Category Archives: News


Lara Gates, Managing Editor, Simple Intentions081717_Motivation

I’m the type of girl who has on occasion actually added a job I just completed to my to do list – just to check it off. This is because I’m motivated by accomplishment. I don’t have to get recognition for doing the thing, although sometimes that’s nice. The satisfaction of completing an assignment is extremely gratifying for me. On the flip side, having unfinished items on my plate at work for days or weeks can zap my energy and motivation. Turning a sense of accomplishment into a motivator doesn’t always translate.

Some people are motivated by fear, some by pain (or the aversion to it), some by money. But those motivations don’t always live within our conscious mind. More likely they are background noise, causing us to take action without awareness. I’ve been turning over this idea recently of listening as a motivational tool. It goes like this: I can better motivate my workmates and myself if I first listen to their feedback, their objections and their needs.

This active listening falls into two categories. First, the actual data is valuable. Think like a reporter and fact-gather. Secondly, try to actually hear the words themselves, coupled with body language and tone to really understand what is being communicated. If a committee member says “challenge” or “issue” or “problem” in their report, they’re giving us a peek into their judgment of the situation. Listen to understand and then pause before giving motivation.

I worked with a magazine publisher a few years ago who was extremely gifted at making people feel heard. It was beautiful to watch her conduct an interview because the subject would open up in authentic and surprising ways – making for compelling storytelling. This tool of listening also served her incredibly well when it came to motivating a team of writers and designers. And it gave her a unique talent at selling ad space. By listening to clients and potential clients she was able to deliver exactly what would meet their needs in a way that hardly felt like sales at all. The key to her management style was listening, and it was incredibly motivating to each person in her circle of influence.

The same method can be used when being self-reflective. Listen to the inner dialogue when the “to do” item rises to the top of the heap. Is this a have-to-do or a want-to-do? And am I resisting the work? Am I looking forward to it? And perhaps most importantly, why? By first listening to the inner dialogue, I am able to motivate myself in the most effective way.

Here’s a real-life example. Breaking bad news is always a chore and can easily be bumped lower and lower on the to do list in procrastination. But when I pause and think about why I’m dreading it, I can best prepare to move ahead. Am I avoiding conflict with the receiver? Am I afraid the relationship will be changed or severed? Am I personally disappointed and I need time to process that first before sharing the news? Whatever the answers, by giving my inner voice a beat to process the situation, I can then muster the motivation I need to push ahead.

My favorite motivators are passion and reward. One passionate team member can have a contagious effect on the group — with big results. But if we are not listening to the tone or the word choice, we could miss out on a person’s passion, and consequently miss a key opportunity to motivate.



Doing Skills + Being Skills = Career Success

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

072517_NonCognitiveWhere did you learn how to adapt or how to be present? If you are like most people, you probably didn’t answer “at work”. The elements of creating a successful career are just as much about knowing how to DO the job as they are about your quality of BEING on the job.

Most of us know the steps needed to learn how to do a job. First you need basic skills; reading, writing, and math. Then you identify a career path and develop specialized skills, these skills are technical and/or occupational in nature and industry specific. Basic and specialized skills, (doing skills) are considered cognitive skills and they rely on conscious intellectual effort for success.

Next, you seek the job. This includes connecting to the right people, interviewing, and showing positive attitude. These are soft skills and they include your ability to communicate, solve problems, motivate yourself and others and build rapport. Soft skills are considered noncognitive skills as they are subconsciously expressed via your behavior through your temperament or attitude.

Ready for career success? Not quite yet. Enter being skills. Being skills include things like presence, awareness, resiliency, patience, discernment, vulnerability and authenticity. Being skills are a deeper layer of noncognitive or soft skills. As important as being skills are, they are not likely to fit into traditional training curriculum at schools or companies. Yet they are skills that are necessary for a successful career, as reported by Business Insider; and according to a recent LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends report, they are a top hiring trend in 2017.

Programs like Daniel Goleman’s that develop emotional and social intelligence, or Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication are help build noncognitive skills that support the development of being skills. Company sponsored programs like Google’s Search Inside Yourself and Intel’s Awake@Intel program also teach these skills as well as consultancies like Potential Project, The Energy Project and my company Simple Intentions.

Being skills are the glue that bind specialized, basic and soft skills. To learn them you don’t need a formal training program, though the structure can be helpful for many. What is needed is the desire to enhance how you show up at work and a commitment to practice each day. There are 3 simple actions you can take to develop your being skills.

Pay attention to when you’re not paying attention

An easy and free place to start is to just notice when you are not present. At work, pay attention to when and how often your mind wanders. That’s it. Just notice and come back to the moment. A meditation practice can be helpful in building this skill, however it is not required to learn to pay attention to when you are not paying attention.

Consider your words carefully

Begin to pay attention to your words, BEFORE they leave your mouth. By considering your thoughts and word selection, if even briefly, before sharing them with others, you will begin to build the skills of discernment (‘Do I need to say this right now?’) and authenticity (‘Is this really what I want to say?’).

Be real

Practice saying, “I don’t know” when you don’t know, and “I need help” when you need help. Notice when you feel the need to know everything and do everything on your own and explore what happens when you ask for support. This will help you build the skill of vulnerability, a foundational soft skill from which trust is constructed. When you are vulnerable you invite others to do the same, thus strengthening team trust.

Career success includes both conscious intellectual effort and awareness of your temperament or attitude — the right mix of doing and being skills can not only make you more employable but also make the experience of work more enjoyable for all.

[Note: This post originally appeared in HuffPost]


Make It Happen

By Melisa Portela, Simple Intentions Lead Consultant: LATAM Region

What if I don´t succeed? What if I cannot make a living out of what I want to do? What if I am not cut out for this? What if this is just the way things are? What if…?

Any of those questions could have prevented me from making one of the necessary life changes I’ve made so far. But the choice was mine, and mine alone, to consciously decide to take a different path in life – one that could bring me purpose and leave me more aware, more awake, and more connected with the joy of being alive. A path in which not every single thing I did was a struggle, but instead could be an enormous joy.

So often we find ourselves feeling like we have no options. We feel stuck, thinking that we have no alternative other than to bear with the relationship we’re dissatisfied with, bear with the job we dislike, settle for less than what we want, and the list goes on. It´s like hitting a wall: we don´t see what can be done to turn things around, and it is then that we fall into resignation. We turn to justification, and create a story to tell ourselves why we are not living the life we want, not in the relationship we hope for, or not going after our dreams. And there lies the risk.

When we live in resignation and say things like “this is just the way things ARE”, “this is the way I AM”, “this is the way my partner IS”, we block the tremendous potential for growth and transformation that we all have. We are the ones that can make things HAPPEN, and the main ingredients are simply: intention, willingness and action. With intention and willingness, we are able to start to create a future that is different from the past. To make that a reality, we need to take a different set of actions than the ones that led us to feeling stuck in the first place.

It is only then that a new horizon of possibilities opens up to us. All of a sudden, we see a ray of light where there used to be darkness, we see abundance where there used to be depletion. Finally, we can move into action. We leave our comfort zone. Maybe we leave a situation that brought us security but no satisfaction at all. Or maybe we hit the road (either literally or figuratively) with an intent on living the life we want for ourselves. From that moment on, everything falls into place. It is like finding a piece that gets us closer to completing the puzzle. We connect deeper with ourselves and start being more aware of the choices we have, and the consequences of such choices. We start living a life that is in alignment with our values.

Deep down, everybody knows what it is they need to create positive change. The distance between reality and our dreams lies with intention, willingness, and action. And the choice is ours to start anywhere, at any point in our life, and to create more awareness around the choices we make each day that either support or sabotage our desired outcomes.

What if I had not made the choice? What a life I would be missing!


What Burning Out Taught Me About Prioritizing My Work

By Carson Tate, Founder of Working Simply and Friend of Simple Intentions

0831_Burning Out

It was December 26. The day after Christmas; 10 days after my daughter’s first birthday. I was sitting on the floor coiling Christmas lights when I began to try to stand up. Almost immediately, I sunk back down to the floor.

I was tired: physically tired; emotionally tired. Even my soul felt tired.

How did I get here?

Six weeks after the birth of my daughter, I chose to jump back into the whirlwind of busyness—airplanes, travel and meetings—striving to build my consulting business. I spent the entire first year of her life haunted by my ego as I frantically tried to grow my business, serve my clients all over the world, and prove to myself that I was needed and valuable.

This was all part of something bigger for me personally. I wanted to live up to my image of the successful woman—smart, driven, professionally accomplished; a Mary Poppins mom; a loving wife; a leader in the community. That superwoman was my gold standard, and I had spent years, and especially the last year, trying to live up to it.

But now, on December 26, I’d awakened only to realize that as much as I was chasing the dream of the superwoman, I wasn’t living my life.

And the words of Socrates—”beware the bareness of a busy life”—were suddenly eerily real. It was time for me to face my fears and make bold choices about my life and the way that I worked.

I started to make these bold choices for my life with three key strategies that not only anchored me as I picked myself up that December 26, but also continue to support me today as I work to overcome my fears and build a life where I live fully.


For many years, I prized my ability to produce significant amounts of work—my output. It became something I was known for, however, it came at a tremendous personal cost. There is work and then there is the real work, work that has an impact on the bottom line, your clients, and your organization. Where are you focusing on output instead of impact? What would shift for you personally and professionally if you appreciated impact more than output?


I cannot sit still. I prefer to stand when writing. My brain shuts down after 9:00 pm. I do not pull all-nighters well. I am grumpy and unfocused if I do not exercise. And, if I am hungry, there is nothing that can keep me focused. It took me a long time to admit these things to myself. Then it took even longer for me to actually honor that as the way that I worked.

Honor the way you work. When do you do your best work—in the morning, afternoon, or late at night? Under what conditions do you produce your best work—when you exercise, have adequate sleep, or are listening to great music? Resist giving into work cultures that undermine your productivity. Let the quality of your work and the impact you are making speak for themselves. If you do, no one will question how you work.


It is difficult for me to say no because I get seduced and derailed by something I call the “shoulds.” The shoulds are those voices in your head—you know the ones—saying “You should be doing this,” “You should like that,” “You should spend time on this,” “You should stop doing that,” and so on and so forth—endlessly. The problem with the shoulds is they lead you to over-commit—and when you over-commit, the quality and impact of your work suffers. To combat the shoulds I use the “POWER No.”

It’s based on the acrostic POWER—Priorities, Opportunities, Who, Expectations, and Real. Here’s how it works:

Priorities: When that voice in your head tells you that should complete this task, lead another project, attend another meeting, or make cupcakes from scratch, evaluate the priority of that message. How does this should align to your priorities, the organization’s strategic priorities, and/or your families’ priorities?

Opportunities: Explore the opportunities. What opportunities does this should create for you? Is there something that does actually need additional attention in your life? This should could be shining a light on something that you need to address.

Who: Who or what triggered this should? Was it an old script from childhood? Was it an ad in a magazine? Was it your colleague?

Expectations: Whose expectations are these really? Your manager? Your mother? Your spouse? Your child? Society’s?

Real: Get real. What is this should really about? Are there real priorities that are driving this should? Or are you taking on societal expectations that are not in alignment with your priorities?

Say no to the many things that threaten to distract you and derail you, so you can focus your energies on the handful of things that will lead you to your success. The POWER puts you back in the driver’s seat, empowering you to respond rather than merely react. Stop shoulding all over yourself and take back control.

Facing my fears was hard. I am not sure I would have done it if I had not been sitting on my family room floor that December 26. My advice to you is this—don’t wait until you reach your breaking point or there is a catastrophic event to start making bold choices about your life and the way you work. This is your work. This is your time.


[This content was originally published via on June 25, 2015.]

Carson Tate is a productivity consultant and the founder of Working Simply, Inc. She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style (Penguin Random House, January 2015). She serves as a coach, trainer and consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies including AbbVie, Deloitte, Wells Fargo and United Technologies.



Stressed? How Herbal Remedies Can Help

By Katya Difani, Herbalist and Founder of Herban Wellness and Friend of Simple Intentions

We all experience stressStress_0713. How we experience, recognize, and address it (or not), is very individual to each of us.

However, there are some common ways that stress can affect the body. One of the most common reasons people come into a shop like mine seeking herbal remedies is for stress. My first question is always, what does that mean to you? How do you experience stress? Because, for most people, when they recognize themselves as “being stressed” it’s due to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, a description of anxiety, trouble quieting their mind, and/or shoulder and neck tension.

Rarely does anyone recognize long-term symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, low immune function (frequently getting colds or flus) as “being stressed.” Surely their body does! And the reason is that when we are responding to stressors such as a high work load with impending deadlines, tension in relationships, trying to fulfill many obligations, believing we should be able to “do it all” and say “yes” to everything, etc. it stimulates the “fight or flight response” in our body.

Basically, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland in the brain, which releases hormones that travel through the body and bind the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys), and then signals them to release epinephrine and norepinephrine to respond to the stressor, activating the body into action. Cortisol is also often released in larger than “normal” amounts, as it is the long-term stress hormone (among its many other necessary functions). Anyway, not to get too involved in the physiology, the take-home is that the adrenal gland stimulation is meant to occur, but the theory goes that evolutionarily speaking, we should respond to a short-term stressor, then relax.

If we are continually producing stress hormones, this can cause all sorts of imbalances over time, including fatigue, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Also, our nervous system gets called into high alert in response to these stimulating stress hormones, so it can make it harder for our bodies to relax and “unwind” at the end of the day, exacerbating the problem and leading to many of the common symptoms people associate with being stressed.

How herbs can help.

One of my favorite things about herbal medicine, and why I was drawn to it in the first place, is that there are a plethora of plants (made up of their many plant compounds) that can help support our bodies acutely and preventively. There are herbs that can help our bodies adapt better to stress that were coined as “adaptogens” in the 1970’s by Russian scientists, because of how they can prevent long term effects of stressors on the body, and how they can help our bodies recover from long-term or acute stress after the fact. When taken 2-3 times daily on a consistent basis (as a capsule, tincture, powder, or tea) for a month or more, these herbs such as Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng), Schisandra, and Ashwaganda, can help restore that Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis function, and nourish the adrenal glands which have often been depleted because of overuse.

Many people notice increased and sustained energy throughout the day, better ability to fight infection, better sleep, and increased endurance (and much of this has been born out in clinical studies as well).

I like to combine these herbs with “nervines”, which calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of my favorite herbs include Lemon balm, Holy basil (aka Tulsi), and Passionflower for daytime or evening use.  Many of the nervines can help with symptoms of being “stressed out” by helping ease feelings of anxiety and tension, as well as helping to promote more restful sleep, with herbs such as Valerian root, Skullcap, and California poppy for a more sedating effect.

Ideally, we would nourish and support our bodies while undergoing periods of stress in our lives. This is an act of self-care that requires awareness. Along with utilizing stress-relieving techniques in daily life, herbal medicines can be another useful tool for managing, preventing, and recovering from the impacts of short-term and long-term stress on our bodies.



What Is a Manager’s Role in Work-Life Balance?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

Manager's role

Most managers are well aware that when it comes to this topic, there is no shortage of opinions about what work-life balance means, how to address it, and the impact it has on teams and organizations. More than that, most company training programs don’t prepare managers to talk about this topic because they know scripted, formatted conversations don’t work when it comes to managing issues related to imbalance. Each team, each person, each manager is different.

At most companies, managers avoid talking about the impacts of imbalance because they are unsure of how to begin, what to say, and in most cases have limited resources to support them (and their team) beyond an initial conversation. If a manager does begin a conversation with their team, the conversation can quickly get weighed down in the “pain points” – the impact imbalance is having on the team or individual (or both).

When the conversation is solely focused on the pain points, people get stuck on venting about the impact – things like workload, disengagement, too much email, too many meetings, limited resources, and unclear roles and boundaries.

In these types of conversations, it’s hard for managers to identify and/or address the root cause of the problem. This is one of the reasons why managers share that they avoid having these conversations – they are fatigued from all the complaining and feel powerless to help.

Other managers avoid the topic completely because they don’t really want to know the extent of the impact out of fear of learning too much and not knowing how to address issues that blur the lines between personal and professional support.

To that end, the most common work-life balance strategy for managers is to address the pain points one at a time with an endless sea of tips and tricks in order to try to ease the greatest pain of the moment in an attempt to create short-term stability until the next big deadline, fire drill request or reorganization.

The reality is both managers and individual contributors have accountability for creating balance. The only successful strategy to address this topic is to start talking about “it”, the work-life balance elephant in the conference room. Change can only begin when managers are willing to (and have the courage to) have a sincere conversation about the atmosphere of the team. When the focus shifts from venting about pain points or blaming others to really discussing the root causes and listening to each other’s needs, imbalance can start to be disrupted.

Talk about the greatest pain points first, and ask, without judging or criticizing, what is driving this behavior and how managers can begin to break the imbalance loop. Then, work as a team to set boundaries to support or protect team needs based on what type of support is required at this point in time, thus setting a foundation to build from issue to issue.

One role of a manager is to lead, and it’s difficult to lead cultural transformation if managers are not willing to talk about some of the real blocks to building a sustainable, profitable organization. Change will not happen overnight. These types of behavioral shifts take time to interrupt, and can only happen one behavior, one authentic conversation at a time.


Measuring Impact

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

measure impactOne of our guiding principles at Simple Intentions is: Impact is measurable. For our clients, that means collecting feedback from participants about their experience – what did they learn, are they applying what they learned, and what can we do to improve our programs and services? For the Simple Intentions team, it means having clear goals and understanding what “success” means in all we choose to do.

It’s a habit for most people this time of year, both professionally and personally, to look forward into the coming year to dream and manifest what’s next and possible. As a company, we have some amazing things in store that you’ll being hearing about, including a new monthly podcast as well as an Intentional Leadership program.

But before we look ahead, we want to be in this moment, to acknowledge and celebrate our growth and impact this year. Here is Simple Intentions 2015 by the numbers:

  • 6,000+ people reached
  • 176 engagements
  • 30 countries
  • 5 multinational corporations
  • 90% of survey feedback positive on experience and content
  • 85% of clients continuing the work we started
  • 2 national columns (Mindful Magazine and Huffington Post)
  • 1 book launch: The 5 Truths About Work-Life Balance
  • 1 Manager Immersion 6-month program pilot
  • 2 certified Mindful Life consultants
  • 5 board advisors
  • 1 managing editor
  • 1 business manager
  • 1 accountant
  • 3 part-time vendors
  • New HQ in Kirkland, Washington
  • New satellite office in the United Kingdom (kick-off January 2016)

The support and encouragement from our clients and participants around the world has been incredible. We are moved and touched each day by your thank yous, encouragement and stories of how you’ve applied your new awareness skills. Please keep them coming and share with us on Facebook, Twitter or email.

The more we share stories of people living with awareness each day and how they do it, the more we can empower others who don’t know where to begin. We intend to keep the conversations going with you in 2016 and beyond.