Kaboom! How to Fall Forward

I know, I know. The expression is “spring forward, fall back.” But I’m not talking about adjusting the clock on your microwave; I’m talking about much more significant adjustments: the kind that change your life. And, on this first day of autumn, a season many of us associate with renewal, I find that a lot of people I talk to are pretty taken with idea of life having a “reboot” button.

falling, maggie mcreyolds blog

Photo courtesy Jamie Campbell

But here’s the thing: you are not a laptop. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t “reset to factory condition.” And if you could, you’d lose a hell of a lot of experience and hard-won growth in the process. So when I talk about changing your life, in big ways or small, I’m not talking about a clean slate, I’m talking about going through your baggage, discarding what doesn’t serve you, packing up the lessons learned, and moving on. Lighter. Invigorated. Not wiped blank, but renewed.

The biggest thing I know about moving forward is that it is almost guaranteed that you will fall. We all knew this the moment we tried our first, tentative steps, but many of us have forgotten that falling is an inherent part of taking risks and making progress, not a sign that we screwed up or have failed. We grow older, as our metaphorical joints grow seemingly less flexible and, in our heads, more fragile, we can become unwilling to risk a fall. We become stuck and complacently, resignedly so, even when we are stuck in a place that really, really isn’t working for us.

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Damn You, AutoCorrect


It’s called “predictive text.” Based on your past texting vocabulary and also on a quirky little algorithm that thinks it knows what you’re going to say next, autocorrect comes up with not-so-helpful suggestions.

Our brains sometimes work like that, too. We’ve worn a neural groove so deep with our painful thought or fear that no matter what we are doing, saying, or hearing, we fill in the blanks with some serious ick.

Our boss says, “We need to talk.”

And the autocorrect in our brains fills in “I’m going to fire you.”

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Are You Waiting for a Radioactive Spider?

I got bitten by a radioactive bug
I tried an experimental drug
I went for a stroll in a gamma testing range
I found an enchanted Uru cane
I made a serum that made me small
I modified the serum so it would make me tall
I got a radioactive isotope in my eye
A dying alien helped me accessorize
~ Super Powers, Ookla theMok

A huge part of the Super Hero mythology is having greatness, enormous responsibility and special powers thrust upon an unsuspecting or hapless regular human being. You’re walking along, minding your own business (or, perhaps, you’re a mad scientist carrying out some misguided experiment), when WHAM! Suddenly you’ve morphed from ordinary to extraordinary. And just like that, you can save the world. But here’s the truth, so sit up and grok this, okay?

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I Got Nothin’

Girl playing electric guitar --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I can’t tell you how many writers I work with who believe they have “nothing new” to say. I can’t tell you how many clients I work with who feel they have “nothing special” to offer potential employers, potential mates, or even the current people and responsibilities in their lives.

I might actually have had a stray thought or two myself about having “nothing big” to offer the world now and again.

Where in the world did this Goofy-like, scrape a toe in the dirt, “Awwrrr, shucks” self-deprecation come from? Some of us were belittled or ignored or even abused as children. But even among those who were supported and told they were awesome and could do anything (I was one of these), we still somehow manage to hide our lights under some pretty big bushels. So big, in fact, that even we can’t find them. Where did our sense of specialness go?

Some of it is societal, cultural. While the ambitious and iconoclastic individual may be celebrated in the media (but only after he/she is successful), it doesn’t play out that way for most of us in our peer groups. We start, horrifically young, trying not to stand out, trying, above all else, to fit in. No surprise, perhaps, that by the time we’ve been hatched from high school, we are little flocks of sheep, ducks, geese—pick your barnyard animal who doesn’t want to stand out in case he or she is the one that attracts the farmer’s attention and gets the axe.

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How to Live Until You Die

live or die, red lips, maggie mcreynoldsWhen my father was scheduled for emergency bypass surgery, he told me that he knew he would never leave the hospital alive. An overweight, chain-smoking, and self-loathing diabetic, my father simply wasn’t willing to consider the total lifestyle overhaul that would be required of him post-op. It may be an oversimplification to say that I think he chose to die rather than to change, but that’s what he did, two days after his procedure.The doctors had no explanation—he had come through the surgery fine.

My grandmother, age 94, lingered, bedridden and on the brink of death, for months. Her eyesight, hearing, speech and cognition were all but gone. I knew she was in pain and I wanted to do what I could to ease her passing, so I flew to Chicago and spent two days at her bedside, telling her over and over that she had loved and been loved, that her life had mattered, that we were all fine, and that it was okay to go if she was ready. She died the afternoon of the second day, after a half-hour of unusual lucidity in which she focused her eyes on mine and gazed, smiling, at me while I held her hands.

My other grandmother was six months past her 90th birthday and had lived with cancer for a decade. She was admitted to the hospital with a non-fatal complication of her illness, and chose not to tell the doctors she had a heart condition. She died two days later, and when her son went to her condo, he found all her legal papers spread out on her table. She had never intended to come home; she went to the hospital having chosen to die.

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Why the Heck Would You Hire Me?

I get asked what I do and how it works a lot–although admittedly less so now that life coaching has gone much more mainstream. But now that I’ve added writing coaching, ghost writing and editing, and other programs, I’m seeing more furrowed brows lately.

question mark, maggie mcreynoldsSo here’s what I do, and why in the world you might consider working with me:

I started out as a client in need of a coach.

Years ago, I hated my job as a managing editor of a city monthly. So what did I do? I started interviewing for other, higher-paying jobs as a managing editor for even bigger magazines. Big duh. If you don’t like turnips, eating more of them isn’t gonna help. Thankfully, I got some coaching—and ended up becoming a coach myself.

And wowee wow wow: I now know tons of great tools, exercises and conversations to get my clients out of crisis or unstuck, clear on what’s next, and how to get there. Helping people find their authentic voice or their authentic way of being/doing in the world? How cool is that?

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lights of aha, maggie mcreynolds blog

The Power of Ah + Aha

Really powerful, evocative writing—the kind that reaches out and grabs you by the heart—starts with that “Ah!” of recognition. It’s that delicious moment when one soul reaches across time and space to another and tells a truth that is as familiar as one’s own face in the mirror.

But great writing doesn’t stop there. Ahs of recognition feel good, but if that’s all that’s on offer, they move rather quickly to “and…?”

An Ah without an Aha—“Don’t like the weather? Just wait 15 minutes and it’ll change!”—is just a cliche. It takes your unique spin on the familiar, the Aha, to transform the Ah into a new thought, a fresh idea, something magical. Something, in other words, that illuminates, that teaches, that matters.

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What I Learned from Bill Murray

billmurray, maggie mcreynolds blogDid you watch “Groundhog Day” on Saturday? I did. I do every year. Some people love it because it’s Bill Murray at his funniest (and Andi McDowall at her cutest). Some people love it because it’s an annual tradition to watch it. Me, I love it because I learn from it every single time, the lessons I thought I’d learned and mastered on the last viewing. This isn’t just a basic story of a jerk who gets put on hold until he learns not to be a jerk. It’s a metaphor for the human journey itself.

The lessons?

I have little to no control over my circumstances.

Try as he might, Bill/Phil can’t change anything: the inevitable blizzard, the tray of dishes that gets smashed at the Tip Top, the ice cold shower at his bed-and-breakfast—or the fact that every day, his life is exactly the same as the day before (and set to the tune of “I Got You, Babe”).

I have little to no control over the actions of others.

No matter how many details Bill gleans over time about Andi/Rita, he still can’t force her to love him. In fact, the harder he tries, the worse it gets. In a delightful montage, she slaps him—over and over and over again.

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