presence

How to Listen to Your Inner Voice to Find True Success and Happiness in Your Business and in Your Life

A year and a half ago, I remember leaving work early after a meeting because I suddenly was off-balance, extremely dizzy, couldn’t hear, and had persistent ringing in my right ear. When I went to the doctor, she told me that a virus was attacking both branches of the vestibular nerve in my inner ear, that was causing both the hearing damage and the vertigo. She said that my hearing could possibly return about a year later.

I waited about a year and a half, just to be safe. Then I went to a different doctor for a second opinion and next steps.  He diagnosed me with “labyrinthitis” and told me that he was pessimistic that my hearing would ever return. He said that something must have happened in my life that was a “deep insult” to my inner ear, to cause this problem.

I know exactly what that deep insult was. At the time, I was trying to make a business decision that went against both me and my values. I was trying to partner with people who didn’t like me, who wanted to change me to be just like them, and who were unfairly attacking me, blaming me, slandering my character, and being all around unsupportive. I thought that this was “the only way” to achieve my dreams, and because I wanted so badly to achieve my dreams, I was willing to do it.

I was vulnerable to attack because I had a lot of confusion about my work, my business, my values, and my beliefs, which was a consequence of hopping around to state after state and assimilating myself into different cultures and communities. I had lost myself and didn’t know who I was, what I valued or believed in, what I found meaningful or fun, or what I wanted to do with my life.

Ever since my inner ear was so deeply insulted, I have worked diligently to change my life around and to listen to myself and my inner voice. One year ago I packed my bags, moved across the country, and settled down to live back home in Boston. I also quit my corporate job about a month later to do music full-time. Since about a week ago when I started another job as a barista, I only worked 10-15 hours per week and I really used the rest of my time to focus on myself, my healing, and my self-care. I became stronger mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, though I’m not quite where I’d like to be with my faith. I chose to focus less on my current financial budget, because I had just gone through a very rough time period in my life and I needed time to recuperate and take care of myself properly and nurse myself back to health.

I also spent quite a bit of time building my business. I stopped working with the toxic people and found really amazing business partners who supported me, my values, and my beliefs. I invested quite a bit of my time, money, and energy into building my business, thinking that if I could just get it off the ground, then I would be “saved” financially.

I mean, we all know that person who started a business with $0 in income, who lived on their own and had debt collectors on their doorstep, and yet somehow managed to make it big and pay off all of their debts just in time before the last morsel of food was gone. I figured, if other people could do that, then so could I!

Hah! There is no guaranteed formula for success like that when you run your own business. For me, I was doing the work necessary to grow my business, but I didn’t see any business results. I believe now that I didn’t have the decided heart behind it because I wasn’t fully behind it. I had thought that I was behind it, but I actually wasn’t. (Though now that I look back on it, I actually kind of did want it! It was very, very confusing – more on that later!!!!!). In any event, I wasn’t 100% committed and in alignment, so even though I was doing the work, I didn’t have any results.

Also, I literally felt like my business took over my entire life. The process I was following was very inefficient and time-consuming, but I again felt like following this proven method of building it was the answer. Part of it was that mentally I thought that it would save me from getting my short-term budget and finances on track, but the other part was that I literally didn’t even have time to think about getting another job; I was just spending all of my time building my business and not getting results.

Once I quit that opportunity a few months ago, I have really been working on getting my life on track. I have been unraveling all the knots of confusion and learning (re-learning) how to be myself. Yesterday, I reflected on how I would see myself if I were looking down from the outside. This is what I saw:

I saw someone who was truly worn out by life’s demands of time and money. Someone who wasn’t present in day-to-day activities because she was always stressing about money and finances, as well as stressing about time management (running late, not leaving early enough, traffic, route planning, scheduling, and making time for adulting responsibilities). All of this greatly took away from my focus and mindfulness in the moment, but the problem was made even worse by constant intrusion – ruminating about relationship problems. In general, I saw someone who continually felt overburdened and worn out, stuck in a routine and not happy, and wishing that somehow life could be fun again.

Hence all of the hours I wasted each morning bed lingering, because all I wanted was peace, security, relaxation, and contentment, which were all noticeably absent from my life. Then the bed lingering would fuel the perpetually running late, which exacerbated the whole problem. As a result of this, I was truly not giving my best to my music students, or to my rehearsals, or to myself in general.

As a result of this, I decided to give my budget a makeover. I put fun things back in my budget, such as hot stone massages, weekly coffees, going out to eat, and seeing shows. I added things back into my budget to up my self-care to the next level, such as regular hair appointments and buying new clothes and shoes. I made a decision to work more hours so that I can afford these new things in my budget, which will not only bring me more money and financial security, but will also bring me more happiness, peace, relaxation, and contentment.

Next, I restructured my daily habits with the time left over from working longer hours and scheduling adulting responsibilities. I streamlined and picked the most important ones, so that I could still take care of myself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I prioritized time on the weekends to build my businesses and to prioritize my success in the future.

Needless to say, as a result of this I feel a WHOLE lot better!!!! After just 1 day, I had WAY more focus in teaching my music lessons then I probably ever have. Also, it helps that my new job as a barista forces me to actually be present in the moment and requires all of my attention. But there you have it 👌

The take-home message here is that this isn’t even about Louboutins – this is about properly taking care of yourself. This is about having fun. I love knowing that I control my own enjoyment in my life. The more I work, the harder I work, the smarter I work, and the more focused I work, the more money I can make, and the more I can provide for myself and make myself happy. It’s not even about anything overtly excessive. It means money to buy new clothes and shoes once they get worn out and have holes in them. It means money to get my hair cut to get rid of split ends. It means money to go out for coffee and have dinner with friends. It means money to treat myself to a hot stone massage once a month.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some caveats here. There’s a difference between working to have more money to improve and make a positive difference in your lifestyle, and working ALL the time PLUS spending every moment of every day obsessing about money and bills, therefore still not being present in the moment or being able to invest in your relationships.

There’s also a difference between working a job you love and working a job you hate. One of the things that confused me about my old opportunity was the way that they labeled people into “process” and “outcome” focused people. In their point of view, they preferred to work a job they hated so that it would “give them the life that they loved.” They equated it to “shoveling wet horse manure” to get the life they loved. They would also say that they only wanted to work with outcome-focused people, but then insist that everyone follow the same exact process to get to the same outcome.

However, I just don’t see it that way in black and white (or maybe I feel that both the process and the outcome are important). I believe that the process impacts the outcome. If you “shovel wet horse manure” to get the life that you love, you might have a lot of money and expensive things. You might have more time back to spend with your loved ones because the shitty (excuse the pun) job pays more. But you still have to spend however much time shoveling the wet horse manure. Unless you enjoy that process, then you’re still spending a significant amount of time doing something each day that you hate. This leaks into your happiness and mentality, which then takes away from the outcome that you’re trying to create.

On the other hand, “find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” I agree with that and stand by it. It’s important to love what you do and find passion in doing it, so that you can enjoy the part of life that is the process of achieving your ultimate outcomes and goals. Plus, there is more than one process to get to each outcome, so you should pick the process that is the most direct and that makes you the happiest. Only then can you have true enjoyment of your life in both the present and the future.

Which is why I now earn money as a music teacher, musician, and barista. All things I am passionate about and love, all things that I enjoy doing in the moment, and all things that serve me and my current budget. These are not my ultimate long-term goals, but this is why I’ve prioritized time to spend working on my new business.

Right now my new business is just an idea in my head. I need time to actually work on creating my product, my marketing strategy, ironing out all the kinks, etc. I think once I have the chance to really work on it like I want to, feel solid on the path of righteousness for my future, and feel like I can be successful at the same time as being myself, then my hearing will return. It’s unraveling the confusion, finding my way out of the labyrinth, and back into health, peace, prosperity, and security, that my inner voice really wants.

Presence

The other day, I was walking through Barnes and Noble when I felt a Spiritual Intuition. I followed the feeling, letting it guide me around the store, not sure where it was taking me. Suddenly, I found myself standing in front of the journals section.

I picked up journal after journal, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, see, or find. At last, I found it: the Mindfulness Journal.

Intrigued, I picked it up and brought it home with me. I am so glad I did!

For some time now, I have felt unable to be present in The Moment. My mind always seems to be preoccupied with something or other, whether it’s planning for the future, thinking about the past, thinking about current issues, etc. I find that I am often too distracted, too weighed down, and too overwhelmed by life’s demands in the Big Picture, to have fun and be present in The Moment.

This might seem a bit strange, because for those of you who have known me awhile, you’ll remember that I used to be extremely present in The Moment. I used to be very present, very able to enjoy myself, very spontaneous, and very able to relax.

All of that changed once I finished school and needed to find a job. Suddenly, I had to worry about long-term and short-term finances, errands, chores, to-do lists, cleaning, and administrative work. I had to worry about being early, commuting, and traffic patterns. I had to worry about eating healthy and meal-prepping. Not to mention, I had to worry about all the components of proper self-care, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

As someone who eternally struggled with time management and planning, I really did not like this aspect of adult life. Yet I realized that my poor time management skills and poor planning skills needed to change, because they resulted in me being eternally late for every appointment and they resulted in tasks continually falling through the cracks because I couldn’t do everything by myself.

These days, I am proud to say that I have Become a Master of Time Management. Yet in spite of that, I feel that I need to elevate my standard of mastery in this area even higher. I need to master time management even further, such that I can both take care of myself and my responsibilities, as well as relax and enjoy the moment.

This insight came directly from following the prompts in the Mindfulness Journal. The first exercise it had me do was to turn off my phone (!) and other devices (!!) for 1 hour. Then I had to write down everything I had observed.

The results were so startling!! I took a walk in my neighborhood. I noticed businesses, shops, and boutiques that I had never seen before (despite passing by them literally every day). Without my iPod on, I noticed the sounds of the birds chirping and the cars whizzing past. When I went to CVS, I actually browsed the store and saw what was there, aside from the item that I needed. I even was present while I was waiting in the checkout line.

Takeaway #1: Technology is VERY distracting. I am going to start putting my devices on airplane mode in the morning until I actually need to interact with other people.

Next, the Mindfulness Journal told me to observe and describe a moment that I was fully present. I chose to do this at my last orchestra concert.

Again, I was only “mindful” for about 1 hour for the first half of the concert. I was again very startled at the results of this experiment.

This time, I didn’t just notice things like the fact that I was extremely focused in playing my part of the music, that I was actually playing to the audience, that I was actually enjoying how the whole thing sounded overall, and that my concentration was so much better that it had reduced 98% of my playing errors. This time, I noticed and was aware every time my mind started to wander.

What did I think about in that hour? A whole wide range of topics:

  • How I didn’t have work the next day so I didn’t need to think about preparing for that.
  • The chores I needed to do this weekend.
  • Summer finances.
  • My recent “breakup.”
  • My life in Nevada (my old apartment, sunshine, warmth, my friends there, Trader Joe’s) (??? wtf lol)
  • How I “suck” at time management and how I don’t respect myself because I don’t follow my own schedules.
  • How maybe I should be more In The Moment, because I do want to be fun, creative, and carefree, and words really do matter. Do I really need to focus on body language as much??
  • If I change myself again (change myself back), then I don’t know what personality type my future husband will have.

!!! Wow. That’s all I have to say.

Takeaway #2: I don’t think I even knew that I spent so much time thinking about all these different things, but apparently things like that run through my head all the time and I don’t even notice.

No wonder my ear lost its hearing.

Anyway, after that experiment was over, I had a weekend of very deep thought and planning. I did my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s instead of Wegman’s, and I discovered that it’s a lot less expensive and it has my fruits and nuts mixture that I realized I had missed. I tweaked my schedule to include more flexibility and relaxation time. One of the main reasons I didn’t like following my own schedules is that by nature, I’m a spontaneous person, and I don’t like feeling over-structured. I decided to have my morning and work routine be structured, but then have my evenings always be relaxed and spontaneous. I also added time on the weekends to plan for variances in my schedule in the coming week, so I can accommodate for them and not have things fall through the cracks. Finally, I added time each day where I can just think about my feelings and emotions. Maybe now, with better planning and strategy, I will be able to be more present.