What is an Inspiration Deck? And why did I create one?

“A 21-day kickstart”, “A 6-week bootcamp”, “A year-long immersion” – do these phrases sound familiar?  Whether you are a student, a fitness or yoga lover or are flirting with the idea of going on a diet, it is very common to be told to do “some-thing” every day for a period of time.  This is also advise we receive from our doctors, priests and parents!

Have you ever wondered what happens when you do something EVERY DAY for a period of time?  Why not every alternate day?  Why not whenever you feel it or when you can make time for it?  There is a deep science behind this age-old wisdom.  When we do something every single day, we move that action in our brain from the pre-frontal cortex to the basal ganglia in the centre – in plain words, it goes from being a decision or a thought to being a habit.

As an example, in the beginning, going to the gym is something I process as a thought and so I might do it and I might not do it.  After going to the gym every day for a while, it becomes automatic or a habit.  It is like eating lunch for most people – we somehow make time to do it!  I personally prefer the word discipline over habit – and you can use this process of doing something every day for a designated period of time to create discipline in any area of your life.  Stephen Covey states that 21 days is enough to get you there – my own experience suggests that some of us might need more time especially when we want live a discipline against old patterns and conditioning!  Even the brightest of my clients sometimes were stuck with their inability to establish a discipline.  I felt very helpless because I could not find a tool to help them that was gentle, fun & focussed on growth & awareness rather than imposing or intimidating!

So, a few years back, I created an Inspiration Deck.  It is a simple way to “train your brain” in discipline.  The Deck can be used as a daily inspiration tool – in a easy to use, visually gorgeous format!  Each day, you choose a new card from the deck, enjoy the beautiful photo & quote and follow the short (20 minutes of less mostly) awareness activity at the back.  You can pin the card of the day in a place where you can see it – your computer screen, your mirror or the fridge door!  There are several ways to use the Deck depending on your own preference so it gives you options and some variety.

Over time, I have received feedback from so many clients & friends who have used this system.  Each person had a difference experience to share – what was common is that they felt the bliss of a daily practice that they could then re-create again and again in different areas of their lives!

All photographs used in the Deck are copyright property of Sushil Chikane

Also, read the adventures of my friend Shalini Baisiwala as she was inspired by the Deck for 30 days and blogged about it with great insight

Here it is…the secret sauce to making your vision a reality!

The basis of most leadership conversations, in fact even personal growth conversations, is having a vision.  Whether it is our life, our wellness, our company or even a cause that we passionately pursue, it is vital that we can see how we want it to look in its most successful avatar, at the peak, in the end.  Once we have that vision – clear & detailed, coloured & textured, so real that we can taste it – in front of us, the next step is goal setting.  What do we need to do to get there?

And you will agree – that is where most visions splutter, get stuck between first & second gear & even run out of juice!  Today I have the secret sauce that can help you stay the course.

Normally, once we have a vision we keep our eyes on that vision.  Yes?  Everyday we are looking at where we want to be in the end.  What if we shifted our vision from out there at the vision to right here…at our feet.  Huh you say?  Feet?  Yes, our feet.  Once you have the vision clear, drop your gaze!  Focus JUST on the step you need to take right now.

Not earth shattering yet?  Keep reading…when you take the first step towards your vision (your goal), of course you move a step closer.  That step in the right direction then not only motivates you, it shifts your environment.  That first step now attracts the people, events, things that you need to make the second step.  So in that sense, the second step is easier to take.  And then if you still don’t lose focus and keep looking at…yes you guessed it….your feet, the second step will attract even more synergy.  Now, you will find people & situations actually “co-creating” your vision.  And if you still keep your focus…do you see where this is leading?

The secret sauce is that every step gets you closer, makes you more motivated AND makes your environment more supportive.  So each step brings you closer to your vision with more momentum till finally you are just riding a wave, or driving with cruise control.

So what is your work?  Have a clear vision – Understand the steps that you need to take to reach your vision – And then focus on each step, step by step.  That my friends is the secret sauce.  And now you have it too!

Why should I go on a retreat?

There are many people who sit up with interest just at the sound of the word retreat.  And then there are others who always wonder what the fuss is all about…having participated in countless retreats and having hosted my fair share too, I want to take a shot at answering that question: Why a retreat?

Let us begin at the beginning:  the word retreat means “a place of seclusion to relax and rest”.  However the origin of the word comes from the Latin word retrahere or pull back.  And in its truest sense, a retreat is a time to “pull back” – pull back from your daily life, your routines, your relationships and your commitments.  It is a time to just have a reflect on your life – gain perspective!

To help you to reflect, a retreat is designed in a specific way.  Its location is quiet, beautiful and in nature.  Someone else prepares and serves you delicious meals and makes sure you have clean sheets & towels.  And finally, the retreat includes a structure – to support reflection and insight.  This structure might be a combination of a yoga class, a nature walk, a hike, a meditation session, cooking lessons or vision boarding & colouring.

When your body is rested, your mind is free of daily preoccupations, there is an opening for your soul to speak.  In the physical & mental silence of a retreat, you finally hear the voice of your heart, the language of your inner self.  You are clearly able to see what is essential in your life journey and what you are ready to let go.  So the retreat becomes a vehicle to gain clarity.  In corporate terms, it is like a quarterly review of the business.  You are able to see where you are now, where you want to go & what you need to do to get there!

It is my experience that like businesses, we too need a quarterly review of our lives.  And pressing the pause button, take a weekend off in retreat allows us to bounce back refreshed & with a greater sense of purpose!  So what are you waiting for…find yourself a retreat today!

…then Alice said Wel-come!


On Saturday, I went to see a friend at her workplace and she introduced me to a new team member. Without missing a beat, I turned to Aarti (that was her name) and said: Wel-come!  And Aarti took this deep breath and said: Thank you!

A month ago, I would not have said that word.  And were someone else to say it, I would not have expected Aarti to be so grateful!  What changed?  Well, I met Alice…Alice Waweru to be precise.  Still not making much sense?  Let me back up a bit.

In late May, I was honoured to be invited to co-facilitate at a Women’s Leadership event in Ghana.  The incredible experience of that event deserves another post of its own – suffice to say it was (what do young people say these days) epic!  And one of the highlights was meeting Alice – one of my fellow facilitators.  Now, Alice is a beautiful woman and has many talents – what touched my heart was that she would say: Wel-come to each person who walked into the same room or space as her.  And the word welcome was said in 2 explicit syllables with a pause so that it really got heard by the person.

When she noticed that I was very intrigued by this practice, she found me in a quiet minute and said:

You know when someone walks into a space these days, every body is preoccupied, either on their devices or with their own thoughts.  I make it a point to say Wel-come slowly so that they can arrive and feel included.  

WOW!!!  What a beautiful reach-out and how simple!  Over the next days, I noticed that even when it became a bit of a laugh, each person who received her word of welcome truly felt acknowledged and seen. And for us facilitators, it is safe to say we even began to miss it when Alice was not around.

Now, fast forward to Saturday and Aarti…do you see it now?  I learned from Alice and I welcomed her almost automatically.  And…I truly feel Aarti finally arrived into her new space and new assignment.

So Alice…Thank you!

Leading by example

(By Ankita Misra)



I am no admirer of any political party in India.  However, Arvind Kejriwal, the national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party has really captured my imagination like no other leader.  He is someone who took on the task of defeating an age old government.  His campaign to have the Central RTI Act passed, which incidentally fetched him the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent leadership in 2006, highlighted his urge to do something for increasing the accountability of our public servants.  This common man shot to fame with his anti-corruption movement led by the veteran Anna Hazare.
There is a particular streak of common sense that he has shown in his leadership style which is extremely rare.  Corruption is probably India’s biggest menace – he has rightly identified that and in turn he is identified by that all across India. His quest on defeating corruption in India which stands in the way of progress and economic development speaks highly of his leadership skills.

Well lastly I have no hesitation in saying that Arvind Kejriwal has what it takes, the good morals and skills of exceptional leadership like Gandhi and Lincoln of convincing the people to do the right thing.  This is in contrast to the poor leadership qualities and greed of achieving personal selfish goals exhibited by most politicians.  In my opinion, the most appropriate quote that fits this discussion is the one by Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing”.

Learning from Nature

By Ankita Misra


Being an Environment and Development Student, it is natural that I feel for the natural world.  In today’s time and age kids hardly learn anything from nature. I might be partially wrong but I have no worries about being partially correct. No outdoors and therefore no healthy learning! It’s a world of an ever increasing use of gadgets and therefore in numerous risks. Not only do they have health hazards from their electromagnetic radiations but the notion that it takes ample amount of unnecessary time of your life away from your natural surroundings.

The simple natural phenomenon of transforming sunlight into food, by a leaf in the natural world is invisible and yet we take it for granted the wonders nature can do over and over again. This sets a model for our ability to achieve anything. Leadership is only a mental block. Having the courage to do the impossible is not difficult. Another interesting example is to learn from Ants. They are efficient and teach us a lot about leadership. Research finds that, Ants are highly social creatures. They have only one common motive and that is survival, they embrace change and work in a team. We as humans should approach work and communications naturally. This right common intent (just like the ants) can drive any organization in a needed direction.

Being in nature sparks fantastic, important, creative work from people such as philosophers, artists, etc., but it can also offer lessons for basic living.   For instance, how to be healthy, how to be calm, and how to find balance. By simply taking the time to appreciate nature some very important life lessons can be learnt as it serves as a magnificent classroom.


Courage to Lead

(By Ankita Misra)


According to me, Courage is nothing but stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you have never done before or taking accountability of your own actions (example of being courageous). Without getting too philosophical, it merely goes to say that the more you do that the more you step into your learning zone.

When you step out of your comfort zone, you feel the discomfort of doing something that is either new or still a learning for you. Like learning to ride a bike or drive a car, it takes practice. The more you do it, the more skilled you become until eventually it becomes something that is in your comfort zone.

Start by believing in yourself. I’m sure there are some situations where you are courageous or have been in the past. Children are often courageous. They ask bold questions, do what they think and feel is right in every moment. They don’t worry about what might happen.

As for leadership, it is a practice. For instance, Olympic athletes don’t hope to get a gold medal just by turning up on that same day. Similarly with leadership, you need to practise and fine tune your leadership capabilities. That requires courage to stay when it’s uncomfortable and not easy, in the hope that what you are doing matters and makes a difference. If it doesn’t matter, then have the courage to stop wasting your time and energy on it and do something else instead!
Eventually you become effective as a leader only when you step into your danger zone when you’re courageous so you know where your boundary lies.

Why does Leadership begin with Personal Growth?


Our most common idea of a Leader is someone who stands higher than us, somehow directing our collective destinies with little or no regard for our opinion.   He or she is someone “special”, someone we have bestowed  with special powers and rights.

Learning and participating in Leadership work actually dispels that myth!  Leadership has nothing to do with managing, controlling or “playing god” to others.  It is all about growing and transforming ourselves so we can lead authentic lives – lives that reflect our inner truth.  And as we lead these authentic lives, our hard work, passion and compassion begins to inspire others too.  This inspiration, this magnetic pull – which is the by-product of our actions, thoughts and feelings – is Leadership.

So how can a true Leader not continuously invest in his or her own growth and transformation?  Tell me what you think…