How To Take The First Steps To Change Your Life

May 13, 2020

If you’re ready to heed an inner calling to make changes in your life, but you’re not sure how to start, these five steps will get you going.

There comes a time for many of us when we accept that we need to make a change in our lives. That we need to include something else or remove something from our lives. That we need to change jobs or careers, leave a relationship or build a community, sail across the Pacific, or learn to tango or bake or paint.

If this is you, now, keep reading.

I was in my mid-30s when I accepted that I wanted to be a writer. My coach teased this out of me, even though it was peripheral to what we usually talked about. She sensed there was something (in addition to my work in education) that I ached to pursue. Writing had called me for over a decade, but I’d refused to listen. Once I’d confessed to my coach, there was no turning back. Fifteen years and five books later, I remember this moment vividly as a big step on my journey to a more fulfilling, meaningful life.

A distraught administrator recently told me, “Being away from school, because of the coronavirus, has made me aware of how toxic that place is. I can’t return.” In spite of the uncertainty of these times, she’s looking for another job.

An old friend shared that this crisis has made him realize that although he enjoys his job, he dreams of pursuing his passion for outdoor education. “I’m going to start volunteering on the weekends and doing some side projects, and maybe in a few years I can do that full time.”

What do you want? What calls or whispers to you?

If you’re not sure what you want, or how to take the first steps towards figuring that out, that’s ok. The following steps will set you on a journey to make change in your life.


Visualize yourself at some vague point in the future sitting with your eyes closed. The specifics about where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with are obscured, but you are able to tap into how you feel in this future moment. And you feel content. Good. Satisfied. Now, what else do you feel? Maybe you feel appreciated at work and you sense you’re in a place where others recognize your strengths. Perhaps you feel that in your work you regularly act with integrity and in alignment to your core values. Maybe you sense community and know that you’re working, or living, with others who value vulnerable, authentic connection with each other. Visualize the feelings that call to you; visualize how you want to feel.  


Collage the callings and joys of your life. Review your life, starting as far back as possible, and identify the moments of meaning and satisfaction. See these moments as scraps—words, images, textures, colors, fragments—and write each one down on a piece of paper. A word or phrase is fine. As you identify these fragments, refrain from judging them or yourself, or trying to make sense of them. Don’t try to think about what you might do with the scraps. Let them flow out. Capture each fragment. These are clues to the changes your future self wants you to make. You can keep them in an envelope, or paste them on a big piece of paper, or put them in a box.


If you’ve done your collage thoroughly, you’ll likely experience feelings including happiness, sadness, regret, and disappointment. Some of these emotions can feel unpleasant, but they offer wisdom and insight if you can stay open to them. Allow all the waves of emotions to come and go. Ask yourself: What do these emotions want to tell me about changes I could make in my life? What do these emotions want to tell me about what I need to feel satisfied and joyful? Write down the insights you get from these inquiries. Note: you must write these down.


Tell someone what you’re learning about yourself—a coach, close friend, or trusted relative. You don’t need to declare that you’re quitting your job and competing on the Great British Baking Show—you need to honestly share some of your new insights. This could sound like any of the following:

  • “I’m realizing I want to work in a place where I feel a greater sense of belonging.”
  • “I’m accepting that I’ve been afraid to pursue leadership positions because I’m afraid of rejection—not because I fear I’m not qualified.”
  • “I know I love my job, but I need regular creative outlets as well.”
  • “I’ve spent 20 years in my field, and I’m ready to make a big change. I don’t know what that will mean exactly, but I can feel it in my bones—I’m ready.”

By verbalizing your insights, you’re taking a huge leap towards making change because when we speak our desires, we are more likely to hold ourselves accountable to taking action.


The first step can feel hard, and it can also feel easy. For example, if you remembered being fascinated by astronomy as a kid, you might listen to a podcast about astronomy. If you’ve been curious about being a published author, you might look for an online course about writing. If you know you love to bake, gather the supplies and bake something. If you are curious about another career or position, reach out to someone who might be in that role and ask them a few questions. Think of this step as a slow warm-up of tight muscles. Ease into it. Let this step feel enjoyable. Be drawn by what feels good. Change is made one small step at a time.


I’ve been coaching educators for over 15 years. Although I’m invited into an office or classroom to coach leadership, instruction, equity and so on, inevitably, at some point, we talk about other things—because the coaching I do is holistic. My clients have been teachers, coaches, and educational leaders, and they’ve also been spouses, sisters, parents, (or people who want to be parents) chefs, musicians, and so on. I’ve coached people around making decisions to have babies, to pack up and move to rural Montana, to leave relationships or start relationships, to build a side gig as a caterer or musician, and much more. I love doing this kind of coaching—what might be considered life coaching, because it allows people to bring their whole, complicated, beautiful selves. We are better teachers, coaches, and educational leaders when we honor and nourish our whole selves.

Coaches are experts in guiding behavior change. If you’re ready to make changes in your life, there is a path for making change that works. I’m now offering group coaching services because it’s so rewarding to see people make big (and little) life changes. I’m more convinced than ever that individual sustained change is made alongside others making big (and little) changes. In community we inspire each other and cheer each other on and witness each other’s growth and transformation. If you’d like more information on the group coaching I’m launching in June, read here. And if you’re called by a desire to write, then you might also be interested in this new program (we’re still working out the details, so click here to tell us you’re interested).

I’m guided by Mary Oliver’s injunction: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I plan to squeeze every drop of joy and fulfillment out of it. Whether you join this program or not, I hope that you might take steps today towards creating a life that is as completely fulfilling and beautiful and rewarding as you can possibly imagine—and then some.

More Blogs

View All Blogs

5 Questions I Ask Myself When I Design PD

May 6, 2024

I’m deep into designing my new, in-person The Art of Transformational Coaching workshop, which I’ll deliver during fall 2024 in 9 cities around the U.S. This workshop is based on my forthcoming book, Arise: The Art of Transformational Coaching, and both the book and workshop reflect all that I’ve learned in the 20 years since I became a coach, and in the 11 years since I published The Art of Coaching (retiring in July 2024 with the release of Arise). 

Read Article

My best design resource

April 29, 2024

I am deep in planning my new in-person workshop on Transformational Coaching. In Fall 2024, I’ll be taking this 2-day learning experience on the road. It’s been over 4 years since I’ve done these kinds of workshops, and I can’t wait to be in person with others who are committed to transforming schools. 

Read Article

End-of-year reflection questions for you

April 22, 2024

These reflection questions invite you to consider your ways of being—and they’re ones you can offer coaching clients as well. At the core of Transformational Coaching is the concept of the Three Bs: Behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being. We know that it is only by coaching in these three domains that we create sustained, transformative change in schools; our behaviors emerge from our beliefs and our ways of being. 

Read Article

“These kids can’t…”

April 15, 2024

My newest book, Arise: The Art of Transformational Coaching (July 2024), has two chapters dedicated to coaching for equity. And another three on coaching emotions. And even more on preparing ourselves to coach. And of course, a lot of concrete strategies. It has so much because in many ways, this is complex. And it’s also simple: when we tend to ourselves, we can tend to others. 

Read Article

Bright Morning Podcast

View Podcasts

How to Coach Towards Agency

May 13, 2024

How to Curb Your “Fix It” Tendency

May 6, 2024

Core Human Needs and Coaching Conversations

April 29, 2024

How to Coach Ways of Being

April 22, 2024

Building Strong Coach/Admin Relationships

March 18, 2024

Sneak Peek #1: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

March 25, 2024

Sneak Peek #2: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

April 1, 2024

Sneak Peek #3: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

April 8, 2024

Sneak Peek #4: Inside Elena's Newest Book!

April 15, 2024

What to Do When You’re Not Feeling Compassionate or Curious

March 11, 2024

What You Need to Know about Classroom Walkthroughs

March 4, 2024

How to Set Up Meeting Process Observers

February 26, 2024

Coaches of Color, It’s Time to Honor Your Needs

February 19, 2024

How to Use the Ladder of Inference in Your Coaching Conversations

February 12, 2024

I Don’t Want to Co-Sign THOSE Feelings.

February 5, 2024

Try It On: Supercharge Your Learning

November 27, 2023

Try It On: Let Your Coachee Lead

November 20, 2023

Try It On: The Power of Silence

November 13, 2023

Try It On: A Question to Unlock Our Power

November 6, 2023

Try It On: A Question to Surface Underlying Beliefs

October 30, 2023

Try It On: A Confidence Building Sentence Stem

October 23, 1987

Try It On: Less Talking, More Impact

October 16, 2023

Try It On: Learn from Your Coachee’s Non-Verbals

October 9, 2023

Try It On: Improve Your Communication with Non-Verbals

October 2, 2023

What You Need to Know About Taking Notes During Your Coaching Conversations

September 25, 2023

How to Prepare for a Coaching Conversation in Five Minutes

September 18, 2023

How to Set Goals with Your Coachees

September 11, 2023

How to Introduce Yourself as a Coach

September 4, 2023

How to Introduce Coaching to New Clients

August 28, 2023

The Six Elements of Transformational Coaching

August 21, 2023

The Six Most Important Things to Know If You're a New Coach

August 14, 2023

Proactively Mitigating and Responding to Harm in Group Spaces

August 7, 2023

Facilitating PD: Post-Event Reflection

July 31, 2023

Designing PD: Reflection Before the Event

July 24, 2023

Designing & Facilitating Team Meetings - Part 2

July 17, 2023

Designing & Facilitating Team Meetings: Part 1

July 10, 2023

Navigating Contagious Negativity

July 3, 2023

Can I Coach Here?

June 26, 2023

When Someone Is “Too Far Gone” for Coaching

June 19, 2023

When “Equity” is Prohibited

June 12, 2023

Coaching Conversation: Finding Your Power

June 5, 2023

Coaching Conversation: ACE In Action

May 29, 2023

Three Resilience Boosters You Haven’t Heard Before

May 22, 2023

The Role of “Self-Care” for Educators

May 15, 2023

What do we mean by “every conversation is an equity conversation?”

April 10, 2023

Coaching When You’re the Boss

April 4, 2023

Responding When Emotionally Activated

March 27, 2023

How to Build Your Team’s EQ

March 20, 2023

How to Close Your Coaching Conversations

March 13, 2023

How to Determine Your Coaching Conversation Area of Focus

March 6, 2023

Transformational PD Part 3: Responding to Resistance

February 13, 2023

Transformational PD Part 2: Six Transformational Tips

February 6, 2023

Transformational PD Part 1: What It Is and Why You Need It

January 30, 2023

Coaching Resistance: Part 3 - Coaching Demonstration

January 23, 2023

Coaching Resistance: Part 2 - Preparing OURSELVES

January 16, 2023

Coaching Resistance Part 1: What is Resistance?

January 9, 2022

How to Set Yourself Up For a Great Year

January 2, 2023

In Conversation with Dr. Dena Simmons

November 28, 2022

Disrupting Racism at the Dinner Table…And Beyond

November 21, 2022

Disrupting Racism in Coaching Conversations

November 14, 2022

Why We Need Affinity Spaces

November 7, 2022

Microaggressions 101

October 31, 2022

Coaching Conversation: The Final Conversation

September 26, 2022

Coaching Conversation: Phase 4: Build New Practices

September 19, 2022

Coaching Conversation- What Happens when You Trust the Process

September 12, 2022

Coaching Conversation: Building Relationships and Trust in Phases 1 and 2 of Transformational Coaching

September 5, 2022

Transformational Coaching in Action - Phase 1: Surface Current Reality

August 29, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong - Setting Yourself Up to Coach

August 22, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong Considerations for a Thriving Coaching Program

August 15, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong The PD You Need

August 8, 2022

Starting Strong: The Power of Vision

August 1, 2022

Do What You Can: In Conversation with Sharon McMahon of @SharonSaysSo

June 27, 2022

What to Read This Summer with Dr. Kimberly Parker

June 20, 2022

Coaching Joy

June 13, 2022

Coaching Sadness

June 6, 2022

Coaching Emotions: Anger

May 30, 2022

10 Strategies to Shift a Mood

May 23, 2022

It’s All In the Details

May 16, 2022

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

May 9, 2022

Powerful Facilitation Starts and Ends With You

May 2, 2022

The PD Book Sneak Peek

April 25, 2022

What to Say: Listener Questions- Asked & Answered

April 18, 2022

Designing Your Racial Equity Learning Journey

March 28, 2022

What to Say: It’s Complex - What to Say as a Person of Color

March 27, 2022

What to Say: Compassion, Curiosity and Boundaries

March 18, 2022

What to Say: Here’s What to Say

March 16, 2022

What to Say: Evaluating What’s Possible

March 14, 2022

What to Say: The Role of Power in Addressing Racism

March 11, 2022

What to Say: The Power of Purpose

March 9, 2022

What to Say: A Framework for Responding to Racism

March 7, 2022

What to Say: Reckoning with Our Past

February 28, 2022

What to Say: Recognizing Racism

February 21, 2022

What to Say: Three Steps to Navigate Your Emotions

February 14, 2022

What to Say: The Role of Your Identity in Responding to Racism

February 7, 2022

The End of Month Routine You Need

January 31, 2022

Three Steps to Better Decision Making

January 24, 2022

What Do You Need to Quit In Order to Stay?

January 17, 2022

Morning Routines for Educators

January 10, 2022

Coach's Corner: It’s Time to Get Your Needs Met

January 3, 2022

Kute Blackson

December 27, 2021