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.

Habits

Habits

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?

Ism

Ism

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.

Rambling

Rambling

Just want to give you a heads up. This is a much longer post than I usually write. It marks half a year of weekly posts (week 26), so I decided to indulge in a bit of a ramble, and hope you’ll come along.

Yesterday, Kathy Kane’s Writers’ Circle opened a delightfully random trip into my past. She provided the perfect prompt—a YouTube video of Aaron Copeland’s composition, The Quiet City, coupled with the visuals of old photos and Edward Hopper’s paintings.

This is what came:

I don’t know how he does it. Edward Hopper manages to capture that loneliness that permeates the city, the country, the rural, the urban. Even when there are a number of people in the scene, each one seems steeped in solitude.

Minimal lines? Flattened compositions?

His work reminds me a lot of my life as a child in Richmond, California. We had a Chinatown across the bay in San Francisco, a long soda fountain in the supermarket, cafes with a counter and round, backless stools. Gas stations with two pumps (regular and ethyl) dotted Highway 99, the north/south route through the San Joaquin valley, where we’d travel to visit old family friends. The days of swamp coolers, when “Air Conditioned!” signs on movie marquees in that valley meant escape from the 100+ degree sidewalks.

Apartments had tile floors. The first home my parents actually owned had three bedrooms and one bathroom. A mother, a father, and four siblings lived there. A single black rotary telephone with a long nylon cord, a gas wall heater in the hall, and a battered secondhand upright piano in the living room. It felt comfortable.Black Rotary Phone

We had a washing machine, but we also had a washboard. It was a big rectangular wooden frame with a metal interior. At first glance it looked like an oversized grater, but the metal part consisted of horizontal ribs rather than holes for cutting. My babysitter would fill the sink with water, stick that washboard in, and rub clothes up and down the metal ribbing to clean them.

Our laundry was hung on a clothesline, which stretched from the porch to the fence at the other end of the back yard. It had pulleys, so you could pin a sheet, a towel, or a garment, then pull the top of the line towards you, and the garment would sail towards the fence. We could get two rows of clothes going at the same time.

Collecting our dry clothes reversed the operation, pulling the lines to the porch, unclipping the clothespins, dropping the clean laundry into a basket, and returning the clothespins to the clothespin bag. I remember that clothespin bag—striped blue ticking on a hanger, with the front hanging open like a kangaroo’s pouch. I wonder now how we ever got dry clothes, especially in the winter. Living across the bay from San Francisco, we had a lot of fog and a lot of rain. Even summer highs hovered around 70 degrees. The day the clothes dryer was delivered, my mother and sister rejoiced.

We were the last family on the block to get a television set. I was five years old. My dad didn’t believe in buying anything on credit. But the clothes dryer and the TV were two purchases my mom made on her own. We kids were always at someone else’s house, watching TV. Maybe that’s why she took that huge step. Or maybe she just wanted her own chance to relax after a long day at work.Console Television

The day the TV was delivered, I was swinging on the front porch rail. Our porch was painted brick red, with black wrought iron handrails. The delivery men huffed and puffed a huge crate up the steps and into our living room. Television sets came in cabinets back then, like a major piece of furniture. You could close the wooden doors and hide the screen.

But because it ran on tubes rather than on solid state circuits, there had to be space for what seemed like dozens of those glass cylindrical tubes. The TV was at least 24 inches deep. And when the picture went fuzzy, we would pull the tubes out of their sockets and take them down to the supermarket, where there was a ‘tube tester.’ We’d stick each one in the proper sized socket, and when the defective culprit was located, we’d buy a replacement tube, take it home, insert it, and hope for the best. Usually, it didn’t help, and the whole process would begin again.

There were also buttons for horizontal and vertical hold. The picture would sometimes roll like the photos on Instagram when an enthusiastic user is viewing photos. The vertical hold would stop the flipping so we could actually watch the show. Horizontal hold kept the dark slashes of zigzag static from streaking across the screen.

When I think of how different my life is now, and how different the childhoods of my grandchildren are from my own, it boggles my mind. Even my profession didn’t exist then. Coaching was limited to sports, and science-based hand analysis hadn’t been discovered.

And at the same time, my Connections Life Purpose did exist, and I’m grateful for the chance to live it even more fully now, in 2016.

How about you? Where have you been? What childhood experiences and memories continue to impress and shape you? And where is your Life Purpose calling you to go?

Discovery

Discovery

Isn’t it a treat to watch a child begin to explore the world?

human-766937_1920 (1)

When I take a walk with my grandchildren, I see my surroundings in a totally different way. Seeing my world through their eyes is a whole new adventure—hearing a birdcall and discussing whether it’s a dove or a crow. Perceiving a dandelion as a precious flower, carefully plucked by chubby little fingers, rather than viewing it as a noxious weed. Watching two women with a baby in a stroller walking on the other side of the street, and making up stories about their lives. How big is their family? Do they have to go to a job every day? Or is that grown-up a parent staying home, taking time, like we are, to walk in the middle of the day?

I probably listen more closely to these children than to anyone else. They are excited about what they are sharing with me, unabashedly seeking confirmation and validation. Their thoughts and feelings haven’t been censored to the extent that they will be when they experience more of the challenging bits of life. So they are honest and fresh. And being with them is a tremendous source of fulfillment for me. Not surprising, since Connection is my Life Purpose.

These children are a conduit to a wonderful world of observation that’s not muddied by a major overlay of prejudgment. Or tainted by that enemy of the adult, taking the familiar for granted. That ability to observe newly, I think, is the foundation of creativity.

How about you? Can you step back and allow yourself to become child-like? (Not talking childish here…huge difference!) If so, what stirs in you? And how does it relate to living your own Life Purpose?

If we’ve already worked together, you know what your Life Purpose is. If we haven’t, you can get some ideas using my free workbook, Exploring Common Threads. You can sign up to the right of this post, and have it sent to your very own computer. It’s a great place to start this creative exploration!

Be Who You Are

 

Dr. Seuss Quote

Isn’t this a fabulous quote?

It was a writing prompt in Kathy Kane’s inaugural Purple Ink Cafe Writers’ Circle, and so appropriate for those of us navigating the School of Love!

How can I get more comfortable with being who I am, and saying what I feel?

As I’ve gotten older, this task is a little less daunting than it once was. It’s been a long time coming, but it has finally dawned on me that I’m really not the focus of everyone’s attention. (Older women, by the way, can become virtually invisible—especially once you cross that great divide between ‘miss’ and ‘ma’m’!)

When we are teenagers, we have this self-consciousness that stems from the conviction that everyone is looking at us and judging us. The reality? Everyone else is so busy worrying about what others are thinking of them that they have very little time or energy to notice us.

This can be pretty obvious, too, in general conversations. How often do we really listen to what the other person is saying, right in the present moment, and absorb it? Frequently, we are forming our responses in our heads while the other person is still speaking. We miss the import of what they are saying, because we want to make our point or share our experience.

I get this mental image of two heads facing each other, with a mirror separating them. Each person’s words are bouncing back to the speaker, never penetrating the partition.

If we don’t believe we’re being heard, it’s hard to share our feelings. Feelings, after all, are messy things. Just going inside ourselves and sitting with them can make us feel pretty uncomfortable. Then to have to bring them to the surface and reveal them? Possibly to someone who may deflect them or disagree with them? Not easy.

But this is the curriculum in the School of Love—learning to identify and share our feelings, appropriately and at a proper volume.

Sometimes, we get a bit obsessed about the negative feelings that dwell beneath the surface, and forget that there are a lot of positive things down there as well. School of Love folks have the lifelong challenge of digging down, understanding what’s going on with our emotions, and then expressing them authentically and appropriately.

And when it gets scary, channel Dr. Seuss!

Shine Your Heart

Shine Your Heart

Often in my yoga class, when we are either in a cross-legged sitting position or standing straight and tall in Mountain Pose, our teacher tells us, “Shine your heart.” It’s an instruction to pull our shoulder blades back and down, and present our hearts to the world.mountain-pose-815291_1280

It made me think of what this means. When I’m shining my heart, I’m exposed. Standing tall, letting others literally see the place in my body where my heart resides, is a posture of willingness to let others in. It’s a confident stance, but it’s also a vulnerable one.

It’s a contrast to what I often see when I’m out in the world. People walk around the mall or the grocery store hunched over the smartphones clutched a foot from their chests, staring at the ground focusing on the sounds coming through their earbuds, or hugging a grocery cart.

All of these stances are protective. They exclude others; it’s virtually impossible even to make eye contact when the shoulders are stooped and the gaze is lowered. And it makes me sad.

It may just be a posture thing, but it makes me wonder if it’s a vulnerability thing. “Let me draw in and hide myself, so I don’t have to interact with someone who may reject or disapprove of me, or make me feel uncomfortable.”

How about an experiment? Stand up, draw your shoulders towards your stomach, and bow your head. How do you feel?

Now, raise your head and draw your shoulders back, reaching your shoulder blades down towards your hips. How do you feel?

What does it mean for you to ‘shine your heart’?