What Do You Love?

do-what-you-love-image-1940x1293What Do You Love?

Last week in my feature article I shared my thoughts on life purpose. The crux of my message was this: when it comes to life purpose, while we all share the goal of making the world better, our opportunity lies in finding our unique contribution to that end. While this notion landed powerfully for many of you, I realize that there are still some questions lingering. The most powerful of these questions is some version of, “but what IS my unique contribution?”

I wish I knew why we make this so hard.

Your unique contribution lies in that experience that you love. You know that thing you LOVE to do? That thing that you could do without even really thinking about it? That thing that fires you up, lights you up, fills you with joy? THAT is your unique contribution; this is your life purpose. Because that thing that you’re so engaged in, that thing that brings you so much joy, is the thing that you’re great at and nine times out of ten, it makes the world a better place.

I think some of the things that get in the way of us believing that the thing we love to do could possibly be our life purpose are as follows:

  1. We think that our life purpose has to impact the world as a whole. We forget that no matter how small our impact is, it ripples outward, In other words, while you may not see the larger effect, the fact remains that each of us DOES impact the world as a whole, thanks to the ripple effect.
  2. We think that our life purpose has to be our full-time job. While that can be lovely, it doesn’t have to be the case. Your life purpose could just as easily be fulfilled through your hobby, or your part-time job. So long as you create time for it in some measure, your purpose will be served
  3. We think that our life purpose has to be difficult or arduous. While our life purpose may involve hard work, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. And I would argue that it shouldn’t be. As Simon Sinek says, “working hard for something we love is called passion” – and when we’re passionate about something, it actually feels liberating.

Bottom-line: that thing you love to do? Spend more time doing it. It holds the key to how you make the world better, and making the world better is what you’re here to do. Find and do that thing you love. It’s how you’re here to serve.

world-handsForget About Finding Your Life Purpose!

Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard, but I regularly run into folks who are grappling with the concept of life purpose.

These days, the need to find your life purpose seems pervasive, almost epidemic. Everywhere you turn, you are being challenged to find your life purpose, discover it, embrace it, step into it, live it.

But here’s the thing: the search for your unique life purpose is a set up for failure. Why? Because nobody has a unique life purpose. We actually all have the exact same purpose, and the minute you can get your head around that is the minute that you’ll feel a sense of liberation.

As counterintuitive as it might sound, as human beings, we share the same life purpose: namely, to make the world a better place. Period. Nobody has a purpose that goes contrary to this. HOW we each do that may be unique, but the underlying purpose is the same. If your purpose is to heal, if it is to educate, if it is to create laughter – it’s all about bettering the world.

So, what becomes possible for you, when you stop trying to figure out WHAT your purpose is, and strive instead to answer the question of How you will bring your unique flavor to our universal purpose? Simply put, instead of trying to discover your life purpose, what opens up when you hold the question, “how will I make the world better?”

Having posed this question to many a client, I know that the answer to this question is more easily accessed. And, in many ways, it’s easier to get your head around. Which makes it easier to live out.

Bottom-line: there is no need to try and find your unique life purpose. All of our lives are about making the world better. What is yours to discover is the unique spin you bring to this purpose. In other words, how will YOU make the world a better place? Answer this question, and you’ll discover meaning like never before.

presenceAre You Taking Up Space? Or Claiming It?

Last week, I shared some thoughts on the topic of PRESENCE. My message was that every great leader has have presence, which is distinctive from simply being present. As a leader you’ve got to do more than just show up; you’ve got to contribute to the energy of the room. Ideally, your contribution will enhance the space. And the way to do this is by having presence.

These musings led to some questions on your part. So this week, I want to answer those. The biggest question was (in a nutshell): how exactly do I develop the capacity for presence?

I’ll confess, the question baffled me a bit, because I did share 3 tips. In case you missed it, here they are:

  1. Understand that you are dealing with energy all the time, and embrace the fact that your energy can – and does – make a difference.
  2. Get really conscious and deliberate about how you engage with the world around you. Even when you are busy working on a project in your office, be aware of the fact that you are sending energy into the space, and CHOOSE the energy you wish to exude.
  3. Notice how the world around you responds when you show up. Do people light up? Shy away? Shut down? Stay status quo? Ask yourself if this is the impact you want to have, and tweak accordingly.

In fielding your questions, however, I realized that these keys weren’t actually concrete enough to help you develop a sense of presence. My bad. I apologize. And here’s what I want to offer to help you out.

Claim space.

Too many people do nothing more than take up space. They walk into a room, find a chair and sit, or find a spot and stand. That is their space and they occupy it –but they don’t CLAIM it, they don’t make it theirs, they don’t fill it with their energy. Claiming space is the essence of presence; it’s about making yourself bigger than your physical self.

Here’s an exercise to help. Wherever you are right now, take stock of your surroundings. Notice how you have placed yourself relative to what’s around you. Notice the limits of your physical body, where your body ends and the rest of the world begins.

Now, imagine that there’s a light emanating from the centre of your chest. Imagine that light glowing and growing brighter. Imagine it filling the room, expanding outward – forward, backward, sideways, up and down – this is the essence of your presence. Now, think about a specific quality that you want to associate with. Something like confidence, perhaps. This light and that quality go hand-in-hand. In other words, you’ve just energetically filled the space around you – claimed it, as it were – with an energy that is uniquely yours.

I realize that for many, this may seem a little hokey. Trust me, however, when I say that this conscious CLAIMING of space – this conscious creation of presence – enhances your leadership capacity. Great leaders have this sort of presence. They consciously make themselves bigger than they actually are, and it’s done energetically. Over time, it’s done effortlessly, as they develop the capacity to fill the room.

Now, I want you to notice that this exercise did not include a sound component. Expanding your presence is not about being loud. Ever. In fact, sometimes, the louder you are, the less impactful you are. Great leaders have presence that is separate from their volume. They fill the space with their energy, not just their physicality or their volume.

Bottom-line: as a leader, your responsibility is to lead. This means you must have a presence that goes beyond your body. This means you’ve got to claim space. Get comfortable with this, and you’ll elevate your leadership impact.

leaders_inspire_1200x627The One Thing that Every Great Leader Has (And How You Can Make Sure You Do Too)

So here’s the thing: as a leader – supervisor, manager, CEO, president, whatever – you are a busy soul.

I totally get it. There are a million and one (more or less) demands placed on you in any given moment. The buck stops with you and frankly, that’s a lot of responsibility. You’ve got things to do, people to see, places to go. As a result, you may very well be lacking the one thing that you NEED to have if you are going to lead effectively.

Presence.

Understand, I’m not just talking about being physically in the space. Truly effective leaders are far more than simply a warm body that happens to show up each day.

Presence is an energy that you bring along with you. Presence is something that is uniquely yours, that impacts the space as only you can. Presence is about the way in which you engage the space around you, even when you don’t say a word. Truthfully, presence is the thing that you infuse into a space, even when you’re not there.

Confused? I get it if you are. Presence itself is intangible and as a result, it is something that’s challenging to describe, let alone understand. If you pay attention, however, you can notice how leaders with presence make a tangible difference, with this intangible quality.

The beauty is that presence is something you can develop, and there are 3 keys that I find effective in doing so.

  1. Understand that you are dealing with energy all the time, and embrace the fact that your energy can – and does – make a difference.
  2. Get really conscious and deliberate about how you engage with the world around you. Even when you are busy working on a project in your office, be aware of the fact that you are sending energy into the space, and CHOOSE the energy you wish to exude.
  3. Notice how the world around you responds when you show up. Do people light up? Shy away? Shut down? Stay status quo? Ask yourself if this is the impact you want to have, and tweak accordingly.

 Bottom line: powerful leaders have a powerful presence. Their presence is felt even in their absence. When it comes to presence, it’s all about understanding how energy exudes from you and how you can consciously radiate what you want, and impact the space around you in a meaningful way.

vid picTruth Keeping You Stuck? 5 Steps for Shifting to Truth that Serves

Truth is something that I value dearly. Ever since I was a child, the importance of truth and honesty has been hammered into my head, to the degree that sometimes it has been a bit of a hindrance. In recent years, I’ve realized that this challenge isn’t mine alone.

Every one of us has a particular attachment to our truth. Our individual truths show up as different storylines: I am smart; I am quiet; I am tired; I am a hard worker; I have a debilitating disease; I am limited; I have lots of friends; you get the idea.

These truths inform our choices. For example, when your truth is that you are smart, you act in such a way as to exemplify that. When your truth is that you are capable, then you tend to get things done; when your truth is that you are strong, you demonstrate this by handling a lot, carrying a lot, dealing with a lot. Truth is a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.

The challenge is that while truth can work for you, it can also work against you. When I said that truth is a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy, I didn’t say that it’s only powerful in ways that support you. The opposite is also true. So, if you’re truth is one that is limiting in any way, then it will stop you in your tracks or, at the very least, hold you back.

Here’s an example: on those days that you wake up in the morning without having gotten enough sleep, your truth is that you are tired. Nobody’s going to argue with that. At the same time, if you claim that particular truth as the ONLY truth available to you, then your day will be less productive than it otherwise could be. That specific truth will hold you back. In this scenario, some other truths available to you could be: perhaps ou can take an afternoon nap; you have a light schedule; a quick walk around the block will energize you. Standing in any of these other truths will shift how you interact with your day.

So, how do you get beyond your truth, especially when your truth is of a limiting nature?

Truth, like a diamond, is multi-faceted. Depending on which way the light catches it, a particular facet will catch your eye. The other facets are also there, just dim by comparison. And, you can shift the light to illuminate those as well.

When it comes to accomplishing or achieving something, you’ve got to decide which truth you will invest in. Which truth will be your over-riding story? The truth that you choose to run with will influence how well you run, how far you run and to what end.

So how do you go about choosing truth that serves? Follow these simple steps:

  • Remind yourself that there are multiple truths available to you. Make a list if need be.
  • Evaluate how each truth aligns with your desires. Be really clear here. Close your eyes as you articulate each truth, and notice your physiological response. Make note.
  • Choose which truth you will stand in.
  • Write this truth down – this is about creating an anchor for yourself.
  • Take steps that align with this newly-claimed truth.

Bottom-line: truth is a powerful and multi-faceted force. It is imperative that you align yourself with the particular facet that will support you in achieving your objectives. Whatever your truth, ask yourself: is this truth helping me? If your answer is anything other than an unequivocal “yes”, allow yourself the flexibility to choose another facet.

Bonus: check out this video – it offers a GREAT example of the multi-faceted nature of truth. The truth is, the male dancer in this video has only one leg. That could be his only truth and it would hold him back. But, he is clearly standing in other truths – -the truth that he is STRONG and the truth that he is a dancer. And this dance is a direct result of THOSE truths. Check it out:

https://www.facebook.com/canal10nicaragua/videos/927088967338704/?theater

new year5 Key Lessons to Help You Rock 2016

2015 was a monumental year in my world. It will always stand out as a year of transition, a year of growth, a year of accomplishment, a year of change.

When I take stock of what transpired, key experiences include: publishing my book; selling one house and building another; living in limbo for 6 weeks; having my parents move in with us; closing a partnership business; spending a glorious week in New York – and this is just what I remember. I know that there were other key moments that have gotten lost in the passage of time, but have left their mark nonetheless.

Through all of these experiences, key lessons have been learned. These lessons have been paradigm-shifting in many ways, and it is only when I take the time to reflect that I realize their power and significance. Holding on to these lessons will be a powerful force for ongoing change and growth as I move into 2016 – and I know that they can have the same impact for you.

So, in an effort to share the wealth as it were, here are some pivotal learnings for you to work with in 2016:

  1. When you ALLOW things to unfold, the experience is always simpler, easier, and less stressful. For years, I tried to force things to come together so that we could move to our dream home – to no avail. This year, as I stopped pushing and started allowing, things really did just flow. I noticed signs, followed the prompts and before we knew it, everything was as we had hoped and imagined. Key lesson: don’t force an outcome – allow it instead.
  2. Don’t let your own idea of an appropriate timeline govern the process. This was a hard lesson for me. One key experience in which this hit home was when sitting on an interview team. We were interviewing for a key position, looking for a suitable candidate. There was no particular application deadline but we wanted to be done asap; we had worked our way through a set of initial interviews and had narrowed the field to one individual. In my mind, this meant we were done (or close to being done). Then another resume came in. I was tired and in my head, just wanted to be done already. Luckily, the rest of the team was willing to review this additional candidate’s paperwork, which resulted in this person being hired. By not sticking to my self-imposed timeline, we actually found a better candidate, one who was a much better fit. I can’t imagine the consequences had I allowed my arbitrary sense of timeline to prevail. Key lesson: work with the universe’s timeline, not yours.
  3. Gratitude is paradigm-shifting. As much as 2015 was filled with great things, there were challenges as well. Had I focused on these challenges, my sense is that the great things wouldn’t have happened as they did. Somewhere along the line, I chose to begin and end each day with gratitude – and it served my experience greatly. Finding the things, the experiences, for which to be grateful helped me to maintain a focus of relative positivity. Which allowed me to experience a sense of groundedness more often than not. Key learning: gratitude serves best, and there’s always something for which to be grateful.
  4. Sometimes you’ve just got to let go. Another tough lesson. There have been a couple of relationships and projects that I’ve had to release from my world because of the toxicity which they were holding. It took a while for me to realize their impact – but once I did, and once I found the courage to let them go, I found space for more life-affirming relationships and experiences. It can be hard to let go, especially when you’re talking about relationships; and sometimes, you just have to do it. Key learning: letting go of what doesn’t serve creates space for what does.
  5. Managing expectations trumps meeting expectations. Sometimes, people have certain expectations of you based on whatever their story is. Sometimes those expectations align with your truth; sometimes they don’t. And in this latter case, the key to navigating through is to stay true to who you are and manage the expectations that are at play. In other words, this is not the time to change who you are so that you fit their story of you. Instead, this is when you need to remind yourself – and them – of your truth. Help them see how their story is misaligned – and then show up as you truly are. Key learning: Expectations are to be managed, not met.

Bottom-line: it’s been a learning-filled year. While I’m sure that there are more lessons that I could share, these are the ones that stand out as highlights. If we all apply these lessons consistently, I suspect that 2016 will be a stellar year for all.

stress-free-holidayYes, You CAN Enjoy a Stress-Free Holiday (If You Really Want To)!

Stress and the holidays. They seem to go hand-in-hand, don’t they? For some of you, it starts weeks ahead, as you anticipate buying the perfect Christmas gifts, baking the perfect batches of whatever treats you deem appropriate, and entertaining like Martha Stewart herself. Picture perfect festivities worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting, right? Isn’t that the objective?

Well, it might be. And maybe not. The issue is that for so many of you, when it comes to the holidays, you haven’t taken the time to figure that out. And so, you go about trying to create the perfect holiday, but you have no idea what your personal definition of “perfect” is.

In an effort to help you out, I’m going to give you – consider this a gift of sorts – the simple 7-step system to creating a stress-free holiday. Follow these steps and I know that your holiday season – no matter what it is you actually celebrate – will be your most enjoyable yet.

  1. Define your perfect holiday experience. Who’s around? Where are you? What are you doing in your perfect holiday scenario? Be really clear about people, place and events. Write it all out if you must. Caution: be wary of the word “should” .
  2. Looking at your definition of holiday perfection ask yourself, how does this differ from your usual experience? What’s the defining quality? What’s missing? What’s present? Again, get clear.
  3. Talk to the people that matter, particularly if this year’s vision differs monumentally from holidays that have passed. Share with them what you’re going for, and why.
  4. Remember that “defining quality” from Step 2? Anchor yourself in that. If your perfect holiday is all about “being with family”, make sure you keep your eye on that and allow everything else to be “extra”. If your perfect holiday is defined by contemplation, create space for that – and ensure that others know what you’re doing.
  5. Let go of traditions, unless they still align with your vision. Don’t do things “just because you always have” – that’s not a good enough reason.
  6. Savour the experiences. Find joy in everything – even in the 30-minute line-up at the grocery store. Converse with the person beside you; notice the joy on the children’s faces; breathe in the crisp, fresh air; really taste that warm cup of hot chocolate.
  7. Express gratitude each and every day – for the people in your life, for the food on your table, for the opportunity to just be.

These 7 steps are simple; and they don’t have to be followed sequentially. Rest assured, no matter the order in which you follow them, when you take the time to get clear on what you want and go about deliberately creating those experiences for yourself, your holiday will be magical. It will be something that you’ll look back on with fondness and joy and that, is the essence of any good holiday.

Merry Christmas!

 

Goal_SettingA New Take on Goal-Setting

Often, I would save this article for closer to the start of the New Year. After all, for many people the New Year is when goals are set and resolutions made. In this article, however, I want to invite you to bust out of some of your traditional goal-setting paradigms and ideas, including the idea that goal-setting is in some way limited to a particular time-frame.

For many of you, I know that goals are easily set and less-easily achieved. I’ve experienced that same disconnect myself, from time to time. You know so definitively what it is you’re aiming for, and yet somehow, the achievement of that objective remains elusive. Frustrating, isn’t it?

Well, what if the way in which you’re setting your goals is part of the problem? And what if there were some alternative approaches that you could use, approaches that might ease the process just a bit?

I believe there are, in fact, a few different ways to be with and approach goals. In no particular order, here are some ideas for you to consider:

  1. Frame goals in terms of what you will feel, not what you will have.  E.g., My goal is to feel accomplished, more often than not.
  2. Plan based on how you will be, not what you will do. E.g., In order to achieve my goal, I will be focused.
  3. Think about what will be different, not what will be gained. By achieving “x”, my days will be more productive.
  4. Widen the focus to include the big picture, not just a single aspect of your life. I will be focused in all that I do – at work, at home, at play, etc;
  5. Give yourself permission to revisit and tweak goals on an ongoing basis (goal-setting is not a task that is limited to a particular time-frame).

Each of these paradigm-shifting keys can help you to set goals that are meaningful to you, and based on what really matters in your world. In turn, clarity will emerge, and the likelihood of you achieving these goals will increase, simply by virtue of the fact that you’re connected to what truly matters to you and for you.

Bottom-line: goals do not have to be elusive. The key to achievement lies in honing in on the essence of what you’re going for, so that the trappings don’t hold you hostage. Focus on what matters, and get ready to check off all of the boxes on your list of goals to achieve.

realityWho’s Reality Matters Most?

So, this week I got to be part of a very interesting interaction. By way of setting context, let me offer a bit of a preamble.

Recently, as some of you know, my parents sold their house and moved in with me and my family. This is a transition that has been in the works for a while, and finally came together in the fall. While living under one collective roof takes a wee bit of getting used to, I am pleased to say that overall, things are going well. Yes, there are growing pains as we all settle in together; yes, we have to come to terms with the various quirks and habits that we, perhaps, were unaware of before; yes, we need to figure out what “being together” looks like for us in practical terms. Truthfully, however, there haven’t been any major issues that would have us question the wisdom of our decision.

All that being said, for many people our choice to live as a single family unit is mind-boggling at the very least. Many have shared that they simply don’t understand how we could do this. How do we get along? How do we do things together? How do we do things apart? What rules do we have? Rest assured, we’ve tackled all of these questions together.

In recent weeks, the true challenge has been this: some people are so flabbergasted by our chosen circumstance that they don’t miss a single opportunity to tell us why it couldn’t possibly work. There’s nothing wrong with these folks sharing their thoughts – except that I’ve noticed a tendency for us to in turn question why it IS working for us. If it couldn’t work for others, how is it that we are making it work? Is there some way in which we are deluding ourselves?

When I take a step back and stand in an objective space, my answer to that last question is a resounding “no”. We’re not deluding ourselves at all. It IS working for us, even as we continue to navigate the various circumstances that arise, as they arise. But if we’re not careful and conscious and deliberate, we can allow the fears and inhibitions of others to cloud our perspective, to taint it, so that we don’t see what’s working for us, and instead create what wouldn’t work for others.

In other words, it’s too easy to take the reality of others and allow it to become our own.

I’ve written in my book, What Matters Now: Lessons on Living with Ease about the importance of creating our own realities, and making sure that they actually match the facts of our lives. Reality is created when we take “facts” and filter them through our own beliefs and circumstances. If we allow the beliefs and circumstances of others to have more merit than our own, then we inadvertently create a reality that isn’t ours at all. Which is never a good thing.

Whether you’re applying this idea to your personal life or professional life, it’s important to remember that reality is always what you make of it. And, just because someone else’s reality doesn’t match yours, or doesn’t align with their particular experience or outlook, it doesn’t make your reality any less valid.

Bottom-line: your life is your life. If you’re going to live it on your terms, then you need to make your choices and decisions and be okay with the fact that your experience sometimes doesn’t align with the experience of others. This doesn’t make you weird, wrong or otherwise not okay. It just makes you YOU. And when you’re clear on what you want, why you want it and how you’re making it work for you, that’s all that matters.

breath snowCan You Name the Patterns in Your Life?

‘Tis the time of year for each and every one of us to stand in the gap, as it were.

As you approach the end of 2015 – or the end of any year, project, or timespan – you have the opportunity to look back at what’s worked, and look ahead to what you want to work. For me, for my clients, for my colleagues, it’s simultaneously a time of reflection and a time of planning.

One of the things I’m struck by is how often situations repeat or linger. Sometimes, the same goal gets set quarter after quarter, year after year, without being accomplished.

Sometimes, the same challenge keeps coming up.

Sometimes the thing that I’ve really set my heart on continues to elude me.

These sorts of “repetitions” are not necessarily bad things. What I’m learning is that these are, in essence, messages and lessons to be embraced. In other words, when something continues to happen – when patterns of any sort arise in your life – there’s a critical message or lesson for you to glean.

For many people, when faced with this scenario, the perceived struggle lies in trying to figure out the message. I want to assert however, that figuring out the message isn’t the issue. Instead, the issue lies in recognizing the pattern to begin with!

So what gets in the way of our ability to recognize a pattern?

  • Misunderstanding of what constitutes a pattern. Too often, we think that something must happen fairly frequently to be identified as a pattern. To quote a colleague of mine, however, “twice is a pattern.” . When you wait too long to name a pattern for what it is you end up entrenched in a rut. The pattern becomes part of your experience and you don’t realize how the pattern in question is actually getting in the way.
  • Fear of the implications. When you name a pattern for what it is – for the detrimental effect that it’s having in your life – you recognize that you’ll have to make a change. Perhaps it means ending a relationship with a toxic individual. Perhaps it means stopping a particular job. Perhaps it means letting go of a goal. Perhaps it means turning up the dial on your actions and efforts. Regardless, the implication may be fairly scary – which stops you from naming the pattern in the first place.
  • Identification with the pattern. Sometimes, the pattern in question is one that you’ve established as part of your identity. It’s how you operate, how you show up. To change it, means changing who you are. And changing your identity can be daunting, no matter who you are.

No matter what’s getting in the way of you recognizing your own patterns, doing so is essential. Until and unless you do, you will find yourself caught in a rut – and in the words of a mentor of mine, the difference between a rut and a grave is just a matter of depth. Moreover, in not naming the pattern, you lose out on the message or lesson – and life becomes less than it can be, all around. You end up drained, exhausted, unfulfilled and (if you’re really honest) miserable.

Bottom-line: it’s time to take stock. As you stand on the cusp of 2016, you have an opportunity to identify patterns, decide what serves, and let go of what doesn’t. You might have to take a deep breath or two, and you might have to connect with your courage to do so. When you do, however, you will regain your sense of sanity. You’ll get back on track, and you’ll move forward with greater ease. Which, is a great way to start a new year.

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