Category Archives: clarity

Setting aside the How

One of the most important aspects of getting clear on what you want is to set aside the how. At least temporarily.

What I mean is, you need to think about what you want (in life, work, whatever) first, without worrying about how to make it happen.

You probably want some pretty big things. Like a business you look forward to spending time with. One that supports you without draining you.

Maybe it’s really big. Like world-changingly big.

When you want something that big, it’s easy to focus on the distance between where you are now and where you want to be. Big things often come with (what seems like) a big distance to travel. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless.

There’s nothing wrong with you. And it certainly doesn’t mean you chose the wrong thing to want.

The reason it feels overwhelming is because the You who will get there is not the You of today.

You-Today isn’t quite ready for all that’s involved in arriving at your destination. And that’s perfectly fine, because you’ll be ready by the time you’re there.

A metaphor might help

You’ve walked in the dark with a flashlight, right? Or maybe you’ve even gone scuba diving at night?

The flashlight shines a certain distance. Beyond where the beam ends, you can’t see anything. Because it’s dark.

If you want to see something that’s beyond the beam of the flashlight, you need to take a step forward. (Or you need to kick your fins a bit.)

When You-Today is thinking about your dream business (or dream whatever-it-may-be) and starts to worry about the How, it’s like you’re trying to look past where your flashlight is shining.

Of course that’s going to be scary because you have no idea what’s there in the darkness.

And if every time you think about what you want you feel scared because of the How, it’s won’t be long before you stop trying to think about it.

Or maybe you’ll choose a smaller dream.

Once you do that, you’re not getting clear on what you want anymore. You’re getting clear on what you think you can have.

So what to do instead?

The way to keep the What separate from the How is to create a container.

It sounds mysterious, but it just means to give yourself a safe place to think about those big dreams, without looking out past your flashlight beam. The container lets you get clear on what your dreams look like without worrying about how they will happen.

A simple place to start?

When you’re thinking about what you want, keep reminding yourself that it’s just information. And that you’re not committed to following through on any of it.

You can also let your body guide you. It knows what you want, and if you can put the How aside, it will help you stay on the right path.

Creating a container is also what the No-Brainer Scenario does. It gives you a way to feel safe while you explore what you truly want.

Once you’ve spent time with what you truly want, only then should you start thinking about the How.

The key to working on the How without going into freak-out mode is to make sure the steps in your plan are manageable. And appropriate for You-Today. (If you’re not sure how to translate your big dream into You-Today-sized steps, I can help.)

How about you?

Have you experienced the “shut-down effect” of worrying about the How too early in the process? How did it affect you?

Do you have a favorite way to create a container for exploring those big things you want?

The No-Brainer Scenario: A Simple Tool for Powerful Clarity – an ebook to help you know what you want so you can make it happen – will be available January 24.

Puzzle Pieces

Jigsaw puzzle

Remember jigsaw puzzles?

And that super satisfying snap that happens when you put two right pieces together? Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about that sound that almost sends a shiver up my spine.

Sometimes I think our lives are like big jigsaw puzzles.

Lots of pieces. But there’s more than one right way to fit them together.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about two of the pieces in particular.

The piece that is us

I think who we are is one piece of the puzzle. All of our uniqueness is what determines the shape of the piece.

Our likes and dislikes. Our personality traits. Our hopes and dreams. Our gifts and and skills and superpowers and weaknesses. And our values and priorities. All of them contribute to the shape of the puzzle piece.

Let’s call this the Essence Piece. I’m pretty sure it’s the central piece of the puzzle.

The piece that is our work

Another piece of the puzzle is what we do for a living.

The shape of that piece is determined by the skills and strengths needed to be successful. And the mission or purpose of the work. And the policies and rules and expectations.

What you’re creating and how you create it, as well as why are crucial to the shape of the Work Piece.

When pieces collide

When we try to do work that’s wrong for us, the Work Piece is the wrong fit for the Essence Piece.

Sometimes there will be big gaps where the shapes don’t match up. The two pieces won’t stay together easily – a slight bump to the table and the two pieces will disconnect.

Other times, the only way to get the two pieces to fit together is to damage one of the pieces. And usually, it’s the Essence Piece that winds up being smashed in order to make it fit with the Work Piece.

But when we find the Work Piece that fits well with our Essence Piece? Then we get to feel that satisfying snap of two right pieces joining together. Neither the Work Piece nor the Essence Piece get hurt in the process.

Heeeere, Piece, Piece, Piece…

How do you find a Work Piece that fits well with your Essence Piece? (Because there’s not just one right way, remember?)

It’s part searching, part creating, with a side order of experimenting.

If the work in question involves being employed by someone, someone else is determining the shape of that piece. If we want to have a say in the shape, we need their buy in.

Working for ourselves gives us a lot more say in the shape of the Work Piece, but only if we’re vigilant and make sure we’re not letting outside forces such as customers shape the piece.

Either way you go, here’s what makes it a lot easier:

You need to know the shape of your Essence Piece.

The more you know about the shape of the Essence Piece, the easier it is to rule out the Work Pieces that are clearly not going to fit. And to recognize the potential Work Pieces that have the most…potential.

Proper care and feeding of your Essence Piece

It seems like most of us, or at least a lot of us, weren’t trained to take care of our Essence Pieces. I know I wasn’t.

Our Essence Pieces have been mashed up against ill-fitting Work Pieces and Friend Pieces and Significant Other Pieces for most of our lives.

And they’ve been left under the couch with the dog hair tumbleweeds of obligation and the stale bits of other-people’s-dreams popcorn and have gotten stuck to that old living-up-to-your-so-called-potential lollipop that’s been down there for 10 years.

All that stuff obscures the true shape of our Essence Pieces.

When we don’t know what our Essence Pieces look like, it can feel like we’re just guessing when it comes to finding Work Pieces that will fit.

Gaaahhh…but where do I start?

Start wherever you are.

Just…notice.

What do you know about the shape of your Essence Piece?
What parts of the piece are hidden by fuzz and crumbs?
What do those fuzz and crumbs look like?

Noticing is such a big step. And you’ll gather so much information.

For now that might be plenty.

Or maybe you’re ready to start experimenting with better-fitting Work Pieces (aka, Thing-Finding).

Maybe you’re ready for me to get my lint roller and flashlight out and serve as your Clarity Guide.

Maybe you already know that why you’re doing what you do fits fine, but you could use some help shifting the what and how of your work, so the shape of your Work Piece feels more supportive of your Essence Piece. I created the Shmorian Project Protection Prescription eCourse (free!) to help with that.

How about you?

How is your Work Piece fitting with your Essence Piece?
Is it the what, how or why that isn’t fitting for you? Or is it a little bit of all three?

{Photo credit: Jared}

Science Proves I’m Helpful

During my recent internet sabbatical I finally made it to our local library. And of course, now I keep kicking myself for not doing that sooner, because, all those books? There to be read for free? It’s glorious.

One of the books I wound up reading is The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar. Really, I was looking for one of his other books, Happier, but it wasn’t on the shelf. Hello, synchronicity.

Why synchronicity? Because, although there’s a significant physical component to what I’ve been struggling with lately, the book helped me see that my perfectionism is also a big contributing factor.

I’ve known forever that I’m a perfectionist, but I didn’t realize that my outcome-based thinking and my all-or-nothing approach to everything I attempt were related to that. Yeah, kind of a duh! moment now that I look back. And who knows, maybe subconsciously I already knew they were all connected, but now I can really see it.

I’ll probably write some more about what I’ve learned, but this post is about the bonus validation I got of the value of my blogging. (How’s that for tooting my own horn?)

Throughout the book, Ben-Shahar shares several studies and their findings. Here’s the one that made me feel all warm inside (emphasis mine, and I added white space for readability):

Professor Ellen Langer asked students to assess the intelligence of a number of highly accomplished scientists.

The first group of students was given no information on how these scientists attained their success. Participants in this group rated the intelligence of the scientists as extremely high and did not perceive the scientists’ achievements as attainable.

Participants in the second group were told about the same scientists and the same achievements, but in addition they were told about the trials, errors, and setbacks the scientists experienced on the road to success.

Students in this group evaluated these scientists as impressive – just like the students in the first group did. But unlike participants in the first group, students in the second group evaluated the scientists’ accomplishments as attainable.

The point? When you only see the outcome, everything looks like overnight success, the result of innate talent and a lucky break. But the reality is that every achievement has many steps along the way, many of which were probably missteps.

What I found most exciting (sorry – is my inner geek showing?) is that all it took for the students to see the achievements as attainable was the awareness of the failures the scientists experienced before they reached success.

That was a serious a-ha moment for me.

Part of me, all along, has known that sharing my process is useful and important for my readers. Another part of me tends to think it’s self-indulgent and that I’m not being teach-y enough.

Either way, I couldn’t really articulate why it was important for me to share my process. And not being able to articulate the why meant I tended to discount the lovely comments and emails where people flat-out told me it was helpful. I guess my inner scientist needed something more concrete.

So, this is why it’s important: It’s to share the steps I took along the way. To show that things go wrong, and there are setbacks, health challenges, flopped launches and fear. To demystify what I’m doing.

All in hopes of people realizing that if I can do it, others can do it, too.

You can do it.

There’s no mystery, here. Just hard work, lots of managing of emotions (often unsuccessfully), and finding ways to move ahead despite the fear.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to bask in the fact that now, when my monsters tell me writing a post about what I’m dealing with is wasting my readers’ time, I can point them to a scientific study that proves otherwise.

If you sometimes doubt the value of writing about your process, please share this study with your monsters, too. Care to bask with me?

And a little update!

I’ve been interviewed by the lovely Karen Caterson over at the Square Peg People blog! I had a blast talking with Karen. We even talked about what was on my second grade report card. :)

Oh, and I’m giving away a free coaching session over there! You can enter by leaving a comment on her post of the interview. The details are at the end of the post!

Is Your Business Not-Quite-Born?

I know that last time I said that this time I’d be talking about Necessity. This is not that time. Instead I need to say a couple of things about about my course.

If you’re 100% not interested in the course or whether it might be for you, feel free to skip this one. It’s okay.

Someone emailed me yesterday to ask they were a good fit for my course.

And I realized if one person emailed me to ask, there are probably others out there who are wondering the same thing, but haven’t sent me an email about it.

What’s the question?

Is this course right for me if I have a solid business idea but I’m not yet open for business?

The short answer? Yes.

The long-ish answer…

I’m guessing you were hoping for more than a simple yes or no.

The essence of my course is to help you go from idea to plan to implementation.

It’s about getting clear on what you’re really wanting from your business (and in your life), and creating a plan to get you there.

Clarity and a plan are crucial whether you’re dealing with an old business, a young business, or a not-quite-born business.

And then it hit me. Yes, this course is absolutely for people whose businesses already exist. But what I realize now is that this course is also the one I wished was available to me when I was getting ready to launch my business. I get downright giddy when I think about the kind of difference this course could make in helping people launch a business.

Why is this course so great for people planning to launch their businesses?

The exercises we’ll be doing to develop our vision will help you clarify what you want to offer, so you can put those pieces into your strategic plan. (To get a taste of the process of creating your vision, check out this post.)

It can help you avoid the expensive mistakes so many new entrepreneurs make, because you’ll know where you stand financially before you dive in. You’ll know what it will take to be able to quit that day job, if you’ve got one.

And the work we’ll be doing with creating our own project plans? The launch of your business is your project.

You’ll know very early on what business expenses to budget for, such as a website or equipment, and they’ll be the expenses that directly support your vision, because you’ll already know what’s important to you this year. (I wrote about how our spending can support our vision here.)

Maybe some of you are wondering, “But what if I get stuck?”

I completely relate to that, and have documented it on this very blog. Remember Hedgehog Girl? There’s nothing like a new adventure to bring out our stucknesses and resistance.

Fear is to be expected – you’re venturing into new and unfamiliar territory. And the voices of our inner critics seem to be particularly loud when we’re doing something big like a launching a business. They’ll do what they can to keep us from moving forward, because they think that’s the only way to keep us safe.

That’s part of why I’m offering a private coaching option for the course. Between starting something new and getting clear on our financial needs, Stuff is likely to get triggered. It’s completely normal. The one-on-one sessions are that extra bit of support that can help keep you on track, so you can get that business of yours out into the world where it can help people.

Growth is often uncomfortable and tantrum-inducing. Giving ourselves what we need as we go along makes it less so. Together we’ll be able to address any resistance that comes up.

If you’re ready to take the next 10 months and build a solid foundation for your business idea, learn more and sign up here. The $200 early-bird discount is still available, but only through 2/11.

Supporting Your Vision Part 2 – Does Your Spending Actually Support Your Vision?

Last time, I shared questions to help you explore how you might spend your money to help you bring more of your No-Brainer set of qualities into your life and business.

As promised, today we’ll look at it from the other direction: Looking at the money we spend to see what qualities our choices are increasing (or decreasing).

Still with the big fat caveat

I said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when looking at how we spend our money. Our stuff gets triggered, shoulds get louder, our hindsight tells us we could have done better…it happens to all of us.

We’re just gathering information with no expectation of making changes. So that we can have some clarity around what our money is doing for us in terms of supporting our vision (or taking us away from it).

The questions (with my own answers)

Pick two or three things you currently spend money on regularly, that you believe aren’t necessities. What qualities do they bring or what needs do they fulfill?

Going out to eat and ordering take-out – I guess this brings the qualities of ease and support. It means we don’t have to cook. Perhaps it also brings luxury or, well, whatever the quality is for indulging my sense of taste.

Starbucks – Partly the taste thing again. Sometimes connection when I met people there. But my history with lattes is that they were something I picked up on my way to the office, so it was more about “making up” for the fact that I had to go somewhere I didn’t want to go.

Renting DVDs – It brings fun, sometimes creativity if the movie sparks ideas for me. Connection with my husband when we discuss the movie.

More-than-basic cable & DVR – Sometimes fun. The DVR brings ease (I guess) or efficiency (!), in that we’re not forced to sit through commercials. Connection if we’re watching something together.

What I’m noticing: For all of the items I listed above, I’m feeling like I need to defend the money I spend on them. I also notice that these things can be used for good or for evil. Yes, movies and TV can bring fun and connection, but sometimes I use them to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes they bring dis-connection, because it’s passive entertainment.

For the qualities and needs you listed above, what other ways could you receive them while spending less money?

I could replace the ease of ordering out with simple recipes that leave us with a few days of leftovers. Bonus points if the recipe tastes really good. Usually I’m okay with leftovers (even boring ones) because they’re so easy.

I could also start working on my pattern of using TV to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. I’m sure there are much better ways to unwind and recharge, but this is a habit that spans decades, so it might take a while to unravel it all.

I could increase the fun and connection from renting movies with a board game night sometimes.

My Starbucks habit has already dropped off considerably now that I’m not going to an office. Plus, we make really good coffee at home.

Are there better ways to receive those qualities, even if it costs the same or more money?

Note: the point of this question is to encourage you to consider how you’re meeting your needs. Something more expensive might give you a lot more of what you’re wanting, compared to the cheaper thing that only gives you a very small amount.

Instead of reverting to movies and TV together all the time, we could consider signing up for a class together. Swing dancing, or painting. My sense is creating shared experiences would do a lot for increasing the qualities of connection, creativity and fun.

What comes up for you when you think about some of your spending and the ways you could change it?

I see quite a few things that I spend money on due to inertia – it’s easier to just keep it the way it is than to address it.

I’m also noticing that sometimes giving ourselves what we really need and want, rather than choosing the convenient options, is its own form of work. Sad but true.

Now that you’ve explored your spending and the qualities it brings, are there any changes that feel like a “No-Brainer” to you?

I’m definitely going to work on ordering out less, because I realize now that it just doesn’t give me that much of the qualities I’m wanting. I’d like to go from ordering out twice a week to twice a month. I can even try to find some fun recipes to try.

Until next time…

I’m thinking it might be time to talk about that elephant in the room, Necessity.

What about you?

Any aha moments from looking at the qualities your spending is bringing you? Any No-Brainer changes you’d like to make? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Oh, and feel free to share your No-Brainer recipes that you think I should try!

Enjoying this process of using qualities to direct your investments of time, money and energy? My upcoming course will be using the same approach to help you get clarity and create structure in your business. I’m offering a $200 early-bird discount until February 11. You can get the details here.

Supporting Your Vision Part 1 – Qualities & Spending

Earlier this week, I shared the questions I asked myself when I was trying to come up with my business vision for 2010.

The questions help you to go from the soft of qualities, needs and desires to the hard of how to apply it in the real world. To go from vision to reality. That’s really what my course is about, too.

Last time, we chose projects that would support us in our No-Brainer set of qualities.

Another place we can look at to support our No-Brainer set of qualities is in where we spend our money. We can make spending choices that will support our vision and increase our desired qualities, or that will take us further away from what we really want.

Big fat caveat

Money and spending are areas that can be full of triggers for people. Sometimes there’s shame and fear and avoidance.

It’s okay.

It’s important to treat this exercise as information gathering. You have my permission to look at it but not change anything you’re doing at the moment. In fact, I really don’t want you to think about changing anything right now.

Because this absolutely is not about whipping your spending into shape or cutting all the fun out of your life because it costs money.

This is simply about noticing. Exploring the idea that some small changes could make a big impact in your sense that you really can bring your vision into reality (which is all about clarity and sovereignty).

Once you’re clear about what you’re spending and why, you might find that some things are easy to change. But you won’t know until you get clear first.

Two ways to look at spending

When looking at where your money is going, or could go, it’s helpful to consider it from two directions.

1. From Qualities to Spending – What kinds of things could I put my money toward that would increase the qualities I’m wanting? (If you don’t know why I keep mentioning “qualities”, reading this post should help.)

2. From Spending to Qualities – What qualities are the things I currently invest in bringing? Are there better ways to bring those qualities into my life?

And for the purposes of this exercise, it’s going to be easier if you start with non-essential spending – entertainment, for example. But this exercise could be used for non-essential business spending, too. (Which begs the question, “What qualifies as essential?” But I’m not going there today.)

Today’s post will focus on going from Qualities to Spending.

Questions you can ask yourself (with my own answers)

What are the qualities you want more of?

For me, it was Connection, Creativity, Fun, Stability, Safety and Sovereignty.

What are you currently investing in that increases those qualities?

My work with Hiro definitely helps with a lot of the qualities – especially in learning how to increase my sense of sovereignty and safety as I navigate this entrepreneurial adventure. It’s a huge part of my self-care and my business-care.

Being a member of the Havi‘s Kitchen Table program increases connection (among other things) for me.

What other things, if you chose to spend money on them, would bring more of those qualities into your life?

In my personal life, I’m thinking about some kind of artsy class I could get involved in, which would (in theory) increase connection, fun and creativity.

For my business, I could join a paid membership site in hopes of increasing connection, but that doesn’t feel like what I actually need to do right now.

I’ve also considered increasing connection by investing in a video camera to record video blog posts.

Sidebar: If you listed Support as one of your qualities, you might think in terms of hiring a VA for your business. Expansion and Flow are other qualities that might increase by outsourcing some of your work.

Of the spending you listed (both current and potential), which ones make you feel excited? Where do you feel you’re getting (or would get) the most bang for your buck?

What I’m noticing is that the things I’m most excited about are the things I’m already doing – hanging out at the Kitchen Table and working with Hiro.

When I think about the potential options of taking an art class or buying a video camera, I feel some resistance come up.

For the class, I need to figure out my No-Brainer Scenario and turn that into a Very Personal Ad to help me find it, so that I don’t get bogged down in why it won’t work.

For the video camera, I think I was more excited about video posts a couple of months ago, for whatever reason. The idea probably came up now because I was remembering that I was excited about it.

I’m noticing that most of the qualities that I’m wanting in my business aren’t things I can buy right now. They’re things I need to create. I’m going to ponder that some more, especially if I get tempted to buy another information product.

Until next time…

We’ll see what comes up when I look at my actual spending and ask what qualities it brings or what needs it helps to meet.

What about you?

I’d love for you to come play by answering the questions in the comments. What are the qualities you’re wanting more of? What could you spend your money on to help increase them in your life and business?

Enjoying this process of using qualities to direct your investments of time, money and energy? My upcoming course will be using the same approach to help you get clarity and create structure in your business. I’m offering a $200 early-bird discount until February 11. You can get the details here.

Four No-Brainer Questions (and the Unveiling)

Update (1/22/2011): If you like what you read here and want to see more ways to apply this technique for making decisions and getting unstuck, check out the ebook!

Last week I held my first free teleclass, about the No-Brainer Scenario technique. I’m sure some of you were there or have since listened to the recording.

I had a blast in spite of my nervousness.

One of the things I shared was how to use the technique when you’re not considering a specific opportunity or decision.

I’ve been using this process for myself a lot lately, especially in terms of what I want this year to look like.

It’s a big question, because it’s up to me, and is limited only by where I decide to invest my energy. For me, that’s a recipe for instant stuckness and overwhelm.

So I used the technique to help me narrow down all the different directions I could go, to let the ones I really care about bubble up to the top.

Here are the questions I asked myself to help get a vision for 2010:

The questions – with my own answers

What qualities would help you get that No-Brainer, “Hell yeah!” feeling about 2010?

Connection
Creativity
Fun
Stability
Safety
Sovereignty

Of those qualities, which ones can your business help you with? For each of them, describe how your business might help bring more of those qualities into your life.

Connection – reach more people through my blog and classes

Creativity – develop new ways to help my Right People see that it really is possible to have work that they love; incorporate other types of creative activities such as movement and art into my teaching

Fun – this one’s tough…I guess my business could help me have more fun by helping me reshape my beliefs about work – that it doesn’t have to be unpleasant and overly challenging.

Stability – find ways to make the income from my business more steady

Safety – balance periods of growth with periods of rest (which is really more about how I conduct and interact with my business)

Sovereignty – Okay, I’m going to be totally honest and say that I’m still pondering this. I’m not sure how my business will support this. My business, if nothing else, will certainly offer me lots of opportunities to practice exercising my sovereignty.

For the things you described above, what are some ideas for projects, activities or practices that you could explore to accomplish those things?

Reaching more people – continue hanging out on Twitter; increase blog post frequency; offer more group classes

Developing steady income – create courses and products that can be offered regularly and more frequently

Balancing growth with rest – practice planning ahead and building rest into the project plan so that it’s more sustainable (I’ve been seeing lately that if I don’t replenish after a period of growth, I’m pretty useless)

Practicing sovereignty – practice tuning in to my own “inner knowing” and getting clear on that before asking others for their opinions (this might mean scheduling time in my project plans for getting quiet)

There will be some overlap as far as what qualities will increase with which projects. Are there any projects that give you more of the qualities than others?

I see more overlap than I expected. When I look at my list, I can see that developing group classes and increasing how often I post on my blog will help me with almost all of the qualities I’m looking for this year.

See what just happened?

I can see that group classes and blogging are important pieces of my business to focus on this year, because they’ll bring me the qualities I want.

Granted, there’s more work to be done with these questions, but this did not take me very long once I sat down to think about it. If you’re not used to listening to your own heart to find out what you want, it might take a little longer. It gets easier with practice.

By using the qualities I want to help me find projects to focus on, I completely avoided the “blank page” syndrome of not knowing how to begin planning my year.

Plus, by getting clear on my desired qualities, I have information I can apply to my life in general, not just my business. It allows me to align my business with my life, and not the other way around.

Some other thoughts

As you can imagine, you can apply this process to lots of things…not just a year. It could be a different time frame, or you could gear it toward relationships or a career change. The process is still the same – you’re looking for the set of qualities that give you a light, expansive, “hell yeah!” feeling about whatever you’re considering.

The answers aren’t set in concrete. They can change as your needs and desires change.

And, of course, this is just the beginning of the process. But by approaching what you want from the perspective of the qualities you want and need, you can choose projects that have those qualities.

What I just showed you – this process of going from qualities to specific ideas – is exactly the kind of work we’ll be doing in my new course. We’ll spend ten months together helping you to get clear and create the structures your business needs in order to be able to support you, from vision to plan to implementation.

The course starts February 18, and there are only ten spots so that I can provide plenty of individual attention. (Yep, I’m offering an early bird price, and it’s available until I go to bed on February 11.)

You can get all the details here.

How about you?

What qualities are you wanting more of this year? How can your business (or whatever your focus is) help support you in increasing those qualities?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Update (1/22/2011): If you like what you read here and want to see more ways to apply this technique for making decisions and getting unstuck, check out the ebook!