Financial Fitness: 33 Steps To (Mindfully) Pay Off Your Debt, Big or Small

Financial Fitness: 33 Steps To (Mindfully) Pay Off Your Debt, Big or Small

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Paying off debt: maybe not the most yogic topic you can think of, eh? Ariel Kiley would disagree majorly. Ariel Kiley is an NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher, teacher trainer, author, and IAYT certified Yoga Therapist. Ariel specializes in stress reduction and Somatic Experiencing® trauma resolution. Plus she’s kind of obsessed with “financial fitness.”

On WANT, we talk about shame, vulnerability, and seeing the light in the midst of the darkness. “How To Pay Off Your Debt” might seem like an odd subject choice for this site..but really, is it?

Financial fitness, as Ariel calls it, can sometimes feel like the final Adulting frontier. The one elusive thing we’re supposed to just *know* how to handle with ease, but few of us do. So we’re left to fend for ourselves, shying away from asking others for help because we don’t want to seem out of control or immature. We’re not out of control OR immature, though – we’re just doing the best we can with the information we have.

Ariel is a Doer: when she says she’s going to do something, she DOES it. So when Ariel first told me about her plans to tackle her five-figure debt, I knew she’d hit her goal. I just didn’t know how FAST she’d hit it. We’re talking eight months, folks.

Whether you’ve got massive bills to pay or want to spruce up your savings account, here’s the 33 (yes, thirty-three) step plan Ariel used to build up her financial fitness. Take the shame out of your money game and read on – then tell us in the comments what step you loved most and can start implementing TODAY.

On June 1st, I made the last payment on my last student loan. I thought I would be making payments on these loans for several more years, but last November I decided to do a full-scale attack and knock them out as quickly as possible. I teach yoga and meditation for a living, so it’s not like I’m swimming in dough, but there are still lots of ways to monetize this career, and I was ready to get super busy.

To my surprise, I was able to accomplish this much faster than anticipated. I totally wiped out over $25,000 in student loan debt within eight months. There was no magic involved, nor big financial gifts. It was a series of small behavior and attitude changes that added up to this big payoff.

After hitting “confirm” on my final student loan payment something wonderful happened — I got Bon Jovi’s song It’s My Life stuck in my head for days. It’s cheesy, but I feel like I have my life back. And it feels amazing.

So in case you’ve got lingering debt you’d like to annihilate too, I’ve made a list of all the most significant shifts that made this happen.

(BTW, it’s worth it.)

Decide. Commit. Don’t look back. @arielkileyyoga Click To Tweet

1. I Got Mad

Upon reviewing my finances last year, and realizing I was still lugging around over 25k in student loan debt, I got increasingly angry. I was particularly angry at Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. VSAC’s website is all green and white and looks like it’s an ice cream shop or something, but IMO they are total financial scavengers. I was paying 6.9% on my debts to them and hadn’t made much of a dent in over 13 years. This anger reached a boiling point where I didn’t want to pay just a measly $10-$20 extra each month. I wanted to never sign in to their dumb website again. Anger is fire. It motivates. You can use it to fuel debt-removal!

2. I Decided To

This sounds obvious, but it’s very powerful. You have got to make the DECISION I’m going to do this. No really! I’m doing it. It’s like that quote by William Hutchison Murray: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” Decide. Commit. Don’t look back.

3. I Cut Down All Excess Spending

Here I must thank Mr. Money Mustache. He makes frugality a game, he calls it “badassity” to ride your bike instead of drive. Or in my case, ride my bike, or the subway, or walk instead of take a cab. I tracked my spending for two full months and I trimmed the fat EVERYWHERE. Yes, on lattes, on eating out, on impulse purchases like makeup and shoes… there is so much excess spending that many of us do that we don’t even think about. We want it, so we reach out take it, drop our money down and buy it. I cut a lot of that shit out.

4. I Questioned Every Expense

My desires can be very sneaky. For instance, I like to wear sunblock. I can validate my purchase of sunblock cause I’m pale AF and I need to protect my skin. HOWEVER, do I need to buy $45 La Roche-Posay sunblock? No. I can actually use the FREE sunblock that I got in a gift bag that’s been sitting under my bed since last year. And yes, I like binging on the odd Netflix series, I even consider my late-night nature documentary watching part of my education — what’s more valuable to study human behavior than watching animals? BUT, do I REALLY NEED this video streaming service? Upon examination, I found that the answer was NO. So it got canceled. My $90 phone bill got reduced to $40 by changing companies. I talked down the rate of my newsletter service. Questioning EVERY SINGLE EXPENSE that you have is wildly helpful when you want to reduce them.

5. I Created a Zero-Based Written Budget — and Stuck to It

Do you hate the idea of budgeting? Does the thought of writing down your limit for spending in every category of your life totally bum you out? If the answer is “yes,” then you haven’t given it a fair shake. Because BUDGETING IS AWESOME. Budgeting equals success and the freedom to spend wisely. A zero-based budget is when you “give every dollar a name” as Dave Ramsey says.

In the beginning of each month I added up all the money that was in my checking/savings/Venmo accounts, plus all cash, and that was my budget (aside from a few hundred dollars in savings reserved for the unexpected). Then I wrote out a list of each category of spending and planned ahead what I would pay in each one. The leftover money all went to debt payments. This extra debt payment added up to anywhere from $688 (month 1) to $5,073 (month 8).

Sticking to my budget proved to be a fun and satisfying game, not a punishment. I loved the feeling that I was the boss of my money, not at the mercy of my fleeting cravings.

I loved the feeling that I was the boss of my money, not at the mercy of my fleeting cravings. @arielkileyyoga Click To Tweet

6. I Listened to All Different Experts

Some people get really judgy about all the different financial “gurus” and “experts”. I think that the reason they are so critical is that they are looking for a reason to avoid their own financial issues. Instead of bitching about whether I liked the personality, political ideas, or facial hair of various “experts”, I just listened to all of them that seemed to have something valuable to say. I found that no one teacher had all the answers for me, but pulling from different systems brought it all together. That said, Mr. Money Mustache and Dave Ramsey proved to be the biggest influences.

7. I Used the “Cash Envelope System”

This system is brilliant. Basically, all expenses that you don’t need to mark as business expenses or keep track of, you just set aside cash for. My cash envelope system was very crude. I wrapped my stashes of cash for the categories of Groceries ($250), Dining Out ($100), Coffee ($40), Laundry ($25), Fun ($50), Giving ($25) in Post-its in my wallet. Apparently when you feel cash leaving your hands it registers in pain centers in your brain. This causes people who use cash to spend significantly less than those swiping cards, or god forbid, using something like Googlepay — which doesn’t even need a signature or a pin. When you feel your money leaving, you spend less. Setting aside the cash forces you to adapt to that budget. When the cash is out, no more buying.

8. I Made a Game of Accountability

When I decided to really DO THIS, I decided it would be interesting to post the journey on YouTube. Partly, because I figured that if I pulled it off, recording that journey could be informative and helpful to others. But even more so, I knew if I posted it live, I would have to be accountable to my choice. So by making it a game of making videos and sharing online, that upped my accountability and motivated me to save more and earn more so I could make a great uplifting video the next month.

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9. I Paid my Debts Smallest to Largest*

This is a Dave Ramsey thing. He says that our psychology is much more significant than “the math” so he actually recommends paying off your debts smallest to largest, regardless of interest percentage. So even though I wanted to pay my biggest student loan debt first (the one from VSAC that made me so angry!), I had to pay off two smaller ones (originally they were Sallie Mae, but were sold to Navient). Seeing this progress really helped fuel and motivate me.

10. I Found ‘Pleasure Workarounds’

I enjoy a new $500 dress just as much as the next gal. You know what else I like? Dinners out at world-class restaurants with iconic chefs where I don’t look at the price of anything and order whatever I want. You know what else I like? Impulsive trips to exotic and glamorous places. Plus I really enjoy fancy hotel rooms. But you know what? That sh!t wasn’t going to get me out of student loan debt anytime soon. So I found ‘pleasure workarounds’.

This meant that instead of going out for a whole meal, I’d go to a beautiful hotel lobby and order a really nice cup of tea (I am partial to the Meadow Tea at Ace Hotel). Or instead of planning a trip overseas on my own dime, I used the Law of Attraction to create an opportunity to teach in London where all my expenses were paid. Instead of new clothing, I decided to take extra morning time to get ready mindfully and really appreciate the clothing I already own. The takeaway? Pleasure workarounds work!

11. I Stopped Magical Thinking About Fantasy Income

I’m actually curious if you have this issue too, or if it is particular to my mind. I’ve got this idea in my head that the really big-income opportunity is always right around the corner. I have this thought that if I just invest in that program, or write that book, or whatever, suddenly my “ship is going to come in” and like, half a million dollars is going to drop into my lap. This has caused me, over the years, to invest tons of time and money into things hoping that they will produce gobs of income. And to be honest, none of them have worked out. If anything, it’s the learning I did while pursuing them that led to other, more organically and gradually growing aspects of my income. So I stopped magical thinking about fantasy income over these months and decided to focus on where my money was ACTUALLY coming from. It was a total relief.

12. I Got Humble and Stopped Feeding My “I’m Special” Ideation

Facing debt and doing the cost-cutting/extra-buck-earning details to get out of it quickly is humbling. While taking on this process you have to admit, once and for all, that you are not a princess. You have not been “discovered” and swept into a life of fame and wealth. You are just regular old Joe/Jane who is sick of being in debt and there are many ways to earn that money that will really help you get there, but they aren’t all fancy-pants. For me this meant teaching more yoga classes at hours I’d rather be sleeping. It meant saying “yes” to work I didn’t feel like doing. It meant getting un-special and just getting the job done.

Admittedly, I did have a major program that I “starred in” come out on Daily Burn during this time, I taught at Yale with radical chef Elizabeth Falkner, and I did get to do a few glamorous things like travel and do photoshoots. But juxtaposing this glamour with those early mornings and extra private sessions, kept it quite real.

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13. I Did What I Know How to Do to Make Money

This is related to #11. Instead of getting in my head that I needed to create the “next big thing”, I just buckled down and did what I know how to do: I taught yoga classes, taught meditation, I led trainings, I worked as a blog editor, I put together yoga programming, I did coaching, I helped people get stronger and more flexible in private sessions. I just did what I know how to do. That was enough.

Instead of getting in my head that I needed to create the 'next big thing', I just buckled down and did what I know how to do. That was enough. - @arielkileyyoga Click To Tweet

14. I Maximized My Earnings by Also Doing What I’ve Been Wanting to Do

Yes, I did the regular stuff to keep my earnings up as stated in #13. But I also took action on projects I’ve been wanting to do, but hadn’t gotten around to. Like my Business of Yoga Success Course. I’d been thinking of doing that for years. Plus putting a therapy ball training on the books. My financial freedom journey helped me pull the trigger and actually do what I’ve been thinking about doing. This also included special workshop themes, trauma resolution work, and other coaching approaches.

15. I Took My Business Seriously

Here in the yoga world things can get a little mushy-gushy, gooey-spewy. But once I got on my budget and made the decision to do this, I got more clear about my business. Sometimes people reach out to me wanting to do privates but don’t actually schedule until months down the road (if at all). I don’t have time for this. I do a call with them immediately and schedule if they want to schedule, and if I sense it’s murky, I let it go. Plus I don’t care to tiptoe around money talks with studio owners. I don’t have energy for vague rules around space rental. I have a business and I need to take it seriously. In the past few months when I’ve encountered other systems or people that I can tell are wishy washy or unprofessional, I’m OUT. It’s a waste of my time.

16. I Said YES to Unexpected Ways to Make Money

During this time I was contacted by my dear friends/colleagues at Tune Up Fitness about joining the blog editing team. I would not have considered this were I not on my debt-free bender. But given the fact that it’s kinda draining to ONLY teach yoga, I considered it. Then I took it. And you know what? I LOVE IT! I’m having so much fun in this position. Who would’ve thunk it?

17. I Sold Stuff

Dear Craigslist, you’re so cool. I didn’t think I “had anything to sell”. But you know what? I was wrong. As it turns out, a family in Queens really wanted my plant pot collection. And a lady in Crown Heights was happy to take the grill that I had inherited from a friend off my hands for $40. Plus some furniture went out the door. I actually would’ve sold a lot more stuff if I had more time. I got rid of a lot of clothing and tchotchkes. But I did the math and figured I’d make more $$ teaching than selling small items.

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Make your photos for Craigslist pretty!

18. I Unloaded the Past

Part of making this shift to being debt-free, was also making the shift to let go of the material stuff that was weighing me down psychologically. For instance, I have been carrying a “boyfriend box” of old stuff from exes for a while now. I’m a Taurus which means I’m a bit sentimental and a bit of a hoarder. But I decided enough was enough and got rid of not just the boyfriend box, but hundreds of other things that had been given to me that carried energies I didn’t want to carry into the future.

19. I Gave Gifts and Showed Gratitude

Apparently part of attracting wealth is having an “abundance mindset.” And part of having an abundance mindset is being generous. During these last eight months I have felt very, very grateful. First, I’m grateful to several incredible individuals at Daily Burn, Equinox, Tune Up Fitness, Yoga Sole, Dou Yoga, Prema Yoga BK and more who gave me great opportunities and discounts. I’m also grateful to people in my life like my family and friends who bring so much wealth of spirit and heart to me. As such, I wound up sending out lots of flowers, thank-you cards, and “I appreciate you” texts. NOTHING I have done, I have done alone. Everything has been because someone gave me that opportunity and gave me support to do what I do. I feel that more than ever now.

I also make a point to thank all of the waste removal workers in NYC that I encounter. Especially people changing the garbage in the subways. I stop and give them a little bow and say “thank you for your hard work.” There is almost always a great moment of warmth and uplift between us when I do that. I am really grateful to these people for keeping the city clean and beautiful. They work really hard doing something low-status and potentially dirty and they should be shown gratitude and appreciation.

20. I Refocused My Intention Every Morning

There is a reason I’ve been dragging this debt around for SO LONG. It’s because society normalizes it. Lots of voices talk about “good debt”. All the time people promote “treating yourself” and say dumb stuff like “you deserve it” about expensive items and empty-calorie foods. I deserve what? To be broke and chubby? I deserve to be financially strapped and unable to zip up my favorite dress? No. I don’t deserve that. And I don’t want it. But those messages are STRONG, man.

So every single morning I get up and write out my goals. I refocus on what I’m trying to accomplish by writing it down. Then as I move through the day I’m able to discern those voices I don’t want to listen to from my own voice within.

21. I Listened to Tons of Podcasts and Read Tons of Blog Posts

Yo. There is a shit-ton of inspiration out there. And I’ve been soaking it up. I may have dropped my Netflix subscription, but YouTube is free and I watch all kinds of videos of other people paying off their debt. It inspires me. Mr. Money Mustache’s blog posts are hilarious, full of amazing frugal ideas, and super motivating. The Minimalists podcast gives so many great ideas on how to “live better with less.” Dave Ramsey has dozens of callers each week into his radio show sharing their financial issues and receiving live advice — also telling the stories of their success. Over these past eight months I have kept a steady stream of ideas and inspiration pouring in to keep my motivation up.

22. I Ate Really Good Food… At Home

My dining out budget each month was $100, which doesn’t get you far here in NYC. So I made sure, with my $250 grocery budget, to buy really great ingredients like fresh fruit & veggies, nut butters, hummus, herbs, sauces, cheese… stuff that I was excited to come home and eat. Yeah, I’ve eaten a ton of oatmeal too. But I like oatmeal. It gets the job done.

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2 bags for 5 bucks? Yes please

23. I Let People Take Me Out to Eat

I have some very sweet friends (and family members!) who have been totally supportive of my debt-free mission, and super generous over these months. As such, I have been taken out to some absolutely delicious dinners and lunches. These meals were even more special than past meals out. Partly because they were rare. Also because of the deeply kind gestures of the people close to me. They were fortifying on so many levels.

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Trina and Farzad taking me on a date

24. I Created a Support Network

I have not been alone in this. First, there is the mysterious group of people (between 100-1,000 per post) that watch and encourage me on YouTube. Then there is the killer circle of whip-smart witchy girlfriends with whom I did a formal financial coaching group for several months. Then there is my sister who is a rockstar earner and also on a major mission towards financial freedom. My mom, who has never been one to pour over financial spreadsheets, has hopped on board and also started becoming more excited about money and budgeting with me. Plus my dad, who is kind of a numbers geek, has patiently (and seemingly with genuine interest) waded through numbers with me on looong phone calls. My support network has helped me feel really, well, supported. It’s awesome.

25. I Took Others’ Encouragement to Heart

Sometimes on YouTube I get a really simple comment like “great job! You’re doing awesome! You got this!” Instead of just brushing past it, I take it to heart. Someone I don’t even know took a couple minutes out of their day to write that. So I fully receive the message and send them a big thank-you out over the sky to wherever they live (often across the world). This gives me a real boost!

26. I Imagined a Better Future

What will life be like when I’m financially free? Is a question I regularly pondered. Then I took the time, either in my imagination or a journal, to play it out. When I’m financially free I will be able to be more brave with my career moves. I will feel confident speaking boldly and honestly about my beliefs and values. I will take time to study more books and participate in more trainings. I will feel a greater sense of inner worth, as opposed to inner deficiency. I will have much more freedom to think about where I want to live, what I want to do, who I want to do it with… I will be able to be generous towards organizations and individuals who need help. This imagining was intensely motivating. By painting an inner picture of why I’m doing this, all the harder stuff like budgeting and working longer days felt positive instead of like a drag.

27. I Smiled at Money and Thanked Every Bit of it That Showed Up in My Experience

You know that thing people seeking wealth do where they pick up a penny off the street because they don’t want to say “no” to any money? I think it might’ve come from that book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Or maybe it was in Think and Grow Rich. Anyway, I rarely do that. When I see a dirty penny on the street, I do not have the urge to pick it up. But you know what I do instead? I look at it and think to myself “amazing! There’s money all around me! What an abundant world I live in!” Then keep walking.

The other thing I do, is every time I get a paycheck or a small fistful of cash from a private client I smile at it and enthusiastically thank it for showing up in my life. I also thank the person who gave it to me. Both when they gave it, and when I’m home filing it to be deposited in the bank.

28. I Ignored Wussy Whiny Messages

As mentioned in #20, there are surprising amount of people who will try to talk you down from your badassity when working extra hard and “depriving” yourself of stupid things like lattes. There are people that think you are doing too much and burning out. When I encountered wussy whiny messages like this I paused and did a little inner reflection, having thoughts like this:

I make many thousands of dollars each month strolling around barefoot in plush, warm, beautiful high-end environments inviting people to stretch their limbs and breathe more deeply. I listen to music of my choosing, I wear incredibly comfortable clothing. I have deep and pleasant moments with absolutely wonderful, evolved, intelligent people. When I’m not at yoga studios I’m in lovely homes throughout this city with working toilets and all the fresh water I can drink. I sleep at least 8 hours each night in a soft, warm cozy bed under a leak-free roof. I eat fresh organic vegetables and grains. When I feel a little blue I have layers and layers and layers of support both emotionally and financially to fall back on. I think I’ll be okay. Now let’s get back to work!

(There is a teeny bit of wisdom in the caution about not burning out, which is why it’s good to diversify your earnings — so you aren’t overly taxing yourself by doing the same thing constantly.)

29. I Remembered My 13-Yr-Old Inner Hustler

When I was 13 my dad said I should earn my own money so I got a job at the local farm pulling weeds in a pumpkin patch for 4 hours each day at $5/hour. When I was 14 my best friend Christyn got me a job at the local Italian restaurant for $5.25/hour washing dishes. A year later I was promoted to prep cook and I made $5.75 rinsing the flies out of the lettuce, cleaning and slicing up calamari, prepping giant mounds of pizza dough and all kinds of other random tasks. And I loved it. I took great pride in my hard work. Maybe it is all the episodes of Sex & The City I watched in my 20’s, but sometime between then and now I got soft. I developed a distaste for scrappy uncomfortable hard work. But this debt-annihilation stint brought me back to that scrappy teenager who mopped many, many floors to get a taste of the great freedom and opportunity that money provides.

30. I Broke My Lease With No Penalty and Moved to a More Affluent Neighborhood  

It is usually not advised to move while hauling ass to get out of debt. Moving can be extremely expensive. But I knew my lease was coming up for renewal, I knew the price would go up, and I also knew that I wanted to move to a more affluent and socially vibrant part of NYC. I had been living in a small apartment on the far side of Prospect Park long enough. So I scoured list serves and wrote my ideal apartment attributes: view of the East River and Manhattan skyline, cool funky loft space, living with three funny/interesting/inspired guys (cause I like that show New Girl).

Then I found it. A big funky loft space in DUMBO overlooking the river with three young funny fun brilliant men. To move in I had to break my lease. But I didn’t want to pay extra rent, and I wanted to get my deposit back. So I wrote a totally kind and open email to my building manager 10 days before I planned to move, and he agreed. The deposit check is in the mail right now. Very little financial loss for a huge neighborhood gain. Boom.

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Hello DUMBO!

31. I Let the World Provide

As previously mentioned, I was offered some really lovely things over these eight months, trips, meals, tips, trades for other services I could benefit from. The last night of April I recall my grocery budget was drained, I had nothing good to eat, and I came across a business giving away free vegan dinners at Equinox where I had just finished teaching a class. Yes please! At the end of a yoga private the student offered me a giant round loaf of sourdough bread from She Wolf Bakery — I’ll take it! Plus many more free offerings crossed my path. I trusted that with a goal this clear, the world would provide. It did and I said “yes”.

32. I Practiced Contentment

In the Yoga Sutra there is this word “santosha” which means “contentment”. Instead of entertaining the parts of me that wanted more/better during these months, I regularly returned to this idea of santosha — of being content with what I have. And when I did this every single time I looked around I saw that I have SO MUCH. What more could I possibly want?

33. I Trusted My Ability to Change My Reality

I’ll be honest, you didn’t need to read all the points in-between. The two most important ones are #2 and this #33. If you don’t believe you can change, you can’t. If you believe you can, you will find a way through every single challenge, every roadblock. You will see a world of interesting opportunities and fascinating quandaries to solve. This debt-freedom happened because I decided to do it, and believed it was possible. Period.

If you don’t believe you can change, you can’t. If you believe you can, you will find a way through every single challenge, every roadblock. @arielkileyyoga Click To Tweet


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*photo credits: furthermore by equinox, arielkiley.me*

The New January.

The New January.

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UNLIKE MOST KIDS, I don’t remember EVER dreading the first day of school. I might have had a mini panic attack before starting my senior year of high school (first and lasts always get me), but even those years when I switched schools and had to find all new friends, all that ever bubbled up was excitement and enthusiasm.

Maybe it was my naiveté, maybe it was my upbringing, maybe it was just my personality. But there was something about backpack shopping, picking out my outfits, and pouring over the introductory paperwork all the students at my schools were sent pre- Day One that made my heart so very happy. The impending challenges of a new grade – or in some cases, a new school altogether – never really entered my head. Back To School season was the BEST season of the year.

No matter what our lives looked like in those formative years of kindergarten through 12th grade, once September hits the ground running, we’re thrown back into that mentality of going “back to school.” We prepare for a new start, hope for positive change, and cross our fingers that we’ll be able to handle what life dishes out in the coming months.

Without summer vacations and required reading, though, it can be hard as an adult to draw the line between where summer ends and fall begins. Because although we’d love to have an endless summer, and although the first day of Autumn isn’t technically until September 23rd, we can all feel a shift from the moment Labor Day weekend comes to a close. It’s “back to the grind,” even though most of us have been grinding all year long. And so it can just seem like more of the same – like we lost track of time, and the time of year so associated with taking a breather completely passed us by. Couple this with a built-in programming from childhood to register this time of year as transitional, and it’s easy to feel a little bummed out by the seasonal shift.

While January usually gets the attention when it comes to resolutions, I’d like to argue that September deserves just as much attention as the 01/01 mark.

Autumn is the perfect time to evaluate where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you’re going. It’s a time for us to bring back that childlike enthusiasm, relentless joy, and even those first-day jitters we had as kids. Because all worthwhile and exciting changes in life bring up first-day jitters, really.

It’s called “Fall” for a reason: just like the leaves break from the brances so the tree can begin its process of renewal, we too should let our old energy-suckers fall off our backs to make way for this new season of growth.

It's called Fall for a reason: just like the leaves break from the brances so the tree can begin its process of renewal, we too should let our old energy-suckers fall off our backs to make way for this new season of growth. Click To Tweet

This month – and this Fall in general – I encourage you to look at what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what your heart truly desires in this moment. Maybe you’ve been skimping on self care and getting a 15 minute sweat in before work is just what you need. Maybe you’ve been so wrapped up in work that your social life isn’t what you’d like it to be. Call a friend you haven’t checked in on in a while. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished this year so far, and how you want to feel by the time the clock strikes midnight on January 1st of next year.

Some thinks I’ll be thinking and questions I’ll be asking myself – feel free to steal them for your own musings:

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  • Who can I look up to who is doing the REAL work, not just what is trendy, popular, or the easy way out?
  • How can I both grow my business and make my community ATYPICALLY authentic and meaningful?
  • Mornings. Middays. Bedtimes. What are some ways to tap into my energy levels during each season of the day and maximize my potential, even on those days I’m feeling down in the slumps?
  • What things are the most important to do each day…and what things are just “routine addiction”? (ex: if I have a podcast interview at 9AM but wake up at 7:30AM, is it more important for me to fit in a workout like I do almost every morning, or take the time to get centered and prepare for a successful conversation?)
  • Things that make me nervous. If those nerves are created by stories I’ve been telling myself, it’s time to rewrite the narrative by just going for it and doing the damn thing.

There will be challenges in the coming months, of course, and the newness of Fall and Winter will bring all kinds of highs and lows we could never have predicted. But if we shift our perspective to refocus our minds, refresh our hearts, and renew our commitments, there’s no telling what kind of miracles the rest of this year has in store.

Pick out your outfit, grab your backpack, and let’s get on this bus together.

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I Tell Myself Stories: The Need for Validation.

I Tell Myself Stories: The Need for Validation.

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What child is afraid of swing sets? This child was, that’s who.

I was afraid of the swings, I was afraid of the Big Slide, I didn’t venture into the “deep end” until I was seven years old. I stayed the fck away from the monkey bars, and I sure as hell wouldn’t play double-dutch jump rope because I knew without a DOUBT I’d be whipped in the face.

It’s not the failure per se, but the loss of control that frightened me. It was the idea of being suspended in the air, in the water, no top, no bottom, nothing holding me up but sheer momentum and no control of grounding.

Being caught in space. Indefinitely.

Control was my first frenemy. The first one who made me believe I was lost without her, when in fact I was most lost when in her smothering embrace.

When I had control, I looked for cracks in the surface.

Threats everywhere. I look for those out to do me wrong.

And when I had no control…when I was uncertain…I made up stories.

I see the fall. I see drowning. I see the spiral downward.

And I look for someone to save me.

Validation is what we crave when we’re unsure: of a moment, of our place, of ourselves. And seeking it out works in exactly the opposite way we want it to.

We plead for Yesses and get bogged down in our Tryings. We become so afraid, so unsure, SO self-conscious, that we hinder ourselves from moving forward, simply because we’re so scared of falling back. And so we do.

It’s frustrating as hell, but honestly, is it at all surprising? If our fear of falling short is the energy that we put out into the universe, why is it any wonder that we’re always feeling two steps behind?

Let’s not kid ourselves: it helps to be validated. Positive reinforcement…who wouldn’t eat that up? We want to know that we’re worthwhile; that we’re okay.

But when we actively seek validation, we’re being reactive instead of proactive. Our actions become an external comeback instead of an internal process.

When we actively seek validation, we're being reactive instead of proactive. Our actions become an external comeback instead of an internal process. Click To Tweet

We so desire to be loved and told we’re worthwhile, because at the heart of the matter, to feel ineffective is a frightening thing. And when we don’t receive validation – or receive the exact opposite, criticism – we start to tell ourselves stories in order to exert control. We say we’re doing things all wrong, we start to feel as if we have something to prove.

My question is this: Prove what?

We are alive. Here. In existence.

We are proven simply by existing.

 

We don’t need validation in order to be fully and wholly ourselves. That’s OUR job, not anyone else’s. It’s the stories that trap us. The stories of the flailing, the drowning, the stuck-ness in space. Will anyone love me if I fall? Will I be good enough even if no one else says it out loud? If I can’t see it, is it even real?

 

Untangle the trap. Recognize when you’re telling yourself stories by flipping the narrative. Instead of acting and reacting out of FEAR and NEED, be proactive and productive out of LOVE and WANT. Will you get some kind words or praise along the way? I mean, probably. Productive and Proactive are infectious. Everyone wants a little of whatever the most self-assured and got-it-together person in the room is having, and that will most likely get you a nice potpourri mix of extremes; both validation and judgement. The trick is to not let either guide your actions. And if you’re like me and you’re thinking, “But wait. I’m not that self-assured and DEFINITELY don’t got-it-together at ALL” …it makes no difference. Proactive and Productive read as self-assured and got-it-together from the outside. That’s their story to tell. Not yours.

I still tell myself wild stories that I am caught without grounding in space, that I am thought ill of, that I am screwing up and that someone is onto me. That someone else is more qualified, more talented, more beautiful, more special and well-liked. Just More.

And when I tell myself these stories I take the drama, I take the romanticized truths in my head and I ask WHY. Turns out that the story I tell is usually rationally improbable. And that much of my story is actually rooted in a need to be validated; a surface-level reaction. A premonition that I might have something to be sorry about, just by being me. When the truth is that “being me” is the greatest asset I could ever have.

~

So swing high and dive deep. Take a stand and give yourself the credit you deserve.

Trust your actions. Trust your intuition. Because we have everything we need, right here, right now.

Your validation is that your life is happening For you. To you. With you.

Your validation – it’s in your existence.

And so you keep going.

validation

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On Becoming Real: One Woman’s (Not-So-Conventional) Journey To Motherhood

On Becoming Real: One Woman’s (Not-So-Conventional) Journey To Motherhood

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

When it comes to bliss, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula: we’re all looking to find our bliss in some way, shape or form. Enter Venice Beach based life coach and yoga teacher, Mary Beth LaRue. A sought-after yoga pro in the Venice area, Mary Beth is also the co-founder of Rock Your Bliss, a mash-up of life coaching, goal crushing, and yoga both on and off the mat. Rock Your Bliss’s mission is to inspire others to live their best lives through the power of yoga, coaching, and community. Along with her BFF Jacki Carr, Mary Beth helps others bring action to their intentions through personalized life design, asana, goal coaching, and brand creation that encompasses every aspect of your lifestyle and values. 

Something else incredible about Mary Beth? She’s chosen foster-to-adoption as her path to motherhood.

MB has been sharing her – and her husband’s – experience with foster adoption and their son on her blog since her journey began last year. I am so touched by MB’s journey. Sharing as openly as she does about all the mental, emotional, and logistical highs, lows, and everything in between…well, it’s so damn beautiful, and SO damn needed.

So many of us feel the pressure to make a choice about how we want our “family life” to unfold, and make a choice by a certain benchmark (whether it be age or life stage). And what’s more, no matter WHAT choice we choose, it seems as if everyone has an opinion about it.

It’s incredible and inspiring to see a perspective on how to build FAMILY that doesn’t involve the most stereotypical options. If only there were more people sharing their stories that fit outside the parameters of pregnancy, maybe women wouldn’t feel so pressured to make a either-or decision. There are so many ways to build a family and create a loving household, whether it involves one person or five, shared DNA or soul connections.m

Whether you choose to have children or be child-free isn’t the point. Just like it isn’t about being married or single. Republican or Democrat. This or That. It’s all about sharing as many stories as we can so we can feel empowered making the life choices that we know are right for us. Because so many others are making choices that are right for THEM. Choices we might not have even known were possible. Isn’t that what life, and “rocking your bliss,” is all about? Sifting through, finding what resonates, and building upon that?

Mary Beth’s open spirit and raw courage are infectious. Her wisdom and words draw you in. And I am so honored to have her sharing the story of how her unconventional journey to motherhood began here today on WANT.

I was never sure if I was meant to be a mama.

Actually that’s an understatement. I felt immense doubt around motherhood.

I cried in a lot of hotel rooms when my best friend and I would travel for work.

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” I’d say, tears running down my face. “I don’t know if I want to.”

She’d hug me and say, “Then don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends’ babies to the moon. I love my friends’ round bellies and ability to eat all the nachos. I even thought decorating a nursery would be fun. But the rest of it? I was unsure.

I’d close my eyes during vision meditations where I was supposed to see my life and I just couldn’t see “it.” Whatever it was. That was challenging when at least half the room experienced major waterworks talking about their perfect baby and my best friend pictured her three flannel clad children summiting a mountain.

That being said, after a few years of marriage, my big bearded honey of a husband (who was so meant to be a dad and had talked about it on our second date) and I started to “try.” We are in love but we are kind of lazy together too, so I was not exactly a “peeing on sticks” and “sex around the clock” kinda gal. I figure if it was supposed to happen, it would and I’d trust that the universe had my back on this one.

We tried. We kept trying. I bought some of those sticks. I peed on them. I took vitamins. Still nothing.

Okay universe, I know I said I was unsure, but now I’m kind of pissed.

Fast forward to this past spring. I’m in some stupid outfit that I think is “mom-like.” I’m in a stuffy doctor’s office with my husband and clutching his hand for dear life. It’s a fertility center and I don’t like anything about it. After many tests, the doctor told us that there was a chance we could get pregnant but it was pretty small. He immediately ushered us into an even smaller, even stuffier, room to show us pamphlets about IVF and other means of becoming pregnant.

He told us that we could begin these fertility treatments as soon as the next week. Not even five minutes later, a woman shows up with another folder of paperwork about how to pay for said IVF. I was overwhelmed and in tears. We hadn’t been trying that long. We hadn’t seen a naturopath. We left. Matt drove us to our favorite ice cream shop and we sat outside eating massive cones at 2 pm.

I looked at him and said, “Should we just say fuck it and move to Bali? Just the two of us?”

He looked at me and shrugged. Maybe, he said.

The further and further we got away from that office the more I realized that this was not how I wanted to grow my family. But something else had started to bloom in me. That I was actually meant to be a mother.

Matt and I were on a walk on a Saturday afternoon when I asked him, “What do you think about adoption?”

He looked at me with big eyes and said, “I think it’s beautiful.”

I smiled. “Yeah, me too. Really beautiful.”

I noticed the way adoption made me feel in my body. Vulnerable but open. Soft but sweet. Strong yet tender. It made me feel the way I do when I see my dad’s eyes crinkle up with laughter. The way I feel when I’m really connected to others – sometimes in yoga classes, sometimes at church when visiting my parents, sometimes in nature. I felt it in my bones and knew it to be true. For me. For us. For this little human out there. I could close my eyes and picture every curve of their sweet, little face. Picture the moment the car drove up and a social worker placed this baby in my arms.

I didn’t feel this way when I thought about the other ways of becoming a mom. To be completely and utterly honest, I didn’t even feel that way when I thought about myself as pregnant. It felt right, like soulmate-right, and it made sense to me why I couldn’t picture it before.

 

I was trying to picture what someone else’s version of motherhood and family looked like, and Photoshop my face on a dream.

 

Life happens like that. It’s so easy to feel when something is wrong, when something is not for us, not ours. And it’s also so easy to stay in that place of lack, of not ours, of feeling empty. That day in the doctor’s office was a gift as it opened up another path full of possibility and heart opening and transformation. Thank God we kept asking the questions, thank God I kept feeling the word “mama” in my body, thank God for a partner who was willing to ask the questions too. There was no trying anymore, no struggle or effort, everything that happened before brought us to the clearest moment. This, this, is how we were meant to be parents.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. We’ve met with a student of mine who is foster adoption lawyer. She had been coming to my classes for years, front row, front and center. Because life is like that and will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. We’ve talked to parents who have adopted privately. We’ve talked with parents who have foster adopted. We’ve met with a foster adoption agency. We’ve made a big, scary, beautiful decision: we are going to become parents through the foster system of Los Angeles.

Life will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. - @marybethlarue Click To Tweet

They tell you that in the foster-to-adopt world, there are no guarantees. They tell you this, and they tell you again, and then they have you talk to other foster parents who tell you: There are no guarantees. You open up your home and a little heartbeat comes inside, and there is no knowing if it will be forever. That being said, I’d be hard pressed to find anything that is absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed in life. I have found peace in this. Matt and I are strong, that our home can hold this level of uncertainty in the floors and in our hands, the whole point is to love and provide safety and what an honor to do so.

I handed a nurse my foster parent paperwork at a physical I needed to get certified. She looked at my paperwork, looked up and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Can you not get pregnant?” she asked.

This was the first of many insensitive comments I’ve heard and will continue to hear, I’m sure, but they pale in comparison to the amount of support we’ve received. And I looked that nurse square in the eyes and said, “I think you meant congratulations, not sorry. This is exactly what we want to do and exactly how we want to become parents.” I meant every single world.

That brings us to today. We’ve filled out mountains of paperwork. We’ve delved into our past and talked about our future. We’ve completed weeks of classes and met the most amazing future parents and social workers. We’ve learned about burn marks and trauma and what will be asked of us. We’ve baby-proofed our home. And in a few days or weeks we will receive a phone call and we will say “yes.”

We will be parents. To our forever baby? Maybe. But no matter what, we will love up this little angel with all we have.

Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure. But damn, if that isn't the point then what is? - @marybethlarue Click To Tweet

In our training with Extraordinary Families, a social worker explains that as an adult the loss should fall on us. These babies, these children have experienced enough trauma and pain in their short lives. We are adults and we have cobbled together tools and coping mechanisms. We have family. We have friends. We have a yoga practice.

Are we scared? Of course.

Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure.

But damn, if that isn’t the point, then what is?

I was born for this. We were. And I can’t wait to walk alongside you on this journey, my love.

 

 

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit



For more resources on foster adoption and to read more by Mary Beth on mindfulness, gratitude, being a mama, and more, visit her site here.


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A Brief List Of Things To Apologize For.

A Brief List Of Things To Apologize For.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

You do not need to apologize for who you are.

You do not need to apologize for:
Your hair.
Your clothes.
Your makeup
Or none.
Your reserve

Or none.

You do not need to apologize for your ideas,
Or your dreams

Or the way you see potential when others refuse to look anywhere but the other way.

And oh! you don’t need to apologize for the way people treat you,
Or to the ones you could not save.

Their missteps are not yours to correct.

The Sorrys and “My-Bad”s, they exhaust and they diminish
They pilfer your treasures and rob you of reason.

Just like to Cry Wolf
Trains you into an anxious state,

To Cry Sorry
Is to always assume that dis-ease is your fault.

You do not need to be sorry for your Words
OR your Silence
And not even the Words your Silence so obviously implies.

The only thing,
ONLY
THING

You ever need to apologize for,

And the
ONLY
ONE

You need to apologize to,

Is not being yourself

To yourself

In a world that so wants you to be anonymous because it’s easier that way.

 

Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

SELF-DOUBT IS A HEAD TRIP – doubting ourselves, doubting what we deserve and doubting what is real. When we feel a lack of control, when the outcome is uncertain, or even when we latch onto a vague remark, that’s when self-doubt rears its ugly head. It’s a fluttering in the chest and an unsettled stomach; it’s a pounding headache and a gust of wind sending us into a dust-filled spiral.

Self-doubt is a form of armor, I’ve deduced. When I start to doubt myself – my capabilities, my relationships, my character – I formulate questions or negative statements in my mind to protect myself from hurt or disappointment. Because if I’ve thought of it first, I am prepared. Disappointment won’t come as a surprise, I tell myself, because I have made the doubt a part of my truth.

I am sick of it.

~

I am sick of doubt, and how utterly exhausting the process is. I’ll feel the fluttering in my chest and start to devise little tests…tiny ways to see if what I am receiving is deserved, or if I’m actually properly suited for the task at hand.

I do it all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.

It’s like essay writing in a high school English course: a thesis statement can’t just stand alone, so we create supporting evidence to prove our point. We fall in love too fast for our own liking, so we place our partner on a tightrope and look for signs that it’s “just not right.” We’re offered a new job or responsibility that’s a tad bit scary and outside our comfort zone, so we jump to the What-Ifs and Screw-Ups at the opposite end of success. If we’re looked at in *That Way* or talked to in *That Tone* or described as merely “Nice” instead of “Amazing,” the same unanswered question always arises: Am I good enough?

It’s so simple to say things like “Just get over it,” “Don’t worry, be happy!” or my personal (and least-effective) fave, “Haters gonna hate!”

But the truth is…I will never advocate to “just get over it,” because I know that feeling exists for a reason.

With doubt comes a drought of self-worth. But every drought is accompanied by a fantastical rain.

So why should it be any different when it comes to our souls?

As uncomfortable as it can be, we need to let doubt run its course – yet simultaneously and consciously work through it. By learning how to deal with those pangs of self-doubt, their duration and impact will naturally become less and less. Yes, we DO need to experience it all – but if we allow doubt to fill our minds with every possible outcome as a means of protection, we miss out on growth and experience. We shield ourselves from hurt, yes – but then what? The would-be thrill of joyful success is replaced by mere relief of a changeless plan.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live my life simply “relieved” that there were no bumps in the road.

~

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. We doubt what we’re best at and what makes us unique. 

And so when we start to doubt, it’s simply a sign we’re not grounded. We’re losing our footing in who we are.

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. Click To Tweet

When you feel yourself jumping ahead and creating supporting examples for your thesis statement of “I Am Not Enough,” dissociate from the situation at hand. Feel the doubt and the instability, then act on the polar opposite: What makes you feel most grounded and at your best? Is it talking to (or texting with) friends or family? Watching movies? Singing to yourself, baking a pie, simply strolling and soaking in the eclectic architecture around you? Whatever it is, do it. Do it now, for at least ten minutes straight. And I promise you, by the end of those ten minutes you will feel that there is no one better to be than who you are in this very moment.

Is it a distraction? Kind of. A quick fix? Maybe. But sometimes we need something other than big-time soul questions, because sometimes those are questions we’re not in a headspace to answer.

I get asked questions all the time about how to shift your self talk “for good,” like there’s one definitive answer and a simple solution that works for all. But it’s way more complicated than that. Some of us respond better to asking deep, strategic questions right off the bat (see this list for my go-tos). Some of us need a physical reminder of our worth before the questions can even come. Doing something that makes you feel your MOST grounded and at your best – feelings that doubts tries its hardest to hijack – is the simplest way I know to make a positive, proactive shift in the moment to remind you of who you really are (and that person is pretty awesome). The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens.

The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens. Click To Tweet

I am slowly learning to shed my armor, and realizing that the only protection I need is a good sunscreen and a wide umbrella. I’m planting my feet and realizing that the more certain I am about what makes me feel good from the inside out, the less I allow doubt to deplete my self-worth. Because it’s been tapping into my reserves and sucking me dry for way too long.

My spirit is about to be awakened once again, and I can’t wait. Grab your umbrella and join me.



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