Thursday, December 23, 2010

The New Year: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As we bring each year to a close, it is important to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and learned, and to create intentions for what we want to be/do/have in the coming cycle. This can be done at the calendar year and/or the solar year (your birthday), since recognition of what it took to get us here is just as crucial as planning for what we want our lives to be in the future.

This is not about creating “resolutions,” as I believe they set us up for failure and feeling sh**ty about ourselves. The resolutions people make are usually about fixing themselves and their lives, based on “there is something wrong here” or even worse, “there is something wrong with me.” We are powerful, creative, resourceful beings that are traveling paths that bring wisdom crucial for our ongoing development as humans and titans in our own corners of the world. Shoulding on ourselves has no place here.

I created a three-part exercise called Looking Back, Looking Forward that is about clarity, choice, commitment, creation, and celebration. I believe it important to set yourself up to win by 1) creating closure for the ending year and celebrating all we did and did not accomplish and learn, and 2) designing a living, breathing plan you will continually revise and update throughout the coming year.

So, let’s get started. You can do this on your own, or may consider working with someone close to you for part or all of this exercise to capture things you may be forgetting and to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas. Whether flying solo or with another, find a quiet spot to write or type without interruptions. This may be in your home, a peaceful location where you feel calm and centered, or even a coffee shop. Breathe, relax, and reflect without judgment.


We so often want to charge ahead into “what’s next” without taking the time to consider all that it has taken to get us here. Who were we being that allowed us to create the successes and lessons? What did we do that gave us all we have? If we don’t take the time to acknowledge this, we miss out on honoring ourselves and our actions…and feel like we are always pushing ahead toward an elusive finish line that never shows itself.

Reflect. Begin by reflecting on what you have accomplished and learned this past year, so that you can powerfully complete it with honesty and celebration. Consider these questions:
  • What did you accomplish that you intended to accomplish?
  • What did you accomplish above and beyond what you intended?
  • What didn’t you accomplish that you intended?
  • What did you learn this year?
  • What would you like to be acknowledged for and by whom?
Below are some topics that you may want to include so that you can broaden your scope beyond the usual sectors of career, money, and health. Try to write down at least 2-3 items in each of the following areas, but you may find yourself putting down dozens of successes and lessons:
  • Career: your real expression, not necessarily your “job”
  • Money: includes both your finances and your “job,” if it’s not your “career”
  • Health: mental, physical, emotional
  • Relationships: friends, family
  • Love: romance, partnership, dating
  • Personal growth: learning, development, expansion
  • Spirit: relationship to self, universe, higher power
  • Community: contribution, involvement
  • Physical environment: home/work space, clutter, living location
  • Fun and recreation
  • Time/energy management: how you spend/utilize your time, what you say yes/no to
  • Communication: style, frequency, with/to whom
  • Miracles: something amazing and unexpected…
Celebrate. Then choose to celebrate the year in some way. It can be something like purchasing a gift for yourself, or it can be an action that doesn’t cost a dime. Whatever way you choose to recognize what you have achieved, the most important part is you consciously take the action with celebration in mind. Some examples may be taking a bath, making a toast or a special meal at home, or even going for a long walk.


Instead of focusing on the usual corrections and repairs, get clear about what you really want, not what you feel you should want. Base it on your values and sense of personal purpose/meaning -- and then set objectives and intentions for what you want to do/have and who you want to be in the coming year. These include tangible goals, objectives, and activities, as well as intangible intentions around who you want to be. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This will always be a working draft document, and can/will be revised throughout the year.

Then write down, in each of the areas listed above, a few intentions and objectives for the coming year. Some will be continuations of what you have already been focusing on (keep smoke-free, maintain my yoga practice, continue practicing patience with my kids), and some will be brand new (be open to taking risks, take a vacation, launch a blog). Don’t get too bogged down in the “how” just yet. Just allow yourself the space to be creative and think outside the “fixing” and away from the "more, better, different" point of view. What does your heart truly desire?

Some tips:
  • Create concrete SMART goals that include both a clear, concise description of what you want to create/accomplish, as well as a time-frame or “by when” date.
  • Be realistic by setting achievable goals. Winning the lottery, for example, is out of your grasp.
  • Describe your goals in specific terms. Instead of "I don't want to be lazy," opt for "I want to exercise regularly" or "I will cut down on my television watching." Consider boundaries and what you may want to say "yes" and "no" to.
  • Break down large goals into smaller ones. For instance, commit to losing weight by resolving to join a gym and improve your eating habits.
  • Find alternatives to a behavior that you want to change, and make this part of your plan. For example, if you want to quit smoking, but have smoked to relax yourself, consider: What other forms of relaxation are available to you?
  • Above all, aim for things that are truly important to you, not what you think you ought to do or what others expect of you.

You have reflected on the past year, you have celebrated and put it to bed, and you have created intentions and objectives for the coming year. The next step is: action. Remember, these are not New Year’s Resolutions; rather, they are part of your short and long term plans based on who you are and what you really want. Now is the time to jump in. Here are some suggestions for initiating and keeping your goals alive for yourself:
  1. Just pick something and start. You will not take on all your goals at the same time. Pick the top 3-5 that you can start making a dent in right now, and begin practicing. You may even want to take on the easiest ones first, so you can experience immediate success to get you motivated.
  2. Declare it. By keeping key friends informed of what you are doing, you are setting yourself up with a support system. Share your successes and challenges. This will not only help you, but will also motivate others and help them feel like they are not alone.
  3. Partner with someone. Create structures or commitments to help keep you accountable. Find a workout buddy. Partner with someone to help you keep smoke-free. Hire a coach. You don’t have to go it alone!
  4. Use your calendar. Make sure you have time and space set aside in your day for your activities, goals, etc. If a competing priority comes up, reschedule that time – don’t just cancel it. By carving out the space, it is more likely to stay top-of-mind and you are more likely to do it. Also, plan your procrastination if that is a problem area for you.
  5. Baby steps. Break your goals down into small chunks. For example, if you want to lose weight or gain strength, set some targets for the next 3-6 months, then work backward to determine how you will achieve that target. Put in some milestones. Create some structures. But most importantly, don’t get overwhelmed by the bigger goal; remember that you only need to focus on TODAY.
  6. Revisit frequently. Make sure you keep your Looking Forward plan in front of you, and update objectives and dates as needed. You can even do a Mid-Year Review to reflect on the first six months and revise your plan for the second half of the year. It is all about keeping this alive for yourself. When you do your Looking Back, Looking Forward next year, it will not only be an easier exercise (since you've been keeping track all year and will have a lot to report!), but you will have a whole year of successes and lessons to draw from for creating the following year's blueprint.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Morning Workshop

Each morning, it is important to set the tone for your day by having a set of practices that clear out the junk from your mind/body/spirit and create intentions for what is to come. This is about self-care, and it needs to go beyond just the physical preparations of making coffee, eating breakfast, showering and primping. And it need not take more than 20 minutes, depending upon the kinds of activities you want to set up and begin practicing. I call this “My Morning Workshop.”

Consider what you need to give yourself a real jolt of focus, energy, and enthusiasm. What makes the most sense for you based on how you usually wake up – reflective, jubilant, morose, anxious, physically keyed up or worn out? Do you need to calm your mind, clear it out, or give it a jump start? Would you benefit from taking stock, wringing out stress, or asking for guidance and support? What do you need to make your day one for winning, not dragging yourself through or racing to an artificial finish line?

Consider what you might want to include in your Morning Workshop. Here are some suggestions of things that work well. There are also additional suggestions in the blog post on self-care.

  • Stretching
  • Yoga exercises
  • Going for a walk or run
  • Light weight training
  • Deep breathing
  • Journaling
  • Morning Pages
  • Speak affirmations
  • Deep breathing
  • Setting an intention for who you want to be today
  • Planning out your day with your calendar/to-do list before you jump in
I’d like to share what I am currently doing each morning to help give you an idea of what this could look like. My current Workshop centers on the mental and spiritual (and breathing) to help me calm and focus; I save my physical exercise for later in the day. Yours will look different, depending on what your needs are. Don’t be afraid to mix it up as your needs shift, but be consistent with doing something every day.

My Morning Workshop (under 20 minutes total)
  • Breathe deeply – throughout
  • Light a candle, focus on my breath, and meditate – 10 mins.
  • Speak a spiritual treatment (a form of affirmative prayer) – 3 mins.
  • Gratitude practice (“I am grateful for X, Y, Z”) – 1 min.
  • Speak my current affirmations while breathing deeply – 2 mins.
  • Set my intention for the day (“My intention today is to be [calm, patient, focused, forgiving, etc.]”) – 30 secs.
  • Speak my closing thought (“I love what is. Today, amazing things will happen.”) – 10 secs.
  • One final deep breath – 10 secs.
Remember, you can (and should) change it up as needed. The main thing to remember is to honor yourself by committing a little time each day to doing it – even if you only have 5 minutes to get present to yourself and your day before diving in. But try to be consistent by doing it at a similar time each morning, and every morning. I can promise that after the first couple of weeks of consistently practicing this, you’ll start finding yourself more calm and focused -- not only at the start but more often throughout the day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Win-Win Sales Approach

To many, sales can be a stressful (or at least uncomfortable) process – whether you are in business for yourself or someone else, or are the one being sold to. But the sales process is necessary in every profession. Your version of selling may involve internal customers (such as, seeking buy-in from your team for your ideas) and/or external customers (enticing others to purchase your widgets, services, or expertise). And in some cases, you are using a version of sales in your personal life when you are attempting to persuade and influence people toward or away from a particular position (or even a restaurant choice!).

For years, I have been using a simple sales approach that has been very effective. It incorporates authenticity, integrity, self-confidence, workability, and even appreciation. It is also focuses on peace and ease where both parties walk away feeling like it’s a win-win, and each feels honored and respected in the process.

I was recently participating in a DailyOM self-study course called Heal Your Money Karma (by Spencer Sherman and Brent Kessel). In one of their lessons, they outlined a sales process called “Earning More with Less Effort.” As I was reading it, I was nodding my head repeatedly saying to myself, “Yes, yes! I already do that! This is exactly like my own sales process!” Because there are so many parallels, I have incorporated some of their points into the following process:

The 6-Part Win-Win Sales Approach
Step 1: Get Clear
Before you can pitch anything, you need to know what you are talking about – so that you are clear and confident when you speak. Take the time to think through 1) what is most important for you to communicate to others (i.e., your intentions, your features or approach, the fee structure, etc.) and 2) who your market is (i.e., who you will (and want to) be talking to, and what’s important to them). The clearer you can be for yourself, the easier it will be for you to be present and authentic with people.

A note for entrepreneurs: I highly recommend a book called Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, for getting clear about the who, what, how, where, and why.

Step 2: Determine Level of Interest and Fit
When talking with a prospect, it is important to be unattached to the outcome and to put your attention on them. Rather than focusing on “getting them” to be a client or a customer (or a convert to your idea or point of view), focus on identifying mutual interest and fit. Does it make sense for you to work together? Emphasize that your intention is for it to be a win-win for you both. Ask probing questions and above all else, do more listening than talking. Your objective is to identify whether partnership and collaboration are possible, and whether there is alignment in each party’s wants, needs, and values. It’s about both what’s in it for them AND what’s in it for you.

Do you feel like there is interest and fit on both sides? Perhaps you need to ask the question. If you are clear it is there, you can move onto step 3 to deepen the discussion around what is possible in the partnership. If interest and fit aren’t there (on either side), refer them elsewhere, and ask if they will refer you (if appropriate). There is no need for worry or disappointment; there are plenty of others out there that will be a better fit for you both. You want to honor both party’s time and energy by assessing fit relatively quickly.

Step 3: Be Transparent and Authentic
If you both decide there is interest and fit, it’s time to dig a little deeper and talk about the particulars of working together. Understand where your client is coming from. Again, ask questions and do a lot of listening. What they say will inform how you choose to present your product/service/idea, with the intention of giving them the information they need to make an informed decision. It is important to be transparent and authentic, because anything that even remotely stinks of coercion or deception will be in the space. We’ve all been in those conversations where we know there is more going on behind the scenes – and that leaves us wanting to run for the hills.

State anything up-front that you believe may cause concern, get in the way, or become a deal breaker. If you voice it, you are more likely to remove the emotional charge or fears that could be in the space if you were to keep silent and wait for it to become an issue. These may be issues around personal style or approach, concerns about company size or competitor differences, or even worries that gender may get in the way. Sherman and Kessel use this example:

A Sikh colleague of mine starts his sales conversations by telling the prospect "I’m concerned that my turban might get in the way of our doing business together." This statement is instantly disarming, and it takes his ethnic and cultural difference out of the equation.

Step 4: Discuss Money Sooner Rather Than Later
If you feel weird about discussing money, so will your prospect. This is something worth working through, as you will get in your own way, and will likely bring unconscious stuff into the space. When it comes to costs and fees, it’s better that you bring it up before your prospect does. Because money is such an emotional conversation/issue for people, you are more likely to take the charge out of it if you have an open dialogue about it. I recognize that issues of worth may come into play here, but the more you practice speaking with confidence (and without apology!), the easier it will become to talk about it. And the sooner you state your fees/price, the less likely you will feel later to discount. Sherman and Kessel have this to say:

Say it outright: "My fee is in the X-thousand dollar range; is that a barrier to us working together?" Or, in the case of a non-monetary transaction: "I have a 30-minute presentation; I’d like the audience’s full attention. Will that be a problem for you?" For the most part, buyers will say it is not a problem or there is no barrier because they’re intrigued to hear what you have to offer.

Step 5: Have an Open Dialogue
You are probably getting that sales is about asking the right questions, giving the prospect (and the sales process) space to breathe, and allowing the conversation to go where it needs to without being attached to the outcome. Of course, you will benefit from creating the intention of making a sale – but it must be a win-win for both parties. At this point, you have explained who you are, what you offer, your fees/prices, and any concerns you wanted to address.

Now is the time to ask the prospect about any concerns or need for additional information or clarification. Let them talk, and be sure to really listen on all levels. Share how you will answer their issues, and ask if your response addresses their concerns. Don’t say anything; just wait for the “yes” or “no.” If it’s a “yes,” you can move on to the next step. If it’s a “no,” perhaps you didn’t really understand their issue or need more information. If you don’t have a solution, be sure to say so. Better to be up-front about limitations, than to over-sell and not produce on the other end.

Step 6: Determine Next Steps
In the spirit of being bold and confident, particularly after having this robust discussion, you will want to ask the question: “What do we do next?” Ask this only if you are clear that YOU want to work with them; otherwise, you will want to tell them that you don’t believe you are a match. Through this whole process, you want the prospect to feel free to make whatever choice they need/want to make without fear of your reaction. Don’t help them or offer suggestions, nor should you pressure them in any way. As you probably already know, people have a hard time saying “no,” so you want to empower them to make the best choice for them.

In some cases, the prospect will say: I’m ready to sign/buy now. You’ve got your deal, and based on your particular offering, you’ll know what steps are necessary to seal the deal (draw up a contract, set up delivery, etc.). In others, they may say “no” (for whatever reasons they have). If this is the case, ask for a referral to others who may have an interest in your service/product/idea.

In other cases, they may say they need more information, or time to think about it. In this last situation, it’s up to you what you want to do. If they need more information, help them get it. If they are still researching (comparing competition, etc.) or need more time, you can either 1) choose not to wait, say it’s not a fit, and ask for a referral, or 2) set up a follow-up date. In my business, it is not unusual for a prospect to say they would like some time to think (or check their budget, etc.) to which I respond: “Not a problem at all, but I do request that we check-in X days from now so we can close the loop.” People appreciate that and feel they are being respected. And you are respecting yourself too.
At the end of the day, remember that this is about providing impeccable service (even if you are selling a product or idea), such that the prospect feels heard, understood, and honored. Many referrals come from people who had a great experience with you, even if they didn’t actually make the purchase (at least, not yet!). I’ve certainly had many people refer me who were never my client because they enjoyed our interactions and my no-pressure, unattached approach. And I’ve had people call me two years after meeting me saying they were now ready to work with me.

Remember that the key to successful sales is focusing on the win-win. Know your stuff, be authentic and transparent (integrity and trust-building), keep the process low-key (no high-pressure!), ask good questions (listen more than you talk) and address concerns directly, and be unattached to the outcome (there are plenty of prospects out there). Whatever the result, both walk away feeling like they won because coming to an agreement to work (or not) together was a collaborative process.

Following the six steps may not end in a sale for you every time, but it might result in a future business (a “no” now may be a “yes” later). And you never know who might refer you, simply because of how awesome you were to interact with.