purpose

Building a Personal Board of Directors

personal board of directors

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Just like a company often turns to a board for input on strategy, key priorities, and big decisions, we have an opportunity to create a board of directors in our own lives. This is a small, highly curated group of people who can provide us with expertise, input, advice, deep listening, support, guidance, and outside perspective.

Here is a list of people you might consider for your board.

A Financial Adviser

I started working with a financial advisor in 2008. My only regret is that I didn’t start working with her several years earlier, when I first started working in the corporate world. I have met with her regularly since 2008, and she has helped me not only make smart decisions with my money, but also hold the vision for the life I most want to create.

When I put in my notice at my job, she was the second phone call I made, after calling my family.

A good financial adviser will help you to uncover your priorities and make smart financial decisions accordingly.

I hear many people complain about the fees that financial advisors charge. My perspective is that I pay professionals for most important things in my life; I pay a dentist to clean my teeth, I pay technicians to service my car; I pay lawyers for their legal expertise, and I pay my financial adviser for her expertise and guidance. That said, for those who are uncomfortable with the traditional financial advising payment structure, there are also fee-only advisors who are paid only for their advice and do not earn commissions.

I also hear people say that they need to first prepare on their own or have more savings to be ready to talk to a financial advisor. I lovingly disagree. A good financial advisor can help with this preparation by recommending small, tangible actions to take now, in service of where you want to be in the future.

Not quite ready to talk to a financial advisor, but want to take a baby step? The So Money podcast is a great place to start.

A Coach and/or Therapist

Do you have someone in your life who is helping you work through the most important challenges, opportunities, and decisions before you? Someone who listens attentively, provides a neutral third party perspective, and who lovingly pushes you in toward your highest purpose in the world?

I believe that almost anyone can benefit greatly from working with a coach and/or therapist. One of my earliest coaches once said to me, “you can do things alone - but it will be much harder and take way longer.” I very much agree with this sentiment.

While there are some similarities and also a number of differences between coaching and therapy, here are a few:

What’s Similar:

  • Both a good coach and a good therapist will listen deeply and will be able to hear not only what you say - but also what you don’t say.

  • A good coach and a good therapist will ask you powerful questions that will lead to greater awareness, insight, and often personal transformation.

  • A good coach and a good therapist will hold you, the client, at the center of the process and will honor your goals throughout.

  • Many coaches and therapists have specializations - for example, types of people they specialize in working with, or topics of deep expertise. If either a potential coach or a potential therapist says they work with everyone/anyone, I would personally consider this to be a red flag.

What’s Different:

  • Generally speaking, coaching is more forward-focused (where do you want to go, and how can we work together to get there?) while therapy is oftentimes more past-focused (looking at patterns that have developed over time, family of origin, and events in our past).

  • Therapy may involve a diagnosis or referral from a medical provider. Coaching does not involve any sort of diagnosis or medical treatment plan.

  • Coaching is often a bit more active - with homework, reflection exercises, and/or concrete take-aways and things to try or implement between sessions.

  • Many coaches I know (I’m in this category as well) offer to share their notes with clients after sessions; this is not a practice I’ve seen in the world of therapy.

  • Many companies will cover coaching as part of professional development. Several of my clients use their professional development funds to cover all or part of their 1:1 coaching investment.

  • Some therapy is covered by some insurance providers. Coaching is not.

Of course, these are generalizations, and the specifics will depend on the individual coach or the individual therapist. The important thing is to do your research and find someone you connect with, that you respect, and that feels like a good fit. Referrals from trusted friends or colleagues can be incredibly helpful, because there are lots of coaches and lots of therapists out there - and not all of them are good.

A Mastermind-Type Group

This might be an official mastermind, or it might look like a group of colleagues getting together regularly for a cup of coffee or to discuss a book. The difference between a mastermind-type group and simply meeting up for coffee is that there’s often a specific goal, intention, or topic for the meeting beyond just “getting together” or “catching up.”

I’ve found that some of my favorite mastermind-type groups have a shared purpose and intention, but have some diversity in the backgrounds and perspectives of the members (versus masterminds that, for example, are made up of all people from within my own industry).

Friends and Family

Of course, these people get to play a role on our personal board of directors if we want them to! Our friends and family can provide support, encouragement, and input. While our friends and family members often play an incredibly important role in our board of directors, it can be helpful to remember that their perspective is often not necessarily neutral, since we know each other well!

This is why, in addition to these dear ones in our lives, it can be helpful to round out our board with some of the above individuals.

Questions to Ask

As you consider who to include on your board, you might ask yourself the following questions.

  • who are the people who inspire me?

  • who are the people who help me be my best self?

  • who are the people who help me to feel big and expansive?

  • who are the best listeners I know?

  • who are my role models?

  • who are people I'd like to see more of in my life?

  • who are the people who help me think bigger/see what's possible?

  • who are the people who have my back?

You want people on your board who help you to be your best. This doesn’t meant that they can’t push you or challenge you - but this criticism and pushing needs to be rooted in a place of having your best interest in mind.

In Conclusion

A personal board of directors can be a powerful source of support, advice, encouragement, and expertise and can help us move toward our most important goals.

Do you have a personal board of directors in your life? If not, what’s one small step you could take to begin to create one?

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.

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?

When the Inner Whisper Shouts

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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