How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

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(…and the dumpster was filled with rancid milk and rotting broccoli and dog poop bags.)

 

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, my theater teacher used to tell us that instead of saying we were nervous before a show, we should tell ourselves that we were actually excited. Both nervous and excited are “aroused emotions,” meaning they trigger a response in the body that prepares you for action. They’re two words for the same sensation.

But sometimes, there are no substitute feel-alike words for what you’re experiencing. Flipping the shittiness feels saccharine and silly at best, tone deaf and demeaning at worst. You might be feeling exhausted, defeated, enraged, lonely, confused, or some kind of special cocktail of all the above ingredients. “Positive self-talk” probably feels pretty empty, and pretty hokey.

It does to me, too.

Because the thing is that positive self-talk doesn’t always work.

 


THE NOT SO GREAT POWER OF POSITIVITY

Studies have shown that if you don’t believe what you’re telling yourself, and you don’t already have high self-esteem, your brain knows you’re telling yourself lies. The University of Waterloo published a study in the Journal of Psychological Science concluding that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.” And what’s more, you start to feel ashamed of the fact that you AREN’T that person you’re trying to tell yourself you are.

What’s even more interesting to me is that the aforementioned study also said that when asked to list both negative and positive thoughts about themselves, the people who had lower self-esteem actually felt BETTER when they were allowed to say the negative thoughts about themselves. The so-called positive feelings that were being generated came directly from their so-called negativity. It’s no wonder we stay in negative self-talk loops – we stay where we believe we belong.

 

PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.

Positive self-talk isn’t necessarily empty and it most certainly isn’t bad. But jumping straight to the “talk” part of “positive self-talk” is skipping the vital step of determining what it means to actually be positive in the first place.

If there is ONE message I hope you internalize about harnessing positivity during the toughest of times, it’s this:

Positivity isn’t inherently feel-good, happy, or rainbows in the sky.

Positivity is NOT about uplifting mantras and affirmations.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive. Click To Tweet

Positivity is about recognizing the full spectrum of a situation – the highs, the lows, the lights, the darks, and everything in between – and making a proactive choice to move forward.

By this logic, positivity won’t always feel good. It might feel uncomfortable, you might feel angry, there might be sadness lingering in the background or dread pushing its way through to the front of the line. Your problems won’t disappear and you won’t be handed solutions on a silver platter. And so you might feel discouraged or like you’re doing things “wrong.”

But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive, I can assure you – THAT is positivity in motion.

 

HOW CAN I BE PROACTIVE RIGHT NOW?

Some words are easily flipped. And while maybe you can’t flip the stinky dumpster fire of dog-shit and turn it into a babbling brook filled with glistening pebbles…maybe, just maybe, you can flip what positivity actually means to you.

Nervousness to excitement. Positive to proactive.

The words we choose to use hold so much weight. It’s vital we dissect what they mean to us before we decide what we do with them.

Instead of asking yourself, “How can I be positive right now?”, try asking yourself “How can I be proactive right now?”

Report back in the comments. I’d love to hear where your proactive choices take you.

 

 

Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

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“You should start a podcast. In a few years everyone’s gonna be doing them. If you want to, now’s the time. But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Sitting in a café in Silverlake across from my friend Jessica on a crisp April afternoon, I soaked in her words as my eyes wandered in the way they do when I agree with someone but am also a little terrified by what they’re saying.

It was 2015 and I’d just launched the website for my new project, WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, three months earlier. I was simultaneously working as an editor for a wellness site, which I joked was my “grad school” since it was so clear that everything I had learned about navigating the digital space over my four years thus far was directly applicable to what I was creating on my own. There were clear formulas, processes, and platforms to follow and utilize.

Podcasting, however, was brand new territory. I barely knew of anyone who listened to podcasts…let alone HOSTED them. Well, except Jessica. Did I have what it would take to start my own??

It’s over five years later and I’m so glad I took Jessica’s advice when I did. My podcast, WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast, launched in September 2015 and just celebrated its fifth birthday (I’ve got a kindergartener, folks!). Not only am I relieved that I got to podcasting before the medium’s big boom post-Serial…I’m relieved I took the second part of Jessica’s advice to heart just as much as the first part:

“…But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Expectation vs reality.

My heart both bursts and breaks when I think about people starting podcasts today.
It bursts because I absolutely love how accessible podcasting is. I love that with minimal equipment and overhead, almost anyone can create a show. I love that with the slew of podcasting platforms that exist at various price points, almost anyone can subscribe and listen. I love the wide range of possibilities that exists with podcasting.

It breaks for the same reasons one’s heart breaks when anything they love becomes a bit too mainstream. I’m reminded of the bloggers circa 2010 and the big blog boom that followed soon thereafter (side note, try to say big blog boom 10xs fast). It seemed like every single mega company was adding a blog to their website – and if independent bloggers weren’t willing to turn their blog into a business to keep up, they’d fall back into the shadows.

Big media companies now dominate the pod charts, making it harder and harder for smaller, independently-run podcasts to get the downloads (and even visibility!) they deserve. If you’re a small fish in the big pond of pods and want to monetize your podcast, the mainstreaming of podcasts has made it REALLY hard to do so, especially without the help of an ad network.

But that’s not all: while podcasts *seem* relatively easy for anyone to create, the process of creating a quality episode – let alone entire show – is anything BUT. With only your voice, mind, and sound quality to connect with listeners, something as small as a faint clicking sound in the background (your dog walking on hardwood floor or husband typing on his computer, perhaps?) can get listeners saying No Thanks. The one exception is if you’re a big celebrity…in which case, people find the lack of polish somewhat endearing. Stars! They’re just like us! 

The problem with THAT is that those might be the podcasts people are being inspired by when they say they want to start their own. But the bar listeners have for a new voice is so different than the bar they have for their favorite celeb who feels “so accessible!” to them. You can have the best ideas and the most well-thought-out episode…but if your sound quality isn’t decent, it’s going to be tough to retain listeners…if that’s what you’re after. And that’s not even taking into account episode structure, intros, outros, interview skills and styles, editing or lack thereof, storytelling, coughs, sneezes, ums, likes, laughs, and so many other purely subjective things that the listener may or may not love or loathe.

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about making bank off your pod, the expectation vs. reality gap of “starting a podcast” has become so wide that, according to studies, half of all podcasts don’t get past 15 episodes (this one study from 2018 said that 12% don’t even get past the first episode). 

Because I want to.

I’m so glad I followed (and have stuck with) Jessica’s initial advice of “you know, don’t do it if you don’t want t0.” While I’ve worked with sponsors in the past, I stopped doing ads back in early 2019 because I didn’t want my need to make money from podcasting cloud my judgement of whether I actually WANTED to podcast or not. With every single decision, pivot, and new season of the WANTcast, I’ve asked myself: is this something I am doing because I feel like I have to, or because I feel like I want to?

So far, the answer has been: because I want to.

Because of this rule of thumb, I’ve been able to cross the half-decade mark feeling so proud of not only the show, but the listener community we’ve developed. I trust my audience, and they trust me. And they know I don’t take that trust lightly. They know I choose topics, guests, spotlights organizations, and the very rare very occasional sponsor with them in mind.


Over the last half-decade, I’ve invested in this mic, this mic, and this mic (which I use currently). I’ve made sure to never sacrifice the quality of the episode, which means I’ve turned down many guests who are ok but not a stellar fit, and have hired an editor to make sure my sound is as clean as can be given the equipment I’m willing to pay for.

Our topics are deep and nuanced. We’ve covered: Facing your fears, Creative depressions, Personality types (astrology, human design, Myers Briggs, and more), Body image, Trauma, Sex education, Speaking up, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Ageism, Jealousy, Forgiveness, Visions, Dreams, Goals, Self-doubt, Self-worth, Anxiety, Overwhelm, Mental illness, Ghost worries, Circumstantial happiness, Experiential longing, Fat-phobia, Body neutrality, Addiction, Recovery, Through lines, Grief, Boundaries, Planned Freak-Outs, Self love, Self like, and SO much more.

And if there’s one thing I’ve embraced, it’s that I do things MY way.

I don’t do things by the book, but I attribute the WANTcast’s longevity to sticking to a few specific self-made rules. Take what works for you, leave the rest.

Here are my top podcasting tips for anyone who wants to start a pod from the heart:

Set your own schedule.
Pick a schedule that works for you, and don’t be afraid to alter it when it no longer does. Refuse to sacrifice the quality of experience for the quantity of episodes. When I began the WANTcast, I started on an every-three-weeks schedule, because I was working a full-time job, community to and from that full-time job, and knew I would never have the bandwidth to create and produce episodes on a weekly basis considering the rest of my life. All the podcasts I listened to were on a weekly schedule, but I knew I’d be one of those people who never got past 15 episodes if I followed their lead.

Since then I’ve been on an every-three-weeks schedule, every-other-week schedule, a weekly schedule, and what is now an every week-or-two schedule (because right now, I need that flexibility for my own mental wellbeing). Consistency is key but it will also screw you over if you’re too married to it. Find what works for you, whether it’s what you see others doing or not.

Fuck analytics.
Analytics are overrated, and subjective. DO NOT look at analytics to tell you how “good” or impactful your pod is. Marie Forleo calls these Vanity Metrics: numbers that don’t actually move the needle in your business. Are you giving people a clear CTA in your episode about how to let you know they’re listening and loving your show? Do you prompt them within the episode to share? Are they sharing? What are they sharing? What are they saying?

The only thing I find analytics good for is to see what’s working and what might not be working as well as it could. Know your average download rate. What episodes fall below that rate? Which ones fall above it? Did an episode spike in listeners and then drop back down right after – a sign that maybe someone with a big following shared your episode, and so their followers ONLY listened to that episode? Look at analytics with a critical eye. Once you do, you’ll start to see patterns, and you’ll be able to get information about what kinds of content people are loving the most, so you can make more of it.

Don’t be afraid of the PIVOT.
Begin with clarity of vision, model, and purpose…AND be willing to pivot to serve the greater vision. Start with a clear reason WHY you are starting your pod. What is it that speaks to you? What are your objectives? How will you know whether you’re achieving those objectives or not? Will you have guests? Sponsored ads? What problem are you solving for you listener, or how exactly are you looking to enhance their life?

Start your pod with those at the forefront. Make your plan. Stick with it for at least 10-15 episodes so you get into a rhythm and can accurately gage what is working, what isn’t, and what were just growing pains.

AND THEN…if you EVER feel like you need to make changes, make them with that clarity of vision in mind. Get back to your roots. Your whys. Your mission. Maybe that means you change the format of your episodes, maybe that means you change your schedule. But whatever it is, don’t just keep doing something simply because it’s how you’ve always done it. I promise you that if you’ve developed a close relationship with your community, they’ll most likely be on board and be able to see the bigger picture.

Do it  because it’s a fit for you.
Do it because you love it. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because it’s a fit for you.

Do NOT do it to “keep up.” Do NOT do it because you think you should. Do NOT do it because someone else told you to. If it works for you in one season of your life, great. If it stops being a fit for you and doesn’t work in the very next season of your life, let it go. There will always be a new platform or medium to get into. That doesn’t mean every single one is going to be the best fit for YOU…or ALWAYS be the best fit for you.

There are no rules.
My last rule I’ve followed is…there are no rules 🙃

Well, other than to stay in integrity with yourself and your show by constantly re-assessing if your intentions align with your impact. But other than that. No rules other than the ones you make for yourself.


WANT YOUR SELF:

Have you started a podcast? Have you chosen NOT to start a podcast? Why, or why not? Are you THINKING of starting one? Which of these tips did you find the most useful?

And if you’re a WANTcast listener…what has been your favorite episode so far? Did you have a favorite guest? Or maybe a favorite topic we covered in a solo episode or a favorite story that’s stuck with you? I would LOVE to hear.

Not subscribed to the WANTcast? Subscribe here in iTunes or over on Spotify.

And while you’re at it, subscribe to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast. She is very very wise.

WANTcast Episode 102: Reframing A Negative Self-Talk Flare-Up

WANTcast Episode 102: Reframing A Negative Self-Talk Flare-Up

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“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go F off. Calling your critical inner voice a mean name might work for some people – but it’s never worked for me.

Here’s why this tactic doesn’t work for so many of us…and some ways (15, to be exact) you can reframe your negative self-talk when you start to spiral.

 

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This month is in support of ON BEING HUMAN 2020. The OBH 2020 COVID-19 Food Drive supports families who were hit financially by COVID-19 by offering each household a $100 grocery card. They act as a bridge between folks who are in immediate need of food and folks who are able to give a little to help them. To donate, click here.

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

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That voice in your head is an asshole.

Don’t let your thoughts bully you around.

Inner monologue? More like inner bitch. Don’t give her the power.

“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go screw itself and F off.

Tell me again how is this supposed to be helping?

 


For what I’m guessing is some sort of evolutionary advantage, we’re programmed to interpret the world in very black and white terms. There can be no middle ground when it comes to right and wrong, and when we disagree with something, we typically villainize it rather than try to understand where it comes from (or what the real solution should be).

Good Versus Evil. Us Against Them. It’s a formula that’s easy to understand and easy to master. It’s primal.

So it’s only natural that with this sort of mentality, we’d choose sides with our self-talk and try to bully one of them into submission.

Brené Brown says to give your inner voice a name – she calls hers Gremlin. For some people, providing that separation is useful, and allows them to distance themselves from the harsh, usually-untrue things their inner voice likes to say.

 

I, however, have never been able to separate my inner voice from myself.
Because the thing is, it’s all a part of who I am.

 

Maybe my brain is playing tricks on my heart, maybe my inner voice is misguided at times, but at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.

Some people might say to snap out of it – to tell your inner critic to shut up. And hey, that might work for some people. But it NEVER works for me. Identifying my negative self-talk as someone other than myself – an ass, a bitch, a bully – only puts me on the defensive and gives me yet another thing about myself to dislike (on top of whatever it is I’m negative self-talking about). 

Empowerment, for the record, is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Yet I cannot see how throwing insults at insults does anything to make us feel anything but more aggressive and afraid. They’re just harsh words to combat harsh thoughts. Abuse masked as “empowerment.” Which, to me, is anything but empowering.

Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your 'true' self, why not try to understand what it's actually trying to tell you? Click To Tweet

Instead of fighting against what is, why not try fighting for what could be? Instead of taking sides, why not confront the perceived enemy? Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your “true” self, why not try to understand what it’s actually trying to tell you?

Calling a very real part of who you are a “bitch” just reinforces and strengthens those negative-talk muscles that have been trained over the years to come to your defense in their negative-talk way – and focuses on the problem, not the solution. Berating a part of who you are is not the answer. Tapping into a new reserve of power to retrain that voice – that voice that so longs to be helpful – IS.

Next time you’re tempted to call your inner voice a harsh name, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something MORE.

Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really is all about. Could it be that your negative self talk is…

1) An invitation to explore?

2) An opportunity to rise?

3) A clue to an imbalance?

4) A way to practice moving forward through fear?

5) A wound to be nurtured?

6) A signal for help?

7) A cautionary tale of what it looks like to not be self-actualized?

8) A sign of neglect?

9) A cry for attention?

10) A distraction from the truth?

11) A language that’s been inherited and internalized?

12) A sign of burnout?

13) A call to action?

14) An empathetic pathway?

15) A clue as to what needs some extra love?

When I first started working on WANT, I would get pitches from people with books or websites with names like “Bitch On The Inside,” “Mental Mean Girl,” or “#StopHatingYourself Life Coaching.” We’re so aligned, they would say. We’re all about empowering women.

I respectfully declined every single one of these pitches.

Again, to each her own. I guess I can understand how some people need a metaphorical smack upside the head to catapult change into motion…

…But I don’t think that’s what makes the change LAST.

Because here’s the clincher: the quicker we are to call our inner monologue a bitch, the quicker we are to find fault outside ourselves. The quicker we are to clique up and take sides and tell our friends to “get over it” or “snap out of it” when they’re feeling down on themselves, the easier it is to do it to ourselves. Life becomes arduous and unfair. It’s a negativity loop that goes on and on and on – all in the name of self-love.


Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self- Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase.

 

Today, pledge to stop calling your inner voice a “mean girl” or your “inner bitch.” Your mind and heart are smart, and they’re most likely just trying to protect you from disappointment, shield you from loneliness, or numb that Ghost Worry pain that’s predicting what other people might “find out” about you so that when they do “find it out” it won’t hurt as bad.

Your inner voice is just used to using this warped defense mechanism – a defense mechanism you don’t need.

It’s not You vs. Your Mind.

Not Good vs. Evil.

They’re all on the same side.

It's not You vs. Your Mind. They're all on the same side. Click To Tweet


WANT Yourself:

Think back to the times when your negative self-talk starts to act up. What is it usually trying to tell you? What does it signal? How can you reframe your most common self-critiques…without resorting to name-calling? Tell me in the comments below.

And know someone who needs this? Share it with them today to help them shift their negative self-talk.

 

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Experiential Longing: The Simplest Hack For When You Miss Things.

Experiential Longing: The Simplest Hack For When You Miss Things.

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One of my favorite things in the world is sitting outside with a warm cup of coffee. A to-go situation works, but the best is with actual ceramic cups. There’s something so simple in the magic of watching the steam slowly rise in little loose tendrils, then disappear into the air. There’s something so calming about sitting with a delicately sculpted handle between your fingers staring out at the world and daydreaming. There’s something quite wonderful about those shallow pieces of everyday art you sip from a place other than your home – oversized or shrunken down, they’re usually shallower than usual, usually heavier than usual, and usually feel like you’re being treated to a tender moment by the barista or server in their home away from home. Over a cup of coffee, we soften and time slows down.

Jeremy and I agreed that sipping slowly on a fresh brew was one of our favorite parts of our honeymoon in Italy. Every day at 4pm, we’d head to the Piazza Navona and order a coffee as we watched the street performers dance and the students chase after the flocks of pigeons. When we go to Positano, we treated ourselves to the luxury of coffee delivered to our room each morning. We’d sit on the balcony together, overlooking the ancient church and the bluest blue ocean, and life seemed as perfect as it would ever be. Sitting and sipping was already a “thing” we did here at home, but after that trip, we made it a HABIT.

 

We work so hard to create habits that uplift us instead of harm us. No one habit is right for everyone, but it’s a proud day when you realize you’ve found what works for YOU. We replace draining after-work beers with energizing barre classes (and maybe beers after but that’s besides the point). We wake up early with the sunshine instead of pressing “snooze” 12 times and then rushing to begin the day. We journal our emotions instead of making jabs that hurt others. When we feel screens burning our eyes, we replace them with pages of books. We go to therapy. We make – and keep – friend dates. We visit our parents. We give ourselves moments of pause instead of blazing through each day.

So when life turns those habits upside down and throws them out the window, it’s natural to spiral into sadness and miss things deeply. It’s not just that your routines and practices have been taken away from you – it’s that mindfully-built sense of pride and self-appreciation that’s bruised, too.

I was looking through our photos from Italy last year, and got SHARP PANGS of sadness that not only would our next travel-adventure be postponed till who knows when, but that even the ritual of going to my local coffee shops, cafes, and diners, and slowing down over a perfect cuppa was a thing of the future and past but definitely not the present. I can’t even visit the hole-in-the-wall down the street, get my brew to-go, tip my favorite barista generously after bonding over the late-90s playlist crooning at us over the sound system, and sit leisurely on a bench with that tiny luxury in hand while watching all the world go by. I had done such a great job at honing the art of the peaceful pause and implementing our Italian habit back here at home.

As I scrolled through my Camera Roll, cried a little over the photos of us smiling on the Il San Pietro terrace, and laughed at the forgotten videos taken in the middle of the streets, I was ready to craft an Instagram post following suit of many of the people I’m seeing: posting a carousel of snapshots, accompanied by a caption titled THINGS I MISS. It was 8am. What I wouldn’t give for a delicate cup and saucer in the fresh air…

 

My “oh, DUH” moment came to me about about 8:02am. Wait a second. We have cups and saucers we bought in Italy! We drink coffee every morning! What if…what if we upgraded from our typical mugs to these delicate, fancy, unique pieces of art?

It obviously wouldn’t solve anything major…but, how would it make me FEEL?

 

We pulled out the ceramics from the top shelf above the sink – two hand-painted cups and saucers that had been sold to us in Ravello by the owner of the family-owned shop, Cosmolena (“My father was Cosmo and my mother was Lena!”), just after he’d demonstrated to us their indestructibility by banging them onto the top of the iron display table. Red stripes and blue florals wrapping around the sides. Plates perfectly spun on a potter’s wheel with the love and care of someone who takes great pride in their generations-long history of craftsmanship.

And just like that, my sadness turned into gladness. I felt time slow down as I balanced the saucer in my hand, careful not to let the coffee spill over the shallower-than-usual sides. I took a sip and was transported to the cliffs of Positano, and the piazza in Rome, and the restaurant in Ravello, and the balcony of the hotel where we spent our honeymoon, and the random cup we stopped to sip in Amalfi. My heart warmed (or maybe it was just my esophagus) as I thought of all the cups of coffee we’ve sipped throughout our time in NYC, and got excited for when we’re able to do it again.


You know to call someone when you miss them. But what if what you miss isn’t able to be dialed on the phone – what happens when it’s EXPERIENTIAL LONGING?

When life feels tough and you’re missing so many things it feels like your heart might shatter, find something that reminds you of something else you miss, and put it to use. Why let them collect dust when they could be bringing you joy? No, it won’t make the thing you miss magically appear – BUT, it will trigger at least some of the positive feelings associated with it. And right now, that might be just enough to get you in a proactive, not reactive, head-and-heart space.

When you miss celebrating birthdays and weddings, use the fancy dishes you got for your wedding or wear your favorite “celebration” outfit. When you wish you could hug your family, use the serving tongs that were passed down to you from your grandma (and send a picture to your sibling or cousins to share the moment with them). When you’re longing to go on vacation, drink out of those glasses you bought on your last adventure. Heck, when you’re missing window shopping, put flowers in the vase that has been hiding in the back of your closet for years!  It’s so small and simple but makes just the right amount of a difference when you’re in the middle of Missing.

Nothing is too nice to use now. If you’ve deemed it “too nice to use,” it probably also holds some sentimental value, since we’re way more reluctant to use the really nice things that MEAN something.

But if not now, when?

i miss this coffee cups

WANTcast 091: Now’s The Time For A Planned Freak-Out

WANTcast 091: Now’s The Time For A Planned Freak-Out

the WANTcast

It’s the most-used WANT exercise for a reason: it’s unexpected but it WORKS. Going through a major life transition, had a stressful month, or just wanting to take preventative measures to ensure you don’t have a *complete* meltdown when it all eventually feels like too much? You might be in need of a Planned Freak-Out.

In this episode we’ll talk about the origin story of the PFO, why it’s so different than any other goal-setting or self-reflection exercise you’ve done, and we’ll break down how to set yourself up for success in your own structured breakdown.

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This episode is in support of She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit promoting leadership and encouraging women from all walks of life to run for office. By encouraging more women to run, She Should Run is building a more effective and representative government that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. To get involved or donate, visit sheshouldrun.org by clicking here.