I’VE BEEN teaching group fitness classes for over a decade – way before it was trendy and cool, and definitely way before “fitpros” were the new It celebrities they are right now. This was back when people thought “spinning” classes meant twirling around in circles for 45 minutes, and when that one old friend of mine so casually commented, “You’re not planning on becoming the ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of your life, are you?”
The industry has changed a lot since I began, but the thing that’s remained at the core of fitness is that it’s rarely ever truly about the fitness part alone. What we do in the gym is practice for what we do out in the world – and fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps.
WHENEVER WE’RE working out, we’re shifted into a vulnerable state. Whether we’re doing vinyasas or vying for a new running PR, our breath deepens, our heart starts beating faster, and we’re thrust (or eased gently from a seated cross-legged position) into a state of self-imposed stress. And let me clarify: not all stress is ultimately BAD. It’s what we do within those moments of stress that stick with us. It’s the stress that gets us vulnerable, and the vulnerability that allows us to be open to shifting for better or worse in the long run.
And so if fitness advice is really life advice, then what we say (and how we say it) as leaders in that space matters. A lot.
Because what you hear is what you will internalize, and what you internalize will be the language you use out in the world to speak to others and yourself, way after you’ve gone on with your day.
NEGATIVE CUEING is a term used in fitness that generally describes any sort of phrasing that uses what you don’t want to happen as the main motivator. Think, “don’t arch your back.”
Negative cueing isn’t just saying “Don’t do X,” though. Negative cueing is anything that makes the person listening feel like who and how they are isn’t enough.
~ Negative cueing can look like…
It’ll be over soon(implying the current experience is worth skipping over)
I know you hate me right now(they probably don’t, but you just planted the seed that maybe they should)
Burn off that happy hour! (equates what you eat to how much you need to exercise, and that exercise should be food-motivated)
Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight(not everyone identifies as a “lady” or “man” and therefore you run the risk of people feeling left out – also this reinforces sexist assumptions; I know many women who can out-lift men ANY day)
You can do better than that!(um. maybe that IS their best??)
That’s not good enough, give more!(along the same lines; this might be their best work – but also shames the work they’re doing)
I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc(implies everyone who works out is dissatisfied with how they look – and, moreover, probably should be)
Don’t give up(implies the person was going to give up at some point)
You know you can SMILE(omg please don’t force me to smile – give me something to smile about and I will)
I know you want to quit, but…(no, I actually did not, please don’t underestimate me)
Negative cueing can also look like self-deprecation in order to “connect.” Stuff like sharing with your clients/students/members how much you hate your thighs or how much you ate last night and need to “burn off.” Might feel cute or “down-to-earth” in the moment, but it’s reinforcing a dangerous epidemic we already fall prey to of bonding over negativity.
It doesn’t matter how “inspiring” you are or what cute tweetables you’ve got lined up to sprinkle throughout your class. If you’re not modeling self-acceptance, self-love, and what the journey TOWARD that actually looks like, your words are just words.
IF YOU’RE STILL reading this, are not a fitness professional, and wonder how or why this applies to you…think of all the times we cue negatively in our own lives. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. We think we’re offering advice, being helpful, or inspiring someone else – but the hard truth is, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else.
Anyone can study the objective facts. Anyone can teach a class or train a client. Literally. Anyone. You can buy the course online. But the way you talk, act, and live is what actually makes a difference in someone’s life in the long run. For better or worse.
Here are some alternatives for the negative cueing above:
Instead of:It’ll be over soon! Try:Can you give your all to this moment?(implying the current experience is one worth having)
Instead of:I know you hate me right now… Try: I’m your biggest fan right now(lets them know you’re their ally)
Instead of:Burn off that happy hour! Try:Literally just not talking about food. Just…don’t do it.
Instead of:Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight. Try:Grab a weight that feels(insert a feeling or a number of reps you’d like them to perform with said weight, so they can gage what they need for themselves). If you don’t know what that is, call me over and I can help you figure it out.
Instead of:You can do better than that! Try: If you were to give your all, what would that look like? (ask a question and have them come up with the answer themselves!)
Instead of: That’s not good enough, give more! Try:Can you maintain your work…or even surprise yourself by giving just a little more?(emphasizes the work they’re in as good enough, while giving an option to go farther if they can)
Instead of: I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc. Try:How do you want to feel after this workout is over?(redirects focus to a feeling instead of a look)
Instead of:Don’t give up. Try:Keep going, you’ve got this.
Instead of:You know you can SMILE… Try:Not telling people how to react or emote – everyone processes their emotions differently.
Instead of: I know you want to quit, but… Try:You’re doing so great. (simple as that!)
NOT SURE if your cueing is negative or not? Find a mentor. Ask them to come take your class and keep their ears open for anything that could be improved upon. Not a fitness professional but want to monitor the negative cueing in your own life? Dedicate a week to hyper self-awareness. Maybe even tell a close friend, coworker, roommate, or partner that you want their help in calling out your language.
Oh…and as for that friend who asked if I was going to be “the exercise girl” for the rest of my life? That comment that made me doubt my path, my abilities, and my legitimacy as a professional adult trying to find her way in the world?
I sure hope so.
I sure hope that, in some capacity, I am up on that podium, all mic’d up, with my words out there in the open for everyone to hear. And if not, I hope I’m going to classes, keeping sweat dates with myself, or lacing up my shoes for a long run. Because what we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life – and I want all the practice I can get.
I’m just gonna say it: we have an optimism problem.
Living with an optimistic approach to life is, undoubtedly, a strength and a personal asset. It’s forward-motion and seeing what could be, and finding the beauty in the possibility instead of the darkness in the seemingly inevitable. No, optimism (lower-case-o, neutral tone) by itself isn’t bad at all.
However, just like anything, there’s a necessary balance needed to make optimism actually work. If you pay very close attention, you’ll feel the disconnect when it happens. You’ll lose your words. You’ll realize that there is such a thing as being “too” optimistic: shutting out the realities of life as a means of avoidance and calling it “looking on the sunny side of life” or “glass-half-full” mentality.
I call it Blind Optimism.
How does this happen? How can something so inherently good betray us and bar us in? Blind Optimism is what results when we rely on our positive outlook to ignore, shut out, fabricate and gloss over our lives. It can minimize experiences and eat us alive – just likeCasual Negativity, cynicism, auto-pilot pessimism, and projection. It can gnaw away at our spirit, our relationships, and roll a haze of oblivion over our existence.
Blind optimism makes me dizzy – like carousels. Ah…the carousel. My amusement park ride of choice as a highly sensitive kid. I could get on and, for three whole minutes (or more) escape from everyone and everything around me (or more). And, of course, they were pretty. Anyone who has ever visited an amusement park or fairground knows: carousels are very, very pretty. With their porcelain hollow horses and spherical moulding on loop. And they make us smile (I mean, unless you have some sort of childhood phobia which has stuck with you through adulthood, but I’m going to discount that slight possibility for the sake of this metaphor). Most carousels cost mere quarters to ride, so it’s easy to just stay on and go around in circles ad nauseam.
But when the ride ends, we’re faced with the world beyond the beautiful lights and porcelain fairytale creatures. And if we’ve stayed on too long, there’s a good chance we’ll stumble off a bit more than wobbly.
Blind Optimism turns us away from facts and reality in favor of the carousel around the corner, going in circles and circles and circles and circles until we get dizzy and lose our bearings.
When we find ourselves caught in these nonstop-carousel-ride moments, one of two things starts to happen after a while:
a) The carousel stops being fun and eventually breaks down. There is only so much we can give. There is always a breaking point when it comes to extremes. Always.
b) The carousel becomes bothersome, saccharine, and dismissive; something other people tire of don’t want to go near. It’s cheesy and trite at best, ignorant and entitled at worst. We become a part of that fairy tale world playing on loop. And we find ourselves alone on a ride going nowhere.
People always comment on my optimistic life outlook, and when we’re all stuck in the collective doldrums together, ask how I stay so optimistic. The funny thing is – I don’t necessarily view myself as a glass-half-full Optimist. Pollyanna was admirable but always bugged me for some reason (which made me feel guilty, of course – sorry Hayley Mills). I always loved the brilliantly crafted songs and rad penguin dance parties in Mary Poppins, but the Practically Perfect nanny was never someone with whom I identified.
When asked for my “secret,” I chuckle a little and reveal that I’m not really a bona fide Optimist (capital O, chipper voice). I’m Practically Perfect’s alter-ego: Pragmatic. Proactive. Positive.
Life’s ups and downs are inevitable, and some moments will seem more hope-filled than others. So what can we do about it? We can see the facts in front of us and the projected outcomes ahead of us. And we can root for the positive while still recognizing the negative. Not myopically blinding ourselves to the possibility that things aren’t perfectly in place or might go awry…but taking in the world as is, seeing all the good and all the bad, and choosing to build upon what is good and right. It’s like true love: we love fully and deeply when we love others FOR their strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences – not in spite of them.
To break away from Blind Optimism into Pragmatic, Proactive Positivity, our love of life and self MUST transcend those pitfalls and darkness. It starts by moving forward through things instead of around them. It starts with granting yourself permission for your self-like ebb and flow– because it’s normal, and because you’re human – and viewing self-love as the kind of unconditional unbreakable love that no high high or low low can affect.
It starts with letting go of searching for how good things can be in the future (or not), and instead sitting with how good things are right now (or not). It starts with looking at the glass not half empty or half full, but as a glass that’s being sipped from every moment. Easy but nuanced. Simple yet scary. It’s not easy work, but it’s right work. And it’s the work that’ll lead us to finding our genuine smiles, without the help of the ceramic ponies and the carousel leading nowhere.
THERE ARE SO MANY write-ups out there about how to step outside your comfort zone in big ways. Try a new class! Go skydiving! Find an unexpected hobby! Turn your hobby into a career!
In my own experience, the biggest changes don’t come in the big, grand moments – they come in the small details. Once those details accumulate, amazing things begin to happen.
For too many of us, the focus on those big-deal moments (like jumping out of a plane or trying that acro-yoga class down the street) means that stepping outside of our comfort zone becomes more of a “sometimes” thing than a tolerance we build or a habit we form. We go for the big, flashy moments because they’re a bigger, flashier story after the fact – when it’s really the missing mini-details that would make our existence exponentially more fun, bold and meaningful in much more than a “sometimes” way.
The mini details that have gotten me out of my own comfort zone and made my life more fun, bold, and meaningful are far from big or flashy. But they’ve got their own stories attached to them, and those stories live just as close to my heart as the stories of the big mega-moments…if not closer. And most of those stories can be traced back to an interaction or instance involving a woman in my life. Usually, my mother.
Growing up, my mom would traverse my younger brother and I around town as her two trusty sidekicks. And while I was proud to be her trusty sidekick, there was one thing that never failed to make me run and hide: the department store dances.
My mom was (and still is) not one to give a hoot about what anyone else feels is the “proper” way to behave. These…let’s call them freestyle routines…didn’t just happen in department stores (Target was a common dance location) and they weren’t confined to just dancing (a good self-made karaoke sesh usually ensued simultaneously), but the juxtaposition of high-end outerwear carousels and my mom’s IDGAF attitude was particularly mortifying to elementary school-aged Me. Here’s how it usually went down: we’d walk into this fancy space with bright-but-not-blinding overhead lighting to pick up school uniforms or a new pair of shoes. Undoubtedly, there would be a fancy piano player on the ground level, pounding away at some upbeat Billy Joel tune or 11 o’clock Hello Dolly number underneath the bright-but-not-blinging overhead lighting. And my thirty-something mother, sandwiched between Youth Apparel and Sale Boots, would sing and dance in the loudest way possible. My brother had three fewer years of life experience than I, which had not yet taught him that this was an absolutely mortifying event. So of course, his 4-year-old self would join my mom in her crazy antics as I ran and hid behind the denim rack.
My mom might have grown up amidst the fineries of Brentwood, CA life, but she’s always had a confidence and craziness about her that’s all her own. And no one – NO ONE – tells her what to do or who to be.
I inherited my mom’s strength and determination at a young age, but it took me a very long time to become ME instead of who I FELT I should be. I was uber-cautious and highly self-conscious. I considered myself “shy” around my peers, when in actuality I was just so longing to fit in that I squelched any impulse that would get me labeled different or odd. I approached life with fierce determination, but my inner Department Store Dancer was locked away in a vault somewhere, lest she should sabotage my attempts at being fabulous.
What a surprise it was to learn that when we let go of trying to fit in, THAT’S when our unique puzzle pieces find their place in the big picture. When we quit censoring our impulses, THAT’S when we become truly fabulous. But there’s no way those impulses will ever start to feel comfy if we stand with our feet firmly planted in our comfort zone.
Maybe you’ve been told not to take yourself so seriously. I get the intention. But I ten-thousand percent disagree.
Take yourself seriously. Take your life, your goals, your loves, your actions – take them all very seriously. But make sure not to confuse always taking yourself seriously with always being SERIOUS. There’s no way you’ll ever expand your comfort zone if you don’t take advantage of the wacky, bold impulses you have to simply be YOU.
Here are some of my simplest go-to comfort-zone-expanders (which happen to also be mood boosters and boldness-builders!) when my world seems a bit too stoic and blah:
Paint your nails a bright color. I’m not talking red. I’m talking electric blue.
Sing out loud if you’re running outside. And run so fast that you don’t have time to notice if people turn and stare.
Have a dance party in your car.
Or the subway.
Or while walking down the street. If you live in NYC like me, you’ll blend right in anyway.
Learn the lyrics to at least one guilty pleasure song. Don’t forget to practice it every time it comes on: at the gas station, in the grocery store…you know the drill.
Then for bonus points, make a game out of singing it while imitating someone completely unexpected. I prefer Carol Channing or Britney Spears. It’s a fun party trick to have in your back pocket (or to put on the “Special Skills” part of your resume, if you’re me)
Wear a bold pop of color. Royal Purple leggings? Alright alright alright! Neon green socks? OWN IT BB.
Strike up a conversation with a random stranger. Like, an actual conversation. Weather and bonding over complaints don’t count.
Make corny jokes casually, just to see who catches on.
Learn moves from the 80s/90s and do them very imperfectly, very often (I still cannot do the running man properly, but that doesn’t stop me).
Three words: LOUD. BELLY. LAUGHS.
Use the weirdest, most offbeat filters on Instagram Stories you can find. Zero cares about how it makes you “look.”
Send a long text to a random friend or family member praising them effusively, knowing it’ll make them smile.
And if all else fails, make a trip to your local department store – and DANCE.
WANT yourself: What are some of your favorite comfort-zone expanders? What is ONE tiny thing you do regularly that helps boost your mood and build boldness? Comment below – I’m always looking to add to the list!
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way.
It can feel like the companionship cards are stacked against us – but we actually have more in our favor than not. We’ve grown into ourselves. We know what we love and what we don’t. And as we get older, we become less into appeasing others and more into honoring ourselves. We can be “friendly acquaintances” or “work buddies” with people in our various social spheres with zero pressure to develop a deep and lasting bond, like when we’re younger and in school or living in dormitories.
But life changes a lot as an adult, and friendships morph. You don’t need to live far away to feel like you have a long-distance friendship. People move across town, across the country, or across the world. They start new jobs, or grow new families, or take up new hobbies that fill up their soul. Work gets tough and obligations pile up.
Building a life for yourself as an adult is a complicated, ever-evolving process. And sometimes, it gets lonely. That doesn’t mean you’re alone, though: lonely’s just love with nowhere to go.
I gave myself a “friend-tervention” about a year ago when I realized that after planning and executing an amazing wedding, taking on a job that took up the majority of my time and energy, and hunting for a new apartment in the city, I’d been a pretty crappy friend for…well, for too long for me to be comfortable with. Plus, hello, I moved across the country almost three years ago! Time zones weren’t helping at all. I was super lonely, and felt disconnected to my nearest and dearest. And so I recommitted to upping my friendship game, to the people who lived far, but who lived close too.
Part of this meant making decisions to recommit to my sense of community in general – in business AND in life. When I joined Aaptiv, I became able to workout with anyone, anywhere. I could cheer up the people I loved when we were far away – and uplift people I didn’t even know yet. I let go of the classes that made me feel stretched thin and like I wasn’t able to give my all. And I increased the frequency of WANTcast episodes I released per month, and increased the amount of solo episodes I recorded so I could talk directly “to” listeners more and have a conversation “one-on-one.”
I ALSO started looking for ways to meet up with local friends that fit for both of us. Scheduling work dates with our laptops, figuring out when our schedules overlapped, grabbing a coffee with them on their lunch break. And I started to devise strategies around showing up, literally or emotionally, for the people I cared about most WITHOUT sacrificing myself in the meantime. Because to show up for your people, you really do need to show up for yourself first.
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way:
1 – Schedule calls into your cal.
My calendar is my lifeline. If something’s in my calendar, you bet it’s gonna happen. If it’s not, good luck to me remembering it. That goes for work, social plans – and sometimes, if the week is really nuts, even phone calls.
Texts to your nearest and dearest are great, but there’s something that can’t be beat about voice-to-voice connection, whether it’s a phone call or Skype sesh. Scheduling out time to “just say hi” or catch up might feel forced or contrived, but if the alternative is that “just saying hi” keeps getting put off…then this might be a strategy that helps you stick to your shared-words.
There are two ways you can do this: Schedule your calls along WITH your friend. If you use a digital calendar, like Google Cal, make a calendar event, and invite your pal so they’ve got it down, too. But if that feels too forced, then just schedule time in your OWN calendar to call someone, anyone, each week. I have three different reminders in my calendar spread throughout the week – when I KNOW I’ll have time to talk – that say Phone Call To Someone I Love. That way, even if I end up leaving a voicemail, I know I’ve taken the first step in connecting.
Of course you can call as many people you want to call, whenever you want to call them. But having it in the calendar is a reminder to take the time to do it, even when life feels overwhelming.
2 – Send them something they want, need, will make their life easier, or will make them smile.
Care packages aren’t just for sick days or sleep-away camp. They’re also for saying I Miss You, Good Luck, or, well, I Care. They can be emotional – like a copy of “Braving The Wilderness,” a book all about finding your place in the world, that I recently Amazon Prime’d to a friend struggling to identify their place in the world – or practical – like the fancy umbrella an anonymous person recently sent my way to help brave this wacky NYC weather (ps….who are you? I love it!).
Yes, this post is sponsored by Small Packages. Because it’s a company I’d champion and celebrate anyway. I LOVE their mission of making connection easier, and I love that they just want women to connect with those they love most. If you’re like me and you’re a bit, uh, over-achiever-y in the gift department, they knock it out of the park: you can select a box that’s themed around a life event like celebrating a birthday or buying a home, or around a sentiment like “I miss you” or “I screwed up.” And unlike some other boxes that might seem sterile or run of the mill, they go for quality over quantity – the products they choose are DOPE (literally have never seen a box this good – check out the picture above!) and they’ll even handwrite a card for your friend, from you to her (with zero character limit for people like me who prefer to write novels over notes).
Last week, I surprised my dear friend Jen with the “Missing You” box because a) The box reminded me of our favorite activities together, and b) Duh, I missed her.
I’m not sure how Jen and I became as close as we are, but the “Us”-ness of us just sort of appeared one day. She was only a few months into living in Los Angeles, and I was just a few months into teaching at Equinox. She arrived in my class and I had an automatic girl crush on the second-row powerhouse who looked like Wonder Woman and joked like Tina Fey. Multiple times a month, we’d meet up at a tiny strip mall in between our apartments for what we called Hooves And Paws: a manicure-pedicure date preceded or proceeded by fancy coffee beverages and the realest of real talks. When I saw the “Missing You” box, including a book of deep-dive conversations, a sleep mask that gave me H+P relaxation vibes, AND some really really good coffee…I knew it was the one.
Jen’s had a pretty wild year-plus, from business highs and lows to a death in the family to almost being on fire, literally. I am so proud of how she’s moved forward fearlessly through it all with grit, grace, and a crapton of humor. She’s got some big things going on right now that I can’t support in-person – so sending her something that reminded me (and her) of spending quality time together made her day, and it made mine too.
(Btw…if you want to send a Small Packages box to a friend, use code WANT at checkout for 10% off your order. Boom. Done.)
3 – Set boundaries, make priorities, and honor them.
Even when I worked in an office 9-6pm, I still was running SOMETHING in addition. Whether it was a freelance writing gig, acting auditions, or eventually WANT, I used to feel really guilt putting my work aside for social time…so guilty, that I almost always did it.
I ended staying up way past the wee-hours, cramming in the work I didn’t get to that evening, or scrambling on Monday when I didn’t use a little of my weekend to prep and get centered. I was way too exhausted and spread way too thin. I was so afraid of saying NO – for my work, for my health, for my sanity – that I started to realize my yesses didn’t mean much. Because I was always sacrificing something. I was exhausted, and wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t placing value on my time, or my friend’s time. Nothing was the priority. And that wasn’t fair to anyone. My friends deserved to really GET ME when they got me.
I now know how to say NO, and it’s saved me AND my friendships. I no longer dance around my priorities, and no longer feel guilty if I turn down an invite. The flip of that? When I say YES, I am ALL. IN. No work, no half-of-me….all of me, right here, right now. My friends respect my work, my health, and my sanity – and I respect theirs. I’ve even had friends tell me that because I’ve said I need to take a mental health day to myself, they feel comfortable saying that to other people now, too.
4 – Meet them where they’re at.
I saved my favorite for last. So often we expect each other to be exactly the same person we were when we first met. But as our lives change, WE change too.
Jacki Carr put it so succinctly in Episode 063: it’s important to reintroduce yourself to your friends as you grow and evolve – and get to know them in their evolution, too. Your friend who is a new mom probably is going to have some new priorities in her life now, and your friend who moved across the country is probably learning things about themselves they would’ve never predicted five years ago. Your friend might be in a period of self-discovery, or in a period of career expansion, or they might just be a different person now than when you first met them. And every single one of those scenarios is something to be celebrated and get curious about. What’s incredible is that when you commit to meeting your friends, whether near or far, where they’re at – you sidestep feelings like jealousy, resentment, and __. You get to stay curious, stay surprised, and keep “friend-dating” them even after you’ve reached soul-mate status. Meet your friends where they’re at in life – and they’ll meet you where you’re at, too.
WANT Yourself: How do you stay close to friends when life gets in the way? What are some ways you keep your relationships strong, even when distance or circumstances might not be on your side?
Leave a comment below telling us – you might be helping out a friend in need who’s reading.
This post is sponsored by Small Packages, next-level care packages for the people you love the most.
Use code WANT for 10% off your order.
Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:
The guilt hit me before bed, as most guilty moments do.
Oh my god. I forgot WANT’s four-year anniversary.
My heart sank as I counted back since WANT’s big day had arrived and departed like nothing. One, two, three, four…ten days. TEN. DAYS.
I felt like a parent who had forgotten to put presents under the Christmas tree and it was way past December 25th. How could I have forgotten? Was I a bad business mom? How could I have been so negligent?
These, of course, were just rhetorical questions to fill space and buy time while I digested the gritty truth:
I’d been so caught up in what I WASN’T doing “right” over the last few months of running a business that I had completely ignored what I WAS.
I’d been pushing-pushing-pushing so hard, in hot pursuit, that I’d ignored the rock-solid foundation I’d already built.
I was telling my friend Angela the other day how I felt like I was struggling, and that nothing was coming to fruition “like it should.” She reminded me that in the span of a year, I’d gotten married, moved neighborhoods, transferred locations at my full-time job, QUIT my full-time job, began my first new job in fitness in eight years…and that was only in a year.
Moving across the country was harder on me than I’d like to admit, and I think moving uptown brought a lot of those unexplored feelings up to the front again. Changing neighborhoods in L.A. was no big deal for me – I did it almost every year! – because it was all so familiar. I knew the basics of Los Angeles by heart, and the newness of a neighborhood was simply thrilling to me.
Here, it’s different. The thrill is there, but there’s also a feeling of starting over I never experienced in Los Angeles. A feeling of starting fresh. New network, new connections, new places to meet up and places to be inspired. I didn’t realize it, but the lack of familiarity had been messing with my ability to move forward.
So, when I sat down to write a post commemorating the four-year WANTiversarry, something felt…off. Something I was doing before just hasn’t been present in the last few months. Something that was there for the first three years.
I always talk about how I believe curiosity will save the world. But I also believe it will save your business.
The biggest, boldest lesson I’ve learned in the last four years is to stay curious. When things aren’t going your way, in work and life, what do you do? Do you vent to your friends, over and over? Do you look and see what other people are doing, and try to keep up? Do you go over everything you could be doing BETTER in your mind, let it spiral, and just grind harder? I usually don’t, but for the last few months – maybe even the last whole year – I’ve been doing all those things and more.
Staying curious is the secret to anything worth doing, and worth doing well. Because venting won’t solve anything, keeping up with others won’t be true to your vision, and grinding harder will just burn you out. Curiosity is like a real-life Where’s Waldo book: you devise a strategy around what to look for (red and white stripes – got it! glasses – yes!), get in your zone, and zoom in on that mothereffer.
And that feeling of accomplishment and discovery is what makes you want to turn another page.
Almost TWELVE years ago, I came up with the idea for WANT based on what I needed most in my own life. And FOUR years ago, I (re-)launched WANT based on what I knew others needed, too. I saw that there needed, NEEDED, to be a space where we could go for tips and tools – along with motivation and inspiration – to shift our self-talk patterns in a real, lasting way. I knew, KNEW, that the business of affirmations and mantras worked for some people, but didn’t work for enough of them in the long run. And I got curious as to why that was.
What I found, through talking to others and scouring every popular self-help site and book I could find, was that people weren’t talking about the darkness as useful. If they were, they’d mention it then skirt the issue. I saw that there was nowhere that not only allowed people to feel their feelings fully, but encouraged them to think their thinks and feel their feels, and UNEARTH feelings they didn’t even know they had, and THINK thinks that they’d been avoiding for so long – and THEN, only THEN, gave them ways to move forward fearlessly through it all. Not around it all or past it all. THROUGH it.
Curiosity was the foundation of WANT. And I know it needs to be the foundation of me, too. Curiosity has led me to realize that I am a writer, speaker, and community builder before anything. I come alive in front of an audience, and I LOVE bringing people together to make shift in tandem. Working solo and working online are amazing, and allow for a lot of freedom…but maybe it’s too much freedom.
That freedom can make you go down a rabbit hole that never was meant to serve you. You’ve got to pay the bills, so you think about monetization and you think about partnerships. You see what’s being done, and how it’s being done, and you decode the game you believe you’ve got to play. And let me clarify: monetization and partnerships are not wrong. I think it’s so cool that we’re able to be in control of who we work with and where our revenue comes from! But it’s worth looking at the kind of work YOU’RE doing and the kind of business YOU aim to build.
Curiosity has helped me realize that lately, I’m not doing a lot of the things that fill me up. Things I used to do super-frequently because I knew they were the right things to do. Think live events/panels, creating and executing on an editorial calendar, partnering with smaller brand with the biggest souls, and feeling the joy I’ve felt the last few years instead of searching for it.
And why haven’t I been doing these things? Simple. Imposter syndrome. The more you don’t do things – and the longer the amount of time that passes in between – the more you start to doubt your ability to do them.
Sure, I have some good excuses. A wedding. Multiple job changes. Moving. All the other regular life stuff that’s par for the course when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and internalize everything. It would be ridiculously easy to place blame and offload onto those excuses. But I know the only thing that’d been getting in my way…is ME.
So going into Year Five (omg), I hereby promise you – and myself – the following.
I, Katie Horwitch….
…Will create workshops and panels for you that help you live fearlessly in your own life – and in turn, help me live fearlessly in mine too. We’re in this together. When I’m fearless – when my fear is less than my faith in myself – it empowers you to be fearless, too. And oh-so-vice-versa.
…Will structure my editorial calendar based on what I KNOW is needed, not what I THINK is popular. Not that I’ve been doing this, but it’s a trap I want to avoid at all costs. When you write about subjective things like emotions – vs objective things, like face masks – the formula is harder to decode. SEO is only going to go so far. You’ve got to trust your gut, big-time, and keep your eyes wide open for the solutions people are craving in their lives. And trust me, I love a good face mask write-up.
…Will – THAT BEING SAID – get back to writing some more content that has stuff in it like face masks. Round-ups are fun to read and fun to write! And I know it’s a strength of mine that I’m able to do them well, and from the heart. I love turning this kind of product-heavy content upside down onto its head and crafting a piece that speaks to how you want to feel, not how you think you should look. Or what you should do. Or ANY should, really.
…Will still pursue what’s not yet materialized, but will shift my focus to encompass the pursuit of enhancing what already HAS materialized. Always reaching for the next-best thing is no way to live. Once you get the thing, once you achieve the stuff, where do you go from there? Pursuit can be an addiction, and goal achievement can be a hit. It’s not a *bad* hit to go after…but make sure your livelihood isn’t attached to whether you achieve the goal or not.
You wanna start a business? Get ready for the wildest ride of your life. Starting, and then building a business that’s purpose and passion based is tough work, but it’s the rightest work you’ll do. Curiosity must be your foundation. Here’s what else I’ve learned.
1 – START SMALL, AND START OFTEN. Marie Forleo likes to say that clarity comes from engagement, not thought. I’d like to add that clarity also comes from starting with what you have, not scrounging for what you don’t. Want to start a podcast but overwhelmed by all the equipment you “need”? Guess what: you don’t need it. I began the WANTcast with a Blue Yeti microphone and GarageBand. I knew how to use GarageBand, but if you don’t, you can attend a 101 course at ANY Apple store, for free. You can also use websites like Zencastr that make production super intuitive. I started WANT by building a website off of what I knew how to do and what kind of content supported my greater vision. I did Marie’s B-Schoolbecause I knew I needed some extra support – and opted for the payment plan because I wasn’t about to go broke for my idea. I sent the site to my entire list of family and friends, and then focused on doing the best writing I could, week after week. It was a schedule I could keep up and it was quality over quantity. Work with what’s available to you, and with what WON’T overwhelm you. Again and again and again.
2 – IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A PASSION. IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A BUSINESS. KNOW WHAT SEPARATES THE TWO (AND WHERE THEY INTERSECT). Someone once told me that if you don’t care about making money, it’s not a business. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but it’s 100% true. Just because you don’t intend to have any sort of financial transaction, though, doesn’t mean you can’t still create impact from it. What separates my passions from my business: the things that don’t fall into the “business” category are things I identify with that I am ALL IN on…except when it comes to the strategy and the industry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pursuing my passions. It just means I’m not going to use up all my “strategy energy” for things I don’t want to scale. In the same vein, I don’t believe in the terms Day Job and Side Hustle if you really want to make your passion project into your purpose project. Also read: Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job,
3 – SUCCESS IS MORE THAN A NUMBERS GAME (AKA: NUMBERS ARE DUMB). We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Instagram insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push, depending on the stats of the day.
In my past life as an editor, part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you had to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live…stuff like that. It taught me how to look and what to look for. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.
When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.
But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening:the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their darkest corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.
Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, those numbers don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connection. Also read: Success You Can’t See.
4 – FLIRT WITH YOUR WHATS, GET MARRIED TO YOUR WHYS. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.
What’s helped me in these last four years has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down. I now know that if I answered everyone’s questions personally and specifically, I would never get anything else done. So I use these questions to inform my writing, my podcast episodes, and the guests I ask to be on. WANT thrives off of your questions – so keep asking. What I’ve learned is that you are far from the only one searching for answers.
In Year Two, I flirted with videos. I ended up producing one and never touching video again. Because it wasn’t something that lit me up. And moreover – it didn’t have a strong WHY attached. Everyone told me how great I am on camera, and how good it would be for WANT’s growth. But it didn’t feel right, and because it didn’t feel right, I couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I will in the future – who knows! If there is a specific service I can offer…if there is a specific problem I can help solve…and video turns out to be a useful way to do it (and it begins to bring me joy), great. Yes, I quoted earlier that “clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” But that engagement has to have at least an inkling of a WHY behind it.
So, WANT, my darling, thank you so much for your patience while I work out some of my own stuff that’s tied to your growth and brilliance. It’s not you, it’s me. I know that sounds like such a line, but it’s true. I’m here for you.
Thank you for being here for me. I vow to reinvest in the JOY of the work, right here, right now.
To curiosity. To whys. To fearlessness. To being the you you know you’re meant to be.
Let’s crush the year ahead.
More of a podcast person? Listen here:
Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:
Let this serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Good news! Talking about diets is going out of style.
Not-good news!Dieting is being repackaged in empowering words and being called “wellness.”
It’s a classic wolf-in-sheeps’-clothing situation. Up until the early 2000s, being “on a diet” was a status symbol and a sign of virtuosity. Look at the willpower I have! Look how serious I am about losing weight! Dieting was the road to a healthier You, and a healthier You was a smaller You. A diet wasn’t just a way of eating – it was a specific thing you did, for a specific amount of time, to lose a specific amount of weight. Which, of course, became less and less specific the more you did it. If I could just lose 10 lbs, I’d be happier. If I’d just lose 5 lbs, I’d be happier. I’m not happier, I must need to lose more weight.
But now, talking about all-caps “A DIET” and all-caps “WEIGHT LOSS” like that isn’t cool anymore. It’s not a status symbol like it once was – it’s a sign of not being with-the-times or awake to cultural shifts.
So what words are being used instead?
Lifestyle. Wellness. Self-care.
Beware of diet culture in self-care clothing. Beware of weight loss in wellness language. If you’ve been told by a product, a person, or a brand you NEED said product, a person, or a brand in order to “be your best self,” it’s worth questioning. And while you’re at it, take a look at how that person or brand talks about weight loss, or if they even do at all. Do they glorify a thin ideal (which usually also includes privileged and white, which is a WHOLE other thing to unpack and I encourage all of us to mull over why this is)? Even if they try and convince you otherwise…does their language and their actions speak otherwise, over and over?
No, not every brand that talks about lifestyle, wellness, or “your best self” is just word-swapping for “diet” and “weight loss.” But enough are that it’s making a difference in the way diet culture functions.
Best Body Ever language isn’t dead. Heck, why do you think I titled this post the way I did? SEO analysis is real. People are searching. And so I wanted to sneak attack them. If you’re reading this because you were searching for the secrets to your Best Body…well, I am so glad you’re here.
What if each trick to achieving your most awesome self was simple, accessible, and realistic for the life you’re living at this very moment? What if the decisions you made, the ones that had nothing to do with calories or reps, were the decisions that actually helped you get that figure you covet? What if – just go with me on this one – your best body ever was actually the one you’re in now?
You’ve read about all the fitness trends and diet tricks. Here are seven other ways to get your best body ever:
GO ON AN UNFOLLOWING SPREE.
A wise anonymous person once said “Unfollow any account on Instagram that makes you feel like you need to be someone else.” Take a browse through your “Follow” list. Go to each individual account. Sit with it, and, Kondo-style, ask yourself: does this account spark JOY for me? Or is it so aspirational that it’s making me feel like who and where and how and what I am isn’t enough? When this account comes across my feed, is my first instinct to celebrate it, or criticize it? And then – yep – unfollow.
If it’s someone you can’t bear to Unfollow for whatever reason – say, they’re a friend of yours IRL or a family member – Mute their account (they won’t know, and you can always un-Mute them later). It’s okay. It’s an unhealthy relationship. Maybe even a toxic one. And just because it exists behind a screen doesn’t mean it’s less so.
How does this relate to anything physical? Our bodies carry the load of all our doubts and insecurities. And because those feelings are so heavy, we’ll look for a scapegoat to displace some of the weight. Our body is an easy target: We’re walking around with it, it’s tangible, it’s something concrete we can bash. But after unfollowing the accounts that make you question yourself – your beauty, your talents, your success, your worth – you might just realize your body is “Best” just the way it is.
And yes, that anonymous person said it on Instagram.
What is just as unhealthy as an unrelenting drive-thru habit? A person who is so consumed with nutritional perfection that it affects every single aspect of her life – personal, professional, spiritual. This is disorder territory, and it’s dangerous.
Even if you don’t go down the path of anorexia, orthorexia, exercise compulsion or the like, we tend to freak out if we make a “bad” food choice and use it as a way to berate ourselves. Un-perfecting yourself makes it a whole lot easier to get right back to your usual routine when you slip up and to avoid binging on what you’ve deemed “bad” when you’re stressed out, lonely – because it was never about perfection in the first place. You are not living in extreme black-and-whites, therefore the bigger picture is clear. And it’s positive. When you’re nice to your body, it relaxes and realizes it doesn’t need to be on the defense, armed for your next attack. And a relaxed body is a happy, healthy body.
DO IT FOR YOUR SKIN. OR NAILS. OR HAIR.
Fun fact: What helps one part of you helps all of you. Skin acting up? It might be time to cut back on processed sugar (my personal skin saboteur). Nails spotty? Ask your doctor if it could be a mineral deficiency or allergy. Turns out, damaged dermis, brittle nails, or less-than-luscious locks are usually the outward, obvious manifestations of an internal imbalance. Maybe you’re not taking in enough calcium, or maybe your excessive soy habit has gotten your hormones out of whack. Whatever it is, once you make a change, you’re likely to see results once you make changes. This can be a welcome confidence boost and help you stick with whatever healthy habit you’ve adopted – whether it’s a supplement routine or using more natural, hypoallergenic products. You get the picture.
SLEEP ON IT.
It’s a common health tip, getting your eight nightly hours. It keeps your metabolism in check, aids digestion, etc. But what’s more important is that eight (or seven, or nine, or whatever you personally need) hours keeps you sane, confident, and ready to conquer the world. When you feel good about the energy you’re putting forth daily, that confidence starts to radiate from the inside out.
GET PUMPED. Think about your workplace: If you have cool projects to work on, an inspiring culture and the role of your dreams, are you more likely to stick with your job or look elsewhere? No matter how hot the newest craze is, no matter how many friends you have at Pure Barre, no matter how many free passes or Groupons you’ve racked up, if you don’t like the type of workout you’re doing, you won’t see lasting results physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Why? Two things: stress and investment. Exercise gets your heart rate up, triggers your fight-or-flight reflexes, and is physically stressful enough as is. When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your mind actually adds to and sustains the stress by equating it with a chore. With no positivity to combat this pressure, your cortisol levels stay high and your body resists change. Moreover, when you’re not invested in what you’re doing, it’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout and you’re way less likely to stick with it, much less make it a part of your lifestyle.
THE RUB DOWN.
So often we don’t bat a lash at being mean to ourselves – not because we’re inadequate, but because we’re removed. Just like we’ve forgotten what food tastes like, we’ve forgotten what our bodies actually feel like. Take the time to practice self-massage (Massagetherapy.com offers some wonderful starting tips), or simply develop a habit of applying lotion or body oil to your skin before bed each night. When we can notice the way our skin feels, relieve a tight muscle, feel the way each part of our body miraculously fits together, we become creatures to admire instead of objects to critique.
When it comes to self-talk, have you ever heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself”? Turns out, this advice works in the positive direction as well. When we compliment others, whether it be on a new dress or on their killer smile, we are training our brains to speak kindly. And as with anything else, practice makes permanence.
When your mind practices the art of reassurance and positive reinforcement, its wires get untangled and positivity starts to become your own vernacular. Your “best body” becomes the one you are in now, because you realize that even on the gloomiest days there is something wonderful about it that keeps you shining. Maybe it’s your strong legs that can take a brisk walk down the block, or your skin that no matter how stressed you get always seems to bounce back to its radiant self after a little extra TLC. Maybe you’re feeling run-down today, but how about that time yesterday you felt like you could conquer the world (and then Mars to boot)? When you’re nice to others, you’re nice to yourself, and you will start making decisions from a place of self love instead of loathing.
Let these words serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Your mindset. Your energy. Your stress levels. How you respond to challenges. Your self-image. Your community. Your relationship with adversity. Whether you’re proactive or reactive.
Your blood tests and BMI (an archaic + flawed way to determine health) can check out perfectly, but if your mind ain’t right, your wellness levels are on a downward spiral. Your weight could be your “ideal” weight (whatever that is) but if you’re treating yourself like crap to get there and chalking it up to “self-care” you’ve been sold, you’re not set up for long-term success.
To live well, REALLY live well, we need to look at all the wonderful information that’s at our fingertips right now, and take this opportunity to educate ourselves. Never before have we had this kind of information at our fingertips.. Let’s use it to our advantage. And then we need to listen to our bodies, open up our eyes, and take what works for us to fit our lifestyle.
Just because your meal is not food blogger material or the nutritional value of your one snack isn’t as “clean” as the trends say it “should” be or you missed a workout today or whatever it is that’s making you wonder if you’re “doing it right”…I promise, as long as you are making an informed decision based on who YOU are, not who the world is trying to convince you to be, you are doing more than okay.