The Elusive Feeling of Happiness

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. - This article originally appeared on December 1, 2017 on

Happiness is the thing we desire most.  

The elusive feeling of happiness is what motivates everything we do (or don’t do).  It drives our careers. It’s what we’re really hoping to procure any time we buy something.  It’s why we get married, take vacations and why we hire therapists.  It is at the root of our food choices, our philanthropic decisions, our spiritual paths.  

There is nothing in this world that isn’t related to the desire to be happy.  

And yet we delay our happiness all the time.

Typically, it goes something like this:

I’ll accept my body when I lose five pounds.
I’ll celebrate once we get through the next phase.
I’ll relax just as soon as this contract gets signed.
I’ll forgive them once they really understand where I’m coming from.
I’ll feel safe when there’s X amount of money in my bank account.
I’ll accept myself when I discover my purpose.
I’ll stop feeling lonely once I have a partner.

I’ll be present once I get these three things checked off my list.

Delaying happiness is a way of avoiding the present moment. Ironically, happiness is only accessible when we’re IN the present moment.  It is because we typically spend so little time there that happiness can feel like a mysterious ever-changing mark on the map, rather than a fixed and reliable resting point.

In other words, what brought us happiness yesterday may not today. This is because the actual cause of happiness has little to do with having the thing we want; it is our ability to enjoy having the thing we want that makes us happy.

So, on a practical level, how can we stop delaying happiness?

Make Space for Integration Through Celebration
I have worked with many clients who set goals for themselves only to begin worrying about the next goal the minute they reach the first.  They skip right over celebrating their accomplishments, and quickly move back into the energy they’re most comfortable with, which is striving and worrying.  

During my time running an international shipping business I did something very similar: if we had a record-breaking financial year, I would immediately begin worrying that the following year would not surpass it.  In my relentless pursuit of excellence, I skipped right over celebrating what I had already done.  

This left no room for integration. Integration is important because it allows our entire being to “upgrade” to match our success. Integration raises the ceiling on our tolerance for positive feeling states and allows us to experience longer, more sustained periods of happiness.

Integration happens quickly when we allow ourselves to celebrate our accomplishment and truly relax into the ever-present “now” without fretting about all the forthcoming “nows” in our future.

A sign that integration is unfolding nicely is the ability to easily access gratitude, which is another key ingredient to embracing happiness.

Fluff Up Your Feelings
Let’s face it: if you’re worried or stressed, then you’re delaying happiness.  

The trick to feeling happy is… to feel happy.  Yet sometimes our feeling body gets bogged down with thoughts and negative feelings that keep us stuck in a pattern of delayed happiness.

The good news is that it is impossible to feel happiness-deferring feelings while practicing appreciation and gratitude. Taking time to appreciate -- yourself, your colleagues, your partner, the clean air you’re breathing, the roof over your head, the food in your pantry, the money in your bank account --  actually re-wires the brain for happiness. Gratitude keeps you in present time, and, as we discussed earlier, that is exactly where happiness lives.

Moving your physical body is also a great way to fluff up your feelings. Play a song you love and sing or dance to it.  It is impossible to feel stressed and worried while this is going on.  

Or take a walk and practice taking in the beauty of nature.  Whatever it takes to get off the wheel of difficult feelings is time and energy well spent.

Do It Because It Feels Good
Desire is a wonderful thing… up to a point.  How much of what you do is because it’s moving you toward a goal?  How much of what you do is because you enjoy doing it?

When we are in the energy of desire 100% of the time, then all we get is… more desire!

When we are in the energy of enjoyment, then we open to experiencing more enjoyment – and much more happiness.

If, for example, your fitness routine is all about your appearance but it doesn’t bring you any pleasure, you will likely never truly be satisfied with how you look.

If all of your business decisions are about the bottom line, you will never feel fulfilled in your work.

If you relentlessly pursue healing your body without taking into account your joy, you will never feel the wellness you’re after.

Striving is useful – it is how we get where we want to go. Yet, I promise, the authentic pleasure you allow yourself along the way will take you just as far as your discipline.

Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going
We can delay happiness by worrying about the future, but just as often we delay it by lingering in the past.

There’s a saying: “If you want to change the past, change the future.  If you want to change the future, change the present.”

When we stop dragging the past into our present moment, we are free to create fresh experiences and new ways of being. We are free to be happy with no delays.  

The magic of this is that our present-moment happiness lays tracks for a future that will soon enough become the past.  When you allow yourself to be happy in the present moment, you are literally creating a happy life, past, present and future!

To be clear: there is nothing wrong with working toward a future goal. In fact, this is how we thrive, how we succeed, how we live the life of our dreams.

Yet it is important to remember that the reason we set the goal is because, underneath it all, we think it will make us happy once we’ve achieved it.

Allowing yourself to be happy now is planting seeds for the outcome you’re working toward. It might, in fact, be just as important as any other action step you take toward your dreams.

The Gift of Presence

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on August 31, 2017 on

Can you remember the last time you were truly present? When you weren’t splitting your attention between the task at hand and your phone, the media, or thoughts unrelated to the moment?

Your full presence is a generous gift to the world.

Think about how your life would be enhanced if you gave each moment your full presence.

To converse with someone and really hear what they’re saying before you formulate your reply creates spaciousness and room for authentic intimacy.

To attend a meeting and bring yourself 100% into the room with no thoughts of to-do lists or the stack of emails waiting for you opens the door to fresh thought and inspiration and helps others be present as well.

To enjoy every bite of a meal without multitasking while you eat honors the elements, farmers, and the chef who all worked hard to nourish your body.  (It also helps your body to digest and assimilate nutrition.)

To spend time with a friend, for the sake of pure enjoyment, without needing or wanting anything from them but the pleasure of their company, is a gift of true love.

Yet, as much as your full presence benefits the world, it benefits you even more. Presence opens the door to your intuition, heart knowledge, and essence. Here are some examples of how:

  • Presence is Magnetic -- You are never more attractive than when you are fully present. People want to be near you because it just feels good. Money and opportunity flow in your direction because, by being in the moment, you’re not entertaining fearful and limiting thoughts of the future or past that might block it.
  • Presence Increases Happiness -- Being fully present requires mindfulness, which is a well-documented antidote for anxiety, worry, fear, and sadness.  Paying attention to the present moment without drifting into the future or past keeps you current with your actual experience, not what you fear might happen or wish had happened differently.
  • Presence is Great for Performance -- When athletes talk about being in “the zone” they are actually talking about being fully present. Presence demands focus. Where your focus flows, so the energy goes. You energize what you want to experience by… being in your experience.  When you feel restless and impatient, it’s a sign that it’s time to get back to the present moment.
  • Presence Expands Productivity -- It’s paradoxical: when we are most rushed for time is when we are least inclined to be present. Yet full presence is exactly what’s required to meet the demands of a deadline. When you allow yourself to take a breath and focus on one thing at a time, you are less inclined to make mistakes. If you are present with the moment, you will be more inclined to get something done quickly and perfectly so you will be free to move onto the next thing.

Staying Present In A Manic Society
Of course, there are many obstacles to being present in our world. Stress and anxiety are two big feelings that can steer us away from the moment, and our essence.

One of my mentors, Dr. Robert Holden, calls ours a “manic society,” which is incapable of stopping, is obsessed with multitasking and is convinced that the faster we go, the closer we come to “winning” at life.

Indeed, most of the struggles I’ve seen in my clients are struggles of the “manic society” mindset. They get too far into the future and lose touch with their essence (which is only available in the present moment). The outcomes they reach in life are often accompanied by anticipation of the future without celebration and acknowledgment what they have accomplished so far.

I’ve noticed the same habit in my own life.  After a particularly strong year in business, for example, rather than enjoying my success, I have felt anxiety about meeting or exceeding the same numbers the following year.

The antidote for all of this is, of course, to become present. Presence is a reset for the mind, and it gives space to create the future from the present rather than dragging the past (whether it’s good or bad) into the future with us.

Love is the Only Way to be Present
What has been taught over the ages by the saints and mystics of all religions has now finally widely recognized by our western world: you are either in fear, or you’re in love. These are the two conditions of our existence. And to be in love requires presence... so how do we get there?  How do we disrupt patterns of fear and shift into love?  

These are some of the practices I use and recommend to my clients:

  • Practice mindfulness. – Despite the many books and workshops on this topic, there’s no greater trick to mindfulness than to simply pay attention. When we are mindful, we are snapped out of the trance of autopilot and into the ever-present Now.
  • Catch yourself when you find that you are drifting into the past or future. When this happens, come back to your breath, the sounds around you, the quality of light in the room, the sensations in your body.
  • Pay attention to your breath. – Breath connects your body with your essence. By focusing your attention on your breath, you are opening the path to your essence.
  • Distract yourself less. – Getting bad news, sitting in traffic, waiting in line when you’re already late, and feeling discomfort in the body are some of the un-pleasantries of life that cause us to seek distraction. See if next time something uncomfortable arises, you can be with it… without reaching for your phone!  Breathe into the discomfort with your full presence and notice what happens.
  • Embrace the feelings. – Every moment has the potential to bring up emotions and feelings, and sometimes we might impulsively want to run away from them because of the thought “They are too much, and I can’t handle this.” What if instead you allow yourself to feel them all the way to completion? What if the moment requires you to actually embrace them and being fully present with them?
  • Start the day with breathing and meditation. – Take at least five minutes before the demands of the world come rushing in, to close your eyes to still your mind and breathe. This habit creates a momentum of presence for the rest of your day, month, life.  
  • Set an intention for the day to be present and return to that intention throughout the day. An affirmation I like to use for this is: “My mind, my body, and my heart are right here.


The power of full presence to change your life is within your grasp. What practices will you implement to bring your focus back to the moment at hand? What steps will you take to take to ensure you’re enjoying your experiences to the fullest?

Nine Core Needs Through the Lens of the Ego

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on June 30, 2017 on

“We see the world not as it is but as we are conditioned to see it.”
– Stephen R. Covey

The Enneagram is a rich, deep and insightful tool for determining personality types – and it plays a big role in my coaching work. The more I dive into the study and understanding of this powerful system, the more inspiration and self-awareness I uncover, both for myself and my clients.

As a student of the Enneagram, I’ve had the humbling opportunity to see my personality – the good, the bad and the ugly – in action. At one level, the Enneagram is a dissertation on the ego. Yet, it’s also a roadmap out of the ego, because it points us to the growth that is available when we cultivate qualities inherent to our true nature.

A great place to begin learning about the Enneagram is by studying the nine ways we experience our core needs.  You can also think of this as nine different approaches to life when we come from a place of unconscious need.

If you tune into the vibration of the word “need,” you will feel how it is very different from that of “want,” which is rooted in desire.

“I need to be liked,” comes from a very different place than, “I desire connection.” Need comes from scarcity and fear; desire comes from conscious creation.

Let’s look at the nine essential needs, according to the Enneagram. (To be clear, each of us lives out some aspect of all of the nine needs, but on our life journey we gravitate toward and operate from one core need.)

Which of these best describes your core need?

1. The Need to be Perfect
This person follows all the rules down to the letter. However, the need to be perfect all the time is extremely exhausting. If your attention is always on figuring out how to be good, how can you ever make room for the trial and error that comes with being truly great?

2. The Need to be Liked
The need for everyone’s approval can translate into a cycle of toxic and co-dependent relationships. In extreme cases, someone who has a compulsion to be liked may find themself embroiled in relationships that are emotionally dependent, and they may lose their sense of internal balance and integrity.

3. The Need to Win at All Costs
The need to “outshine the rest” is a drive to be at the top of your game, all the time in everything you do. This can cause a person to over-achieve and engage in meaningless busy-ness. Each of us must find time to relax and be present with ourselves and the moment, otherwise we lack discernment about where to focus our energy and what our true priorities are in life.

4. The Need to be Special and Unique
Making sure you are original and authentic all the time can be very tiresome! The tendency of this person is to remain constantly aware of what others are doing (for better and for worse) and compare oneself accordingly. The challenge here is to stay out of judgment and purely appreciate all the wonderful diversity of life.

5. The Need to Understand Everything
It’s impossible to understand everything – some mysteries are divinely guided. When our identity is hitched to knowing everything right away, we miss the bigger picture: the Universe unfolds and reveals itself with timing that is in perfect alignment with what we actually need for growth –  not the timing our ego tells us is correct. Needing to understand everything is an excruciating way to live (for ourselves and the people around us too!).

6. The Need to be Safe
Of course, we all need safety on basic levels, but always looking for a threat can paradoxically lead us into danger. This is because where our attention goes, the energy flows. Just as one cannot truly prepare for peace by building an arsenal of weapons, it is also difficult to experience safety when all one sees is the potential for harm.

7. The Need to Experience it All
It is beautiful to give ourselves new and peak experiences, but if we’re constantly jumping from one thing to another, we create a separation between our self and the present moment. A constant need to “do” and “experience” can often be used as a method to avoid painful emotions. Ironically, by trying to avoid pain, we create even more suffering.

8. The Need to be in Control
Controlling life is an illusion of the ego. Yes, science can predict the weather, but no one can truly predict the future. All we can do is live intentionally and choose to be open to possibility... but trying to control the outcome of everything sucks the joy out of our experiences.

9. The Need to Keep Balance
This person cannot relax until everyone else around them is ok. The compulsion is to maintain balance and peace with everything and everybody, and as beautiful as this desire is, it can quickly lead to self-abandonment. This person with this need tends to forego the safety and relaxation that is available to them in the present moment by worrying about every one else’s present moment instead.

The Antidote
When we see these needs arise within ourselves, we can choose to approach them mindfully, rather than reactively. In doing so, there is the possibility of letting go of the needs. We give ourselves permission to unattach from the circumstance that is bringing the need into focus and create more spaciousness to experience it (and ourselves) differently.

Bring Your Awareness to the Nine Needs in Real Life
Whether you’re operating in business, sports, or relationship, pay attention to when your core need shows up. Notice when you become fixated on getting your need met.

When you come from a place of fixation, you are not coming from an aligned, centered and grounded place. You’re moving away from your essential nature and your connection to true power and resourcefulness.

To be clear: there is nothing wrong with the nine needs I listed above. It’s when we take action out of the fear that our needs won’t be met that we create suffering and pain for ourselves and others.

Next time you find yourself entranced by one of these fears, it’s a great idea to ask yourself a corresponding question, like:  

What will happen if I don’t show up perfectly in this circumstance?

Am I taking this action so that others will like me at the expense of my own integrity?

Is this really the best place to put my energy at this time? Or am I acting out of an old need to be the best at everything?

Am I comparing myself to others right now?

Is it really true that I don’t have all the information I require in this moment?

Am I actually unsafe?  For example, do I have air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and shelter?

Is this just the next shiny thing I’m going after so I can avoid the present moment?

What freedom is possible if I let go of trying to control the outcome of this situation?

Am I trying to make sure everyone else is ok and forgetting myself in the process?

When you are able to manage your needs from a place of awareness, you come into your essential nature, and that benefits yourself and everyone else around you.

Yet, the fact is, the eye cannot see itself. Would you like support pinpointing your core need on the Enneagram and learning more about how to break the spell it has on everything you do? If so, email me at and let’s set up a complimentary appointment to chat one-on-one.

Confidence and Expectation – There’s a Difference!

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on May 30 2017 on

Reflect if you will on your associations with the word “confidence.”  What images or concepts arise?  Is the phrase “expectation of success” tied up in your personal definition of confidence?

If so, you’re certainly not alone. Often the two – confidence and expectation – are interwoven, but as a Leadership Coach, I feel it’s important to understand and distinguish between the them, as they come from very different states of mind.

Real Confidence

For the purpose of this conversation, let’s define “success” as your desired state of being. To me confidence is trusting yourself to stay focused on the Process Goals (tangible steps within your grasp that you know you can accomplish) that you must take to move toward success.

This is very different than the expectation of success, for when we start to focus too much on the outcome, we lose sight of the process. Process goals keep us on track; they keep us evolving and raise our confidence. Once we have that, we have the ability to continue to grow our sense of confidence – and at the end of the day, unshakeable confidence is much more valuable than achieving a temporal goal.

What’s tricky is that sometimes expectation can cleverly disguise itself as confidence. And more often than not, it overshadows confidence. Let’s take a closer look at what true confidence is, and how to identify it in yourself.

When a person is confident, he trusts his ability to thrive no matter what, and as a result has a trustworthy presence that others can feel. This presence is fully immersed in the present moment and very mindful. Real confidence is about trusting that our source of power comes from an unwavering place within, and not from the outside world where things rise and fall, succeed and fail. The Conscious Leadership Group speaks into this with one of their tenets:  I commit to being the source of my security, control and approval vs. I commit to living from the belief that my control, security and approval comes from the outside: people, circumstances and conditions.

A confident person has sharp focus of attention and the courage to do, be, and live, despite any fear. He has the courage to really trust in himself without limitations, because he is sourcing his own sense of value and has proven to himself repeatedly that he is trustable to do what he says he will do. Naturally, this air of confidence is noticeable and attractive to others.

Confidence is a state of mind and a state of gain. It sees the outcome as clearly as if it were right in front of its eyes. It merges action and awareness and can relax into the clarity of its goal. A confident person lives as if their goal has already occurred.

To further clarify, it’s important to notice that there is a difference between this authentic confidence – which is based on integrity and capability as a ways of being in the world – rather than false confidence that is based on an inflated self-image. This starts to look a lot like arrogance. It’s not real confidence because it is actually insecurity that wants to stay hidden underneath a confident mask. In truth, the more confidence you have in yourself, the more you’re tapped in to who you are and the more others will feel your trustworthiness and respond accordingly.

The Trap of Expectation

Expectation is based on the idea of perfection, which is often rooted in fear; it focuses on the outcome of a situation so intently, that as a result, the person will feel unhealthy pressure to create a specific outcome and be inclined to bypass being present for the journey of getting there.
When someone has an expectation, his attention is drawn away from the present moment and sucked into a rigid picture of the future. Expectation is judgmental (“If I don’t win this award, it means I’m _______!”) as opposed to the trusting, self-accepting nature of confidence.

Expectation is very supportive of comfort zones. To paraphrase one of my teachers: “Expectation can really suck the life out of confidence.”

It is true that expectation increases as we become more successful, because we start to demand more of ourselves... yet when our expectations become unrealistically high, we can damage our confidence.

For example, a confident athlete does not judge the quality of his performance based on prior expectation or outcome. Imagine a professional golfer who has previously won championships. Suppose that because he won last year, he expects that he will win this year, even though he is healing from a wrist injury. When he doesn’t perform as well as he expects himself to, his confidence – and future ability – may be damaged. Unless he can release the expectations, it will hurt his performance.

Confidence vs. Expectations in the Working World

So, how does this differentiation between confidence and expectation translate into your professional life?

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, you must lead and perform with a high level of confidence if you wish to find fulfillment in your work.

In the workplace, confidence comes before execution and result. It’s not judgmental. It thrives on momentum and good performance, and it’s focused on the present moment.  This means that you’re able to observe and adjust as needed. You’re flexible. You believe in yourself and your ability to move closer to the goal.

On the other hand, expectation in the workplace focuses on the results, which is very toxic. It can lead to drama, and it can ruin professional relationships.

Imagine a group of professionals working as a team on an important project. Each individual has different expectations of himself or herself and of the group, but those expectations may never be discussed. The group has never truly agreed about anything, which can be poisonous to the working relationship.

A confident team leader will ask for an agreement. Together, the group will negotiate their agreement so they’re all on the same page, and as time goes by, they can renegotiate the agreement if need be.

Put most simply, the sense of trust and presence that accompanies confidence happens when you’re tapped into yourself. It’s only when you’re truly connected to yourself, your emotional state, and your self-awareness that you are confident. It’s rooted in the soul, in who you really are, and it is felt by others.

Confidence is also directly related to your ability to keep your agreements and live in integrity with your goals, your process goals and your agreements with others. This is valuable because expectations in the workplace are ubiquitous, often difficult to uncover and can be the genesis of fierce conflict.

Real confidence doesn’t question its own value and worth. On a soul level, a confident person feels whole and complete, and the specific outcome of a certain situation doesn’t determine whether he or she is “good enough.” A person imbued with confidence is simply an unbounded, unconditioned, exuberant being having a physical experience.

You Are More Than Your Performance

Ultimately, pinpointing the difference between confidence and expectation is about recognizing that you are more than just the performance you give or the accomplishments you achieve. You are more than those results, whether they are money, clients and awards... or a golf championship.
Differentiating between the two is a reminder to know your goal while still being present and connected to current time.  It is an invitation to be in the Eternal Now rather than projecting yourself or others into the future.

This week, begin to notice where you may be more focused on the outcome of your actions rather than the beautiful experience of the process. When you uncover expectation, you have the opportunity to shift over into a place of confidence and enjoy the ride.

Leadership From Essence Versus Ego

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on April 25 2017 on


In leadership we can come from our essential nature, where we are open, curious and trusting.  This is a stance of enoughness, sufficiency, and abundance.

We can also come from our ego, which is a place of defensiveness, fear and the feeling that we are “at the affect of life.”  This is a stance of scarcity, fear and struggle.

Identifying when we are leading from ego can be tricky. This is because the ego has an incredible talent for hiding in plain sight and mimicking qualities of divine impulse, or essence.

Think of the ego as the conditioned part of human consciousness. Ego is the one that gets beat up by the world. Ego reacts to the appearances of life and thinks it has to control its outer circumstances in order to be safe.

Essence, on the other hand, is the part of our consciousness that is unconditioned and unfettered by vagaries of life.  It is connected directly to Source, and is informed by intuition and a knowing that is fueled by the unification of the heart and mind.

A defining aspect of the essential self is that it has the power to create reality, whereas the ego thinks reality exists only outside of itself.

Ego thinks that its power comes from controlling what it perceives.

Essence conceives of ideas and impulses through its connection to Source and creates worlds.

When essence is at the helm, it is informed by an inner wisdom telling it where life wants to flow. Doors magically open. Resources avail themselves. More inspiration follows.

When ego is running the show, it does so through strife and difficulty. 

The more we work on ourselves spiritually, the trickier the ego gets at masquerading as essence. A perfect example of this is a story about a client I once coached who had a brilliant idea for an app with the potential to change the way we communicate. 

Things didn’t unfold the way he wanted them to at first.  His approach was very dedicated, his vision was clear, but there was a quality of attachment to his energy that created a lot of stress when things didn’t happen the way he thought they “should.”

Finally, after many months of stress, effort and the feeling of banging his head against a wall, he surrendered. This doesn’t mean he abandoned the project; in fact, he kept working on it just like always, but the quality he brought to his work was different.  In his surrender, he was more in his essence than ego.  He no longer led with a need to “make it happen.”  Rather his was the energy of allowing, which made room for the Universe to enter and work its miracles in its own timing, unfettered by “shoulds.” Ultimately the project was funded and launched. 

So how can you tell the difference between when you’re coming from ego and when you’re coming from essence?

Identifying Your Authentic Self

Have you ever found yourself in a creative process -- such as painting, playing music, writing or dancing -- when you lost track (even for a moment) of time and space? When you forgot about the pain and injury you carry from your human experience? When you were moved by something bigger than your need to eat, sleep and be loved? 

This is because you were connected to your essence. You were being moved by the part of yourself that is connected to the infinite.  When you are coming from your essence, you recognize that while you are having a human experience, there is much, much more to who you are than a body that is born and then dies in approximately 80 years. You are a divine, eternal being having a human experience on a planet called Earth, and you have more power to create than anyone has ever taught you.

That awareness is the main differentiating factor between taking action from ego versus taking action essence. 

And yet, while this explanation might seem utterly simple, identifying “What’s What” takes practice. Living from you essence is truly something that each person must experience before they can discern the difference. 

Awareness within the body is a wonderful place to begin cultivating discernment of impulses that are ego or essence driven. This is because the body, unlike the ego-driven mind, is incapable of subterfuge.

A pleasurable way to begin this process is with food. Ask your essential self to give you messages about what your body most requires to function optimally.  Notice the sensations and messages you receive from your body when you touch or even think of certain foods. Notice how you feel when you follow those messages, either way.  This will give you a visceral and immediate sense of what it’s like to live through essence versus ego.

The Nine Personalities of the Enneagram

One my favorite tools for learning to lead from essence is the Enneagram. It offers a wonderful personality mapping system with nine ways of functioning in the world.  In a way, the Enneagram is a dissertation about the way the unchecked, unconscious ego manifests. Understanding the nine Enneagram personality types is helpful for navigating your own ego and the egos of those you’re interacting with, and it also gives the antidote for shifting out of the ego and into essence.

Within the Enneagram system, each personality number has its own “vice” or “passion” considered to its the main driving quality. Common egoic qualities, such as pride, envy, gluttony, lust, avarice, wrath, and sloth coincide with a balancing quality, such as humility, equanimity, non-attachment, courage, serenity, consistency.  By understanding this system, we get instruction as to how to recognize the former and embody the latter. 

One of the most profound gifts for leaders working with the Enneagram is that by understanding the way our egos act out through our personalities, we are given an opportunity to bring awareness to what’s happening.  We are able to observe more and react less. 

This shift from reaction to witnessing allows us to become more present with our self and others. Presence alone will immediately shift us into our essence.  Self-destructive, and self-defeating actions have the opportunity to dissipate when we are willing to show up for our lives all the way and become aware of why we’re doing what we do.

When we get distance from egoic patterns and make room for more essence to emerge, authenticity has a seat at the table.  True impulse, divine inspiration and right action are all strong possibilities. And when we operate from a place of essence-fueled authenticity, we have the ability to lift ourselves and those around us to a higher place. 

The Altruism Myth

Leading from essence means creating healthy boundaries, even if you appear selfish. Honoring yourself means knowing when you’ve been pulled into situations that don’t feel good or right on some level. In other words, another way the ego can masquerade as essence is by making you look better by saying “yes” than by saying “no.”

There’s a saying that goes something like “If you expect something in return, it ain’t love; it’s a business transaction.”

When the act of giving comes from a heart-based impulse to bring more joy and ease and grace to the world, it is an offering of devotion to life itself.

When it comes from approval-seeking, importance-hunting, or the status-hunger, it might still look good, but it’s actually quite ego-based. And if it’s ego-based giving and you’re not aware of it, chances are, your “generosity” will backfire.

To identify where your act of service is coming from is to make way for the possibility of giving freely without an expectation of receiving anything in return.  Conversely, it’s an opportunity to say no to what does not align with your essential self, because if you’re giving from a place of ego and do not realize it, you will feel drained and depleted rather than energized and empowered.

Walking the Line between Ego and Essence

Some days you’re going to teeter into ego’s territory; others, you will stride freely in the authentic self’s domain.  Living from your essence doesn’t happen all at once, and it’s not supposed to.

The secret to effective transformation --  to life itself, really -- is to bring awareness to what’s happening.  That’s why we’re here: to cast our light upon the shadows.

Honoring yourself and others means looking at the holistic picture and making room for it all. Understanding how you create and express is a wonderful exercise in deepening your leadership abilities, and will allow you to engage more fully in this beautiful life that you have been given. 

Creating the Life You Desire

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on April 4 2017 on


“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.”

       -Eckhart Tolle

Whatever it is that you want, you can have it.

Maybe you desire more money. Maybe you long for a new relationship, or perhaps a trip around the world. Or maybe you want to experience really great health in your body.

Whatever it is, it can be yours if you remember this: The only author of your experience is you.

Do you read those words and feel skeptical?  Are there circumstances in your immediate world that appear to be beyond your control?  I invite you to pause for a moment and take a really good look at your life. Look at everything – your relationships, career path, the bills piling up and the checks coming in, how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Can you make a connection between your choices and all of these things?

Whether you perceive them to be negative or positive, each one can be traced back to a decision you made at one point or another in your life. 

Your Life Reflects Your Commitments

Before you can manifest something new in your life, you must first own the fact that you – and you alone – are completely responsible for everything you experience. Everything.

On some level, you created the reality in which you currently live. All the wonderful, joyful moments you experience – you created those. And all the challenging, dark moments – you created those, too.

Sometimes we can’t imagine that this is true.  We read something like the above statements and say, “How could I be responsible for the injury I sustained in the car accident I was in last year? The crash wasn’t even my fault!”  

The truth is, everything that shows up in our life is a message reflecting back to us what we are committed to. If the reflection we get is something we don’t actually want, it is often a reflection of an unconscious commitment.  

For example, while it might be true that someone else was literally responsible for the car crash because they ran a red light or were texting while driving, your involvement in that crash is another story.

You might, have an unconscious commitment to feeling unsafe or physically vulnerable in your life because, as a child, it was only when you were injured that you received love.

Or you might be unconsciously committed to carrying the energy of victimhood for someone in your familial lineage because when you were little you wanted to rescue them from their own suffering.

Or perhaps you really wanted to get out of an upcoming business trip, and you knew that you would jeopardize your job if you told your boss you didn’t want to go. In this case, your unconscious commitment would be to going against your truth in exchange for the perception of security.

Those are the kinds of commitments behind the accidents, illnesses and injuries we attract into our lives. By keeping them unconscious, we shape our worlds in ways we don’t want.

Discovering what you are committed to and why is important for creating the life that you most desire. Often people benefit from the guidance of a skilled coach or therapist to help them identify and dissolve their unconscious commitments.

Yet it’s most important to remember that even when things feel completely beyond your control, you still have the ability to choose how you will respond, and this will dictate what happens next. 

Commit to Purposeful Thinking

Where your attention goes, so the energy flows.

We’ve talked about unconscious commitments.  What about the conscious ones?  If you look at the places in your life where you experience success, you will likely see that you are committed to those places. You pour generous love, attention and thought into everything that is thriving in your life, yes?  

Life becomes really fun when you realize that you are here to creatively express yourself in the world. You do it every single day on a profound level, whether you realize it or not, through the quality of your thoughts.

Purposeful thinking is so important. All over the world and for thousands of years, spiritual teachers and mystical figures have taught seekers the importance of thought. They say this: Creation happens when our thoughts and feelings come together as one cohesive force. 

James Allen was a British philosopher who lived and wrote in the 20th century. In 1902 he wrote one of my favorite literary essays, called As a Man Thinketh in which he states, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

He goes on to say, “Act is the blossom of thought. In joy and suffering are it’s fruits. Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought, he creates weapons by which he destroys himself. By the right choice and true application of thought, men are sensed to divine perfection. Man is a growth of law and not a creation by artifice.” 

(I highly suggest you read this essay – it is only 30 pages and you can purchase it here 

I say it all the time, but it’s worth repeating: The way we think influences the way we choose; the way we choose influences our lives. When we surrender our destructive thoughts and allow them to drift off, we are surrendering to a more peaceful, creative life.

Surrendering our addiction to negative thinking can be difficult, and even require some support from a therapist, coach or spiritual guide. Focused mediation is very helpful, as is curating the kinds of media we allow into our awareness. Getting into nature as much as possible and bringing mindfulness into daily activities, such as eating and grooming ourselves, can work wonders when it comes to shifting from habitual worry and negative mental chatter to purposeful thinking. 

A very simple technique for shifting out of negative thought into purposeful thinking is consciously entering into gratitude. You cannot generate negative thoughts while you are feeling grateful. As well, remembering all that you are grateful for will shift you into your heart, which is essential for creating what you really desire.

Take five minutes every morning before you begin your day to think of what you are grateful for and then visualize what you really want to create that day, that month, that year. Then surrender it all to the Universe,

The Difference between Passivity and Surrender

Many people confuse the difference between being passive and actively surrendering. Passivity is a choice – it is a choice not to choose. Surrender is a way to disconnect with Ego and move into the flow of life.

Surrendering to your own desire and releasing it into the Universe means taking a step back and allowing the Universe to meet you half way. It is always possible to do this, in every moment.

Surrendering looks like taking a deep breath and relaxing into the Eternal Now of the moment.  It is accepting that we are participating in a co-creation with life. Allowing ourselves to surrender like this is one of the greatest manifestation tools on this planet.

On the contrary, passivity is action (or inaction), characterized by frozen desires that have not had the chance to be heard, acknowledged and expressed. 

Why do we go passive? For most of us, passivity is a fear response. We fear something and become passive about it rather than make a clear choice to surrender.  

Hunt for the Hidden Gold in Your Fear

In surrender, we are often inspired to action. In other words, if you are feeling fear and you choose to surrender, there’s a good chance you will discover a hidden desire resting below that fear. Contrary to what we’re taught, fear is not something to avoid, but rather something to fully experience and allow. 

There is always a lesson to be learned in our fear. So, ask yourself, what if fear is actually pointing the way? 

As long as you’re not standing directly before a real threat – such as a starving lion licking his chops – the question is, “What is the real fear in this moment? And what do I perhaps need to let go of? What is the limitation that creates the confusion I need to release?”

You may uncover thoughts like, “I can’t.”   “It’s not possible.” “I can’t afford it.” Or, “I will disappoint others.”

Today, look for areas in your life where you are passive. Beneath the passivity, there’s a good chance you’ll find fear. Under the fear, you’ll likely find a great desire – and when you identify and surrender to the desire, the Universe has the space to meet you half way and bring the life you most desire into reality.  Remember, when you say “Yes” to life, life is able to say “Yes” right back.

What You Can Learn About Life and Mindset From Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on February 23rd 2017 on


“My job is to play quarterback, and I’m going to do that the best way I know how, because I owe that to my teammates regardless of who is out there on the field with me.”- Tom Brady

I am not a New England Patriots fan. Nor am I fondly interested in American football.

After all, being born and raised in Italy, I know that the “real” football is soccer – but we’ll leave that talking point aside for the sake of this article.

But despite the fact that American football has never captured my heart the way it has so many Americans’, Tom Brady’s winning performance in the 2017 Super Bowl was a potent reminder for me why I love sports so much.

I love, love, love sports. Even for a soccer fan like me, it was a blast to watch this year’s Super Bowl – especially the second half, when the Patriots came out of nowhere and took the game into the first-ever overtime in Super Bowl history and went on to smoke the Atlanta Falcons in a game that many thought they had clenched.

(Note: the next few sentences may hurt my Falcons fans, so I am sorry in advance if this is painful for you, my friends).

One of the best teachers of our time, David Deida, likens the activity of watching epic sports games to ancient “masculine” traditions like going to war, hunting for food, fighting for women, etc. So if this modern tradition of the Super Bowl satisfies ancient human urges, what is there to learn from Brady’s epic comeback?

The Epic Comeback

At halftime, the Patriots were down and no one expected them to win...

No one (with the possible exception of die-hard Patriots fans and presumably Brady and the team itself).

I can only imagine what it must have been like in the Patriots locker room during half time. I can only imagine the conversation going on among coaches and players, the adrenaline rushing, Lady Gaga’s music pounding through the walls.

I can imagine how difficult those moments must have been.

But somehow, whatever happened during those halftime conversations sparked life back into the game. And that’s when the magic really started to work.

By the end of the third quarter, the Patriots were still down by 25 points. And yet, against the odds, Brady sent the game into overtime by leading his team on two eight-point drives (including one that covered 91 yards) during the fourth quarter. And finally, he led the team into a winning 75-yard drive in overtime.

It was incredible to watch.

This man set all kinds of records and became the first quarterback to earn a fifth Super Bowl ring. He claimed his fourth Super Bowl MVP title in a forever 34-28 victory.

Even for me, an uninterested soccer fan, it was an inspiration. The Patriots somehow tapped into their purpose and expressed it in the real world during the fourth quarter and overtime. They lived their purpose.

Live Your Purpose

Many people struggle with this. Once you’ve found your purpose, how do you give it life? The answer is by creating and maintaining a vision for it.

Tom Brady and his team were living on purpose, they were expressing their vision through their stance on the field.

Bob Proctor, a great teacher, says that, “Vision is what you do with your life. Vision is the strategy behind the fulfillment of your purpose. You accomplish this strategy by creating several short-term goals to keep you on course.”

This is true in life as well as on the field – you saw it in action during the Super Bowl. The Patriots had a vision; they were intentional, they were on purpose.

How purposeful is your life? How much vision do you carry within yourself? Are you clear with your vision?

These are questions I ask myself regularly, and you must ask yourself, too. Fortunately, Tom Brady and his team have set an incredible example as a reference. What I learned from their relentless and epic win are these five lessons that are worthy of reflection:

The Power of Envisioning

The team had a vision of winning and nothing was going to take that away, even a halftime deficit that would have frozen the most optimistic of their fans. True, it takes a minute to shift and change momentum, especially when you have a plan and a vision. This happens in life as well as in sports; momentum is everything if you know where you are going... and Tom Brady knew that. His teammates knew that.

The Power of Persistence

Nothing could distract this team from their process. They played every moment as if it were their last – and it very well could have been! I bet they focused on one play at a time, without considering the dramatic points gap. One play at a time and persistence, consistency and discipline got them to the goal.

The Power of Letting Go

Tom Brady and his teammates were able to be utterly present in the second half of the game despite the numbers on the scoreboard. The only way they could have pulled off their big win was to quickly let go of “the judgment of a poor performance.” They let go of missed opportunities, and ultimately they let go of a hope for a better first half. Letting go and shifting their mindset is the only way they could win.

The Power of Mental Toughness

Allowing the winning mindset to take over can come only from mental toughness. It’s a practice that is achieved by constant application of mental tools such as positive reframing: turning challenges into opportunities. Brady certainly saw the challenges... but he also saw the opportunities to make history, and rose to the occasion with a mind that way full of possibilities.

The Power of Trust and Faith

This is a big lesson for me, as it is for all of us. You must have faith in yourself just like the Patriots did; that is the only way to execute. Without execution you can’t get anywhere. Ultimately, when you believe in yourself and trust in your abilities, you allow magic to flow. Did you see any of the last plays of the fourth quarter? That’s what I call magic.

You must have so much faith in yourself as a player and a human being that it goes beyond logic and almost transcends into a spiritual experience. Allow your true nature of greatness to take over and carry you to the finish line, one yard at a time.

Choose Your Dreams Over Your Excuses

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on January 31st 2017 on



“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” Joseph Campbell

If you’re like me, you have a Facebook feed full of posts by friends who have imagined, visualized and set intentions for the New Year. And if you’re like me, you were similarly inspired to ask yourself, “What do I really, really want to express and experience in 2017? Does my life have a deeper calling that I have denied? Am I allowing myself to move toward my desires, or am I making excuses to stay where I am?”.

Though I ask myself a similar set of questions each year, no matter the answer, I’m always left with the same realization: I can have my dreams, or I can have my excuses. But I cannot have both.

We Create Our Lives

What does it mean to say, “You can have your dreams or your excuses, but you can’t have both”?

In short, it means that we always have a choice.

Our biggest gift and greatest responsibility is that we are creator beings. The ability to choose what we are creating is what differentiates us from any other species on this planet. This ability to create also makes us both our own best ally or worst saboteur, depending on whether we choose the path of the conscious mind or the path of the ego.

We often get so caught up in the to-do lists of daily life that we spend our hours putting out fires rather than focusing on the long game of nurturing and developing our goals and dreams.

I ask my clients, “What puts a smile on your face, what makes your heart sing and captivates your imagination?” Often it takes some time for them to really get in touch with what it is. Once they do, I ask the follow up question, “Why aren’t you doing more of that?”

In fact, I realize setting aside time to do the activities that light us up could be a very frightening act. This is because the things we are excited by are actually in alignment with our deepest desires and highest purpose, and going after that is terrifying to the ego, whose primary concern is to maintain comfort, safety and security – even at the expense of our dreams.

To calm and soothe our ego, we often sabotage ourselves with the endless to-do lists that keep us both chasing our tails and snug within our comfort zones. We find all the “right” excuses to not do what unblocks our energy and sets us free from the drudgery of everyday thought patterns.

We do things like tell ourselves that getting support from an expert is “too expensive” or that we don’t have the energy after a day of work to go for that surf session, bike ride or dance class. We let our paints sit in a closet, untouched for years. We think about our great book idea but hit the snooze button rather than get up early to write.

We can have compassion for ourselves once we understand what’s actually happening behind the scenes. To do this, we must understand what the ego and function of the subconscious mind really are and where they have led us astray.

The ego was created by the subconscious mind. This is the part of our mental body whose original job was to simply record data. In the collective human journey of duality in which we began to think that we are separate from the planet, each other and Source itself, we felt so cut off from our essence that the ego panicked and believed it had to take charge in order to survive. So, while its intended and perfect purpose was simply to log information, it instead began to use that information as evidence of reality. From that evidence it began constructing beliefs that shaped other realities – often frightening realities, and sometimes delightful ones, too. Thus began a cycle of experiencing life via perception rather than conception. In other words, we became conditioned to think that reality is what we perceive and then react to, rather than what we believe and then conceive. We began to think that we are at the whim of a capricious and sometimes brutal world rather than powerful co-creators with a magnificent and abundant Universe. Yet the truth is…

We Always Have a Choice

This is because we still have a conscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of our mental body that is able to accept, reject and discern. Using the conscious mind we get in touch with our essence, our soul, activating the part of us that knows how to create and expand, to get much, much bigger than the fears of the ego. The conscious mind is the part of us that is in contact with our divine blueprint and soul’s gift to life. And the best part is, to access our conscious mind, all that is required is to accept personal responsibility for the circumstances of our lives and to choose to move forward.

Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to take 100% responsibility for our circumstances. It’s easy to be at the affect of life, letting the ebb and flow of tasks and other people’s wants and needs dictate where we go, what we do and how we think. It’s as easy as breathing to sit back, become passive and allow ourselves to be victims to our circumstance.

Ultimately, we must own the fact that we are completely responsible for everything we experience. Everything. Even when the circumstances seem totally out of our control, we have the ability to choose how we respond and that will dictate what happens next.

It is important at this point to remember that passivity is a choice not to choose.

Passivity, looks like procrastination, avoidance, and constantly silencing the little voice inside that yearns for something greater. Passivity looks like allowing your life to be chiefly steered by the wants, needs and desires of others.

It can also take the shape of becoming overwhelmingly tired when it’s time to work on a creative project, or continually pushing the most important action steps to the bottom of your list. Or perhaps passivity takes the shape of action steps that haven’t even been defined yet because your desires have not had the opportunity to be truly heard and acknowledged.

Exchanging Excuses for Dreams

There’s a question I find interesting by Robert Holden, which I will paraphrase: If life really loves me, what’s available to experience in this very moment?

To me, this question is a nudge to examine whether I am willing to consciously continue to co-create with a benevolent Universe, or if I am going to let myself bail on my dreams.

Setting aside time for meditative reflection can help clarify our choices, especially when unsupportive beliefs are ingrained in our consciousness.

Quiet time and real honesty is sometimes required before we can choose our dreams. Often, we unconsciously sabotage ourselves because we simply don’t realize there’s another option.

For decades we are conditioned by our parents, our teachers, our community, our society, and our friends to think and act a certain way. Typically, that conditioning has helped us to survive. Sometimes, when it comes to achieving our greatest aspirations, that conditioning works against us.

It doesn’t matter whether the beliefs instilled in you are true or not. The ego does not distinguish between what is reality and what is story – it just reacts to the appearances that are a result of your beliefs. For example, if you believe that it’s hard to be successful, then chances are, your experience has been that it’s hard to be successful.

The first move toward choosing your dreams over your excuses is awareness. What thoughts are you thinking around your dreams and desires? In a moment of quiet, ask yourself these questions:

What is it that I deeply desire to create?

Do I believe that I can have this thing or situation?

What feelings and thoughts arise when I visualize myself already living the experience that I want?

What excuses did I use today in order to not take action on my dream?

And finally...

Am I willing to choose my dreams over my excuses?

You are a beautiful part of the Universe with much to offer. Your dreams are not just yours, they are the expression of a much greater power desiring to move through you and fulfill itself.

I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on your dreams, and honing your awareness on the areas where you may be choosing excuses. What happens if you’re willing to choose the dream instead?

Imagine where that could take you.

Gratitude: The Antidote To Darkness

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on November 23rd 2016 on



“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
-Maya Angelou

The holidays are a time of celebration and community, but for many of us, they can also herald a period of loneliness, stress and worry.

This is a good time to revisit the Three C’s, a concept that I have written about previously but that is always worth looking at more closely. The Three C’s are toxic, and they are tempting.

They are: complainingcriticizing and comparing.

Have you ever been sucked into the rabbit hole of the Three C’s? Most of us have. Some of us even live there every day, perhaps (or mostly) unconsciously. And it usually doesn’t end well.

Let me revise that sentence: it never ends well.

Fortunately, there is an antidote: gratitude. Holding on to a sense of gratitude throughout the year is important, but during the holidays we’re called culturally to experience the impact that gratitude can have on us as individuals and as a collective community.

The first step is awareness.

Notice When You Sink into the Three C’s

I just started reading a book called Thank and Grow Rich, one of Pam Grout’s newest works. The book is a 30-day experiment in “shameless gratitude and unabashed joy,” intended to re-align the reader with positive feelings on a daily basis.

It’s a very good book. As I read, I find myself becoming more and more aware of how often the Three C’s creep into my mind - frequently without even noticing it.

Through this work, I have the choice to redirect my thoughts back into a grateful direction. It’s about choosing gratitude versus sinking into a victim mentality.

Noticing how sly the Three C’s can be, how easily they can begin to shape your state of mind, is an important aspect to living a more joyful, abundant and love-filled life.

As you begin to notice where you’re complaining, criticizing or comparing, it’s time to make a different choice: choosing to reframe the thought or the situation.

Reframe the Issue

In my spiritual psychology studies at the University of Santa Monica I learned how to reframe situations that may seem like hopeless.

Now, I use this technique frequently with myself and my clients because it is so powerful. Here’s how to do it...

Look at an issue you have in your life. Choose perhaps the most challenging problem that you’re currently facing.

Go ahead, think of something. What comes to mind?

Notice the feelings that come up when you consider the issue. Perhaps you feel hopeless, powerless, concerned, afraid, angry, or something equally intense. Perhaps you may also have a correlating body sensation that matches the emotion; your heart rate may speed up, you may feel a pit in your stomach or the beginning of a headache.

Acknowledge those feelings, but instead of dwelling in them, ask yourself a new question: what is the life lesson in this situation?

How can I benefit from this lesson?

Can I accept the lesson?

And finally, can I appreciate what’s happening right now?

Yes - it’s not easy! It is sometimes very, very difficult to see the lesson in things that seem decidedly unpleasant, uncomfortable or even painful. But when you can identify, acknowledge, accept and finally appreciate the lesson by reframing it into a “blessing”, you’re taking full responsibility for the circumstances of your life.

We are all 100% Responsible

Nothing “happens to us.” Each one of us is completely and totally responsible for everything we experience in our lives. We are the co-creators of our reality.

This concept can feel like a tough pill to swallow when we’re dealing with difficult circumstances. But when you take on this idea fully, it is actually incredibly freeing.

Every experience, even the most uncomfortable one, is part of our learning. They are part of our “spiritual curriculum” here on this planet, as my teachers Ron and Mary Hulnick would like to say.

What experiences are you creating for yourself? What lessons are you facilitating for yourself, so you can grow?

This concept is called Radical Responsibility because it is such an extreme view of taking ownership of our lives... and sometimes it is very hard to do that, thanks to our human ego. Our minds are conditioned from a young age to seek excuses, to find reasons to not take 100% responsibility.

This will cause us to feel defensive. But that’s giving ourselves a free pass instead of finding the nugget of divine wisdom that is hidden in even the most innocuous-seeming moments of life.

What I’m offering is that you acknowledge the things that aren’t working or that feel difficult. 
Say, “Okay, I see that this isn’t working the way I want it to work. But what can I take away from this situation? For what can I be grateful for? What actions can I take to avoid this from happening again in the future?”

These sorts of thoughts will empower you. These thoughts are the opposite of choosing to be a victim.

This is the beginning of our role as a creator, filled with gratitude, trust and love.

Step into a World of Gratitude

This holiday season, whatever your life looks like at the moment, I invite you to step into a world of gratitude. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Notice when the Three C’s (complaining, criticizing and comparing) arise and threaten to take over, and make a different choice.

You have the power in each moment to choose whether you sink into “negative” thoughts and feelings or to stay connected to your true essence, who you really are.

Your true essence is one of infinite possibility, expansion and love.

I invite you to bring forward your true essence this holiday season and stay present in the knowing that everything you experience - the “good” and the “bad” - is a unique experience, creation and expression of yourself.

I honor your true essence...

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

What are you grateful for, today?

How (And Why) To Start Your Morning Slow

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on August 17th 2016 on



In today’s world, the first thing we do after we wake up is roll over to check our phone for texts and emails. We come face to face with our to-do list within seconds of coming into consciousness and, as a result, run the risk of becoming immediately overwhelmed before we’ve had the chance to connect inward, fuel our tank, and prepare ourselves for a peaceful and balanced day.

You must give yourself the space and time to start your day. Do not rush into it.

You will find your stress levels to be more manageable, your problem solving skills to improve, your productivity to sky rocket, your love life to blossom, your health to support you, and you will be happier.

Why? Because slowing down makes it possible for you to be more present. When you are more present, you are more able to respond to any situation, challenge, or opportunity that life presents. Being present also means that you’re able to “receive” insights and to calm down our nervous system.

This is why I recommend implementing a daily morning regimen that prioritizes slowing down and connecting within. It will transform your day to day so you’re set up for success and abundance in all areas of life.

First up: Your day starts with the night before.

Have you noticed that our society wears lack of sleep like a badge of honor? If you’re too busy to sleep, you’re extremely “driven” and “successful.”

Unfortunately — the opposite is true. Or, it will be if you operate long-term without ample time to recharge.

Lack of sleep is dangerous. Not only for your health, but for productivity, pursuing life-long dreams, enjoying your life-partner, parenting, and general happiness.

Here are a few of my favorite tips for closing out your day and improving the quality (and duration) of sleep.

  1. No electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  2. Don’t charge your devices next to your bed. Having a charging station outside of your bedroom is ideal.
  3. Don’t have caffeinated drinks after 2pm.
  4. Your bed is for sleep and sex. Only. Do not bring work to bed.
  5. Wear night clothes, not gym clothes. Dressing for sleep tells your brain to relax and prepares it to recharge.
  6. If you’re reading a book before bed, actually read a book. No iPad, or anything that emits light.
  7. Before bed, write a list of three “wins” that happened that day. The size of the win doesn’t matter, just that it made you happy and grateful.
  8. Aim for a full 8-9 hours.

If you’re looking for additional help for having a full night of quality sleep, an awesome resource is Arianna Huffington’s new book, Sleep Revolution.

In addition to the science and staggering statistics she shares to prove her claim that sleep is pivotal for both success and happiness, she offers many tips for “rekindling the romance” between you and sleep so that it’s something you look forward to, and it’s as restful and recharging as it’s supposed to be.

After you wake-up, RPM.

RPM is a term coined by Deepak Chopra. It stands for rise, pee, meditate.

I assume you’ve got rising and peeing down, so I’ll skip right to meditation!

Meditation is an opportunity to slow down, quiet the mind, and be present. If this is difficult for you, I suggest doing a few minutes of stretching or yoga poses before sitting down to meditate for 15-20 minutes.

When you’re seated and still, take a few deep breaths in and out before you start silently speaking your mantra in your mind.

Mantra is the sanskrit word for “instrument of the mind.” In the same way that a puppy needs a bone to sit still, your mind often needs a “bone,” too.

To be clear: The purpose of meditation is not to silence your thoughts.

That’s impossible. The purpose is to be silent and present to what is here and now so you can give yourself permission to connect with your higher self on a regular basis. When you have that ability, overwhelm is easily managed and success in all areas feels attainable.

If you don’t have a personal mantra, I suggest the word “om,” which is said to be the sound of the Universe. You can also use “I am,” or your favorite word. I have a client who uses the word “love.” Your mantra doesn’t have to mean anything specific to you, the important part is sitting quietly with yourself.

For a step by step guide for getting started with meditation, read one of my recent blogs.

Following your meditation, set an intention.

An intention is not a goal. A goal is about achieving, an intention is more like aligning with all of our being towards the goal. Where a goal is something you work hard for, an intention is about the energy you want to tap into on the road to achieving said goal.

Ask yourself: What kind of energy must you tap into in order to live the life that you want?

Giving yourself a moment every morning to shift your mindset around how you want to feel as your day unfolds is pivotal. It gives yourself the time to feel into the day and set yourself up for manifesting the experience you desire. It creates an energy that is positive, conducive, and effective for playing at your best. It allows you to be present in both your mind and your heart.

“My intention today is to be kind and peaceful with myself and others and to live as if everything is for my benefit.”

Next, I suggest 30-45 minutes of exercise.

I know exercise can be hard to commit to on a daily basis, but I think it’s important to make it a goal to do so. Moving for even 30 minutes will help you start your day in your body. It will aid in stress management as well as keep you physically fit so that you can be happier and healthier.

Finally, treat yourself to a coffee.

Robert Holden, one of my favorite teachers, once told me that coffee is a device of the holy spirit. I agree with him.

I love the smell and the flavor of coffee in the morning. For me, it’s a pleasure I give myself.

I can see where needing it to function can become a problem and for that reason I understand that there’s a fine line between recommending to drink it or not drink it. But, I’m Italian. Loving coffee is in my genes!

The flavor and smell of it in the morning is something I look forward to. For that reason, I’m a big supporter of coffee if it’s something that brings you the joy it brings me.

That said, I do suggest not drinking coffee on an empty stomach. It’s important to pay attention to how much acidity you ingest, and coffee is very acidic.

I guarantee you will see shifts in all areas of life if you commit to a daily practice, like the one I’ve outlined here. I saw shifts in my own life within the first week of changing my morning, and I’ve witnessed my most successful clients experience the same.

Is there something you do every morning that has transformed your life? Please share it with me in the comments!

And if you’re looking to explore morning practices for transforming your life more thoroughly, I highly recommend The Miracle Morning.

“Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.”
- Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning

How To Prepare For A Life-Defining Moment

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on June 28th 2016 on



Interviewing for a job, auditioning for a lead role in a major TV show, competing in the Olympics, or even holding an important meeting requires a greater level of focus, discipline, and preparation. To ensure your best performance, never prepare for these so called life-defining moments by making them “the moment.”

Our ambitious culture has conditioned us to believe that we live for these life-defining moments, particularly in our work, and that if we fail, we’ll never have a second chance.


Every life will have countless, life-defining moments. So while I understand that some moments feel more exciting or important than others, the first step to preparing yourself for a life-defining moment is to put things in perspective. Understand that your life is made up of many important moments. “Failing” at any one in particular will not be the end.

The second step, which goes hand in hand with the first, is to understand that EVERY moment leading up to it is as important as the life-defining moment itself.

Let me share an example from my own life to illustrate what I mean.

On my 40th birthday, I decided to embark on a long and intense journey of competing for Iron Man. The preparation leading up to it took years. At the start of every training day, my coach would say: “Let’s make today another masterpiece. Another ordinary day, not an extraordinary day.”

His words were and continue to be significant to me because they serve as a reminder to focus on the process, not the product. What was important in my preparation was not Game Day, it was the day in front of me.

In order to be your best then, you must be your best now.

We call this a growth-mindset. It allows you to make being your best a habit as opposed to something you prepare for.

So, the real question becomes: How can you be present and at your best every day?

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

1. Why am I doing this?
2. Who am I doing this for?

Whatever you do in life, you should be engaged in the process. There are no half measures to living. So, to show up present and at your best each and every day, you must know that your actions are aligned with your life’s purpose — and your joy.

The reason for this is to inspire you to bring all of yourself from a place of higher quality, as opposed to a place of ego. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about relaxing into the moment and living it out for what it is — an opportunity to live your purpose.

The last and final step is visualization.

Many neuroscientists suggest the subconscious mind is the most powerful part of the mind, and it is never utilized. I suggest visualizing your life defining moment on a nightly basis; picturing exactly how you’d like your moment to actualize — with ease, love, joy, and success.

When you align your conscious mind with your subconscious mind you will find yourself prepared for whatever adversity may be thrown your way. You will also be happier! Not only will you be prepared for your life-defining moment, but you will find the joy in every moment that leads to it.

Let’s face it — at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

15 Golf Lessons That Will Change Your Life

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on April 26th 2016 on



They say the game of golf mirrors the game of life. I’d have to agree. In fact, it was picking up a golf club for the first time that completely shifted my life’s direction.

Let me explain.

I did not grow up athletic. More accurately, I grew up convinced I wasn’t athletic, thanks to childhood self-doubt that dates far before I can even remember.

The first time I picked up a golf club I was 19. My instructor told me to prepare for my first shot by only focusing on what “is.”

In life, we call this mindfulness, and it’s something I had never truly given myself permission to experience. Frankly, at 19, I didn’t even know what it was...

I remember making the effort to silence the world around me so I could focus on only what was in front of me. The cool breeze, the warm sun hitting the back of my neck, the ball sitting quietly on the bright green grass, the tightness of my grip around the club, my toes shifting in my shoes as I assumed my position...

All at once, it hit me.

Success, in all things, depends on your ability to be present to what is here and now. If you pay attention to anything that is outside of your direct point of view, you will set yourself up to be less than your potential.

Just like I did when I decided I wasn’t athletic because my fears told me so.

Instead of living a life where I stood tall in my right and ability to define myself, I had let myself be distracted by self-doubt, and I shrunk in fear. This revelation is a huge reason why I advocate living outside of your comfort zone in my coaching and my flagship program, the empowerment shift.

If I wanted to be an athlete, even an amateur one, now was the moment to make that choice.

So, I did.

And as I write this, twenty years later, I’m a multiple time competitor in triathlons, Ironman, and a handful of Half Ironman competitions, too. I’ve also won several amateur golf tournaments including an Italian Championship for 2nd division city clubs.

Turns out I’m very athletic...

Regardless of what field you’re in, what dreams you have, and what life you’re living — we all have the power to focus on what’s directly in front of us. Fear is something we can never completely silence. We will come face to face with it daily. But as I also learned from golf, you must take 100 percent responsibility for your life.

It is up to YOU to define your reality. To move forward despite your inner critic. And to actualize your full potential.

After I made the decision to pursue a hobby that had always scared me, I experienced a huge life shift. I went on to be a success coach for clients that include professional athletes. My time with them has reminded me so much of the life lessons I’ve taken off the green with me.

Here are 15 golf lessons that just might change your life:

  1. Luck doesn’t exist. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Prepare yourself to be the best, and then the opportunity will arise. It doesn’t work the other way around.
  2. SLOW DOWN. Rediscover your joy. When you feel a deep sense of relaxation throughout your whole body, you’re reminded of why you love what you’re doing, an unlimited abundance of great shots lie ahead.
  3. You control what you think. Don’t get stuck in your head. In the event of a bad shot, you can say things like: “Interesting... It’s unlike me to shoot that way.” By not reacting to any “failure,” you’ll keep your center in check and avoid sabotaging the shots you have ahead.
  4. Let go. There is always another shot waiting for you. Your score is directly related to your ability to forget past bad shots and let them go.
  5. Talent is a myth. Be consistent. Being consistent with your actions is how you maintain the endurance and the strength to carry yourself where you’re going. Consistency will always reap benefits. Sure, talent can help. But it is not enough. Practice makes you a master. At everything.
  6. Practice self-love. Become interested in what nurtures and nourishes you and those around you. When your pre-game routine comes from this place it will lead you into a fabulous round of golf, life, anything...
  7. Reflect often. Acknowledge your successes and where you can still grow daily.
  8. Breathe. When you breathe freely and relax, you’re able to express your natural gifts and abilities. Breathe. Enjoy the moment.
  9. Remember the positive “Cs:” clarity, commitment, confidence. Be clear about your next shot; visualize the target and the shot you want to execute. Be committed to that shot; gather all your energy and direct it to create what you’ve visualized. Be confident about your shot; trust your swing and the power of what you’ve set yourself up for.
  10. Release the negative “Cs:” compare, complain, criticize. These three Cs are the poison of your spirit. They drain your energy, and are a sure pathway to failure. When you discipline yourself to stop, you’ll be well on your way toward success on and off the green.
  11. Take 100 percent responsibility. You are not a victim of the course, of the wind, or of the rules of golf. The more you’re peaceful and centered, the more you will post a low score. Take responsibility for what’s going on in your life and peace will follow.
  12. You are AMAZING. Always come from a mentality of amazingness. From this state, you won’t be able to buy into a scarcity mentality, which is especially vital when the stakes are high. You are the best possible player you can be at this moment in time.
  13. Play with your heart. Reside in the strength of your heart in every situation. Send the ball to the hole with the intention and energy of your heart. Love the ball, love the clubs, love it all. Be a heart-warrior, and no obstacle will stop your heart from beating.
  14. Trust the process. Success is about the process, not the end product. Keep your focus on what you can control, and your score will follow.
  15. Smile. Golf is just a game, and so is life. Both have moments that feel very serious, but the reality is, everything moves on. This moment — this game — won’t last forever. If you’re not taking every opportunity to enjoy yourself, what’s the point?

The Relief of Oneness

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on March 28th 2016 on



What if we knew for certain that all of our needs and desires are now (and forever will be) met — not by a punitive and capricious Creator who bestows abundance  and then takes it away on a whim, but rather, by the indefatigably loving Source of our own existence?

What if, instead of life happening “to me,” or “by me,” or “through me,” life happens “as me”?

Is this even possible? And if so, what would it actually mean, if life happened “as me”?

What would it mean to be so connected to the Source of all life that we could not perceive the difference between “them” and “us” or “you” and “me”?

What if we were able to experience the state of being that the great mystics and spiritual teachers have described as “Oneness”?

How would the world be different if we all recognized ourselves as the authors of our existence, constantly writing and re-writing the script of our lives?

For this to happen, what perceptions must we shed like a heavy jacket on a warm spring day?

For one thing, we would have to relieve ourselves of the belief that some people are blessed more than others.  We would have to shift from dualistic ideas of “deserving vs. unworthy,” “sick vs. healthy,” and “rich vs. poor.”

We would have to drop the notion that our dreams — and the resources to make them happen — exist outside of ourselves.  We would have to know that, in fact, nothing exists outside of ourselves. We would need to really, deeply “get” that everything we see, smell, touch, feel, taste is coming from our own experience of ourselves.

We would have to know that when we pray, we are like a fish in the ocean who is searching for water: we search for a connection to our own divine nature that we never actually lost in the first place.

In other words, we would have wake up from the dream that we are separate from each other, the planet, the universe and yes, even that politician that drives us absolutely crazy.

We would have to admit our “Oneness.”

We would have to recognize that there is only “One Power” and that we are a part of that singular force.  Furthermore, we’d have to know that “Oneness” does not know about sin or duality.  Oneness knows only the perfection of ceaseless, unrelenting love. Oneness just IS.

But what does this mean, really?  When all appearances indicate that an absence of love in the forms of disease, poverty, lack, limitation, and war exists, how can we legitimately say there is “only love”?  How can we say that there is only “One “Power” and that the concept of “good and evil” is no more than an illusion?

We could start with the idea that if we come from Oneness, there is really only one of us here.  And if that’s true, then we all have the same inheritance of infinite supply, abundance and freedom. And in order to have this realization, we would need to know that, for example, Oprah Winfrey does not inherently have more wealth than the homeless man who panhandles by the gas station – even though appearances would say otherwise.

True, Oprah has more access to her infinite supply than the homeless man, and there are many factors that led to that appearance.  But what if it is not really true that Source has blessed one person more than the other?  What if all of us are equal in our true wealth, even though there is an illusion that we are not?

This is not about belief.  This is about losing belief. It is about aligning with who and what we already are.  It is about ceasing sourcing our wealth, health, validation, opportunities, joy, happiness, and relationships from the outer world, and, instead, going deep inside to the quiet majesty of our own beingness where we can have the direct experience that all-we-are striving for is already present.

I’m not suggesting that you stop going to work or delete your online dating profile. This notion of “Oneness” is not something we can intellectually understand. It’s not an application that can be used without a genuine shift in how we experience ourselves. And, because Oneness already Is, it can’t reveal itself when we are trying very hard to find it, because looking for it implies that it’s not already there.

And still… you cannot become what you do not yet know (even if you are already that thing that you don’t know you are in the first place).  It is a paradox.

In the spirit of knowing and becoming, I invite you to try on this Oneness exercise:

Begin with deep breath and a smile.   

Start the practice by taking away your name.  

Say to yourself:

“I am called [Your Name].”

“And really, I am the One.”

“[Your Name] is my costume. S/he is very helpful and helps me to navigate this world. I am always in a dance with her/him.”

Sit for awhile, nameless, feeling your connection to the experience you’re having.

There is no one to pray to, nothing to ask for.

Just breath.

You are Oneness seeking and finding itself, over and over.

Ask: “What do I want to create?” Trust what you hear, as the One.

This is a dance.  You are practicing speaking from the One that is greater than the “you” that has a name, a job, a family, a Facebook profile…

In this practice you are learning how to surrender into the reliable flow of love that is always present.  It’s like building a muscle; you are able to surrender a little bit more each time you do it.

If and when fear comes up, know that it is here to help you remember how to experience Oneness.

You are like a flower that is well into its opening.

You are ready to explore the depth of who you truly are.

Take the time every day to get connected with the endless supply of potential that is available to you.

When we acknowledge our Oneness, we see that there is nothing outside of ourselves in opposition to our dreams, and all doors open.

We discover that freedom, love and joy are not available on a limited basis to certain, special people. They are the birthright of every single human being on the planet, no matter what they’ve done or who they’ve been.

We understand love does not discriminate, and that Source does not pour blessings upon one person over here and deny them to another over there. (This does not mean that there are not apparent inequalities; it means that the inequalities come from somewhere other than Truth, which is Oneness.)

We have a good laugh about the fact that Oneness is not found; it is revealed, usually when we are not looking for it. And it is inevitable that each and every one of us will remember our Oneness at some point.

Now, imagine if the majority of us were able to live into our Oneness.  At the very least, our Presidential elections would be very, very different – which, at this point, is motivation enough to try!

“It's difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.”

— Russell Brand

Should you be meditating?

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on February 4th 2016 on



“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”  - Zen proverb

Should you be meditating?

The short answer is yes. Yes, yes, and yes. And in case that wasn’t clear, yes.

The long answer is: contrary to popular belief, meditation is not just a health trend like kale smoothies and spin class (not that there’s anything wrong with those things).

Meditation is a necessity.

This is a fact that has been acknowledged and practiced by other cultures for centuries, but only recently has there been published research that has encouraged the Western culture to embrace it in the same way.

For one thing, meditation increases your capacity for happiness and empathy. By engaging the brain through meditation, you have the ability to change, re-wire, and optimize your neurochemistry. This was shown when NYU researcher Zoran Josipovic conducted a study of the brains of Buddhist monks during meditation. The fMRI results revealed that their brain activation was at a level never documented before.

As shared by Richard J. Davidson, this full throttle brain activation can be attributed to an effect that is similar to how a dancer’s performance is enhanced by practicing dance. Meaning, meditation enhances your brain in the same way practice enhances performance. Davidson’s research also confirms that mediation creates neuroplasticity in the brain, which opens the door to more compassion, joy, and empathy. It also helps us to clear obstacles that keeps us from building valuable connections.

In short, "Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree," says Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard. "It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are.”

And it does this in all the right ways, I might add.  I have practiced Transcendental Meditation for 4 years and after a recent retreat at the Chopra Center, I am reminded of why I think meditation must be made a priority.

It is good to note that meditation is not about spiritual attainment or setting quiet time aside for yourself (though both will likely happen as a result). Meditation is also not about becoming more wealthy, popular or cool (though I’ve never heard of anyone becoming poor, disliked, or unsexy because they meditate, either).

For me, meditation is about three things:


We have somewhere between 60-90,000 thoughts every day. I don’t know about you, but for me and most of my coaching clients, few of these thoughts stem from inspiration and love. In fact, most thoughts sprout from fear and a belief in lack and limitation. Often the thoughts that hold us back and cause us emotional pain can even keep us from pursuing and achieving our life’s true potential.

Through meditation we become a mindful observers of our thoughts. This helps us discern what supports our own happiness, joy and success, and what does not. Daily meditation is like a regular detox for our active and (usually) negative minds. The regular detoxification and clearing of mental habits such as fear and scarcity results in the ability to live a conscious existence where there is always a choice in how to feel about the hand we are dealt.

The Field of Pure Potential.

Remember when you were a kid, free of judgment and full of hope for a bright future? This is the field of pure potential, and it is what we are all born into.

Meditation takes us to this field again where anything is possible — where we have the potential to heal, forgive, design, create, call forth, and flourish.

Many meditation teachers also call this the “gap.” The gap is always open to welcome us, but we seldom visit because we are too “busy.”

Remembering who I am.

Meditation reacquaints us with our soul. This is so important because most of the time we’re thinking, speaking and acting through our egos. The ego believes that our happiness, love, safety, money, opportunities and self-worth come from somewhere outside of ourselves. It is mandatory to connect with your soul on a regular basis, because the soul never forgets who you are and what you are here to do. And when you remember who you are, you can overcome life’s challenges with grace and ease.

Simply put, meditation is about the complete transformation of your life. For anyone wanting to create real, positive change in their world, meditation is not just a good idea; it is mandatory. Making meditation a priority will not only improve your day, it will improve your life.

Getting Started:

Begin by scheduling a regular time to meditate. I prefer first thing in the morning, after I’ve splashed water on my face, and before I do anything else.  

Once you’ve found your meditation time, incorporate the following four steps:

  1. Sit with your back straight and supported and your head free.
  2. Begin by observing your breath.  Inhale, exhale.  Keep it simple.
  3. When thoughts come up, bring your attention back to your breath. Do not judge the fact that you are thinking, it doesn’t matter. Just come back to the breath.
  4. Do this for 5-10 minutes. You want to work your way up to 20 minutes a day.

You will be surprised by how quickly this simple practice will create a profound shift in your experience of life.  And remember, when you don’t think you have time to meditate is when you need it the most!

If you’re ready to study with an unbelievable teacher, I highly recommend Jack Kornfield. His loving kindness meditation is one of my favorites. You’ll find it here.

“Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It's like the ultimate rest. It's better than the best sleep you've ever had. It's a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh.”  - Hugh Jackman

Resistance: An Opportunity

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on January 19th 2016 on



Thanks to my duaI-faith family, I once carried the guilt of both the Jewish and the Catholic religions.

For years I felt like I could never do enough or be enough to appease the judgment of God. As a young boy growing up in Italy, the seeds of belief were planted that said God and I are separate, and I must always strive for His approval.

If I failed to meet God's expectations, I learned to believe that there awaits a pit of never-ending fire. That I must confess to my sins, lest I be sent into that pit forever. I learned to believe that beautiful Heaven will only welcome me if I live a life deemed worthy by this Hebrew God and his Holy book.

That's heavy -- especially for a young boy -- and by the time I was an adult, the roots of those beliefs had taken hold. They were very, very deep indeed.

I'm not saying guilt stems only from religion.

In fact, religious or not, most families have their own, personalized systems of guilt and shame distribution that get passed down for generations.

Often these systems look something like parents who strongly reprimand their child's past "wrong" for the purpose of preventing a future one. This system is typically fueled by a deep parental fear about who their child might become without the intervention of heavy-handed discipline. It's not conscious, however. Often, employing guilt and shame as a primary parenting technique is all the parent knows.

This results in both children and parents not understanding why the discipline is happening, but feeling guilty nonetheless. Both sides are stuck in a loop of guilt and punishment, both sides deepening the pattern of resistance to living their truth.

Once the seed of guilt is planted, it sprouts roots that manifest in a number of ways for many years to come. That is, unless we strive to know our guilt and release it.

Here is an example from my own life:

It was always expected that I would take over the family business. I'll never forget the guilt I experienced when I rejected my family's expectations and left Italy for the United States in pursuit of an unrelated career. For days and weeks and months I felt fear of going into the unknown.

Resistance showed up in many different ways. In my limiting beliefs and self-doubt, in the fearful voice that kept telling me I would fail, and finally, in my health. While making this life changing decision I was knocked off my feet for 10 days with the worst illness I have ever had.

My guilt caused fear, which caused resistance and stress, which caused illness. In other words, my resistance was giving me the opportunity to recognize that I was putting my fears before my calling. So much so that it landed me on my back for ten days.

To this day, I am forever appreciative of the financial and emotional support that was provided by my loving family. But, I had a calling. In the depths of my soul, I KNEW I was meant to do something else. I couldn't honor their vision without completely dishonoring my own.

As a coach, I look back on this decision and recognize its value.

At the time I felt so much resistance in making a choice in favor of my own desires and dreams. Yet, even though facing down my guilt was gut wrenching, by deciding to follow a path created by me, as opposed to the one prescribed by my family, I opened the door to progress in my evolution. I opened myself to the possibility of a greater version of who I really am. I created forward movement and growth in my life.

Why am I telling you this?

Because guilt begets fear. Fear begets resistance. And resistance offers a choice.

Resistance asks us a choice to retreat -- or to explore.

Resistance is a call to action. It's a call to discovery driven by wonder.

A fearless inquiry as to why you're resisting what's in front of you is an opportunity to unveil exactly what holds you back. Exploring your resistance will likely bring you to a moment in your ever-impressionable childhood that is so deep-rooted and hidden, you had no idea it held any power over you whatsoever.

But here's the deal: until you address your resistance, you will be forever paralyzed by the guilt that is beneath it. And when this happens, you stunt your evolution and growth.

Examining your resistance is like looking through a window to your soul. Resistance is here to teach you about who you were, who you are, and who you can become.

I understand that it's not easy to live in the spirit of openness, wonder, and consistent learning about yourself all the time. Sometimes doing so brings awareness to things you don't want to remember, or that you don't want to deal with.

That said, it's in these moments of exploration that I have been awarded the most courage.

Had I listened to my guilt when met with the desire to move to the United States, I would have never known the joy that would come from following my heart.

I would not have tasted the success and satisfaction that came with studying at University of Santa Monica.

I would not have experienced the growth that comes from stretching myself, or the fact that my family would eventually come around and feel pride for me and my path.

I would not have experienced the deep peace that accompanies knowing that I pursued and conquered my fear in the name of the person I'm meant to become.

In the process, I learned something valuable:

The strongest way to pursue a life with courage is to set strong intentions.

Intentions connect us to our source, which has a ripple effect that allows our source and the Universe to conspire so that our intention is fulfilled. At the same time, we're training our minds to create a connection with divine intelligence, a field of power within all of us, whose loving nature is at the center of creation and manifestation (a concept I consider to be a friendlier version of God than the Hebrew God of my childhood).

Here's a daily intention exercise to help.

At any time of day, and as often as it comes to mind, say this Louise Hay affirmation to yourself:

I am in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life.

Soon you will start to pick up on the "eddies" and "snags" and even "dams" that hold up your flow. You will start to recognize that your resistance is guiding your inner awareness to something that needs to be unwound or released. You will align your being with divine intelligence and by one with the natural ebbs and flows of life as a result.

Because remember: it's not necessarily the change that you're resisting. (Often times you want change!)

What you're experiencing are the patterns of fear and guilt beneath your resistance. Your inner self then gives you the opportunity to free yourself and never have to face the same fear or guilt again.

So seize the opportunity.

Question your resistance.

Put fear in the back seat.

Forgive yourself for having guilt.

And CHOOSE a life of joy, love and possibility.

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance." - Steven Pressfield

Grow Your Comfort Zone, Prolong Your Youth

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on November 19th 2015 on



As babies, we enter the world brave, vivacious, adventurous and courageous. We frolic naked, make messes, throw our food, shamelessly demand what we want, fearlessly express love, and never deny the urge to cry.

Within a few years, we find ourselves in school with a developing ego. This means we start to understand the concept of approval and begin to seek it out. Discomfort becomes our compass: if something is uncomfortable, we retreat. We feel most safe when we're validated by our parents, teachers, friends and other members of society. It's at this point when we begin to prioritize the comfort of those around us over our own.

The older we get, the less we venture outside the familiar. Where once we enjoyed an occasional meal with friends in a nearby city, we now prefer to stay in town, where we frequent the same places over and over again. As time passes, our bubble of comfort shrinks even further. Eventually, we rarely leave our block, then our home, and finally, we spend our days sunk comfortably into our couch in front of the TV.

It appears that the older we get, the less we stretch. The less we stretch, the faster we stop growing. The less we grow, the more we deteriorate mentally, emotionally and physically.

Which, my friends, brings us to a powerful method for serving your greatness (and it also happens to be my favorite anti-aging remedy):

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will stretch you in ways you didn't know were possible. It will keep your mind -- and often body! -- supple. It will train you to succeed where once you did not.

If your purpose is to be your best, you must take full responsibility for your comfort zone. We often run from situations that cause pressure or anxiety due to fear-based resistance, when really, we should be facing the situations with gusto.

It is, in fact, the moments when we find comfort within the discomfort that our essential self (that one in us who is in charge of our purpose, desire, and highest good) can bring us face-to-face with an opportunity for deeper growth. It is when we are most likely to be offered a stepping-stone to success.

By choosing only what's comfortable, however, we insure that we never seize an opportunity to surpass expectations, succeed at our dreams, and assume our power.

To be clear: I don't find this easy.

I have certainly had my own experience with facing discomfort, and I know that the feeling of being judged or disapproved of by another is not an easy one to overcome.

But if we want to live the big, beautiful lives we crave... overcome it, we must. Here are 6 steps for finding comfort when facing the uncomfortable:

1. Take a breath.

Facing your fears can invoke the fight or flight response, which is your body's way of dealing with "danger" or, for our purposes, stress. During the fight or flight response, your breath will become shallow and rapid, which increases levels of anxiety and affects your ability to think clearly. Bring yourself back to a focused and stress-free state by taking a few long, deep, slow breaths. This simple act will begin to shift you from your sympathetic nervous system into your parasympathetic nervous system. Once there, you will actually feel the stress dissipate and can recover a sense of calm.

2. Recognize how safe you are.

Take a moment to remind yourself of how safe you truly are. Most likely, you have everything you need in this moment. Recognize that you are prepared. Whatever has come your way has done so because you're ready for it.

3. Separate yourself from the situation.

Who you are, and what your purpose is, will always be bigger than the situation you're facing. Whatever your circumstance, it does not have the power to cripple you (unless you say it does). Rather, see the scary appearance as a sign that you are on the road to achieving your dreams. Facing fear will help you grow until eventually you realize there was nothing to fear in the first place. In other words, that which you fear is actually an aspect of your highest good honing you for successs.

4. Get to the root of your fear.

With some space from the situation, you are more easily able to speak to the part of you that is afraid.

Ask yourself: Why am I experiencing resistance?

Oftentimes, resistance comes from the fear of being judged negatively, or rejected. If this were to present itself during a session with me, I'd speak to that part of you, directly.

I'd ask you why you were valuing the opinion of others more than your own.

Why are you living life based off of another's approval? Why do you choose to meet expectations set by another, versus expectations you set for yourself? Why are you giving someone else control of who you are and who you might become?

How disappointed would you be if, one day, you find yourself sunk into your couch with the realization that you never prioritized your calling? That you didn't push yourself as far as you could go? That you didn't live a life recognizing who you are and how you can serve the world? What will happen (or not happen!) if this couch becomes a literal representation of your comfort zone?

How will you feel if you reach the end of your life and know in your heart of hearts that you never met your greatness?

5. Choose your path, not an outcome.

If you stay focused on a result -- which no one can predict -- you will face self-inflicted fear of failure. As a result, you will give your power to an outcome that doesn't exist, instead of keeping it for yourself.

Instead, be loyal to your path: what you're after, how you're feeling, who you are, and how you're showing up. These are the only things that are ever in our control.

By focusing on your path alone, you'll create consistency of quality within your work, and always create opportunities for success.

Here's a mantra to help with this: "High engagement, low attachment.”

6. Go for it.

There is always something to feel, to do, and to be. If you've followed these steps, you have honored your feelings, done something to access your truth, and now you must honor who you are and who you want to be.

The discomfort we call fear will always show up. It's up to you how you face it.

In the name of your greatness (and staying younger, longer!), I challenge you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable on a consistent basis. I hope you seek to stretch your comfort zone daily, honor your path, and never find yourself on your couch asking, "what if?”

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsh 

The Empowerment Shift

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. - This article originally appeared on September 11th 2015 on



"The world will be saved by the Western Woman."  -- Dalai Lama

I love coaching women. Holding a clean, masculine, loving presence for women to deepen into their empowerment is important to me because when the masculine and feminine energies of the world come into true alignment (within ourselves and between one another), we will see some dramatic upgrades in life on this little planet of ours.

In order to succeed and lead in the current world paradigm, most women have felt they need to be primarily in their masculine energy.  There is evidence of this tendency in even the subtlest, most personal aspects of a woman’s life -- like her habit of overriding the flow and rhythms of her own body in order to show up for her worldly demands.

But what if women could stay connected to their feminine essence and be taken seriously as leaders?  What transformation could this usher in for all of us, men included? I am excited to find out, and have some ideas about how to get there.

Reverend Michael Beckwith identified a model of the four primary stages of leadership, which the Conscious Leadership Group, founded by Jim Dethmer and Diana Chapman, uses as a guiding principle. In my experience, understanding these stages can greatly empower a woman to both shift into her feminine essence AND show up powerfully in all areas of her life. For our purposes, we will focus solely on the first three stages.

1. Life Is Happening To Me.

Most of us must pass through Stage One before we get to the other stages. Here we find ourselves at the effect of life. Complaining and criticism are common symptoms. We are usually somewhere on the Victim/Villain/Hero triangle, where the villain is in constant blame, the victim feels wronged, and the hero sees others as incompetent or "less than" and swoops in to save the day.  This is a very expensive stage, as the tariff is our own, true nature.

The antidotes to Stage One are wonder, curiosity and personal responsibility. In order to shift out of this stage, we can ask ourselves "What do I want from this situation?" Or "What I am learning here?" The moment we become willing to take responsibility for ALL the circumstances of our lives and commit to seeing others in full responsibility of their lives, we are free to move on to Stage Two.

2. Life Is Happening By Me.

This is a very exhilarating stage, because here we experience a sense of control, responsibility and power.  Our focus shifts from being perpetually outward into the rich terrain of our internal landscapes.  We see ourselves co-creating with life. Both hands are on the steering wheel.

This can be a very empowering stage. We feel a sense of control like never before. But, as life teaches us again and again...control is an illusion.  And once we get current with that fact, we can move on to Stage Three. 

3. Life Is Happening Through Me.

Here is where the real magic starts to happen. The big difference between stages two and three is that we have moved from a sense of control (a masculine principle) to a deep sense of surrender (a very feminine principle).

When we are in Stage Three, we are fueled by wonder. A common question we ask ourselves is: "What wants to happen through me?" We commit to maximizing our energy by honoring rest and renewal; we commit to creating a life of play and to seeing all of life unfold with ease. Stage Three is where the feminine principle comes to life, and it vibrates at a much higher frequency than most of us are used to.

Stage Three is where a woman can rest into herself and trust the cues her body gives her for clarity on where to go and what to do next. She can cite her innate creativity and intuition as main contributors to her success. She can commit to something big without the fear of losing too much of herself along the way.

Be Aware of Shift & Drift

Once we commit to shifting into Stages Two and Three, it's very normal to drift back into our old ways once in awhile.  You'll know this is happening if you find yourself complaining, criticizing, or refusing to delegate because you don’t want to impose.

The key to shifting out of this pattern is to accept where we are, take some conscious breaths, change our posture, and ask the direct questions, "What am I learning from this?  What is my role here?"  "What do I want to create next?" And  "How do I surrender and let go?"

Certainly there are women in the coaching world who hold a clean, feminine, loving presence for men to find balance between their masculine energies too. These principles would, undoubtedly, be of service from this perspective as well, as who amongst us couldn’t use a little finesse in the art of surrender?

In this spirit, I’ve got some exciting news!  Beginning August 27th, I’m kicking off a six-month course just for women called The Empowerment Shift.  This coaching program is for women who are ready to call in and manifest all that they want in life.

To learn more visit, and if you know a woman who is ready for deep transformation and wants some expert, loving support in navigating her journey, please send her a link to this post.

Why You Need Self Acceptance To Be Happy

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on March 12th 2015 on



I used to think that my ability to relax and enjoy life would come once I got everything on the outside just right.

Can you relate?

Then I was introduced to four principles that changed my life.

You are responsible for your own happiness.
Your outer experience is a reflection of what’s going on inside.
What's going on inside is usually a reflection of the quality of your mind.
The quality of your mind is directly related to how deeply you accept yourself.

The first time I heard these principles was the first time I felt authentically empowered.

That is, I felt empowered once the despair wore off from the realization that I could no longer blame my parents, girlfriend, teachers, friends or anyone else for my own unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Once I really began to examine my suffering, I realized that underneath the projections I created about what others were “doing to me” was a need to accept myself.

The big secret to taking full responsibility for my experience has been self-acceptance—though the process certainly hasn’t been a straight shot.

At first my ego resisted like hell. It’s so much easier to blame the world than it is to really change our insides.

But when I finally woke up to the desire to take full responsibility for my own happiness, I couldn’t ignore that what was bothering me was only my perception of what was happening… not what was actually happening.

Whenever I want to make a shift in my life, self-acceptance is where I’ve learned to start.

For example, as a kid I was self-conscious, aware of my “defects,” and scared of life. My family probably didn’t help much, as I had extremely critical parents and grandparents. In my home, “perfection” was the name of the game.

Growing up, I constantly judged myself for how uncool I thought I was, how athletically un-skillful I was, how I didn’t like my hair, how I didn’t like the way my body was developing. Oh my god! I had so many judgments.

Naturally, this internal struggle was reflected in all my relationships.

The less I appreciated myself, the less I was appreciated—but I didn’t have the awareness to see it that way; I just saw others not appreciating me.

It took nearly 40 years to realize that the acceptance and appreciation I craved had to come from within. It also took me that long to reclaim the parts of myself that I had totally abandoned and get willing see the good I have done and am.

Ending my suffering meant seeing life with different eyes.

I’m talking now about the eyes of my soul, the eyes of my true self, the eyes of a pure, loving being.

For me, self-acceptance is about taking a pass on judgments and self-recriminations.

This doesn’t mean bypassing healthy regret or letting myself off the hook. To the contrary; it’s about radical self-honesty and abstaining from expectations based on the outmoded and unconscious beliefs I’ve been lugging around for too many years.

It's about forgiving what happened.

And what didn’t.

To paraphrase Lily Tomlin, it’s about abandoning all hope for a better past.

I’ve learned that when things don’t go the way we think they should, it’s an invitation to get even stronger and go even deeper into self-acceptance. It may not feel like it in the moment, but every opportunity we get to see a part of ourselves that we have still not accepted is a blessing.

Of course, letting go of the hope for a better past doesn’t mean condoning the harmful behavior of others, but it does mean that we get forgive ourselves for the negative judgments we placed on the event.

And then we may accept ourselves and the circumstances of our lives with a clear intent to make peace and to move forward.

Once I began this process of self-acceptance, I realized that I wasn’t as uncool as I thought I was in my early years. For example, I had carried the painful perception that my athletic skills were not good enough. In fact, they are actually above average to the extent that I have been able to do a full Ironman and six half-Ironmen. I am also an amateur club golf champion.

When I finally took these facts in, it was as if I received permission to stop waiting for someone or something outside me to validate my existence. No one was coming to rescue me (except me), and what a relief it was to fully absorb that truth!

My sense now is that who I am is a collection of imperfect selves. And it is because of those imperfections that I’m divinely human and lovable no matter what.

So who am I when I am not judging myself?

I am a divine being having a human experience.
I am a whole and complete man with a big heart.
I am a peaceful and lovable person, doing his best to thrive, to be kind, and to care for others.

So often we work backwards by striving to change our jobs, our relationships and the amount of money in our bank accounts through our efforts on the outside.

We exhaust ourselves by constantly reaching to the external world, not realizing that the most effective step we can take to change every single aspect of our lives is to place kindness, love and acceptance inward, toward our own human experience!

Without the practice of self-acceptance, I inevitably struggle and push away joy. I unconsciously conspire against myself.

With the practice of self-acceptance I experience more prosperity, healing and love.

I, for one, would much rather live with myself from the mind and heart of self-acceptance, than from judgment and criticism. Wouldn’t you?

Lean In to the Mystery of Your Life

By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on February 17th 2015 on



Is It Safe to Go Where I'm Going?

Every so often I ask myself the same questions: Where am I going?  What am I getting from the experience I'm having presently?

Why is that so? 

These are powerful questions, worth checking in with once in awhile. And yet, time and time again I am humbled by the realization that expecting them to be answered on demand is not necessarily in my best interest.

Matter of fact, I rarely have answers to many of my fascinating, thought-provoking questions (I hope you're smiling with me now). And what I'm learning is that it's okay not to have all the answers.  In fact, hanging out in the uncomfortable space between the question and the answer is really where all the good stuff happens.  It's the place of creation and wild expansion. It's what we signed up for as human beings. 

The Buddhists call this "groundlessness," and recognize it as a very natural, normal state of being. Culturally, we are conditioned to seek immediate solutions and logical answers, which is partly why we find this "not knowing" place so damn uncomfortable.  We want reassurance that we're safe to take risks in pursuit of our dreams. We want to know for sure that our choices will take us in the direction we want to go.  We are very interested in outcomes. 

Truth to be told (I'm sorry to break it to you), the answers we seek to those kinds of questions usually never come. Or, rather, once they do we have landed safely in the embodiment of those answers and have moved on to the next iteration of our lives where we are asking the questions all over again.  In this way, I'm learning that the answers don't actually exist. They can't because the questions are based on a false premise. The questions imply that we are not safe to pursue our dreams and desires without knowing for sure that our efforts will yield the results we are seeking. The truth is that not only are we safe to live full-out without knowing what will happen, we are meant to. 


I was blown away the other day when I stumbled across an article saying that many of the most profound scientific discoveries happened as a result of serendipity. In many cases, scientists tried to find answers to a certain question and the results were totally different (and often better) than the ones pre-imagined. In other instances, brand new discoveries were made while scientists were looking for something completely different altogether. 

What if life is simply a series of events that are consciously driven (for some) and (unfortunately) unconsciously driven for most? AND what if the results we experience are just a series of beautifully co-created events, leading us to places that we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams?

What if?

I like to think of life this way because when I do, openness and receptivity become my natural attitude. I'm convinced that these qualities are the keys for improving our lives because they allow us to live from the mystery of the questions (life itself) rather than rushing toward the certainty of the answers (which is a kind of death). 

Albert Einstein said it perfectly when he wrote: 

The most beautiful experience we can have here is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.


Not surprisingly, once I really began to contemplate living in uncertainty it brought me to more questions.  For example, does this mean I need to stop looking for the answers or have a passive attitude? 

I believe the opposite is actually true. As the familiar Latin saying goes: carpe diem. Seize the day -- but do it with the intention of moving closer to how you want to feel and what you want to happen.  Surrender to allowing your edges to be pushed (or your ass to be kicked). 

I've discovered that, ironically (or is it serendipitously?), by not obsessing about my burning need for answers and by allowing life to have its way with me (consciously), I have a much better chance of arriving right at the answers I was hoping would be true all along. 

In response to a fear-based statement I made the other day about a new thing happening in my life, a friend of mine told me to "Lean in bro." 

I thought of the three questions. Where am I going?  What am I getting from the experience I'm having presently?  Why is that so? 

And like he could read my mind, he said it again. "Just lean in bro, lean in." 

It was a powerful and humbling moment.

And it reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago.


A wealthy man once threw a magical party at his beautiful mansion in the hills. He invited all his good friends and family, his employees and all the people he didn't know but who lived in his neighborhood. 

At some point in the evening he asked that his guests join him around the pool, where he had set up a stage with a microphone. Finally, once everyone from the many avenues of his life had gathered, he stepped onto the stage, took ahold of the microphone and made an astonishing announcement.  The pool was infested with many poisonous fish, piranhas and a couple of enormous crocodiles!

The crowd started to feel uncomfortable.  And then the wealthy man made another, even more astonishing announcement. "I will grant a huge prize to whomever swims from one side of the pool to the other. The brave soul that gets out alive will get to choose one of three prizes.  They may pick from $1.5 million in cash, a first class, five star trip for two around the world for two years, or -- last but not least -- one of my many real estate properties in the United States," he said.

And just as he completed his declaration, someone jumped into the pool and swam so fast that Jim Thorpe could not have beat him. Within moments, the swimmer emerged alive on the other side! 

The crowd went crazy. No one could believe what just happened! Against all odds, a brave and courageous guy swam 50 meters in danger-infested waters and made it safely to the other side.  It was a miracle!

The host took the microphone again and invited the man to meet him on stage.

The swimmer seemed very shocked and didn't appear to enjoy what was happening at all. He even refused the towels that the servants had diligently offered him the moment he emerged alive from the pool.

The wealthy man on the mic loudly asked the winner: "What do you want, brave man? You won the prize, but which one do you want? The $1.5 million in cash maybe?"

The swimmer shook his head indicating that he didn't want that. He was shaking still.

"Ah okay," said the host. "You want the trip for two around the world instead. I understand, you want to travel, don't you?"

And the swimmer again shook his head again, saying he did not want that prize either.

The wealthy host shouted into his mic: "Ladies and gents, please congratulate this brave and courageous man who challenged and defeated all the odds and made it through safe and sound! He wants one of my properties. Please congratulate him! Bravo!"

They were excited and very curious to see the response of the brave swimmer who was not reacting at all the way they would imagine the recipient of such a prize might. 

And in fact, the dripping man shook his head again, shouting loud enough for everyone to hear that he didn't actually want to any of that. He just wanted…

And the wealthy man, and all his guests stood in shocked silence, holding their breath as they waited for his answer… 

Finally the host asked: "What is that you want? Please tell us! What are you getting from this experience?"

And the seemingly brave and courageous man finally let all his frustrations and his desire to be heard come out and shouted: "All I want, dude, REALLY, is to know who the hell pushed me into that fucking pool!"

It's a great punch line. I hope you appreciate, like I do, that this story is about being nudged to the edge. It's about letting life push you in the direction it wants you to go without resisting. It's about rising to the occasion even though it's scary as hell and the odds seem to be against you. It's about learning you were safe all along and finding rewards on the other side of your travail.

It's also a metaphor for coaching work. Don't wait for the inevitable push into the pool. Seek it out through choice.  Lean in. 

What do you need to swim in uncharted, dangerous waters? You need the ability to swim, but you also need willingness. You need to be flexible enough to recognize what's present and what's possible.  You need to know where your advantages are and where you require support. And yes, then you need to swim the shit out of that water!

With that in mind, let's revisit my original questions. 

Where am I going?  What am I getting from the experience I'm having presently?  Why is that so? 

My best offering is to suggest that we just stay with the mystery and… lean in, bro. 

Then we let serendipity take care of the rest.