Why not?

Photo Credit: Dhilung Kirat via Flickr
Photo Credit: Dhilung Kirat via Flickr
Sometimes things don’t happen quite the way you planned.
Sometimes opportunities show up that you never even considered.
And sometimes (despite the uncertainty, incongruence, and unexpectedness) the right answer is “Why not?”.

Check your filter to make sure it’s not taking you completely off-course. But sometimes all of the answers to your filter come out “no” and your gut still tells you “yes”. At which point, the answer might be “Why not?”.

The fears that are likely to come up are the ones that want you to think that this decision will be forever. But there are very few things in life that require you to commit forever. Most things (sadly, including marriage) you could walk away from if it doesn’t work out.

For example, let’s say a job you never even thought you wanted lands in your lap and you realize that it gets you excited and your gut says “yes”. The fear would say “but what if you don’t like it? Then you’re stuck.” But the reality is that a job is not forever. Why not try it for a year? What have you got to lose?

(That example is exactly where I’m at in my life, by the way. Starting an unexpected job today, in fact.)

“Why not?” opens up possibilities you might have otherwise shied away from. And keeps you playing jazz.

Life is an experiment. Why not have fun with it?

Keep your eye on the prize

Photo Credit: kenmainr via Flickr
Photo Credit: kenmainr via Flickr
There are opportunities in life (big and small) that can leave us waffling.

On paper it sounds good.
It feels like it might be fun.
I could be really good at it.
Everyone else thinks I should do it.

So how do you decide when to say yes and when to say no?

I’ve said yes to more things than I should have. Sometimes that ended with me sucking it up and keeping my commitments anyway. And other times it ended with me going back with my head hung in shame, asking for forgiveness and backing out.

But neither of these scenarios feel good. And the only way to prevent them is to know when to say No.

The trouble is that our brains like to rationalize and explain why something does or does not make sense, and this can create overwhelm or analysis paralysis.

Bypass your brain (but not in the surgical sense).

It’s helpful to do some pre-thinking about what’s important to you. Come up with 3 questions (or more) that can act as a filter for those things that send your brain into over-rationalizing.

Here’s a template:

  1. My goal is to ___________. Does this opportunity help me get there?
  2. My purpose is to __________. Does this opportunity help me serve my purpose? (Note: this could also be your “why” or mission or whatever).
  3. Overall, I want my life to be _______ (including family, health, etc). Does this opportunity help me live that life?

But that’s just a starting place. You might have other things that are important to you. Write them down. Keep them somewhere handy, and then when you’re waffling about whether to do something or not even if it does/does not make sense on paper, take out your filter and see if this opportunity passes the test.

Keep your eye on the prize. (And the prize is your best life… however you choose to define it).

Different and together

Photo Credit: CameliaTWU via Flickr
My husband asked me the other day if I considered myself a conformist or a nonconformist? And I didn’t have a definitive answer because it depends.

For all of my talk about breaking and making your own rules, I’m also a rule-follower a lot of the time. It depends on why and what feels right and what’s important in that moment.

Life is full of choices and categories.

And it’s easy to believe that there are only 2 possibilities in each case. Not only that, but it’s also easy to believe that we have to choose one or the other, otherwise we don’t belong anywhere (and biologically, in our hearts or limbic brains, we all want to belong).

Conservative or liberal.
Feminist or patriarchal.
Pro-choice or pro-life.
Black or white.
Christian or atheist.
Good or bad.
Yes or no.
Right or wrong.
Techie or luddite.
Selfish or selfless.
Conformist or rebel.
Agreeable or contrarian.
Intellectual or artistic.
Either you are with us or against us.

But choosing sides doesn’t get us anywhere except more entrenched in disagreements. Like in politics, if you follow the media, you might start to believe that there are only extreme left or extreme right points of view. And either you’re on the right side or the wrong side. But in reality (the real kind, not the stuff on TV), most people fall somewhere in between. The land of “it depends”. The blurry middle.

For most of us, choosing sides can leave us feeling out of place (because we only sort of identify with one side vs the other). So what if we stand in the blurry middle together instead of choosing sides? That’s where we’ll find belonging and solutions.

Let’s be different and together, not the same and separate.

Rules for breaking the rules

What do Miles Davis, Henri Matisse, and Richard Branson have in common? They broke the rules in their own fields (jazz, art, and business, respectively).

But what if you’re not a famous jazz musician, artist, or entrepreneur? How can you start breaking rules in small (or big) ways?

Take cooking for example. You could just start throwing random things into a pot and see what happens. That is definitely one way to approach things. But I thought it might be helpful to have a couple of rules to help you as you start breaking the rules (or making your own):

  1. Understand the fundamentals.

    Whether in music, art, business, cooking, exercise, or anything really, it helps to know the basics. Practice the scales. Learn about color. Understand flavors. Whatever.

    Because no amount of sprinkles will cover up the fact that you didn’t know to use baking powder in that cake.

  2. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

    Courage is a key ingredient for life. (Tweet that)

    Just because you learn the fundamentals doesn’t mean you have to be a stickler about them. Experiment.

    Because without a little bit of courage you might never try bourbon in your whipped cream instead of vanilla extract (which would be sad because it’s delicious with pecan pie).

Start living life like a piece of jazz. Change recipes. Work differently. Experiment. Create something new.

Make your own rules

Photo Credit: Alpstedt via Flickr
The rules of the game are clear.
Do this, not that.
Eat this, not that.
Not like that. This is the right way.
Follow the rules.
Fit in.
Be normal.

For every part of life (from diet to career to parenting to being successful), there is a set of rules. Some are written down and others are implied. And some are the cultural shoulds that keep us sticking to the script that someone else wrote.

But what if those rules don’t really apply to you?

Of course, there are those who hope that you will continue to play by their rules, but what if, in your life, you get to make your own rules?

Instead of Paleo or vegan or the diet du jour, eat the foods that make you feel good.

Instead of yoga or crossfit or whatever cool exercise trend is happening, exercise the way your body wants to (even if that means taking short walks or dancing around your house).

Instead of chasing success as defined by the media, your peers, or your insecurities, decide what success looks like for you. Maybe it means being the next shark on Shark Tank or maybe it means working just enough to support your life living in a tiny house. Or something in between and completely different.

The point is, you decide.

Why “Fake it till you make it” is terrible advice

2015-03-03 07.13.18About 5 years ago, I took the first class of what would begin my journey to becoming a certified life coach.
At one point, I said something to one of the instructors, and while I cannot for the life of me remember what I said, I remember her response as if she were in the room with me right now: “Well, you might just have to fake it till you make it, you know?”

She meant well.

But what she probably didn’t realize is that she just said something to me that (regardless of her intention) can be one of the biggest sources of confidence erosion out there.

Can you imagine a better way to undermine someone’s confidence than to tell them that they need to fake being something else because being themselves isn’t going to cut it if they want to “make it”.

Isn’t that what this advice is saying?

The real problem is that this advice is a judgment.

You could argue that I’m nitpicking the words, that the people who give this advice are just trying to be helpful and don’t mean anything bad by it, that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. But words have power. We internalize words… they become part of our internal story.

Our internal story is the source or the end to our confidence. (Tweetable)

The things we hear over and over become part of the story we tell ourselves. So for the quieter folks out there (introverts, HSPs, and reserved extroverts) who are told repeatedly to speak up, be more confident, and fake it till you make it, the internal story can quickly become one of being flawed, not good enough, and lacking some fundamental pieces.

Introverts and HSPs are especially averse to fake. We really, really want deep, true, and meaningful. So to tell us that to fit in or “make it”, we need to be fake, is like saying you don’t belong in this world. Ouch.

This is probably the exact opposite impact that the advice-giver intended.

Quiet and Confidence are not mutually exclusive.(Tweetable)

For the record, being quiet, reserved, introverted, highly sensitive, or otherwise “not outgoing”, is NOT a flaw. It doesn’t prevent you from having confidence or being confident. And none of these things need to be a source of “I’m not good enough”.

What if instead of trying to fake it till you make it, you became more realmore you? Why not redefine what “making it” means? Who says you want to play by their rules anyway?

Being yourself is the source of real confidence. (Tweetable)

When you try to be someone else, you’re standing on shaky ground. Of course, you don’t feel confident. How are you going to feel confident when you’re not even sure who you are?

But when you come home to yourself, let your roots run deep, and grow in You-ness, you become strong and confident like the mighty oak tree that, after a century of storms, is still standing tall.

Instead of faking it, stretch.

Next time someone tells you to fake it till you make it, translate it for yourself into “stretch a little.” Because what they probably really mean in their well-intentioned advice is that you’re playing smaller than your potential.

But the way to play bigger isn’t by faking it, it’s by stretching yourself into a bigger (more real) version of you. (This, by the way, is not the same as being louder, more outgoing, or “always on”.)

Stretch from your core, from inside of you, for your own reason. And watch your confidence grow.

If you like what you’re reading and want to go deeper, sign up for The Inside Story, my weekly-ish e-letter for quiet leaders like you.

How to enjoy a conference (even when you’d rather stay home)

2015-02-24 07.32.52This Tuesday I went to the Lead On Women’s Conference. And while I was excited to go, part of me wanted to stay home. Why? So.Many.People.

Worse than that, actually. So many people I don’t know.

But I volunteered to be one of the coaches in the “Coaches Corner” (offering speed coaching sessions to attendees) and I didn’t want to let anyone down. And I wanted to see Brene Brown and Hilary Clinton live (because how often do I get to do that?). So I pulled myself together and went.

Do you ever feel like you’d rather stay at home?

As an introvert and/or HSP, chances are you sometimes feel anxious or overwhelmed at the thought of going somewhere new like a conference where thousands of other people will also be. The chatter, the lights, the sea of booths. It’s a lot.

But whether for work or for fun (as in you want to go), chances are you’ll at some point need to pull yourself together and go to a conference (or concert or other large event that can induce heart palpitations).

Here are some things you can do to make the experience easier and dare I say, fun?

2015-02-24 11.58.31

  1. Go at your own pace.

    When we go places with large groups of people all there to do the same thing, it is really easy to a) think you need to go with the frenzied flow and b) worry you might miss something if you don’t. But FOMO is the enemy.
    For sure, get outside of your comfort zone, but don’t go so far that you end up out of your tree. There is a happy place for you somewhere in between “I’m going home” and “I’m going to meet 1,000 people and go to every breakout session.” Find the place where you can be at the conference without being overwhelmed by it. It is possible.

  2. Remember why you came.

    This is for those moments when you feel like chickening out, packing up, and giving up. You spent the money (or your company spent money for you) to be there, there must be a reason. What did you come to get? Who did you want to meet? Keep your goals and your purpose in mind, and it will be easier to stay when the sea of people overtakes you.

  3. Take breaks and hydrate!

    Take care of yourself. Period.
    Whether that’s stepping outside during a break to enjoy a moment of peace and sunshine, or carrying a water bottle and snack so that you avoid the afternoon hanger (hungry+anger). Oh, and wear comfortable shoes, yeah?

  4. Start a conversation with someone. They might be just as nervous as you are.

    This is my favorite tip, and one that I remind myself of often, because the truth is that large groups of unknown people can be intimidating to lots of people (yes, even some extroverts). But while we are all focused on our own anxieties and discomforts, it’s easy to forget that that woman who is sitting next to you at lunch who is also alone might love a friendly face. Why not make it yours?
    (It’s not like you have to promise to be besties forever and ever… or even the rest of the conference. It’s just hello.)

  5. Take a deep breath and have fun!

    You get to choose whether you have fun or not. And given the choice, why not choose fun?
    That said, when anxiety or nerves are involved, breathing helps. It may sound like a flippant to say “just breathe”, but it is amazing how much a deep, centering breath can do (granted, sometimes it takes more than one).
    There’s nothing you have to prove to anyone (not even to yourself). And you get to have fun because I said so. Kidding. You get to have fun because it’s your prerogative. (Anyone else hearing Bobby Brown all of a sudden?)

And at the end of the day, you get to go home and cuddle with your cat.

Or dog. Or human. Or remote.

2015-02-24 16.46.08At the conference on Tuesday, I coached 9 women leaders (each session was about 20 minutes). Then I sat among thousands of women (and a few men) and listened to Brené Brown weave her stories with research and poignant vulnerability and to Hilary Clinton mesmerize and inspire with her passion, commitment, and humanity.

Bonus: I got to visit a little with some of my coach-friends who I don’t see very often. So all-in-all it was a fantastic day, and I was glad that I didn’t listen to the voice that wanted to stay in bed and hide.

And when I got home, I changed into the comfiest clothes I own and cuddled with Raven in the quiet of my bedroom. Exhausted, at the edge of overstimulated, and completely satisfied.

What did I forget on the list?

Let me know in the comments what you would add to this list of tips for introverts and HSPs attending large conferences.

It starts with you.

“When I started coming, I thought I’d be learning how to lead other people, but I’ve realized it’s about what’s in here.” And she pointed to her heart.
That’s a comment I got a few weeks ago from one of the women who comes to the Quiet Leadership Meetup I’ve been hosting. And that’s exactly it: Leadership starts on the inside.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk (via Flickr)

Finding the Leader within is all about healing, acceptance, and claiming.

Whether you are a quiet leader or not, leadership is an inside job. To find your voice, lead with purpose, and compel others to follow you, you have to know yourself… from your gremlins to your superpowers.

A natural leader is someone who accepts themselves as they are and brings the best they can forward. It’s not about looking like anyone else or doing things a certain way. The most compelling leaders are the ones who show you who they are (whether quirky, edgy, funny, arrogant, humble, or whatever).

Natural leaders aren’t always born that way.

It takes practice and commitment to be who you really are.

It starts with letting go of needing to be perfect or live up to someone’s expectations, and embracing the beautiful human being that you are right now today. Not after you lose ten pounds or make $100K or finally write that book.

Healing and facing your fears is scary business. But the only way is through, so be sure to pack some courage for the journey. And know that you are worth it.

The more you believe in you, the more others will too.

The thing that matters is letting the spark inside of you grow into a flame and then a fire. The brighter it burns, the more lives you can light up. And isn’t that what we all want to do?

Whether your title is CEO, bus driver, or mom. Whether you have a title or not. A title does not make you a leader. Being yourself authentically and touching other people… that makes you a leader.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

What would it be like to be more of yourself?

(Psst… I’m working on a new course to help you discover and sustain that “You-ness”. Find out more here >>)

What is Quiet Leadership?

600_413446772At the end of August 2014, I created the Quiet Leadership Meetup group.
I didn’t really think anyone would be interested. And my gremlin really didn’t think anyone would join.
But I had a feeling that there was a conversation that needed to happen with introverts and HSPs about their impact in the world. So I took a chance.

What do you picture when you think of a leader?

My guess is it is close to the stereotyped version, which is some guy who is:

  • Bold, brash, and energetic
  • Has no problem stirring up crowds of people
  • Somehow larger than life
  • Most likely an extrovert
  • Quite possibly kind of stern or serious or authoritative looking

But that only describes one kind of leader. There are lots of leaders who move nations gently, grab people by the heartstrings through a look, or gather a following through the depth of their belief (not the loudness of their voice).

And that doesn’t even begin to cover all of the ways that leaders and leadership can show up.

What is Quiet Leadership?

From the description of the Quiet Leadership Meetup group:

This group is for introverted and highly sensitive people who believe they have something to do in their life (that is, they have a purpose or are searching for meaning). It is for people who want to make a difference. It is for people who know (or want to learn) that leadership has nothing to do with being the loudest or flashiest person in the room, and everything to do with why you’re here.

Leader – someone who knows their purpose and creates something from that that impacts their world.

That may sound lofty, ambitious, or “too big”, but you are already making an impact in your life and your world. The question is really what impact are your creating? Leaders know and create with intention.

Quiet leadership is about finding your purpose (what drives you and gives meaning to your life), letting go of the need to fit the stereotypes, and bringing more of yourself authentically forward. Because that’s what’s needed.

Are you a quiet leader?

No one can decide for you. It’s more than being an introvert or HSP, it’s also feeling that call to something more. The desire to make a difference (in your family, your community, or the world).

Four and a half months since starting the Quiet Leadership Meetup group, there are now over 130 members (so I guess my gremlin who thought no one would join was wrong). And one of the comments I hear most often is how reassuring and nurturing it is to be around other people who get them.

We all need community.

If you are a quiet leader and live in the San Francisco Bay Area, come on out and join us. And if you live elsewhere, be sure to sign up for my newsletter because I have some products and online community ideas that I’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks just for you and other quiet leaders like you.

P.S. Foundations is coming soon!

Setting yourself up for success

2014-10-29 12.02.52I have a gremlin that always says, “But it’s just so hard…”. Maybe this gremlin never aged past 15. Or maybe she’s just a whiner. Either way, she sees everything as arduous and pretty near impossible to do.

Like now, the holidays are over and my goals are more or less set for 2015. I know where I’m headed and what I want to feel at the end of this year, but I find that gremlin’s voice cropping up an awful lot this week. “Oh, that will never work. It’s impossible. Where would you even start?”

But things are rarely as hard as I think they are.

And they are almost never as hard as she says they are.

AND… I’ve learned that I can make things much easier if I just plan ahead a little.

We’re not talking about big, detailed plans for the next however-many months. We’re just talking about thinking a little bit ahead (as in what’s the next step?).

Stuff like…

  • Setting out my workout clothes before I go to bed so that when I wake up at 6:30am to go to the gym, I don’t have to think about what to wear or dig through my closet in the dark (because my husband is still asleep). It makes it easier to just get up and go.
  • Cooking a little extra for dinner so I’ll have a healthy lunch tomorrow. This helps me avoid eating what’s easy (which is usually some sort of cheesy-bready-gutbomb).
  • Taking 5 minutes at the end of the work day to write out my ToDo list for tomorrow. This helps me stay on track and when I wake up, I have a general idea of what the day will bring. It’s also a way for me to stay connected to my goals by taking the time to check in… even just for 5 minutes.

These are small things, but it all matters.

How you start your day will affect how you feel all day long. What you eat affects your energy and clarity. Whether you exercise or not. If you take time to prepare for the day, week, month… it all adds up.

Just like skipping workouts and eating whatever is easiest can accumulate into weeks of lazy and pounds of unwanted blah. Making that extra little effort to help things go right can become healthy good habits and a smaller jean size.

This idea of setting yourself up for success works for business and leadership goals as well.

It’s like packing for a road trip. You could just pack a change of clothes and your wallet and hop in the car. But generally, the ride will be more pleasant and easier if you take a few minutes to plan out where you’re headed and maybe grab a few snacks and some tunes.

You don’t have to have every turn memorized, but knowing where you need to turn next is really helpful. The same is true when navigating toward your goals.

So with that in mind, how can you set yourself up for success? (both big and small)?

  • What little shifts can you make in your routine to make it flow more smoothly?
  • What barriers could you lower for yourself?
  • What’s the next thing that needs to happen for your goal, and what can you do now to help it go right?