aliveness

Copycats

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Many entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who have been at their craft for awhile have had the experience of finding their work, their products, or their content repackaged, duplicated, or plagiarized by others at some point in time. Sometimes, it’s a newer entrepreneur or artist taking “inspiration seeking” to a whole new level. Other times, it’s a massive corporation or brand that has used the work of an independent artist without permission.

Most entrepreneurs and makers I work with deeply value creativity and originality - meaning that it can be difficult to look around and find that someone else has seemingly copied our idea, our product, our content, or in some cases, our entire brand. (A dear friend and client found her entire business - the name, the logo, the website, and even the social media images - plagiarized and up and running as its own business in Asia).

On the flip side, when working with new entrepreneurs and coaches, one of the most common things I hear as an intended early step is “I’m going to go out to [insert name of someone I want to be like]’s site and see how she did it.”

While seeking inspiration can be helpful, the greatest inspiration often comes from looking within - or looking around out in the world - versus looking at other people’s websites or products, especially if those people are in the same industry as we are.

Below, some thoughts on what to do if you feel like you might fall on either side of this equation.

If You Think You Might Be the Copycat:

Have a heart to heart with yourself.

Ask yourself: are you seeking inspiration, or have you moved into imitation? Signs that you might have moved beyond the “inspiration” point: repackaging phrases, content, other people’s wording, descriptions, products or programs; visiting certain websites regularly for inspiration; becoming a bit of a cyber stalker of your favorite entrepreneurs or brands.

Seek inspiration from outside of your industry.

Find inspiring people who do distinctly different work than you do. Get curious about cool things happening in other industries. Ask yourself if it serves you to follow the people who you’re following in your own industry. 

Stop looking around and start looking within.

Take the time you’ve been spending on other people’s websites and LinkedIn pages and Instagram accounts and blogs and redirect that time into reflection and quiet space. Meditate. Go for a walk in the woods. Take time to find your own voice, your own style, and your own way of thinking about and speaking about things. 

Consider: what could be possible if you trusted yourself enough to create your own content and tune into your own ideas, rather than pulling from other people’s?

And what’s currently getting in the way of doing so? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of trust in yourself? Not being able to find your own voice or your own perspective? Get quiet, spend some time tuning inward, and see what you discover. 

As Marie Forleo, who is often imitated but will never be replicated, says:

“The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If you think you might have a copycat:

Pause. Take a deep breath. 

In talking with entrepreneurial soul sisters about this topic, I’ve discovered that this can be one of the most hurtful and most triggering things that we encounter as entrepreneurs. We pour ourselves into our businesses, and to find our content recreated, oftentimes by people we historically have trusted, can be a particularly awful experience. First things first - we need to pause and take a deep breath. 

Ask: Is it True? 

Take a page from Byron Katie’s book. When we feel that parts of our business have been repackaged or recreated by someone else, we can ask:

“Is it true?”

And, “can we be absolutely certain that it’s true?”

Oftentimes, the answer - especially to the second question - is no. We cannot be absolutely certain that it wasn’t just a very intriguing coincidence. These questions can help us to move out of a place of unhelpful inner dialogue, and into a place of calm acceptance. 

Remember that it is inevitable. 

If we put our content out into the world, it will be available not only to our communities and our clients, but also, of course, to our competitors. As Seth Godin says, “The easiest products in the world to develop, option, license and get to market are copycat products. They are beyond reproach. They feel safe.”

The truth is that many people want what is easy and what is safe. As a result, copycats will not go away anytime soon. That said, copycat products are rarely as good as the originals. Often the originals are creating more than a product or service; they are disrupting an entire industry and forging a whole new path that others will want to follow.


This is part of the package, and how awful would it be for us to hold back on our content or ideas, for fear of others stealing them? This would be a modern day version of The Miser and The Gold - tragic for everyone involved.

Take a page from my friend Mike’s book. 

A few months back, I asked him how he felt about the number of people who have openly expressed a desire to create an exact replica of the organization that Mike has created. His response? “Good luck! It’s a lot of f$#king work.”

I can’t help but smile to myself each time I think of his response.

Take Oprah’s advice.

“How far you are from the center - from the diveness of yourself, your source energy, that which created you - is how out of sync you are with your life. When you are aligned with this, nobody can touch you.”

Focus on aligning with your center. Put your head down. Make something awesome. Keep creating. And remember that no matter how many words or phrases or pieces of content others might take and repackage, they will never be you. 

Additional Resources, Reading, and Watching:

Inspiration versus Imitation

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Inspiration versus Imitation. It’s a blurred line in our world today, where it’s easy to take other people’s stuff, repackage it into a lovely little black and white quote, repost it, and take credit for it as our own.

I’ve seen this even with incredibly high profile and successful individuals - for example, a leading researcher and author recently being credited for inventing an “amazing new term” in 2019, when in fact I learned this term five years ago from a friend in Vancouver who learned it from someone else before that. Neither my friend nor her friend were cited by this renowned researcher and author, of course. Or another best selling author being credited with all sorts of concepts on interviews and podcasts and reposts that were actually taken verbatim from others, but that are being repackaged in a snappy way on Instagram and in books and being marketed to women across the US with wild success.


”There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” - Mark Twain

I believe in Mark Twain’s perspective on ideas. I believe that many ideas are a rebirth of some sort of idea that came before. I believe in the myth of the ah ha and the fact that slow hunches are formed gradually - often by bringing together a number of ideas that came before. I believe that ideas are formed from hundreds and sometimes millions of data points - many of which are not even recognized by our conscious mind.

And, I believe that if we are reposting or sharing or recreating something that was explicitly created by someone else, we need to be transparent about this. That the right thing to do is to cite authors and researchers and sources. That if we are reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that was created by someone else, that we need to clearly disclose that we are the messenger versus the creator.


In my courses and retreats and workshops and events, I aim to do this by including sources and references for anything I share that is not uniquely mine. Online, I aim to do this by never reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that I did not create. And in conversations, I aim to do this by mentioning the source (or at least what I believe to be the source) of concepts that I mention that come from somewhere else.

Some questions we may consider include:

  • If I am sharing something that explicitly came from someone else, am I crediting this person appropriately?

  • If I am inspired by something that explicitly came from someone else, is my version unique and original in some way?

  • Am I regularly creating time to connect to my own inspiration - the inspiration that only lives within me, versus on other people’s websites or social media feeds?

What about you? How do you find the place of inspiration versus imitation? And what are your thoughts about this blurred line between the two, in our current time?

Image Credit: Ben Weber

Tips for Making Tough Decisions

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Confession: I am not always good at making big decisions.

Many of the answers to the biggest questions I’ve ever asked myself have come to me intuitively, which meant that I really didn’t need to decide, because I just knew.

When I adopted my first pup, I wasn’t looking for a dog. In fact, I’d just said to a coworker the week before, “It’s amazing to me that single people get dogs, because I imagine that they really inhibit your freedom!” I was single. And precisely one week after saying this, I had a dog.

I had been picking up two friends’ dog from doggie daycare when I saw his face on a crumpled up flyer, taped to the front counter. As if the words had come to me from somewhere outside myself, I asked if I could meet him. When I met him, I knew on an intuitive level, long before I knew on a conscious level, that he was my dog. There was no decision - just a deep sense of knowing. When my friends arrived to pick up their dog, there were two dogs, instead of one. My friend just looked at me with a knowing smile.

The same thing happened the day I put in my notice at my job. While I was sitting inside of an office, there was a moment in which I swear I saw the clouds part and a big ray of light shine through, at which point I said, “my last day will be May 1st.” Once again, there was no decision -  just a deep sense of knowing, and the words came out of my mouth from what felt like a source greater than myself.

All of this clouds parting, light shining through, voices from above type of clarity is great, but it means that decisions can be incredibly challenging for me when this isn’t present. In the rhythm of normal work and life, it’s not always possible to wait around for this moment of instant clarity to strike. There are timelines and deadlines and normal life constraints that aren’t always conducive to waiting for an answer to appear.

In these situations, I often use a variety of tools and systems to explore the different possibilities at hand, to help lead me to the best decision based on the information I have at the time. Here are a few of my favorites.

Try on the different options.

Imagine yourself in the different scenarios at hand. For example, if you’re considering whether or not to leave your current job, you might imagine yourself staying in your current job, and leaving your current job. What does each option feel like? What do you see in each of these scenarios? What is happening, and how do you feel? And then, after exploring options A and B, push yourself to think about a third path. Is there another option C that could exist that you might not have thought of before? For example, pursuing your passion as a side hustle while staying in your current job? Or, exploring a role change within your current company? Try each of these on as well and notice what emerges. Pay extra attention to how you feel as you sit with each one.

Write to yourself.

Write out the question you’re currently considering, and write out whatever answers come to you, without filtering or judging the responses.

For example, you might write: “what do I really want?” and then allow yourself to write down whatever comes to you as an answer. Write down whatever comes up, without thinking about it or filtering it or wondering whether it’s real or not - just write it down.

Then, when you’re finished writing, you can go back and revisit what you wrote. What do you notice? What are you surprised to see on paper?

Often we know more than we think we do, if we get quiet and tune in.

Check In with your Future Self.

This is the version of us who is 5, 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years older. This process involves consulting our older self and asking about the questions that are are pondering today. What path did she pick? What advice might she give us knowing what she knows now? What decisions led her to where she is today?

Write out Three Different Life Plans.

Write out three possible paths for your life, in 5-10 year chunks.

  • Path 1: the path you’re on right now.

  • Path 2: a slightly modified version of the path you’re on right now.

  • Path 3: an entirely different option - or the “if anything were possible option.”

Check in with each of these three paths. Which one feels most alive? Which one feels most aligned with your values and goals? Which one gets you most excited?

And, what is one small step that you could take toward the path that speaks to you most?

Decide on a First Small Step.

Often big decisions feel overwhelming. If we are considering whether to leave our job, for example, a number of fears and saboteurs often kick in - What if we don’t find anything better? What about the benefits? What if we realize we made a mistake?

The first decision might not actually be to leave your job. It might simply be to update your resume. What if you start there and take some of the pressure off? Usually the first small step can be done without a lot of disruption and under the umbrella of security and safety of our current context, and is much easier than we think.

These are a few of my favorite strategies to use when instant, intuitive clarity isn’t present. Here are a few additional resources that may come in handy along the way, as well:

Good luck as you ponder the big decisions you may be facing right now. Want some help along the way? Please feel free to reach out to explore how we might work together throughout the process.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Following Your Passion When You're Not Quite Sure What Your Passion Is

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“Follow Your Passion!”

“Live Your Purpose!”

We’ve all, I’m sure, heard this advice way too many times to count.

While inspiring in some cases, it can feel like slightly unhelpful advice when we’re not sure what our purpose is, or where our passions actually lie.

Discovering these things is not, of course, an overnight process. For some of my clients, the desire to get more clarity in the above two areas is the reason they hire me as a coach. They’ve usually been wildly successful doing something other than their passion or what feels like their purpose, and together we work to discover what a new path forward might look like.

Hiring a coach is a great way to gain some powerful traction on the above questions. That said, there are some small things we can do on our own, as well, to kick start the process. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pay Attention to Curiosities.

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” - Mary Oliver

I see many people put pressure on themselves to figure out the answers to these enormous questions about purpose and passion in one massive epiphany that comes with a bolt of lightening at 2 in the morning. While sometimes the answers come to us this way, often the answers are the result of paying better attention over a period of time.

The first thing we can begin to pay attention to is curiosities.

  • What are you curious about?

  • What are you interested in?

  • What do you find yourself reading about in your free time?

  • What types of books are you drawn to?

  • What do you find yourself researching online, just because you want to know more?

  • What are the themes of conversations you’re having with friends?

  • Who are the people you find yourself following or drawn to - through blogs, articles, or social media?

Pay attention. Write these things down. Make a list and continually add to it. Allow yourself to simply add to it over the course of several weeks. And then, look back to see what you notice.

Track Your Energy.

What are the things, throughout your days, that give you energy? What are the things that deplete your energy?

Pay attention. Write them down. I recommend making a good old fashioned T-Chart with a list of “+” and “-” and adding to this list throughout your days.

Do this exercise at work.

  • When do you feel engaged and energized?

  • What are the projects you feel excited to work on?

  • Which types of conversations energize you?

  • And, on the flip side, when do you feel that you’re drained or depleted?

  • Which projects or tasks do you dread tackling?

Write them all down on your list.

Do this exercise at home.

  • What are you doing when you feel totally energized at home or around the house? Are you working in the garage or tackling a craft project or cooking?

  • What are you doing when you feel depleted or drained at home?

Put all of these things on the list.

Do this process for a week or two and notice, without judging, what emerges. Are there any trends or patterns? Or perhaps any surprises?

This process is not only helpful for informing your passions and purpose, but also for making small tweaks that make everyday life more easeful and joyful. I’ve made several small but game changing tweaks to my everyday workflows and rhythms as a result of my findings from this process.

Go Back In Time.

Think back to when you were young.

  • What did you love to do when you were little?

  • What types of games did you play?

  • What were your favorite types of toys to play with?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

Think back to high school and college.

  • When were you happiest?

  • What activities were you part of?

  • When were you having the most fun?

  • When did you feel most engaged in what you were doing?

  • When did you feel the most fulfilled?

Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Dig up some old photos and notice what you were doing.

For most of us, there is at least some thread that relates to our passion and purpose. In my case, for example, I played school almost every day. I had an entire school set-up in my basement: blackboard, overhead projector (the old school kind with the plastic sheets and the wipe-off markers - yes, I was that into playing school), chairs, and supplies. All through high school and college I taught water aerobics to adults and swimming lessons and Spanish for kids. I absolutely loved the process of teaching and learning.

While for a long time I thought all of this meant that I wanted to be a teacher within our school systems, I realized in my adult life that I wanted to create spaces of learning and self discovery and transformation and personal growth - for adults - which is exactly what I’m doing today. Putting these pieces together was not an overnight realization - it came after much reflection, lots of additional education, and plenty of time in the corporate world doing something entirely different.

Do Stuff.

Perhaps most importantly, to discover our passion, we need to do stuff that we are passionate about. To uncover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action.

Generally speaking, we will not discover our purpose solely by sitting at home reading books about purpose. We will not uncover our passion solely by reading inspirational quotes about passion, even if they are written in perfect calligraphy (you know the ones I’m talking about).

Rather, we will discover our purpose and our passion by taking action, with purpose and with passion.

Sign up for a class. Take the workshop. Reach out to that person you worked with 10 years ago who is now doing something super interesting and reconnect. Subscribe to the industry magazine. Volunteer with an organization that sparks your interest.

Try stuff. Dabble. Tinker. Allow yourself to be curious, and unattached to the outcome.

Do stuff just for fun.

In Summary.

To discover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action. Purposeful action does not need to mean quitting your job on a whim and moving into a Westfalia van for the next 3 years (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so) or going on a year-long spirit quest in Bali (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so). Purposeful action can mean making a list; starting your day with intention; paying attention to your curiosities; doing things that bring you joy; and noticing what you discover along the way.

Escaping the Endless Cycle of Yes

Escaping the Endless Cycle of Yes

Saying yes too much. Difficulty saying no. Overcommitting. Prioritizing other people’s priorities over your own. Becoming stretched too thin. Taking on the project because other people dropped the ball. Over-serving the committee because none of the other volunteers follow through. Expressing interest in something and then suddenly finding yourself in charge of it. Saying yes to an opportunity because it’s amazing, but then wondering when the heck you’re going to fit it in.

Anyone else struggle with one or more of these things?

If you do, I hear you. I see you. I get you. My natural tendency is to do these things too. I quickly see possibility and potential in any given situation, which means that in my mind I quickly jump from where we are right now to where we could be in the future. It also means that sometimes, in the moment when the opportunity presents itself, I overlook the steps in between - for example, how long it might take to get there or what else I have on my plate. As you can imagine, this has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.

It is a constant, daily (sometimes hourly) practice for me to work with my natural tendency (seeing possibility, potential, what’s possible, allowing myself to be excited and enthusiastic about all of this) while also incorporating everyday realities such as time, capacity, and scheduling.

This is not a post about saying no more, or saying yes less. Rather, it is a post about moving from, as Greg McKeown says, the trivial many to the essential few. It is a post about saying yes in a way that aligns with your values and your priorities. And it is a post about remembering that we are the creators of our own life, versus allowing others - or our inboxes or our friends or other on the committee - to control it for us.

Here are some strategies I use in this ongoing pursuit to align my time with my values; my priorities with my calendar; and my decisions with my core purpose in this world.

Wait at least 24 hours before responding to any new opportunities.

First, this provides time to check this opportunity against my values and reflect on the following questions:

  • Is it in line with my values?

  • Would this opportunity be moving me toward my vision?

  • Is it in line with my priorities for the year?

It also allows me time to think about my capacity and bandwidth, and also the tradeoff costs.

  • Do I have time to take this on?

  • If I say yes to this, what will I need to say no to?

  • When will I have time to do this? And is it in line with the timing of the opportunity or event?

  • Do I actually have time, or would I be trying to squeeze it in?


Ask Myself: If this opportunity wouldn’t have come to me from elsewhere, would I have actively pursued it on my own?

This, of course, can be a particularly challenging question as a business owner, and especially for new business owners who are working to build their businesses.

“No but…..it’s a good opportunity….” But is it a great opportunity? Is it aligned with the work you most want to do in the world and the people you most want to serve?

In the beginning, as new business owners and entrepreneurs, as long as the opportunities are aligned, I tend to recommend being more generous with what you say yes to. This provides an opportunity to try out various things, work with several different types of clients, and learn more about what you like (and what you don’t). And then, as your business grows, you can use these early experiences to shape future decisions and areas of focus.

That said, if the only reason you are saying yes is “to get more business” or “to generate referrals” or something gross like that, I suggest revisiting. It should also be fun, or interesting, or an opportunity to work with fabulous people.

If you are approached about joining a board or a committee, ask the same question. While flattering to receive the invite, is this the cause you care deeply about? Is this the way you want to invest your time and energy? Are the people on the board ‘stunning colleagues’ who you will be excited to gather with each month or each quarter?

Is the opportunity a Hell Yeah?

Is the opportunity a Hell Yeah on its own? If not, what would make it a Hell Yeah? And if you can’t think of anything that would make it a Hell Yeah, is it really worth saying yes to?

As Derek Sivers famously said, “if it’s not a Hell Yeah," it’s a no.”

The way I like to look at this is a Big Yes or a Little Yes. The Big Yes is aligned with our values, our vision, our priorities. The little yes comes from a place of ‘should’ or obligation.

As new opportunities come your way, ask yourself if it’s a Hell Yeah. If you can’t think of any conditions under which it would be a Hell Yeah, if it isn’t already, then you likely have your answer.

What are the conditions/terms under which I would love to say yes?

Related to the above, if it isn’t a Hell Yeah, is there anything that would make it worth it?

For example, for new entrepreneurs or business owners, the truth is that every single project might not be a Hell Yeah. And, at the same time, one must eat.

So, for my clients who are navigating this situation (“It isn’t a Hell Yeah, but I need to eat…”) we often come up with a set of criteria that will make the opportunity worth it. This could involve the structure, the timing, the price, or perhaps a combination of the above. It might mean, for example, proposing a fall versus spring timeline to allow more time to prep. Or, it might involve asking for travel reimbursement to cover the cost of driving to another state.

Will my future self (in 1 month, 6 Months, a year) be happy that I said yes to this? What would my future self want me to say?

This can be one of the most game changing questions for me to ask myself. While my current self will enthusiastically say yes, what about my 6-Month-Future self? Will she still be thrilled about the opportunity?

There's a quote that goes something like, “an elephant looks small in the distance.”

This is also the case with things we say yes to. It might not seem like a lot of time at the moment. But will that still be the case in a month, in 6 months, in a year? Carefully consider the thoughts, the energy, the capacity, and the bandwidth of your future self before your present self says yes to anything.

What would my (actual, or metaphorical) board of directors tell me to do?

Do you have a board of directors? If not, I invite you to create one!

This might be an actual, living board of directors. I have a few different informal boards in my life - some girlfriends and soul sisters, some coaches, some strategic advisors and mentors.

Or, it might be a metaphorical board of directors. The idea is to identify a few people who you respect, put them on your metaphorical board of directors, and then ‘consult’ them when thinking about decisions or opportunities.

Sometimes, during a monthly meet-up with my real-life board of directors, I’ll review opportunities and get feedback. For example, a few months back, I was struggling with a decision not to submit a proposal to speak at a certain conference. They helped me see that while it was a great conference, it was not in line with my vision for the future, and my time and energy would be much better spent elsewhere.

I also have a metaphorical board of directors. These are people who I follow, and whose approach to business I deeply respect. For example, Seth Godin is one of the members of my metaphorical board of directors. He just doesn’t know it! Seth is ruthlessly committed to focusing on his most important work in the world. In his case, that means writing and publishing a blog post every single day. He doesn’t take meetings, he’s very mindful about the amount of travel he takes on, and he is committed to delivering value to his community every single day. If ever I am struggling with what to focus on or whether to take on a new project, I’ll consider what advice he might give me if I were to ask him his opinion. This whole process might sound a little weird but is incredibly helpful for me when I use it.

In the End

At the end of the day, this practice isn’t about saying no more, or saying yes less. Ultimately, it’s about making sure we say yes to the things that are aligned with our values and priorities, and no to the things that aren’t.

Sometimes, of course, we need to do things that aren’t aligned as part of our work, or our job responsibilities, or even basic duties we take on at home. But often, we have more opportunity than we think to shift, tweak, or restructure things to create the alignment that we desire.

Resources and Recommended Reading

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown - the book I read again and again for inspiration on this subject.

  • The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan - I especially like their focusing question: “what is the one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

  • Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin - it was in this book that I first learned about the Four Tendencies. As an obliger, the above practices are essential for me, because my natural tendency is to say yes to external requests and no to requests that I make of myself. Obligers make up the largest percentage of the population; if you find yourself struggling with this topic, you may enjoy checking out her work, or at least her free quiz which only takes a couple minutes.

  • The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin - more information on the four tendencies and how to work with each of them. I’ve found that this framework can be transformative not only for how we operate as individuals, but also how we operate in relationships. Fun fact: Gretchen found that obligers and rebels are often in romantic relationships together, and I’ve found her theory to be correct. Many of my rebel clients are married to obligers; many of my obliger clients are either dating or married to rebels.

Manifestation and Action

"Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life."

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There’s much in the personal development space about this concept…about the fact that our dream lives are ours to create...about the fact that anything is possible...about hustling, about shining bright, about getting after it, about believing...and about doing all of the other things we see made into nice inspirational quotes, written in calligraphy.

I believe that so much is possible. I believe that changing our thinking and the way we view the world can have a massive impact on how we feel each day. I believe we can create from everything. *And,* I believe that sometimes, in these spaces of motivation and personal development and anything is possible and your dreams are yours to achieve that we sometimes neglect to talk about some of the harder, more complicated parts of this equation. Like the fact that in many ways, even being able to have these conversations and think about these things are privileges themselves.

What can it look like to hold both?

The possibility, and also the reality of what is happening around us?

The invitation to manifest, alongside a commitment to action?

Being positive and optimistic, while not turning a blind eye to the things that are deeply painful in our country and our world right now?

These are questions that don't have quick and easy answers...questions that I feel committed to examining and exploring and that I’ve been leaning into.

What do you think?

3 Ways to Create More Freedom in Everyday Life

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In celebration of Independence Day, let's talk about freedom. As those of us in the United States celebrate our freedom as a nation and the many freedoms we're afforded by living in the US, I've been thinking about what freedom feels like to me in small everyday ways. 

Freedom is not only something I'm grateful for, but it is also one of my values. When I feel free, I feel happy, and often when I feel happiest is when I feel most free. 

So how can we cultivate more freedom in our everyday lives? Here are a few things that I find helpful.

1. Ask Yourself: What Makes Me Feel Free? Write it Down. 

For me, I feel most free...

  • In nature
  • During the summertime - and in the presence of sunshine and warm weather 
  • When I have time and space on my calendar to breathe, zoom up, think strategically, and be creative 
  • When I have some level of flexibility for impromptu plans throughout my weeks and months
  • When I create time early in the morning to think, plan, reflect, and write 

I have found that I feel least free when I feel trapped by my calendar, trapped by commitments that don't tie to my values or my higher purpose, or trapped by too much back-to-back work-related travel. Identifying what makes me feel free (and what makes me feel least free) allows me to make choices that align accordingly. For me, my feeling of freedom ties directly to my feeling of creativity - and ultimately helps me serve my clients in a more impactful way. 

2. Free Yourself From Your Inbox

Over the past 5 years, I've had the opportunity to offer leadership-based workshops and courses to thousands of successful professionals across many different industries. Regardless of role, tenure, or working style, one of the most common things I hear is that people feel trapped by their inbox - a constant flood of incoming emails each day, taking their attention away from the things that matter most, and causing them to feel as though they can never catch up.

I believe there is a better way!. And this better way involves putting ourselves back in charge of our inboxes. Here's how:

  • Determine how often you need to check email each day in order to be effective and responsive. I've found that for most roles and industries, people self-identify that the sweet spot is around 4 times per day. For some it is more, and others is less. 
  • Determine, based on the above number, the optimal times to check email. I typically recommend morning - but not first thing, late morning/midday, mid-afternoon, and end of day.
  • Schedule 20-30 minutes at each of these times to check email. Pull out any tasks, to-dos, or follow-up items into a separate list. 
  • Start your day free of intake (this includes your inbox!). Give yourself at least 10 minutes each morning to reflect on your highest priorities for the day before opening your inbox. 
  • Turn off all notifications for your email and your inbox. In this new model, you are now in control of when you check your email; those notifications are no longer in control of you!
  • When you're finished checking email during your pre-determined blocks, close out your inbox entirely, and back away slowly.

I recognize that this entire process may sound terrifying - especially if you're accustomed to having your inbox open all day long, and responding to emails individually as they come in. The process of checking emails all day everyday can have a huge hit on our productivity; research from Gloria Marks at the University of California-Irvine has found that we are distracted, on average, every 11 minutes - and that it can take us 25 minutes to return to our original task after interruption. If we think about this data in the context of our inbox, we can quickly start to understand why it's easy to feel like on some days, we go to work for 8-10 hours per day but get nothing done. 

I've had many clients go through this process, and the impact has been tremendous. (even for clients who were very resistant at first!) Almost immediately, my clients have noticed decreased stress and frustration, and an increased feeling of productivity. 

3. Get Rid of Commitments that Feel Like Obligations 

Do you dread going to committee meetings for the volunteer group that you're a part of? Did you renew your position on the board because you felt obligated to, rather than because you wanted to? Have you filled your calendar with meetings, scheduled months into the future, that don't actually align with your highest purpose at your job, in your business, or overall?

Time is our most precious and valuable resource. It's a resource that we never get back once we spend it. And yet often, we give away our time in ways that we would never give away our money or other resources. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, when we are doing things out of a feeling of obligation, we are simply not having the greatest impact possible - because we are not operating from a place that is aligned with our passion and our purpose. 

When saying "yes" to things that we put on the calendar, I invite you to reflect on the following:

  • Is this a "hell yeah?" In the words of Derek Sivers (and many others since), "if it's not a hell yeah, it's a no." 
  • Does this commitment align with my values? 
  • Does this commitment align with my higher purpose? Am I creating some sort of positive impact through this commitment? 
  • Do I know why I'm here? This is especially important if you're working within an organization that is facing meeting overload. When planning meetings, each participant should have a clear understanding of why they are being asked to participate in the meeting. If you receive an invitation to a meeting and you're not sure that you need to be there, I invite you to be empowered to ask! Several of my clients have been able to reduce meeting fatigue within their organizations  by consistently asking this question for every meeting they schedule. 
  • What is the cost? If I say "yes" to this, what is the trade-off? And am I okay with that trade-off?

If this is hard for you (it's still incredibly hard for me too - even after practicing this diligently for the last five years), I recommend reading the book Essentialism. And then, if you're like me, reading it again...and again. :)

Note: May we remember, as we celebrate our independence, that we are, and always have been, a nation of immigrants.  If you are looking for ways to support families separated at the border, you may consider reading this article for ways to get involved and concrete steps you can take to contact your representatives, and/or supporting one of the following organizations. 

I hope that these strategies are useful to you as you consider ways to create more freedom in your everyday life. I'd love to hear from you if you try some of them out, or if you have other strategies that you find useful. 

Lessons I've Been Learning This Year

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This week, I embrace another year of life - a gift I am so grateful for, and something I do not take lightly. What an amazing opportunity we have to live on this earth and continue to create our lives each day.

This week, between eating lemon cremes, lemon macarons, and lemon cupcakes (there’s a trend happening here - it's been my strategy to deal with the April Blizzard we've gotten here in the midwest), I’ve been reflecting on some things I’ve been learning over the course of this past year of life.

Do It Your Way.

This is a lesson I’ve been both teaching, and learning, since I started my business. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, how anyone else is running their business, or what anyone else’s website looks like. What matters is that we are creating in a way that is 100% aligned with who we are and what we believe, in a way that serves the world from a place of our unique genius. If ever I find myself even 2% adrift from this place of pure alignment, I know that it is time to pause, tune in, get quiet, and shift accordingly. And for everyone out there who is building something and has the urge to go look at other people’s websites “for inspiration,” please - I beg you - don’t do it. I promise you, your energy is better spent with your head down and your heart open to your own version of truth and inspiration.

Schedule it First. On the Calendar. Otherwise, It Almost Certainly Won’t Happen.

This goes for time with girlfriends, trips to see family, vacations, yoga classes, date nights, weekend adventures, and all the other things we say we want to do but can’t find time for. We will never find the time. We must create it, and we must create it first.

Go for the Comfortable Couch.

While the mid-century modern apartment sofa looks cool in the living room, nobody (including me) actually wants to sit on it.

When Working with the Right Clients, the Business Model is Easy.

“Work with amazing clients who inspire me” is the majority of my business model, and has been for the last several years. It’s a part of my business model that I never plan to change.

Vibes Matter.

The energy of spaces and places matters. I spent two years searching for a new home yoga studio, visiting almost every studio in my city. I finally found “the one” - based almost 100% on the energy and vibes. A studio that smells like feet, has a crumbling ceiling, or has a waiting area that feels like a sardine can is not a studio that I want to hang out in. Acknowledging the importance of vibes and energy allows me to more easily make decisions about where to spend my time and my money.

Enthusiasm Can Have a Dark Side.

My top Strength in Strengthsfinder is Positivity. All of my other assessments cite “creativity, visioning, possibilities, and enthusiasm” as top traits. All of these things have major gifts - especially as an entrepreneur and someone who likes to create and start things. However, they also have downsides; it can be easy for me to get wrapped up in an idea, a possibility, and the potential for what something “could be” versus the reality of what it really is or how much time it will actually take.

We Often Need to Take Our Foot off the Gas to Realize How Fast We Were Going.

2017 was a year of velocity for me. I didn’t realize the speed at which I was driving until I finally paused and took my foot off the gas in late December. Upon doing so, I realized that it had been a thrilling ride, but that the car would eventually run out of gas if I kept driving at that pace. I needed to take my foot off the gas in order for this realization to occur; I didn’t notice the danger of running out of gas while I’d been driving, full speed, with the windows down and the music turned up high. While driving at full speed is exhilarating, I realized that I also need to build in time to take the car in for a tune-up, refill the tank with gas, and even take the slow scenic road at 25 mph once in a while - ideally, before the last week of the year.