Shifting from Limbic to True Intentions

Shifting from Limbic to True Intentions

Want to know the secret to big forward momentum in work and creative goals? Shifting from limbic to true intention. Like so many awareness practices this one is simple but not easy.

Let’s unpack it. An intention is simply the motivation behind your action. The clearer we are on this the better.

“Limbic intention” is one rooted in fear or grasping energy (from the “limbic” region of the brain or our emotional center.)

Actions which come from this place have a certain feel. Namely, not so good.

In fact suffering is our cue that we have lost the connection to our heart or our true essence.

And actions from this place are firmly rooted in our ego structure. We feel the need to prove ourselves. We fear we won’t have enough. We feel less than or that something is wrong. And so we try to “fix” ourselves or the situation.

This is 100% human. But not only are “limbic” intentions really limited (i.e. not that powerful) they also actually can get in the way of what we truly want!

I made you a fresh guided meditation called Limbic to True Intention so you can put this awareness into practice in your own life. Enjoy!

Leave me a comment below to share what you discover in your shift to true intention. I’d love to hear!


{I’m indebted to Tara Brach and her talk “Winds of Homecoming” for inspiring this blog post and meditation.}

What Are You Afraid of? Plus Print Version of The Flourish Formula

What Are You Afraid of? Plus Print Version of The Flourish Formula

For weeks I avoided sending the emails. Why?


Of course I didn’t think of it as fear at the time. I felt too busy. Or like I was focused on other things.

But there it was — a little doubt which had happily rooted itself in the corner of my brain:

What if this book is too self-helpy for them to even respond?

What if they don’t remember me?

What if they think it…. isn’t any good?

I drafted a version of the email but weeks passed without me simply clicking “send.”

Even the thought of doing it made my energy tank. Like I was moving through heavy sand.

** It can feel risky to put your creative work out in the world. **

And I had one final step before The Flourish Formula could become a print book: requesting advance praise.

These are the blurbs that provide “social proof” of your message.

I created a dream list, including Harvard professors and Enneagram teachers at the forefront of the field. I found their email addresses, drafted emails… and then got stuck.

Until I remembered: soliciting feedback is an important act of service for your potential readers. If my ideal reader sees recommendations on the back cover which inspire confidence it opens the door for her to believe: “Maybe this could help me too…”

In fact — this is the key shift which allowed me to move through the fear:

I stopped thinking about this as an exercise in soliciting feedback of me and focused on the women this book is for and what I want for them:

I want a world where women can be leaders and emotive. Feminine and fierce. Deeply nourished and impactful in their field (and their life.)

Where they don’t buy into the idea that they have to eat themselves on the inside to make their mark “out there.”

No more ignoring our own body and soul needs to care for others and do our work but women who are truly HAPPY, FULFILLED, and AWAKE to both daily pleasures and CLEAR about their unique role as change-maker. Because we do need some changes in our communities and on our planet.

Maybe you can even feel the shift just reading this email? Once I was tapped into that place — hell yeah I was reaching out for some testimonials.

But honestly. What came back is so much more encouraging than I ever expected. (And I am so excited to share a taste with you below.)

Now over to you:

Do you have an area of your life where doubt or fear have taken root?

Maybe you don’t believe you can really make a particular change because you just don’t feel brave enough.

What if you flip it around to consider who you can serve?

For example:

  • Afraid to start your own business or side business? Think of all those clients who need precisely the medicine you offer!
  • Feel too busy to finish your manuscript? Picture your ideal reader curling up on a Saturday morning treasuring your words and feeling so much less alone.
  • Or maybe you are not considering a big project but wanting to create some small changes. I firmly think that small adjustments into wholeness, like starting a meditation practice or creating a beautiful morning routine, have ripples which serve others.

I don’t think we ever outgrow fear. But I hope this case-study helps you to own the gifts you bring and to ask for the help you need to share them. Because I do know that our world needs exactly what you offer.

Love and all the good,



Q. When can I order a print copy of The Flourish Formula?

A. Now that we have the advance praise blurbs for the back cover only a few minor steps keep us from staring the printing process, which will take about six weeks. I’ll keep you updated. But it looks like MAY! xo Courtney
Here is a taste of the advance praise blurbs. Thank you so much to everyone who has shared their feedback and encouragement. It means so much to me!

“Courtney Pinkerton is the answer to every stressed-out woman’s prayer: she is a born healer, offering calm and compassionate “how to” guidelines to fight off the personal “gremlins” that too often hold us back. The Flourish Formula is the self-care manual every overachieving woman wants and needs: it’s practical, spiritual, compassionate, and filled with daily guidelines that heal, energize, and inspire.  Every page offers fresh insights about how to lean back before you can lean in. “

Marie Danziger, Arts of Communication lecturer & (former) Director of the HKS Communications Program, Harvard Kennedy School

“Courtney Pinkerton’s Flourish Formula is an invaluable resource for anyone who is caught up in the busyness of life.  Brimming with concrete and doable tips, her Formula is built upon deep and rich inner wisdom from the ages as well as her own lived experience. A seeker for over 40 years and a passionate teacher of the Enneagram for nearly 30, I found many new ideas and tips I plan to incorporate into my own life. The conscious mind can’t wrap its head around accomplishing more by slowing down, but this paradox can be realized by using this book as a guide. I highly recommend it!”

Terry Saracino, MA, MBA, Founder of the Nonprofit The Narrative Enneagram,
Ten Favorite Ways to Reset

Ten Favorite Ways to Reset

Happy Friday! Some days it can feel pretty complicated (or honestly a drag!) to be committed to your personal growth and transformation.

Big emotions can come up from behind you and hit like a tidal wave while your energy for forward movement seems to drain out of your toes.

That is why I dedicate one step in the Flourish process, Step “I” or “Immersion” to resourcing yourself with external resources or DIY options for shifting your mood and resetting easily and elegantly on days when you simply feel “off.”

Aromatherapy is one of the specific nine stress-dissolving strategies I suggest in The Flourish Formula. Why? Smells communicate directly with the emotional or limbic center in the brain and with your body. They have been used therapeutically for years to improve mood and are a simple, effective way of caring for yourself. Read on for my ten favorite essential oils and how to get started enjoying them today!

1) Wild Orange. This oil boosts mood and eases anxiety. It is also described as the oil of “abundance” and “sunshine in a bottle.” This one can be too strong to directly apply to your skin (and makes you skin sun sensitive) so either dilute it, apply it to the bottom of your feet, or diffuse it, which is my favorite way to enjoy this oil.

2) Lavender. If you struggle to turn off the hamster wheel in your mind at the end of the day, lavender is a time-tested remedy. I rub it on the bottom of my feet every night and can actually feel the relaxation moving up my body.

3) Geranium. This one is a little less known. Geranium is nourishing to the heart, great for the skin, and also aids with inflammation in the joints. I like to mix this oil in with a carrier oil (like almond oil) and put it in a roller ball. Then I apply it to my heart area when I get out of the shower. The scent stays with me the rest of the day, like a perfume I put on for myself.

4) Peppermint. If you struggle with headaches, peppermint essential oil can be a real ally. I like to put a drop in my palms, rub them together and hold over my nose while I take a few deep breaths which opens my sinuses. Also my children enjoy a drop of peppermint in their reusable water bottles each morning. Peppermint is really versatile – a sniff can help with nausea and be a natural energy booster for an afternoon slump. I love to diffuse it with wild orange. Together they smell delicious!

TIP: Please note this oil can be too strong to put directly on your skin. It has an “icy hot” feeling which can be great on sore muscles but usually best to dilute it to your comfort level. If you ever get too much of an oil on your skin and it is stinging, don’t attempt to wash it off. The water simply drives the oil in deeper. Instead apply olive oil or coconut oil or another oil you have on hand to dilute the effect.

5) Frankincense. This one has a truly timeless feel and smell. Plus it is incredibly grounding. Used for centuries as an aid to meditation and prayer, frankincense is a real healing powerhouse. In addition to helping you feel more grounded, frankincense is great for your skin and any little cuts or scrapes. This is also a super pricey oil — a little goes a long way — and it helps to bring out the qualities of other oil so it can be fun to diffuse with wild orange for example. Or geranium. Plus I like to layer it — applying first lavender to my feet. Then a few drops of frankincense. Again experiment and enjoy creating your own aromatherapy DIY treatments.

TIP: Why the feet? We have large pores on the bottoms of our feet so the oil can be absorbed easily and its healing qualities easily distribute through the whole body. If you are out and about another good place to apply oils topically is the back of your neck. Again always be sure to dilute as needed with a carrier oil.

6) Lemon. I love the simplicity of this oil. It is very affordable (in fact the most affordable one) and is super helpful around the house, especially if you need to clear sticky or gummy residue off of something. (Like old labels off a glass bottle you want to reuse.) It also is lovely in a glass of water or iced tea. Make sure you use therapeutic grade oils which can be ingested, I use Doterra oils and share these as gifts in my coaching practice. Also you want to make sure with all of the citrus oils that you only put them in glass containers. They can start to break down the plastic!

7) Bergamot. Clearly I have a thing for citrus. Bergamot is in the lemon/orange family but has potent qualities for supporting emotional health. Specifically it reduces nervous tension, depression and feelings of stress and anxiety. Plus you can add a drop to your black tea and convert it into Earl Grey. Shazam!

8) Ylang Ylang. This is a strong floral scent again with potent benefits for emotional health. It has a calming and euphoric effect so is wonderful for helping with anxiety, tensions, and other nervous conditions as well as challenging emotions such as anger and frustration. My favorite way to use this one is to put in a roller ball with sweet almond oil (a great carrier oil for children) and offer it to my youngest as a “calm myself down potion” which she will apply to her own feet. It has been a sweet addition to our family care repertoire and she loves having something she can offer herself to calm down.

My final two favorites are Doterra specific blends:

9) Balance Blend — This includes Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy and Blue Chamomile. Balance is warm and woody and promotes a sense of well-being. Like a spa in a bottle! When my kids were younger this would be the one I would rub on my hands and take several good sniffs before heading into a shopping trip at the grocery store. It brings you back into your body and helps you reconnect to yourself and your surroundings.

10) On Guard Blend — This warm and spicy scent includes Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils. It is also a great boost to the immune system and cleansing blend. Every winter I fix a roller ball with about twelve drops of On Guard plus a carrier oil for my children to rub on their feet before putting on socks and shoes and heading to school to help them stay healthy. I also like to use it to clean the house (make sure to invest in glass spray bottles) or to diffuse, especially in the fall as it has a homey, cinnamon smell. You can also gargle with it if you feel you are coming down with a cold.

And those are my top ten! I hope it inspires you to enjoy aromatherapy. If you are someone who wants to read up on the science, studies are being conducted on essential oils around the world including in Europe, Australia, Japan, India, the United States, and Canada. Many of these studies describe the healing properties of various oils. Here is a link to a summary of studies on PubMed.

And as is true of all oils and all stress reduction strategies — I direct you first and foremost to your own body. We are each bio individualists, meaning what smells good to me may not smell good to you. Also at different times and in different stages what smells we crave (like certain foods) can change.

So make these recommendations your own and enjoy!

Now over to you. Do you have a favorite scent or essential oil? How do you like to enjoy it?



Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual master's degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School and is the author of The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever's Guide to Slowing Down and Accomplishing More and creator of the 8-Step Flourish Coaching Program. Courtney helps busy women unlock their greatest gifts and thrive in their personal lives. In the summer of 2017 she followed a long time dream and moved to Nicaragua with her husband Richard Amory (they met in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps) and their three children where together they are exploring volcanic islands, colonial cities and beaches. They have made their home in Granada where they are being tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more. Interested to learn more? Each month Courtney offers a select number of complimentary Flourish Assessment Calls. You can schedule one here.

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Let’s Make It Easy

Let’s Make It Easy

Does it feel like work sometimes to line up the support that you know you need?

I get it. It can feel like a part time job to identify the support which would be most helpful:

is it coaching?

a book to read?

a proper vacation?

What is it that is going to move you through the places where you feel stuck into a new relationship with yourself, your work, your partner, your body?

And then when you think you may have found a good option, the gremlins chime in and ask:

Is it worth the investment?

Am I?

I have created a new Flourish Assessment process to help with this challenge. It is designed to help you identify:

1) Where you are being invited to grow

2) How you are currently getting in your own way

3) The supportive strategies which will help you accomplish your current goals with more ease and pleasure.

So far I have only shared this process with current coaching clients but I am opening up a set number of slots this week and next week to share it with more women, for free!

This process is light and fun. In addition to giving you an opportunity to air out your thinking around a current challenge, I’ll be sharing concrete coaching tips and resources that you can implement in your life right away.

I have also opened up evening and weekend hours for these calls. Something I almost never do.

Why? Because I want it to feel really easy to say yes.

So whether you are new to coaching or a previous client who would like an additional dose of support, I hope you willreserve your session today.

And please do forward this email on to a friend who is facing a challenge or looking for some support.

Warmly, Courtney

PS I have shared some answers to common questions below.

Q. I’m interested to talk more but I am not sure I want to engage in coaching right now, so will I be wasting your time?

A. I am really clear that this is my work to do: meeting busy women and helping them share their most potent gifts in their work and creativity AND thrive in their personal lives. So the opportunity to talk with you about current growing edges is definitely not wasting my time. It is what I love to do! Of course I will be happy to share more details about how I work with women as a coach if I think that could be a good fit and you are interested, but I am also going to share tips and strategies you can implement right now.

Q. My work schedule is crazy. Do I really have the time to do this?

A. I am going to be really honest here. This “I couldn’t possibly fit this in” gremlin is a big challenge for many of my clients. But in my own life and work I have learned that when we think we don’t have the time (for a supportive conversation or a meditation or a warm meal or whatever it is) that is precisely when we need those things the most.And the good news? A little bit can go a long way toward shifting how you feel and also helping identify your next steps toward the goals and priorities you hold most dear.
Let’s Talk More! xo Courtney

Q&A: Do You Ever Compare and Despair

Q&A: Do You Ever Compare and Despair

“Hi Courtney –
I am so thrilled for you and your family on your new journey. I passed your book on to my friends in Arizona and Oregon and they are already in love with you and your beautiful writing style and courage. I guess the biggest thing I keep working on is not feeling bad about myself and my life after I read your material… I see how far you have come in three years and I wonder why I keep moving in a circle of pushing life instead of letting life hold me. How do I just move the needle a little and acknowledge that it’s moving and trust?” –Kirsten

First of all, thank you Kirsten for sharing this tender question (and for passing The Flourish Formula on to your friends!). There are two really powerful issues embedded in what you share here. The first being a very human habit of “comparing and despairing” and the second being this theme of trust.

Let’s start with the comparing. This is one of the things I hear most frequently with coaching clients and totally have experienced myself so I just want to honor that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I love your honesty. I’m so glad you could say “hey, I get kind of down after reading your stuff…” because I think naming those uncomfortable feelings out loud automatically diffuses them. It brings them up from the realm of something we are feeling that we don’t like (which primes us to get STUCK in it, i.e. “what we resist, persists”) to instead something we can acknowledge, make some space for and learn from.

This is why I love the practice of observing ourselves with compassion, which is the foundation to Enneagram or self-awareness work. Not because it is always easy (it isn’t!) but because it is one of the fastest ways I know to shift into a more empowered posture vis-à-vis our own life and current challenges. Even if we are really struggling with something – a fear, a comparison, a conflict – the moment that we ask ourselves with kindness, “What is here for me to learn?” the whole thing starts to shift. It feels immediately better because we are moving out of the stance or attitude that “life is happening to us and we don’t know what to do or what we are doing” and instead reconnecting to our own agency.

Which doesn’t mean we need to do it all alone. In fact, the next vital question is, “OK, what supports do I need to learn this lesson?” A book? a coach? A good talk with a friend or long walk at the lake? I also like to imagine how it would feel to be on the other side of this challenge. Even if you have just an inkling of this it can be a powerful motivator.

Once we notice that we are feeling down after comparing our lives or contributions to someone else – what can we do about it?

Well, you have some choices.

If following someone is consistently triggering us to compare and feel less than, we can always practice boundaries and “unfollow,” “unfriend” or otherwise gift ourselves some breathing room.

This can be a simple act of self-care.

For example, I had a client who felt a lot of pressure to keep up with a whole slew of high school companions on Facebook. Now if this habit feels life-giving, great! But in her case, it was taking a ton of energy and consistently triggering feelings of being less fit, less pretty, less put together, and less successful. I invited her to notice how much time and energy she was spending on Facebook and to redirect at least some of it toward hobbies which made her feel good. What happened? She opened a reservoir of energy within herself that she could use to make concrete changes in her life. And of course over time her social circle shifted and expanded to include current friends who share her passions and bring out her best self. So if you find yourself comparing, it may be an invitation to detoxify your online or information habits.

However, my hunch is that what you are talking about falls into another category. Sometimes our essence or deeper self is trying to get our attention. To point us toward something which is nascent or emerging in our own lives. Often it is a desire that we aren’t letting ourselves fully own just yet. Or we know we want it but we don’t know yet how to get there, which is frustrating.

I want to invite you to really slow down the next time you feel that comparison coming on. Notice what in particular calls to you about another’s experience. Consider journaling and seeing what comes forward for you. Is it the freedom of entrepreneurial life that compels you? The travel? Do you want write your book? This clarity is GOLD.

I actually think this whole dynamic is a really common experience when we are talking about coaches, mentors, authors, or guides. This field is all about expanding our sense of what is possible for our own lives.

For example I remember that the leader of my first coach training program hosted beach retreats in Hawaii. Some part of me really sat UP and noticed how fun that looked, to invite participants to beautiful locations for small group transformational events. At that time, six plus years ago with three tiny children, that possibility felt eons away from me. But tuning into the desire proved to be a compass. And bit by bit I was able to step into it. First hosting retreats in my home. Then at a nearby ranch/retreat center. Then a mentor connected me to Ghost Ranch and they invited me to teach in New Mexico. And most recently Mexico and Granada and now finally we are headed to the beach😊.

Of course it sounds so tidy and linear in hindsight but as my husband and friends will tell you that is NEVER how it feels when you are in the middle of it. In fact, I think that one of the ways we can truly know that something is ours to create is that it is terrifying! And sometimes it doesn’t work. I had one retreat early on that didn’t come together and I cancelled it. But as long as we simultaneously build a relationship of trust and kindness inside then our sense of self-worth doesn’t ride and fall on each of these experiences or ventures. We have more freedom to try in good faith and to stretch.

Which leads us to the second part of your question: “I wonder why I keep moving in a circle of pushing life instead of letting life hold me. How do I just move the needle a little and acknowledge that it’s moving and trust?”

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t sometimes push life. My first Ennea teacher talked about this as being “seduced by the illusion of control.” We have all been trained to push. It is a huge part of the dominant culture in the U.S and the educational system and our language. It is hard to lay down that habit. To me the quickest way to metabolize the push energy is to nurture some gratitude. Gratitude for what you have right here right now. For the things you have done today, even if it wasn’t all you hoped for.

Because here is the paradox: There is so much that we don’t control. At the same time our thoughts and habits have an enormous impact on our quality of life and whether we reach a place of satisfaction vis-a-vis sharing our gifts. And we do have a lot of influence over those.

So I am not sure we ever get to a place of totally “letting life hold us” – at least not all the time. But perhaps you feel moments of it now? In those places where life is arrestingly beautiful? When I pause I feel it right now: listening to the fountain in the courtyard, writing to you. Maybe you feel it holding your child’s hand, in the new moon, a snowy night? That is how that feeling of alrightness comes for most of us, in waves. What we can do is tune into them and RECEIVE them fully. Our brains are of course hardwired to do the opposite which is why slowing down to breathe in the good is essential.

The other thing we can do is take small inspired actions toward those things your soul or essence most desires. That builds serious internal trust.

When we are really making fresh tracks in our life and going through a growth spurt, we don’t usually have the whole map in place for whatever change we want to create. Instead discern that one next step and take it. Sometimes we need to incorporate meditation or another practice to cool down our nervous system so we can hear the invitation. And remember the soul speaks in a humble voice, and often what we are invited to do is small and simple. Buy a book. Talk to that person. Create an hour this weekend to play with magazines and cut out visions for what you want to create. Or it can be a bit bigger. Take yourself on a solo retreat. Or invest in a class or coaching program. I know those can feel like insignificant suggestions but here is the thing: life is built out of those subtle shifts. And when we do enough of them we build momentum and the steps don’t feel as hard as they did when we first started. And one day we wake up and say “Hot damn this day feels REALLY good to be in.” Until our next growth spurt anyway, when we get super uncomfortable in the stretching all over again.

So Kirsten I obviously got really inspired by your question and I hope that this has been helpful. Please let me know! In summary: Any time you find yourself comparing or feeling bad about your life I invite you to decode exactly what calls to you in the life of another. The clarity about your unique desires is going to help with the feeling of going in circles, which comes when we get distracted by what others want for or from us. Once you know what you want, then we are working with an easier trajectory. And we can break down the big stuff into turtle steps! Have fun with it all and thanks again for your honesty and courage. It sounds to me like you are in a growth spurt and I can’t wait to see what opens up for you in this next phase.

Over to you — do you compare and despair? What helps you break out of this habit? Leave a comment below.