Fearlessly Authentic

Who would you be if you weren’t afraid of being judged? I love that question. It points to what is a very real struggle for many of us who, over the years, have developed different parts of ourselves to fit into different parts of our lives.

Recently I was listening to a call where a coach I don’t know was talking about her deep desire to integrate her two identities. Her one identity is the professional coach who helps Silicon Valley execs grow their teams and develop their leadership skills. Her other identity is a highly creative free-spirited woman who runs around at Burning Man in a corset and tutu, pole dances, and gives talks on the law of attraction.

She was struggling with her fears about people from either world finding out about her other identity and judging her for it. The business world wouldn’t take her seriously if they knew what she does in her free time. And her alternative friends would think she was crazy for working in Silicon Valley.

[Side note: some of you who are familiar with bay area culture are probably wondering what the problem is there, because you know there are actually a ton of people from Silicon Valley who go to Burning Man. And just as many Burning Man regulars who have “normal” corporate jobs. But that’s not the point, of course. Regardless of what the reality of any situation is, the stories we create in our minds are the powerful ones that can really hold us back. THOSE stories are the ones I want to encourage all of us to move past.]

How many identities do you have? Do you hide parts of yourself for fear of being judged? Have you created elaborate facades that you put up while interacting with certain groups? We all do it to an extent I think. While I’d love it if we could all be 100% ourselves all the time, I believe that sometimes it IS actually helpful to be able to tone things up or down, given the situation.

At the end of the day, I’m not arguing that being a slightly different version of yourself in certain situations is inherently bad or good. Things are rarely inherently good or bad. They just.. are. We are the ones who assign a value to them in our minds, usually due to our conditioning and deeply ingrained beliefs.

Really, the question is whether it’s helpful, effective, or healthy in any given circumstance. Should that coach show up to work at a big corporate gig wearing her Burning Man gear? Probably not. But should she have to hide either or both of her identities and live in fear of judgment? I say no.

I think it’s more a matter of learning how to honor the different, beautiful, unique parts of ourselves fully, to mindfully choose how to show up when, and to take full responsibility for our impact every time.

I often wonder who the fullest expression of me is. She’s constantly evolving of course, but as of right now, here is who I am when I’m completely owning my true self, and not worried what anyone will think:
– I dare to speak up, have strong opinions, and stand my ground
– I am brave, vulnerable, and courageously show all of my real raw self to the people I trust
– I don’t ask for or seek permission from others, I simply trust my own judgment
– I freely show my quirky, goofy side, laugh easily, hug everyone, and smile often
– I approach strangers easily, embrace awkwardness, and create warm connections
– I embrace my woo woo spiritual side in my business just as much as my practical side

What about you? Who would you be if you were fearlessly authentic? If you were sure you would not be judged, OR were sure you wouldn’t care? What is the fullest expression of you?

How to (Finally) Stop Beating Yourself Up

Do you find yourself beating yourself up when you fail? When you were good, but not great? When you are progressing, but not fast enough?

This is a recurring theme among some of my clients – those with perfectionist tendencies in particular. If you are someone with big dreams and high expectations for yourself, I bet you know what I’m talking about. Beating yourself up is challenging habit to let go of, to say the least.

Some of us hold ourselves to impossible standards and then tear ourselves apart when we fail. This focus on our inadequacies also prevents us from celebrating our strengths and accomplishments. Maybe we understand, at least intellectually, that it’s not serving us. But how do we actually break the cycle?

Edward Norton punching himself in the face

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. This is not a specific 10-step process, per se. It’s more of a collection of strategies in the approximate order I would use them. Feel free to use any or all of them in whatever order works for you.

HOW TO (FINALLY) STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP

1. Take responsibility
If you made a mistake, admit it. If you made a mess, clean it up. Whatever the problem is, own up to it. It feels great and it’s the right thing to do. Once you’ve taken responsibility, there is no need to dwell on it.

2. Let it go
Admit that, quite frankly, beating yourself up is a huge waste of time. It doesn’t actually accomplish anything for anyone. Kind of like holding a grudge against someone else. Remember that you always have a choice and decide to let it go and move on.

3. Feel your emotions
In order to move on, I believe we must go through our emotions, as opposed going around them (by ignoring or denying them), which may lead to dealing with the uncomfortable emotion in an unhealthy or unnecessary way. Find a healthy way to express your frustration / anger / disappointment to get it out of your system.

4. Forgive yourself
There is incredible power in forgiveness. There is also plenty of research that backs up the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of forgiveness. Make a conscious choice to forgive yourself (and others). It’s good for you.

5. Choose self-love and self-acceptance
Know that you are intrinsically valuable. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone to be worthy. You simply are. So, decide to love and accept yourself in spite of your failures and imperfections. Or, take it a step further and decide to love and accept yourself because of your failures and imperfections. They are part of what make you unique.

6. Practice self-compassion
Many of us are capable of showing incredible compassion for others, yet struggle to show that same compassion for ourselves. Try this. Remember a time that you felt compassion for someone else. Recreate the emotional state you were in. Imagine it vividly. While feeling this way, you certainly wouldn’t beat them up, would you? No. You would treat them with the love and respect they deserve. You’d be warm, gentle, and understanding. Now, take those same emotions and direct them at yourself.

7. Shift your perspective
Realize that every “failure” is actually an opportunity. Every time you fall, get back up, and dust yourself off, you gain something – like strength, experience, or wisdom. As they often say in yoga, “every time you fall you’re simply learning how not to fall.”

8. Embrace failure
Once you’ve shifted your perspective, you can go one step further and actually embrace failure. Celebrate the chance to grow! If you’ve ever taken an improv class, you may have learned the technique of following up a failure by throwing your arms in the air and yelling “TADA!” (If you’ve never taken an improv class, I highly recommend it.)

9. Have a sense of humor
Take your dreams seriously, by all means, but know that it’s really about the journey. The journey will always be full of surprises, challenges, and “learning opportunities”. Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself so that you can recover quickly from those hiccups and bounce back with enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll be a lot more fun to be around.

10. Be patient
Changing old patterns takes time. It’s not a light switch that you can switch on and off. It’s more like a dimmer switch. Every time you bring your awareness to the old unconscious behavior (beating yourself up) and decide to replace it with something else (self-compassion) you are rewiring your brain. It takes time.

Sometimes You Gotta Slow Down to Speed up

For those of us living in fast moving, high tech, always connected cultures, this is not just some hot topic from the mindfulness movement. It’s becoming increasingly urgent for our health and well-being that we remember to unplug, slow down, and quiet our minds.

When we slow down, we create the space and energy needed to not only speed back up (and to do so more intentionally and strategically,) but also to thrive, to grow, to evolve, and to find clarity. That’s exactly what I’m intending to do down here in Costa Rica for the next three weeks.

playa

Recently I’ve felt as though I’m staring into a thick fog, straining my eyes in order to make out something in the distance. It’s as if there is a shift or epiphany of some kind coming, but I can’t quite make out what it looks like or what the message is.

I can feel the essence of it. The intoxicating pull of something I don’t yet understand but can’t deny the strength of. There is clarity there. Focus. Resonance. I suspect it’s related to my business, but it could be something else entirely.

I also know I can’t force it. The harder I look for the answers, the more they escape me. It’s like when you wake up from a vivid dream and can still feel the richness of it, but as soon as you try to bring the specifics of it into consciousness they slip away, out of reach. I have to step back, let the distractions fade away, and trust that the answers will show up when the time is right.

We planned this trip ages ago, since Chris’ family is putting on a reunion of sorts, and we figured we’d head out a few weeks early. (We got engaged a week before leaving, so it became a celebratory trip too.) Yet, the timing feels so appropriate, given my current state of mind. There is nothing but space and time down here in paradise and I am grateful to be here right now. Pura vida!

puravida

It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of city life. I think the tendency to rush through one thing and onto the next thing is deeply ingrained in many of us. In my case, I’ve been in crazy mode since leaving my last job in February in order to focus on building my own business full time.

I’ve been hustling like a madman to make ends meet while still being fiercely determined to stay true to myself, honor my values, and be actively creating the business and lifestyle of my dreams. It’s been amazing, and ridiculously challenging. The work is thrilling for me and transformational for my clients. Finding the clients and creating steady income is where the crazy comes in. I’ve experimented a lot, failed a lot, learned a lot, have grown the business slowly but steadily, and I have a loooooong way to go. I’m prepared to buckle down and continue to work hard creating something that is not just aligned with who I am and what I stand for, but that is scalable, sustainable, and successful.

That being said, our bodies and our souls need time to slow down. Not just to replenish, recharge, and relax but also to allow our inner wisdom to emerge. We can give ourselves this gift through regular meditation, vacation, and many other forms of self-care. But how often to we neglect this need? How many of us show up, with the best of intentions, depleted, stressed and confused, because we’ve neglected to slow down, create space for rest and recovery, and do whatever else it is we need in terms of self-care?

Today, I’m sinking into the slower pace of life. I’m working on letting go of expectations and assumptions and practicing the art of being in the moment. Instead of trying hard to find the answers, I’m relaxing into just being with the fog until it clears.

 

How to Kick Ass at Public Speaking

Public speaking. Most people hate it. A few of us love it. Many jobs require it and being good at it can open a lot of doors. Why not learn to kick ass at it? Here is my take on how.

microphone photo

Embrace your fear

Fear shows up in some shape or form, usually nerves, for most of us when we know we’re going to speak in front of a group. Being nervous is normal and healthy. Embrace it. Find a way to move through it, dance with it, or harness it. It’s just energy. Let it empower you. If you have rituals or practices that help you get grounded, use them.

Be authentic

As the Chinese proverb says, “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” Let go of the ideas you have about what a person is supposed to look, act, and sound like when speaking in public and just talk. The harder you try to be someone or something else, the more obvious it is to the audience and the less interesting you are to listen to.

Know your why

If you don’t know why you’re up there, the audience won’t either. Be clear on your purpose for giving the talk. Are you there to entertain? To educate? To inspire? What is your message? Keep your content simple and focus on one core theme or idea. Help your listeners understand why it’s meaningful to you.

Don’t memorize every word

There are lots of techniques you can use to remember what you want to cover (use a powerpoint presentation, refer to an outline, use note cards, memorize the outline etc.) but memorizing every word of a speech is rarely the way to go. It just doesn’t sound natural. Know the story instead. Understand the emotional journey you want to take your audience on, but don’t memorize every word.

Slow down

Slow everything down – your words, your breathing, your hand gestures, your facial expressions. We inevitably speed up when nervous so do your best to consciously slow down your speech. This also gives you time to think. After making an important point, pause to allow it to land. The more relaxed and grounded you seem up there, the more relaxed and grounded your audience will feel.

Use natural body language

Move in a way that is authentic to you. If you are expressive and talk with your hands, do that. If you are pretty laid back and don’t move around a lot, do that. The point is, find something that feels right for you, rather than trying to move how you think you’re supposed to move. Some of the best talks I’ve seen were delivered by speakers who barely moved at all. Turn up the dial on your own energy to engage the crowd, but avoid being fake.

Be aware of your breath and voice

Breathe. If you are running out of breath, the audience will feel like they are running out of breath. Consciously slowing down and controlling your breathing will improve many things about your delivery and your own experience. Take advantage of the full range, volume, and tone of your voice to bring your listeners into the emotional experience of your story. Your voice is an extremely powerful instrument. Learn to use it intentionally.

Be present and read the room

When you are grounded and present, you are better able to read the room and detect the subtle shifts happening in the energy in the room. If you are caught up in your own story or obsessively worrying what people might think, you probably won’t notice that the back of the room has checked out. By being completely in the moment, you can better sense what’s going on around you, and adjust your presentation accordingly.

Invest in the process, then let go of the outcome

Prepare. Practice. Then practice some more. Really invest in the process. Then, as soon as you walk onto the stage let go of the outcome and just have fun. Trust that you’ve put in the work and will find the words. Tap into your authentic self and speak from your heart. Let go of getting it right and looking good. Be flexible and open to whatever comes up.

If you end up using any of these tips, I would love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment or send me a note.

The Possing Manifesto

I present to you: The Possing Manifesto.

You always have a choice.

Take radical responsibility for every part of your life.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Respect their journey and live yours.

Be present. Be grateful. See the beauty all around you.

Don’t fear your emotions, feel them.

You are a feisty beast. Run wild and be free.

Every day is an adventure. Play hard.

There is nothing more badass than being who you are. Own it.

Stand tall, make good eye contact, and speak up. Your voice matters.

Be courageous. Fail gloriously. Let go of looking good and getting it right.

Clarity and self-awareness are key. Know who you are and what you want.

Prioritize self-care. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Live on purpose. Seek aliveness.

Create more than you consume.

Invest in the process. Let go of the outcome.

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Speak your truth.

Ask for help when you need it.

Replace judgment with curiosity. Replace jealousy with inspiration.

Respond intentionally, instead of reacting defensively.

Take bold action. Action creates energy. You can course correct later.

Never assume. Just ask. Keep it simple.

Come from a place of love, compassion, and respect. Always.

Be authentic, vulnerable, and real. Connect genuinely.

Do meaningful work. Work hard but hack life and be smart.

Be a resource. Be helpful. Be kind. Be generous.

You CAN change the world. Go do it.

I wrote this manifesto for The Twenty-One Day Momentum Challenge

Simplify. Prioritize. Clarify.

Those three ideas changed my life.

A few years ago, I took stock of my life from top to bottom and realized that some things had to change. I was happy, healthy, and busy, but craved more passion, meaning, and purpose. Through searching, exploring, and peeling back layers, I discovered that as I found more meaning, I wanted less stuff. Less distraction. Less crap in my way.

And thus began a process, which developed rather organically, but that has since become a lifestyle: Simplify. Prioritize. Clarify.

Simplify.

I started to simplify things. Radically. I filled bag after bag with old clothes, nicknacks and jewelry and took them to Goodwill. I sorted through old papers and fed the recycling bin. I organized and deleted tons of documents, programs, and other unnecessary things from my digital world. Getting rid of things was part of something bigger, but at the time I didn’t understand what it was. I just felt – I knew – that I had to simplify my life. 

Turns out a big part of simplifying was learning to let go. I let go of material things that had nostalgic value, sure, but that I really didn’t need or want anymore. And ultimately I started letting go of bigger things: hobbies, habits, old stories.  The more I let go, the easier it became to see what was important and what was simply… distracting.

Prioritize.

As I created more space (literally and figuratively) in my life, I naturally started to prioritize. It felt good to ask myself brutally honest questions and be surprised by my own answers. I felt lighter, cleaner, and more alert. My mental, emotional, and spiritual bandwidth was given a huge upgrade.

I started making decisions based on what truly felt right, what supported my core values, what was aligned with who I am and what I’m about. I chose in favor of passion and purpose, rather than listening to external factors (or what I was making up about external factors, like what other people think or expect or how they’ll react.) Decision-making became a thrill rather than an ordeal.

Clarify.

The next step was obvious. I wanted clarity. Once you start living your life in a way that is aligned with who you are and what you’re about, it’s impossible to go back. So, I figured my next challenge was to get more and more clear on my values, my passions, and my purpose. This is what I’ve been most focused on for the last couple years and is the main reason I am so goddamn happy all the time!

The great thing about this process is that the more you do it, the more it becomes an unconscious way of living (rather than a conscious process.) Whenever I need to, I simplify by slowing down and letting go of the things, thoughts, and distractions that don’t serve me. Then I prioritize by choosing in favor of passion and purpose and following my heart. And finally, I get even more clear on who I am and what I’m about, which then informs everything I do and how I live my life.