Imp Power at Work



How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail?


Debbie Millman‘s prompt for Quest 2016 arrived in my inbox as I was in the midst of pondering parts of my personality as an exercise for a class I am taking this weekend.

One of the elements of my personality is my Inner Imp. This is my mischievous, playful self, my trickster spirit, the part of me that wants to trick my partner, shake up people’s assumptions, and turn things topsy-turvy, just to see what happens.

An Imp as it appears in Shin Megami Tensei

Imp from Shin Megami Tensei

This is the part of me that explains itself with “because I could” and “because it was there”.

When the Imp comes out to play, life gets interesting, unexpected, exciting, engaging, and fun. There is an element of danger, but it is always manageable rather than terrifying. The danger is of breaking social norms as opposed to risking physical death.

The Imp stretches the world of possibility open beyond the box I am currently living in.

If I knew I could not possibly fail, I would let my Imp run my business.

Lincoln Imp at Lincoln Cathedral

The Imp at Lincoln Cathedral

It’s a Question of Scale



Imagine, invites Jonathan Fields, that you have been left a fortune (enough to live in financial ease for the rest of your life), but to be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months. If you give up before the last second of the last of the 365 days, the whole lot goes to a rotten cousin.

This is the invitation that awaited me this morning as Day 2 of Quest 2016.

One question for 2016, I thought. Interesting.

On Tuesday, I shared my lifelong question: How must communities be created to allow individuals, especially individuals who fall outside the norms, to thrive within functional communities?

There are so many questions buried inside that one question. What is a person? How do individuals thrive? How do societies function? What is the relationship between an individual’s internal experience of well-being or distress and the structures and expectations of the communities they live in?

Every strange path I have taken in my life from law to seminary through biology, psychology, and dance and into coaching and writing non-fiction has been in pursuit of a portion of an answer.

The answer I have found is that people come into this world as they are and although they are shaped by experience, there are limits to how much they can be molded. And some shapes allow more individual fulfillment than others.

Ken Wilber’s basic moral intuition that morality involves engaging in the world in a way that allows the most people the most self-actualization ties into my understanding of how people and communities thrive without violence. And my experience of communities structured based on this intuition has shown me how powerful and effective they can be. In the language of corporate human relations, stakeholder engagement really does lead to a healthier bottom line. In the language of relationship coaching, intimacy develops when people allow each other to see their whole selves.

When the rule of law and force keep the peace, violence simmers underneath and may erupt at any time. When peace is kept through people and organizations acting in healthy relationships with each other, the peace is stable and can be long-lasting.

My vision for the world is a world in which institutional structures and cultural norms build on people’s strengths, instead of berating them for their weaknesses, and are based in mutual respect, listening, truth-telling, clarity, and curiosity.

This world can be created, is being created in specific communities, by people choosing to live from this vision. Ripples are being sent out into the world by each person who lives grounded in authentically human action and being.

The skills required to live this way are taught in many arenas, but are actively concentrated in the skills of coaching.

For the past few years, I have been coaching individuals and seeing the transformations in their lives, their work, and their relationships when they shift into living in deep alignment with their values. This work is deeply satisfying to me.

And yet…

It is not enough.

There is a call within me to work on a bigger scale as well.

The changes in my clients’ lives touch the people around them and some of those people shift in response. I see these ripples and I am glad of them and I know that my work spreads farther than I can see.

And yet…

My being calls for more. To act bigger and more boldly. To touch more people and more institutions.

There is an issue of scale.

My burning question for 2015 was “How would people’s lives be transformed if the InterPlay form of Side By Side Stories was used as the primary guiding image for healthy relationships?” That question led to many things, including the writing of Side by Side Living: a Manifesto for Healthy Human Relationships.

My one question for 2016 is “How can I get the word out to as many people as possible in as transformative a way as possible so the message is embodied and lived and not just taken in intellectually?”

And step one is to invite you to read Side by Side Living and to share it with anybody you think might find it interesting or useful.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the manifesto. Please share them here in the comments or email me. If you are inspired and want to find ways to live from this perspective, you should consider hiring me as a coach. And if you have an organization or group that might benefit from a presentation, workshop, or team coaching to implement this form of relating, contact me and we will talk about how I can support you.



Beyond Imagining



“Beyond imagining.” That was the message from my subconscious about 2016 when I awoke from a brief nap late this morning.

I immediately recognized the phrase. It comes from the opening of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising.” In response to wild weather, strange behaviour of animals, and a tramp in the neighbourhood, Frank Dawson says “this night will be bad and tomorrow will be beyond imagining.” He also gives Will Stanton a strange present for his 11th birthday the following day, an iron circle with a cross.

Will Stanton wakes the following day and walks into the past where he learns that he has a quest to find the signs that, united, can restore the balance between Light and Dark. The gift from Frank Dawson was the first.

This phrase was my gift to myself, my response to the first prompt of Quest 2016. The prompt from meditation teacher Susan Piver was “What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…”

What might it mean that what I most need to tell myself about 2016 is that it will be beyond imagining?

2015 was rough, a year of transition, closing old doors, making new paths, shaping new spaces, creating new business models, opening new doors. I feel now, for the first time all year, that some things are starting to settle. Some routines have fallen into place. New roads lie before me.

2016 will be a year of walking into a world I have dreamed of, imagined, yearned for. And yet, as my sleeping self so wisely pointed out to me, what happens will be beyond anything that I have imagined.

Will I find myself seeking the signs I must unite to restore balance between light and dark? Perhaps. I will certainly be gathering the threads of my past studies and putting them together to teach, write, and speak about how to live a whole-hearted, authentic, integrated life in the context of a world that often asks people to hide and pretend and live out of alignment. I will be applying knowledge I have accumulated through studying theatre, language, philosophy, religion, anthropology, biology, psychology, law, and education in my life, my family, and my career with the aim of bringing sanity, compassion, human connection, and deep thriving to people and communities that crave transformation.

This is my quest.

This has always been my quest.

But things have changed for me in 2015. I have claimed my own inner authority and my accumulated wisdom and transformed myself. And, I had the insight that put all of the many things I have studied in perspective and brought them together in a way that is now calling for articulation.

For the past 30 years, I have sought to answer the question “How must communities be created to allow individuals, especially individuals who fall outside the norms, to thrive within functional communities?” This fall, the answer resolved itself for me in a Eureka moment. And in that moment, my mission changed from seeking the answer to sharing the answer.

And how I will do that is beyond what I have imagined during the seeking part of my quest.

And where my path will lead from here is beyond imagining.


Changes of Direction for 2016


It has been almost a year since I posted to this blog. At that time, I was participating in Quest 2015 hosted by Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder. Quest 2015 was a month-long period of contemplation and visioning for 2015.

Participating in the Quest was an important part of the life shifts that I have been working through this year, life shifts that have led to me wondering what to do with this blog.

I have very much enjoyed the conversations that have come out of my writing in this form and cherish the people I have met, but I have struggled to figure out what the purpose of this blog was and how to use it.

In particular, this year has led to me changing my name. My husband and I are divorcing and I have gone back to using my birth name, Kate Arms. I have not wanted to write under my married name anymore.

So, I am moving where I will be writing to several different locations.

The reflections of how to live an engaged, playful, and healthy life now appear in Firestarters, the newsletter I write for Signal Fire Coaching. If you want to read more about creativity, InterPlay, living authentically, and playing with the hard stuff, you can subscribe here.

My writings about writing will be found at Cracks in the World. That will be the place to read both announcements about my work and reflections about the writing process. Although the site is not fully live there yet, you can sign up to be notified as soon as it is.

This blog will stay live and I will be using it for the challenges I like to participate in. This month, for instance, I will be participating in Quest 2106 and will be posting my reflections from that process here. The Quest is a community of people digging into their visions for the following year through three prompts a week. If you are looking for a way to step into the new year with enthusiasm, creative energy, and vision, check it out. It might be just what you are looking for.

I want to thank you for reading this blog in the past and hope you will join me in the other venues that meet your interests.



Service [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 11]



The 11th prompt in Quest 2015 is from Tara Mohr*

How can I be of highest service?

I have another linguistic translation to do with this prompt. When I read “highest service”, I am taken to a theological interpretation of highest that involves transcendence, escape from messy earthly reality and aiming for a supernatural perfection. I think of the work I do as deep work in the Jungian sense of depth psychology: approaches that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience.

But, there is no reason that I cannot interpret “highest service” to mean simply “greatest service.”

Do I value being of service?

I do. Even when I am being totally selfish, there are elements of service that are important to me.

Happiness researchers discuss three elements of life that lead to happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Engagement refers to being involved with family, friends, work, hobbies, and community. Such involvement often involves elements of service. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose.

Service to a larger purpose is, as so many philosophers have said over the centuries, an important part of a good and happy life.

Who or what should I serve? 

I could function in service to myself, to my family, to my clients, to humanity in general, to the earth, to the universe.

The challenges of 2014 have taught me that I cannot be of service to anybody without first taking care of myself.

Beyond that, I find myself pulled in too many directions. I want to serve my kids and my clients and some nebulous idea of “the world.” It’s the ambition embedded in “the world” that trips me up.

When I was a student at Starr King School for the Ministry, many of my classmates used Frederick Buechner’s words as guidance for discerning what path they were being called to follow.

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC


Something about this quote spoke to me, but I could never find a deep hunger in the world that seemed to match my deep gladness. Something in the language didn’t resonate with me or with my self understanding.

I preferred the less obviously religious language of theologian Howard Thurman.

Ask what makes you come alive, Howard Thurman

Over the years, I have struggled with how to combine my need to make art, my need to connect with people deeply, and my constant intellectual analysis of the things I care about. It is in discovering my skill as a life and creativity coach that I have found a place where my aliveness and skills manifest in a way that both helps people and allows me to make an income.

And, recently, there are three non-fiction books I have been asked to write – not, unfortunately, by publishers, but by people who want to have my wisdom on certain topics available to them in a format they can easily turn to for reference.

In all three cases, the topics are ones about which I have accumulated a lot of knowledge over the years because I have been personally inspired to research them. In some sense, then, people want information that I have acquired by following my own interests and instincts.

Earlier this year, when I was going through a period of feeling particularly ineffective in the world, a friend of mine told me that I am the sort of person who changes the world just by showing up and being me. Several of the most trust-worthy and insightful people I know agreed with him.

Since then, I have observed how I am in the world and realising that he was right. There is a way that I see and interact with the world and people that often serves as a catalyst for personal growth in others. This is in my nature. It is why I am an effective coach.

Of course, I am human, so I make mistakes. Even so, it is in my nature to question how I came to make mistakes and my learning from mistakes in simply a part of my journey.

But, the truth is that I walk through the world in a way that touches people and often offers an opportunity for positive transformation.

Tracee Vetting Wolf created a piece in response to this prompt that I would do well to reflect on.


Tracee Vetting Wolf

by Tracee Vetting Wolf


Somewhere, in the heart of what makes me “Me” is the core of the way I can best be of service to the world.

*Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and well-being. She is the author of Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, published by Penguin in October 2014. She is the creator of the acclaimed Playing Big leadership program for women, which now has more than 1000 graduates from around the world. Tara writes a popular blog on women’s careers and wellbeing at and has been featured on The Today Show and in publications ranging from Huffington Post to Harvard Business Review to 

Who Will Miss You? [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 10]


The tenth prompt in Quest 2015 is from Seth Godin.*

Who would miss you if you were gone? If you didn’t show up to work, didn’t send out that newsletter, didn’t make that sales call, didn’t tweet that tweet… who would miss it? How does your answer shape how you’ll live out 2015?

My first response to this prompt was entirely personal: the only people who will miss me when I am gone are the people who have truly seen me, in my full, messy, completeness. Other people may miss the place I fill in their life, but it won’t be ME they miss.

Upon further reflection, this also applies to my work. The people who will miss me will be the people I have seen in their wonderful imperfection and walked beside and the people who have heard or read the words that could have only come from me and been moved by them.

And this very simply turns into a call to let that which is unique about me into the world and to connect with people in their heart of their humanity.


*SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, and The Icarus Deception. His latest, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work, and embracing tension when doing your art. 

Shadow Bags [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 9]

Stop Being Nice, Make Friends with your shadow

The ninth prompt in Quest 2015 is from Eric Klein.*

How will you face your shadow bag and stop the stink, so you can bring forth what is best within you in 2015? 

This prompt came with a dharma talk and needs some unpacking

Klein borrows the term shadow bag from Robert Bly. It refers to the personal part of what Carl G. Jung called our Shadow. It consists of all the parts of ourselves that our parents and communities disapproved of, the parts of ourselves we disowned to be lovable or to fit in. Klein develops the image by imagining those pieces of psyche in the shadow starting to rot and smell.

I am not wild about the rotting and smelling analogy. It doesn’t resonate with me. But, I can tell you that I have felt myself being dragged down by the weight of all those parts of myself that I have banished to my shadow bag. 

When the shadow is unconscious, it shows up when we project it onto other people, hating things about them that we hate in ourselves, or act unconsciously from that shadow material, with rage, or find ourselves committing indiscretions or having accidents that seem meaningful.

To be complete as a human being is to acknowledge the whole messy package of humanity, to see ourselves clearly.

Some of what we put into our shadow bags is our genius. What makes us unique is often uncomfortable to those around us, especially when we are children being enculturated into a particular communities way of being. Our unique qualities threaten the community because it will have to stretch to embrace those qualities.

To face our shadow can be challenging. But the process is simple.

All we need to do is notice our own experience and claim it as our experience.

The better we get at observing ourselves, the more likely it is we will notice the moments that we hide a part of ourselves away. Later on, we develop the awareness of the experience we had previously hidden and start to have choices about whether we acknowledge the formerly unwanted experience internally or act on it. Either way, we will have shed light on the shadow and have reduced its power to drive us from unconscious places.

But, more importantly from the perspective of Quest 2015, by seeing the parts of ourselves that we had hidden, we can choose to bring our forbidden genius to our work.

And it all starts with simple self-awareness. Simple, not easy. But stunningly powerful.

*The founder of the Wisdom Heart School and a longtime internationally respected spiritual teacher, Eric Klein has been a pioneering voice in bringing more spirit, meaning, and authenticity into the workplace. He’s worked with over 20,000 leaders from Fortune 500 companies, healthcare, governmental and non-profit organizations as well as mid-size companies. He’s author of the bestselling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work, To Do or Not to Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions, and You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For (a 2008 Nautilus Award-winner as a world-changing book in the conscious leadership/business category). His online meditation program The Meditation Habit is used by corporations and individuals globally.

Make Choices & Shape Your Life’s Story [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 8]

shape your life consciously

If you knew that your life’s story would be written based upon your choices and actions in 2015, how would you live?

The eighth prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Todd Henry*.

It is so easy to live life on autopilot, going through the things you have always done and letting life hustle you along a well-trodden generic path. Living with intention and making unusual choices based on personal goals is much harder.

If I knew my life’s story would be written based on the way I live in 2015, I would live with attention on following my daimon and letting it draw me deep into the work that it has been calling me to for as long as I can remember.

“Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.

The daimon motivates. It protects. It invents and persists with stubborn fidelity. It resists compromising reasonableness and often forces deviance and oddity upon its keeper, especially when neglected or opposed. It offers comfort and can pull you into its shell, but it cannot abide innocence. It can make the body ill. It is out of step with time, finding all sorts of faults, gaps, and knots in the flow of life – and it prefers them. It has affinities with myth, since it is itself a mythical being and thinks in mythical patterns.

It has much to do with feelings of uniqueness, of grandeur and with the restlessness of the heart, its impatience, its dissatisfaction, its yearning. It needs its share of beauty. It wants to be seen, witnessed, accorded recognition, particularly by the person who is its caretaker. Metaphoric images are its first unlearned language, which provides the poetic basis of mind, making possible communication between all people and all things by means of metaphors”
― James Hillman, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling

My call to deep work joining beauty, goodness, and truth into individual lives of meaning is both a personal call to how I live my life and the foundation of my work as an artist and a creativity and life coach.

I must remember to dedicate each day of my life to the embrace of the unique, internally experienced world of each human being, systems of social justice, and scientifically verifiable understandings of the world. Any approach to life that denies one or more of these aspects of the world is insufficient for understanding.

I must not fritter away my time. I must create downtime that is truly renewing and allows me to dive deep and work hard. I must create structures for my life that provide space and time for parenting, self-care, writing, and coaching.

I must dig deep. I must not shy away from the work when it gets hard. I must surround myself with people who understand and appreciate who I am and what I am doing.

I must forgive myself my imperfections and not let them get in the way of my continuing to push forward.

I must remember that truth and goodness without beauty are not enough for my soul and that without beauty, the energy I have to contribute to truth and goodness withers.

There will be opportunities every day to make choices, small or large, that have an impact of whether my life is following the drives that are an innate part of my being or whether I am resisting out of fear or cultural programming.

Making choices that shape my life’s story into a story I am proud of will require me to live with awareness and be willing to stand apart from others, to speak the truth as I see it, to claim my time as I need it, and to disappoint and offend those who would prefer me to make other choices.

It is not the easy path, but it is the path I must walk if I wish to live authentically and whole-heartedly.

*TODD HENRY is a foremost voice and authority on how teams and individuals can execute brilliant ideas every day. CEO of Accidental Creative and author of the books The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice and Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day, Todd travels the globe like a creative arms dealer to equip people and companies with the right systems and habits that lead to everyday brilliance. 

Sacred Joy [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 7]


joy, #quest2015


How could you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015?
What forms will such moments take?

The seventh prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Sunni Brown. In addition to the prompt, she encouraged us to doodle, draw, photograph, or write into these questions.

The word sacred tripped me up immediately. One of my current journeys is trying to find secular language for natural human experiences that traditionally inspire religions interpretations. In my lifelong quest for understanding of my so-called spiritual experiences, I have spent many years working with interpretations of religious language that are expansive enough to include my experience as someone who is uncomfortable with any interpretation of these experiences that cannot be verified empirically. And, I am tired of it. I want language that doesn’t require me to translate it internally for my comfort.

That said, one definition of sacred is that which is entitled to reverence and respect. Reverence is a deep form of respect, one that reaches towards devotion and honour.

So, in secular language, the prompt is How could you make moments of joy a priority and show them honour and respect?

And this is a question I know how to answer.

I can make moments of joy a priority by actively looking for them, noticing them, and savouring them. I can follow my body wisdom toward activities that tend to trigger joy.

I can show them honour and respect by not rushing them, by allowing them to take space and time in my life for as long as possible. In some cases, I will be able to honour them by documenting them – taking a photograph or writing a poem. In others, sharing them with others, pointing out a joy trigger to someone nearby, will be appropriate.

I did respond to the invitation to doodle, draw, or photograph into these questions as opposed to my more traditional writing. But, with a slight twist. I used playful digital photo manipulation as my entry point into today’s prompt.

Those who have been following my Quest 2015 posts may have noticed a pattern to the images at the top of my posts in this series. They are all variations on the same image. I knew I wanted to link the posts together visually when I started the series, so I found a background image and started working.

Image from GraphicStock

The background image


I cropped to a square I like, and then generated 18 colour variations using the tools at PicMonkey. I added the hashtag #quest2015 and a border, then waited for the prompts to be revealed. Each time a prompt is revealed, I select a ready to use image, add the prompt title, and put it in my post.

I played with some options that I chose didn't fit with the style I was going for.

I played with some options that didn’t fit with the style I was going for.


When I made the pink and yellow variation, I liked it, but wasn’t sure I would use it because it seemed very different from the others I had chosen. However, it struck me as perfect for this prompt, so I used it.

The Blank Canvas

But, it was missing something. So, I played around in PicMonkey, adding stickers and effects, deleting them, trying new effects, and finally settling on adding stars. After some playing around, I had added 5 star effects to the picture and created an image I liked – the one at the top of this page.

And, in playing with the images, I unlocked my resistance to the prompt and was able to dive in and write.

Sunni Brown is leader of The Doodle Revolution – a global campaign for visual literacy and also the name of her new book. Sunni is also the author of Gamestorming, named one of Amazon’s Top 100 Business Books, which lays out visual thinking techniques for business. Sunni’s common sense, wit, and pragmatic applications of neuroscience have led her to consult with Disney, Sharpie, Zappos, and elsewhere. Her TED Talk “Doolders Unite!” has been viewed over 1 million times, and Fast Company named Sunni one of the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business.

The Upside of Your Dark Side [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 6]


Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder put together a program to help business artists plan for 2015 in an unusual way. Quest 2015 consists of a community of people and prompts that are sent out for people to respond to 12 times during the month of December. Part of the community building is through sharing blog posts, so I will be posting more frequently between now and the end of my reflections. After the 12 reflection posts, I’ll be back to my regular, irregular posting schedule.

Prompt Six

The sixth prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Todd Kashdan.

Which emotions do you feel most guilty about having? Afraid that others might find out? How could you spend this year trying to be open to the emotional window that allows you to be courageous? It rarely feels good right before we do something courageous, but these moments are the most meaningful and treasured.

This prompt has been challenging for me, not because it is hard, but because leaning into the emotions I was trained not to express over the years has been my primary practice of 2014, so it doesn’t feel resonant. I have no personal issue to delve into, no growing edge I need to explore, and no lesson I know I need to learn here. What I have is an ongoing practice.

It is a simple two-step practice, just not a simplistic one.

1) Notice what I am feeling.

2) Make a conscious choice as to whether or not to share it. Err on the side of over-sharing with people I want to have deep relationships with.

Recently, I have added two more steps.

3) Stay engaged through the reaction and consequences.

4) Notice whether any ruptures in the relationship were because of poorly handled sharing or underlying necessary conflicts.

My challenges for 2015 involve refining these two new steps.

What I have noticed is that I am unskilled at handling some of the emotions that I have historically not expressed. Sometimes, when I express them, that lack of skill causes more ruptures than necessary. And that is where I wish to develop more skills. Skills at owning my own emotions and not merely vomiting them over other people. Skills about holding the truth of my experience and care for the other people I am in contact with.

What I know from my previous experience is that the benefit of staying open and sharing the messy emotions is true connections with people and a glorious appreciation for the wonder of human life. Yes, expressing uncomfortable emotions can cause disharmonies in relationships. And, staying engaged with those disruptions allows a deeper reconnection.

This is Kintsugi Living. The gold is in the reconnections.


Tea Bowl Fixed in the Kintsugi Method


A central figure in positive psychology, Todd Kashdan is author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self – not just your good self – drives success and fulfillment (Hudson Street Press) with Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener as well as Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life (Harper Collins). He heads up the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at George Mason University and travels the globe to speak to business executives, organizations, schools, and health professionals. He also adores his two little girls.