Take Your Pants Off

I saw the blood wash over our then 14-year-old son Wyatt’s neck, face, and ears. He turned to me wide-eyed with that look of horrified-awkward-embarrassment that is all too common for teens. That same look is often directed at me — due to some unwitting parental offense. I had a rare moment of Mom glee because I had been in his shoes before.

His reaction was understandable. We were at the orthopedic doctor for his repeated knee supplication. A painful yet common condition in adolescence where the kneecap moves out of place during impact exercise. The doctor assured us that the testosterone coming his way due to puberty would be the best treatment plan. For boys, testosterone is nature’s hormonal elixir for strengthening and tightening the joints, tendons, and ligaments which in turn supports their growing muscle mass. Contrastingly, girls’ tendons and ligaments loosen with the onset of puberty. This is the female body’s way of preparing for childbirth. Knee supplication for female tweens can be quite problematic and painful. I digress with the single purpose to point out that this is another example of why women have to work harder for muscle definition (insert mic drop here).

Wyatt’s real pain at that moment was due to embarrassment and surprise. After a pleasant initial conversation with the Orthopedic surgeon, he was unceremoniously asked to stand up and take his pants off. A very reasonable request given we are at a Doctor’s office, but, there’s more to the story.

On my first visit to this same Orthopedic clinic after tearing my meniscus in our second month of moving to Zurich. I hobbled into the Doctor’s examination room without realizing it was in fact, an examination room. It was a spacious room with a simple elegant design. Pristine white walls, big windows with ample light filtering through. The furniture was a mixture of light wood and clear glass with clean lines. Two minimalist chairs sat behind a gorgeous glass desk that was home to a state-of-the-art Mac monitor with a small sleek keypad. Miraculously, the power cords were tied with a uniformity that only the Swiss can achieve. The office walls housed no anatomy posters or framed diplomas. Only a single minimalist screenprint adorned the west wall. The only other decor hinting it was a medical office was a small-scale anatomical human leg model that sat on the paperless glass desk. Off to the side sat an examining table that looked of Scandinavian design. Quite a contrast from the huge clunky American exam tables with their odd drawers on the side, built-in ladders with steps that no adult foot can fit on, and the cumbersome roll of cootie tissue paper that buffers your behind from the pleather. It’s a futile buffer because the minute you sit on it — it twists and tears. This exam table was so remarkable by its utilitarian elegance that it was unremarkable – my eye initially passed right over it. The same must have been true for our son.

The waiting room offered water bottles (still or gas), fresh-cut flowers, and a selection of glossy European magazines to peruse. All of this elegance and civility puts patients at ease. It felt as though I were going in for a spa treatment. There’s no rushing about. The waiting lobby is calm because the norm isn’t to cram the appointments in one after the other. When my doctor rose from his desk to retrieve me from the lobby, I didn’t know he was an actual doctor because I was so accustomed to a nurse or medical technician guiding me to the exam room, telling me to take off my clothes and sit on the massive aforementioned exam table only to wait on 30 minutes disrobed and cold until the doctor knocked and entered the room.

During my visit, when it became obvious that the man retrieving me from the pleasant lobby was in fact, the doctor. I joined him as he invited me in to sit down on the other side of his lovely desk. He asked me where I was from and if I prefer he spoke English, Swiss German, or High German. I explained in my very best bad High German that while I was new to learning the language, medical terms were still quite difficult for me to comprehend. My pride got the best of me – all German was difficult for me to understand, but given the circumstances, I was feeling more sophisticated than usual, so I bent the truth.

Both my son and I had very similar experiences up until this point at our respective appointments. After being welcomed into the aesthetically pleasing and disarming office, an initial conversation ensues about the presenting medical problem. It felt more like a cordial meeting than a doctor’s appointment. At my son’s visit, the doctor sipped a cappuccino in a gorgeous clear glass that showed the boundary line where the espresso and steamed milk met. The doctor was warm, spoke perfect English, and listened intently as my son shared the specifics of his recurring knee problems. Then, after a few follow-up questions, the Doctor said,

“OK, take your pants off.”

Cue the horrified-awkward-embarrassment look at the beginning of this story. There was a slight hand motion from the Doctor to go to the exam table just a few feet away. It was now evident that it was indeed an exam table. The doctor stayed at his desk. Wyatt sat frozen staring at me. I nodded (glee still hidden) and motioned toward the exam table. Wyatt rose from his chair and took two steps walking backward so as not to turn his back to us. He began to pull down his athletic pants in super slow motion. His affect appeared to be a combination of uncertainty and a frantic search for a bathroom or screen to hide behind. When he realized – this was it! Disrobing commences now! He pulled his left side down and then a little more on his right. And, so on and so forth until his pants were at his ankles and he looked faint. At this point, his humility getting a workout — I offered him some help and said, “I’ll take your pants and you can get on the table now.”

This scenario isn’t unusual.

I have talked to many of my American ex-pat friends living here and all have shared similar funny stories of their first Doctor visit in Switzerland. The scenario is mostly the same: clean, simple, aesthetically pleasing offices, an organized and tranquil lobby, a cordial medical conversation with the doctor, followed by an instruction to disrobe right then and there. Often, with whoever is in the room with you. I had a procedure where I was given in a steroid shot for my knee and the medical technician and Doctor were standing in front of me as I disrobed for the shot. The same for massages and physiotherapy. Just take your clothes off and get over it, dammit!

I’ve come to my own hypothesis about how this cultural difference plays out in a medical setting. It goes something like this… Europeans, in general, aren’t very modest when it comes to nudity. And, the Swiss are incredibly practical and timely, so perhaps the two norms together mean that the extra time to have each person disrobe in private for five to ten minutes is impractical and obviously, unnecessary!

Live Your Jam Update

I hope this post finds everyone rested and well after summer. For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere – spring is coming!

I am writing to give you an update. Four years ago this month, I launched Live Your Jam with a mission to help more people lead fulfilling lives. I am still as passionate about the mission today as I was in 2018. I was inspired to help more people — not just those in organizations. My plan was to scale Live Your Jam by holding workshops, and selling content, and services to have a broader impact. For four years, I didn’t sell any services or hold any workshops. That’s quite a track record. Clearly, not my Jam!

In the past three years, I’ve slowed the pace of my work and personal life – mostly due to our family’s move to Europe. The change has allowed me to experiment with what fulfills me and also become more mindful of how I spend my time.

I now work part-time in my consulting and coaching practice. The “extra” time I have is spent in nature, writing, and cooking. These restorative outlets feed my soul and give me more energy and focus, which has improved the quality of my work in helping leaders and their teams.

The integration of working less with other creative pursuits has been profoundly insightful. My ego has tried to sabotage my fulfillment with zingers like, “Are you living up to your potential?” or “Are you playing life ‘small’?”  Luckily, I know that the thoughts in my head – are just thoughts and my mind’s attempt to keep me away from my whole Self. To be fair, I do think that there are times when we need to challenge ourselves and step into our full potential – as well as times when we keep ourselves small out of fear. In my case, I am happy with this change for now. So, I continue to notice these self-sabotaging thoughts and then let them go.

This leads me to share that my Live Your Jam website will be a home for my writing. I’m going to give myself permission to write whatever I want. In the past, I have written with the intention to provide people with tools and actionable steps – things that have worked for me or I have learned via my amazing clients. Because I’m so passionate about living a life where we each use our unique gifts – it’s safe to say Jam themes will remain dominant. I will send out digests of my writing periodically through this email list for you to peruse or not! Feel free to stay on the list if the change sounds appealing or you can unsubscribe at any time.

Fulfillment is a personal journey that is ironically found in each moment. I wish you all many moments of Jam.

Blessings and light,


Coming Home

We returned this week to Switzerland from five weeks in the USA. Our summer was focused on family and practical matters. My mother-in-law passed away in the spring at the age of 89. She lived a full life and passed peacefully in her favorite chair. We are happy for her. 

My husband is an only child so the responsibility and honor of her funeral and clearing out her home fell to him. He rose to both occasions beautifully. The funeral was a loving event. It was wonderful for our two boys to hear stories about their Grandmother from others – enlarging their perspective of who she was as a person outside of her role as Grandma.

Clearing out her home of 50-plus years was both challenging and sweet. The challenge was the sheer volume of things collected; some forgotten, some cherished over a lifetime. There were dumpsters involved, countless trips to Goodwill, boxes and boxes! of book donations to the local library, and saving or shipping sentimental items to other family members. The sweetness was found in treasures like old passports – Pat was a world traveler and had visited more than 20 countries long before I met her. Our teenage sons enjoyed the different currencies she collected from her travels – many no longer in circulation. 

I was able to break away to fly across the country to visit my 93-year-old mother who was staying with one of my brothers and his sweet family. My time with them was grounding and fulfilling. Living in another country with a different language and distinct culture often feels like I inhabit two different worlds. The experience has sharpened my ability to be present because I realize that time with people I deeply love is rare. 

Air travel with a dog is full of complexity but given the length of our trip, we took our dog, Chester. If there was an award for the most well-behaved and optimistic traveler – Chester is a shoo-in. There are a lot of humans who could learn from Chester. He traversed the two continents with ease – 6,800 miles/11,000 kilometers one way. His presence on this trip provided a sense of stability that we all craved amidst the chaos of boxes, piles of organizing belongings, and the dwindling seating and sleeping choices due to furniture donations. He also gave our boys a sense of duty. There are coyotes on the small island my mother-in-law lived. And, Chester’s size while perfect for flight travel is also perfect coyote prey. Our boys kept a watchful eye on him during walks and in Pat’s beautiful backyard that abuts the forest.

Our two ginger cats remained in Switzerland under the care of a kind and gentle Ukrainian refugee. It was a win/win for all of us. Five weeks is a long time even for independent indoor/outdoor cats to be without their people. We have been home five days now and the cats have barely gone outside. Instead, they prefer to sit next to any one of us and soak up the touch and love they dearly missed. As I write, a feline is laying on my arm unencumbered by the up and down movement of my typing. He’s just happy to be with me. I feel profound love and empathy for our cats. I recognize the fragility and preciousness of their dependence on us and our connection to them. 

As I headed out to the grocery store to re-stock the refrigerator after the 25-hour door-to-door journey. I kept the meal plan simple – a salad. At self-checkout, I realized I forgot to get a cucumber. Tired, I decided not to go back to the produce section on the other side of the store. I paid for my groceries, took three steps toward the exit, and glanced at the self-checkout station next to mine. There sat a lone cucumber! I immediately laughed out loud! I looked around to make sure it didn’t belong to anyone, paid for it, and said a sincere prayer of thanks.

I am blessed to return to a place and life that I love. I am humbled that I also am able to leave it for long periods to connect to people I love. I also see the Universe’s amazing sense of humor to bring us cucumbers just when we need them most.

Don’t Buy the Lie – You are NOT what you Earn.

When we moved to Switzerland from the USA three years ago, I changed from working full-time to part-time to help our family make the transition to a new country.

I help people for a living and am fortunate that my work is my life purpose. Even with a deep connection to my work, I really enjoy working part-time. For the time being, I’ve decided to keep it that way. I don’t have the stress that I had before being a working mom. Working less allows me to be more present for my family and myself.

So, what does the thinking mind do when life is calm and happy? It conjures problems. To prove my point, I recently said to my close friend Alexa, “Maybe I should work more because Rob (my husband) has most of the financial burden. If I worked more, I could share that responsibility.” Alexa spat out her tea. (This is exactly what a good friend should do when you say something ridiculous.)

Alexa replied, “Who will share your burden of groceries, cooking, feeding and care of animals, kids’ schedules, laundry, social director…. shall I go on?” It’s true. My husband’s career is very demanding and hasn’t allowed for the flexibility mine has. I am the engineer of our family’s Operating System: Coder-In-Chief, responsible for all upgrades and bug fixes.

So, why with a full plate of responsibilities was I questioning my contribution? I had to ask myself, “Do I really believe my domestic contributions and responsibilities aren’t as valuable as a working parent?”

There is a fundamental belief in our society that says, WE ARE WHAT WE EARN. This question is not foreign to stay-at-home parents, teachers, nurses, healthcare workers, and countless other roles in society that are critical but not well-compensated.

When I was working full-time in the USA, I had a firm belief that domestic contributions in a household were as important as financial contributions. My belief was tested as my financial contribution diminished.  We’ve all had that happen. We hold an opinion or belief about something and then we have a direct experience (new data) that informs our opinion or belief and with it brings a new perspective.

Whatever your contributions are to society, don’t buy the lie. You are not what you earn, you are so much more.

Our Souls are Connected to the Divine Through Nature

This is a poem by David Wagoner that really speaks to our connection to the earth. I believe Earth (Nature) is one of the portals we have here on earth to God, Divine, Source.

It’s a particularly tough time in the world right now. We are all still recovering from two years of the pandemic and easing into our daily routines again. Many of the old structures and ways have been dismantled causing change and confusion. We need these old structures and those who lead them to change. So, while this is positive — it is a transitory and unsure time.

This poem offers a beautifully simple solution for when you feel lost or disconnected. An openness to being present with what is around you through breath and awareness of nature around you.

There are many things around us that are direct portals or sources to the Divine. But, other examples are poetry, animals, and music (especially classical).


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

— David Wagoner

Reflect upon 2021 to Set Your Intentions for 2022

I always allow time over the Christmas holidays to reflect on the past year and set intentions and goals for the year ahead. 2021 was a tough year for many – myself included. 

I have been procrastinating on this year’s reflection practice. Like an awkward conversation I don’t want to revisit or a painful memory that is still too tender to process, I prefer to jump into 2022 without looking back. Yet, I know as blissful as avoidance can be – integration of “what is” is a better teacher for “what is” to come.

Here are a few of my hardwon insights from 2021.

  • I have too many shoes and seem to struggle using the last quarter bottle of shampoo. (We moved locally in December – forcing an inventory.)
  • When you encounter unscrupulous bullies in life. Don’t back down; but also don’t give them your mental and emotional energy. Place your energy on the light – the people whom you respect, share your core values, and are blessed to call a friend. Thank you to all my friends – you know who you are.
  • Don’t be afraid of endings. The prospect of change may be uncomfortable, but embedded in every change is the opportunity to create something new and better suited to where you are at that point in your life.
  • 7-8 hours of sleep each night and taking a brisk walk outside every day are gifts that are never to be taken for granted.
  • If the people in your family are healthy and happy two years into a global pandemic, you are beyond blessed.

How did I arrive at the insights I shared above? There are many ways to practice reflection. We can answer specific reflection questions, or use different lenses or perspectives from which to reflect on a situation. 

Depending on the year, I mix it up. For example, since 2021 was challenging, I wanted to look at the lessons learned. I took the biggest challenges in 2021 and then asked a follow-up question, “How did I overcome these challenges?” And, from there, I derived insights. Also, since the global pandemic is still ongoing – here is a link to questions that look through the lens of the pandemic. 

Reflection Questions for 2021

  1. How would I describe 2021 in just 3 words?
  2. What were my biggest achievements in 2021?
  3. What were my biggest challenges in 2021?
  4. How have I developed as a person in 2021?
  5. What can I leave behind?
  6. What can I take from 2021 into 2022?

You can also set your intentions for the year. Intentions are more overarching than goals and are focused on your inner relationship with yourself. Identifying your intentions can help you live your life with meaning and purpose. 

Intention Questions for 2022

  1. What are 3 words that I want to describe my new year?
  2. What do I need to be my truest, authentic self?
  3. In which areas do I wish to grow?
  4. How do I want to feel on a daily basis?
  5. How can my work positively impact others?
  6. What is my ‘why’ behind the way I show up in my work?
  7. How do I become the best version of myself in my work?

With love, light, and a little help,


Feeling stuck in life? Help is here!

We all get stuck in life; it happens. Knowing when you are stuck and how to get unstuck is key to leading a fulfilling life.

If you ask someone today what they want out of life, the majority will tell you that they want to eat at a restaurant again! Joking aside, they will say they want to be happy. If you dig deeper into what they mean, they’ll tell you that they want to feel good and be at ease.

Sometimes, we aren’t at ease, and feeling good is elusive. Our work or relationship once-thriving can become unsatisfying. Over time, if dissatisfaction persists, we can feel stuck.  

What is the definition of being stuck? It’s the feeling of being not where we are supposed to be. It can also feel like persistent overwhelm or painful dissatisfaction with the current state or situation.  

Being stuck can be tricky. To help navigate, here are three common ways we get stuck and remedies for each:

Self-Created Stuck

Self-created stuck is what Buddhists call suffering. Suffering is part of life. A loved one dies and we hurt deeply. The pain of them being gone is real. This type of suffering is part of the human condition. I’m not talking about that kind of suffering; I’m talking about the kind we create ourselves.

The good news is that Self-created suffering is avoidable. It is the mind’s way of not accepting what is. For example, when you deny or don’t accept that something is painful, you create suffering. Or when you expect something to be different than what it is — you create suffering. Let’s look at an easy example. You are in a work meeting and your idea for solving a problem falls flat with your colleagues. You are invested in being right — you feel disrespected and angry that your solution was overlooked. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, you tell yourself it was no big deal. Oh, it doesn’t stop here! You then begin to spend time thinking about how your colleagues’ solutions were terrible! You also create a narrative about how no one listens to you and all the extroverts at the meeting suck up all the time. It’s like a mind map of negative thinking to cover up accepting what happened! This is needless suffering. 

Your Inner Purpose is to Awaken It’s As Simple As That

Eckhart Tolle

Remedy for Self-Created Stuck…

Accepting and acknowledging your uncomfortable feelings is crucial. So many times, we brush away uncomfortable truths only to inadvertently give them more power over us and steal our peace of mind. 

Instead of becoming the central actor in your own self-created narratives. Use your observing mind to watch your thinking mind and immediately create distance between the narrative and your true Self. You’ll notice that you are not your thoughts and often, the scenarios you have created keep you from peace. 

Comparison Stuck

This is another flavor of Self-created Stuck. Because it’s so potent, it deserves its own distinction. I have my own powerful personal experience with Comparison Stuck. Years ago, I attended a conference in my field of Organizational Psychology.  The field is broad and this particular conference focused on an area that I don’t have a lot of experience in or obviously, proven skill!

For two days after the conference, I felt anxious. I was feeling low and began questioning my competence as a consultant. Luckily, on day three, I had an insight that if I had not attended this conference, I would not be so miserable. Not that I shouldn’t have attended the conference, but literally, that I allowed it to change me. My consulting ability hadn’t changed in those three days. But, how I was thinking about myself did. I was comparing myself to others who specialized in an area that was not a keen interest of mine. I was creating my own suffering. There’s a saying in yoga, “Stay on your own mat, in your own practice.” This means that everything outside of your mat has nothing to do with you, so don’t give it your energy. 

Remedy for Comparison Stuck

Stay on your own mat! Don’t look at the person next to you doing the handstand or super-flexible twisty pose.When you compare, you surrender your peace of mind and what makes you unique. Just focus on your own skills, passion, and personal goals.

Dissatisfied Stuck

If your health, relationship, business, job gets stuck, it becomes a pressure point. These key areas are part of your identity, so it’s understandable you can suffer when they falter. 

Everyone has real challenges in life that require them to face adversity, make changes, and sometimes surrender to the illusion of control. For example, your relationships are constantly evolving, and sometimes, you resist the evolution or your partner does — and you feel stuck. Your career or job may have periods where you feel static or uninspired. And, if the block persists you can suffer.

How to Remedy Disassified Stuck

A key starting point for any “stuckness” is curiosity. Being stuck can feel confusing and frustrating. And, often in your haste to release the pressure, you can make some bad decisions. These are what mid-life crises are all about. People become stuck, feel pressure to change something and they change their external environment; not their internal one. Resist the temptation to push on any rock, pull any lever. Be curious about what is going on with you.

“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.” 

Viktor Frankl

Calmly and curiously delve into that stuck point. Sometimes, the way will be difficult. You are not alone! Take care of yourself and invest in a therapist, coach, or support group. Read books that inspire you or advance your understanding of your situation.

At the beginning of this piece, I said that knowing when you are stuck and how to get unstuck is key to leading a fulfilling life.

Fulfillment means you see and experience your life as an adventure. When setbacks occur,  you don’t let them stop you – you work through them.

Do not succumb to the resistance that can accompany hard-won growth. Life is dynamic and ever-flowing and sometimes, you get stuck. But, the tools you learn to get back into flow — as well as what you learn about yourself — are truly invaluable.

Martin Luther King is the answer to America’s problems.

I began writing this very post on Sunday, January 3rd. I was filled with hopeful energy as I am every new year. For the last twenty-five years, I have used simple traditions for my personal development to review what has transpired over the last 365 days and to be intentional about the year ahead.

Traditions like a new year journal combined with a thoughtful read of the previous years’ entries. It never ceases to amaze me that seemingly separate events, when viewed in broad perspective, are inextricably linked. 

I also use reflection questions to view the year from different perspectives. This year, I created a new set of reflection questions that are tailored to the extraordinary circumstances we faced in 2020. I give my year’s names or themes that are symbolic of my intentions for the year.  I do the same when reviewing the year, too.  It’s a simple plan vs. actual exercise that keeps me honest.

The variance in what most of us planned or intended for 2020, and what actually happened — was like a chasm. And, it was no surprise that as I began to review my personal experience of 2020, it mirrored the external environment.

Simply put, 2020 was a year of extremes. It was about breaking down old structures and ways of being that no longer serve us.

And for many of us, the more we clung to those old structures and old ways — the more difficult it was to navigate 2020’s many trials.

The world saw the devastating video of George Floyd take his last breath pleading for his life as it was mercilessly taken from him by a police officer. America is a country of structural racism. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is largely reserved for white people through the intentional suppression of people of color. Our dominant two-party political system is a zero-sum game. Dualistic thinking of either/or, left/right, right/wrong, personal attacks, and lack of respect is the norm, not the exception. The constant news cycle that Americans ingest daily is owned by capitalistic corporations with profit first agendas. COVID-19 preyed upon America’s poor, old and disenfranchised while our precarious and enigmatic health care system teetered.  SO MUCH PAIN AND SORROW 

Like many of us, I searched for the bright lights.

The courage and dedication of the healthcare and essential workers who tirelessly worked for all of us; even the fools who eschewed masks. The seeds of listening and learning of white and privileged Americans as they were outraged and moved to become involved in social justice change for their fellow black Americans. The respite in air pollution and carbon emissions due to less air and car travel. The agility of small business owners who pivoted to serve their communities and employees. For the lucky ones, to work from home and have more family time. A break in the mindless busyness Americans have become addicted to. Record Voter turnout. A newly elected administration that reflects America’s core strength – our diversity. New ways of working and creating. And, all the furry-friends who relished being with their humans around the clock. SO MUCH GRATITUDE. 

On January 6th, 2021, as I was finishing my final edits on this piece, I watched, along with the world, an armed-insurrection at the US Capitol.

An attack on US democracy at the prompting of the sitting President. The final act of our incendiary President’s refusal to accept losing a fair and free election. While it is true, our democracy had regressed before 45 took office, he was the accelerant-in-chief. What has emerged to date is a disturbing reality and, we clearly haven’t hit bottom yet. Many of those old structures while wobbly are still standing. Some structures need to be abolished and demolished. Some need to be remade, reimagined, or reconfigured. There is so much work to be done. 

Today is a day in the US that we honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. MLK is such an inspiring leader, teacher, and healer. It was hard for me to feel despair today as I have since January 6th, when reading again what MLK sacrificed for equality for all in the US. He lived and died for his core values. It was this realization that snapped me back to action.

My intention for 2021 is to put my values into action.

In order to live your values, you need to first define them. Your values are your foundation as a person, guiding your actions and your decisions. I have included a Values Finders Tool to help you identify your values, as they can change as we age. It’s a great exercise to do alone or with loved ones. Included in the Values Finder tool is an action plan to get you started. 

We all need to take part in creating new structures that support us all – not just the privileged.

We all need to be selective about the media and information we ingest.  We need to use our talents and gifts to make the world a better place.  We need to put our values into action just like MLK.

“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.


Reflection Questions for 2020 through the Pandemic Lens

2020 was a year like no other.  The typical set of Personal Reflection Questions I created years ago to conduct a yearly review, simply won’t do. COVID-19 was a game-changer. And, before we leave it in our dust, it’s important to reflect on how we navigated a year steeped in extremes and unprecedented change. 

Here are a set of pandemic-specific personal reflection questions for 2020.

  1. How would you describe 2020 in just 3 words?
  2. What went well?
  3. What connections did you find yourself grateful for in 2020?
  4. How did you foster resilience? 
  5. What new habit are you most proud of?
  6. What old habit do you need to free yourself from?
  7. How has the pandemic changed you? 
  8. How did you handle the lack of control that 2020 brought?
  9. What did you do this year that you NEVER want to do again? 

Once you have had time to review 2020, then you can move into goal-setting. I recommend reading this inspiring article about people who have built better habits to help them achieve their goals. The article is written by James Clear who is a goal-setting guru. 

Why Worry doesn’t work.

I had the pleasure of hearing Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher, and author, share a Buddhist parable about worrying.

The parable…

Three monks go for a walk—one wise, old monk and two younger disciples. The older monk points at a large boulder and asks his disciples, “Is that boulder heavy?” The younger monks reply, “Of course, that boulder is heavy!”

“Indeed, that boulder is heavy” says the old monk, “but, only if you pick it up.”

The boulder is a metaphor for worries. Big, heavy, hard to lift, and even harder yet to carry. Still, we bend down to pick up the boulder and lug it around with us all day. To worry is exhausting.

Our brains are wired for threats, so it’s no wonder we are prone to worry. The early thinking mind originally focused on survival still needs a job in today’s modern world. So, it relentlessly searches for problems to solve. Most of which pose no real danger. Yet, now in our sixth month of a pandemic and a lot of unrest in the world, many of us are in worry over-drive.

To stop worrying is difficult, but not impossible. There are some practical steps we can take to allay worry.

What is a practical step you can take when you have a worry?

Identify actions that are IN YOUR CONTROL. Let’s say the worry is that you’ll lose your job during the current economic downturn. What can you do?

  • Update your resume
  • Keep your networks “warm” (ie., reach out to them regularly)
  • Peruse job sites
  • Let close friends or colleagues you can trust know that you are always open to other opportunities
  • Connect with recruiters or influencers in your chosen field
  • Continue to perform and do your best at work
  • Exercise to help release stress
  • Talk to a friend or seek therapy

Once you have taken actions within your control…


Do not pick up that BOULDER! Kornfield suggests that after you take action on what is reasonably within your control, you can give the worry away to a higher power: Buddha, God, Universe, or some symbol of love and peace to hold for you. You write the worry down on a slip of paper and place it on a home-made altar to hold — symbolically releasing you of the burden.

Then, go about your life….

You took action within your control, but the worry resurfaces again in your mind. So, what next? There is only one way to move from worry to peace.

Presence is when we return our attention to what is happening to us now.

An example of how to be present…

Let’s say you are worried about an older loved one falling ill with COVID-19. Your mind thinks through a litany of scenarios — your loved one is exposed, gets COVID, hospitalized, etc. The worst-case scenarios are vivid, but you can choose presence over worry. Here’s how:

  1. Become aware that you are worrying. As you think, you become aware of your own thinking and observe your thinking with non-judgment.
  2. Return your attention to the present moment. Put your attention on what is right NOW. You are sitting in a chair. You notice the breeze coming through the window feels comforting.
  3. Stop for a moment. Notice that in the present moment – everything is okay.
  4. As your mind wanders again, without judgment bring your attention back to the present moment.
  5. You can also try a mantra to repeat such as “All is Well” and as you repeat the mantra, focus on your breath. You will notice immediately you will feel calmer and grounded in the present moment.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

The more you practice the skill, the better at it you will become. If you are interested in learning more about presence go to this post.

The practice of bringing the attention back to the present moment is called mindfulness. Once you start to practice mindfulness, just begin to notice how you feel in those mindful moments versus the moments where you let your mind focus on worry. (Hint: The present moment feels more expansive and peaceful.)

Mindfulness is the practice of calling the thinking mind back to the body so that the two become as one in the present moment.

I hope these two strategies help. To recap on how to let go of worry:

  1. Doing what’s in your control around the concern and then, let go.
  2. When the worry comes into your mind, return to the present moment.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about worry!

If it can be solved, there’s no need to worry, and if it can’t be solved, worry is of no use.”

Dalai Lama XIV

Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.

Eckhart Tolle

The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.

Eckhart Tolle

The meeting of two eternities, the past and the future… is precisely the present moment.

Henry David Thoreau

Living in the present moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.

Oprah Winfrey

Don’t pick up that boulder! Choose the present moment and enjoy all the extra energy you’ll have when you make the conscious choice not to worry!

Love and light,