Posts Tagged ‘Self Care’

The Joy of Listening

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Listen carefully because I need to tell you something really important…We don’t listen. Yes! It is so true. None of us (or very few) truly listen to each other or to our bodies. We often don’t even listen to the small voice inside–you know the one you may call intuition or your gut that is your innermost guide to what works for you.

We don’t listen to our spouses, our children, our families or our friends. We don’t listen to clients. We don’t listen.

As a part of my course in Nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, listening is taught as a very important concept for both personal wellness and coaching others. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So why don’t we do it?

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Well we all have our reasons. Usually it’s because we are thinking of ourselves or thinking about what we are going to say next. Often it’s because we think we are smarter or know better than the person that’s talking. Sometimes it’s because our minds are wandering or fretting over all the things on our to do list. It may be because we are distracted with social media (put your phone down please!) or television or our kids or our dogs. I mean seriously could we have any more distractions in our lives?

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So I am going to be brutally honest here—isn’t listening the only way we really learn and help others? As I really started to think about the reason that I personally don’t listen the way I should to my family or my clients I learned that for me it’s a matter of time. I’m always in a hurry. I never feel like I have the “luxury” of listening. And I think that is really sad. It goes back to my post last week on “having my plate too full”. I realized I feel this constant pressure to get things done and so every meeting, every encounter whether with friends or family or my business associates or vendors I am in a race against the clock to blurt out all the important things that I feel must be said before that imaginary buzzer in my head sounds and tells me it’s time to move on to the next thing. And I wonder why I always feel so stressed!! Living in this self-imposed fight or flight mode has the cortisol pumping 24-7 in my body and the repercussions on my health and relationships is detrimental.

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Then I started thinking about the JOY that comes with listening. And I am depriving myself of that connection with others when I am harried and on a deadline for every conversation. It is most evident when I think about my pre-teen daughter. I want more than anything else to stay connected with her as she grows like my mom has connected with me. And I’ve now had the light-bulb moment about listening and I realize this means clearing my plate so that I have time to listen to her. Real time. Eye contact. Being fully present.

And that is not semi-listening while on my laptop. It’s not pseudo-listening while I am cooking dinner. It’s real listening maybe while we go for a walk, or drive in the car or head out for a frozen yogurt and sit across from each other and smile. I have been drawn to a quote for a while that says “Time without attention is worthless”. These are powerful words. I think it goes to the heart of idea of quality time. But I feel like quality time has become one of those things that Americans give lip service to, don’t you? Most of us consider it “time with family” if we are in the same room or house with them while we multi-task on a million different things. And then there’s the problem of not listening to ourselves.

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Yes, there is the whole debacle of me not listening to my body. Seriously, could it scream any louder when I am out of balance. I suspect some of you can even hear it screaming where you are right now, ha! But all joking aside, when your joints ache and your pants don’t fit and your feet hurt and your brain is foggy, wouldn’t an intelligent and logical person listen? One would think, but so few of us do. That’s why we are all overworked, sleep-deprived, stressed out, and depressed. It’s why we need alcohol and anti-depressants, mindless TV and Facebook to numb us from hearing that persistent voice inside telling us exactly what we already know, but don’t want to hear. For me the message is SLOW DOWN! DO LESS! RELAX! It’s saying please, please, please I beg of you to go up to your yoga room, or take 20 minutes and meditate, or go out for a walk and breathe all that fresh air! What message is your body telling you?

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So I am turning my focus now not to listening (ironically), but to getting things off my plate. My need to open up whitespace in my life, to prioritize and say no. I need to remove more deadlines and stress and quite honestly to love myself more. This is the only way I will be able to listen—truly listen, to those precious people and clients and colleagues that are most important to me. And it is definitely the only way I will ever hear myself.

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I know in my heart and in my gut that listening is one of the things that can bring me the most JOY this year. I want to listen to my heart, my loves and my body more than ever before.

Will you join me in finding the Joy in listening? Tell me your answer—I’m listening.

Joyfully yours,

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The Joy of Saying No

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There is so much JOY in saying no sometimes, right? But conversely, saying no is often one of the hardest things we do. It is really difficult when good and exciting opportunities present themselves to you and you think “I HAVE to say yes to this”, but you know you really don’t have the bandwidth to take it on. You’ve been there, haven’t you? I know, me too!

And then sometimes even when our gut tells us we don’t want to do something, it’s still hard to say no. We feel guilty or obligated or uncomfortable in these situations, don’t we?

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I have a life philosophy that says “Say no to the good so you can say YES to the great”. But sometimes in the moment you can’t tell the difference. Especially when it’s someone you love or admire or respect that is doing the asking.

I have been working with my team, my family and my therapist (yes, I have one and I think everyone should, but that’s a whole different blog post) to continue to clean out and declutter my life and my to do list. I know this is the only way to find more joy and to love myself more–which are my only 2 goals for this year.

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But even at that, it is SOOOO hard sometimes to get rid of things or say no to new opportunities. Or for me, the hardest is probably NOT launching new ideas and endeavors because I am an idea girl, a visionary, a big thinker, a dreamer. And cutting out all of that brainstorming of new ideas is killing me in the short run. But for my long term goals, simplifying is the only way to true peace and joy.

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So this week, my therapist and I came up with a great analogy or plan and I think is something to which many of you can relate, so I wanted to share it with you here. We were talking about my workaholic tendencies and my chronic over-achiever personality. And trust me, over-achiever sounds like a good thing but that’s not always the case. It can be exhausting and hard on you both mentally and physically. And we noticed that my workload was still out of balance, even with all the pruning I’ve been doing. I have “too much on my plate” as we say.  My therapist said my plate looks like a Thanksgiving feast piled to the top and over-flowing and we got a good laugh at that. But it also gave me a HUGE Ah-ha moment.

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You see, she suggested my “plate” look healthy with 3-5 dollops of work on it TOTAL.  You can imagine a healthy plate of food with a little protein, a little carb, a lot of green veggies–you get the point. And you know what I realized? When my proverbial “plate” is overloaded like the Thanksgiving feast, so is my real plate because my personality type and habits include emotional eating or eating lots of sugar and carbs. I know for many of you stress equals an unhealthy existence for you too.

So for the first time in my life I think I really “got it” that for me an overloaded plate of commitments means weight gain, fatigue, stress, and many other unhealthy things. And this really clicked with me. In fact it sort of scared me.

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So I am back to my mission of saying no to the good and saying yes to my best self. And there is so much JOY in this way of thinking and even more in the results I will be getting including more time for all the things that are most important to me and feeling healthy enough to enjoy those blessings.

Here’s to the JOY of saying no more this year and saying YES to the best version of you!

Joyfully yours,

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What if?

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There have been so many years that I have created a laundry list of goals, intentions, and plans to start the new year. I’ve hit the ground running with intensity and focus. And I am not saying that I don’t have goals for the year, or at least that I will. But I am still fleshing them out, I think. I am taking my time deciding what I want for 2017. I am not putting a time limit or pesky deadline on myself. I have so many deadlines already in life, so this year I am being kind to myself. Staying peaceful and relaxed. And this cool state of mind has me wondering…

What if I only had 2 goals for this whole year, 1. Finding JOY and 2. Loving myself more? What would happen?

It’s simple, its profound. And I have a strong feeling way deep down in my gut that it might just change everything.

What do you think? Are you ready to simplify to succeed? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.

Joyfully yours,

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Come On, Get Happy!

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joyI’ve said it before – and it still holds true – running a business is hard. Really really hard. But it shouldn’t be so hard that you resent it, or even hate it. It shouldn’t become a grind that you dread every single day. Otherwise, why do it at all?

Yes, there are stresses, there are problem clients or employees, and there will be times when you wonder where the money will come from to keep the doors open. But that shouldn’t be every single day. There should still be moments (days, weeks) of joy! There should be some (or lots of!) fun and laughter – or none of your hard work is really worth it.

If you find yourself caught up in the grind, or unable to see the pretty forest for all the mean trees, then I have 10 tips to help you get your happy back!

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1. Schedule joy. While you’re setting your schedule and packing it full of meetings, remember to schedule something fun in there, too. At least once a week, put a fun item on your calendar. It can be as simple as going to a museum or picking your child up early from school for an ice cream date. But put it on your calendar and don’t move it off for any reason.

2. Turn it off. It’s a proven fact that our electronics cause us stress. If the election is making you crazy, don’t watch it on TV. If your phone buzzes all the time, turn it off so you can get some work done. And stop scrolling through Facebook. You may think that you’re just connecting with friends, but when you’re under the gun, those photos of someone on vacation may give you some serious guilt/envy.

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3. Simplify. Put only 3 things on your “have to do” list for each day. If you keep making super-long lists of things to do, you’ll only make yourself feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish them all. It feels so good to check things off your list, so make your lists achievable!

4. Take care of you. Why is it that we seem to push our own self care to the back burner? We are our company’s best asset, so why in the world do we come last in most cases? You have to eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and be mindful of how you’re moving through your life. It’s critical to your personal life and your professional life. Make the time to take care of yourself.

5. Have a gratitude attitude. I keep a gratitude journal every single day. I always write down the things that I’m grateful for in my life, or that happened that day. It reminds me of why I started my business, of what life is really all about. That’s so important. And celebrate every single success in your business! We tend to just push towards the next goal without really celebrating, and that is a real thief of joy.

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6. Laughter IS the best medicine. You should find the humor in something every single day, even in some mistakes or challenges. Sometimes it’s either “laugh or cry” so choose laughter! And really, if you ask yourself how much something will truly matter in a year, in most cases the answer is that you’ll barely remember it.

7. Meditate. I can hear you say, “How in the world am I supposed to schedule joy, make time to exercise, AND now meditate? I’m too busy!” I get it. We get caught up in the whirlwind and we think everything is so critical that it just can’t wait. But you know that isn’t true. You can take 10 minutes to do some yoga poses. You can have that phone meeting while you’re walking. And you can definitely take 5 minutes to be still and breathe. It’s been proven to reduce stress levels AND to help you focus!

8. Keep your eyes on your prize. Don’t look at what others are doing and think they have some magic sauce that you don’t. You don’t know what their struggles are (and they definitely have them), so don’t be envious of what you think others have. Keep the focus on you.

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9. Delegate. It can be tough to shoestring a budding business, but you definitely need help. Don’t try to build your own website, don’t try to do your own books, don’t try to take on every task by yourself. You’ll burn yourself out! You should focus only on what makes your company money – that’s it. Outsource anything and everything you can – and if your budget for that is tiny then just pick one thing that someone else can help you with right now.

10. Don’t blame your business. Your business is not there to make you happy. It can help you get to goals that will eventually make you happy – but it can’t be the entire source of your happiness or your life. That’s expecting way too much from your company. Look outside your job for other sources of happiness to help get you through the stressful times at work.

Try these 10 tips to get you back on the happy train! You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get done when you’re feeling more upbeat – and at how much you enjoy it!

xo,

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5 Tips for Dealing with the ‘Messy Middle’

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When you start a project, there’s that magical feeling of excitement and possibility. You feel super-creative and full of ideas and energy – it’s amazing and so much fun! And at the end of a project, you have a sense of accomplishment, and you can’t wait to unveil your fabulous design or solution to your clients and to the world. But then there’s the middle of a project

That’s the tough and messy part of our business – that middle part where you’re dealing with headaches and issues. You’re slogging through what seems like a mountain of problems, and feeling completely chicken-pecked by your staff, subcontractors or collaborators, and your 5-mile-long To Do list. Ugh.

The middle is tough. It’s hard to keep up your excitement level, or to be motivated to tackle everything with enthusiasm. It’s like the shiny part wore off your favorite toy. But that is exactly the time when you need to kick things into high gear. In the middle, you have to communicate even more so your clients don’t wonder what’s going on. You have to keep your momentum going so your staff doesn’t lose their motivation, too. And you have to keep juggling everything so it doesn’t all come crashing down on you. The middle is messy, but so very important!

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The middle is also a key part of your career as a creative professional. When you start out, you are starry eyed with the possibility of amazing clients and incredible projects, ready to show the world how amazingly creative you are. At the end of your career, you hope to look back on a fulfilling and long creative path, full of happy clients and dazzled editors. But the middle is where you can lose focus, or worse, lose all your motivation. Have you been there? Or are you there now?

Call it burnout, call it a mid-life crisis, or call it stress – the result is the same. You are exhausted from running your business, you feel like you wouldn’t recognize anything creative if it hit you in the head, and you struggle just to have your head down slogging through your To Dos. We all hit this wall in the middle of our careers, and we have to recognize it and deal with it, otherwise it could be the end of our businesses instead of the middle.

So how do we “deal” with it? Here are 5 tips for dealing with that “messy middle”:

1. You have to take care of yourself. This isn’t me being all “woo woo,” it’s a simple fact. Entrepreneur magazine has hundreds of articles that talk about how self care is absolutely critical for small business owners – and that’s you! You need to slow it down, get your rest, exercise, and eat the right things. Stress is literally a killer, and you need to make yourself healthy enough to deal with the stress that comes with the job. After all, you are the most important thing in your company.

2. Deal with your emotions. Are you scared that your company might fail? Are you angry at a vendor (or two)? Are you nervous that clients aren’t coming your way? This is all normal – every CEO from the biggest company to the smallest has these feelings. The key is to recognize them and address them instead of shoving the emotions down where you don’t have to look at them. Facing your worst fears and saying “what is the worst that can happen” is the best thing you can do. You’ll find that even if the worst case scenario comes true, you can deal with it. Doing that takes a lot of the sting out of the fear and allows you to stop blaming yourself. You can also then come up with a plan to help you keep those fears from becoming reality.

3. Ask for help. We ALL have to to do this at some point – and sometimes more than once. No single person on earth can do every single thing all alone. Whether it’s moral support, financial support, coaching, or additional employees or contractors, ask for the help you need. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your future success. Even if it’s as simple as hiring someone to help with your financial paperwork, or getting advice on how to handle time management, do it today.

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4. Rediscover your passion. Too often it’s the business of doing business that wears us down. I ask my consulting clients this a lot, and I want you to really think about it now: Why did you get into this business in the first place? Whatever it was – creativity, wanting to help others, creating gorgeous interiors – how can you get back to focusing on that more? There is no reason at all to be in this business if you aren’t enjoying any part of it – and trust me, everyone from your clients to potential partners can tell when you’re burned out and lacking excitement. Here’s a big secret about being a small business owner: You are in control. So find a way to put the passion back into your company. Stop doing the things that drain you and start doing the things that ignite you!

5. Smile, laugh, and have fun! This isn’t brain surgery – it’s a creative business that’s supposed to be enjoyable. You need to have fun, to laugh, and to create joy for yourself and others. That is what life is all about! Smile more – it’s infectious and will be contagious. Have a laugh with your clients! Spread joy in your office! Think I’m off my rocker? Well would YOU rather do business with a stressed-out grump or with someone who makes you smile? Exactly. Even if you have to fake a smile for a bit, I promise you it will become genuine in no time. Life is meant to be enjoyed!

Try these tips to help get you out of that messy middle rut that we all fall into. Give yourself permission to take steps to reduce the stress that comes with our jobs. If you’re happier, I promise your clients, your team and your family will be happier, too!

xo,

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PS – If you need help dealing with any part of your business, then my Business for Creatives: Designer MBA course is for you! From financials to time management to client outreach, I’ll show you how to transform your business into a lean, mean, money making machine! You can learn more here, or you can join me for a FREE telecall at 3pm EST on March 15. On that live call, I’ll tell you why Designer MBA is a can’t-miss event for creative business owners not just interior designers. Click here to register for that call right now!