By Lotus Josiah Seng
How to listen to the signals from your body and then follow them to find true happiness in your life and career.
Once upon a time, I was reflecting upon my journey as a career executive by assessing how I felt about myself, my accomplishments and the sum of my journey. Was I in a place where I was content or challenged, or was there a sense of a benevolent yet boring status quo? Were my values, which I had identified at the start of my journey, still relevant or was I experiencing a sudden stop and discontent? Were my values and objectives still in alignment with my career goals and, more importantly, still focused on my desire for continuing transformational change? The answers to those questions were, “NO.” I was not content, and I was experiencing a disparity between my initial values and objectives, my aspirations and what made me happy and whole as a person at the time of my reflections.
Within a few weeks, I created a new and exciting strategy for myself. I decided to refocus on 1) what I do best and 2) what supports my continuous transformation and simultaneously makes me happy. This plan was the rebirth of my coaching and consulting firm, ETSbyLotus, LLC.
Yes or No?
After reflections, assessments, collecting my resources, identifying the challenges and setting my objectives, I received a call from a previous employer with an offer—if I was available—for a job. However, the position was not within the scope of the designed rebirth of my coaching firm. The offer was indeed a temptation, and I had to conduct a go/no-go decision tree process. Saying “Yes” to this job implied I had to say “No” to clients with whom I already started a coaching engagement. Saying “Yes” to the previous employer also meant saying “Yes” to a company car; a generous bonus; equity and shares in this company; a solid, regular income; and a nine-to-five (well mostly) job. It was safe, secure and familiar. “Yes” also meant I had to temporarily say “No” to expanding on my own transformation, “No” to a new lease for my offices and “No” to hiring an assistant and administrative support services.
That evening after my yoga class, I decided to have dinner with a trusted friend and mentor, Tony. I told him what occurred. After carefully listening to my story, he provided me the following feedback: “Lotus, you expressed that you have a dilemma but your voice, body language and intonation speak volumes. When I inquired about your coaching and consulting firm, your voice was upbeat: energetic, fluent and happy. You spoke with your hands and gestured; you were whipping your hair and smiling. Yet, when you were discussing the position with your previous employer, your voice and body language changed instantly. Your speech went into a monotone, low energy sound and you were covering your body.”
Truth and Honesty
Tony was right. My voice revealed the truth. My voice and body knew my “Conscious Self” and what would be the best choice for me. He advised me not to choose safety but follow the path of my entrepreneurship as a coach and consultant. He also advised me not to make the choice for security and follow my own concepts for coaching executives. Although it was a big leap into an unknown future—experiencing a somewhat empty schedule and less cash flow in my bank account—his advice was solid.
The Expression of You
Tony connected me with my own expression. He is an excellent listener and observer. I listened to “my symphony” and heard that my voice and my story were not in sync. He heard with his eyes, and noticed how I sparkled when I spoke about my coaching services and the clients that were knocking on my door.
Mirror of Your Soul
Our eyes are the mirror of our soul. Our eyes are transparent. We often and reluctantly forget how important it is to reflect and assess the expressive aspect of our communication. Psychologist Schultz Von Thun postulates four layers of communication:
The matter layer is about content. This is about factual information, identifying the problem and describing the problem, as well as the solutions we pick to solve the problem. And finally, we rationalize, and organize the problem and the solutions.
The expressive, self-revealing layer is the communication that displays 1) who and what the sender of the message is and 2) the emotion, values, motives and energy of the sender of the message. You can see eyes that speak volumes, or you might start to dance, or jump from one foot to another. You might bite your lip or scratch your nose. It’s all the revealing, nonverbal communication that contains truth.
The relationship layer is the aspect of communication between the sender and the receiver.
And lastly, there is the appeal layer. This is what the speaker/sender wants to happen.
Albert Mehrabian, another psychologist, conducted research that shows that expression and content often are in conflict with each other (non-congruent). We prefer to listen to the intonation of the message (38%) or the facial expression (55%), rather than the literal message of the sender (7%).
Trust Your Inner Navigation
Everyone is familiar with signals such as butterflies in our stomach when we fall in love; playing with our hair when we might fall into a deep thought or are excited; when our eyes start to light up, or the serene intrinsic inner peace emanating from the inside when we touch on happiness. Psychologist Maja Storch explains in her book, Total Happiness, Make Yourself Happy, that we can and must trust on our own expression and the signs of our body. When we experience our voice, or physical expressions, energy and recognize these as signals, we become cognizant of the true meaning of our words.
We find happiness if we start to listen to our inner voice, our intrinsic navigation, the signs and signals of our body, our non-verbal communication.
If we make the effort to feel the impact of our words when we speak, while we look and listen to the impact of our words on the receiver of the message, our communication will be healthier and more effective.
When I was sharing my story about this financial lucrative job offer in a monotone, non-energetic voice, I tried to convince myself to accept this position. Something was not quite right. The choice was for security. And there’s nothing wrong with choosing security if that was my objective; it would have been a rational sensible decision. After Tony’s feedback, however, I decided to choose happiness. In hindsight, it was a crossroads decision in my life. My organizational development, strategy, coaching and mediation firm is what I stand for. I jump out of bed excited about the work I do with my clients. Every. Single. Day.
Practice: What are your signals?
Close your eyes and think about a situation, challenge or obstacle in your life.
Close your eyes and think of a moment where you made everything that seemed impossible possible for yourself. A moment where everything was just right. Bring this memory close and feel how the corners of your mouth lift and how your breath slows down, or maybe something else happens in your body that is wonderful. Feel your stomach. And what is it exactly that you feel?
Now wake up. Write down the signals you have experienced during the exercise. Next time you are at a crossroads and have to make a go/no-go decision, you might recognize some of these signals when you walk in the “right” direction or in the “wrong” direction. Observe what happens when you are making your assessment and are in a decision process. What is your body telling you? What is the story of your body. Do you feel the awakening of your body? That is your inner navigation telling you what the best choice is for you.
Remember that you are the captain of your own ship. You determine your happiness. It is a choice.
Lotus Josiah Seng, MA., Ph.D., is a Certified Change Management Professional; Certified and Associated IWCA Master Coach; Master Expert NLP; Certified Expert Lean Management Practitioner; CSSB. She is the owner of ETSbyLotus, LLC, a coaching, mediation and consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and New York. Currently, nine coaches are affiliated with the firm. Lotus has developed two 15-step methodologies 1) “The Mecca of Your Mind©”; and 2) “Mapping. Your. Future.©” for personal growth, career development and improving relationships. Both are infused with the concepts of utilizing the strengths of the left and right side of the brain. Lotus and her team work as a coaches and mediators with couples, siblings, families and executives to foster personal growth, improving relationships, and all aspects of communication. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Lotus on Twitter at EtsbyLotus or Instagram at Sheswalkingwithwings.