You have tried threatening, manipulating, cajoling, leading by example – and nothing helps…you are simply not getting your needs met in the relationship – whether it’s personal or professional.

What if there is nothing you can do to have them meet your needs…? That gives us a place to start. From then on, it is all about the quality of your communication. Here are examples of what you can say…

¨It’s important that we are partners, and I am really working on asking for what I need. I am working on not being so attached to things I want, because then I’m always ¨being good¨, on my best behavior and not saying what I really think. What can we work out so that we both get what we need as partners…? ¨

Receiving Theme – It Plays into Boundaries

Receiving is what you let in, what you let enter your space, and boundaries is what you don’t. Receiving is the other side of boundaries. It’s the same principle for both. To get what you need and what makes you happy, you might have to expand your capacity to receive. Definition again: to let enter. There are misconceptions, like receiving is passive thing to do. However, if someone pushes in your chair, you have to pay attention to sit down on it and not on the floor. Clearly, receiving then is an active thing. We also tend to think the giver is in control, but you are – the receiver controls what happens. The giver only controls what is offered.

Personal Space

You have to let people into your personal space to receive. We think of receiving as selfish, but poor reception is what’s selfish. When you are a great receiver you are actually paying attention to the giver, which is inherently generous. For example, you can’t multi-task and receive at the same time. A good receiver acknowledges the givers motivation for giving, not only the thing given. If you don’t know what the motivation is, ask. Acknowledge the future the gift, material or immaterial, paved for the partnership, or the difference it made for you.

Lastly, distinguish between needs and wants.


Make two columns in a document and name one ‘¨needs¨ and the other, ¨wants¨. Wants you can compromise on, needs you can’t…

 I hope I could help you today.


Coach Jo


After Brené Brown took the internet by storm with her TED talk on vulnerability, it has been a topic on people’s list. It’s prompted many to look at their own ability to open up…

Inspiring people on this journey are aforementioned Brené Brown but also Sixto Rodriguez, the obscure-turned-famous-folk-star-in-hiding. See his journey if you haven’t yet in the documentary ¨Searching for Sugarman¨.

Another wonderful role model is the Swedish artist Lars Lerin. A former addict, he has his own TV-show based on that he doesn’t have any friends and would like to make some. He meets with other famous artist to befriend them and what ensues is hilarious, due to the instant intimacy he is able to create, which in turn is due to his deep level of vulnerability.

Is it wise to be that vulnerable, you may ask…?

(Well, it doesn’t take away your smarts…?)

The Buddhist monk Pema Chodron speaks of a rawness of heart, and of the practice of¨tonglen¨ when you take the hit of pain straight in, followed by sending out blessings to the world.

Might vulnerability be the next stage of our evolution, finally realizing there is no lion in the room? Do you think it would help or hinder in business development? What do you think?


Coach Jo

New, new and NEW…!

…Welcome to your New Year! Here is the format of today:

1. What is new, new and NEW in 2016…

2. What is out, out and OUT…!

3. What remains to be flushed…

What is new, new and NEW in 2016…?

1a. My new wedding ring – a fuse between my engagement ring and old wedding band. Credit and courtesy: Kajsa Åman (Instagram: kajsagoldsmith), oldest best friend and gold smith au primer. Allow yourselves to be heathens – take an old heirloom and remake it into “yours” – great, great grandma won’t mind…

1b. New laptop, phone, iPad. Credit and courtesy: my husband. I would hang on to my trusted devices for a lot longer but my tech husband reminds me, as clean and shiny as my MacBook Air still looks…it’s from 2010.

1c. New attitude – My list of goals has whittled over the years and this year, I am pretty radical. I have only a few stakeholds in 2016, but my biggest resolve is to stay awake and open to what comes my way (as in “look for the signs…”/The Alchemist). Sometimes hard- line-goals (or too many, or too narrow goals) get in the way of the opportunities trying to punch through. Therefore, I am deepening my commitment to keep my mind clean and clear, mainly through meditation, so I will notice what wantsto happen.

What is out, out and OUT…!

2a. A bad mood – I have worked on this, but the moody one that lives inside of me is still squatting. On far less real estate than she once did, but boy, I still reserve the right to get a mood-on…Therefore, it’s like, “if you have someone to say, say it!” Instead of brood about it. Gotta’ follow what I tell my kids…

2b. Controlling – Situations and people. I will leave things to let them unfold. Far more interesting and exciting. Choice will take the place of control. (In this entry, I sound like a control freak, which I am really not. But I know what “free” looks like…)

What remains to be flushed…

3a. Holding on – to anything. I try to give as much as I can think to give. I also know that I have many, many more layers of this to cut through. I am fully aware that the best karma and life itself come from how much you give. It takes doing it, but it is not hard. It’s easy. It’s not a drag but it is a leap.


Coach Jo



Buddhist thought says that, “when someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion. It’s not that we are responsible for what someone else does, and certainly not that we should feel guilty. But when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their gathering virtue.

What’s true for them is also true for us. The way we regard those who hurt us today will affect how we experience the world in the future. We also have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it…”
So is it good to take revenge? To hit someone where they live? To give them a dose of their own medicine? Apparently not, according to above.

Everyone else is always a perfect mirror reflection of where we are ourselves in our journey. If you want to know how evolved you are, look at your mate. And looking at the world today, violence is everywhere (where on the killing fields or in the privacy of our own minds). There is no killing that goes un-avenged. If we “take out” all of ISIS, won’t they have sons and daughters that will want to avenge their deaths too? We’re not saying, let them continue their crimes against humanity, but we still have to understand cause and effect. If we started to deal with the root cause of these problems; a lack of both education and understanding, we might prevent further radicalization.

What goes around comes around.
No matter who is right or wrong.
If there is such a thing.

Coach Jo


I’ve found myself a bit addicted to the news.

I’ve come to justify too much news reading with wanting to stay informed.

However, when the news start to spill over into celebrity weddings, even I cut myself off…

In the news, though, there’s been a lot about Trump the past few days.
And how since his anti-Muslim remarks, the world is now turning its back on him.

About time.
1.7 billion adherents.
Over a fifth of the world’s population.
That is whom one person is renouncing.
One of two de facto runners for president of the United States.
How much power are we going to give a person?

Stop talking about him…! (I am talking about him now!)
It’s become apparent that whatever you give your attention to grows.
Let’s take our eyes off Trump and put them on what’s working.

The Nobel Prize gala was held here in Stockholm last night.
Attended by so many people doing amazing things; eradicating diseases, highlighting abuse and writing about what’s right.
Let’s talk about The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet (peace), Tomas Lindahl (chemistry), Svetlana Alexievich (literature). Speaking of the latter, let’s talk about the savior of the world that art is. If you need to be reminded – here are two videos of the song “Hallelujah”…first by a priest at a wedding 🙂 and then the ultimate one – Jeff Buckley’s…

Let yourselves get moved…

Coach Jo

Letting Go of 2015

As you look back on the year, there were some highlights but you’re certain to find some low lights as well.
Some negative experiences if we really look, may not have been so bad in and of themselves. It’s just that they remind us of another time or times when something similar happened. It is the cumulative impact of all those experiences that get us down, not the one thing itself. You know the sinking feeling:
“Here we go again”

“Oh no, that THIS again”

“Why does this always happen to me?”

“I thought I was done with this kind of thing”

The best thing to do is to divide and conquer.

Separate each negative and very specific memory and try to see what it was about it that created such a bad feeling. After you have done that, look to see if there’s anything to do about the issue still (an apology to be given or had) or simply let it go. Now you’ll be ready to take back that time in your past as your own, because surrounding that one negative memory are some good ones too.

These are the stories we want to tell our children and grandchildren. These are the memories that make our true legacy.
Also, during hard times, there may have been people who showed up for you, who supported you when you were down. Those are the people we want to extend gratitude towards this holiday season. Those are the relationship to rekindle.

There is so much good to take out of 2015. There is so much courage to be conjured and reveled in, in this past year’s challenges. Put the latter to rest and greet the New Year clean.

Coach Jo

ShareShare Letting Go of 2015
LikeLetting Go of 2015 CommentShareShare Letting Go of 2015

I Got Great Response to the “Be Selfish” Post – Here Is More…

Recently I wrote a post about the favor you are doing the world by being selfish.

Well. Not really, but the kind of selfish that takes courage. Dancing to the beat of your own drum, sticking your nose out, not caring what people think, breaking convention (but really – and not in a cute way…)

Apart from yours truly that doesn’t possess a “can’t do” filter (judging by my Cross-Atlantic relocation of my family of five for an indefinite time); here are people who do whatever they want to do. Let them inspire you:

Slomo – ditched his medical practice and the BW for skating on the beach, spreading good vibes.

Amelia Earhart – not only the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but did you know she was an activist as well?

Dean Moriarty – from Jack Kerouac’s classic “On The Road”. Fictional but who cares. I think he was autobiographical on Kerouac’s part. Moriarty jumped in a car with his friends and drove whenever he felt like it. Cross -country. In one shot.

Howard Roark – Also fictional but I bet you Ayn Rand lived it,

“The Fountainhead”. Roark drew buildings he wanted to live in. He was unpopular. Didn’t care.

Steve Jobs – Unpopular. Didn’t care.

Ayn Rand – the woman herself. Not following any philosophy but inventing her own. Her credo was rational and ethical egoism (following your dream…?)

Got anyone else you think I should include…? Warmly, Coach Jo

Favorit i Repris! (a favorite repeated)

This is a letter I posted a long time ago.

It instantly puts gratitude and appreciation back into life.

I will put the main points up top that are also at the end.

That way, those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing, can just enjoy the net net. The rest of you, savor the full letter to you – the human.

Take forth these 4 truths and allow them to free you:

  1. It’s not a dangerous world. You live in a purposeful universe.
  1. Uncertainty is not something to resist; it’s the gateway to possibility.
  1. Loss is a natural part of life and can initiate you.
  1. We are all ONE, and you are never alone.

So go forth, dear human, and fear not. You are loved. You are enough. And finally, in this present moment, you are FREE.

“Dear Human,

I hate to break it to you, but you are not in control of your life. This is not meant to frighten you. On the contrary, it’s meant to liberate you. Do not worry. You’re not at the mercy of a random, chaotic universe flouncing you around like a yo-yo on a string. This is not a dangerous world always threatening to hurt you. No, dear. You live in a purposeful universe, in which every moment is infused with meaning and richness. You may not understand the meaning right away. You may feel victimized. Life might seem unfair. But when you look back, you will see that it all makes sense that even times of tragedy were filled with purpose that your soul grew even as you grieved.

I know you yearn for certainty. You want guarantees. You long for forever. But you forget that by guarding against uncertainty, you close yourself off to possibility. When you don’t know what the future holds, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. This invites mystery. Awe and wonder might be yours. Within the uncertainty lies potential.

Yet it also holds the threat of loss, and this is why you fear it. I know you think you can’t handle losing what you cherish, so you cling to the illusion of control. But the reality is that life is impermanent. Even this very moment will be gone one second from now. Yet loss need not be something to resist or fear. Fearing loss only wastes your energy, because you can’t prevent it, no matter how much you cling. While nobody wants to lose that which you hold dear, if you shift your perspective, you’ll see that loss can initiate you. It can separate your life into two parts- life before the loss; life after. When you let loss initiate you, it strengthens you. Your soul walks through a doorway, and the doorway is one way. When loss initiates you, what you gain is permanent.

I know it feels safer to try to control your life. Of course you cherish that which you love. You crave stability, security, and certainty. You long to protect what you don’t want to lose. You grasp it with both hands and pull it to your chest. But what you grasp is made of sand. It slips through your fingers no matter how you grip it.

I understand that this thought it intolerable. You think you can’t handle losing what matters to you. But you sell yourself short, dear human. You’ve forgotten your capacity for infinite change. The way you cling to the illusion of certainty limits you. You stagnate. You resist change, and yet change is inevitable. How do you expect to be happy when you’re always resisting what is? Why can’t you just be with what is? Accept what is happening right now. Accept what happened in the past. Accept that you can’t predict or control the future. Accept this moment and pay no attention to any other moment other than RIGHT NOW. In this moment, you will find peace.

As long as you need certainty, you won’t take risks, and joy requires risk. You have to risk your heart. You must risk loss. Because you are human, you’ll be asked to stand in a rush of love so potent that you can barely breath; yet, in that moment, you will be crushed with how vulnerable you are, because nothing you can do will guarantee that you can keep that which leaves you so vulnerable. To stand there and experience love that deeply without pushing it away or grasping it to you is WHY YOU ARE HERE. To learn to be that vulnerable, that brave, to leave your heart that open is the ultimate life test. This test is pass/fail. You can’t do it halfway. The minute you armor against that vulnerability, you lose the joy. It’s your choice- your path to follow. Nobody will judge you either way. No one cares whether you pass or fail the test. You have free will, and just like the birds don’t mind and the forest doesn’t judge, you can do as you please.

But as a doctor who has been at the bedside of a lot of dying people, I can vouch for the fact that the dying rarely regret not having enough control over their lives. They regret that they didn’t risk more. They regret not loving enough and not opening their hearts all the way so that love spills out like a broken coconut. They regret love unspoken, ways in which they held back, the armor they wore in order to protect themselves from the vulnerability of love. They regret failing to forgive those who hurt them. They regret not making compassion their #1 value. And in those final moments, when they feel the pain of how much their desire for control led them to sacrifice the opportunity to truly love, they find that the person who needs the most compassion is themselves.

Dear human, don’t be one of those people who dies with regret. It’s not too late. There’s still time. It’s your choice. Instead, you can be one of those people who die with a wide-open heart, with no love left unexpressed, with a heart fully spent from loving expansively, with a litany of people who will be initiated by the loss of you. You can be God consciousness in human form and love all the way, all the time. Your heart is this capacious. Why don’t you know this about yourself, darling? You bumble around, thinking you’re the one human whose heart isn’t big enough to love like this. But it is. I promise. You have no idea how massively you can love.

I know life is hard. Life hurts. You’ve suffered deeply. You’ve lost so much already. You can wallow in the pain, or you can shift everything in an instant. Today can be the first day of the rest of your life. We are boundless beings, connected to each other, infused with spirit, bonded by the suffering we all share, and liberated by the choice we can make, right here, right now, to wake up from the illusion that we must control life.

Take forth these 4 truths and allow them to free you:

  1. It’s not a dangerous world. You live in a purposeful universe.
  1. Uncertainty is not something to resist; it’s the gateway to possibility.
  1. Loss is a natural part of life and can initiate you.
  1. We are all ONE, and you are never alone.

So go forth, dear human, and fear not. You are loved. You are enough. And finally, in this present moment, you are FREE.”


Coach Jo

Johanna Sawalha

Private and Executive Coach

914.233.3795 – office

917.509.1549 – mobile

815.572.8834 – fax


Last week I saw the new documentary about Ingrid Bergman, my fellow countrywoman and Hollywood star of movies like Casablanca and Gaslight. Part of the move told of the scandal she caused by leaving her husband and child for another man and starting a family with him. When interviewed about it, Bergman simply shrugged and said that she did what suited and pleased her in life, and thus urged others to do the same.

Similar sentiments were once expressed by the late Ayn Rand through her theory of Objectivism – which we are only truly contributing to society when we are dancing to the beat of our own drum. She heralded a very specific kind of selfishness, in my interpretation that of being true to oneself and placing ones focus on that. Pursuit of one’s own happiness being a worthy cause is something with which the Dalai Lama would agree as well.

This topic could be controversial however. “What would the world look like if everybody ran around just focusing on themselves?” Well. Maybe Voltaire’s dream in Candide would come true? Everybody would simply tend to their own garden and not worry so much about what others thought or did.

I think there is an important distinction to make here however. This is not about everyone running around trying to fulfill their desires – the common misconception about the pursuit of happiness. But, you say, if happiness is not about fulfilling ones desires, what is it about? There is a very specific type of happiness distinct from the rush of getting what you want. Most world religions speak of it:

Philippians 4:7: (There is a) peace which passeth all understanding….

The Buddha: Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

The latter points to the point. Making your own life into a work art for the benefit of all is the biggest contribution you can make. Steve Jobs, for example, didn’t like people much, and yet; he wanted to give the world objects of absolute beauty that would help them in their life.

When do you feel that you are most true to yourself?

Butt in please.


Coach Jo


Obama has gotten mad on his podium.

Parents and teachers are devastated and outraged.

Everyone agrees that the surging wave of lethal violence at schools needs to be stopped.

Almost every day now we hear about an incident, or a would-be incident of someone, usually a young disgruntled and lost individual take to a weapon with the school as their aim. The first such incident just happened in peaceful Sweden, whereas these types of incidents often have mainly been associated with the US.

Apart from the obvious – pass strict gun control laws in every nation – there is many subtler “what-can-we-dos” to turn this god-awful trend. Every time I hear of a shooting, I think to myself, “I just want an hour with one of these kids doing this. Give me an hour and let’s see if I can prevent the attack from happening.” Not out of hubris or heroism on my part, rather, with what I know about human motivation, could I change his mind? I certainly would like to try.

After more than twenty years of learning how people’s sick thoughts can plague them something intensely, I know that people can go off the deep end. I’ve been told to watch the movie “Bully” that shows what someone will do when they just can’t take it anymore. I am also not defending the perpetrator. That said, we can never ever give up on communication. That through words we can find the way out.

Here is what I would say in my would-be hour:

  • I would first attempt to determine the level of pathology. Really, should we pretend for a second that these kids are well? There is something sick in there that needs curing. Some really truly are mostly disillusioned and disenfranchised. Others are very sick. We’d need to know which is which.
  • I would find out a crap load about the kid. Not, “how are things at home?” (although I’d be curious to know) but about them specifically. I bet no one has asked in a long time.
  • I would try to find out what, if anything makes them feel safe. The only reason you would strike out like that, or want that kind over control over life and death and the people around you, is that it is not safe to be who you are and feel what you feel. All those same feelings could be brought to a conversation, no guns needed.
  • I’d find out whom they would, if they could, bond with. Often, it takes just one person. If there were one person in the world whose opinion they cared about, they wouldn’t carry out the act – out of consideration to that person. It would be a matter of getting them present to that person. Most people have one person, dead or alive, that matters to them. And if they didn’t, I’d invent one. There are so many people to admire and model oneself after. Sometimes I myself get to be the one person someone truly has and I am honored to be that until they have branched out again.
  • What future do they see for themselves? Clearly none, as they predictably are heading for their own death as well. Same thing there. One, two, three pieces of advice that shows a direction – something to do, somewhere to go. I’d try that.
  • I’d ask, “where is the chaos?” Something is chaotic. Because if it wasn’t, someone’s system wouldn’t short circuit like that. Is the chaos in your head? With friends? With the family? With your skill set or lack thereof? Body image? Where does life not make sense? If life doesn’t make sense on any level, what is there to live for? I can totally see that
  • I’d find out where they got humiliated or felt disrespected. All this, bearing in mind, knowing most of their world lives inside their own head. Still, if feeling disrespected is what will lead to the attack, then it needs to be dealt with.

Human dignity is real. And the need for it.
When you have no dignity left, you have nothing.
And you have nothing to lose.
I would fight to restore dignity.
I would try to make them so happy they didn’t go through with it.