mindfulness

Trust Yourself, Trust Your Life.

Trust Yourself, Trust Your Life

Trust yourself, trust your life.

Yes, call the psychic, book the session with the astrologer, and consult your pendulum (don’t get me wrong, I usually do all three). Make the pro and con list, think about the options, explore paths A, B, and C. Call your financial adviser, your mentor, and maybe even your grandma.


But most of all, call upon yourself. Tune in deeply and listen. And trust that whatever is happening right now is likely exactly what’s meant to be.

Expanding Our Definition of Self-Care

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The best definition of self-care I've heard goes something like "creating a life that you don't need to escape from."


So yes. Buy yourself flowers. Book a spa day if you can. Sink deeply into the bath tub (you'll find me there most nights during the winter) and light all of the candles. Eat the chocolate. Jump on the bandwagon for Treat Yourself Tuesday.


And also - be courageous enough to look at the things that you might be trying to escape from.

Get quiet.

Tune in.

Go for a walk in the woods, alone with your thoughts - free of podcasts and music and photo sessions for Instagram.

Bust out your journal (any old notebook will do) and a favorite pen.

Write down whatever comes up.

Hire a coach (I know some people).

Find a good therapist (it can be hard but they exist).

Have the tough conversation with your co-founder or mom or sister or friend.

Dare to take a good, hard look at the big stuff, the messy stuff, the things that it can feel easier to try to escape from.

This - doing the hard work, having the tough conversation, looking deep within, and being willing to face what we uncover - is perhaps the most loving and impactful act of self care that we can do.

The Pareto Principle

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I ordered my green smoothie, minus the chia seeds.

“Just so you know,” he said, “after Friday we’ll no longer be serving smoothies. They generate the smallest amount of our revenue and cause all of our headaches.”

“Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?”

“Yes, I love the Pareto Principle!”

We proceeded to geek out on the Pareto Principle for the next 10 or so minutes, after which I walked out with one of the last remaining green smoothies on the menu.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is credited to Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, who was born in Italy in 1848. In his case, he noticed that 80% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods, and then went on to discover that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

In the case of the restaurant I visited, 80% of their stress, irritation, and time investment tied back to 20% of their menu items (in this case, smoothies and smoothie bowls). And this 80% stress, irritation, and time investment produced under 20% of their revenue.

We can apply this same principle to nearly any type of business, to how we structure our work day, to the way we prioritize our work, and even how we approach our health and fitness.

Like Essentialism, this is one of those things that (for me) feels like common sense, yet takes constant attention and intentionality to apply in everyday life.

Here are a few ways that I like to practice the Pareto Principle.

  • Looking across all the projects I’m currently involved with, which fall in the 20% that create 80% of the positive impact and also feel the most joyful?

  • On the flip side, which projects fall in the 20% that create 80% of the stress and headaches?

  • Looking at the flow of my workday, where can I invest 20% of my time and effort for 80% of the returns? (For me, when doing independent work, the answer always falls in the early hours of the morning.)

  • Looking across my life at the things that aren’t working as well as they could be, where are the 20% of small irritations that are causing 80% of the lack of daily ease? (often, for me, this ties back to some sort of misalignment with my calendar.)

  • Which 20% of clothing items do I wear 80% of the time? (I’ve been working on continuously donating that other 80%, as for me there is a very clear 20%. I tend to wear the exact same few outfits on rotation.)

  • In which 20% of our house do we spend 80% of our time, and how can we maximize that 20% for the way we live?

  • Looking at my list of monthly, weekly, and daily to-dos, which 20% will yield 80% of the results?

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, can help us to focus our time and energy on the things that yield the highest results.

Do you use the Pareto Principle? If so, in what ways has it been helpful for you?

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.

Ways to Stay Grounded During Ungrounding Times

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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.