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. Read on for money advice and goal-setting advice you haven't heard before! #budgettips #moneytips #FIRE #savemoney #intentionalspending

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

The Totally Unsexy Skill That Makes It Easier To Go After What You Want

It might not be the inspirational tip you're looking for, but learning how to live within your means will make it a million times easier to chase your dreams. #money #personalfinance #inspiration
When I was 32, I celebrated one of the biggest accomplishments of my life with a plate of nachos, a vodka gimlet, and gathering of friends at my favorite neighborhood bar.

Over a plate of melted cheese, we cheers-ed my upcoming 11-month, nine-country trip. As the night wore on and more cocktails were consumed, one of my friends leaned across the table and said “Okay, I’m just gonna say what we’re all thinking. How are you paying for this?”

I laughed because of course Midwesterners have to get lightly drunk to talk about money.

After I was done laughing I spilled the beans. I told them how I managed to live sans-roommate in a nice neighborhood, pay my $375-a-month school loan, wear these cute leather riding boots, and save enough to finance this huge trip … on $34,000 a year non-profit salary.

Want to know how I did it?

(leans in close and stage whispers)

I lived within my means.

Well, that’s wildly unsexy, isn’t it? Whenever I share this not-particularly-exciting information, I can see people become a) skeptical b) disappointed. It’d be a lot more exciting if I shared a salacious investment tip or confessed that I had a trust fund or that I was just putting it all on a credit card and hoping for the best.

But that’s not what happened. I got to take my dream trip because I did things like:

  • Bring my lunch to work

  • Buy pretty much everything, ever secondhand

  • Host potluck dinner parties rather than eating out

  • Stay with friends when I traveled – or camped!

  • Split wifi with a neighbor

  • Go to matinee movies, used my library card, had picnics in the park, etc etc etc

  • Didn’t buy stuff I didn’t need

When we talk about going after what we want, we usually talk about things like talent, luck, networking, and a tenacious work ethic. All those are important! And they will certainly help you get you closer to what you want – whatever that is.

But I’d like to posit that one of the most underrated skills necessary to chase your dreams is learning to live within your means.

What now? What does budgeting have to do with becoming an artist or a stay at home parent or opening a sanctuary for stray dogs or taking a round-the-world trip?

According to a recent survey, the average American spends an estimated $697 a month on non-essential expenses – that’s more than $8,000 a year. The mean income per capita in the U.S. is $48,150, about $24 an hour. That means the average American is working about 30 hours each month to pay for those non-essential purchases.
The average American works 360 hours a year to pay for their non-essential purchases. How much of our lives would be we get back if we made fewer of those purchases? Click To Tweet

Now, I’m not saying we should stop making every non-essential purchase, ever. Of course not! I spend thousands of dollars every year on travel, pedicures, supper club dinners, and outfits for my dog. Dog outfit are not essential!

But it’s worth remembering that we pay for our choices with the lives that we lead and all those non-essential purchases? They lead to less money in our bank accounts > longer hours at work > less time, money, and energy for the stuff we’re really excited about.

What if you dialed in those non-essential purchases by just 10%? Totally doable, right? I bet it’d be pretty painless to wear the same outfit to multiple weddings or bring lunch to work once a week. It’s not hard to make a frozen pizza rather than having one delivered.

Reducing non-essential purchases by even just 10% could free up 36 hour this year. Imagine what you could do with that! You could practice your stand up set, launch your Etsy shop, work on your novel, or train for a marathon.

And buying less shit you don’t need might also mean you can drop the side hustle, the overtime, or the second job. Which means – I bet you can see where I’m going with this – you’d have more time and energy to pursue things that light you up.

Real talk: dreams + goals require time and energy. It’s hard to find either if you’re working 60 hours a week to support expensive spending habits. Click To Tweet
Now, any conversation about money should acknowledge privilege. Because of the realities of life in America, some people will have to take jobs they hate because they need the healthcare coverage. Some people really do need to work 60 hours a week in order to pay for the bare necessities.

Not everyone has the time to wander the aisles of Goodwill, digging through racks of cheap secondhand clothing. Some people live in food deserts and they can’t do a huge shopping trip and then meal prep + freeze seventeen healthy, affordable meals that break down to $3 per person, per meal.

However, many of us – I’d hazard a guess most of us – could make one or two different financial decisions that would free up hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Which would free up the time and energy we put into earning that money. And we could put that time and energy into something we’re really excited about.

If you’re really honest with yourself, where you could you rein in spending to free up money, time, and energy to spend on things you’re excited about? Tell us in the comments to create public accountability!

P.S. If you want help reducing those non-essential purchases in a way that doesn’t feel like deprivation, my incredibly popular program Bank Boost opens for enrollment on November 7th. Last time I ran it, it sold out in four days so you might want to jump on the waitlist!

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Why You Need A Smile File + How To Make One

Looking for cheer up ideas? Want to make a smile file but you're not sure where to start? Click through for inspiration ideas and ways to cheer yourself up! #cheerup #happinesstips #selfhelp #selfdevelopment

Picture this: you’re grumpy AF. You overslept, you spilled coffee on your shirt, and because she wants to cheer a friend up, your co-worker is trying to tell you about something called a ‘smile file.’

Do you
a) roll your eyes so far back in your head you get a migraine
b) tell her she’s never allowed to speak in your presence again
c) pretend that you’re listening while quietly plotting her death

If this cheer up idea makes you want to punch someone, hear me out!

Really, a ‘smile file’ is just a personal collection of things that cures a bad mood – your bad mood. If the things that cheer you up are interviews with Nick Cave, hair metal music videos, and gifs of people falling on ice, that’s what you should put in your smile file.

Just as importantly, you are not required to call it a ‘smile file.’ If you think rhyming is dorky, you can call it something else! Or you don’t have to call it anything!

All I’m saying is: We all have bad days. Our bad days will be shorter + less awful if we take some time to create our own personal antidotes when we're NOT in the midst of one. Click To Tweet

Why do you need a smile file at all?

None of us are required to be happy at all times. In fact, that’s impossible!

I think it’s worth noting, however, that bad days and bad moods usually trigger our less-awesome behaviors and choices. Think about the last time you did something you regret – an expensive impulse purchase you can’t afford, snipping at your partner, mindlessly eating yourself into a cookie dough coma, stalking your ex all over Instagram and accidentally liking one of their photos from 2015.

There’s a pretty good chance that these things started with a bad mood. And if you could short circuit that less-than-awesome behavior simply by revisiting some self-esteem-boosting emails or watching a few funny animal videos, isn’t it worth a try?

How to make a smile file

Create an email folder that’s filled with only sweet things

Every time a client, co-worker, or vendor sends you a thank-you note, put it in your Smile File. Praise for a job well done, an amazing testimonial about how your ebook changed someone’s life, a thoughtful response to your newsletter, put it in your Smile File. Funny email from your kid’s teacher or your dog walker – you guessed it! – put it in your Smile File.

In short: any email that makes you smile and will likely improve your day on a second reading, put it in a specific email folder that you can easily reference.

Save all your favorite Instagram images to a ‘smile file’ folder

Did you know you can save all the  insightful captions, funny photos, and inspirational quotes you like on Instagram? It’s true.

Next time you see something you like on Instagram, just click the little pennant icon under the image and you’ll save it to your Instagram account. You can organize your saved images into folders like ‘funny animals,’ ‘memes about the 90s,’ and ‘inspirational quotes’ – or whatever would cheer you up!

Create a day-improving Youtube playlist

A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. But we didn’t need a study to espouse the healing powers of sing-shrieking along to ‘The Dog Days Are Over” while flouncing dramatically around the living room, right?

No joke, I have a 33-song Youtube playlist entitled ‘happy dancing’ and it improves my mood faster than an episode of Brooklyn 99 and a bag of pizza rolls WHICH IS SAYS SOMETHING.

If you use Spotify or Itunes, you could also compile playlists there!

Make a physical ‘smile file’ – like a real, actual paper folder in a filing cabinet

There’s something to be said for holding mood-improving things in your hands, rather than just clicking through emails and online photos.

If you have tangible evidence of the things that make you happy – handwritten cards, photos, ticket stubs and receipts from memorable outings, the application paper work for the big project – put it all in an actual paper folder and put it at the front of your filing cabinet so it’s easy to find and access.

It’s seems like a little thing, right? How could an email folder, a playlist, or some saved Instagram photos cheer you up?

How could something so small (and free!) be the difference between a good day and a bad one? Why not try. Worst case scenario – you have another email folder. Best case scenario – you’ve got a stockpile of things that make you happy and remind you of how awesome you are.

P.S. How to restart a bad day + 101 ways you cheer yourself up

photo by Laura Olsen // cc