Amy Kessel header image
Sign up for inspiration and offerings from Amy

Seasonal reboot


Some summers are about adventure. Some restore and replenish. And some summers satisfy hungers we didn’t know we had, until we allowed the heat and the light to unlock them.

This summer fed me what I was craving : a reset. I didn’t realize I needed it until I hit an uncomfortable funk during what might otherwise have been a season of joy.

Sometimes the outlines of our lives shift, and we miss the cues that ask us to do the work of accommodating the new shapes. We’re moving fast, and we end up working really hard to find our lost groove. (And it sadly looks mostly like working, and not much like finding.)

For some time I had been doing the daily without an up-to-date version of my life map. I could see the path immediately before me, but I hadn’t checked my inner GPS in awhile, and the coordinates had changed.

Sound familiar? Like you, perhaps, I’m in a new chapter. An awesome one. Also one that takes some getting used to, and that asks me to stay on my toes. I’m trying new approaches and discovering avenues I didn’t know existed before now. It’s affirming and satisfying and somewhat exhilarating. It’s also exhausting.

Hence the funk.

And the tantrums.

And the fear.

And, finally, the pause. Oh, the pause. It’s amazing what a reset can do.

This summer I let myself catch up with who I am becoming. I stretched into the spaciousness of the season and slowly realized what it means for me to be out in the world doing new work, honing new skills, and showing up in new venues and relationships.

Checklist for a reset

Are you considering a reset too? Here’s a shortlist you might want to use to help you update your internal Operating System:

::   Revisit expectations and goals. You’ll want to check and chuck, redesign and re-engage.

::   Look beyond the numbers. Evaluate the greater impact you’re having in the world — and the level of fulfillment you experience — as part of your metrics.

::   Scrutinize the relationships that matter, and look even more closely at how you participate in them. Take responsibility for your part. My mantra: clean, clear, heartful communication.

::   Check in with your values, as those at the top of your list may have shifted slightly. Your values define your fundamental essence, so don’t expect a massive change, but pay attention to values that demand extra attention in this new chapter. They serve as your compass; when you’re in your groove it’s because you’re honoring them.

::   Give yourself credit for what it has taken to get you to here. This is an important ingredient and one we (especially we women) tend to overlook. Acknowledge yourself for having asked for what you want and worked hard to make it so. You’re where you want to be, and you are fully responsible for getting yourself here.

::   And finally, look ahead. What’s visible from this place that you couldn’t possibly have seen before? For me, I see new ways of living and loving and working and creating. I feel energized rather than drained. Clear rather than murky. Ready to collaborate and to lead.

Is it the season for your reset too?

Speaking from within


My son is in the process of writing his middle school graduation speech. Ouch.

I’m watching him squirm as he attempts to draw out the truths of his experience up until now, and distill them into something he can convey to the rest of us. His school is tiny, so each kid will take a turn on stage. My boy will have ten long minutes to reflect and share what he has understood about himself at this particular point in his life, in preparation for his next chapter: high school.

Yes, I’ll be bringing a box of Kleenex on the big day.

My heart goes out to him : this process isn’t natural for him. Even though I ask him all sorts of probing questions (of course I do!), he’s more of a present moment sort of kid, full up with whatever he’s doing, and he doesn’t share much about how he’s feeling or what he longs for in life. Like many 13 year olds, he has a busy schedule, fueled by a mighty to-do list. He doesn’t tend to reflect much on what his life looks like from 10,000 feet.

I appreciate how challenging it can be to reverse the perspective on ourselves, whatever our age and stage. Going in, taking stock, and getting real with who we are right now requires that we pull back curtains that may be currently keeping our house in order. Even if those curtains are blocking our light.

Yet stepping into our inner landscape can be both terrifying and beautiful. I hear this again and again from clients in our first coaching session. They have spent time with a set of foundational questions for the work we’ll do together. They resisted getting started because looking at themselves with honest and loving curiosity is not a familiar practice. They were afraid to look, because they weren’t at all sure what had changed since they last visited.

And then, inevitably, when they soften and turn inside they’re riveted by what they find. They’re thinking they’ll find chaos but instead they find simple truths:

  • They see that what they value has withstood the test of time and circumstances; that their guiding principles continue to show them the way.
  • They appreciate the lessons learned from the missteps and unexpected catastrophes they survived.
  • They take note of where they are on their path, and what’s ahead for them.
  • They re-evaluate old beliefs and choose whether to keep them or chuck them out.
  • They redefine what they’re here to do and what that means right now.

This sets the stage for actively calling in what they want. Consider how different this is from being on autopilot – or trying to make an important decision – from within a life that feels unexplored.

Accessing and excavating what’s true at a heart, mind and gut level doesn’t have to be something we do only at the critical junctures in our lives (like graduations or New Years…). Even those of us passionate about personal development fall out of sync with ourselves from time to time – life gets busy, and we pay attention to what’s happening on our outsides rather than our insides.

Think of it like keeping your operating system updated; click “yes” each time you see the reminder to replace the last version with what’s most current. Regularly review what’s true, what hurts, what you love most about right now. Name your hungers and your deepest fears. Be sure the words you speak originate from this trove of truth as it exists right now.

My son’s struggle with his graduation speech reminds me that the journey can be challenging, but the view from the top is beyond compare. That’s where he finds himself right now, and that’s what we’ll see when he takes the stage.

If you had your 10 minutes, what would you say to the adoring audience before you?

Dancing Into Our Power


If you’ve been around here for any length of time you know that I’m a relentless emissary of The 12 Elements of Power ™. This framework, love child of the brilliant Michelle Lisenbury Christensen, has become the heart of my work – I use it with my clients, in my workshops and when I give talks. Why? Because it captures what I’m most interested in drawing out — how to show up in the world as our true selves. Our fully empowered selves.  Our badass, tender, loving selves.

And how to lead our lives and in our work from this place, inspiring those around us to do the same. Because that’s the world I want to live in.

The 12 Elements framework is simple yet crazy profound. It’s a lens through which to assess how well or how poorly we use what’s inherently available to us, and to correct for where we’re messing things up.

At the very heart of the model is the unshakable knowledge that we are Enough as we are; that we are absolutely whole, intact and complete. This is the embodiment of our innate feminine. From that place of wholeness we are free to take whatever action we choose, and to effect change in our lives and in the world around us. This is the embodiment of our innate masculine. Integrating the two is twinning our Being with our Doing. This is owning our power.

It’s a diagnosis and a prescription at the same time. As soon as we see where we’ve gone wonky, we see how to correct for that wonkiness. It’s also elegant. The corrections we make look like a dance, a graceful fluid move from one element of our power to the other. And back again. When we’re “in our power” it’s that we have understood how to integrate the two sides of the coin that constitutes an aspect of our power. We’ve learned the dance, and it comes as naturally as, well, dancing.

When my clients experience this dance of integration there’s first a celebratory jig, and then a deeper quieter nod of Yes.  They recognize that this is how they were meant to show up; that as little girls, we understood this but somehow along the way it got trained and socialized out of us.  We as a culture have mistakenly believed that what we do determines our worth.  We have been praised and called out for the masculine elements of our power, and so we have become insatiable in our quest to do and do and do — until we’re so done we can’t remember what lies in wait for us at our core.

Luckily what’s at our core doesn’t have anywhere to go.  It’s there for us, guiding us back to ourselves.

Really, we’re dancing our way Home.

Bringing the Elements into focus

To give you a clearer sense of what I’m talking about here, I offer you two things: this nifty chart, The 12 Elements, which spells out the Elements for you.  Please print it out and keep it nearby.  Just naming what’s going on for you in a sticky situation can move mountains — I hear this again and again.  Use the chart to orient yourself and to remind yourself what you already know, but seem to have forgotten.

And two, a free teaching call on April 9.  I’ll be walking you through the Elements and giving examples to help you see where you’ve gone wonky and what you can do about it right now.  It’s an information call open to all who are interested.  Please join us if the Elements speak to you, and pass along the invitation to those you think might appreciate it!  Sign up here.


I’m sharing this framework because it has radically shifted how I show up in my life, and helped me consciously link my heart, my head and my gut.   I know it can shift yours too.







We don’t need rescuing

We’re midway through the latest Women’s Coaching Circle, and I’m awash with appreciation for the insights these amazing women are having about their lives, using the 12 Elements of Power as a tool and a lens. Damn, they’re wise.

One topic we’ve been working with is the tricky terrain of rescuing or fixing, and the impact it has both on the wanna-be heroine and the one who is being rescued (who hasn’t asked to be saved, thank you very much!).

We’ve all been on both sides of the equation. We’ve fielded the late night phone calls from heartbroken friends that start with our listening, and turn into our heavy-handed advice giving. There’s that irresistible draw; once we start with the advice it’s so hard to stop.   We also know the feeling of being coddled past the point of being cheered up; we’re left with a care hangover, having been overindulged until we feel listless and unmoored.

In the language of the 12 Elements ™, this is a distortion in the power of nurturing. When we do nurturing right, we tend others in ways that are called for, and helpful, and appreciated. We don’t overdo. Sometimes nurturing looks like keeping steady, standing by, holding space. Sometimes it’s more action-based. We check in with ourselves about why we’re reaching out to another. Do we have something the other person has specifically asked for? Did we agree on this intervention? How might each of us benefit?

When we’re nurturing in a healthy way, we know because of the way it is received. The other person feels revitalized, calmed and newly content. She has accepted help on her own terms.

Distorted nurturing has the opposite effect; the person we’re trying to care for is harmed by our efforts, not helped.   When we take over for her we eliminate the possibility of her taking care of herself. She feels disempowered, weak and helpless. She misses a valuable growth opportunity. She ends up unseen, unheard, unaccounted for — its as if she disappeared, and her “issue” became the central focus of our attention. Together we create a dynamic that serves neither person.

So how do we stay with the healthy form of nurturing, and avoid the distorted one? Simple: just ask. First ask the person who seems to need care; does she want it from you? Might she prefer to take space in order to care for herself? What type of nurturing would best serve her?

Then ask yourself. What’s driving the desire to nurture another person? Do I truly want to help, or is there something about being a helper that has nothing to do with her?

And please remember, before we help another we must first put on our own oxygen mask. That means self-tending in whatever ways you need. Being sure you’re coming from a place of wholeness, not lack, where you feel energized, not depleted, is essential when you sign up to nurture someone else. From there, the beautiful powerful of your caring can work its magic.


This is a serious topic, but here’s a video about it that’ll make you giggle.  You’re welcome.

Reflections on a cross-country flight


I saw

Overly straight spines. Leaning forward in chairs, eager to please. Relentless application of lipstick. Feet crammed into too tight shoes. Eyes forever comparing – she’s more, I’m less. Exhaustion. Onthephoneonthecomputer textingtypingcheckingrechecking. Seeking not finding a connection that enables a softening of the heart and the shared space of being met where we are.

I heard

I’m not enough. What should I do? I’m not ready. I can’t.

Then the same tremulous whispers bullied into aggressive I statements ::: I need to. I have no choice. Of course, I’ll do it.

Reaction. Indecision. Fear.

Buzz. Noise.

The covering up of truth with layers of busy.

I want instead

The nourishment of silence and white space. Space enough for us all to finally exhale. Resonance. Peaceful, contained, and regal knowing that bubbles up from within. Self-dignity. Self-adoration. Overlapping communities where people tell the truth about themselves to each other. High integrity heart to heart, mind to mind, gut to gut conversations that leave nothing to chance. The precision of thought that comes along with awareness.

I now know

That you know you’ve been kidding yourself. The truth of who you are does not go away – it waits for you while you pretend you don’t hear it. It’s patient. Quiet until given permission to emerge. Ready when you are.

That your voice may crack a few times, but with practice it will bring us all to our feet. We’re waiting for your song. We’ll be so grateful to hear it sung out loud.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. Saying No paves the way to the delicious, life-affirming Yes’es. The ones that dissolve obstacles and catalyze ease.

You’ve got this. We’ve all got this.

I am

Eager to experience the trickle-down effects of all this truth-telling. Giddy with excitement at the table of those who embrace our power. Curious about what will be unleashed in venues small and large, private and public.

Ready to dive in and do the work myself, with others, with the system. Available and at the service of transformative change.

And you?