Monday, August 18, 2008

Think Better - Like a Pearl

The flip-side of summoning the bigness to welcome what comes our way, another powerful tool is wielding the ability to feel welcomed no matter where you go. You've probably observed it from time to time in others: that ability to feel graceful and at ease no matter where or what is happening.

The secret is that this is not a genetically coded ability only some of us are given. In general, this state of being is a disposition to cultivate actively. Sure there are moments that we all lose ourselves to fears or anxieties about judgements of others, feeling out of control, or worrying about being truly wanted along for the ride, but with practice it's possible to minimize those moments and tip your own inflow/outofflow ratio.

By cultivating an ease within ourselves, we actually become more welcomed by others. Think about it: that anxious mess of a person you know - how often do you wish you did not have to be with them or that they would just CHILL? Reinforcing our essential connection to our OKAY-ness is KEY and these below steps are a great way to practice.

  • Always Begin NOW - Imagine the chair you are sitting on welcoming your weight. The computer screen welcoming your gaze. These pixels celebrating your attention.

  • Make It Personal - Feel your clothing caressing your skin, the light in the room delighting in your form and shape, the air smoothing your face and hands.

  • Be a Moveable Feast - When you do get up to move through your day, feel the floor beneath you like an unfolding welcome mat, the walls around you like a picture frame around you as work of art, and every conversation as welcoming and responsive.

  • Wear Your Welcome - Watch how you cultivate welcoming in interactions with both inanimate and animate objects (ie. people). Watch the lost energy of unwelcoming people and let them be your teacher.

This simple Jedi mind trick puts you in the frame of mind of FLOW - being absolutely more than at ease with what is. In this frame of mind you are the compliment to every situation, every element. And in being that, you become a contributing instrument to the symphony of your own life.

Feel Better - Becoming Well

Heading to the Berkshires to assist renowned meditation teacher and YogaJournal Wisdom columnist Sally Kempton at Kripalu this weekend, among the multiple causes for excitement, not the least of which were fresh air, early to bed, healthy eating and heartfelt conversations.

Given that going on retreat for most of us is at best a yearly activity, everyone there expressed a sense of excitement and anticipation for relief.

But wait - is it impossible to achieve at home? Every desired element listed above is FREE and is a matter of active choice making. As sentient beings and responsible adults, it's ridiculous that we wait for the environment of retreat to act on our highest good!

Look at the choices you can make differently and choose at least one to act on each day. Is it eating on time or with more life-supporting food? Is it going to bed a little earlier? Is it taking a moment to breathe deeply - no matter where? Is it making sure to engage in at least one positive, meaningful conversation a day - no matter how short?

Feeling better means welcoming your essential needs, physical, mental, emotional, and making empowered choices in response to them. From that three minutes you allocate to breathing deeply and gazing softly out the window to actually cooking a healthy meal you make for yourself with love, the actions we take in support of our own lives can be as time-conserving or time intensive as our creativity allows. Make your own list, then do something/anything to support the life within you.

Lead Better - Bring It OM!

Bring It! Bring it ON! Bring it OM!

Slang debates aside, consider this expression of welcome a leadership skill. Let's face it - life is full of surprises and nowhere do we observe surprises more than in pursuit of our objectives at work. Unlike the resignation, hidden resistance or powerlessness that can be imbued in acceptance, the ability to open the figurative door to whatever is arriving or surfacing is a fantastic way for you to see, assess, empathize and interact with wahtever is coming your way. Try the following steps:

  1. As you finish reading this article, allow yourself to take a breath and feel a welcome or well-come sense in your heart. This is different from the hard lines of acceptance, it has a softness and receptivity, as if you are allowing a guest into your home to delight and play with them.

  2. Whatever does arrive or happen, stay with the sense of well-come. Especially if you find the event or person not to your liking, or the news disappointing, see if you can stop yourself from hardening to it by breathing well-come into wherever you feel the clenching start.

  3. As the event or news unfolds, observe how you stay receptive and open. Observe what the reaction is of those around you.

  4. After the situation, meeting or interaction concludes, take a look at your own energy and ability to transition to whatever is next.

  5. Rinse and repeat.

In general what you'll find is that welcome breeds welcome. Receptivity breeds creativity and participation. By allowing yourself to bring whatever happens into your reality, others around you will be less likely to manipulate or conceal reality in hopes of winning your approval. Responses will be based on actuality, and it will become possible to innovate in situations that might otherwise be staid or prescribable situations. Your ability to be bigger than what would be unwelcomed by limited minds will allow others to feel safety and trust in bringing problems to you.

Even better, that old clenched jaw, lower back, or stomach? You wont have it. Period. And that's definitely a welcomed change.

Welcome Om

Are we there yet?

Journey minded as we are, the notion of arriving often keeps us from enjoying the NOW. Whether on a literal road trip anxious to arrive or looking at our current situation as a precursor to a longed-for outcome, our preoccupation with goals, triumps and having things unfold to our liking just isn't they key to an enjoyable life. In fact, emotional intransigence with respect to our preferences often keeps us from enjoying anything at all. Can you dedicate your awareness to enjoying right now?

This issue of balancebreak debunks the often referenced notion of acceptance in favor of cultivating a sense of welcome. Observing the plethora of wisdom teachings emphasizing cultivating acceptance of what is, despite our intentions we often confuse acceptance with resignation or settling. You know: a certain whatevs attitude, like, "I'll be here and sit through this and deal, but...". Welcome offers a graceful alternative, as you'll see below, and allows us to move masterfully and powerfully through any traffic jam, literal or figurative.

We welcome your opinion! Earlier this summer, we experimented with linking short versions of articles in this newsletter to a full length blog-versions of the same. What we saw and heard is that you LIKE having the entire article on your desktop. In fact, when the articles are included in desktop version, you go back again and again for months to re-read and consider the ideas offered. In honor of you, moving forward we'll be doing the following: each article will be offered in it's entirety here, with end of article links to the balancebreak blog for anytime you feel inspired to comment, argue, contradict or offer other ideas. What's more, we're thrilled to welcome your insights on getting through the world masterfully in our new blog called Corporate Yogis. This is a real-time blog where you'll find little comments from the balance team ongoing throughout the month. The theme is Welcome OM - a suggestion that it's all welcome fodder for moving us all forward along the journey.

Moving along your own path, be welcoming and know you are welcome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Think Better - Presence IS Personal

A note from Suann Polverari, out of our New York office:

Moved as I am by images and words from powerful leaders, when we first started discussing presence as a team I turned to the regular suspects to inspire my introspection. After all, don't we all love stumbling on a great quote at a perfectly timed moment, or even better, sharing one with a friend just when they seem to mean it?

Greats like the unidentified protester in Tiannenmen Square, Rosa Parks or Mother Theresa are so iconographic it leaves the impression they were BORN for greatness with some special genetic coding to predispose them to rise with courage in the face of need or disaster. What about regular people like you and me - just getting through the day? Remembering that we are all born with such greatness of spirit and presence can be challenging with such examples to live up to.

Turning the question of presence to a more personal perspective is where the elements of presence come home. The following example of presence has nothing to do with changing the world or delighting celebrity news junkies. Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and on a very rapid decline. Her prognosis was to be immobilized within 6 months, a devastating change for my entire family, not to mention a catastrophy for her. No movie star, my mom is not someone you'd notice without reason, but what she did by focusing her intention is an act of being fully present to her situation.

What happened is this: as the first year went by all of us were in nervous anticipating the day when my mother would be unable to lift herself from her bed. After the second year, although slower in her movements she was still not in a wheel chair. To counter the natural depression, under her doctor's suggestion she began journaling, meditating and practicing yoga. After a couple of months, she was moving better, sleeping through the night.

The combination was miraculous: her positive thoughts resurfaced. My mother was back! A full ten years later, she has never succumbed to a wheel chair, and if you ask her how she'll tell you this, “I made a promise to myself to wake up every day and look in the mirror and say you will NOT be in a wheel chair permanently and you are a strong women who can conquer anything that comes your way.”

Many are the days when I need to remember my own strength and that I can conquer anything that comes my way. The practice below is one to remind yourself of exactly that:

1. Identify a challenge you are facing
2. Name all the reasons you MUST overcome it - these are the practical gains, the personal accomplishment, the evolution in your life, the hallmarks of success
3. List the QUALITIES you need within yourself to overcome it - courage, determination, compassion, communication, energy, etc.
4. Acknowledge you have all those qualities within yourself and remind yourself of that throughout every single day especially in moments where fear or limitation feels especially present.

Because while life has the propensity to knock us into auto-pilot, react react react, it is single-pointed attention that summons not only the greatness within us, but allows us to be present to that greatness and operate from it's ability rather than conditioned small thinking. If we're lucky, we'll never face a wheel chair at all. But because we're human, we do face self limiting possibilities every single day and need to cultivate the ability to confront them with determination and greatness.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feel Better - Have You Hugged Lately?

The irony that this week is national hug week has an odd thematic happenstance. On a recent yoga retreat with Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi at Kripalu in the Berkshires, the culmination of the retreat was for each person to make up a yoga posture.

Now, had we been given that mandate on the first day, everyone might have rolled eyes, crossed arms, and refused. But after a long weekend of hanging out together, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep, it's amazing how capable we feel of overcoming creative anxiety.

Aside from this creative endeavor itself being a metaphorical hug, a self hug of sorts, amazingly multiple participants in the retreat created self-affirming poses. With names like "Patience Warrior", "Peaceful Pigeon", "Infinity Eagle" and "Kindness Warrior", many of the shapes folks created were all about being gentler and kinder to ourselves. One woman even expressed that having recently moved to a city in the Northeast, she's been feeling so touch deprived that she signed up for salsa lessons just to feel human contact.

Studies of animal behavior show that primates respond directly to increases in the level of warmth and comfort they are given in their formative months with decreasing levels of anxiety and aggression. While it is true that many of us satisfy the need for warmth and kindness with our spouses or partners, just as often days and weeks pass without any loving touch whatsoever.

So take care of that hug jones, whether you are conscious of it or not. Don't have any hug-friendly friends or family in your circle? Give yourself a hug or even hand massage. Rest your face on the heels of your hands and slowly rub the muscles over your forehead, jaw and cheekbones. Pause in the tub to rub your sweet feet or give your own neck some kindness. This body of yours is indeed a chemical reaction chamber and stirring the pot has the capacity to release powerful stored up energy. Why not make the most of yours?

Lead Better: Align With The Divine

Much of generating executive presence within yourself has to do with aligning with what is great within you and the greatness around you.

Think about it: when you move through the day putting out fires, responding to issues, and migrating endlessly from meeting to meeting, there can often be a sense of "handling things" or "getting through". But presence requires a groundedness in the form of a cultivated sense of purpose and intention. What's more, it requires we cultivate an ability to return to that sense of purpose and intention in the midst of unbridled chaos.

You want people to feel your leadership and respect your words? Begin to feel your own leadership and respect your own words with reverence and attention. This doesn't just happen by reading these words - although reminders definitely can help. If you actually DO the steps below you'll find an inroad to access your own sense of presence more consistently no matter how crazy this lazy summer gets:

  1. Think about the last time you felt yourself completely powerful, at ease, or in a state you might call "flow", "the zone" or "optimal". What qualities were you experiencing? What characteristics were you feeling within yourself and that situation? Write down as many words as you can to describe the situation and how it felt.

  2. Think about the last time you felt REALLY OUT of your power, struggling, or at odds with? What quality did the situation lack?

  3. Consider what might be three or four words to describe your team/function/company/group at it's essence. At it's very best, what makes that group exciting or effective? What thrills you about it's function or it's contribution?

  4. Look at the list of words you created for all three categories - thriving moments, qualities lacking in not so great moments, and what brings alive your organization- what are recurring themes? Can you nail down the essence of all three lists in two or three words?

When you identify the essential qualities that make you thrive and those that best express the thriving of your immediate environment, you create an anchor to remember yourself at your very best and your surrounding at it's most optimal. Repeat these words to yourself throughout your day, not just for the sounds but summoning within yourself an experience of what they really mean. Being vigilant in operating from that position, you begin to raise the level of your own presence and invite the organization to function at it's very best. Summoning these divine or performance and experience enhancing qualities at will is nothing short of leadership in it's essence and this simple act of alignment will invite others around you to do the same.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Presence & Being Present

How do you define presence? Magnetism, IT, X-factor, star-quality or je ne sais quois. Brazilian Portuguese offers a special slang for it - jeito which as a personal characteristic means "having a certain way". Whatever word you use to name it, you know it when you see it or even feel it from others. What's more, you know first-hand the contrast between feeling powerfully present when interacting with others and feeling somehow small, lost or distracted.

If you reflect back on greats in any field of endeavor, presence is generally the characteristic commented upon most frequently. In a mere glance at a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King or Gandhi this powerful presence can be felt. Even looking at a picture of the young Lindsay Lohan, there is an energetic quality that those in the performing arts call stickiness and is something they train themselves to emanate. Clearly, presence isn't just for movie stars but is valuable in any pursuit.

Among the ancients and more recently in management circles the question of presence has become increasingly explored both as a quality that is emanated by one person and felt by others, as well as in the capacity to be present or to make oneself fully present. These two aspects of presence are not unrelated. Think back on the greats in your life - perhaps a family member, teacher, colleague or friend. When you consider the sense of presence you experience with them, give some thought to their level of awareness of themselves in relationship to the world around them.

Thanks to a professional services client in Chicago who urged us to reflect earnestly on the various angles of this quality, this month has been a moving meditation on presence, feeling it from others, within ourselves, and noticing ways to cultivate it actively. Check out the next few posts from our team - we're hopeful you find some new ways to heighten your presence and welcome your suggestions on how to do the same.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Feel Better - Lifeguard On Duty?

If think self care and worklife balance is for wussies, we just met with the American Diabetes Association and learned some good reasons for you to take strong action in support of your well being:

  • Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the US.

  • Diabetes represents 11% of US healthcare expenditures, or $174 Billion dollars

  • And if you're charged with fiscal fitness in your organization, it's important to know that the average employee costs for employees with diabetes are 2.4 times higher than employees without diabetes.

  • By the end of this decade, 1 in 3 employees will have diabetes. If employees are minorities, that number goes up to 1 in 2.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common in the US and is a state that emerges when the systems in your body go out of whack. Basically the sugar in your body stops responding to insulin, the chemical that normally breaks it down. It's that simple. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause many problems:

  • Right away, your cells may be starved for energy which can make you feel depleted and very burnt out. Diabetes-associated depression is not unusual.

  • Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes (blindness), kidneys, nerves (damage to the central nervous system) or heart.

  • Circulatory issues can impact your sensitivity, reflexes, and strength felt through your limbs. So yes, this is scary - AMPUTATIONS.

Avoiding diabetes means being a good lifeguard, and no one can do this for you. This may require abandoning habits you have held for decades or a lifetime, and adopting new ones. Staying healthy means getting solid guidelines from qualified professionals on adopting sustainable eating, exercise and sleep habits. Asking friends or family will likely not do the trick because often our community holds the very same habits that we do.

If you do get help, just a warning: you're going to hear about are predictable - regular exercise, regular sleep, cut back on alcohol, improve your diet (no more fast food/carry out), etc. But the difference is this - these things aren't just a good IDEA or new age cool. No, forget the Hallmark warm and fuzzy. These actions just may save you a limb, keep you from needing psychoactive drug treatment, and countless other life "inconveniences".

To learn more, pop into the ADA website and check out the risk test and FAQ. As one of the fastest growing diseases and one liked so strongly to behavioral patterns and lifestyle, it's worth knowing if the patterns described sound like you or people you love.

GET THE SCOOP IN PERSON! If you're in the New York area - come to the ADA's summer work/life wellness event. Held in the city on July 16th, Balance Integration will be there on the panel to discuss ways people and companies can adopt sustainable success practices to keep employee and organization functioning! Call or write Dorothy Harper, 212 -725-4925, ext 3414 or Charnee Skeete ,, ext. 3416 for more information.

Think Better - Apocalyptically Happy Now

In a recent study reported by the New York Times, current MBA students ranked their priorities for work. Surprise: compensation was not #1. Unlike post-boomer predecessors, millenials apparently have a different set of appetites. To the new best and brightest, the most important element of work is "challenging responsibilities" at 64%, followed by a closely tied compensation 48% and worklife balance 45%.

What's happened? Since boomers joined the ranks of the working public a lot has changed about how the up and coming establishment see and experience the world, and it's taking some adjustment to make the two worlds meet rather than collide. Heck, Balance Integration even wrote an article on exactly that for and upcoming issue of CIO magazine, offering coaching-based dialogue models for engagement and contribution.

But among the BalanceBreak community we can come clean with a bigger question: who is to say what ranks as a challenge and what doesn't? Think about it: isn't it a huge challenge to deal with beauraucracy or politics? Isn't it a huge responsibility to find meaning in what can be called the "routine" or "tedium" of everyday life? Isn't it a challenging responsibility to turn your life into a meaning filled experience no matter what's going on or not going on?

Michigan homeboy Francis Ford Coppola (pictured above) says - forget perfection, any job becomes a job you hate. As he explored in Apocalypse Now, the dark moments we experience in life originate within us and are an experience and journey we ALL share. So the bigger question is how do we break it to the happy-seeking folks among us (including the happy-seeker within us) that REAL happy only happens within? That happy is a practice? That as the Bhagavad Gita says, you've got the right to the work, but not to the fruit of the work. Translated - you gotta get in there and participate in every part of life with your whole heart no matter the parameters and conditions, and no matter the outcome. It is the darkness within us that stands between us and "happy".

Wishing for challenge? Get ready to struggle deeply, because Challenging Responsibilities feel exactly like that - a struggle that casts us into uncertainty, that force us to question ourselves and our choices, that de-stabilize our sense of who we are. That we face them with dignity and full presence is both the challenge and our responsibility. The sooner we move into this form of thinking, the sooner we get away from transactional spirituality and into a sense of centeredness no matter how made to order our lives feel. When Martin Luther King admonished us to "sweep streets as Michelangelo painted", he was pointing to a path of freedom and happiness that have nothing to do with title, comp or worklife issues or whether you ever "attract" a BMW.

This isn't a very PC message, but when it comes to thinking better about any aspect of life, the sooner you get into agreement that whatever is unfolding IS your challenging responsibility, the sooner you get happy. The Challenging Responsibilities that life gives us don't come with an "accept" or "reject" option. They don't come because we put them onto our wish list or ordered them from Amazon. And they rarely come in the form we fantasized about. Our lives are rarely the movie we might have imagined, but life always holds the potential for epic proportions.

The point is: how willing are you to play the part fully no matter where the story takes you?

Lead Better - Joy to You & Me

Gandhi advised that until you find God in the person in front of you, you must travel no further. Happening upon the guy pictured above and his fish on a long drive in the Smoky Mountains, I was reminded that we also have to look within.

If the G-word is troublesome to you, fill in with another huge, blank, encompassing concept. One like kindness, beauty, compassion, wisdom - a word is beyond analysis. Because when you think of fishermen and their fishes, it doesn't take images of the christian Christ, Allah or Yahweh to find a lesson that resonates. And if you are willing to give Gandhi the benefit of the doubt, God is always worth finding.

In this case, we found it when driving down a twisty mountain road just on the boarder between North Carolina and Tennessee and stopped to observe a fight for dear life. In this fight the fisherman above had hooked his catch, and she was fighting for hers. Her fight was one of those epic struggles. I-got-her, I-lost-her, I-got-her, I-lost-her ran the comments from the fisherman. No romance, after more than a half-hour of drama the fisherman successfully pulled her from the water and we caught this picture. Happy to see his joy, the part of me that likes to think meat comes from packages lamented his success and was quickly cheered when he put her back in the water to go FREE.

Within seconds the oddest thing happened: the fisherman became very concerned with FINDING the fish again. This made no sense at all. Why would someone fight so tenaciously to catch a fish, immediately let it go, then be distressed that it is gone?

If you fish or hang out with people who do, you already know this: animals who are stalked for a prolonged period will die from the fight. Fish, the mice my cat chases (and yes, catches), even humans having heart attacks on sunday nights before going to work on Monday morning - we often more threatened by our response to fear than we are from the actual source of danger.

As he looked for his fish, I was told if he did not care for her now, she would give up. The lactic acid in her body (effect of adrenaline) would literally shut down her systems and she would die. Thrashing through the water he found her belly up in the reeds, and turned her right side up, rubbing his hands over her gills repeatedly for several minutes literally calming her down.

This striking lesson from nature is one we need to learn: fear-triggered adrenaline taxes our many systems. Prolonged states of perceived threat generates to cortisol, a common factor in many stress-related diseases. Sure, there's no hook in your mouth, but how frequently are you hooked on worries about issues at work, concerns about achievement, social standing, financial status or familial approval?

In this case the fish was lucky enough to have an expert there to set her straight (literally), and calm her back into a survivable state. But most of us don't have a kindly fisherman or other big daddy/mommy to point out the warning signs for us. From behavioral red flags such as insomnia, irritability or irrationality, sexual torpor or eating disorders, burnout to physical dysfunctions that may be digestive, circulatory or immune, there's a lot going on to remind us to be our own wise fisherman. Take a time out, take a breath, realign with life and remember that unlike the little fishy, most of our suffering is caused by fears about social survival. In such moments you just might find God (wisdom, beauty or whatever word you prefer) within.

The fish lived, after all. And if we're smart and conscious, for a time so will we.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sustainable Success

In the midst of all the talk about GREEN, there are benefits to hanging out with the life forms we are most immediately connected with - family. Beyond the humbling experience of being absolutely human in such a consistent and observable way, in my case it means hanging out with a great philosopher, Richard Gale. Dr, that is. He's the writer of volumes with great titles like "The Existence of God" and "The Philosophy of William James". He's the kind of philosopher just as likely to hit you with a growing-up-in-the-streets-in- Brooklyn metaphor as he is to ponder the mystical logic in James' writings. Which is basically what he did today.

We were standing by the barbecue grill, watching the chicken turn a great shade of crispy, and he said, "you know, it's the interim between longing and fulfillment of longing that ruins the bargain. At one moment you want whatever you think you want so badly, and by the time you get it you end up wondering why you wasted all those years wanting instead of just enjoying".

Sound true? What are you not enjoying right now? What beautiful experience are you not having for worry about what has not happened?

The following posts are about Sustainable Success, and suggest a little tag phrase in latin: sine qua non. You see, sine qua non means "that which without" and points to what is essential or must exist. Therein lies the trick: in our pursuit of whatever accomplishments we consider to be the signs or fruits of success, we often forget the essential question of what version success is really WORTH HAVING?

What has true worth to you? Stay with that question long enough, and you're likely to come up with some interesting answers: qualitative answers like joy, connection, harmony, peace, fulfillment. And all of these qualities require nothing more in this very moment or any future moment than absolute devotion to them - not money, not status, not new dwelling, perfect job or great partner.

So go ahead, look at your ideas of success. Ask yourself just how much these qualitative expressions of success are driving your perspectives and choices. If your own frenzied pace on the treadmill is leaving you feeling somewhat burned-out, energy-less, frustrated, or ovewhelmed, chances are that the driver of your idea of success has somehow become divorced from these sustaining qualities. In the course of living, it's easy to forget that the point of our own lives is honoring the very beautiful life within.

The greening or sustainability of your own life's path requires going back to that must have, that essential sine qua non. Check out our tips to help you do exactly that, and be sure to let us know what you think by posting here - your comments may be exactly the sine qua non someone else has forgotten - so SHARE IT!

Appreciative Inquiry Workshop NYC!

Learning is a powerful sustainability tool - reviving you with growth through new perspectives. As a client recently commented, "YOU take workshops???"

Yes, and we love company!

We'll be hitting the "books" in a couple of weeks with Appreciative Inquiry facilitator Robin Stratton Berkessel. Join us and her in exploring a powerful tool to transform how you frame and take action in just about any aspect of your life - whether individually, with colleagues or family.

  • Create community where people are energized and

  • Capture and leverage the best and most compelling ideas

  • Improve the quality, efficiency and dynamics of all interactions

  • Instead of knowledge management, knowledge creation

For more info check out her site here: Positive Matrix.

Seasonal Eating: Spring

Comfort food in winter? Duh.

Salads in summer? Of course.

But what about spring?

Seasonal eating is a formalized version of everything you ever learned about eating in the common sense variety - Think Globally, Act Locally, and oh, don't forget that means how you eat as well.

Think about it this way: the foods that result from the seasons you experience as you experience them are foods that THRIVE in the midst of whatever you are experiencing. Seasonal Eating experts argue that hey, if that's the case, wouldn't we derive more life energy by eating what thrives under the same conditions?

Unless you're a farmer, chances are you're not sure exactly what thrives in the springtime. No worries - a simple search online will result in a bevy of websites to bring you up to speed on your local food sources. In general though, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including Swiss chard, spinach, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil. Given the bounty of Spring, check out this awesome chart tfrom the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture to find exactly the foods that will help your body thrive!

Peace For Peace

Happy Birthday to the Peace Sign - this month marks it's 50th year. Hard to believe that such an icon isn't actually some ancient tribal shape adapted to modern sensibilities. After all, from protest signs to fashion design, it's become one of the most recognized shapes in the world.

The creator, London-based graphic designer Gerald Holtom, never made a dime on the shape. Motivated only by the desire to create a symbol to represent nuclear disarmament, he never bothered to copyright it despite it's wild-fire adaptation. Interestingly, the notion was never to "fight for peace", rather just to remind folks not to fight to begin with.

The act of contributing his design ability to his own passion and love of peace spawned an iconographic common-ground not only for his contemporaries, but for all of us who followed. A great example of doing what we do out of passion and love, in his case war tugged at his heart and put his frustration into an action he was capable of. He never asked himself if he was capable of creating an icon for an enduring ideological movement. He simply gave his passion to what he COULD give to.

Rather than feeling "deer in the headlights" about your own form of DOING, Appreciative Inquiry Maven Robyn Stratton- Berkessel shared this as way to get into action, "To be reminded that the seemingly smallest acts of kindness, acknowledgement, appreciation: a smile, a hello, holding the door for someone, telling a child how good she/he is, a wave to the neighbor can have a profound effect and made a big difference. It is the compounding effect we can't anticipate. You never know how far positive kind work or action will travel and for how long. What we can do is make those little acts of kindness a more conscious behavior. The moments will add up to hours and days and months and lifetimes. "

Greening your own actions in this way, you move constantly from contending with life as you know it to being deeply connected to that which without we could simply not BE.

Green Your LIFE - Just say NON!

What can't you live without? Beyond jokes about Ipods or subscriptions to Vanity Fair, let's take a rudimentary look at what truly puts more life in your life? What rejuvenates you? What restores your inner sense of "yes", your joie da vie? Can you think of what those activities might be? If you had to list them right now could you commit them to paper?Because the truth of the matter is, we forget to do them. Sure, mom always told us to take a nap or eat our vegetables, but whether you're one to go on week- long carry-out diets or push the three hour night's sleep habit, most of us have more intimate relationships with the habits that burn us out than the habits that inject life, or SUSTAIN us.

For this reason we created the Sustainability Schedule. We use a little chart when we teach this in workshops, but for the purposes of this newsletter, check out the bullet points below and make your own. The key here is to actually write down the things you can do at each type of interval no matter how crazy your day/week/year/life gets so that even if you can't go to the gym, get the massage, eat right, or spend time with friends 'cause you're on the road, you have a ready set of tools to turn to to keep you in the livin' zone rather that the o-mi-gosh-I-feel-like-I'm-dying zone.

  • Daily - okay, so say you've got a packed day with meetings, presentations, lunches, coctails and dinner. All the activities you use to get you through the crunchare out of the question and you've got to shine. What can you integrate into such a day? Parking at the far end of the parking lot? Five conscious breaths between each obligation? More water than coctails? Turning off the crackberry during meetings? Make a list of every peace & well-being enhancing action you can take when nothing you would like to do under more ideal conditions will possibly happen.

  • Weekly - The week went pretty well as planned, meaning nothing unfolded the way you wanted it to and next week doesn't look any better. What are you going to do to make sure you refresh/revive & renew? Is it planning on a single solid night at home reading? A walk through the park on the way to work at least once this week? A massage on Sunday night to make sure you can get a good night's sleep? What exactly can you do to make sure you put a little YOU back into your universe on a weekly basis?

  • Monthly - for some people the massage is weekly, for some it is monthly. Some folks make sure they take weekend escapes once a month. Still others work in a trip to a museum or a phone date with a far-away old friend. What is a monthly activity that would feed some aspect of you that might otherwise go 'round hungry? Even though "America Runs on Duncan", your soul doesn't.

  • Annually - Yoga retreat, 10 day vacation, a trip to a state park, a course to develop new skills or explore new topics. What can you identify that if done annually would help you feel more alive year upon year?

The point here is not to create to do's. By identifying things that can be done in any timeframe, you've got a go-to for the moments when you've mistakenly come to believe that life ails you - as if it ever could. This go- to list reminds you that the only thing that can ail or enliven you are your own choices and actions, and provides a remedy for whatever the situation or timeframe you are dealing with.

So go ahead, take responsibility for your quality of living and green yourself. Remember your own "that which withouts", and the next time you're feeling burnt out just say NON!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

We Got Greened on NBC!

It's true that I learned everything I needed to know about green from my hippy parents. Unfortunately, Earth Day '80 was a long time ago, and I haven't applied much of that knowledge very consistently.

Enter the folks from OpenSpace NYC. They invaded our apartment and left me feeling a little greener - inside and out!

Monday, March 24, 2008

On Fox

Whether your company is cool enough to bring us in to help address the impact of stress or not, no worries. We've got you covered and relaxed with some de-stress tips we shared last week with Anna Gilligan: check it out by clicking here!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Self Care Secrets Debut at The Economist

We were speaking at The Economist this week and a question came from one of the employees about what practice I find most helpful as a self-care preventative against stress. Without thinking I said "dry brush and self massage". Silence ensued. Aside from being unintelligible to most people, to a twisted mind acutally sounds slightly tawdry.

Truth be told, this is just one of the many ancient "secrets" emerging in the mainstream. My husband's VERY conservative General Practitioner swears by his neti pot (details below), and even insisted my husband start to use one to keep allergies and colds/flu at bay. Check out three core daily self care practices we've inherited from the ayurvedic folk. Whether you adapt them now or later, there's no doubt they're on the rise!

1. Neti Pot - A neti pot is a little ceramic pot shaped much like a teapot. You fill it with room temperature water and a small portion of iodine free salt. You then tilt the spout into your nostril (yes, bear with me) and turn your head to the side so the saline was can run freely into one nostril and out of the other. Sound gross? Wait until you get through multiple winters cold free. Wait until you get through allergy season without becoming a sneezy, snotty mess. You'll see gross in a whole new way, and after all 'tis the season.

2. Tongue Scraping - (pictured above)No we don't mean the sensation of being licked by a cat. Tongue scraping is performed with a little bendy horseshoe shaped piece of metal that you brace in one hand to scrape bacteria off of your tongue. Why would you want to do that? Because bacteria is the reason for many icky things - colds and other illnesses, plaque, bad breath, gum disease, etc. It takes just a moment and is easily worked into your dental hygiene routine. Besides, once you see what you're scraping off your tongue, you'll be glad you did.

3. Dry Brush/Self Massage - Not just for the lonely among us, this practice is considered mega important among ayurvedic practitioners for stimulating "the body's natural pharmacy", or your lymphatic and immune systems. A dry brush is usually made of natural bristles and fits easily into your hand. Before you shower, you take the brush and sweep it over your entire body, usually from feet up. It shouldn't take more than a minute or two. Then you take a moment to rub organic body oil into your skin. This practice is a 1-2 punch that increases the immune system, softens your skin, improves tactile response and relieves muscular tension.

Whether your company sponsors someone like me to come teach about these things, run, don't walk, to the health food store to stock up on these instruments and make their use a part of your daily routine. When world renowned yogini Shiva Rea taught me these practices, she warned me they are addictive. They are, but in the very best way because they WORK.

The Balance of Doing Good

Welcome to the blog for Balance Integration Corporation. This is where we explore ideas and perspectives about staying whole while navigating the challenges of daily life. So why is there a picture of a dying dog on this column header? Why are you about to read a couple of paragraphs about a Costa Rican artist who captured a street dog, chained him to a wall and forced him to starve as a form of art?

Because “Balance isn’t about hating your job”, to quote my buddy Heather Green of BusinessWeek. She’s right. Leading a balanced life isn’t about achieving a perfect distribution of moments between home and work, self and family, recreational and professional. Living in balance is remembering that you are a full being in everything you do, in all the moments of life – no matter the venue or topic defining any given moment. Living in balance is showing up powerfully in relation to the world around you. If balance is the change we wish to feel and see, far from copping an attitude of not-my-job thinking, we have to step up and make our goodness felt and we need to do it more often.

Because in 2007, Guillermo Vargas Habacuc did exactly the aforementioned act. The story goes as follows: In the ghetto streets of Managua, Nicaragua, Mr. Vargas paid some children the equivalent of a couple cents to catch a dying dog so he could chain the animal to a gallery wall and make “art” out of the animal’s suffering. The artist spelled out in “Eres Lo Que Lees” – translated as you are what you read – in morsels of dog food on the wall of the entry to the installation. Just below, the animal was tied to the wall, denied food and water and left intentionally to die. In one corner of the installation was a pot in which crack cocaine and marijuana smoldered while Nicaragua’s national anthem was played backwards. Gallery patrons walked through the installation watching the dog’s life slip away.

Uproar ensued. As the news of this installation hit the web, waves of blogging fury rippled out first from observers in the art world and then from the animal rights community. Adding fuel to the fire, Vargas was invited as part of a select group of artists to participate in the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 – an honorific art exposition. Since then petitions have emerged, verbiage created and made available in multiple languages for people to send to the galleries showing Vargas’ works. In his own defense, Vargas has been quoted as saying, "The important thing for me was the hypocrisy of people: an animal thus becomes the focus of attention when you put in a place where white people go to see art but not when they are on the street dying of hunger.”

The irony of protesting cruel hypocrisy with an act of cruel hypocrisy aside, this is not about analysis of the act. Sure, we could talk about the value of life in distressed economies. We could talk about the legacy of cruelty in post-colonial nations. We could point to the cruelty of dominating nations and power-wielding groups and individuals around the planet and throughout history. We could paralyze ourselves into apathy with the notion that he’s right – after all don’t we all see suffering on our own street corners and often do nothing?

That we instinctively cringe in reading this story, in the view of images from Abu Ghraib or any other cruelty, we feel our relationship with life. That we shudder in the face of suffering, we know our relationship with what is good. That the grace of human kindness rises within us/among us and manifests as our outrage is the act of balance. When we protest and petition, when our outrage drives us to take up an action that aligns us with beauty, it is then that we know our mettle. Our acting upon these inner urges is the coup de grace that brings balance into the world.

Because suffering exists everywhere, make some balance and do something to ease an injustice you see. It might be signing an online petition against the Bienal 2008 honoring of Mr. Vargas (which you can easily find by googling the topic). It might be giving money to Kiva or some other funds distribution arm. It could be taking a piece of fruit or bottle of water along with you in your daily migrations to give to whatever homeless person you meet. Just do something. Do something to remind yourself that you are not powerless in this exciting world of ours. Indeed, recognizing the depths of just how bad our worst can be, we have the opportunity to revive our dedication to good.

Feeling Eliot Spitzer

When I wasn’t much older than Ashley Dupre, I was seduced into a job I should have never accepted. Trilingual with a freshly-minted masters degree in international business (and the ego to match), I scoured the earth for a position that was worthy of my brilliance. Working at UPS as corporate marketing liaison for franchisees from Mailboxes Etc., my situation was friendly and challenging but felt a little "brown" in every sense. I wanted sexy. I wanted branding. I wanted to use my languages. I wanted to use my passport.

For a mature executive, even the interview at IBM Latin America would have been a dead-giveaway that the job wasn’t a fit. The gray office space didn’t even have cubicles but open architecture that looked like something out of a 1940’s newsroom. They had been through round upon round of layoffs, so aside from smelling the fear, everyone I met had a long face and sad eyes. When we talked marketing, they talked components. When we talked creativity, they talked price point. When we talked corporate culture, they bragged about their victory in wrangling budget for teal paint. A sizzling hot pot of marketing inspiration, it was not.

But I was wooed, not by anything they said and certainly not by anything I saw. Fort Lauderdale did not offer a strong community of educated single professionals, either. No matter. I was wooed by my ego and the delight as I played the words “Brand Manager, ThinkPad, Latin America” over and over again in my mind. OOH, how sexy. That the pay was significantly higher than what I made at UPS was nice, but it was the “Brand Manager, ThinkPad, Latin America” that made my juices flow. With that and some experience, I felt only breaths away from becoming the next Seth Godin.

In quiet moments as the movers packed my boxes to transport me from UPS in Atlanta to my new destiny in south Florida, I definitely felt a shudder when thinking about that lifeless office space and those long faces. I grimaced when considering the linearity of the conversations and the rigidity of the responses. Fancying myself not so much a steamroller, but more a sweetness-oozing Little Mary Sunshine, I braced myself with enthusiasm thinking, “IBM really wants to be better in marketing!" About that dreary office? "I’ll just be super friendly and have them warming up in no time!” After all, I would have bliss to spare as “Brand Manager, ThinkPad, Latin America”. Delusion comes in many flavors.

Within weeks of starting this glamorous new adventure, my mood was adapting more to the environment than the environment was to me. My sweetness had not only been met with resistance, but had convinced my coworkers I couldn’t be taken seriously. After two months there, the flow of evening martinis was less to escape my deep unhappiness than to break loose the logjam for tears, snot, sobs and fists to go flying as I pounded the floor in tantrums of anguish for my situation and disappointment. That I found an “out” before self-destructing completely or getting fired is a stroke of grace more than brilliance. A phone call here, a resume faxed there (remember those days?) and “hey, yeah, that sounds like a fine opportunity”. POOF, demons be gone, and adios IBM.

You don’t have to be a psychologist or career counselor to recognize the flow: ego leads, actions follow, heart breaks in the wake, behavior becomes reckless, exit orchestrated either gracefully, or in Eliot’s case, disastrously. Although the pattern is transparently easy to recognize, so often we ignore when the ego is leading us into disaster. Having coached hundreds of professionals across multiple industries through challenges more constant to the human condition than any of the conditions present in their work, the questions we have to constantly return to when charting our course of action are ones like these:

1. What brings me joy/happiness? The drivers of your joy are often called core values. We all have core values without which our lives are tedium, torpor and torturous. If you can’t name any value or quality that results in joy for you, you need only look to the last time you were REALLY happy and ask what qualities were present there or conversely what qualities were lacking when you were last REALLY unhappy. If whatever you are doing or considering doing does not possess elements of your core values, it is the wrong move. In my case, although my ego got a little “schwing” from the title, I was betraying my core value of playfulness.
2. Does the WIN really matter? Whenever we make choices according to what we think we are supposed to value, we’re making a big gamble for what is likely a short term win and a complete loss in the long term – save for any riches salvaged in the form of character-building insights. Take my WIN of “Brand Manager, ThinkPad, Latin America”: let’s say I stayed and got the marketing-genius of the century award (even figuratively). If I was doing it to impress other people, how impressed would they have been when upon meeting me they found me to be a nasty, bitter, alcoholic corporate burnout?
3. When is it time to say WHEN? What if you made a dumb choice and went for something that really isn’t what it was all cracked up to be. Or maybe like Eliot's case, it IS exactly what it was cracked up to be, only in pursuing it you forgot what you’re cracked up to be. Let’s say you played hard to become EVP of whatever when you really were much more content managing sales folks. Let’s say you campaigned hard to become governor when you really just liked the thrill of discovery and making right. There’s a moment when what is happening does not compute. If you look around yourself and find yourself thinking “this is not my beautiful house”, a la David Byrne, pause to pay attention and take stock of your situation. If you’re already doing things you can’t believe, wouldn’t want photographed (or traced), or are ashamed to admit to those who love you, it’s probably time take that pause a bit further. It’s probably time to make that change you wish to see. Allowing the pieces of admitting error to fall where they may is many shades superior to the potential debris from the acts we are all capable of committing.

As it so happens, I went to see Seth Godin speak at NYU today. He talked about looking at what is happening around you and allowing what you observe to support you rather than fighting against it. Although his references were directed to marketing and shifting realities due to new media, they pertain aptly to life. To borrow from the new book he was plugging, the temptation to create a Meatball Sundae, to dress up something to be yummy that is just downright disgusting, is one we all fall for at one time or another. So let’s take a lesson from the ex-gov, and what the hell, from any of your own sorry “I CAN’T BELIEVE I…” lamentations. In his closing words today, Seth departed from talk of markets and media. In a moment of self reflection, this nine-time bestselling author confessed that his greatest success was not being a marketing guru, but the decision he made when he “set out to be the best in the world at being ME”.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Passion put simply...

For all the tips and ideas and ways to get around your own blocks in experiencing passion and pursuing it, I can't express it any better than Emerson did when he said this:

“We want the Exact and the Vast; we want our Dreams, and our Mathematics.”

The sculptor and artist Roxy Paine gave expression to exactly this sentiment in his current installation in Madison Square Park. Visit his work in person or virtually by clicking here...What's even cooler is that my dear teacher Dana Flynn turned me on to all of this...the Roxy Paine, the Emerson quote, the whole shebang. Now, I've shared it with you. Whether you end up visiting Madison Square Park or just enjoy the quote, these ideas are now in your consciousness, just as much as they are in mine or hers. So go ahead - shift consciousness around you. Look for inspiration and brilliance in the folks around you - then share it with everyone you know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feel Better - Passion for Life

Yolanda Smith is a refugee. What she's managed to escape is the drill-sergeant grind of her work-obsessed self. Reading these words here may surprise you. After all, we're the I-Heart-My-Job people. But truth be told, we're also the Keep It Real people. The Sustainable Success people. And if there's one thing you need to sustain yourself over the long haul in any form of success worth having, it's the ability to take care of yourself minute by minute.

Consider the statistics: one in nine women between the ages of 45-64 has some form of heart disease or stroke; this ratio soars to one in three at age 65 and beyond. One in six men aged 45-64 has some form of heart or blood vessel disease; in men 65 and older the ratio decreases to one in eight. Whether you're in this age bracket or not, the reality looms large. Yolanda had to learn it the hard way. After 6 years of 15 hours a day, Yolanda collapsed while presenting in a room full of hundreds of professional nurses. A nurse herself, she explained "if you had asked me if I was happy, fulfilled or stressed, the answer would have been yes, yes, NO!"

Work is a drug. It offers some really great highs we all get hooked on - pumping up our adrenaline, our egos and our wallets. But with all that pumping - you've got to take a look at what your ultimate pump - your heart - needs and be loyal to giving it that care on a regular basis. Give a little bit to your heart this month by taking a moment for the following this month:

- Get a physical. Dammit. Really. When is the last time you had someone measure your cardiovascular efficiency or look at how well you are functioning? Do it. Call now.

- Skip the cig. If you are a dabbler, you know what I'm talking about. Have the glass of wine (preferably a good red you will really enjoy) and leave smoking to the smouldering look in your eyes.

- Take a little walk. It takes as few as 15 minutes to ease cardiovascular stress with a little movement. Gotta get to the post office? Walk. Gotta go to the mall? Park further from the entrance. Give your strides a sense of purpose and your heart will like it even more.

- Try a new relaxation technique. The web is full of free downloads of meditations, descriptions of visualizations, and medical sites referencing countless mindfulness techniques. Youtube or google "relaxation techniques" or spring for .99 at iTunes and try one today.

Like Yolanda quoted from her days as a cardiac nurse, "minutes are muscle". So true in the emergency room and so true in life. The sooner you learn to take care of that muscle, the more beautiful minutes you'll get.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Balance Byte - Freeze Tag

With no idea who these people are or why they did what they did, the audacity of having such a simple and hilarious idea and then acting on it just delights us to no end. Playing with reality is the bomb. What silly ideas are begging for your action?

Think Better - Passion Play

What we feed grows. It's true of everything, including your thoughts. Think of your most negative friends and your most positive ones too - notice how they scan the world looking for evidence to support their disposition of choice. While it could be argued that by adulthood, such selective processing of the world and events around you is already hard-coded, why not challenge yourself to adopting the highest way of perceiving any one set of events around you? Not unlike the old reminder "WWJD?" (what would jesus do) , use the following steps to find a more inspiring perspective for yourself.

1. Identify a few of the people you admire most when it comes to pursuing your passions. These might be individuals you know or ones you simply know of. The will be risk takers, achievers, exhibitors of your most treasured values and deepest aspirations.

2. Identify what perspective on passion they represent for you - does MLK stand for courage? Does Gandhi stand for walking the talk? What was their fallback manner of being in the face of pursuing what mattered to them?

3. Look at your day today. Remember that even these great leaders had "ordinary days" in which their progress towards their respective goals may have been invisible to the human eye. Remember they were human beings with all the same fears and concerns you hold dearly.

4. When next you find yourself in a moment of uncertainty or conflict, before you call a friend to comiserate the lousy circumstances, take a moment to consult this more enlightened voice. How does the voice of your treasured mentor guide you through whatever it is you are confronting? What is the highest possible outcome for this twist in your story and how do you have to BE to allow that to happen?

This little passion play is the opposite of a pity party. It's the equivalent to that hand that picks you up and brushes off your knees when you fall even before you notice you are down. As you encounter the next twist in your own plot, let this tool remind you to narrate your story to your own happiest ending.

Lead Better - Ring of Fire

Passion at work? If you're like most of us, the response is usually, "nice idea but get real". This was never so obvious to me as in a recent offsite with some folks from YPO. A handful of execs, they represented a broad array of industries and personality types. Diversity aside, these successful presidents of companies universally faced the same struggle: how to ignite passion and get the best out of people.

As professionals, who doesn't want to feel passion? Curiously, while we lament the lack of engagement or innovative thinking of those around us, rarely do we allow or facilitate conversations that are messy enough for passion to arise. Too often our cultivated preference for measurable outcomes from linear processes dominates. As passion at work is easily scuttled as "impratical" or "not measureable", in many corporations the work of passion and the passion of work is left to motivational speakers and outside vendors.

The offsite was a perfect metaphor for this phenomenon. When asked what the value is of getting away for the day for an mountainside offsite, each strongly acknowledged the need to do exactly that - to come together to share dreams and passion in a supportive environment free of expectations our pre-prescribed outcomes. Widely regarding the time together as a "lifeline", when given the suggestion that they create such a lifeline within their office culture they wanted guarantees, structure and measurability.

First, let's acknowledge that PASSION loves company as much as misery does. What's more: while misery is predictable and points to a resignation-laden dead end, passion insists on possibility, on not knowing the outcome and on the possibility of igniting auxillary fires. With employee engagement at an all time low across the planet, we've got to bravely move towards starting those fires and see how they lend energy and vigor to our work.

Bring your inspiration and passion "home" to the office. You have people around you who also have hearts, minds, jobs and ideas. Chances are the guy or woman in the other cube or office would also benefit from being in an engaging, dynamic environment. Don't allow your passion to lie fallow until you stumble upon a touching moment at a movie, hear a great motivational speaker or have a great b.s. session with friends. Here are a couple of ways you can build your own circle of fire at work:

  • Herd your direct reports and colleagues into a conference room and put on the table that passion only happens when all concerned agree to prioritize it - including YOU and each of them.

  • Start a group brainstorm on how to make passion and inspiration matter more in the office and on projects.

  • Ask them what they want to do to have passion as a more prominent element in their work.

  • Keep and make public a running list of what inspires the various people on the team so you can effortlessly share the right ideas with the right folks whenever you stumble upon it.

  • Have a Passion Power Lunch where you each bring one thing - be it a youtube or product, email, book, whatever - that inspired you each week or month.

There may not always be a linear process to put action behind the energy. Indeed it may call for those involved to collaborate powerfully on how to harness the ideas and possibilities raised, how to put passion to purpose and allow it to act as a river connecting dreams to productivity. By calling on those participating with finding ways to make those connections, you'll heighten their engagement and reinforce the notion that not only DO they impact the world around them but they also determine how they move through it.

Passion Loves Company

Considering the value of networking groups like the Young President's organization for presidents of companies and Ladies Who Launch for women
entrepreneurs, Barbara Streisand hit the nail on the nail with the lines "people who need people are the luckiest people...".

We do need each other, and we need each other profoundly. Beyond collegial note-comparing, finding the best website provider or hottest sushi place, these organizations are powerful go-to's for finding people of passion who welcome hopes and dreams. Prioritizing that is making a conscious choice about how to move through the world and determining actively what world you really want to move through.

The passion we experience in each other is our greatest gift - it's the fix we can't resist. From the goose-bump/tear inspiring video produced by celebrities in support of Obama to Hillary's own hottly debated tears, McCain's unyielding-qualities and Huckabees resolute, pollster-free "simple man" approach - when you consider the magnetic power of any of the candidates' most human passion - this is what we most need from each other. It is to this passion that we most profoundly respond.

This month's balancebreak is about passion. Yes, in honor of Valentine's Day. Yes, in honor of the passion of the candidates and the all-encompassing job they aspire to. But mostly we are honoring those things as a reminder to you of whatever gets you out of bed with more than just a pulse. It is a reminder of your heart and its power to quicken with excitement in recognition of your own truth. It is a reminder passion's ubiquity and the anytime invitation to return to your own - available anytime you pause for a moment's visit with it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

worklife YOU!

We launched a little worklife survey earlier this month. Having long wanted a sense of just exactly what IS going on with folks in regard to managing work and life, we looked for answers from other organizations. Finding very little that asked the questions we wanted answers to, we decided if it was to be done, it was ours to do.

Knowing most folks hate anything that takes longer than the blink of an eye, we aggregated demographic information to keep it SUPER SHORT - only 10 questions total for a really solid set of information about what we're experiencing, what we want, and what gets in the way. We tapped Balance Integration Advisory Board member and psychotherapist Claudia Marchetti, director of sales training for Chanel for her stamp of approval - and let it rip.

With a single send to a small group of subscribers (around 1500), a week later we already have some AHA'S.

1. 26% of respondents report spending 40% of their time working - that's 9.6 hours - more than half your waking moments! Another 22% put the number at 50% of their time!

2. 46% self-report they get 8 hours of sleep - interesting given the abundance of research attesting to our widespread sleep deprivation - is it wishful thinking?

3. The biggest contrast in how we spend time and how we WISH we could spend time isn't a shift towards more time with family. Overwhelmingly, respondents expressed a desire for more time EXERCISING and PURSUING HOBBIES/ACTIVITIES FOR PERSONAL ENJOYMENT. Sounds like we're finally getting the message that to be available to others we've got to take care of ourselves as well!

The survey is still in it's infancy - we're going to keep harvesting and reporting this information from time to time and watch trends and changes. The more data we have, the more we'll have to share so pop in, check some boxes...we'll get back to you with how it looks both now and in the future.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Feel Better - From Should to Done!

According to Harris Interactive, we are less likely to include healthy habits in our resolutions this year. Apparently, we're all a bit burned by having had those fiery intentions to hit the gym every morning fall to the wayside as we hit snooze and enjoy another 20 of shut-eye in winter's dark mornings.

Given that we DO want to feel better and live more full lives, what about all the little things any of us CAN do at a moment's notice with all the benefits and none of the guilt?

The following suggestions are instant-gratification oriented. Designed to support your physical well- being, they offer a bonus bang of being guilt free if you forget to do them and feeling even better if you celebrate remembering them!

  • Walk somewhere. Park further from where you are going. Get off the train or bus a stop early. Walk to see the guy in accounting instead of popping him an email. Walk anywhere. It feels good, stimulates your circulation and wakes you up.

  • Drink water. Yeah, we all SAY we drink enough water, but it's winter and between the cold and artificial heat and all the cold & flu bugs going around, you need it even more.

  • Stretch. Right now, at your desk, even if you don't know what you are doing. You don't have to be a yogi to get the benefit of tension release by gently moving a limb in a way that feels "stretchy".

  • Breathe. We know this separates the living from the dead. But conscious breathing separates the aware from the unaware. So right now, as you read this, observe your breath move in and out of your body.

  • Go potty. Incontinence has risen in the industrialized age, and with computers we often forget to go for HOURS which weakens really important muscles. Bet you have to go RIGHT NOW, don't you?

  • Have a media moratorium - as soon as you hit close on this email, take a 5 minute media moratorium. No pixels. No monitors. Nothing that beeps or blinks. Just you and whatever else there is.
This list is obviously not comprehensive. It's not supposed to be. We want to remind you that your feeling good isn't scuttled entirely just because you didn't make it to the gym this morning/week/month/year. Your feeling good is your choice in every moment and every thing you do.

Think Better - Go-To Good

If all this talk about GOOD and FUN is putting you in a bad mood, GREAT!

You see, just like the media adage "if it bleeds, it leads", as a culture we're pretty fixated on the negative. This is why it's important for us to become absolutely aware of what DOES put a good feeling in motion inside of us.

In workshops on creativity and inspiration, we often ask folks "what makes you feel good?". Not a complex question, but for the most part it takes lots of ums, looks of frustrated concentration, and often disclaimers and even requests for clarification before we can get a single response.

So what DOES put you in a good frame of mind? Whether you are one of the lucky ones who has off-the-cuff awareness of what elevates your mood , or already feel a bit stumped, take a look at these aspects of GOOD and add to your arsenal of helping yourself think and feel GOOD in 2008.

  • Physical Activity - I had lunch with an executive the other day that reminded me of the obvious - no one ever feels worse for eating right and moving their body a bit - what makes your body feel better?

  • Music - what sounds put you in a good mood? Do you have them on the ready when you need them?

  • Foods - what foods give you energy and stimulate your sense of fulfillment when you eat?
    Connection with Others - What forms of interpersonal interaction put you in a GOOD state of mind? Whether it is a walk with a friend or arguing the merits of a book or movie, what makes you feel good with respect to connecting with others?

  • Time alone - What is your favorite way to spend time alone? Cruising Ebay for the next windorphin fix? Looking at travel mags for your next cold weather escape? One friend loves the weather channel for making her feel connected to the entire world.

  • Guilty pleasures - One thing that makes me feel great is ditching work for 20 minutes to go sit and have a coffee in public. The sense of solitude in the midst of nameless masses, the movement, and the break in energy revives me for whatever is waiting, and whatever is NEXT!

  • Weekends - What is your favorite way to spend a weekend? What recharges you completely and leaves you ready to go for the coming week?

  • Kindness - In what ways does being kind to others create satisfaction in you? Practicing smiling at strangers and seeing if they return the favor? Tipping extra well no matter the service? Most of us have some secret kindness that we delight in practicing.

Keep noticing good moments and what the factors are that make them happen. By identifying your own best-practices, you'll be able to more authentically say it's all good.

Lead Better - Good Game

In Sound On Sound Magazine, the geek squad of the music industry did a study of just what makes a great song great to see if the magic in one song can make magic happen if applied to the creation of another song. They took the elements of James Brown's "I Feel Good" and analyzed if various components could strengthen other songs. Their findings: a big GIANT yes. It seems that the media adage "Good Is Good" holds true for more than just adapting Iron Chef for U.S. audiences - what resonates with us on an intrinsic level holds no matter if it is being applied under different circumstances.

This month, we used this approach to setting our intention for the year. First we called Brooke Emery of Attraction Boutique for her favorite strategies for having a year worth celebrating. In describing our ideal year, the characteristics we named included the obvious: geographic growth, profitability, evolution of services/offerings, continued expansion of client base. Pretty good business-speak, but working with Brooke we realized that something HUGE was missing - FUN. Given the seriousness that tends to set in when people use the word "intention" - FUN is the perfect antidote.

Think about it - humans thrive on fun. Give me a five star meal and if I am not having fun I might as well be at Micky D's. Show me a great movie, and if my mental disposition keeps me from enjoying it, I might as well have never seen it at all. Fun is the magic dust, the special sauce that allows our lives to feel lively. And when it comes to having work that is anything but drudgery, having fun is a must.

Of course, fun happens on it's own - from a random playful smile from a co-worker to a presentation that blows the audience away. But practicing mastery means that if fun is a must have or core value, you have to approach work and life in a playful, fun way. And if "I Feel Good" can be a guide map for other good feeling songs, whatever has made you feel good in the past can point the way to your good feeling now and at any time.

To make something fun, ask yourself: what's a phrase you can use to remind yourself to be playful as events unfold this year? It might be related to a time in your life when you were having the most fun, or it might be a phrase that inspires you. For Linda in our LA office, the phrase was "Flow With the Go" - a play on the old go with the flow that emphasizes not just being reactive but being ACTIVE but still in alignment with whatever is happening. As a fan of De La Vega, notorious NYC graffiti artist, I borrowed from one of his famous scribbles "Realiza Tu Sueno" or "Become Your Dream" which reminds me to see life as my own dream unfolding even when things seem more like a nightmare. Brooke herself claimed "Everyday is Jazz Fest" to remind her of the great feeling of being in the sun, having a beer & hearing great music. Beer aside, the point is to remember the BUZZ of feeling good no matter where you are.

So what's yours? Think about times that you have felt fantastic or phrases that inspire the best feelings in you. Pick one that feels especially evocative to you and name it. By claiming that image, memory or positive association, you are tapping into a pathway to feeling great no matter where you go or what you do.