How having a Sales & Leadership Coach dramatically improved my business, my results, and my life.
The Missing Piece
Over the last 12 months I have made many significant and positive changes in my life. In fact, just this weekend I was creating a new vision board. I did this same activity at the same time last year. When I was finished, I laid the two versions (this years and last year’s) side by side and was again reminded of how much growth has taken place. Even writing about it makes me take a deep breath in and release a sigh of gratitude. The only word that comes to mind is “wow”.
I have shared a lot of this journey on social media. I have been flooding Facebook and Instagram with pictures of meditation practices, underlined paragraphs from books, and personal development challenges. Most recently I’ve even ventured into blogging to further explain some of the ideas that have given me clarity, peace, and perspective in hopes that it might help others find the same.
It was recently brought to my attention however, that I have inadvertently omitted a piece of the puzzle. I haven’t yet shared the primary catalysts helping me to act on (for example) starting said meditation practices, reading those books, and creating my personal development challenges.
This is the story of that missing piece.
It’s written more from personal experience than many things I post but that is by design. It IS my personal experience. So, take what you can, leave what doesn’t fit, but I encourage you to read with an open mind and consider if something like this might be the catalyst you’ve been missing too…
Through a series of unexpected and serendipitous events, I found myself introduced to the idea of hiring a Sales and Leadership coach.
If you knew me, you might think me an unlikely candidate for coaching. You see, I am a bit of an overachiever.
The program was described to me as “accountability coaching”. If you were to read my resume (filled with impressive stats and aggressive advancement) or visit my home (where you’d find shelves packed with self-help and business books as well as dozens of marathon and half-marathon medals) you might assume that things were going ‘pretty OK’ in the accountability department. In fact, when I told my father about wanting to get involved in a coaching program I believe his exact words were “I think you are literally the last person on the planet that needs this.”
(Don’t feel bad, I don’t think this is the first time he’s been wrong.)
Or – maybe that was a fair assessment. I mean really, maybe no one “needs” coaching. Just like no one “needs” to live an extraordinary life or accomplish goals beyond their wildest dreams… maybe. But I have never been satisfied with average.
However, here’s the common misconception and the thing I am asked about most often from those privy to my involvement in this… As a person “not satisfied with average” you’d have to guess that I’m ambitious from the jump.
And you’d be right.
So, why coaching?
Here’s the paradox with being an overachiever. When you are an overachiever, the world makes it really easy to be lazy.
This might sound counterintuitive, so allow me to illustrate.
Let’s say you and I both work for a company that measures our value and production in the number of pies we can bake in a day.
Let’s assume that an average producer bakes 100 pies per day. Let’s also imagine that you and I are both ambitious overachievers and, as such, we can bake 125 pies per day – no problem. We can basically do this in our sleep.
It stands to reason that with slightly more effort we could probably bake 150 pies per day, but if everyone is in jaw-dropped-awe at our 125 pies are we really going to shoot for the 150? It would take an awful lot of personal inspiration and motivation to do so. Might as well ‘phone it in’ and let everyone be impressed as is with our 125 pies.
This is a lazy approach, for sure, but no one ever seems to notice.
Achievements and accomplishments are relative. It’s all about pushing beyond your own personal best – if you’re inspired to do so. It’s all about challenging yourself and finding out what’s possible for you! Not comparing yourself to the average.
Spoiler Alert: Comparison to anything outside of yourself is a bit poisonousness anyway.
I started coaching because I knew that I could bake more metaphorical pies. I knew that the world had made it too easy for me to be lazy and that if I wanted to discover what was possible it was up to me to make a change.
I paid for the program myself. Aside from my rent, it was the single most expensive monthly charge on my credit card statement. You know when people talk about the price of something and then say, “it was the best money I ever spent”? I get that. This was the best money I have ever spent. No question.
One of my first assignments was to work on my personal vision. I had to answer thought-provoking questions about where I was going and why. I created a list of 40 goals I aimed to achieve before the age of 40 (arbitrary numbers – just because it’s catchy) and I was tasked with creating a vision board.
This may sound cheesy but stick with me… This process made me realize something. Somehow, I had spent the past few years going through the motions and feeling my way around in the dark. I hadn’t even realized I was living this way. My eyes adjusted. I had grown accustomed.
This make it feel like someone had finally flipped the lights on. “Vision”; literally.
My coach was asking me to dig deep and answer these important questions but he had no dog in the fight. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like any time I’m talking “vision” or “goals” to anyone who cares enough to hear them it seems they always have a dog in the fight. They’re always tied in. My achieving or not achieving X goal affects them in one way or another. There had been no unbiased participants in a conversation about my personal vision. Until now.
I could answer these questions and craft my vision however I chose. Me. Solo. And my coach would hold me accountable to this exercise and make sure it was accomplished on a deadline.
Suddenly it wasn’t selfish to spend this time reflecting and dreaming. It was necessary. It was an assignment. But the teacher didn’t win or lose based on the content of my work.
I was forced to go inward and untangle some things.
Did I mention I thought I signed up for sales coaching?
But, as I would learn, it’s all the same.
Of course, I learned strategies specifically designed to help me within the four walls of my office as well.
I have been in management and leadership for nearly ten years but the year I spent in coaching was the year I truly learned how to manage and lead.
It’s not that I was terrible at this before. I had actually been quite lucky throughout the decade. I employed a strategy of reading a few leadership books per year, had discovered Success Magazine audio CDs before podcasts were the norm, and had picked up some good instincts on how to navigate through the maze of hiring, training and developing – but I probably couldn’t tell you how or why I made the choices I made.
It was as if I was accidentally picked as a starting player on a soccer team and although I had never actually learned the rules of how to play soccer, I managed to score enough point per game that no one noticed I couldn’t read the playbook.
Coaching helped me to learn the rules, read the playbook, and improve the plays being run.
I was no longer winning through luck and might. I began winning through skill and strategy – which, you know, is quite a bit more sustainable.
As a sales professional, I began to really learn how to hone my craft in an honest and technical way. It’s not about selling more for self-centered reasons or financial gain. It’s about learning to connect faster and more sincerely with prospects, determining if they’ll genuinely benefit from your product or service, and helping them feel supported in the decision to move forward and become you client or partner, or not.
As a leader, my experience in coaching taught me how to hold others accountable through love.
That’s right. I said the “L” word. Roll your eyes if you must but this was a game changer for me.
Tough conversations stopped being tough which alleviated a ton of stress in my world and allowed me to show up and be present when working with my team. I learned (like, really learned) that holding people accountable and not accepting less than their personal best is the kindest thing I can do for them. It is my ultimate service.
I began to feel more at peace at work, interactions became deeper, our relationships strengthened, and our results improved.
I could tell you that I learned about time management but that’s not completely true.
I learned that “time management” is an excuse we use when what we really need to improve is our “self-management” and I learned self-management strategies that increased not only my results and production but also my sense of control and happiness both inside and outside of the office. I now get more done and manage far less chaos. It’s fantastic.
Finally, if I’ve used too many words that make you uncomfortable like vision, service, love, and peace – let me hit you with some facts and figures because that’s a language I am equally fluent in.
During my time in coaching I grew my revenue by 89%, my business hit all-time highs in production and my teams consistently landed in the top 10% of the country for New Business Acquisition.
I can boil this all down to one word; accountability.
We all need it if we ever hope to answer the question: “What’s possible?”
The overachievers, the veterans, the newcomers, and those simply (or not-so-simply) seeking more – we can ALL benefit from someone holding us responsible for achieving our own personal best.
So, how many pies can you/your business really bake in a day?
PEACE & LOVE
PS – For information about the coaching program I used or, you know, just to chat about accountability 😉 feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Circle of Death.
While I am quite certain this was the name of a drinking game I played in college, I now have a new definition for the “COD”.
I have learned to master it – and I’ll share how I did it – but first let me tell you about this electronic circular nemesis to see if you can relate.
The COD I refer to steals my peace.
It interrupts my ability to be present.
It controls my thoughts by demanding my attention.
It introduces issues at inopportune times.
Basically, the COD jacks up my flow. (To put it in, you know, scientific terms)
The circle I am referring to is what our friends at Apple innocently refer to as a “badge”.
That small red circle that perches on the upper right hand corner of each App on your device.
The number inside the Circle of Death is like a mini scale telling you exactly how stressed you should be about this particular App.
Here’s how I interpreted this scale:
Red circle with a single digit = normal levels of cortisol.
Red circle with a number >30 in the center = irritation with a side of elevated heart rate
And (heaven forbid) triple digits = immediate cause for stop, drop, and roll
I don’t remember if my Blackberry had its own version of this ‘feature’ but it’s safe to say that I have spent the better part of the last 7 years engaged in a game of whack-a-mole with the Apple badge notification before deciding that I needed to make a change.
This idea came to me on accident.
I had committed to breaking the habit of checking email/social media first thing in the morning and I had posted about it on Facebook because; accountability.
A former colleague recommended that, to help me not feel tempted to check my phone, I turn off the “Badge Notification” on some of my apps.
I assumed that I would need to call upon a small dose of herculean willpower to ignore those little red numbers while deep breathing my way through the irritation and rising blood pressure.
It had never occurred to me that there was another way.
(Spoiler alert: there’s ALWAYS another way.)
I shared this new strategy on Facebook and the overwhelming response from my peers (all, like, six of them) was horror. “But what if you MISS something!?” they asked, half terrified, half disgusted.
I read their comments (aka warnings) and mentally shrugged.
I don’t know. Didn’t seem like THAT much damage could be done.
I could always turn them back on …?
So I made the brave pilgrimage into the settings of my iPhone and disabled ALL of the notifications for everything that I deemed “extra” to a phones primary purpose. My phone and I had a “come to Jesus” conversation. I her she was allowed to alert me of phone calls and text messages because her flip-style predecessor had done this without stressing me the heck out and the world kept turning. I laid down the law that my iPhone and I were going to follow these same rules.
No more Circle of Death.
I am proud to report that I have not missed a single thing.
I am also happy to tell you that I can look at my phone any time of the day and not feel an ounce of stress. I can actually see my phones background because it’s no longer cluttered by electronic acne and I quite like it.
This is what it ALWAYS looks like:
I have made this recommendation to several people are each has offered favorable feedback.
None of the people I have suggested this to had asked me about ways to better manage their technology (not my area of expertise!) and none of them would’ve sited this as a cause of stress or anxiety – yet each one has found it a helpful strategy for feeling less anxious.
Consider that more peace could be a simple system setting away!
PEACE & LOVE
Limiting beliefs are sneaky little pests that can do some serious damage. They’re like the mental equivalent of termites. They can be hiding anywhere – in fact, I once found several in the last place I would’ve thought to look… my goals!?
This is a PSA. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. We need to find these suckers and exterminate them. Leave no thought unturned… even when casually daydreaming.
Manifesting a Plane
One day I was out on a “database drive” with a salesperson who reported to me. A “database drive” might be exactly what it sounds like but in case you’ve never been responsible for a sales territory I’ll explain: Imagine a road trip, except much less fun. You drive up and down the roads in your territory and with painstaking detail you record observations from each building you pass – what is the company name? How big does it look? How many cars in the parking lot? Etc.
I see the value in this activity but I’ll admit… my mind wanders. After about 20 minutes this pseudo road trip gets very old for me.
So I was on this drive with a salesperson – I was driving, she was taking notes, and I noticed a structure set back from the road with a sign that read “Airplane Hangar For Rent” with a phone number. Immediately I thought: Man, I am dreaming too small!
I imagined that somewhere there was a couple that woke up this morning and, as they were talking across the bedroom getting ready for their respective days, one said to the other “…and after that I’m going to check out a few airplane hangars.” I marveled that this was occurring in someone’s day. The term “Airplane Hangar Rental” was blended into someone’s otherwise normal dialogue. Wow.
Why wasn’t I trying to figure out how to get a plane? What was I setting goals about?
Whatever they were they suddenly seemed too small.
I had an epiphany during that database drive. I was setting goals and intentions and using my thoughts to manifest material things but my limiting beliefs were putting a cap on my goal setting itself. (Disclaimer – I do not think that material things are the path to happiness! I know the plane will not make me happy. But having a plane would still be pretty f*&%ing cool. Why not mentally ‘go there’?)
I understand the position that aiming low could be a byproduct of staying grounded in reality… but personally, I rather aim high than be grounded.
After that day I started to, very casually and in an unattached manner, think about hangar rentals – and other absurd/cool things that might come with owning a plane. I found it fun to visualize!
A few months later the topic of private planes came up in a conversation with girlfriends and, in an outer-body experience, I heard myself say (warning – this is embarrassing – but it happened) “I know! I decided the next man I date needs to have his own plane.”
(Insert the sound of a record scratching to a halt.)
W. T. F!?
How did that happen?
To give you some context, I am above average on the independent-woman spectrum. I have never relied on a man to buy me anything (well… that’s not entirely true. I asked my college boyfriend to buy me a bunny once… but that was a disaster for 11 different reasons and is truly the only example I can recall of a time where a man purchased more than a dinner on my behalf) but somehow an imaginary man found his way into my aim-high goal setting.
Why does that dude get the plane?! And why am I creating this?!
Time to exterminate that sh*t immediately.
Enter Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been famously quoted as asking “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?”
I say “Right on! How can I?!”
Why do we place limits on how things come to us?
Why do we place limits on when they come?
I do this all the time. I write that I want to be earning X dollars by the time I am X age. But… like… WHY!?
Why the timeline?
Or, perhaps more importantly, what is that implication of that timeline?
If I personify my subconscious as a mini version of myself I can visualize her hearing the first part of the desire “I want to earn X dollars” and perking up! She grabs her mini running shoes and steels herself thinking ‘We have work to do!’ but then part two comes across her wavelength (or loudspeaker or however those things work) and she hears part two: “by age X” ‘Oh!’ she sighs ‘Jumped the gun! We have time. Let’s nap!”
I can’t help but wonder: Are we unnecessarily delaying our rewards by allowing our limiting beliefs a seat at the goal setting table?
Of course, they weren’t intentionally invited to the meeting – but have we made certain that they’re not around? Not in the walls? Not under the table? Not gnawing away on the legs of the very chair we’re seated in?
Here’s my recommendation and now-personal practice: Keep an open mind and unattached spirit in regards to how and when things come to you in general. Let the universe do her thing. But regularly double check your goal setting framework to ensure it’s structurally sound. Pay special attention to the language you use and investigate all time-related parameters. Don’t let your limiting beliefs delay, restrict, or diminish the full expression of your desires.
PEACE, LOVE, MANIFESTING & AIRPLANES (if that’s your thing).
When it comes to goal setting and (perhaps more importantly) goal attainment, Self-Talk (ST) runs the show!
Consider these ways to bring awareness to your Self-Talk and make sure it’s acting in your favor as your secret weapon instead of conspiring against you as your saboteur…
See if this resonates:
We want to set a new goal. Let’s call it an exercise routine because, well, almost everyone has been there. Let’s assume that we want to start an exercise routine because we’re hoping to see some kind of result – call it weight loss. So we decide that we will work out 4 days per week for 45 minutes per day. (*disclaimer – this is not a ‘how to set a goal to lose weight’ post… I definitely have thoughts on that too – but this is about our ST)
ST likes this goal because it’s not daily! She says: “Daily would be hard! Ugh we seriously hate exercise!”
This is what we want to bring awareness to! She’s at it already – telling us how hard this is going to be and we haven’t even begun!
So we wake up on Monday ready to start tackling our goal of 4x/week workouts. Maybe we achieve it on Monday! Maybe we even succeed week that first week… but at some point (fairly early on for most) we break a commitment to ourselves and ST starts saying things like:
“Well, I worked out Monday and Thursday… but now it’s the weekend… What day of the week does the week actually start on? Maybe I can work out Sunday and Monday and that’s kind of the same thing… 4 out of 8 days… that’s close to 4x/week… Ugh I knew this would be hard.”
She’s totally in the “push” position.
We have to push her to keep the commitment – to hit the goal – she’s definitely not our cheerleader. We have set her up for failure and as such she’s doing the same right back to us. No good.
So how do we make her our secret weapon?
Here is the often counter-intuitive answer:
We want to set a new goal – exercise – weight loss – you know the deal. Let’s start by thinking about something that would be a lay-up to accomplish but for whatever reason we’re not currently doing it. Maybe this is something we enjoy doing (for example, if you dig dancing maybe you commit to dancing to two songs every night before you brush your teeth) or maybe it’s something that’s so easy it would be hard not to stick to it (like 15 jumping jacks every morning). Something that makes ST say: “Well yeah, we can totally do that, but is it really going to help us lose weight?!”
Bingo. That’s where we want her! The first half of her statement is beautiful… don’t worry about the second half just yet.
Stick to the easy and/or enjoyable goal for a few weeks. If you’re Type-A like I am, make yourself a check list and make a mark each day to signify that you kept your commitment.
John C Maxwell famously said: “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
If you really want to conquer something, make it a habit! Make it a DAILY goal! It is exponentially easier to figure out how to fit in 15 minutes of “X” every day than it is to try to schedule 30 minutes of “X” every other day or 45 minutes of “X” every third day. The more “mental math” is involved, the more at risk you are of not following through.
(And to scientifically define “mental math”, it sounds like this: “What day is it? Wednesday? Did I do “X” Monday? Or was that Sunday? If I skip it today I could do twice as much…” No. No. No. That is awful. That is sabotage.)
So at “easy/enjoyable and daily” goals ST may be our ally, but how do we turn her into our secret weapon? Simple. It happens organically with momentum.
Because I am not a dance-before-teeth-brushing kind of girl, I’m going to run with the jumping jacks example…
Here’s our scenario. We commit to 15 jumping jacks every morning without exception. We tell all of our friends who might be with us in the mornings so that they expect this and encourage us.
(Oh. I don’t mean like friends around the office Keurig – although the more the merrier – I really mean the people who sometimes wake up next to us… our spouses, significant others, family members… or whatever else you’re into. Not judging. Just keep your commitments!)
We print out a Word template calendar and stick it on our fridge to track our victories… and then we rock and roll! This is so easy that we can’t NOT do it. Even if we have some crazy circumstance in the morning we can always knock out 15 JJs before bedtime and call it a win. With every successfully completed session of jumping our ST whispers a little “yes!” Each check mark on the calendar gets a “woohoo!” Sure, she may know this is easy but let her revel in it for a few weeks! Give her some EASY WINS!
Eventually she’ll bite the bullet and say: “You know… we can really do a little more than this. If we added 10 pushups to the 15 jumping jacks it wouldn’t take but a minute more…”
And now she’s in the PULL position!
Every goal is easier to attain when our ST is positive. Positive ST boosts our self-esteem and improves the way we feel – and the feeling of accomplishing is not much different than the accomplishing itself. It’s hard to have one without the other.
This can be applied to all facets of your life. From weight loss to business to literally anything you want to improve. Small incremental changes that seem too easy to matter lead to improved self-talk which will propel you to bigger changes AND improved self-concept.
THAT’S what happens when you take charge of your ST in relation to goal setting and put her to work for you!
Credibility is huge.
No matter what role you’re currently in, if you are interacting with other human beings you will probably be best served by having a reputation of credibility.
Regardless of the company name on your business card, in the modern day world of transparency made possible by social media sites such as LinkedIn, your results will largely depend on your personal brand.
In this post I will share what I believe to be the simplest way to build credibility – it takes little (or no) extra time of effort, it is extremely effective and it is often times overlooked.
First, some housekeeping. My intention is not to help you trick people into believing you’re more credible than you are. If you habitually underdeliver – clean that up. That is no way to nurture relationships or profits so fix that, stat.
Glad we straightened that out. Now you’re ready. Here it is – the fastest, simplest, most effective way to strengthen your personal brand by building trust and credibility – drum roll please….
Tell your clients where and when to expect you – and then show up there.
Tell your clients where and when to expect you, keep your word, and show up. Jackpot. (For realz tho.)
I don’t mean solely in the physical realm – as in, “Katie, I will meet you at 12:00pm in front of the Starbucks on Main Street” and then be there (although, yeah, do that too), I mean in every sense. For example, be specific about the date and time and you’re going to send the email with the proposal – and then send it at that date and time.
And herein lies the magic as well as the missed opportunity…
Let’s run through three scenarios pretending that you are my prospective client:
It’s Monday afternoon and we just finished a lunch meeting. As we’re getting ready to part ways I sincerely thank you for the meeting and the opportunity to partner. I close by telling you “I’ll shoot that proposal over to you!”
You say “Perfect!” We smile, wave goodbye and get into our cars to go about the rest of our days.
I put your proposal on my mental checklist and jet off to my next meeting.
You walk into your office and tell your CEO that you think this partnership could really work – and that you should have my proposal later today.
BUT WAIT. I didn’t say later today! I didn’t say anything! I left it open ended because, truthfully, I’m not really sure when I’ll get to it. That’s fine, right? Can’t under-deliver on a non-promise, right?
This time I close by telling you “I’ll get that proposal over to you by noon on Wednesday, would that work for you?”
You say “Perfect!” We smile, wave goodbye and get into our cars to go about the rest of our days.
I put your proposal on my mental checklist and jet off to my next meeting.
You walk into your office and tell your CEO that you think this partnership could really work well and that you’ll have my proposal on Wednesday.
I close by telling you “I’ll get that proposal over to you!”
You say “Perfect!” We smile, wave goodbye and get into our cars to go about the rest of our days.
I put your proposal on my mental checklist and jet off to my next meeting.
You pull out your iPhone so that you can post a picture of your lunch on Instagram and ‘check-in’ to the restaurant we just dined at via Facebook.
Let’s say in all three scenarios you receive my proposal at 3:34pm on Tuesday.
Here’s how the ‘credibility set-up’ (or lack thereof) plays out in reality:
In scenario “A” I was not specific and you interpreted my closing statement to mean “Proposal. Immediately. Top priority.”
If you get my proposal at 3:34pm on Tuesday you may perceive me as a slacker. In a best case scenario you might email me politely Tuesday morning asking where the document is (in which case I actually make perceive you as a nag!) In worst case you may have already moved on to another provider feeling slighted.
I didn’t tell you when to expect me so chances are when I arrive on my timeline, it’ll be out of whack with your expectations.
In scenario “B” I was very specific – you’ll have the proposal by noon on Wednesday.
If you get my proposal at 3:34pm on Tuesday I am a hero! I’m on my game! I’m EARLY! … and I get bonus points if I include in my email some language that references “I know I said I’d have this to you by noon tomorrow but I am really excited about working together. I reorganized some things on my end so that I could get it over to you a little sooner.”
Same result (proposal arrives at 3:34pm Tuesday), totally different impact (I’m a hero).
Another important thing to note – I am JUST as credible if this document hits your inbox by 11:59am on Wednesday. No need to come in a day early… but if you’re able, why not?
In scenario “C” I wasn’t specific and you probably don’t care. I would call this a “neutral” position.
Is there big risk here? No. But is there any opportunity for reward? Not really.
The only thing required for me to earn the coveted deposit in the credibility bank is that I say where I will be and I show up there. So in scenario “C” I haven’t hurt myself – but I haven’t helped myself either. This is a common example of a missed opportunity.
The specifics make all the difference.
It’s imperative to create alignment early and often with prospects and clients. If you think it’s not possible for your prospect to take your “I’ll shoot that proposal over to you!” to mean “within the hour” you are sorely mistaken.
As a rule of thumb, every time you’re NOT specific imagine that the prospect has taken your statement to mean “immediately” and the clock has already begun ticking. Is that fair? Maybe not. Is that the case 100% of the time? No, it certainly isn’t. But why risk it?
Implementing this strategy just takes practice. Demand specificity from yourself on all deadlines, commitments, and next steps. Leave nothing open for interpretation.
And when you leave without being specific (as you will… as I still do) call the prospect back ASAP.
Make the call as you’re driving away from the restaurant and say “Hey Katie, I’m so sorry. I know I just said I’d ‘get that proposal to you’ but I should have been clearer. I plan to have it to you by noon on Wednesday, does that work?”
That one minute phone call is a priceless opportunity to earn a deposit in the credibility bank… and avoid a potential deduction!
I am certain there are as many effective meditiaons as there are meditators – and I see value in all of them. This post is meant to give specific and detailed instructions about the meditation that I personally began with as I understand/experience it. This is not to say this is the “only”, “right”, or even “best” place to start, but this is my personal recommendation based on the powerful and positive effects that I experienced firsthand. After trying several apps and techniques, I found that this was the best entry-point for me to start a consistent practice. Maybe this will be an effective entry-point for you too! It can’t hurt to try! If this isn’t your jam – don’t give up on creating your practice! Keep trying different methods until you find the right fit for you!
Oh! And if you haven’t yet done so I recommend reading my post: “Why I Sucked at Meditating (and why you probably do too)” before you get started. Hopefully it will help to dispel some common misconceptions and help you to understand that one of the critical keys to success is simply the commitment to show up.
Gan Puttee Kriya: The Kriya to Make the Impossible Possible
3ho.org has a comprehensive explanation on how to perform the meditation. They’re the experts so I recommend referencing this page for official ‘instructions’: 3HO: Making the Impossible Possible
Here is my less-than-expert, unofficial explanation on what it is and why it worked for me…
First and foremost I sincerely believe that the reason I had such a positive experience with this is that I committed to it for 40 days. As you will discover, this meditation involves “chanting” so keeping my 40 day commitment meant that I sometimes had to tell my friends/family/houseguests that I would need 11 minutes of time during our morning or evening to meditate and chant (= weird conversation). In some instances (when I wanted to avoid said weird conversation) it meant sneaking out of bed at obscure times to whisper the chant and complete the practice on a dark kitchen floor (for example). It meant building 11 more minutes into my morning routine and/or redistributing 11 minutes of my already “busy” day. (See my post “The Lie We’re (almost) All Telling” for my thoughts on this). https://deemullin.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-lie-were-almost-all-telling/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true
Suffice it to say, sticking to the 40 days wasn’t ‘easy’ for me either, but I remained committed. I mean, c’mon, 40 days it not that long.
Once I committed and set my intention to do this I created a “meditation space”. If you’re picturing a guest room filled with Buddha statues and silk pillows a la “Arabian Nights” you could not be more off base (although that sounds lovely.) My “meditation space” is a little corner of my living room to the left of my entertainment center where I sat each morning and lit incense in front of my vision board.
For the “Making the Impossible Possible” meditation I sat in “easy pose” – which is a very close cousin to what children call ‘Indian-style’. The meditation is supposed to be practiced with your eyes “9/10ths closed” staring down at the tip of your nose but most of the time (especially in the beginning) I’d notice that my eyes would naturally close. (9/10ths may be ‘ideal’ but I say whatever happens happens – if you’re showing up to meditate I wouldn’t beat yourself up too badly on what’s happening with your eyes.)
Then you begin chanting as you move your thumb to make contact with each of your fingers (pictured on the 3ho.org page). You repeat: SA, TA, NA, MA, RA, MA, DA, SA, SA, SAY, SO, HUNG.
In my past attempts to explain this process I have gotten to this point and have been hit with some silly objections. I have often heard that this string of sounds is “too hard to memorize”.
Let’s be real: If you’re weirded out by the chanting too much to try it, I get that – but don’t kid yourself about the difficulty of memorizing some sounds in order. It’s not hard. Even if you had to spend your entire first session reading (vs keeping the eyes partially or fully closed) you’d certainly have a firm grasp on it by day two.
Most commonly I think people are afraid that this will look and feel funny. It does! But it’s probably not as bad as you think and (for me) the rewards significantly outweigh the “risk” of looking and sounding strange.
The chanting really helped keep my hyperactive mind busy. When I would sit in silence (which I am able to do now that I have a practice, but was unable to ‘start’ with) the mental to-do list was never ending, incessant, and very distracting. I found it impossible to even dip a toe into the pool of “zen” while listening to my limiting self-talk reciting all the things I needed to accomplish in the day and not-so-subtlety pointing out that right now, at this very moment (the moment of meditation-attempt), I was doing precisely zero of the things on the list. Ugh. No Bueno.
The ‘silly’ chanting was a game changer. At first I was preoccupied with keeping the ‘sound-words’ in order. (It wasn’t hard to memorize but I found it required a beneficial amount of mental effort to keep it flowing). Once I had it down, the chant had a kind of calming effect. The sounds, the vibration, the meridians… I won’t attempt a scientific argument but I bought into the idea that the magic was happening.
Here is my video to show how ‘accessible’ this can be: Making the Impossible Possible (like a Type-A New Yorker)
Finding a meditation practice that worked for me was life changing. I invite and encourage you to try this for yourself! I promise – without a doubt – that if you commit to 40 days of this and honor your commitment, you’ll have life changing results as well!
Best of luck getting your practice started and if you try this method, let me know how it goes! I would love to hear about and celebrate all of the “impossibilities” that you’re able to make possible!
PEACE, LOVE & MINDFULNESS.
Almost everyone you know is lying.
They’re lying to you, and they’re lying to themselves.
You’re doing it too!
And yes, I’m guilty as well.
Our widely told, widely accepted, and seriously limiting lie sounds like this:
“I’m just too busy”
“I don’t have any time”
“I really need to find more time”
That’s right. I’m calling it to the carpet. “BUSY” is bullshit.
Saying you’re busy is like saying you’re breathing. It’s so universal that it’s completely useless. Please show me a person who doesn’t believe they’re “busy”. The word is so overused that it’s basically nonsense.
Saying you don’t “have any time” is even more absurd. In many ways ‘time’ is the great equalizer because we all “have” (or “don’t have”) the exact same amount of it. There are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year… I mean, you probably know. This is true for everyone currently on the planet as well as everyone who has ever lived. The fact of the matter is that you “have” the same exact amount of time as Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, and (as my mug says) Beyoncé.
In addition, I have never once been walking down the street and looked down to find a ‘minute’ lying around – spare change, yes. Minutes, no. You can’t enter a lottery or compete on a game show and win more hours in your day, so where are we all planning on “finding” more time?
Saying that you’re “busy” or that you “don’t have time” implies a lack of control over your life. You paint yourself as a victim – that’s why the busy lie is truly a limiting belief in disguise.
Just because it is widely told and widely accepted does not mean it is not holding you back!
Take control! Stop telling this lie! Embrace the mantra: “Busy is bullshit.”
In no scientific or certain terms, here is what I believe happens when we say that we are “too busy”. Let’s pretend (for example) that you and I are discussing starting a daily meditation practice and you tell me you “really want to” but you’re “just too busy”.
During this dialogue exchange your brain hears something about the daily meditation and thinks ‘Oh, yeah! That would be so good for us!’ but then is quickly thereafter stopped dead in its thought process-tracks by hearing that limiting word: “busy”.
Your brain hears your declaration of “busy” and takes it seriously.
You automatically switch to victim mode. To “lack” mentality. To a place of “not enough”. This is a dangerous mental space to live in! Nothing can grow here!
Here’s the trick: If you were instead to say “I really want to start a meditation practice but I don’t know how I’d fit it into my morning routine” you bring a whole different energy and set of possibilities to this conversation.
I believe that your brain hears that sentence and takes it as a directive rather than a declaration. It’s like you’re asking your subconscious to work on a difficult math problem while you go about your day. Your brain is suddenly deployed on a mission. You’re in a place of possibilities. A place of codes to crack and options to consider. A place of control! This is where ideas blossom!
I’m not suggesting you wake up tomorrow and throw open your bedroom windows while singing to the woodland creatures about all your free time as if you’re in a Disney movie. That’s a place of delusion. That’s not the point.
There is a happy medium.
You will be better served by not defaulting to the common cop out of busy-ness. Stop being a victim and start getting real. Think about whatever task you’re denying yourself because you “don’t have time” for it.
Is it important to you?
Then make it happen. You’re NOT “too busy”.
And if it’s not a priority or you’re “just not that into it,” say so! Claim control. This is your life. It’s not happening to you, it’s happening because of you!
And when it IS important but you just don’t know how you’ll get it done, just sit with that. Try owning one of these responses:
“I don’t know how I’ll fit that in”
“I want to make this happen I am just not sure how yet”
“I’ll probably need to move things around”
“I need to think about how to make it work”
“I don’t know where to start”
Feel the energy of the above statements and how it differs from the energy of “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy.” This is a simple semantics switch that packs some serious power.
Ready to try it? Good!
First learn to hear yourself. Listen for the B-word. (This takes practice). When you catch it just immediately say out loud (or to yourself depending on the age of surrounding ears) “busy is bullshit.”
Break up with “busy” for good and start realizing all the things you’re able to make possible!
PEACE, LOVE & POSSIBILITIES.
If you already have a solid meditation practice – Rock on! If you want to create a practice but haven’t been able to get started – READ on!
Here are the three things that tripped me up most when trying to create this valuable habit & how I overcame them:
- I was under the misconception that in order to “meditate” I needed to “clear my mind”
I am Type-A, self-diagnosed with more-than-a-touch of OCD, and I am most comfortable in fast paced environments – which makes me impatient.For me, I am fairly certain that “clearing my mind” is not something that is going to happen. Ever.
Setting a goal to ‘clear my mind’ was setting me up for failure.
But I thought that was how the whole meditating thing worked…?
So I failed at it, avoided it, and ultimately chalked it up as something better suited for a different kind of person – probably someone who surfs more and showers less than I do.
What I have now learned is that ‘clearing my mind’ is not the aim of mediation (not for me anyway).
At first I would sit in meditation and it wasn’t much different than sitting, well, not-in-meditation. My thoughts would come rapidly, my mind would wander, and nothing special seemed to be happening. (More on this ‘nothing special’-ness in point #2) As I have become more consistent in my practice I find that meditating doesn’t stop me from having thoughts but instead allows me to notice them.
I visualize this as if my thoughts were attached to clouds by a clothes pin. Each cloud passing through with its own individual clothes-pinned thought in tow. Once the thought comes into focus I have the choice to keep it hovering and explore it in more detail or to give it a gentle push and send it floating on its way. I mentally thank the non-productive thought-cloud for stopping by and ask it to please continue on its journey. No room for you here right now, negative thought. Peace out.
I have learned how to better distinguish my thoughts – both during meditation and in the ‘real world’. Once you can distinguish what something is you dramatically increase the control you have over it.
I am a firm believer that there are only two things that impact the way we experience life: our thoughts and our habits. This habit (meditating) offers me more control over my thoughts and, therefore, my LIFE.
I had to take the important step of changing my expectation to gain that control. Expecting to clear my thoughts would never have gotten me here. Expecting instead to notice my thoughts = game changer.
- I thought something was supposed to “happen”
The first time you exercise you do not instantly transform into perfect health.
The first time you make a positive change in a financial habit you are not instantly wealthy.
Why do we expect that the first time we meditate we’ll feel instantly zen? Or expect something to “happen”?
Sure it’s possible to feel more relaxed right away just like it’s possible to feel stronger after your first session back to the gym, but neither scenarios guarantee the corresponding sensation, and if you do feel something immediately that feeling is just the tip of the iceberg.
The game changing key for me here was to just stick with it. The commitment was critical.
I started with a 40 day commitment and all I required of myself was to just ‘show up’. Just show up and try every day for 40 days. Do not judge. Do not try to be perfect. Do not look for the “something” to “happen”.
My favorite quote on commitment and consistency is from Darren Hardy’s book “The Compound Effect”. In this particular paragraph Darren is expanding on a quote by Jim Rohn. I love this and I repeat it to myself often:
“What’s simple to do is also simple not to do. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Remember that; it will come in handy many times throughout life when faced with a difficult, tedious, or tough choice.”
This framework can (and should) be applied to basically everything in life and it was important for me to take this to my meditation pillow. I had to learn that the magic will “happen” if you keep showing up.
- I was pretty sure I didn’t have “time” to meditate
I have a standard-to-extensive morning ‘getting ready’ routine for a 30 something girl who likes hair and makeup. I have never once in my adult life had an experience of getting ready ‘too quickly’. I’ve never looked at my watch and thought – I’ll just sit on the couch for a few minutes and watch ___ (whatever adults watch – news? Not my cup of tea anyway but, you know.)
My point is it’s not like premeditation me was strategizing how to fill all of her extra time in the morning! I had a window of time in the morning and my morning routine filled that window exactly. Believe it or not there’s actually a term for this: Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that a task will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson’s Law is part of the reason that nobody feels like they “have time” for anything, but it’s simply not true.
We have time for what we prioritize. We have time for what’s important to us.
This one is tricky with meditation because for us to bother to ‘make time’ (as if it’s something we manufacture) for it we have to believe it’s important.
Marianne Williamson frequently relates meditation to bathing. We bathe every morning because we find it unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our bodies. Once we realize the power and benefit or meditation we realize it’s equally unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our minds.
You wouldn’t forego showering or brushing your teeth in the morning and justify it by telling yourself you don’t have time. You’d take the task into consideration when planning your morning. You’d wake up at a time that would to allow you to get it all done.
I had (have) time. So do you.
If you’re looking to start a meditation practice (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do!) try keeping these three points in mind:
- You do not have to ‘clear your mind’
- It’s working even if you don’t “feel” anything the first (or second, or third) time
- Commit to a time frame and stick to it
- Be easy with yourself – just commit to ‘showing up’ and let the rest flow naturally
- You have the time (as long as it’s important to you)
I have had many girlfriends tell me “Oh yeah, meditation, I’ve tried it a few times and it’s never worked.” My answer? “I could say the same thing about dating but it’s not going to stop me from trying again” 😉
PEACE, LOVE & MEDITATIVE MORNINGS
40 Day Challenge: Why and What?
I did my first 40 day challenge in December of 2015 because I wanted to start a meditation practice.
The stories I told myself prior to beginning this (and throughout the first days) were:
- I don’t ‘get’ meditation (how does it even work!?)
- I am too ‘type-A’ to ‘quiet my thoughts’ or ‘clear my mind’
- I will just fall asleep if I try to meditate first thing in the morning
- I won’t be able to sit still in the morning because I’ll be running mental checklists of all the things I need to do (shower, blow dry my hair, straighten my hair, put on makeup, pick out an outfit <–I mean all really important stuff!)
- I just don’t have time to meditate
But somewhere inside of me a little voice kept telling me I had to do it. Had to figure it out.
I had tried meditation during some isolated incidents (yoga classes and whatnot) and I liked how it felt.
I am also a big Tim Ferriss podcast listener (if you’re unfamiliar with Tim he ‘deconstructs’ habits of the most successful people on the planet) and he found something like 85%+ of these major successes had regular meditation practices. So I thought: Fine. 40 days. I can do anything for 40 days. (You know, because I am ‘type-A’ and am great at mental checklists… see points 2 & 4 above. Wink.)
I started with a Kundalini Meditation called “Making the Impossible Possible” and in 40 days I felt like my life had literally transformed. (I have specifics on this particular meditation b/c while I think any meditation is better than none, this one really rocked my world so I highly recommend it.)
After completing the first 40 days I thought I had cracked the code and would be a daily meditator (word?) for life.
Perhaps this happens to some people — not me.
The open-ended nature of “daily practice” was too flexible for me (go figure). I didn’t feel like it was a ‘mission’ or ‘challenge’ anymore so I let myself off the hook… sometimes for days at a time.
I have since decided that two effective methods for me are:
- Having a finite timeline. If I commit to something for 40 days I know that each individual day is critical and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (even from the starting line.) In other words I can wrap my head around 40 days – I, personally, cannot yet wrap my head around ‘everyday’ and/or ‘forever’.
- Having an accountability group. I started a simple Facebook page called “Tribe 40” where anyone who wants to take on a 40 day challenge can join and share their experience. At this point it usually ends up being a lot of posts by me and one or two other tribe members – but we’ll continue to build. My hope is that people get what they need from it. I (personally) use the public forum as a way to stay accountable. Maybe some people can use it to see others attempting their own challenges before they’re ready to dive into a challenge themselves. I think every step towards self-development ROCKS so the Tribe 40 page is there to encourage those steps.
I am not going to attempt to explain WHY 40 days — throughout history and religion this 40 day time frame shows up a lot. But I am NOT an expert in either of those fields.
Yogi’s prescribe practices for 40/90/120 or 1000 days. This link will explain a little: https://www.3ho.org/kundalini-yoga/sadhana/40901201000-day-sadhanas
Bottom line? For me, it works. And that’s good enough.
When choosing my OWN 40 day challenges, I try to look at areas I am avoiding in my life or things I am making excuses about. (My list of excuses above about why I ‘could never’ be someone who meditates is a perfect example.)
If there’s something I want to try, a habit I want to develop, a little nagging voice telling me I should really do “X” or “Y”, I try to put it into a 40 day challenge for myself. So far the experience has been incredible and life changing.
I am ALWAYS happy to share exactly what my personal ‘challenge’ consists of (I am super into this so I’ll go so far as to make videos, send links, recommended books, resources, whatever I can!) but more often than not I find that the “right” challenge for you (for example) will be different from the “right” challenge for me.
My purpose in inviting people to join me is not to say “do the exact thing I am doing for 40 days” but more “grow with me by doing what YOU know YOU need to do for 40 days – and we can encourage each other along the way”. We are all in this together!
I believe that there are only two things that impact the way we experience life: OUR HABITS and OUR THOUGHTS. And the coolest part is that we control both!!!
A 40 day practice is an amazing way to exert some power over both your HABITS and THOUGHTS and I highly recommend trying it out!
PEACE & LOVE.