice
from Ashtanga Yoga, neuroleadership, cognitive psychology, and leadership best
practices to help participants learn how to fully embody their leadership
presence and catalyze their followership.
a more powerful leadership presence that is able to stay open, present,
flexible and connected under difficult conditions such as stress, complexity,
deep self-awareness and increase emotional intelligence by accessing the
intelligence of the mind/body system
somatic practices you can use for your continued leadership development and the
development of others.
benefits of participating in this session include learning methodology and
Reduce stress and increase resilience
Increase your influencing skills and ability to
motivate and engage others
Focus your talents into purposeful action,
creating the capacity to produce even more valuable results
Increase your self-confidence in new ways, e.g.
greater balance, endurance, strength, agility, and flexibility
is Embodied Leadership?
be an embodied leader means your ability to lead comes from deep inside you. It
also means literally staying fully connected to your body and centered on your
core values and truest self even during times of pressure.
to Pete Hamill, author of Embodied Leadership (2013), “The concept of embodied leadership, derived from somatic coaching,
brings the body forward as an advocate in creating a place for change and
transformation.” And, “Embodied learning is a level of learning where you can
learn to do something differently, consistently and when under pressure.”
leadership is the optimal leadership presence. It combines power and strength
with flexibility and ambition with humility. It increases your ability to be
influential, flexible (adaptable) and resilient.
The Connection Between Emotional
Intelligence, Brain & Body
A simple and familiar framework from which we can understand the importance of being an embodied leader is the concept of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand one’s own state of mind and one’s capabilities, to manage oneself to respond constructively to situations and to engage successfully with other people. Emotional Intelligence is not necessarily about what to do, but HOW to do it.
Would you believe that over the past 9+ years I have had hundreds of successful coaching relationships with people I have never laid eyes on? To be honest, I don’t know what 95% of them look like! Incidentally, I have also been coached successfully by a woman living in Australia that I also never saw!
Now before you go thinking I do some sort of work in the spiritual world let me explain. The clients and coach I mention are quite real. We just never met face to face.
While I have worked effectively with many people in my various roles ofexecutive/leadership coach, success coach and clinical psychologist over the telephone and in more recent years via some form of video chat, i.e. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, many potential clients balk at the idea of not conducting coaching and therapy sessions in a face-to-face environment.
While I understand the assumptions behind people’s bias toward in-person sessions, research does not support this thinking. I worry that some people may be missing out on the many benefits of coaching and or therapy by limiting their options to face-to-face relationships. I’m writing this article for those folks.
Please consider the following top five advantages of virtual coaching and therapy and the supporting data before engaging an executive coach, success coach or therapist.
According to Kimsey-House et al. in the book Co-Active Coaching, “An effective coaching environment is safe enough for clients to take the risks they need to take and two, it is a courageous place where clients are able to approach their lives and the choices they make with motivation, curiosity and creativity.” Data suggests that this environment can be achieved with ease via telephone and video chat.
Top 5 Advantages of Virtual Coaching and Therapy
I. Cost: Without travel and office overhead, many practitioners (myself included) are able to charge lower fees for virtual coaching and therapy. Clients also save money by not having to travel.
II. No Time and Distance Barriers: When choosing coaches and therapists most people look for someone in their area but when engaging in virtual practices clients have a wider range of practitioners from which to choose. It is also convenient for those who travel because appointments can be kept no matter where the client is. The hours for appointments are also usually more flexible. For example, I will see a client after regular working hours virtually but not in person. Additionally, it may be easier for clients to meet virtually during their lunch hours, whereas that would be impossible if meeting face to face.
III. Comfort: Clients appreciate having sessions in the comfort of their own homes or offices. Without the burden of appearances, they usually choose to sit somewhere quiet and comfortable and to dress comfortably (something they usually can’t do in an office setting).
IV. Modeling: For leaders and others who work in an increasingly virtual world, virtual coaching and therapy provide an additional benefit of modeling great virtual conversations.
V. Diverse Group Sessions: Clients who participate in group coaching sessions may be energized by working with people from diverse locations, backgrounds and cultures. Virtual coaching allows coaches to bring together people who might not normally work together, and who have the potential to create unique and impactful experiences through their distinct ideas and perspectives.
research literature has acknowledged telephone coaching as a way of enabling coaching
on-demand, providing access to expertise, serving geographically dispersed
individuals, reducing cost (Frazee, 2008) and promoting follow through and
accountability (Charbonneau, 2002). In addition to recognizing these benefits,
clients’ and coaches’ personal experiences with telephone coaching have been
to the International Coach Federation (2019), a study found “no difference in
the reported level of problem resolution for face-to-face and distance
clients.” The strength of the working alliance was found to be
significant for problem resolution in distance coaching, and “coaches
self-reported strong levels of working alliance in both conditions
(face-to-face and distance).”
Another study (Day
& Schneider, 2002) compared selected process and outcome variables across three
modes of psychotherapy: face-to-face, real-time video conference, and 2-way
audio (analogous to telephone). This study found very little difference in
outcome and in some cases advantages to distance modalities. In fact, the major
difference they found could be construed as favorable to the distance modes: “Statistics
indicate that Client Participation scores were higher when clients were not facing
to face with their therapists.” (Day & Schneider, 2002)
Please don’t get me wrong. I still very much enjoy in-person
coaching and the hybrid of coaching/therapy that I offer and when a client is
not comfortable with virtual coaching and I want to work with them I meet with
them face to face, but I don’t want people to miss out on the value of coaching
and therapy by not availing themselves of virtual modes.
What is your experience? Have you had virtual or
in-person coaching or therapy? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you
have any questions about the coaching or therapy services I offer, feel free to
drop me a line,
visit Cutts Consulting, LLC or
visit Vision Quest Retreats
Are you a woman interested in Group Coaching? Click MASTERMIND
Below are a smattering of recent media appearances. I’ve been honored from time to time to offer my expertise and commentary on a variety of topics ranging from matters related to psychology, success, diversity, gender, politics and most recently celebrity gossip turned serious as in the cases of R. Kelly and Jussie Smollett! (click images to view videos)
As you may know, I’ve been a staunch (and perhaps solo) proponent of Human Hibernation, touting its benefits all Winter. It’s been great planning my next big moves, getting more rest, sleeping late, carb loading and just generally living in “power-save mode.” BUT, with Spring 30 Days away it’s time for this little brown bear to prepare to emerge from her cave! Spring is a time when many of us experience a surge of renewed energy (I KNOW I do) and it’s a perfect time to BREAK OUT and put our winter planning and stored energy to good use. This is why I’m having a Spring Break (Through) Beach Retreat for Women March 22-24 at The Bellmoor Inn & Spa in Rehoboth Beach, DE. And, this is why on Feb. 19th I’m officially launching the Thirty-Day Spring Breakthrough Challenge! My challenge is dedicated to physical health, weight loss and improved eating habits but your challenge for the next 30 days is up to you! (Please follow this post and tell us about what you are doing to improve your life in the next 30 Days!)
My company Vision Quest Retreats has teamed up with The Worx by Maia and MindBody 360 for the next 30 days and guess what even if you don’t take the 30-Day Challenge you still get to benefit! Mention me, this challenge or Vision Quest Retreats and get 2 Weeks Free Membership or a FREE full-service consultation from The Worx by Maia!
Cross-Generational Reading Project Featured on WUSA Channel 9 (Click image to view).
Thank you so much to the small business sponsors (below) who supported this project! If you are interested in future sponsorship opportunities they start as low as $20.00! It’s really easy! Just click on the yellow “Buy Now” button, select quantity and don’t forget to fill in your business name. Please email me your logo (or whatever image you would like used) and links to your website and social media accounts to be posted on this website and across my social media platforms!
Some of the young women at Ballou S.T.A.Y.
What is the Cross-Generational Reading Project? Vision Quest Retreats presents cross-generational readings and book discussions of The Adventures of Isabelle Books I and II in which young women and older women and all ages in between meet in senior centers and homes to learn from and support one another.
Benefits: These events provide a unique opportunity for elders and young people (especially women and girls) to enjoy and learn from one another. Because of the literacy component they also provide learning for the young and intellectual stimulation for the elders. The life events and challenges presented in the story of Princess Isabelle of Xamayca are used to spark discussion of the real-life challenges and joys of those in the group. Both the elders and the young have an opportunity to share their stories (experience, strength and hope) and we all learn from this sharing. Learn More…
CHERYL A. LOFTON & ASSOCIATES ALTERATIONS & TAILORING
Check out the series “Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs of The Heroine’s Quest” that STREAMED LIVE on my YouTube Channel, TheSuccessDoc. We discussed significant triumphs and many common challenges that women encounter when we heed the call to adventure and embark on the heroine’s quest to live our Vision of Success!
To Participate LIVE in future events and stay up to date on all events, Join the Tribe on The Vision Quest Retreats FaceBook Page. When we have a YouTube Live you will, 1) Go to TheSuccessDoc on YouTube 2) See vid with RED sticker saying “LIVE” or “NOW LIVE” and click that vid. 3) Comment as you would on FB. 4) Please subscribe and share!
4) Watch the movie Finding Joe (an inspirational movie that takes you on the ultimate hero’s journey: the journey of self-discovery. As you slay dragons and uncover treasures, you just may find that the holy grail you seek is closer than you think.)