If I Can Do Cancer I Can Do Anything: The Empowering Aspects of Cancer

HeadShotHuh?? Cancer as empowering? This might seem shocking.  On that dark day when “you have cancer” came out of my doctor’s mouth, I felt anything but empowered. I didn’t think I could handle the surgeries and chemo, physically or mentally. Wasn’t sure I even wanted to try.  I didn’t feel empowered while I was going through treatment. But when it ended I was proud of what I had done. And now, 20 years later, I’m still passionate in my belief that cancer is empowering, even though it may not feel like it.

It WAS empowering to make it through nine surgeries and four rounds of chemo. To laugh about my GI Jane haircut. To remember my “Three tries and you’re done” rule for needle sticks. Who knew?

I might have been sick and bald, but as long as I could choose to laugh and refuse to be poked, I didn’t feel like a victim. This little bit of control was enough to keep me sane. It was a valuable lesson that carried forward into my healing and my new normal life.

When asked “What empowered you about your experience?” cancer patients who are ending treatment say things like:


20 years of survivorship have confirmed, for me, that the essence of feeling empowered is being willing to try something when I don’t know how it will turn out. I became an expert at that during treatment, and I’ve cultivated my ability to not be in control, or have all the answers in order to embrace not knowing how it will turn out.

I want you to know that every time you’ve made a choice to do something that scared you, or was uncomfortable, or different than what you were used to, you were courageously stretching yourself as a human being. You were expanding your faith in your own ability to influence events. You brought some of your own brand of empowerment into the chaos of cancer.

You have accomplished something powerful if you are reading these words! You’re alive. Give yourself a round of applause. And remember if you can do cancer you can do anything!


Should it take facing death to gain permission to live?

SoulCollageHeadShotI’ll confess. Even though I speak a lot and love being on stage, the idea of having only 5 minutes and 20 slides to share my story about the personal transformation I experienced in the wake of breast cancer was a little scary. OK a lot scary. It felt risky. Like stretching out of my comfort zone. Like being encouraged to walk my talk. In short, it was just like what I challenge my clients to do. How could I not step up?

I am so glad that I did. It felt wonderful to be on the stage talking how finding life coaching changed my life, and seeing the heads of the audience nodding along.

It was also extremely powerful for me to hear the life-shaping experiences, passions, and unique perspectives of the other speakers (we had 8 total) and to learn how coaching had transformed them. We all got to see a new side of each other, and you could feel the buzz in the room after the performances ended.

If you missed the event you can check out my performance of Should It Take Facing Death to Gain Permission to Live? HERE. And see all of the Ignite speaker videos HERE. Feel free to share them. They’re really interesting.

I also want to thank the ICF South Florida Chapter for co-sponsoring this fast, fun, lively evening. And for recording the videos and sharing them with the world and us speakers. It’s great to be part of this local coaching community.

I’d love to hear your story of personal transformation. Email me at Paula@WhatsNextForMyLife.com.



Do You Hear Me?

Conversations that Mean Something: Deepen Connection and Improve Communication though the Levels of Listening

RedCoatLROver the last few months I’ve spent more time with friends and family than I normally do, and even though a lot of talking has been done, sometimes I’ve ended up feeling disconnected and unimportant, like no one really cares what I have to say. Can you relate? In this day and age of instant communication and accessibility, how could anyone feel unheard or disconnected??

It’s all in the Level of Listening.* Our human brains are hardwired for connection with others. We need to feel understood and valued, that what we do is meaningful, in order to be at our best. Unfortunately, the primary ways we communicate don’t create the feelings we need.

In this 4 minute video I demonstrate the common ways we communicate, and what works best to improve relationships and deepen connections.  Watch it now.

As you saw, Level One Listening is characterized by a back and  forth of each person saying something about themselves, and not acknowledging what the other person says, and often can include a one-upping of what each other says. Information gets exchanged but no one really feels heard.

Level Two Listening is a two way conversation. One person says something and the other person responds directly to what was said, asking questions, wanting to know more details, sharing their opinion or advice. Feelings of connection and being heard are deeper here.

Level Three Listening goes beyond sharing what, how, or when something happened to the other person, and delves into the feelings and significance of the person sharing. The listener is curious, asks questions about how it felt, what was meaningful, and is aware of what the other person is feeling, not just what they are saying. Level 3 requires vulnerability and trust that can feel risky and uncomfortable. Level 3 is also where relationships are deepened, faith is expanded, and what seemed impossible become possible. This is where connection thrives.

If you want to have conversations that build feelings of connection, make people feel good about themselves, and where everyone feels heard, move away from Level 1 and see what happens.  

 If you’d like some help, let’s set a time to talk. 


* From the Co-Active Coaching model

Termite Tenting or Doggy Vacation Extravaganza? It’s all in your point of view.

ExtravaganzaBlogPhotoThe minute suitcases came out of the closet the “Are we going? Do we get to go? I really want to go? Do I get to go?” energy started. Both of our dogs knew something was up.  The twirling whines of “We want to go! Do we get to go? Oh boy we’re going! We’re going! We’re going!” were at a fever pitch by the time everything was loaded and we all got in the car.

They were anticipating a Doggy Vacation Extravaganza. I was filled with stress and anxiety at the thought of spending 3 days in a hotel room with two 70 lb. dogs, and elderly cat, and my husband Chuck while waiting out termite tenting of our house.

One experience; two totally different points of view.

After a short drive we exited our vehicle at the pet friendly La Quinta. Standing proud, tails wagging furiously, the dogs pulled us up the green carpet, squatting to leave their calling card every so often.

Soon the door to our short-term-home-away-from-home opened. The dogs came barreling in. “OMG – KING SIZE BED! VIEW OF THE BBQ GRILL! A PICNIC AREA!!” proclaimed the fever pitch of whines. A neighboring dog came into view, and the whines became excited barking and jumping enthusiasm about meeting a new friend.

As we unpacked the food (dog and human) dog heads swiveled back and forth in unison watching this buffet of favorites being set up just for them. We could feel their telepathic pleas of “Leave the room. We’ll be good. Leave the room. Leave the room now.” They were drooling.

The Doggy Vacation Extravaganza was off to a great start. I, on the other hand, was still stressed about the noise the dogs were making, tired to the bone from the tenting prep, worried about putting the house back together when we got home, and pretty much anything else I could think of.  Sigh.

At this point you might wonder what could possibly be better than staying in for the dinner buffet in our one-room-home-away-from-home?

Going out for dinner! “Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Leashes are out. We get to go! We get to go! We get to goooooo!!!!” (I could feel a headache starting behind my right eye.)

Soon, on the outdoor patio of a nearby dog friendly restaurant, dog heads were once again perky and alert, eyes roving from us to other diners, to the floor, to the wrens picking up the crumbs. Enjoying the smorgasbord of smells, sounds and sights. Leaning forward every time a fork moved. Catching every single morsel they could beg. Smiling happily when someone paused to pet them. Feeling like Doggy Rock Stars.

It was a fun evening, and I was surprised. It was obvious that other people liked our dogs’ attitude. I was starting to come around to the dogs’ point of view. Why was I so worried? I was only making it painful for myself. Hmmm.

And finally, back to the short-term-home-away-from-home. “Everyone on the bed at the same time!  Endless puppy rubs!  STAYING ON THE BED ALL NIGHT!!! Wishing this would last forever!!!!”

Surprise. Cassie and Reba’s expectations of a Doggy Extravaganza Vacation were reality. In spite of me. I expected to feel stressed out, tired and cranky. So I did. In hindsight not so surprising. LOL.

At the end of the day I was actually rejuvenated, and really grateful for the doggy vacation point of view. It was way more fun and healthy than mine. Next time I’d like to take their point of view from the beginning.

The next time you feel stressed out or overwhelmed, ask yourself “what a dog would think about this?” It can open the door to a whole new world.

Feel like checking out a new point of view? Let’s talk about it.

I Believe I AM Influencing Social Change

PaulaFlowersLRWhen the 2016 Global Coaching Study Executive Summary from the International Coach Federation landed in my inbox I couldn’t wait to see how my experiences and opinions related to the other 15,000+ coaches worldwide who participated in this amazing study.  In the 20 pages I read, there was one thing that stopped me in my tracks.

98% of us coaches worldwide believe that we can influence social change.

I feel hugely validated by this. It’s a powerful thing to come together as a group of industry professionals. It’s quite a different thing to be reminded that our combined hearts are working together for the common good of humanity.
Whether we’re working one on one, or with groups and teams, on life, businesses or community issues, we are helping make the world a better place by teaching people how to honor themselves and each other.
Thanks to my clients, my coach friends, all the other coaches, and the International Coach Federation.
I’m grateful for this reminder to celebrate this amazing life that is coaching.


“I’m trying to start exercising again,” said my new client. “It’s just not working and it’s making me crazy. Can you help?”

“Absolutely,” I replied. “But you have to quit trying. “What do you mean?” She looked confused.

“I’ll explain. But first, tell me if this is the crazy you’re feeling.

HeavyLoadEvery day you tell yourself that you are going to get started, and then you don’t. So you feel guilty and say you’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you don’t do it again, so you tell yourself how awful you are. Then you get depressed, and feel like a total failure, and even worse, it’s all your fault. It feels like a ten ton bag of rooks that you carry around all the time and success just gets further and further away. You feel hopeless and give up, or keep trying and not succeeding. Either way you feel guilty or ashamed. It’s called procrastination paralysis, and it’s why TRYING never really works in the long term.”

“OMG that’s exactly what’s happening,” she exclaimed. “How can I make it stop?”

I smiled, “You  QUIT TRYING by deciding to DO IT or deciding to LET IT GO, even if it is just for now. Tell me why exercising more is important to you.”

“I really feel like I should; I’m getting older and I can feel it. I feel guilty that I’m not.”  I stopped her right there. “Should and guilt are rotten motivators, they are symptoms of procrastination paralysis. I feel your motivation draining as you talk. Let’s reframe. Tell me what you would gain by exercising more.”

“I’d feel better physically and mentally, and build up some strength.” And how would that make you feel? (I could feel her energy lighten). “Great!” Is that worth letting go of TRYING and moving into DOING? “Absolutely.”

Congratulations! You’ve just gone from TRYING to DOING! How’s the bag of rocks now? “Wow, they’re gone. This is amazing.”

My client QUIT TRYING and started DOING when she changed her motivation from “Because I Should” to “Because I’ll Feel Better.” That was her first step. She could also have QUIT TRYING by deciding, “I don’t really want to do this now.” (This is really common when your motivation is based on SHOULD.) Either choice shuts down the bag of rocks feeling of procrastination paralysis that comes from TRYING rather than DOING or LETTING GO. The important thing is that she consciously chooses to focus on motivation that feels good to her.

We all struggle with procrastination paralysis. TRYING is totally un-motivating; it sets the perfect stage for failure and self-criticism; and it can go on for a long, long time if you’re not aware of it.

You know you’re TRYING rather than DOING if it feels like you’re carrying around a bag of rocks, and/or are really down on yourself.

Is it time for you to quit TRYING and start DOING? Call me to talk about your motivation and first steps.