self-care

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.

The Rumination Antidote

Do you find yourself continually lost in thought? Do you find that as you go about your daily business at work, at home, or out with friends, negative thoughts seem to intrude into your consciousness and distract you from being present in the moment? Do you find that your mind swirls uncontrollably as you recount past negative experiences, one after the other? Once you start, do you find it impossible to stop and feel as though your mind has completely taken over?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could suffer from rumination. Side effects of rumination include anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, health problems, selfishness, and sour relationships. If you are prone to ruminating, don’t worry. The good news is that you’re not alone — and I know the secret antidote!

For many years, I myself suffered from rumination. When something bad happened in my life, I found it nearly impossible to move on from it because I felt like my mind kept mulling it over and over and over and over. Even if something bad happened three years previously, my mind would ruminate about it like the bad event had happened yesterday. There was no escape! I felt like my mind was continually holding me as a prisoner. For many years, I felt helplessly enslaved to my own mind.

It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the situations that happened in my life were not the problem. The problem, I discovered, was that I kept ruminating about the negative situations in my life. It was the ruminating that paralyzed me from moving forward, not the events themselves.

Once I understood this, it took me awhile before I discovered the secret antidote. Eventually, I discovered the antidote in a book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. In this book, Carnegie describes the critical thinking method, which is by far the most invaluable piece of advice that I have ever received in my life. By practicing critical thinking every day, I was soon able to gain control of the thoughts that continually swirled around in my mind and I was able to think of solutions to move forward. Not only that, but I could actually take action; as a result, I could cease thinking about the same problems over and over again.

So how does it work?

Good critical thinking skills employ the following steps:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
  3. What are my goals?
  4. What are all solutions to the problem?
  5. What is the best solution to the problem?

All you have to do to unpack a problem– ie) controlling the swirling thoughts that ruminate around in your mind– is to sit down and write out the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.

Absolutely revolutionary. What. A. Genius!

Not only does the critical thinking method allow you to remove the thoughts from your mind, but it also allows you to unpack the problem and actually think about solutions to the problem. In addition, it helps you to reframe your mind from one of negativity (thinking about a problem) to one of positivity (thinking about your goals and solutions). Huzzah!

Once you practice critical thinking, then you will start to really think through the decisions you make. Eventually you will become so good at this that you will start to make really good decisions on your own. Consequently, you will rely less on other people’s advice and perspective and rely more on your own. As a result of this, you will build a self worth and a trust in yourself simply because you have the knowledge that you can make great decisions all by yourself.

When you think about it, rumination is actually a combination of 1) anxiety, 2) unforgiveness, and 3) victim mentality. People who ruminate frequently are paralyzed with fear of taking action because they do not know how to avoid repeating the same negative event or circumstance again in the future. People who ruminate frequently are simply blaming other people or circumstances for their own misfortune in life. They do not know how to move forward because they are stuck in the same bad circumstances from the past, as bitter victims.

As I learned, the best way to un-stick yourself from the past is to learn how to forgive the people who hurt you and to cultivate an accountability mindset. Learn how to examine the situation from both sides to determine what role you played in causing your own current situation of misfortune and then learn how to grow from it. Improve yourself to be better or to act differently so that you can avoid similar misfortune in the future. Lastly, cultivate a mindset of accountability and responsibility.

Remember: You, and you alone, are responsible for your current circumstances and your life. If you do not like something, then think critically about it and then take action to change it. This is the secret antidote.

 

Align Your Purpose(s)

In my last post, Become a Master of Time Management, I discussed how to organize your schedule for maximum efficiency. Not only that, but I gave advice on how to incorporate your “sub-goals,” or daily habits, into your schedule in order to work towards achieving your life goals. But what do you do when you have multiple life goals that all seem to conflict and collide with each other? How do you move forward in all areas when you seemingly need 28 hours in a day instead of 24? Read on for some tips on how to Align Your Purpose(s).

For me personally, I have always been double-, triple-, even quadruple- and quintuple-minded. As a musician, writer, and business entrepreneur, I have always had many goals and ambitions for myself and my life. In addition to my professional goals, I also wanted to prioritize the more common and widespread goals of living a long life and being a responsible person. As a result of this, I have always found it hard to focus on and prioritize just one thing.  So confusing! No wonder I had issues fitting everything into the same day.

To make matters even more confusing, when I first started thinking about goals and time management, I was trapped in a standard 9-5 corporate job which actually ended up taking over my entire life. I therefore had no time or energy left over to actually work on my goals at all. In spite of this, I stayed at my job because “I needed to earn money to pay my bills so that I could work on my passions, goals, and dreams.”

Unfortunately at that time, I did not understand the vital flaw in this logic. Maybe I did understand it on a subconscious level, but that didn’t mean that I actually knew what to do to fix it. The result was increasing frustration, irritation, and helplessness with my life on the surface and not understanding what was causing it.

Step #1: Prioritize Your Values

The first thing I did solve this problem was to compare my ideal list of values (how I would like to spend my time) with my actual values (the way that I was actually spending my time). My lists looked like this:

My ideal values:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Music
  3. Writing
  4. Business
  5. Job
  6. Housework

My actual values:

  1. Job
  2. Living a long life
  3. Business
  4. Housework
  5. Music
  6. Writing

Writing these lists, as you can see, was pretty jarring. It woke me up to the fact that I was, for the most part, prioritizing all the “responsible” aspects of life and was not really delving into either of my passions. No wonder I felt so frustrated and unfulfilled! I decided to do something about it.

Step #2: Quit Your Day Job

I know, this decision is not for everyone. That being said, it was definitely the right decision for me. I realized that if I wanted to live a life of true authenticity, I needed to make my music and writing more of a priority. So I rid myself of the largest time-sucker of all: the 9-5 job. Once I quit my job, I decided to earn money as a professional musician and as a business entrepreneur.

Once I quit my job, I felt much more comfortable and secure in the fact that the life that I was living was far more in alignment with my values than it had ever been previously. That being said, I still struggled with music goals vs business goals, and I hardly ever had time to write.

What was causing this problem? Each category had its own goals, sub-goals, and daily habits, there turned out to be not enough hours in the day to prioritize everything at the same time. Even though I tried my best to streamline, combine, and shuffle things around, I still felt too overwhelmed to fully focus on everything at the same time because I felt like I was way too overly extended to be successful in everything.

For example, I would make some success with my music in piano, but then my viola would suffer. Or I would prioritize my viola and my piano would suffer. Or I would have it on track with both instruments, but then I would never go to the gym. Or I would have the gym on track at the same time as the housework, but not do any music. Or I would have the gym and both instruments on track but neglect the housework. That’s not even mentioning my writing or my business. Sheesh.

See? Too many variables. No good. All it did was make me upset with myself for not being able to consistently follow through on anything because I had too many things going on at the same time. Because of this, I still felt deeply unsettled and unsatisfied. While I had made a large amount of progress, I had not yet achieved perfection (lol).

Step #3: Establish Mutual Purpose

Next, I decided to really look into each category and see if they were all truly important to me. Then I asked myself why they were so important to me and what was my purpose that was driving me towards completing goals in each area.

When I answered these questions, I still said that yes, all of these things are f*cking important. Clearly. Even though I still wished that I could hire a personal assistant and/or marry a hot husband who did all the housework, so that *I* didn’t have to be the one to do it, it was still important to me that someone did it.

Housework aside, what was really interesting when I completed this step was that I actually did manage to establish a mutual purpose behind my goals of living a long life, music, writing, and business.

My Mutual Purpose:

  1. I want to overcome to become. I want to overcome the negative, toxic, and scarcity experiences from my past to become a happy, healthy, and wholesome person who lives a life of abundance.
  2. I want to use my knowledge and experience to help others overcome negativity and toxicity and also live happy, healthy, and wholesome lives. I want to break others out of scarcity mindset and help them also live lives of abundance.

I was both relieved and pleased to discover that I was actually using three different channels to achieve the same mutual purpose. However, this still did not solve my problem of not having enough hours in the day and not being able to achieve long-term consistency in any category.

Step #4: The One Thing

While I had established that all of my goals were noble and that they all did serve the same mutual purpose, I had to take a good, hard look at each category to determine the order and the level of impact for each. Which one category allowed me to facilitate success in the other categories? Which category helped me the most in my own overcoming and healing process? Which category helped me the most in my quest to help others?

Another way of thinking about it is like a row of dominoes. Which domino is the most powerful that, if you could knock it down, it would result in the others also falling down? This is what I set out to find.

When I completed this step, the results were pretty shocking. I realized that while in the past I had achieved great success in my overcoming and healing process through my writing, I actually was now currently achieving better results with my personal growth through my business opportunity. While I still enjoyed writing, I realized that it no longer served me to write novels the way that it did in the past. Thus I decided to put novel writing on-hold for the time being and instead write about personal growth in this blog. See what I did there?

For my music, I realized that while I am currently making a difference with my students and with my performances, I will be able to make even more of an impact when I have the funding available to create my own Grand Performance Academy. In starting my own music academy, I will have control of the environment and culture, so that I can ensure that I am only teaching students (and parents) with the right attitude and mindset of abundance. Therefore, in order to become more selective with my music, I realized that I needed to first focus on building my business. The change and movement that I will make in the music industry will therefore be a byproduct of the results of building my business.

As a result, I decided to focus and concentrate first and foremost on building my business. Not only does building my business help me with my first goal of overcoming to become, but it also helps me in my quest to help others overcome to become. Not only that, but down the line I can make an even greater impact and change in the music industry once I have the finances in place to be able to do so.

Therefore, my order of priorities has now shifted to the following:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Business
  3. Music
  4. Writing
  5. Housework

Which therefore made it possible to streamline all of my daily habits and fit them into a 24-hour day, actually even less-than. Ironically, since making the decision to focus more on my business, I have since spent more time playing my instruments, going to music concerts, and writing. I call that a triple-minded success!

The Six Main Self-Care Areas for Adults

If you’re like most adults, you struggle greatly with finding balance and meaning in your life. You might be asking yourself, “Who am I, really? What is my purpose in life? How can I serve and give back to others? How am I supposed to accomplish my life’s purpose at the same time as working a full-time job, managing my home, maintaining good relationships, and taking care of myself?”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the majority of us were not taught how to balance our lives in school, nor were we taught how to create a meaningful life, legacy, and impact for ourselves. That being said, don’t let this deter you! Regardless of what age you are, there is always a chance to start fresh and change your life in a positive direction in order to produce the best results possible. All it takes is some prioritization, focus, determination, and diligence, and balance will be yours. As long as you maintain an eagerness to learn and a willingness to change your mindset, then the world will truly be your oyster.

So what is the best way to get started? There is a lot that goes into balancing your life, as well as many questions to ask. “How much time should I spend working? How do I build my financial empire? How often should I cook and clean? How often should I go to the gym? How often should I see my friends and family? How often should I work on my to-do list? How do I make good decisions? How do I manage and prevent crises? How often should I take a break, relax, and de-stress?”

Those are just the questions that apply to your life in the moment. There are also larger-scale questions to think about, such as, “how much time should I spend thinking about life in the moment vs life in the big picture? How do I achieve my goals in life at the same time as taking care of myself properly? When is it appropriate to be selfless and when it is it appropriate to be selfish? How much of my time should be spent trying to excel in this life, vs how much should be spent preparing for the next life (in a spiritual sense)?”

If a there’s a lot that goes into balancing your life, and there’s a lot of questions to ask, where do we even begin? How do we even begin to tackle this complicated problem?

To start with, I will share with you the six main self-care areas for adults. In order to achieve balance in your life, you must master the following areas:

  1. Self-Care. If it is your goal to serve and give back to others in life, then you must first be able to serve and give back to yourself. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually, and see your ability to help others soar. Self-care is the foundation for living a lengthy, prosperous, and vivacious life.
  2. Mindset and Attitude. If you would like to maintain healthy relationships with others, you again must first start with yourself. Cultivate an abundance mindset of selflessness, patience, grace, empathy, and forgiveness (after all, isn’t this the attitude that you would like others to take when they relate to you?). Take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as a person and work to improve yourself as needed.
  3. Much of our stress in life comes from unhealthy, toxic relationships. Become a master of good conflict resolution, boundaries and standards, expectations, laws, and rules of society in order to maintain good relationships with others. Be prepared to snip or limit the time you spend with others if necessary.
  4. Learn how to make better decisions in your life that will achieve the optimal result. Employ critical thinking skills (what a lifesaver!) to navigate personal and professional issues. Learn how to prevent crises from happening in your life and how to mitigate them once they do.
  5. Time Management. Much of our stress in life comes from poor time management skills. Take back control of your time, instead of having your time control you. Organize your schedule, to-do list, goals, thoughts, and mind. Streamline for better efficiency and set realistic goals for easing yourself into your schedule. Allow time for planning and reflecting in order to improve your system.
  6. In addition to better managing your relationships and your time, you should also spend some time in self-discovery mode. Much of our stress in life comes from lack of alignment with ourselves in our lives. Spend some time determining who you are, what you stand for, what your purpose is, and what your goals and dreams are. Once you know all of this, just go do it! Seek full alignment with yourself and start today.

With a complete mastery in all of these areas, you will significantly manage and reduce the amount of stress you feel in your life. Not only that, but you will be on track to achieve greatness in your life and you will be able to set out to help others. There is no better balance than being relaxed, healthy, happy, and set on a vision!

Welcome to ‘Find Your Balance’!

Do you feel like you are completely and utterly overwhelmed by all of life’s demands? Do you find that you are stressed out beyond belief trying to take proper care of yourself, at the same time as managing your to-do list, at the same time as working full time? Do you find yourself truly unable to cram everything into a twenty-four hour day and instead wish that you had thirty hours in the day (or maybe a personal chef, maid, and assistant to take care of the chores)? Do you find yourself continually resentful of the people closest to you, having fight after fight with them that never gets resolved, and then ruminating about the problems for months afterward? Do you consistently find yourself in the midst of a crisis that you didn’t see coming, and then do you have to delegate hundreds of unpleasant hours afterward cleaning up your own mess? What if you do have a plan to set yourself up for success in all areas of life, but then find yourself not wanting to follow through on your own schedule and instead end up curling up on the couch, watching a romantic comedy, and shoving chocolate down your throat as you break down in panicked misery?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, this blog is for you!

Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed by life because our lives are not in balance. Who can blame us? There’s so much that goes into taking care of ourselves properly and taking care of our responsibilities. From mental, physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being, to working to pay our bills, to taking care of our homes, it is no wonder that we are overwhelmed by life. As if all that weren’t enough, we also need to maintain good relationships with our loved ones and be selfless, giving people. With all of that on our plate, how do we even have time to focus on our passions in life and work toward achieving our life’s purpose? How is it possible to find the balance between being productive in all areas of life and relaxing?

In my new blog, Find Your Balance, I will explore with you the idea of a balanced life. I will discuss the importance of self-care, mindset and attitude, maintaining good relationships, thinking, time management, and alignment. Before you know it, you will be a master of balance in your own life! To learn more about specific balancing tips in each area, read on to my next post, “The Six Main Self-Care Areas for Adults.”