Challenging Compassionately & Directly

Coaching is pointing out what I sense, hear and see to benefit the client.* The magic of coaching is in the set up and in the intentions. And it works.

My superpower is that I am very empathetic and I listen exceptionally well, which creates an open and safe environment that bubbles with prospects. Another potential lies in the way coaching challenges a person’s thinking and beliefs compassionately and directly.

Here is an example: Imagine someone who keeps putting off making arrangements regarding the succession of their business. Said person is in their 70s and their health has become a bit fragile. Asked in the right context with a compassionate intention, a direct challenge would be: “What if you were not able to attend to your business, starting tomorrow and for the foreseeable future?” – That would really make you think, right?


What are you curious to explore with compassion, curiosity and the right amount of challenge?

(photo by Frames for your Heart, Unsplash, 2024)


*The client is fully empowered to direct where the coaching conversation is going. Any possible ideas and biases of my own are left outside the coaching space.

Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness & Resilience Coach

What goes around comes around

The expression What goes around comes around is backed up by neurological research. Because of neurons in our brain, if we are in sage mode, like joy, curiosity or peace, the person interacting with us will gradually shift to the same mode, which then will fuel our own sage, creating a virtuous cycle. If you look into a happy face and genuinely connect with that person, you will feel happier.

How can you easily and authentically make people – and yourself – happy?

It can be small things: Really connect with people from your heart, for just 10 seconds. Bring a smile to the people in everyday encounters. Tell someone you know a thing you recently appreciated, but have not mentioned yet. Tell a co-worker a strength in them that you admire.

That brings appreciation, gratitude, caring and joy to the world around you. See how that affects you!

(photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski, Unsplash 2022)

(based on Shirzad Chamine’s Mental Fitness Exercise “Make Someone Happy”, Positive Intelligence, November 29, 2022)

Two Caterpillars

Two caterpillars were sitting on a cabbage leaf having a chat. Suddenly, they heard a loud swishing noise, and looking up, saw a beautiful butterfly flying overhead. The first caterpillar looked to the other, shook his head and said, ‘You’ll never get me up in one of those things.’

(by Scott Simmerman)


Question: What represents the butterfly (or change) for you?


Manuela Zeitlhofer | Authenticity & Mental Fitness Coach

Judgement or compassion

“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”
Wayne Dyer


“What you see is evidence of what you believe.”
– Wayne Dyer


Ask yourself:

-Is your opinion the truth (or is it a hypothesis)?

-Does what the other person is doing really matter to anyone but them? Does your opinion really matter to anyone but you?

-Do you have compassion?


Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness Coach

Neuroplasticity confirms: We can create the life we want!

Are your familiar with the term Neuroplasticity? – It refers to the brain’s ability to adapt, form new neural pathways, and change the wiring of brain circuits. Metaphorically speaking, this means that certain pathways become highways, and other just gravel paths. It also means that we can develop the gravel paths into highways. Practically speaking, this means that we can train our brains. It means we can change our thinking. It means we can change our habits, how we think, speak and act in the world.

As a life coach, I would like to point out the great possibilities this approach holds for the world of coaching: We can train our brains. A good life coach can help establish new habits.

I am accepting new clients. Contact me today for a free introductory meeting.

Our brains are amazing!

How to Live in a Seemingly Small World

I find that with the restrictions imposed on us during COVID, my world is shrinking to the size it was when my daughter was born. Back then, we were living in the wilderness, and I was the only person taking care of the baby. I could not leave the house or have any time to myself for a seemingly long time.

I learned how to carve out a space in my life that would hold who I was, so I would not loose myself. And it worked. For example, instead of going for long walks or do the outdoor chores (like getting water from the creek), started Yoga, which I could do inside with the baby around. I also reframed – that is, give different meaning – to seemingly tedious chores like doing the dished or doing laundry (I washed my daughter’s cloth diapers by hand): The repetitive action of those chores made it possible for me to reflect on life and get into a creative mental space that was relaxing.

I have always enjoyed working from home, and seeing nature change through the seasons right in front of my window. Being homebound during another lockdown is no problem for me. At times though, I miss that I cannot go and see my family when I want, or take my daughter to an indoor pool on a cold winter day. Instead, I find myself in the little and bigger chores that every day life as a mother, wife, duck owner, life coach and teacher brings, like collecting two beautiful duck eggs every morning, engaging in some small talk with the producers and negotiating the details of food – especially peas – exchange with them.

I hope you are in a position where you enjoy life, and you can be who you are without feeling restricted. If that is not the case let me tell you that you have it in you to create those conditions!

Please feel free to share your ideas or questions.

Love the duck (October 22, 2021)

Emotional Contagion

You might have noticed that you are affected by the emotions of people around you. If someone expresses worry, frustration or anger, it will be picked up by you and others around. The same principle applies to positive emotions.

Social Psychologist Elaine Hatfield calls this phenomenon emotional contagion. If you read about it you will find out that humans need the pack and from an evolutionary perspective, it has been safer to play along with the group rather than being left alone in the wild.

I want to focus on an empowering aspect: Every person can be that catalyst! If other people’s emotions affect ME, then my emotions affect OTHERS. Isn’t that wonderful?

Here is a current example from my life: This morning, I was walking to the school bus with my daughter. The snow has been melting and we had to walk through some muddy puddles. Our neighbor was working with heavy equipment. He stopped to let us pass safely. I pulled my daughter along. In the process, she got splashed with muddy water. That resulted in a series of aggressive (disappointed) screams. I calmly reminded her that it would just be dust that she could brush off as soon as her pants were dry again. Luckily she recalibrated herself quickly.

Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to avoid getting affected by other people’s emotions. And sometimes, I have to step away when my defenses wear thin.

What generally works for me is…

  • to become aware of the emotion (in this case: anger and disappointments) and the reason behind it (feeling of powerlessness, as she could not just change, but had to go to school as she was).
  • to be aware of my position and not let the situations break into my bubble of self (I do that by smiling inwardly and talking to myself – also inwardly).
  • to separate physically from the person displaying the unwanted emotion. Going outside – even for a few minutes – works wonderings for me.

Tell me please: What works for you?

The World of Little Things: Seeds

Again, I was walking home from the school bus, when my gaze fell upon a little milkweed seed on the ground. It was glistering with dew drops. While the general scene, albeit sunny and not too cold, was rather brown – mind you, it is November and nature supposed to be brown – that little seed was a sparkling messenger of life and hope.

Have you ever thought of all the beauty we might miss, by focusing on the big picture only?

Happiness is Here, Now

Happiness is a Value, not a Goal!

That means, happiness is not something to look for, to try to reach, a goal, but a value, something to believe in, a moment-to-moment way of being!

Does this sound familiar? – “I will be happy when _______” (fill the blank).

What did you wish for as a child? – Your next birthday gift? As a teenager? – Your driver’s licence? As a young adult? – A good job? / A wonderful partner? – And once you got what you were wishing for, how long did your happiness last before you filled in the blank with something new, a new condition for your happiness? What are you longing for or chasing today? – Do you think this ____ (fill the blank) will make you sustainably happy? It is an endless cycle in the pursuit of happiness.

How can we break the cycle? Can we be happy here and now? Independent of circumstance?

Here are a few mental exercises that can help you create new thinking habits that make it possible to be happy, independent of pursuit:

Talk to and about yourself in compassionate ways

Instead of being hard on yourself for all your flaws, your failures and mistakes, assure yourself:

_______ (Your name), you are perfectly human, with all your imperfections, just like everyone else. Let’s acknowledge what is wonderful about you, like _______ (fill the blank), and have fun improving you a little bit every day.”

Talk to and about others in constructive ways

Instead of dwelling on a situation that feels hard or impossible to change, assure yourself:

Like you, dear ________ (your name), everybody around you is perfectly imperfect. Their essence is a beautiful as yours. To draw out their best, concentrate on interacting with that part of them!”

Talk about your circumstances in solution-oriented ways

Instead of focussing on mishaps failures, assure yourself:

Every event or circumstance can be a gift. It can be turned into an opportunity. What is a mistake or failure you could look at and see potential in?

The Benefits of Laughing

What makes you laugh? –  For me, it is quite frequently my husband, who has a gift of seeing and pointing out the humor in things that I sometimes take (too) seriously.

Laughter is beneficial for our physical and mental health. It can lower our blood pressure and improve concentration. In an emotional way, laughing can it can alleviate stress and anxiety. Even spiritually, laughter can help us feel more connected and whole.

You don’t feel like laughing? – Even so, try doing it anyway, because our body does not know the difference between fake and real laughter.

Please share what make you laugh happily!

Grounding Myself In Nature

Much has been said about how our modern life tends to create a disconnect with nature.

In my coaching (and in my life) I seek to keep things simple:

I need nature to survive: It gives me food, it gives me air, it gives me space to move and space to experience my connection with all other living things. When I get really calm I experienced that I AM PART of this wonderful world.

What does it look like for you when you feel grounded? – Please drop me a note!

Mindfulness in Motion

Mindfulness is commonly understood as paying attention to what is happening in one’s mind, body and surroundings, with a focus on the present moment, and in a curious, compassionate and non-judgmental state.

What does mindfulness do to us?

Mindfulness improves our well-being. Focusing on the here and now makes it less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or nostalgia over the past. It also improves our mental and our physical health.

One technique is Mindful Walking:

The ability to walk sets us apart from most animals on earth. It is a defining factor of being human. Most of the time, we might fail to see walking as something special.

When you walk mindfully, pay attention to the sensations of your body:

  • How do your feet feel, in your shoes, when you step down and when you lift them up?
  • How do your other muscles keep you balanced?
  • Pay attention to how your arms swing as you walk.
  • How about your breathing? Is there a rhythm between your breathing and your steps?

Pay attention to and become more aware of your surroundings, beyond the practical (like avoiding a puddle or drop off a letter on the way). Enjoy the immediacy of sights, sounds, and smells.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?

You can also pay attention to intuitive messages: Ask yourself a question and see what your intuition tells you.

Do you have a question for me? – I would love to hear it!

Gratefully Changing Perspective

Humans have a hard time focusing on two emotions at the same time, especially when they are conflicting ones.

When we have a problem, and we focus on the problem, we tend to see the obstacles rather than the smoother path ahead.

I challenge you (that is what I do as a coach, with your permission) to find 5 things you are grateful for, right now. And then think about each one for a minute and appreciate it.

Feel free to share any of your revelations!