Sunday, October 11, 2009

How do you deal with your hidden fears with respect to competition?

In our last iAM Woman in Business Circle meeting, we were discussing ways to learn from our competition and one brave woman voiced her fear, "When I look at competing websites, I feel intimidated at everything else that everyone is doing and I am not." As it turns out, we all have had the same fear at some time or the other. The thought of not being as good as others, or not technologically savvy like others, or that others are bigger, better and have existed for longer, are all thoughts that everyone has had at some point in their lives.

Some of the things discussed in this regard:

1) To know you are not alone in having these thoughts - even those big, better business people have these thoughts, makes us realize that we are all human and we are not alone in our fears. Once we recognize our fears, what can we do about them?

2) Connect with your purpose - you are unique and there is no one like you. If you are following your highest purpose and doing your best, life will support you - that is a natural law of life.

3) Instead of shying away from competition, learn what they are doing that you can adopt and ensure that you have a unique positioning, in terms of your service or expertise (I will discuss this next in another post on personal branding).

4) Explore further, what is it in you that you are really fearing here? Strong emotions are a signal that there is more to what we are experiencing that what we see at the surface. Read my Blog posting on hidden beliefs:
Ways to identify hidden beliefs

5) Tapping into hidden beliefs through creating distance from yourself - becoming the observer of yourself. You can can do mindful meditation - silent, non judgmental observation of what you are feeling and that in itself will surface issues and dissolve the issues because you are now the observer and not caught in the drama.

6) If you have trouble with mindful observation, try visualization. Sit comfortably with eyes closed softly, your palms open on your thighs. Breathe deeply as you settle in. Go into your happy place, and snuggle in your favorite blanket, with every breath in you are becoming more comfortable and every exhale you are releasing any stress. When you feel ready, you turn on your inner movie channel and watch your favorite movie that is starring you. Notice what you as the main star of the movie are doing, how do you go about the day, notice how the star is feeling....notice any challenges that she is faces....from that place of quiet distance, what advice would you give to her...take a few deep breaths, end the movie in whatever way feels complete to you and open your eyes when you feel ready.

I have found this visualization quite helpful in creating a distance and watching myself go through stuff that I cannot see when I am caught in it. Many people who tried this exercise have also confirmed that this really works in bringing awareness to blocks they were not able to identify earlier and other insights about issues hidden at a conscious level.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How long should a mission statement be and does it have to reflect the current reality?

I received a good question from Deb and with her permission am sharing this because I think it will be useful to other people as well - how long should a mission statement be and if you are just starting out, does it have to reflect current reality. This is what i think:

You mission statement needs to be authentic and yes truthful, but truthful to the vision you have for the future - so what you are saying is not maybe happening today but it is what your purpose is and your activities and energy are directed towards meeting that vision. So, it does include your over all purpose, some idea of how you are going to achieve that, and what is unique about.

I do not believe there is one format for all organizations - profit and non profit. Each organization needs to communicate its authentic voice in how many ever words they choose, as long as it is meaningful and clearly communicates what difference you are making to this world in your unique way. For example, if you look at's mission, they have a video and then a text version which runs pretty long, but it conveys what they are about - some of it through the words they use and also using a video shows they are innovative in their approach - so some of what gets conveyed is through other symbols, images, and other ways of communication.

Check out's Mission

Women's Fund of western Ma defines their mission and then states their vision and how they are going to get there:
Check out Mission of Women's Fund

And then Bioneers has a full page to describe their Mission and point to how they intend to reach their goals.
Check out Bioneer's Mission

I think it is important to communicate your authentic story, what is your vision, and how you as a unique individual/organization will work towards that vision - say it your own way - get ideas how others do it, but it has to be your voice and your own way of communicating as long as it clearly highlights your purpose, unique qualities, and how you will get there. It should be written keeping the long term in mind, but this is not to say you can never change it. Especially, when we are starting out new, we may start at one place but as we start talking to people and studying the environment, we may find there is a greater need for another related area and that may become your mission or at least contribute to the mission.

Think big
Think long term
Be honest
Be authentic
Share your unique strengths
And share how you make a difference

Can also refer to the article translating inner purpose into an authentic mission statement and that exercise will also help to identify key words that are important to you and should come through in your mission statement.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ways to identify hidden beliefs inhibiting dynamic change

Change is the only constant. And we are all changing, some to a greater degree than others. But how conscious is that process? And are we mindful enough of the changes around us to incorporate changes in our lives and business in order to keep up with the changes and better still innovate and create in anticipation of expected changes?

But I do not need to change...
There are many reasons for not noticing the opportunities and threats that changes bring. We often speak about people who stand out as being very lucky for being at the right place, at the right time. What if it is not luck at play here. What if you too are given the same opportunities, except, you do not notice them. What is it in us that stops us from noticing these windows of opportunities that open for us from time to time but we fail to look out? One legit reason is that we are all very busy. People would argue that when it is so hard to keep up with everything on our plate already, there is no place for more, so we do not even look. The other factor is complacency. When we get set in systems and thinking patterns, especially if they have worked for us in the past, we will be less likely to explore new possibilities. There may be many other reasons for resistance to change but the one I would like to focus on pertains to hidden variables creating a silent resistance to change.

95% of your behaviors is driven by the subconscious mind
According to Dr. Bruce Lipton and many other scientists, up to 95% of our actions are determined by our subconscious mind. This suggests that many of the reasons inhibiting us from growing into our highest potential are also hidden. For example, I may have a resistance to technology, which is intimidating to many women. Underlying this resistance may be another belief that I am not competent in areas related to technology. And on the surface what the conscious mind portrays to the world is a vehement dislike for the technology under consideration because of carefully constructed reasons that have nothing to do with the hidden beliefs. So I may say that I do not want to use Facebook because it will invade my privacy. That is a perfectly legitimate reason. Mind you, there may be many ways that I can use Facebook while protecting my privacy, but I do not know that because I have not systematically examined Facebook because it is not privacy but my own hidden fears that are driving my dislike for Facebook

If they are hidden, how do I identify my limiting beliefs?

Strong and Immediate Reactions
One way to notice that you may have a hidden belief operating under the facade of logical reasoning is being cognizant of extreme emotion when being asked about something related to that belief. If you have a strong reaction and especially if it is immediate, there is certainly a hidden agenda operating here.

For example, if you are a person afraid of technology, lets say, and if a friend suggests that you join Facebook (assuming that you are not on it yet), and you immediately say no, without even thinking through, most likely you are being driven by hidden beliefs that you may have related to Facebook. Think of something that is not driven by hidden beliefs and you will notice that you do not have a strong and immediate reaction. For example, if someone asked you to join a book club, you may disagree but notice the difference in how you feel inside when you respond. Assuming there are no hidden fears related to book clubs, you are likely to evaluate the situation rationally and then make a decision. Certainly, in situations involving hidden beliefs there are stronger emotions and less rational evaluation of the situation. Your feelings and any strong sensations in your body are a clue that there may be some hidden beliefs pulling your strings.

Elaborating your conscious limitations
Very often underlying a conscious limitation is a subconscious belief. So examining a conscious belief deeper will reveal the hidden beliefs. For example, take a limitation that you are aware of. For example, you may say, “I am not good with technology.” Further investigation into this statement may reveal other fears driving this apparent resistance. So journaling about limitations will bring to light the hidden issues. So you may want to elaborate with further questions such as:
• What specific aspects of technology do I not like about technology?
• Why do I not like technology?
• What do I have to lose if I fail in technology?
Write down your answer for each question, stay with your answer, and then honestly ask yourself if that is so. When you ask yourself if that is the truth, allow yourself to see the truth in the situation. When you investigate deeper, you may find that it is not technology that you fear but a belief you carry that you are not smart enough or that you can never be a savvy business person, etc.

Why have I not been able to achieve my goals?
Another way to tap into hidden beliefs is making a list of reasons for not reaching your goals. Just jot down every thought that comes into your mind about not reaching your goals. Do not think too hard. Just allow all thoughts, even random thoughts to come up. You can slash them out later if they don’t feel right, but if any thought does come up, put it down.

Other resources on Resistance to Change

Schuler Solutions inc.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I am so grateful for Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique introduced by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Do you think social media is just a fad? Watch the social media revolution video - very cool statistics

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Am Business Meeting Photo

Here it is....

Nice photo everybody!
Are you an online addict - take the quiz - my score was 8 - happy I am not an addict, yet - wikiHow RT @GRMilne
If you have multiple networks is the way to go!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Join me and other artisans at the Apple Harvest Festival on the Amherst Commons Saturday
Sept. 26th from 10-5. Look for the Stunning Images Booth!

-Stephanie Oates

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Mindful Environmental Scan: Examining your external environment and internal response to change

The situational scan is the second step in the mindful marketing process. It refers to an examination of the environment, internal and external to the business. The purpose is to stay in touch with the changes in your business environment – changing technologies, consumer culture, competitors, economy, and regulatory forces. Even though I describe this as the second step, this is a natural outcome of being mindful. Part of being mindful is being aware of what is happening inside and outside of us. The purpose of this posting is to provide some resources for doing an environmental scan if you do not have a big budget to access syndicated research and to provide an exercise using the inside-out approach to get in touch with your internal and external environment as a starting point.

As we get busier and more comfortable with systems that work for us we are less inclined to study the changes around us. We know that the only permanent thing is change. You can either resist and evade it or embrace it as your teacher. Changes compel us to find new ways of thinking and as such are responsible for innovations and improvements. In this context, I would also like you to think about competition. It is so important to be aware of what other people in your business are offering. Competition can be seen as a very healthy force that is constantly challenging you to improve and grow. If you are open, and curious, and want to grow, learning about and from your environment is a natural outcome of who you are. So, look around you, notice, Google, read, talk to people, try new experiences, explore new subjects, research, and continue to grow – because if you are not growing forward, you are going backward.

Some websites, videos, and resources related to environmental scan and understanding trends

Patricia Aburdene, in her book, Megatrends 2010, describes conscious capitalism as the new trend. hosts an extensive amount of research information and is an excellent resource to search for different areas that can affect your business. also hosts interesting research and articles related to marketing and many resources are available for free.

Gallup is a reputable source for data and data-driven reports on economic, political, social, and behavioral issues.

Dr Patrick Dixon was ranked as one of the top 20 most influential thinkers alive today, in the Thinkers 50 global executive survey published in 2005. Number One was Michael Porter, followed by Bill Gates. His website has tons of videos on different topics.

The Trend Bank on Faith Popcorn’s (yes that is her real name) is an interesting resource to understand upcoming trends within the social/cultural realm. Warning: The site is a little confusing to navigate

At iAM Business Consulting's website, you can find new research articles and watch videos exploring tools and strategies that can enable you to run your business in mindful and profitable ways. For example, Patrick Dixon’s video describes how he stays up to date as a futurist and the TED video reveals how social media can be used successfully to promote businesses with a purpose.

Environmental Scan Exercise: The Inside-out Approach

This exercise briefly describes steps to get you started with the environmental scan process and notice how you feel at each stage. Typically, environmental scan includes social, technological, competitive, economic, and regulatory changes, but for purposes of this exercise we will focus on competition and technology.

Internal Scan

Environmental Scan

Step 1

Before you begin your environmental scan, close your eyes or keep your gaze soft and take three long and deep breaths. Observe how you feel about this exercise – notice your thoughts, judgments, feelings, and sensations in your body. Do not judge, justify, or try to change your thoughts – Simply observe. Once you feel complete, open your eyes, and make a note of your experience.

Step 1

After the internal scan, start the environmental scan. Search on Google or your choice of search engine for people in your area doing a similar business. For example, I am a marketing consultant, so I typed “marketing consultants Amherst MA”

Note in the first three pages or so, who are the top companies in your area of business and make a note of the directories and online magazines in which they have a presence. Most of these online resources are free, so make a list of the free online resources advertising your competition and make sure that you also advertise in them. For example, my search of marketing consultants in Amherst MA resulted in directories like Google Maps,, Yellow pages, etc

Step 2

After making a list of online directories and magazines that you can participate in, again close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to observe how you feel now. Did the exercise make you feel impatient, frustrated, excited? Simply observe and when ready open your eyes and note any feelings or thoughts you experienced with your eyes closed.

Step 2

Next, you will look at two to three competitors’ websites to learn from them. Visit the websites of your competitors and make a list of what you liked and what you did not like about their website and what they do. Here are some things to pay attention to:

1) The website layout and presentation

2) Their mission statement

3) Their products and services and how are those different from your offerings

4) What are they doing to engage their customers

5) What are they doing to build community around their brand

6) How are they using social media – are they on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc?

7) Note the language they use to connect with their audience. In particular see how they are marketing their services and workshops.

8) Their pricing structure

Step 3

Again, take a few minutes to breathe and bring awareness to how you feel about your competition. How did reading about your competitors make you feel – anxious, fearful, excited, threatened? After witnessing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, open your eyes and note down your experience.

Step 3

What did you learn from your competition and new technologies being employed? What are the popular new products and services in your area of work? What are the popular new technologies being used?

How are you going to implement what you learnt into your business?

How do you feel now about the changes happening around you? We may choose not to make changes in what works for us, but it is important to be aware of trends in the future. Secondly, we all know that our inner world comprising our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions shape our external world. Your inner feelings towards your competition and changing technologies are a clue to how you perceive and respond to other aspects of your world. If you felt resistance towards the new technologies, think about other changes that you resist. I realized my inner resistance during my intervals exercise class – observing my resistance to exert myself physically has allowed me to transcend my limitations and become much stronger, not only physically but also mentally. What do you resist in your life? Next time take action despite the resistance. Observe with no judgment and let the magic happen!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

iAMWomaninBusiness: Photgraphy Exhibit

iAMWomaninBusiness: Photgraphy Exhibit

Photgraphy Exhibit

Hello everybody,

I just wanted to send along an invitation to my photography exhibit opening at the Historic Northampton Museum. It's one week from today and I couldn't get anymore excited. You can visit my website and have included some information below.
Take care and I"ll see you soon...

Historic Northampton
Backyard Beauty title image
Backyard Beauty: Photography by Stephanie Oates

You are invited to the Opening Reception for Historic Northampton's exciting new exhibit, Backyard Beauty: Photography by Stephanie Oates. The reception will be held at Historic Northampton on Thursday, July 30, 2009 from 4 PM - 7 PM.

About the Exhibit
Historic Northampton Current Exhibits
Backyard Beauty:
Photography by Stephanie Oates

Date: July 30 - October 31, 2009
Location: Historic Northampton
Cost: $3 per person, $6 per family
Backyard Beauty:
Photography by Stephanie Oates

Debut Exhibit Features Fresh Perspectives

July 30 - October 31, 2009
Opening Reception, July 30th, 4-7 PM
Museum Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM, Sundays Noon to 5 PM

In her debut exhibit, Stephanie Oates demonstrates an instinct for color and form that lends her photographs an intensity and energy that is scarcely contained by their frames. Oates follows in the tradition of Connecticut Valley art stretching back over two centuries. But her fresh vision of familiar surroundings startles the viewer with images bursting with light and color. Like all art forms, Oates' photography distills experience into primary elements. The natural and built landscapes provide a vivid palette for the formal structure of her compositions. A field of flowers becomes an abstraction of contrasting hues. A steeple, a barn, a garden are compressed into compact planes. Through Stephanie Oates' lens, our way of seeing is enhanced and enlarged. This exhibit marks the beginning of a promising career and, for the first time, brings the work of a very talented observer together for all of us to experience.

Historic Northampton
46 Bridge Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Historic Northampton is a museum of local history in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts. Please visit our website

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What can we learn from Bonnie Siefers, eco-designer and entrepreneur?

Bonnie Siefers' success as an eco-designer and entrepreneur is inspiring, especially to us women in business with a purpose. She changed her career as an artist and business owner to a completely different field in textiles. To add to the challenge, her clothes are ecologically friendly, cutting edge, and yet affordable. In less than three years she has become a principal force in the green community and is involved in the introduction of new sustainable fabric collections, such as ecoKashmere and eColorgrown and coming next fall, Begonia Silk and Energy Satin. Her company was recognized at the Sun Dance film festival and MTV Movie awards. How did she accomplish all this?

Here are some take aways from an interview with her:

1) Stay in the moment and do the best that you can:
Bonnie says that her mantra in the morning is, "if I can stay in the moment and do the best that I can, I cannot fail.”

2) Ask a lot of questions and reach out for help:
When Bonnie entered the textile industry she had to learn how this market operates - "I had to learn what trade shows to go to, how to create catalogs and more." She expresses gratitude for the local talent and non-profits who extended their expertise to her. But it is always a good reminder, that if you are sincere in your desire and ask, you will receive. So, don't be afraid to ask.

3) Effective use of technology:

Bonnie speaks to how the internet and other technologies will only continue to evolve in enhancing communication possibilities while reducing the carbon footprint. Bonnie herself is successfully using social media devices like blogging and facebook to communicate with her customers.

4) Innovative solutions to fit your mission
Bonnie is using innovation not only in her apparel collections, which are made of fabrics that are certified organically grown, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable, but also in how she runs her business over all. She emphasizes that "if you look around you can find solutions that fit your mission.”

5) Transparency in business
Authenticity to Bonnie means “transparency.” It means “being who you are and not hiding parts of you...This is also true in business. Communicating in an honest and open way encourages greater trust, support and can lead to a true partnerships and ultimately success.”

6) Mindfulness in business

"In a nutshell I think the best adjective that describes the uniqueness
of the Jonäno brand and lifestyle would be mindful.” Jonano has created a unique positioning in apparel market as a mindful company that cares for the environment, its customers, and its employees. In Bonnie's words, "Just as a drop of water in a pool will show ripples, my choices will have a ripple effect – which is why I choose organic, and sweatshop free both in my business as well as my personal life."

Bonnie was introduced to meditation and mindfulness 15 years ago. But this is more than a sitting practice for her. The concept of "Metta" is important to Bonnie and she tries to weave it into her daily life. “Metta means to me a giving of love for others and a giving of a prayer for others. Its all about the spirit and energy, which I try to give back because I have been given so much.”

For the full interview with her please visit the iAM Business Consulting website.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just Starting Out from the Lens of a Fresh Graduate

So here many of us are on the edge of our future. Gone are the days when even if our summer wasn’t going well, we knew we’d be back in school in September, ready to face classes, grades, and fun with our friends. As a fresh alum of UMass, there is no going back in September, no more structure to everyday life. Now is the time for me and my classmates to build our future and create a new structure that involves adult responsibilities. We cannot postpone thinking about our future anymore, which brings the question, What do you want to do with your life?

Since childhood, we have been told that being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a scientist is the way to go. With all the money we’d make in our job, we could have anything we wanted. Several years later, this can be interpreted as, “Even if you don’t like reading books all day or hate doing math, it’s ok because you can use the money you make to do what you really want to do when you’re not at work.” But why not turn the tables and do what makes you happy to begin with? From having several internships throughout college, from sales to customer relations, to advertising, I have come to discover in positive and negative ways that if you can barely get up in the morning to face your job, you will not be happy outside of it either. I’d rather love getting up every morning with a sense of purpose and making less money than dragging myself through the day and making more money. After all, you do spend 8 hours a day at your job, and much more time outside of it thinking about it. If you do not go for what you truly want to do, you will only be feeling a sense of relief when the day and the week are over. This is not happiness. But what happens Sunday night when you now have to face another week of the same old thing that you hate? It’s back to being unhappy. In this type of scenario, if you are just doing it for the money, then you won’t last. You will feel unauthentic, and you will be “found out” by your colleagues, boss, and customers. As a former financial representative intern for a large insurance company, I noticed this phenomenon firsthand. If I didn’t believe in my product, but I tried to sell it to other people because I could make a good commission off of it, it would backfire. Potential customers could tell by the way I spoke and through other non-verbal cues whether I truly believed something or didn’t, and that would be carried out in how I presented the products whether or not I wanted it to.

So back to the question: What do you want to do with your life? Some of my peers have discovered what they want to do with their lives, as I have (more on that later), but that’s only the beginning. In one of my business classes last semester, we had several speakers come in to talk to us about how they started their own businesses. The string that linked each of them together was following what they believed was their calling and not giving up in the face of obstacles. Given the way they became successful, they challenged each of us to do the same – to throw caution to the wind and go after what we really want to do. After all, this is the time to do it. We have no children, no mortgage, and no real responsibilities. Many of my peers pointed out after each speaker that to them, taking a year off or waiting for what they really want to do just isn’t practical. After all, health insurance would expire upon graduation and loans would start to kick in six months later. Not to mention that there were companies out there recruiting that were dangling high salaries and sign on bonuses in front of students, tempting them to take an offer that they weren’t too excited about just because of the money and the slumped economy.

What is the solution? To allow me to better follow my purpose, I have chosen, and am very grateful, to live with my parents for now and work a part time job while I actively seek out what I want to do with my life. But what about my peers? I think the solution to the obstacles we face today in following our purpose is to move back home and start searching for the right opportunity. It all comes down to choice though. If, as a fresh graduate, you value your independence and want to rent an apartment, then that’s fine. That’s a choice you make that will require you to sacrifice in other areas of your life. On a broader scale, each of us has many little choices to make each day that will either bring us closer to fulfilling our purpose or farther away from it. As long as we are making progress each day towards fulfilling our purpose, it is better than feeling trapped in a job that is just a “job.” Remember that we cannot blame the economy, our parents, or the weather for why we aren’t moving towards what we really want to do. The choice is ours; we just have to want it badly enough. What choices are you making to move towards your purpose?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Translating Inner Purpose Into An Authentic Mission Statement

"More men fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent"
- Billy Sunday

I recently submitted an article to on connecting with inner purpose to write your mission statement. If you are not clear about your purpose or need to reconnect, here are some steps to help you reflect on your past, present, and future to arrive at what is important to you.

Step 1) Make a list of activities you have participated in the past that you felt most inspired to do so at the time.

Step 2) List people who inspire you and what are the qualities in these people that inspire you

Step 3) Think of the challenges in your life that have impacted you profoundly – what did you learn from those challenges?

Step 4) What are you naturally curious about?

Step 5) Make a list of things that you enjoy doing most. These could be related to your work or not.

Step 6) What characteristics or traits do you love most about yourself?

Step 7) What is the one change you would like to see in this world?

Step 8) If money and any other limitations were not a problem, what work would you dedicate yourself to?

Step 9) How do you want to be remembered?

Using the answers to the above questions, identify words and phrases that stand out and see themes emerging across your answers. From the emerging patterns connect with your inner purpose and use that to write your mission statement.

An authentic mission statement has five parts:

1) Your core purpose - the overall mission
2) How you will achieve your purpose - your products and services
3) Who you will benefit - your target market
4) How you will benefit them - specific benefits you provide
5) What is unique about you - your core competencies that make you unique

If you would like further details about each of the points above, you can access my full article at

Providing Innovative Authentic Mindful Content to

Monday, June 22, 2009

What has mindfulness got to do with business?

In a society where doing is the mantra, stillness of the mind is a concept that still means to many anything from waste of time to a new age ideology. However, there is a growing body of research in business and scientific disciplines that is revealing the benefits of stilling the mind through practices like mindfulness. In this posting, I will be discussing how mindfulness can help you in your business and then open it to discussion about what you do to be mindful and how that is helping you in your business.

As a multidimensional construct, mindfulness has been studied as including observing, describing, acting with awareness, and accepting without judgment (Baer et al 2004). Let us see how each of these qualities can be useful in a business context.

Observing: This refers to being aware of what’s happening inside us and in our external environment. In the absence of stillness, our minds are racing. It is like looking out of a car window – do you notice the scenery better out of a still car or out of car driving at high speed? When the mind is still, you can be more cognizant of what is happening inside of you and make a note of the changes in your environment. As a businessperson, you have many responsibilities to get stuff done. But it is equally important to stop and look – really look at your customers, look at your competition, look at the changes in technology, your environment. In the second step of mindful marketing, I talked about learning from your environment. But to really learn from the environment, you have to first stop, and observe.

Acting with awareness: This refers to taking action with hundred percent attention and focus. It is the nature of the mind to be in the past or the future. Very rarely are we right here, right now. Are you fully here as you read this, or are you also thinking of what you need to do next along with any number of other thoughts? If our mind is oscillating between the past and the future, what we are doing right now does not have our full attention. This has many ramifications on our work and well-being. Most people go about their days and lives doing jobs with their minds busy doing its own thing. This reflects in the quality of job done but is also a cause of disillusionment, detachment, and stress related with our work. If we could do what ever it is we are doing right now with hundred percent attention and love, our work becomes worship, a joy. This mental state of operating where the person is fully immersed in the task at hand, has also been discussed as flow, a concept made popular by Csíkszentmihályi.

Accepting without judgment: This refers to a non-judgmental evaluation of the present situation. This is a very important aspect of mindfulness that allows us to be open to what is. The nature of the mind is to judge. Even before we have fully experienced the situation we are judging because our past experiences have shaped our perceptions of how we view the world. This means we are not seeing what is as is, but based on our perception of what is. Many of our struggles stem from our judgment of a situation as negative, which causes resistance in our mind. As business people, we resist competition, we resist changes in customers’ preferences, we resist resistance in our employees, we resist new technologies, and we resist anything perceived as a threat to our comfort zone. For a minute can you drop this resistance and just accept what is – move the energy from the mind to the heart. How do you feel? From this place of acceptance and openness, approaching any situation, however challenging it may be, becomes an interesting and enjoyable activity.

Describing: This refers to the ability to articulate precisely what one is feeling or observing. This is an important trait for managers or leaders in dealing with diverse groups of people and difficult situations. Finding the right words to communicate in a challenging situation can be difficult, especially if the mind has its own dialog going on. A still mind is in touch with what is happening and can find the right words to communicate effectively in any situation.

How mindfulness has helped me in my work
Does it not seem most natural for business leaders to possess the above qualities of keen observation, acting with awareness, non-judgmental acceptance, and ability for accurate description? And the good news is that these qualities can be nurtured through mindfulness practices like meditation, breath work, tai-chi, and yoga. There is a lot of research on the benefits of mindfulness (and you can find some of it on my website). In this posting I am interested in sharing my personal experience and listen to your experience with mindfulness as a practice and its benefits to your work.

I have been practicing the Sudarshan Kriya, a special yogic breathing technique (Pranayama) developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual teacher. This 25 minutes of rhythmic breathing stills the mind and allows me to go deeper into my meditation practice. Over a period of time I have found that my mind has slowed down so I don’t react to situations immediately based on old patterns but can pause, assess the situation, and choose my response to the situation. The space created through breathing allows new ideas to emerge. It has certainly increased my creativity and response-ability.

I will share some specific examples of how this way of being has influenced my work.
Open to challenges with equanimity: Starting a new business in a slow economy is challenging. I hear people tell me this all the time. But I have never looked at it this way. I am doing what I love and to achieve my goals I am open to learning from my environment. When I started out as a consultant to bring mindfulness in business, I thought I am doing something very unique but I soon discovered there are many people doing this very successfully and for much longer than I have been. Why should people consider me when there are many experts to choose from? This question can be intimidating but I chose to stay open to what the situation has to teach me, and indeed it did. It helped me to develop a more focused vision of what I want to do and what are the unique attributes I bring to my work. In addition, staying open has taught me so many different ways to move forward and build energy around my work. Approaching people, emails, Google, Blogging, and in so many other ways, I am continuing to learn and move forward, one step at a time.

Staying present to what is: As a consultant facilitating corporate workshops, I have to be present to really listen to what participants are saying and find solutions or be able to guide them how to find solutions. This requires 100% attention and non-judgment of my own abilities. It is easy for the mind to start racing in a challenging situation and trigger counter-productive thoughts such as, ‘I have no clue what is going on.” But returning to the breath brings me back to the present moment and stay with what is happening without any judgment. I stay open and I trust, and I have always found there is a solution, a very logical action that is the next step. Sometimes the answers don’t come right away and I am comfortable saying I don’t know the answer and need more time. Very often this is the case when I don’t have enough information, so I go back and dig out more information and in that the answer appears.

Creativity happens: some of my most insightful ideas come to me during my meditation, even though I am not looking for them in my meditation. But they just pop up – creativity happens – it is not my doing. I have found that when I cease to struggle with a problem, when I stop resisting the problem, it is very simple, the solution is right there. Very often in the face of a problem our old patterns kick in, but again, breathe and come back to what is happening now, and it is very obvious what the next step should be.

Clarity and end of resistance: Writing is an important part of my work as a researcher and consultant. When I joined the PhD program I came in with the assumption that I cannot write and writing was a struggle. Each sentence was constructed with so much effort, which is the opposite of how I feel today. Now, I love writing, and it just flows (most of the time). Over time I have discovered two things. One, writing is hard in the absence of clarity. If you are not clear in your head, what you write will reflect that confusion. Regular breathing and mindfulness through the day helps me stay clear and focused and writing from that clear place is easy. Second, I found that much of struggle was a result of my resistance to writing. Once I dropped the resistance and simply wrote, I found that I could write. As simple as that, stop fighting and just do what needs to be done. Moving from the mental fight to the accepting heart has made my all aspects of my job a joy.

Align with true purpose: It is said that if you work in alignment with your true purpose, you will be supported. This statement may be hard to prove scientifically but I have found in my life over and over again, that when I work in alignment with my purpose I move forward much faster – new ideas will emerge, or people will show up, or situations will open up such that I can move in the direction of my goals faster.

These are just some of the ways mindfulness is helping me in my business.

What do you do to be more mindful? How has that helped you in your business?


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Inspiring Quotes from iAM Women

Meeting I:

"Deb, although I don't know you, I can see the impact you are having already. Look how many women you brought to this Circle today." Cheryl, 6-18-09

"Life is a magic carpet ride, and those of us on the fringe are getting the wildest ride." Karen, 6-18-09

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top Ten Secrets to Social Network Superstardom by PAUL CHANEY

When I started this Blog, my purpose was to create a forum of exchange for women in business to discuss our challenges and find innovative solutions that are consistent with our purpose. But being new to the world of Blogging, I started to read about how to create one, what is the Blogging etiquette, what are the essentials of a good Blog. In the process, I have discovered how important Blogging and other social networks are becoming in marketing your business. But again, using Blogging only to market your business will backfire, if you do not have meaningful content. So keep your Blogging focus on sharing your expertise and building community with other like minded people, including your customers and competitors/colleagues. Let good marketing be the outcome of your Blogging and not the purpose for your Blog.

This is one article that I found to be very informative, especially for people just starting out, and also consistent with the idea of authentic participation. The humorous writing style makes for an easy read.

Just to give you an idea of the content I have included the titles for the ten points he discusses.

Top Ten Secrets to Social Network Superstardom by PAUL CHANEY

1. Pull, don’t push
2. Win the right to be heard
3. Content is STILL king, but conversation is queen (and conversion is the prince)
4. Authenticity and Transparency are social networking cornerstones
5. You don’t have to be on every social network
6. Give and you shall receive
7. The rules of marketing still apply
8. Social media is a mindset, not just toolset
9. Be yourself, whoever that may be
10. That's where you come in

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Law of Attraction Marketing with Graphic Girlz: Attraction Marketing for Conscious Entrepreneurs

I am linking this article because it re-iterates the importance of knowing your inner purpose and the relevance of the online space to create energy around your work. Also, love the idea of discovering your "magical keywords"

Law of Attraction Marketing with Graphic Girlz: Attraction Marketing for Conscious Entrepreneurs

Sunday, June 14, 2009

3. I Love What I Do, But Marketing, That Stresses Me Out: The 8 Steps in Mindful Marketing

Are you one of those people who has something to offer to this world, but does not feel comfortable marketing it? This blog posting is a response to people’s fears and misperceptions about marketing. I started writing this posting as one, but it ended up being so long that I have split it into three separate postings, addressing each of the purposes stated separately:

1) To bring awareness to some reasons for negative perceptions about marketing

2) To clarify the meaning of marketing and differentiate it from related terms like selling and advertising

3) To lay out the eight steps in marketing as a systematic and natural aspect of living a mindful life

I started writing this posting as one, but it ended up being so long that I have split it into three separate postings, addressing each of the purposes stated separately.

Enjoying marketing as a natural process: The eight steps to mindful marketing

Part 3 of 3 of “I love what I do, but marketing, that stresses me out.

The third posting in the series is intended to provide a new perspective on marketing that is a natural expression of who you are – a mindful woman in business. The eight steps of a marketing plan described in part 2 of this series are not cumbersome, intimidating things you have to do but are simply an external manifestation of who you are internally. This is the inside-out approach to marketing.

I will be taking each of the steps in the traditional marketing plan and providing a new way of thinking about it so that you can think about each of these steps as a mindful expression of your inner purpose.

1) Your purpose, the business mission

The first step in traditional marketing starts with having a mission statement. Now, coming up with a statement that reflects your business purpose, your core competencies, and how you will meet needs of your target market, may seem like an intimidating task for some or a lot of work in the least. Instead, you can focus on your inner purpose and special gifts that can touch this world in very positive ways. Think of the people who are looking for something you have to offer and how you can help these people. Having a clear vision of your purpose and specific ways in which you will make that happen is the first step in mindful marketing. If you do not have a clear idea of where you want to go, you will never get there. So, the first step is a quiet reflection of the following:

· Your purpose

· Specific ways in which you will enact your purpose

· What you will bring to your work that is uniquely you – what you love about yourself, your talents, and what you enjoy

· Broadly, needs you will be meeting of people

Now, most of you would have already reflected on the above or some of the above points. And if you have, staying connected with that clarity of purpose, write it down and that is your mission statement. When you write the statement, think as if you are speaking to your customer. What do you want to tell them about your purpose, about what you can do for them, and what it is that make you “You.”

You can read more about finding inner purpose here.

2) Learning from the environment, a situational scan

The situational scan described in part 2 refers to an examination of the environment, internal and external to the business. The purpose is to stay in touch with the changes in your business environment – changing technologies, consumer culture, competitors, and so forth. As we get more busy and more comfortable with systems that work for us we are less inclined to study the changes around us. We know that the only permanent thing is change. You can either fear it or embrace it as your teacher. Changes compel us to find new ways of thinking and as such are responsible for innovations and improvements. In this context, I would also like you to think about competition. It is so important to be aware of what other people in your business are offering. Competition can be seen as a very healthy force that is constantly challenging you to improve and grow. If you are open, and curious, and want to grow, learning about and from your environment is a natural outcome of who you are. So, look around you, notice, Google, read, talk to people, try new experiences, explore new subjects, research, and continue to grow – because if you are not growing forward, you are going backward.

You can read more about environmental scan here.

3) Understanding your customer needs, target market

This step is about really understanding and connecting with your customers. At this point your focus moves from your inner purpose to how you can meet specific needs of others. You may be driven by a higher purpose, but if the people that you are targeting do not feel a need for that product, then you are wasting your energy on the wrong market segment. It is important to identify people who need your services and then communicate with them in a language they understand, using channels of communication they use. Learn as much as you can about your potential customers so you can connect with them most effectively. While you will be engaging in tangible processes like market research, trends analyses, and collecting information about your potential customers, also trust intangible processes like your intuition to connect with potential customers. Know that if you are operating from a place of higher purpose, that you will be connected with the people who need your service.

4) The unique ‘you,’ your positioning

As a business you can position yourself uniquely by differentiating along factors like product attributes, pricing, brand image, service quality, and delivery channels. Within the mindful marketing framework, this is not something you will artificially create, but will be a natural manifestation of the unique ‘you.’ For example, as a marketing consultant, my unique positioning is my experience and knowledge in integrating science, business, and spirituality. This is not a strategic decision that I took but was a manifestation of my many years of meditation, business experience, and academic training as a marketing PhD, coupled with my inherent passion for inspiring people and finding better ways of doing business that are holistic and mindful. So, make a list of your skills, past experiences, and other attributes that you will bring in meeting your customers needs in a way that no one else can.

5) What you have to offer, your product

Now that you have a clear vision of your purpose, your customers’ needs, and your unique positioning, you can describe what products and services you will be offering. This is an external manifestation of your inner purpose in specific and tangible ways. So, if my inner purpose is to bring mindfulness in business so that people are in touch with their highest purpose and can express that in profitable ways, I have to find ways to make that happen through the services that I offer. I decided to manifest this through consultation, research, and workshops. This step involves making a detailed list of the products and services that you will be offering in terms of detailed attributes and services. It is again important to think in terms of the solutions you will be providing. So I am not just offering mindfulness workshops to corporations, but I am offering solutions that motivate their employees, that help to deal with stress at work, that improve team-work, and enhance creativity.

6) Communicating and educating, the promotion

This includes all the activities involved in promoting and selling your product. This is the fun step where you get to share your work with people. Yet, this is the step I have found many women in business with a purpose having trouble with. So you have this wonderful gift to offer, but you do not want to or perhaps know how to sell your product. Maybe the problem is in the way we situate our attention. Focusing on selling can be a problem because it creates expectations and moves us away from our inner purpose. The solution is to stay with your inner purpose and focus on reaching people who need your service. You are not selling but helping people satisfy a need. Describing what you do is a way of communicating with people who need your services and educating people about things that you may have learned and would like to pass on now. I realized the importance of shifting energy from selling to helping during events I was organizing for a non-profit organization. As long as my focus was on getting the number of people we needed to meet the quota given to us, I was stressed and my attention was wrongly situated in meeting quotas. When I re-connected with what was my initial purpose and went with the energy of simply spreading awareness of the workshops to people who needed this, I found unexpected success and joy in the process of sharing information about the workshops.

7) Understanding your value, the price

There are many ways to set a price for your product. The easiest is a combination using your cost and the price of similar products available in the market. But before you do that, also reflect on how you value your own services. Be clear about how you are benefiting people and what is the value you are providing them. Having clarity of the value you provide to your customers will help you reach a price that is fair to your clients and to you for the time and energy you are devoting. Pricing can be a very tricky process and one area that can benefit a lot from bringing mindfulness to the internal and external factors that influence the price you will charge for your products. The right price is subjective and requires mindfulness of all factors starting from how you value your services to your relationship with money to all the external factors in the environment including your customers and competition.

I have written about mindful pricing tips here.

8) How will your customer find you, the place

The last aspect that you need to consider is the delivery options or the places where your customer can find you. It is important to be aware of the places that your customers are likely to find you. In today’s world this can be a very creative process because there are so many ways of reaching out to your potential clients. Keeping the focus on helping people through your purpose, be creative and find ways to build an energy around your work – be it online through your website and blogs, through newsletters, articles, retail outlets, partners, and other social networks that reach out to your potential clients.

The above process reflects the iAM Approach, which is based on mindfulness, authenticity, and innovative thinking. When your work becomes an authentic expression of who you are and you are mindful and open to new perspectives, life becomes an enjoyable journey.

As a mindful marketer, the above steps reflect my way of being and operating in the marketplace. What are the challenges you face in marketing? What are the solutions you found that have worked for you?