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Great Leaders Pay Attention

business people paying attentionYou’re a leader. And now, you want to move from good to great! What’s it going to take?

You’ve read, even studied the inner workings of emotional intelligence. You’re bringing it to light more and more in your daily routine. Now what’s all this about Focus?

What does Emotional Intelligence have to do with Focus? And why should you care?

Because you can’t reach your potential as a leader without it! Period!

The guru of emotional intelligence has written succinctly on both. There is a practical, meaningful link that will impact your leadership – whatever your style, wherever you are geographically and regardless of the type of organization you lead.

How has he answered the question about the connection between EQ (emotional intelligence) and Focus?

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence requires self-awareness—awareness of our own minds and emotions—as well as empathy, both of which can be cultivated by honing our skills of attention.

“When I set out to write this book, I knew I was going to explore the explosion of new important research about attention,” says Goleman. “But what I didn’t realize was that it was going to lead me back to emotional intelligence.”

Paying attention is critical. Goleman talks about focus on inner, other and outer.

Daniel Goleman: The fundamental thing to understand about inner focus is that we can be aware of our own awareness. There is such a thing as meta-awareness, meta-cognition, meta-emotion—the perspective we can take that allows us to monitor our inner world rather than just be swept away by it. That, in turn, gives us a point of leverage for handling that inner world better—without it, we’re lost.

For example, in Emotional Intelligence I looked at distressing emotions, which are generated by the brain’s amygdala and emotional threat. In order to manage the amygdala hijack, you have to be aware that it’s happening. Meta-awareness becomes the fulcrum from which you can handle emotions, handle your inner world, handle the thoughts which generate upsetting emotions or which help you, in a positive way, manage them for the better.

Great leaders pay attention – to people, strategy, arising situations. AND THEIR INNER WORLD. And they do so with focus.

So what about other focus?

Does that mean they don’t attach to the technological tools that often distract the rest of us? A resounding NO! is the answer.  Great leaders  are more strategic about their use of tools and time.

Goleman says that we are all “under siege” so concentrating on Focus is  particularly timely now.

And leaders lead other people – often in challenging situations.

He says: … “being able to focus on the other person rather than the text you just received has become the new fundamental requirement for having a relationship with that person. And I think this is another reason to develop a meta-awareness about where our attention has gone. I think we need to make more effort and cultivate more strength to detach [our attention] from that thing that is so tempting over there, and bring it back to the person in front of us.”

Finally , the third kind  of focus – is systems focus. Again Goleman says, “This is more elusive. We have dedicated [brain] circuitry for self-management, self-awareness. We have dedicated circuitry for empathy. The brain doesn’t have the equivalent of that dedicated circuitry for sensing, for instance, the ways in which humans systems of construction, energy, transportation, industry, and commerce are inexorably deteriorating global systems that support life. It’s too macro or too micro for sensory systems in the first place.”

We literally don’t perceive global warming directly in the way we see a person’s wince or wink, and register that immediately. We don’t have an alarm system for that like the way we hear a growl—a growl alerts the amygdala and springs the stress hormones into action. But when it comes to global warming, actually, the brain shrugs. It’s something we have to learn about and learn to care about and learn to detect indirectly, so it’s a bigger stretch. We care about the present far more than the distant future, which is invisible—we don’t notice it.

The neuroscience behind this?

For example, meditation is, from a cognitive science point of view, the retraining of attention—a bulking up of the neural circuitry that allows you to detach from where your mind has wandered, bring it back to the point of focus, and keep it there. That is the basic repetition of the mind in any kind of meditation. And that’s also what builds up the willpower to resist the pull of electronics and stay with the human world.

And meditation comes in many flavors. As a leader, you can choose anything from breathing exercises to martial arts, yoga to  mindfulness practice, Qigong to observing a candle flame and everything in between.

Again, Goleman – “From a neuroscience point of view, I think the standard way this has been approached is exactly the wrong way to get people to care and act about global warming. Mainly they either threaten us with destruction or guilt trip us. That activates centers in the brain for negativity, for distressing emotions. And when we feel distressing emotions, the brain wants us to turn them off—either tune them out or do one little thing [to make us feel better]. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why the environmental movement has had such a poor record of getting the general public to do much about the environmental crisis.”

There is a more clever way of getting people involved: Rather than looking at footprints, which is all the bad that we’re doing, look at hand prints, which is the sum total of all the good things we do to lower our footprint.

This is the brainchild of Gregory Norris, who is at the Harvard School of Public Health. The hand print approach means that you get points for every time you ride your bike to work or walk instead of ride, when you recycle, when you print on both sides of the paper, when you don’t print at all. All of those things that help can be counted, and the idea is to grow your hand print rather than your footprint. That is a goal we can work toward in small baby steps that are manageable and that we can feel good about. And that motivates the parts of the brain which keep us working toward our goals.

So great leaders need to MOTIVATE their peeps and do it in a way that leads their teams to care about, think about and work on systems ( the invisible  future) in the ways they care about the more immediate emotional and situational events arising now.

And while there is growing concern about young people’s ability to focus, Goleman is encouraging. He covers in the book, that focus is to a certain extent under our control—that it’s a skill we can build.

Goleman: … “we do have to work at building it. And for that reason I really advocate an intention-strengthening exercise as a kind of mental fitness that we practice daily, just as you might jog.”

Goleman, the former New York Times science journalist turned best-selling author, is perhaps still best known for his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, which was followed by Social Intelligence more than a decade later. Like those earlier works, Focus synthesizes findings from years of research across the social, behavioral, and cognitive sciences—in this case, on the roots and importance of our attention skills.

So as a leader on the road to greatness, begin practicing focus – the art and science of paying attention. Like all practice, it requires a strong intention, and the self-compassion to overcome the inevitable hurdles that arise. Yet, paying attention pays off – big time. So what’s it going to be?  Choose a practice and get an accountability partner on your side. Hire a coach, join a Mastermind Group, but do something because its clear, great leaders pay attention!

What are some tips you use to focus?

Sexy or Not: A Case for Practice

hand keyI jokingly call, my close friend, S. a surrogate daughter. She’s pregnant and single, for the moment and about to give birth – perhaps even tomorrow.. I attended her birthing classes where I learned a lot about how delivery and labor are handled these days. My own sons were born a long time ago, when a very different attitude prevailed.

Last weekend, things got very dicey. S. went into hospital with very high blood pressure, severely swollen feet (and face) arousing serious fears about preeclampsia. Without going into all the scary and upsetting details, I want to share one thing that stood out in relief, from the ordeal.

When S’s. QiGong friends showed up, and she, despite her pain, began to practice, the large hospital room filled up – with laughter, with joy, with a steadying calm essence. I breathed it in – taking long, deep inhales and I thought about what was transpiring before my eyes…

We practice – whatever our practices are – and we struggle with questions like “Why can’t I be more consistent?” or “How is it I let myself slip out of my routine?” or more frequently perhaps and certainly more poignantly, “When will the effects of practice show up?”

Sure, practice is challenging. It’s not sexy. Often repetitive, sometimes boring, frequently done begrudgingly as other more delicious delights beckon. Sometimes a smooth, easy rhythm sets in and for days or weeks, practicing is easy, effortless and we think, “Ah, I’ve got it now,” only to be shocked when the inevitable distractions reappear.

Practice builds muscle, but not in the way of strength training as the muscle being built is far more complex than the pecs or abs of the body. While the body is involved in the type of practice I’m pointing to, so is the heart, the psyche and uniquely, the spirit.

So practice, whether meditation, Inquiry, Qigong or other work on The Path, is both rigorous and simple, hard, yet easy, deeply moving and deeply affecting and sometimes superficial feeling.

For beginners, it is especially challenging as it comes with few “benchmarks.’ The very shifts one might point to represent “striving” or “achieving” – both to be avoided on a spiritual path.

So what keeps one on the path? Why continue to practice?

Faith and devotion are the words that come up for me. Faith, that practice in and of itself, regardless of any outcome is “right action” as the Buddhists would say… or in the words of Jewish mystical teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslow, “ ‘Hitbodidut” – meditation – inner directed, unstructured, active self-expression before God – is the highest path of all. Take it.”

Tapping into the undifferentiated Oneness is practice whatever the methodology might look or sound like. Of course, that’s a big statement. And the faith, I point to is that the Universe, or God or The Motherhead exist as that Oneness.

Devotion represents returning again and again to the practice – a devotion to self, Self and whatever you name the interconnection of all creation as evidenced in action.

So back to the lovely S. As I watched her awareness and fear of the physical pain recede, as I saw her come shining forward from a larger space than her body and mind – to join her spirit in joy, I saw the evidence for ongoing, continued practice as “the way.”

And as I watched difficulty transform into opportunity, I one again realized that while not sexy in the standard definition, practice is necessary and revitalizing and reconnecting. It brings together all of ourselves – our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits.

Naturally, the practice I’m talking about is lifelong – not the coaching variety that I often assign my clients. Those are short term and serve a very specific function, build upon one another and address particular outcomes.

What I am pointing to here is the sustaining practice of bringing more and more consciousness forward – a living into the Truth of Reality that doesn’t end with a particular outcome achieved.

Interestingly, both types of practice bring up some of the same frustrations with different intensity. (Knowing a practice is to last 4 weeks makes it more doable than a lifelong commitment.) Yet, all practice demands faith and devotion. Faith, in the efficacy of the practice, the intention behind it and the coach offering it, and devotion to the self – its development and growth.

Watching S. practice in the hospital room with our friends, renewed in my own devotion and my own faith. I strengthened my intention to be consistent in my practice and also compassionate with myself when that was challenging.

I invite you, dear reader, into this action as well – a nourishment for all situations, all beings, all time. And remind you that compassion is an act of love so as you take up your practice, either for the first time or again, bring on the compassion around your intention. Truth demands it.

If you’re thinking about your development, The Valiant Group can support you with suggested practices individually tailored, accountability and an objective reflection of your next steps. It begins with a conversation. Call us at 510-722-3292.

Connect or Your Health Will Suffer

“Copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.”

– Lissa Rankin, M.D.

You’re smart. You’re savvy.You’re conscious. You keep up.

You don’t smoke. You know all about “trans-fats” and bad cholesterol. You read up on the latest health advice, get regular check-ups and are aware of your need for sleep.

You try hard to exercise and eat well, avoid all the “bad” stuff and drink in moderation. Perhaps you’ve cut out (or back) sugar and caffeine. You know that taking care of yourself is an important responsibility.

Do you also know that loneliness has a more powerful effect on your health than all of the above?

What’s the BEST health advice for you?

Lissa Rankin is an MD who recently wrote the runaway NYT bestselling book Mind Over Medicine. In it she MOM-final-cover1digs deep into peer-reviewed medical research from the most reputable establishments on the planet in an effort to discover what really causes and/or prevents disease.

Connection is important – more important than what you eat or how much you exercise. Yet, it rarely is spoken about in the media. You don’t see ads for “make friends” like you see for “drink milk”. Maybe you should!

In your brain, you have a connection making hormone, oxytocin, which builds your social self. When you’re connected to another person, it floods your brainwaves, makes your stress level decrease and you feel good.

Oxytocin has come through thousands of years of evolution, telling us that despite our best efforts to see ourselves as separate, special individuals, we are social creatures – bound to one another and yet unique. And when those bonds are weak – you suffer.

Who do you spend time with? Who is in your tribe? Is it time to expand your tribe? How often do you really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do you reveal of what’s on your mind, especially when it’s troubling?

If you are really committed to your own well-being, check your calendar. When was the last time you spent an evening with friends, had dinner with someone close, took a walk and talked sincerely about what’s happening in your life? If those events are infrequent, sporadic or non-existent for long periods of time, you are hurting yourself. It’s time to change things up.

Ask yourself: Who do I spend time with? Who is in my tribe? Is it time to expand my tribe? How often do I to really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do I reveal of what’s on my mind, in my heart, especially when its troubling?

If your answers are: infrequently, now is the time to change that. Here are some ways to do it

  1. Deepen relationships you already have by changing the conversation. Sports and work chat are fine, but it’s time to go deeper.
  2. Look around at your life and see what potential friends are lurking in the background. Move at least one person a week forward with a phone call, lunch date, conversation over the water cooler that’s more than gossip or task related. Then see who you resonate with and take it deeper.
  3. Put spending time with an important someone on the calendar as a regular “date”. Don’t expect chance to make it happen. You must make it happen – and regularly.

Well-being is more than what you eat, how much exercise and rest you get. It includes how much stress you experience. And it’s about how well and how often you connect with others.


Do you make time for connection? Do you feel like it’s enough or do you need more? Please share your comments here, thanks.

Productivity isn’t about simply “getting things done”

Hi It’s Annette and The Valiant Group,

Are you being as productive as you want to be?

Productivity isn’t about simply “getting things done”.

It’s about moving into your dreams…dreams for career, business, relationship, service, creativity, and the exploration of what’s possible in your life…by creating outcomes instead of just checking the “to-do’s” off the list.

pareto ruleNow, you’ve probably heard of Pareto’s 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your input.

So, for example, if you have 10 things that you could do to do to get a new client, what are the two most important, highest leverage actions that you can take to reach that outcome? Do those two things first…then do then do the other things on the list if you have time (or outsource / delegate them).

This is a perspective and strategy that has contributed to the successes of tens of thousands of people, worldwide.

If you’ve not already seen it, this 5 Minute Planning Tool is easy way to get more productive by leveraging the power of the 80/20 rule.

You’ll be amazed at the outcomes you achieve, the flow in your day, and the peace in your mind and heart.

If you’re tired of just being “busy” and ready to triple your productivity, results, and success everyday, enjoy the video (10 minutes) if you haven’t already.



P.S. Are you ready to make your dreams a real part of your life? Imagine how it will feel to get things done (the RIGHT things) and get out of overwhelm!

Your Past Lives On: Transform Your Shadow

shadowWilliam Faulkner,  the great American writer said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Proof came to light over and over again as we explored the shadow during the 3 week Transforming Your Shadow tele-summit with our wide range of masters and thought leaders.

Discussing parenting,  Dr. Chris White explained that what we deny in ourselves becomes “unacceptable” in our children and we are triggered when we encounter it. When triggered, our best intentions for providing love and support falter. The answer? Do your own work! Sort of like “put on your own mask, first”, as cautioned by flight attendants, the world over.

And with money, author of Money, Spirituality, Consciousness, Mayuri Onerheim explained that our early family beliefs and actions around money, whether they expressed abundance or scarcity, caution, openness or secrecy, generosity or hoarding finds its way into your own shadow material around money.

So the past, your past, lives on. As you navigate relationships, what was modeled for you, accepted by your caretakers, approved of, shows up again and again.

Did your parents like one another? Play? Were they affectionate, What was discussed and what was suppressed. How did they express sexuality?  What roles did they assign gender?

You didn’t leave it all behind when you left home!  The parts of you that weren’t appreciated or accepted may have gone far underground, but you’re still carrying them. And when something triggers a strong reaction, you can be sure, your shadow is behind it.

Also, as David Richo explained, your projections onto others sheds light on your own material.

Triggered by a controlling partner (in business or life)? Most likely there’s a controlling part of you that you’re denying. And the way to work with that is to begin to admit to yourself what lurks beneath consciousness. You may shy away from the controlling parts of yourself from an experience (or belief) that controlling people are manipulative, demanding and worse, domineering.

Using the example of control,  if you can you see that controlling also has many positive aspects, you can soften to it, open. For instance, people who control, get things done; attend to the details, follow through. They are often leaders.

So control itself isn’t either bad or good – how it manifests sets the scene.

Can you access that part of you leaving the negative aspects on the cutting room floor and go with the positive features?

What it takes is first surfacing your own tendency towards control ( or fear of it), and then with compassion and gentleness, befriending it.

Sometimes people fear control because they don’t want to lose acceptance and approval. They act as though they easily “go with the flow” but “act” is the operant word since their actions are motivated by fear and therefore inauthentic.

You could go through an entire list of strong, emotional reactions you have towards others, projections, they are called in the world of psychology. And begin to mine the “gold’ in each one by examining where in you the quality that upsets you (even angers you) lives.

By finding the gifts in the quality,  and slowly embracing it while leaving out what seems unloving or unkind, you can begin to lay claim to it – expanding towards your fullness, your richness, leaving nothing out.

The key to this work is compassion. Working through the “thousand disguises” as Jung called them, requires lots of it. Even when you’re uncovering the secret gifts that you’ve hidden in the dark.

For example if you play “small” at work, keep your ideas to yourself, rarely speak out or up, you may be motivated by a fear of standing out and the responsibility that comes with greatness. No less shadow material, your intelligence or creativity hides under the surface.

And don’t forget that these are not simply ideas and beliefs that reside in your mind. Over time, these patterns have rooted in your body, causing certain repeating constrictions…creating a shape, you might say.

When working with your shadow, movement and breathing that creates more ease, more space is required too. Liberating you not only from beliefs and fear, but from actual muscle tensions and contractions, physical practice is important and again, best done with compassion and gentleness.

Naturally, this work is best done with guidance, support and accountability. Doesn’t all change benefit from that? Yet, should you want to get started on your own here is a beginning practice:

  • Keep a list for one week.
  • Jot down whatever traits upset you about another person you encounter regularly. (These traits may come from several people in your life – family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.)
  • Acknowledge these traits are somehow true of you.
  • Look inside and find these traits, however well hidden they may be.
  • Ask: What about this trait is useful or positive?

       What about this trait do I fear?

       How can I live into the positive side of this trait without taking on the negative?

  • If possible, share this with a trusted friend after taking a few breaths and extending the exhale.
  • Remember to be kind to yourself as you begin uncovering your shadow!

Remember the 5 Needs that helped formed our shadow: Attention, Appreciation, Acceptance, Affection and Allowing ( to be yourself). As you look at the traits that trigger you, ask yourself how they connect to the 5 basic needs.

To learn more about working with your shadow, virtually, in small groups and individually, contact us at www.thevaliantgroup.com

Mindfulness is Not Enough

mindfulness-istock-prvSorry,  my friends, but mindfulness is not enough.

Why you ask? There’s so much evidence for the benefits – hardcore scientific evidence.

True, I say and I’m a proponent – don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying mindfulness practices aren’t important – of course they are – essential even. I’m saying that alone, they aren’t enough. Here’s why.

Long before you were able to take up a mindfulness practice, you developed a personality.

And that personality, in the first let’s say 7 years of your life, was deeply impressed by what your caretakers, felt, thought, modeled, liked and disliked.

Did they approve of risk taking? Did they frown on assertiveness preferring “good manners”?

Did they reward savings and question spending? How did they handle clinginess or expressions of anger or desire or sibling rivalry?

Because as a very young person, you needed ( not just wanted, but needed) to feel safe and loved,  and you were so vulnerable, you developed traits and behaviors that were approved of. You  shunted other parts of yourself into “the shadow”. It was intelligent. It made you feel secure.

These disowned parts could be either “good” or “bad” – didn’t matter. Some got splintered off because having them triggered survival issues – fear of abandonment, fear of losing nourishment, support, safety, approval.

For example, if your parents got upset when you showed generosity and said something like, “You’ll be taken advantage of. You have to watch out for other people. Be very careful.” The quality of generosity in yourself may have gone underground only to live on in your shadow.

Maybe your parents  really approved of self-sufficiency and so you tried to be strong, responsible, take the initiative. You may have sent the part of you that needed support,  undercover.  And when it surfaces in your adult life now, like your generosity, you start feeling really uncomfortable, unsafe- as though your survival depends on staying strong though you know all people need support at one time or another.

The problem is your mind can’t make sense of the discomfort, anxiety, fear because they don’t live in the mind. They live in your body.

It makes sense to your mind that of course, everyone has needs, why not you?  Yet your body still connects to the young person’s sense of insecurity when you step away from the approval and love of your Mommy (or whoever cared for you).

And as you grow up, your culture adds to your shadow material. It too approves of some traits and behaviors and represses others. More suffering in twisting to “fit in” and ‘succeed” by the culture’s definition.

And because this shadow operates unconsciously, mindfulness isn’t enough. Mindfulness alone won’t surface your shadow material. You have to set out on the hero’s journey to uncovered and reclaim those parts of you that you lost along the way. The hero’s journey, after facing great obstacles is always a coming home to yourself…the true you, the whole you..

I call it a hero’s journey because as Robert Johnson said, “The process of civilization involves suppressing into our shadow side those traits and patterns that are not culturally acceptable. This sorting process is quite arbitrary. Individualism, for instance, is a great virtue in some societies and the greatest sin in others. But this sorting process is two-edged — some of the pure gold of our personalities is relegated to the shadow because it can find no place in the great leveling process that is culture. Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides.

It takes  a concerted effort, true courage  to live into your wholeness, fulfillment and authenticity and you can’t do it alone.

Come join with like-minded others in Transforming Your Shadow – a 3 week virtual event where thought leaders and masters provide wisdom, tools and support for this journey home to yourself.

At no charge, you can join in the conversation at www.transformingyourshadow.com

Week One: Money, Calling and Your Shadow

Wow! The first week of my Transforming Your Shadow telesummit just ended and what a week it was!  Now is the time to reflect!  What does it mean to live into a dream? Certainly not what I thought and yet so much more!  More complex – rich, yeasty, meaty and more.  Challenging – a stretch, an ache and a joy.

Transforming Your Shadow is a cheeky undertaking. Rather than offering quick fix solutions to all your problems or promises of  wealth, love and happiness in 3 easy steps, it invites us all into a deeper understanding, a greater awareness – a process that entails confronting our pain, our suffering. Only the courageous sign up for such an undertaking and I’m learning to accept, only the courageous offer it. There I’ve said it out loud. I am bringing out of the shadows an aspect of myself I’ve seldom acknowledged – my courage.

So what was it like, you ask, to pull off a feat with so many moving parts?

Front and center were extraordinary moments AND gripping fears. The fears showed up around money – which we learned from Mayuri Onerheim, author of Money, Spirituality and Consciousness, arise from old family structures unconsciously taken on which never hit awareness. (And the social shadows surrounding money.) I got to work with those as I waited for people to purchase what I felt was a fount of wisdom and guidance for a very affordable investment.

Extraordinary moments wove through some of the interviews when a guest shared an insight in blazingly clear language that rushed listeners into an an ”aha”. Or when they provided an action step that had the audience saying, “Yes, I’m doing that, today.” Sometimes, the sigh of recognition wafted loudly, as a shadow element was described.

Other extraordinary moments occurred when I noticed, I was doing something challenging and new – running a control panel, interviewing people I greatly admired – choreographing  the needs of the technology, the audience, the speaker and myself simultaneously for the first  time ever, and enjoying myself. Who would have thunk it? I could even bring poetry into it – a joy!

As Gregg Levoy shared insights about the suffering in ignoring your calling and how to tune into the body’s whispering, and Rita Hovakimian told listeners the 4 Money Mirror types each held in emotion, beliefs and behaviors, emails and texts flooded in thanking me for providing this opportunity.

Yet there is more to come. We’ll be tuning into the suffering around of meaningful work, intimacy, leadership and  parenting and bringing more consciousness to each in the coming week – and more after that.

I’m breathing deeply in appreciation and feel the enlivening energy flow as I contemplate what’s ahead. Yep, and I know that there are more lessons ahead, for me, my incredibly supportive team, the speakers and  you, he audience.

Come join in the conversation – profound, fascinating, human.

Join us at: www.transformingyourshadow.com.  You’ll have immediate access to the remaining live calls and…for an exceptionally small investment…have the replays of all of them in your personal transformation library. In addition, free gifts from the amazing speakers are yours too – gifts like preview chapters of books, mantras for love making,  coaching sessions, money archetype assessments and, more.

I look forward to sharing.

The Lowdown on Projection and Your Shadow

projection“You’re judging me again. I feel like you’re j always judging me,” Patti lamented to her close friend, Megan.

When Megan considered, she realized Patti’s lament was true. Megan had been harshly judging Patti as uncaring, selfish and completely incapable of generosity. And as a good lawyer, Megan found lots of supporting evidence.

But Megan was working with a talented coach – engaged in working deeply and transforming  her shadow (her “dark side”), so when she heard Patti’s accusation, she swallowed hard and knew she had work to do.

[Note: Any part of yourself that you disown becomes part of your shadow…and it wills out in strange and often terrible ways – ruining relationships, causing suffering until you transform it by bringing it into the light of our understanding. This means that what we keep unconscious whether socially considered good or bad, leaks out in behavior which often leaves you scratching your head or worse – especially if someone calls you out on it.

Megan had read in a paper by Dr. Prinzivalli that, “The fast track to consciousness is to see every judgment as a disowned part of the self and explore it until there is an honoring of how that quality comes to serve.”

So how were the harsh judgments she had about Patti going to serve her own shadow work? And how in the world to “honor” the qualities that seemed so awful?

Megan began by acknowledging that  there was something in herself that she wasn’t seeing. Thus she began the deep, psychological investigation that Jung claimed could reveal “ 90% of the gold.”

In Megan’s life, there was ancient history around “uncaring, selfish” behavior and the incapability of being generous. Her severely ill mother, who suffered from bouts of schizophrenia and was also bipolar, had often been incapable of caring for Megan or even acknowledging her presence. This emotional neglect had left Megan traumatized on many occasions.  Her tender child’s defense was to take a stand to be different, very different. From a child’s perspective, this was inherently intelligent.

So what was the problem? Megan had split off the normal, natural part of herself that would exhibit self-interest, self-care, a balanced approach to giving AND receiving from her consciousness . (She focused exclusively on the giving part.)

She had locked the balanced, self-interest part far from view and kept the key hidden – even from herself.  It took an enormous amount of energy…energy she could have better used to complete projects, explore new interests, rest and enjoy and ended in projecting onto others a severe  imbalance around generosity.

This made sense. As she developed into a young woman, Megan easily gave of her time, her energy, her resources and her attention to the people in her life- even strangers. She was known as a good friend, the person who always made time and room for guests, even giving a homeless couple a room where they proceeded to steal her young son’s allowance money.

Yet, this didn’t dissuade her or make her more cautious. Negative, even dangerous experiences didn’t teach her to check her behavior. Time and again, Megan

did “the generous” thing. And she formed harsh judgments of others who made different choices than the ones she believed appropriate. Patti was only one of many that Megan considered selfish.

At her coach’s request, Megan tallied up all the times her generosity was unreasonable or caused her children or herself pain or harm. The tally got very, very long as she worked through the list, It shocked her.

As Megan worked with this shadow (or hidden part) , she saw how “selfishness” wasn’t integrated in her belief system – how it had become massively unbalanced, how she couldn’t accept that it too had a place in t human response. And that she labeled healthy self-interest as selfishness. She had lost sight of the ability to understand when self-care called for limits on generosity, planning ahead, and saying “no”.

She further the suffering by harshly blaming herself whenever she was unable to do what her belief system labelled as “the generous” thing for others, creating even more suffering.

As Megan explored her past, she saw the many ways this inability to integrate her shadow had led to overcommitments, exhaustion and finally to serious illness.

Shadow work is  not for the feint of heart. It requires courage. It also requires a willingness to be uncomfortable, so isn’t for everyone. Yet our juiciest, yummiest vitality resides in these dark recesses!

One way  for you to begin to work with your shadow, is to begin to explore your judgments. Putting them under the microscope of your attention and seeking to see where these come from in your own history is a crucial first step in doing “shadow work”.

And there is a neurobiology to the shadow. As you build your neural networks with repeating thoughts, these thoughts fire up together like a string of lights, strengthening those the neural pathway by repetition (as in Megan’s case thoughts about how Patti “should” respond to a request) and ignoring whole areas of belief.

Shadow work is engaged in bringing these recurring thoughts which become “beliefs” to light; checking whether there may be more to consider; asking how and where they arose and determining if they are, in fact, of service in your life.

Jung said, “If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow…Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.”

“Psychology and Religion” (1938): Psychology and Religion: West and East.

So by looking at your own judgments and what you project onto others, you have a key to your own shadow.

If you want to become more conscious, to free up the energy of suppression and avoidance, and to take ownership of those splintered off parts of yourself, then you will ultimately have to take up this work.

For Megan, it began a healing process of her relationship with Patti but more importantly with herself.

And if you’re ready for real transformation, in your business and you life, so you can give up the old stories and patterns that keep you trapped – stories and patterns about sex money, love, career, and purpose – and instead transform your shadow into a force for abundance, wealth, love, joy and fulfillment.

Then check out the upcoming Transforming Your Shadow Telesummit where 14 thought leaders share their wisdom and guidance around parenting, intimacy, money, calling, health, creativity, entrepreneurship, and balance. Not only is there no charge, but all of the the speakers have gifts for you. Sign up now.




The Shadow of Anger

Anger“I showed him!” Alec, a client, stormed.

He was talking about an exchange with James, a colleague who had rejected his design proposal in a team meeting. As he shared, his face contorted and his voice strained. And then a wild-eyed expression crossed his features. Alec was frightened because he felt like he wanted to punch James in the face.

Anger is one aspect of the shadow that can come up when I am coaching executives, entrepreneurs, consultants, or other coaches.

(In case the term is unfamiliar, the shadow is the part of yourself that lurks, under the surface, in your unconscious. It doesn’t just hide the dark stuff – the jealousy, lust, greed and so on. It also, sadly, keeps your brilliance, generosity, and radiant intelligence in the dark. )

It is easy to spot how poorly other people handle anger, but it’s often difficult to spot in yourself.

Yet without a healthy ability to deal with anger, real connection and intimacy cannot grow.

Often, shadowed anger turns into abuse, and it takes on Medusa-like forms such as creating drama, making demands, long-term grudges, smoldering resentment  and even vengeance.

It is a sword that cuts you and other people, can destroy relationships, and can wreak havoc in your life…unless you “make friends” with your anger, and transform it.

True anger is assertive ( meaning you speak it in useful ways)  but not aggressive (rageful, insulting, blaming). It arises from displeasure at an injustice and is meant to be communicated, not wrapped in moody silence. Armed with true anger, you can take responsibility for your own feelings, seeing the other person as a catalyst, not a cause.

Anger releases your aliveness ( excitation, energy)   and leads to repose, if dealt with. And its aim is usually a deeper and more effective bond with the person on its receiving end.

And don’t be confused, anger coexists with other feelings. So love and anger are often mated-especially in long lasting relationships. In fact a hallmark of a healthy relationship is the ability for the partners to express all their emotions – anger included- in productive ways.

If you express it (rather than bottling it up), anger is brief, and you can let go of it with a sense of closure. But if you keep it in…watch out! Not only will you create suffering (for yourself and other people), but you are very likely to create real health issues like high blood pressure, heart attack, and cancer.

One way to recognize if you have a shadow element here is to notice whether you want to “get the rage out no matter who gets hurt” or has you plotting retaliation.

If you live with simmering resentments or if you go into hiding, that’s another clue.

If what’s written here has made you uncomfortable. you’ll want to pay attention. This IS something you can transform…with practice.

Begin by noticing what happens when you get angry. Keep a journal and jot notes on your thought pattern and actions. Bring compassion to this exploration or you’ll be angry with yourself – useless and ineffective.

Oh and what happened with Alec, you might be wondering?  Alec, during the last 4 months, has made a lot of progress in moving from healthy anger instead of revenge and his co-workers are liking him a lot more. More importantly, Alec is liking himself!

If you’d like to understand how you shadow is the cause of so much of your experience of emotions like pain, shame, regret, guilt, anger, fear, and doubt…

…and how it can cause negative behaviors like judgement (of yourself and/or others), greed, mistrust, abuse and addiction…

Then please join me and learn how to recognize and transform your shadow into a force for abundance, wealth, love, joy and fulfillment.

I’ll be speaking with more than a dozen thought leaders, teachers, masters and experts to get the best tools, resources, and insights…so you can make your life everything that you want.

The Skinny on Leadership and Conflict

You’ve read, talked and thought about conflict – experienced it – and if you’re like most humans, you hate it!

Yet, conflict, as I’ve stated in earlier blogs, gets a bad rap.

Why? Because it makes you confront your fears and doubts and often immobilizes you. At best, it confuses you. Yet it can be highly useful, a creative opportunity, if held as generative. Generative means having the power to originate or produce, bring forward something new. What gets in the way of using it this way? You do!

Great leaders have trained themselves to handle conflict. They’ve learned what gifts it brings and how to channel it for clear, informed and creative decision making. You can too.

Your (and everyone’s) self-image and sense of possibility show up through the physical structure and holding patterns in your body. Yes, that’s right.

You award your “mind” the trophy for directing your life, but the Oscar is going to the wrong contender.

Not about dress size or basketball playing height or conforming to cultural “norms” of beauty or strength, patterns – developed over years – tell you, and the world, who you take yourself to be. That speaks to what the future may hold for you.

In times of change or conflict, you get anxious and wound up. Trying to solve problems from this physical and mental spinout generates more confusion, poor results. No wonder things get worse rather than better.

In contrast, when you begin to shift these physical patterns, you gain new possibility for who you can be in the world. By settling down physically, you experience a sense of visceral calm and mental ease that removes you from the cyclone of messy thoughts.

It allows a fresh perspective on yourself and the situation. By changing your shape (how you hold your body) , you change how you think and feel about yourself so you can take new action. Isn’t that a much better place out of which to make decisions, to lead? Of course it is!

Sensing into your body which informs your mind and spirit, leads to transformation.

“So how can I make that change?” you ask.

You begin by learning to notice.

For starters, ask yourself:

What happens to my body during conflict or confusion?

(Hint: Contractions? Particularly in the pelvis or buttocks, rib cage or chest?

What goes on with my breathing?

(Hint: Does it move upwards into the higher reaches of the chest or the throat? Does it shorten?)

What happens to my vision?

(Hint: Does it narrow to a swath in front of you, maybe hiding the former periphery?)

By the way, these questions are most useful DURING the experience, not after. That separates the data from your interpretation. And once isn’t enough. You have to gather enough data, particularly the more elusive kind to begin to see your unique pattern.

Once you’ve established the pattern, you can begin to make the shift.

One of the most important openings comes by extending your exhale and gently bringing the inhale lower into the belly. Making an audible sound on the exhale, helps.

And as you continue to breathe this way, send your attention to the contracted places, softening and opening up in increments. (Sometimes it helps to imagine the breath actually going to those places and expanding them.)

Notice whether you can soften your eyes enough during this breathing practice to expand the cone of your vision without straining. Can you allow sights to come to you, rather than you “going out to get them?”

And can you do the same for sounds, letting them in rather than going on a mining expedition to gather them up?

As your attention begins to become more nuanced to the workings of your body, notice what happens to your fingers and hands. Can these relax?

You’ll want to practice when you can notice – and do it regularly. This will support the speed at which you can put the practice to work when most needed.

And practice means committing to at least 21 days – consecutively. It only takes a few minutes at a time, maybe 5. Want to make it most powerful?  Do it at the same time each day – as an anchor for the habit, maybe upon brushing your teeth or or just before bed.

As you learn to do this, what happens is that you configure a broad understanding of how to calm yourself down while including more (sight and sound). That allows you to have influence over a wider territory. (Yes, people will be included in that territory who will benefit by your calm and clarity.)

As you settle down your nervous system and shift to this new shape, the ease in your body extends to your thoughts. They join the party by becoming more porous, flexible and creative.

What a boost to your creative leadership skills!

And as your fear of conflict lessens its tight grip – your “mindful interest” (as Wendy Palmer calls it in Leadership Embodiment: How We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak) grows, letting your wider perspective inform your conversations and actions.

Neuroscience has played a strong role in demonstrating the science of this practice. (See my blog on Change.) Yet you don’t have to study the brain for years to make the shift. As you begin to work with body and its patterns, you and everyone you deal with benefit.

Conflict is not the only challenge that executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and coaches deal with. And inside every challenge is the seed of opportunity. I invite you to join me for this high value, no cost strategy session where you learn the most effective ways to be productive, powerful and resourceful…ESPECIALLY during challenges…so you can rocket to the top of your game and enjoy the successes that you’ve achieved, in your business and in your life.