Knowing that my status as an empty-nester was inevitable, I spent this past year experimenting, both in life and in business, to try and figure out what my life will look like after kids – if there is such a thing.
I spent time walking 10,000 steps a day, attempted yoga positions no 53-year-old should attempt, and forced myself to get enough sleep. Okay, let’s be real, nobody had to force me to spend more time bed.
I also tried eating vegan, paleo and everything in between. I eliminated sugar, tried (unsuccessfully) to give up cream in my coffee, and saved my beloved pasta for special occasions.
In my business … I embraced live video, tried my voice at podcasting and launched and tested several products.
What I learned
What I found during this year of experimentation is
1. Life is too short to give up things you love.
2. I can talk. A lot. And even though I became comfortable talking on camera, I still prefer to ramble via text.
3. I love helping business owners find and share their stories.
4. And finally, and maybe the most important, I love food and I want to eat it. All of it.
Now, that I have all this data and my nest is empty, the time has come to figure out my next chapter.
If you know me at all, you have probably heard me talk non-stop about travel, adventure, and becoming a nomad. That yearning is still strong within me.
In many conversations with Way and the boys, we came to the decision that 2018 would be the year that Way and I follow the sun.
The boys have their own plans, as grown children should and will be joining us along the way as their schedule permits.
What I’m Doing About It
With that decision made, the next logical question is what does that mean for my business and some of the other things I learned?
1. Way and I started working out together six days a week.
Have you seen him? Have you seen him eat? I want to be more like Way.
Truthfully, I’m not even sure how I can muster the movement in my fingers to write this just two days into my new workout routine because I am so sore. It will get better, won’t it?
2. I’m hoping lifting weights, yoga and regular walking (possible even running on a beach somewhere), will reward me with the ability to eat what I want, when I want it – within reason, of course.
3. And finally, and here’s the big one … I can officially announce that I sold my marketing business, so I can concentrate on doing what I like to do and what I do best – write.
I realized I really missed personal blogging. I’ve been so busy creating content for my business and for other people’s business, that my personal thoughts often took a back seat.
That changes now primarily because I need the therapy! So expect more personal blogging as I adventure through life.
Initially, I was planning on taking December and January off, but when I started to put feelers out there for potential freelance writing work, my December quickly booked up with projects. It feels good to be needed.
The Journey Continues
I will admit that I struggled with this decision of selling my business because I love teaching small business owners how to use their story. But the reality is a client-based business when you are traveling can be a bit challenging.
And I’m a workaholic. It’s true. I could work all day every day because I love what I do. But what’s the point of living a life of adventure if you aren’t going to enjoy it?
When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work. Answering questions, strategizing, and working through roadblocks is fun for me, but it’s not as much fun for my family. It’s not in my DNA to step away when someone needs help. So, I’m sort of forcing myself to do so.
To keep my hand in the better brand story niche, I will continue to write my weekly Storyletter (which happens to be some of my best advice) and I will turn my signature courses and content in digital downloads creating a story library of sorts.
Basically, while I’m going somewhere, I’m not really going anywhere.
What’s the Plan
Now you might be wondering where we’re headed. My parents are wondering the same thing. So here are our plans (at least as I write this).
1. We will be in Flagstaff through the end of January. But our relationship with Flagstaff won’t end. You can expect to see us in town later summer.
2. In February, we will be spending the month in San Diego helping Way’s mom begin the arduous process of cleaning out her house. Living in a house for 50+ years provides plenty of opportunities to hoard.
3. In March, look for us in Mexico – somewhere. There are so many great choices that I’m suffering from decision fatigue.
And that’s about all we have right now. The type A, planner in me wants it all laid out, but the new, nomadic me wants to see where life takes us. I seem to be spending an excessive amount of time on the Nomad List – I may be obsessed.
And as most things with my family, everything is subject to change until the tickets are purchased.
You may think I am a bit overdramatic, but I’m not.
A study from UC Santa Barbara suggests that thinking too much about something leads to poor judgement and decision-making. And poor judgement and decisions, can be harmful and even lethal in some situations.
Here’s a personal example. When I was about ten-years-old, I was trying to teach my brother how to skateboard. Normally, skateboarding is just something you do, right? You don’t have to think too much about it just do it. But while I was teaching my brother about it, I was thinking about all the things you had to do to get power, to turn, to stop, etc. I was concentrating so hard on the steps that I ran into a tree and sprained my ankle. So, it’s true I didn’t die but you can see where thinking too much can be harmful to your health.
Overthinking, especially when our moods affect our thoughts, impacts our normal functions. That’s bad, in case you’re wondering.
It’s why our inner dialogue is so important to our thought process. Think about it (pun intended). Thinking things like “I’m not good enough” or “nothing ever goes my way” is painful, and it keeps us thinking about the bad stuff instead of just doing what we need to do.
Here are some common negative thought patterns to be aware of:
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Any thought pattern that is based on extremes can signify trouble. If not succeeding translates into failure, then it is time to question your thoughts and reframe them into finding the lesson.
2. Jumping to Conclusions
Assuming the worst without the facts, is a classic example of being in a negative thought pattern. Questioning your thoughts can help interrupt these patterns. In most cases, your worries and fears are unfounded, and you end up worrying for nothing.
3. Emotional Reasoning
Feelings are treated as facts in your mind, rather than perceptions that change over time. For example, feelings of guilt mean you’re a terrible person and being afraid of something means you’re in real danger. That is why it is important to understand and work through your feelings.
4. Should Statements
You feel disappointed, guilty, frustrated or angry when things don’t go the way you had hoped or expected. Self-talk commonly includes words such as should, must, have to and ought to. In addition to having unrealistic expectations for yourself, you demand a lot from others and get upset when they fall short. I should have done … will get you nowhere. Tackle “should” statements by working on the things you can change and accepting the rest.
You blame yourself for results that are out of your control. You make the failure lack of results about you instead of about the action that caused the results. Focus on actions and behaviors and what you can change instead of focusing on yourself or any person for that matter.
I often talk about the importance of asking questions when we start to engage in this kind of unhealthy thinking. It’s really important to question them, figure out what it’s trying to tell us and move out of that thinking and back to the task at hand.
The Conscious Pause and Mindful Breathing are two exercises that helps us to be more mindful of our thoughts and more importantly our responses to what is happening at the moment. You can get them here.
I wanted to share with you something I wrote not too long ago for the Happier Life Challenge:
As I sat down to write this lesson, I spent a few minutes looking around my desk and office and focused in on some details. I realized I have some space on my vision board, that my bookshelves need some dusting, that my computer screen could be cleaner, the pine trees are beautiful outside my window, I really love that picture of my husband, and my desk is actually clean at the moment.
Now I want you to do the same thing I did just a few minutes ago. Take a second. Look around your environment. Look at the texture of your roof, look at the color of your computer cords, look at the light on your computer. Notice the details. Go ahead, take a look. What’s around you? Congratulations, you just brought yourself back into your current reality.
Now, you might argue that you were already here, and you are right – at least physically. But what about mentally? And if mentally, your mind is wandering in a million directions, like mine often does, and it isn’t really present, then can you consider yourself present in your reality?
When we bring our mind back into the present, it will help to disarm the power of negative and unhealthy thoughts and overthinking in general. When you start to recognize overthinking and unhealthy thought patterns, take the time to breathe and bring yourself back to now.
Unhealthy thinking is part of life. It’s how we handle and move through that thinking that matters and affects our overall happiness.
Take the time to recognize the signs as they appear and then breath and pause your way to better thoughts. Take a look at this video [1:24] of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Oprah as they talk about how mindfulness can restore balance to your life.
Pretty good stuff, right? Download the free exercises to help get you on the right track with your thoughts and prevent overthinking things from killing you.
A little warning, this is long but it has a ton of valuable information.
By the time you are done, you will learn:
The #1 key to happiness – It will surprise you, I promise
Which is better – motivation or willpower
How to cultivate more willpower so you can achieve big things
Are you ready to get started?
THE KEY TO HAPPINESS
I found in reading over 70 books on the subject that there were several themes that all point back to living our best life. And how do we do that? By expressing the best version of ourselves in every moment.
Now I get that is a very vague instruction on how to be happy. And as I began to dig deeper, I found that the best version of ourselves is expressed through certain attitudes – twelve of them in fact. I like to call these the twelve attitudes of happiness and you can learn more about them and a specific action in a free download by clicking below.
Here’s the thing. When who we are and who we are capable of being match magic happens. It’s then that we experience joy, enthusiasm, confidence and yes, even happiness. Unfortunately, for many of us what we are capable of being and what we are actually being don’t match. And there’s a gap. That’s when regret, worry, and anxiety happens. The bigger the gap, the bigger the feelings of longing for something more. So what’s the key to happiness?
The key to happiness is closing the gap.
HOW TO GET THERE
Well, honestly all you are doing in moving yourself back to center. You might be decreasing the amount of negativity but are you increasing the positivity? For instance, you might see articles like 10 Ways to End Overwhelm, or The 5 Steps to Stop Negative Thoughts and these are great to stop something but then what?
To be happier, to build on the attitudes, you need to go from negative to neutral and then move the needle into the positive. In order to move the needle, we have to focus on doing our best stuff. We need to make excellence a standard. But how do we do that? Is it motivation? Is it desire? Is there an incentive? Sure all of those things matter but what we really need is willpower.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WILLPOWER
There is a lot of science that supports the importance of willpower in getting what we want. In fact, there is a study that says willpower outperforms IQ in predicting academic performance 2:1. That means it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you have willpower you have the ability to outperform those that don’t – no matter how smart they are.
The good news is you can cultivate willpower and it’s that willpower that builds on your 12 happiness attitudes that will then close the gap between what you are capable of being and what you are actually being.
Willpower is what you need to close the gap.
So if closing the gap is the key to happiness, willpower’s the lock waiting for the key to open the door to your best life.
MOTIVATION VS. WILLPOWER
Really, anytime you are getting ready to create change, you can either get motivated (increase your desire to take action) or use willpower (force yourself to take action). Now when you look at that statement, it seems as if motivation is the obvious choice but is it?
By now, you should know it’s not. Any kind of change requires repetition and consistency to make the change permanent, and when your action is dependent on summoning up the motivation through self-talk, rewards or the gentle nudging of a friend, you will eventually blow them off.
Motivation is not reliable because it’s based on how you feel, and we’ve known for centuries that human feelings are not predictable and are easily influenced by outside factors. Now, while I am all about feelings, when you know you want to make the change, feelings should be left out of it. Because the change process is hard. And we don’t like hard. Knowing that – the clear choice becomes willpower but there’s a reason you don’t hear a lot about it.
Willpower is less comfortable and politically incorrect. You are forcing yourself to do something after all. – it’s forcing you to do things – things that might not make you feel good in that moment but will make you feel great when it’s all said and done.
Another reason willpower gets a bad rap is that people tend to bite off more than they can chew. Goals that are too big, drain willpower. Even if the big goal is spread out over time, the brain gets overwhelmed because it recognizes the goal in its whole, not the steps you will take or the time you have allowed yourself to get there.
Keep in mind that your brain resists change. It’s designed to resist change. Lasting change only happens after a lot of repetition. And it’s our willpower that helps you do whatever it is over and over again.The thing is when you use your willpower to force the action, the results that come from that action often will motivate you to keep going.
We may all have been born with the capacity for willpower, but some of us use it more than others. People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers. They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer. When pit against other virtues, willpower comes out on top. Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence (take that, SATs), a stronger determinant of effective leadership than charisma (sorry, Tony Robbins), and more important for marital bliss than empathy (yes, the secret to lasting marriage may be learning how to keep your mouth shut). If we want to improve our lives, willpower is not a bad place to start.
Bottom line: Willpower is huge. It is also our ability to exhibit self-control. She goes on to say willpower is a response that comes from both the brain and the body.
The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, such as smoke a cigarette or supersize your lunch, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, like file your taxes or go to the gym, but you’d rather do nothing.
There is plenty more good stuff in her book if willpower is a topic of interest, and it should be if I can be so blunt, then check out her book. For now, it’s important that you know, you use your willpower every time you say no to something you want, every time you hold your tongue in an argument and every time you stay off Facebook during work.
The good news is willpower is like a muscle. When you use it too much it gets tired and can slow you down. And just like the muscles in your body, you can strengthen it so it will work more effectively for longer periods of time.
1. Manage Your Stress
Being under high levels of stress means that our body’s energy is used up in acting instinctively and making decisions based on short-term outcomes. Our willpower will lose the battle for energy when we are in stressful situations.
Mindful breathing can be a huge help to lessen our stress and in situations when we feel overwhelmed. Taking a few minutes to slow down and breath can help reduce anxiety and calm our frantic brains which will improve willpower. Here is a link to an article with some helpful mindful breathing exercises that will help slow everything down and not only reserve your willpower but build on it too.
2. Stay the Course
When things go wrong our initial reaction is to make some sort of change to make it better. Making spur of the moment change causes stress, forces us to make decisions that are not well thought out and has us questioning everything around us while reacting to less than ideal situations. This kind of pressure wrecks havoc on our willpower.
The best way to build more willpower is move from a reactionary state of mind to a proactive state of mind. And that happens through constant observation and planning. This isn’t to say you can never change, it just means prepare and plan for it. Don’t react to every challenge that pops up. Instead, take it in and make decisions when you are armed with all the information. And this leads into our next tip …
3. Don’t Force a Decision
Taking action and making decisions is a part of life. But sometimes, it is better to let the decision-making wait. The pressure to not only make a decision but make the right decision weighs on our ability to think clearly. Postponing something can be effective in making rational decisions.
In his book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister explains that people who tell themselves “not now, but later,” are generally less tormented by the thing they are trying to avoid. It might be because you don’t have all the information, you aren’t looking forward to something you know will be unpleasant or you are unsure if you are on the right path.
All that uncertainty wrecks havoc on our willpower and can end up affecting what you are trying to accomplish. Let the decision happen when it feels right and don’t rush it.
4. Honor Your Sleep
You might know about my love affair with sleep. Once I found it and honored, it really did change my view on the world. But I’m not the only one that thinks so, Kelly McGonigal also says getting enough sleep makes a big difference to the strength of our willpower.
Sleep deprivation (even just getting less than six hours a night) is a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the body and brain use energy. And you can’t have willpower without energy. And if you’re wondering how much sleep is enough, here’s a rough guide: one of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, Daniel Kripke, found in a recent study that “people who sleep between 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive”.
5. Exercise and Eat Better
Exercise and good food can boost willpower. Both relaxing, mindful exercise like yoga and intense physical training can provide these benefits though McGonigal points out that we’re not sure why this works yet. What you feed your body affects how much energy you have and you can’t make a change and tap into your willpower to get things done without it.
It can be as simple as more plant-based food, less processed food, and half your weight in water. Not only will exercise and good nutrition improve your willpower, but they’ll make you feel better as well. Exercise, in particular, is known for making us happy by releasing endorphins: These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.
Meditation has also been linked to increasing the reserve of willpower we have available, as well as improving attention, focus, stress management and self-awareness. McGonigal suggests it begins to work immediately. And it doesn’t take a lifetime of practice — brain changes have been observed after eight weeks of brief daily meditation training of as little as 5 minutes.
A great place to start is with the mindful breathing practices I mentioned earlier. So you can probably see some commonality in the tips I have included to build willpower. It’s all about lessening the load on our overworking brains. Take time to slow down and watch your willpower grow. Use your willpower actively: plan, commit, and do. Baumeister says,
People with low willpower,use it to get themselves out of crises. People with high willpower use it not to get themselves into crises.
You can’t make a change, take an action and you certainly can’t close the gap without it. To start strengthing your willpower do one thing today. Start with one of the twelve actions that support the 12 happiness attitudes you can find in your free download.
As you start whatever action you choose, use the tips I mentioned here to help keep your willpower working for you as you make the change. And remember to pay attention to how you feel along the way.
THIS IS FUNNY – WATCH IT!
Now it’s time to bring a little humor into this discussion So I have included a video down below that gives a wonderful visual to willpower. There’s a famous experiment that tests kid’s willpower using marshmallows. This is a really funny video of what it can look like. I am sure you can relate to some of their expressions.
Pretty cute, right? I know you can relate to the faces of torment that sometimes accompany willpower. I sure do. Honestly, some of those kids have way better willpower than I do.
Here’s the deal … Everything we do as women(sorry, men) begins with managing our inner critic.
Make no mistake about it, this is primarily a women’s issue. In fact according to the Harvard Business Review, men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only when they meet 100% of them.
And according to the research, the number one reason women don’t apply until they meet 100% of the qualifications is “they didn’t believe they would be hired and didn’t want to waste their time and energy.” Funny enough it had very little to do with their belief in their ability to do the job well.
What does this statistic say? It says that we, as women, are the ones holding us back. Not the glass ceiling, not the old-boys network, and certainly not our lack of skill, talent or intellect. It’s us and our inner critic.
I found a new respect for my inner critic from the book, Playing Big by Tara Mohr. If you want to do some work on yours, you really should check out the book.
What Is Our Inner Critic?
Well it’s that voice in our head that doubts are abilities. It’s self-doubt realized through the inner chatter in our head. It is so common and has been around for so long that we don’t even recognize it.
It’s a Black and White Thinker.
You are fat or skinny. You are smart or dumb. You are gorgeous or ugly. There is no room for grey – either you are or you aren’t.
It Pretends to Have Your Back.
It appears to have your best interest at heart when actually it is finding reasons why you won’t succeed. It is trying to prevent you from taking risk (and we all know – or at least we should know – that you get ahead when you take some risk). It is what is stopping you from applying for that job until you meet 100% of the qualifications because you won’t get hired.
It’s Often a Broken Record.
The inner critic almost always has a core narrative that you have been hearing over and over – probably for many years. I am sure you can hear it in your head as I speak.
It is Persistent.
It keeps coming at us, even when we know it isn’t rational, until we give the voice power.
One of the big challenges of the inner critic, is that it might appear to have our best interests at heart. Back to applying for that job, on the surface it seems sort of logical not to apply for a job where you don’t meet all the qualifications, right?
Inner Critic or Realistic Thinking?
Well, hopefully by now, you are starting to see fault with that thinking. So how do you know if it’s your Inner Critic or just realistic thinking?
In a nutshell, the inner critic makes assumptions, while realistic thinking asks questions.
The inner critic responds in all or nothing or black and white scenarios while realistic thinking finds the grey and explores it more.
The inner critic focuses on the problem while realistic thinking focuses on solutions.
It’s interesting that when I begin to talk about the inner critic, most women respond back to me in defense of theirs. I will hear:
My inner critic motivates me.
My inner critic makes sure I’m prepared.
My inner critic prevents me from failing.
And while these may be true, it is costing you. It is costing in terms of personal and professional growth, the quality of life and even your health.
Here’s another exercise that will help you understand your inner critic a bit better. It’s a journaling exercise that helps you to notice your inner critic by naming it. Start by writing down some of the common beliefs of your inner critic. Find the common theme of your inner critic’s voice by creating questions that are relevant to where you are right now. You can start by answering some of these questions. What does your inner critic say …
When you look in the mirror?
When you come up with a big idea?
When you want to speak a differing opinion on a topic that matters to you?
When you enter a room and don’t know anyone?
I will admit, I am not one that normally buys into the woo-woo stuff and I never used to put much importance on journaling. It took me a long time to understand the importance of writing. Which seems funny as someone who writes and teaches about happiness.
But naming my inner critic and becoming clear on its voice through journaling was extremely helpful to my inner dialogue.
By the way, mine is named Mrs. Kravitz. I may be dating myself here but do you remember the nosy neighbor on Bewitched?That is so my inner critic. She butts her nose in where it doesn’t belong and questions everything that isn’t the way she thinks it should be.
And it’s funny, when I started to put a face to my inner critic, I realized how pretentious and irrational it often is. So take the time to work through the exercise. You will be glad you did.
How to Deal with Your Inner Critic
It’s funny when I began to write this section, I immediately thought of my teenagers and immediately came to the conclusion that the inner critic (or at least mine) and my teenagers have a lot in common.
The first thing you need to do is recognize when your inner critic is speaking and acknowledge it. So when I hear my inner critic speaking, I literally say to myself. “I hear you, Mrs. Kravitz.” It actually brings a smile to face when I do and I feel the pressure lift immediately.
Understand The Motive.
Once you recognize your inner critic and it’s voice, when it speaks to you try to understand its motives. What is it afraid? What is it trying to protect you from?
Your inner critic deserves to be treated kindly even though it is misguided. Let it know you are good and that you can handle it. Actually say the words, “I’m good. Thanks but I can handle this.”
Find the Humor.
Of course, finding holes in your inner critic’s reasoning is helpful but if those reasons are absurd or ridiculous even better.
As I wind down on this very brief introduction to your inner critic, let me just say this. Just like any other work you do, whether it’s towards living a happier life, being more confident or eliminating negativity – your work on your inner critic is ongoing.
There will be days when you think you have it under control and then there will be days when you just want to give up. It’s a struggle sometimes but just think of how many years of programming you are trying to reverse.