The 2017 Conscious Gift Guide

IMG_0266.JPG

Happy Holidays!

I find this to be both a wonderful time of year (twinkly lights, time with family and friends, general coziness, and delicious, warm food) and kind of a weird time of year (Black Friday! Shop Small Saturday! Cyber Monday! Giving Tuesday!.....and probably a number of other days I'm forgetting about). It sometimes seems to be a strange juxtaposition: the slow, cozy, inward energy of the early winter, alongside the fast-paced, consumption-focused energy of the holiday months. 

I personally love the act of intentional gift giving - selecting a gift especially for the recipient, and wrapping it up just so. 

I believe that gift giving (if we choose to participate in gift giving) is an opportunity to make conscious choices. An opportunity to support responsible, ethical companies; an opportunity to support local makers and small businesses; an opportunity to give a gift we feel proud of and can stand behind, because we know where it came from and where the profits go. 

Below I've included a round-up of some of my favorite gifts to give, and favorite companies to support this holiday season.

For Self-Development Lovers:

  • The Five Minute Journal: if you've ever been in one of my workshops or courses, you've likely heard me talk about the Five Minute Journal. Simply one of the best tools I've found to support creating/reinstating a daily habit around gratitude and morning reflection. 
  • Essentialism: I've read this book about 8 times. It's so logical, *and* can be so hard to apply in everyday life. Great for someone in your life who wants to spend more time on the things that matter most, and shed some of the things that don't. 
  • Better Than Before: one of my all-time favorite books on creating positive change through building habits. Great for someone in your life who is trying to create (or break) a habit, develop new routines, or create some sort of positive and lasting change.
  • The Big Leap: on moving through upper limits, working in your zone of genius, and redefining your relationship with time.  

For the Planning Types:

  • The Desire Map Planner: my go-to planner for the last 3 years. Gorgeous design and filled with prompts that invite a pause as part of your morning planning. 
  • Jack and Ella Paper: gorgeous, minimalistic stationary printed on recycled paper, along with weekly meal and menu planners for your friend who is organized enough to plan out her entire weekly menu (definitely not me - but I do love to give these as gifts!). Based in Madison, WI. 

For Those who Appreciate Beautiful, Handmade Design:

  • Willful Goods: the most gorgeous color dipped wooden bowls, cutting boards, and accessories.  The only problem is, these items are so gorgeous that it can be hard to want to use them for cooking! Made in Minnesota.
  • Toast Ceramics: "considerate objects to punctuate everyday life." I love the dog bowls, the tumblers, and the bowls. Made in Madison, WI. 
  • Imago Dei Pottery: Vanessa creates her works of art out of her garage here in Madison, WI. She makes the sweetest little planters, perfect when given with a succulent inside. 

For Kids:

  • MomKind: goods for moms, by moms with gorgeous, simple design that actually look good sitting on your living room floor. Based in Madison, WI. 
  • Girls with Ideas: empowered gifts for empowered young women in your life. 

For Those who Think Globally:

  • Ubuntu Trade: unique goods created by artisans and makers in Uganda and east Africa. A few of my favorite items include the jewelry, the adorable stuffed elephants and bunnies for kids, and the succulent plant holders. 
  • Preemptive Love Coalition: hand-made soaps, dolls, candles, and apparel. Or, purchase a donation-based gift such as a sheep or water. Proceeds support relief and education for refugees across Iraq, Syria, and the United States. 

For Pet Lovers:

  • Janery: fabulous pet beds and accessories. Truly the most stylish pet beds I've ever seen. Additionally, Jane, the founder/owner is absolutely delightful and believes in giving back and shopping in a conscious and ethical way. (She has a great gift guide on her blog, as well). 
  • Fetch WI: apparel and accessories for both humans and pups. Fetch is 100% volunteer-led, and focused on rehabilitation and rehoming of pups that need great homes. Based in Madison, WI. 

For Beauty Lovers:

  • 100 Percent Pure:  huge variety of products made with clean, safe, natural ingredients. They guarantee all of their products.
  • EcoLips: the original organic lip balm. Made in the midwest by a company that does all sorts of good things for people and for the planet. Based in Cedar Rapids, IA. 
  • AuraCacia Aromatherapy Shower Tablets: my friend introduced me to these as a way to have a "spa experience" at home. AuraCacia is part of a member-owned co-op, responsible to people and planet. They also support women and girls through their Positive Change Project. Based in Norway, IA. 
  • Apotheke: luxurious feeling soaps, lotions, and candles. Handmade in small batches. 

For (non-fancy) Jewelry Lovers:

  • The Shine Project: bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry made by inner city youth. Based in Phoenix, AZ. 

For Giving Coffee Table Books with Substance:

  • Simple Matters: ideas for living simply that are presented in an approachable, lovely way. 
  • Chasing Slow: part memoir, part coffee table book, part perspectives on slow living. 
  • In the Company of Women: stories of makers, artists, and entrepreneurs, pulled together in a beautifully designed book. 

A few more ideas in last year's gift guide as well.  Any favorite companies or brands that you'd add to the list?

Happy Holidays!

 

3 Questions to Ask When You Feel Frustrated at Work

jason-rosewell-60014.jpg

Since starting my company, I've had the opportunity to spend time with hundreds of teams in various locations throughout the US, through our work together related to leadership, people development, and culture.

In this time, I've observed that there are a few key questions we can ask ourself when we feel frustrated with someone at work to increase our own happiness, while in turn creating ripples of positive impact that improve the overall culture of the organization.

1. Have you shared your feedback directly?

"Whispers" have the power to slowly and painfully poison an organization. Talking about each other, rather than to each other, is quite simply, one of the key differences I've observed between thriving and struggling teams.

When I sit down with a leader from an organization who shares feedback with me about someone on his or her team, I often ask, "have you shared this feedback directly?"

In a thriving organization, the answer is, "oh yes - he's well aware of it, we talk about it often, and he would tell you the same thing."

In a struggling organization, the answer is typically "no," "kind of," or "not really."

If you have an opportunity to give someone constructive feedback, I recommend using my mini-formula of Truth + Heart. This means: telling the truth as you have experienced it, from a place of compassion and kindness. This means being honest and straightforward, with the person's growth and learning in mind.

Helpful phrases to use include, "I've observed," "I've noticed," and "I've experienced."

2. Have you asked for clarity?

Frustration often stems from a lack of clarity, or from making assumptions that simply aren't true. This can be heightened when working with people in different roles, in different offices, or with different styles.

I find that this often stems from something seemingly insignificant, that then snowballs over time. Some examples of ways that we can create more clarity in order to reduce frustrations and create a happier, more productive working environment include asking the following types of questions:

  • What is our "in office" policy? Are we expected to be in the office during working hours? What does this look like/what does this mean? What do we consider working hours? If we have options for flexible work hours or remote work, what does this look like and what can we expect from each other?
  • How do we agree to communicate with each other? What are our preferences for communication? What are our expectations for responsiveness? If some members of the team travel heavily, how can we reach them in a pinch, while acknowledging that they might be on a plane or in client meetings?
  • What are the norms of our office? Do we have a stated open door policy where we expect people to work with their doors open, or do we encourage people to shut their doors to create heads-down focused working time? Do we take phone calls from our cube, or encourage team members to take phone calls in a conference room so that the shared area can remain quiet? Do we welcome pets in the office?
  • What are our roles? How can we create clarity in order to fosters ownership and accountability, while also building a culture that encourages an "all hands on deck" mindset?
  • If we have a flat structure or practice a version of holacracy, at the end of the day, who is responsible for making a decision when we are at a standstill? How do we deal with an underperforming team member when our self-managing team is stuck? And how can we balance self-empowerment with a desire for clarity and leadership?

Creating clarity up front is a way to create more easeful, joyful, and productive interactions down the line.

3. Are you assuming positive intent?

It can be easy to interpret a short email as rude, or a direct comment as offensive. However, what if we assumed positive intent - that perhaps the email was written quickly, or that the direct comment was a way of getting to the point more quickly, and therefore saving everyone on the team some time?

When we experience a negative reaction to someone else's behavior (or perceived behavior), it can be helpful to pause, breathe, and remind ourselves to assume positive intent.

Practicing the above strategies will not only help us to feel happier and more productive at work, but they also have the power to create positive ripples of impact within our organizations, which over time, creates the type of culture that we all want to be part of.

When the Inner Whisper Shouts

seth-schwiet-39421.jpg

The inner whisper. It's the voice inside of us that reflects our deepest desires and biggest dreams. It's the voice that starts oh-so-quietly, sometimes to the point that we can barely hear it. 

Over time, the inner whisper gets louder and louder, begging us to tune in and listen. Begging us to at least acknowledge that it exists, even if we aren't yet ready to take action.

I was talking to a wonderful new client earlier this week who described his inner whisper as evolving from a "low simmer to a raging boil." This is the power of the inner whisper; over time, it strengthens until we have no choice but to listen. 

It often feels scary - terrifying, even -  to tune into our inner whisper. Our inner whisper reflects what we really want, which is often different than what we're currently doing.

For my entire life, my inner whisper longed to teach and create. These are the things I would do every single day as a little girl. I began ignoring my inner whisper during my junior year of high school, on precisely the day that one of my high school teachers told me to "apply to business school because it's harder to get into" instead of applying to the programs I was considering. I continued to ignore my inner whisper throughout college, and on and off throughout many of my years in the corporate world, until finally, one day, I decided it was time to listen. 

While I don't regret and am incredibly grateful for my path which led me to today, I find it amusing to look back and realize that I had more clarity about the desires of my inner whisper when I was four years old than when I was 24. This is true for many of my clients as well; often, we can gain powerful insight about the desires of our inner whisper by looking at the things we were drawn to when we were little. 

If you think your inner whisper might be trying to speak to you, here are a few ways to tune in. 

  • Take 2 minutes per day to get quiet and be still. It's easy to squash the desires of the inner whisper underneath tasks and the whirlwind of everyday life. The inner whisper needs space to be heard. 
  • Ask yourself the question, "what do I deeply desire?" Write down your response, without filtering what comes up. Write down everything that you hear, even if it seems crazy or out of reach. 
  • Ask yourself the question, "if anything is possible, what would I most love to do?" Once again, write down the answers without filtering what comes up. 
  • Ask yourself, "if I could be guaranteed my same salary for the next year and could either a) do exactly what I'm doing now, or b) try something entirely different, what would I do?" Again, write down what comes up without filtering or judging your answer. 
  • After you reflect on the above questions, askyourself, "what is one what that I could honor my inner whisper now, in a small way?" This might mean signing up for a class, going on a micro adventure, learning a new skill, or volunteering. 

The Voice

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you--just listen to
The voice that speaks inside. 
― Shel Silverstein

Ways to Stay Grounded During Ungrounding Times

SarahYoung117.jpg

It's been another week of heartbreak and tragedy in our country.

2017 continues to test our resilience and our optimism. Each time we momentarily catch our breath from one tragedy, it seems, another occurs. 

This cycle leaves us in a seemingly constant state of fight or flight mode. It's hard to create positive change when we are elevated, stressed, and reactive. We create positive change through intentional action. Intentional action requires that we are present and calm.  

We often hear that we must first fill our own cup so that we may fill the cups of others. This is especially true right now. Below are a few strategies that help.

1. Make a list of things that make you feel calm and grounded. Do at least one thing from your list every day. 

My list includes cooking, delicious food, hot baths, time in nature, movement, writing and quiet reflection, flowers/plants/planting things, and time with soul sisters. When I'm feeling ungrounded or overwhelmed by the events of the world, I know that these activities help me feel more grounded and put me in a place where I can more consciously digest what I'm reading and learning.

I invite you to make a similar list - a list of things that are both accessible and powerful. Ideally, they don't require a lot of supplies, travel, or advanced planning. One of my clients keeps her list visible, and references it as a checklist whenever she's feeling overwhelmed.

2. Make a list of the people in your tribe. Connect with them regularly.

These are the people who get you, who fill you up, and who raise your average. These are the people who ask you how you are and then really listen to your response. They are the people who are thoughtful and kind, and who leave you feeling nourished rather than depleted after you spend time together. 

If you are feeling uncertain about whether your current tribe mates meet the above criteria, I lovingly encourage you to expand your tribe. Life is too short for friends who make you feel shitty. Consider attending events or Meet-Ups, volunteering, or perhaps even apps like Bumble BFF - I have a number of girlfriends who are having great success meeting new female friends via this app.

3. Be still. 

Whether it's quiet reflection, prayer, meditation, or just slowly drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, create time each day for stillness. I recommend doing this first thing in the morning  (more here and here on morning rituals and routines). This doesn't need to be two hours. It can be five minutes. And it's more essential now than ever. 

4. Bookend your day.

"Bookending" is a term I've been using for a strategy that I've been experimenting with for the last year or so. The idea is: start and end the day in a way that feels joyful. I've found this to almost always lead to a really good day. The bookends don't need to be fancy - but they should be things that feel fun and nourishing (you may want to consult your list from #1), and ideally they should be one of the first and last things you do each day. 

5. Avoid reading the news first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. 

If you took my Efficiency and Flow course, or if you've ever been in one of my leadership courses, there's a good chance that you've been part of a passionate discussion about not checking email from bed first thing in the morning. This also applies to the news. Checking the news first thing in the morning or right before bed, especially right now, can wreak havoc on our mood, our sleep, and our productivity. In the morning, I recommend reading the news only after you've completed your morning routine (see #3 and here and here). In the evening, I recommend reading the news for the final time at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.

6. Take action. 

It can be easy to feel helpless and hopeless and think "there's nothing I can do." But there is always something we can do. Make donations to organizations that support the causes you care about. Join groups and organizations that are talking about the issues that matter. Get involved locally. Contact your representatives. Write letters or have a postcard writing party.  Make a commitment to yourself to take some sort of positive action each day, or each week. Enlist members of your tribe (see #2) to join you. We will not create positive change by ranting on Facebook or losing hope. We will create positive change through action. 

7. Connect through kindness.

Make eye contact with someone you don't know. Smile. Buy a stranger coffee. Let someone merge in front of you on the highway. Say "thank you" and "I love you" and "you did great work this week." Send a hand-written note, flowers, or a small gift to someone dear to you. Look up from your device and at another human. 

We cannot control the events of the world at large. But we do have the ability to impact how we engage in our own worlds. We need to be the change that we want to see in our world - and that is an opportunity we have every single day. 

Sending Love, Light, and Donations to Texas

diego-ph-254975.jpg

It's been a heartbreaking week and a half in Texas. 

I've talked to many people in recent days who have said something along the lines of, "it's so awful to watch.... I feel like there is nothing I can do." In some ways that is true. And, there is always something we can do. 

I've rounded up some websites, links, and information related to things we can do to help both the people and the animals of Texas, along with a few of of the most inspiring moments I've seen and read about this week. NPR has also created a great list of resources and ways to help, as part of this article

I lived in Cedar Rapids for two years between 2013 and 2015. Cedar Rapids was hit by a massive flood in 2008, and the city is, still today, trying to recover. We can expect the impact of the devastation in Texas to span many years, as well. For this reason, while thinking about donations and ways to help, it can be useful to not only donate now, but also to make a note to donate again in 6 months, a year, or two years. 

To Donate Money:

  • Red Cross - donate online, or by texting HARVEY to 90999 (note: the text-based donation is currently backed up due to high volume. 
  • Salvation Army  - donate online or via phone by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY
  • Preemptive Love Coalition - all donations currently going to those impacted by Harvey
  • Together Rising - matched the first $100,000 and still raising funds 

To Donate Supplies or Housing:

  • Undies for Everyone - donate online via the website, shop via their Amazon wishlist (I sent undies and it took exactly 2 minutes to select, pay, and ship directly to the Undies for Everyone HQ in Houston), or send unopened, packaged underwear to: 

Undies for Everyone, 1700 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005

  • AirBnB is waiving all fees anyone impacted by the flood and checking in between August 25th and September 25th, 2017. There is also an option to offer your space for free. 

To Help Animals:

Reminders of the Good: