Pass

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Stylist Audrey Coyne motivated me to take a second look at my closet when she sang the praises of dressing in a single palette with different accent colors. Focusing on the clothes that went in the “Donate” pile would have been looking the wrong way. The real test was to discover and keep everything indispensable.

That insight can also be applied to the way you use your energy, the topic of the April series, Energy Balancers. This month we’ve talked about behaviors that block the flow of energy, like negative scripts that run in your subconscious or scattering your attention. Slipping into the same, old decision-making patterns can be just as dangerous. Since you’ve spent the month working on a clean slate, have you thought about what comes next?

In a Spring update video, Audrey made an interesting comment: Every fashionable woman knows when to say, “Pass!” on seasonal trends that wouldn’t work for them. You can apply that same concept to managing your day. When you think about what’s in the pipeline for the next six months, is your calendar filled with other people’s versions of what you should be doing, just like a suit or pair of shoes a sales person convinced you to buy? A key Soul Boss idea is to combine your passionate instincts with your shrewd intellect. But you can’t connect to your essential self if your day is randomized around someone else’s vision about what should be important.

There’s good news: A new season is the perfect time for a reboot. So, start saying a good-natured, “Pass!”, or even make it your new mantra. Let’s look at some of the places where you could say “Pass!” How about:

  • Pass on using your friend’s edge case business hacks that are more risk than reward;
  • Pass on taking the bait for petty arguments that never get resolved and always ruin your day;
  • Pass on business, romantic and community partnerships where you’re having second thoughts about the red flags that just keep popping up; and
  • Pass on owning someone else’s belief that you can and should fix all their problems.

Do you feel your energy stabilizing already? That’s because you’ve found an elegant way to stay in balance. It’s just like politely saying to an enthusiastic sales person, “That color wouldn’t work for me,” or “I love that suit, but it doesn’t fit my budget right now.” Life starts to easily fall into place when you detach from things that no longer fit. Step by step, you have time and energy for the people, places and things that are a natural match for the person you’re becoming.

This week, you may have the equivalent of an empty closet, and you could be excited to fill it up with interesting opportunities and new people. But before you start spending your energy by saying, “Yes!”, practice saying, “Pass!” a time or two.

Keeping your energy in balance is simple: Ensure the activities you invest in reflect your priorities.

Hustling Is Exhausting

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The woman behind me in the grocery line was talking a mile a minute on her cell phone. In no time flat, I knew why.

She was thrilled in the Fall when they spontaneously purchased their forever home in a ski resort town. There were just a few wrinkles. They already owned in the area, and her husband didn’t plan to retire for at least five years.

Still, the new place was just too good to pass up. She was working through the questions of what to keep or move, but progress was slow because she had to consider their local house and what should be transferred from their primary home two states away. They thought her husband’s recent promotion had given them plenty of financial air cover. Sorting through the fine points would come later.

Guess what? Later came. And it brought So. Many. Details. Juggling three mortgages had turned into a hot mess with no end in sight.

“Hustle” has become a common concept. The positive side means to get going, to look sharp, or be on your game. But the woman’s story is important for the April series, Energy Balancers, because it shows how “hustle” can be a fancy cover-up for desperate, impulsive energy that makes you go around in circles. And that kind of hustling is exhausting.

So, how do you change the meaning of hustling so it’s not the same as anxiety or high-pressure? The answer is to harness your energy so it’s working at your direction instead of running the show. If you want a style icon, look no further than Buddha Doodles creator, Molly Hahn. Here’s a Facebook post before she moved last Summer: “In the last two weeks, I’ve drawn 430 storyboards, celebrated my 35th birthday, tended to a VERY sick kitty, had an art show in LA, packed up my entire apartment, and still managed to sneak in a party or two… #WONDERWOMAN”.

Is Molly hyper-busy? Yes. But she’s reinterpreted hustling to be “intense purpose.” She’s channeled her ultra-creative personality and raw energy into positive, demonstrable results.

You’ll know you’re on the edge of the bad kind of hustle this week whenever you find yourself rushing, out of breath, or feeling flustered. You can get back onto a firm foundation by remembering that your best decisions happen when you’re calm and clear-minded.

That technique applies as well if you’re on the receiving end of hustling. Staying the boss of your energy starts with managing your inbox. Delete marketing mails with scary headlines like, “Last chance!” or “Are you coming?!” without reading them. Also, get more information about the consequence of a missed deadline if the timing leaves you panic-stricken. I’ve often found that, “I MUST have this by 5:00” really means, “The world won’t go crack at 5:05, but I’d like to have a clean desk before I leave for vacation.”

Declare your independence from the fear of missing out and give hustling the week off.  If you’re ready to take a quantum leap forward, replace it with powerful keywords like “excited,” “enthusiastic,” “whole-hearted,” “magnetic” and “driven.”

Lose the Layers

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Are your 2018 intentions materializing in a stop-start way, where you feel like you’re all over the board? Relax—the antidote is to get your energy back in balance. Not balanced like a world-class gymnast or house of cards. Think “stable,” “strong” and “steady.”  We’ll talk about how to do that in the April series, Energy Balancers.

Energy matters, because we’re creating all the time. It’s up to you whether you want to direct your time toward what’s for lunch or an artistic masterpiece! Using energy in an intentional way sounds easy until you factor in your personal history, which may be filled with disappointment and pain. Finding balance starts by transforming those blocks into powerful wisdom, a key Soul Boss tenet.

I learned about handling blocks the hard way when my washing machine overflowed. There was good news and bad news: Everything was all right inside the house, but the pipe leading to the street had layer upon layer of roots growing from a neighbor’s tree. Imagine the buzzkill when the plumber couldn’t get the clogged pipe fixed for a few days (and I’ll spare you the colorful details)!

Likewise, you want a clean pipeline for your energy. You may feel clear while you’re writing a daily goal list or spending a few minutes in meditation, but what happens when your subconscious kicks in? You’re in good company if you find yourself thinking thoughts like these when you’re walking down the hall, commuting to work or hanging out at home:

  • Disappointment – “What’s the use? It didn’t work out before.”
  • Resentment – “Why does someone else get all the good breaks?”
  • Rejection – “No one gets me,” or “I have trouble connecting with people. People always dump on me and betray me.”
  • Uncertainty – “I should get going, but I’m just not motivated.”

Letting those unproductive, silent scripts run in the background every waking hour is like fertilizing the small roots tangled up in my pipe. Good may ultimately find its way to you, but it’s going to have to work pretty hard to get through all the layers!

Maybe you already know what’s bothering you, but here’s the million-dollar question: Are you willing to take the next step and let it go? That’s what happened when the sewer man diagnosed the problem. I didn’t get in his way arguing, “Wait! I need to keep watering those weeds!” In minutes, he ground up the roots and the water flowed beautifully.

So, the next time “Why does someone else get all the good breaks?” pops into your mind, transform that block with the statement, “Opportunities are everywhere for me.” If that feels like wishful thinking, temper your delivery. For example, “In the past, I faced limitations. But now opportunities are everywhere for me.”

Stagnant energy, which is simply fear, in every form—constant worries, unprocessed emotions causing you physical pain, and people and situations taking up space in your heart—undermines everything good. If you’re ready to be in the flow, lose the layers.

Good Find Friday: 21 Compromise Affirmations

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Compromise can be an uncomfortable topic, but you’ve made it to the end of the month! Now anchor what you’ve learned in The Third Way series about changing stress and struggle into peace by using affirmations.

The ideas below will get you started, but remember to customize them. The name of the game is to create statements that work for you.

Keep making those smart choices, Soul Bosses. Enjoy!

Perfect the Art of Finding Solutions

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“I swear, getting this new car is going to kill me!” said the woman next to me as she sat down with her friend. “My wife is chomping at the bit to take a test drive, but I’m still on the fence.”

Have you ever felt like the woman above? Someone else is hitting the gas, racing ahead, while you’re frantically trying to tap the brakes? That’s the perfect time to find the sweet spot between “your way” and “my way.” That’s the practice we’ve been talking about in the March topic, The Third Way.

It was hard to ignore the next table over. The lady loudly detailed the push-pull that had gone on for weeks. On the one hand, their car was starting to spend more time at the shop than it was in their garage. Her spouse was off and running, thinking how much joy their new car would bring as they took it up and down the Pacific coast on Summer family trips.

Meanwhile, her wife was nervous about the numbers. Balancing a car payment with the money they were socking away into their teenagers’ college fund was going to be a stretch.

The couple were at odds, but in a sense, they were also in sync. Why? Because they were each playing to their strengths. The storyteller was the rudder of the family, understanding the effect of a big purchase, both on their daily checking account balance and in the long run. Her wife counter-balanced her as the outspoken cheerleader, optimist and good-natured instigator. For their family, each perspective was equally important.

Their story points out the tension we all face in finding the third way. Designing solutions that work for everyone rarely happens when you’re bickering over who is in charge or who has the better argument. The third way appears when you harmonize diverse ideas and balance them with tolerance.

This month, we’ve learned how to use the third way to step away from struggle. We’ve flipped the bit on the traditional thinking that compromise makes you weak. Instead, we’ve made it synonymous with “being practical,” “showing wisdom,” and “maturity.” When you redefine compromise in those terms, navigating differences of opinion becomes a natural part of daily life. For example:

  • In Go Beyond a Black and White World, we saw how Elena’s career challenge was internal. She had to resolve day-to-day realities with the aspirational movie that had been playing in her head.
  • In The Most Generous Thing, Jana understood that you vs. me always fails. She avoided a showdown with her contractor by replacing panic and micromanaging with patience.
  • Resign as Know It All showed how Martha and Sheryl had completely opposite work styles. Whenever they were at an impasse, they stepped back and changed the focus to their single common goal.

Discovering the third way takes practice. But it’s essential because without it, the high-minded principles we aspire to every day go out the window the second we’re in conflict. Don’t let old patterns of falling into aggravation and offense become the boss of you. Let’s leave those habits in the past, and make this the year we perfect the art of finding solutions.

Resign As Know It All

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Have you ever been so sure of the answers that you tuned out? There’s just one thing wrong with having everything figured out: It doesn’t leave space for new or different ideas. You lock yourself into binary, your way/my way thinking, the subject of the March series, The Third Way.

When I ran into Martha, it had been a week since her showdown with the PTA President, but she was still upset. “I knew chairing the homecoming carnival at my kid’s new school would be a ton of work, but I thought I’d have some fun along the way. I’d always gotten along with Sheryl, but up close? She’s a nightmare! She weighs in on every idea I propose. It’s like there’s some secret rule book I don’t know about,” she groaned.

A few months later, I braced myself for the update. Imagine my surprise as she arrived upbeat and relaxed.

“After a tense planning meeting, one of the board members offered to take me out. Frankly, I was ready to spend lunchtime complaining, but then she told me about the countless hours Sheryl spent volunteering at school. How education was a real passion for her. By the end of the meal, I realized my assumptions about her were all wrong,” Martha explained, looking away. “What we wanted was absolutely the same—a great experience for everyone who attended with plenty of fundraising for the after-school arts program. How we got there? That was another matter. Our work methods are always going to be different. But whenever we clashed, we would work things out by asking, ‘What’s best for the kids?’ We ended up with a great event.”

Martha’s story is important because it shows how easy it is to make assumptions, especially when you have a lot to do. However, connecting the dots can mean that you’re jumping to conclusions that might not exist. Like Martha, a bad interaction or two begins to cloud your judgment. Before you know it, you’ve written the relationship off.

You may find yourself at odds with someone right now. If you think you’ve got it under control, check in with your body. Are your shoulders tight whenever you see them? Is your breathing shallow when you try to have a conversation? Those are physical demonstrations of how you’ve shut down. And if your body is that tense, imagine how much you’ve closed your heart and mind.

Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to take a big leap of faith and consider that what you think about someone or something might be wrong, or at least a little inaccurate. Make this the week you happily resign the title of Know It All and open yourself to the possibility that there is more to understand, or like Martha, something wonderful to discover. Then redirect your focus from the long list of things that divide you to what you have in common, even if that is only a single goal. That’s how you find the third way.

The Most Generous Thing

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Writer Isabel Allende is known for her passion. Passionate stories, like The House of the Spirits. Passionate romance, like her famous crush on actor Antonio Banderas. And passionate opinions. Anytime her passions were taking over, she would call her daughter, Paula, for advice. Paula would listen thoughtfully to her mother’s fiery arguments and then would say, “Mother, what is the most generous thing to do in this case?”

Let’s be honest: It’s hard to set enthusiastic opinions aside. But it’s exactly what needs to happen if you’re going to find the middle ground, the topic of the March series, The Third Way. Getting to neutral is about more than making smart choices. It’s how we move through struggles quickly rather than getting rooted in turmoil.

This is what happened for Jana. I thought our lunch might be filled with stories about living in a construction zone. But her kitchen update hadn’t even started.

I was dumbfounded. “Back up. I thought you said you had worked with this contractor,” I argued.

“Oh yeah, I have. A couple of times. But Shaun told me he was restoring a 1920s house, top to bottom. I know that’s much tougher than my project,” Jana said with resignation.

“So you followed up, and?” I asked.

“He’s almost done. I should have a bid this week,” Jana answered.

“That’s it?” I asked, stunned. Jana wasn’t the kind of woman to let grass grow under her feet. I waited for a story about a snappy email. Or how she chased three of his competitors for a counter-offer.

“Yeah, that’s it. At least for today. He’s done quality work for me in the past, and I trust him to do the right thing now. Calling him on the hour won’t help,” Jana said. She shrugged and joked, “The last thing I need is a contractor with a chip on his shoulder!”

Jana had the wisdom to understand an important universal truth: You vs. me always fails. That means finding the third way relies as much on cooperation as it does on concessions. Sometimes the best thing we can do is give our passionate views an afternoon off, step back and let the pieces fall into place.

Think about it this way—did you ever thank someone for blowing up your phone or inbox? Of course not. Saying or doing the craziest thing that comes to mind may feel justified, but it highlights a painful reality: Panic is never pretty.

When you find yourself in a tough spot or two this week, think whether the actions you’re considering line up with your current intentions. Is this your year to become a better communicator? Then you have the perfect opportunity to be clear without blowing your top. Are you determined to practice compassion? Then entertain the possibility that someone is just having a bad day and move on without inflicting harm.

If you feel like your third way entails doing something, remember Paula Allende. Act, but before you do, ask yourself, “What is the most generous thing I can do?”

Go Beyond A Black and White World

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Let me guess—Your January intentions were going great. You’ve been using the skills we learned in February about making room for loving relationships. Then, bam! Someone aggravated you and all those ideas went straight out the window. In seconds, you were sucked into a black hole of anger, insult and offense.

What’s the way out? One word: Compromise.

Did your stomach flip? Does that word make you nervous? That’s probably because hearing “compromise” really makes you think “sell-out”, “weak” or someone badgering you to give in to their demands.

Let’s scrap that.

In March, we’ll be talking about The Third Way. The idea behind the third way is simple—it’s the sweet spot between “your way” and “my way”. It’s being confident enough to keep an open mind, just like the Soul Boss principle of calibrating to a changing world. And it is redefining compromise to be synonymous with “being practical,” “showing wisdom,” and “maturity.” Finding the third way is the quickest path out of struggle.

Elena was easing back into the job market after her marriage finally broke down for good. “Alimony is coming in for a while. I’m not worried,” she told her cousin Samantha during their Summer visit. “I’m thinking real estate might be a good match. You know how I’ve always had the knack for finding amazing houses!”

Samantha was sure Elena would be well on her way when they connected at Christmas. “So, how many houses have you sold? Commissions must be rolling in!” she encouraged.

“Uh…not really,” Elena said quietly.

Samantha looked confused. “I thought you were working for one of the national chains. Aren’t they helping you get started?”

“Well, kind of,” Elena said, looking away. “It’s just that the Office Manager asked me to consistently be in the office fielding random calls. She thinks it’s a fast way to get leads. And she said I should shadow a senior agent at his open houses. To tell you the truth, I thought I’d make my own hours. No one told me I’d work every weekend! I’m ready to walk,” she complained.

“Quitting? You just started!” Samantha joked, but Elena didn’t laugh. Samantha turned serious. “Have you tried working out a different schedule? I mean…when will your alimony end?”

Let’s stop for a minute and take a step back: Is the schedule Elena’s biggest problem?

No.

Elena’s story shows what happens when real life doesn’t match the mental movie we’ve been screening. Here’s the issue: Doubling down on an angry “things should be different” outlook puts you into a closed mindset, boxing you into even more struggle.

The answer is to replace declarations like, “My only choices are stay or leave,” with questions. Open-ended questions spark your creativity, releasing problems and transforming them into possibilities. Finding the third way starts by asking: “What is another answer?”

Compromise doesn’t require losing your identity or values—you’re still the boss of you. Envision yourself making smart, thoughtful concessions and feeling happy with the outcome. That’s how you go beyond a black and white world.

Good Find Friday: 3 Ways to Speak With Compassion

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In March, we’ll be talking about the third way, which is simply finding the middle ground between “my way” and “your way.” That sounds reasonable…until you listen to people arguing on any cable news channel. In seconds, it’s easy to see how selecting the right words can be next to impossible!

So, let’s look at an article from Hey Sigmund which gives suggestions about how to move past those dreaded awkward moments. “You and Your Teen – The Words That Can Strengthen Your Influence and Connection” is directed at having conversations with teenagers, but the ideas work for frustrated grown-ups, too.

Observe how the phrases empower the listener as well as the speaker. The speaker gets to express their emotions and decide the way forward. Meanwhile, the listener provides empathy without rushing in to fix the situation.

The next time you need to turn sensitive, intense emotions into effective words, try:

Emotion Speaker Says Listener Replies
Anger “Something is blocking me.” “You seem angry that it hasn’t worked out the way you thought. I get that.”
Sadness “I’ve lost something important.” “I understand how much <it> meant to you. It’s ok for you to be upset.”
Jealousy “Someone has what I want.” (Love, praise, attention, status, etc.) “It can be hard when other people get something we’ve really been wanting.”
Anxiety “I’m nervous about…” (Fear, including the threat of humiliation, embarrassment or loss) “You seem worried that…”

Stay compassionate, Soul Bosses!

True Love, Good Love

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I did a double-take when my friend told me about her start-up. Because it wasn’t any small business. It was a winery. Sounds glamorous, right?

Well, kind of. It’s just that the business is located in rustic Eastern Washington. That means she just traded the thriving metropolis of Seattle for a town of only 9,000 people. She’s having a blast following her dreams, but still adjusting to a place where Main Street shuts down at 10:00 most nights of the week.

So far, things couldn’t be better. Her company is on the fast track. Their wines are showing up in stores throughout the Pacific Northwest. They’ve even opened a sister restaurant in a larger, neighboring town.

Still, she only had one question when we sat down: “Where am I going to find a boyfriend?” She’s concerned that her new small town means small prospects.

Is she right to be worried?

Maybe. But the good news is that not having a boyfriend at the moment doesn’t mean she’s running short on love. In fact, limiting herself to romantic love is too limiting. It would be like trying to squeeze her happy go lucky outlook and big laugh into a little box. Finding someone special may take some time, but there’s no way she’ll lose out on being surrounded by loving people.

In the February series, Make Room for Love, we’ve seen how people have overcome challenging circumstances to make room for all kinds of love:

  • In The List, we learned how any list of essential qualities needs to leave a little space for the unexpected. Mistakes are part of life, so we need to practice erring on the side of love.
  • An unexpected encounter in Remember Me? made Nicole remember the qualities vital to her marriage.
  • Cut the Craving showed the power of releasing toxic relationships. Releasing the mistakes of the past is just as important as searching for new love.

You may not have a picture-perfect relationship in your life right now, but that’s ok because real relationships aren’t limited to Valentine’s Day. They don’t stand still. They are imperfect-challenging and enlightening us.  Sometimes they strain under the stress of everyday life, then bounce back again. Here’s the way Gemeny Hernandez described it in an Instagram post dedicated to her girlfriend, Emily Estefan:

There is love in every corner here. And not the kind of love you might think I’m referring to. Not flowers, chocolates, and poor-rhyme-scheme love.

True love. Good love. Our love.

Love that permeates every piece of its surroundings. Love that chokes you, shakes you, scares you, illuminates you, heals you, awakens you. Love that pours so much of itself into you, you can’t help but become it. Love that is so loud, everything else is just background noise.

As we leave February, carry the Soul Boss principle of showing compassion with you. Remember Gemeny’s words and keep an open, willing heart. That’s how you experience true love. Good love.