How Can One Degree Turns Change Your Life?



Here we go. Surgery confirmed for 6/28/22.


“Did you purposely draw the left boob smaller?” I asked Dr. Mendez. She laughed.


The light mood of our surgical planning meeting can be explained by one factor.* Excisional biopsy of these masses is the right thing to do. When her recommendation settled in, my body relaxed.


But that doesn’t mean I have no feelings about it. At times, I am nervous and scared.


I’ve never had surgery, nor have I been to the hospital but for attending to someone else. Childbirth took place in my home with no fluorescent lights, scalpels or meds from which to regain my whits. Not a doctor in sight—only my capable midwife.


And then there’s the wait for final results. Another holiday weekend will delay my post-op appointment until July 6th. In total, nineteen more days until I find out whether I am free to go or if this will be a whole other story. I do my best not to think about that.




In these eleven days before I lie in a gurney draped in medical grade blue, I’ll rely on nature and movement to deal with this nervous energy. Maybe I’ll discover the reason why I am here, despite the yoga and organic produce.


I think a lot about what Dr. Mendez said to me the first time I sat in her exam room.


“No matter what the outcome, this process changes you. You aren’t the same person on the other side.”


I have a theory about that. I believe difficult experiences bring out who we really are. It changes how we choose to live. When comedian Mark Maron decides whether to commit to something, he asks himself, “do I want to die doing this?” It’s a great question.


For a long time, I allowed the “shoulds” to rule and still do to some extent. I’ve taught my kids to do it too, both in modeling how I have lived and in nudging them to conform to what the world expects of them. If you do that often enough, you end up not knowing yourself. Then you are fully reliant on others to decide for you. And it is absolutely not good for your health.




That isn’t to say I think we should shirk all responsibility and just eat doughnuts. The true self wants to work hard, but prefers to do what it was meant for. 


Whether or not living out of alignment has the power to threaten your health is a whole other topic, but to sum up, when you live on your own terms, it definitely boosts your immune system. The opposite has also been true for me.


There was a period when I routinely gave away my time to organizations with little to no support for my efforts. I fought to the point of physical illness, so sure that sacrificing my health for the greater good was expected. Twice, I got really sick for months, despite multiple courses of antibiotics.


So, what’s the solution? Some people reach a point where they just set fire to everything. This can be traumatic, obviously. During the pandemic, however, we got an easy out. I took full advantage and changed so much about how I live and work. But every annoying thing in your life spontaneously canceling doesn’t come along all that often.


Martha Beck recommends “making one degree turns.” She uses the nautical metaphor of turning a boat one degree each day towards what brings you joy. Ultimately you’ve charted a completely different course than if you just kept going in the same dreary direction. Making small, steady changes creates a big impact.


I’ll leave you with a tool we sometimes use in coaching to gently introduce folks to making one degree turns. It’s called The Three B’s. Take a look at your daily schedule. For each action, ask yourself how completing the task feels in your body. You can even give it a number on a -10 to +10 scale. For example, this surgery is around a -6 for me. For the items that register lower on the scale, you ask yourself three questions: whether you can Bag it, Barter it, or Better It.


“Bag It” just means you choose not to do it now. You’ve decided the consequences of not doing the thing aren’t as bad as actually doing it. For my example, I can’t really do that.


“Barter It” means you trade the task with someone who likes to do that stuff or gets paid for it. No one can do this for me, so that’s a no for this one too.


“Better It” means improving the conditions while you do the work and/or rewarding yourself afterwards. I can’t take a shower for ten days after surgery. I’m going to get my hair blown out at the salon during that time. Dinner will be managed by takeout and others in my family. And I’m going to read and write and coach to my heart’s content.


When you make small changes toward improving your life, you end up in an entirely new place. Creating the habit of asking yourself what brings you joy puts you in better touch with what you really want in the time you are here on earth. It doesn’t just give you the sense that it’s going to be okay. You feel genuine excitement that it’s going to be fan-freaking-tastic.







POWERFUL QUESTION:** Take a look at your daily schedule. What brings you joy? How could you turn more towards that?



*Okay maybe two factors. There’s an 80% chance this final biopsy comes back totally benign. Those lower stakes have surely taken the stress down a notch.



**With the right questions, you can uncover what is holding you back and how to overcome those obstacles. If you are interested in doing more of this work with a trained coach, I invite you to send me an email for a Discovery Session at


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