Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's holding you back?

“It is the truth that offers us this freedom, the freedom to test what we are taught, to accept what we feel in our hearts, to believe what we know in our bones, and to love ourselves—including the worst aspects of ourselves—until we see through enough of our illusions to discover who we were really meant to be. At that point, we will have dismantled the biggest lie, the most profound denial of all: the denial of our own inestimable power and value.”

— Martha Beck, The Joy Diet (Crown Publishers: 2003)

What have you been putting off? Is it something that, once you do it, will make a substantial difference in your life? An exercise plan that will give you more energy? A talk with someone about a relationship that’s out of balance? A project that will move you to the next level of fulfillment and/or prosperity?

For me, a big one is marketing myself—getting out of my cave and letting people see how my talents can make a difference in their lives and businesses. Letting them see what a funny, bright, likable guy I am if you look past my shyness. I will meet someone I could collaborate with or get a lead from a friend and then … nothing. Six weeks can go by and I haven’t followed up.

And the stories I tell myself! “That probably won’t work out anyway, so why try?” “I’ll get to it when I’m ready.” “I’m not prepared. I don’t have the right business cards, website, presentation, credentials, references, resumé.…” In other words, I believe the lies I have learned to tell myself. How sad.

Bottom line: I’m scared. Scared I’m not experienced enough, talented enough, smart enough—yes, good enough—to be accepted and valued. And so, to avoid the pain of that, I put things off that would help me live a more joyful, prosperous, peaceful life.

The truth is that I sometimes feel inadequate. It is also true that there is nothing in my experience that shows that I actually am inadequate. That’s just a story someone taught me long ago.

Exploring the edge

I am learning to move into those tight, uncomfortable places that are the door to freedom. Yesterday I went to a entrepreneurs’ networking lunch. Beforehand, I was nervous. “What if they don’t like me?” Once I got there I was fine—relaxed and articulate. I came away feeling I had made new friends. I am in the process of trading services with two of them in ways that will help us all succeed. Go, Gene!

To progress, I have to work mindfully and skillfully at the edge of my resistance. I go to that edge and watch with curiosity and kindness to see what inside me is holding me back. As I watch, the edge softens and a space opens. I find new thoughts, new energy, new opportunities, new willingness, new possibilities. I move into the space, right up against my faithful edge, and wait for the next opening so I can move again.

Practice invitation

Pick an area in your life where you feel unfulfilled or know you could do better. It doesn’t need to be high stakes.

Where’s your edge? When you approach this thing, where do you first meet resistance? What story do you tell yourself about this? “It’s not that important.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have what it takes.” “This is just the way I am.”

What do you usually do as a result? Fight against it? Distract yourself? Tell yourself you’ll do it some other time when you’re feeling stronger, more confident, less stressed …? How well have those stories worked so far?

Try this: Stop pushing; stop running away. Stay with the discomfort and see what is really true. “I don’t want to do this because ________.” Don’t believe the stories that say you can’t have what you long for. They’re like blind ghosts giving you bad directions. Instead, be creative. Try something new and see what happens. What have you got to lose? The lies never kept you safe; they only kept you imprisoned.

Each time you confront your limits, you reclaim part of yourself. And the world gets better because there is more of you to give to it.

Thank you for all of us.


Gene Smith
Life & Wellness Coach
Life Turned On™

Wild Life

The Wild Life monthly practice group meets this Saturday, June 20, 1:00-3:00 PM, in Asheville, NC. We'll have tea and explore more deeply how we can go beyond the limits we create for ourselves. For details, click here.

Copyright 2009 Eugene Y. Smith, III. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Giving to receive

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

— from “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver

It seems like a lot of us are worrying lately. Worrying about money. Worrying about health. Worrying sometimes about whether our lives are headed in the right direction and whether there is time (once again) to change course and accomplish anything. Sound familiar?

I find that when I focus on what I think I need and don’t have, life seems small, constricted. I feel a kind of panic in my body as if I’m fighting for air. To me, greed isn’t so much a sin as an affliction; it keeps me isolated and miserable.

Fortunately, there’s a reliable cure: generosity—to myself and the world. Instead of focusing on what I lack and scrambling desperately to get it (“Oh, please, hire me, feed me, love me …”), I wake up each morning and think, “What am I going to create today? What am I going to give the world?” And life becomes more spacious. I feel peaceful and calm and powerful—and excited. And that’s a gift to me.

Maybe you thought I was going to say that gratitude is the cure. It is if it takes form in action. Recognizing and appreciating who we are (our genius, our beauty) and what we have (the people, relationships and resources available to us) are a good start, but only that. To be “married to amazement,” “to take the world into our arms” requires honoring what we have been given by using those things to make a difference in the world.

Today I want to cultivate a healthy body, an animated spirit, a clear mind, and a generous heart. I want to dwell in my highest self: Alert and powerful. Amazing. Connected. Confident. Sexy. Dangerous. Delightful. Insightful. Smart. Talented. Spirited. Reverent. Irreverent. Courageous. Compassionate. Creative. Funny. Alive!

I want to contribute to a world that’s kinder and more peaceful and more generous. I want to help others in whatever way I can to find their own truths and power and happiness. I want to experience the joy that comes with giving freely of my talents, my “gifts.”

What about you? What do you want to create today? Share a comment here and tell me about it. I’d really love to know.

My best to you,

Gene Smith
Life & Wellness Coach
Life Turned On™

Wild Life personal growth practice group
meets Saturday, May 16 • 1:00–3:00 PM
in downtown Asheville, NC
For details, visit our page.
(You don't have to join the group to attend the meeting.)
Have tea with us and share a lively exploration of how we can create the lives we want to live!

Copyright 2009 Eugene Y. Smith, III. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Creating abundance from the inside out

Our theme this month is “Living Abundance,” an inquiry into how our beliefs and behaviors shape our experiences of prosperity or deprivation. With the voices of fear shouting at us from every side lately, this seems like a timely (and timeless) subject to explore. I’m very excited about all the ways we can approach this. Here is one for starters:

Instead of asking you what you desire, I want to ask something I think is more fundamental and more vital: What are you creating?

Imagine this: You’re in your house, watching angry floodwaters rise relentlessly toward you. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What will you do?

Now imagine this: The water’s still rising, only now you’re standing in a line of people at the end of your street, filling and stacking sandbags to build a levee. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What will you do?

How are the two experiences different? Why are they different? In both scenarios it’s still raining. Please add a comment. I would love to hear about what you see in this.

Bob and I have an adventure

Last month I had a day when I was feeling pretty depressed. I was exhausted and achy with migraine symptoms. Work was slow and I was worried about how I was going to pay the bills. Despair and shame were creeping up on me.

In the late afternoon I decided to go for a short walk. Turning the corner, I saw my neighbor, Bob, and I almost turned around before he could see me. Having an encounter seemed like adding weight to the load I was carrying.

Bob is in his 70s, hobbles due to painful bursitis in his hips, and often seems a bit foggy. He knows he knows me, but admits he’s often not sure how. He frequently asks me the same question several times in the course of a conversation. I like Bob, but, frankly, I sometimes try to sneak by him when I’m not in the mood to talk.

This time, he glanced up and saw me. Caught! His face lit up with childlike delight. You would have thought I was Santa and the Easter Bunny combined. “Oh, what the hell,” I thought.

When I reached him, Bob asked if he could hold onto my arm and walk with me a little bit. I said, “That’s fine,” and we shuffled along together. I had to concentrate to walk slow enough to keep his pace. As he will, Bob asked me where I was from several times over the course of as many minutes and kept apologizing for delaying me.

Here’s the funny thing: it wasn’t an imposition to help Bob. I liked the feeling of his trust in me. How my steadiness helped facilitate his walk down the street. How my genuine interest in him was reflected back in appreciation and affection. I usually don’t like to be touched by people I don’t know well, but I liked the feeling of his hand on my arm. Most of all, I liked the feeling of our being in this together.

Bob turned back about a block from his house and I continued on after he assurred me he was fine getting back on his own. He left me feeling stronger, more confident, and more willing to return home and tackle my own challenges. It was almost as if he had said, “Gene looks like he’s having a hard time. I think I’ll go lean on him so he can remember who he really is.” Thanks, Bob!

When I give myself to the world, I am reminded of all that I have. My special qualities are "gifts" to me and to everyone I share them with.

I believe we are all artists. Every day we wake up and shape our world.

What will you create today?

Wild Life monthly practice group
Saturday, April 18 • 1:00–3:00 PM
Asheville, NC

Living Abundance

How do you create a sense of energy, connection and possibility in an unstable world?

How can you redirect habitual thoughts of "lack and attack" that seek to limit you?

How can you create a life you are excited to wake up to every day?

In this month's mini-workshop we will explore simple, practical techniques for keeping our balance and increasing the likelihood of both enjoying what we have and getting more of what we want out of life.

Specific topics will include:

  • getting clear about the feelings that are the "goal behind the goal" of what you desire
  • using the energy of fear in the service of constructive action
  • focusing your awareness to keep you moving toward your goals
  • cultivating generosity, gratitude, and purpose
Bring a sense of playfulness and curiosity, as well as your experiences, insights and questions. Please wear comfortable clothes and bring writing materials. Tea will be available for those who want it.

Please go to for more details. There is no cost to join the group.

E-mail me if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you.

Be good to yourself!


Gene Smith
Life & Wellness Coach
Life Turned On™

Create an amazing life!

Copyright 2008 Eugene Y. Smith, III. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Focus on Essentials

“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”
— Stephen Covey

Does this sound familiar? There is something you say you want to do that’s going to make your life better, but you never seem to get started at it. You find yourself saying, “I’m going to __________ [your resolution] as soon as I get all of this __________ [other stuff] out of the way.” Since the supply of “other stuff” is endless, your resolution gathers dust in some corner of your spirit. The more time passes the less you want to look at it because doing so makes you feel like a loser.

Or maybe you are making progress on the exercise routine, the work project, the financial plan, your resolution to be more present in your relationships, a healthier diet—the things you know are going to enhance your ability to live the life you want—and then WHAM!, you’ve lost the path and are into the weeds and you don’t even know how you got there.

That happened to me recently. I had started work on the website for my coaching practice, Life Turned On, after having put it off for months. For a few days I was excited about designing the pages, writing the copy, and finding images to use. I was in the “flow”—that happy place where I feel connected to my truth and wildly creative, vibrantly alive.

And then … I lost my way and the project languished, nagging at me while I fell further and further behind on everything—work, contact with friends, self-care, housekeeping. I had gone from surfing this enormous wave to struggling in the undertow, exhausted and frightened of drowning.

Good news! When I stopped to reflect, I was able to see a number of things I had thought I should do that are not congruent with who I really am. I dropped them and resumed work on what gives me energy. I discovered a new way to publicize my groups and got that up and running. I finished the essay you’re reading. The website will be online this coming week. I’m back on the wave.

How can we stay aligned with our best lives, our “North Stars,” more of the time? Here is a place to start. See how it might work for you.

1) Stop

This is crucial. When you find you’ve lost your way, stop what you’re doing. Just stop. Even—especially—if you’re feeling a sense of urgency to keep going. Running faster in the wrong direction isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Step away from what you have been doing and go somewhere where you can be quiet and let things settle.

2) Embrace yourself

OK, this might sound corny, but so what? You’re a human being, having a human experience. I’ve never been successful at beating myself into becoming a better person. I doubt you have either. Take a step back and look at the person who is trying so hard. Hold her or him in your heart and say, “I am with you.”

3) Make a list of what’s really important

Quickly write down four or five things you value. Keep the list short and don’t spend a lot of time mulling this over. This is a work in progress you can always edit later. Right now, it’s time to get oriented and start moving again.

What do you love? What feeds your spirit? What are you good at? What does the world need more of?

Here is what I came up with: connection with the people I love, meaningful work, creativity, health, and spiritual practice.

Consider reserving one or several days sometime soon for a personal retreat to review your life and goals and create a more comprehensive plan. As a friend of mine says, “Be sure to put yourself on the schedule.”

4) Focus on essentials

Make a list of what you think you need to do right now, then cross off everything that doesn’t come under the heading of the essentials above. Let go of behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, possessions, commitments, and relationships that don’t move you in the direction of a life you want to wake up to every day.

Simple, yes. Easy to do, no. Worthwhile, absolutely! Don't be deterred if you hear a voice telling you it's too much. Start small and work from there, but start NOW. As golf legend Ben Hogan is quoted as saying, "Every day I don't practice is one more day it will take to get better."

Today, once again my life feels like a tremendous gift. May the same be true for you.

My best to you,


Practice opportunity: Wild Life
Saturday, February 21 • 1:00–3:00 PM

Ready to go further? We’ll explore more methods to Focus on Essentials, including concentrating on fundamentals, prioritizing your day, rituals to get and stay oriented, and eliminating distractions. We’ll have a lively discussion about how we can practice staying focused on what’s really important and, hopefully, even find some things to laugh about. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Cost: $20 for the mini-workshop and discussion

To sign up at click here (There is no cost or commitment to join the group on

For directions to the meeting place: click here