Silvia Christmann: “Dare to care”

Dare to care, get to know yourself, and take the time to decide what you really want. Go see the world. Let this challenge inspire you. Make your path physically, mentally, and emotionally feel aligned with your ultimate purpose. As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & […]

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Dare to care, get to know yourself, and take the time to decide what you really want. Go see the world. Let this challenge inspire you. Make your path physically, mentally, and emotionally feel aligned with your ultimate purpose.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Silvia Christmann.

Silvia is a certified executive and business coach who’s spent the last 12+ years working with leaders and their senior teams in fast-paced environments. She works with companies who are going through periods of rapid growth; giving their leaders and teams clarity and focus to take decisive action. Silvia helps leaders to avoid pitfalls and uncover blind spots, keeping the individual motivated while transforming founders into effective leaders. Her mission is to maximize global impact by curating human potential. She loves working with people who dare to care, challenge dated systems, and transform the status quo.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Sure, I was born in Germany and raised across Europe. I attended Waldorf schools and was Rudolf Steiner educated. My father lived in the U.S. and my mother lived in Germany, so I had the benefit of being brought up in two different worlds.

I was lucky to have a very cultured upbringing, traveling the world expansively with my family. I have learned everything I know from a balance of experience, missteps, and good judgment. By constantly expanding my horizons, cultivating a global perspective, and essentially living in so many different places, it allowed me at a very young age to follow my own path in life. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere so I decided to belong to myself and create my own reality away from societal dictates. My infectious enthusiasm for life and unending drive to create change stemmed from there and have led to my unique journey.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Before starting my boutique practice in 2011, I was focused on building startups. I’ve had the privilege to learn from very successful serial entrepreneurs, who I consider true visionaries, evaders of convention, and people who believe that a great idea can be born out of frustration, a need in the marketplace, and a true desire to create change through innovation.

Building startups quickly taught me how to wear many hats. I became extremely resourceful and fast on my feet, with a keen ability to explore alternatives and options while simultaneously evaluating long-term goals. One could say that I’ve been building companies, creating leaders, and growing teams my entire professional career.

I mostly worked in the tech startup ecosystem of innovation, with a preferred focus on media, travel, social impact, and real-estate verticals. I specialized in business development, product-market fit, and transforming teams during periods of rapid growth.

This work was enjoyable for me for a very long time. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I felt that something wasn’t fully aligned with the totality of me. Through continuous personal development and work with coaches and mentors, I became increasingly aware that my life path and mission needed to be aligned with a certain set of core values:

  • Driving change in this world (social and economic impact);
  • A need for personal freedom and adventure;
  • A desire to build and create things (my love for entrepreneurship);
  • My comfort in constantly changing environments and challenges;
  • Leveraging wellness as a key driver for success (I learned this the hard way from suffering from the dreaded burnout).

From this clarity and insight, I developed unconventional frameworks that catalyzed reorienting my life. It both harnesses and amplifies my biggest strengths while turning my weaknesses into valuable assets I could leverage for further growth and success.

2010 marked a big turning point in my life. After years of burning the candle at both ends, I made the terrifying decision to put my core values first. I needed to reevaluate what was important in my life, the role I wanted to play as a leader in this world, and how I wanted to feel — mind, body, and soul.

The foundation of this change was a fundamental lifestyle shift in 2004, during which I discovered the yogic path and a more mindful way of living. It laid the groundwork that began to fundamentally change my perspective on life, and with it, my priorities.

I acted fearlessly on my desire to immerse myself in the study of different spiritual modalities and metaphysical principles. To do so, I had to lighten my load and rid myself of worldly responsibilities and possessions. I gave up my apartment and everything I owned so I could study with teachers all around the world, freely and without interruption.

It was simultaneously the most enriching and challenging time in my life. I explored radical new ways of thinking. The fact is, you can retrain your brain to simply see things differently. To do this, I sat in ashrams and monasteries, and I visited many holy sites. I learned ‘the art of living’ from eccentric beings, enlightened Gurus, and very controversial teachers leading unconventional lives whom I met along my path.

All of these experiences and people have inspired me along my way to do what I do, transform along the way to best suit my journey, and keep me going.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

To be honest, there was not one single person who came into my life and gave me all the answers or helped me up the ladder. As I mentioned previously, I have always been my own leader, but of course, there have been people who I’ve encountered through work who have inspired me or helped me to remain passionate in my journey and my calling.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Oh man, here’s a good one for you…

I had just joined MediaRadar and we were trying to get our first customers while establishing our product and finding our market fit. It was in 2008 and we were experiencing a recession which made it even harder to get anyone to respond to us. So we got creative in the emails we crafted and the ways we reached out to our networks. One of those emails was very bold and funny. I only sent it out of frustration thinking I had nothing to lose since all I was hearing back was the echo of my own voice. Not to mention, we had already exhausted our networks for introductions.

Well, it worked. The person replied expressing he was amused as well as interested in how our database can save him time and money in the middle of a recession.

I meant to forward this to the co-founder to brag a little that it got a response from a customer and I accidentally hit ‘reply.’

I froze. I potentially lost the only prospect I had all week even willing to talk to me.

Luckily, he thought that was even funnier than the original message and scheduled a meeting with me right away. Sometimes it pays to goof. He officially became my first client for MediaRadar after our meeting and we remain personal friends to this day.

Lesson learned: Be bold, be authentic, be real. People like it.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Dare to care, get to know yourself, and take the time to decide what you really want. Go see the world. Let this challenge inspire you. Make your path physically, mentally, and emotionally feel aligned with your ultimate purpose.

I took such an unconventional path that was in part shaped by mistakes, missteps, sometimes good judgment, and also occasional unfortunate events. It would be impossible to step into my footsteps and I hope for anyone’s sake, they don’t try. Everyone has their own path.

Life can look great when we get to the other side. I dared greatly and often paid the price for it with massive fallouts. It was a rollercoaster of entrepreneurship for a long time but that helped to make me resilient and nimble.

I prioritize adventures, both personal and professional above all because it’s part of my DNA and my core values. I would encourage anyone young person to get in touch with their core values and go discover themselves first. It’s well worth investing in unconventional education and thinking. You will develop a competitive edge out of it that will lead you to unthinkable opportunities.

On a final note, trust your gut above all else. Our body has its own innate wisdom. When we have to make imperfect decisions go within and listen to see what your gut has to say. I promise you can find what you are looking for. It’s not always the loudest voice, but it’s what feels true in every cell of your body. Spend the time to develop it and learn to hear its whisper.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I would have to say all of Brene Brown’s books have had the most impact on my life and my work. From “Dare Greatly” to “Rising Strong” to “Gift of Imperfection” to “Dare to Lead,” her work has always been a positive influence on my performance.

Brown’s insight was distinct and present when I needed to learn how to fail forward and that perfection was never the ultimate goal. Her work helped me dare to pursue my path and it helped me rise again after every misstep and mistake I made. Her work even helped me overcome the repercussions of colossal failures without shutting down or losing myself in false expectations of myself and others.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.” — Rumi

Life is complex, it is not black and white or wrong and right. Being ‘right’ about something really doesn’t get you anywhere in life and admitting that can save your relationships, both personal and professional.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

All I can say is that my clients are absolutely amazing and it would be a breach of confidentiality if I told you about them.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Good habits are necessary for good leadership. They are vital to the overall health of yourself and your company. Training your brain to automatically conduct good habits is not about hitting the mark every time. It’s not about having perfect results. It’s about being consistent in your efforts and continuing to be present in those habits.

In my life, I practice mental fitness. Mental fitness is when I tune inward before speaking outward or interacting with anyone in my day-to-day. Mental fitness helps me start my day by grounding myself while raising my awareness of the stimuli around me. It elevates my state of mind and allows me to be less affected by life’s passing dramas throughout the day such as a simple frustration, an email drenched with bad news, or dealing with poor communication. This simple practice has helped me to overcome day-to-day stressors without passing them along to others.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

One of the most important habits in my life is the practice of being present. Remaining present in a moment allows me to pause before taking action. This ensures that I remember my values, even in times of tension, and can meet every challenge with an appropriate response.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The first step to developing good habits is to take a look “under the hood” of your day-to-day life. Look at your tribe. The people surrounding you are the ones who influence your energy level, your motivation, and your emotional state.

These people can also model good habits that you will want to integrate into your life. Use their presence in your life to empower you to make positive changes and eliminate negative energy from all aspects of your life.

When adopting new habits, remember to be gentle with yourself. Habits do not need to be perfect from the start. It is a journey. Allow yourself to ease into a new habit and ease out of old ones.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

To optimize wellness in all areas, one needs to develop a moment-to-moment state of awareness in which to practice unbiased and honest reflection. I aim to live a healthy, highly-effective life and this requires me to have the ability to stay present. Paying attention is one of the most vital habits you can adopt in your life. Whether you are eating or spending time with a loved one, there’s more to be gained out of every moment than you can imagine, but you need to be paying attention! Appreciate what is in front of you and take mental snapshots. That’s the stuff you want to collect in your memory bank, instead of renting it to yesterday’s regrets or worries about the future.

Another habit I would recommend is becoming a master of time and energy. First, schedule and prioritize your time, then begin to apply yourself toward achieving your goals. Divide the process of achieving each goal into a set of achievable tasks. Then take the time to celebrate completing each task. A systematic approach allows for constant feelings of accomplishment throughout the process; it will also decrease feeling overwhelmed, self-conscious, or negative.

Finally, start seeing opportunities in obstacles. Stress is not a bad thing…in moderation! Small amounts of stress actually prepare your body for situations that require increased stamina or alertness, but the trick is to maintain balance. If you see obstacles only as negatives, a chain reaction of secondary emotions will ensue. Stress can herald an onslaught of snowballs, including anger, resentment, frustration, and depression.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

I have come up with a variety of tricks to develop and keep those practices and they include meditation, diet, exercise, supplements, sleep, and mental fitness.

The purpose of meditation is not to relax the mind, but to quiet the mind. It’s a practice of noticing your thought processes without attachment or judgment and observing the mind without expecting a change to occur. A quiet mind allows you to tap into your intuition, creativity, and energy and develop a newfound enthusiasm for life.

Benefits of meditation over time include decreased stress, a better quality of sleep, increased energy, a stronger immune system, and overall health. Not to mention an increased sense of happiness.

I found my way to meditation through yoga asana. The physical practice of yoga prepped my body to sit still for extended periods of time. Today I am a huge fan of Kundalini Yoga, as it leaves me feeling relaxed and uplifted with a razor-sharp mind. I also am a huge fan of the app Headspace and Insight Timer for starting a meditation practice.

To improve your vitality you must improve your diet, I recommend eating an anti-inflammatory diet, limiting as much sugar as possible, eating fresh foods, avoiding caffeine, eliminating trans fats and fried foods, avoiding pasteurized dairy, avoiding aspartame, and staying away from junk food. All of the food you put into your body affects your mood, your sleep, and your overall well-being, so choose wisely.

To further develop good habits, moving your body is key. You can think of exercise as meditation in motion. If you want to get out of your head, get in motion. Breaking a sweat each day increases your overall health and sense of well-being. It is uplifting, elevating, and offers some direct stress-busting benefits, while increasing focus.

I am a big fan of supporting my body and mind with products from nature. I recommend the following supplements:

Triphala: an Ayurvedic blend that effectively balances the elements of the lymph, blood, muscle, fat, nerves, bones, and sexual vitality.

Turmeric: Powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal agent.

Magnesium: Old home remedy for all that ails you, including anxiety, apathy, depression, headaches, insecurity, irritability, restlessness. Stress depletes our magnesium levels as well as other vital minerals like zinc.

Maca: Known to balance your hormones. It affects endurance, fertility, libido, depression, and menopause.

Lavender: Helps to calm your stomach, mind, and skin. I swear by my doTERRA TriEase oils. They help with the slightest bit of anxiety and give me the best sleep I’ve ever had.

Other herbs that deeply nourish and strengthen your nervous system are ginkgo, Brahmi, mucuna, ashwagandha, Gotu kola, kava, lemon balm, and Rhodiola. Try finding some blends that work best for you.

When looking to solidify good habits, it’s wise to consider the quality of sleep that you’re getting every night. I love using my eye mask, earplugs, and TriEase combo (as mentioned above) to get deep sleep in any situation (especially when I travel).

How many hours do you need to feel fully rested? Most people need around eight hours of sleep. Try finding ways to improve the quality of your sleep. You may need a better mattress or pillow. Consider sleeping arrangements with your partner and pets. Try taking a hot shower before bed and making yourself a nice cup of tea. Avoid watching TV before sleeping and limit electronics in your bedroom. Maybe even meditate with your partner before bed. Arianna Huffington gave a great TED talk about how to succeed by getting more sleep.

Finally, take some serious action and rigorously eliminate the biggest stressors from your life. Avoid negative self-talk and instead, try being kind to yourself. Through meditation and self-observation, you can learn to acknowledge your thoughts without judgment, and subsequently strengthen your mind. This will also give you the clarity and ability to discern which situations to avoid so you can excel in life. You will be able to repel stress and set more achievable goals without losing your sense of calm and sanity in the process. You can then learn the underlying causes of when and why stress affects you in the first place. Therapy, coaching, acupuncture, and a healthy social environment and can greatly support you on this journey.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Doing something every day, at the same time, in the same way, is much easier than doing it infrequently. Allow yourself to be imperfect while doing it. It is more important that you do it. However, this does not mean you bring your D-game all the time, try your best but respect your limitations.

Establish a personal practice of meditation, intention-setting (or mindfulness), some form of exercise (or whatever you want it to be). Don’t let others break your routine. Instead, invite them to participate. Don’t get rigid about it. Switch up the routine without breaking the discipline. Remain flexible by creating a manageable framework in which you can grow.

Don’t expect yourself to be present all the time. Just show up for yourself every day. Give up the ‘no time’ excuse. Everyone has 5 minutes. The question is — are you willing to commit?

Those habits are easier said than done. I have a little inner sloth (just like everyone) that does not always want to comply. Here is how I deal with that:

When I did not want to sit and meditate, I started teaching a meditation class.

When I did not ‘feel like’ doing yoga, I started teaching it.

When I did not want to do my daily affirmations, I started writing daily inspirations for others.

When I did not want to talk about wholehearted leadership and the future of work, I built a business around it.

My point is to create hooks that keep you engaged, committed, and accountable. Your ego’s need to look good is most likely stronger than your inner sloth.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Reclaim your morning and seize the day for optimal performance. Having a “morning routine” allows me to be my best version of myself. Here is what I do to jumpstart my day:

  1. Ignore my phone, laptop, and all gadgets until after breakfast
  2. Drink an 8oz. glass of warm water with lemon.
  3. Take a hot shower.
  4. Eat a healthy protein-based, low-sugar, breakfast.
  5. Feed my mind with a personal development book, a motivational video, or light and positive music while sipping green tea.
  6. Set an intention for the day.
  7. Practice joy and gratitude.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each

The first piece of advice I would give is to learn something new. Challenging your brain regularly creates new connections between neurons. This is called neuroplasticity. As you age and settle into routines, this brain activity deteriorates which reflects on its ability to form new memories or recall old ones. Try to feed your brain with new information. It can be a new skill, an unfamiliar word, or maybe learn a new language.

Be sure to speak up more. This Is one of the simplest tricks to memory retention. Researchers indicate that words become more ‘distinct in long-term memory’ which is really what remembering is all about.

Also, it’s important to avoid multitasking. Not only is multitasking ineffective, but it also promotes mindlessness. The brain can perform more than one task at once, but your focus will be divided. This affects its ability to pay close attention to important details that you may need to remember later on. Practice mindfulness instead even when it’s just for something as trivial as where you put your keys.

These three habits work most days for me. However, there is no such thing as perfection. I still lose my balance, my temper, and myself more often than I care to mention. I can still find myself completely lost. I can be lost in my thoughts, lost somewhere in the world, and lost in my emotional landscape. And guess what? I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

We all need clarity and healthy boundaries to structure our lives and stay focused on what is most important. Boundaries keep us from straying from our priorities so we can say, “Yes” without resentment and “No” without regret. We live in a very busy world. Like many people I know, I always want to maximize my time and my experiences. I want to live a full life, so I don’t have any time to waste.

Unfortunately, I frequently catch myself complicating this process. I often try to add way too many things to my day, in an attempt to enhance my experience and elevate my mood. However, the result is the opposite: I don’t enjoy the experiences and get cranky along the way. Simplicity is the key for me. If I don’t work on slowing down and making very conscious and well-thought-out decisions, I end up running around lost in my own chaos.

This commitment to simplicity includes communicating clearly with people around me regarding what I need, what my boundaries are, and the time commitments I can make. I base these decisions on my values, and I try not to act out of a false sense of obligation. Everything I do aligns with who I am, where I want to go, and what I want to experience. When I stick to my gut instincts and appropriately communicate my boundaries, I create space for myself. I am no longer at the mercy of the world, constantly overwhelmed and running out of time.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

For me, yoga and some form of cardio, and meditation are the pregames to heightened focus and a flow state. It’s different for everyone and it’s not that challenging to find. It’s a commitment to healthy habits that overwrite that inner sloth and allow us to not only feel high on life but also feel that we are highly productive.

My sense of flow and freedom comes from discipline around the habits I know work for me including getting enough sleep, hydrating, meditating, exercising, taking breaks, knowing my high flow states (mine are 10–2 pm and 5–8 pm), and eating a healthy diet to support my brain.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to keep building the future leaders of this world. It’s imperative that business leaders work towards the greater good, create products and services that are catering to the changing needs of the planet and the people on it. We have to step up our game if we want to keep this planet and allow all species in this ecosystem to thrive. Driving economic change with better leadership and decision-making is the way into a new future.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Brene Brown, hands-down. To be honest, I just want to hang out with her.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Go to my website and subscribe to my newsletter You can also catch me on Instagram (@silviachristmann).

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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