7 Days of Writing Prompts to Unlock Your Untapped Potential

In the inaugural 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders, there were a handful of writing prompts that got the most vocal, most visceral responses from participants. What you’ll find below are a week’s worth of the most breakthrough-inducing prompts, the ones that most helped people detect and release their limiting factors.

7 Days of Writing Prompts to Unlock Your Untapped Potential

If you’re ready to unlock your own untapped potential and step more fully into who you were called to be, I believe these prompts will meet you right where you’re at. Try writing to one of these prompts each day for 7 days, ideally in order. Let me know how it goes!

Yours,
~T

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #1: The Struggle Is Real. Maybe. Wait a minute. . .

Is the struggle actually real? Is that saying really true? Write about how you know it is or is not, using an example of a struggle you’ve experienced in your own life.

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #2: Resistance is futile. And sometimes fatal.

In his truly life-changing book War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about the mortal enemy of dreams and creative beings everywhere: Resistance.

His concept of Resistance is a negative energy that arises when we take “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity.” He says the activities that most commonly spark Resistance are:

  1. “The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional”
  2. Entrepreneurial ventures
  3. Diet and health regimens
  4. “Any program of spiritual advancement”
  5. “Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals”
  6. “Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction”
  7. Education
  8. Any act of political, moral or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves,”

and the list goes on.

All of these things trigger Resistance. And what does Resistance look like? Pressfield says that Resistance includes any/all of the following:

Prompt: When was the last time you tried to do something that triggered Resistance? What did that look like? How does it feel to acknowledge this? To feel Resistance captured in words?

 

POD #3: Our Unlived Lives

Hey, guys – here’s a provocative thought from Dr. Jung:

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

—Carl Gustav Jung

In War of Art, Pressfield says:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Is he right? Do you have an unlived life within you? What is it? What does that look like?

Do you feel like your unlived life influences your children? Did your parents’ unlived lives influence yours?

Whew.! I know that one was deep. But it’s also important. I promise to go a little lighter tomorrow. Just a little.

 

POD #4: The Lies We Tell (Ourselves)

I was out with a friend the other day, and she said “I’ve done so many spontaneous things in the last week. That’s crazy, because I’m never spontaneous.”

Couple days later I was out with another friend, who was talking about running. Another woman in the conversation asked whether my friend was a runner. She said, “I wouldn’t say that, but I run.” I said, “I think the definition of a runner is someone who runs.” And she went, “Hmm. Then I guess I’m a runner!”

These are pretty innocuous examples, but they surface some interesting questions you can take as lightly or as deeply as you’d like:

What are you telling yourself, about yourself, that’s just not true?

What aren’t you giving yourself credit for?

What do you think you want to be or do or have—physically, spiritually or even emotionally—that you in fact already are, already do, or already have?

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #5: Untether it!

If you know me, you know that one of my absolute most treasured life guidebooks of all time is Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul. I own multiple copies, and keep them lent out in rotation all the time.

There’s a principle in The Untethered Soul that I think is very worth catching, if it resonates for you. If it does nothing but ignite a spark of interest in reading the book, I’ll feel like the mission has been accomplished. Here’s an excerpt, which starts with Singer talking about what he calls “a basic human tendency”:

“When something painful touches your body, you tend to pull away instinctively. You even do this with unpleasant smells and tastes. The fact is, your psyche does the same thing. If something disturbing touches it, its tendency is to withdraw, pull back and to protect itself. It does this with insecurity, jealousy, and any of the other vibrations we’ve been discussing. In essence, you “close,” which is simply an attempt to put a shield around your inner energy.

. . .

Sometimes you will go through deep experiences that bring up intense pain inside of you. If it is in there, it is going to come up. If you have any wisdom, you will leave it alone and not try to change your life to avoid it. You will just relax and give it the space it needs to release and burn through you. To feel great love and freedom, to find the presence of God within you, all of this stored pain must go.

. . .

Remember, if you close around something, you will be psychologically sensitive about that subject for the rest of your life. Because you stored it inside of you, you will be afraid that it will happen again. But if you relax instead of closing it will work its way through you. If you stay open, the blocked energy inside of you will release naturally, and you will not take on any more.”

Here’s the prompt:

Are there subjects about which the people who know you would say you are psychologically sensitive? Things people avoid bringing up around you? Are there even smells, words, sounds or objects that bring up very painful memories for you?

How intense is the pain? What do you do to avoid triggering it? What would it feel like if you could be free of it? Would you be willing to allow it to come up and burn itself out?

Whew! That one was no joke. Love ya’ll.

 

POD #6: What do you do that no longer serves you?

What do you do that no longer serves you? What are you getting out of doing it? Are you attached to that? What would it take for you to release it?

And who would you be, if you released it?

 

POD #7: Handling Unfinished Business

One of the best gifts I’ve received from therapy and my daily writing practice has been the release from resentment and hurt from the past. Charlotte Kasl writes what I know, from experience is true: “as we feel the lightness that comes from clearing the air with others, we gain the courage to continue.”

I’d even go further and say that once you operate in what I like to call the free-and-clear, you can’t really turn back. You start to realize that unresolved resentments and conflicts take up residence in your body and your spirit, and you get to a place where you literally cannot tolerate unfinished business. The pain of dishonesty or of avoiding the hurt of dealing with unresolved messes becomes much greater than the pain of facing it and working things through.

Kasl writes: “to become aware of unfinished business in your life, ask yourself the following five questions.”

Here’s the prompt:

  1. Who comes to mind when I think of unresolved grief, hurt, or pain?
  2. To whom do I need to apologize?
  3. With whom do I need to talk over conflict and seek some form of resolution?
  4. To whom do I need to send thanks?
  5. What are the conclusions I’ve made about myself that relate to these situations?

Source: If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path, by Charlotte Kasl.

[Download] A Guided Meditation for Conscious Leaders

Tara Reads Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Letter to a Young Activist

Note: This is Part 4 of a series of posts inspired by Clarissa Estes’ work. It has emboldened my voice and my leadership, and I believe it will bless you, too. ~T

Part I: Souls on Deck: My Call to Action to You, Conscious Leader
http://www.taranicholle.com/souls-on-deck-my-call-to-action-to-you-conscious-leader/

Part II: What Conscious Leaders Do In Dark Times
http://www.taranicholle.com/souls-on-deck-part-ii-what-conscious-leaders-do-in-dark-times/

Part III: Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times – Full
http://www.taranicholle.com/clarissa-pinkola-estes-letter-to-a-young-activist-in-troubled-times-full/

Wonderful Servants and Terrible Masters

Long ago, I adopted the belief that money is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.

This helped un-click a lot of the deep-down, limiting beliefs I held about money, wealth and business. It also helped me learn how to charge an appropriate price for my work and empowered me to make bold career moves that were driven by my life’s purpose, not by the money on the table.

To my surprise, taking the role of money down a notch and prioritizing purpose led me to levels of prosperity and abundance I’d never before imagined.  

More on that here: Why I Quit the Best Job I Ever Had

These days, I’m working with a similar/parallel belief shift around technology and social media. Like money, technology is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. Facebook can, in fact, ruin your life, but only if you let it run your life. Email will make you crazy, too, if you let it. But these tools, and your smartphone and all the rest, have unlocked incredible levels of progress, connectedness and productivity for all of humanity as well. And they can continue to, so long as we keep them in their place as servants, and never let them become the boss of us.

What are the things in your world that cause you stress or you dread dealing with, but that you must deal with on an everyday basis? Are there any of them you are letting be the boss of you, instead of you mastering them?

Does money drive your decisions? Does technology dictate how you spend your time? Does your mind and its chatter run your life, or do you put your mind to its highest and best use?

Fill in the blank: In my life, ________________________ is a wonderful servant, and a terrible master.

And more importantly: how might your life look differently if you were able to live the above statement out?

P.S.: NEW BOOK ALERT – My new book, The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Your Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser, is available for pre-order on Amazon NOW! Order it and email your receipt to tara at transformationalconsumer dot com to receive bonuses like my Content Strategy and Customer Journey Mapping Templates. 

 

#DeleteUber and #DownloadLyft: Manifesto Marketing in the Time of Trump

Understatement alert: it’s been an eventful 11 days since the Inauguration. This weekend’s Executive Order (EO) on immigration sparked righteous outrage and alarm at the order’s unabashed defiance of the Constitution, compassion, order and the values on which America was founded.

#DeleteUber and #DownloadLyft: Manifesto Marketing in the Time of Trump

But the EO also sparked a brand war, epicentered at JFK airport. There, the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance organized a one-hour cab strike, both because the 19,000 members of the Alliance are largely Muslim and largely immigrants, and to express their solidarity with those protesting the ban.

Uber reacted swiftly, announcing that despite the spike in demand, they would get rid of surge pricing for cars serving JFK.

The company says it was trying to avoid the appearance of profiting from the immigration ban and resulting protests, as it has been accused of profiting from natural disasters and other strikes in the past.

But the Internet interpreted the Uber announcement differently. Many viewed it as Uber’s effort to break the cab drivers’ strike. Within hours, the hashtag #DeleteUber took off. One of the earliest tweets with this hashtag was retweeted over 23,000 times last weekend, and also included the hashtag #DownloadLyft.

The response of Uber’s little-guy competitor, Lyft, to the immigration ban took a different course. The company sent out an email to customers making a pledge of $1 million over 4 years to the ACLU and stating boldly that “We stand firmly against [Trump’s] actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.

Lyft started the weekend at #39 in the iTunes App Store. By the end of the weekend, Lyft was in the top 10. This was the first time Lyft has ever surpassed Uber for downloads. Ever.

Manifesto marketing is real and it really “works.” But it is not a stunt. Some have accused Lyft of using the opportunity of Uber’s misstep to deploy the ACLU pledge as a “marketing stunt.”

It is marketing. But it is not a stunt.

The umbrella of marketing encompasses any and every communication or interaction between a company and its customers, which this clearly was. But calling it a stunt implies that it was a one-off project cooked up by the marketing team to drive a quick hit of increased business.

This was not that. This is what I call Manifesto Marketing in my new book, The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair With Your Customers By Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser (March 1, 2017; Berrett-Koehler Publishers).  Manifesto Marketing is a phenomenon that takes place when a business makes a bold statement about their motivations, values and beliefs outside the scope of the product they actually sell or the industry they operate in. Manifesto Marketing is a way that companies signal what they stand for to consumers who share those values. Manifesto Marketing works, in that it magnetically creates a loyal tribe of a company and its customers around an issue. But it is not a one-off thing.

Manifesto Marketing is risky, and real. (Witness: the boycotts of Target after its support of LGBT communities and issues.)

Lyft’s ACLU pledge is Manifesto Marketing because Lyft didn’t have to say anything on this matter. And they still would have probably seen a bump from #deleteUber. But they took the risk.

This is Manifesto Marketing, vs. a marketing stunt, because Lyft didn’t do any of the things it would have done if it were trying to optimize this announcement for downloads. Lyft didn’t send their ACLU pledge first to TechCrunch or the New York Times. It sent it to existing customers. [Side note: Uber eventually pledged to create a $3 million defense fund for their own immigrant drivers. Consumers didn’t seem to notice too much.]

This is Manifesto Marketing because it’s bold and principled. It was not designed with the first objective of driving sales or business. Google’s statement on the EO said essentially that Google disliked the impact of the ban on Google’s employees. Mark Zuckerberg praised immigrants in general, but then said simply that he was “concerned” about the impact and direction of the EO.

Consider this: Mark Zuckerberg has very publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement, but the most he, the CEO of behemoth Facebook, was willing to say on the EO is that it he’s “concerned”. Having been on the executive team of a tech company, I can beyond doubt assure you that in no way did the marketing team at Lyft unilaterally spin up such a bold statement of disapproval of the EO and a $1 million donation to the ACLU for PR purposes alone.

The Lyft statement and pledge is Manifesto Marketing because it took the risks inherent in taking the stand. It risked losing customers that disagree, on principle, with the statement of values it made. This risk is real; Starbucks was the subject of a boycott after pledging to employ 10,000 refugees. And it made the bold statement anyway, much bolder and more clearly than companies like Google and Facebook were willing to make.

TREND: Spotted – Customers and employees will increasingly cry out for companies to state what they stand for. Simon Sinek says that people don’t buy what you sell, they buy WHY you sell it. I’d take this way further: people buy WHY you sell it, they buy HOW you sell it, they also buy WHAT you believe and hold dear and they also buy HOW you operate as a corporate citizen of this country, of our world.

I distill consumer insights for a living. In particular, I focus on helping companies design their marketing, content and products to fulfill the demands of a massive, growing customer segment I call The Transformational Consumer. These people comprise over 50% of the American consumer base, and they spend over $4 trillion a year in their efforts to live healthier, wealthier, wiser lives. Their “wealthier” aspiration includes the desire to be ever-better stewards of the money they spend, and “wiser” encompasses their effort to become more fully actualized humans, more conscious citizens of the world.

I spent a good chunk of last weekend doing what I do, observing the trends and natural language patterns of people around the web as they reacted to the EO and to these companies’ actions.

So let me sound the alarm to executives and entrepreneurs: consumers and especially Transformational Consumers, will increasingly demand and require companies to take a stand on these major cultural and political issues, in addition to providing truly transformational products and services, in exchange for their loyalty and brand love.

Think about this: only 26% of the voting American public actually voted for President Trump. Americans feel a dramatic leadership vacuum right now. They are looking for how to live out their own version of activism in these times, which is why over a million of them showed up to march over inauguration weekend. They are looking to connect with the other people and personalities that also stand for what they see as pure and sacred, which is why you see such viral spread of the comments by Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, now-Former President Obama and Facebook communities like Pantsuit Nation.

And they are looking for the business and tech leaders to speak on these issues, too, from the heroic perches we’ve placed them, as a culture. This outcry may seem misplaced or scary, but it also creates an opportunity to connect and engage with customers about something bigger than any product or brand. That’s what consumers want and need right now. The companies that give it to them, like Lyft did this weekend, will reap the benefits.

You can’t build a truly transformational company without taking a stand. By definition, transformational companies and transformational leaders use their products, their services and their presence in the marketplace to change the way we live and operate as a society. This is why they exist and how they show up in the world: to spot things that need change, and then to facilitate that change.

You can’t be bold, expressive and flow freely in one area, and be shutting down or repressing yourself in another area; the seams will burst. And the same goes for companies: if you claim that your company is all about innovating to create needed change, the only way to optimize for that objective is to integrate bold statements and actions in favor of a conscious world deeply into your company’s internal and external messages.

This is part of why employee disengagement is so rampant. most companies are either not transformational at all, or are hypocritical in giving lip service to being “disruptive”. Gartner says that over 70% of American employees rank somewhere on the disengagement spectrum between bored and actively, toxically hateful about their work and their employer. Transformational Consumers are employees, too, and they are tired of working *just* to make a big, rich company bigger and richer. They want to work for a company that is working on a problem bigger than that, and for companies that stand for more than just creating another revenue-generating widget.

The long game of Manifesto Marketing I had one more major insight while doing online listening this weekend to analyze consumer natural language patterns and conversations around this real-time battle between brands and values: Manifesto Marketing is a long game, and a cumulative one.

Clearly, this weekend was a dramatic moment in time, for both Uber and Lyft (and the world, for that matter). But on social media, many who followed the rallying cry to #deleteUber said that this weekend was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back for them. They expressed that they had been increasingly concerned about what they saw as a pattern of bad behavior by the company and its CEO.

This weekend was just the nail in the coffin.

And the opposite was true, too. The conversation around the #downloadLyft hashtag includes much chatter about Lyft’s pledge, but also their general reputation for treating drivers well and, namely, better than Uber treats theres.

The most powerful Manifesto Marketing doesn’t happen in a moment. It’s an ongoing cadence, an accumulation of statements, actions and messages, internally and externally, over time. Everything communicates. Everything. Transformational Consumers are watching what you say and what you do, as a company, all the time. And they lean, in general, toward being pretty forgiving of the companies that make truly transformational products, as many had been with Uber before the weekend.

They are forgiving. Until they’re not.

Trust is earned in drips and lost in buckets, the old adage goes. It turns out that so are brand love, loyalty, downloads and dollars.

ABOUT: Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the author of The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair With Customers By Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser. She is the CEO of TCI, a marketing, content strategy and leadership development firm that creates transformational experiences for conscious leaders, businesses + customers.

Join her newsletter or her next 30 Day Challenge for Conscious Leaders at taranicholle.com.

Tara is the former VP, Marketing for MyFitnessPal and Under Armour Connected Fitness. She has been featured in The New York Times and was recently named the #1 woman Silicon Valley tech companies should be naming to their boards by Business Insider.

What’s Your Limiting Factor? How to Unlock New Levels of Capacity in 2017

My favorite workout ever was something my trainer Bryan put together a thousand years ago. He called it the Construction and Destruction of Western Civilization. Suffice it to say that many a sandbag was hauled and many a monkey bar traversed.

What’s Your Limiting Factor? How to Unlock New Levels of Capacity in 2017

Anyhow, one of the stations involved a run from the parking lot to what we used to call the rainbow sherbet house down the street from the studio. That station was the time limiting factor for the rest of us: all of us would keep sledgehammering, flipping tires, swinging kettlebells until the person on the run would go to that house and back.

No pressure.

Anyhow, there was a woman there that day who had never worked out with us before. As she took off on the run, we swung and hauled and carried. And swung and hauled and carried. And swung and hauled and carried. At one point, Bryan actually went out to find her, and she was nowhere to be seen. He returned, and gave us permission to move on. Maybe 15 minutes later, she huffed her way back into the lot, explaining that she thought she’d known where the rainbow sherbet house was. The house she was thinking of was about a mile and a half away (easily a 20 minute run there and back for a fit non-runner). The actual rainbow sherbet house was less than a half mile away; it took most of us 5 minutes to get there and back.

That chick was the limiting factor. The surprise was that it wasn’t in fact her speed or fitness that was the ultimate limitation on the system, which was usually the case. It was her knowledge, her understanding, of where she was actually headed and when to turn back that ultimately limited our ability to move onto the next round, until Bryan intervened and broke the system.

Catch this principle guys: every system, including you and your life, has a limiting factor—one resource or trait that most limits how much the system can grow. If you want to push your life and your leadership to new levels in 2017, the single most powerful way to do that is to accurately identify what your limiting factor is, and focus every ounce of your being on deactivating it.

When you do this, you expand your capacity versus changing your conditions. This is super critical. Most of what we do when we set goals is make lists of conditions we want to change. I want to launch this business. Grow this business. Get a new job. Get a new boss. A new mate. I want my kid to stop acting up. I want to lose 15 pounds.

Here’s the truth: conditions are never the things that really limit your happiness. Think about it: millions of people already have the conditions you think would make your life better. And they’re still unhappy.

When you focus on limiting factors you grow your capacity to do two things: (1) to master the ability to change whatever conditions you want, whenever you want, and (2) to experience limitless love, joy, enthusiasm, ease and flow right now, where you’re at, regardless of conditions.

These two things will change your life. They definitely changed mine.

Writing/Feeling/Thinking Prompt: What are your top 3 limiting factors? I’ve listed some examples below, to get your mental juices flowing. As you visioncast your 2017, think about what SINGLE limiting factor you could explore releasing next year that would create the biggest change in the way you feel, think and show up in your life and your work? Which single factor would expand your capacity the most?

12 Common Limiting Factors

  1. Inconsistency
  2. Low levels of physical energy/exhaustion
  3. Shame
  4. Fearful thinking habits
  5. Overextended calendar
  6. Apologizing for taking up space
  7. Scarcity beliefs/don’t believe big things are possible
  8. Procrastination
  9. Poor boundaries
  10. Depleting relationship patterns
  11. Inability to speak up for yourself/speak your truth
  12. Inability to ask for what you need

P.S. That day, I made note of the actual address of the sherbet house. Anytime we had a new workout friend, I made sure to whisper it to them, just in case.

How to Metabolize 2016

Think about how your body metabolizes food. It chews it up and starts releasing enzymes to break it down while it’s still in your mouth. From that very moment begins the process of extracting what will nourish you. And also from that moment begins the process of eliminating the waste, discarding what doesn’t serve you, or what might even be actively harmful to you.

That’s how we can and should metabolize 2017. Keep what nourishes you. Eliminate the rest.

This approach is a powerful first step to stopping the spiral of fear and panic that has been so pervasive this year. And that is a powerful first step to walking into what you are called and put here to live and be and do—in your life and in the world—in 2017.

Here’s the prompt: Even if you think 2016 was The Worst Year Ever, list out (in writing) the things that happened, lessons you learned, experiences you experienced this year that made you healthier, happier, wiser, more clear or more tuned in to who you want to be in this life.

Our brains are wired for and alert to negative, fearful or terrible events at a rate 5x the bandwidth they devote to happy, lovely or joyful things. So you might have to devote extra intention and effort to coming up with the spiritually nutritious takeaways from the last twelve months.

And on the flip side, what did you discover this year that no longer serves you, or that you are ready to move on from or release? Relationship patterns? Thinking or emotional habits? Things? Fears?

Here, it’s helpful to keep this in mind: you do not minimize the very real issues in our world by electing to release panic and fear, get grounded in your own calling and move forward, full steam ahead. In fact, it’s kind of the only way you can really, truly help.

Feels Hard vs. Feels Good: The Surprisingly Wise Decision Rule [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 29]

My friend Ann and I were chatting a week or so ago about a project she was thinking of doing. Ann is one of the smartest chicks I know – she’s a technical writer and an extremely engaged parent, whose sweet, gleeful children could converse with heads of state and leave the diplomats craving more.

Feels Hard vs. Feels Good: The Surprisingly Wise Decision Rule

Ann has been pretty shell-shocked by the election fallout. She spent the first week assuring her ½ Filipino, ½ white, 100% American kids that they would not be deported. Then, during Week 2, Ann was personally on the receiving end of a racial slur by a neighbor who expressed his pleasure at the prospect that “people like you” (Filipino Moms, apparently) will be “going back” (where? to Manhattan? SMH/shrug/ignorant/whatever, dude). In that same moment, she was on the receiving end of alliance and defense by a bystander.

Suffice it to say, it’s been a mixed bag.

Ann’s been spending a lot of time thinking about how to convert frustration and sadness and anger into thoughtful action. She’s done this in a bunch of ways, being a very proactive participant in school district communications around the election and teaching the Girl Scout troop she leads about tolerance and alliance.

But when we were messaging the other day, she sent me the photo of this sign, told me she was thinking of having her Girl Scouts sell them, and asked for my honest take on whether I would put one front of my house:

My house is elevated off the street level by about 40 stairs, so it’s not the best place to showcase messages if you want anyone else to see them. But I liked the sign and the intention behind it. Even more, I liked where her impulse to do this project came from. I honor and appreciate her internal character and love, the things about her that would even make it occur to her to be involved with such a project. And I wanted to tell her so.

Ann is analytical, so she had run some numbers. Our chat thread went like this:

Ann: If I sell this many signs and donate this much from each to the ACLU, we should be able to donate $200. Does that make sense?

Me: No. It doesn’t make sense that you would spend that much time selling and delivering signs to give $200. You could just write them a check for that.

Ann: I know. I did already. To them, and Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Clinic, and, and, and.

Me: I know you did, girl. What I’m saying is I don’t think it pencils. But I think you should do it anyway. The math doesn’t matter. Whether it makes sense or not is the right decision rule.

You should do it because you feel an urge to, and I think that’s a sign you’re onto something. Do it because it’s just a pure and beautiful thing to do. And because it’s out of love that you’re doing it. And because it’s so powerful and will be such a memorable thing for these little girls, to be a part of this. But also just do it because it’ll make you feel so good, Ann.

But, no it doesn’t make sense. And I think you should do it anyway. And please set two aside for me, thanks.

Ann: *thumbs up

So she did it. She just started doing it a few days ago. And she is really, really onto something.

Within a couple of days, I started to see dozens of Facebook posts from people I know putting these in their yards. Not only had Ann made herself feel good, she’d created this gorgeous upswell of connection and love and conversation and emotion. It’s given families who didn’t feel they had any other way to be heard a way to voice their love, and to connect with each other. People were posting photos, other people in their circles were asking to order signs, and within a few days she had cut the first $400 check to the ACLU. And she’s just getting started.

annssigns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Some of Ann’s Signs, in Action NOTE: If you want your own, email inthishouseproject at gmail dot com.

Here’s the principle: the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to feel good about a decision or a project, before I move forward on it. I say this not because I’m selfish, or a hedonist. I say this because once I worked a lot of old outdated triggers out of my system, and my emotions were grounded more often than not, I started to notice that my emotions are an incredible, instant, God-given source of wisdom, clarity and direction.

If I feel bad about something, it’s not the right thing. Even if everyone else thinks it’s a great opportunity or idea. And if I feel great or expansive about something, even something that doesn’t seem like the best use of time or resources, it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

We have this idea that good things must be hard, or that the struggle is real, or that there’s great honor in doing things that we don’t want to do because someone else thinks they are responsible or worthwhile.

But I’ve found that the things I just plain old want to do, love to do and desire to do, are often worthwhile and wildly more fruitful than things I’m doing out of obligation.It is in-built in the human spirit to want to do things that serve something bigger than you. Often even very hard work on these sorts of projects feels easy and energizing to do. I’ve learned basically all of my love-driven activities and decisions elevate my emotional state, and they elevate those around me, though, whether they’re for the Benefit of Humanity or they’re purely for fun.

Allow me to correct the messages you might have received from culture. Joy, love, fun, I just want to, I feel called to: these are all worthy reasons to do something. Let this guide you. On behalf of the world, I beg you, let this guide you.

By the same token, internal turbulence, tightness and discord are a beautiful guidance system. This, I’ve seen and learned over and over again. I’ve seen it so often, in fact, that now I just listen and make the needed adjustments, quick-like and without attachment. Without upset. Most of the time, without complaining. I’ve learned to see it as a treasure when I get these sorts of feelings, because I’m grateful for the guidance and I know it will pass.

And so many beautiful things have come into my attention and focus and life, as a result of making these adjustments.

Let’s take this Inaugural Writing Challenge, for instance. Issuing it was an impulse, which felt so strong and so good that I just followed it. I followed it even though people were like wait: are you charging people for this? Nope. I followed it even though it took probably close to 75 hours of extra time out of this last month or so.

And I would do it all over again, right now, in a heartbeat. It has been one of the most delightful, juicy, free-flowing work experiences I’ve ever had. And it’s been FRUITFUL: I’ve gotten to share in the shifts people have experienced while participating in this, I’ve been able to connect with people around a lot of previously untold bits of my own story, and I’ve had incredible new insights into what I’m being called to do.

Long/short is, your emotions can be a wise divining rod for the projects, decisions and relationships you choose, if you allow them to be, and if you tend to them so that you start from a baseline of grounded-ness, not triggered-ness. Then, when you get a leap in your spirit about something, please follow it. And when you get a gut warning, follow that, too.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 29 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

Love Actually Is All Around [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 28]

Remember the last time you bought a new car? It can take days, or even months, of exacting internet research, agony over final decision-making, then going to the dealer to pick out the uniquely right one for you? Let say you do this, and the Perfect Car for You turned out to be a sky blue Toyota Prius. A car in perfection, unlike any other car you’ve ever seen.

Love Actually Is All Around

Until you drive off, that is. The moment you leave the lot, you see nothing but sky blue Toyota Priiiiiiiiiiii everywhere you go.

This phenomenon is brought to you by a little circuit in your brain we call the reticular activating system. Your reticular activating system is a personal relevance detector: when something becomes highly relevant (connected, related) to you, your reticular activating system alerts to it, and that thing becomes highly salient (noticeable, important) to you, too.

I’m certain that I have an RAS circuit for pug puppies. I can spot them from miles away.

The principle is this: what you focus on grows. And it grows in two ways. First, it grows in noticeability. You get more evidence of the thing that you are noticing, that it exists all around you. But then, once you notice it, you are likely to act, subconsciously and consciously, in ways that expand that thing, create more of that thing, multiply that thing, or bring more of that thing into your experience, in a very tangible way.

You start looking at pug puppies on rescue sites online. Then you see pug puppies everywhere you go, on the streets. Then you adopt pug puppies.

You start reading the reviews about Priuses. Then you buy a Prius, triggering your RAS. Then you see Priuses everywhere you go. And then you may, if you’re happy with the car, join an online discussion board of Prius owners, or even choose another Prius when your mate is ready for a new vehicle.

Here’s the fun part: this post is not about cars. It’s about energy, joy, enthusiasm, boldness, confidence, healing, miracles, love and every other thing you want in your life.

Here’s what I mean. Do me a quick favor. Take 73 seconds and watch what is, to my mind, one of the most life- and love-affirming minutes in film:

Repeat after me:

Love actually is all around

Love actually is all around

Love actually is all around

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, and I know right this moment, it really may not feel like it. But love actually is all around. It’s all around you. Right now. And if you look for it and focus on it, you’ll experience even more and more of it.

Let’s break it down: Love. Actually is. All around.

Love. Real love is what David Richo, in How to be An Adult in Relationships, calls the five A’s: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing. It’s warmth and caring. Even if you feel unloved and aggrieved, or you crave a certain type of love, you are remiss to not look for the places in your life where people you know already show you these 5 As.

We all have our moments. When I have moments where I’m not feeling the love, I do a mental inventory of my life. I look for warmth, for caring, for little love evidence and big love proof points. Who are the people (or animals) in your world, past or present, that give you attention, accept you, appreciate you, show you affection and allow you to be who you are? Most of us can honestly say they are all around us.

Are things other than love around, too? Of course. In fact, part of how we know love is actually all around us is by the occasional contrasting experience. Think about the example Hugh uses in the voiceover: a most hateful event, 9/11, sparked a bunch of love calls, not hate calls.

It’s excruciatingly easy right now to get pulled into the spiral of fear and anxiety about the hate that we’ve seen rear and raise its ugly head here lately. This post is me urging you, begging you, to guard your heart against that. Deal with the issues before us and do the actions before you, certainly. But whatever you do, do not spend your days, your energy, focused on hate. It’s a hard spiral to pull out of.

Actually is. When you are looking for it, you will find it. You will see it and you will grow it. You will notice and feel it in places it already exists in your life, more than you do now. And then you will also behave in ways, subconsciously and overtly, that attract in more love, from the people you meet on the street, from people with whom you have difficult relationships and even from people who

All Around. You might feel like you get love from your kids or your mate, and that the rest of the world is insane.But here’s the thing, love is actually everywhere around you, and it’s for you. In small ways and large. The people in your life who give you the 5 A’s, definitely. But also the friend who picks your kid up when you’re sick. The women I passed on my dog walk today who were so excited to finally meet the girls, and had even given them nicknames. Think about the divine, big picture love that allows your cells to function, the trees to grow and your cell phone to charge up when you plug it into the wall. And look for the smallest little loves, too, because they’re all the same energy: your neighbor who jumps your car when you let it sit too long, and the barista who makes your daughter a sweet little new milk cartoon in her hot chocolate every morning.

Truth part B is this: you have to be on the lookout for it. Like Hugh was, at the airport. In fact, if you struggle to get the momentum of love flowing in your energy on a daily basis, I invite you to use the idea of the airport arrival as a go-to image that can bring you back. Or use the visual of your dogs when you get home. Or use the visual of your grandmother or your garden or your husband or your favorite teacher. Whatever works.

To set your reticular activating system for love, you might also need to starve all of love’s opposites of your energy. Refuse to give them your precious, precious bandwidth. Do not spend your time fixated and focused on hate, on disgust, on criticism, on things that make you feel bad or things that are the opposites of the 5 As. This will be difficult, in our culture. This will be especially difficult if you spend a lot of time on Facebook.

But it’s not impossible. Focus on the baby photos and puppies that come up in your feed. Opt-out of push notifications for pressing world news. It’ll still be there when you get there. You know those friends who are always sharing the tragic, the worst of humanity and the travesties of justics? You don’t have to unfriend them. But you can unfollow them. And you can follow a bunch of pages like Upworthy and A Mighty Girl, Brain Pickings and other pages that are much less likely to be broadcasting the opposite of love. Then click to make sure you see all their posts. In no time, you’ll have rehabilitated your Facebook feed in the direction of love.

You can actually decide to give less and less and eventually no airtime to anything but love. Does it mean other things won’t come up? No, of course not. But when they do, you’ll even see the hateful people as wounded children of God, and you’ll respond to that stuff very differently: without rumination, without depression, you’ll treat their actions as the sport of the day, and you’ll be able to see all the love all around you on that same day.

Many people have told me about the days or weeks of their lives they’ve lost to depression and fear since the election. Worrying can make you feel like you’re doing something in a world where you otherwise feel out of control. It can also be a way we bond with people, and it can feel comfortable. It can also feel like to do anything but fixate and stress means you don’t take the problems seriously. I get it.

But it’s not the most powerful way to be. And you know what else? It feels terrible. Terrible. It does nothing to diminish real concerns to choose not to fixate on hate and all the things that are wrong with the world. The most powerful way you can be is to click into the way of love. That is your nature. Let that drive your identity and your actions. It’s literally everywhere around you. Just look.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 28 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

 

 

Ode to My Daily Pages: It’s Just a Conversation [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 27]

Today marks Day 27 of the first 30 Day Writing Challenge I’ve ever issued publicly. I’ve done such Challenges before, privately, issued to and from myself, several times. I’ve had a daily writing practice for a long time, though it has ebbed and flowed in strictness over the years. After what I call the Not-So-Great Recession, I wrote my way out of debt and made about half my living blogging. At one point was under contract to write about 14 blog posts per week.  So I wrote every day.

Ode to My Daily Pages: It's Just a Conversation

Once that season was done, I struggled to get back into writing daily. I’d kind of written myself out. I’d made it a grind; a job.

I did NaNoWriMo one year, somewhat halfheartedly. I’ve written a book or two in relatively short order, having taken on the project in a structured Challenge format.

But somewhere along the way, I learned about Morning Pages, the practice of free-writing 3 pages longhand every morning. These pages are to be a total brain dump: completely unedited, completely uncensored, completely private, so as to get rid of the need for them to be great (or even good, or even coherent, for that matter).

I started to do what I call my Pages, but I did it in Google Docs. And those Pages became the landscape on which I rebuilt my life. Post-recession, post-divorce, post-trauma, I worked all kinds of stuff out on those Pages. And I found a series of post-traumatic breakthroughs there. They’ve never stopped coming. I found a lot of new skills and elements of my grown-up operating system there, too.

In my Pages was where I learned how to practice boundaries; when I was faced with a situation in which I’d normally do some dysfunctional enabling, when I’d normally swoop in and save the day for someone who’d actually created the crisis, I’d write about it, and I’d find my own patterns and the clarity to stop them, in their tracks.

In my Pages was where I developed the capacity to be a wholehearted, conscious leader of my life and of the businesses with which I work. When I was twitterpated about something, I’d write it out on the Pages. When I needed to have a hard conversation, I wrote it all out in my Pages first. And oh, how my capacity to engage in grounded, thriving relationships grew as a result. Sometimes, I’d actually have the conversation later on, but minus a lot of my own BS, having seen it in black and white in my Pages.

Back when having hard conversations was so stressful to me, back when I didn’t have the skills to just do that off the cuff, I’d write them out first in my Pages and realize that some of those conversations didn’t need to be had at all. Sometimes, I needed to exercise way more aggressive boundaries and actions to remedy a broken dynamic than just a conversation. And other times, the issue was not the other person or the relationship at all; it was me.

And I could spot that in my Pages, before I ever acted out my own mess on anyone else. In my Pages, I developed these skills that are now encoded deeply in the way I think and breathe and interact with others. And it has leveled up the type of human I attract into my world these days. From employees to clients to friends and sweethearts, I am able to communicate at a level of wholehearted, joyful freedom and clarity with people these days that I never even saw modeled in my younger years, even though I now have many more relationships than I ever did before.

When I needed to work out a complex business problem, understanding the impacts on all stakeholders, and cultivating the clarity to make decisions based on first principles and values (vs. profit over all), I worked it out first in my Pages. In my Pages was where I’d empty my brain and my mind and my spirit of all the chatter and irritations of a normal day, and beneath that was where I’d find solutions to business and life and relationship challenges that were so elegant, so inspired, they actually surprised me.

And you know, I learned a lot about myself in my Pages. I could spot my own patterns there in a way that was hard to do elsewhere. Or my therapist or my coach and I would work on something together in our hour here and hour there, then I’d write about it over the subsequent days or weeks in my Pages. It was like increasing the return on the investment I’d made in therapy, doing my Pages, because I’d continue to connect dots, have a-ha moments and integrate lessons in my Pages for days or weeks following the therapy convo.

I also fell in love with my life, and with myself, in my Pages. In my Pages was where I learned that I love adventure. That I’m a stellar decision-maker, when I let my gut have the wheel. That there are literal, and I mean literal, miracles happening at an incredible rate, inside me and all around me, 100% of the time. If I look for them, that is.

In my Pages was where I realized that it’s 100% true that 100% of the Very Best Things in my life are things that came into my life with relative ease, because they were meant to be mine. I have worked so hard in my life. So hard, guys. And I believe in work. But if the work I’m doing doesn’t feel like play, or if the things I’m are trying to make happen are just really, really excruciating to bring together, I now have the Pages-found wisdom to release those things and thank the experience for the guidance back to the realm I call Effortful Ease.

In my Pages was where I developed an incredible clarity about what I’m here for, and what is and is not on purpose for me. In my Pages is where I cultivate and maintain that clarity everyday.

Of course, there’s still ebb and flow to my Pages. The more I have going on, the more I’m challenging myself in my work or in my life, the more interior work I’m doing, the more there is to write.

ButI no longer see my Pages as a Challenge. They’re now just a luxurious spiritual space, where I have the privilege of going (anytime I want!) to work things out and think things through and say crazy stuff and play with new visions. They’re where I go to document miracles small and large. And they’re where I prime my mental mechanism, to churn up my daily flow, so I can write formal projects everyday, from books to strategies to business plans and even emails.

So, I’ve issued this Challenge. And it’s literally the most fun I’ve ever had with a work project, probably because I issued it with no expectation. I issued it because I know how healing and joy-bringing my daily writing practice has been for me, and because I wanted my people (that’s you) to have that experience, too. I issued it because I know a lot how to build a container for having a breakthrough-finding experience of daily writing, and I was constantly fielding daily requests for wisdom I knew I could deliver via this container.

So now, I’m working to level this thing up into its next iteration. Trust and believe I’ll let you know what that looks like. But in the meantime, I wanted to take one moment to say that if you’re ever thinking about doing a writing challenge or taking up the practice of daily writing, you’re feeling that urge because it’s for you. It’s calling you.

There’s something of yourself to be found in the practice, and I hope to have given you some inklings or ideas of what they could possibly be, in sharing about my own Pages. Of course, the time you’ll need to write everyday will have to displace some other thing you’re currently doing. (I’d like to put watching TV or scrolling Facebook on the table. Just some ideas.)

I think of it like this: writing in my Pages is the equivalent of having one conversation a day. One deeply rewarding conversation, that you don’t even have to leave your home (or your bed) for. You wouldn’t say, “eh, I don’t have time for one more conversation.” So don’t say you don’t have time for writing every day.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 27 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

 

Oh, The Humanity! [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 26]

I have this friend who is always reminding me that I’m human. I know this to be true, and I’m grateful that it is.

Oh, The Humanity!

But I don’t always love it when she says that. Sometimes, what I hear her say when she says that is: watch your perfectionism, it’s getting out of hand. But other times, I hear her say: it’s ok to slack off. It actually makes me feel better when you don’t go quite so hard.

So sometimes, I listen to her and appreciate her for the intervention. And other times, I leave that comment – you’re human – right where it comes from.

At the root of this disconnect is the truth that she and I have fundamentally different ideas of what being human is and what being human means.

Real talk: one can never 100% know what someone else thinks or feels. But as I perceive it, she thinks it to be human means to be irrevocably flawed, imperfect and, sure, to try to get better all the time, but also flawed and imperfect.

I think that to be human is to be a child of God, is to be an heir in the lineage of perfection. Does this mean that I expect or want to be perfect? Definitely not. But it does mean that I hold myself to a spirit of excellence at all times, that I push myself at times others would give me a big old hall pass to take a breather, and that I have bold expectations that grace and supernatural forces will take my intentions and my actions to a level closer to perfection than I ever could have taken them under my own steam.

I learned that my work is to every day, be more and more unapologetic and bold about claiming my inheritance as a child of God. My inheritance is everything. Yours is, too. We just forget sometimes. And my work is also to every day, more and more, approach my own flaws and humanity with ease, compassion and humor, while still working constantly to elevate who I am and how I am to a standard befitting of a child of God.

Maybe our difference of opinion is simply a matter of the conclusions we reach from the same st of facts. We both agree that to be human is to be flawed. But she feels that our flaws let us off the hook, and make it silly to set super strict standards for ourselves. I see it differently: our flaws simply create the landscape for us to experience growth and healing and to act out our craving for the divine, trying to edge ever closer to the supernatural from right here, on this ball of dirt we call ours.

Last night, I went down an Internet poetry rabbit hole. Of all Internet rabbit holes, I recommend this one, perhaps, the most. I came across this beautiful short poem called Romanesque arches, which touched on precisely this issue of being human, and being proud of it.

Romanesque arches

by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.

Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.

A few candle flames flickered.

An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me

and his whisper went all through my body:

Don’t be ashamed to be a human beingbe proud!

Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.

You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.

Tears blinded me

as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,

together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—

within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 26 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.