Grieve… to Grow

lost future

Most of us understand the importance of grieving the loss of a person or a pet that we loved and were attached to.

What’s harder for many of us to understand is the importance of grieving the loss of a desired or imagined future. You see, when you’re planning a future and it doesn’t materialize, there’s grief in that too. Before you can grow from it, you must grieve it.

Let us explain.

An executive coaching client of ours had a good job and worked with us to get a promotion. She was very successful in her new role and after several years she was recruited to a firm in another part of the country.

After 8 months in her new firm, she called us to say that she wasn’t pleased with the company and was ready to look for her next opportunity, but felt stuck.

We talked about what was missing at the job she’d taken, how her skills weren’t being utilized, how the culture wasn’t as promised—and then we talked about her lost future.

Her “lost future” was that she had planned her life and saw her future with Company X, but it turned out that Company X was not all it had been promised to be. Much like a death, she was in the process of letting go of an image of how she wanted to be in the world and she needed to grieve.

Once she felt the pain of not being valued, the sorrow that came from promises broken, and the reality that what she’d thought was going to be her future wasn’t going to happen, she could move on.

Humans see their future and start to live as if it’s true.

Despite all of our creative endeavors, we actually don’t like change very much. So when we’ve based our thinking on one future, it’s difficult to switch gears—especially when we haven’t taken the time to grieve “what should have been” so that we can then grab hold of “what will be.”

Grieving isn’t wallowing.

When you grieve a lost future, you look at what you’d expected life to look like in order to recognize that it won't be your life. When you grieve, you face the truth of your situation so you can learn from it and move forward toward a new future standing in the reality of what is. 

Once you're standing in the reality, you’re able to ask yourself: Are you different as a result of this experience? Could you have done something differently? Were you too starry eyed, causing you to overlook pieces of data? 

Grieving positions you to learn from loss so that going forward you make better decisions and show up fully and confidently.

This week, we encourage you to reflect on any lost futures that you may have experienced in your life. Let yourself grieve, learn from them, and move on.

Your new future awaits as long as you don’t keep one foot in the past.

Let us know how we can help.

Take care of yourself,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’re feeling stuck and need help moving forward in your career, coaching could be a great solution for you. Click here to contact us today.

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Just This Week: Start Small to Go Big in 2017

2017 goals

The last couple of weeks we’ve been focused on some simple steps you can take to create a 2017 that can move you from Overwhelmed to Outstanding. If you haven’t read those posts, we’d really encourage you to do so by clicking here.

Shifting from running as fast as you can to taking thoughtful, intentional steps to create a life that matters to you is important because YOU MATTER.

This week we’re going to talk about how to get traction on some of the goals you’ve identified. The key is to only focus on the upcoming week. Don’t worry about the whole year—just think about this week.

Remember, true change occurs when you take small steps consistently over time.

If you set huge goals and try to take action on them all at once you’ll likely feel defeated and set them aside. If you set no goals and wait to see what comes your way, you’ll likely look back and be disappointed with your year.

So, this week we want you to do 3 things to get yourself started with an approach that, over time, can change your life.

  1. Take a few minutes to think about what you learned from looking back on 2016 and what you identified as important for 2017, using the wheel exercise from last week.

    Now, looking at your upcoming week, identify 2-3 small things you can do this week to move toward one or two of your 2017 goals.

    Small things that fit into your week but move you, even a bit, toward your goal.
  2. Each morning this week, take 2-3 minutes to look over your goals and to remind yourself of the 2-3 things you are going to do this week.
  3. At the end of each day, spend 2-3 minutes making notes about what you’re proud of from the day, what you’re grateful for, and the people in your life that you appreciate.

    Then, on the days you had planned to take a small step toward your goal, note if you did so and if you did, give yourself some credit. If you didn’t, look at when you can do what you had planned to do.

That’s it. Small steps. Just for this week.

Then, do it again next week. One week at a time. If you do what we’ve suggested in this list, you’ll likely need a place to note your efforts. You can do this digitally, in a notebook, or on a scrap of paper you leave someplace where you’ll notice it.

Don’t make it hard! When you’re identifying the 2-3 small things you can do each week, you’ll likely need to spend 10 minutes on that activity—but no more. Then spend 2-3 minutes each morning and 2-3 minutes each night reviewing your efforts.

It’s simple but it’s not always easy. Trust us.

We try to work with our own recommendations and sometimes we forget, feel too tired, or believe it’s too much—and likely you will too. That’s okay; just come back to this list and start again.

We’re committed to helping you have your best year yet by helping you move from living a life that is Overwhelmed to living a life that is Outstanding! Let’s get this year started…

Hugs, Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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From Overwhelmed to Outstanding

overwhelmed to outstanding

One of the things we know (and we do mean KNOW) is that moving from Overwhelmed to Outstanding is critical if you’re going to feel happy, productive, and effective—and it’s pivotal to leading people in your organizations who need to be passionate, committed, and innovative to create success.

People who are overwhelmed get focused on the next thing on their to-do list rather than thinking broadly about what they’re doing and how it contributes to a larger vision. They isolate themselves when success requires their leadership, connection with others, and creating a shared sense of purpose. And they start to feel eroded in their lives—often talked about as burnout—and feel exhausted, get numb in relationships, and have the experience that nothing they do really matters… a far cry from feeling that who they are, and their contributions in their lives and work, truly matters.

In order to move from Overwhelmed to Outstanding, it’s important that you know what your personal goals are and what your organizational goals are, and that you can help the teams you lead do the same. So today we’re going to go through a simple exercise to help you create focus in your personal life, so that as a leader (in your life and world) you know what’s truly important and what’s mostly demanding noise.

Start by downloading The Leader in You Personal Assessment by clicking below.


Then answer the question: What’s your theme for 2017? (e.g. Our theme for 2017 is Helping You Move From Overwhelmed to Outstanding.)

Take a moment to think about your answer to this question and write it down on the top of your worksheet.

Next, work your way through the Personal Assessment. The Personal Assessment looks at 5 key areas that are central to creating a great life and stepping into your leadership personally and professionally. It also gives you a section where you can add areas that matter to you personally.

The worksheet guides you through defining what a ‘10’—your life at its best—looks like in each of the areas of your life and then has you assess how your current life stacks up to life at a 10. Once you have a sense of the areas in your current life you’d like to be better, you can identify 2-3 goals to focus on in 2017.

If you’re comfortable using this post and the Personal Assessment to set goals for the next year, we’re delighted. But if you’d like a little support, watch our free coaching video below. In it, Linda gives a bit more context to this exercise to help you think about how you can go from Overwhelmed to Outstanding in 2017.


If you’d like to work with a coach to help you get traction on your goals, CLICK HERE and send us a note. We’d be happy to help you make next year your most successful yet!

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The Value of Hindsight

looking back on 2016

We’re at the time of year when people start to think about their futures and what they want the next year to bring.

It’s often a feeling of a fresh start, a blank page, an open door. Yet, for many of us, we make that start with a list of resolutions or goals that barely make it to week two. And, that makes sense when you think of what it takes to create the life you want to live.

To shape your life successfully and come back to what matters to you when you get derailed, it’s important to:

  • Get clear about what you want. Specifically name what you want rather than what you want to avoid. And, remember, it needs to be what you want vs. what others want for you.
  • Focus on the most important things you want. If the list gets too long, you’re done before you even start.
  • Identify the people who can support you in your efforts. It doesn’t have to be dozens of people, but one or two key people who you trust are on your team and care about you can make the difference between success and distress.

And, to help in this process, start by reviewing the previous year (or few months or week, depending on what you are trying to achieve). What you learn can provide incredible guidance.

So this week, we’d like you to take a look in the rearview mirror and consider:

  1. What did you spend the bulk of your time on over the past year?
  2. When you think about using your time that way, are you pleased with yourself?
  3. How do you want the next year to be different?

Take some time to look back and then in our post next week, we’ll focus on helping you look forward.

You may be comfortable taking this post and digging in, which is great, but if you’re someone who does better with support, watch the free coaching video below. In it, Linda walks you through this exercise of looking back, which is a great first step in getting you from Overwhelmed to Outstanding.


If you’d like to work with a coach to help you get traction on your goals, CLICK HERE and send us a note. We’d be happy to help you make next year your most successful yet!

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Why You Matter…

you matter

Take a moment to think about your life and how you treat yourself as you go through your moments, days, weeks, and months.

One of the things we want you to remember is that

the way you live your moments is the way you live your life.

Your moments matter and if you’re going to matter in your own life, it’s important that you pay attention to your moments.

What we know, from our five years doing the Monday Morning Business Coach, is that you matter in this world. You matter because you are:

  • Executives committed to building businesses that are good for customers, employees, and communities.
  • Servers helping people enjoy a meal.
  • Students committed to learning and contributing to the world.
  • Managers trying to create a great environment for success.
  • Moms trying to balance caring for your family and succeeding in your job.
  • Sons passionate about making a difference in the world.
  • Firefighters putting yourself at risk every day.
  • Consultants passionate about helping clients grow.
  • Dads committed to being a presence in your children’s lives.
  • Daughters leading research on cancer.
  • Therapists supporting people as they heal from pain and trauma.
  • CEOs leading people into their future.
  • Individuals trying to stay healthy and energized in the face of overwhelming demands.
  • Nurses, business owners, union organizers, community leaders, staff, leaders with the title, and leaders as a way of life. You are clergy, designers, entrepreneurs, and bus drivers.

You matter because when you
lean in to make a difference in the world,
we are all better for it.

The world needs you.

So, we need you to matter to yourself. To respect who you are and where you are right now—even if your goal is to be somewhere else in your life. To honor the contribution you make while committing to doing things to get you to new opportunities to do more. To respect your need for rest, silence, connection, and love.

Your family & friends need you.

So, this week pay attention to treating yourself like you matter in this world, because we know you do.

  1. When you’re successful, acknowledge it to yourself.

    And when you feel afraid, lonely, unsettled, or stupid—acknowledge that too. And acknowledge it with the gentleness you would offer someone you love deeply.

    Hold yourself in high regard and say to yourself, “I can see that you’re afraid or feel stupid and I’m sorry. It’s hard. And, you matter. You will move through this.”
  2. Take care of your basic needs.

    Pay attention to your hunger and thirst. Go to the bathroom when you need to go to the bathroom (seriously). Slow your pace and breathe as you walk down the hall.

    It’s truly stunning the number of people who ignore their basic needs throughout the day. If you matter, your needs matter.
  3. Get a notebook, use your phone, tear off a few scraps of paper, and on and off throughout the day write down the things you’re doing well.

    The things you are proud of. The things you didn’t think you’d do but did. They don’t have to be big or in anyway meaningful to anyone else.

    For us, they are sometimes getting out of bed after a crazy, personally challenging week, not snapping at a colleague who pushes our buttons, or staying present in a meeting that was tedious and boring. Notice yourself and what you do well.
  4. Look for small ways to give yourself a treat—just because.

    Not a reward but a treat for being in this life and mattering in this life.

    A few minutes on a deck overlooking a river near your office, 5 minutes to taste that latte you just bought, listening to the birds, noticing the clouds, laughing with a coworker, hugging your partner or kids just a bit longer.
  5. Find ways to laugh.

    With others would be best, but if that’s not possible, watch a Saturday Night Live routine that always makes you laugh (we love this one), watch a show that’s funny and charming, join a group that plays well together, create a game night with friends.

    When you laugh, you remember yourself and can gain perspective. You matter enough in that moment to soften.

You need you.

This week, we want to help remind you to matter to yourself so that next week you can start to think about your year and how it’s gone and then, how you—mattering to yourself—are going to create a year next year that you are proud of.

Let us know how it goes.

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’re ready to get started on making the new year your year, click to learn more about how we can support you with our services.

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Taking Meaningful Action

meaningful action
The ability to take meaningful action is required if anything (and we do mean anything) is going to change in your life.

Whether you are in the throes of life changes, holiday demands, or leading into your career future, as executive coaches for a combined 40+ years, we’ve seen the difference that meaningful action can make in the lives of individuals, and in the trajectory of organizations.

Most of us know how to see what’s wrong. Our brains scan for that. For much of human existence, it’s what kept us alive. The difference between the most successful people and less successful people is seeing what’s wrong and then taking meaningful action to do something about it

What do we mean by meaningful action?

Simply put, meaningful action is a series of steps or activities that bring you closer to a desired outcome.

Yes, it’s that simple but not always easy. Staying the course can be challenging especially when you haven’t articulated what you want to change and the steps to achieve your desired outcome. 

For example, we worked with a client, Julie, who was very unhappy in her work setting. She had a boss who wasn’t very skilled as a manager and as a result our client believed that she wouldn’t ever be able to progress in that organization. Julie came to us exasperated by feelings of helplessness and anger. 

In our first meeting, we determined that Julie’s goal was to advance to a more challenging and strategic role in the organization. And when we looked at what she was doing, she realized that instead of taking meaningful action she had gotten sidetracked by being angry with her boss. 

She had made the feeling of being angry with her boss a full-time job—she devoted lots of attention to the ways that she had been slighted and the ways her boss was mismanaging the organization. 

Julie was busy being angry, but she wasn’t taking meaningful action to make a difference in her life. 

Julie worked with us over the course of a year and made significant changes in her life and work experience because she started taking meaningful action. As a result, she worked her way into a new role and set a new trajectory for herself that she continues to enjoy today. 

She’s a strong leader and she no longer wastes time being angry with what isn’t working. Instead she gets clear about her objectives and establishes meaningful action steps that get things done.

Do a quick scan of your life and make sure that you’re taking meaningful action to get yourself to where you want to go in big ways as well as in your day-to-day. If you’re not, spend some time mapping the steps you need to take to reach your desired outcome. It’s time.

If you find yourself unable to take those first steps, give us a holler. We’re here to help.

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Need more guidance on how to take action towards your goals? Click to see how we could be your accountability partner.

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What Does It Mean to Take Care of Myself?

coffee cup and journals on wood
As you know, we have a lot invested in you taking good care of yourself because we know that you are your instrument. If you’re not taking good care of yourself, you’ll be more tired, less creative, more reactive, and less resilient in the face of all that’s coming at you.

That said, you may be asking, What does it really mean to take care of myself? Followed by all the ways your life and the world is pressing you to ignore your own needs.

Things like work deadlines, kids’ needs, holiday activities, concerns about the country, health issues that you or a family member are facing, then of course there is the house that needs cleaning, the groceries that need buying, and the car that needs maintenance, and so on. It’s a lot.

So, when we say take care of yourself, here’s what we really mean.

We mean, taking a few minutes to think about what you would do for yourself if you were to matter to yourself.

Start by thinking broadly and consider things like: I’d get more sleep, I’d run more, I’d eat healthy, I’d spend time with people I love, I’d spend time alone, I’d write that novel I’ve been thinking about. Now write them down.

Then think about the realities of your life, your moments, days, weeks, and months.

At this point, you may be feeling like you want to stop reading this, but keep going!

Why the heck would we ask you to think about how you'd take care of yourself and then immediately remind you that there is nothing you can do given all that you have going on in your life at this time?

Well, because there are some things you can do. And they will help. And they will help in small ways. And many small ways can make life better.

So, once you've considered the ways you'd take care of yourself and then considered the realities of your life, pick 3 things that will make the most significant difference in your physical and mental health.

For Stephanie, it's sleep, eating well, and time alone. For Linda, it's moving for 30 minutes 5-6 days per week, time to read most days, and sleep.

What are your 3?

Once you have your 3, identify the small steps you can take to move your toward them.

If one of yours is sleep, consider getting to bed 15-30 minutes earlier. Not a big change, but one you may be able to do.

If it’s eating well, add some veggies to your day—every day—and for now don’t worry about the chocolate.

If time alone is on your list, it can be challenging but being aware of your time in your car, in the bathroom, or in the mornings before people wake up can be helpful.

Exercising more can be something that's overwhelming to people when they believe it has to be all at once, but walking a bit farther to your car, or down your stairs from your office can help. Linda tracks her steps with a FitBit aiming for (and rarely getting) 10,000 steps 5-6 days a week.

Think small and don’t assume that small won’t help. What we know is that small steps taken consistently (enough) over time will help you matter in your own life. And when you get off track, be very gentle to yourself, and start again.

You matter to us. We hope you'll start to genuinely matter to you.

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Still feeling like you need to add more hours to your day? You may not have the right things on your to-do list. We’d love to support you in finding a better work-life balance with our Productivity Coaching services. Click to find out more.

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Alignment vs. Voting


We’ve heard from so many of you as you struggle to know how to move forward in this difficult time, that we want to share a lesson that can be game-changing in your personal and professional life. And that is that voting is not always the best way to a decision.

As we work with communities, non-profit organizations, and businesses, we frequently see decisions being made by a vote. It makes sense as we have all grown up with the idea that voting is the essence of a democracy. And, while voting is one way to get input in situations with large numbers of people, it does have its downside.

The downside of voting is that up to 49% of the team, company, community, or country is unhappy. 49%. That means that after a vote, it’s possible that only half of the people are behind the decision you voted on.

Think about that.

If you’re trying to lead a team and almost half of that team disagrees with the decision, then you have the equivalent of a wagon with two horses—one on either end of the wagon pulling as hard as they can. Sure the one that has 51% may move in their direction, but only slightly and very slowly.

Put those two horses on the same side of the wagon, pulling in the same direction, and you can move far and fast!

So, what do you do if you don’t vote? You work toward alignment.

Alignment and not consensus. Alignment is the point where people have been in dialogue, shared their perspectives and needs, made a decision with all of those in mind recognizing that some people can’t have what they want exactly, right away, but they understand the decision and can stand behind it even if it’s not their first choice.

Here is an example:

We recently met with a team of leaders who had to make some budgeting decisions.

Most of us are making budgeting decisions all the time—our individual budgets, our family budgets, community budgets, and work budgets. And what we know is that you can’t have everything you want individually, and when you add other people, everyone can’t get exactly what they want.

This team started to talk about what their budget was and what they needed to do to have the greatest success going forward. And, of course, there wasn’t enough money to do it all.

So, they went back to their shared vision and talked about it and determined what absolutely needed to get done to support that vision. Still not enough money.

Next they talked about what they needed to get done to get traction on their vision until more revenue was earned—getting closer.

Then they prioritized what on that list would get them the farthest. Decisions made. Not forever, but for now with the limits of what was available.

At the end of that process, while most people didn’t get exactly what they wanted they were able to influence the decision, understand the tradeoffs, believe that this was the best decision and most importantly, they could stand behind it confident that they would continue to be in dialogue as things evolved.

Think about using this process next time you need to make a major decision that doesn’t have unilateral support at the outset. You’d be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you take the time to create alignment instead of just calling for a VOTE that will likely leave you divided as a group.

Let us know if you need help!

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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"We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of LOVE into the veins of our civilization." - Martin Luther King Jr.

This political season has amplified a clear division in our country between US and THEM.

It depends on your worldview whether you’re an US or a THEM but either way, the ‘US’s and the ‘THEM’s of our country are both experiencing great pain. From pain comes fear, and from fear, anger.

US versus THEM.

As coaches and consultants, we have quite a bit of expertise working with and understanding people, and the thing we have seen over and over is that everyone wants to be seen and heard. Everyone. People want to know that their experience is respected and understood by others. 

With everything that’s coming at us daily, it can be very difficult to pause long enough to really understand what it’s like for other people—to have empathy for their experience—especially when their experience is vastly different from our own. Without that empathy, people move to US versus THEM.

You don’t need to look
too far back into history
to see the perils of US vs. THEM.

Remember, below the disagreements, there are many things we share with one another as humans. Before party, before state, and before country, we are simply human: we love our children; we have the need for food, shelter, safety, and the opportunity to pursue meaningful work; we all laugh and we all grieve. 

Both US and THEM.

As a country, we are rocked by the division that has been illuminated, and by the challenges of living in the global economy. We have to take a breath, pause, and remember that we’re all trying to claim our place in a world that is changing fast, because belonging is a human need.

For US and for THEM.

As a leader in your life, you have the opportunity to demonstrate a respect for difference, an acknowledgement of people’s fears, and an invitation to take action from your best self.

Leadership is your willingness to influence others and (just as importantly) your willingness to be influenced by others, so that you can invite the people in your life to create rather than destroy.

As a leader, whether at an office or in your home, you know that when people remain divided, it spirals into blame and fear. US versus THEM. 

The strongest families and businesses (and nations) get things done when they work together for a common vision with the belief that everyone has something to offer.

To be a powerful leader in today’s world means that we each must avoid treating people like THEM for in reality they are also US.

We know people are struggling. If we can help—you individually, your team, or your business—let us know. These times are painful, yes, but they are also rich with possibility.

Be well,

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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From Exhausted to Engaged

too exhausted to work
Whether you are leading a multinational organization or a family of 4, if you’re going to be a successful leader you need to take care of your health, get enough rest, move your body, and stay connected with people you care about. Yet, even with that knowledge, we all have those times when we hit the wall. It may be that you were traveling across multiple time zones, had several evening meetings in a row, or had a young one up in the night, but whatever your particular challenge, the result is exhaustion.

So, what can you do when you hit the wall and yet your presence and engagement are needed? We find that there are three things that can help you bring the best of yourself when you have the least of yourself to work with.

To become more present and engaged:

  • Consider how the tasks you need to accomplish align with your purpose. Connecting with what deeply matters to you can help you come above your exhaustion and show up for the people and situations that you care about.
  • Choose what you do. Having a sense of control over your day or a situation can help you lean in and become more engaged. When you are exhausted and you feel out of control, it can really be a challenge.
  • Build in some time to connect with someone who energizes you. It can be a family member, a team member, or a meeting of people who evoke the best in you. Whoever it is, make sure you get some time with them as you are getting ready to go into a situation where your presence and engagement are needed.

As we head into the holiday season, the temptation to overdo and under-nourish yourself will increase and so we’re going to share some tips for nourishing your body, mind, and soul over the next few weeks. Remember, it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself.

We want you to thrive!
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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  • About the Authors

    Carpenter Smith Consulting

    Linda Carpenter and Stephanie Smith started Carpenter Smith Consulting in Portland to support individuals and teams who dream about having the power, impact and influence to create success and meaning in ... Read full profile
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