About marciadaviscannon

Marcia is a career transition coach leading “Uncover Your Calling”, “Uncover Your Narrative” and “Uncover Your LifeStory”’ at Deborah’s Palm. Her hobbies include public speaking, ballroom and contra dancing, writing poetry, and watching live theater.

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions

Rowing MachineIt is the last week of January.  How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming?

I read a great article in December that changed my perspective on resolutions.  The article, by James Clear, was Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.  He suggests that it is more useful to create a system than a goal.

The article resonated with me.  I realized that it was systems, not goals, that worked for me last year.  I wanted more energy, more fitness, more fun.  Instead of setting a goal around pounds or inches, I created a system of working out at the gym three times a week, and dancing at least three hours each weekend. 

I wanted quiet time to think about my direction and plan for my future.  I scheduled a silent retreat every month.  I got the results I wanted because I set up a system to achieve those results.  Plus, I got all kinds of spillover benefits.

BJ Fogg, director of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, says behavior changes require three things: a trigger, ability, and motivation.  If you are not getting the behavior change you desire, one of those three things is lacking.

I had the ability to work out.  I love to dance, so dancing provided the motivation.  In order to dance for three hours, I needed to improve my endurance, strengthen my knees, improve my balance.  My workouts at the gym made that possible. 

Then I needed a trigger that would get me to the gym.  I had to schedule the time.  My online calendar reminds me of my schedule.  It can keep reminding me every five minutes until I get out the door.

Fogg set up a website to help us develop new habits, starting with very tiny habits. I used this process to remember to plug in my cell phone every night before I went to sleep.  I had the ability and motivation to do so, but I needed a trigger to help me remember.  I always grabbed my to-do list before sleeping, so I could write down the action items I’d been carrying around in my head. Now I associate plugging in the cell phone with grabbing my to-do list, and I plug the phone in every night.

New Year’s Resolutions get a bad reputation because they rarely result in lasting change.  But now you know the secret to changing your behavior.  A trigger, ability, and motivation.

What behavior will you change?

© 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon

Breathing Space

Fire“What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space,” begins the poem Fire by Judy Brown.

I know all about breathing space.  I grew up on a 240-acre farm.  When I wanted space to myself, I could slip out of the house, climb a box elder tree, and perch ten feet up on a fat limb parallel to the ground.

Or I could go into the grove behind the house, climb into the tire swing, twist the rope round and round as tightly as I could, and then let loose, spinning in increasingly wide circles as the tension spun out of the rope.  I might climb into the hay mow, or on the seat of a parked tractor, or between the rows of tasseling corn.  My favorite was a run down the hills in the far corner of the pasture – hills too steep to plow, but offering a tiny creek, a watering hole with tadpoles, and a cliff filled with fossils.

As a young mom, I left for work before my children woke up, collected them from school at 5:30pm, and fell asleep within seconds of tucking them in at night.  My only unscheduled time, my only alone time, was my hour of getting ready in the morning, and my half hour commute each direction. 

I did not use that time to listen to the radio.  I did not talk on my cell phone.  I needed space, quiet, unstructured time for my thoughts.  If anyone woke up early and intruded on my precious alone time, they found me cranky and cold.  My usual warm and nurturing self depended on that breathing space.

And now?  For decades I took on too much, tried to fill every available hour.  No more.  I limit groups and private clients to three days a week.  My volunteer activities and dancing fill two more.  And I keep two days every week unstructured and open, breathing space between the logs of my life.

In this busy season of shopping and baking, entertaining and celebrating, how are you doing at keeping some breathing space in your life?  Could you schedule an hour of quiet?  Stop and listen to the sounds around you, take in the sights and smells?  Just breathe?

Alone time. Elbow room. Breathing space.  So your fire can burn. 

© 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon



Inhabit My Days

Lotus“I will not die an un-lived life,” I began reading the Dawna Markova poem as a prompt in Tuesday’s Uncover Your Narrative writing group. “I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.  I choose to inhabit my days, let my living open me…”

I knew I was mixing my two groups.  Usually I shared this poem with my Uncover Your Calling students.  The final lines are a thought-provoking declaration:  “ I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

The beautiful library at Deborah’s Palm fell silent.  We sank thoughtfully into our leather chairs, and started moving our pens. 

I liked the strength of the piece, the determination.  “I will not!” it begins.  That’s how I feel.  Strong.  Adamant. Tenacious.

So how do I inhabit my days?  What opens me? 

Connection, empowerment, creative discovery, the “ah-ha!” moment of synthesizing disparate information into relevant truth, the delight of seeing people find insight, take action, grow and thrive.

What seed am I nurturing? 

Maybe the notion that one person can take one idea and make a difference.  That no one needs to live vicariously through anyone else. That dreams come with a purpose, and they are to be identified, pursued, incubated, cultivated.  That we can be useful at any age.  That each of us is unique, and has a unique contribution. 

We have work to do, and stories to tell.  We have stories to learn from.  And part of the delectable fruit we offer in legacy are the stories we are compelled to pass on.

Let’s All Go Back to School

PencilsSchool is starting. I can almost smell the freshly sharpened pencils.

I love the sense of new beginnings. It is a new year, with a new opportunity to be the best I can be.

I love the back-to-school sales. I stock up on spiral notebooks, bound composition books, and soft-grip, free-flowing gel pens.

I love that school isn’t just for youngsters. Eight years ago, I celebrated one of those round-numbered birthdays by going back to school. I signed up for a Creative Writing – Poetry class and a Life-time Fitness class at my local community college.

Yes, I was the oldest person in the classroom, even older than the professor. But I was there to improve my poetry, and my years of experience gave me that much more to write about. I crafted some of the best poetry of my life, and made friendships that continue to this day.

Creative writing was so much fun that I followed it with courses in radio. I even chose an on-air persona and served as an apprentice DJ at the on-campus public radio station. (“For KFJC, I’m Sophia Sage.”)

I followed with courses in Self-Assessment and Career Exploration and Coach training.

Now, in that funny way life has of coming full circle, I find myself as the teacher. Now I’m in position to guide others to become all they can be.

How about you? Are you feeling the urge to learn something new? Want to make the most of this stage of your life?

Explore the options at Deborah’s Palm on Saturday, August 17 at the Fall Kick-Off and Open House, 10am to 2pm. Meet the teachers and ask questions.

Learn French, practice Spanish, set goals, lean in, manage your stress, find a job, assert yourself, accept your imperfections, learn your personality type, write your narrative, uncover your calling. It is all at Deborah’s Palm.

We have a feast of learning opportunities. Come and savor!

© 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon

Marcia leads Uncover Your Calling and Uncover Your Narrative groups at Deborah’s Palm, and will speak at Deborah’s Palm Fall Kick-Off and Open House, Saturday, August 17, at 1:30pm.

Let the Transformation Begin…

Removing Wallpaper“What kind of shows do you like to watch?” Susan asked when we sat down in the lovely gardens at Deborah’s Palm to get acquainted.

“I like stories of transformation,” I responded.

I’m fortunate that I get to see stories of transformation offstage as well–in my Uncover Your Calling and Uncover Your Narrative participants, in myself, and lately, even in my house.

When I moved into my house, it was a shrine to the taste in wallpaper of the previous owners. The wallpaper featured clocks in one room, orange geometric shapes in another, flags and stars, hummingbirds, cabbage roses and fleur de lis.

Over the years, one room at a time, I stripped the wallpaper and covered the walls in more soothing ways. But the entrance/stairway space had me stumped. How could anyone get to the top of a two-story wall over the stairway, with no flat space for a ladder?

Last month, I found a handyman with the answer to this challenge. I found a paint color I liked, “Basketry,” and the project began.

Working together, we stripped all the fleur di lis wallpaper from all the walls in the entrance, dining room, stairway and landing. His ladder extension allowed us to put one leg of the ladder on one step, and the longer leg on the step below, so we could reach the highest point of the wall.

We stripped wallpaper, washed, repaired, prepped and finally started painting. But by Thursday, when I started a brand new Uncover Your Calling group at my house, the project was only half done. The downstairs had paint but no trim. The stairway and landing were stripped and washed but not painted. The curtains and pictures were down, the face plates off the electrical switches.

The house looked raw and unfinished. It was not the polished professional look I wanted to present to my clients, especially a new group. I felt stressed. I shared my consternation with Katie, Executive Director at Deborah’s Palm. She sent me this email:

As I was falling asleep last night, I mused about how your entryway remodel is such a picture of what you do here (and could apply to your new Uncover Your Calling students…):

That is, the entryway is symbolic of what is “frontal” for us — it is what people see first.

The older wallpaper is what someone ELSE thought was right, beautiful and fine — and just doesn’t fit us anymore…a change is wanted and needed…

The job is tough, so we ask for help and call in someone who knows what they are doing…

Then, it is HARD work, shedding, stripping away the old… it might be many layers of old stuff…we may not be able to reach spots, so we ask someone who knows what to do (arranging the ladders to reach the high spots).

Then YOU choose what comes next — what color (is your parachute??) and choose and plan.

Now when people see it, it more accurately reflects you and your goals, direction and picture of beauty.

I just love that picture.

I love that picture, too.  I sent an email to the group beginning that Thursday:

The house where we are meeting is in the midst of a painting project.  The completion time has slipped and it will not be done before our meeting this afternoon.  Please come with grace for a work-in progress.  The house is going through a transformation just as you and I are.

They came, they had grace, and they began their own process of transformation.

Are you ready for a change? What is it that you’d like to strip out of your life? Where are you stuck in old patterns but longing for new, fresh approach?  Come join me in the process of transformation!


Copyright © 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon


Conscious Loving

Tree HeartI’ve gone into input mode.

I’m reading everything I can find on the subject.

This is my modus operandi, my High Performance Work Pattern, my number one signature strength. When I want to learn something new, I gather information like a fiend. I ask all kinds of experts, and read all kinds of books.

Sometimes the search, the gathering of information, goes on for years. But on this subject, I’m stopping right here, right now. It’s not that I don’t have more to learn. It’s that I’ve found a book so rich, so thought-provoking, that I want to linger in it. I want to try every exercise.

The book is Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment. The subtitle: A Way to Be Fully Together without Giving Up Yourself. It was published by a psychologist and a psychotherapist who have worked with over a thousand clients and workshop participants on relationships.

One of the first things that appealed to me is that this book describes how to achieve a relationship that is the opposite of co-dependence. Co-dependence can be described as an unhealthy, unequal relationship in which one person puts a lower priority on his/her own needs, while being excessively preoccupied by the needs of others. When we are co-dependent, “we don’t have relationships, we have entanglements”, described as “an unconscious conspiracy between two or more people to feel bad and to limit each other’s potential.”

The co-committed relationship described in this book is when “people support each other in being whole, complete individuals.” And here’s the payoff: “Out of the harmony of a co-committed relationship springs an enhanced energy that enables both partners to make a greater contribution than either one could have made alone.”

Pretty much everyone I know, including me, has some level of dysfunction in their past. It inevitably emerges and impacts a relationship. We have trust issues, authority issues, self-esteem issues. We withhold, withdraw, project. Our past impacts our present in ways we often don’t recognize.

How do we work through all those issues to get to healthy relationships (including a healthy relationship with ourselves)?

Here are the books three fundamental requirements:

1) Feel All Your Feelings. I love this one. If you’ve watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability you know that we only have one knob on our feelings. If we numb ourselves to pain, we also numb ourselves to joy. Let’s feel all our feelings. Let’s notice them. Let’s listen to them. And when appropriate, let’s act on them.

2) Tell the Microscopic Truth. This is harder. This means communicating the feelings we might just be learning how to feel. It means speaking about ourselves rather than projecting feelings onto another. Imagine if, instead of saying, “You don’t even think of me when you make plans,” saying instead: “When you said you were going away for the weekend, I felt a tight band of constriction in my chest and a bunch of thoughts flew through my mind like ‘She’s abandoning me’ and ‘What’ll I do all by myself?’”

3) Keep Your Agreements. This seems obvious. Of course, it is harder to do than it is to write. But every broken agreement, takes away from our aliveness, our connectedness.

Let’s love consciously, whether it is our partner, our friend, our colleague or ourselves. Let’s feel our feelings, tell the microscopic truth, and keep our agreements. Let’s turn our relationships into the very best they can be.

Copyright © 2013 Marcia Davis-Cannon

Silence, Please

Marcia 5-3-13Ever gotten so busy with the trees that you no longer feel part of the forest?  Ever been so occupied climbing the ladder that you can no longer determine if it is leaning against the right wall?  I certainly have.

Sometimes what we need more than anything is some perspective, some reflection, some silence.

I have a hard time getting that perspective in my office.  There’s too much to do there, too much that calls me to task, too many distractions.

I have to get away to someplace beautiful, someplace without a computer, someplace filled with the soothing sounds of moving water.

I took a silent retreat last Friday.  It was my fourth this year.  Silent retreats have become a monthly ritual that I treasure.

For three-and-a-half hours I sauntered under sweeping cypress trees and observed the steady rushing in and flowing out of the ocean surf.  I brought a folding chair and my journal, and some questions to contemplate.  To the musical background of water buffeting sand, I  pondered.   And, because I’m a writer, I pondered with a pen in my hand.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.

It took the first hour to clear out the to-do list in my head and the vague worries about the work I left undone.  The second hour brought more focus, more clarity on the issues at hand.  And the third hour sharpened my perspective so I could be decisive about next steps and important priorities.

The fourth hour brought hunger, so a sumptuous meal in view of the water brought an end to the silence.  But I found that only my stomach was empty.  The rest of me was filled up and overflowing.

Could you use a fresh perspective on your challenges?  Try a little silence with a pen in your hand, and see what answers come when you take the time to listen.

How’s Your Energy?

English Country DancingEnergy.

When I am energized, I feel like I can do anything. When my energy is drained, I feel stuck in the status quo. I can’t seem to make a decision or take an action step.

On my flight home from Virginia last week, I read a remarkable book called “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal”. I know all kinds of tools for managing my time. But how do I begin to manage my energy?

Travel days too often sap my energy. I landed Tuesday jet-lagged and short on sleep with knots in my shoulders from lugging a suitcase, and emotionally drained from five hours in the middle seat of an airplane, trapped between large, uncommunicative men. But I was equipped with new knowledge, and determined to put it to use.

The tools for managing physical energy are obvious: food, rest, exercise, breathing. I ate a healthy meal and went to bed on East Coast time.

I awoke on Wednesday after ten-and-a-half hours of sleep, ate a nutritious breakfast, and headed for the gym for a vigorous workout followed by a long soak in the whirlpool. I started to feel human again.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book was the discussion on emotional energy. The emotional competencies are self-confidence, self-control, empathy, and social skills. Isn’t it true that when we are emotionally depleted, our confidence in ourselves plummets, and we don’t control behaviors we know we should control? Our empathy and patience for others dip.

How do we recharge our emotional energy? By doing something fun. The more absorbing and enriching the activity is, the more it renews our emotional energy.

So once my physical energy returned, I started building the emotional energy. On Thursday, I took a friend for a picnic lunch, and we lingered next to a babbling brook and filled our souls with the sound.

Friday I tried my hand (feet?) at English country dancing. As I learned the steps and moved to the lilting music, I couldn’t keep a grin off my face–it was that much fun.

Saturday, I went to a period re-creation event called A Jane Austen Ball in Bath. The ball featured, you guessed it, English country dancing. Only this time, the dancing was in an empire-waisted ball gown, and my dance partners were white-gloved gentlemen in waistcoats and elegant cravats. My feet glided to the music, my heart soared, and my grin just kept getting bigger.

With my energy restored, I had a great week. And this weekend, I’m planning to be proactive about keeping that energy high. You guessed it — more dancing!

How’s your energy? Won’t you join me in re-energizing?


What Do You Write About?

DiaryMom always kept a diary. Her diaries were private, of course. Even though I played with her jewelry and makeup as a child, I never read her diaries.

Upon her death, we cracked them open, my sisters and I. Perusing the perfect penmanship, we searched for secrets. Nothing.

Mom’s diaries were brief recitations of the factual events of the day. “Cultivator broke down. Drove pickup to town for replacement part. Stopped for groceries and gas. Tammy is in labor and we should have a new calf by morning.”

That’s it. Facts. Not a feeling to be found. They were boring!

My childhood diaries weren’t much better.

But ten years ago, I began writing with a group that incorporated research by James Pennebaker, the head of the psychology department at the University of Texas. He learned that expressive writing, describing both the facts and our emotional reaction to the most difficult events of our lives, led to increased health.

His studies with college students have been duplicated with job-seekers (who found jobs faster), postpartum moms, medical students, victims of crime, maximum security prisoners, and those with asthma, AIDS and chronic pain. Each population saw increases in their health and well-being after the expressive writing.

As I wrote with this group, I began to express emotions I had long kept stuffed. I wrote about walking away from my 20-year career to take care of my family. I wrote about burying both parents after their back-to-back battles with cancer. I wrote about my own battles.

After two years, another group member said to me, ”I’ve noticed you’re writing about happier things lately.” She was right.

And I knew it was time to take this great gift and give it to others. I trained as a writing leader and have been leading writing groups ever since.

I’ve seen the power of expressive writing in my life. I depend on it.

And someday, when my children crack open my stack of notebooks, they will find the chronicle of my life overflowing with messy emotions, exploratory thoughts, and triumphant discoveries.

Of this I am certain: it won’t be boring!

Marcia Davis-Cannon leads a writing group, Uncover Your Narrative, at Deborah’s Palm on Tuesdays, 2:30-4:30pm. Drop-ins are welcome.


Uncover Your Stories

Ladies TalkingI spent a lot of time listening to stories over the holidays.  I spent time telling stories, too.  As I visited with extended family, we shared the stories of our lives — stories of victory and stories of challenge.  Stories of wonder and stories of dismay. Stories of doors opening and stories of hopes dashed.

It seems to be innate, especially in the female gender, to tell stories.  Stories are so much more than a recitation of facts.  Stories have heroes (Okay, mine have heroines!) and conflict and resolution.  Stories evoke an emotional response.  Stories are memorable.

One key to a good story is a good listener — one who responds to each new development and asks questions that propel the story along.

I didn’t realize how vital good listening is to my storytelling until the day I drove my father home from a cancer treatment at a regional hospital more than an hour away.  He wasn’t feeling very chipper when he got in the car, his face and neck freshly sunburned from a new dose of radiation.

I don’t feel much like talking,” he said, “but you go ahead. Tell me about your life way out there in California.  Anything you want to tell me.”

So I launched into storytelling.  I started sharing every cute story I could remember about each of my children.  But after several, I missed the verbal cues that tell me someone is listening and curious to know what happens next.  My father felt far away, disengaged.  I fell into silence, and he didn’t seem to notice.

I wanted to listen to him, affirm him in his battle, hear how it felt to look death in the eye.  But he didn’t have the energy to talk.  Or the energy to listen.

Are you hungry for good listeners for your stories?  Want to learn from the stories of your life and hear the stories of others?  Want provocative questions that will help you draw out the stories that have really shaped your life?

Taking the time to reflect on our stories can be powerful.  We see how much we have overcome.  We remember powerful influences and times of transition.  We feel the weight, the value of our lives.

We are our stories.  The stories we have lived through.  The stories we tell others. The stories we tell ourselves.

Uncover your stories.

Copyright © 2012 Marcia Davis-Cannon

Uncover Your LifeStory meets for eight Tuesday evenings 7-9pm, beginning January 15. For more information, or to register, email Marcia Davis-Cannon at UncoverYourLifeStory@gmail.com