Category Archives: Mindfulness

Live Your Values Through Your Work

By Mellicia Marx, Founder of Poplin Style Direction and Friend of Simple Intentions

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Author Mellicia Marx pictured top left at the 2017 YouthCare Luncheon

Early in my career, I was drawn to public service and the nonprofit world. Why? It seemed obvious. Careers in these sectors were the best and perhaps, realistically, the only way to give back and make a difference in any significant or productive way. After all, making the world a better place is central to the job description. Later, I thought, corporate America could also offer the same opportunity, but only if you were able to land one of a company’s few corporate social responsibility roles.

Eventually, of course, I discovered that none of this was true. It turns out you can live your values no matter your industry; that you can have a meaningful impact on the people around you by nurturing your own strengths and sharing them with others. It can even benefit you in your career. And you don’t need to uproot your life to do this — really.

Now I’ve left non-profits and public service. I run my own small business as a personal stylist — I help women communicate who they truly are, using personal style as a lens. And it is by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. By providing clear guidelines to help a woman know what flatters her frame, and guidance about how to convey what makes her uniquely her, I plant a seed that helps her flourish in all aspects of her life. Especially gratifying is to work with a client a year or two after we first met, and to see how her life has been influenced by our work together. Peoples’ lives are being improved, or even transformed, by this work. And I can see it at close range, in a way I never could earlier in my career.

And yet, there’s more. In addition to my work with clients, I devote a great deal of my energy into my volunteer work with YouthCare, a Seattle-based nonprofit devoted to empower homeless youth ages 11–24 in my community. It’s a rewarding and rejuvenating part of my everyday life — and it presents yet another opportunity to channel my personal values into something meaningful and productive.

We all have the ability to seamlessly integrate our values into our work and life, with less effort than perhaps is common belief. And as I have learned first-hand, this not only makes a positive impact on your community but can propel your career or enhance your business in unexpected ways.

Leverage Your Expertise

What do you have to offer to your community? For starters, you are almost certainly an expert in something — most likely the thing that helps you put food on the table. What value do you create with your work? How could the community benefit from it? In my case, as a personal stylist I can help people with a problem we all experience, regardless of lifestyle, income, or even housing status — what am I going to wear today?

By partnering with YouthCare, I’ve made my expertise available to a segment of the population who, it turns out, can really benefit from it. Working together, we’ve created a styling session program for youth in YouthCare’s Barista Training Program. We teach them what clothing is appropriate for job interviews and the workplace, then help them “shop” from a boutique of quality clothes donated by the community — and my client base. It’s a successful, thriving community program that is really just an extension of the work I do every day with my clients.

Think about your own work. Do you have skills you take for granted, but that just might be incredibly advantageous to someone in need?

Identify Your Resources

Let’s face it: we live in a hectic world where time is at a premium. Maybe, given the pressures of your career and the time it takes up, volunteering is a separate, subordinate dream that you might eventually realize — in retirement. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can actively benefit your career by way of volunteering.

In my case, I’ve found that by threading together my volunteering and my business, I have tangibly enhanced my clients’ customer experience. I offer each client the opportunity to donate her extraneous clothes after we have gone through the step of editing her closet. I take those pieces to YouthCare for our styling session program, and the organization sends tax information back to the client. It doesn’t stop there. I also invite clients to attend graduation ceremonies for the youth finishing up the Barista Training Program. There’s no obligation, just the chance to see the impact of their donated clothes on the lives of young people in our community. And I host tables at YouthCare’s annual luncheon (pictured above) and invite clients to attend — I regularly have over twenty attendees. Every once in a while, I share stories about youth on my blog and Instagram and tag clients who donate with a public thank you.

This approach is in line with my values, and is good for business in so many ways. Not long ago, I started working with a new client transitioning to female after she read my blog posts about working with transgender youth. I also have clients who reach out after our initial styling sessions because they have more clothes to donate; this allows me to stay connected with clients in the long term without needing to “sell” them something. And client surveys show that learning about my work in the community contributes to their choosing to work with my company.

Living my values not only enhanced my sense of fulfillment but helped build my business and brand – this can be true for anyone, regardless of job title.

Select Your Cause

Youth homelessness is particularly upsetting to me. These are just kids. They’re kids who didn’t have someone to help them buy their first car, or encourage them to take the SATs, or even help them choose their first bra or tie their first tie. They live a challenging and often dangerous life. But I’ve found that one afternoon of warmth and attention from our team can really shift the path for some of these kids. They know that someone, who is not paid to care, really does care. They know that there is no question too embarrassing to ask, and they know that when they leave they will not “look homeless” — something so many of them fear on a daily basis.

For you it might be the environment, or animal welfare, or social justice that fuels your passion. Think about causes that mean something to you. They might even be naturally aligned with the expertise you have to offer. Then do some research, find the organizations that are doing the best work in that field, and ask how you can help.

Yes, some jobs offer more flexibility than others to choose how one spends their time and resources. But it doesn’t take much. Every time you write a letter, make a call, or spend an hour with someone in need, you are positively contributing to your community — and maybe even your career.

 

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What Mindfulness Does For Sales

By Jordan Weinand, Founder of Glowsoul and Friend of Simple Intentions

011817_whatmindfulnessAll folks who sell for a living want to make the next big deal. The overwhelming pride you feel when you’ve helped push the quota past expectations is worth every ounce of work you put in. It feels really good when your boss is pumped enough to reach into the pocket and splurge on your success during happy hour too.

If there was a step-by-step guide on how to achieve consistent sales results, we’d all be eager to pay up.

Hard work and grit. Yeah, it makes sense that we need both of those, however, it’s not easy to teach those characteristics. On all accounts, it requires you to find it from within. If you’re not breaking yourself like Rocky Balboa, the next best way to find yourself is through Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the mental state we reach when we focus our awareness on the present moment. During this state, we are acknowledging and accepting of our feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness has tons of benefits, below are three that will help you sell the next biggest deal on your team.

Memory Improvement

Have you ever forgotten the fine details about your prospect’s needs and lost a sale because you couldn’t remember how exactly to tie in your service? I have, my pen only writes so fast! If I could ask for one superpower it would be a better memory.

There are ample ways of increasing the stickiness in your storage capacity. A few I’ve tried are: story-based association, poem memorization and reading books. Another, that has helped a ton is mindfulness and meditation.

The “Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Group,” found there are structural differences between brains of experienced meditation practitioners and those who aren’t.

In this Harvard Gazette article, detailed by Sue McGreevey, MGH Communications, the group found increased grey matter (found in regions of the brain associated with hearing, emotions, and memory) in test subjects who practiced meditation for 27 minutes a day, over an 8-week span. This is helpful to know as I’ve personally noticed better detail recollection with meditating and mindfulness.

Gain Empathy

It’s been documented that since the 1970’s we’re becoming less empathetic and compassionate. Sarah Konrath from the University of Michigan says she’s seen a steady drop since 1990 in these areas. Mindfulness and meditation can certainly boost this lack of empathy. While long-term benefits of mindfulness include increased memory, stronger overall health and cognitive skill speed, increased compassion is the main focus.

When being mindful you’re often sitting in a quiet space for any length of time and guiding awareness to the present moment. The aim is to focus on the now and be thankful for all you have in the instant. The immediate effects often are an appreciation for oneself, others and the materials you already have. When I focus on mindful selling, I become appreciative of my managers, prospects and the opportunity to help. Showing empathy in sales has a sweet referral ROI along with a fast track to trust.

Lose Stress

Between a 50-call day, preparing demos for prospects and managing current partners, the mounting stress can be real, especially if you don’t have an outlet. In the same Harvard study, the subjects reported a lower stress level and did have lower grey matter density in the amygdala, a little nugget of grey matter involved with emotions and plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

Amishi Jha, of the University of Miami, thinks that while stress can be reduced in eight weeks of a mindfulness training program, the structural changes in the amygdala could push better studies in curing stress related disorders like PTSD. With less stress, you’ll be eager to keep your nose to the grindstone and build that awesome sales pipe, even if you have PTSD from being bombarded with NO’s.

Much of sales is mental. We are humans with a very curious, powerful structure upstairs that constantly is powered up. The mind needs massaging and relaxation. Feeling refreshed during long sales cycles grows your grit, improves your memory, shrinks your stress and forces you to be empathetic. Test it for a month and try to find favorable techniques. You’ll notice a quick turnaround on your overall perception of smiling and dialing. If nothing else, you will at least have 20 minutes of peace and quiet.

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Sit Still

By Nicole Christie, Principal + Creative Director of NICO, Inc. and Friend of Simple Intentions

010417_sitstillA friend once asked me what would happen if I stopped changing things. I was at the tail end of several major life transitions—divorce, cross-country move, job change (all at once)—and, as she said, kept “flipping stones” when I felt discomfort. Whether that was buying a new item of clothing, finding someone new to date, seeking a new project or client, I was always in motion. And it was resulting in a lot of mistakes due to snap decision-making.

That’s what happens when we don’t give ourselves time to be still. To be thoughtful. To get real about our values, our intentions, our “why.” We’re driving in fog, but instead of slowing down—or even better, pulling over to let it clear—we turn on our brights, step on the gas, and drive off a cliff.

Because just like when we’re behind the wheel, if we can’t see clearly, can’t think clearly, it’s best to stop. This is a REALLY hard lesson if you’re a control freak like me and want to MAKE SHIT HAPPEN. But when we force it, we get in our own way. We take wrong turns and get lost. And while sometimes detours are pleasantly surprising, that’s not often the case when they’re taken in haste.

So let’s not be in a hurry to go nowhere fast. Let’s acknowledge that lack of clarity is a sign to stop. To gather our thoughts and let things play out. To sit still until we can see the path ahead of us, then take it one slow, intentional step at a time.

 

 

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Choosing Equanimity

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

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I’m not normally an angry person. Really.

But I’m also no stranger to the emotion. In a world rife with inequity, bias, and realities that can make the most patient of us want to scream, anger is not uncommon. When I’m in the throes of it, I can focus on nothing else (including effective solutions to the issue) and find that my productivity and longevity suffer.

I’ve been pondering the benefits of anger lately. How it can be a wakeup call. How it can create needed boundaries. Anger can be the spark – to start a revolution, to fight injustice, to say “enough”. But it cannot be the whole flame or we will burn out. While anger can trigger productivity, anger itself is inherently not a productive emotion. And for sustainable change to occur, I’d argue that anger must evolve – into whatever is needed: passionate organizing, relentless activism, a resolute boundary – because anger alone is not enough.

So how then do we turn our anger into something useful? I believe the answer is equanimity.

I recently spent a precious Saturday attending a dharma talk titled “Fierce Equanimity” through The Lotus Institute with Dr. Larry Ward and Dr. Peggy Rowe. The talk discussed how to relentlessly, fiercely display equanimity (or a calmness and evenness of mind and emotion) regardless of life’s circumstances.

This concept states that one can address and overcome challenge and injustice with equanimity in lieu of anger. Instead of rage, determination and perseverance may better serve us. Rather than shouting, a calm but resounding “no” can be just as effective. In exchange for riots, nonviolent protests can mobilize a community. Our middle fingers can be playful instead of aggressive (kidding). This way of being suggests we can combat hate with a fierce and stubborn gratitude.

Still with me?

I heard a powerful idea at The Lotus Institute regarding the non-personalization of experience. In other words, anger is not ours to possess. It’s not a toy, cell phone, or piece of clothing that we can claim as belonging to us. It is an unfettered, volatile (and hopefully transient) response that everyone from all walks of life has experienced. This means that since we can’t actually own anger, it doesn’t own us either.

One of the many benefits of equanimity is that it encompasses inclusivity. It transcends “otherness”. It’s an encouragement to try to understand the “humanness” that is always present behind an act of hateful rhetoric. Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to deflate an anger bubble – because it does away with the us vs. them notion. Equanimity means objectively asking yourself, “What in my life needs to be nourished? And what needs to be de-nourished?” It’s critically looking at societal systems and asking “What here needs to be legitimized? What needs to be de-legitimized?” And based on your answers, acting accordingly.

I want to go on the record and say that letting go of anger and embracing equanimity does not mean succumbing to passivity. Quite the opposite – equanimity often means being part of a slow-moving force, but one that is startling in its power and lasting in its effect. In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, “I can’t turn back. I have reached the point of no return.” Dr. King is in my mind a model for equanimity. Though he had a lifelong dedication to nonviolence (an important component of equanimity), not one could call him a passive force. Rather, he heeded the call to remain collected and compassionate in the long fight for social change – to powerful results. If anger is the blinding flare, then equanimity is the slow burn that drives us day in and day out.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is often the companion to apathy and ignorance, and enables the normalization of inequity. Passivity often stems from exclusivity, us vs. them. The funny thing is exclusivity (and therefore passivity) is illogical when accompanied with the awareness that most people desire the same things. We are all on a quest to find happiness, to find fulfillment, to find peace. But, as Dr. Ward asked that Saturday, find peace to do what? Find happiness to do what in the world?

I believe deep down we all know the answers (which are different for each of us). With equanimity, perhaps we can start to ask the right questions.

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Assume Positive Intent

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post]

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It’s easy to get hooked in our modern world. Meaning many times each day we feel resistance when conversations, outcomes, projects and meetings don’t go the way we hoped they would go or as we had planned. Perhaps someone who works for you delivered an underwhelming performance, or you disagree on strategy with your manager, or a friend/family member holds views that are very different from yours – regardless of the scenario, the feeling we experience is similar.

Some common emotional responses when things don’t go our way are we feel wronged, invalidated, frustrated or at times angry, and likely our responses (conversations and actions) reflect that. This only compounds the feelings we are experiencing and creates a mirror reaction in the person or people with which we are engaged.

At times, we may feel as if the person or people who triggered us did it intentionally or on purpose -which rarely ends up being the case. Most people wake up each day with a desire to do good and be good in this world.

We live in a world composed of 7 billion unique people each with his/her own idea of what “do good” and “be good” means – none of which are more right or more wrong than the other – just different. It is true that at times we harm each other with words and actions, disappoint each other, miss expectations or plainly act as a jerk. And it’s also true that most times these choices are not premeditated – the intent of the action is not to harm, disrupt or divide.

There is a different choice each one of us has when we feel hooked or triggered and that choice is to assume positive intent. This doesn’t mean ignore your feelings of displeasure. Rather, address them from a different place – one that starts with assuming the others involved started with a positive intent that just didn’t land.

Next time you feel hooked or triggered experiment with making a choice to acknowledge that it was positive intent that created the situation and can get you out of it as well. The choice is yours.

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Enough

By Joanna Fuller, Friend of Simple Intentions

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In May 2014, after more than 20 years in the workforce, I decided my life was overdue for a change. And so, as any relatively sane, single person might do….naturally I ran away and joined the Peace Corps. I left my job, rented my house, packed two bags and boarded a plane for Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia.

Like the word Timbuktu, people often use Ulaanbaatar to mean the middle of nowhere, or a place so far away you actually have no idea where it is. But UB wasn’t my final destination – that was a twelve-hour bus ride west, in a small, provincial center called Bayankhongor, where I lived and worked for two years as a secondary school English teacher, helping prepare students for life outside the nomadic herding tradition of their parents and grandparents.

As a volunteer, life was stripped down. I lived with a host family and while I had my own small room—equipped with the luxuries of a twin bed, a small sink with cold running water, a single electrical outlet, a stove and refrigerator—I lacked both an indoor toilet and a shower. I washed clothes by hand and had heat from October through April, though it regularly snowed September through May. A big adjustment from life in America.

It’s funny, though, how adaptable we humans are. Soon, my tiny room became cozy and comfortable. Walking to work (we weren’t allowed to drive) became daily meditation. Cooking simple meals with the ingredients available became a creative endeavor, best enjoyed family-style, with my site-mates and our Mongolian friends.

I thrived in the simplicity: On the one hand, I did tire of wearing the same clothes every week; on the other, I stopped thinking about what to wear because with limited options, the decisions were few. Cleaning my home took ninety minutes or less, including time to hand-wash my clothes. And with nothing much besides food and school supplies to buy, there was little time spent shopping or tending to things.

I’d never before realized just how much of my daily life in America had been consumed with processing decisions about what and how much to buy. Being free of that demand was nothing less than a giant Hallelujah. So, when I came home this past August, I figured I was permanently enlightened. That, having seen the image in the Magic Eye poster I’d never again be able to un-see it and would easily fulfill my intent to bring this simplified life to America.

Nope.

Returning to America after two years was like booking a week at the swankiest, most decadent spa resort in the world. I could have whatever food I wanted, any time I wanted it. I could get in my car and drive (on paved roads!) to places where I could buy anything I desired. I could swim around in a queen-sized bed, throw my laundry into the washer and walk away, turn the heat in my house to the exact setting of perfect comfort. It was so good.

But it wasn’t long before I grew accustomed to those things, and needed more and more input to get the same rush as in the first few weeks of my return. Suddenly all the things I’d been able to live without in Mongolia became things I had to have, now that I could, in America.

I determined I needed new clothes for interviews and eventual work. I started going out to eat with friends—a lot. I decided it was time to replace my fourteen year-old car. I looked around my twenty-year old home that had seen better days, and it was “clear” that new carpets were in order, not to mention a full interior paint.

But after weeks of adding to my to-buy list, in one particularly anxiety-ridden moment, I simply stopped. I took a deep breath and reminded myself: You haven’t spent this money yet. And even better, you do not have to.

Maybe that seems obvious. Maybe it seems ridiculous that I even got that worked up, and maybe I just have a problem that no one else has. But I don’t think so. I think consumption is the air we breathe in America. I think I was simply sliding back into old habits and a culture I was used to: responding to advertising and the availability of goods and services (and free financing!) all around me, not to mention the way so many others around me were living. In some ways, wasn’t I just fitting in?

But I knew I didn’t want to live that way. I’ve come to believe that the question I’m answering almost every time I buy something new is not, “Do I have enough?” but, “Am I enough?”

  • Am I enough if my house doesn’t look like it belongs on HGTV?
  • Am I enough if my closet isn’t “fashion-forward,” or if I don’t look as hip as my friends and co-workers?
  • Am I enough if I can’t—or don’t want to—afford to meet friends at expensive restaurants?

The answer every time should be yes. But the culture here is strong, and the truth is, when I feel different from the people around me, I can also start to feel less than.

So that’s the work I need to do if I want to enjoy the peace and freedom I experienced in Mongolia.

But equally, I don’t want to lose the ability to enjoy the wonderful luxuries we have here in the States. New carpet and new paint in my home aren’t just indulgences, they’re also good stewardship, and part of my desire to have a home I enjoy and that’s a welcoming place for friends and family. A small, professional capsule wardrobe makes sense and can be invested in wisely. An occasional meal out can be a fun and relaxing way to connect with friends.

There’s an art, I’ve come to believe, in allowing myself to indulge often enough that it brings joy, but not so often that I become desensitized to the experience.

So of late, I’ve adopted a quick, two-part framework for guiding how and when I make purchases:

  1. The UB rule: In Bayankhongor, shopping was so limited that most purchases had to wait for the twelve-hour bus ride to the capital, which only happened every few months. If I ran out of peanut butter or popcorn, I did without until the next trip. So the UB rule is: With the exception of groceries, I can only make purchases after observing a waiting period of at least a month. Very often, I find I’m OK without. If I do go ahead and buy it, I usually treasure and enjoy it all the more because of the wait.
  2. The “What is it, really?” rule: If I’m tempted to break the UB rule, and to make a purchase in the heat of the moment, that’s usually an indication I’m trying to fill an emotional need, something another purchase won’t actually resolve. If there’s something I feel I absolutely have to have, right now, I ask myself what I’m really trying to buy, versus what I need. They’re not usually the same. Am I feeling lonely? Downloading and binge-watching a full season of Girls isn’t the answer. I need to reach out to my real-life friends. Feeling down about myself? New clothes might be a temporary salve, but more self-care is probably in order: I can cook a flavorful, healthy meal (even better with friends) or go to the Y for a swim. Usually the things I truly need don’t cost much money at all.

I’m no longer under the illusion that living simply is simple in America. But as I work through the complicating factors of culture and my own ego, I’m more convinced than ever that with commitment, community, and mindfulness, it’s more than possible.

By making a commitment to live with what I have, I’m finding time and space to enjoy my life at home more than ever before. As in Mongolia, my home is becoming cozy and comfortable as it is. I’m taking more time to enjoy simple meals with friends and family. My daily walks and bus rides to work have become cherished time for reflection and for just enjoying the beautiful scenery.

As Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast.” And I have—and am—enough.

 

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Conscious Ingestion

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Huffington Post]

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What do you consciously ingest each day? If you are like most people, food is the first thing that comes to mind – as humans we intentionally consume food daily. It could be said that those who follow trends like mindful eating and elimination diets have a higher consciousness about what they ingest – meaning only that they are very intentional about the food they put into their bodies.

What happens if we expand the concept of ingestion beyond food and consider the content of the world you ingest each day? For example, what type of music plays in your car or office, what type of news do you read and from what source, what type of technology do you interact with and what people and environments do you source from each day?

Now consider, how the content you consume impacts your energy and attitude. Just like with consuming food, not all content gives energy or sits well internally. This can lead to a feeling of emotional or mental indigestion. (And just like with food, sometimes people keep consuming that which is causing discomfort, even after they discover how their body reacts to the input.)

If you feel like you might have emotional or mental indigestion and are curious to explore what types of content may be the source, start by creating awareness around the content you consume each day. For each person the answers will be different – but the questions are the same.

  • What type of sound do you intentionally and unintentionally ingest each day? (Think television, music, YouTube, background noise in your office, the soundtrack on your commute and so on.)
    • What type of information do you intentionally and unintentionally feed your eyes, ears and brain each day? (Think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, E-mails, magazines, books, cookbooks, children’s homework, newsstands in grocery stores, advertisements, signs in stores and so on.)
  • What type of people do you intentionally and unintentionally interact with each day? (Think people at work, on your commute, in your home, in the market and malls, in your neighborhood, your children’s friends (and their parents) and so on.)
  • What is the first content you ingest in the morning? (Your phone, your dog, your spouse, your children, yourself and so on.)
  • What is the first content you ingest before falling asleep? (Your phone, your dog, your spouse, your children, a book, a magazine, yourself and so on.)

Once you have developed awareness around what content you are consuming each day, you can begin to see what content may be linked to any feelings of emotional or mental indigestion. Once you see the link, explore the connection.

The difference between emotional or mental indigestion and physical indigestion is that the solution for content indigestion isn’t always elimination. Instead, it can be an illumination of an aspect of yourself to explore more deeply, which could lead to elimination of that content or in some cases a deeper yearning to consume more.

How could your life be different if you were to create more consciousness around what your eyes, brain, body and heart ingest each day?

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