Category Archives: Purpose

Dream Crasher #2 – When You Have Too Many Dreams to Choose From

This is the second in a series of the most common obstacles I see when pursuing goals and dreams.

Dream Crasher #2: Too many passions and good ideas to choose from. These are my early morning drinks and pretty metaphorical for my natural life and work approach. Can anyone relate?

Like many entrepreneurs and business owners, I am multi-passionate and I don’t liked to be boxed neatly into a category. (We can talk about why personality tests are flawed on another day.)

Like water, coffee and smoothies, I embrace seemingly contradictory ideas – like doing good and making money do not have to be mutually exclusive. And similarly to my morning drinks, I tend to have an over-abundance of potentially earth-shattering project ideas daily.

The problem is that unless you’re a consultant whose job it is to brainstorm, it’s pretty difficult to grow a business, social enterprise or non-profit if you’re chasing new ideas all the time.
Here’s what I have found in my own life and with clients: if you can’t choose, it’s almost always because you don’t have enough information. And that is a very fixable problem. Here is the short version of how:

1. list out your biggest dreams and goals (no limits).
2. complete a reflection exercise to explore or try-on each. Usually one or two rise to the surface. Take action on those. For a free worksheet with specifics what questions to ask when *trying on* your dreams, enter your email below so we can send it to you.

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On Being the Woman You Want Her to Become

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

Be the woman you want her to become. During a conversation recently with a friend about girl empowerment I shared what had been bothering me for a while,

“Did you ever notice that we invest so much time in ensuring our daughters pursue their dreams while most of us ignore our own or relegate our truest dreams to the back burner?”

She had noticed the same thing.

“What message does that send our girls and our boys about the importance of our desires and theirs too?”

If you ask any parent (or child), they will confirm that it is what we model in action that sends the most powerful message to young people. Pursuing your dreams wholeheartedly isn’t selfish but is honoring what you are designed to give to the world. It is speaking the truth in action that your life and time deserve the same level of attention and care as each member of your family. What I have also noticed is that as children get older, they express significant pride in their parent’s professional accomplishments and impact on the world.

Take up space in your own life for the world’s sake and to give the girls and boys that are watching permission to do the same.

Reclaim Your Dreams Workbook is available on Amazon.

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Money Matters

“Invest in yourself. It will pay you for the rest of your life.” -Aristotle

Courage and Confidence Challenge #9

Money matters. Think about the messages your daughter receives about money both in the media and at home. Earning it. Investing it. Making lots of it. We know the media does, but consider how you subtly or indirectly tell her that she can depend on others (like a future husband) to take care of her financial needs? Is earning power a factor when she considers her future? Today make sure to frame earning money as a path to freedom, empowerment, and the opportunity to make a broader difference in the world. This isn’t about greed or doesn’t mean giving up on a dream. In fact, the goal is the very opposite! It does mean making choices that assume she is responsible for her financial well-being. If you need more direction, start with education by checking out The Daily Worth and Amanda Steinberg’s accompanying book, Worth It: Your Money, Your Life, Your Terms In addition to helping empower women financially, Amanda is a serial technology entrepreneur and an inspiring role model.

Here’s Why

So many reasons why. For starters, statistically, women are more likely to spend time on budgeting/expenses than investing, more likely to feel anxiety around investing, less likely to ask for raises, less likely to consider financial impact when making career decisions, and less likely to feel confident around making sound investment decisions.

Anecdotally, I can share countless stories of how economic disempowerment plays out at every life phase. There was the mom who suggested her 13 year old daughter consider a “flexible” career path – i.e., let’s set the vocational dream bar low and think about how you might work part-time once you have kids before you even start high school.

And the teenager who thanked me for saying, “making money was a good thing” because she thought it was selfish and felt guilty about considering finances when dreaming about a career path.

Or the messages everywhere telling girls to focus on marrying an ambitious person rather than being the ambitious person.

And finally, I also see how it plays out on the other end of vocational life…women in their 60’s and beyond who feel handcuffed (still) by work that they dislike or don’t know how to step back into the workforce. Let’s empower our daughters to invest in their careers and their financial well-being from the outset. Much more to come on this topic from The Brave Core.


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Looking and Standing Up

This is my favorite maple tree and I almost forgot to look up and notice it this season.

Every year it’s one of the last to shed its leaves; even in rainy autumns manages to fire up our front yard with orange and red. But this year I’ve been so engrossed in my thoughts….thinking/worrying about my kids’ future…my future …our country’s future…the earth’s future that I almost missed my favorite fiery maple tree.

That took me aback because forget to look up and you miss out on the fall leaves, a writing idea or a meaningful project that needs time, catching my dog before he ruins another blanket (wait, not that), and most importantly, connections with my people …a conversation with my 87 year old Mom, a laugh with a sister, and all the firsts and lasts that life is filled with – especially as I watch our kids grow into teens and adulthood right before my eyes. 

Almost missing the blazing tree that I pass – daily – hit me hard…because sometimes if you don’t look up, it’s too late – at least for a season, but maybe forever.

So this is what I’ve decided fellow activists, worriers, dreamers and givers. I am taking time to breathe and look up more.

I can look up and stand up and fight for what I believe, for our country all in the same day. Reality is, it’s all going to be alright or it’s not. Either way I also embraced the beauty that was right in front of me along the way.

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Six Important Habits for Empowering Your Daughter

Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.”  – Harriet Tubman


Originally appeared on 

We all want our daughters to be the real-life super girl they were meant to be – confident, believing they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to. For a time, when they are really young this seems to be easy, almost effortless. So much so, that sometimes we secretly wish they weren’t quite so eager to take the world by storm. Have you ever met a toddler that wasn’t self-possessed?

As they grow, though, ensuring our daughter feels empowered takes serious, conscious effort – particularly in a culture where she is bombarded at ever younger ages with the script that what really matters are not her achievements and character, but rather what size skinny jeans she wears. Media messages that most often relegate females to a role of passivity – awaiting rescue – rather than taking action to determine her destiny.

So what do we do? How do parents that are over-the-top crazy about their daughters ensure that they hold onto and develop that natural super-girl within? Over the last few years, I have interviewed countless tweens and teens to get a window into girlhood. And these young women have a lot to teach us about how to raise our daughters. Based on those conversations, research, and my personal experience as a mama to two, here are just a few power habits to get you started:

  1. Focus on intellect and work ethic.  Lisa Bloom, Author of Think, has a magical way of interacting with girls that she meets for the first time. Rather than making a comment about how pretty her dress is, she asks her new friend what she is reading. It’s a good thing, of course, to tell your daughter (or son) that they are beautiful. Just be sure to spend 10x more effort noticing how hard she is working at conquering that math problem.
  2. Regularly solicit her opinion. Create a girl that is confident about her opinion by asking what she thinks on topics from her favorite color to global warming, feminism and world affairs. Respect her opinion, but don’t be afraid to disagree with her so learns to defend her stance. Be sure to ask your daughter why she believes what she does. Try not to correct her on the “tone” that she uses to deliver unsolicited opinions. Girls are given a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle messages that she should be smart, just not TOO opinionated or direct. So it’s important that she knows stating what she believes is a good thing.
  3. Expose her to as many strong female role models as possible. There are countless women who are doing work that they are passionate about and making an impact in the world. Expose your daughter to those you know in real life and those that you can find through film, television, and online. Point these amazing role models out whenever you come across them in your life. This site, is a great place to start!
  4. Develop a media critic.  Never underestimate the influence of negative media messages on a girl’s self-esteem. Reducing what your daughter is exposed to definitely helps. Since you can’t completely avoid the damaging messages though, teach her early on to be a critical observer, questioning the motives of an advertiser or television show. “Huh, I wonder why this movie has the girl waiting to be saved. She must be really bored! They clearly don’t understand what girls like to do.”
  5. Set aside a few minutes daily to consider the bigger stuff of life. It may sound silly to have your elementary school daughter pondering the meaning of life, but it is never too early to start making this life-changing ritual part of your day. It makes setting time aside to be conscious about her life an early habit and also gives the powerful underlying message that she is in charge of her future.
    • Start with just 5 minutes each day or a week even (if five minutes is too long, then go with 1 or 2 minutes). Unless your daughter is an early riser, evenings before bed may be best if she is in school all day.  She can use a special journal or notebook set for only this special time. Younger children may simply use the notebook to draw something magical. As your daughter gets a bit older, you can ask her open ended questions like, “What did you love about today?” And preteen and teen girls are ready for questions about imagining their biggest, boldest dreams. (For a daily guide for this practice, check out Take 5 for Your Dreams.
  6. Teach her to be brave by trying new things. Most of us develop confidence by experiencing mastery of a new skill that we were initially afraid to do or were simply unfamiliar with whether it be rock climbing, a challenging scientific theory, or meeting new friends. Encourage your daughter to step out of her comfort zone sometimes. When she is struggling with a new skill, remind her of the other times she’s learned something new.

Remember your daughter is her own one-of-a-kind super girl. Create an environment where she is reminded of that consistently and she will be compelled to reach for the stars.

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The book Take 5 for Your Dreams was created especially for preteen and teen girls and provides more than 90 five-minute daily exercises designed to inspire girls to think about their future, their goals, and how they can get there. Packed with beautiful photos, quotes, mini-essays, and resources, it’s a simple and elegant solution meant to break the idea of dreaming big into easy, doable daily steps. 


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Five Traits of Dreamers Who Do

Action expresses priorities. -Aristotle

I have worked with many women and also researched what characteristics and actions result in growing toward successful goal attainment. It is no surprised that no matter how varied the person or goal, there are common traits and actions that separate those who move forward on their dreams and those who don’t. Here are my top five favorites:

  1. Identify a clear vision or specific goal. Know where you are headed and why. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dreamers have a mega vision to change the world or start a multibillion dollar company (though some do). But it does mean that their actions have a measurable end in mind. In general, goals are best set within a twelve to eighteen month timeframe and should be measurable. So, even if your vision is to end world hunger, think about what you can accomplish in the next twelve to eighteen months to that end. Sometimes women that I have worked with have are interested in developing a skill, like writing. In those examples, the goal is focused on a regular practice (like writing a blog daily or writing 500 words a day).
  2. Take action. Obvious, right? Without action, a dream won’t happen. Period. Taking consistent, imperfect micro action is the best antidote for fear and inertia. Trying “stuff” out before feeling ready requires a choice not to be derailed by mistakes.
  3. Keep your to-do list short and focus on your goal first. There will be many sparkly new ideas, goals, and projects that will vie for your attention. Keeping your list of goals really, really short will give you the time and energy you need to focus and make progress. For every week, identify one to three actions that will move you closer to the outcome you desire.
  4. Know what is meaningful to you. Successful {re}claimers love (or at minimum like) the work they are committed to. But, more importantly, they believe it to be meaningful and important. Passion can develop over time when invested in something where the results matter to you.
  5. Connect to a tribe. Dream seekers don’t go it alone. Mutual, concrete support through setbacks and successes is a non-negotiable must have. Find a friend, a mastermind, a group, or coach. You will increase your likelihood of success exponentially.

Take 5

How about you? Is there one non-negotiable trait or action that helps you to reach your goals?

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo


For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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Why You Should Do It Badly


“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” C.K. Chesterton

Recently, a psychologist who I deeply respect sent me an email regarding my book for teens, Take 5 for Your Dreams. Here’s an excerpt:

“I was nearly in tears reading your beautiful book…Somehow you were able to take such huge concepts and bring them into focus for moms and teens in a way that was just beautiful – I love the graphics too!”

OMGosh, are you kidding me?! I respect her work with women and teens and was humbled by how clearly she captured the intent and essence of the book. She also passed the book onto a few friends who run mother-daughter book clubs. Wow. Really? That’s quite an endorsement.

But, in addition to taking in all of her juicy, feel-good encouragements, I felt a little embarrassed that she read my book…and had to resist the urge to enumerate the major flaws and inadequacies of the book in my reply. Not out of insecurity, but because objectively Take 5 could be a whole lot better and a part of me wanted her to know that I knew that.

But I did talk myself out it…that would not serve a useful purpose. As imperfect as it is, Take 5 has also impacted thousands in a positive way. Besides, despite its flaws, I did it – I published a book about a topic that matters deeply to me, all while raising two kids and running a profitable consultancy business. The process was pretty darn messy, but also incredibly rewarding. 

The moral of the story is do something that is so important to you that it is worth doing badly. Please don’t wait until you’re ready. Don’t let perfect get in the way of making your difference in the world and living a happier life. Don’t wait for the perfect timing because we all know when that will be. Most importantly, whatever you do, don’t wait for permission to do that thing you want to do.

Other than newborns and nature, I have never seen any flawless work released into the world. Start today. Do something that it is so important to you that it is worth doing badly.

Love, Paula

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7 Reasons Your Start-Up Isn’t Working (and How to Fix it)

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Photo by: Marco Verch, CreativeCommons.

Many of the women in the Reclaim Your Dreams community start entrepreneurial ventures. Starting a business can be hard (even when it is your dream), but for many of us the freedom, meaning, and financial upside make it worth the risk and challenges.

As I look to 2017 and my personal and professional goals, I have been considering what mistakes companies that I have worked with make (never me, my execution is flawless) as they move toward traction-point. Not always, but my experience is major issues pretty consistently comes down to not addressing the following fundamentals. (Interesting that these same principles apply to other goals too.)

  1. Unclear vision. Know where you are going. Being firmly committed to providing a product or service that provides benefit to a particular customer is always the starting point. Write down the answer to these three questions and you will have the start of your vision. What’s your product or service? Who is your target customer? Why is it important (beneficial, life-changing, impactful, etc.)?
  2. Bad idea. Evaluate your idea and ensure that it is providing significant value to your target audience. Every day I drive through a small town center. Among the flourishing storefronts, I have seen many business failures. For the most part, it’s been painfully obvious from the moment that they opened their doors (even to my kids – who would do there?!) that the owner did not have a viable business model. Business success is not guaranteed, of course, but you can reduce your risk of failure. Start by completing some baseline market research. Also drill down on a revenue and expense model to ensure that you will be able to make a profit.
  3. No short-term goal. Research shows people achieve goals when they are no more than eighteen months away. Beyond that, know what action you are going to take today. I love big visions, but every business needs short-term goals as well. What are the goals of your business in the next six months to one year? I recommend three goals: a revenue, give-back, and organizational.
  4. Doing too much. Focus is non-negotiable, especially if you are bootstrapping your business. It may feel counter-intuitive, but the more you hone your focus the larger your market opportunity. Commit to one product or service to a very targeted customer and expand from there.
  5. Poor business development plan. Let your customers know that you exist and why! Build it and they will come is a nice idea, but who is they and how will they know you exist? Many business owners avoid selling because they don’t like to feel sales-y.   Your job is providing information to your potential customers and it’s up to them to determine whether or not it’s beneficial.
  6. Not hitting launch on your imperfect product. No action. No progress. The new business model favors businesses that are willing to launch imperfect products. It’s easy to get derailed by unimportant tasks or the next shiny idea to talking about your plans. Once you know your goals for the year and have a plan, start every single day with essential micro steps that will move you toward that goal. If the unexpected happens, hustle like a motha and figure out your Plan B for staying on track.
  7. No support. Bootstrapping a new venture can be a lonely endeavor; know who your go-to business peeps are. It’s a better alternative than wringing your hands or hiding under a blanket eating a pint of ice cream when you encounter an obstacle or make a mistake.

You may need to adjust and rework, but address these issues one step at a time and you will increase your likelihood of success tenfold!!

Take 5: Write down your company vision and/or your six to twelve month goal.

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One Life-Changing Question I Ask Myself All the Time


But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too  -Stevie Nicks, Landslide

Fall is a good time to get bolder and reflect on big questions like,

Am I spending my time (equals spending my life) the way I want to…am meant to?

I ask myself this life-changing question at least once a week…and three times a year (one being Autumn), I set aside bigger chunks of time to consider my time in a deeper way with openness to making changes.

As I have been consciously thinking (feeling and praying) about this question, I want to be bolder this coming year. Two goals that are core to my purpose keep coming to the surface; ones that I had get buried.

One is related to writing and I am pretty psyched to be taking imperfect action by creating a daily authentic writing (and posting) habit.  The first step to a dream that includes a creative pursuit is easy as it often requires daily habit, but not necessarily hours of time each day (yet). The other goal is more complex (because it is very time (aka life) consuming) so I am still discerning how and if I will make it work. To be continued.

Take 5

Right now, take a few minutes and consider whether you are spending your time (and your life) that way you are meant to?

Write down whatever comes to you about activities you don’t want to do anymore or a pursuit that you have let stay dormant for much too long. Don’t worry about the how as you never have to make changes if you don’t want to or can’t… (Pro-tip. Don’t skip right to the number two thing on your list because it feels safer. Start with what’s at the top, the very top of your list before you bury it. There is no risk in writing down your reflections on this question.)