Inspiration - Find it Where You May

Summer is here—it’s time to relax with that novel by the pool (or even better, the sea). When you can’t take that time to away from the pressures of day-to-day, look for inspiration.

Inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. My thesaurus includes the words idea, stimulus, awakening, brainstorm, motivation, vision, enthusiasm in the entry for inspiration.

And how can we go wrong by looking for new ideas we can apply to our lives and businesses.

Inspiration finds me through nature, art and words.

Nature

A walk outdoors, trees, even better a trip to the woods helps me clear my mind of the muddle and make space for new ideas, activities and even business opportunities. My vacations frequently are to natural places that inspire, but when I’m home, I enjoy the trails near my house, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve and Erwin Park.

Some nature shots from vacations past. But even when I’m at home, I strive to get out in the trees, near the creeks and be.

Some nature shots from vacations past. But even when I’m at home, I strive to get out in the trees, near the creeks and be.

Art

Henri Matisse always inspires me.

Henri Matisse always inspires me.

There is something about art that inspires me. I love going to museums and learning how great masters like Matisse, Monet and Seurat experimented with color and shape to create innovations that had never been seen before. I even love getting my crayons or colored pencils out to create my own art, especially when I can detach from the outcome and learn to enjoy the creative experience.

Words

Books, poems, podcasts — depending on the time of day and my mood, I gain a lot of inspiration from reading and listening. There are so many I can share here.

Poetry

For poetry, I turn to Mary Oliver and Billy Collins. I need to explore some more diverse poets and expand my opportunity for inspiration.

The corner of a quilt I spent many years working on. Color, texture and design always inspire me.

The corner of a quilt I spent many years working on. Color, texture and design always inspire me.

Podcasts

There are so many wonderful podcasts available, I can only share a few that I fund inspirational in a variety of ways. The first is spiritual podcast On Being and Becoming Wise with Krista TIppett that explore big questions of meaning, how we want to live, who we want to be. DEEP and wonderful inspiration here.

For a funny listen that is sometimes filled with barnyard language, I love By the Book. Hosts Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer live by the rules of a self-help book each episode to find the truly life-changing material. Honest, real and funny, this podcast always makes me smile and inspires me to think about things differently, including how I look at myself and the world.

99% Invisible gives you the background on the things we don’t think about in the world - unnoticed architecture and design. Topics range from the sound effects of classic cartoons (think Tom and Jerry or Fred Flintstone), to the tunnel built by drug dealers between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico. One of my favorite Mini-Stories (especially Volume 3 from 2017) talked about an ice boat the military was working on during WWII. Roman Mars (truly, that’s the host’s name) has a divine voice.

Story Brand will motivate your marketing and give you new perspective on storytelling.

Books

I can’t even start with books—I have such diverse take and find inspiration from both novels, memoirs, how-to books and self help. Although, ironically there is a podcast that you may enjoy to find your next read. What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel will help you find your next favorite book. My nerdy English-major self loves to hear what others are reading and why they love the books they do.

Where else DO I find inspiration?

Inspiration comes in all shapes and formats, depending on who you are and what you care about:

  • Injustice inspires me to take a stand, make a donation or a phone call.

  • Friends and colleagues inspire me to do my best, learn new things and have FUN.

  • My own goals inspire me to keep going and trying new things.

  • Exercise inspires me because I can clear my mind and let new thoughts and ideas come while moving my body.

  • Journaling inspires me to stay in touch with my soul and continually look for new inspiration.

  • Love inspires me.

Inspiration is available nearly everywhere if I remember to recognize it and take action.

Inspiring your action

My goal when I conduct a strategy session with a client is to inspire them with their own wisdom and brilliance. By walking through a process, we create clarity and action steps that translate into inspiration and a plan for moving forward. This summer is a great time for a strategy session. I’d love to schedule one with you today.

The Possibility of a Peach

Peach blossoms in the midst of the process.

Peach blossoms in the midst of the process.

It starts as a bud. Round, small, waiting to spring free. And then the world begins to attack. The blossom is at the mercy of the elements. Too cold, it freezes and never reaches its potential. Bursting open, it relies on the fate of the winds and the bees to ensure it can is pollinated and can form as a peach. Then insects, the heat, the rain and God-forbid, hail, can get in its way.

You see, even a peach can struggle to meet its potential.

The Possibility of You

We start as little buds—or babies—with so many possibilities. We ask the little babes: who will you be, what will you accomplish and how will your life unfold. T

When our minister admired our 2-day old daughter’s long fingers, he commented she could be a great piano player. My husband responded, to my horror, “or a pick-pocket.” She’s become neither piano player or pickpocket (thank goodness), but she is still young.

As life goes on, we face challenges like that peach bud—a lack of math skills, a bad experience with a teacher, an unexpected death…many things can get in the way of reaching our goals.

Aging seems to remove some of the possibility of who we are, what we can create and whether we’ll start something new. As I’ve worked with clients in the middle stages of life, I encourage them to throw the age card out the window. Easier said than done, I know, but consider:

  • Luchita Hurtada, 98, is hosting her first gallery exhibit entitled “I live I die I will be reborn.”

  • Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at age 49, a pioneer in TV cooking shows. She started cooking at 36.

  • Vera Wang entered the fashion industry at age 50.

  • My Facebook friend who got her undergraduate degree at age 47 and Master’s at age 50, and embarked upon a new career.

  • Another friend who is becoming a part-time zookeeper while still managing his successful consulting business.

The truth is, these people all made a DECISION to move forward with something they love.

The Decision

The fully-formed, delicious peach.

The fully-formed, delicious peach.

Peaches don’t decide to be peaches—they just are. As humans, we have so many more options available to us—whether to become a parent, a teacher, pursue a corporate career, to become an entrepreneur, to learn to paint, to get a dog. The list can go on and on regarding the decisions we make and how they will impact our lives, our finances, and our happiness.

We sometimes forget that those decisions are available to us MORE THAN ONCE in our lives. If you don’t like your career, you can change it. If you’ve always wanted to learn to sing, to paint, you want to hike or play tennis, what’s holding you back? You just have to decide.

The Common Denominator - Passion

Should passion dictate your choices? When you love something, when it’s in your mind all day long, how can you not choose it? (Unless of course we’re talking alcohol or heroin—then you should seek help).

I’m not suggesting you throw out your 9-5, risk your livelihood, or jeopardize your family life. What I am saying is to honor yourself, find things you enjoy spending time on and do them—regardless of whether there is a purpose or not.

The secret is making the CHOICE to schedule your passion into your life.

I hear you already—I don’t have time! I’m maxed out! That’s a limiting belief, my friend. You have as much time as you choose to believe.

Think of scheduling in terms of DAILY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY and QUARTERLY and try to schedule necessary and passion-related items accordingly. I may not be able to play tennis daily, but maybe I can squeeze a game in monthly.

What is the POSSIBILITY and PASSION you want to make time for in your life. Let me know if I can help you create a plan.

What I learned from my dying dog, Greta

Greta Marie Wooten joined our family May 1, 2013. She died May 14, 2019. We loved her everyday and will miss her.

Greta Marie Wooten joined our family May 1, 2013. She died May 14, 2019. We loved her everyday and will miss her.

We knew it was coming. For months, the lumps in her neck were getting larger. The day she was diagnosed, I cried off and on all day. Then I started learning one of the many things I would learn from Greta before she died.

Being Present

As I said, I cried and cried when I found out she had cancer. But then I looked at her, really looked at her, and realized she was right there with me, still able to play and eat and take walks and love. At that moment, I decided to focus not upon her impending death but upon enjoying her in life. My husband and I made the decision not to dwell on it—we even decided not to talk about it with our son for a while. We wanted to practice the art of being present.

Buddhists, meditation gurus, self-help advocates have all told us being present is the answer to avoiding anxiety. After all, there is nothing we can do about the past or the future.

Greta helped me realize that, both by her own dog nature and my decision not to dwell on her illness. All day long, everyday, Greta was a dog interested in dog things. She was present and holy in so many ways—a great role model for me living in the moment.

This photo is from 2013, shortly after Greta joined our family. Greta loved us all — and we loved her. She would bathe my son Reed in kisses, comfort my daughter Gwen in difficult times. She loved being with my husband Jeff, the photographer.

This photo is from 2013, shortly after Greta joined our family. Greta loved us all — and we loved her. She would bathe my son Reed in kisses, comfort my daughter Gwen in difficult times. She loved being with my husband Jeff, the photographer.

Love

At dinner the night she died, my son said he didn’t want to talk about her because he might cry. We had all cried a lot already. I told him sorry, we can’t avoid feeling. We must go through the process of grief. We need to remember her and laugh and cry. We’re going to grieve her loss. Because we loved her.

When given the chance to love, you should take it. Even with the risk—the fact—that some day you will lose that love. The love is worth it.

Gratitude

Along with love comes gratitude. Gratitude that we were given a chance to be Greta’s humans. She had been at Operation Kindness shelter when we adopted her, and had come from rough circumstances. I’ll never again be able to turn the light on in the living room without thinking of her because she was afraid of the noise it made. We rescued her and gave her a good home, and she gave us love and gratitude in return.

I’m also grateful for the support I have received at the news of her death. My neighbor’s children, who have always been afraid of dogs, sent me lovely texts saying how much she meant to them and sharing memories of her with us.

My friend Mona brought us dinner, saving me the worry of trying to feed my family. My daughter’s friends reached out to her and sent her love and support, as did many of my friends.

Dog Nature

Greta and I always had a special bond. She was my office mate, my walking partner and my comfort at times of sorrow. She was also known to sit on my face during 2 a.m. thunderstorms.

Greta and I always had a special bond. She was my office mate, my walking partner and my comfort at times of sorrow. She was also known to sit on my face during 2 a.m. thunderstorms.

In dwelling upon why it is so hard to lose a beloved animal, I’ve decided there is no accident that that the word DOG has the same letters as the word GOD.

Dogs are all about love.

Dogs are all about forgiveness.

Dogs don’t pile on layers of complications like we have with people.

Dogs are faithful, loyal companions.

Dogs don’t judge.

Walking with You is My Prayer

At my church, there is a song we sing before we share our Joys and Sorrows. It says -

Walking, walking with you, walking with you is my prayer.
Sharing, sharing with you, sharing with you is my prayer.
Loving, loving you, loving you is my prayer.

That song sums up our lives with Greta. She was in so many ways a prayer. A reminder to be present. A reminder to be grateful. A reminder that love is worth it.

Blessed be, Greta Marie Wooten, 5-14-2019, thank you for being our prayer.

Powering Through Procrastination

procrastination - (n) the action of delaying or postponing something.

This is NOT a photo of me procrastinating. This is a photo of me enjoying one of my favorite things—waterfalls.

This is NOT a photo of me procrastinating. This is a photo of me enjoying one of my favorite things—waterfalls.

Delay, avoid, make excuses, dawdle, dally, drag your feet, postpone—whatever word you use, procrastination can mean big problems for accomplishing your goals.

While I hate to admit this in writing, I procrastinate cleaning. Clutter, dust, dog hair, I’ll think of 10,000 things to do before I get in there and clean. And I’m not kidding — I’ll mow the grass, weed the garden, write 12 emails, schedule lunch —all before I’m willing to take 5 minutes to clean the counter.

But to achieve my goals (like living in a nice environment), I have to buckle down and get the work done.

Work-wise, I never procrastinate client work. I put myself and my business LAST and over the years, I found this is a big mistake. Successful entrepreneurs focus on their business FIRST. When you see them on social media, in my in-box, you know they have more going on that just that post or email, but they are still getting it out the door.

So, what do you do? Regardless of how and why you procrastinate, here’s a few things I’ve found help me get things done (even when I don’t want to do them).

  1. Schedule the work. I’m a stickler for this. YOU CAN’T ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS without making time for them. Dedicate time on your calendar to work on your stuff. I try to remind you of that on Thursdays at 10 a.m., but lately I’ve slipped. That time really needs to be sacred for me and for you!

  2. Outsource the work. If it is super important to you, but you don’t have the time or inclination or are stuck even starting it, outsource. This can be a struggle for an entrepreneur who has limited resources, but there are lots of options. Maybe you can’t completely outsource your social media promotion, but you can get input on your content and help with an editorial calendar.

  3. Get input. If you’ve set your goals, but you don’t know how to achieve them, get help. A Strategy Session with me is a great start. We’ll dive into your goals and come up with a plan for achieving them, so you’ll leave with steps in place to move forward. Whether you work with me or have a trusted advisor you can go to, getting input gets you unstuck.

  4. Find an accountability partner. This has been key in my business and my life. By telling my accountability partner what I’m planning to do puts it out in the world. My pride won’t let me shirk on my own work if I’ve set the goal, scheduled it and shared it.

Now, get out there and get it done! Let me know how I can help.

Celebrate the Joy of Progress

Take a quick stop to celebrate progress, but like the little engine that could, keep chugging towards your goals.

Take a quick stop to celebrate progress, but like the little engine that could, keep chugging towards your goals.

What progress are you making towards your goals?

About 5 minutes ago, I created the first ever draft of a lead magnet for my business. Do you think I did a cheerleader-style hurkey in my office? Or picked up my husband’s old trumpet to blow my horn?

Nope. I slapped myself silly and thought - what took you so long? why is this the first-ever download you’ve created for yourself when you’ve spent years creating things like this for clients?

Luckily, the empowered side of the brain kicked in and I thought "progress.”

You see, to achieve our goals we need to:

  1. Identify the goals

  2. Design a plan to reach them

  3. Make progress towards the plan

  4. Celebrate progress along the way

  5. Reach the goal

  6. Start again

One of the things I’ve been advocating for my clients is to leave judgement behind and celebrate progress. Instead of saying “I should have done it faster, I should have done it better, I should have…’—take a moment and say, ‘wow, I did that. I got that done.

Why? By celebrating progress, we’re motivating ourselves to keep moving towards our goals. We’re using the carrot rather than the stick.

By focusing on our achievements, we reconnect with our motivation—and remember why we’ve set that goal in the first place. Neurologists have been touting the power of positivity for years and this is just one element.

In grad school, I seemed to have this idea down. Between chapters of my thesis, I took the time to read a fun novel, rather than bog myself down with more academia. This little reward refreshed and renewed me and really allowed me to do a better job on the work I still had to do.

Warning: Don’t party too hard and rest on your laurels! Making progress is just one step in reaching your goal. Take a moment to celebrate, give yourselves a reward but don’t lose momentum.

Frankly, it’s easier to continue to move towards our goals when our endorphins are engaged and we’re proud of our accomplishments. Celebrating progress helps us rest, renew and move towards the next stages. And really, we feel better about ourselves.

P.S. My lead magnet will be available soon. While perfection is the enemy, I want another day or two to tweak!

Step 1, to get what you want, you must know what you want.

designyourlife.JPG

I hate grocery shopping…it not the act of shopping that is the problem, it is deciding.

There are so many inputs when it comes to the food I buy— the health conscious literature (constantly changing), the kiddos desires, the hubby’s desire, the how-much-effort-am-I-willing-to-go-to question, the weekly schedule, the cost, the hungry tummy…I’m sure there are more. But, when I take the time to meal plan, I’m 100% better off. I go to the store armed with a list of what to buy and my week goes much better.

Setting Intentions

I’ve found the same to be true for my every part of my life. When I take the time to decide what I want, I can create a plan and achieve it! When I don’t take the time, I don’t reach my goals. This is true for every part of life—if you don’t decide you want to go to Hawaii this year, you’re not going to go.

The longer I’ve lived, the more complicated and hard it seems to be to decide what I want. Like with grocery shopping, there are more and more inputs to consider: family commitments, money, time, daily demands like the grocery shopping and the laundry, fear and anxiety….the list goes on. There can also be a limiting belief that doing this work doesn’t change anything.

Take the Time

Taking the time changes everything! It’s enabled me to launch a new business, go to Yellowstone with the fam, integrate more fun in my life and more!

My approach takes into account the inputs—the basic requirements of life—as well as my own priorities, so I can live more intentionally and align my decisions about how I spend my time with those priorities.

If you’re interested on taking the time to define your intentional life, I’m hosting a workshop on April 13 from 2-5 p.m. to guide you through this process. You’ll set your intentions and create a strategy for meeting them. And you’ll have a lot of fun in the process.

Step by Step - a photo essay and thoughts on hiking and business

Our son Reed contemplating life.

Our son Reed contemplating life.

Last week, our family took a trip to Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. The entire trip was a metaphor for life and business.

The Destination is Far

My daughter Gwen, son Reed and I getting ready to depart on our backpacking trip in the Guadalupe Mountains. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

My daughter Gwen, son Reed and I getting ready to depart on our backpacking trip in the Guadalupe Mountains. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

Honestly, this is the first time I’ve chosen the trail for a backpacking trip. My husband, Jeff, the expert camping and trail master, has always chosen. I picked it based on the blurb on the website that said things like “sudden transition from rocks to trees is refreshing,” “views outstanding,” and “interesting geology.” Somehow, I missed the part that said “strenuous 2000 feet of elevation gain.” My toes are still paying for this error in judgement.

We climbed back and forth, up and down switchbacks and I got to thinking how hiking is like business.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve always chosen my path. I’ve had control over what I am willing to do in exchange for money, who I will do it for and why. Frankly, sometimes it has seemed very strenuous. Switchbacks take the form of distractions, unexpected deadlines, project delays and the never-ending quest to find clients and the ebb and flow of $$.

I’m on the quest to make the trail of entrepreneurship easier, for myself and others, by getting super clear on what I’m doing, who I’m doing it for and why, as well as finding the right approach to getting clients and servicing them—and providing those insights to clients. My destination is a business I love and success in my terms.

Tools of the Trade

mapofguadalupemountains.jpg

Before we strapped on our backpacks in the parking lot of the National Park outpost, we spent time getting organized. Each of us filled up our packs with food, water, flashlights, clothing, a sleeping bag and the essential sleeping pad needed for a night in the back country.

Jeff carried the tent— heavy — and I toted a first aid kit. Gwen lugged extra water—vital and heavy. I also brought my hiking poles to keep me steady both ascending and descending and to give me confidence when the ground is unsteady. We had a map, matches, cooking stove, pot and utensils, as well.

The prep work that went into our backpacking trip also has to go into our businesses. Because I’m service based, I don’t need a ton of tools to do what I do—a computer, my knowledge and experience, a website, a phone. More importantly, something of value to sell to clients. A transformation if you will, that they get from working with me.

I also need a map. The map (my strategy) identifies goals, objectives and how to achieve them. From branding to messaging to service offerings to business development, a map is an essential tool in defining your business. Part of my strategy work is helping others create their own personal business maps. The “here’s where I am and here’s where I want to go,” component of business.

Finally, there’s a team. While I am a solopreneur, I don’t work in a vacuum. I have assembled a group of advisors to collaborate with, get advice from and who hold me accountable for meeting my own goals.

The trail was steep at times, and went through a lot of ups, downs and rocky spots. Kind of like life!

The trail was steep at times, and went through a lot of ups, downs and rocky spots. Kind of like life!

Life and Death/ Barbs and Prickles

Our son, Reed, tripped and pricked his hands on a plant something like this. Prickly things can hurt and slow down the progress.

Our son, Reed, tripped and pricked his hands on a plant something like this. Prickly things can hurt and slow down the progress.

One of the first backpacking trips I went on was in the Grand Canyon. The Park Rangers’ lecture had me quaking in my boots. “A $3000 fine if we have to helicopter lift you out of the canyon,” they warned. This time, the warning was about mountain lions. Casually, the Ranger said “you’ve hiked in mountain lion country, right? You know what to do?” I gulped before saying “Get large, right?”

Luckily, we had no run ins with mountain lions, but the warning reminded us of the dangers our being in the wild. Preparation is essential. A healthy respect for the wild and for our own limitations is paramount.

Business feels like life and death at times. The ebbs and flows of finances, the idea that “If I don’t get that project, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

In business and in hiking, the response to life and death situations is the same:

  • Don’t panic. Really, it doesn’t help anything.

  • Act large. Be confident and know that things will work out, even if not the way you expected.

  • Use the map. If you don’t have one, get one!

  • Take it step-by-step, one thing at a time. .

Now, get out there and climb that mountain, whether figuratively or literally! The accomplishment feels great. Please let me know if I can help you create the map to help you get where you want to go.

What Derails You?

Photo by Jeff Wooten

Photo by Jeff Wooten

Recently, I told a friend I felt very derailed. In my mind, the train (my life) was completely off the track, cars blown everywhere, grooves in the earth, the train tracks peeling up.

My friend waited a moment and said “you’re not derailed, just held up. The train will just be later than expected.”

Wow. Game changer.

Just reframing that negative thought made a HUGE difference. Instead of being completely stopped and unable to move forward with my goals, I was paused. Instead of needing a crane or another large and expensive piece of equipment to move me forward, I could just take a breath and know that when I was ready, I could begin again.

What “Derails” You?

Let’s take a minute and think about what derails you from working on your goals. (Or maybe we should just say, causes you to pause).

In my case, it is frequently family. My father was in the hospital and my parents needed some support. My kids also derail me—sickness, holidays, sports….I could make this whole blog about how kids derail us but I won’t.

We’ve all had it happen. Illness, exhaustion, shiny object syndrome can cause us to get off track.

Frequently, it is my own mindset that derails me. When I lack motivation, when fear rears its ugly head, when I start comparing myself to others, I can get off track, in the weeds and down in the dumps (to borrow a few metaphors).

Where are you Off Track ?

When thinking about what slows down your progress, notice what part of life you’re working on. Does your attitude about things change if we’re talking about a diet or a plan to meet a friend versus a sales opportunity?

It seems for much of my adult life, I’ve been on a diet. Somehow, eating a piece of cake (surely a derailing activity for any diet), doesn’t seem to impact me as much as much as when I’m thrown off from a business goal. When I have the cake, I’m able notice how I feel after eating it (yum, delicious but gave me a headache), and remind myself I can make a better choice for my next meal.

Get Back On Track

Really, it’s all about choosing the way you THINK. Your mindset, if you will. The human brain is conditioned to think in an all or nothing mentality. If I can’t throw my entire self into this endeavor, if I can’t do things perfectly, I won’t do it at all.

Whoa. If that is our attitude, how can we ever accomplish anything?

Life frequently throws obstacles in the way. Just like the diet/cake choice, we have to decide what’s important and know we’ll have the opportunity to make another choice soon. In my case, my family is important. While it isn’t always easy or comfortable to choose them first, I don’t regret it.

What I need to do is remember I have a choice. I can choose to think I did the right thing thing and everything will be okay, rather than feeling stuck or off track. I mean, really, things always work out.

I can also make the choice to move forward with my goals. Even if I’m paused at the station, I can plan my next steps and schedule when to take them. If I can’t take action today, I can make a plan that will move me forward on my "train trip,” while making choices where and when to stop along the way.

After all, it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.

Final Words

Make choices about how you think. Reframe your negative thoughts. Celebrate your own progress while working towards your goals.

Good luck and let me know if I can help.

An Example of Empowerment: Michelle Austell

Michelle Austell embodies empowerment to me.

Michelle Austell embodies empowerment to me.

Meet one of my heroes and a client, Michelle Austell. She embodies the empowerment I’ve been writing about in the past few blogs.

When I met Michelle, she was ready for a change but didn’t know what that looked like. In fact, she reached out to me to develop a new website for her. When I started asking her a few more questions, I learned she was a CPA and did taxes, but wanted something else. We worked together to create a plan for her future.

How does Michelle bestow the attributes of an empowered woman?

Awareness

Michelle woke up and realized taxes just weren’t for her any more. Despite having been in the tax world for a lot of years, having a profitable book of business and being in a partnership, she decided to make a shift because she needed it.

Trust in Herself

It took a leap of faith for Michelle to let her find another accountant and let clients know she was moving on. Not only was she letting go of some wonderful clients, but she was also letting go of her major source of income for 20 or so years. Michelle had to rely on a deep faith (trust) in herself that she was doing the right thing and that she would be able to support herself in her next endeavor.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Michelle works hard to be the best person she can be, to have loving relationships and remain peaceful in her day-to-day life. She’s learned not to take anything personally, even when she’s having difficult conversations.

Working it Through

Michelle went through a process that culminated in the decision to leave her tax practice. She had to figure out what else she wanted to do. Along the way, she faced the enemies of fear, doubt, hope, distraction and ultimately a commitment to follow through on her dreams. I was lucky to be a part of some of that process. We held several strategy sessions to explore her new endeavor, walking through what kind of work she loves, the type of people she wants to work with and where she feels she could provide the most benefit.

She said this after one of the sessions:

“I was able to openly share my roadblocks and be honest about what I truly want. The ability to talk and let you take the notes, organize my thoughts, was incredibly freeing.”

What Empowerment Looks Like for Michelle

Today, Michelle operates outsourced accounting and CFO services. Still in her wheelhouse, she uses her financial prowess and tax background to free her clients from the stress of managing the finances while offering valuable insight into their business growth and opportunities.

Whether she realizes it or now, Michelle is empowered. She has learned to lift herself up. to trust herself, to do things without fear of judgement (or at least not as much judgement as she would have felt before being empowered). While each day is not perfect, she’s chosen a new path and is making it work.

Kudos to Michelle for her hard work and commitment.

Empowerment Part 4: Awareness

My son, Reed, crossing the finish line of his first triathlon at age 7. Athletes use awareness to stay present in the game, keep their focus and reach their goals. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

My son, Reed, crossing the finish line of his first triathlon at age 7. Athletes use awareness to stay present in the game, keep their focus and reach their goals. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? The kind where everything went wrong and you were mired in misery and all you could do was feel bad? I used to have days like this, until I learned how to be aware.

Probably the most important tool I’ve learned on my path to empowerment is AWARENESS. It started during a rough time in my life, when I was experiencing frequent flashbacks, headaches and an overall sense of stress from a negative altercation. When I read this wonderful book Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Phillip Moffitt, I learned how to be aware; I learned that I was NOT my feelings and I learned what all the hubub about being present meant. Being present brings peace because you aren’t thinking about the past or the future, just the moment you are in.

Get Out of Drama

Becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings helped me step out of the drama of the moment so that I could determine how to proceed. By becoming aware of these feelings, I could remind myself I was having an emotional response due the situation I was in and that I could adjust.

Before I read the book, I didn’t understand the value of being present, I didn’t realize my thoughts could change or that they weren’t always true.

Linked to mindfulness, awareness has enabled me to really hear the negative whispers that I get on occasion. The “you can’t do that,” or the “he doesn’t like you,” messages that can hinder my progress. Before I learned this technique, I just believed these thoughts…they were background noise to my already noisy mind and I didn’t realize I had the power to notice, question and eliminate these ideas.

When I notice I’m having negative thoughts, I can acknowledge them and let them go without judgement. “Oh, you’re feeling afraid that you can’t speak in front of that audience. Good to know,” or “Wow, that statement really hurt your feelings. Interesting.” By noticing and acknowledging the feelings, they go away quicker and allow me to move forward.

The Moment Matters

Awareness also keeps me in the moment. When I notice my thoughts running amok, I can bring them back to the moment, whether I be speaking to someone, cooking dinner or taking a walk.

Sports psychologists teach athletes to do this—to stay focused on the moment, not the mistake they just made or the words of a coach or an opponent. Surgeons must do this when cutting into a patient—staying focused on the moment rather than the morning’s argument with their child or the grocery list.

That Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day

So, when you’re in the midst of the very bad moment, what do you do? You breathe. You take a minute and notice your feelings. You then acknowledge the feeling and try to gain a bit of perspective on what it’s about. Then, you come back to the present—whether you’re stirring the soup or writing an article. You laugh, if you can, and you repeat the process if you need to.

When I was in the throws of learning this, I truly had to repeat it frequently. I would get get lost in my own thoughts, in pretend conversations and not even notice I wasn’t present in my body. It took time.

Reaching Our Goals

As I said in my last post, the point of my blog is to help you get out of your own way so that you can reach your goals. To reach your goals you need awareness—awareness of your goals and why they are important to you. You’ll also need awareness when things pop in the way of your achieving them, whether they be your thoughts, fears, an email or text, social media.

We all must practice awareness—to stay focused on our goals, on the life we want to live, the people who are important to us, each and every day.

Empowerment Part 3: Don't take anything personally.

Taking things personally steals your peace. We need all the peace we can get.

Taking things personally steals your peace. We need all the peace we can get.

“Don’t take anything personally.”

Yeah, right, I thought, how is that even possible?

My entire life, I had heard I was too sensitive, too hard on myself and didn’t know how to take a joke. The advice to stop taking things personally seemed impossible, unattainable and frankly, crazy.

Then I started attending a women’s group called Inner Evolution. Their 16 Steps to Freedom have helped me in my quest to be empowered. More than empowered, it helps me remain peaceful.

Step 11, the one that says “Don’t take anything personally,” continues: “It’s about them, not you. And what they think about you is variable, out of your control and none of your business.”

The people pleaser in me could not relate to this idea at all. What someone thinks of ME is not MY BUSINESS? How can I control their opinion of me if I don’t know what it is?

Exactly the point. When you really begin to practice the idea of not taking anything personally, it completely frees you.

Think about it - a life Changer for me

Don Miguel Ruiz lists “Don’t take anything personally” as his second agreement in The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book. He says that when we take things personally, we are agreeing with whatever is being said. As soon as you agree, the poison of negativity goes through you.

Taking things personally keeps you trapped in the idea that the world is all about you. That people are always thinking of you. That you have control.

If someone says “I don’t like Laura” how does this statement impact me? It may hurt my feelings, but is it true? Does it mean I am not likable? Does it mean I am not a valuable person? Does it mean anything?

What if someone doesn’t return my call? Does that mean they hate me, don’t want to work with me, are rejecting me? Maybe. Maybe they are just busy, their dog died or something else. It isn’t about me. It’s about whatever is going on in their life.

What if I completed a project and the client said they didn’t like the way I managed it?

Ouch, right? Does that mean I am not a good project manager? Does it mean the work I contributed did not have value?

Maybe. Maybe not. Frequently, a client’s dislike of what happened comes from deep within themselves, from unrealistic expectations or from some other arena that isn’t my business. I do need to take the time to hear what they have to say and learn from it, but the lessons I take away aren’t all about me.

Our view of the world is skewed. We make it about us—and our natural protective tendencies look for enemies trying to get us. This is natural, but in a big and complex world, it isn’t realistic. Viewing ourselves at the center of everything can cause us to feel like a victim, doubt ourselves and feel bad when we recognize we aren’t perfect.

Does this make sense?

I’ve tried to share this idea with others, especially when they have been criticized for something, and it usually flops. It seems pretty radical to not care. “Of course this is about me,” they say. “They are rejecting me!”

Are they? It’s hard to say what is going on in someone else’s mind.

The things others don’t like about us frequently are mirrors for the things they don’t like about themselves or how they are viewing the world at that moment.

Practice Makes Perfect

This is a hard one. You have to practice, and like crow pose in yoga, you don’t always get it right. It may help to try this new perspective by watching for it with friends or your children. For example, when my teenager tells me someone has said something rude to her, it is so easy to see how the speaker was jealous, angry, or just wanted to exert some power.

Why am I writing about this?

Focus Your Brilliance is about helping clients create their definition of success. It’s about clarity, vision and a plan. My goal with these blogs is to help eliminate anything that detracts from your ability to move forward, whether we’re working together or not.

Taking things personally causes suffering that isn’t yours. You take on other’s suffering rather than choosing to love and trust yourself.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Empowerment: Trust Yourself

Lake Superior at Sunset. A place to contemplate trust. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

Lake Superior at Sunset. A place to contemplate trust. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

I got new glasses recently. They are pretty cool—Tom Ford’s with a fancy detail on the hinge. When they came in, I had that scared feeling in the pit of my stomach “Oh no, what if I didn’t get the right pair of glasses?”

Well, luckily, there are no spectacle police out haunting the suburbs in Texas, ready to throw me in “bad-look- for-you jail.”

The only one coming down hard on my choice of glasses is me, myself and I.

In the big scheme of things, glasses are pretty minor. But the fact that I’d already bought them and was wearing them meant I should have put that decision behind myself and moved on. I should have trusted my decision in the first place.

This lack of trust shows up in so many ways. The other day, I had a meeting with a potential client and was getting some bad vibes. She seemed nice enough and clearly wanted to work with me, but I had a gut reaction that was saying no. My rational side was saying “Laura, her money is just as green as anyone’s,” but my intuition was telling me to run and hide.

Your Intuition Matters

Jen Sincero talks about intuition in 10 Secrets to Being a Baddass. She says “hone, listen and trust your intuition” and recommends asking for guidance from your intuition.

Personal friend, life coach, mojo whisperer and author of Little Book of Big Mojo says “When you learn how to trust your intuition, you learn how to trust yourself.” She warns that intuition whispers to us, it doesn’t shout and that when we ignore it, the results show up in bad jobs, unhealthy relationships, poor health and money problems.

Why is it so hard to trust yourself?

Truly, I believe we start out in this world trusting ourselves, sure of our position in the world and knowing exactly what we want to do. Yet we unlearn this quickly by the constraints of society and of loving parents who want to keep us safe.

We learn that pleasing others is the safe route.

That choosing money over happiness is the safe route.

That hiding in the back of the classroom is the safe route.

Ego is the culprit. Ego wants everything to be about ME, how I look, how I act, my reputation. It controls and manipulates us, judges us and can stop us from taking important actions to protect us from vulnerability, embarrassment, and shame.

Give Credit Where Credit’s Due

Take some time and think about where you trust yourself and where you don’t.

  • Do you drive a car? Check. You trust yourself to navigate to a location, through the elements and the other crazy drivers out there.

  • Do you swim? Check. You trust yourself not to drown.

  • Do you work? Check. You trust yourself and your abilities to get the job done.

  • Do you recommend a movie you like? Check. You trust your opinion and don’t fear judgement from someone who disagrees.*

  • Do you post on social media? Check. You trust that your comments are worthy.

While these may seem mundane, the nuggets of self trust are there. Start noticing when you don’t want to do things—and see if it is related to your trust in yourself. Then decide what you need to do.

There are times I don’t trust my ability to climb a ladder, to stand up for myself or to use the bbq grill (I have a fear of fire). Evaluate which areas of these are self-improvement projects and which are things you can work around. I can hire someone to climb a ladder, my husband is great on the bbq grill, but as for standing up for myself. I need to trust myself for that. It’s pretty important.

Empowerment Starts with Trust

To be empowered, you must trust yourself. You must know you’ve got what it takes. You must know that that inner voice, the one that whispers but doesn’t shout, is worth listening to. That inner guide will take you places your ego won’t — and who knows what you’ll discover on the way?

*True story. I used to never give my opinion of things out of fear of judgement. I didn’t trust my opinion and I cared too much about what others thought. That was before I became empowered.

Entering the Empowerment Stage: A Series

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Empowered, like a lioness, confidently awaiting her prey

Okay, that may be taking it too far!

After having been through the stages of…

  • kick-yourself-in-the-ass

  • shame and despair

  • mom-on-the-go

  • optimistic-entrepreneur
    (to name a few)

…it seems about time for a new approach.

So, I’ve decided to enter the Empowerment Stage of Life.

The impetus for the change was a situation with my daughter. We needed to determine if there was going to be a consequence for a mistake she made. My husband and I discussed the approaches we could take:

  • Disciplinary/Punitive

  • Indulgent

  • BFF

  • Permissive

  • Disengaged

  • Bill collector (except she has no money)

I finally suggested Empowerment (which I hadn’t even realized was an option until it popped into my brain).

Even though I used to be president of the mean mom’s club, I’m kind of done with the kick-your-ass approach to parenting. I’m ready to enter the Empowerment Stage.

So, I chose to offer my daughter faith in her abilities, along with a small consequence, and thus empower her with my love and trust. (Disclaimer: This may not work for all kids. I have a great daughter—responsible, smart, not entitled, so it works for us).

This whole parental dilemma woke me up a bit. While I offer an empowering and encouraging approach to my children and clients, I’m not so good at it for myself.

So, I’m declaring it here, I’m entering the Empowerment Stage.

What is Empowerment to me?

Lifting myself up rather than putting myself down.

Trusting myself rather than assuming I’m out to get me. (like, right?).

Not worrying about what others think (working on it).

Doing my thing without fear of judgement (even my own).

Helping when I can.

Saying No when I need to, but Yes when I want to.

Being true to me.

In other words, giving myself the love and trust I give my kids.

My next few blogs will begin my Empowerment series. It’s a work in progress—you’ll know when I know.

Removing Your Obstacles and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

 
Ganesh. photo by Gwen Wooten

Ganesh. photo by Gwen Wooten

 

A few months ago, Ganesh showed up on my regular walking route. If you aren’t familiar with Ganesh, he is the Hindu god of wisdom, success and good luck. But maybe more importantly, Ganesh is the remover of obstacles.

I was so happy to see Ganesh along my route. As a lover of folklore, mythology and magic (anything from Harry Potter to Tom Robbins), it felt like a sign that my path will be smooth from here on out. But it also got me thinking about the obstacles that get in our way and how we can overcome them.

Obstacles We Face

  1. Money.

  2. Time.

  3. Procrastination.

  4. Distractions.

I’m sure you can come up with a few more obstacles that impact your life, but can you pull a Ganesh and help remove them?

In many cases, these obstacles are absolutely true—if we choose to believe them. Instead of making them insurmountable obstacles, let’s recognize them for what they are: limiting beliefs.

WARNING: Limiting beliefs can stop us before we even get started.

When something is a priority, when we really commit to it, we find the time, we find the money, we WILL find the resources to get it done.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

So, how do we pull a Ganesh and free ourselves from the limiting beliefs that plague us. I won’t claim to be an expert on this as I’m battling my own, but here’s the process I’m going through.

  1. Recognize limiting beliefs for what they are. Acknowledge that these beliefs are really excuses that mean you don’t have to change your life in any way. Understand what is holding you back—is it fear?

  2. Delve into the fear. I know, yuck. But dive right in and understand what it is about. Is it fear of change? Or maybe it’s about failure or embarrassment or that you’re not smart enough. Knowing what the fear is about starts you on the path to overcoming it.

  3. Notice Anytime we want to stop a behavior, we have to be on the lookout for it. When those negative thoughts on time, money, friends, intelligence, crop up, NOTICE.

  4. Create Unlimiting Beliefs. Once you’ve noticed the limiting belief, you can turn it around. If it is about time, try saying “There is no shortage of time. I have exactly the amount of time I need.” You may even choose to create affirmations to change your way of thinking.

  5. Commit. Stay focused on whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.

When something is a priority, when we really commit to it, we find the time, money and resolve to get it done. Overcoming limiting beliefs is the difference between achieving and not achieving our goals.

More Ideas

Byron Katie’s 4-questions are a great tools. I’ve written about these before, but the are so brilliant that they bear repeating: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it's true? (Yes or no) How do you react (what happens?) when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought?

Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Deepak Chopra and other gurus have written about this topic. Take the wisdom and put it into practice. I can’t wait to see what you achieve.

Commitment is my personal word of the year!

One of my commitments is our new-ish puppy, Koa.

One of my commitments is our new-ish puppy, Koa.

For 2019, I have a word. My word is COMMITMENT. Like the puppy I recently adopted, this word will accompany me, wake up with me and guide me (even pull me with the leash). (And speaking of commitment—that puppy is a joy, but also a job!).

What is a Word of the Year?

As the new years rolls through, people adopt a variety of rituals to begin the year with a clean slate—resolutions, vision boards, gym memberships, black eyed peas, etc. This year, I’m joining the likes of Melinda Gates and choosing a Word for the Year to provide guidance, define my intentions and help me with my goals.

A Word of the Year should reflect the mood or preoccupation you want to have going forward. It should be a gentle reminder to keep your eye on your goals—unlike a resolution, which I find shaming when I don’t meet it.

My word is COMMITMENT and it resonates with me for all areas of my life. From whether to go to the gym in the morning, take my vitamins, call a friend to how I proceed with my business. COMMITMENT doesn’t mean I have to say YES to everything. Instead, it means I need to make a decision, stop waffling, and move forward. Phew, I feel better just saying this.

Choosing Your Word

Ironically, I didn’t go through a big list to find the word. It just came to me. I can’t even describe the process. It was just there, ready for me and I was ready for it.

I recommend the no-stress, let it come, approach. I did a Facebook Live on the word of the year and a friend quickly came up with the word REINVENT. Melinda Gates’ word is GRACE. A coach I’ve worked with has used the word RESPONSIBILITY and offers a list of examples of what she calls Power Words in her blog.

Your Word of the Year shouldn’t take a lot of work. It should come naturally to you and feel right. A quick Google search found this blog post with additional advice on choosing the word. If you don’t feel super strongly about the word you are choosing, you can try the Word of the Year generator and see what it comes up with. (It gave me BLESS, which is lovely and maybe I’ll just try to remember to feel blessed all year long, too).

My Latest Commitment

Another thing I’m committing to is my business this year—creating strategies for small businesses and entrepreneurs that give them clarity, purpose and a plan. I’m hosting a 2019 Strategy Event next week, January 10, and I’d love to have you. The event has required a lot of commitment. And I can’t wait for it to happen.

Crafting Your Offering

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In my last post, I wrote about the process of starting something new for your business. In this post, I want to tell you about crafting offerings.

My whole business arose from a Mastermind. I met 1:1 with the members and conducted business strategy sessions. Here, I discovered the value I provided. My Mastermind colleagues turned the strategy we created into action.

When it came time for me to create my offerings, I looked at the strategy sessions I had done over the years (even before I named them). I also took to heart the words of Jeanine Blackwell of The Expert Called You, and focused not on the work I was doing for clients, but on the TRANSFORMATION they experienced. In other words, the results.

My Process

I looked at the work I had been doing and asked myself:

  • What were the themes for each strategy session?

  • What were the clients’ results?

Then I took the answers to these questions and sorted them into categories to find the themes, the types of clients and the delivery mechanism.

Your Process

Your questions may differ from mine a bit, but start by answering a few questions:

  • What do you love to do?

  • Who is your audience?

  • What are your audience’s biggest problems?

  • What special knowledge do you have?

  • And most importantly, what TRANSFORMATION do you provide your clients?

You may need to adjust your questions a bit, but this is a great place to start.

My Results

When I categorized the work I had done for folks, here’s how it boiled down:

  1. Vision. My clients were either tweaking little parts of their business or completely revamping things as a result of our sessions.

  2. Content. My clients had a ton of expertise that they needed help sharing it in a meaningful way to their audiences. These sessions resulted in ideas for books, courses, blogs, sales magnets AND the structure for those content pieces. In the case of Keisha Gallegos, a book!

  3. Launch. Not only did we come up with a vision and structure, my clients were ready to launch! Working together, we refined their offerings and created materials to get them out in the world.

Once I knew the RESULTS I was helping my clients achieve, I was able to put together my packages and clearly articulate the value.

Your Results

As they say on tv, results will vary. You have to put the effort in. Do the work. Let me know if I can help.

Dedicated Work Time

Set a time to work on your business. Join me each Thursdays at 10 a.m. CT for Laser Focus Sessions on my Facebook page. I kick us off on Facebook Live for with a quick discussion and then ask you to post your goals and intentions in the comments. This is a dedicated time to focus on your business with accountability, support and motivation.

A little bit new? Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap is an audible and visual warning system on the London Underground to warn people of the gap between the train door and the station platform. It is also a great metaphor for the space between—in business and in life.

Mind the Gap is an audible and visual warning system on the London Underground to warn people of the gap between the train door and the station platform. It is also a great metaphor for the space between—in business and in life.

Is your work stagnant? Are you getting the results you want? Do your clients make you mad? Every so often, we all need to take some time to evaluate our businesses—get a sense of what’s working and what’s not working, and what our target audience needs from us.

How do you start:

  1. Ask what’s working in your business. Knowing what’s right not only feels good, but it helps you to stay laser focused.

  2. Ask what’s not working in your business. Is it the type of clients you’re working with, the work you’re doing, the amount of time you’re spending, or something else?

  3. Mind (find) the gap between what’s working and what’s not working. You may need some help in this process--it’s hard to be objective when you’re talking about yourself.

I recently went through this process myself.

What was working? When I met 1:1 with clients to help them discover a strategy or identify their brilliance so they could create their own copy to .

What wasn’t working? I had lost energy and excitement about my work. My elevator speech wouldn’t convince me to hire myself.

The Gap: The biggest gap was that the strategy came as an afterthought, as a benefit of knowing me, and wasn’t my main focus.

Sadly, it took me a few years to figure all of this out.

In my next few blogs, I’ll talk more about developing offerings based on this process and one of my clients who recently revamped her entire business.

Let me know if you need some helping finding perspective.

Laura