Startup Support

Serving the private and public sectors and supporting you to pursue your dream of starting or growing business enterprises and nonprofit organizations. You may be a good fit for services if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have passion and enthusiasm for a particular cause / approach / idea but are uncertain how to integrate it into your professional life.
  • You are successful at what you do but it is no longer fulfilling and you are seeking new meaning and purpose.
  • You are conflicted about which direction to go in your business ventures and find it difficult to achieve work-life balance.
  • You have the Sunday Night Blues and are feeling stuck in your job.
  • You have had a business (or nonprofit) idea for awhile now and are not sure how to take first steps.
  • You love what you do and are generally very happy and want to take it to the next level, possibly building programs that could impact the world.

For a preliminary consultation, contact me to schedule a 1.5 hour session in Asheville, NC or remotely via Skype / phone. You will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire in advance so that I can best serve your unique needs. The cost of an introductory session is $100 and will include preparation and follow-up.
Please call 828-333-4960 to schedule.

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The “Final” Five

People often ask me what I do. This is a normal everyday conversation starter. Sometimes the answer does not come quickly. I gauge how interested the other person really is before I answer and notice which hat I am wearing when we meet. Simply put, I am a business consultant. I specialize in organizational development and change management, with a niche in social enterprises (initiatives that impact global social well-being). In other words I want to change the world and work with other entrepreneurs who are inspired and hopeful that anything is possible. I am often approached by individual business owners who want to shift into a new realm or are feeling stuck with their work, and they are intrigued by the work I do in Africa and wonder how I have created a life that is so complex yet so manageable and accessible.

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What guides your belief system?

When I start to work with an executive or business owner who is feeling stuck, or like they don’t know how to earn a living doing what they love, we might first look at professional goals and review the basics. It quickly becomes apparent that what is causing the block is not related to industry trends or lack of marketing strategy, but rather an old belief patterning system that the leader and their organizational culture is supporting albeit unconsciously. Even the most self-aware and tuned in person is operating primarily from the subconscious and unconscious mind (85% according to some studies). Hey – it’s not your fault and there is a solution!

You may ask how to reprogram subconscious thoughts that are blocking or serving as ‘negative’ influences on your goals and dreams. There are some simple steps and the first is to notice and become more aware of what you are affirming and supporting throughout the day. In order to successfully move into a new place of abundance, be it personal / professional / relational / financial, we will be letting some things go and lightening our load to make room for new.

Before we can recognize our superhero within we must embrace our humanness.

The by-products of doing this work are incredible. People are approaching me to assist with a business plan or for simple guidance on starting a nonprofit foundation and in the process are getting so much more. You know that blog I wrote about brown fat? As it turns out the formula I am developing for my personal consulting business, Thrive Guidance, is leading to weight loss! Those stubborn five (or ten!) pounds are peeling off as we shed the old beliefs that have been holding our true selves back. What you will find under that layer of brown, protective fat is a strong, chiseled and defined temple to carry you forward with ease and clarity. No diet required although you will have to let go of artificial chemicals!

Affirmation of the day: “My subconscious mind is my partner in success.”

How to Talk to a Reptile

We all have that someone in our life who reminds of us what we still need to work on, meaning they trigger the hell out of us.  You know that person – when you try to interact with them you inevitably throw up your hands, just walk away, or find yourself beating your head against the wall out of frustration or disbelief. You might gossip or complain to others that this person is speaking another language or is so brain dead, seemingly from another planet, that you can’t even have a “normal” conversation with them because there is no reasoning.

Aldabra giant tortoise who nearly sliced my finger off, Prison Island, Zanzibar

100 year old Aldabra giant tortoise who nearly sliced my finger off, Prison Island, Zanzibar, 2009.

This describes my reptile well. He does his best with what he has in the moment and he does not seem to recognize his dysfunctional patterns that keep him stuck in a way of life that is not peaceful, joyous or free. Here’s the thing: he is in survival mode, operating in flight/flight/freeze and therefore truly is speaking another language. Then I realize, he is me! His reptilian behavior serves as a mirror for when I too can revert to that baseline survival mode thinking, often in times of extreme stress, generally caused by fear of some kind.

So how do we manage our reptile?
First, summon up as much compassion as possible when you see the behavior in others. Imagine your reptile as a child whose development was stunted due to trauma of some kind. When your reptile is acting out, remember it is because they are programmed that way and although you do not need to approve or accept it, you might respond with loving kindness, finding empathy for whatever unfortunate life circumstances made it impossible for them to move into a balanced existence, operating primary from “the new brain” (i.e. the neo-cortex).
brain-reptilian1
The same goes for when you recognize the behavior in yourself. Start by having gratitude that you are conscious enough to even have awareness of it (most people stuck in reptile mode don’t see it!) and without judgement you can begin to investigate the cause. Remember that fight/flight/freeze served a great purpose when our lives really were in danger on a regular basis. Sometimes adrenaline-producing fear can be helpful and might be a wake-up call that we are headed in the wrong direction. The key is discernment, to recognize your behavior in reaction to situations and then get to a point where you are consciously choosing to operate out of faith rather than fear.

We will always live amongst reptiles and it is up to you to choose to move out of survival mode and into thrive mode. If you feel like you are surrounded by people who are living in fear and use language of scarcity (they complain, spending time talking about what is missing or not working, feel like a victim of circumstance, often moving around or changing jobs, demonstrating behaviors to cover up or temporarily numb them to the pain or discomfort they are feeling, etc), ask yourself why? Find people who seem to be mostly content and have a quality of life that you would like to emulate. If you are ready to take your life to a new level, set the intention and seek out guides and resources that can help you find more internal peace and total satisfaction in life. I am so inspired by my Thrive Guidance clients who continue to astound me with their commitment to living the life of their dreams and who are taking such risk to get real.

profile pic at tea farm June 2015

Break-even Living

What does it mean to ‘get ahead’ and who defined that for you?

Whenever I go running in an area where the average daily wage is $2, I am reminded of this privilege. For me to participate in an activity that might burn 800 calories in one hour when surrounded by people who may only consume one 600 calorie meal per day is a mind-bender. Still, I run past smiling faces, joyful singing coming from the churches, people busily sweeping the streets with such pride, sharing “salaama” greetings (peace), and I think “who is happiest?” Many would agree that finding meaning in one’s life, or feeling purposeful, is perhaps the most important factor in true happiness. Why do so many of us Westerners exercise more so we can eat more or weigh less? Work more so we can earn more or have less time? Schedule more activities so we can be in more places or take on more responsibilities and thus have less rest? Buy more so we can have more stuff to store, more debt to finance and less cash on hand?

I studied micro and macro economics and have started some businesses. I understand opportunity cost and wealth creation, and I too can fall prey to the common ways of Western living (don’t get me wrong – we’ve got some good things going!) No doubt I will be jumping back on that wagon soon, but I hope it will be with more intention and awareness each time I return to stateside living. I do believe it is important to have a ‘rainy day fund’ and to some extent planning for the future makes global sense. However it can also take us out of the present and often is based in fear, equally counter-productive as the attempt to fill some void through constant consumption. I will not waste my energy or create unnecessary stress by living in the ‘what-iffs’. As always, it is a balance.

Thank you to all of my mentors and guides who are showing me what it means to lead more from heart than head. I affirm today that there is plenty of everything to go around, it is simply a matter of (re)distribution and shifting one’s mindset.

Addendum: One day after drafting this post I was presented with the following TedX presentation. I encourage you to check it out if you are interested in shifting your living from ‘more’ to ‘enough’. https://youtu.be/GgBpyNsS-jU

White Picket Fence Syndrome and Brown Fat

The White Picket Fence Syndrome is what I call the illusion of happiness. Things look good on the outside but it’s a my-white-picket-fencethunderstorm inside. The lawn is manicured, the house is freshly painted, and there might even be children’s laughter in the distance. The Facebook page is in order, with all the right photos and engaging discussions, and our daily routine is representative of a balanced (jam-packed) life. We are “keeping up” and “getting through the day”. We are living for our next vacation, the next raise, the fancier car, the weight loss, the phone call, the soul mate, the uninterrupted sleep, and oh boy won’t it be so great when we can retire at age 63.5 and “get by” on what we’ve saved and what we hope the government will provide. This looks like survival mode to me.

But HOW ARE YOU REALLY? Sometimes it is productive, effective and even authentic to fake it ’til you make it. Sometimes it is just fake. Can you be real, honest and positive at the same time? Do you ever hear yourself talking and wish you would just shut up already? When you are sick and tired of the story you are telling yourself and others, let me know and I can guide you toward a new way. I hit my bottom of all bottoms in 2006 but I have still have times when I hit emotional bottoms, and now it is clear to me when it’s time for a shift because I don’t even want to be in the same room with myself. Yikes!

9 months!Here’s the thing – it’s an inside job. The seeds might be planted by other people or external forces but only you can make the choice to go deep. I remember when I was pregnant with my son and I put on 50 pounds. When I went into labor I tipped the scales at 180 pounds, and I was full of fear about how that weight would come off. Since I’d never had a baby before I had no frame of reference. I learned about Brown Fat. It protects our baby in the womb, cushions our body and covers our muscle tissue when we mamas are pregnant. It also stores rich nutrients like omega 3 so that we are ready to feed and grow a new human! Our bodies are using so much energy that we need new stores of it and once our baby is born, the fat is used for fuel and food. It peels off quickly and I was back to my normal weight within three months.

In order to get past the white picket fence we put up to present a certain image, and to make ourselves feel like we are living a fulfilling life, we must also shed this brown fat that is protecting our heart and soul. I know it is scary but you will notice a difference instantly, and you will be astounded at how every area of your life begins to shift into a flow state. When your true self feels heard, it will respond with so much gratitude and love that you will start to trust yourself again. You will be reminded that you have all the answers within, and life becomes easier, more fun and less rushed.

To learn more and to tap into your true self, consider an introductory Thrive Guidance session with me. I book one month out so email me now to schedule: sara(dot)stender@gmail.com.

You Can Look at Me Now

We teach what we are meant to learn.  For so long I was the good girl, sitting quietly and doing what was asked of me, looking pretty and agreeing with everything others shared.  I received attention for what some in Western society refer to as angelic qualities.  This became my false identity and it also served to alienate me from some people who understandably misinterpreted my intentions.  I did not fully develop my voice and I did not know what I wanted or needed to be true to my core self, so how could I expect anyone else to really get me?!  One of the  mixed signals I sent was “Pay attention to me but don’t look at me.” Huh?  I dreamed of being famous, having audiences around the world applauding me with a standing ovation for…..?  There is no way this dream could become clear or achievable when I did not feel worthy or authentic.  I did not know what I stood for or how I was meant to show up in the world.  I just wanted to be loved and I wanted to experience true serenity, without worry or apologies.  As I became more and more lost in a sea of unmet expectations and ego-driven madness, I made myself invisible.

On this Memorial Day, I remember but do not grieve that false identity that no longer lives with me. I honor my authentic self and I affirm that I am using this mind, body and soul as it was intended, to be of the greatest service to those most in need around the world.  In taking care of my self, I am strengthening my ability to show up in the world as both a student and a teacher. 

It has been a long journey that I will forever be on, and today I am celebrating a new body and a new life, healthier and happier than I have ever been and it keeps getting better! Take it from me, someone who had a dark and gloomy existence only nine years ago, the bigger your goal the more likely you are to succeed.  Oh yeah – YOU CAN LOOK AT ME NOW!

Analysis Paralysis

Let's play like a 4-year-old today!

Let’s play like a 4-year-old today!

Ever have one of those sleepless nights when you just can’t seem to shut down your mind? What if we stopped trying and let it go – let it run all over the place, this helter-skelter monkey mind – and see what happens? What if we stopped projecting the future and dwelling on the past and surrendered to what is? Imagine if instead of thinking in terms of “I” and replaced the self-talk with us-talk. What if we dropped the phone on the table, left the building and just kept walking? For a moment, consider what your life would look like if you were not distracted by fear-based emotions which includes self-centered thinking and reactionary behaviors. Have you ever kept track of how many times you ask “Why?” in any given day, questioning yourself and others? How does it feel in your body to trust that everything is perfect exactly how it is in this moment?

My final question for you today is this: How do you know when something is right?

We teach what we must learn and for me this is more true than ever. Just for today, do something that is totally unlike you.