Free Form Writing, or letting it all hang out!

August 3rd, 2011


Has it really been two months since I have completed a blog post? Wow! How did that happen?

Today I want to talk about a tool which sometimes is used in Coaching. I believe I have spoken about it before. It’s called free form writing. Julia Cameron, who wrote the book The Artists Way calls them morning pages. One of my peers refers to it as vomiting on paper. The basic technique is just that, you close the door and start writing, allowing anything which comes forward to come forward with not judgment or expectations. You can set an intention or a focus, as I call it, but know that it may not go there and be okay with that, and what ever comes forward.

Now, Free form writing is a powerful tool which is actually part of a few religions. I have used it in the past to great effect, but know that, for me, I need to be careful as I have had it backfire on me or there have been outcomes which I hadn’t counted on.

So why am I bringing this up now? Things are starting to move for me. Which I am incredibly grateful for. But as things begin to move, I find that there is some resistance and I have a need for clarity about how I want them to develop. Free form writing is a great way to get that out. It is also a fantastic way to discover what may be holding me back.

Now, I have friends who are writers who really dislike this tool. Because of two aspects: they already write 8 hours a day, and I ask them to destroy their writing when it is complete. Think about that for a moment. Your livelihood is based on writing and I, your Coach, have asked you to write in a way which is emotional and revelatory and then burn it! WHAT?!?!?!

It’s actually not what it seems.

Free form writing is plotless, it is at best unguided and filled with emotion. The point is to get all out on paper and to simply, as my friend said, throw up all the toxic stuff which is holding us back. Or to express all those unexpressed hopes which need to be given voice in order to be born.

Remember no one is going to read this, not even you, so you can write anything!

How many times have you wanted to tell off your obnoxious fill-in-the-blank? How many times have you wanted to sort out the feelings which you have had around some issue that simply wasn’t making any sense. How about wanting to take a look at your dark side in a safe environment? We all have one and many times they contribute good things when in balance. And yet, many of us never acknowledge them. Free form writing is a tool which can be used to help to become friends with our dark side or any aspect of ourselves which we feel we would benefit from being addressed.

The thing which I many times bring forward from a free form writing session – which should last uninterrupted between 10 mins and no more than 2 hours – is a sense of peace and getting back in touch with a calmer, more centered me. This helps to facilitate better communication with others, better decision making, less stress and more fun! All good things!

So, if you could help shift anything via free form writing, what would you work on? And who would you be when you are done?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

May 26th, 2011


I think I have spoken about this before, but it has come up again in my life, so I am choosing to revisit it. Maybe this will bring forward something new for you as well.

Many years ago I worked for a large hospital here in Southern California. During the orientation, we were repeatedly told that there were patience and their families who would try to give us, individually, money to guarantee that the care received would be top notch. And that if we accepted the money, we would be fired and potentially prosecuted.

The HR director who presented this information was adamant that this should not happen. She stressed all the scenarios of what our responsibilities were with the caveat of, but be nice while you say NO!!!!! because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.

I put up my hand and said, thank you for expressing why we can’t take the money personally, but could you give us any constructive solutions and better ways to handle the situation which would support a positive dialog between the person offering the money and the person to whom it’s being offered?

This was followed by stunned silence.

I then said, could you give us a suggestion which will empower us?

Why, yes, here is a positive option.

While I completely understand the necessity to make sure that the new employees understood the policy and the reason behind the policy, I also found the focus on the negative consequences with no real, workable options, to create artificial limitations which do nothing to up hold the larger agenda, which is basically good customer service. Had the trainer gone over the policy and then presented alternatives, an overall more positive message would have been received. I know that several people later came and thanked me for speaking up, because they had felt that they were being treated as though they were thieves and liars, and because of the length of time spent on the subject and the detail with which it was addressed, that the Hospital anticipated that everyone would be tempted to take a bribe, and that everyone would be offered one.

The suggestion was truly that the Hospital believed that we were all corrupt or corruptible.

So I tell this story because I have been thinking about how things are presented and how they are designed to make us feel. And while I stand by the idea that no one can make me feel anything unless I allow them to, I also believe that when provocative language is chosen, it is done in order to achieve a specific reaction. Charismatic speakers use this technique all the time in order to elicit the results which they are looking for. They count on peoples training to submit to those in power, to the basic training to not question the experts, and to the idea which most people are raised with that they are unworthy to know and understand the more higher ideals which are being presented, and therefore they should not worry overly much about things which bother them.

This is disrespectful in the end only serves to cause a rift among employees. It sets up a us and them mentality. It also disempowers people, keeping them within narrow confines and undermining creativity and team work. Because the emphasis is on what not to do and the negative consequences of being doing the wrong thing.

What might happen if, as in my example, people where not only given the policy but also given solutions and encouraged to create other, more positive solutions? What might the result be if people are recognized and empowered to be a valuable part of the team? Could they work together more effectively and efficiently? Is it possible that there will be a higher job satisfaction and even an enjoyment of coming to work every day? What would that look like? feel like? Taste like? And who would you be if this were the case?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

Tip of the day May 4, 2011

May 4th, 2011

One way to support yourself in drinking enough water is to have a bottle in the refrigerator which is 64 ounces. You will know you have met your goal because you have refilled it.

Another alternative is to have a refillable bottle on your desk or counter and knowing how many times a day you have to refill it in order to meet your goal. Mine is 32 ounces, so for my minimum requirement, I need to refill it twice. Easy!

So, they say it’s your Birthday…

May 2nd, 2011


So, today is my birthday. And as with most birthday’s I am feeling a little, oh, blase about the whole thing. I don’t have anything planned of today, although there are thoughts about going to visit someone in Denver in a couple of weeks – their treat – but over all nada.

World events seem to think that they needed to give me a present. The head of one of the biggest terrorist organizations was reported to have been killed last night. And while that is good news simply because now people may be able to sleep better at night, it also reminded me of something: I can love my enemies.

The tragedy of 9/11 lives with me as with most other Americans and the world. I lost two people I knew and am lucky to have not lost my cousin who was at work in the Pentagon when the plane crashed there. I feel for the friends, families and colleges who were left behind and the survivors both of the disasters themselves and those who were part of the rescue effort who have died or continue to have health issue resulting from their heroic efforts on behalf of all concerned.

But I found myself doing something unexpected tonight. Instead of celebrating, I found myself moving into acceptance, compassion, loving and forgiveness. Because I know, in my heart of hearts, that it is only through though these that there can be healing.

Yes, I agree that the bringing of Osama bin Laden to justice and his death is long over due. He and the group which he lead have wrecked a great deal of havoc and lose in the world. All in the name of a God which I do not understand or recognize. And yet, I find that I can say a prayer for him, for his soul, because even if it means nothing to him or against any score he and the Supreme Deity may have to settle, it helps me to be at peace. Because when I pray for him, I also pray for myself. When I accept and forgive, I am loving myself as well. I am able to be at peace.

This is not an easy thing to do. even as I write this I think to myself, are you crazy?!?!? ObL was a monster! He lead fanatics and encouraged them to oppress, kill and destroy any one and anything which got in their way or in the way of their dogma!

All true. But his existence in the world has also helped me to remember that every day is a gift and a blessing. That even when there is evil int he world, there is also so much good. That with out the darkness, we wouldn’t be able to see the light, be blessed by the light, be bathed in the light.

So here is my prayer, not for Osama bin Laden and other tyrants in the world, but for me and for you who read this and for others;

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be forgiveness, acceptance and love.
Let us always remember those lost, but also remember to laugh when we remember, because they were and are our shining lights and not one, no matter how malicious, can take that away from us.
Let us say a prayer for those who have inflicted harm. That they will one day find peace.
Oh Mother Father God, I am in deep gratitude for this life. For my friends, my family, my pets, my colleagues and even those who would do me harm. These are all your children and my teachers. I love them all. And I am truly blessed.

So be it.

(BTW- the above is really a large part of Spiritual Psychology. I recommend the book, Loyalty to Your Soul for more info.)

The best birthday present? Knowing that I am loved.

But, if someone has an Ipod they’d like to find a new home for, I won’t turn you down.

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

Moving forward slowly

April 22nd, 2011


So today I was having a conversation with someone who is currently trying to make changes in their lives in preparation for a large change they are going to make. I suggested that they remember to give themselves credit when they are successful. They currently see more failures than success. I think that maybe the steps are too big, so they are having issues with not having integrated the smaller changes which make up parts of the whole.

Let me see if I can give you an example. This is going to seem a little off the wall, but bear with me.

I believe I have talked about the fact that growing up we weren’t necessarily taught to take care of ourselves beyond soap and water. Brushing and flossing our teeth was something we were taught, but it wasn’t programmed into our minds and muscle memory. These habits and others had to be learned.

One habit which was very difficult for me to learn was moisturizing. There were three parts to this. The first was simply getting used to putting moisturizer on every night. The second was getting used to spending the money and not worrying about running out. Concentrating on lack. This one proved to be harder mainly because I had lived in lack, or been told that I did, for many years. The third was a fear of failure. I knew that changing these would be extremely helpful in other areas of my life and not just a hydrated face! So on a very practical level, what did I do?

I started with something I could live with. I went out and found a moisturizer that was decent and was priced decently. It also came in a large quantity so I didn’t have any qualms about using it and being lavish. This went on for about 2 years. There were two challenges: that this brand has an inconsistent distribution here in the US for this product, and it did not contain SPF.

So, my next step was to find a higher quality product which would come at a higher price and use it for a while. Pushing my comfort zone to actually use the product as lavishly as I did the lower cost product. I did this for about a year. Finally at that point I realized I was, for the most part, at that place where using moisturizer was now part of my evening routine and not using it seemed odd to me. At that point I took the last step and bought a better brand which has SPF in it and I use it daily. I am less concerned about the cost than I am about making sure that I use it every morning. I still use a different brand at night. I give myself credit for making this adjustment and taking care of myself.

So what is the point of this, you ask? As a Client, many times it is simply too overwhelming to see how to break things down into more workable solutions. Solutions which have practical applications. Like the moisturizer scenario, it is important to recognize some of the underlying issues – for me it was lack of developed habit, fear of failure and fear of lack – and upon identifying those underlying issues, find constructive ways to address all of these at once. All the while creating new systems and ways of being which support the changes which the Client is working towards.

This is exciting stuff!

Sometimes the first question to ask yourself is well, what can I do? What can I commit to change right now which I know over the next 30 days I can complete? And then move forward with that? Once that is achieved, then can you push your comfort level up a notch? This is where growth is.

Yes, there will be times when you are incomplete. There were many nights in the beginning when I forgot to put on moisturizer. And sometimes when I rebelled and simply refused to. And there were days when I worried about running out and not being able to replace my moisturizer. That has never come to pass. When I didn’t follow through, there is no reason to beat myself up. it was a mistake or simply a behavior which I choose to change. Then I simply looked at what was going on, made any adjustments to my thinking or my actions which were not supporting my agenda and then moved forward with a positive focus. And today, I generally remember to moisturize twice a day. So success has been achieved.

As a Coach, it is my job to assist my Clients to break things down to their smallest, easiest to handle units. Then to support them to achieve their goals through completing their course of action, ever raising the bar once they have successfully reached that first goal. To up level their focus. To improve.

So, if you could break things down to their smallest unit, then move through the process with a supporter and Coach, what might you achieve? Who might you be?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

Tip of the day:

April 14th, 2011

Everytime you have a serving of meat or starchy carbs, have 2 servings of low fat fruits or veggies. And don’t forget the H2O!

Sometimes you just need to let go.

April 14th, 2011

I have a very rich internet life. back in the day when I was working as an Executive Assistant and I could run my bosses lives in my sleep, I had little to do but connect with people via the internet. At one time I was an active part of about 7 different communities and a few off shoots. Today, I am part of three, one of which includes Facebook, which is really about keeping tabs on my friends and family.

One of these communities I have been a part of long enough to get to know the personalities involved very well. There has been a shift in the group and the voices of many old warriors have become very loud. Sometimes to the point where dissenting voices get drowned out.

I have recently found that I write two or three responses before I send one. I pick and choose what I am going to say because I want to make sure that the point I am trying to get across is clear and addresses the issue and not simply the opinion of the person who is squeaking the loudest. This is very unlike me. While I am generally not reactionary, I am also not Ms. Super cautious. I tend to be direct and try to be to the point. So what is going on, you might ask?

I sat and thought about this for a while. Was there something which I was upset about? Something which I felt was wrong? had I stopped caring? Was I feeling unheard? these are all valid questions which, when I check into them, have very clear answers. No, there isn’t something which upsets me about them. There isn’t anything which I feel is “wrong” per se. I hadn’t stopped caring, if Ihad I wouldn’t have started writing in the first place. And I didn’t feel unheard. At least not, really.

I am from a large family. there was definitely a squeaky wheel theory in play. And one of the things I learned to do early was to decide what was important and what wasn’t. Now, I chatter with the best of them. My middle name is a derivative of Kathy, afterall. But when I want to be sure I am heard, I am straight and to the point.

But the key for the above situation is that I have been able to discern an increasingly prevalent pattern of people being married to their point of view. So I choose to write several different responses in hopes of getting my point across in a way which they might hear it more clearly. even if they don’t agree with my point, they take it into consideration.

Now I think as a Coach it is extremely important to not only be able to identify when I or my client is married to our position and it is detrimental, but also to be able to see when it is simply more beneficial to let go of the need to express myself (or the Client themselves,) and get my point across. When is it better to simply let go of the discussion and accept that the other person has their interpretation of the facts which is not in alignment with yours. It doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong, it simply means that one works better than the other for me or my Client. There is no conflict because of this. Simply and acceptance of differences.

Now, this does not mean that you or I have to associate with people with whom we have fundamental differences in the way we are in the world. I do not have to hang out virtually or in real time with people who have very different opinions than I, or who are so attached to their need to be right that they will expend a great deal of energy trying to get others to agree, even when there has been an agree to disagree offered up.

Sometimes you simply need to let go. Whether it is of a thought, a feeling, a situation, a relationship or a community, when you stop getting anything from it, when it starts to be too much work and not enough return, then taking the time to examine what is going on both outside and inside is a good idea. Then once you have a clear picture, deciding from there what to do and how to move forward from a place of clarity will allow you to truly own not only your feelings, but your choices. And this is a good place to come from.

Personally, as I started this blog with a very real situation, I think it’s probably time for me to walk away from this community, at least for a little while. I have learned a great deal from it, made some great friends and am very happy that I have been part of it. But the more i think about it, the more I realize that I have out grown many parts of it and that it is time to move forward. the community will be there if I decide to go back. But it is simply time to shift my focus and energy other places.

So is there any place where you would benefit from taking time to examine what is going on and perhaps choosing to shift your focus?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

We design what we know, or what Anne Taylor Loft reminded me of

April 11th, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, I was walking by Anne Taylor Loft in Marina del Rey. Now, I have never been in love with ATL clothing because they have a lot of ruffles on the shirts which I find unflattering for a woman who is well endowed. To me, and many others, it looks as though she is trying to hide her assets and generally failing.

At that time, the window display is a photo essay with many of the Home Office staff for ATL in ATL clothing. Included in this photo is a few of the designers. From what I have been able to discern, very few women on the staff have a large bosom.

(Guys, bare with me. I’ll get to the point in a second, promise.)

All I could do was remember what my Costume Design professor, Jan Stauffer, said: we design what we know and are most familiar with. In Jan’s experience, all of her male designs tended to look like her husband. And she pointed out to me that there are designers out there who design to their bodies. Armanis women’s line tend to feel as though they are made for young boys. Giorgio Armani main clientele are men looking for amazing suits. That is not necessarily conducive to the female silhouette. Conversely, Donna Karan, who has a great adult, womanly body, tends to design clothes which fit that style of body.

Now, how does this come into play in the Corporate Executives life? Aside from finding clothes which are best for your particular body? How about looking at your style of doing things and asking yourself, Is this still a valid way of being and doing?

How we choose to go about something, to set up and design a project, a system, even a relationship, is usually about us and what we know. I know, d’uh! Except that it isn’t. Many people never take the time to look at what is going on, how their actions underscore models which are no longer working for them. So they continue to design their world the same way over and over again.

Why? one might ask. Because change is scary? Because of a need to be right? Because of a need to not be wrong? the list goes on and on and on. But the one truism is that without change, we become stagnant, bored, and our way of doing things becomes outdated. We begin to feel as though we are replaceable. This adds to stress, effects performance, communication and general feelings of motivations. And can lead to moving from fear and anger as opposed to excitement, enjoyment and a sense of purpose.

Now this is not wrong or bad. In fact, sometimes the pattern is absolutely perfect and does not need to be changed on any level, except to perhaps evolve and adapt with changing times. But it can also limit us on our way to our chosen goals because we cling to ideas and things which no longer support us and who we are becoming.

Now, for me, the idea that ATL should have clothes which I can wear and would want to, is probably one of those ideas which I would be best served by choosing let go of. Because chances are that the designers will continue to design what they know, and they have an audience for it. Which is good for them. I, on the other hand, am able to design what I know and make choices to stretch beyond those boundaries when appropriate. Which is great because even acknowledging that begins to free me from limitations which cause me to continue in a pattern which is no longer supporting me. I can always choose when to use what I have previously done and when to cultivate something new. And sometimes I can choose to do things the old way with a new attitude. And that can make all the difference in the world.

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Shuman

An Attitude of Gratitude

March 27th, 2011


So, as is my wont, today I went to Costco to pick up a few things which we had run out of or forgotten when we did our marketing the other day. It’s a beautiful day here in Southern California, so I walked over with my push cart, stopped and bought a cup of coffee and went into the store.

I only had a short list, so I decided to indulge a little bit in one of my favorite activities: people watching. I was surprised at what I saw. Many women who were my age, more or less, looked tired, stressed, aged. Many had deep groves around their mouths and eyes. Most were dressed well and had their hair and make up done, so it wasn’t a matter of this being the hippy dippy crowd, which is my neighborhood is always a possibility. And it suddenly hit me that I have much to be grateful for.

Many years ago, I was hanging around Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon meeting because there were several people in my life who were actively pursuing their addictions or where trying to get sober. One of the ideas which came up was to practice and attitude of gratitude. After watching the women in Costco I remembered that I have a great deal to be grateful for.

I am grateful for my son and my friends who love me, accept me and support me without question. I am grateful that I chose, years ago, to live in awe and acceptance of what is and to not worry too much about how things “should” be. I am grateful that I have a future and that it is bright. I am grateful for all the things I have been though, without judgment, because they have helped to make me a better, stronger more compassionate person.

I am grateful for this last year without a car. That is one less stress in my life. And in fact, I am grateful that, overall, I have chosen to live life in a way which is minimally stressful. Or at least, take an attitude which is minimally stressful.

I am grateful for the challenges which I have had. And I am grateful for gifts which I have been given. Too many to count. I am grateful for good genetics. And for curiosity which keeps me growing.

There are many things which I could choose to focus on which could be judged as short comings: not enough money, my career is taking longer to come to fruition than I would like, I am not able to do many of the things which I really want to do and enjoy. But by focusing on those things, I would be spending energy in fruitless ways, running in circles and adding to my stress. It is when I am in the calmness and in a place of gratitude, that I am able to hear my inner voice, my inner knowing which in the 15 Proficiencies would be #10, Shares what is there, what comes forward. It is where you and I put our focus which will bring forward what we are trying to manifest.

And while some may choose to equate gratitude with a religious or spiritual path, it doesn’t have to be. It can simply be an appreciation, acknowledgment and high regard for what is there.

What are you grateful for? What do you focus on? If you switched your focus, what might happen in your life? And who might you become?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Kay Shuman

We’re only Human afterall or Proficiency #15: Respects the client’s humanity.

March 27th, 2011


So today, I am going to introduce the last Proficiency. Proficiency #15: Respects the client’s humanity. I believe that this is probably one of, if not the, most important proficiency, because it is so foundational in how the Coach sees and interacts with the Client.

15. Respects the client’s humanity.

We all have limits, both internal and external, and as much as coaching is about maximizing potential and opportunities, we are all human and the Certified Coach respects this. Success without stress is what we are all after and by recognizing limits and appreciating different paths to achievement, the client is both individually and universally respected.


1. Respect the client’s RAM limitations.
2. Respect the client’s style/approach.
3. Respect the client’s wishes.

The key distinction is respect vs. accept.

Isn’t this idea amazing? That I, as the Coach, accept the Client as a human being who has their own set abilities and limitations? That, in respecting their humanity, I accept that they are where they are, have gone through what they have gone through in their life times,are interested in changing. These are all very important and really, really amazing and supportive. The fact that the Coach accepts and respects this and the fact that the Client comes to Coaching as a complete person who does not need to be fixed, healed, repaired or in anyway saved, is completely freeing. And more than that, it allows the Client to start to respect and accept themselves as well.

Now, this does not mean that the Coach always plays all nicey nice. As a Coach, it is my responsibility to point out to my Clients when they are not keeping their word, working to their full potential, or being in integrity. by the same token, it is my job to also recognize when a Client is doing their best but perhaps needs to shift their focus or come into acceptance of a limitation which they are currently working with and help them to find ways of being which will either counteract that particular limitation or make friends with it so that it is easier to live with.

The other side of the coin is that the Coach gets to respect their own limitations. Their own humanity. There are some Clients who, because of their different world view, I know that I would have difficulties working with. There is nothing wrong with admitting that and in fact, it is taking care of myself and respecting myself and my boundaries which is a good thing. Because then I spend less time trying to figure out why I feel negatively about a situation.

So, as this is the last blog in this series – and I plan on taking a week off before I start the next one – I leave you with this question: As a Client, would you want a Coach who is able to do all of the things mentioned here? Someone who not only is an expert in what ever area they are working with you in but is also trained and skilled in everything from technique to helping to bring out your best, to seeing and respecting you as the Client as a whole and complete human being?

And Coaches, isn’t it wonderful that we have these Proficiencies to work with? Which help to ensure not only our competence but also give us a platform to build and grow from? And help us have the confidence to move forward with ease and grace?

So what will you do? Who do you want to be? Who will you become?

Things to think about. Until next time.

Nancie Shuman