The Nature of Fear

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When I say the word FEAR, how do you feel?

In Balanced Leadership we point out how fear can be a good ally.

Fear is an interesting emotion because it makes us feel closed, some say focused, and in my case anxious but it is also essential to survival.  It offers an early warning system while there is still time to take action, which is a good thing.  It can also cause stress and complete inaction.  Not so good.  When it comes to fear you want to remember the Goldilocks principle.  Not too much, not too little, just right.  

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Fear should also be a response to an outside, objective influence.  A deadline, a time sensitive opportunity, bills that need to be paid, potential fire dangers.  These are all external factors that we need to push back against in order to maximize our survival.  Fear gives you the motivation to identify the danger (I mean really quantify it), plan a response, and use your time efficiently.  You feel the fear, use it to identify the direction danger is coming from, control it while you apply logic to the situation, and move yourself to favourable ground.

I was asked an excellent question at a workshop that got me thinking about other times when fear is in our lives but it is not working to our benefit.  There are times when I am afraid that I don’t belong, or that I am offending people by thinking I have the answer.  At these times I shrink back and make myself smaller.  This is allowing fear to control my sense of self.  This is when I should remind myself that you can’t use fear-based methods to get love-based results.  There is no place for fear in self-definition.  Self-doubt is a form of self-abuse.

If fear is causing you to question your self-worth, you need to switch worlds.  There are aspects of work where it is hoped that you will bring value to the table.  This is what the love-based world does for you.  In order to develop this strong connection to self we must start with self-care to connect with a strong sense of your intrinsic worth.  When you spend time following your bliss and developing your interests, something marvellous happens – you experience where you begin and the outside world ends.  Knowing this boundary is incredibly powerful.  These are times where your internal guidance system gets to be in charge.  You don’t have to be afraid of what others think because you get to decide who you are and that you are worthy of love.  And then it happens.  You can afford to let other people in, and to hear their various opinions, even opinions about you, because you create the boundary between you and the outside world.  You can be vulnerable and hear diverse opinions because they are not a threat to your sense of self.  You might even be curious.

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The love based world is highly generative.  This is the well that you draw from, the place where you will have an original idea, the ability to listen to a friend and bring a joyful element to the office.  Building a strong sense of self is value added to the workplace.  It brings out your talents, and inspires people you work with and creates a welcoming environment.  You do it for yourself and it is the gift that keeps on giving.

Next time you are feeling fear check in with yourself to determine if there is an outside danger that fear is giving you the heads up on, or you are feeling a threat to your sense of self.  If you are worried you will be fired and won’t be able to pay the rent, build an action plan where you put some money into savings to buffer you from cash flow interruptions, and do some research on the places where your skills are needed and when they have job openings.  If you are worried about being fired and how that will be emotionally crushing, and nobody else will want you because it will say you are not good enough – get the hell out of the fear based world!  Head to the nearest spa or nature park and let the environment remind you of what it feels like to be treated well and in touch with what you love.  You are worth it!

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Remember, you can choose what world you are acting from.  Facing the world with the lens of fear or love will determine how it presents itself to you.

I’m so busy!

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How often do you find yourself saying how busy you are in one way or another?  I caught myself trying to impress my daughter with my busy-ness one day and I had to stop and laugh as she gave me one of those eyeball rolls.  I think she was right.

Busy-ness is all about direction.  Without a strong underpinning of meaning, being busy isn’t that impressive.  There I was telling my daughter that our relationship wasn’t a priority on my schedule and it didn’t reflect how I truly feel. Not even a little bit.  There comes a point where being busy is a goal unto itself and you’re not even enjoying that cup of coffee.images-13

There is a movement to explore this issue. A group of students write an interesting blog on taking the opportunity while in University to learn how to not drive yourself crazy with busy-ness.

Balanced Leadership recognizes that fear and love needs to be in balance.  Working hard, trying to stay ahead of the pack, striving to be vital and valuable as measured by how busy you are are all manifestations of the fear based world.  Sometimes it is a good thing.  It shows an ability to take on challenges and to dig down and accomplish your goals when required.  The problem arises when you can’t shut it off.  Pushing back against what you fear requires a judicious use of power: not too much, not too little, just right.  We call it the Goldilocks principle.

Before you get busy, there needs to be play time.  This is one of the best ways to get in touch with what is meaningful to you.  Or free time, with moments of stillness.  Understanding what is meaningful to you requires a different environment than the fast paced, get it done atmosphere of many workplaces.  Busy is even the root of the word business.

Before you get busy, take a moment to find what is really important to you.  And then, no matter how far you are down the wrong path – turn back!!

Balanced Leadership gives you the tools to move easily from the fear-based world to the love based-world and vice versa.  It gives you the insight to know what is driving you in any given moment and from there you can make some choices.  Our next 1-day workshop will be at Hollyhock – Vancouver, March 14.

Two Ways to Move Forward

Next time you are trying to find a solution to a problem, try stepping back and thinking of it in these two ways:images-3

1.  what are my choices and which is my best option?

This is an either/or mentality.  It works well when the goal is clear and you want to overcome obstacles to achieving it.  It is possible to assess which is the better option when the factors are measurable.  This style of thinking will produce consistent results because you only know your best option when you know what outcome you are shaping the options towards.

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2. How do I connect all the factors?

This is an and mentality.  It is the source of creativity, relationship building and lasting conflict resolution.  You don’t know where you will end up but you know it will feel right when you get there because that is your criteria for success.

You can apply these two ways of thinking to the same situation and get different options for moving forward.

Let’s look at a practical example.  You are the manager at a mine and contractually bound to hire 30% First Nation workers but they are complicated to manage, not showing up, difficult socially with the other workers.  On careful examination of the contract you note that there is a penalty for not achieving the quotas.  You weigh the penalty against the cost in work productivity and decide to factor the penalty into the budget because it is the least expensive.

Now, from an AND perspective.   What do they want and what do we want?  First Nation workers want jobs in their traditional territory so they can continue their cultural practices and participate in a modern economy.  You, the mine manager, want reliable safe workers who don’t have to be flown in from all over the country every 2 weeks.  What are the factors that are limiting the hiring of FN workers? (hint: you can often find the points of connection when you consider the meaning behind things). They go hunting, they have cultural responsibilities, they feel isolated.  The key to having reliable workers is to build in ways for the FN employees to have employment and practice cultural values.  Just like in the running of an airport you can build in responsive systems that result in predictable outcomes despite variable conditions.

Now you can stand back and make a well considered decision.

Balanced Leadership develops the ability to see more options.  From this position you can create a system that includes both options, or you can employ the options consecutively, or even choose one over the other.  Either/or is an operating principle of the fear-based world while and is an operating principle of the love based world.

More than just a job………..

The best employers try to address all aspects of an employee’s experience.”

Richard Yerema, Managing Editor, Canada’s Top 100  Employers’ Program

best placesHaving a secure, well paid job is a good thing. Having a secure well paid job within a work environment of support, respect, recognition and a sense of belonging  is another. The recently released annual report of  BC’s Top Employers (http://www.canadastop100.com/bc/bc2014.pdf) makes it clear that decent wages and job security are only one part of the equation.  The best employers understand that the needs and wants of employees transcend material benefits.   In Balanced Leadership terms, these organizations are implicitly recognizing that the “bottom line” is not just about the profits and performance of the fear based world. It’s also about caring for people and their passions (features of the love based world).

The first thing you notice about the list of top employers is that they are as diverse a group as you can imagine: small and private (modest consulting groups with less than 30 employees) to large and public (a university with 11, 000 employees).  They are union and non-union, high tech and low tech, corporations and coops, non-profits and multi-nationals, builders, bankers, bakers and box-makers.  The common denominator is that they treat their employees well (full disclosure here: I work for SFU, on the list of top employers again this year).

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Being treated well might mean three weeks paid holiday for new employees, onsite daycare facilities, mentoring programs, paid time off to do charity work, flexible scheduling, profit-sharing, generous pension plans, wellness programs and tuition payments for employee upgrading. These and the other benefits and programs that the top employers provide, send an important message-their employees’ needs matter. These companies and organizations are implicitly stating that people thrive at work when they feel valued and supported.

Balanced Leadership is founded in part on the principle that sustained engagement at work takes more than decent wages and an interesting challenge. It also takes a sense of belonging, a felt sense that your employer values your contribution, understands your family obligations, supports your career aspirations and your overall wellness. Having both these sets of needs met in the workplace generates positive energy.  In Balanced Leadership  terms, the best employers implicitly honour the fear-based world of performance, profits and challenge, as well as the love-based world of belonging, meaning and self-care.  How is your workplace at finding this balance?

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Next Balanced Leadership Workshop:  Friday, March 14th in Vancouver

(www.hollyhock.ca)

Mindfulness opens doors……….

I attended a mindfulness leadership conference recently where I was reminded of what an invaluable role mindfulness can play in our lives.  It also struck me – in a blinding flash of the obvious – that we can approach mindfulness from either the love-based or the fear-based world. Conscious awareness, moment by moment, without judgement, opens up possibilities for how we think and feel about the leadership issues in front of us. Being present in this neutral place, we can recognize and choose to access either the love-based world of being or the fear-based world of doing.  The first choice is all about paying attention, the second choice all about setting an intention.

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Mindfulness is about being present with whatever thoughts and feelings arise, without either pulling them in or pushing them away. This neutral attitude provides us with the space to choose which door we want to walk through.  This is especially challenging and valuable for leaders, as we juggle competing priorities, meet deadlines, put out brush fires, innovate, and try to create a compelling vision for the future.  But there’s the rub: the greater the challenges we face, the greater the potential benefit from simply being mindful of our emotions and thoughts.  Creating space – or as stated in a previous blog – minding the gap – provides us with options that are unlikely to surface otherwise.  It creates the ability to shift from unconscious reactivity to conscious reflectivity and towards archetypally intelligent actions.

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Holding the space we create when being mindful allows us to choose a love-based world approach or a fear-based world approach. The love-based world is simply about paying attention to and seeing the intrinsic worth in what is, recognizing the strong need for belonging and connection in all of us.  The fear-based world is about setting an intention with a focus on a strong value or principle that is maintained despite distractions.  Being mindful enables you to discern what that value is for you. For example, some people meditate on a specific theme – becoming more compassionate, joyful or less reactive.  This reflects the the fear-based operating system where you discipline yourself to stay focused and work to shape the world towards a particular outcome.

Meditation is a great way to cultivate mindfulness.  It is essentially taking a page from the fear-based world and setting an intention to regularly practice sitting in a contemplative state.  Without setting this intention and disciplining yourself to follow through, the benefits of mindfulness will be elusive.  Once in the practice it is the love-based operating system of staying present in the moment that gives you access to rejuvenation, insight, and joy.

Being mindful can also be about simply holding space in the present moment to see what comes up, without aversion, attachment or intention: let “what is” be. This approach reflects the attributes of the love-based world – open-ended, curious and accepting. Through simply paying attention to our thoughts and feelings we are open to all ways of being and creativity and insight are possible.

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Leaders can benefit from both forms of mindfulness because they provide access to and insight into the love-based and fear-based worlds.  As previous blogs have pointed out, understanding and applying the respective qualities of both worlds elevates leadership practice to a new level. Mindfulness expands the leader’s capacity for sound judgement, reflection, compassion and clarity of purpose. Taking time to pay attention and to set an intention ensures these important leadership attributes are cultivated.

 

Mindfulness Opens Doors

I attended a mindfulness leadership conference recently where I was reminded of what an invaluable role mindfulness can play in our lives.  It also struck me – in a blinding flash of the obvious – that we can approach mindfulness from either the love-based or the fear-based world. Conscious awareness, moment by moment, without judgement, opens up possibilities for how we think and feel about the leadership issues in front of us. Being present in this neutral place, we can recognize and choose to access either the love-based world of being or the fear-based world of doing.  The first choice is all about paying attention, the second choice all about setting an intention.

attention 2

Mindfulness is about being present with whatever thoughts and feelings arise, without either pulling them in or pushing them away. This neutral attitude provides us with the space to choose which door we want to walk through.  This is especially challenging and valuable for leaders, as we juggle competing priorities, meet deadlines, put out brush fires, innovate, and try to create a compelling vision for the future.  But there’s the rub: the greater the challenges we face, the greater the potential benefit from simply being mindful of our emotions and thoughts.  Creating space – or as stated in a previous blog – minding the gap – provides us with options that are unlikely to surface otherwise.  It creates the ability to shift from unconscious reactivity to conscious reflectivity and towards archetypally intelligent actions.

attention

Holding the space we create when being mindful allows us to choose a love-based world approach or a fear-based world approach. The love-based world is simply about paying attention to and seeing the intrinsic worth in what is, recognizing the strong need for belonging and connection in all of us.  The fear-based world is about setting an intention with a focus on a strong value or principle that is maintained despite distractions.  Being mindful enables you to discern what that value is for you. For example, some people meditate on a specific theme – becoming more compassionate, joyful or less reactive.  This reflects the the fear-based operating system where you discipline yourself to stay focused and work to shape the world towards a particular outcome.

Meditation is a great way to cultivate mindfulness.  It is essentially taking a page from the fear-based world and setting an intention to regularly practice sitting in a contemplative state.  Without setting this intention and disciplining yourself to follow through, the benefits of mindfulness will be elusive.  Once in the practice it is the love-based operating system of staying present in the moment that gives you access to rejuvenation, insight, and joy.

Being mindful can also be about simply holding space in the present moment to see what comes up, without aversion, attachment or intention: let “what is” be. This approach reflects the attributes of the love-based world – open-ended, curious and accepting. Through simply paying attention to our thoughts and feelings we are open to all ways of being and creativity and insight are possible.

intention 2

Leaders can benefit from both forms of mindfulness because they provide access to and insight into the love-based and fear-based worlds.  As previous blogs have pointed out, understanding and applying the respective qualities of both worlds elevates leadership practice to a new level. Mindfulness expands the leader’s capacity for sound judgement, reflection, compassion and clarity of purpose. Taking time to pay attention and to set an intention ensures these important leadership attributes are cultivated.

 

Reconsidering Certainty

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I’m not going all the way on this.  I still believe Certainty has its place in the fear-conquering world.  But striving for Certainty is not always the best option.  Sometimes you need to recognize the inherent unpredictability of a situation and expect things to go in unpredictable directions.  The key is to adopt the mindset that you will stay in touch with the evolving nature of the situation and be Responsive.  When you hold a strong principal in your heart and mind, a clear purpose, you can find several ways to fulfill it as you respond to reality.  Sounds a little bit strange at first but complex situations need to be handled in the love-based world because it is here that we focus on meaning rather than direction.  You take in what is and respond to it in a way that is still in line with your ultimate purpose.  There is a great TED talk on jazz improv that looks at how to apply this concept to business and increase creativity.  It shows the shift in mindset beautifully.

images-15Airports are a classic example of this principle.  People and weather are not predictable.  The system is designed to be able to respond to unexpected outcomes while holding the intention of getting people to their destinations in a timely and safe manner (this is the ultimate meaning or purpose).  This is achieved by noticing when an unpredictable event has occurred and building in the ability to respond to it.  There are tracking devices that give information of when a person checked in, and gate keepers that ensure passengers are at the right section of the airport.  There are big boards that inform people of any changes to their flight departure or baggage claim area.  I was stuck in a long line at airport security, way later than I should have been, and an Air North representative met me as I pulled my computer from the security conveyor belt and whisked me to my flight in a golf cart.  We actually departed ten minutes ahead of schedule.  This would not happen if it was assumed that people would show up when and where they were told to and planes will take off when they are scheduled to.  Only with a responsive and interactive system can you deliver an effective air transport service because there are so many unpredictable interactions.

Relationships are another great example.  We wouldn’t parent by handing our children a manual as soon as they have reading ability.  There is lots of uncertainty in parenting and you’ll do well to accept this.  You don’t know how they are going to turn out, you just know that you love them and you want to give them a good start.  How you do this is a constantly evolving process.  The best moments are often when they surprise you.images-14

The environment is also a complex system that creates unpredictable interactions.  Water responds to whatever situation it encounters always knowing it will reach the ocean eventually.  This is the kind of responsive system we need to develop in order to effectively protect the environment.  The regulatory system makes the mistake of offering a set of hoops that a company has to jump through in exchange for a licence that offers certainty that a company can complete their project according to their plan.  There is a built in incentive not to discover any flaws in the model that was proposed in the early stages because it triggers delays and expensive adjustments.

What if the system was designed with a recognition that models will be flawed and the goal is early detection and adjustment so the impacts are small.  Adjustments should be made throughout the monitoring program as site specific numbers can test the model and show the variability over time.  Everyone involved needs to hold the same fundamental purpose in what they are doing and then make individual decisions that reflect that value throughout the system.

Certainty is a great concept when it comes to accountability and safety procedures and work ethic.  It can also create blind spots that result in relationship damage, or environmental damage, among other detrimental affects.

Resolutions in Balance: “Too”

As enrolment in fitness studios, weight loss clinics and quit-smoking programs spike in January, it’s useful to look at why many determined individuals drop out within a few weeks. A common reason is the “too” syndrome:  too much, too soon, too often. For most of us, making huge changes quickly tends to backfire. The challenge seems too difficult, the “withdrawal” symptoms too painful, or the aches and pains from a sudden burst of exercise too much to handle.

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Balanced Leadership recognizes the value of incrementalism – small, gradual changes that bring you closer to your goals.We call it the Goldilocks Principle – not too much, not too little, just right.

This was brought home to me years ago during my long distance running days. My goal was the coveted, standard 26.2 mile marathon but I seemed to be stuck around 15-16 miles for months (years!).  The advice given to me from a veteran marathoner seemed hopelessly simple: when I get to my usual mileage limit, just add a few more steps each time. The wisdom of that advice soon became clear.  When your body is screaming for relief, running another ten miles seems impossible. But adding a few more steps – I can manage that! A few more steps this time, a few more next, and before long I was going the distance.

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When I was boasting about my incremental improvements to a mathematically inclined colleague, he nodded then said, “Ah yes, the aggregation of marginal gains!” He was reminding me that minute, ongoing changes can add up to a big change over time. He was also inferring that making massive, instant changes tends to be a less effective way to sustain improvements.

This is a positive attribute of the fear based world.  Fear gives you an early warning as to what you need to do to be productive or assure safety.  Setting a goal enables you to shape the outcome to something that is advantageous to you, thus reducing the fear.  The way to successfully reach your goal is to make things measurable and track your progress towards that goal in small increments.  As long as you continue moving forward, expanding your boundaries little by little, you will win the day.  Notice how hard you are working and the progress you are making. Be proud of your progress!  And don’t forget to set a few interim rewards for yourself.  Carrots are important, in both the long AND short “run.”

Again, may all your resolutions stick!

Resolutions in Balance

Happy New Year!
New Year’s Resolutions for most of us are simply another holiday ritual. Whatever the reason – a deep, primal need for renewal, temporary guilt and self-loathing brought on by a holiday of hyper consumption, or both – the majority of us resolve to better ourselves almost before the shortbread and egg nog season is over.

The fact that most of these resolutions are abandoned before the first month of the year is over doesn’t seem to deter us from the annual ritual of making resolutions. When the resolutions do stick, it’s usually when we (unwittingly) invoke the best of the two drives that permeate so much of our lives. Applying the twin elements of Balanced Leadership – the fear-based and the love-based worlds – can make all the difference.
One of the most common reasons resolutions fade quickly is the mindset we bring to them. We think resolutions are all about the fear-based attributes of self-discipline, sacrifice and perseverance, about being strong so we can avoid the temptations that we’re trying to overcome – be it smoking, eating or being a couch potato. Yes, setting goals and sticking to them matter, but understanding why you want to improve – the meaning behind your resolution – matters just as much or more. When we can tap into our love-based drive for deeper meaning and connection with self, it provides the fuel that sustains our desire to improve.


Another aspect of Balanced Leadership that helps us stick to resolutions is knowing the difference between gifts and rewards in this context. In the fear-based world, rewards are payment for the hardship it takes to reach a goal or make strides towards it. Rewards motivate us to keep going, and can play a big part in sticking with our resolutions.
Gifts, on the other hand, are also important. We give and receive gifts not for what has been accomplished, but simply to celebrate the person. Rewards are about doing, gifts are about being. Gifts to ourselves serve as affirmations of our intrinsic worth: we don’t need to attain a certain goal (no matter how laudable) to be whole or to matter. As we work on our resolutions, the gift of self-acceptance is as important as the reward for making progress towards a goal. Balanced Leadership reminds us of the value of both doing and being.

Be conscious of the gifts to yourself that not only keep you on track, but remind you of your ability to feel joy.  How often do we fail in our resolutions because we are down on ourselves, or we get down, and the thing we are trying to change is the way we usually make ourselves feel better (for a brief moment)?  The impulse to treat yourself is a good one.  Now find good ways to do that.  Have your favorite music and a good cup of tea ready for yourself.  Decide to buy yourself a good magazine to indulge in images of what you love, especially useful at the first sign of weakening.  Use gifts to yourself to remind you of your right to feel love simply for being alive.

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Finally, activating the best of both worlds can help us when our resolve to improve falters (e.g. you had that brownie, snuck a smoke, skipped a workout, whatever our resolution is). In the fear-based world, we shrug it off and get back on the “horse of discipline.” No blaming others or self-criticism, just get back on track.

In the love based world it also helps if we’re curious about why we slip up. What was on our minds at the time? Why were we able to resist the temptation one day but not the next? What can I learn about myself through this experience? The curiosity of the love-based world contributes to our growth and development as much as the discipline of the fear-based world.
Balanced Leadership recognizes that New Year’s Resolutions can work if we combine the tenacity, self-sacrifice and striving of the fear-based world with the curiosity, self-acceptance and meaning of the love-based world.
Again, Happy New Year, and best of luck with your resolutions!

Happiness

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It is Christmas time and I have been very busy keeping the furnace running in -34 C weather and getting my list of jobs done.  I woke up this morning and realized we have not been to any xmas parties yet – 6 days to xmas!  I did a mental note of how many parties we will be going to between now and the big day and came up with three.   It made me stop and think.  Is the number of events we go to a measure of something?  I was unconsciously thinking that lots of invitations means that lots of people like us and that means we are part of a community. Which would make us happy.  Right?

Instantly I saw the folly in this logic.  Happiness cannot be measured, it is experienced.  No matter how many events I go to, the key to my sense of happiness is if I am in a mindset of the love-based world.  Love is focused on the moment, looks to make connections in order to experience feeling like joy, appreciation of beauty, and gratitude.  Happiness doesn’t come from a sense of growth or prosperity (as in we have many party invites, more than last year even!).  It comes from a grounding in the sense of enough.   What if there isn’t an elusive party out there where everyone is having fun?  13ef8159-5130-4e21-aa4a-c42877911c3cIn this moment, when I think of you reading this blog and sharing my thoughts, I genuinely feel a rush of gratitude.  It is a wonderful feeling to be received.  An ember of happiness grows in my heart because I stopped to take a moment to feel this feeling.

Conscious awareness of the nature of happiness is very empowering.  It is an important concept for our personal and career leadership.  There is an energy that is created from changing the dynamics from the fear-based world to the love-based world.  Bring beauty into the workplace.  Take a moment to tell people what they bring to the workplace that you feel grateful for.  Give a gift to someone to show them that they are valuable to you and the company.  It is not the present as much as what you hold in your heart when you give the present – the meaning that it represents – that is truly powerful.

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We are here to get ahead (separate ourselves from scarcity and build wealth) and to know joy, love, and the freedom of being who we truly know ourselves to be.  Most of the time we focus on growth and production (the former).  Christmas is a time to shift the balance to the love-based world and find your joy.  When you think about it, this is the point of The Miracle on 34th Street, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and any Christmas show worth its salt.  Without a mental shift to the operating system of the love-based it is easy to feel empty at this time of year.  My holiday wish for you is that you shift worlds and with curiosity you explore what feels joyful, beautiful.  Let that be your guide in each moment.

Sending you all, lots of love.

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