Why you struggle with “lack of productivity” guilty.

crop woman using laptop on sofa at home
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

I am that person who creates schedules and to-do lists. I like feeling organized and on-track, so when I get off track, I start to feel guilty. The little voice in my head starts telling me I am not working hard enough, not working as hard as my peers, and I’ll never get anywhere with this work ethic. Harsh, right? But I’m just being honest. That little voice in our heads is the primary cause of guilt when we aren’t being as productive as we think we should be.

Yesterday was a prime example— I’d scheduled the filming of 2 youtube videos (yes, I’m starting a youtube channel, woohoo!) and 4 Instagram reels, but I could only film 1 Instagram reel in-between other things I had going on. Today I feel tired and drained and would rather rest than write this blog post but here I am writing this blog post. It is a constant battle between what I scheduled myself to do and what I’m feeling up to doing.

My struggle is feeling guilty when I take breaks instead of doing what I’d planned to do or when I take breaks instead of trying to catch up with what I was suppose to have done.

As a society, we have internalized the idea that productivity equals success. If we aren’t as productive as our peers, we will get left behind and that little voice in our heads will not let us forget it. This is especially true for success driven people who pride themselves on working hard. The way that most people think of productivity is synonymous with being inventive, vigorous, effective. A highly productive person gets things done. The question is Do we need to be productive all the time in order to be successful?

Forced productivity could help move the needle forward on important tasks. I genuinely believe effort creates energy, meaning that if you can just get started doing the thing you said you would do, then you’d gain momentum as you do it. That is literally the case as I write this post, I am feeling more motivated with each sentence to continue writing.

On the other hand, forced productivity could hinder creativity. There is something to be said about creating when you feel the most creative. At the height of your creative energy you will (I assume) create higher quality work.

So should we push ourselves to be more productive or not?

I think it’s a mixture of both. In my case I’ve become really good at just getting started even if I’m not up to the task, but not so good at giving myself grace for taking an unscheduled break. Both are healthy and important to keeping a balanced mental state. It also helps negate negative self-talk. Giving yourself permission to take breaks, guilt free, will allow you to be creative when creativity strikes (and not when the schedule says so). Besides, if you plan ahead, there is usually time to adjust to changes.

Okay, I think this pep talk has helped me ease my guilt (ha!) and get me back on track. I hope it has inspired some of you as well! Save this post and come back to it when you start to feel guilty about “not working as hard as you should be.”

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Cat Marte is a Small Business Coach + Social Media Strategist who helps success driven people launch and grow their small businesses using online marketing strategies. Book your free introductory call today.

Last year I thought THIS is my year. I’m going to get super fit with killer abs and toned legs and an overall healthy glow. I started off going to the gym everyday, lifting weights, doing intense workouts, making juices, eating salads— the works. Of course, we all know how this story ends, by February I’d missed a few days at the gym, sometimes I’d feel lazy and just want to watch Netflix. I ordered a pizza once for dinner and it all went down hill. By March I was the same old Cat I was back in December 2019. It’s a never ending cycle, every year we make these new year’s resolutions to lose weight, read more, get organized, learn a new skill, save money, and the list goes on and on. In the beginning there is so much momentum and promise and then around February, March, everyone is back to their old ways. The problem is we are going about it all wrong. We rely heavily on our own will-power, knowing all too well that our will-power has failed us time and time again. Why do we think this year will be different if we keep doing the same thing each year? Instead of repeating history, we need to review what works and try that.

You need a system.

Keep in mind, the goal is not the starting point, it is the end point— where we would like to be. The starting point is where we are now. In-between now and the goal is what we need to focus on. Why is that? Because we know what we want (the goal) and where we are now (the starting point) but all the action is taken in-between the starting point and the goal. The actions need to be intentional, repetitive and continual over time— this is a habit system. The habit system is the in-between.

Habit systems work because they are repetitive and automatic, helping us cement the behaviors into our lives. According to Forbes, habits are “a hyper-efficient and economical mode of acting that doesn’t require the high price tag of conscious thought. It’s because of habits that we are able to reserve our brain power for the more pressing tasks that come up.” We don’t give enough credit to our habit systems as the force for accomplishing our goals; yet it is this set of repeated actions taken on a day to day basis that get us one step closer each day.

Start small.

It is nearly impossible to flip your life around from night to day. Instead, focus on incorporating one new thing into your habit system at a time. For example, this year I have the same goal of becoming fit, but instead of trying to do all the things at once, my first baby step is to incorporate some level of movement into my life. To accomplish this, I’ve added it into my morning routine. My morning routine was to wake up between 7-7:30, make my bed, walk my dog, get ready for work. My new routine is to wake up at 7, make my bed, walk my dog, exercise, and get ready for work. Notice I already had a set routine and I am only adding one extra step. In the past I’d try to incorporate all the new habits I wanted to form into my routines simultaneously and would inevitably fail at all of them. Now I just need to put effort into this one task until it becomes effortless and automatic.

Increase gradually.

A good rule of thumb is to be ambitious about your goals and conservative about your process. You want to set yourself up for success and lofty action plans might just do the opposite (remember me at the start of 2020 trying to do too much at once?). Instead of trying to cram all your success into one pretty package, consider making micro-goals that will ultimately lead to your ambitious goal. Using the example above, the ultimate level of fitness I’d like to reach is a daily workout for 30-45 minutes a day, eating healthy, drinking enough water and engaging in active past times like hiking and sports. As someone who currently lacks most of those things, that’s quite a leap! This time around, I’m starting by developing a workout routine. By exercising 15 minutes a day for 5 days, I am building my stamina and the routine of working out. Once I’ve mastered 15 minutes, I can increase to 20 minutes and so on. The point is to set realistic and achievable actions so that you don’t exert yourself trying to do it all at once.

Eliminate disruptors.

Take inventory of your surroundings— what (or who) around you might steer you away from forming your new habits? You want to avoid or temporarily limit your interaction with these things as much as possible. Still using the example above, sometimes I would wake up around 7:30 because I’d hit the snooze button on my phone’s alarm and sleep in a few more minutes. In these cases, I wouldn’t have time to exercise because I spent the time sleeping in. To remedy this, I put my phone on the dresser away from my bed. Now when it sounds, I have to get out of bed to turn it off. This simple adjustment eliminates the snooze button behavior and encourages me to move ahead with my day (because once you’re up, you’re up, right?).

The Bottom Line

Having goals is important and necessary for personal and professional development. That said, they are only half of the story! Building a sustainable habit system is the other half of the story. It is the piece we often overlook or ignore because it is the hardest. Don’t fall into the trap of setting goals only to give up before you even start. Work on your habit systems and your goals will virtually fall into your lap. I’d love to know if you have any tips to forming habit systems. If you’d like to share any, email them to me at here.


Cat Marte is a Success Coach who helps success driven people launch and grow their online businesses. Book your free introductory coaching call today.

When you fall off the wagon, just start over. That is the answer, but where is the motivation to do that? Motivation is a fleeting emotion. It starts off very high and then gradually reduces in potency until we start to wonder why we even bothered in the first place. I’ve seen this many times in my life, especially when trying to pick up a new habit. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I’ve missed a day or two or ten, it’s no use, I should just give up; What’s the point if I keep messing up?; I’ll never get the new habit to stick.” It’s a whirlwind of negative thoughts that can stop us before we even start. Forming the habit is simple enough, each time we fall off the wagon we start over. If you fell off the wagon on day 15 and missed day 16, 17, and 18, you can start over on day 19- now it is day 1 again. If you have to start over 100 times, you are reinforcing the behavior 100 times. The problem is not “how” to form the new habit, the problem is “why continue to try?” The real question is, “How do I stay motivated enough to start over?”

Anchor yourself to your motivation.

Initially we are motivated by the positive thoughts associated with creating the new habit. You might think to yourself, “If I exercise daily, I will be healthier, happier, more attractive; If I meditate daily I will be calmer; If I budget, I will have more money for me.” To stay motivated, you should make sure your reasons for wanting to develop the habit are strongly grounded in the ideal version of yourself and your values. In this way, your reasons will serve as an anchor to keep moving forward when things feel as if they are falling apart. We need to consistently remind ourselves of the reasons why we started. Before you give up, give yourself a review of the pros and the cons of quitting. Why did you start in the first place? What was your anchor? What will quitting accomplish? How can you turn this around so you can start over again? Do you really want to quit or is that just the easy way out? Asking these types of questions will steer you away from making an emotionally charged decision towards making an intentional decision.

You are in control.

Even with a strong foundation, we may lose sight of the reasons why we started and become overpowered by the negative thoughts. We tell ourselves, “Ahhh I broke the chain, I messed up, I’m just going to give up.” And it serves us to give up because of the beliefs we hold. For example, you might believe giving up will be easier than developing the new habit. You might believe it will take much less time, effort and resources to simply give up. Or you might believe you cannot develop the habit because of a fault in you— you aren’t smart enough, capable, disciplined, etc. Without realizing it, the negative beliefs drain all the motivation right out of you. So how do we get rid of them? First you should adhere to this stoic truth: We cannot control anything beyond ourselves. Otherwise stated as, the only thing we can control is ourselves— our thoughts, our perceptions, or actions. This means we assign meaning to our actions, they do not have meaning in and of themselves. We are the ones telling ourselves that we failed to create the habit because of BLANK. We create the narrative. And if we create the narrative, then we can re-write it.

Try these re-writes when you start to feel discouraged.

Negative Beliefs

  • I’ll never get the hang of it.
  • I just can’t keep up with it.
  • Why even bother?
  • I lack the discipline to master this.

Re-Writes

  • Never say never. I can keep trying.
  • I can start over as many times as necessary.
  • I started because of BLANK, and that’s why I’ll keep going.
  • Discipline is a learned skill, I can learn it.

Rebuild your motivation with positive reinforcement.

The psychologist Ivan Pavlov, introduced us to classical conditioning where something stimulating is paired with something neutral to produce an automatic response. For example, I associate the smell of sunscreen to going to the beach because they have been paired so many times together. Now whenever I smell sunscreen I get a small urge to be laying on the beach. The psychologist B.F Skinner, took it one step further and introduced the term positive reinforcement into the study of behavior. Positive reinforcement is a reward system where you take a desired action and then reward yourself for taking the action. You can use the same concepts of classical conditioning and positive reinforcement to develop your habit. For example, if you want to develop a reading habit, you might pair reading with your morning coffee (assuming you enjoy your morning coffee!). To make it a positive reinforcement, you can only drink your coffee once you read. Overtime, you reinforce the reading habit by rewarding yourself with coffee each time. This is something I use with my coaching clients— we pre-plan how they will celebrate after completing an action step towards their goal.

In review

Forming a new habit only requires repetition. When you brake the chain of repetition, you can always start anew. Keep yourself motivated with a constant reminder of why you started in the first place. Help yourself break out of negative thoughts by re-writing the narrative in your head telling you that you should quit. Turn it into an automatic response by pairing the habit with a reward. And finally, if you need support, look to friends, family and loved ones to help you move forward.


Cat Marte is a Career and Success Coach who helps success driven people advance their careers and launch and grow their online businesses. Book your free introductory coaching call today.

Until just recently, negative thoughts were considered a good thing. You had to be on high alert— one eye open type of living to ensure your survival. Whether the enemy was a pack of wolves, a snow storm, an opposing klan, the black plaque, it just made more sense to hope for survival at best! Nowadays most of us aren’t facing such dire threats. In fact, most people live long and relatively comfortable lives these days (avg. life expectancy is 78 according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Thanks to modern shelter, urbanization, modern medicine, among other factors, our negative thoughts just don’t hold the same utility they used to. Not only are they (mostly) obsolete, often times, negative thoughts are counterproductive to our wellbeing and act as a roadblock in our lives. Unfortunately for us, evolution is a slow and tedious process— meaning these thoughts aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

On the bright side, we can counterattack our negative thoughts and train ourselves to be more optimistic. One of my absolute favorites— the person who reinvigorated my love for Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation— Dan Harris, talks about this strategic reprograming in his book, 10% Happier. In his podcast, of the same name, he dives deeper into this by interviewing master meditators, healers, scientists, professors, and others alike. This is where I stumbled upon the legendary Joseph Goldstein. Goldstein is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and a master meditation teacher since 1974. A nasal-y voiced, original “JewBu,” Goldstein has taught countless meditation students countless lessons— here is the one that stood out.

Is this Useful?

“Is this useful?” is the question that Goldstein asks himself whenever he is having a negative thought. It is a very simple question, nothing revolutionary, and yet it’s a complete game changer. Think about it. Two paragraphs ago I explained the uselessness of most of our negative thoughts AND, most importantly, how we will continue to have them because they have been deeply infused into our DNA. So why wouldn’t the remedy be as simple as reminding ourself that they are no longer useful? Wouldn’t you stop using the microwave if you realized it didn’t work anymore? Wouldn’t you get a new bike if you couldn’t ride your old one anymore? Of course you would. The difference is that it is blatantly obvious when the microwave is broken or our bike chain is rusted. It’s not so obvious when our thoughts are working again us and that it way we need the reminder.

We cannot reply on intuition to tell us these things because in this case our intuition is working against us. Remember, there was a long stretch of time when negative thoughts were very useful and our evolution as a species has not caught up to the fact that we do not need to rely so heavily on these negative thoughts to survive. Using a gentle reminder, such as asking ourselves “Is this useful?” can help us regain perspective. Here is an example; It is five o’clock on Tuesday and you get told by your boss that you were selected to make a presentation to a client next Thursday. You start thinking about the presentation on your way home and all the anxious, negative thoughts start to swirl, “What if I tank?” “What if the client isn’t happy?” “I’ve never done a presentation, I don’t know what to do.” “I can’t do this.” and on and on. At some point you realize you are exhausted just from thinking and ask yourself, “How useful is freaking out about this presentation to me right now?” The answer is, not at all! The presentation is next Thursday, today is Tuesday so there is nothing benefiting you right now by worrying about a presentation for next Thursday. It is arguably more reasonable to worry about the presentation on the presentation day, especially if it will make you more alert and ready to present. It may even be useful to worry next Tuesday, again if it will make you prepare and practice for the presentation. However, today, at this moment, it is completely useless to worry about next Thursday.

Again, the trick is to make a judgement call on how useful your negative thoughts are. How are they serving you? In the example above I made the point that the negative thoughts may be useful on the day of, if they help you perform better during the presentation. Another example; you signed up for a swimming club but you start to think to yourself that you aren’t that great of a swimmer. This propels you to practice before the first meeting. In this case, the thought was useful because it activated your motivation to become better. Now you are at the swim club meeting and you still think you aren’t as good a swimmer. This is causing you to make silly mistakes and further dampen your mood. Now the thought is counterproductive— it is no longer useful. If you can notice this, you might see the thought as counterproductive and let it go.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that negative thoughts are an integral part of our fight or flight response system. Their basic function is to warn us of danger and help us make survival decisions accordingly. The dilemma lies in that our response is more or less automatic making it difficult for us to tell the difference between an actually life threatening situation and a situation that brings up negative emotions for other reasons. Fear is always a great example because we can fear public speaking (not inherently life threatening) as much as we can fear grizzly bears (arguably life threatening). It is up to us to recognize what is objectively a danger and what we have labeled dangerous in our minds.

Related Article:

Calming Your Brain During Conflict by Diane Musho Hamilton

Understanding the Stress Response by Harvard Health Publishing


Cat Marte is a Career and Success Coach who helps success driven people grow their careers or launch and grow their online businesses. Book your free introductory call today to learn more.

Yesterday I stumbled on a rare sighting: an interview with rapper Joyner Lucas, the artist behind the iconic I am Not Racist song. The first question of the interview was, “Why do you not do interviews?” Lucas said he stop doing interviews when he realized people didn’t really care what he had to say and were just interviewing him for clout. I was crushed. Based on his storytelling style— touching on controversial topics like racism, devilish thoughts, snitching — I knew this interview was worth listening to. I took so much from this interview that I thought I’d share my three takeaways here for those who aren’t familiar with his work or who generally would not run into his music. He has a very familiar rags to riches story that many rappers have, nonetheless, he’s wise beyond his fame and fortune.

3 Takeaways from Joyner Lucas

Be Accountable.

Radio personality and best selling author, Charlamagne Tha God asks Lucas if he feels as if he is not getting the recognition that he deserves as a talented rapper? What Lucas said next surprised me. For Lucas, if he is “underrated” then it’s his own doing. He should be working harder, smarter, trying different things, etc. He takes full responsibility for his outcomes, whereby allowing himself the opportunity to improve and keep working towards the outcomes he desires.This is a classic example of the crossroads between taking a victim mentality vs. a victor mentally. The victim blames their circumstances, their relationships, and everything except them for their situation. While a victor (a victorious person) skips the excuses and uses their energy to find solutions to improve their situation. From his response, you can tell Lucas has a victor mindset. He understands that the only way to grow is to take responsibility for your outcomes.

BE HUMBLE.

In a subsequent series of questions, Lucas is asked how he ended his infamous “beef” with fellow rapper Logic. Lucas tells the story of how he came to realized the beef stemmed from his own jealousy and sense of entitlement towards Logic. He felt he should have been where Logic was in his career and resented the fact that he wasn’t. Once he realized his misdoings, he called up Logic and offered a sincere apology. Logic was so taken aback by Lucas’ sincerity and genuine change of heart that they have since become good friends. What Lucas displayed is a deep sense of humility and ability to evolve as a person. Humility is so essential to growth because it allows us to learn from our mistakes and move past them. Alternatively, if you are the type of person who can never admit you were wrong and always claims to be right, then in your mind, there is no need to grow and evolve because you know it all. This type of person stunts their own growth with their refusal to amend their wrongs.

BE observant.

Throughout the interview, Lucas said several things that resonated with me, however this is one I’ve been preaching for a while now. He told a story of how he visited Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith while he was in LA and was dumbfounded by the sheer size and magnificence of their homes. According to Lucas, Wahlberg told him that his work ethic and drive would get him a similar house one day. For Lucas, Wahlberg, a fellow Boston native, and Will Smith (the inspiration to his song Will), are his mentors and role models. He observes the footprints of those who come from similar beginning and sees the path in front of him. Whether you’re fortunate enough to befriend the likes of Will Smith, or you simply admire them from afar, it is critically important to have role models and mentors. These are the people who will show you the way and reinforce the belief that if they can do it, you can too.

Often times we are quick to judge a book by it’s cover, but if you listen carefully, you might find inspiration and lessons learned in the places you least expect. I’ll end with a great line from Lucas’ song Zim Zimma where he says “I know a couple of rappers that don’t know the business and all they do is rap.” It’s not enough to be great at the thing you do, you have to work on yourself as well, and study those who came before you. You have to know the business practices of success — accountability, humility, and observance are great places to start.


Cat Marte is a Career and Success Coach who helps success driven people break through their self-limiting mindsets and get to the next level in their careers and businesses. Book your free introductory call today to learn more.

It is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States, and while it has some controversial beginnings, the holiday is centered around the practice of gratitude. For those who celebrate, it is a time to be thankful for all the collective good in their lives. For me Thanksgiving serves as a prominent reminder of what we should be doing daily. Even in the worse of times, there is something to be grateful for, and a daily gratitude practice is the perfect reminder of this. Not only does it serve as a reminder, it is also beneficial to our mind, body and soul. It can help contribute to things such as lower blood pressure, less feelings of loneliness and isolation, and more happiness— all of which will help you be more successful in life.

How so?

  1. Being thankful increases happiness and positive emotions, contributing to the glass half full mindset. It creates a greater sense of optimism, in turn opening up the mind to the possibilities. Someone who believes things will work out in the end is more likely to take risks and put themselves out there to accomplish their goals. On the flip side, someone who sees the glass half empty believes things usually don’t work out in the end and takes less risks to avoid negative outcomes, hindering their chances of accomplishing their goals.
  2. Being thankful improves physical wellbeing. It is no secret that when you feel good you perform better. Someone who is constantly stressed out or dealing with physical health issues, such as high blood pressure, migraines, etc, will underperform. If fact, according to Dr. Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, people who are grateful are better equip to deal with serious trauma and adversity.
  3. Being thankful increases generosity and compassion. Whether it is due to the tit for tat nature of human beings or the the laws of Karma, the fact is, when you are kind to others, there is a much higher chance that they will return the kindness to you. You will get much further in life by being kind and compassionate than you would being egocentric and closed off. It is a matter of logic that the more people you have in your corner, the easier it will be to achieve your goals.

Ways to practice Daily Gratitude

Keep a gratitude journal. 

Pray. 

Meditate. 

Perform a daily act of kindness.

Commit to a few “No Complain” days a week.

Resources:

Giving thanks can make you happier by Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.

Why Gratitude Is Good by Greater Good Magazine

How to Overcome the Fear of Putting Yourself Out There.

For so many of us, the thought of putting yourself out there can be nauseating. How many things run through our minds before we do something in the realm beyond our comfort level? It’s daunting and it’s anxiety provoking, but it’s necessary. Putting ourselves out there is the only way we can grow. It’s the growing pains. It’s the uncomfortableness that allows us to open up minds, and stretch what we thought was possible.

I recently started a three part series touching on some of the cornerstones of overcoming this fear on my social media channels. The first part is about doing the inner work that is necessary to set yourself free of any emotional or psychological baggage you might be carrying around. Mine, it turns out, had to do with my emotional block and unwillingness to be vulnerable. It took me two years to come to this conclusion, but hey, there’s no time limit on self improvement, right? You can watch part’s of the series below. If you like what you see, watch part 2 under that. If you more, be sure to sign up for part 3, which I’ve turned into a mini workshop. I look forward to seeing you there!

Part 1: My Story

Part 2: Owning Your Story

Part two of the series touches on the importance of owning your story. What the heck does that mean? It means understanding that you are the author and narrator of your story. Perhaps you didn’t decided the beginning or the first few chapters, but at some point the unfinished book was passed over to you to write up the rest of the chapters. Watch part two to learn the power of the pen, and how owning your story can help you reframe the past and build a better future.

Sign Up for Part 3 Now

Part 3: Confidence is a Muscle, Learn How to Train It

Achieving your goals takes courage and a belief you can accomplish those goals— really it is a belief in yourself. In this mini workshop, I will be discussing 3 tips to help you build the conference you need to move your goals forward plus bonus tips to help you go from inaction and procrastination to manifestation. Be sure to sign up here. I look forward to seeing you there!

Click here to watch for Part 3 Now

After close to 3 years, I realized I was actually traumatized by my father’s death. I’m pretty sure I was going through some serious PTSD all of 2018 and 2019. 

I didn’t realize it at the moment, but looking back it seems really obvious. When he died in December 2017,  I didn’t know how to process my emotions,  I didn’t want to face the music; I didn’t want to lean into my own pain and vulnerabilities. I couldn’t even bring myself to cry. It was the result of years perfecting how to control my emotions, so much so, that when a real life tragedy happened in my life, I couldn’t express it. 

But it was not just that, I had a mental block that was not allowing me to be emotional. Part of my mind was telling me that he was gone forever and the other part was telling me it was all a dream and I’d wake up one day and he’d be there and it was all a cruel joke. I was going through the motions but really just waiting for him to show up one day and everything would be back to normal. And sometimes something would happen and I’d think it was so funny or so annoying and I’d almost pick up the phone to call him and tell him the funny thing that happened before the functioning side of my brain would say, he’s gone silly, you can’t call him. It was really hard to process internally because I was stuck in the denial phase, I just couldn’t reconcile all the events in my mind, it was too much. And I couldn’t tap into my emotions because I was emotionally blocked. 

This trauma creeped into my entire life becoming pervasive. I couldn’t get excited about anything at work; everything in my life seems so lackluster; nothing brought me happiness or joy. I don’t think I was depressed, I didn’t feel a deep sadness, I just felt a void, like a deep black hole that was never ending. Relationships failed, friendships fell apart. The patient, level-headed person that I considered myself to be had turned into a grumpy, impulsive, madwomen who couldn’t get a grip on anything. I was also hopelessly lost in my life, I didn’t know what my next move was, I had no direction. Everything felt like it was caving in on me and I don’t think anyone really notices. Now my friends will say “I noticed!,” sit down Sarah, you didn’t notice…I know no one really noticed, because I didn’t notice. I knew something was off inside of me but I couldn’t put my finger on it and I couldn’t quite figure out how to feel or why I was so distraught.

Then something really healing happened. I joined a writer’s group and we met once a week, and I started writing. At first I’d write about just nonsense or things that vaguely interested me. Then I started writing a short story about a daughter who loses her father. The short story became a little long so it turned into a long story, then a novelette. The story started in 2015 and ended in 2017 — 2 years of my father fighting cancer. In the writing group you were meant to write for an hour and then share your story with the group for feedback. So I found myself sharing my most vulnerable moments and thoughts with mostly complete strangers. It felt really healing, like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I remember writing down some parts of the story and getting really emotional, and then smiling at other parts of the story. It was the self reflection that I never gave myself. It was so powerful to free myself from the burden of carrying all that emotional baggage by myself. I remember my mom would say, you think I’m weak because I’m crying all the time but I’m letting out my emotions and acknowledging my pain and sharing the burden with my loved ones meanwhile you are keeping everything locked inside— that’s more dangerous. And of course she was absolutely right. 

I’m sharing this because I know someone out there can relate to my story and know they aren’t alone and know they will get through difficult times. I really believe human beings are extremely resilient and adaptable. To build up that resilience, it’s essential to do the inner work, whether that’s journaling, mediating, therapy. For people like me, it can be so uncomfortable to reflect on ourselves, but if we just ignore it we would be doing ourselves a disservice as we will be limiting yourself from our full potential.

When I say “your energy,” what comes to mind? At first I thought of it as some abstract, mystical thing that isn’t measurable, similar to the vibes, the auras. What I now realize is that this form of abstract energy is measurable through your physical, mental and emotional energy levels. Let’s consider this scenario; you walk into a room and take a look around to see a series of gloomy faces with hunched shoulders and lackluster eyes. You interpret those physical cues as “low energy.” In contrast, if you walk into a room where everyone is chatting and smiling, laughing, relaxed posture and lively eyes, you interpret those cues as high energy. The relationship is between your interpretation of the energy levels in a given situation and your own energy levels as they become effected by your observations.

The basic phenomena is that as social beings, our instincts are to mirror the energy levels of the things around us. That’s why dogs have been aggressively bred to have big eyes that mirror babies, because babies are generally happy beings, and dogs with their big eyes remind us of happy babies. That’s not a stretch, that’s a fact— according to an investigative article by The Atlantic, dogs have developed specific eye muscles that allow them to open their eyes and lower them in ways that their biological cousins, the wolves, cannot. The point is, like a happy dog, the “energy in the room” can affect our moods and our physical and emotional energy levels.

All this to say, it’s crucial to protect our energy and by extension our time. I don’t think it needs much explanation, but I will break it down into this simple equation— Energy Drain = Exhaustion = Time Wasted Trying to Recuperate. There are some simple and some not so simple things we can do to protect our energy, ranging from mindfulness to cutting energy draining people off.

5 Things You Can Do To Protect Your Energy

Beware of Energy Draining People

Let’s start off with what will likely be the hardest one. As I said earlier, to an extent, we mirror the people in our lives. Sometimes we are so used to the people around us, we don’t realize those very people are draining our energy. A good way to tell is by taking note of your mood and your overall energy level after you’ve left that person. Do you feel tired? Why? Is it because you did something laborious, like a sport or a physical activity, or is it because the person sucked all your energy out? A naturally introverted person might argue that they lose energy talking to anyone, irrespective of the energy they give off. The flaw in that thinking is that it’s only about physical energy, when in fact, a draining person might also shift your mood, or your mental equilibrium as well as your physical energy. If you find friends or relatives draining you in any of these ways, consider creating some healthy space between you and that person.

Counterattack Energy Draining Activities

Examples of activities that can drain your energy are tasks that are stressful, dull, time consuming, cumbersome to complete. Anything that is interpreted in our minds as a chore is something that can be an energy draining activity. Sometimes we can’t escape these (i.e our jobs, or studying for a test) but what we can do is recognize them as energy drainers and work to counterbalance the drain. For example, taking stretching breaks at work; mediating before a draining activity; rewarding ourself with a relaxing activity afterwards. Another way to reduce your energy drain from activities is to be efficient. The more time you spend on an energy draining activity, the more energy you drain.

Be Mindful of Mindless Activities

I’m looking at you social media. Platforms like Tiktok and Instagram are specifically designed to keep you scrolling. If you aren’t paying attention, you could scroll for hours at a time. It’s not the scrolling that is draining, its the mental chaos that comes with it. OMG Megan is pregnant, Oh man look at Tyler’s abs, he’s been working out, oh wow look at that car she’s driving, look at her engagement ring, look at, look at, look at. Often times we sit there and stare at other people’s fabricated lifestyles and compare them to our own, wondering why we aren’t as successful or as skinny or as this and that. It’s draining. The same can be said for TV and movies, video games, etc. Our consumption of “picture perfect” and manufactured realities distort our perception of real life causing us to self-doubt, self-loath and self-drain. A good rule of thumb is if it’s not enriching your mind and body, then it’s draining it.

Declutter Your Space

Our physical space is a reflection of our mental space. Sure there are some people who like to live in a sort of organized chaos, but there’s a big different between appearing unorganized and actually being unorganized. There are those who have everything thrown everywhere and can never find exactly what they are looking for. Their space is a cluttered mess, just like the cluttered mess in their minds. Take the time to declutter your space, and you will start to declutter your mind. What does this have to do with protecting your energy? Your mind is the energy drain. You can’t focus on anything, your mind is all over the place, you bounce ideas and lose focus all the time. That’s so draining. Take 5 minutes out of your day to de-clutter your space, little by little. Then take 5 more minutes to sit in that cleared space and do nothing. You will soon see your mind start to unburden itself from the weight of mental clutter.

Practice Self-Care

Low-self esteem is a silent killer. It’s a subconscious script that we replay over and over again in our minds, reinforcing that we ain’t worth shit. Damn, is that not energy draining? Who wants to do anything or go anywhere when they feel like they aren’t worth two pennies? One way to rewrite this negative script into a positive script is to practice self-care. Self-care reinforces self-love and self-appreciation, in turn boosting our own self-worth and confidence. The ironic part is that once we start to practice self-care, others start to notice. We start to get compliments. Outward positive reinforcement matches our inward positive reinforcement— uplifting our moods and our energy levels.

The Bottom Line

Notice how many different ways we can drain our energy throughout the day? It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? What I’ve found to be the most preserving is to live mindfully. Go throughout my day checking in on myself and noticing my energy levels. Was that virtual meeting super draining? Maybe I should take a 10 minute break and recharge. How long have I been scrolling on instagram? Okay let me put the phone down and do something else. Being cognizant of the things that suck your energy dry will help you start to notice when these things take a toll on you. The end game is to have energy for the things that you truly care about and want to put energy towards.

There was a time in my life where I felt like I had a clear direction and plan of action to get there. Then I hit all my goals and was kind of like…now what? I felt like I had no vision, no purpose in life. I was doing okay but my life felt stagnant and un-motivating. It was a really strange feeling that I bet plenty of people go through— essentially a quarter life crisis. It stunted my growth during a time where I thought the most exciting things would happen; I’d become a professional and start making bank; I’d meet the love of my life; I’d maybe have kids; I’d live some version of the white picket fence happily ever after. Literally not a single thing I just mentioned actually happened… and that’s okay. The problem was I wasn’t sure what I wanted or how to get there.

There are two dilemmas that can stunt your growth: having a vision for what your life should be but not knowing how to get there and/or setting goals with no clear reason why you wanted to accomplish them. I was suffering from the latter. I had vague goals, which weren’t goals as much as they were societal expectations, and I wasn’t super clear on whether I wanted to accomplish them or not. I guess that’s why I didn’t. I really had to dig deep and think about what it was that I really wanted, I had to seek clarity before I could seek action. As it turned out, once I found the clarity I was looking for, I was still stuck! This time though, it wasn’t because I was confused, it was because I was afraid. Fear, and particularly fear of failure, is one of the 3 things that can stunt your growth, along with imposter syndrome and a negative mindset.

Thing 1 : Imposter Syndrome

Thing 2: Negative Mindset

Thing 3: Fear of Failure

Thing 1: Imposter Syndrome

If you get to asking, it turns out many people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. Maybe you’re a new mom and you have no idea what you’re doing or you were an amateur chef and you nailed your dream job at a prestigious restaurant. You feel that you don’t belong, that you are pretending to know but you really don’t know and that any minute now someone will discover that you actually do not know.

The thing is…no one knows.

People have no idea how to do something until they actually do it, and even then, things are always evolving and changing, creating new ways to do the same thing. Think about that. All the people that you consider experts in whatever you’re doing, once upon a time, maybe not even that long ago, also didn’t know what they were doing. They had to do it over and over and over again to do it well. And there’s always room for improvement. One way to shift your perspective is to consider the possibility that in fact, no one is an expert at anything. We are all just students, learning as we go, evolving as the situation evolves, mastering and re-mastering. Consider the fact that your mentors have mentors, and their mentors have mentors. There will always be someone who knows more or less than you do at any particular time but in reality we are all just learning as we go. There are other benefits to having a student’s mindset in life, such as the ability to image uncharted possibilities. If you are wise enough to embrace that you only know what you know and have much yet to learn, you will constantly improve because you will be open to the possibility of learning more. Whereas, if you are constantly worried about what you don’t know instead of what you might learn, you will be in a constant state of playing catch up.

Thing 2: Negative Mindset

Sometimes we are faced with a block in the road, and that block is ourselves. Our mind is the block. It started with our self-assessment. Our self-assessment of whether we can do something or not is about an 80% indicator of whether we will do that something or not. We either suffer from a negative mindset or a limiting one. If it’s negative, we exercise the mental script that tells us we cannot do something because of xyz. If it’s limiting, we exercise the mental script that tells us we can do X, maybe Y, but definitely not Z.

The thing is…you’ll never know.

A negative or limiting mindset acts as a defense mechanism to protect us from potential failure. If you stop in your tracks before you even start, you won’t have to deal with disappointment and failure. In some ways, a limiting mindset is worse because it gives you wiggle room to try just a little, but you’ll never reach your full potential because you tell yourself you can only go so far. Sometimes we unintentionally limit ourself because we cannot envision who we could be and only see who we are. You might wish to be the Executive Director of your company but never set out to accomplish that goal because you don’t think you’re cut out for it. Instead you work towards Associate Director. Fine. You get Associate Director and your coworker who has the equivalent experience and knowledge as you gets Executive Director. It could have been you.

The Thing is…we can’t see the future.

Telling yourself you can’t do something stops you from trying, just like visualization increases your chances that you will try and likely succeed. The obvious alternative to a negative mindset is a positive mindset, but I say start small— switch to a neutral mindset. This is one where you are neither pessimistic nor optimistic about the outcome, you just don’t know. You let go of expectations and just try and see where it gets you. The goal of this approach is to detach yourself from the negative, limiting voice in your head telling you it isn’t going to work out. You tell yourself, “I don’t know how this will go, but I will try and see.” Couple the neutral mindset with the 40 rule. Jesse Itzler seemingly brought this concept to the general public’s attention in his book “Living With A SEAL.” According to Itzler, the rule is that once your mind starts to throw in the towel and you feel like you can’t possible go on anymore, you are about 40% done. That extra 60% is the untapped potential that you didn’t realize was still in you. In one sentence—, combat a negative mindset by trying anyways; have no expectations; and when you feel like stoping, keep going.

Thing 3: Fear of Failure

As I’m writing this, I realized that these 3 things are compounding. Imposter Syndrome can lead to negative mindset or a limiting mindset (I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t do this, I’m not good enough), which can lead to a fear of failure, which can ultimately lead to inaction. The good news is that in this version of the game, you can skip jail, pass go and collect $200. In other words, you don’t need to have imposter syndrome or a negative mindset to hold yourself back in life, all you need is an uncontrollable fear of failure. Fear of failure is all it took in my life to be completely immobile. I knew I could do it, I wanted to do it, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t even realize I was scared to do it until after I finally starting doing it! I called my friend Michael and told him I was becoming a life coach and he reminded me of a conversation we had a year ago where I mentioned I wanted to become a life coach. WOW, an entire year flew by and I didn’t realize I was holding myself back because I was just scared.

The thing is…failure is temporary.

The book “Think and Grow Rich” introduced to the concept that failures only come permanent once we give up. It was as if a lightbulb had turned on for me in my darkest hour. As long as I continued to try, I could never fail. It reminds me of Percy Fawcett and the exploration of Z. Will we ever know if he found Z? Probably not, but he was unwavering in his pursuit of the lost civilization and even though he knew he might fail, I suspect he wouldn’t have lived his life any other way. His legacy carries Z into existence and into our wildest dreams. Then there was Thomas Edison who is heavily cited in the original Think and Grow Rich. The author, Napoleon Hill, did not want his reader to forget the 1,000 times Edison temporarily failed, until he didn’t. When he succeeded it upstaged all his failures, no doubt about it. The key here is to reset your thought patterns surrounding failure. Just like with imposter syndrome, you have to train yourself to think of failure in a new light. Repetition creates new patterns. It’s up to you to constantly tell yourself you cannot fail, you can only learn what doesn’t work for next time.

The Bottom Line

The moral of the story — we often have a reoccurring script in our minds telling us what we can and cannot do, or what we shouldn’t do to avoid failure. Our minds are the most interesting and powerful tools in goal reaching, so much so, that those who learn how to train it can accomplish amazing things. Like most amazing things though, training our minds take an incredible amount of work, time and commitment. In return we grow confidence, self-assurance and self-worth and most importantly, a new perspective on life. I’d say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?

On payday I did what I usually do and filled out my budget spreadsheet, making calculations and adjustments and more calculations and more adjustments till it dawned on me that I am borderline obsessed with my budget (remember what I said about being obsessed with your goals?). I check it at least once a week and adjust as needed. I don’t know what life would be like if I didn’t have a budget…no wait, that’s a lie, life would be a mess, that’s what it would be. My budget is the holy grail of money in my life. With a tremendous amount of mental shifting and pain taking effort, I’ve finally instilled in myself the mindset that if there ain’t room in the budget for it, it ain’t happening— full stop. The fact is that budgeting is not something you do, it’s something you subscribe to. It’s a mindset. And if you don’t have a budgeting mindset then it won’t matter how many different budgeting plans you try, it will never help you stay in budget. 

Why budget? 

It’s tempting to think of a budget as something restricting when in all actuality it’s freeing in a lot of ways. When you budget, you don’t have to worry about over extending yourself and creating future debt for future you. You also inevitably cut out all the things that were nice but not necessary, leaving more room for all the things that are great and by their greatness make them necessary. For example, I used to go get manicures and pedicures all the time, and that was nice. Was it amazing? Not really. Did it fill my heart with joy? Eh. This might not be the same for everyone; someone else might treat getting their nails done as their ultimate treat/self care/self love routine, and that’s great! The key is to find what makes YOU happy and make room for that in the budget by taking out all the things that are just eh. 

Who budgets? 

Let me tell you a secret, not so secret: anyone with a significant amount of wealth, either in liquid assets or fixed has a budget. Sometimes it’s called an accountant or a financial advisor, but all it is is a budget! Another way to think about it is money management. How are you managing your hard earned funds so that you get the most benefit out of every dollar? The bottom line is, if you care about building wealth then you’ll budget your money, that’s who budgets…

My 4 Budgeting Rules 

  1. Adjust all of your expenses to occur during a one week period. This is the foundation of the budgeting plan I’ve laid out in rules 2, 3, and 4. It works is by giving you time to earn and plan for every dollar you make in a given month, and then pay all your expenses at once. This works really well for me because I get paid monthly (I know, at first I though WHAT THE HECK??). When I get paid at the end of the month, which happened to be Wednesday this month, I sit down and fill in my budget, then I go ahead and pay all my bills which are all conveniently due between the 1st and the 7th of the month. Once everything is paid and done with, I don’t have to think about a single expense for the rest of the month. For those who get paid weekly or bi-weekly, the same end result can be accomplished by setting all your expenses to be due at a particular time (say the end of the month) and then setting money aside each week or whenever you get paid to cover those expenses. This method avoids having to use one paycheck to over a big expense like rent or car insurance. Another way to think about it, is that you are creating weekly/bi-weekly sinking funds for your monthly bills and expenses. In 2, 3, and 4 below I’ll show you how it works.
  1. Plan for fixed expenses. You know every first of the month the rent comes knocking at your door, so why aren’t you prepared? You can reduce your money related stress by simply planing ahead. If you get paid weekly, you can take out 1/4 or 1/5 (depending how long the month is) of the rent money every paycheck. Say your rent is $800/month and you make $600 a week, you can set aside $200 a week to pay your rent, by the time the first rolls around you’ve got all you need and don’t need to scramble to come up with rent money or spend an entire paycheck and then some on rent. Same applies to their fixed expenses; if you know you pay $65 a month for your cell phone bill, you can put aside $15 dollars a paycheck (I promise you won’t even notice) and again by the time you come around to pay your cell phone bill, you’ll have all the money needed. Let’s use my income and expenses as an example.

I take home about $750/week and pay $1,200 in rent, $65 for my cellphone bill, $80 for internet, and $104 for car insurance monthly. In order to accumulate the payments for my fixed expenses throughout the month, I’d have to save 1/4 of all my fix expenses each week. That comes out to $362.25 a week for fixed expenses, but we aren’t done yet.

$300 Rent
$16.25 Cellphone 
$20 internet 
$26 insurance 
Total $362.25
Remainder $387.75
  1. Pay yourself first-ish. Some people say you should always pay yourself first, but I’m more like “I before E except after C” kinda girl. In other words, I like the idea of paying myself first but only after I’ve secured my basic needs. Without meeting your basic needs how can you accomplish any money goals when you’re only just surviving? So I like to make sure my rent money is situated, for example, before I get carried away paying myself first. When it comes time to figure out how much I should be paying myself, I decided on a percentage. At the moment, I am paying myself 5% of my paycheck to myself.This may seem small to some, but I rather err on the side of realistic and accomplishable. There have been many a time where I’ve tried to really stretch my goals, only to disappoint myself. I’ve basically learned the hard way that it’s better to start small and work your way up as oppose to starting too high and falling flat on your face. Let’s continue with my budget as an example, if I put side 5% of $750, I get $37.50, with my fix expenses, that brings my remaining balance down to 350.25 per week.

  1. Plan for Variable Expenses. Plan for variable expenses last because they are often more flexible and can be adjusted as needed. For instance, credit cards are variable expenses— sometimes you pay well over the minimum, sometimes you pay the minimum and sometimes you don’t owe anything at all. Because you won’t know with certainty how much you will owe in variable expenses, it’s good to set aside a percentage of your income to cover the amount that is equal to or greater than your minimum due. For example, I have 5 cards, the minimum combined of all 5 is $130 per month, so depending on what else I have going on that week, I may set aside $32.50 (1/4 of $130) or I may set aside a little more because I know I have nothing going on that week. This brings our remaining balance down to $317.75.

Depending on your family size, $317.75 may seem like not enough or more than enough. As a single person with no children or other dependents other than my dog, $317.75 per week is more than enough to spend on groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. The best part is that I know I’m putting money aside for upcoming expenses and do not need to stress out or over extend myself when it’s time to pay up.

The Bottom Line 

I’m not a financial adviser nor do I claim to know anything beyond the basics. With that said, I’ve been budgeting for a good 10 years now and I’ve learned a thing or two about what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve basically taken the advice of the Dave Ramseys of the world to make my own plan and my own financial path. Hopefully this plan can serve as a guide or a starting point for others looking to get serious about their budgets. If you’re ready and excited to have the best budget game you’ve ever had, you can download my free simple budgeting guide to help you get started. 

2 Life-Changing Habits to Live more Intentionally

How to really create change in your life.

close up of beer bottles on wood
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

What is life??

Does anyone else ever worry that they are just strolling through life without a clear plan or goal for the future? I know there are a lot of “I’m just taking it day by day” types out there, but I just get the feeling some folks might be ignoring that life has a way of just passing you by without you even realizing it. At the same time, living day by day doesn’t mean living in oblivion does it? One can choose to live day by day and still develop meaning and purpose in their lives.

Seek Clarity

A life with meaning and purpose is a life worth living. It’s your WHY. So many people go through life without these two things, constantly searching for the next big thing that will make them feel seen, heard, and grounded in life. Your version of WHY can be many different things, or just one thing. I know my mother’s WHY are her children and her family. My WHY is the love and appreciation I feel for my family, my community, the planet, the people on this planet, the other living things on the planet. Once you gain clarity around your WHY, you will start developing a life with meaning and purpose that is centered around your WHY. Here are some concrete habits you can develop to live your WHY.

Practical Exercise- Start a Gratitude List

Gratitude is the feeling you get when something brings you happiness. You feel gratitude because you are thankful for whatever happened to bring you this happiness. Keeping a gratitude list is a visual representation of all the things you are thankful for. After a while, you will start to see patterns. I am always thankful for the love and support of my family— could they be a part of my WHY? I am always thankful for my dog Lucy— is the love of animals part of my WHY? In this way, we can start to see clearly the things that are important to us and the things we should be focusing more of our time and energy into. If you want to go the extra mile, you can start a gratitude journal. This will help you capture in greater detail why certain things give you gratitude and in what circumstances. Similar to a gratitude journal, you can start a habit tracker. This is for those who know already what brings joy and satisfaction to their lives and what to make sure they are incorporating those things everyday.

Make Definite Decisions

This is hot off the press in my life. I just came across this idea of making definite decisions as I was listening to my audio book by Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich. His main argument is that those who are indecisive (i.e changing their minds frequently) are less likely to get anything done in the end, in which case, indecisiveness and procrastination are one and the same. Hill gives several examples of successful people who made a definitive decision and stuck to it, only to reap the benefits of their persistence. This is something I personally struggle with because I seem to overthink things to the point that I can’t tell which is the better option. One way to get over this is to realize neither might be better than the other and just pick a course and stick to it. Otherwise, inaction will stunt your growth and leave you stuck in place.

Practical Exercise- Start a Hobby and stick to it

Often times hobbies are things we like to do…often times. Sometimes we pick hobbies that we know will challenge us, or make us grow in ways we deem necessary. Which ever the case, I’ve found that sticking to your hobbies is closely related to making definite decisions. It’s a small thing, in the grand scheme of things, but an area where you can practice the art of making a definite decision. Sticking to a hobby that you like and enjoy is easy and can have the added benefit of making it to your gratitude list, but what’s even better is sticking to a hobby you realized you don’t enjoy as much or a hobby that makes you uncomfortable. For example, I signed up to play softball on a social league a few summers ago and initially I thought it would be great! When the season was about to start, all of my anxiety and suppressed feelings of athletic inferiority came rushing back. But I stuck to it, and I stuck to it (mostly because I had a friend doing it with me, if I’m being honest!), and once it was over, I was really proud of myself for accomplishing something despite my discomfort. In the end, I became more confident in my ability to deal with adversity (I still can’t play softball, but alas!) and I felt great about following through on something I’d committed to doing.

The Bottom Line

Self-care and self-improvement are essential to showing up for yourself. When you show up for yourself, you free up the space that uncertainty, ill-feelings and no direction took in your life, allowing you more room to show up in other ways. That is one of the reasons why personal development and professional development are related but different. Aligning your everyday life with your WHY, building consistency, confidences, and resilience in your personal life are all things that will make you a better leader, expert, and professional, but even more important, they will help you live with intentionality.