Soul-Talk: Let Go of Toxicity and Restore Balance to Your Life

After sharing with Chan Luu the work we are doing to create our GPS for the Soul app and go-to-guide for getting back on course when stress overtakes us, I asked her to share how she manages to keep herself in balance.
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Last week, just after I put up my article asking if you are using your soul's energy to expand or contract, I was given the gift of meeting with Chan Luu, the world-renowned fashion jewelry designer. After sharing with Chan Luu the work we are doing to create our GPS for the Soul app and go-to-guide for getting back on course when stress overtakes us, I asked her to share how she manages to keep herself in balance.

She began immediately by focusing on one of life's biggest rocks, the day-to-day choices we make to lead an authentic, balanced and fulfilling life. She told me that after spending considerable time doing some soul searching following her divorce, she came up with a formula that works for her. She emphasized that it took considerable time and commitment to retrain herself so that she would consistently make choices that matter.

How Much Toxicity Will You Allow Into Your Life?

She quickly reframed the question of leading an authentic life into one of how much toxicity we are willing to live with and allow into our daily experience. What an incredible question and reminder that soul-centered guidance is all around, if only we choose to receive it when it shows up.

Chan Luu told me that we need "skill in self-nurturing," that we need to learn to set and maintain boundaries around our personal and professional lives. A world-class designer with an amazingly-successful business, she added that she had to learn "to make her business work around time for herself" instead of the other way around. She defined time for herself as having "self-love and respect for self," explaining that just as companies have good infrastructures to support their work, we need to apply the same principles to our own personal lives.

A Formula For Well-Being

She then led the way into this profound insight of self-discovery: You must develop and exhibit a commitment to yourself and take time to nurture yourself, every day. Successful businesses pay attention to their customers, to their employees, to their processes, and to their quality every day. What is the equivalent for paying attention to your life?

When I asked her how she managed this herself, knowing that she travels the world, running her very successful business across multiple time zones with all manner of people to support and nurture, she took me into what she called her own personal formula for living "a life that works well." In the lexicon of our soon-to-be-released GPS for the Soul app, she gave me her "playlist" and navigation guidelines for leading a successful, balanced, and fulfilling life.

Invest your personal and business time in people you love: Only invest your time with those people who nurture you and with whom you enjoy spending time. Get rid of your friends or business associates who are toxic, who complain, or who bring negativity to you. Spend time with people on the same path, people who are uplifting, with whom you can laugh easily, people with whom you can solve life's crises jointly, in a spirit of love and caring. The others may still be "friends," just not the friends you spend much time with.

Invest your time in things you love to do: If you don't love what you are doing, why are you doing it? Just as you surround yourself with people on the same path, so too surround yourself with the kinds of tasks or things to do that bring you joy. Easier said than done, to be sure, but if you don't start with the question in mind, how will you ever get there?

Your happiness is your responsibility: If you aren't happy in your own skin, what experience will you bring to your friends? Chan Luu never raises her voice to another: "Upset hurts me as much or more than it hurts the other person. Why bring upset to another let alone to myself?"

Develop a routine that works for you: Chan Luu has a regular routine that may seem enviable, but as she noted, it took her a long time to develop the commitment and the practice that she shares here. While this may seem daunting at first, can you find at least one of these practices that you can adopt yourself, and get yourself moving? Remember, your GPS will help you recalculate your route if you get off course, but it can't provide any help at all if you don't get yourself out of park and start moving.

  • Focus on your health first: Go for a walk, do some yoga, exercise, go to the gym, meditate -- take care of yourself or you won't have anything to share with others. (I have found this one to be particularly important myself, and won't let the day start without quality time meditating. Next up, I need to add back some daily yoga and exercise.)

  • Get your priorities clear: Review email, calendar and projects and then assign priorities for where you will spend your day.
  • Thank God It's Monday! Go to work, loving what you do and then bring passion to your job and allow your creativity to spark. Every day. (If you don't love it now, what can you change, either about the job itself or about the attitude you bring to the job every day? Even a small shift can help -- remember that GPS needs you to be moving in order to help guide you.)
  • Your home is your sanctuary: Make a purposeful point to slow down and take good care of who you are and your environment when you return home each day. Make your space something you find beautiful, relaxing and inviting. Plants, flowers, and art help switch gears; set a beautiful table even if you are dining alone. Savor your food, listen to music you enjoy, make your surroundings peaceful.
  • Be with your friends: Your BlackBerry is not allowed at the table -- if you are going to be with your friends, be with them. BlackBerrying at the table is just plain rude. If your friends insist that they can't be without the constant electronic tether, perhaps these aren't your real friends.
  • Friday night slumber parties: Chan Luu has something unique she does every Friday -- she has a stay-at-home slumber party for herself and her dog. She simply hunkers down to enjoy her sanctuary, to let go of the world, and to restore herself to her inner peace.
  • Take time for yourself every day: Every evening -- EVERY EVENING -- do something that brings you joy. That could mean listening to your favorite music, playing an instrument, engaging with your hobbies, preparing your own food, spending time with your nurturing friends, etc. In Chan Luu's case, she makes certain that she plays the piano at least one hour every evening and reads some poetry. She also makes certain that she takes time to enjoy her painting. (For me, this means bringing my music back into my daily practice.)

    Turn off the world every night: Chan Luu told me she used to wake up every night around 3 a.m. troubled by anything from tasks not yet done to news of the day. She now turns off everything electronic, including the television, computer, email, BlackBerry, etc. at least two hours before she goes to bed. (Electronic stimulation can stay with you as you try to sleep. Even one email or news story about the latest tragedy can get your mind going like crazy. My personal commitment here is to turn off the email by 10 p.m. Hopefully, the world will somehow manage if I'm not perpetually "connected.")

    What about you? If you paid more attention to the quality of experience you would prefer, what small changes could you make that could help you move more into that balanced, fulfilling life you would prefer?

    I'd love to hear your take on this subject. What have you found to be most helpful? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


    If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.

    Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by email at Russell (at)

    For more by Russell Bishop, click here.

    For more on unplug and recharge, click here.

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