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In everything we do, we can feel lit up and feel meaning ... or we can feel a sense of obligation, victimhood, discouragement. The difference is how we're relating to what we're doing — in an empowered or disempowered way.

In this episode, Leo looks at how to create a new, empowered relationship to your purpose project.

Topics Covered

  • The concept of empowered versus disempowered relationships with one's projects and work
  • Empowered relationships involve feeling excited, lit up, and capable, while disempowered relationships are marked by fear, resistance, and self-doubt
  • How to examine their disempowered feelings and identify fears such as being judged, inadequate, or embarrassed
  • Examples of empowering contexts, including play, service, leadership, art, love, compassion, wonder, adventure, and curiosity, to help shift the relationship with one's projects
  • How to choose an empowering context and practice it consistently
  • The need for continuous practice and self-compassion when transitioning from a disempowered to an empowered relationship
  • How Leo is applying an empowered relationship to his project — working on his grandmother's book


Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Pabauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Hello, my friends, listeners, and watchers, if you're on YouTube. And if you are on YouTube, you're treated. To a special treat, which is that I've got my flower, blue flower shirt on. So this is one of my favorite shirts. It reminds me of the tropics. So welcome, glad to be here with you. In this episode, what I'd like to take a look at is the way that we're relating to our project and putting ourselves out there.

And whether that is empowered or disempowered. And so this is a distinction I didn't create. My coach my coach is Adam Quiney, an incredible coach. So he has worked with me for a couple years now, two or three years now. And one of the things that we worked on is what is the relationship that we have to things, whether it's empowered or disempowered.

So I love this distinction because it's really allowed me to access a lot more empowerment in my own life, but also in the work that I do with clients and now here in this podcast. So thank you, Adam, for this distinction. And I don't think he invented it either, but it's a really useful one in this work.

So the way that we're relating to our project. And to putting our work out there. So for example, if you're like, I'm going to record a podcast or write my memoir, the writing and the recording is one activity, and that's something that we might have a relationship to. So for example, I'm relating to recording the podcast as, Oh, this is like really hard and scary.

And I don't know if I want to do it. And it's a great place for me to prove how I suck at everything. Right. So you can see that that's how I'm relating to the recording of the podcast, and it's not very empowered. Empowered is when I'm feeling like, Oh, I can do this. I feel lit up. I'm excited about it.

I'm feeling like there's something powerful in it for me. I'm feeling like taking it on. This is how you can tell if you're feeling empowered. If you're feeling like resisting it and not wanting to do it, there is a way you're relating to it that is disempowered. And this is not good versus bad, or you're suck.

So that's, that's not the distinction here that we're making. We're just simply noticing which one we're in and we're always in one or the other in lots of different places. So maybe I'm relating to my, you know, to my kids in a very empowered way, but with my spouse in a very disempowered way, you know, to how, how we're.

How our relationship is going. Maybe my fitness, I'm very empowered right now, but my eating, I'm feeling very disempowered maybe with the way that I am with social media, I'm feeling disempowered the way that I'm with email disempowered the way I am with finances, super empowered. So the, you can see there's, and it might even in those areas, you can break it down to different ways you're relating to different pieces of it.

So, for example, in the podcast, Recording the podcast is one thing, but putting it out into the world might be another. So maybe I'm like, Oh, I love recording this. I'm going to pretend that it's just for me and just talk to myself and have a lot of fun and, you know, just play with it or create, create my art.

But then putting it out there in the world, it feels dangerous. It feels like I am going to be judged or I'm just putting more stuff out into a bunch of noise. So just adding to the noise or just a drop in the ocean of something that doesn't really matter. So there's like pointlessness. And so if that's how we're relating to putting our stuff out there, then maybe recording it, we have a really empowered relationship, but putting it out into the world, we're feeling disempowered.

So we just notice. So we're humans and we have both in a lot of different places. So when we're feeling disempowered about something, what we can do is just take a look at it. Like, how am I relating to it? Is there a way where I'm afraid that by doing this, I'm going to be, you know, sucky in some way? So, you know, I mentioned it's just going to be a drop in the ocean or just adding to the noise.

That's one. Another is maybe I'm afraid, I'm not sure if I can do it really well, and so I'm going to be inadequate if I do it really, like, really badly. Maybe I'm worried about embarrassing myself, shaming myself, looking like an idiot looking incompetent is another big one. Letting others down is another big one.

Being seen as inauthentic if you put your work out there into the world. Being seen as greedy if you ask for money. These are some of the fears that we have. that cause us to feel disempowered about whatever we're doing. If we notice that, we can start to like, Oh, what's the fear that I have about this?

And could I bring some love to it? And the breath and some of the stuff that we talked about in the last episode around focus sessions and fear. So if you haven't watched that episode or listened to that episode, go back and watch that or listen to it. It's episode four of season one. So go back and check that out.

It's required. We talked about focus sessions, but we also talked about how to work with the fears that come up. And so as we feel disempowered about our project or some aspect of the project, we can just notice, Oh, I'm feeling disempowered. I'm not feeling like I really want to do this. I want to put it off.

I don't, I'm not feeling like so great about it. I'm feeling a lot of resistance. So I might look at how am I relating to it? Ah, I'm relating to some kind of place to be seen as crappy. It's hard to distinguish this for ourselves, and so if you'd like some coaching around this, I do one on one coaching, and I also work with people in my Fearless Mastery program, so you can come into either of those, that kind of work that I do.

But, you know, whatever, hire a coach, get someone to help you to distinguish this for yourself. But even if you don't, The way I would suggest working with it, with your project that you're working with this season, is just notice. Not feeling super empowered about it. And then from there, we can start to create something more empowering.

What's a view of the project that feels more empowered? So for example, if I'm worried that this podcast is going to make me feel really crappy, what's a way To relate to the podcast that makes me feel lit up and feel powerful. So, Oh, this podcast is a way for me to feel play. And I just get to press record, jump on and start playing.

So that lights me up. And so I like that. That's actually what I do is I press record. I have a topic in mind. I've thought about it, but I don't have it scripted out. I just press record and I get to just play by talking with you. So that's one. Context is play that really lights me up, but for you, maybe it's something else.

So, I'll give you a few more to check out, and then you might find another one for yourself. So, this is a way for me to serve others. So, if I record this podcast and it helps you in your life, I'm serving you. So, this is a service. This is a way for me to serve. As opposed to, I'm going to look crappy. Well, you know, you can look crappy sometimes when you serve people.

the end of the world because how you look is not the focus. You get to serve and sometimes that will come with you falling on your face and embarrassing yourself, but you're still of service. Even in the embarrassment, can you serve? If I fall on my face and I look like an idiot, which I do sometimes, absolutely.

How do I find service in that place? So by owning that I look like an idiot, maybe I'm opening you to, freeing you to being an idiot sometimes as well, to own and embrace your inner idiot. And that way, no matter what happens, I can use it as service, in the way of relating to this podcast as serving. So I had play, I had service.

Leadership, how do I lead others into new possibility or into the work that really helps them? So I can think of this podcast as me taking leadership, not only in my life and creating what I want to create, but leading you into something that's meaningful for you. So leadership is another way to relate to it.

Art is another one that I really like because art doesn't have to be done. Right. You don't have to look perfect. You don't have to be competent or smart to create art. You just create from the place of. I want to just freaking create finger paint all over the walls is the kind of attitude. It doesn't have to look any certain way.

Art is just what you want to express in this moment, just the expression of who you are. And that's not going to be the same in the next moment. The next expression of who you are is going to be different. And so you just keep expressing yourself over and over. So that's an empowering context for me.

What else? Are there any others that you might think of? So I invite you to like play with this. Allow yourself to generate some other ideas. Love is another one that's really powerful for me. So I can show up with my full heart and just love as I create this podcast or write my memoir, bring my full love to this.

And love is bigger than my fear of being wrong or looking like a Embarrassing idiot. So these are some things that I think can light, light people up. Definitely light, light me up. Compassion is another one for me. Wonder is another way to relate to something with full wonder. Like, wow, look at me stepping into the unknown and look at the courage that I'm bringing and I can just have wonder for me.

And then wonder for the process of creating something and just being like, wow, this is really incredible. There's something really beautiful about the process of creating in the unknown. So wonder is another one. Another I like is adventure. You're just on an adventure. Adventures are messy. Adventures don't have to be done right.

Curiosity is another great one. So you get to pick one of these. And just try it. Don't try all of them at once. So, that's not usually the best way. And then, what you want to do is write it down somewhere. How are you going to remember? Put it on the lock screen of your phone. Send yourself an email so that it's in your inbox.

Post a post it note onto your computer. Have it, you know, taped to your bathroom mirror. So that you are practicing. This new relationship, this empowered relationship to your project or to some part of your project, like putting it out there or reaching out to people. Ah, if I reach out to people, I'm going to be a burden to them.

That's disempowered. We can change that too. If I reach out to people, you know, I get to connect and just really enjoy that connection. That's an empowered relationship connection. Or I get to be curious about them. That's something that's amazing. Or I get to lead them, leadership. I get to serve them. I get to love them.

So you choose one of these, and then if that's your blocker is calling people, reaching out to them, then you can create a new empowered relationship. And what you have to do is practice it. It's not going to come for free. It's not going to be easy. You have to be willing to practice, even when The old fears show up and you want to feel disempowered about it.

And if you get stuck in the disempowered and you can't practice the empowered relationship, just bring some love to that place. Or if you're practicing curiosity, bring some curiosity. If you're practicing compassion. Bring compassion. If you're practicing connection, connect to the disempowered feeling.

Just really love that feeling. Be connected to it. Bring curiosity. These are some amazing things that we can do to our old way of being, which is the disempowered way. So when I show up for this podcast, I'm feeling disempowered. I can be sitting here in this slump, like, Oh, it's pointless. And then I can bring love to that pointlessness and just be with that.

And then at some point I can remind myself there's another opportunity to practice bringing love into the podcast, if that's what I'm practicing. And then I just choose into that. And I practice. And then I get that wrong and I feel disempowered and I come back. And eventually we start to create a new way and our default starts to shift.

So that I feel more and more lit up by it. And I bring more and more of this empowered relationship to the thing that I really want to create. And we can start to bring that out more and more into the world, not just here in my focus session, but as I talk to people about it, as I start to share it with people, as I start to connect with people, as I start to relate to whatever it is that I'm doing around this.

Okay. That's what I've got for you today. Let's see. From here... I'd like to invite you to keep practicing. So, I'm practicing with that as well. So, I'll give you an example. My grandmother's book. So, I've brought this up. This is the project that I'm working on. So, I've set up some focus sessions and I noticed that the way that I relate to it is like, well, it just feels like a slog.

So, I just feel like a slog and I have to like move through this and there's a lot of things that I don't know yet and I have to kind of figure it out and all these little details. And you can hear in my voice as I talk about this, it's a disempowered relationship. A slog and a burden and a bunch of details that I don't really want to, you know, it feels really overly complicated and overwhelming.

And so when I notice this, I can start to practice, create a new empowered relationship and bring the love that I have from my grandmother and my bigger family into this book. So it's not a slog, but this is an act of love to be working with all of the notes that I have and starting to create. So this is what I'm working with.

And I encourage you to continue with the commitment that you've made. Continue with your focus sessions, continue with your accountability, and then practice the empowered relationship that you're creating as you continue with all of that structure, as you continue to create. And then email me. Podcast at Let me know number one, what you're noticing number two, what you're creating from that. Are you creating a new empowered relationship? Number three, and you don't have to send all of these to me, but one of these, at least, you know, where are you really getting stuck? Do you have any questions for me?

Do you have a real struggle here that I haven't addressed? So that I can address this on future episodes. I would actually really love to do a Q& A episode. So if you write in to me, podcast at zenhabits. net, I will get that email. I will look at it, I will add it to my list of questions, and then I get to answer them.

If you want to share your story, and what you're creating, what your project is, and how that's going, and why you're excited about it, what's your inspiration, I can also share those stories. Yeah, if you... Don't want it to be shared publicly. Just want to share it with me privately. Just let me know that too.

So you're like, please don't share this publicly, but here's my story. So podcast at zenhabits. net. Write to me. I would love, love, love to hear from you. It would be a huge gift to me. I love your questions. I would love your struggles. I would love what you're creating. I would love to hear your stories.

If you'd like to come on and get coached and be a volunteer to be coached live with me, we can jump on a video call and record it. And that would be a future podcast episode as well. Volunteer to be coached. If you'd like some coaching. Okay, I'm going to let you go from here. We've got more beautiful episodes coming up.

I am really looking forward to it. I will share with you also how my grandmother's book is going, so that's my project. I'd love to hear from you about yours. Thank you all for listening. Sending you all some beautiful Leo love out into the podcast sphere, whatever you want to call it out into the YouTube world.

Come watch me on YouTube as well. Official Zen Habits is the YouTube channel. And thank you for listening. Thank you for being a part of this. Thank you for practicing. Thank you for bringing your gift. Into the world. It's a gift to me to be collaborating with you on that by everybody.

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast and your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone, you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected]. Thanks for listening. And I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen habits podcast.

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Intro music composition: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz