Where To Start When You’re Not Sure Where To Start.

Not sure where to start? Looking for productivity tips, motivation advice, or self-development tips? Tap through for tips on where to start no matter what project or goal you're undertaking. #habits #goalsetting #motivation #productivityWhen she sends me the “I want to burn this place down” gif from Mad Men I know I need to actually call her – rather than send the usual series of heart and strong arm emojis.

“What’s up?” I ask. I know things have been less-than-ideal in my friend’s life for a while now, but I didn’t realize we were talking season 7 Joan Holloway levels of frustration.

“I hate it. All of it. This stupid job. My hair. I hate all the clothes in my closet. You know I love my dog but even walking her is a production of yanking and barking. And I’m never going to pay off all that school debt. I want to do-over card. I want to burn it all down and move somewhere new and be a totally new person.” 

Friend. I GET IT. When we want everything to change, it’s hard to know where to start. When it feels like nothing is quite the way you want it, where do you start when you don’t know where to start? 

I asked my friend if she was venting and wanted me to listen or if she wanted me to put on my coaching hat and give her advice. (<- something I’m working on because often our friends just want us to listen and not give them unsolicited advice!)

She wanted me to give her advice, so I did. And if you’re in the same ‘I want to change but I don’t know where to start’ place, I’m about to give you the same advice!

Where to start when you don’t know where to start

Start with the obvious thing you KNOW will improve your life

Bluuuuugh. Probably not what you were hoping to hear, right? But the totally unsexy truth is that no matter what we’re trying to accomplish or what we’re struggling with, we all benefit from:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Moving our bodies (in a way we don’t hate!) at least a little, every day
  • Seeing or talking to friends regularly
  • Not being constantly dehydrated

“But Sarah! I’m trying to train for a marathon / build a successful freelance career / save up for IVF treatments! I’M NOT INTERESTED IN STARTING WITH ‘DRINK MORE WATER’!”

Friend, I get it. But the truth is: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs isn’t messing around. Until we meet our most basic physical and emotional needs, we’re really going to struggle with stuff like “launch a podcast” or “navigate adopting a child through foster care” or “find a new job.”

Also? When we’re well-rested, hydrated, and supported we have more energy, creativity, and focus to go after what we want.

Sometimes we want to believe that success is magical or special or a mystery - but a surprising amount depends on unsexy things like hours slept, glasses of water consumed, and the number of high five emojis in the text chain. Click To Tweet

Start with something binary

Already got the basics down? I am high-fiving you through the internet! What’s another place to start when you don’t know where to start? The binary behaviors and choices in your life.

Many of the things we want to change in our lives are a little squishy and grey area-y.

We want to stop stalking our ex on social media, but then they show up in a friend’s photos on Facebook and we read all the comments. Does that count?

Or we want to read more. We take a writing class and the professor assigns several books so we read them. Does that count?

Set yourself up for success – and create momentum and motivation for future success – by choosing a binary change. Either you did it or you didn’t.

Either you took your medication or you didn’t.

Either you did your physical therapy exercises or you didn’t. 

Either you sent the networking email or you didn’t.

When we give ourselves black and white, tangible, check-off-able goals, we’re more likely to achieve them.

Start with something that’s semi-public

If you’re already doing the basics and that binary advice doesn’t apply to you, try changing something that’s semi-public.

Why? Because when we do things in a semi-public way we’re creating accountability and creating the identity for ourselves as someone who does _______________.

(And usually those identities are positive and we want to keep them!)

A semi-public change is a change that involves other people or is witnessed by your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.

If you and your co-workers eat lunch together every day, and you start bringing lunch, they’ll notice + comment and you’ll feel accountable to keep it up.

If you and your partner get up at the same time every day, they’ll notice if you start drinking a big glass of water before breakfast or stretch while your Poptart is toasting. Accountability, ahoy!

If you get coffee at the same coffee shop every morning, the barista is going to notice if you switch to decaf or tea. You just created accountability, friend!

Change is possible, y’all. I see it every day with my students and coaching clients. I know that starting small might seem silly or ineffective, but I promise you – it’s not.

P.S. Want to know EXACTLY which change to start with? Like: “Do this. Start with this specific ONE thing”? I made you a free, fun, 90-quiz! And I’ll send you tips specific to your quiz results about how to make that change happen! ALSO IT INCLUDES MEMES AND INTERNET ANIMALS WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Stop Doing Things That Aren’t Working

Stuck in a rut? Looking for motivational tips or inspiration? Tap through to learn how to get out of your own way. #motivation #productivity #inspiration #selfdevelopment
Picture this: we’re sitting around a campfire in Yosemite on a crisp September night.


We’re wearing cute flannel shirts, artfully scuffed jeans, and drinking out of those blue and white metal mugs that L.L. Bean sells.

We’re taking turns swapping stories of wonder and woe.

I shift on my camping stool, lean in, and terrify you with the tale of how my ego and self-absorption stymied my career for, oh, A DECADE. 

I put the flashlight under my chin for a more atmospheric effect and begin.

For 20 years, I’ve been getting paid to write; it’s been my sole source of income for a decade now. And according to Glassdoor.com, I earn significantly more than the average writer.

“I’ve been doing this for so long and supporting myself so comfortably, I must have it all figured out!” I’d smug to myself.

Every time I’d encounter a course or a coach or a program that promised to teach me how to write sales copy or Instagram comments or pitches, I’d internally flounce and toss my hair, believing that I didn’t need it.

What could these youths teach me that I, a seasoned veteran, didn’t already know?!

True, I’d occasionally read a blog post or download a freebie about how to write for ______ purpose, but that was about it. I refused to believe that there was more I could learn or that I needed to know something more than what I could glean from Googling or a library book.

Did my sales funnel covert? It was … fine. Were my launches hugely successful? Successful but not, like, hugely successful.

(This is where my story takes a turn. The plot thickens!)

Then we decided to buy a duplex. Duplexes are expensive. 

Committed to accruing that hallowed 20% down payment, I decided I was going to try something different for my next course launch. I was going to suck it up and take a course about sales + launch writing.

Even if I thought I already knew a lot about writing.

Even if I was worried it wouldn’t work.

I bet you can see where this is going, dear reader. I took this course and had the best launch of my career. I made double what I’ve made on any other launch; my sales page converted at 18%. Industry average is 2.3%. 

All this happened because I finally got over myself and realized:

  • maybe someone else knows things that I don’t know
  • within every skill set there are incredibly specific subsets
  • what I was doing – half-heartedly reading blog posts – wasn’t working

Too bad it took me ten years to get over myself and figure this out.

Just because I’m an expert at playing the flamenco guitar, doesn’t mean I could play lead guitar for Guns N Roses.

A ballerina doesn’t assume that she could land a lead role in a tap dancing musical.

I guess what I’m saying is: If you’ve been trying to change something in your life – your health, your career, your relationships, your habits, your spending habits – and the things you’ve been doing haven’t been working?

Maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe it’s time to get over yourself and your ego and your belief that you can journal and Youtube and library book your way through this.

(And when I say “you” I mean “me too OH GOD I AM SO DEEPLY INCLUDED IN THIS NARRATIVE.”)
If muscling your way through change with a library book, a journal, and some Youtube tutorials worked - things would be different by now. Click To Tweet

Maybe getting serious about change looks like hiring me to coach you (my rates are going up in 2020!) or taking one of my live, online courses (Habit School opens January 6th!)

Or maybe it looks like:

  • Going to therapy
  • Enrolling in a college course 
  • Enrolling in a Community Ed. course
  • Taking a class on Udemy or Skillshare or Lynda
  • Finding an accountability buddy 
  • Joining a group on Meetup so you’ll have meetings to attend and friends with similar interests/issues to talk to 
  • Finding a support group
  • Join an online forum or message board

Change is possible! We can all learn new things and get new + different results. It starts with acknowledging that maybe it’s time to get outside of our heads and start taking action. 

Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

The Trap Of The ‘Overly Virtuous Lunch’ + How To Avoid It

Struggling with self-control? Looking for self-discipline tips or motivation advice? Click through and read this post for unexpected advice. #motivation #habits #personaldevelopment #budgeting
It is a truth universally acknowledged that bringing lunch to work is one of the best, smartest, most healthy choices a person can make.

(snoooooore)

Who among us hasn’t pledged to ‘do better’ and schlepped a Tupperware full of under-dressed lettuce across town, truly believing that come noon we’re going to eat that plastic box of leaves and enjoy it?

When I was a classroom teacher, I’d do this all the time. In a valiant attempt to save money and eat healthy, I’d trundle my salad from my apartment to my desk.

At noon, I’d open my desk drawer, see that salad, stand up and walk next door to Sun Foods and buy: 
1. A bag of Cheetos (the crunchy kind, not the puffy kind)
2. A small can of Mr. Brown’s canned coffee
3. A ‘kempswich’ ice cream sandwich which is the best ice cream sandwich on the market don’t @ me

Now, if you’re keeping track, this ridiculous lunch neither made me healthier nor saved me money. In fact, it pretty emphatically did the exact opposite.


You know what I should have done? BROUGHT A LUNCH I ACTUALLY WANTED TO EAT.

The fancy, psychologist-sanctioned term for what happened here is ‘ego depletion’ – the idea that self-control or willpower draws upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up.

I call it “the trap of the overly virtuous lunch.”

See, I was asking too much of myself – I was asking myself to eat something I didn’t particularly like (I don’t like salads) AND I was asking myself to skip going to lunch with my fun, lovely co-workers.

I added insult to injury – denying myself doubly, which then backfired and led to me spending $9 a day on junk food and canned coffee.

So how did I solve this problem? I started bringing lunches I actually wanted to eat: couscous with crunchy cucumbers and lots of feta. Pad thai. Vegetarian chili and a little bag of Fritos for dipping.

And you know what happened? I stopped spending $9 a day on ice cream sandwiches and canned coffee.

But overly virtuous lunches aren’t just lunches, they can show up anywhere in our lives.

  • Going “no spend” for six months and then freaking out, falling off the wagon, and spending all the money you saved.
  • Dragging yourself to the gym at 5 am, seven days a week, to do a workout you totally hate, only to injure yourself and never, ever go back.
  • Giving up tv and social media completely, try to make yourself like knitting and puzzles when you really love Netflix, fail and then binge watch movies for four days.

What if you just found ways to get where you want to go in a way that’s actually enjoyable?

What if you stopped denying yourself everything, ever and gave yourself a release valve so you could stay the course in a sustainable, enjoyable way?

What if you admitted to yourself that you don’t actually like salads that much but you’d be very happy to eat pasta and roasted veggies for lunch?

It’s hard to deprive and deny and shame our way to success. It's not kind, fun, or particularly sustainable. Click To Tweet

It’s totally possible to get where you want to go without eating a single “overly virtuous lunch” – whatever shape that takes for you.

Photo by Dawit on Unsplash

How To Use Envy As A Tool (Yes, For Real)

How can you use envy as a tool? If you're looking for motivation tips or productivity advice, you might find it in envy. Click through to read more! #motivation #selfhelp

 

I’m scrolling through Instagram as I wait for my coffee to brew when I’m hit by a wave of envy – mouth twisting, eye-narrowing, I-should-click-away envy.

I stare at my screen, fantasizing about the day I can do what this woman does. I feel weak just imagining it. I give myself over to daydreaming about what life would be like if I could do this, too.

What was it that filled me with envy, that morning as I stood in my kitchen?

It was my friend’s Instagram bio. 

“Founder of ______. Dog mom, cheese-eater, carry-on only traveler.” And then her IG feed was fun random photos of her dog and her vacations! No carefully curated, on-brand photos. No push to watch her webinar. No sales pitches. No ‘calls to action.’

She just shared photos of stuff she liked and that was it. CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE????

And until that moment, I hadn’t even realized that was something I wanted – to ‘just’ be a business owner, without the pressure of selling and strategizing and monetizing and sharing everything, ever.

(I’m working on it.)

And this epiphany was brought to you by envy – an emotion that gets a bad rap and we all try to avoid. We view envy as weakness or insecurity or a character flaw.
What if we used our envy to learn more about ourselves, what we really want, and what’s possible? Click To Tweet

View Envy as an educator

One of the most common things I hear from students and clients is “I don’t know how to get what I want because I, uh, don’t know what I want.”

To which I say “Good news! One of the fastest ways to figure out what you want is to look at who + what makes you feel envious.” (If you need help figuring out what makes you happy, this free workbook will help!)

For example, I have a friend who owns a gorgeous apartment in a doormanned building in Manhattan. Not envious.

I have another friend who lives in Tulum, has a double-take worthy body and an Instagram following of 95k. 100% not envious.

But my friend who runs a successful company without being on ANY social media? So envious I could weep.

The friends who bought a house on the water, in a Minneapolis suburb, for less than $300,000? Teeth-gnashing envy.

So what does this tell me? It tells me that I want to step away from social media and live on the water. I want to get a good deal on a house. I don’t want to live on the beach or wear my swimsuit all day, every day. I never need to live in NYC.

These might strike you as rather obvious epiphanies, but until I examined my envy, I didn’t realize these things about myself. 

I could very easily have spent years chasing an apartment-in-New York dream or a live-on-the-beach-in-Mexico dream. But when I noticed that my friends had those very things and I didn’t particularly care, I gained insight into the things I truly want.

View Envy as evidence of what’s possible

When we see something that makes us green with envy, it’s easy to think “They got it now I’ll never have it I HATE EVERYTHING.”

What if we viewed envy – and the things that make us feel envious – as evidence of what’s possible?

The fact that Alex can run a very successful writing business from a small town in Hawaii, while being on zero social media platforms is evidence that such a thing is possible. Finding clients, working from a far off time zone, without a funnel or webinars or optimized blog posts? It can be done!

My friends found a house with great bones, at the end of a cul de sac, overlooking a lake, in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis for $270,000? Sure, they got lucky and they’ve done some work on said house but the fact that such a house was even on the market? Makes me hopeful we can find our dream house. 

Instead of “they have something I want and now I can’t have it” we can view someone else’s success as “they have something I want and now I know that someday I can have it, too.” Click To Tweet

I’d love to hear about your relationship with envy! Do you struggle with it? Resist it? Use it to figure out what you want?

P.S. Hope to see you at The Get What You Want Workshop on Monday!

The ‘I Deserve It’ Loophole + The Trick I Use To Beat It

Do you tell yourself "I deserve it" too much? If the usual budgeting tips or diet tips aren't helping, this might be why. Tap through for money advice and goal-setting advice you haven't heard before! #goalsetting #habits #budgettips

Picture this: It’s 8 pm on a rainy Friday night and you’re just now leaving work. The week has been a mess of unexpected expenses, grumpy coworkers, boring obligations, and yesterday the cat puked on your white sofa.

Your mind is fried and your spirit is crumpled.

Clearly, the answer is Target.

Two throw pillows, three t-shirts, some face masks, and two art prints? You deserve them.

When you get home? Delivery pizza, a full bottle of red, and three hours of Netflix. “I deeeeseeeerve this!!!!”

Then an hour of Instagram scrolling, because “I deserve it” is the battle cry of the day/week/month/year.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Maybe you swing by Home Goods instead of Target and watch Hulu instead of Netflix. (I like watching late 90s/early 00s teen rom coms and eating noodles with butter + that terrible powdered Parmesan).

We all recognize this scenario because EVERY BLESSED HUMAN engages in some version of this. When we have a bad day – or a good day! – we throw our heads back and howl “I deserve it!” while running full speed towards things that often make our lives worse. The truth is, many of our “I deserve this” choices move us further from the things we say we want. Click To Tweet
If we have credit card debt, ‘treating’ ourselves with a shopping spree is actually a pretty unkind thing to do. If our bodies don’t like dairy or gluten, ‘rewarding’ ourselves with pizza is a peculiar kind of (delicious) torture. 

Imagine if your best friend turned to you over dinner and calmly said “Ya know what? I deserve to be saddled with thousands of dollars of credit card debt for the rest of my life.”

What if she said “I’ve been thinking about it and I really believe that I deserve to sleep poorly every night. And I deserve all the health issues that come with a long-term sleep deficit.”

Or “I’ve worked hard. I deserve low-grade stomach aches several times a week. Yup!”

We’d never let our friends treat themselves this way. We’d stop them mid-sentence and talk some sense into them. But many of us treat ourselves to these self-sabotaging ‘rewards’ on a daily basis. 

So how do we stop these self-defeating, self-sabotaging ‘rewards’?

How to avoid the ‘I deserve it’ loophole

When you find yourself saying “I deserve it” + treating yourself, be really honest about the effects of these things you “deserve.” Do you DESERVE more credit card debt? An upset stomach? To sleep poorly? Click To Tweet

Take a moment to look a few hours or days down the line. How will this thing you ‘deserve’ impact your life?

If your reward looks like debt, poor health, low-quality sleep, unhealthy relationships, or wasted time? YOU DO NOT DESERVE THAT. No one does.

Instead, think about what you truly deserve and how you can treat yourself in a way that helps you get that.

Do you deserve rejuvenation and relaxation after a busy week? Maybe the answer is a walk next to a body of water, re-reading a favorite novel, and going to bed early after one hour of Netflix (not three).

Do you deserve to feel pampered because you spent all week dealing with other people’s needs? Maybe you could treat yourself with a long sauna at the gym, spend 30 extra seconds making your meal look nice (you’d be amazed what a drizzle of olive oil can do!) and buy one new scented candle.

We all deserve to feel good, supported, and cared for. We all deserve the occasional treat or reward for a long week or a job well done. Let’s make sure our rewards get us closer to what we want, rather than further away. 

P.S. If you want help ending this sort of self-sabotaging behavior, download in The Get What You Want Workshop! You guys told me you were sick of six-courses you couldn’t finish so we’re trying two hours instead! Click here to download your workbook!

Unintended lessons & where I learned them

Learn life's unintended lessons. Sometimes we think we’re going to learn A, but life is really committed to teaching us B. (It’s probably a good idea to learn both.)  #selfdevelopment #selfhelp #motivation #productivity

When I was 18, I packed my bags and moved to Germany for a month, fueled by visions of soft pretzels and hard cheeses.

I was taking part in an exchange program and – like all 18-year-olds – I already knew everything. Before I even boarded that Lufthansa flight, I knew what I’d learn from my time in Germany.

I was sure my trip would teach me:

  • How to speak German more fluently

  • How to pack light

  • Maybe how to finally understand soccer???

And did it? Yes, that trip improved my German and introduced me to one-suitcase travel. But more importantly, it taught me how to enjoy my own company and feel at home (almost) anywhere. I learned how to make friends across language and cultural barriers. I figured out how to take up space without apologizing.

All helpful, important things to learn! But since I was 18, I didn’t necessarily make the connection. I didn’t realize what I’d learned from my experience. I felt smug when I tested out of the second language requirement at college and that was about it.

Cut to ten years later and I’m heading to Wellington, New Zealand to get my M.A. in Applied Linguistics. And just like last time, I’m pretty sure I know how this is going to shake out.

What I expected to learn in graduate school:

  • Pedagogical theory

  • Neural Plasticity and how it affects our learning

  • Plosives and fricatives

And yes, sure, I learned those things. I also learned how to share space with multiple roommates, how to manage my time so I didn’t have to pull all-nighters, how to navigate the New Zealand healthcare system, and that I’m not really suited to graduate-level courses that are taught exclusively online.

It only took me ten years and multiple epiphanies to realize that learning is multi-faceted and multi-layered. It only took me a decade to realize that

Sometimes we think we’re going to learn A, but life is really committed to teaching us B. (It’s probably a good idea to learn both.) Click To Tweet

We think getting a dog will help us get outside more, not knowing that we’re going to learn about loyalty, responsibility, and why consistency really, really matters.

We think decluttering is about bringing things to Goodwill. But anyone who’s watched Tidying Up can tell you that releasing things that no longer fit our lives is a lesson in grace, intentionality, and self-awareness.

I see this a lot in my Bank Boost program. In Bank Boost we talk about a lot of nitty gritty money things: why you should pay for things with cash, how to rescue money that’s in places it shouldn’t be, how to use x tool to earn y amount of money.

But we also talk about making sure that your money is bringing you joy, that you’re squeezing every ounce of happiness out the money you spend. We talk about being willing to get uncomfortable – whether that looks like asking for a raise or telling your friend you need her to repay that money she borrowed.

When we do this – talk about happiness and discomfort and self-advocacy – something surprising happens. Yes, Bank Boosters add hundreds or thousands of dollars to their bank accounts.

Just as importantly they start getting braver in other areas of their lives. They have really tough conversations they’ve been putting off. They send a third follow up email. They stand up to the shitty landlord.

They take their awful ex to court. Here, shared anonymously and with permission, is one woman’s story:

“I took your advice on the “uncomfortable” strategy but probably not in the way you meant. I spent 33 years in an abusive relationship and I finally got my divorce in April.

My ex was supposed to be paying me support during the divorce and he owes me alimony now. But I was afraid and I let him get away without paying me. But you taught me that I deserve it so I took him to court!

The judge ordered him to pay me everything he owes me plus my legal fees. I ended up getting over $6000 and I was able to pay off all my credit cards.

(He also had to pay my lawyer over $10K in legal fee so I don’t have that hanging over my head anymore.) For me, this was HUGE.

Having the guts to stand up to him and demand my rights was something I never thought I would do. Thank you for giving me the courage to do that. Thank you so, so much!

Now I can start planning for MY future. I want to someday buy a house all by myself and now that it possible.”

What would happen if we opened ourselves up to learning what life was trying to teach us? How would our lives change if we made space for unintended lessons?

Photos by Max Yamashita and Geordanna Cordero-Fields on Unsplash