Create the Life You Want.


A beautiful landscape beyond the wall - freedom and opportunity concept

You create the image and color on the canvas called your life. Are you creating the picture you want? Or does your canvas convey chaos and despair?

Indeed, sometimes we don’t like what we see in our lives. But who is responsible for the likeness reflecting back? Some would say outside forces, such as inadequate parents, poverty, addiction, rotten breaks, racism, homophobia, a disability, incest, and any number of other things.

No doubt, outside forces can and do influence our life canvas. But I invite you to consider that more often than not, we allow outside forces to color and define our lives.

You are the artists; God is your co-creator. Together all things are possible. But when we mistakenly believe that other people control our destiny, we end up feeling bitter and hopeless. In truth, we’re in partnership with a Higher Power, or whatever you choose to call it.

For years this was hard for me to accept. My life was rotten. I had a drug habit and an addition to alcohol, I was selling my body to support my dysfunctional lifestyle, and I was making bad choices that led to more bad choices. And I didn’t think it was my fault. I was not the artist who created the mess. I remember thinking, ‘If only I had a break, if only someone would give me a chance, my life would be different.’  Sadly, when a few kindly folks tried to give me breaks, I blew the opportunities.

How easy it is to believe we have no control over the events of our lives? How easy it is to believe our lives are preordained and that someone has control over the details? Holding on to that belief renders big payoff, because when things go wrong it’s not our fault. And when things go right, it was just God’s will. But never do we play a part, or so we think.

As you read this post, I invite you to consider a different perspective. You’re invited to first see whether you played a part in where you are today. And the best news you can give yourself is to say yes, because if you played even a small part, there is something you can do to change that canvas of your life.

Remember, you are the artist in your life.  So, what action can you take to create your drab canvas into a masterpiece?

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Act As If


Starting today let’s practice acting as if.

Pensive woman day dreaming in parkWhy? Because “acting as if” is a powerful tool for successful living. It is one that when properly applied renders triumphant and bountiful results. The idea that we can believe one thing, yet take contrary action and get positive results, is remarkable. Think about it. How often have you given up on something simply because you didn’t believe you could have it or do it?

On the contrary, how often have you accomplished a goal because you were willing to do the work, even though deep in your heart you never believed you can do it? Does that mean we have no chance of doing well, simply because we don’t think we can? Some people will have us believe that that’s true. They suggest that in order to make it at anything, we absolutely must believe we can. To back up that theory there are countless authors, therapists, lecturers and others who tell us that confidence is a precursor to success. And without it, we won’t make it.

I must disagree.

If that were true, I and many others wouldn’t be where we are today.

I didn’t get through law school because I believed in myself. I wish I could say that I did. For sure, there were moment of feeling that “Yes, I can do this. Yes I’m making it happen.” But there were many more moments of feeling that “I can’t, it’s hard, and I want to give up.”

What I had, and continue to have, going for me is a willingness to do the work – even when I don’t believe I’ll make it to the finish line.

Sometimes we get caught up thinking we have to feel good each and every moment on the journey. That life has to be easy and uncomplicated or else it’s not worth living. How often do we hear it said that “life doesn’t have to be hard”? On one level that’s true depending on the choices we make. If we make safe and easy choices that that don’t stretch us or test our growth, then we may have easy lives. But if we’re doing anything that is new, different, or outside of our comfort zone, there will be days we’ll feel great and days when we’ll struggle just to get out of bed.

Acting as if is the key. A willingness to take contrary action enabled me to change my reality, simply became I moved my feet. Even today when I set out to get a certain result, I don’t always believe I’ll get what I want. There are no guarantees. My job is simply to do the work and act as if. The rest is up to my Higher Power.

Some of you might think acting as if is being phony because you’re doing something you don’t believe in. And perhaps you’re right. But how often do we fake it in our lives with no purposeful goal other than to impress someone? Why not “fake it until we make it” as we move ourselves closer to competing our goal?

Do the footwork and the mind will follow. It’s all in how we see it.

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Making the right choices

Life Choices. Stress.

Life Choices. Stress.

Every day we make choices about how we want to live, feel, and behave. We make choices that affect our health, our finances, our relationships, and our well-being. And every day we feel the effects of those choices. And so do the people around us. Our choices don’t exist in a vacuum.

There’s a price we pay for poor choices. Added stress, strained relationships, dysfunctional homes, incorrigible kids, unhealthy bodies, and fewer desirable opportunities are among the consequences we pay.

When we make choices, we set in motion a cosmic reaction – one thing leads to another. Sometimes the outcome is what we want, but we’re still unhappy. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, yet the outcome turns out to be the best thing for us. How do we know when we’re making the right choice?  There’s a quiet, small voice inside us that never lies or steers us in the wrong direction. The truth is that we always know right from wrong; sometimes we choose to ignore that knowledge. On occasion, we reject the right to answer because it comes from a parent, teacher, spouse, or other perceive authority figure.   There are also times when we pretended not to know what’s appropriate, because we’ve decided to do what we want to do, no matter what.

So how do we go about making the right choices? First, we get into the place of being willing to make the right choices. Take a look at some recent decisions we’ve made and ask ourselves, “Is what I’m doing working for me? What consequences am I paying in order for me to feel good in the moment?”  When our answers are honest and we are willing to see the truth, then we are ready to go to the next step: making better choices. At this juncture, we stop and listen to that intuitive voice.  Often it competes with other, louder voices, voices that justify choices that are wrong for you. But despite the battle, deep down, we always know the right answer.

One of life’s greatest gift is realizing that we have the power of choice. The idea that we can control what happens to us is liberating, yet at the same time how fully frightening. Why? Because with choice comes the responsibility. Self-esteem is about making choices for ourselves and being accountable for them.  When we shirk that responsibility, we set ourselves up to be victims.

How easy is it to see ourselves as victims. How easy is it to do whatever we want in life, and then blame someone else for the outcome. This blog is about making different choices so we can bypass the victim role.

So what choices are you making? Today I invite you to examine your thought process for making decisions.

Self-Esteem Comes From Learning From Your Mistakes


There are days when all of our plans go smoothly; we feel in sync with life, everything goes our way. Then there are days when it all falls apart and the best we can do is to ride it out, knowing this too shall pass. We make plans, and our plans take a detour in another direction.

be Silly. Be playful. Enjoy life today.Life’s setbacks are numerous, including dealing with the computer virus or other technology problems, the break up of a relationship, an eviction notice, being late for an important appointment, or an unexpected bill. If you’re having one of those days, here are some suggestions to help you get through the other side:

  • Feel your feelings, every single one of them. Having the courage to own your feelings in the moment helps you to get through to the other side a lot quicker.
  • Journal about your feelings. There’s something magical about putting pen to paper right from your feeling place. Don’t edit your words; no one will see this except you.
  • Pray. Ask for God’s guidance. The idea here is to connect with that still, small voice within you, whatever you call it.  There are no rules as to how you connect. What I’ve found to be useful is to find a quiet space. When there is a lot of noise around you, it’s hard to tap into your intuitive voice, the one that steers you in the direction that’s appropriate for you.
  • If prayer doesn’t work for you, read something positive. This allows you to create a space within yourself so that the solution can enter. What usually works for me is reading Step 10 followed by Step 6 in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, or if the book is not close at hand, I generally listen to inspirational tapes.
  • Call a friend who will allow you to vent. Left to your own thoughts, you can get more toxic. It’s hard to solve the problem with the consciousness that helped to create the problem. The idea of having someone shed light in the form of a solution or a suggestion can be helpful.  Sharing in a non-judgmental environment allows you to hear yourself, which ultimately helps you to get on with the business of living.
  • When all else fails, take a nap or watch a mindless television program purely for its entertainment value. Clear your mind long enough for sanity to return.
  • Have the courage to ask the tough questions. One day, after my entire computer was destroyed because of a virus, I ranted about people who have nothing better to do then create viruses. I then needed to ask myself the following; could I have done something differently? Yes, all of my files should have been backed up. Were there red flags I didn’t pay attention to or chose not to see? Yes. My computer has been acting strange for a while. At the very least, I should have backed everything up when I first noticed there was a problem.
  • Get into the solution. With a writing deadline and two client engagements scheduled within a week of the occurrence, I couldn’t afford to pitty myself for a long. What could I do? I told my clients what happened and asked that they resend their documents. I re-created presentation materials as best I could. I checked my laptop to see whether I had duplicate documents, and in some cases, I did. I ordered a new computer and saved everything on my laptop to a storage drive. I learned from my mistake.

This week, you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes too. What went wrong today or this week? Write about it and allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come up. Then see what can you do to get into the solution, what action can you take to minimize the damage done? What can you do to prevent this from happening again?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Machu Picchu. Bucket List.


Bucket List.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Not sure why it’s taken me so long to publish this post, but it has.  Some might call it lazy, but lazy I’m not.  Some might say, I was too busy to focus on it. But if the truth be known, I was not too busy; I was just a procrastinator. In any event, here we go!

A few months ago, I was watching a segment of Sunday 60 Minutes called, the Children’s Village. I was touched by the humanity of India Howell and her business partner, Peter Leon Massy.  Their love of and desire to help children was heart-touching. It also reminded me of my recent adventure in Peru.

Machu Picchu. Bucket List.

Machu Picchu was never on my bucket list.  No, I was not jumping for joy at the opportunity to travel 12,000 feet above sea level—in hiking boots.  I mean the truth is, I’m a high heel kind of girl—5 inches high, I might add.  Yet, much to my surprise, when given the chance to journey to Peru in July, I was willing and able to show up.  That’s how life works. When we are open to the endless possibilities presented to us, we get so much more than we planned. At least that’s my experience.

12,000 Feet Above Sea Level.

Because I had never ventured to such a high altitude, I was a bit concerned. So, I prepared myself for the journey. I spoke with several friends who had trekked up the mountain, and had a conversation with my doctor about appropriate actions to take.  But the interesting and most telling thing is that I took the suggestions offered to me. What a novel concept. That single action allowed me to avoid the sickness often visited upon high altitude hikers.

First Class Travel, not so shabby!

The actual flight to Peru was delightful. Because I travel a lot, I’m an elite flyer on American Airlines and a lifetime member of the Admirals Club. Being an Executive Platinum has its perks, and there is something to be said for first class accommodations.  It makes a difference. So even though I arrived into Cusco at 5am Sunday morning, I felt rested.

The Bread House.

But the real fun began on Monday, which was our humanitarian day.  We left Cusco at 6am headed for the Azul Wasi Orphanage.  But let me step back. On the way to the orphanage, we stopped by a bread house.  Peru is a relatively poor country, so folks make money in whatever way they can.  Many bake and sell bread in their homes, hence bread house. The bread was so delicious that I took several wheel-shaped loaves home.  Perhaps because I love bread, but also because it was my small way of supporting the economy in this poor village. Three months later, I’m still eating bread.

Azul Wasi Orphanage.

From the time we arrived at the orphanage, I felt like I was steeped into a magical experience.  Nineteen kids greeted my small group with bear hugs and kisses. Wow! What a sweet and pleasant surprise.  They were so happy to see us, and made sure we knew it.  From that moment until we left the orphanage hours later, my heart was cracked wide open. Had I returned to San Francisco after that day, I would have felt fulfilled.  But there was more to come.  It was the start of an affair to remember.

On one hand, being with the kids was joyful. But on the other hand, it was sad. For most of these children, being at this orphanage was a place filled with more love than they have ever known.  Most of them had lived on the streets since they were barely able to walk. Their ages ranged from 3 to 19-years old, yet you could see in their little faces that they were old beyond their years.  Drugs, alcohol, and the streets were all some of them knew.  It was sad to hear their stories, and for the most part, we couldn’t discuss it with them. The memories were too fresh and painful.

I, more than anyone in my group, understood their plight. While not an orphan, my childhood was lost to drugs, alcohol, and a sordid lifestyle.  I lived homeless on the streets of New York at 18 surviving in whatever way I could.  I know all too well what one must do to survive.  Yet, I was granted a reprieve, an opportunity to turn the tide. There were angels in my midst.  So for me, this trip was not just a trip to Peru, but one more opportunity for me to say thank you and give back. And as in my life, there was an angel for these kids, and his name was Alcides.

A police chief for 30-years, he got tired of seeing these street kids come through his station. So he saved and saved and vowed when he retired from the police force, he would buy land and build a place where these kids could come live, grow, get an education, and become productive members of society.  A place where they could feel safe and loved.  Alcides has obviously succeeded, as evidence by the fact that while the kids are free to leave at any time, not one has chosen to do so.  How lucky they are and how blessed I was to get to speak with Alcides.

Sacred Valley. Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu.

The next day we were off to the Sacred Valley, and then Machu Picchu. What I can say most about the Sacred Valley and then Machu Picchu is how awestruck I was with what the Incas accomplished. We often like to think we are superior to other people and cultures. Yet, when one is able to witness firsthand what these courageous people created, we think twice about our assumption that we are better than most. Like the Romans, the Incas built structures that are still standing.

The most exhilarating part of the Machu Picchu day trip was that I became willing to do something I was afraid to do.  In anticipation of a bumpy upward climb, I gave myself permission not to go to the top. Once there, I allowed myself to take one baby step at a time, and before I knew it, I was on top. Being atop Machu Picchu was wonderful, but being willing to get there was awesome!

Someone asked, what was my favorite part of the trip? My answer was – the entire trip!  From the first day at the orphanage with the kids, to interviewing Alcides, to interviewing two of the children (Alfredo and Dante), to visiting a bread house, to visiting the Sacred Valley, to climbing Machu Picchu, every step of the way was a piece of the puzzle that made for a beautiful picture.  The final piece, bringing the puzzle all together, was the group itself.  I went to Peru, primarily, to support a friend’s charity (Legacies in Motion), engage in humanitarian work, and visit one of the NEW 7 wonders of the world. What I got was so much more. Yes, the actual act of climbing Machu Picchu was awe inspiring, but what impacted me was the fact that I was even willing to go.

A Life Filled With Endless Possibilities.

Today my life is filled with endless possibilities, and I am grateful to be alive and fully present enough to participate in this, my journey.  There was a time when I sat on the sidelines judging those who showed up for life.  People who, even if afraid, had the courage to take risks, go for their dreams, and possibly fail.  I was always afraid to fail, so I made safe choices.  Making safe choices keeps you protected and out of harm’s way, but also keeps you and your life small.

After 37 years of trying new things, I take a stand for those who are courageous enough to show up for their lives, try new things, meet new people, and live a life of limitless expansion. Life is so short; don’t waste it. Before you now it, it’s over.

Here’s to you!   Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter