How to Give Yourself Permission to Step into Greatness

Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

“At the center of your being you have the answer, you know who you are and you know what you want.” Lao Tzu

Mother may I. Simon says.  Childhood presents a lot of little games designed to teach us right from wrong, what lines not to cross, and when to proceed to the next step.  Unfortunately, as we venture into adulthood, it’s no different.  Despite achieving financial independence, holding down a full- time job while raising a family, and even running a business of our own, many of us are still waiting for permission.  Permission to be who we really are when no one is watching; permission to take on a new position at work or quit a job to pursue our heart’s desire; permission to say no to things that no longer serve us.

Why we seek the approval of others
We seek in others what we have abandoned in ourselves.  Reflect for a moment.  Somewhere in between childhood and womanhood someone may have said you’re not good enough or discouraged you from doing something you really wanted to do – and you believed them.  As a result, a series of self-fulfilling prophecies began to unfold.  A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio show interview featuring author Lisa Nichols and she said something that struck me.  She coined herself as a “permission agent.” She then went on to recount an experience in school, where a teacher told her she lacked writing skills and would never make it as a writer.  Twenty plus years later, she’s now a New York Times best-selling author.

A Personal Story
In 2007, I began moonlighting as an entrepreneur while working during the day as a legal writer.  Then it happened: My uncle died a week before his 38th birthday.  While tragic, this event gave me the permission I needed to start living a life on my own terms.  Two weeks later I handed in my resignation letter and never looked back.

Imagine if your life was cut short.  What will you have left behind? Unrealized dreams? Regret? Here are three ways to grant yourself permission to step into greatness.

1.  Take responsibility.  Sure, blaming others, the economy, your upbringing or lack of education can feel like a warm snuggly blanket, shielding you from the possibility of failure but aside from countless excuses, you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts.  Giving yourself permission requires taking complete responsibility for your career or business. Although, you may not be able to control all the events in your life, you have full command over your actions and how you react in each situation.

 What does taking responsibility entail?

It means giving up all the complaints and excuses for why you’re not achieving your desires.  It means digging your heels in, putting your head down and working on your goal until you’ve reached your destination, regardless of what’s going on around you.

2.  Determine what you want. How clear is the vision of what you want? Can you see it, taste it, smell it, hear it? If not, it’s time to hone in on your dream.  Make a wish list.  Write a detailed description of how you’ll feel once you’ve attained your desire on an index card.  Ask yourself: How will my life improve?  Then memorize these details and recite them to yourself every morning and at night before you go to bed.

3.  Pull the trigger. Day after day,week after week, you talk about taking your business or career to the next level, but still nothing.  You contemplate for endless hours on the appropriate action to take or allow yourself to get bogged down with the details.  Meanwhile, time has picked up its pace, along with a growing number of obligations.  There’s never going to be a perfect time or balance when it comes to going after something you want.

Giving yourself permission can be inconvenient, taxing on your mental and physical energy, and possibly the most difficult thing you’ll do.  On the other hand, it’s the only way to live your truth. Start small and experiment with new things: try a new cuisine, test out a new lipstick or better yet, get a free makeover at the cosmetics counter, or sign up for a class. The possibilities are endless.  The point is that the more you shift the compartments of your life around, the more room you’ll have for what’s important to you.

So what will you give yourself permission to do this week? I invite you to commit to doing something every day for the next 30 days.   Share in comments.

The Only Two Things You Need for Entrepreneurial Success

There’s a disease spreading throughout the United States among today’s aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s called the “big idea syndrome.” Many people assume that all that separates them from business and financial success is one great idea.  Having worked with several entrepreneurs over the years, I have discovered that what distinguish a thriving business owner from one that is barely surviving isn’t more start-up capital, more talent or even access to more resources (though having these things does help). It’s perseverance and self-belief.

Njeri Rionge, co-founder of Wananchi Online, East Africa’s first mass market Internet service provider, has used this mind-set to become a pioneer in the IT industry, a position typically reserved for men. “I have no time to think about challenges,” Rionge told How We Made it in Africa magazine. Because I convert them, they stop being challenges. I have been at many points where I knew the cookie was about to crumble, but my focus was [that] it cannot crumble. Therefore, I focus on the upward movement.”

Much of what stops us from achieving higher levels of success are the mental blocks we experience as a result of the obstacles we encounter, real or imagined. However, when we can focus our attention exclusively on getting to the other side instead of the hardships themselves, the challenges we face cease to have an impact.

The second half of the success equation is self-belief and trusting your instincts. You might be thinking: What does intuition have to do with women’s business success?  Read closely. Have you ever experienced a time when you just went for it? Despite logic and what others around thought, you dived in heart first and it was one of the best decisions you ever made.  Alternatively, have you ever been in a situation where you knew it was time to let go of something or someone who was no longer serving you, but you stayed? Take these moments as intuitive cues.

Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, who attributes much of her success to following her gut, summed it up like this in a recent interview: “I think if I had judged my salespeople, managers and marketplaces using only my left brain and analytics, I would have reached the wrong conclusion.”

So does this mean we should toss out all the business books, fire our therapist and rely solely on our inner wisdom? Well, not exactly.  All of these things are catalysts for the unleashing of our powerful selves.  But ultimately, if we’re to come into our own power as women business owners, we must put our instincts at the top of the list and carefully examine the voice inside before we adhere to conventional wisdom for the sake of popularity.

How have you used your intuition to guide business decisions?

Watch this video, where Barbara Corcoran shares why women’s intuition is powerful in business.

How to Create a 80/20 Work Life

Photo by Cavan Images

Have you ever found yourself working long hours, skipping lunch and swapping personal time for late-night rendezvous with clients? Many of us make the mistake of believing we can achieve more by doubling our work efforts, so we take on multiple projects and sacrifice personal time to get ahead.  While we accomplish everything on our list, we may have very little to show for it in terms of life satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

Although I was first introduced to the 80/20 rule more than five years ago, it wasn’t until recently that I started applying it to my business and personal life. Also known as the Pareto principle, this concept suggests that 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our efforts. While you may be familiar with this philosophy in relation to time management and productivity, there’s a much more important question that you should take into account.

What activities account for 80 percent of happiness in your work life?

Numerous studies have shown that we’re more effective in business when we limit our projects to things we’re passionate about and that are in alignment with our core competencies. In my own life, I’ve noticed that I’d often procrastinate in doing things that weren’t my strong suit such as bookkeeping or web design. Now I leave those tasks to the experts. In the short term, I may spend more money in hiring a bookkeeper or web designer. However, over time it would cost me more in energy and efficiency to perform tasks I’m not good at or that I dread doing.

Finding your sweet spot
Take a moment to assess your business activities. What are the things that bring you the most pleasure? What duties do you seem to lose track of time doing? For me, I love teaching and empowering others, so I devote a significant amount of my time to writing articles, consulting and conducting workshops. Not only are these the activities that I most enjoy, but these are also the things that have helped to generate the most income and created the most business opportunities.

Focusing on where your heart is
When I first started my business, I thought if I did everything myself I could keep costs to a minimum (huge mistake). I later found myself working 16-hour days with little to show for it.  To avoid energy or productivity drainers, ask yourself: What activities can I delegate to others, so I can focus on tasks that relate to my natural gifts and passion? You can achieve this by outsourcing administrative tasks to dedicate more time to creating new products or packages, or by limiting yourself to projects that feed your soul and reflect personal interests.

Working with Ideal Clients
For most service providers, the majority of frustration in business stems from dealing with difficult clients.  Sometimes there’s a personality conflict, while other times there’s a disagreement regarding terms of payment.  Consider your client base and determine what customers are most enjoyable to work with. Is she high-energy and upbeat or more reserved? Does she have a positive attitude or is she a “Debbie Downer?” You might then decide to let go of the clients that aren’t productive or miserable to work with.  Your work life will be more rewarding when you surround yourself with people who complement your personality and work style.

How will you produce more happiness in your work life over the next week? Share in comments.

Leaving Behind a Legacy of Health: Fitness and Social Entrepreneurship

Photo by Maven04

Let’s face it: The lure of reaching physical perfection is enticing, even for the most highly evolved spiritual practitioner, but perhaps health breeds a bigger agenda than fitting into a size 4: leaving a legacy. There are a handful of health and fitness aficionados, who view exercise as nothing more than a means to an end – a practice to ensure longevity, so they can carry out their life’s work. Consider 84-year-old Joy Johnson featured in the November 2011 issue of Runner’s World. The 72-time marathoner participated in her 24th straight ING New York City Marathon last November. She maintains her healthy lifestyle by eating right, running about 50 miles a week, and doing up to 150-push-ups a day. “I’m just very lucky and blessed and do what I love Johnson told Runner’s World. “I have to live up to my name.”

Health is a community-wide effort in which one can’t exist without the other. “Throwing off the chains of poor health and reclaiming our full vitality is both our individual right and our collective responsibility,” writes Pilar Gerasimo in her, “A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World.” In short, the well-being of our communities does not rest solely on one person; it’s a joint act that will require continual commitment and a re-shifting of priorities– from the pursuit of physical beauty to the pursuit of social justice. Gerasimo also points out that when you change your health for the better, you change the lives of those around you for the better, too.

“Being strong and healthy in an unhealthy culture makes you part of an empowered minority. It gives you freedoms and opportunities that poor health and fitness prohibit. It endows you with the energy, clarity and resiliency to fully enjoy your life, and to make bigger, more meaningful contributions in anything you do,” she writes.

Despite cultural notions, the purpose of diet and exercise isn’t to fit into a pair of skinny jeans or to carve out a washboard midsection. Instead, we are each called to touch greatness in whatever manner it arrives within us. Whether it’s being a strong and healthy mother for your child, advocating for children in your community, or offering a smile to the cashier behind the supermarket counter, we all have a job to do–one that requires vitality, stamina and most importantly, good health. And unlike a pair of perfectly sculpted thighs, what we will have left behind, will remain for generations to come.

How will you leave a legacy through your business to ensure the health of your community? Share in comments.

Why You’re Not Getting Results in Your Business

Why am I not achieving the desired results in my business? What are others doing that I’m not doing? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’ve asked yourself these questions at least once. However, what you may fail to realize is that the obstacles standing in your way is oftentimes of your own making.

Breaking through the psychological glass ceiling 
The primary reason people settle for less than they deserve can be attributed to self-limiting beliefs. For instance, you get a new idea and immediately talk yourself out of it, or you’d like to grow your business, but refuse to scale back on your lifestyle to invest more time and money into promoting your services. “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have the money” are among the top excuses people have for not aiming higher and going after their dreams. Sound familiar? Rather than put yourself out there, you opt to sit by the sidelines.

Are you doing all the things you can to create your dream business? 
If not, make a list of all the things that are standing in your way. Then jot down all the possible solutions you can think of for overcoming them and take one action within the next hour – whether it’s making a phone call to a mentor for advice, scheduling an appointment to meet with a career coach, or introducing yourself to a new business in the area.

Defining success on your own terms
The first step in creating your dream business is to find the “why” in your business. Many of us skip this step and as a result focus our energy on activities that don’t propel our business forward in an attempt to fit in with the mainstream definition of success. As a result, you have a business that doesn’t reflect your values and somewhere in between servicing clients and fulfilling product orders, the you in your business goes missing.

Secondly, it’s important to determine what success means to you. For some, it might mean building a media empire with thousands of employees, while for others it might simply be having a mom and pop store that serves the local community. I prefer to keep my business small so that I have time to pursue other creative projects. Knowing what you want out of life will motivate you to take consistent action, despite how scary it may feel.

The Need for Action
How many times have you invested in books, business courses and seminars only to discover you’re no further in your business than when you began? You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you’re not implementing the ideas, it’s useless. What separates the success stories from the stories of disappointment is our willingness to take action. When we allow fear and a negative mindset to dictate our actions, we set ourselves up for failure. Despite our best intentions, we slip back into “bad behavior” and keep doing the same things because it’s comfortable.

So what’s really holding you back? Is it money? Time? The economy? Whatever you think it is it’s time to confront your demons. Create a list of all the things you’ve been afraid to do in business and in life. What immediate thoughts surface as you review your list? Acknowledge what they have to say, and then write out all those self-sabotaging beliefs. When you really think about it, is it true? There are others who have overcome great odds to achieve professional bliss. So why not you?