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!
COMMANDMENT #1:I will tell you I love you, and I will tell you often. I will tell you I love you, and I will tell you from the heart. Because love should be shared when you feel it. You deserve love, and hearing the words “I Love You” shouldn’t be reserved for certain loves and not others.
COMMANDMENT #2:I will have your back through light, dark, and especially in-between. I will not feed off your drama. I will not just show up when life is amazing. Oprah once said “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” I’ll take the bus, the limo, the Lyft, the Uber…even the subway car that’s suspiciously empty (because I agree that sometimes a subway car with no AC is better than a well-ventilated train but standing-room-only one).
COMMANDMENT #3: I will celebrate your successes as my successes. I will feel your losses as my losses. When you win, WE win. I will show up, and I will show up HARD. And when I don’t know how you need me to show up, I will ASK instead of GUESSING.
COMMANDMENT #4:That being said – I might disappear but I will never disengage. Sometimes I need time to myself to figure life out. I might not be physically present as much as I’d like to be, but I’m still there. I am showing up for myself so I can show up for you, too.
COMMANDMENT #5: I will tell you when you hurt me, and I will tell you when I disagree, and I will tell you not because “I say what’s on my mind whether you like it or not,” but because it’s in service of our friendship and of our individual growth. Not because my opinion is what matters. Because clarity is.
COMMANDMENT #6:I will not worship you or idolize you. I will not put you on a sky-high pedestal or treat you as untouchable. We are equals. I will respect you deeply, love you fiercely, and believe in you with an endless well of belief. But I will not think of you as above me, or better than me.
COMMANDMENT #7: I will not put Me on a pedestal. I will not stand for being worshipped, idolized, or treated as untouchable. We are equals. I will respect myself deeply, love myself fiercely, and believe in myself with an endless well of belief. But I will not think of me as above you, or better than you.
COMMANDMENT #8: I won’t make fun of you “out of love” or “because I can.” Tearing you down, even in jest, isn’t healthy – it’s hurtful. I’m here to build you up, especially when those voices inside of your head are tearing you down. Even if you don’t let on, I know they’re there. Because I’ve got them too. I’m here to help them learn to speak another language.
COMMANDMENT #9:I will remember. I will remember things that matter to you. I will remember the things you tell me, because they’re the relics that help tell the story of your life. And, when life gets in the way – you might need me to remember on your behalf one day, when life feels like much too much of a weight to even remember how to remember.
COMMANDMENT #10:I will love you for you, and expect from you what you actually have to offer instead of expecting you to be my twin – or expecting you to be some fabricated version of you I’ve made up in my head. I will love you for you, and that means that even if I disagree with how you view politics, or when you speak up and when you stay silent, or your thoughts on societal institutions, or how you think Shake Shack is better than In-And-Out. I will love you because you are YOU, and our differences are to be celebrated, not criticized. I will love you for you for all the ways we’re similar and all the ways we’re not, and I will love you because it’s the combo of the two that makes Lifers, makes us Soulies, and makes us exactly who we are.
Yoga teacher, artist, and cancer survivor Sarah Girard is a pro at name-calling. Today, she shares with us how her name-calling began, the way her narrative evolved, and how we can each reexamine the most important names there are: the ones we call ourselves.
I’m Sarah G.
The biblical meaning of Sarah is “Princess.” The American meaning is “Happy.” I’ve got a lot of Sarah-competition out there in the world. Sara(h) been one of the Top 100 baby names for decades, and in my generation alone, my fellow Sara(h)s and I reached Top 10 status.
My friends have always coupled my last name’s initial onto my name. Always. They can’t call me by my first name alone – there are always a few of us around. Partly because of this, I have always had a strong urge to set myself apart, to be unique rather than grouped together with my name-twins.
But as it turns out, I didn’t need to work all that hard to be “different.”
When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called Retinablastoma. My eye was surgically removed and now I wear a prosthetic. I was so young when this trauma occurred, that I have many memories of growing up in and out of the hospital. And I have even more memories and experiences of how others have responded over the years when I tell them what I have been going through.
There is a darkness to being “different.” We might think (or at least hope) that kids wouldn’t make fun of the sick kid with the prosthetic, and that adults wouldn’t look at her with pity and shame as if she’s a lost pet. But kids are the most brutal about the things that they don’t understand and adults pity the things they wish would never happen to themselves.
Oh what a tragedy!
You poor soul!
How miserable your childhood must’ve been!
Hearing it repetitively over and over for decades makes it really hard not to believe. So I started identifying with their reactions, naming myself with the same rejection and shame that was being reflected to me.
I was a sick, poor soul. A freak. A tragedy. I desperately wanted to fit in, so I tried to disappear in the sea of other girls with my name. If I could just be Another Sarah, I could escape being Me.
I ducked my head down into books to avoid stares and questions. I became committed to over-achieving at school. I got smarter. Way smarter. If I could outwit the bully, then I could overcome the bully.
But the thing about getting smarter is that I started learning who the bully actually was. The bully wasn’t other people, though they contributed to it. It was all the discomfort and rejection inside myself that I had been holding onto like a safety blanket. I wasn’t able to accept the kid inside me who desperately wanted to fit in, and at the same time, would always be different.
The more I learned and processed, the more my perspective shifted. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one hurting herself through negative talk. I started seeing that we were all doing it.
And we need to change it.
We are all hurting.
We have all made mistakes.
We have all hurt someone.
And we are all hopeful and desperate to be seen and accepted.
We are here, belonging to this group called “humanity,” that feels so deeply and craves true connection.
The great thing is that time moves us along: we graduate, relationships change and our lives evolve. We learn how to adapt, and have the opportunity to learn how to work with our past, not against it. Every now and then I’ll get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I meet someone new and have to tell them about my eye, fearing they’ll call me a freak. But I’ve got this. I can introduce myself with kindness and acceptance, knowing I’m not alone in this.
Let me take a moment to also say that I am extremely thankful to be here and for the expert doctors who saved my life. The cancer never spread to the rest of my body. And I am grateful to my family for always encouraging me to live fully empowered disregarding my handicap as a weakness.
I have stopped calling myself Freak and started taking on other names: Sister, Daughter, Artist, Yogi, Educator. And these are names I love so much. They connect me to my communities, but they also help me stand out on my own.
The names we call ourselves matter so much more than the names other people call us. That being said, I do love my given name. Call me by it. I’ll answer.
It’s simple but stands for so much.
Royalty. Happiness. And ALL my story encompasses.
So hello. It’s me. Sarah G.
Sarah Girard is a Venice Beach-born, NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher. Being a cancer survivor, artist, and food lover, she incorporates resiliency, courage and humor in her on-going group, corporate, and private classes. Over the past two decades, Sarah has studied with leaders such as Bryan Kest, Annie Carpenter, Maty Ezraty, Leslie Kaminoff, and Nikki Costello, and accumulated over 1000 RYT hours. As the Director of Meditation and Yoga Fundamentals for Culture of Fit, she created corporate wellness programs which are implemented in companies nation-wide. Her writings have been published for Yoga City NYC, Prevention Magazine, Self, and is an ongoing expert consultant for Furthermore. As an educator, she is always learning and celebrates the challenges we greet in our daily lives. Find her on Instagram.
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I know, it sounds so precious in the retelling. I’d hug my teachers, my friends, strangers, and of course, the characters at Disneyland.
I am in family photos around the world. I don’t have to see them to know they exist. I would see those characters, the constants in my life, those faces that were unable to change or be anything but Love Incarnate. And I would wrap my arms around them and bury my little three-year-old head in their synthetic fur coat, and in that moment I felt time was paused and I was loved.
Sweet, right? Yeah, until my parents had taken the picture and I still wouldn’t leave their side. I’d stand there next to them on watch, god forbid they hugged another kid, god forbid someone else became their new favorite person – god forbid they forgot about me when I went away.
I am a recovering Stage-Four Clinger. And it’s not just the death-grip hugs I’m talking about. I cling to people, I cling to places. And most of all, I cling to ideas. Attachment, for me at least, is less about the actual thing and more about my relationship to it. Becoming attached to something (or someone) is almost always at least in part becoming attached to the story you’ve written about it in your head.
My clinging isn’t physical, and it’s probably not the kind of clinging anyone else would notice but me. My mind goes into overdrive, like a frantic puppy who senses its owner is about to leave for the day. When I cling, I submit to the feeling of scarcity. When I cling, I set the stage for Imposter Syndrome to waltz in and snag the spotlight. And Imposter Syndrome isn’t just about career goals and success. It shows up everywhere.
Am I a good enough friend?
Am I too selfish? A pushover?
Am I really good enough, wise enough, strong enough to weather this life I’ve constructed, or have I just made everyone believe I am? Will they find me out?
And so I cling tighter.
I used to think that when you became more self-assured and successful, your Imposter Syndrome just melted away. Or at least melted away quicker than it would if you weren’t so self-assured and successful. Nuh-uh. What I’m starting to learn is that as you become more and more You, you open way more doors and windows for Imposter Syndrome to enter through. Your Imposter Syndrome doesn’t melt away – it amplifies and attacks. The irony is that you’ve got waaay more introspective ammo to battle it than you ever did. It just becomes more of a constantbattle than a sometimes-tiff. It’s wildly empowering and scary as hell.
I feel myself clinging when the story I’ve told myself starts to develop holes in it. And I cling to no-one and nothing tighter than I cling to MYSELF. I worry that I’ve created a mess. That I’ll never be able to live up to the expectations I’ve built up for myself. I’ll never forget when a co-worker once called me “enigmatic.” Who ARE you even, Katie Horwitch? he teased. It was the first time I realized I might not be the person I’d always told myself in my internally self-narrated tale. I’m too introverted and too solitary to be the kind of companion I feel I should be. I’m too much of a team player to be the kind of leader I know I can be. I’m too interested in day-to-day life to seek out the adventures I know are open to me. I’m too private to be public. Too soft to be tough.
Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about a person or a place is tough. Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about YOURSELF, though – well, that’s next-level. You’re YOU, after all. You can’t escape You.
But then again, why would you want to? The more you know about how your story is “supposed” to unfold, the less chance you have at surprise and delight and all those other emotions in-between. Clinging isn’t an act of love. It’s an escape. A redirect. When we cling, we bring in the ships and shut down the lighthouses. We call off the search party and refocus our energy onto taking ourselves captive.
When exciting opportunities come my way – a chance to lead a big event! a friendly-friendship gains soul-status! a YES to that YES I’ve been pursuing for months or even years! – I feel my Stage-Four Clinger coming out and I have to tell her NO. I have to tell her that…as much as it pains me to admit it…that she was not always right. She rarely was, actually. Because she was coming from the wrong place. The place that made me feel like the Always-Second-Best, the Always-Runner-Up, and The Always-In-Search of how I can be BETTER. My inner Stage-Four Clinger wants so desperately for me to Find Myself – but she wants me to do it by following an outdated set of rules I made before I actually started to LIVE.
I still count hugs as one of my love languages, and I still make choices that feel more in service of an imaginary version of Me than the Me I am right now. But I am learning to loosen my grip. I’m learning that my embrace will linger way after I let go, and that I don’t need to be hyper-present to be deeply felt.
Finding yourself isn’t about abiding by a past vision, and finding yourself isn’t about searching for a new you. It’s about coming home to the you that was always there. To cling to a vision of who you should be or could be will never, ever reap the kinds of rewards you’ll get when you honor who you are right now and go from there.
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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.
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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.
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