A Word on Mental Health

The Navajo Way of Business: Beauty, Balance and Goodness

By Michael Kimmel

One of the things I love doing is helping people start new businesses. I consider it more coaching than psychotherapy – they overlap, but are quite different. 

Last month I went on vacation and spent a fair amount of time in the Navajo Nation, specifically, Northeast Arizona/Northwest New Mexico. I am not a Navajo, but, I was very impressed by what I read about the Navajo Way of Business. 

During my time in the Navajo Nation, I picked up a local newspaper that had an article discussing the Navajo Way of Business in great detail. I would like to summarize and share what I learned in a way that can be useful for you as you begin your new year, whether you want to start a new business, a new relationship or anything else that’s new in 2024. (Note: this summary is my own interpretation. If I got something wrong, I apologize in advance).

The article I read talked about “Indigenizing Western constructs, models and frameworks by replacing them with Navajo ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies.” Whoa, that’s a mouthful. Let me try to clarify that: “the Navajo life goal is Hozho and the way to achieve it is Sa’ah, Haaghai, Bi’keh ahd Hozhoom”, which translates into “the path of life leading to old age.” 

The Navajo Way of Business has four major components:

  • Thinking (Nit’saha’kees)
  • Planning (Nahata)
  • Implementing (Iina)
  • Evaluation (Siihisin)

These ideas make sense for most of us. They are logical steps in starting something new. We spend a lot of time Thinking about what we want – our own business, a new home, new ways of relating to other people. 

Then comes Planning: once we know what we want, how will we get there? We usually talk to other people to get outside knowledge and information so we won’t make the same mistakes that they did, and we can follow their path to success. 

Implementing means that we take action: our work goes from internal to external. This is the stage that’s most obvious to other people. 

Finally, comes Evaluation: how is it going? Do we need to adjust some parts of our Plan? In my work with clients, I ask them: “What worked well?”, “What didn’t work so well?” and “What would you like to change going forward?”

For Navajo entrepreneurs, the goal of a business is Beauty, Balance and Goodness, not the Western version of profit or increased market share. I was blown away when I read that. Those are their business goals? 


Imagine a world where the goals of business are Beauty, Balance and Goodness? It’s hard to conceptualize, isn’t it? A world where anything you do – work, family, leisure time – is based on these three goals. 

A world of Beauty – it could be inner beauty, external beauty, a beautiful friendship, a beautiful personality. The possibilities are infinite. Since Beauty is such an individual interpretation, it gives each of us the ability to make our lives more Beautiful in ways that are meaningful to us. And we can share that beauty with others.

Balance – talking about work/life balance is more popular than ever, and that’s a good thing. We don’t want to devote ourselves exclusively to work and miss out on the rest of life. On the other hand, when you launch something new, it usually takes a lot of time and effort at the beginning. How to Balance that out with leisure time and being with your family and friends?

Goodness – When is the last time you heard that as a business goal? I looked up the word to see how it was defined: kindness, honesty, peace and harmony. Imagine if that was one of your primary business goals? If all businesses were run on that principle, what a different world this would be. 

As you begin your new year, and think about new projects, work or businesses you’d like to start, I invite you to use the Navajo Way of Business as a guide. By replacing Western constructs, models and frameworks with Navajo Ways of Business, you can invite Beauty, Balance and Goodness into your life, and watch what happens.

Photo caption: Jenn Harper CEO & Founder of Cheekbone Beauty (courtesy image)