Make it fun!

One of the first sounds of my day today was an excited screaming voice memo from a client who is now credit card debt free. I was as excited as she was and it made me pause and think…

Paying off debt isn’t fun for most people.

Yes. Paying off debt isn’t fun. Most people wouldn’t consider the run I went on this morning fun either.

But my rule is to make it fun! In my book, Put Your Big Girl Panties On, I specifically talk about this with your workout. The most important rule is that you enjoy it. If you don’t, you won’t stick to it and it can have negative effects for your fitness. I even talk about ways to make laundry fun. It’s just the way I think.

Deciding to have fun is a choice. It’s an action. You can make anything fun. Likewise, in your mind, you can decide you’re not going to have fun. And then you know what? You don’t have any fun.

If you can look at it through a different lens, you can purposefully turn up the fun. Many times we think that AFTER we finish something, that’s the time we can have fun. But you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to wait UNTIL you’re debt free to have fun. You don’t have to wait UNTIL you’ve lost weight to have fun. You don’t have to wait UNTIL your home is in order to have fun. You don’t have to wait UNTIL the semester is over to have fun.

What we want is a life where we have fun DURING THE JOURNEY. Everytime you pay off a little debt, do a little dance, make a little love and get down that night. Every workout, play your favorite music, dress in cute clothes and do an activity you love. Every meal you eat, have something that makes you smile for it’s natural goodness. Celebrate every shelf or drawer you organize and make pretty. Go to Starbucks or the beach to study, get pretty highlighters and notebooks. Do whatever you can do to make the JOURNEY fun.

It’s kind of like how I got a glass of wine on the airplane on the way to Las Vegas. This was going to be my first vacation with my husband alone since having kids. In fact, it was going to be my first vacation ever. And my first time in Vegas. I didn’t have to wait until I got there to have fun. NOPE. I settled in that seat, ordered the wine and had SO much fun for an hour.

It’s also the way I coach. We’re going to make this fun. Whatever it is, you’re going to enjoy it. You’re going to enjoy our time together and you’ll even enjoy the task at hand. Life is too short to not have fun!

So, here is your challenge:

I want you to think this thought & act out the answer today at least three times:

How can I make this more fun?

So, you’re doing laundry: How can I make this more fun?

You’re cooking dinner: How can I make this more fun?

You’re driving home from work: How can I make this more fun?

You’re doing taxes: How can I make this more fun?

I have a reminder set on my phone that asks this very question every morning at 10am. Here are some ways I make things more fun:

  • Friends
  • Sunshine
  • Get organized
  • Lists (I’m a nerd)
  • Racing/Challenging myself/others
  • Talk on the phone with a friend while __
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Countdown calendar/timer
  • Make it more beautiful
  • Dancing
  • Track progress
  • Celebrate success

How about you? What can you do to make things more fun today? Trust me, you deserve it!

Take Your Brain to the Mental Gym

Like any muscle in the body, your brain grows stronger as you use it. That’s the concept of the mental gym which suggests you treat a “brain workout” as seriously as you would a workout at the gym. That means employing the same intensity, discipline and the same process of stepping outside your comfort zone to get results. Two practical ways you can do this is to intentionally put good stuff in and to intentionally practice being quiet.

Click here to download my free mental gym workout planner!

Our brains are bombarded with information these days, constantly. More than ever before. Unfortunately, most of it is noise or it’s negative. You have to make the conscious decision to put in good stuff. On purpose. What kind of good stuff? Well, there’s all kinds of choices out there from good music to podcasts to audiobooks that you can get in while driving, working out or even folding laundry. 

I remember the first time I considered reading a personal development book “for fun.” I remember rolling my eyes thinking, I don’t even read for fun, let alone for “development.” Mom of three and running two part time businesses! No way Jose. So, I decided to listen to those books instead. I did that while driving the 11 hour drive to see my parents and I did it while setting up for workouts. I did it while doing dishes and I did it while folding laundry. As you might have guessed, I got pretty addicted. It was pretty incredible. It required me to think and question things I’d had on autopilot. It was a way better use of my time than many of the other things I’d been doing or listening to. It set me up to be a better mom, wife, coach and simply a better human. It certainly built the brain muscle.

Then there are these things that usually come in rectangular shapes and are stuffed with rectangular pieces of paper that have lines of ink printed across them. Books! I say that in a funny way because as adulting sets in, reading can be one of the first things to go. And yet, reading is by far one of the oldest and best ways to exercise your brain. After doing the mental work to improve myself and my brain, I suddenly found space in my life to read again. Which was great because while listening is good, reading has that awesome textile element. I like feeling the pages. It also forces you to indulge in some you time, and it probably has to be quiet. Which brings me to my next point.

Click here to download my free mental gym workout planner!

Make it a point to be quiet sometimes. Personally, I have to get up really early in the morning or go to the library to get that around here. I do that because getting quiet, specifically praying and meditating are habits both the most successful and the the most happy people have in common. If you consider Grammys to be a measure of success, then you’d consider Carrie Underwood a success.34 If you consider Superbowls to be a measure of success, then you’d consider Tom Brady successful.35 If you consider wealth to be a measure of success, then you’d consider Mark Zuckerberg to be successful.36 If you consider Oprah successful, then you’re human.37 They’ve all spoken about their daily habits of praying and/or meditating. It’s not a coincidence.

Scientists have an entire field called neurotheology that looks into the changes in our brains when we pray and meditate. And they’ve made a lot of cool findings like increased dopamine and serotonin levels (happy hormones!).38 BUT! They’ve also found that these can develop into permanent changes in your brain.39 Guys! That’s a mental workout, and those changes are the muscles you’re proud to show off now! Moreover, we know that prayer elicits the opposite of the stress response called the relaxation response.40 Most of us have way too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

Thinking it’s a good idea is one thing, doing it is another. Personally, I like to begin the day with time at the mental gym. I like to start the day with prayer and silence for as long as possible. That’s why I get up at 4:30 or 5 am sometimes! Beginning your day quiet, with gratitude and intention is a game changer. Likewise, meditation is simply taking the time to calm your mind and become inwardly focussed. That’s huge in today’s crazy, chaotic, rushed and zoned out world. To change the mindset, to truly change the way we think and believe and speak and see ourselves, we have to work for it. You have to work to get your mind right.

Lean into the hard

Let’s flashback to November 2015. I was 8 months pregnant. I knew my husband was leaving for a year in two months. I’d accepted my fate, in my mind, with a sort of honorable stoicism.

Imagine my surprise when I was in church for a sermon called “Surviving vs. Thriving.” The remember the graphic from the series well. It was a tree that had two sides. On one side, the tree was dead. It had no leaves, showed no signs of life. On the other, the tree was thirving. It was growing, vibrant with new leaves.

That tree hit home. You see, I’d given up on the next year already. I figured we’d claw through, the three kids and I, but it wouldn’t be anything special. It would be a dead season. This sermon reminded me that I’m only promised a few years, and precious fewer with my kids at home. At that moment, I made up my mind that we would grow and thrive just like the right side of that tree.

Fast forward a month and I had a new baby. My parents had to rush over after my Grandma’s round of chemo ended to be with me since my husband was out of town. Then they left to go help another one of my grandparents whose health was failing.

Fast forward another month and my husband was gone, I had three kiddos (one brand new) and I’d lost one grandparent. I looked around and realized that it was up to me. For the first time, I realized I was truly on my own. I’ve been clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety so I knew if I gave into despair it wouldn’t end well.

This was the moment. The moment I really decided to put my big girl panties on. I decided the hard work that lay in front of me was mine and mine alone. I was going to have to tackle each hurdle. I could no longer look the other way or hope something would change or that some day I’d feel motivated.

I decided to live on a budget and cut my credit cards up. I decided to finally lose the weight. I decided to try a brand new approach for my threenager so I could be the parent I wanted to be, not the yelling, frustrated mess I was. I decided to get my home in complete order. I decided to reset my relationship boundaries.

So many things. I decided. They were all hard. They were all separate battles I took head on. With each little win, I did develop confidence for the next one. I did figure out I could solve my own problems and I could overcome.

I leaned into the hard. I decided to stop pushing away discomfort or pain. Eventually I realized those things would lead me to great reward and great growth. It’s kind of like a workout. During the workout, it’s a lot of work, a lot of energy expended. But the result is totally worth it, both immediate and long term. It did take a lot of work and a lot of mental change, but the process made me a better person daily and when I got “final” results.

After I went through those battles, I decided to start helping other women do the same. I realized that the same problems I’d had was what they were facing too. I realized that we all needed a healthy dose of Put Your Big Girl Panties On. It didn’t matter the woman, the circumstances, the lifestyle, the income…we’re all fighting the same battles. So, I wrote a book about them.

If you’re interested, please head on over to Amazon to purchase a copy. I’ve walked step by step through these different areas and how to Put Your Big Girl Panties On.

Decision Anxiety

One of the biggest problems we face is the mental battle we have inside that I call decision anxiety. Decision anxiety involves the agonizing amount of time we spend going back and forth before we make a decision as well as the post-decision making time in which we worry if we made the right decision or, worse yet, we double back on that decision.

It’s a form of self-torture we put ourselves and our brains through. And we can’t even blame others for it. It’s self-inflicted! Fortunately, there is a cure for this particular anxiety. First, go with your gut. In one study, scientists found that participants chose correctly 90 percent of the time when they went with their first instinct between two choices. That was based on math and it was fast. And still their instincts were right. Just like on a multiple choice test, when you go back and second guess your decisions in life you will probably erase the right choice and replace it with the wrong one.

It’s important to note that listening to your gut is different than people pleasing. Sometimes we make decisions based on other people’s desires in order to be polite or even help someone else. That is not your gut instinct. So, if we can recognize when we’re making decisions based on other people’s needs rather than our own, that will help us to stop making decisions we regret. Don’t say yes to the thing you’re going to regret later. In this way, you stop decision anxiety before it can even creep in.

Some good news about making a decision is that you have tools afterward. Once you make a decision, resolve to make it the right decision. Put your energy toward making that decision a good one rather than using your energy thinking about what ifs or regret. The way to do that is to focus on the good. What good things came or will come out of this decision? Focus on those.

Make the decision the right one by making it the right one. For example, when I bought a double jogging stroller for $500 it was tempting to have buyer’s remorse. I know my husband did. Instead of focusing on that though, I decided to get so much use out of it that we’d all know it had been a smart purchase. So I did. I used it almost everyday for my two girls and took up running my oldest to preschool. It allowed us time to be outside, and be together. It was the right decision. I made it so!

Another tool to becoming a good decision maker is to give yourself permission to course correct. We’re not living in a land of only rainbows and butterflies, so it’s obvious that sometimes things might not workout. Sometimes, a big ol’ iceberg shows up in your path. That is okay. Now you just course correct. Now that you’ve actually made a decision, you can adapt and be flexible as you carry it out. Allowing for course correction making frees you from paralyzation that comes from not being able to make a decision. It allows for movement forward, for progress, for action. 

For example, let’s say you decided to go for a run. Hooray, good for you! Sometimes, that’s a big decision, am I right? But now it’s raining. That’s okay. Course correcting means you just decide to get a little wet or you decide to run on a treadmill. You can even veer around that iceberg in your path and do a short cardio-based workout in your home. 

So, remember to go with your gut. Remember, that’s not a people-pleasing or knee-jerk reaction. Then, be sure to focus on the good and to make it the right decision. Finally, look for ways to course correct when something seems like it’s going to steer you off your decision’s track. If you apply these concepts to your decision making, you’ll go from having decision anxiety to decision confidence. 

You know I’ve got a free tool for you. Download this worksheet and keep it hand for the next time you have a decision to make.

The above is also a shortened excerpt from my book, Put Your Big Girl Panties On. Pick up a copy today!

Be the river, not the rock

Be the river, not the rock. It’s one of my favorite sayings. It’s one of my favorite things to coach on. But, what does it mean?

When it comes to any part of our lives (relationships, schedules, changes, etc.), we can choose to be the river or the rock.

The river flows around the hard rock. The river is loosey-goosey. It keeps moving in the same direction, undeterred by immoveable, stubborn obstacles or objects. It finds a way. It breezes by, over, around or underneath. The river yields to the rock.

The rock, on the other hand, is unmoving. It’s stubborn. It’s hard. It’s stuck. It refuses to give. It stays put and watches the river flow right by.

In our lives this can look like “going with the flow” in social settings. It can look like shrugging off changes and things we can’t control. It can look like being mobile, spontaneous and creative to help individual or team efforts.

Or it can look like being rigid and refusing to give up ground in an argument. It can look like “my way or the highway.” It can look like only sticking to the predetermined course of action. It can look like refusing to try something new, to change or to develop other ideas. It can look like “sticking to your guns” even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

Clearly we want to be the river. Being the river is much easier. It actually takes less effort to be light and go around than it does to stay stuck and entrenched and unmoving. That’s hard work.

In the end, the river eventually cuts through the rock anyway. Slowly but surely. So, stick with the way of the river.

Alone time

What if real solitude is the answer to all of our anxiety and depression problems?

What if it really was that simple?

You’re never alone. You’ve got a million voices in your pocket or hand right now. Yes, we’re blaming the phone again (boring!). The phone keeps us constantly engaged, whether we realize it or not. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver the satisfaction we desire. No, it doesn’t leave us feeling refreshed, rejuvenated or even rested.

But it’s not just the phones. According to best selling author & professor Cal Newport:

The human brain requires regular periods of “solitude” in which it is alone with its own thoughts and observing the world around it.

When are you alone with your own thoughts? Not often. Most likely, you’re either never alone or alone with other peoples thoughts. Others people’s thoughts come from your kids, your coworkers, your Netflix and your Facebook.

Solitude is time you can recharge. It’s time your brain can rest and process. Most of us don’t have any practice of being alone with our own thoughts…even our sleep has been invaded by technology!

Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression rates are up in every age group. NO WONDER! We’re running around trying to meet all the demands and needs of others. Running on empty or false pleasures. Then we check out with some tv or some candy crush. I told my client yesterday: of course she was anxious. Looking at the circumstances she was under, you’d be abnormal not to be anxious. Her brain, and your brain, isn’t getting rest and it isn’t being heard.

Yes, your brain isn’t being heard. One of the reasons life coaching (what I do) and journaling are increasing in popularity is because it’s giving us time and space to use our own brains again and to get our thoughts out of our heads. It seems like there is no time or space for that anymore. Am I right?

But your brain is like a supercomputer! It can solve your problems. It comes up with really creative ideas. Deep inside your own brain are your complex emotions and desires that are desperate to be recognized. We’re just not giving it the time and space it needs.

And I know many folks share this problem. So what is the solution?

What if it really was that hard?

Several years ago I tried taking a bath without a book or without my phone. I was given the challenge of five minutes. Even though I get lots of time to myself, this was tough! I couldn’t believe how tough it was. My mind was addicted to input!

Incorporating time into your day where you can think and process your own thoughts while simultaneously shutting out other input is so important. I challenge you to give yourself space to process. Time to deal and cope and dream and solve. Free from every other influence.

Now, this is easier said than done for most of you. Your schedule is busy, your phone is always in your hand and your kids are always pulling on you. Do it anyway. Carve out at least five minutes to begin your solitude practice. Interestingly enough, solitude does not mean a hike into the mountains alone. Not necessary! Check out what Cal Newport has to say:

You can find solitude in a busy train car or a coffee shop, or wherever. I am slightly nervous about this re-definition (it seems to me that being truly alone has a ton of value), but I am also attracted to this idea that you don’t necessarily have to be alone to be with your thoughts, you just have to be free from input.

How can you do that? Here are five ways to get started this weekend:

  • A 10 minute walk without your phone or headphones.
  • Take a bath without anything to read or do.
  • Stretch for five minutes first thing in the morning. No lights, no sounds. Just you: quiet, alone & stretching.
  • Fill a page with your thoughts each day. Even if you can’t think of anything, just write “I can’t think of anything. This is dumb.” It’ll get easier. Do it alone, maybe in the car at the beginning of soccer practice or before you head into the office. You can do it alone with your first cup of coffee. This is called a brain dump or though download and it will be a total game changer.
  • Find a place to watch the sunset or sunrise. It doesn’t have to be the beach (that would be bonus points). It can be your backyard or it can be a nearby park. Check the time of the sunset. Then get alone and take in the beauty!

With all of these practices, you will need to schedule it on your calendar and you’ll need to let those who are in your life know it’s what is happening. Set the expectation. And perhaps encourage them to do the same. I’m giving you permission to take time to be alone. Your brain requires it. It’s OKAY. It’s allowed. It’s necessary.

Comment below which practice you’re going to try or what you’re already doing!

Stop feeling bad about feeling bad

Sometimes, stuff is hard. Sometimes stuff sucks. Sometimes, we feel bad. We’re human and this is the human experience.

There is good and bad in the world, we know this. There is joy and there is pain. We seem to get this on the macro level. But when it comes to the micro, the day-to-day, we get lost and seem to think we should be happy all the time.

But, kids get sick, people disappoint, cars breakdown. It’s impossible to be happy all the time. Well, unless you’re psychopath with no feelings. You should feel bad when bad things happen. It’s okay.

But nope. We’ve been sold the lie that we can and should be happy all the time. So then, when we’re NOT happy we think we’ve done something wrong or, worse, that we are something wrong. As in, there’s something wrong with us.

There’s not, you’re human. Sometimes things don’t feel happy and that’s okay. Yet, because we believe we should be happy all the time we do things like eat and drink and Netflix to avoid those negative emotions.

Then guess what happens? We feel bad that we felt bad and we feel bad that we did the avoidance behavior. We might also find ourselves feeling anxious about our anxiety or depressed about our depression. So now, we’re feeling bad about feeling bad about feeling bad. It’s a vicious cycle.

Instead, what if you just accepted that sometimes you feel bad? And those feelings aren’t awesome, but they’re human. And they give beautiful contrast to the good times, don’t they? You can’t know joy without knowing pain. You can’t know good if you don’t know bad.

So, at the very least, please stop feeling bad about feeling bad. It’s compounding your pain and your problems.

At the very most, if you need help dealing with negative emotions or the resulting behaviors, you can hire a coach (me) to help you work through it. Click the work with me button up top.

Real Self Care

Self care is often proselytized about as bubble baths and manicures. Those definitions work to a certain extent. Really, though, self care is taking care of yourself. The deep work of self care is taking care of yourself by doing the things that you fight resistance about.

Between you and any goal or ideal version of yourself you want to achieve you will find resistance. If all of our depression, anxiety, debt, clutter, obesity and addictions are any sign, we are all battling resistance.

When we overcome resistance, it’s a deep form of self care.

For example, let’s say you want to lose weight but you can’t get yourself to workout. That’s resistance. That’s not taking care of yourself. That’s not honoring your commitment to yourself and the version of you you’re striving to become. Taking care of yourself, self care, means doing that workout.

Maybe you want to want to get out of debt but you find yourself struggling to sit down and create a budget. That’s resistance. You might go take a bubble bath to avoid the budget, but that’s not self care. Self care is showing up for yourself. Doing what you need to do. ANYWAY. Regardless of the resistance.

In fact, use resistance to guide you on self care. If you find yourself resisting going to apologize to your spouse, recognize why. Improving your relationship is actually taking care of yourself. Allowing negative emotion and habits to win isn’t. Right? If you find yourself avoiding the gym or avoiding creating a meal plan or avoiding organizing a closet, recognize the resistance. Then take care of yourself.

Outsmart your brain & Ask better questions

Your brain is super smart. Like really really smart. Your brain is capable of solving your problems. If you ask your brain a question or to solve your problem, it will do it! We just have to give it the time and space as well as the right questions.

We’re also going to practice the idea of curiosity over criticism. If you’re constantly criticizing yourself and asking bad questions, you’re keeping yourself in a negative loop that will not allow you to get the results you seek. You cannot get a positive result from a negative method. If your method is negative, you will continue to produce negative results in your life. If instead, you choose to be kind, curious and compassionate with yourself, you will give yourself the space you need to answer your questions and solve your problems. So, let’s look at a few more examples of questions.

Why is my house always a mess?

My brain would probably answer, “Because you’re lazy.” Is that what your brain said too? How is that helpful brain? Sheesh. You see, when we ask these types of questions we open the door for self-shaming, don’t we? What’s more, it’s just not true. I bet you’re go, go, going and do, do, doing. Lazy people don’t do that. You’re not lazy. You’re probably just busy and behind and you don’t have a system that is working, am I right?

  • How can I make chores easier?
  • How can I make things easier to put away?
  • What would it feel like to have a well-kept home?
  • What needs to happen for me to have a tidy home?
  • Who can help me get my home in order? (Shameless plug for me here, but also your family)

Why am I always out of money?

I think my brain would answer this like, “Because you spend it as soon as you get it, DUH!” Like, my brain would not be nice even though I’ve trained it better. Instead, I can carefully craft the question to prompt more helpful responses. These responses inspire action. They give you some ownership and call you to action, don’t they?

  • What am I spending my money on?
  • Where exactly is my money going each paycheck?
  • How can I increase my income?
  • How would more money help me?
  • Why do I need more money?

Why can’t I lose weight?

Even if you answer this question rationally and not in a critical way, it still doesn’t help. Watch: Because I eat too much and I don’t workout enough. Okay, great. That may be part of the problem, but there is no inherent solution. Our best questions provide solutions not shame or more problems.

  • What would need to happen for me to lose weight?
  • Why do I want to lose weight?
  • How can I make losing weight easy? Fun?
  • How can I be happy and lose weight?

Now, I want you to get out a piece of paper and think about what goal you’re working on right now, or even something that is bothering you. Write down some good questions you can ask. Then answer them if you can. But, if you can’t don’t worry. Your brain will work on it. Don’t be surprised if you have an epiphany while you’re at the store tomorrow or when you wake up this weekend. Your brain will be working on answering your questions and solving your problems.

If you’d like some help with these areas, click the work with me button top right and we can schedule a coaching session. You don’t have to walk through the battle alone, I’m here to guide, coach, listen and support! ❤

It’s Monday Again

I bet you read that headline like Eeyore:

Yeah, it’s Monday. Again.

But I wrote it like

Yay! It’s Monday again!!!

You see, I love Mondays. They’re a chance to reset. They’re a chance to get it right!

The weekends can sometimes mean doing things that weren’t on the plan we have to become the person we want to be. Maybe that means relationally, maybe that means nutritionally or maybe that means laundryally. Whatever it means for you, Monday is your chance!

You see, all it takes to be “back on track” is ONE day. All it takes to be the kind of person you want to be is ONE day. Do you want to be a healthy person? Make healthy choices today. Boom. You’re a healthy person.  Do you want to be the kind of person who doesn’t battle the lingering laundry monster? Finish that laundry today. Boom, you’re the kind of person who has clean clothes put away.

Yes, it only takes one day but Monday is special. That’s because it sets the tone of the week. If you make some great choices today, you’re setting up some positive momentum for the week. There is something very human about a starting and stopping point. Humans respond better to tasks and actions when they have a clear starting point and a clear ending point. The work week, for most of us, is just that. If we don’t start making these great decisions today, we’re much less likely to start on Tuesday.

The other reason Monday works so well is because you probably are at least partly refreshed and ready to tackle some of these decisions thanks to the weekend. I mean that both emotionally and physically. I am recharged after relaxing so getting to work it easy! I am carb-loaded because of pizza so running is easier. 😉

Okay, so how can you be back on track today? Is it in your finances? Is it in your home organization? Is it fitness? Nutrition? Mindset? Parenting?

Determine two things you’ll do today that will get you “back on track.” I believe in you. I believe you’re the kind of person you want to be. Now act like it! 😉

Happy Monday!