Lead Your Life

Awake, Aligned, and Grounded In Truth

Our Purpose Path February 20, 2018

**Article originally published by WNC Women February 2018**

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I hesitate to say I’ve learned anything completely as mastery is elusive.  Time shifts understanding and advances possibility.  And thus, what I can say is I am on the path to learn a better way.  A better way to make an impact, live fully, care for myself, and love unabashedly.

In my life, I have overemphasized the importance of work.  I’m quite skilled at this imbalance and have prescribed to the “first in, last out” attendance policy, gone the extra mile(s) always, and sacrificed health and personal relationships as the price of progress.

It sounds horrid, I know.  However, it looks quite lovely.  I am happily married with two beautiful teenagers I adore and who for the most part, adore me.  I own two businesses currently of wildly different missions; a building materials manufacturing company and Pure Yoga in downtown Asheville.  In my career, I have worked in corporate consulting, sold and bought businesses, turned personal passions into entrepreneurial enterprises, and logged a lot of frequent flyer miles and hours.

I say all of this from a place of humility as the way in which I have blazed this path is pocked with scars from using more force than grace.  While I’ve studiously managed my calendar to ensure presence with my family, this lifestyle has cooled friendships, waylaid adventure, and demised wellness.

Is a better way possible?  Must it mean giving up something in order to create a new? How differently might the world look standing on top of the wheel versus running at full sprint on the wheel?  We each have these questions to answer.  For me, I am learning to soften, to lean into experience as a sister companion to achievement.

11 years ago, I had a significant health crisis.  The year was 2006.  I was in the middle of an acquisition, my children were 2 and 4, and I was slowly, blindly running out of fuel.  I was strategically limiting my sleep so as to advance my work and be present for my kids, and eventually, my body began to fail.  It’s sneaky way of calling a time-out, no doubt as my hair began to fall out, my speech shattered, and my muscles atrophied.  I ached from head to toe, and I would drive places not knowing how I got there.

How can this even be?  I’m a long distance runner, avid hiker, golfer, lover of life.  I’m optimistic, genuinely happy, and surrounded by love.  I eat well, moderated everything that should be moderated, and yet, there I was in a slow fade.

My doctor’s comment to me?  “Your lifestyle looks great on paper.  And yet, if you don’t make a change, I’ll meet you in the hospital within 6 weeks.”   For someone who had always been in control of self and result, this was a shocking prognosis.  If I hadn’t been so overwhelmingly exhausted, I might have been petrified.

This type of depletion does not happen overnight.  In fact, there had been signs carefully ignored for 2 years leading up to it; symptoms, test results, subtle nudges from family.  All indicators that I believed mind over matter could eradicate.  For goodness sake, I didn’t have time to be sick.  I had two children, a husband, a dog that kept running away, and a business to lead.

And so, I finally got serious about the true roots of wellness. Here’s a secret I learned: they are deeper than our society wants us to believe.  We are told to eat well and exercise (no doubt because these two factors have immediate impact on appearance).  We are not taught that mindfulness is nourishment for our soul & deep sleep for our bodies.  We are not taught that our breath is a gateway to radiance.

We are taught to balance the plates in the air & by all means, look good doing it. As an achievement junkie, I had mastered that skill set.  I believe this is a skill set many women master.  You, my dear reader friend, can most likely relate. Your story reads differently and yet it is the same with altered characters and settings.

The next several years were an exercise of healing.  My eternal love affair with yoga started with a single mat practice led by an uncertified teacher in a country club dining room.  I eventually made my way to a meditation cushion, and while this practice still requires strong “self-nudges,” I am grateful for the way it rehabilitates every day regardless of what’s happening in my life.  I stopped distance running, slept more, and began eating to nourish and nurture versus control my weight.  And yes, I took 2 weeks off from work.  And while that may not sound like much, for me, it was a feat as that’s as much time as I took following the birth of both of my children.  (Sigh.)

I discovered gratitude as a practice versus emotion, and I expanded my net of connection by opening my heart and investing my time with friends I cherish.

It took 3 years for my markers to return to “low normal;” a daily reminder to me that these sacred vessels we are given to explore our life are to be treated with care and intention.

Today, my life may not look that differently than it did prior to 2006.  I still own and lead my manufacturing company, I have created two yoga studios; selling the first when my family moved to Asheville last year, and investing my heart and passion into the second.  I have paused one of my passions turned entrepreneurial enterprises to support wholehearted living versus whole-minded working, and my children are now teenagers.  They are my wisdom holders; allowing me to see every day what it looks like to play in life, to relish in being, and to come back to the middle path.  They also gently remind me when work absorbs me; while simultaneously accepting me as I am.

I’m wired to work.  Work has always been a strange word to me with its reference to unwanted but mandatory effort.  For me, it has always felt like impact, and for that, I am happy.

In my career, I have talked to hundreds of people; mostly women, about their life’s path and struggle.  I hear universal threads that link us all.  A desire for connection, a deep wanting for joy and fulfillment, and a question around how we are called to live meaningfully.  To live a life that lives beyond our lifetime.

My answer?  Trust yourself.  Slow down and listen.  Move your body in ways that heal your body and spirit.  Receive food as self-care.  Know that you know.  Confide in your sister friends.  Pursue impact.  Meaningful work happens because we clarify our purpose path, we courageously eliminate distractions, and then we get busy bringing it to life.  That’s the better way.

 

maze

 

 

 

 

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Quitters Sometimes Win April 21, 2017

This week, I said no to a business invitation & I resigned from an advisory group and two non-profit boards.   I also removed myself from several meetings that would truly not be upgraded by my presence.   I took all of these actions in preparation for a relocation; a functional decision based on geography.   It felt as if I had shed 10 energetic pounds, and through this release, I created lightness and relief.

Sometimes quitting is the greatest win.  Saying NO is the most powerful YES.

When we find ourselves overcommitted & running against the clock, struggling to carve out time for what lights us up, and/or living from our to-do list and calendar, it’s time to quit.

In the book The Life‑Changing Magic of Tidying Up, author Marie Kondo helps us declutter our surroundings by, one by one, evaluating each item we own against a simple question:  Does this bring me joy?

We can do the same with our time investments.  Our material possessions were financial investments we made at one point, and the question is, do they still serve us today?  If not, purge.  Our to-do list and calendar obligations are time investments that beg the same question.  Do they bring us joy?  Do they serve us in achieving what’s most important to us in our life?

If the answer is NO, then say NO.  And yes, you will disappoint someone, and you might miss out on something that is moderately pleasing, but these are minor risks to take.  Let it go.  Wiggle out of the tight container you’ve created and explore what more time can create in your life.  If you do, you will welcome more joy and freedom into your day.

 

What’s your PB? May 10, 2016

When you perform, how do you measure success?  By what’s expected of you?  A number set by someone else?  A comparison of yourself against your peers?

My son, Jack, recently ran his 200 meter junior high track event & was over the moon with his results.  Did he set a school record?  Beat the field?  Hit his coach’s number?  Nope. Nope. and Nope.  In fact, he finished in last place; over 10 seconds behind the first place runner.  So why the exuberance?

Jack ran his personal best time (which he affectionately calls his PB).  He knew he placed last, and still, he was completely content with his result because it was his best effort.  You see, Jack has a neurological “hitch” that compromises his motor coordination and muscle control among other things.  As a result, physical achievements expected of kids his age come slowly & painstakingly to him.

Wisdom like Jack’s is rare.  Jack understands his reality & refuses to be stopped by it.  He isn’t a pitbull – he simply keeps trying hard, accepts himself as he is and as he isn’t, and enjoys the process.  In fact, Jack rarely gets frustrated with what is.

I learn a lot from the way he leads his life.  I learn that, even in the midst of challenge, joy is an option.  I learn that, even when you pale in comparison to the field, steadfast commitment to your own progress is still success.  And I learn that accepting our weaknesses with as much tolerance as we embrace our strengths makes us a fabulous team member, exemplary role model, and happy person to our core.

Jack is the most humble person I know.  And yet, every time I tell him how awesome he is, he says “I know.”  Matter of fact.  Yes – I know I’m awesome just as I am and just as I am not.  May we all embrace our own brand of awesome; creating success against our own benchmarks and dropping the need to “be something” for someone else.

 

Character Vs The Coveted May 4, 2016

This week, my son asked my daughter if he could borrow one of her pencils.  Not just any pencil but a mechanical pencil from her arsenal of coveted writing utensils that she purchased with her own money.  This resulted in a narrowing of the eyes and a sharp breath.  Dead silence.

Then, the slow release of an exhale followed by one simple syllable:  No.   Crestfallen, my son’s eyes welled.  The pleading ensued; matched by equally convincing stonewalling.

In steps Switzerland (aka: mom).  I prompted them to consider that, in every moment, we are building character habits.  It’s not enough to want to be someone who shares freely – we must actually do it even when its hard.  It’s not enough to want to be resilient – we must actually persevere even when we feel defeated.  It’s never about the mechanical pencil.

What is your mechanical pencil?  Is there something or someone you covet so strongly that you compromise your character for it?  Your “something” might be the need to be right (ouch), the need for control, or even your fear of failure.  Or, it might be as simple as an ego-feed object (think designer boots, luxury cars, big homes).  It could even be stress.  What?

If you find yourself talking about how busy you always are or how crazy your schedule is (this conversation is always concluded with a sigh), then perhaps you are addicted to your story of stress.  And this is your mechanical pencil.

Let me explain.  If the qualities you desire to envelope your life are peace & joy, this story of stress is competing against your character.  What are you choosing?  Just look at what you are talking about.  Are you talking about how you are creating more peace and joy or how crazy your life is?

If you desire to live a life blanketed in your faith, do your actions and words line up?  If you desire to make a difference in the lives of kids & your gift is writing, are you writing that children’s book or is fear holding you back?

Our modern world loves to distract us, and we all have our personal Goliaths lurking everywhere.  Instead of blindfolding ourselves in their presence, conceding to their strength based on their intimidating size, or worse yet, befriending them, can we all see that the choice we make in these moments have a compounding result?  That it is more than a decision about a mechanical pencil – it is a choice of character.

How did the pencil story end?  I’d like to say she had her own AHA after my profound guidance. But alas, no.  She promptly opened our junk drawer, pulled out a nub of a #2 pencil with broken lead & no eraser, handed it to her brother, and walked out of the room.  Better than nothing, but not exactly what my motherly idealism hoped for.  And in this moment, I get choose:  My parenting “value” of believing in my kids to create their own learning as they are ready or my need to control.  What will I choose?  And what will you choose when it counts?

 

The Artist Otherwise Known As…. April 22, 2016

Prince: Industry Icon, Music Maverick, Record Label Titan, Artist Advocate.

This week, the death of Prince saddened an entire world.  To quote Whoopi Goldberg, “this is what it sounds like when doves cry.”  (also uttered by my equally poetic husband).

His life is worthy of examination if you are a pursuer of greatness.  So what was his magic equation?  Talent paired with enough good luck doesn’t cut it for a multi-decade ride as a living legend, influencer, and trailblazer.

PASSION:  Prince lived his life with laser focus on his passion.  The result?  Prolific music, discovery of modern talent, precise delivery of electrifying live shows, the ability to shape shift with changing times, and an output level that would take most people twice as long.

DISCIPLINE:  Most of us think about time as a limited asset; a constraining factor to achievement.  But if your achievements take half the time as others, you’ve doubled time. Not literally but practically.  Clearly, his volume of work alone is a phenomenal study in “time management;” turning the idea of time as a ticking time bomb limiting our potential on its head.

COURAGE:  Prince took a  stand against an industry he viewed as corrupt – not just for his own gain but for the benefit of well & little known artists everywhere.  He surfaced up and coming stars, he took risks on stage.  He stayed true to his essence without regard of criticism or judgement.  It’s so easy to allow the opinions & ramblings of others to sway us from our path; to create confusion, self-judgement, and doubt.  It takes something to continue to pioneer new paths in the midst of the world’s debilitating chatter.

ENERGY:  Prince’s professional life – big, bold, extroverted, performing in the public eye on a grand stage – was balanced by his personal life.  He was grounded in his faith, lived quietly, and understood that peak performance required healthy choices every day.  If you want your star to shine for decades, you must care and feed your light.

Prince had an unbelievably unique gift but doesn’t everyone?  Perhaps not all of us have that type of natural talent, but we all have the “right gifts” to make a meaningful impact on the world.   The question is:  Do we have the right thinking and right actions to ignite our contribution?

 

Mother Of The Moment Award March 18, 2016

Yesterday, I flat out forgot to take my kids to school.  Of course, there is a story behind this filled with hilarity and general confusion (all on my part), but the plain and simple fact is I went to work early & left my kids at home without a ride to school.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I think this is mostly funny with just a hint of self criticism.  However, I would not have felt the same 5 years ago.  It is in these moments that we witness our growth – if we open our eyes to see.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Each of us is doing our best in each moment.  Our “best” in any moment is impacted by many things, but in that moment, it is our best.  When we snip at our husband in the evening after a long day of work, making dinner, and checking homework, we are doing our best in that moment.  I have never in my life – either in moments of shining or faltering – said to myself, “I would like to be terrible right now.”  I trust you haven’t either.

Be gentle with yourself.  Be forgiving.  Apologize when you need to.  Try again.  Learn from your experience.  Show up, do your best, and let it go.

I often suggest to people this simple question to enable them to look at how lovingly they treat themselves:  “If that voice in your head was coming from a friend, would you want to foster that friendship and spend more time with that person?”  When we criticize, judge, blame, and demoralize ourselves, we are missing the opportunity to practice lifting ourselves up, believing more fiercely in our possibilities, and experiencing radical self-acceptance.  We miss the chance to create lightness.  We miss the chance to embrace our humanness.

 

 

The Secret Door February 24, 2016

Did you know that within you exists more wisdom than you could ever imagine?  That you have all tools you need to live a life about which you are both proud and excited; one of meaningful impact where you embody your core values in each moment, connect deeply with the present, and experience true, enduring peace.  All the while living in our nutty, hectic world in the midst of people and situations that continuously beg you to take the bait of stress, worry, and negativity?  All the while achieving goals, completing lists, and generally holding down the fort?

The gap between where you are and the possibility of that reality may seem vast, but I want you to consider the gap as your own personal quest.  This is the most important work we do in our lives:  moving towards truth & stepping into our most enlightened, peaceful, happy, fulfilled state.

You argue:  How selfish!  The work I do on “ME” cannot possibly be the most important.  I have children to raise, a spouse to love, a community to save, a job to do!  And yet, consider:  If you are stressed out, wadded up, worried, and exhausted; just how effective are you with the people you love the most and the work to which you are dedicated?  Put on your oxygen mask.

So, let’s get back to the secret door.  Through this door, you can access the wisdom for wholehearted living that exists in you.  You were not put on this planet without the tools to thrive.  You just have to learn how to find them and live them.

Begin to turn the knob and enter through the door; thus beginning a whole new quest in your life.  Don’t expect it to be easy or fast!  This is gradual, cumulative work for most of us; not a bolt of lightening.  (If it was that – we’d all take the hit once and live happily ever after).  This is work that starts with a decision.  This is work that demands you learn to tame your wild mind and step into your intuitive wisdom.  This is the work that recreates itself each day with new challenges and new opportunities.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take this quest!  The quality of your life depends on it!