2021 Intention Setting

2021 Intention Setting

For my 2021 intention setting, I’ve picked this Amelia Earhart quote and two words as my guideposts: Immerse + Commit.

I love variety – a lot of things, options, choices. If I were to describe my life as a buffet line, when I reach the end, my plate would be piled high and about to break under the mountain of food – everything looked so good, so I took just a little bit…and then the little became a LOT.

This lived experience can have me setting too many goals, taking on too many clients and projects, and casting a net too wide because it all looks so delicious!

My “way,” while exciting and filled with variety, often keeps me from having the rich depth of experience I want to have. It also prevents me from truly committing to something and finishing or mastering it, because of the sheer heap of assortment.

So, for 2021 I’m immersing in and committing to a small “salad plate” of:

  • Writing
  • Coaching
  • Work in equity, inclusion and diversity
  • My overall health and wellness

And my shero, Amelia, with her “the most effective way to do it, is to do it” will guide me through!

2021 Planning Guide

Here are a few prompts that support my clients with intention and priority setting. I hope you find them helpful to do your own 2021 reflection.

  1. Identify up to 3 items that you want as your MAIN areas of focus for the year. For each area, provide a simple heading (written in first person) that states what you want to have achieved by December 31. Underneath each, note one or more measurable outcomes you will see/experience as a result.
  2. For these areas of focus, what do you anticipate that might hold you back or get in your way? Listing these can help you be prepared for potential barriers and to prevent them before they arise.
  3. What theme (or themes) encapsulates the above areas of focus?
  4. Of the theme(s) you’ve listed, what word or two best captures the essence?
  5. Identify a quote that can serve as a “headline” or “billboard” for you, related to your key words. (Searching quotes based on your key words or themes is helpful.)

It’s a good idea to post your results to this “worksheet’ in a place where you’ll see it every day. I have mine on my office wall and placed as a “bookmark” in my daily writing journal. Cheers!

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

A few weeks ago, I began the practice of “morning pages” again, and I feel the shifting of my internal tectonic plates.

For those unfamiliar with morning pages, the tool comes from Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, where she guides readers on a path to freeing their internal creative self, and introduces this pivotal daily morning writing ritual.

The idea is that you awake and, first thing as you rise, free write for about 30 minutes, emptying yourself of thoughts, ideas, wonderings, and such. Keep the pen moving for 2–3 pages’ worth and whatever comes, comes. The purpose isn’t to produce anything spectacular, although sometimes you might! Simply write.

For the last ten years, I’ve been on again, off again with this practice. Every time I start back, I wonder why I ever stop. For in these pages over time, I’ve scoped out a yearlong sabbatical, launched a business, and discovered and claimed my identity as a gay woman. Shifting plates…

I think of morning pages as a writing meditation of sorts – I watch my thoughts and feelings flow from my pen onto paper as I release about events, experiences, and dreams, and with them, anger, fear, love, joy, loss, excitement. I let go, I imagine, I question, I leap. I’m safe here – free to be whoever I am in this space and be with whatever emerges.

A practice so simple, yet I feel its quake. This time, it’s revealing my inner creative, me claiming who I am as a writer. A professional writer. Not an amateur, or hobbyist, and my craft isn’t play or my sidekick – although the roar of resistance sometimes tries to convince me otherwise.

This time around while reading The Artist’s Way, a particular passage really stood out to me – the one where Cameron describes the shadow artist…

“Artists themselves, but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. They often choose shadow careers  – those close to the desired art, even parallel to it, but not the art itself.”

“Artists love other artists. Shadow artists often gravitate to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright. They want to write. They want to paint. They want to act, make music, dance…but they are afraid to take themselves seriously.”

“In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously.”

I thought, “Could this be me?”

As I process coming out of this creative closet, it feels like the fruition of a decades-long crescendo.

  • As a child, I grew up with arts and creativity. My older sister, Melinda, and I took piano lessons and played our entire childhood. I performed flute in the school band, sang in my church choir and school chorus, wrote for my school yearbook and newspaper, and took up photography as a hobby when I got a camera for high school graduation.
  • In college, I studied journalism and wrote and photographed for university publications. And although I didn’t plan it, my early work out of college took me down a professional path of nonprofit arts administration – my first job with a private music academy, and a dozen years later I became CEO of an urban arts council…truly my dream job.
  • When I left that post, I took a sabbatical for a few months to gain clarity on what would come next in my career. How did I spend the time? I painted for the first time in my life, I learned Spanish with my son, I took up guitar lessons again, and I started a blog as a new writing challenge – all arts-related pursuits. I’d spent so many years helping arts organizations and artists build capacity and develop resources, that I was drawn to finally explore my own creativity again. The space and playground of the sabbatical inspired me to start my own business focused on my passion of helping people and organizations transform.
  • So attracted to artists I am, that I fell in love with one, and in October this year, I married Lyn Koonce – a professional contemporary folk musician. Music fills our home, and I have a front row seat to her amazing work and recent new album launch.

As I reflect back on this trajectory through my recent morning pages, I can see how central art and creative expression have been to who I am and who I’m becoming.

If indeed I have been the shadow artist Cameron describes, I feel myself emerging from that and claiming my artist self. I’m a bit in awe of the revelations that come from this practice. Plates shifting…

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.







Do The Work

Do The Work

Fear. Self-sabotage. Procrastination. Self-doubt. I’ll bet you know some of these “characters” first-hand. I do. I know all of them…and then some, sometimes all at once! Right now, this is where I am.

Earlier this year, I shared that I’m writing a book. It’s a book on knowing and living your truth. I’m embarking on this, my most creative undertaking yet, and as I do, it’s awakening Resistance (yes, with a capital “R”) like I’ve never experienced. I’ve done hard stuff in my life. I’ve done big things, creative things and things that have terrified me. But this venture has me searching for a new way, new tricks, props – anything! to keep me focused and move me through the process.

What’s helping most is a platform of sorts that I call “Do The Work.” It may sound ridiculously simple. It kind of is. And yet, it’s bullishly hard. So, I have little reminders, like the sticky notes pictured here, posted around my office and home to keep it front and center. This maxim is becoming my #1 defense to the Resistance – this multi-headed fire breathing monster – I experience every day.

First, it has helped me to acknowledge that this project isn’t really about writing a book. In the beginning, I thought I was simply writing a book. Instead, it’s a meandering, soul quaking undertaking to:

explore what it means and what it takes to know yourself at your core

understand and challenge your deeply held beliefs

get clear on what you most want and desire in this life

realize you’re always in choice to claim and act on that desire

know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage to take that action and live the life you most want to live

What I now know is that when you begin work like this…a deep, life transforming undertaking  – where you stir up the molecular juju within yourself – you awaken God and all her angels as well as the darkest dragons and demons. Daily, the battle between these allies and adversaries rattles my bones! If this sounds intense, it’s because it is.

This project as a whole is much less about the art and skill of writing (although this is important!) and far more about – Doing The Work – the discipline of showing up every day, committing this as a core part of my professional full-time business, and engaging in the physical activity of producing words on paper.

This project is also acknowledging a very important shift in me that writing is not my fluffy, amateur, side kick hobby. It’s my profession. I’m a writer. There. I said it. I AM A WRITER. My internal battle to slay the dragon is as much about claiming and owning who I am as a writer as much as it is the writing process and content itself.

Every. Single. Day. Resistance slithers in on my scene with a mission not just to slow my work or redirect it, but to derail and destroy it. It’s sneaky and cunning. It attacks not as a single strike, but rather as a slow, steady, relentless invasion. It’s deadly. And I refuse to be taken out by it. It requires me to be diligent, resolute. I engage everything at my disposal to slay the beast. In my world it shows up as:

  • my other work clients needing my attention
  • urgent (but not always important) project needs that spring up
  • my elderly mom and her many demands of my time and focus
  • a workout that I suddenly am hugely motivated to do
  • the compulsion to organize my bookshelf…again, this time by title and in alphabetical order!
  • monthly finances that must be reconciled NOW
  • the overwhelming desire take my dogs for a walk

Early on, it tricked me. I had no idea all the attractions and distractions were Resistance.

Some of the above tasks seemed like legitimate priorities, and I thought my unquenchable desire to read more, study more, and research more were all forces to sharpen me, enhance my work, make me better. While all these certainly are important – there is a time and place for them, and it’s not during my writing time.

Resistance is seductive. The more I fall victim to Its force, the more and more and more It wants.I see you, Resistance. I’ve learned. I’m smarter now. And you will NOT beat me. You will not win.

Do The Work keeps me focused. Do The Work centers me. Do The Work has me keeping the main thing the main thing.

Now, in the mornings when I rise, I imagine the hoodie, sweatshirt, or suit I put on as a powerful, protective “Harry Potteresque” cloak – an impenetrable “Do The Work” shield to all the distractions, chaos, and fires attempting to kidnap me from my writing. I put it on. Lace it up. It’s becoming my super power.


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Limit Yourself to the Essential – In Life and Work

Limit Yourself to the Essential – In Life and Work

It topped 50 degrees last Sunday…almost enough to give me some early spring fever in January. I decided to curl up in my window seat, enjoy the warm sunshine, and savor a thought provoking read, “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta. In keeping with his mantra, the book is brief enough to finish in an afternoon. Bonus!

Just three days later, I can’t stop thinking about his core principles. I find them so meaningful and effective that I’d like to highlight a few. I’m especially enjoying the one “simple focus.” What a difference I’m experiencing with only a few days of intentional practice. I hope you’ll give them a try too!

focus-- birds flying around at the waterfront

Set Limits

We live in a world where we’re overwhelmed with ‘stuff.’ Our homes are filled with too many things. Our days are packed with an unending string of meetings and tasks. The inbox overflows with dozens of emails. We have too much – clutter, information, tasks, and choices. It simply won’t all fit.

With a ‘less is more’ framework, Babauta encourages a life with limits. “Setting limits simplifies things, focuses our energy, highlights the important, and makes us more effective.” It’s as if time and space expand.

This week, I’m paying more attention to when and where I feel the overload and need for cutting back. I’ve turned off the distracting visual email prompts, assessed meeting invitations with a new lens and declined more than typical, and reduced the number of blogs and listserves to which I subscribe. Already, it feels freeing.

Choose the Essential and Simplify

Choosing the essential is the key to simplifying – you have to choose the essential before you simplify, or you risk eliminating things without keeping the most important. “Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty – it’s meant to leave space for what you really want to do.”

For me, getting to the essential starts with eliminating the non-essential – like the quote from sculptor Michelangelo, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

However you get there, once you know what’s essential, you reduce projects, tasks, commitments, and clutter. In my work with my executive coaching clients, an important part of the process is for a client to know his/her core values, set goals, and confirm what’s most important and brings you the greatest joy.

Simple Focus

FocusThe “Power of Less” presents focus as the most important and powerful tool – “focus on less to become more effective.” Intellectually, I get it, but practice it is far more difficult. Here’s what helps me most:

  • Identify the most important priorities (and tasks).
  • Keep these front and center. I do this by creating an annual plan, then breaking that down by quarter, month, week, and day.
  • Begin each day by focusing on the most important tasks, executing these one at a time until complete.
  • Resist checking email and exploring the internet first thing in the day, otherwise I become occupied by urgent or intriguing distractions.
  • Focus on the present instead of the past or future. This is so challenging! I compare it to attempting to quiet my mind during meditation. It helps to practice with the simple things in my day – eating, driving, sleeping – focusing only on that, and enjoying it. When I can do that, it feels like pure flow.

Start Small

Send your overachiever to time out! Starting small is simply a way to ensure the greatest likelihood of success for all the other changes.

Think of the fail rate with New Year’s resolutions: we start the year excited and rearing to go. Like a Thoroughbred out of the gate, we charge forward – make the first lap and maybe a second, and then start to lose steam or quit altogether. The value of setting realistic, achievable goals is important to have any chance of success.

This reminds me of when I began running. My son was in the 4th grade at the time and asked me to run with him to prepare for his school’s 1-mile event. For a week or two, we practiced together, and he accomplished his goal. Next, we decided to sign up for a local 5K. We completed it, and by then I began to enjoy running.

For the next year, I ran several community 5K events. I decided to step it up and run 10Ks the next year. Then, in year three, I trained for and ran my first half marathon. Now, eight years later, I’ve completed about ten half marathons. Starting small was key to my running success and sustainability.


This principle begins with “A clean desk allows you to focus on the task at hand, which is key to being effective in whatever you’re trying to do.” So today, in honor of this idea, I cleaned up my office and desk. Maybe it’s just in my head, but afterward I swear I was able to think more clearly and accomplish more.

Another way I’ve practiced this principal recently is conducting a home inventory and identifying things we no longer use. We’ve made countless trips to our local Goodwill, learned how to “do eBay,” and have experienced good success in selling many items. It’s inspired us to set new goals geared toward decluttering and downsizing, like:

  • Set aside time to clean out.
  • Start simple – with one room, a closet, or a drawer
  • Handle paperwork only once, taking immediate action (like paying a bill), filing, or tossing it.
  • Have a home for everything and keep things in their place.
  • For every item you bring into your home, remove something of equal size and significance.

Slow Down

Years ago, I decided to take a sabbatical for a few months. One of the first things I experienced was a much slower pace. I stepped off the frantic work treadmill, engaged in some creative pursuits, and savored the foreign white space on my calendar. My friends worried that the change was so abrupt, I would need therapy. Not the case!

Before this “time out,” my life was jam-packed. I never completed a task list, rushed everywhere I went, and felt behind, late, and exhausted. I had enthusiastically signed up for this career and professional leadership role, but I didn’t want to live my life like this.

As Babauta states in his book, “We were not made to function this way…the stresses of constant overload and a constant hectic pace for every waking moment.” The paradox is to slow down to be happier, more effective, and productive.

During my time off, I consciously slowed down. I ate slower, walked slower, drove slower. Here’s a novel idea: when you eat, just eat. Enjoy it. Savor it. Truly taste it. Try the same for driving: appreciate the complete experience of driving and notice what’s around you. Do you ever arrive at a destination and have no recollection of how you got there? My goal then and still today is to shift away from that and be fully present with whatever I’m doing. I probably fail more than I succeed, but this book is a great reminder to re-focus.


about-leadershipAbout Jeanie Duncan: Jeanie is President of Raven Consulting Group, a business she founded that focuses on organizational change and leadership development in the nonprofit sector. She is a senior consultant for Raffa, a national firm working with nonprofit clients to lead efforts in sustainability and succession planning, executive transition and search. Additionally, Jeanie serves as adjunct faculty for the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive leadership education.