3 quirky conversational tricks that will make you profoundly influential

Influence is found in our ability to meaningfully interact with the people we encounter.

It’s not something just reserved for a stage or large audience.

You have the power to be profoundly influential in every conversation you have by becoming aware of how you interact and desiring to grow further.

I outlined 3 things I do in almost every conversation to help create trust, respect, and empathy.

1. Make eye contact to invite someone else to go deeper

“A gazer may invite interaction by staring at another person on the other side of a room. The target's studied return of the gaze is generally interpreted as acceptance of the invitation, while averting the eyes is a rejection of the request” - Adrian Furnham

Eye contact is one of the most subtle, yet powerful, communicators of our emotions.

And subconsciously, we’re able to understand conversational cues simply through the cadence of eye contact and direction.

When someone is speaking, or telling a story, and pauses, it’s easy to want to share our side of the story, our thoughts, and ideas.

But, when we interject, we miss the critical depth someone else might be wanting to share.

Instead of interjecting, simply continue a thoughtful and engaged gaze.

It may feel awkward for just a couple of seconds, but soon enough the person you’re talking to will continue to share more about themselves.

This will subtly prompt the other person to continuing speaking as your attention becomes an invitation.

Usually, people only share a small portion of what they really want to say.

To foster relationships with depth, it’s your responsibility to invite someone to speak about the things they truly want to talk about.

* Obviously, don’t over do it. Don’t stare intensely. Rather, create a warm, welcoming environment through your glances that welcome depth with empathy and grace.

2. Ask “What else?”

“So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments” - Dale Carnegie

Influence is found in the questions you ask rather than in the wisdom you speak.

Most people think that to be influential and wise, they must constantly speak at people and have a response to anything that arises.

However, people already know what’s best for them. You are not more of an expert on someone’s life than they are of their own.

So, your influence will be found in guiding questions that help people explore themselves and environment rather than what you say to them.

Any time I’ve had someone say I'm wise or thoughtful I have to laugh a little bit inside. Mainly because I only did 10% of the talking and most of that was just asking thoughtful questions.

So, how do you ask inspiring and profound questions? Two words…


“What else?”

Start off with those two simple words and you’ll unleash a depth of conversation that will have true impact.

Questions that continue to generate depth will always revolve around “what else”... and you can change the way the question looks. It can look like: “how did you manage to do that”  “how did you accomplish that”  “how did you know that’d help”.

To have influential relationships, take the focus off of yourself and start to invite people into a welcoming space where they can explore themselves and environment better.

You can also use a technique that Solution-Focused therapists use that helps people ascend logical levels.

“Therefore, if people have differences in outlook, it is useful to lift the conversation to a hierarchically higher plane” - Fredrike Bannink

Ascending logicals levels means that when someone is talking about a fight they had with a friend, they’re really talking about how much they value that relationship and don’t want it to end.

And, higher than that, they value relationships, and security, and fidelity.

Finding these higher logical levels will give your guiding questions direction.

3. Copy their body language

“Social synchrony underlies the development of affiliative bonds and, thus, its detection in social contexts may be important for bond formation and, consequently, for adequate social functioning.” - (Atzil, Hendler & Feldman)

You’re strolling through the park and suddenly someone gets smacked in the face by a rogue frisbee. Immediately you wince at what just happened. And probably laugh.

This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand and feel what other people are experiencing.

They’re responsible for us shuttering when someone else gets hit or crying when we binge watch military homecoming videos.

And they’re responsible for social synchrony: when people unknowingly mirror body language as a way to show understanding, support, and respect.

For example, when a close friend leans in to tell us a vivid story, we unconsciously lean in too.

This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand the intentions and feelings behind physical actions. And social synchrony allows us to socialize and empathize deeper with these mirror neurons firing.

Scientists used to think that analytical thought helped us understand other people’s motives and actions, but research has found that we understand each other through emotions… namely the reading of body language and automatically understanding the emotions behind them.

Mirroring, or social synchrony, is quite common in stronger relationships. But, sometimes we struggle to develop a conversational rhythm with people that develops trust, empathy, respect, and rapport.

Without mirroring, studies have shown that relationships are not as sociable and lack trust.

The easiest way to create the social synchrony that demonstrates trust is to simply mirror the person you’re talking to in subtle ways.

If they lean in, lean in too.

If they sit back and have a low tone of voice, do the same.

You don’t have to copy every small movement or make it obvious what you’re doing.

The ultimate goal is to become aware of mutual body language, and then allow yourself to naturally follow the other person with your body language.

Body language is also key in understand how comfortable someone is in a conversation. Simply look for signs of comfort and discomfort.

Some comfort signals look like: leaning in, moving closer, turning to face you, a tilted head, a head rested on a hand, a genuine smile, and physical touch

Some discomfort signals look like: neck/face touching or rubbing, turning away, crossing arms, pointing feet away, and little eye contact

“The trick is to start superficial, and then slowly go more intimate while keeping an eye on the other person’s comfort level. If you find that they start giving signs of discomfort, then you should ask less intimate questions. But if they are giving you consistent signals of comfort, then you can consider that a green light to continue digging deeper… this progression from superficial to intimate is something that happens over the course of a relationship, not over the course of one conversation” - Daniel Wendler

You don’t have to be an expert on body language. All you’re looking for is a general understanding of comfort and discomfort so that the person you’re talking to feels welcomed and understood the entire time.

For example, if you notice someone is rubbing their neck frequently, then maybe back off on the “what else” questions.

Or, maybe they show calm body language, then, you can continue asking questions and sharing about yourself on the same level

Next step

True influence is found when you can clearly articulate your life purpose and help people explore theirs.

But, you can only take people as far as you’ve gone yourself...

If you’re searching for a clear direction that will help you live a meaningful and influential life, sign up for our free life purpose course.

4 ways core values will dramatically change your life

Core values allow us to live our dream lifestyle anywhere, anytime, with anyone

Core values shape every single decision we make. They’re the lens through which we find value in tasks and people and place. But, often, they’re ambiguous and we don’t make an effort to clearly define them.

When you can clearly define your core values, you begin to reclaim energy in your life that will help you constantly move forward.

You can quite literally get paid to start pursuing your dream by practicing your core values at work.

Here’s how this works… Follow the instruction below (go here to download this sheet)

1. Habits transform your true lifestyle

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" - Aristotle

You will never find satisfaction and purpose unless you start the habitual process of living your desired characteristics out now.

The person you want to be or the thing you want to do will never just happen one day. But it will happen slowly over time if you begin creating habits…

(e.g. if harmony is a core value for who you want to be, start by quelling the arguments you’ve been having with your family and resolve the unspoken tension)

2. Failure is just feedback

"I think the only way to get good at something is to do it over and over again. In front of an audience of people so you can get immediate feedback" - Yann Girard

 Practicing core values at work (or any regular environment) allows us to get direct feedback on who we are and how we act and think and communicate.

Failure is just negative feedback that guides us to new perspective and new actions. Failure is less of a losing process and more of a learning process.

(e.g. if you value love, but a relationship goes south, it doesn’t mean you don’t value it. You simply learn what could be done better next time and reiterate)

3. Core values are the strongest, most lasting form of motivation

"Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. Always have something ahead of you to “look forward to”—to work for and hope for. Look forward, not backward" - Maxwell Maltz

 Hyped-up motivation will only spur you on for a short period of time.

You need a focused direction that will challenge you to be grounded in your purpose rather than swaying in and out of it.

(e.g. Motivation will cause you to energetically buy 48 books and become overwhelmed. But, a core value of growth will challenge you to view everyone and everything as a teacher as you assume the role of a student)

4. They actually help you get started

Dreams, goals, projects, and causes can seem so daunting to begin to tackle.

Maybe you don’t even know what you want to do with your life. Or maybe you do, but something is holding you back.

Most people just sit in this space and allow the void to hollow out their desire to ever get started.

Core values allow you to begin working toward who you want to be and what you want to do without needing any plan, money, staff, time, etc.

Instead of exhausting yourself with the idea of tackling a huge project, why not start slowly by practicing your values tomorrow?

Here’s the plan

  • List out the core values that resonate with the person you want to become: the person you want to become is already inside you, you just have to practice those traits
  • Memorize your core values: make a reminder, or sticky notes on your mirror, or go over them every morning when you wake up
  • Begin practicing in front of people: this will help you find new ways to help and give value to others while drastically improving your mood and performance
  • Allow yourself to fail: negative feedback is the only way to get better. Have a learning mindset instead of a losing mindset

You have a dream. Great. Now it’s time to start.

Fresh out of college, I learned just how potent the millennial dream is. This lofty ambition that seems to cloud the eyes of most of my peers with misty visions of future ambition and success.

And, let’s be honest, this dream is prevalent throughout all generations.

Every single one of us has had an ambition... a dream, a goal, a project, or a cause they want to champion.

But, we also have to pay bills and fund our unending and justified desire for Chipotle…

Sometimes we can feel helpless… like our job is suffocating our growth. In an attempt to escape, we lose ourselves in distraction and repetition that, one hidden, will arise again in a couple weeks.

So, instead of viewing your job as exhausting work, start viewing it as a way you can practice your core values and get a head start on your dream lifestyle.

If you don’t start with small steps, your projects and causes will never actualize.

Take the first step of finding your core values and incorporate them into everything you do and you’ll dramatically change your life.

Kyle Seagraves

Author of Uncover Your Purpose

Contact

You should know that absolutely no one has life figured out

It’s so easy to see a culmination of other people's’ successes in front of us and assume we could never measure up.

And to feel like the work we do every day isn't worthy of the lives we see flying by with the flick of a thumb.

So, this is a simple reminder to not buy into the illusion that everyone has it figured out.

Because it really is an illusion.

It’s amazing how often we see people with the life we think we want and assume they got there overnight. Or that somehow life is perfect for them.

And we spend our time searching for this magic moment where life will be what we want in an instant.

The life you want starts now...

You can choose how you spend your emotional energy. You're either:

- exhausted by the limited perception you have of what’s going on in someone else’s life

- focused on your story and the continual value you give to people

How to stop feeling lost and start finding satisfaction

So, if you're feeling lost and wondering "what am I doing" or "where am I going", know that most people are there too.

Maybe you don't know what major to pick.

Or what job to take.

Or when your frustrating job will end.

Or when your friends will treat you well.

But, right now, we miss out on all you have to offer when you don't choose to be present.

You chasing after someone else's story leaves everyone at a loss. We miss the connection and joy and sorrow and vices and wholeness you can bring.

To stop feeling lost, disconnect yourself from everything that’s not a part of your story. To start finding satisfaction, reconnect yourself to where you’re at.

Because it’s great to see that your friend got a high-paying job in your dream city with a beautiful family... but thinking their situation makes you less likely to receive fulfillment is a lie.

The key to “making it” and living a successful life

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love to dream. My head is stuck in the future all the time. And it’s so easy to have a golden dream where I instantly get everything I want without any work involved.

Most of us act like if we dream hard enough, then something will change.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” - Victor Frankl

Success is something we find because we chase after something greater than ourselves... the present moments within our story and timeline and space.

We will never find success and happiness in a distanced dream or in the life of someone else.

True fulfillment is a direct result of our desire to pursue the goodness in the present moments in front of us.

We encounter profound joy when we pursue something greater than ourselves. And each day we have to commit to small progresses that compounds over time.

How to create success tomorrow

To begin living with a sense of direction and clarity, you have to practice.

The person you want to become and the lifestyle you want to live will never appear on its own.

You must create it.

And it’s going to be rough at first…

Your first presentation will be terrifying.

Your first book will be exhausting.

Your first _______ will be rough.

But the only way you’re going to get better is to practice.

I’m an inexperienced writer. I’ve only written a handful of articles. But, I know that to get to my 1,000 article I’ll need to write my 800th. And to get there I’ll need to write my 374th. And to get there I’ll need to write my 29th. And to get there I’ll need to write my first.

Each step along the way I get better and better. I directly create success not by what I achieve, but by how I live...

“The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really, shitty first drafts….The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later….Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it…Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those crazy pages that you would have never have gotten to by more rational grown-up means.” - Anne Lamott

And I continue that mindset outside of writing. Each day I look for small ways to become more of the person that I want to be.

5 steps to practice present success

  1. Recognize the illusion that everyone has life figured out. Because they don’t, even if they did it’s irrelevant to your story.
  2. Disconnect yourself from useless obsession with someone else’s success.
  3. Reconnect yourself to the present moments. Slow down your day and enjoy the moments you have to connect with real people and places and emotions.
  4. Write down some descriptions of the person you want to be in the future. Are you generous, warm, a leader, courageous, wealthy, productive, etc?
  5. Start each day with a quick meditation on how you’re going to choose to live out those qualities today.

You will never simply wake up and be living the life you want. And you’ll be stuck in misery and insecurity if you spend your time obsessing over someone else’s story.

Find the qualities you want to have when you've "made it" and practice them now... in every situation and with everyone you meet and you'll be on your way.

You have the power to change your attitude and actions. Begin chasing after something greater than yourself. Then, you'll start living a fulfilled life.

How to challenge small talk and foster genuine connection

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

How to transform small talk into powerful connection

Small talk terrifies my predominantly-introverted self. But in American culture, small talk is a social necessity.

I had this grand desire to have vulnerable and powerful conversations with the people I met. So, I tried to drop pointless conversations from my life and dive right into the core.

But this only left me confused and unfulfilled: thinking that people just didn’t want to talk about things that mattered…

“People mistakenly infer others’ attitudes from their behavior when their behavior is actually dictated by norms. In this case, people see everyone not talking and assume they don’t want to talk, but actually everyone is more interested in talking than they believe.” -Juliana Schroeder

It wasn’t until I changed my view about relationships that I realized how powerful and warm small talk can be. And how crucial it is to nurturing delicate relationships.

Center your relationships around giving

Relationships are the most vibrant when they’re giving-focused instead of getting-focused.

We have to let go of our ego-centric view to find connection and community and give value more than we receive it.

Instead of viewing relationships with a mindset of “what I can get”, we must choose each moment to give.

We must seek the collective prosperity of others so we can join a community: a community that pushes each other further through rhythms of giving and receiving.

“Relationships don’t happen automatically. Apathy, fear, awkwardness – all conspire to thwart connection. You have to be prepared to fight for your relationships.” - Daniel Wendler


Small talk connects us to the present moment

“I’m still making my voice heard in a way that inspires people to advance their lives” - Nicholas Kusmich

Small talk is the entrance into a deeper level of relational trust and understanding.

So often I would spend most of my time meditating on the things I was wanting to do in the future. Or meditating on what I’ve done in the past.

You know, that thing you do when someone talks to you but you’re not paying attention so you just smile and nod hoping that’s what they were looking for….

Small talk is a subtle reminder of the real people in front of us. In real places. With real jobs. And real problems.

And the seemingly unimportant talk about the weather is a gentle reminder that the present moment has true power and meaning when we allow ourselves to enter into that space.

I had to realize that the time I spent meditating on the future and the past is simply my lack of participation in the present moment.

So, even though I was physically with my family, I was mentally absent instead of bonding. Or, instead of seeking connection with someone who was hurting, I would give canned responses and be somewhere else mentally thinking of excuses to leave.

"Presence is experienced in a participative way, outside the mind. The mind by nature is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving." - Richard Rohr

Small talks allows us to loosen the controlled grip on our lives and focus entirely on the person and presence in front of us.

Small talk catapults our well-being

Countless studies have proclaimed the benefits of social interaction.

But so often we act like we’re fine on our own. We think we don’t need more friends. Or we simply don’t want to engage with someone else.

Those who care, give, or help in an unsolicited manner feel more positive, alive, and have higher self-esteem (Weinstein & Ryan).

Connecting with others, even superficially, allows us to express our humanity that is deeply connected in the exchange of ideas and emotions.

And we knowingly neglect an aspect of our humanity and health when we choose to opt-out of our natural, communicative make-up.

“People mistakenly thinking that isolation is more pleasant than connecting with a stranger, when the benefits of social connection actually extend to distant strangers as well. Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other… Human beings are social animals. Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being. - Epley & Schroeder


Small talk is an invitation to engage

We thrive on narrative. We love stories and events and people and places and how they all mesh together in a divine dance.

Before I learned the power of small talk, I always felt so disconnected from my environment. I felt like stories were whirling around me and only displaying glimpses of a connection I longed so deeply for.

The problem was that I never realized small talk was an invitation to engage in a story greater than my own.

Each day I was presented with an invitation to a story and always declined: wondering why I felt so lonely.

Some of the stories we’re invited to don’t end up being part of our own. And that’s ok. Sometimes the stories we’re invited to captivate and liven us. But we never know how powerful a story is unless we’re willing to take up an invitation.

“This progression from superficial to intimate is something that happens over the course of a relationship, not over the course of one conversation.”  - Daniel Wendler

I think the biggest thing I struggled with was thinking that small talk always had to immediately transition into what I wanted to get out of a relationship.

When, in reality, strong relationships need to be seasoned by time and experiences to have meaningful impact.

I thought that an instantly deep conversation would be meaningful and valuable, but it was only dry and disrespectful. I had to change my mindset and focus on how I can serve others.

Small talk makes us giving-focused

“They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Carl W. Buehner

The biggest hindrance to my interactions was constantly thinking about what I want to say. I wanted people to think I was wise and that I said powerful, quotable things. Words that would be shared on Twitter with high distinction next to world-class tweets (like @realDonaldTrump…).

Instead of spending all my energy on getting praise out of a relationship, I transitioned my energy to understanding how I make people feel.

And I’m still not great at it. It’s a growing process.

But I’ve learned to listen more, and be empathetic, and show that I truly care with my words and actions.

Small talk grants a safe space to practice selflessness. Or, it can be a space where I try to get what my insecurities scream about...

Shifting my view of relationships to “what can I give” instead of “what can I get” meant that small talk needed to become an integral part of my life so I could always be exposed to people I can give to.

Small talk allows us to reclaim our intentions

I’m a recovering addict of my ego.

Left unchecked, our intentions will almost always drift to a getting-focused mentality.

Small talks allows us to reclaim our relational intentions. Every day I have the opportunity to throw away the desires of my ego and choose to give value and time and respect to the people I meet.

"People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, & help them throw rocks at their enemies" - Blair Warren

At the end of the day, people want to enter into loving and safe relationships. And small talk gives up a place where we can reclaim our intentions in small ways that compound over time.

Next step

Small talk used to suck the life out of me until I realized I was only viewing relationships with the intensity of my ego.

Once you let go of yourself and choose to be a giving-focused person, you’ll realize that each time you communicate with someone, you’re being invited to a story that is about union and heartbreak and love and presence.

Small talk allows us to directly enter into the present moment and cast away our shame and worry as we serve the people in front of us.

Challenge yourself to continually view relationships as an invitation to something greater than yourself: a broader story with greater depth and meaning that we could ever create on our own.

You don’t always have to pursue the depths of a story, but you’ll miss out on vulnerable community if you don’t at least chase after the invitation for something more.

The Open Loops Trick To Tackle Your Goals With Ease

How often do you come home after a busy day at work and still can’t seem to shut off everything that still needs to get done?

And not just things from work, but everything else that you’re involved in like making meals and exercising and paying bills and washing clothes and maintaining some level of a social life (and sanity if you have room for that).

We’re constantly anxious and overwhelmed because of open loops in our life that keep playing over and over in our mind without ever being resolved.

So, what exactly is an open loop?

An open loop is a psychological phenomenon discovered by Bluma Zeigarnik. Open loops (called the Zeigarnik Effect) state that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

And remembering uncompleted tasks is almost never a good thing because all of those errands and goals and desires keep exhausting any mental and emotional capacity you have. And, if left uncompleted, will constantly keep us feeling stressed and overworked.

(Much like a flood our energy can go in all directions and be destructive)

If Only Open Loops Kept Blockbuster Alive

Open loops are used heavily in storytelling (especially movie making). When someone only gives us a glimpse of a story, we’re dying inside to know how it ends. We desperately want to see how the hero overcomes his trials and how the villain will be defeated.

Excellent storytellers know how to use open loops and cliffhangers to get you to become captivated by the story in front of you. Think of the last time you were in a movie and nothing else in the world mattered or even seemed to exist.

The only thing that mattered was the open loops in the story that our mind wanted to see completed so badly.

And the brilliant people at Netflix have mastered it so well that I’ll watch an entire season in a day (Who’s with me? Ok slight exaggeration here).

The Problem

Stories are wonderful to be captivated by, but when open loops exist in our own, real life, they begin to wreak havoc on our energy.

Every task we have to do slowly builds up and continues to rehearse itself over and over in our mind.

And the tasks don’t have to be big to seem overwhelming.

Occasionally I’ll struggle with anxiety so I begin to examine all the open loops that keep playing their story in my mind. And it’s a little frustrating to realize that the root of my anxiety was only a couple small tasks that I could knock out in a simple hour.

But the chaotic power of tasks is found in their ability to constantly repeat themselves as they float around our thoughts and are continually unresolved.

How to get rid of open loops and gain relaxation and productivity

Most people think productivity and relaxation are two different things. After all, how in the world can you get things done and be relaxed at the same time?

Focus.

Focus is the key to eliminating open loops that constantly circle so that you can relax and be productive at the same time.

When you can master your focus, you’ll instantly see powerful results in your tasks without stressing over everything that has to be done because you close loops as they present themselves.

Ready to be a relaxed and productive powerhouse?

First, you need to shut down open loops immediately after they present themselves. And I mean immediately. I use three groundbreaking tools to help me do this…

You can use any tool as long as you can stay consistent to close open loops

Apple’s Notes, Reminders, and Calendar (Groundbreaking, I know).

Once an open loop is created (an event I need to plan, the car registration I need to renew, feeding the cat several times because she eats way too much), I enter that open loop in one or a couple of those apps.

Big events go in the Calendar (like an event). Smaller tasks that need to get done go in Reminders (like getting my registration renewed) and Notes help me dump all my thoughts and ideas down instead of them taking away mental energy from what I’m doing in the moment.

Simply jotting down the open loops that present themselves will allow you to remove a large amount of anxiety about tackling project. Even massive projects can be broken down into small, manageable chunks.

If you continue to let tasks, both big and small, play over and over in your mind like a movie without an ending, then you’ll constantly be plagued by anxiety and worry.

And, when you try to get work done, you won’t have enough clarity to creatively work on the present task.

Next, you need to kill the idea of multitasking. By now, we can all agree that effective multitasking is a great thought, but impossible to truly get results from.

To be engaged, present, and potent, you need to have a clear idea of the task you want to do in the moment and how that task plays a part in the larger picture of your goals and desires.

So, let’s say you got picked for the lucky and highly-rewarding job of planning your company’s Christmas party (I will judge the eggnog you bring…).

If you were a slave to anxiety-breathing open loops, you’d try to plan it all in your mind and constantly be stressed. Leading up to the event you might struggle to get work done well and your relationships will most likely suffer.

But, since you know how to shut down open loops as they arise, you now mark your Calendar with the date. You jot down Notes of creative ideas and people and food and festivities and let all of your ideas begin to have life outside of your mind. Then, you start adding some Reminders of the tasks that you want to get done and when you need to pick up the food and when to decorate the tree and talking with Janet about her not bringing the fruit cake again.

(You obviously don’t have to use Apple’s apps to get this done. You can even use a trusty pencil and paper if you like).

Breaking down complex tasks in this way allows you to transition from mental energy constantly playing the loop over and over to physical energy of actually getting things done.

Once we break apart a big idea into smaller parts, we can see how they fit together and the power they have to bring our big idea to life.

Now, let’s complete the smaller pieces that bring the big idea to life.

Since we have a clear direction of where we’re going, and we know what tasks need to be done and when they need to be done, we can focus entirely on one little task at a time without worrying about the whole project coming together.

To complete these smaller tasks, I use something called the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is simply a researched way to section off your time. It goes like this:

THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE

  • Spend 25 minutes with complete focus on one and and only one task.
  • Afterward, take a 5 minute break from that focused concentration

Each time you repeat the 2 steps above, it's called a Pomodoro (it’s actually Italian for tomato, but that’s ok).

Complete 4 Pomodoros in a row and then take a longer break. Maybe 30 minutes to an hour.

The brilliance of this simple technique is it gives structure and guardrails to your focused time.

Now, you can take each task and estimate how many Pomodoros it will take to complete and plan your tasks in incremental focus sessions.

Pomodoro app for closing open loops

SILO - Focus and Study Timer to Boost Productivity

I’m using this technique right now to write this article. It helps me focus on the task at hand that I need to do and stay entirely present without worrying that I’ll overrun my time and overlook other tasks (I use the SILO app shown in the picture above).

Right now, I’m halfway through my second Pomodoro with this article and I estimate it will take two more to proofread and post.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Open loops present themselves all throughout the day. They can be massive and overwhelming, or they can be small and seemingly irrelevant.

But, we have to manage even the smallest of open loops to stay productive and relaxed.

So, next time an open loop presents itself, tackle it. Write it down and flesh it out so you can either manage it right as it comes up or at a later date when you have more time.

Closing all the loops that continually open themselves will allow you to maintain a steady level of focus and clarity while shutting out the anxiety of deadlines.

Kyle Seagraves

Author of Uncover Your Purpose

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The Easiest, Guilt-Free Way To Say No

Learning to say no will allow you to have a rich, powerful, and focused direction that doesn’t sway with guilt. While constantly saying yes will only cause:

  • guilt that subtracts from your purpose
  • wasted energy that robs you of rest, innovation, and joy

Saying "no" is one of the most difficult things to do. No one enjoys saying no to friends.

And saying no to family can be heartbreaking.

It can be difficult to turn down things that don’t energize you (even after practicing the “art of saying no”). 

From helping a friend move to turning down an undesired job, we’re going to reclaim the "art of saying no" and how to do it without feeling guilty or rude.

Let's transform a guilt-filled "no" into a focused and value-saturated "yes".

Floods and Rivers

Each day we’re presented with new opportunities, and our response to them defines who we will become. We’re a direct result of the decisions we make. And, our daily yeses and noes shape the larger decisions we make.

Tim Elmore writes about the differences between floods and rivers and how our daily energy can be categorized into either a flood or a river:

Floods are powerful forces of destruction that cause mass devastation wherever they go. They have no direction and cover hundreds if not thousands of square miles.

Rivers are focused, move in one direction, and have clear boundaries. Civilizations have been built around rivers since the beginning of humanity. And their focused energy is used to support and bring life.

You: In your everyday life, do you feel like your energy is directionless like a flood? Or is your energy defined with clear boundaries that helps you and others travel further?

Our ability to be a river or a flood is directly tied to our ability to say "yes" and "no". So many of us live our lives like a flood: we keep saying "yes" to things that don’t align with who we are. In the end, this causes us to damage ourselves and the people we encounter.

The first step to becoming focused and having clarity is to understand what our "yes" is...

Why You Keep Saying Yes

We all do it. We know that our energy will be drained if we say "yes" to something we shouldn’t do, but what if people begin to lose trust in us? Or maybe they won’t rely on us anymore or view us as less helpful.

Even deeper, this speaks to our struggle as a society to please the people we love. Because saying no makes us seem useless, selfish and unhelpful.

We keep saying "yes" to the things we don’t want to do because we don’t have a defined picture of what we value.

If we clearly understand what we deeply value, then saying "no" is easier. It allows us to recognize how directionless energy robs us of rest, innovation, and joy.

4 Easy Steps To Start Saying No

So, saying "no" shapes the person we will become. And understanding our values embolden our vision and allows new opportunities to arise.

Here are the 4 easy steps to start saying "no". These will help you have a rich, powerful, and focused direction that doesn’t sway to guilt.

  1. Understand Your Yeses (and your noes will be a breeze)
  2. Don’t Become Dualistic (so you can still be helpful when you say no)
  3. Politely Say No And Foster Communication (so you can deliver empathy and value)
  4. Reaffirm Your Direction (and the new opportunities you have)

Step 1: Understand Your Yeses

We need to understand what we value and are saying "yes" to so we know what to say "no" to.

Everyday, small yeses shape who we are and the future we want to create for ourselves. But we will always live like a flood unless we choose to clarify our direction and intent.

In our life purpose course, we teach life purpose with two overlapping circles. The left circle is everything thing that you are. The right circle is everything good that’s happening in the world.

A drawing of two circles that overlap to show life purpose and how to say no

Your life purpose is simply the intersection between who you are and what god/love/the divine is doing in the world.

And the white space outside of that intersection is what you're allowed to say no to.

So often we feel guilty because we see so much good happening in the world and we feel like we have to be involved and wonder why we experience so much grief and burnout.

The truth is that there are things that god is doing in the world that you simply don’t have any business being a part of.

Spending energy on a space that you’re not supposed to be in will only cause damage to yourself and others.

Quick Story Time:​​​​

I had to learn this lesson the hard way… I started to play guitar and sing when I was about 15. I practice the Christian faith tradition, so using what I was good at inside of a church setting seemed like the next logical step.

After all, (as the logic seemed) I was given this skillset, and I should use this to honor God.

But, after years of being involved in various churches I started to experience burnout that continually crippled my faith. The problem was, I believed that because I had a skill meant I had to use it for a cause.

In reality, music (or anything you love to do) is just an avenue for expression. In my current stage of life, it’s an avenue for refreshment and relaxation. And taking a restful avenue and forcing it to be utilized only became dangerous for myself and the people I worked with.

Ultimately, there are good things happening in the world that you have no business touching. And that’s ok. You’re allowed to find the unique space that you fill while supporting others.

When you understand what you value and how you fit in to what’s happening in the world, then saying no to things outside of your purpose becomes easy.

And more than that, it becomes empowering because your ability to say no allows you to say yes to the things that energize you.

Step 2: Don’t Become Dualistic

People pleasing is a problem for so many of us. And it’s largely rooted in insecurity. But, people pleasing can have a truly admirable intention behind it.

Beneath people pleasing is the basic desire that we all have to be of service to others and to constantly be giving value. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to be of service to someone else when they need it, but we don’t have to give up what we value to serve someone else…

Just because you say no doesn’t mean you can’t still be incredibly helpful to someone.

The main thing you want to guard is your energy and time. Try searching for different opportunities to help the person asking you. You could send them a link to a helpful blog, send them some quick tips, or introduce them to someone who can help (Or other useful ideas here).

Next time you need to say no, don’t immediately dismiss yourself as useless or selfish. You have so many opportunities to be of service to someone else without sacrificing your time and energy.

Step 3: Politely Say No And Foster Communication

Now that you know what you value and understand how you can be of service to someone, it’s time to say the dreaded word.

Although, saying no doesn’t have to seem harsh... You might want to just say “no” depending on the circumstance, but often, it’s helpful to search for a polite alternative that's still clear.

For example, “maybe later” does not show clear intent. But, “I appreciate you coming to me for help, I can’t give any time, but can I give you a couple quick ideas on how to finish the project?” is clear, polite, and offers immediate help.

Here are 49 ways to say "no" to give you an idea of what you could say.You’ll have to be the judge of the context and of the tone you should use. Continually keep in mind that saying "yes" to something that drains your energy will cause you to say "no" to what your purpose is.

Don’t feel like you have to have a polished and formal answer. Express your disinterest in a polite way. Then, allow your response to foster empathetic and respectful communication.

Being empathetic and calm while still serving people will help them understand your reason for saying "no" much more.

In the long run, saying "no" to something that makes you feel like a flood will be more helpful than saying "yes". Otherwise, you'll cause frustration for yourself and others.

Next time you want to say no, search for a polite way to express your disinterest. Use your response to create a helpful and affirming conversation.

Step 4: Reaffirm Your Direction

Even after taking the steps above, guilt can still linger. And sometimes the person asking might be offended, even if you were polite and helpful.

And that’s ok. Other people’s response to events is not your responsibility. You are only responsible for your reaction.

Since guilt can still linger, take a couple moments to reaffirm why you said "no". Reflect on the opportunity cost that saying "yes" would have had. Would saying "yes" take away time from your family? Or would saying "yes" exhaust you financially?

Allow each instance of a "no" to allow you to reflect on everything you continually say "yes" to every day. Those yeses shape the person you’re becoming.

The 4 Easy Steps All Together

Step 1: Understand Your Yeses

We need a framework to judge our decisions against. Finding what we value eliminates the need to please people. This helps us become powerful and focused like a river.

Step 2: Don’t Become Dualistic

Don’t equate “no” with “I am useless”. Creatively search for ways you can be of service to someone even when you can’t spend your energy or resources

Step 3: Politely Say No And Foster Communication

Don’t craft a polished and formal statement. Simply express your disinterest. Then, allow your reply to foster open and vulnerable conversation

Step 4: Reaffirm Your Direction

Allow each instance of saying no to challenge you. And reflect on everything you say yes to that continually shapes who you are becoming

Just learning to say "no" is a hollow way to look at your response to questions. Rather, focus on what you continually say "yes" to so your noes become guilt-free. And, reply with noes that are still helpful and caring.

Living life like a directionless flood will only rob you of rest, innovation, and joy. But, living with a clear direction that doesn’t sway to guilt will allow you and others to flourish.

Kyle Seagraves

Author of Uncover Your Purpose

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You Won’t Think About Personality Tests The Same Way Again

We’re all obsessed with personality tests. Below is my favorite Myers-Briggs adaptation… go on, find your cinnamon roll status:

We love the idea that we can fit snuggly inside a type. It’s comfortable.

And life threatening…

My room is better than your room

Personality tests have been the cultural rave in the past few years (and for good reason).

But, something keeps disturbing me about the way people are using personality types. We’ve been groomed inside a culture lacking identity so much we seek a “type” to find solace.

We look at personality like a warehouse lined with rooms that reflect different personality characteristics.

Inside each room are all the different “types” of people. We keep passing by all the “types” until we find the room.

The room with our people. The people you don’t have to explain yourself to. They get you.

You don’t have to explain your faults or quirks… you surely don’t have to explain that weird thing you do with your hands when you get nervous.

The room that is the perfect place for where you’re at right now. Because it’s filled with different versions of you. (or so you think…)

We choose the room that fits us best depending on what we’re feeling that day. And we live the rest of life in that room.

The problem here is that typing ourselves and others is deadly to our potential as a culture because:

Identity is not about who you are. It’s about who you can become.

I was right there with you

Ok, I should be honest. I was right there with you. Sitting in that room.

I’d learn a new personality typing system in and out and own it. I could take an educated guess at your numbers, or letters, or animal (yeah… that’s a real typing test. Better hope you’re not a walrus on that test) based on your Starbucks order.

Even the fact that you went to Starbucks pretty much narrowed down the personality types you could be (because single-origin, black coffee is the only true coffee, right?).

I took a system made by a couple mystics and teachers and psychologists and placed a canvas over everyone.

And told them who they are.

Re-read that. Because you might do the same.

Are you a builder?

The broader, more-enveloping question here isn’t even “am I placing myself in a room” but “how am I limiting the potential of everyone I meet by placing 4 neat, eggshell-white walls around them.”

I was a master builder. Seeing people and defining them. Building perfectly aligned walls around others to contain the very essence of being I overlooked.

Do you do the same?

Who do you see?

Let’s throw away personality tests for a second… when you walk down the street, who do you see?

Do you see goths and thugs and business people and feminists and parents and homosexuals and ___________ (fill in the blank, there’ll be a quiz at the end).

These walls are comfortable because they place a nice piece of brick between our sensitive, self-consuming egos and the potential outside dangers.

Although, those walls do more harm than good…

When you throw a wall up around someone else you prevent:

  • creative collaboration
  • gained insight
  • expanding knowledge
  • defined experience
  • deepening of soul
  • strengthening of heart
  • development of courage
  • __________________

Escaping the cycle

Know that right now you have the unlimited freedom to shatter the walls you’ve built around people.

Take a moment to recognize the ego inside of you that’s seeking to constantly build itself up and categorize everyone else to hide its faults.

Because your relationship didn’t fail because your partner was an ISFP.

And you’re not friends with someone because you’re both type 9s.

You and everyone you meet is expansive and buoyant and far more complex than our egos can project into our conscious minds.

How I stopped placing people in rooms

I know what it’s like to search for years for an identity I can be a part of.

And try to find which type I fit in… to find my people and where I belong and find meaning.

And then I found I couldn’t really fit in anywhere so I started placing everyone else in types and boxes and rooms. And I limited them.

I know the struggle of feeling like I can become more than what someone else wrote down in a dusty book or typed in an online article.

I know how damaging it can feel to your potential when all you get is a number or a collection of letters that are supposed to define you.

In our search for who we are and where we belong and who our people are, we can discover two things:

  • the depths of our humanity cannot be limited to a type
  • rooms starve the life-giving power of community

For yourself

You aren’t one type. Open the door and walk out of the room. Personality types are simply just a map.

A map that guides you on your journey to become a myriad of potential.

A map that gently corrects and consoles you as you travel.

Types aren’t who you are. Shrink them down to their real size and then use them as tools to get where you’re going.

For others

Try to find the walls you’ve placed around your friends and family.

And recognize the walls you continue to place around the people you see.

We think we’re protecting ourselves, but we’re really limiting everything we can become.

Our experiences with others are the only true things that shape us into the people we want to become.

Now

Identity isn’t something you’re going to find in a system.

Your identity is the perpetual process of who you’re becoming.

“For success, like happiness [and identity], cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” — Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl had this realization when imprisoned in a concentration camp. Where everyone was forcefully stripped of the walls they came in with and left with bare humanity.

He discovered that our search for success, happiness, fulfillment, and meaning aren’t things that we can achieve. They’re simply things that happen as a result of our pursuit of something greater than ourselves.

The pursuit of becoming connected with the bigger picture of what god (love, the divine, collective unconscious, etc.) is doing in the world.

So, today, remove the walls you’ve placed around people and the walls you’ve confined yourself in.

Begin the search for what the divine is doing in the world and how you connect to it.

And simply use personality types as tools to get you there. Don’t give them more credit than they deserve because…

Identity is not about who you are. It’s about who you can become.

How To Be An Introvert AND An Extrovert (Without Giving Up Who You Are)

You’ve believed for a while that you’re either an introvert or an extrovert. Though, it doesn’t work that way. You’re an evolving mixture of both. And introversion and extroversion are tools we use to live lives of richness and depth.

I’ll guide you through a discovery that has shaped the way I view life and energy. And if you learn this discovery, too, you’ll grow into a more connected and healthy person.

We all desire to be more engaged. We want to connect with the world around us, yet we struggle to find depth in the mundane. Here’s how many think…

You either read books or you don’t. You either like people or you don’t. You’re either an introvert or you’re not. You’re either an extrovert or you’re not. You either finished reading this paragraph or you didn’t.

Black and white thinking is wrong here. You’re an expressible and extraordinary mixture of both introversion and extroversion. Your flexibility to seek both reserve and expression is a monumental part of who you are. And you’re limiting yourself.

When you classify yourself as one or the other, you limit an entire segment of your being.

We miss out on the vibrant life you have to offer when you limit yourselfto one of two states.

let’s get a little scientific

Introversion and extroversion are pieces in a larger game of temperament. They’re tools at your disposal to relate with the world in a more connected way.

Two components make up youTemperament and Personality.

  • Temperament: the nature side of the debate. You’ve been created with a set wiring of pre-determined synapses handed down to you from your parents. And these developed in the womb. You’re a miraculous creature.
  • Personality: the nurture side of the debate. In your childhood, key influencers and events shaped the way you thought and felt about life. Life shaped your vision.

We’re only going to stick to temperament for now. Personality is a beast on its own.

When you were born, your brain had a way of thinking that was unique to you. Untouched by the world and its array of sensory distractions and influencing factors. You were born of entirely-untarnished temperament: complete nature. Nurture hadn’t influenced you yet.

This is where psychologist Jerome Kagan decided to step in. He set up an experiment to put the temperament of humans to the test.

He introduced infants to various stimuli and tracked their responses. He would give a swab of lemon to children and track their reaction. Or, he’d pop a balloon next to a child and note the response. And so on.

As you might expect, some babies cried… and some didn’t. Unfamiliar stimuli startled some children while doing nothing to other children. Some reacted and some didn’t.

Kagan discovered something incredible. Human temperament has two defaults: high reactivity and low reactivity. Or children who cried and children who didn’t (when exposed to shocking events).

it gets deeper

I promise this depth will get us to a place where you can become a more complete and healthy self.

Your brain has a component called the Reticular Activating System (we’ll call it the RAS for short). Its job is to control consciousness. Or brain arousal.

Think of the RAS like a filter. It looks at what’s happening in the world around you and chooses to let some information in. And it lets some information float by. It controls your brain activity.

Your brain loves to be at a set point of brain activity. Like how your heart has a set point of beats per minute. Or how you have a set point of body temperature. Your brain likes its set point.

And you brain will do all that it can do always be at a set point of brain arousal. Too much brain arousal and you’ll be anxious, frustrated, and unfocused. Too little brain arousal and you’ll be sluggish, exhausted, and irritable.

It’s best if you’re at a comfortable set point of brain arousal. And your brain is going to get there one way or the other.

reactivity and set point

Kagan followed his patients throughout their lives. He found that high reactivity people tended to be predominantly introverted. And low reactivity people tended to be predominantly extroverted.

He found that:

  • High reactivity people (introverts) have a higher set point of brain arousal.
  • Low reactivity people (extroverts) have a lower set point of brain arousal.

So, high reactivity people become overloaded by external stimuli. It makes their set point go too high. It makes babies cry. It makes people seem introverted.

Low reactivity people are off balance without external stimuli. Their set point is lower. They don’t cry at external stimuli because it doesn’t overwhelm them. It makes people seem extroverted.

let’s tie it together

You either have a brain of high reactivity or low reactivity. It’s your temperament.

High reactivity makes you have a high set point and low reactivity makes you have a low set point.

And your brain uses the RAS to always be at an optimal set point.

If you’re a high reactivity person, you’re born with a higher set point. If you’re a low reactivity person, you’re born with a lower set point.

Your brain will always do what it can to be at its set point. Being at the set point makes you happier and more productive. You thrive at your set point.

introverts

People who believe they’re introverted are really just high reactivity people. When you were a child, external stimuli startled you. Your brain was full of life and had a higher set point of arousal.

You process a lot internally because your brain is always working. You need quiet space to work and be productive.

Your set point is high and you need a tool to get it to be normal. The tool you’ve chosen for most of your life is introversion.

Introversion helps you take a high set point and bring it down to a normal level: where you become the most vibrant version of yourself.

The reason people call you an introvert is because you have to use the tool of introversion frequently to calm your high set point.

Sometimes your set point dips down too far, though. You use another tool to bring it back up: extroversion.

extroverts

People who believe they’re extroverted are really just low reactivity people. When you were a child, external stimuli didn’t startle you. Your brain was curious about the world around and you have a lower set point of arousal.

You process the world externally: through experiences and people. You need a more interactive and busy space to work and be productive.

Your set point is low and your need a tool to get it to be normal. The tool you’ve chosen for most of your life is extroversion.

Extroversion helps you take a low set point and bring it up to a normal level: where you become the most vibrant version of yourself.

The reason people call you an extrovert is because you have to use the tool of extroversion frequently to liven your low set point.

Sometimes your set point increases too much, though. You use another tool to bring it back down: introversion.

back to black and white

So, here’s the real black and white of it all: you either have a high reactivity or low reactivity temperament.

Reactivity becomes a bias for how dominant introversion and extroversion will be in your life. But it doesn’t define you.

You were born with a temperament that will never change, but you can use tools to guide it to where you want to be.

I’m a high reactivity person. When someone asks me to a party, I have an inner surge of adrenaline that shouts for me to deny. When I get asked to speak in front of a group, quick thoughts rush through my mind of the excuses I can use to escape.

When I’ve been around too many people I use introversion as a tool to gather resources and regain energy. When I’ve regained energy, I use extroversion as a tool to communicate and interact with others.

stretch and break

You’ve been given a temperament. Now use personality to shape it. You’re a high or low reactivity person and you can now begin to approach life that way. If a wave of anxiety overcomes you, recognize that you’ve been given tools to center yourself. If you’re exhausted, find the tools available to you so we can have the richness of you back.

The beauty of human personality is the ability to stretch and break the barriers set. Your personality is either evolving into integration or destruction. And you have the power to change it daily.

yourself

Keep in mind that brain arousal does not equal intelligence. It’s how much of the world you process internally.

So, are you a high reactivity person or a low reactivity person?

Where in your life have you seen yourself at a set point that is too high or too low and how did you naturally live to get it back to a healthy place? Did you use introversion or extroversion?

The words introversion and extroversion carry unneeded weight. And this discovery allows you to live without that weight.

You’re a magnetic and dynamic individual. Life has given you temperament, and you responded with personality. You control the way you’re going to live. You use the tools available to you to become the most healthy self.

And it is the world’s pleasure to see you at your best. When you’re aware of who you are and how you’re created and the limitations you have. And the life your bring to people around you.

your next step

I want to know more about you.

Click HERE and tell me if you’re a high or low reactivity person in the comments. Tell me a story about when you used introversion and extroversion to meet your internal and physiological needs.