Category Archives: the process

thank you.

Yesterday, I received word that I successfully completed certification and am officially a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach. Amidst my happy dancing, I realized that, as hard as I worked to complete the program, my tribe worked even harder supporting me through the process: through my doubts, fears, successes and failures they held my hand, kicked my ass, cheer-led, offered help and more.

To this tribe of amazing friends, family, clients, readers, supporters and colleagues, I extend my deepest gratitude and devoted heart. And I wish you much more love and success:


To laugh often and much,
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends,
to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love love love.


a cottage: not a prison. broken down walls, nonetheless.

your prison

a cottage: not a prison. broken down walls, nonetheless.

I want to bring my creativity into my work.

I want to feel more confident and powerful.

I want to change the way I feel about my bodyI want to do work I feel passionate about. I want stronger relationships.

Or even:  I don’t know what I want, but it’s not this.

It’s no small thing when someone says that they want something in their lives to change.

My coaching clients do a lot of hard work to get from where they are to where they want to be, and that work isn’t always in the form of action (going, doing, getting, running, higher, faster, now!). The hardest work seems to be in the shifting, the choosing and affirming new perspectives, the being and the standing up into what they want.

I recently completed with a client, who put it quite simply: “I had built my own prison!”

She was talking about the process of acknowledging, examining and letting go of the stories that kept her stuck. The tall tales she told herself which built steel bars, and doors that locked tight (complete with guards carrying automatic rifles). A prison that was built of: That’s the way it has to be. They call it work for a reason. You can’t do what you love. I am not [fill-in-the-blank] enough. Other people can do that, because they are [fill-in-the-blank] and I am not. You are a dreamer, come back to reality.

From the prison, she could smell the warm air of possibility and the sweet notes of her heart’s desire, but her arms could not reach out to grab onto these things. For months, we sat together on the floor of that prison, looking around and describing what it was made of. Brick-by-brick, she looked at the stories and chose: to believe something different. She choose the way she wanted to see the world by choosing which stories would stay and which would go.

I had built my own prison.

And we all do. The key that unlocks the door is listening to the stories we tell ourselves and then making the choice to either continue to believe them or to choose something different. Shifting from: They Call it Work for a Reason, to: My Work is a Joyful Exploration, opened up possibility, curiosity, play, and just fit my client like a glove. (You can tell by the sparkle in her eyes.)

On this July afternoon, I wonder: what stories are holding you prisoner? And if you chose, what would the new story be?


Prescription: Art

wednesday afternoon art class at new moon gallery

I have had this tendency to shuffle art and creative time into the corner. Even as I recognize how much art fills me up, it still sometimes sinks to the end of the list. Maybe it is the gremlins that say how it is more important to do the “work” work things first, or maybe it is the perspective that because art feels so good, it must be self-indulgent.

But this I know: expression through art feels great. I am personally grateful for the research of Brene Brown which says that if we want to make meaning, we need to make art.  Popular opinion and medical research is finally showing up to speak about the benefits of the arts on mental health, too.

Thinking about art and Canadian Mental Health Week, my mind automatically went to my art teacher, Linda Lovisa, and not only the creativity that she cultivates, but also the community, connection and kindness that is fostered in her studio. Regarding creativity, Linda is clear, “Everyone has it, it is just a matter of exploring it…And it doesn’t matter what age you are.”

Linda’s classes are a big part of my feeling of connectedness to my new community and connection is imperative when it comes to promoting positive mental health. It goes beyond promotion to clear impact when Linda sees students who have reclusive tendencies use her studio as a testing ground for social interaction or bi-polar students who reap the benefits of learning to express themselves creatively in the positive, open environment she creates. Art changes her students, and Linda shares that she sees huge confidence boosts and perspective shifts:
[Students are] proud of themselves and their accomplishments…they have this confidence that they didn’t have when they started. They start to see the world differently, and notice things that they didn’t before: shapes of clouds, shapes of flowers, the light cast and how the shadows look, which is always something that they took for granted. They are quite joyful when they see it and it is the first thing that they talk about when they come into the class. How the clouds looked! That sunset last night! They really learn to see things differently.

For the sake of continuing to see the world differently, we need to make space in our lives for art. For connection, meaning and contribution, we need to create.

And for the love of fun and colour and joy and to celebrate Canadian Mental Health Week, take some time to get your art on this weekend.

treat your brain well

It is Canadian Mental Health Week and we at Gunsinger Coaching think that mental health is pretty freaking important. To put it in perspective, 20% of all Canadians will personally experience a mental illness and all Canadians will be indirectly  affected by mental illness through family, friend or colleague relationships.

We are celebrating mental health this week by starting where we are: sharing tools that positively impact mental health, with stories and perspectives, and with conversation.

The conversation is about treating your brain well. We run and do yoga, we join gyms and take vitamins and eat well and accept that treatment will benefit our physical health. Often we do not ask: what can I do to benefit my mental health? That mysterious brain, calling so many of the shots, how can I influence what is going on in there?

Waking up, I asked myself, “what can I do today that will positively impact my mental health?” so far, I came up with:

  • Breakfast of fruit (antioxidants), yogurt and hemp seeds (high in omega-3 which makes for happy brains).
  • Check in with my plant babies (gardening is a big stress buster for me).
  • Get my knit on later today (using both hands works both sides of the brain and is stress relieving too).

How are you treating your brain well today?


edit: I forgot, and remembered, a great mood stimulator: dance! Taking inspiration from Jamie Ridler and adding “dancing to Adele (on repeat)” to my list today.


about that monkey brain of yours…

Disclaimer: the word “monkey” appears in this post more than is acceptable for human consumption. Also: all monkey references are metaphorical only: please don’t put monkeys on strings.

Our brain is intended to serve us and we celebrate it: “Look at how smart I am! With the figuring and thinking and reasoning? Way to go, brain!” However, I am starting to think that the little monkey in my brain is running me around in the nastiest of ways.

I have been noticing how often that little monkey calls the shots. Thoughts leaping from tree-to-tree, making connections based on half-truths and partial information, stirring up a cavalcade of emotions, and dozens of voices insisting that their chants be heard. These monkey thoughts push me around and I have had just about enough of it.

While ruminating on this thinking thing, leadership coach extraordinaire Kendra Reddy put it this way: if the monkey is calling the shots, be the organ grinder.

Click. Thunk. Whoomp. Be the organ grinder (except without the lederhosen, those things are not very flattering). It’s about making those monkeys work for me, instead of work me over.

How to be the Organ Grinder:

Choose the song. The organ grinder chooses the song to play. What is your song? How do you want to be in your in your reality? Depending on the day, I would choose a little folk or rock or even punk, but the monkeys would have me flipping through tracks and genres moment by moment. Choose your song and stick with it.

Where are your monkeys at? Do your best Jane Goodall impression and watch the monkeys jump and roll around. Track them. Notice connections. Try not to play with them, instead sit back and study their relationships, influencers, motivators, and interactions. Make notes.

Put the monkeys on a string. If you know your monkeys, you can build structures that will calm them, distract them, and even have them dancing in time with your song. Leave little notes for the monkeys when they are a bit wild (the photo up top is a note to an especially nasty and negative monkey of mine). Have a picture or a song that reflects your reality and keeps it fresh. Erect caution signs and phone a friend in active monkey times. Or engage the services of the Embassy of Self Care.

What do you notice about your monkeys? I am willing to bet that you have well-developed monkey management strategies and I would love to hear about them.

Happy monkey-taming!