eBusiness Blog

Self-Care and the Cost of Entrepreneurial Freedom

Self-Care and the Cost of Entrepreneurial Freedom

A top reason that most entrepreneurs go into business for themselves is freedom: freedom to pursue their dreams, freedom to be their own boss, freedom to set their own hours.

The surprise that comes for many small business owners is how many hours they have to work and how irregular the income can be, especially in the beginning. It’s stressful enough to make practically every entrepreneur seriously consider giving up and getting a j-o-b.

I’ve certainly been there, digging up old résumés and updating them in a way that might make a corporation not immediately dismiss all of my experience as that of an “expensive hobby.”

All those months of fluctuating income, all those unexpected expenses, all those nights and weekends spent at my desk instead of, I don’t know, at the beach—like the “expert industry” loves to promise us.

And yet, like so many fellow entrepreneurs, I’m still here.

The stresses of learning new skills, doing tasks you don’t love, worrying about money, going to endless networking events, and working more hours than could possibly exist in a week seem to pale in comparison to working for someone else.

It’s amazing what that sense of freedom does to us. It gives us the focus and the commitment to realize our dreams. And it makes us relentless in the pursuit of our dreams, no matter the cost to our wellbeing.

I have found that working for myself is generally good for my wellbeing. I’ve heard the same thing from my entrepreneurial friends and colleagues. We tend to be happier than when we work for someone else. We’re more productive, in better spirits, and may even get sick less often.

But the stress of owning your own business does sneak in. And many entrepreneurs ignore the signs of stress . . . until it finally hits them over the head with a sledgehammer.

All those nights and weekends spent working mean less sleep. Less sleep means a weakened immune system and vulnerability to illness.

All the client calls and networking events can easily overtake time for exercise or meditation. And all the worrying about money and clients affects blood pressure, neurological circuits, digestion, overall health, and eventually mood, memory, and concentration.

The irony is that you may have left a full-time job to avoid depression, a heart attack, and ulcers only to end up with those very things.

That’s why self-care needs to be an essential, non-negotiable component of every entrepreneur’s life. Preventive self-care is more effective than reparative self-care, for example, to recover from heart, brain, or digestive issues.

Here are a few suggestions for fitting regular self-care into your schedule:

  • Breathe
    You’re always breathing. But most people’s breathing is shallow, which contributes to stress and muscle tension.
     
    I’ve got a little routine of taking three deep, mindful breaths whenever I sit down at my desk. Doing nothing else, eyes closed, put all of your attention on your belly. Breathe in slowly and deeply, noticing the breath going all the way into your belly. Exhale fully, noticing your belly releasing and your muscles relaxing. Do this two more times, or as many as you need to relax both your body and your mind.
  • Go outside
    Going outside, even for 10 – 15 minutes, will give your brain and body a nice shot of vitamin D and oxygen.
     
    OK, in the winter, if you live far enough north, vitamin D is out of the question, but you’ll still get the fresh air and moving your legs to help circulation and concentration.
     
    As with the mindful breathing, make your time outside mindful. If you’re not exercising at all, set a short destination or time to walk. For example, at a minute, I walk to the park and back during the winter and around the park and back during the rest of the year.
     
    That’s 10 minutes in the winter and at least 20 the rest of the year. Make it part of your daily schedule. Easy to fit in times could be right before or after breakfast, right before lunch, or during the 3pm slump.
  • Have fun
    Every single week, set aside time to do something fun. It will lower your stress and heighten your creativity.
     
    Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way about taking a regular artist’s day—a day when you do something on your own, out of the house and the studio, to spark your creativity.
     
    I teach my clients to take regular “being days.” As entrepreneurs, we spend so much time doing that we need time to unwind and simply be. You should create your own being day to fit your needs.

For me, a being day involves no reading or writing. Those are two things I do every day and would happily do all day every day. And my brain needs a break occasionally!

So my being days involve going hiking or kayaking, going to a movie, going to a museum, meditating, walking, napping, seeing friends. My suggestion is that whatever you normally do is what you don’t do during your being day.

What about sleep, food, and exercise? Yes!

Getting enough sleep (7 – 9 hours), eating real food, and moving your body daily are all essential. I’ve purposely left them off of this short list because if you’re deficient in one of those areas, it usually feels daunting to make improvements there.

In fact, sleep, food, and exercise are three of the top issues for which people seek coaching. If you need improvement in these areas, you can take it slowly and start by focusing on breathing, going outside, and having fun.

All three will facilitate better sleep. Getting outside is more than halfway to exercising. And improvements in these simple areas can inspire eating better.

So step outside, breathe it in, and have some fun—taking care of your self while enjoying the freedom of entrepreneurship.

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

3 Essential Areas to Focus Your Business Spring Cleaning Efforts

Today's Priorities: Offerings, Bookkeeping, Marketing

Spring is finally here! I had gotten into such a habit of extreme bundling up this winter that I almost feel naked going outside without my face mask on. Seriously.

Since my January article about using “when-then” statements to achieve goals, I’ve done all right going outside for a walk every day.

I did not make it out every day. But my success rate was much higher than previous winters, and I’m going into spring in better physical shape than normal.

In fact, I’ve got enough energy to do some spring cleaning, and have been using some of the best odor eliminator cleaning products.

Just like our shelves, cabinets and closets, our businesses get filled up with clutter over time.

Too many products or services, too many networking events, a hodgepodge of social media posts, a confusing assortment of fees, and we end up with major business dust bunnies.

(Remember that you are not a fuzzy bunny.)

  • Those business dust bunnies can be insidious…
  • They clog up your creative channel…
  • They slow down your productivity…
  • They make you feel sluggish and uninspired…
  • They can even make you question what you’re doing in business at all.

If only we could turn on some magical business vacuum that would suck out everything we don’t need in our businesses.

Sorting through what is and isn’t working can be daunting. How do find time to do this kind of spring cleaning when we’re busy launching, promoting and selling?

Let me interject here that I do not enjoy decluttering or organizing. At all.

Well, I do enjoy alphabetizing books and CDs. But when it comes to dumping everything out in the middle of the floor, sorting what to keep and what to toss, then finding new homes for everything, I’m tempted to let the clutter build up until I can’t walk through it anymore.

Unfortunately—and opportunistically—that’s how it can end up feeling in your business. When we avoid decluttering our businesses, we end up feeling stuck and confused: stuck in a dip of no growth and confused about what to do about it.

In that dip of no growth, we may think it’s time to add a new product or service, or rebrand, or share a new photo on Instagram.

When I get to that point of scrambling for a way out of the dip, I think about Stephen Covey’s lesson about sharpening the saw. He said that taking a break to sharpen the saw will end up taking less time and make you more efficient than continuing to chop down a tree with a dull saw.

As much as I may want to ignore the business dust bunnies, I’m rounding them up and going into full declutter mode.

Here are some essential areas that can use some business spring cleaning:

  1. Product and Service Offerings

    Do you have so many offerings that you can’t keep them all straight? If you can’t keep them straight, then you know your customers/clients can’t either.

    Even when you can keep them straight—this is your business after all—it still may be too much for your customers and clients. Research shows that too many options actually leads to lower sales. For service offers, that can mean too many services or too many payment options.

    So, what’s the right amount?

    Amazon shows you a maximum of six suggestions when you add a book to your cart. Restaurants have found that people will choose the middle choice when they are given three options of different prices. (No one wants to look cheap.) And online marketers of information products have found success by funneling customers through a one-option-at-a-time model.

    What about you?

    For this business spring cleaning exercise, spread out or write down all of your offerings. Go through your sales records and put your offers in order of best-selling to worst-selling.

    If you have “too many” offers, you can safely eliminate the worst-selling ones. You can also eliminate whichever ones just don’t fit you anymore.

    If you’ve rebranded, revised or simply don’t love a particular offer, get rid of it. It’s your business. If you don’t love it, don’t sell it.

    When you’ve pared down your offers, look at your pricing model. What can you do to make it easy for a customer/client to say “yes”? Give them fewer options.

    I was coaching a massage therapist on simplifying her business model. She had more than a dozen treatment options, different options for length of treatment time, and basically a different price for each option.

    What she really wanted to do was spend 75-90 minutes with each client and make recommendations based on their health and wellness needs.

    I coached her to make all sessions 75-90 minutes long and charge the same fee no matter what treatment she ends up giving them. She was thrilled with the idea because it really simplified the model for her and would make it easy for clients to say “yes” to whatever treatment she recommended.

  2. Bookkeeping

    Did you get stuck on that suggestion above to go through your sales records?

    If you had ready access to that information, that’s excellent. You may just need a little dusting off of your bookkeeping.

    Are you happy with your current bookkeeping process? Have you been considering making a change?

    If you didn’t have easy access to sales information, then you’ll want to spend some time getting your sales records in order and setting up a system for moving forward. You don’t have to have your sales numbers memorized. But it shouldn’t take me more than a few clicks to get that information.

    I’ll admit that I haven’t always kept good records. I’ve never liked using Quickbooks or other similar software. (They’re not very pretty. And, yes, that’s important to us creative types.) Instead, I created my own multi-page spreadsheet (in Apple Numbers) to track both money and coaching hours.

    It’s great, but it’s gotten a bit unwieldy after more than five years and hundreds of clients.

    So I recently started using WaveApp in addition to my spreadsheet. I was thrilled to discover bookkeeping software that didn’t feel clunky or look ugly to me.

    I’m still getting used to it, but my message to you is to do what you need to do to get organized. Your form of organization can look different from someone else’s.

    That’s great. The point is that you (read: we) should be able to access those sales numbers effortlessly—joyfully, even.

    Explore different bookkeeping software out there. Look into hiring a professional bookkeeper. As cumbersome as it may feel now, it will be easier to handle now than trying to wade through even more disorder later.

  3. Marketing activities

    What’s your marketing ROI?

    As a former marketing consultant, I know how hard it can be to answer that question. So, let’s leave money out of it for a moment and look at it anecdotally, for purposes of spring cleaning.

    First, write down all of your marketing activities. Anything you do with the intention or hope of attracting a customer or client: Speaking, blogging, writing guest articles, in-person networking, professional breakfast meetings, monthly membership meetings, sponsored Facebook posts, regular Facebook posts, Twitter, free webinars or teleclasses, email, cold calls, connecting on LinkedIn, whatever.

    Next, go through your list and circle the activities that have resulted in getting a customer or client. Yes, this can be tricky if a post on Facebook started a conversation that led to a level of trust that facilitated someone becoming a client two years later. If that client mentioned Facebook when you asked how they found you or why they decided to hire you, then circle Facebook.

    Now go through your list and jot down an estimate for how much time you spend on that activity. You’ll probably have a different unit of measure for each one. You may do one speaking gig a month for 30 minutes.

    Maybe you go to two in-person events a week for a total of four hours. Maybe you spend two hours a week on email newsletters, three to four hours a month on free webinars or teleclasses (this includes prep time and follow-up time), and an hour a day on Facebook.

    How does your time spent compare to sales generated? If an activity isn’t generating any sales at all, you’ll want to rethink that activity. You might not need to toss it out, but you’ll definitely want to change up how you’re doing it.

    For the activities that are generating sales, go back to your sales records and do a quick estimate of approximately how much money those activities have brought in.

    Again, I know this part can be tough. Don’t fuss over the details. Just get a rough estimate. You’re pulling out some numbers to support the gut feeling you probably got when you started circling the sales-generating activities.

    You likely already have a good sense of which activities are paying off and which aren’t. Now you know for sure. So go back through your list and cross off the ones that aren’t truly supporting you and your business.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of those, you can add in a new activity—or beef up an old one.

Marketing is a constant experiment in what works and what doesn’t. It’s OK when something doesn’t work. That means you’ve discovered something to cross off the list, and you get to move on to something else.

When you view marketing as an experiment, you’re more able to play and have fun and not worry about marketing “failures.”

When you’re done with your business spring cleaning, be sure to celebrate!

Notice that I didn’t mention tidying a messy desk anywhere in this list. I’m with Einstein and Jobs on the benefits of a messy desk!

If your messy desk muddles your thinking, then by all means, include it in your spring cleaning list. (I do dust mine off and rearrange the working stacks.) While a tidy desk feels great, it won’t affect the real changes you’re looking to make in your business.

So be sure to take advantage of this change in seasons to do the deep spring cleaning your business really needs. What is your top priority for your business this season?

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

The Most Effective Trick I Know for Achieving Your Resolutions and Goals

New Year's Resolutions

I haven’t made a proper New Year’s resolution in I don’t know how many years. I’ve always been good about following through with goals. But for some reason, just like 80/90/whatever percentage of the population, I would inevitably fail on my resolutions within the first month or so.

This year, I made a non-resolution. And I made a plan to stick with it.

We pretty much set ourselves up for failure when we make New Year’s resolutions, don’t we? Think about it: It’s the night of celebrating after a week or more of overeating and over-sleeping. All of a sudden, with no preparation or plans, we think we can say, “I resolve to lose 20 pounds,” and magically it will happen?

Right.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t like birthday wishes we send out to the Universe while blowing out candles. Resolutions are commitments to ourselves that require some sort of plan to achieve them.

“But, ‘I resolve to work out every day’ is a plan,” you might be saying.

No, it’s not a plan; it’s a goal. “I work out every day” is a goal that needs a plan.

The problem with resolutions is that we try to force a new habit on ourselves without giving ourselves a structure to adopt it. For example, what does “I work out every day” really mean? It could mean you go running every day. Or walking or swimming or biking. Or maybe it’s doing yoga or dancing or lifting weights.

How long are you going to run or walk or bike or do yoga? What time of day? What if it’s raining out? What if it’s bat-butt cold outside?

This non-resolution that I set for myself on January 1st this year is “to walk, at least to the park and back, every day. Even when it’s raining or unbearably cold out.”

So, that’s my goal. What’s my structure? How am I going to make sure I actually do it?

I learned this amazingly effective trick in a coaching class I took a few years ago with Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Succeed. Heidi’s research on willpower shows that willpower is like a muscle. We have to exercise it to make it stronger, but overdoing it will exhaust it.

Her research also showed that we can make it easier to exercise our willpower muscle by giving it prompts to trigger it automatically. It’s like finding the reflex part of the willpower muscle. When the doctor taps your knee in just the right spot, your leg reflexively kicks out. We’re looking for just the right spot to tap on your resolution willpower muscle that will make it reflexively kick into gear.

The trick is to create a “when-then” statement. The “when” part is “just the right spot for tapping.” The “then” part is what happens when your willpower muscle kicks into gear.

An important thing to remember is that you must create the willpower reflex ahead of time, before you need it, and then practice it. It’s not naturally an automatic reflex like your knee-leg reflex. You’ve got to train it, not unlike Pavlov training his dogs with a bell.

Imagine this scene from just last week: I get my son up for school and see that it’s zero degrees Fahrenheit outside. (I start wearing a heavy winter coat when it hits 49. So my natural reflex to zero degrees is to stay in bed!) He goes to school that day by carpool, not by bus. That means that I don’t have to leave the house that day. I can stay inside and stay warm(ish) all day . . . and give up on my goal of walking every day.

Would I have a valid excuse not to walk? Shoot, yes. It’s zero degrees outside. The last thing I want to do is open the door, much less actually walk to the park.

But here’s where my when-then reflex training comes in. On January 1st, when making my non-resolution of walking at least to the park every day, I created a when-then statement: “When my son goes to school in the morning, I will walk to the park and back.”

I wrote down my when-then statement, and, here’s the important part, I practiced it. I sat down and said it out loud to myself several times. Then I said it out loud again later. And again later.

I said it when I went to sleep the night before my son went back to school. I said it when I woke him up for the first day back at school. I said it the morning I saw it was zero degrees Fahrenheit outside. And I said it when he hopped into the carpool car and I was tempted to curl up on the couch.

“When my son goes to school, I will walk to the park and back.”

And I did! I looked ridiculous in my face mask, but the when-then reflex worked. I walked to the park and back. It’s not much, but it’s more than I normally do in the winter.

If you’re wondering what I do for the weekends when my son doesn’t go to school, I have another when-then statement for that situation: “When I’m done eating breakfast, I will walk to the park.”

Creating – and practicing! – a when-then statement is a powerful technique for any action-resistant tasks you have. It’s great for changing your diet, quitting smoking or drinking, starting any new habit, or eliminating an undesirable behavior.

“When I feel like eating a cookie, I will have an apple instead.”
“When I feel like having a beer, I will drink a kombucha instead.”
“When I feel like yelling, I will take a breath and whisper.”

Here are a few tips for creating your when-then statement:

  1. Make it short
  2. Make it specific
  3. Make it easy
  4. PRACTICE IT

Your when-then statement needs to be something you can easily remember. Make it short and sweet. Rambling isn’t powerful, no matter how poetic it may be.

Be very specific with your when-then statement. I was specific about “when my son goes to school” and “when I’m done eating breakfast.” Those are my triggers. Remember, the doctor isn’t tapping all over your leg. She goes straight to the reflex spot on your knee.

Make sure the “then” part of your statement is something you can actually do. Notice I didn’t say “I will walk 5 miles in a blizzard.” Walking to the park and back takes me 10 minutes. That’s totally doable.

Remember that the key to making this work is to practice your when-then statement so that it becomes a willpower reflex. Practice it enough and when you want a cookie, you WILL quickly stop wanting the cookie because a Pavlovian-like response kicks in making you want an apple instead.

I love using the when-then technique to help me achieve my willpower-resistant goals. And I’m actually excited about following through with my non-resolution to walk every day.

How can you create when-then statements to help with your goals?

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

What Lions, Hippos and Hyenas Taught me about my Business

Lioness

Hyenas, yuck.

Who would want to be a sneaky, scavenging, underhanded hyena?

I used to hate hyenas. You’ve seen them steal hard-earned food from lions in nature documentaries. You’ve seen them conspire with Scar and decimate the Pride Lands in “The Lion King.” And that cackling “laugh.”

Hyena in the mudThey’re just so creepy.

You know what? That underhanded creepiness that we hate about hyenas is really a reflection of what we fear in ourselves.

Hear me out for a minute.

What you love about lions—their grace, their nobility, their beauty—is what you aspire to in yourself.

What you love about hippos—their earthiness, their easygoing nature, their adorable awkwardness—is what you accept in yourself.

But everything about hyenas—how they skulk around, how they take what they haven’t earned, how they look so freaky—is what you’re trying so hard *not* to be.

You want the power and the grace of lions and the easygoing nature of hippos, while you fear the underhandedness of hyenas.

Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically here. Unless you’re animal-centric like I am, you’re probably not consciously thinking, “I’ve got to be more like a lion and less like a hyena.”

The thing is, as powerful as these metaphors are, they’re also a great source of misunderstanding—about the animals AND about yourself.

Lions and hippos and hyenas aren’t everything you think they are. They’re much less and much more.

Just like YOU.

Everything you think about yourself, the image you hold of yourself, the identity you carefully fabricate—you are none of it and all of it.

You *are* the grace and the beauty of lions.

You *are* the earthiness and the adorable awkwardness of hippos.

And, yes, you possess the potential for the skulking, sneaking, stealing underhandedness of hyenas.

It’s all part and parcel of your true power. It never comes with all “good” and no “evil.” It’s none and both and everything wrapped into one big beautiful mess of a human life.

You’ve probably heard that male lions will conquer a new pride by defeating the ruling males, killing the cubs and then mating with the females to establish their own breeding line.

Yes, the noble lion pillages, rapes and plunders.

hippo entering the waterIt’s not just lions. Male hippos do the same thing. Can you imagine?!?

Yes, those lovable and adorably awkward hippos will conquer a new pod by defeating the males, killing the babies and raping the females.

A little more bad news about lions: Did you know that they don’t just hunt, they also scavenge and steal from other predators—just like hyenas? It’s true. How’s that for nobility?

Now that I’ve ruined lions and hippos for you, let’s elevate hyenas a bit.

Sneaky, underhanded hyenas live in matriarchal groups, led by an alpha female. They do not conquer other groups and kill their babies. Yes, they will scavenge and steal, but they are also powerful, strategic hunters—often even better hunters than lions.

Hyenas are actually pretty awesome. Living in matriarchies like they do makes them a lot like elephants.

You love elephants, right? It’s time to start loving the smart and strategic hyena, too.

Now that we’ve cleared up some of the misunderstanding about these animals, let’s clear up some of the misunderstanding about yourself.

I said that what you hate about hyenas is what you fear in yourself.

You want all the beauty, grace and power of the lion but none of the scavenging and stealing that you associate with hyenas.

Cutting yourself off from part of your power cuts you off from all of your power.

It’s like having an 8-cylinder engine in your car but using only 2 cylinders. You may as well not have those other 6 at all.

I understand the fear that comes with powerthe fear that your smarts will turn into trickery, that your strategy will become manipulation, that your ambition will lead to unearned riches. Instead of learning how to manage these very real possibilities, you block your power, extinguish your passion and cut yourself off from who you really are. I know because I’ve done it and still notice myself doing it sometimes.

That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to our fear.

Fear is never a “one and done” or even a “5 steps to banish fear forever” type of thing. It is an ongoing process. Even as I teach other people how to manage, learn from and release fear, I continue to work on it in myself.

When I was on safari in Kenya and Tanzania last month, I found myself constantly wondering, “Where am I cutting off my full Lion power? Where do I need to bring in more Hippo power? How has being afraid of my Hyena side kept me stuck?”

I discovered that I wasn’t using the power of my pride—both literally and figuratively.

I haven’t been taking advantage of having a strong network of connections. I’ve been trying to do everything alone, while lions know that there is more power in the group.

I also realized that I haven’t tooted my own horn when I should. I had fallen into the trap that so many women do of being dismissive of my accomplishments.

Self-deprecation doesn’t get you noticed. And when you’re an entrepreneur, you must get noticed.

They Hyena side I’ve been afraid of also has to do with strategy and connections. I usually feel as if the only way to ensure that I’ve “earned” something is to do it all myself.

I’ve been hesitant to reach out to potential JV or promotional partners out of fear that they would think I was trying to get something for nothing. Of course, this fear has completely ignored the value I’d be bringing to them.

Be a lion. Be a hippo. Be a hyena. You don’t have to pick just one. Be all; fear none.

How about you? Where are YOU cutting off your full power, running on only two cylinders, being stuck in fear in your business?

Share with us in the comments section below:

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

 

How to Wake Your Entrepreneurial Dragon

Waking the entrepreneurial dragon

The fairy tales and legends teach us that dragons are dangerous, that they are creatures to be slain. Hogwarts (in the Harry Potter books and films) has the school motto of “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus,” or, “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.” Smaug (in the Hobbit book and films) goes on a dwarf-killing rampage before stealing their treasure.

These stories show us the danger that is inherent in great power—and end up making us fear our own power.

As an entrepreneur, you possess great power. You have the power to grow a business, to create jobs, to innovate solutions, to change the world. In many ways, these are the “easy” powers of an entrepreneur. These are the powers that are universally entrepreneurial. These are the powers that you probably feel most comfortable with.

It’s your dragon powers that make you uncomfortable and even downright fearful.

What are your dragon powers?

Your dragon powers are your unique set of gifts and talents that make you different from all other entrepreneurs out there.

Your dragon powers enable you to command attention, to soar above the competition, to disrupt the status quo, and to ignite a burning desire in your customers and clients.

That sounds pretty awesome, right? So, what’s the problem? Why would anyone—especially an entrepreneur—try to hide their dragon powers?

We all hide our dragon powers because we’re afraid we won’t be able to control them, that we’ll end up doing damage with them. Imagine one fire-breath from a dragon destroying a house or a village.

Entrepreneurs try to hide their dragon powers because they—YOU—are even more aware of the responsibility and ripple effect of your power. Through your Chapel Valley Landscape Architect, you not only touch the lives of your immediate customers and clients, you also touch the lives of everyone around them. Through your business, you create deep and wide ripples.

Knowing the effects of your power naturally makes you more cautious about expressing your full power. You want to be careful about how you express it, how you use it. You want to make sure that you only do good with your power, no bad.

And some parts of your power feel too big, too dangerous, too scary to let out. Some parts of your power really do feel like a fire-breathing dragon whose power can’t be controlled. And so you put your entrepreneurial dragon in chains. You lock it away in a dungeon. You try to forget it’s even there.

Here’s where the real danger starts. That chained up, locked away, long-forgotten dragon is not dead. It is weakened but alive. It is angry. And it desperately wants to come out.

Your entrepreneurial dragon may look like a type-A need for control. It may look like an obsessive passion. It may look like a deep intuitive knowingness of the best action to take.

While type-A personalities were all the rage in the 1980’s, today we’re told to “let go” of control, to lower our expectations, and to accept “good enough.” Type A’s are warned that we’re going to get a heart attack or a stroke and just need to calm down.

In actuality, it’s suppressing this dragon power that hurts the heart. Seeing the details, having high expectations, and orchestrating excellence are huge gifts. Just because most people don’t have these gifts does not mean that YOU shouldn’t express them yourself.

Type-A gifts are commonly locked away today because of the bad rap Type A’s have gotten over the years. Yes, you can get out of hand and become overbearing in your efforts to control everything. You can intimidate or anger people with your micromanaging. You can come across as arrogant in your knowingness and your propensity for being right.

So, are you just supposed to ignore your entrepreneurial dragon gifts?

Absolutely not. When it comes to your entrepreneurial dragon, ignoring it does not make it go away. Ignoring it makes it temperamental and makes YOU less good at using those gifts.

In contrast, the more you use your dragon gifts, they happier your entrepreneurial dragon is, and the better you get at using the gifts. You begin to master them, making you feel accomplished and ensuring that your dragon gifts are used for the highest good.

Your entrepreneurial dragon will know it doesn’t need to breathe fire indiscriminately when it can focus its fires as often as it likes. It won’t need to destroy a village when it knows it can tear down structures that aren’t working for you. It won’t need to steal someone else’s treasure when it knows that it can help you manifest your own treasure.

Rather than trying to slay your dragon, harness its power. Claim its power as your own.

Unearth those gifts that you’ve locked away. Own everything that makes you uniquely YOU.

When you first let your entrepreneurial dragon out of the dungeon, it may go a little crazy. (Ok, maybe even a lot crazy.) That’s all right. Just give it space to spread its wings, to breathe a little fire, and to have a little fun.

Then give yourself the space to grow into these powers and to master your dragon gifts.

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

 

 

Digging Up Your Buried Treasure

Treasure Chest

In my last article, I wrote about becoming aware of things that are hidden in plain sight, things we’re so accustomed to that we stop seeing them.

That increased awareness of what’s right in front of us is really just the first step. The next step, the bigger step, is to go digging for what’s hidden from sight.

I know this can be a bit scary. There’s a saying that goes, “If you go digging, you’re going to find dirt.”

Yes, you are. But you’ll also find treasure, especially when you’re digging into your own psyche. Because that’s what I’m taking about doing: Digging into your own psyche to find the treasure you buried away.

What is this treasure that you’ve buried away? It’s usually one of your greatest strengths: your creativity, your broad perspective, your turning everything into a story, your ability to spot flaws, your restless innovative spirit.

It may sound crazy that you’d bury away your own greatest strength. But I’ve seen it time and again in my clients and even in myself. Why? It’s usually because this gift that sets us apart is often misunderstood, unappreciated or outright criticized by other people.

When I insisted that a client’s ability to spot flaws is actually a gift, she argued, “How can it be a gift if no one gets it or appreciates it?”

Just because something isn’t understood or appreciated by others doesn’t mean it isn’t a gift to be mastered.

With this client, her ability to spot flaws has saved her company money and embarrassment by getting to fix the flaws before a product launch. Do her husband, kids, friends and colleagues like it that she’s always pointing out what’s wrong? No. In fact, she’s lost relationships over her hyperawareness of flaws. And that’s why she buried this gift.

Rather than keep the gift buried, I suggested that she dig it up and master it. Mastery involves using this gift in a way that allows her to keep and ideally even strengthen her relationships. Instead of always looking for flaws, she is playing with putting a filter on the gift in certain situations, such as in her relationships.

But she has to take that filter off and all the gift to come forward in order to feel happy and fulfilled. She understands this fact because she was deeply unhappy and restless when she was keeping the gift buried.

Digging up your gift doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. Constant innovation can make you feel unsettled. Turning everything into a story can make people lose interest in what you’re saying.

Keeping a perpetually broad perspective can keep you flying in circles, missing the details and avoiding making decisions.

A more effective way to master your gift is to find the right outlet for it. Instead of pointing out your spouse’s personal flaws, use your gift while editing, doing the books, organizing, or applying Feng Shui to a room. Instead of losing focus by constantly reinventing the wheel, schedule some time during which you can go crazy innovating and creating.

So, how can you dig up your buried treasure, your unique gift?

You may already know what it is just from reading this article. If you don’t, or if you’re still rejecting it as a gift, then journal about these four questions.

  1. What comes easily and naturally to me?
  2. What energizes me and really lights me up?
  3. What has made me feel special and different from other people?
  4. What has made me feel separate and disconnected from other people?

Don’t censor yourself while answering these questions. Just let the words flow, and write down anything and everything that comes to you.

After you’ve answered all four questions (by the way, that last one is key), read your responses and pick out the patterns and the themes. Follow that thread, and you’ll find your gift—or gifts.

Give your gift a name, something that feels empowering and inspiring. The Fixer of Flaws. The Seer of Infinite Possibilities. The Weaver of Stories. This is like your superpower. I call it your Soulpower. So create a name you’d be proud to wear on your chest.

Now claim your gift, your Soulpower (e.g., “I am the Seer of Infinite Possibilities”) and use it. Even if people don’t understand, even if you get criticized, keep at it. Mastery takes practice.

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

 

 

Hidden in Plain Sight

The Lady in White by Edmund Oppenheim

My daughter was home from college for winter break and brought her boyfriend for his first visit to Pittsburgh. They are in art school together, and I had a painting I wanted to show him. It’s a painting I’ve had for 20 years or so and really love.

And I couldn’t remember where it was. We sat there at the dining table, the whole family, trying to figure out where that painting was hanging. We knew it was in the house. We all remembered where it used to be hanging and we remembered that I had moved it a couple of years ago.

But we couldn’t envision where it currently hung.

As we were clearing the table and taking dishes into the kitchen, we saw it. Literally. This beloved painting was hanging just outside the dining room on the way to the kitchen—in the main entry hall. We walk by it every day, multiple times a day and we had stopped seeing it.

It was funny, but it was also really startling. How could I simply stop seeing something that I loved—claimed to love—so much?

How could we all stop seeing something that we walked past every single day?

It’s normal, isn’t it? It happens to all of us. You go through your daily life on autopilot and just stop noticing things. Like the buildings on your way to work or school. Until one of them gets demolished. Then you notice that the building is gone, but you can’t actually remember what it looked like.

We notice change more than we notice the status quo. And even then we tend to notice change only when it directly affects us. We don’t notice that somebody moved the bottle opener until we reach for it in the drawer and discover it’s not there.

This “hidden in plain sight” painting experience got me wondering about what I wasn’t seeing in other areas of my life: in my relationships, in my health, in my business. It got me wondering how something could just disappear from my awareness like that. For upcoming events click here to see painters and decorators in london.

I started wondering what I could do to stay more aware—at least of the things that matter most to me.

I realized that things (and people) disappear from our awareness when we stop putting our attention on them. When my daughter was home from college, I realized how little I knew about what she  is doing in college.

Since she’s out of state, I rarely see her. We both get caught up in our daily lives and don’t talk as often as we may like, and she’s not on Facebook (if you can believe that!). When she’s at school, we fade from each other’s awareness.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but we realized over her break how easy it is to let weeks go by without talking and that we had a lot of catching up to do.

In my business, I discovered that I was not seeing an untapped source of income. I was writing, blogging and doing some free introductory teleclasses and not seeing the opportunity to combine it all into paid teleclasses. I know, I know. Pretty obvious from the outside. (It took working with my coach to see it myself.)

I had just gotten so habituated to doing things a certain way that I wasn’t seeing other possibilities. I wasn’t seeing the goldmine because I was used to seeing all the dirt.

What was so frustrating to me was that I’m actually really good at seeing things from different perspectives. That’s what people hire me for. And yet here were areas where I wasn’t doing it for myself.

So now I’ve implemented some practices to help me see what’s hidden in plain sight and to prevent the things I really care about from disappearing in the first place.

  1. I get still and quiet:
    Literally sitting down—without a computer, iPad or phone, without a book, magazine or agenda—helps me see things I was missing and remember things I had forgotten. I’ve been enjoying sitting quietly with a cup of tea in a different room every day. I drink my tea slowly and just look around the room. Yes, my mind starts going as I discover the hidden secrets of the room. But the point isn’t meditation. The point is discovery—re-discovery.
  2. I change my perspective:
    Instead of changing my perspective just to solve a problem, I proactively change my perspective to prevent problems and to keep thing fresh.I ask myself questions such as, “How can I be a better mom today?” “What does my body need today?” “What could I try that I haven’t done before in my business?”
  3. I reassess my priorities:
    Recognizing that it’s a normal function of the human brain to stop seeing what’s right in front of us, I ask myself “What’s important to me right now” as a way to put that thing (or person) back in focus for me.Are there things or people I forget? Of course. But this simple question has been more effective than my to-do list as getting me focused “on the right things.”

You may know the metaphor of putting golf balls in a jar, then adding pebbles, then adding sand, and finally adding beer (or other liquid) to fill the jar. The idea being that the golf bars are the big things in life: family, spirit, life purpose, friends. If you don’t put them in first, all the little things will take up space and you won’t have room for the big things that really matter. Following that metaphor, you could ask yourself every day, “What are my golf balls today?”

Steven Covey wrote about “putting first things first.” Put your golf balls in first. I accidentally typed “gold” balls, and I like that image better! Put your gold balls first.

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.

No Fuzzy Bunny: Brand Alignment and Spirit Guides

Stained glass bunny

The most common branding problem I see in solo-preneurs is having a brand that feels “off”.

When you’re a solo-preneur, You are your brand. Your life is your brand. Everything you do, say, write, eat, drink and wear is a reflection of your brand.

In that sense, it seems like it should be easy to create a brand that’s a perfect fit. Just be yourself!

In reality, creating a brand that’s an accurate reflection of who you are and what you are doing through your business is really tough. Part of it has to do with fear—being afraid of showing who you really are in your brand, or being afraid that clients and customers may not hire or buy from you if they knew the real you. So, instead of just being yourself, you copy what seems to be working for other people. You try to mold yourself to what you think people are looking for.

If you’re naturally shy or introverted, you may push yourself to be outgoing and social. If you’re emotionally sensitive, you may force yourself to be more logical. If you want to work with clients individually or short-term, you may convince yourself to offer long-term group programs because everyone tells you that’s where the money is.

When you give up your Self for an inauthentic brand, you end up feeling lost. You hesitate to answer the dreaded “what do you do” question. You make excuses about the state of your website. You stop taking the initiative to close the sale. And the sales you do close feel hollow.

The irony is that your brand may actually look fabulous and, on the surface, draw people in. Your business may be “successful,” and yet You still feel like you are floundering.

This was me just a few years into my coaching business. I had a brand and a website that people loved. I was getting clients—even random people finding me online.

But something still felt off. I hated answering, “So, what do you do?” As beautiful as my website was, I still told people, “It’s in transition.” And every time I got a new client, part of me worried that they didn’t really know who they were hiring.

So, what changed?

I was meditating one day and suddenly heard these words: “You are not a fuzzy bunny!”

I actually started laughing out loud. See, I work with spirit animals (animal totems or animal archetypes), both for myself and my clients. And I realized that I was trying to be a fuzzy bunny instead of a panther and a hawk, my real spirit animals.

People love fuzzy bunnies. They love to be near them and to touch them. They ooh and aah over fuzzy bunnies. And that’s what I thought I had to be in order to have a successful business.

But being a fuzzy bunny is exhausting to me. I am naturally introverted and highly sensitive—characteristics that can make marketing and networking difficult but that are deeply useful in coaching clients.

In that moment while meditating, I understood that in trying to be a fuzzy bunny, I had fallen out of alignment with who I really am. Feeling disconnected from my brand made sense; I was trying to connect to something that wasn’t me.

And the solution became immediately clear: Reconnect with my actual spirit animals and use them in my brand.

How did I do that?

  • I owned the gifts and messages of my spirit animals
  • I used my spirit animals’ messages as part of my marketing message
  • I made sure my brand essence had the same feeling as the essences of my spirit animals

I didn’t change my business name or create a logo out of a panther or a hawk, though some of my students have. One of my students ended up using a swan in her logo. Another one used the word fox in her business name.

And take a look at eVision Media’s penguin logo right here!

Whether you use your spirit animal in your name or logo or not, the important thing is to accept the archetypal messages of your spirit animal and make those more prominent in your brand.

The first thing I changed was my branding message.

I accepted Panther’s archetypal message of personal power and Hawk’s message of perspective and translated them into a message of support and guidance for my ideal client.

I also looked at who my ideal client really is, in light of who I really am.

Some people will naturally be intimidated by Panther energy. Rather than abandon that part of me, I accepted that my ideal client will be someone who has the courage to work with that Panther energy.

One of the most practical things I changed in my branding was how I was getting my message out into the world.

I stopped going to every possible networking event. (Panther and Hawk would never go to every event.) I stopped saying “yes” to every JV or telesummit offer. I became much more discerning about what events to attend and which partnerships to join.

I also left the flock I had been trying so hard to follow. I had to own my solitary nature. That meant getting mentoring one-on-one and creating a tribe that wasn’t needy or clingy.

So, how can you find your branding spirit animal?

You can look for signs and symbols of your spirit animal in your daily life as well as in your dream life. Ask your spirit animal to make itself known to you. Then, watch for signs over the next few days. You may see the physical animal a few times—in person, on TV, in a movie, in magazines, online. You may see or hear the name of the spirit animal—in reference to the animal, in a business name, in a person’s name, in a book, on TV. Be open and be aware.

The absolute best way to find your spirit animal is to meditate on it. Get into a meditative state and ask your spirit animal to appear in your meditation. It’s easier if you envision yourself walking through a cave and coming out into a clearing—your spirit animal meeting place.

After you have identified your spirit animal, how can you incorporate it into your branding?

To understand your spirit animal’s messages, write down everything your animal means to you, everything you already know about the animal. Then look up the physical animal on Wikipedia or National Geographic. The physical qualities and behaviors of the animal will be very important for you. After getting to know the physical animal, then you can finally Google “spirit animal _____.”

To put your spirit animal’s essence into your brand essence, you don’t have to wear leopard print or give yourself a lion’s mane! You don’t even have to use the colors of your animal. I love fuschia and black—not typical Panther or Hawk colors! The Panther and Hawk essences of clarity, soaring and sleekness still come across.

The changes you make to your brand by incorporating your spirit animal can be big or small. You may scrap your current brand and start from scratch. Or you may tweak it in simpler ways. The end result will be a brand that is in total alignment with who you really are, a brand that you’re proud to share, and a brand that authentically and powerfully communicates your message and attracts exactly the right clients.

How does your brand reflect who you are? Have you connected with your spirit animal? Please share your thoughts below.

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About the Author, Kelly Eckert

Kelly Eckert is an author, professional speaker, and shamanic leadership coach. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a master's degree in biology.

Kelly is a certified MentorCoach® and a certified coach member of the International Coach Federation. She is the creator of the Fear Releasing Method™ and Coaching with Animal Archetypes™. Kelly speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of fear and unleashing the animal within. Her latest book, What's Your Spirit Animal?, is now available. Find out more at kellyeckert.com.