Journal Excerpt: The Fall of C.E.O. Women, The Start of brown girl surf
December 18, 2011
I’m alive and I have all my limbs so I’m trying to put the closing into perspective. A lot has been done to dismantle the (C.E.O. Women) office. We’ve sold most of our assets last week and this week is the final push. The only thing is that we have no staff left – I’m the only one and so I have to manage all of the following:
I sent this list to my board chair and treasurer to let them know … But as it is, I’m left as the only one trying to manage the final three days of closing of the office. People expect way too much when you are a Founder. The good news is that I raised an extra $15,000 from foundations and donors and that the government approved our $20,000 reimbursement request so we will have enough for payroll, which will limit the board’s liability. They were going to float a loan for payroll as well which I was happy about but now they don’t need to. My friend and board member gave me a $1,750 (personal) loan to tide me over until we can collect on all the grants.
… I have been actively trying to find a home for Grand Café in it all … because we owe the bank for our line of credit … It is a hard decision because that is nine years of work/research that went into building that asset (and $500,000) and I’m not sure what the bank will do with it at this point but I want it to land somewhere good, but I also want this to be done, so I’m torn …
I have been surfing which I’m glad about but skipped my Friday session down in Santa Cruz as I normally do. I just felt like last week was intense and I couldn’t focus so much on my surfing, but I did get out on Friday and Saturday to Ocean Beach which I was really glad about. I also started to get a lot of momentum on brown girl surf …
I am so proud of the (web) site and honestly it has been like therapy. After coming home dismantling an 11 year old non-profit I built on my back, I can work on creating something new which gives me a lot of energy. I’m excited that I am so excited about this …
… If it weren’t for surfing and brown girl surf, I’d be in bad shape I think. But I feel calm and collected … but I just want this saga to be over with …
I have such a wide range of emotions regarding the board that it’s hard to make sense of them. On the one hand, I have felt left in a lurch by them all year – only half of them fundraised and did what they could … On the other, they are my personal contacts and networks, and amazingly, not one member resigned since the crises … most of them have given or raised significant donations (totaling over $96,000) …
So it’s not bad for a small board … I’m glad that brown girl surf will not have one going forward. I just want to be free from this all - free from the blame, free from the stress, free from this identity that I have held for what seems way too long. I am Farhana and I am the Founder of C.E.O. Women, but it is not my baby and I don’t feel that way about it …
… It sucks being a Founder. Your DNA is imprinted into the organization and work until the day you leave/ relinquish it but I feel trapped and not in a position to relinquish at this point. I can’t wait until it’s all over. I can’t wait to run with brown girl surf and it’s exciting to see it come alive …
I founded and ran a non-profit organization for 11 years with an amazing mission – helping low-income immigrant and refugee women to become entrepreneurs and learn English. After 10 years of running it, I took a needed sabbatical to reflect and rejuvenate. An interim leader led the organization in my absence. When I returned a few months later, it was operating a $50,000 deficit, the first ever deficit in the history of the organization.
As a Founder, this was devastating. It was like coming back at halftime to a 0-4 World Cup game and you’re on the losing team. It’s not impossible to bounce back, but it would take a level of effort I did not have in me after an already exhausting 10 years. The organization eventually closed. My last official day was the 21st of December eleven years ago.
While I made peace with the closure, I never quite got over the loss of its most innovative program - a soap opera series designed to teach English and entrepreneurship skills to immigrant women. I worked on this idea for 9 years, raising about half a million dollars to develop 6 of 18 episodes. Upon closing, the series was given to the bank as collateral for a line of credit that leadership took out in my absence in order to finance the deficit.
Giving over the program felt like a miscarriage, like it never got its fair chance to run. And truth be told, perhaps it was a little too early of an innovation for its time. Many funders resisted the idea of a remote, media-based learning program, now an ironic sentiment in these Covid times. This summer, on a long shot, I decided to reach out to the bank. I asked them to release the program series for me to resurrect. They agreed with full support. It was one of the best pieces of news of my career and life.
If I learned anything through this experience, it’s to not lose faith in your ideas. Ideas take courage. Creativity takes courage. Speaking up takes courage. Honoring and holding worthy your ideas takes courage. And perhaps most of all, I’ve learned that there’s no timeline for courage. You are ready when you are ready.
While I worked on this idea for 9 years it was the amazing team around me that brought it to life. Angelica Matsuno was the ah-mazing Co-Producer and Co-Writer who has been helping me to resurrect it. We were probably the most attached emotionally to this project. Nina Serrano was the incredible writer of the series and Marissa Aroy was the talented Director along with the ever capable Producer Niall McKay who all used their artistic skills, creativity, time and talent to give this idea life. There was also the programs team that worked on distribution, countless advisors, board members, clients and volunteers who helped take the idea to where it was. I’m forever proud of the work our organization did. And I am proud to return to this creative idea, with new eyes and wisdom, in service to all the people it was meant to impact.
Watch program trailer below:
(Re-post from my 6/9/14 Surf Life Executive Coaching blog.)
My answer to whether the risk is worth taking is, it depends. Here are four recommendations I’d make to anyone who is contemplating making a really radical life or business change, yet is seemingly paralyzed by the fear of losing job security, balancing family, or other practical, modern-day considerations.
1. Make sure you are “on purpose”.
Before you can answer whether the risk is worth taking, ask yourself this: Is this my purpose? Is this truly what I’m about and the reason I was put on this earth? If you come up with a resounding yes, then the risk may very well be worth taking. Consider for a moment you found your purpose which, for many people, often takes half a lifetime. Now that you know your purpose, why would you want to waste your time on anything else? Your life will go by quickly. You don’t want to be on your deathbed wishing you had done things differently, do you? When we are on purpose, we resonate more, we feel excited and invigorated, and we attract the resources and people around us that we need to achieve our vision. That resonance will have more impact on us being successful than if we were just given a big pot of money and told to create something we weren’t that into.
Purpose is the platform to our vision, which in turn drives our everyday actions and choices.
You can’t ever succeed if you don’t risk it. But risk it with purpose. You will often read in popular entrepreneurial writings that entrepreneurs hardly ever do something because they are driven to make a lot of money. Many of the ones who became successful did it because they believed in their idea so much and were driven by the value it could bring to the world. If you believe in something that much, then the risk is worth it, because with that drive and passion, you are that much more motivated to find the right path forward.
2. Minimize the risk.
Leaps don’t just happen over night. I think it’s time to insert a surf life metaphor for you. A big wave surfer doesn’t just drop down Mavericks (a big wave in Northern California) one day without first having started in baby waves. She practices for years and years and keeps pushing her limits. She trains. She visualizes. She gets her mind as well as her body prepared. She grows her competency. In other words, she does things to minimize the risk.
The concept is similar when thinking about risks on land, in life and in business. When I started my first social impact organization, I had contract jobs on the side and worked on my idea with the other part of my time. I didn’t start by renting office space and carrying monthly payments, making a website and then looking for clients. That would have opened me up to too much risk. I thought about minimizing the risk through partnerships, and through making baby steps by collaborating with other programs and institutions to serve their clients first. Then I spun off. Whether it’s considering leaving a career and going after the idea of your dreams, or taking a leap of faith with a courageous conversation, think about how you can start to do a pilot run of it.
Test the idea. Take baby steps. Shrink your idea into parts.
Be sure you can answer these questions:
Why am I doing this?
What do I want to get out of it?
How will I do it?
3. It’s more about persistence and less about failure.
In my work as a social entrepreneur, I actually had to deal with the difficult decision of winding down an organization. It had succeeded in meeting its mission for women for 11 years. On the outside that seems like 11 successful years! But the truth of the matter is, there were many failures over that 11 years, too. Looking back, if I stopped everytime I failed, there would not have been an organization. But I chose to be persistent, and that is the reason the organization kept going. So, you will fail. It’s actually inevitable in many courageous and creative pursuits. But it’s not the failure that matters; at the end of the day, persistence is most important.
How many waves does a surfer wipe out on before they can pop up on just one? (Yes, here I go with the surf metaphors - they're just so good!) Many. And it’s not failure - it’s learning. We need to have a growth mindset when thinking about courageous transitions. Instead of seeing failure as failure, see failure as learning and move on.
4. Forget about what others will say.
This is perhaps the #1 biggest fear I see in people – fear of how you will appear to others and the shame you might feel if you fail.
Take it from me, if you live your life fearing what others think of you, you WILL be held back from your potential.
When you are worried about what others say, you are relying on others to define your potential and (worst of all) to give you permission. I learned this the hard way in my leadership. As a young leader with some amount of organizational power, there were some times I uncomfortable with the power, and would rely on seeking permission from others – from my board, from my colleagues, from advisors, from my team. At the end of the day, I wasn't listening to what my voice inside me said. It is very common in organizations for many people to work through the leader and it is important for the leader to hold multiple stakeholder’s agendas. At some point, however, you might find yourself needing to make a decision for yourself, and only YOU know you best.
Now, when I am in a highly creative state of change or new creation, I purposely distance myself from certain critics and people or just don’t offer too much information on what I’m doing. If they aren’t resonating at the same frequency that I am and are doubtful of my plans or ideas, they often become critical and quick to judge. This makes it harder for me to be successful, as I then find myself in a spiral of doubt, and well, doubt doesn’t help anyone. Surround yourself with the people who aren’t going to judge you for the moment, and keep yourself at a distance from those who are. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to avoid people who can give you honest and critical advice, but at the end of the day make sure they are in support of YOU and not just projecting their own fears of risk onto you. It can make all the difference.
Have you found yourself in a position where you feel stuck and are afraid of venturing down a new path for fear of failure? What did you do to decide whether the risk was worth taking? Inquiring minds want to know!
(Re-post from my 2/3/14 Surf Life Executive Coaching blog.)
A lot of people come to Surf Life Coaching to get help making a bold transition, or to figure out how to get to the next level in their careers or personal lives. Most of the time, they come stuck in their safe zone. They are afraid, and by staying in the “safe zone”, they do not grow and challenge themselves to get to where it is they really want to go.
When people start to step out of their comfort zones, a number of things happen. For entrepreneurs, it can mean the difference between really starting to differentiate themselves in their industry vs. being just another plain business. For individuals, it can mean paving an opening for going after what they really want vs. feeling stuck in their status quo lives.
To take a leap and get past the fear can take a lot of work. Sometimes, people are afraid they will fail, or are afraid of what others might think of them. But what they don’t realize is that some amount of risk is what will also make them grow. Any failure they might experience will be in service to a much greater personal self-growth and discovery.
I know it’s one thing to list the logical reasons for stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and it’s another thing to FEEL the need to do so. For the sake of this post, I’m going to stick to logic:
1. Grow your leadership: Stepping out of your comfort zone can aid in developing your leadership and self-growth. As an example, a few years into running the nonprofit organization I founded, I was struggling in a relationship with one of my most important employees and fellow leaders. Most of the time, we found ourselves burning the candle at both ends and were very overworked and tired. We were stressed, and tempers were often short. I knew we needed to have a critical conversation about what was going on, but I remember neither of us really wanted to have it. We didn’t know HOW to have it, AND it was uncomfortable.
As I was the so-called ‘boss’, I’m sure it was hard for her to bring up our discordant dynamic. And truth be told, I was equally afraid because back then, I wasn’t very versed with head-on, to-the-point conflict. I was afraid of being blamed or worse yet, that she might leave. (Yes, bosses have fears, too.) We danced around this dynamic for a bit until it finally came to a head and we both had to have the conversation. It was uncomfortable and I felt vulnerable, but it was so good to get things on the table. Truth be told, tears were shed and thoughts and feelings were expressed. And afterwards, it was as if we were in a whole new space. I really understood her perspective and what she needed, and she understood my perspective, too. Stepping into this zone of discomfort took me to a whole other level in my leadership.
Conversations on difficult subjects after that with other employees, family and friends never seemed hard at all. I had forced myself to be out of my comfort zone with this, and looking back, what I realized was that it was one of the best skills I developed in my leadership arsenal for the years ahead. No conversation after that ever seemed quite as scary.
2. Stand out from the crowd: Being uncomfortable is often the path to differentiation. For example, I coach a number of entrepreneurs, and sometimes they end up sitting in their comfort zones in their business or lives, and nothing seems to be moving. When they realize and come to terms with that big, scary idea or passion they have been stuffing away all these years, and start to move towards it, it feels uncomfortable. They get scared, and often the voices of “can’t” and “sabotage” get in the way and give them every logical argument as to why they shouldn’t step towards it. But, stepping towards this is when they start to grow. If you are not in a place of feeling slightly uncomfortable, not stepping into new territory, how are you to find what makes you different?
As an example, before I started Surf Life Coaching, I was just a coach – a “vanilla” brand coach for leaders and entrepreneurs (though some would say I’m too brown to be vanilla, but you know what I mean!). Many friends and coaching colleagues would suggest that I somehow integrate surfing into my approach, since I loved it so much. Well, I stuffed that idea so far down that I didn’t want to consider it – I was afraid. But it was an idea that kept popping up again and again that I couldn’t seem to bury. After much introspection, months of coaching and a day-long seminar on finding my true calling, I realized I could stay on land and do traditional coaching and trudge along in my business, or I could create something unique with little road map or knowledge of how to do it, and try to deliver my coaching service in a new and better way.
I remember when I saw the path of where I needed to go. I knew I needed to go all out with this surfing and coaching concept. It had me terrified. In the end, I got over the fears and developed my own methodology for Surf Life Coaching. What this did was allow me to differentiate my services, and stand out. It was not the comfortable path by any means, but it helped set my approach apart, allowing me to deliver my unique skills and talents to those most in need.
3. Gain new insights: Getting out of your comfort zone can often bring you to new ideas and insights. When we surround ourselves with the same people, images, thoughts and media all the time, we are just reinforcing and trying to build on what we know. When we can get out and see the world, connect with someone other than who is in our normal circle, we not only gain new perspectives, we also gain critical new insights for ourselves.
This is why you might find business leaders choosing to hike up big mountains with Sherpas during their vacations, or activists bridging the worlds of technology and entrepreneurship to build hybrid models to get to something new. Getting out of their comfort zones forces them to experience things in a different way, and to gain valuable perspective that can often lead to new creation.
Great leaders may take risks and hire people for a position with little to no experience in their industry, but with know-how on the general concepts. It’s a risk for the company or organization to bring in somebody without the industry knowledge, but what they gain through this is an entirely different perspective and way of seeing things that often ends up becoming a competitive advantage more than anything else.
4. Build resilience: My second job out of college was as an Americorps/VISTA (sorta like the domestic Peace Corps) volunteer at a start-up social venture helping low-income women entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. When I arrived on site to the job, I had no desk, no computer, no office and essentially, no physical place to work. I had to find it all. I worked out of my supervisor’s home office, borrowed a desk at central administration, and then worked out of a site for a homeless jobs program before landing in a commercial bank – all within the span of 12 months. I know – yikes! It was the most uncomfortable situation to go from a structured academic environment in college to having to fundraise to get your own computer and a chair to sit your butt down in!
But what this discomfort did was pattern in me a solutions-oriented and troubleshooting mind. I would come to use those skills to start the next two social ventures and my business. It gave me insights on how to attract and leverage resources, and how to stretch a dollar 5 times around the block, so to speak. It also got me comfortable with mobility, and being able to be productive no matter what the environment. These skills would come in handy for my entire future career in entrepreneurship.
And then there was the time I found myself in Western Samoa in a village with a shack for a bathroom, sleeping on a mat on a plank with no walls. Another seemingly uncomfortable situation, but I was not intimidated. ;)
Anyways, the discomfort seeded in me a resilience for change, and detachment to space. These have been critical lessons learned along the road that have helped tremendously in my life transitions, and in creating and building things. Resilience is invaluable currency.
5. Grow your capacity for respect and humility: When you step out of your comfort zone, you actually connect more with the world, and learn to have a healthy respect for others. For example, when I take people surfing for the first time - let’s face it - they usually have their asses handed to them. They fumble, wipe out, roll in the surf, and then pop their heads back up wondering why they weren’t able to get up on their board. Some of them are used to being in control of everything in their businesses, careers and lives, but why can’t they get a hold of this?
When they finish, they have such a different respect for the ocean, and a whole new respect for people who charge the ocean on bigger waves. It also is a process that flattens ego, and can be a very rich place for self-discovery and for learning humility.
I’m curious - where in your life or career have you felt stuck, but then ventured out of your comfort zone? How did you do it and what did you learn? I want to hear from you!
Have you ever had the experience of wondering how is it that someone else is able to bring an idea to life so quickly, while you are left feeling stuck in the routine of your life?
Do you ever start talking about your “closet dreams” – the big, bold ideas and dreams you were too shy to share with others, but that make you feel complete, happy and fulfilled? Do you notice that after talking about them, you quickly reality check yourself because you have a family, a mortgage or because you convince yourself you aren’t a risk taker?
I have news for you. 9 times out of 10, it’s not that it’s not possible. Rather, it is because of two things:
1. Our brains are wired to accept a certain status quo of a life and circumstance that has been patterned into us. The thought of changing or disrupting that status quo is thwarted by very strong neural networks. That’s the neuroscience of it, in a nutshell.
2. And secondly, everything seems too big and impossible if you think of just the big picture. You need a step-by-step plan of how to get where you want to go.
But how can you start getting around your brain’s tendency to default to its regular patterns? How can you start building new patterns to get yourself to not only see, but to believe and more importantly to FEEL what is possible with a transition or new idea? What if you stayed in the resonance of possibility, and never flipped back to the dialogue of why things are not possible?
Here are exercises in perspectives that will help you explore where you might be with a current transition or new idea, and ways to exercise your neural pathways on what’s possible.
1. Get in Touch with Your Current Perspective:
Think of where you want to transition to, or what your new idea is. How do you feel about it? Scared, frustrated, tired, like you have no way out? Give this perspective a name. If you feel scared, call it the Dracula perspective, or maybe Horror Movie perspective. Make up your own. Once you have identified that perspective, really embody it. If it’s frustration, what does it look like in your body to feel frustrated? Does your posture shift? Do you have a certain expression on your face? Do you feel it in a certain place? What does the terrain look like? Is it rainy, gloomy. dark or cloudy? Now ask yourself what is possible for you to do with respect to your problem from this perspective. What comes to you? You may or may not be surprised to see that you either generate ideas or you don’t. The point is to get in touch with how your current perspective or mind state is serving you now.
2. Try a New Perspective:
Now, try stepping into a new perspective. For example, imagine your favorite color. How does it make you feel? Calm, excited, energized, safe? If you had to embody it, what would it look like? Get in touch with how you FEEL about it. What does the terrain look like in this land of color? If your color is yellow, is it warm, sunny and hopeful? If it’s blue, is it calm, expansive and soothing? Really stand in the land of your color. Once you get to the state of truly embodying this feeling, look over at your idea or transition. Then ask yourself, “What’s possible from this perspective?” What comes out? Is it different than what came to you in your scared, frustrated or tired perspective? What do you notice? Are the ideas you are generating different?
3. Ask Yourself What You Can Do:
Explore a few more perspectives. When you get to one you really like, ask yourself this:
What is the one big step I can make from this perspective towards moving forward with my idea or transition?
See what comes to mind. You might even want to do this with a friend, spouse or family member. Have them ask you the question.
As we shift perspectives in our mind, we actually have the power to shift what is possible for us in our lives. When you shift your thinking, YOU change. And at each thought and exploration, you are patterning new neural pathways. Believe it or not, this is not wavey gravy stuff! This is actually built on science. Psychadelic, I know!
The best thing about this is you can both physically and mentally step into whatever perspective you like. If you don’t have a blue room at home, imagine one. But if you want to explore walking as a perspective, and what it feels like when you are moving and out in nature, go do that and think about your idea. See what happens.
The thing is this – you can choose the perspective you want to be in. Your actions change, and how people relate to you begins to change. Perspectives are very valuable things, and your ability to go from idea to launch of whatever it is you want to do will be directly affected by whatever perspective you CHOOSE to take. If your perspective is scared and hopeless, you’ll generate just those ideas. If it’s a cautious calm, you will generate different insights. If it’s excited, warm and happy, you may get to other insights.
So the next time you’re dreaming big, instead of defaulting to the I-could-never-do-that perspective, challenge the can’t and instead, shift the perspective.
Have you ever struggled to shift a perspective and found that when you did, you were able to see something differently? What did you learn? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Farhana Huq is a trained, Co-Active® coach from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). The perspectives methodology described in this article is derived from CTI's core coach training. For more information on CTI, visit: www.thecoaches.com.
It’s one thing to hold an intention for something that you really want in your life that seems unattainable; it’s another thing to actively figure out how to get it. You may not know exactly what the right path is, but each step you take, holding the intention you set for yourself, will bring you closer to where it is you want to go. Here’s how I manifested a far-off dream that I didn’t think would be possible.
Talk About Your Dream or Goal to Others
My dream was to have dual residency in San Francisco and Polynesia. I had no idea how I would do it, but I put the intention out into the world. I told my parents, my friends, the random friends I’d make on Facebook, too. Eventually, most people around me knew this is what I wanted to do.
Put It Down on Paper with Images
If you’ve read some of my brown girl surf posts, you’ll know what a big fan I am of art and of collaging. And I take my collaging pretty seriously. I only get the best quality paper and images for my collages. I really put time and thought into them.
I made a collage last year that included, among other things, pictures of Polynesia set next to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I found a sign that read “Surfer Crossing” and carefully placed that in between the two locations, representing my dream for dual residency. Now, I was not in a very good financial position at all when I drafted this collage.; the thought of even being able to afford my very modest San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle was enough to make me stressed out, let alone even entertain the possibility of living in a place like Polynesia. But the thought now lived on my hallway wall, and I looked at it every day as I walked between my bedroom and bathroom. Think of a collage as a physical imprint of what you want to do. First, you vocalize your goal by telling people, and then you put it down on paper.
Experience an Aspect of it by Taking a Small Step to Live it
I decided that a good first step would be to take a trip to the islands and camp out in back of my friends’ home just to see what life was like on Maui. (I was broke after paying for the plane ticket, what can I say.) I wasn’t a big fan of the development in Maui, so I ended up hopping from their residence to another island where I met the wonderful parents of a friend of mine who happened to be part of the couch surfing network. So they had a lovely guest room in the back for all their visitors. Yes! And the husband happened to be a surfer, so he ended up taking me out most mornings to surf. Not only did I get to see what life was like on the island, I also got a personal orientation to all the island’s surf breaks!
While I was staying with this awesome couple, I also realized how important it would be to have a transferable skill if I ever wanted to have dual residency in Polynesia and San Francisco. It’s not like there was a big city with a ton of companies or non-profits to work for on the island. Secondly, I got introduced to some awesome places to surf, so I could experience whether I liked the vibe and the lineup, and understand how difficult the breaks were. Lastly, I met awesome people who I stay connected to up to this day. This experience served as a preview of what my realized dream of dual residency might look like, and it was a great way for me to affirm my goal.
Pay Attention to the Opportunity
When I got back to California, I decided launching my own business was the way for me to honor this lifestyle, and to honor my values of freedom, connection and independence. Eight months prior, I had closed a non-profit I founded and ran for 11 years, so I was also in a process of getting back on my feet financially. There were so many unknowns. Launching a business was scary. I wanted to be 100% ready.
I remember my good friend, Robert Chatwani, an entrepreneur and now executive at eBay, listened to my concerns. He urged me not to wait for the perfect time, or until I had the perfect website, but to create the opportunity. I did not feel 100% ready. But he made the point that we never are. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and do it, and figure some things out as you go. I had figured out a way to get the training I needed, built my own website, crafted some packages, and sent out a simple e-mail announcement to all my friends and family. And before I knew it, I had my first client. Did I have everything figured out? Nope. Were there bumps in the road? Yep. Did I learn from them? Absolutely.
Then, the awesome couple I stayed with back in Hawaii contacted me and asked me if I’d consider house-sitting for them for a month. I finally started to see how everything was falling into place. I’d have a free place to live, a car AND a transferable skill (coaching and consulting) that I could do remotely from Hawaii.
When I got that e-mail asking me to house-sit, I smiled to myself. Whereas before I couldn’t imagine how I was going to make this dream work, it was as if it suddenly started to become attainable. It would have never happened had I not taken the steps described above.
I accepted the house-sitting request. I had an incredible time. I know this is a viable way for me to realize my dream of dual residency without buying property I can’t afford. And it’s a way to experience what life might be like in another place without spending tons of money on a place to stay.
Here are some questions for you:
1. What’s the leap you want to take?
2. What is one thing you can do to set the intention for it?
3. To whom will you tell your intention?
4. What is one thing you will do each week or each month in service to your dream?
You may not be able to do exactly what you intend to do at the onset, but every little step you take towards your intention will indeed help you get closer to it. Even if you don’t know what the strategy is to get there, by setting a firm intention and DOING, the path will unveil itself.
In short, YOU are essential to crafting your path to what may seem unattainable. It’s not enough to just think and dream and be in your values; you have to start voicing, writing, moving, behaving and living them, no matter how small the steps you take. You have to just do it.
When have you been able to create something in your life? What key things did you learn on your journey to make it happen? Share your comments below! We’d love to know!
Our personal journey through life defines our values. We know what we like. We know what hurts us. We know what we are afraid of. We know what gives us inspiration. This knowledge of self begins to shape our life purpose. Our deep connection to our values is the most powerful motivator there is to propel us forward to take our leaps. Trying to take a leap without clearly knowing what our values are is akin to searching for buried treasure without the treasure map; we meander aimlessly in circles wondering where it is we are going.
Two of my values have always been freedom and independence. When I was a little girl, I’d never let my mom pick my clothes out for me. I insisted on making my own lunches and was doing my own laundry by the time I was in the 4th or 5th grade. I would ask my parents repeatedly if I could move into the shed in the back of our house so I could have my own home. It was as if I was born this way – always wanting to be free and independent. Weird, I know. These values drove me to devote my entire career to helping women take the leap to feel the freedom and independence of owning their own businesses.
When I was starting the non-profit I ran for 11 years, never did it feel like it was work in the beginning. I always thought I was so lucky. It was only when the organization started to get bigger, and I faced increasingly frustrating growing pains and HR issues that I started to feel dissonance. I’d finish a week that had been filled with sometimes 20-30 meetings with volunteer groups, organizational teams, donors, funders, vendors, and then retreat up to West Marin in Northern California not wanting to speak to anyone for the whole weekend. I was exhausted.
I missed the energy of early-stage projects that allowed me to work on many different things. I missed getting deep with the people I worked with, sharing that family-like camaraderie and building really solid one-on-one relationships with my colleagues. When I ran the non-profit (which helped immigrant and refugee women to start their own businesses), I once knew each client by her first name. Years later I just knew of maybe the star entrepreneur of the class.
I realized I needed to take my own leap and found myself contemplating a new career. I eventually figured out a model for myself where I could still exercise the values of freedom and independence and be true to my entrepreneurial nature, but do so in a way that allowed me the valuable one-on-one time with people, and the ability to go deep. These values are what drove me to coaching.
Since making the decision to work deeply with people, I’m back to feeling like my work isn’t work, but just a natural extension of what I love to do. I talk with social entrepreneurs, creative people, and people with real struggles trying to take their leap. I have the honor to help guide them to realize their values and craft a path for their life to align with those values. It makes me feel energized, purposeful and alive.
This process and experience makes me realize just how important it is for you to know what you really value, else you may be taking a leap on a path that sounds good in theory, but that may compromise your values or make you feel dissonant or exhausted.
Take a temperature reading of the dissonance in your life. Do you feel any – in your relationships, at work, with respect to your health? If so, I’d challenge you to make a list of your values – not material items, but attributes and ways of being in the world that are especially important to you. Then rate each one on a scale of 1 -10 and see how much you are honoring these values in your life. 10 means you fully honor it. 1 means you have some work to do. Where do you need to honor something more? Are you not honoring one particular value at all? What’s the one big thing you need to shift within YOU to change that?
Values are our spiritual launch pad; they are our internal treasure map. When the dream we want to bring to life is in clear alignment with our values, something magical happens and the treasures of life begin to unfold. You begin to feel a natural energy and momentum which propels you toward your leap. The universe just works that way. It may be scary at first, but at some point you’ll eventually find yourself feeling like what you are doing is not work, but a natural extension of you choosing to live and exercise your values in the world. Let your quest begin!
Everybody has the tendency to sometimes complain about their circumstances or the people they are in relationship with. I once read somewhere that complaints are are just unspoken requests. But sometimes we cannot make the requests we want to make so find ourselves in the position of complaining. What we do have the power to shift is what is within us. Getting in touch with your ability to make these internal shifts will help the leaps you want to take in your wave of life to be all the more smoother.
For example, there is an important relationship in my life but I had a hard time with the way that particular person has related to me in the past. This person from time to time would start to accuse me of things and then would start to criticize me. I would feel defensive and hurt. I realized that it was holding me back in a lot of ways and making me feel bad about myself, and even eroding my self-confidence. I decided the next time she started to criticize me, that I would not react, but I would try to understand her perspective and see if I could find some value in her words and just listen. Rather than let her words land on my heart center and feel defensive, as she spoke I imagined them landing on the ground in the space in front of me. I also told myself to not take it personally.
I made the conscious decision about how I was going to react and to approach the conflict the way I would surf a wave – to just be curious, go with it and follow it. I listened and ask questions and tried to understand and clarify the source of what was making her criticize me. The process diffused the episode of this person and allowed me the space to speak my voice and share my perspective with them. In the end, I didn’t change her, but changed the WAY I chose to relate to her. It also became apparent that her episodes were more about HER feelings and the way she experienced the world vs. about me.
I learned that when you’re trying to move forward and you feel something or someone is holding you back, it’s easier to shift something within you, rather than change someone or try to change your circumstances. You have far more control over changing YOU first . This has been a critical lesson for me in leaping into the unknowns of life, not knowing what you might face. Having the muscle to flow in and out of conflict and shift your RESPONSE to what is happening will make you all the more prepared to take your leap in life, whatever it may be.
Executive & Leadership Coach | Global Explorer | Founder, Surf Life Executive Coaching & Brown Girl Surf