I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

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I will never forget the person who changed my relationship with money.

No, not a parent.

No, not a boss.

It was my first…

…tax guy.

 

My friend Roy referred me to Wardie back when I was twenty-something, broke-ish, and realized that if I ever wanted to truly become a self-sufficient adult, I needed to woman up and stop passing off Tax Duty to the accountants most broke-ish twenty-somethings use: the parentals.

I was a lucky, lucky girl to have parents who would take on this task for me. I recognize and understand my privilege, and how closely I toed the line between Uninformed Young Person and Stereotypical Spoiled Millenial. I think it was when I realized that I had a choice between the two – owning my uninformed-ness and learning, or making someone else do my dirty work and staying in the dark – that I took a deep breath and got myself my very first (non-relative, non-unpaid) accountant.

Wardie had been in the business of money for over fifty years. His office was perched on the third floor of an inconspicuous putty-colored building, sandwiched between a production company and a plumber’s HQ. I vividly remember driving up one Sunday and parking in a spot reserved for the production staff. The irony that I was there to take control of my finances yet practically asking for (yet another) parking ticket was not lost on me. *This* is how I got broke-ish, I thought.

I ended up using Wardie as my accountant for years, up until I moved to Manhattan. Walking into Wardie’s office was a little like walking into a page out of the I Spy series of my childhood: books upon books and knick-knacks randomly scattered around the shelves. A framed set of coins, a USC championship banner from who knows when. Old family photos and Hemmingway anthologies. Notebooks and textbooks and file folders galore. The haphazard space was strangely calming, the lack of outward order making me sigh with relief every year – because once I sat down at his desk, I knew he had my back. His hands shook slightly more and more each year, and he used the same calculator he’d had since 1984.

And when I expressed concern or asked a question, he reminded me to Not Worry; that I had things under control – a reminder I needed, because much like his office, my exterior world could sometimes feel a bit confusing.

~

Money: it’s a topic most of us tap-dance around, even with the people we trust most. There’s a sense of shame associated with not having as much as you feel you should…or not being able to afford what you once could…or not be able to afford what others can…or looking at your paycheck and seeing how much is taken out from taxes…or doing your taxes and realizing you owe more than a few paychecks’ worth and not really understanding why. Mo’ money, mo’ shame. Less money, mo’ shame. Basically, Money and Shame are the toxic dynamic duo who just won’t quit.

And hey, it’s not ENTIRELY our fault we let Money Shame beat us up so bad. Managing personal finances in a balanced way is something most of us never learn how to do until we’re deep in the weeds. Whether that’s because our practical-education system is flawed/nonexistant, or because most of the adults who came before us carry Money Shame and pass it onto us…? I don’t know. It’s probably a little of both.

Money Shame scares us into scarcity mode in more way than one. We latch onto poor financial advice without doing research or getting multiple opinions, because it’s something. We hang onto time-sensitive monetary guidance for longer than it serves us, sticking by principles or processes that might have been appropriate a few years back but are since outdated for the life we lead in the present (and hope to create in the future).

Oh, and don’t forget the other side of scarcity mentality: the idea that a full bank account (or desire to have one) is greedy or narcissistic. Even when we ARE in a comfy spot when it comes to money, we cling to our old, dusty financial fears. Even if we’re blessed with abundance, we adopt a less-than mentality. We’re starved for an open conversation; we’re conditioned to make money our enemy.

You guys.

It does not have to be this way.

I remember my second year working with Wardie. He looked over my numbers and pulled out my prior year’s files from one of his many floor-to-ceiling file cabinets. “Look at that!” he exclaimed. “You made DOUBLE this year what you made last year. You keep this trend up, you’ll be a millionaire in five years and we’ll be having all different kinds of conversations!” Hm. I’d been hustling and stressing so hard all year, I hadn’t even registered that I was literally bringing in more than double what I’d been earning the year before. That one little comment from him, while a liiiittle exaggerated, was the first time I’d heard any sort of positive reinforcement when it came to how much money I made – or was able to make.

It’s very likely that if the thought of checking your bank account balance makes you break out in cold sweats, you’ve got quite a few people around you who are reinforcing this. Family, friends, coworkers, media personalities, Money Shame is everywhere. Just like Casual Negativity, money problems can be a way of bonding with others: commiserating over how expensive something is or how you really can’t afford such-and-such or UGH taxes amiright??

It can be a relief to know that you’re not alone…but it can also be damaging if you’re not devising a game plan to shift into a more positive and proactive reality. Here are some tools to break out of financial fears, shift into a rich mentality, and stay…shall we say…ACCOUNTABLE.

Let’s talk about CENTS, baby. Or for a more current pop culture pun…


FIVE WAYS TO MAKE MONEY MOVES
 

1 – REVISIT YOUR OWN FINANCIAL HISTORY.
Think back to a time you felt as if you had nothing. Then think of a time that felt more abundant. Remind yourself that money ebbs and flows just like the weather and the waves of the ocean. Everyone (even Oprah!) has had these ebbs and flows – we just don’t hear about them. What might feel hopeless now is just a low spot in the cycle of your financial flow. No, you can’t just sit back and wait. But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive – even, ESPECIALLY, when it’s toughest – more IS on its way.

And ps…I’m not talking Oprah status, speaking of Oprah. A lot of times when we think of abundance, we think of a Scrooge McDuck-type wealth where we’re suddenly diving into a sea of gold coins. Maybe a sea of coins is in the cards, I have no idea…but if you’re so stuck on that one singular image of “wealth,” you’ll miss out on so many literal value adds that happen in your life throughout your life. When I say more, I’m talking MORE. More than what you have when you’re feeling low. More than you have when your finances don’t seem to be flowing. More than now. More than then. Just…more. No one season defines you, and no one season is forever.

No one season defines you, and no one season is forever. Click To Tweet

2 – FIERCELY EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Abundant mindset is awesome, but nothing beats good ol’ brainwork. Schoolhouse Rock was right: Knowledge truly is power – and wealth. Get some. Even if everything you read sounds like a foreign language at first (and it probably will. the acronyms definitely will.), just read. Or listen to a podcast. Or watch a lecture or a TED Talk. We’ve got so much information at our fingertips, and most costs virtually nothing to access. My favorite resources are personal finance guru Suze Orman, who is a favorite of the Big O herself, and money maven Kate Northrup Watts, who gives brilliant, grounded financial advice that’s both relatable and attainable. And never be afraid to ask around, whether it be from a professional financial advisor or just someone you view as having it “together” who you can confide in without fear of judgement. It can be scary to seek awareness, but that feeling too shall pass. The more you know. Literally.

3 – PARTNER UP.
If you’re one half of a dynamic duo, it’s ESSENTIAL you and your partner create a safe space to discuss money. Not only is this healthy for your mind and bank account – it’s healthy for your relationship! Sit down during a neutral time (not when the actual problems arise or big decisions need to be made) and have a conversation about your current respective attitudes towards money and how they have been formed over the years through upbringing or experience.

Most financial fears stem from a place that goes waaaaay beyond dollars and cents. Aim to understand each other’s views and emotions surrounding money, then discuss how you can help each other shift into a positive space together. There are few things worse than feeling as if you cannot share deep-set worries or fears with the person you love most. Make sure each other knows you have a safe, respectful place to turn and strategize when you’re anxiety-ridden.

4 – GIVE MORE TO GET MORE.
This might sound counterintuitive, but when you feel financial fear making its way into your mind, spend a little on someone. It can be anything from donating to a friend’s marathon efforts to buying a coworker her morning coffee to donating to a cause you believe in or a random GoFundMe campaign that hits all your heart’s soft spots. To combat feelings of having nothing, we must actively create a sense of positivity and worth.

It doesn’t have to be much – you don’t even need to spend more than a couple dollars for this to work. The amount is NOT the point. It’s about cultivating worth and value. That means showing someone else they’re valued. The fact that you are able to give enough to make someone else smile can set off a chain reaction in your brain and heart that makes you feel truly rich.

5 – PRACTICE THE ART OF BENCHMARK BUYING.
While researching/acting upon return policies is a MUST when necessary, sometimes the act of making a return when the reason for return is finance-related (been there, done that) can reinforce that poor person mentality we’re trying so hard to break. Am I saying keep the thing if you can’t afford it? Hell no! But there’s gotta be something more to halt sub-par spending in the first place.

Spender’s Remorse usually comes from impulse buying, which usually comes from feeling a lack of control in some other part of life OR this idea that someone else’s opinion (salesperson, friend, family, that ad you saw on Facebook) matters more than your own. Enter what I have coined Benchmark Buying. It’s essentially this: if you have a certain amount of money that you CAN spend, how do you choose to spend it? If a new outfit costs as much as a plane ticket to Los Angeles to see my family, it BETTER be a damn good outfit I’ll be wearing for years to come. If I’m taking my husband out on a date, I’d rather pay for a quality intimate experience than a bunch of sub-part cocktails at an ultra-hip new hotspot known for its Instagrammableness. If I’m feeling lazy and want to pick up my lunch twice a week instead of make it, that convenience is probably not worth more to me than the boutique bootcamp class I could take later that costs the same amount. Comparing and contrasting the ways you spend your money not only encourages you to slow down your impulses, it empowers you to feel control over the direction in which your bank account is going.

I realized that financial success was this: not letting it control me. Click To Tweet

Moving from Los Angeles (an expensive city) to NYC (an even more expensive city) made me revisit my financial fears all over again. I knew I could do this…but what was it really going to take? And as someone who was part of a partnership, partners who were equal teammates but had totally different relationships with dolla-dolla-bills…what did financial success mean to me?

I realized that financial success in New York City was this: not letting it control me. It meant being able to fully support myself and understanding what all iterations of that would look like. It meant not letting my experiences with money – lots of it or littles of it – rule my emotions and dictate my quality of life.

Breaking out of financial fears is not about a specific number in your bank account, a figure on your paycheck, or a lucky winning lottery ticket. It’s about being tired of the control the mere THOUGHT of money has over both you and the people you love. Be your own positive example of what a healthy relationship with George, Abe, Alex, and Andy looks like. You might not have any plans to be a CFO or accountant or the next Wardie Jr. – but you CAN work to be a money-spending, money-saving maven and shift from Shame to Worth. No matter what the ebbs and flows of your finances look like, the act of feeling in control is something that only appreciates in value. That’s a richness that cannot be taxed.


WANT Yourself:
Now I wanna know…what are some ways you keep yourself in CHECK when it comes to checks? How do you stay ACCOUNTABLE when it comes to your bank account? What keeps you SANE-ing when you’re SAVING?
(How many more bad money-related jokes can I write? That last one didn’t even make much CENTS…) 

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It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

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I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.


I missed the theatre.

 

Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.

And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.

I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.

I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself – and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.

A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.

I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.

I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.

It's not easy, but it's right. Click To Tweet

We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.

What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?

It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?

I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.

Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.

I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but AND. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.

But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.

Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.

But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of my Through Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.

Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”

We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.

But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.

 

Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.

Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.

photo: krista ashley

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Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

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It’s January 12th, 2014. Four years ago almost to the day. I’m sitting at the doctor’s office and I’m terrified to go in.

On a routine visit to a brand-new health practitioner who’s highly recommended by a friend, I find myself sitting in his eggshell-white waiting room filling out my paperwork and trying to keep from fidgeting. The receptionist is as sweet as can be, the vibe calm and friendly, and the multicolored bowl of lollipops sitting on the counter remind me of my childhood – back when I loved going to the doctor and I was self-aware in the best way possible.

The fidgety anxiety is not about a condition, not about a vibe – heck, it’s not even about the needles or the fact I haven’t seen a doctor in way too long. Even though I’m loving how I feel in my own skin, even though I am healthy and happy as can be, the reason my stomach won’t stop flip-flopping is because…for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to step on the scale.

~

It’s officially the end of what I like to call Resolution Season: that time of year people start to slowly forget their workouts, loosen their wallets, leave their closets in disarray – the time of year we generally start to “slip up.”

While most people simply assume this is due to lack of interest or motivation, I argue that what sends us spiraling is not the act itself – it’s the idea of what it SHOULD be.

Our ties to the Safe and Solid Endpoint are what really get us. The idea that there is some omnipresent rightest right, some all-powerful magic number, some goal that could be gone in the blink of an eye or glance at a figure…

And so the very second we veer from the path – well, it’s almost like those long-standing family arguments that never end up getting resolved. Both parties have been betrayed by their definitions of what love SHOULD be, what relationships SHOULD be like. God forbid they’re nuanced. God forbid sometimes we just don’t get along. Who even cares about the actual person anymore; we have our own fabricated notions of who they are to keep us up at night.

We wind up tightly and twist into knots, again and again, until one day we don’t even know where the untangling would begin.

I used to be double-knot-tied to my weight and that fluctuation on the scale, a memory that was triggered when I stepped into the doctor’s office that day and started to get upset at the fact that I remembered what it was like to get upset at a number. I used to be diligent about counting my calories, logging my workouts, making sure that I stayed within that self-defined coveted range between too much and not enough.

And then when the counting and logging got too out of hand, I landed on another tactic: avoid your body altogether, because if you don’t focus on it, it cannot betray you.

Thank goodness for that self-awareness I cultivated as a kid, because one day, all of a sudden, I just got…tired. I got TIRED of it ALL. It got exhausting, and I realized that by trying to avoid getting stuck in that place where my body dictated my happiness – by working so hard to cling so tight to the idea of freedom, the definition of what it would look like to love myself – I was holding myself captive and completely missing how happy the body I was in could actually make me feel, right in that very second.

We do the same thing with money, with exercise, with kindness even. Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection – even if it’s a standard we’ve defined by ourselves for ourselves. Isn’t that all resolutions are, really? Attempts to alter the definitions we’ve fallen into in the past? We define our resolutions at the beginning of the year, sometimes merely settling on a endpoint, sometimes going so far as to meticulously plan every step of the way for seemingly less-than-friendly navigation. We hang onto ideas of what things should be, so if and when they start to look different, we automatically associate them with failure.

Different is never failure. It’s just…different. Resolving to eat clean and then “cheating” on veggies with your main men Ben & Jerry one night is not a failure. Snapping at your coworker or best friend or child when you promised to be nicer this year is not a failure. Missing a day or two or even three (gasp!) of the gym, or logging a lackluster workout, or “accidentally” spending more than you should on those shoes (and shirt, and jeans, and trendy ear climber thingies) is not anywhere near a failure.

It’s become our default reaction to say we’ll get back on the wagon…
…but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether?

What if we realized that what truly makes us happy is fluid and constantly in flux?


As you move out of Resolution Season and into the rest of your life in 2018, I encourage you to remind yourself what it is about whatever you are doing that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. If your current definition and strategy is not accomplishing those things, then maybe it’s time to give yourself a break.

There will always be moments of the unexpected. Every thought is information. Every moment is a learning experience. Every decision is a building block. Sometimes we just don’t utilize them as such.

When we stop defining what happiness, success, health, or virtue must LOOK like, we actually allow ourselves room to experience things and figure out what is true to who we are, not who we THINK we should be.

There is no wagon to get back onto – because we never got on in the first place.

We say we’ll get back on the wagon - but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether? Click To Tweet

….oh, and as for the doctor’s office? Cue flashback music…

The nurse practitioner calls me in – a woman close to my age, with beached-blonde hair and an energy that was equivalent to a walking giggle. We chat about her day, where she’s from, bond over our love for cycling classes – and just like that, I’m on that platform.

And I realize, man do I feel fantastic.

I was scared those old definitions and feelings would magically reappear, those ones that told me that trying a stupid new cleanse or stupid new supplement or cutting out a food group for stupid amounts of forever was the road to the weight that was what happy must look like. They didn’t. How could they? I threw away definitions long ago, when I realized that the body and soul I admired most coincided with numbers that fluctuated daily and decisions that didn’t always exist in the rulebook, but sure made me the person I’d always hoped I would become.

The number pops up: far from what my “safe” zone was years and years ago, but right where I know I need and should be in that very moment.

And then, as if to challenge me in a moment of comedic brilliance, a mathematically intended yet emotionally-loaded word pops up next to the number.

Gross.

I smile at the nurse and the irony.

“I think your scale needs to watch its mouth.”

All we can do is laugh. I happily grab a lollipop on my way out.

resolution resolutions

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photo credit: made in chicago museum

Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

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What is the common theme in everything you love? What is the common goal in everything you do?

Those, my friends, are the building blocks of your THROUGH LINE.

 

We’re all equipped with a through line; something we’re wonderful at and are meant  to give to the world. And while some people might suggest mantras or affirmations, it’s my firm belief that you can’t shift your self-talk without finding your through line first.


Negative self-talk might sometimes seem like it pops up out of nowhere, but when you boil it down to basics, it’s simply filler for uncertainty in purpose and imbalances in your mind, body and soul. 
With confidence in your purpose or through line, there’s less of the negative talk that we use to sabotage ourselves.

We cannot succeed if we do not love what we DO – or if what we do does not fit into the big picture. Once we find our through line and shift our actions to deliver that through line, long-term success is inevitable.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not necessarily the tasks themselves, but the meaning behind those tasks. Not so much the superficial What, but the hidden Why.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not the superficial WHAT, but the hidden WHY. Click To Tweet

You might have one through line or a couple. Here are two (and-a-half steps) to help you find yours:

STEP 1: MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU LOVE TO DO OR EXPERIENCE. I MEAN EVERYTHING. The things that you seem to get absorbed by and fill you up from the inside out. Don’t worry about cohesiveness, list as many actions, experiences, and instances as you can think of. Cooking dinner, one-on-one time with friends, business strategy, binging on horror movies – it’s all fair game.

STEP 2: CAN YOU FIND A COMMON THEME IN THE MAJORITY OF YOUR ANSWERS? Try to find a mode and an output. Maybe not all the things you listed out fit together, but I’ll bet good money on the fact that a lot of them DO. Look beyond the obvious – the fact that you love to bake and you love to have spontaneous dance parties might seem unrelated, but when you dig deeper you might realize what you actually love is the act of creating something that brightens up someone else’s day. You love to bake – but when you’re sharing your treats with friends. You love to have spontaneous dance parties because it makes your husband or boyfriend or kid or dog even fill up with joy and laughter. There’s where your talents lie. That is your through line.

Here’s the optional half-step, if you’re feeling curious: just for kicks, make another list of everything you excel at. No need to hold back here – remember, confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity.

Now highlight the things that you can recognize your through line in.

Does this list seem familiar? It should. Many of the things we love to do are the things we have a natural knack for.

Pretty cool, huh? These places are where you shine the brightest.

~

Need an example? Here’s what the first two steps of my exercise looks like:

Step 1: I love writing, interviewing others, singing, people watching, unfiltered and authentic conversations, listening to podcasts, music, running, teaching fitness classes, taking fitness classes, pretty much exercise of all kinds, yoga classes, acting, photography, singing and dancing at concerts, laughing out loud at movies, spending time with my family and soul-friends, reading non-fiction books or books written in the first person, public speaking, taking small chances, painting, drawing, playing board games that may or may not bring out my inner competitive Monica Gellar (where you at, Settlers of Catan).

Step 2: In most all of the things I love, I can see that my through line is using my unique voice to its fullest to help others find theirs.

But wait…how does this connect to playing Settlers of Catan or singing and dancing during Beyoncé’s Formation tour???

It goes back to my yoga practice, actually. I realized a long time ago that we learn best not from textbooks or bulletpointed protocols, but from each other. I used to practice amongst handstand junkies and power posers, and noticed that the people around them would get frustrated when they couldn’t get upside down. So I did an experiment: what would happen if I took Child’s Pose, a “resting” pose, in the classes where people were doing handstands, and I tried the more physically challenging poses even if I fell flat on my face in the classes where people shied away from things if they didn’t look perfect?

Lo and behold, people started taking Child’s Pose instead of forcing themselves into handstands, and playfully experimenting when the teacher offered up a variation on the familiar. Because I gave myself permission to publicly do what worked for ME, others started to give themselves permission to do the same. 

I see my “voice” not only in talking or singing to teaching, but in writing, drawing – movement even. I get bored or frustrated when I am required to do things exactly like someone else. I love listening to podcasts and reading non-fiction or books written in the first person because they spark a discussion inside my head; I can almost hear my voice chiming in with the author or speaker. I love taking those discussions out into the “real world” and making my community like my very own unofficial book club or listening group. Learning new information isn’t enough for me: I get high off of learning it, translating it, and discussing it in a broader yet at the same time more personal context. If I look closely, everything I love has my through line of “using my unique voice to its fullest to help others do the same” running through it. I stand for love – of others and yourself.

Whenever I feel discontent or useless or squashed down and dull, I ask myself…”Katie, are you using your unique voice right now and is it resonating with the best parts of others?” If the answer is no, even if I can’t fully escape the scenario that’s bringing me down, I divert my attention and place myself in a scenario in which I CAN use my though line to its fullest potential, however big or small that might look from the outside.

~

It’s easy to talk negatively about ourselves when we’re in those bang-your-head-against-the-wall scenarios. And we’ve all got to deal with those throughout our lives no matter what. Sometimes, things just don’t gel. But now that you know your through line, you can invest your time a bit more wisely. Go back and look at your list, see if you can identify a nuance of your through line, or a whole other through line altogether, that exists in your current situation…and try again. Trial and error is part of the deal. It’s all about changing up the approach. 

I’m not saying that once you figure out how or where you shine the brightest, you’ll always be shiny and sparkly. Life would be boring and useless without mistakes and missteps and those moments we feel the lowest of our lows. But if you’re strategically placing yourself in scenarios in which you can use your through line – whether it be with a new group of friends, a new relationship, a new job or simply a potential hobby you’re taking up – you’ll also feel those highest highs a whole lot higher. Your life will feel a whole lot more cohesive, and you’ll feel your purpose from the inside out.


WANT Yourself Action Plan:

In the comments section below, tell me what your through line is. How do you use it on a regular basis? Did you have an aha! moment that helped you realize what you were meant to give to the world?

Be as specific as possible – this is not an easy exercise, and your insight and experience might be exactly what someone else needs to read to realize the power they have within themselves.

WANT is a testament to the power of our pragmatically positive voice as a community and the impact we can have if we band together. Go for it, WANT peeps…


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a different version of this post originally appeared back in 2015 on WANT. see it here 

Twelve Goals, One Year: How To Conquer One ‘Resolution’ A Month in 2018

Twelve Goals, One Year: How To Conquer One ‘Resolution’ A Month in 2018

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We’re all set with the best of intentions come January, etching lofty goals into our journals to carry with us into spring, summer, fall, and winter. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a sec: the end of Resolution Season finds us loosening our wallets, dipping into the cookie jar, forgetting to say “thank you,” and foregoing the gym for just one more rerun of Friends on the couch. The idea of what our lives “should” look like and how our goals “should” play out gets us all tied up in knots we scramble to untangle come January 1st of the next New Year.

To avoid those tangles and kick 2018 off on the right foot, why not rethink the way we make our resolutions? All month long I’ll be diving in and digging deep on strategies to set your year ablaze – because no one success strategy works for everyone.

 

I once read that when adopting a newer, healthier lifestyle (whether that means losing extra inches, lowering inflammation in your body, gaining muscle, or raising your body weight to a level at which it can function with energy and ease), it takes something like four weeks for you to feel a difference, eight for your friends to take notice…and twelve for acquaintance and strangers to start asking questions.

Okay, so maybe I read it on the ever-prestigious scientific journal that is Pinterest…but I love the picture it paints of slow and steady change, moment by moment. Sure, you can have an end result in mind. But most of the time, when we’re so tightly tied to one specific end result, we miss out on all the other great things that happen along the way.

This year, try adopting one new habit per month and just see where it takes you. If the Pinterest scientists are correct, you’ll start to feel a shift about a month into your journey. If it’s working for you, great! If it’s not, let it go – no guilt.

Your goals might seem simple or minute – how can making your bed every morning really contribute to the quality of your life?! – but each singular goal reached will inform the definition of what it means to live well for you, to be your best self twelve months out of the year.

Another bonus? Just one habit per month prevents you from getting too overwhelmed with tasks and to-dos – and helps you pay attention to what’s really going on as a result of the change you’ve vowed to make. I can sometimes (read: all the times) get overly excited about the idea of making big shifts all at once. It’s exciting. And distracting. One per month (or one habit + one tangible to-do item if you’re feeling ambitious) helps me focus my energy on that single thing instead of spreading myself thin in 12 different areas of my life.

~

Get out your notebooks, clear off your chalkboard, and start to outline one goal, big or small, for each month. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

12 GOALS, 1 YEAR: HOW TO CONQUER ONE NEW YEARS RESOLUTION A MONTH

JANUARY: WAKE UP (GO TO SLEEP) ONE HOUR EARLIER
Instead of making a goal to exercise five times a week or fit in breakfast, start from the ground up – literally. Waking up early, studies have shown, can super-charge your entire day and actually allow you the time to make healthy living seem more accessible. I get it, we all have the same 24 hours in the day, blah blah…but sometimes, even a smidge extra time can make a huge difference. What might seem like sixty measly extra minutes allows time for exercise, hobbies, meditation, strategic thinking, or just easing into your day at your own pace (sounds nice, huh?). Already wake up early? Try hitting the sack one hour earlier. Start with 15 minutes earlier during week one, increase to 30 during week two, 45 during week three – and by the end of the month, you’ll be logging an extra hour.

READ: Is Sleep More Important Than Nutrition, Exercise, and Mindfulness? by Lindsay Kellner, mbg

FEBRUARY: SHOW YOUR LOVE ONCE A DAY.
Whether it’s telling your significant other how much he or she means to you or simply asking the bank teller how their day is going, there are a zillion ways to express love. Pick up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. Let the car next to you into your lane in crowded traffic. Call your grandma. These gestures, both big and small, not only help others feel good or make the world be a nicer place to live – they contribute to your own self-confidence and sense of abundant love.

READ: Love And The Whole Spectrum

MARCH: MAKE YOUR BED EVERY MORNING
Spring cleaning season is here! Before you overhaul your closet or clean out that dresser drawer, set the stage for a tidy space from the second you get up. Making your bed every morning only takes a few extra minutes, but can set the stage for an orderly room, home, and mindset.

READ: A Non-Exhaustive List Of Things To Do When Life Seems Hard

APRIL: PACK YOUR LUNCH
Taxes on your mind? Do double resolution duty this month by making healthier choices and making a dent in your savings. Even if you only pack a lunch two times a week, you’re still saving in the long run – plus, you’re connecting with what goes into your body and where it comes from.

READ: Let’s Talk About Cents, Baby

MAY: DRINK YOUR GREENS FOR BREAKFAST
April showers bring May flowers…and greens! Whether you opt for smoothies or juice, getting in a good dose of greens first thing in the morning sets you up for a healthy day ahead. Even if you mindlessly or emotionally nosh later in the day or “accidentally” skip your afternoon spin class (been there, done that), the beauty of going green first thing in the A.M. is that you know you’ve given yourself a hefty dose of vitamins and nutrients no matter what the day has in store.

LISTEN: My New Roots’ Sarah Britton on the WANTcast

JUNE: TRAIN (AND SIGN UP!) FOR A RACE…
Most cities hold at least one 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or “fun run” throughout the summer months, which means June is the perfect time to start training! Warm (but not sweltering) temps allow for exercise outdoors if you’re into it – otherwise start your running routine at your local gym. Slowly increase your distance or speed goals with each workout, and alternate between long, moderate-paced running days and short, quick sprinting days. Not into organized races or the early wake-up call that goes with them? Set a date to run your own personal race: determine the day, time, location, and distance, then plan a fun reward for yourself after. Get a friend in on the action for extra motivation!

READ: 5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise, No Matter How You Feel

JULY: MAKE A NEW FRIEND
Summer months are all about playfulness and make us think of long days at summer camp and hobbies. As adults, we don’t have things like school and clubs to connect us or parents to schedule play dates. Community, however, is often the missing link when it comes to our day to day fulfillment – and it’s up to us to find the places . Whether it’s a yoga class or the comments section of a blog, make it a goal to frequent a place or space that you feel allows you to be completely yourself. You’ll find that just like in romantic relationships, the right people will seem to fall into your life when you’re simply busy with the interests you love – when you’re busy being you.

READ: Making Friends As An Adult

AUGUST: TRY ONE NEW FRUIT OR VEGETABLE A WEEK
Green cauliflower? Okra? Gooseberries? There’s a slew of seasonal produce available, year-round…yet most of us only skim the surface when it comes to variety. Visit your local farmer’s market, check out the selection, and find one fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried. Whether you choose to cook an elaborate dish or go raw, you’ll expand your palate, net more nutrients, and have at least a few new healthy options come August 31st. Check out One Part Plant for all the planty resources you’ll ever need.

LISTEN: Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant and Know Your Endo on the WANTcast

SEPTEMBER: FIND THE YOGA CLASS THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
September is National Yoga Month, so use this time to get flowing. Ask around or call your local studios/gyms to help pick a practice that’s right for you (my friend Megan wrote an awesome guide here), and pop into a class nearby (many studios offer deals or specials during this month). Sure, this is an exercise-related goal and your overall fitness will probably improve – but more than anything, you’ll be building community, soothing stress, and giving yourself a fresh new perspective on the year. Yoga’s awesome like that.

READ: My Advanced Practice

OCTOBER: FACE YOUR FEARS ONCE EACH WEEK
October is about all things scary – but we’re not really into the whole haunted house, “trick or treat” thing. Take this spooky month in a new direction by vowing to conquer one (or a few!) of your fears at least once a week. The fears could be ones that affect your every-day life or are seemingly trivial. Terrified of public speaking? Add your voice to the mix in each of your weekly work meetings. Afraid of heights? Find a cool restaurant on a rooftop to visit. Whatever it is, commit to facing the fear once a week and watch your confidence skyrocket.

READ: How To Tackle Your Ghost Worries

NOVEMBER: CLEAN UP, GIVE BACK
Spring cleaning is a thing of the past – but what about Fall Freedom? Clearing your space of what does not serve you, you don’t like, or you’ve simply outgrown is like telling the universe you’ve made room and are game for whatever it has in store. Instead of trashing your old goods or stuffing your worn clothes into the nearest dumpster, find an organization near you that donates 100% of its goods to those in need (or Google a cause close to your heart that might need your help). You’ll be doing good and feeling great – and making someone else feel the same.

READ: How To Activate Your Inner Activist

DECEMBER: REFLECT, REVAMP, AND REFOCUS
What worked this year? What could be improved upon? Were there certain moments, people, events, or feelings that stuck with you? Create a conscious game plan for improvement and forward motion right now. No need to rush the process or make snap decisions. Use the entire month to take a look at your life as it is, right in that very second, and refocus your energy on making a positive shift towards the person you know you want to be. At the end of this year, make December 2018 your month of renewal instead of January 2019, so that once the confetti bursts at midnight, you’ll already have hit the ground running.

LISTEN: Thinking Out Loud: On Functioning Under F*ck-It, Micro vs Macro, Other People’s Trauma, Running Toward Real Life, and More


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WANTcast 040: Thinking Out Loud: On Functioning Under F*ck-It, Micro vs Macro, Other People’s Trauma, Running Toward Real Life, and More (Season Two Finale)

WANTcast 040: Thinking Out Loud: On Functioning Under F*ck-It, Micro vs Macro, Other People’s Trauma, Running Toward Real Life, and More (Season Two Finale)

the WANTcast

**SEASON TWO FINALE** Ending the year with some THINKING OUT LOUD. In this episode, we dive in and dig deep on:

Letting “WHY” be your guide and how it helped our wedding truly be the best day ever

Instant gratification and breaking out of being a slave to the mirco moments instead of…well, the bigger picture

The profound moment that helped me deal with other people’s trauma, toxic people, hard conversations, and grief I didn’t even know I was processing

-What it means to TRULY run toward something instead of away from something

-Why I am going to “function under ‘f*ck-it'” and ask myself this one pivotal, sort-of-scary question this year in everything I do

…and SO MUCH MORE!

Let WHY be your guide. Click To Tweet

The WANTcast will return in February with new episodes every other week. Happy Happy New Year, WANT peeps! I love you with all my heart and am SO happy you are on this crazy ride with me.

WANT Yourself:

Listen in iTunes | Play in new window | Download | Support the pod by shopping on Amazon

Past episodes/posts referenced:
Thinking Out Loud
The Art Of The Planned Freak-Out
Sarah Britton
Down With The Day Job, Down With The Side Hustle
Nathaniel V Dust
Wellness + Activism
The GOODfest
Anne Hodder-Shipp

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Like this episode?
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