Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Contributor- Cultivating Enthusiasm

I grew up thinking counselors were for people with serious problems and therapists were mainly interested in dissecting your childhood. Despite those false impressions, I have turned to them during stressful life transitions with some success. I wish I had known about life coaching, maybe I would not have waited until the transitions became stressful to ask for help. 

According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching as opposed to counseling is a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. In other words, the focus is on the present and future, not analyzing the past.

I met Yvonne Ulmer through the book The Happiness Project. Yvonne had just recently retired from a long successful career as a top administrator at a local college. In her past life before kids, she was a professional country music singer and later a counselor before becoming a provost. So she knows a thing or two about career changes. I am very grateful to have found Yvonne as she helps me find my voice again after being a stay at home mom for four years. From book suggestions to visualization techniques to goal setting, Yvonne is an indispensable resource, someone who genuinely cares.

I am honored to introduce Yvonne Ulmer of  Coaching By Design as Be More Childlike’s first guest contributor. The topic is enthusiasm. 

Yvonne Ulmer, M.Ed.

There’s an old Texas saying, “You can’t light a fire with a wet match!”  Similarly, you can’t accomplish much of any significance without enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is the spark that lights the flame of positive action.  It is a feeling of intense emotion that compels us to take up a cause, climb Mt. Everest, or as we recently observed, become the third consecutive Olympic beach volleyball gold medal winner in London last week.  If you had the opportunity to watch Misty May-Treanor dance in the sand, drop to her knees and hug her partner Kerri Walsh Jennings and run through the stands, circling the stadium in over-the-top celebration….you saw enthusiasm!  This unbeatable team was a sight to see throughout the competition.  They did not save their outward display of excitement for their triumphant final game, but rejoiced and celebrated the journey all along the way.  As I watched them play, I learned that complete emotional abandon is not just for children.  It is a positive, appropriate response to giving your best and being rewarded for your efforts.

This summer I had the pleasure of visiting my New Jersey grandchildren.  My nine year old grandson’s baseball team, the Maplewood Cougars were in the regional finals.  Their team was a joy to watch!  They high fived, embraced, cheered and encouraged one another.  They had each others’ back through the good, the bad and the ugly.  They ended up second place in their region but no team could have played harder or with more enthusiasm.  Like May-Treanor and Jennings, they celebrated the journey.  By doing so, these energetic young men brought honor to themselves and the game of baseball. YEAH!

I think we all would agree that having enthusiasm and a zest for life is where we would like to be.  But what if we wake up one morning and realize that the thrill is gone?  What can we do to regain our sense of joy and well being?  Frederic M. Hudon, author of The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal, suggests that as we go through life we either find ourselves in a Life Chapter or a Life Transition.  This cycle is repeated over and over throughout our lives.  It can be helpful to identify where you are in the cycle and determine the steps you need to take to restore your vitality.  

Here’s a brief overview of Hudson’s concept.  Phase 1: Life Chapter is characterized by a period of success and stability.  In this phase there is a feeling of confidence, courage, fulfillment and energy.  A song that would be descriptive of this phase is “I’m Walking on Sunshine.”  Phase 2:  Life Chapter is characterized by a feeling of boredom and restlessness.  There is a felling of disenchantment.  In this stage people usually feel stuck and may feel angry or sad.  A song that would fit this stage is “Is that all there is?”  Phase 3: Life Transition.  This phase is typically thought of as “cocooning.”  The activities associated with this phase are training in a new area, journaling, meditation, sharing with friends, therapy or coaching.  A song that comes to mind for this phase is “Do you know where you’re going to?”  Toward the end of this stage there is a growing sense of excitement.  Just as a butterfly readying to break out of the cocoon.  Phase 4:  Getting Ready to Move Forward.  This phase is characterized by creativity, curiosity, risk taking, and enthusiasm.  At this phase in the cycle there is a feeling of hope, optimism and self-renewal.  People in this phase could be found singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!”

Enthusiasm for life is what propels us to get out of bed in the morning.  It is a gift of life that we all have the capacity to embrace.  

I want to wake up saying YES to life!    I want to seize the day!   I want my match to burn a hot flame!

How about you? 

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