Author Archives: Donna Mills

About Donna Mills

Donna earned her certification as a hand analyst from the International Institute of Hand Analysts in January, 2013. She is also a Certified FranklinCovey Coach and a Certified ARTbundance Coach.

Finding a Balance

Finding a Balance

BalanceIn our current political environment, I’m struggling—how to find the balance between my responsibility as a spiritual being to protest what I see as grievous transgressions of respect and rational conduct, and my attempts to remain internally grounded and peaceful?

I’ve been reluctant to talk about this question, because I don’t want to risk alienating friends or family members who see things differently. Each of us is on our own personal journey, and I cannot judge where someone else is along that path. That said, the last several months have been very difficult for me. I’ve never been particularly political, and after months of bombardment by distressing presidential campaign rhetoric, I had been looking forward to ‘the end.’

I didn’t anticipate that the end would become ‘the beginning’ of what sometimes feels like an alternate universe. Tirades that would have been considered unspeakable in the past seem to represent this ‘new normal.’ Behaviors that would have been condemned out of hand a year ago have been glossed over, and even embraced as ‘telling it like it is.’ And fake news has flooded social media (the only news source accessed by many, it seems), making it hard to ferret out the factual from the fanciful.

These are the thoughts that have been consuming much of my internal real estate since November 9th.

This morning, I met online with several colleagues who are also working through these issues. It was a chance to be reminded that each of us has a choice in how we live. There is a bigger picture to keep in mind. As author Stephen Covey would say, the political scene is in my Circle of Concern, but much of it is outside my Circle of Influence.

As an individual, I’m discovering that the best way to deal with my internal conflict is to get back to my spiritual and creative roots. Where can I, one single person, make a difference? What can I do personally to make the world a kinder place?

Choosing to take small steps, to approach the issue from a perspective of love rather than a position of fear or antagonism, and praying hard and consistently for courage in the long term, can help me. Focusing on my creative work (painting, writing, sewing, hand analysis) and nurturing my closest relationships provides a renewing lifeline in a time of uncertainty and instability.

As Viktor Frankl so brilliantly put it, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

When you are dealing with turbulent times, what responses are helpful for you?



Lessons from Spain

Lessons from Spain

I’ve been away for a while. We took a 15-day trip to Spain and Boston from mid-to late October, and the combination of preparing for the trip, taking the trip, and recuperating from the trip, not to mention the turmoil of the presidential election and its aftermath here at home, has meant living in a prolonged state of temporary chaos. I’m finally settling down a bit (albeit in fits and starts), and taking time to think about these past few weeks.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The trip was quite an adventure, and as with most adventures, I learned a few things along the way.

The first lesson involved packing for this expedition. Usually, when I take a long trip, especially to a foreign country, I pack a huge suitcase and check it in at the airport. This time, realizing that we’d be doing a lot of plane hopping along the way, and we’d be hard to catch, I worried about losing my luggage. So instead of a virtual steamer trunk, holding more than I could possibly use in two weeks, I traveled with a single carryon suitcase and a tote bag.

Wow! Liberation!

The experience made me think about my internal and external baggage. In truth, it’s the internal baggage that seems to result in the external. The fear of not having or being enough. Fear of boredom, of hurting someone’s feelings, of holding on to extraneous stuff ‘just in case.’ And carrying all of this internal baggage has consequences in the external world— bearing the physical and emotional weight of too much stuff.

We recently completed eight weeks of handling some of that baggage in our Creative Clutter Clearing mastermind. That experience was as liberating as traveling lightly, trusting that we have, that we are, enough.

How about you? What kind of baggage are you carrying? What is it doing for you, and what is it doing to you?








I have a rather embarrassingly large shoe collection. Perhaps I can blame this on my mother—shoes and groceries were the only things she enjoyed shopping for, so maybe I inherited my love of footwear from her!shoes-in-closet

At any rate, as I was dressing this morning, I wanted a pair of shoes at the bottom of a five-box stack. I lifted the lid from that box (with the four other boxes on top of it), pulled out the shoes, and let the lid drop as I reached for a garment on the other side of the closet.

When I turned back, that stack of shoeboxes was no longer nicely aligned. I jiggled with the top boxes, pushed and pulled a bit, then realized that forcing anything on top wasn’t going to have any effect. I needed to get to the bottom of the stack and center the lid on that box. Once I did that, everything else fell into place.

It made me think of how I handle the issues that pop up in my life. I can shuffle and juggle and try to force differences on the surface, but if my internal foundation isn’t flat and stable, all the tugging and pushing and smooshing in the world isn’t going to make things smooth on the top. Instead, I have to make sure what I’m doing on the outside is in alignment with what’s going on inside.

How about you? Are there areas of your life where your internal self is at odds with your outer self? If so, what choices might you make to create more alignment between the two?

Independence and Support

Independence and Support

The holy grail of independence seems to be at the top (or close to it) of the list of qualities in which Americans take pride. I’ve observed, in others and in myself, this cultural stance of the nobility of doing it all, doing it alone, and preferably doing it without complaining about it.

I remember a television advertisement from my childhood. It was an ad for Anacin, and showed a young woman coming completely unglued when her mother suggested adding some salt to a cooking pot. The daughter turns and shrieks, “Mother, please! I’d rather do it myself!!” This outburst was caused by the daughter’s tension headache, which the advertised pain reliever would allegedly cure.

This little drama was manufactured to sell a product. But it does raise a niggling question: How often are we willing to admit that we can’t do it ourselves?diy-sign

I’m a do-it-yourselfer for a couple of reasons. The first, more lofty reason, is that I honestly do like to learn new things. I’m a perennial student. Being able to tackle a project and create something I didn’t know how to create before is exciting and fulfilling.

The second reason is that I feel guilty paying someone else to do something I know I can do (or can learn to do) for myself. For example, I never felt comfortable having someone come in to clean my house, even when I left for work at 7:00 a.m., got home at 7:00 p.m., and had young children. And after years of spending precious Saturdays mowing and trimming the lawn, we finally hired a gardener to come once a week. Our neighbors, I’m sure, were grateful, because we didn’t always spend those Saturdays on yard work, and it showed.

Independence is all well and good, but there are times when it is so much more effective to enlist the support of others. That has been the case for me when it comes to coping with Project Downsize. Really getting a handle on my possessions, discerning which to keep and which to release, can be an emotional minefield.

And this is where support has come to the rescue.

Co-facilitating our KMI Master Mind, Creative Clutter Clearing, has been a huge help in navigating this overarching change in lifestyle. Even though, as a facilitator, I don’t spend time having my particular issues brainstormed, every participant’s issues and insights help me with mine. This is the brilliance and beauty of a Master Mind.

Our next session starts tomorrow, September 29th. If you can use some support and accountability in the quest to manage your clutter, please click on the link above and join us!



The other day, a writer I follow on Instagram (hellbentonbliss) posted the following quote by author Octavia Butler:

Octavia Butler, October 2005

Octavia Butler, October 2005

“Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

This quote absolutely sang to my soul.

As a person who is in the School of Wisdom, for whom decision-making can be angst-ridden to the nth degree, habit is a godsend. It eliminates the need to deliberately think about every action I take.

We all have basic habits, such as brushing our teeth, or exercising, or walking the dog before breakfast. For me, some of those habits were drilled into me as a child, and I haven’t really thought about them since. Others, such as exercising, are the result of a deliberate choice. Making exercise a habit means I don’t stop and think about whether or not to do it every day. It’s just part of the program.

But I can easily slip into some less-than-helpful habits, too. These aren’t habits that I have deliberately chosen, and practiced until they have become automatic. They are the easy-way-around habits, such as diddling on Facebook rather than painting. Replacing such a ‘lazy/comfort’ habit with something more meaningful requires me to think, choose, act, and repeat. Repeat until that deliberate choice becomes automatic.

Thinking and choosing, taking small steps in the right direction, then taking those steps over and over again, has been helping me create new habits around one of my concerns of long standing: managing my clutter. If clutter is an issue for you, too, master coach extraordinaire Mary McDowall and I have created a unique way to approach your habits as they relate to your stuff—our upcoming KMI Master Mind, Creative Clutter Clearing: 10 C’s to Move You from Chaos to Calm. You can learn more about it here.

This Master Mind can create a life-altering transformation of your relationship with your possessions. It’s supportive, filled with tips and tools, and it’s actually fun. Oh, and there are some impressive early bird goodies if you register by Friday, September 23rd!serif-circle-emboss-inner-glow-stroke-dark-purple

Open House

Open House

Several weeks ago, I took a look at the topic of awareness in the context of some serious social issues—sexism and racism.

This led me to thinking about awareness in my everyday life.

About 15 years ago, my husband and I were thinking of moving. We spent a lot of Saturdays and Sundays visiting realtors’ open houses. (This was before the days of expansive virtual tours; what we knew in advance consisted of square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a photo or two in a newspaper ad.)

These homes were ‘staged’ to show off each house to its best advantage. Surfaces were clean and clear, walls were freshly painted, faucets and fittings were brightly polished, and accessories and paintings were artfully scattered about. We’d grab an information sheet, stroll through the rooms, and try to imagine ourselves living in that space.

After these open house visits, it was always a faint surprise to come home. We would look at our own surfaces, walls, faucets, fittings, and accessories. And our own kitchen, floors, and artwork.

It was a time of both appreciation and mild horror. In all of our open house visits, I never found a kitchen, coved ceilings, or hardwood floors—indeed, a house in general—that I liked better than my own. However, I also saw, with newly critical eyes, the shortcomings in our home—chipped paint, smudges on the cabinets, and cluttered drawers and countertops. After looking with dispassionate eyes at all of those houses for sale, I wondered what someone walking through my house would think.

before-deskIt can be a challenge for me to back up and look at my own home with objectivity, especially when it comes to my possessions. To address that issue, this spring, my business colleague, Mary McDowall, and I created and facilitated a clutter clearing mastermind. It’s based on the unique KMI model, which combines personalized attention with the Kaizen philosophy of small steps to big changes.

That mastermind experience has gradually shifted the way I deal with my stuff. The tools, resources, and group interaction the mastermind provided gave me the push I needed. It was a gentle nudge towards creating an environment that suits me. And as a co-facilitator, my issues weren’t even directly addressed! Such is the power (and collective benefit) of this process.after-desk

If clutter is an issue for you, I invite you to explore our KMI Mastermind, Creative Clutter Clearing: 10 C’s to Move You from Chaos to Calm. You can check it out here.

Calm Down Space

Calm Down Space

A friend of mine once asked about how to create a ‘calm down’ space and time for her son.

It started me thinking—isn’t a ‘calm down’ space something that is as necessary for adults as it is for children?

Usually, when we are asking children to calm down, it’s a way to get them to detach from a state of ‘motor revving.’ When a child is caught up in an ever-increasing-speed loop, there is a need to break the cycle in order to allow him or her to get back in touch with the physical world and be present with what is.

Aren’t we adults the same? Our exterior demonstration of ‘revved up’ may be much different than that of a child. We may be madly typing, multi-tasking, or plotting the most efficient way to zip through our ‘to-do’ lists. All of that thought and action takes us out of our physical bodies. I have friends who can get so involved in their work that they literally forget to eat, or even to use the bathroom!

Leaf with DewOne idea might be to create a literal ‘calm down’ space for ourselves, then set an alarm so we remember to use it. Maybe the space could be a quiet corner of our office, fitted out with a candle, a book of poetry, or a beautiful photograph. Or maybe it is a short step outside to view the sky or the landscape, or even to carefully examine a leaf on a tree in the back yard. Anything that gets us back in touch with the physical world and reminds us to breathe can become a sanctuary of tranquility.

What or where is your ‘calm down’ space?



The Olympics are over now, put to bed with a grand finale on Sunday evening.

Last week, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, those same Olympics prompted several posts about sexism in sports reporting.

SwimmerOne post included a satire of the way Michael Phelps’ accomplishments would have been described had he been a female. The focus was on his marital status, his quick return to swimming following the birth of his baby, time thus spent away from his baby, the support he received from his family, and his classification as ‘arm candy.’ The article was short on references to strength, determination, commitment or sacrifice—the basics required of every Olympic athlete. The article was well done, very funny, and it did a great job of emphasizing the way men and women are perceived in a sports venue.

On the serious side, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú crushed the world record in a gold-medal performance, an NBC commentator said, “And there’s the man responsible—her husband and coach!” The camera panned to a man in a green shirt cheering and raising his fists to the sky.

I was watching that event. I heard that comment. And I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t register as the “Are you kidding me?” comment that it actually was.

Such is the power of awareness. (Or lack of it.)

Before we can change anything, we have to be conscious of the need for that change. A friend told me last week that in the sixties (1960’s, not 1860’s), the public swimming pools in Los Angeles were open for white people on Days 1-4, for Latinos on Day 5, and for African Americans on Day 6. The pool was then drained and refilled on Day 7.

My jaw dropped. Seriously? She said that her husband, who is Latino, told her, “Yes, we had one day a week. Didn’t really think anything of it.”

The fact that people could be bamboozled into viewing such conditions as routine, as appropriate, just astonishes me. Yet, in truth, we do tend to accept the way things are, without examining them too closely. What’s known, familiar, and comfortable tends to persist—unless we become aware that change is in order.

And those changes don’t need to be as important as battling sexism or racism. For me, it was literally putting on my glasses and looking at my kitchen counters. Yikes! Where did all those splats and spots come from?

How about you? What areas of your life might you view with a new set of eyes?

Seeds Into Flowers

Seeds Into Flowers

“Find the seed at the bottom of your heart and bring forth a flower.”

Mixed Floral Bouquet

This quote by Shigenori Kameoka was another thought-provoking prompt in yesterday’s Purple Ink Café Writer’s Circle. It made me reflect on the way I mentally divide my writing between ‘business writing’ and ‘personal writing.’

Business writing, of course, consists of educational articles and blog posts, all of the verbiage that I create to populate my website, and emails and courses that have to do with my work as a creativity coach, hand analyst and mastermind facilitator.

Personal writing, on the other hand, encompasses journaling, self-reflection, descriptions of things I’ve seen that I want to remember, the random essay on something I feel strongly about, personal emails, and even the old-fashioned thank you note. Personal writing is more, well, personal.

Then it struck me that maybe these two parts of my writing (and my life) aren’t really that separate and distinct. The reason I do the work that I do is the same reason that I journal or touch base with friends or relatives—I want to connect. I want authentic relationships, both with my internal self and with other people.

All of my writing is, at its most basic level, an attempt to communicate. Even when I’m describing our upcoming clutter clearing mastermind, the point of that communication is to let the people who have a need for this service know it’s available if they’d like to participate. Is that communication less valuable, more crass, than a personal journal entry exploring my own feelings about my (possibly) extraneous possessions?

All of the seeds we carry in our hearts can become flowers. It doesn’t matter if the flower is a rose or an orchid or an amaryllis. Each has its own form of beauty, and each is worthy of cultivating, growing and sharing.

What seeds are lying dormant deep in your heart? What flowers might those seeds bring forth?

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

Here’s a phrase from a poem on gratitude shared in this week’s Purple Ink Café Writers’ Circle: “Our swimsuits, flapping in the breeze.”

Black Swimsuit

It created a rather humorous picture in my mind of an oversized swimsuit literally flapping around my body. That picture was immediately replaced by a picture of a swimsuit hanging out to dry after a day at the beach.

I can enjoy the beach, but am not a ‘beach person’ per se. I do love the ocean, though—the vastness and power of the sea, the way you can lift your gaze to infinity. It provides a bit of perspective when I get so balled up in my day-to-day concerns that I forget there really is a bigger picture.

And the specter of the swimsuit provides another challenge for me. It’s disconcerting these days to see all of the bumps and bulges revealed, and the icky blue veins and hills and valleys in these legs that once were smooth and firm, the product of years of ballet classes.

But this is also where I can see that it’s possible to take note of those imperfections, then move on to the blessings experience provides. It reminds me of my mother-in-law, Eleanor, who swam into her seventies, and never expressed self-consciousness about her appearance. Because she knew what really mattered—the delight of sharing joyful life events with her children and grandchildren.

Do you ever wonder how much we miss by worrying about appearances? There’s so much more to life than the way we look—physically or otherwise. As a recovering perfectionist, it’s challenging to expose myself to judgment, either by saying something that might provoke disagreement, or sharing a painting or an article that may be flawed in some way, or exposing a less-than-pristine housekeeping habit that’s still in the ‘working on it’ stage.

And that’s when walking my own talk can come to the rescue. The hand analysis and creativity coaching I do meets and greets that judgmental mindset, and allows me to see the appeal of the perfectly imperfect. There is true beauty in living, becoming vulnerable, taking some chances, gaining wisdom, and passing it along. We are all works in progress and beings in process, and there is magnificence in that.