Letting Go of What Other People Think

Kick-Ass Courage Project

(Today’s post is part of an awesome blog tour headed up by my friend Andrea Owen of Your Kick-Ass Life. Starting February 1st, she’s hosting The Kick-Ass Courage Project: 7 Day Challenge. She’s challenging women to do two Very Important Things — start cultivating self kindness and self compassion (aka stop being such a bitch to yourself) and start practicing “being enough”. The Challenge is totally free and Andrea’s hope is that she can shift two very important aspects of your life in 7 days.)

I have no idea who said or wrote this quote, but I love it.

Your opinion of me is none of my business.

 

It’s my mantra when I’m trying to extricate myself from doing something* in the world in order to earn my gold star or avoid judgement. It’s my mantra when I let fear of how something* will land stop me from trying it out. It’s my mantra when I find myself chasing external validation in the form of likes or registrations or appreciative glances.

*Those somethings can be anything! A business idea, a change in my appearance, an offer of help, a conversation with a stranger, a swallowed moment of truth…

I made you a video sharing some of my best tips for learning how to let go of what other people think, as well as sharing my own story learning how to let go in the realms of business and mamahood.

Crib Sheet of Tips:

  • Really understand the quote, “Your opinion of me is none of my business!” Let it help you pull your focus back to your own life, your own lens, your own experience.
  • The way to be true to yourself and do the things you want to do in the world is to harness your own power. Don’t worry about pleasing or disappointing another, but absolutely do worry about pleasing or disappointing yourself.
  • Getting clear on who your “other people” actually are can be useful in letting “their opinions” go.
  • No one cares about your life nearly as much as you think they do. And no one cares about your life the way that you should care about your life.
  • Stand up for your dreams, your integrity, your desires. You don’t need to be fearless to do this work, just courageous.

It may seem impossible or scary to believe that you have the power to create your world in order to please yourself, in order to live in alignment with your highest held values, in order to experience joy in all forms — but I promise you — it is possible.  

And the first small, courageous step? Letting go of what other people think about you and your life.

Imagine the freedom!

XOXO

Molly-Sig211

Encouragement Is A Gift That Keeps On Giving

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“This magic that I had experienced of being amongst my tribe was so intoxicating, that I didn’t want to let it go.”

When I read that in Katie’s farewell post last week, I knew exactly what she meant…it’s the very reason why I’m here, writing to you today. While interacting with the Holiday Council Facebook group last month, I could feel the magic washing over me.

It was one part waterfall, one part pixie dust: intense and rushing, yet sparkly and empowering.

I realized that being part of this community inspires me to feel the sense of belonging that all of us crave. When I’m here, interacting with all of you, I know that not only is it OK to be myself, it’s encouraged. Even if my definition of self is ever-changing, the warm welcome still stands.

After almost five years as a Stratejoy fan this isn’t the first time I’ve felt the power of community, but this time was different. This time it illuminated something that I hope to never forget:

Being yourself is a solo journey,  but that doesn’t mean you’re alone.

(Click to Tweet)

I believe that being yourself is what life is about and I believe it with my whole heart. But at the same time, the very essence of our humanity is connection. It’s not a trade-off. It’s a match made in heaven.

This concept of individuality in communion is one I’ve been thinking about for the last year.

After reflecting on 2014, I know I want even more of those moments feel where I feel completely connected to myself and like a kindred spirit to someone else.*

But then, don’t we all? I think that’s why, as we all gear up for a fresh year of dream-chasing and possibility-believing, I find myself wondering:

Since we don’t all have access to megaphones and mountain-tops, what else can we do to spread the word that the best of both worlds is possible?

What are other ways can we raise awareness of the truth that you don’t need to sacrifice, hide or compromise who you are in order to experience the acceptance, belonging and love we all crave? After reconnecting with this warm, supportive tribe over the holidays, I think giving words of encouragement is a solid place to start.

Spending time in the HoCo Facebook group, I watched strangers talk openly about their hardships, points of pride and secret wishes and then receive compassion, encouragement and loving understanding in return. No strings attached. It was easy to see there was deep appreciation being felt by everyone.

Giving and receiving words of encouragement was a gift; it was love, hope and courage, all wrapped up with a bow.

In her last post, Elevate sister Mallory talked about it, too. She said it takes a tribe to find yourself and I couldn’t agree more.

When was the last time you reminded someone you were in their tribe? How often do you tell someone: “It’s OK, you’ve got this! You already know what to do.” Or remind them: “Being yourself if the whole, entire point. And you’re killing it, girlfriend.”

Of course there are many ways to go about it, and it’s important that we spread love and encouragement in ways that feel genuine to us, but last week my bestie and I launched something that we think could help.

We opened an online store and our first product line speaks to the very magic that helps communities like this one to thrive. It’s a collection of encouragement cards! Our goal is simply to make it easy to give the gifts of love and encouragement and to keep them flowing all year!

There are 10 different cards to choose from, but this one in particular makes me think of you.

StratejoyBlog.Pic2.Jan13

As a thank you for being YOU, which includes being part of a community I cherish, 50 of you can snag this card for 50% off using the promo code “STRATEJOY”.

You can click here to take a look at the collection, but you’ll want to do so by January 30th. The cards make like Cinderella’s slippers and disappear at midnight that day!

Speaking of magic, I think the kind Katie was talking about comes down to this: a willingness to express your quirks, talents, dreams and beliefs leads to profound connections with others who are willing to do the same.

That has certainly proven true for me and I simply can’t thank Molly enough for creating the space to allow that exchange to happen for so many of us.

To all of you reading, you will never know how profoundly your open hearts and kind words have helped to shaped me a woman, wife and entrepreneur. As I’ve been growing into my identity as a creator and curator of inspiration, you have been mine.

With heaps of love + gratitude,

Laura

P.S. I’m strongly considering the Stratejoy Summer Camp as a way to add more individuality in communion into my 2015. I have no doubt it’ll be an experience packed with scrapbook-worthy moments. Is anyone else planning on going? Let me know in the comments!

P.P.S. If the topic of encouragement is one you’re interested in, you’ll want to keep an eye on my blog (weareredballoon.com/blog), where I’ll be diving into it through interviews with Tara Gentile, Nicole Antoinette, Kyla Roma, and Ashley Wilhite.

Retiring From Stratejoy – Lessons Learned From Five Years of Community Management

To Katie “Pants” Colihan — Thank you for giving your heart, soul and humor to our Community for the last 5 years. You’ve been here almost as long as I have! Stratejoy would not be the same without you. I’ve learned so much about bravery, about vulnerability and about the difficult dance of delegation/communication/leadership from our time together. 

We’re saying our goodbyes, and though that means the end of an era for us — it’s time, honey. You are ready to find your dream. To dedicate the love and attention you’ve given Stratejoy to the thing that’s going to light YOU up. You’ve got to be free to figure out the thing that’s going to make you really, really happy. 

I don’t doubt for a second that it’s out there. And I want nothing less for you.

Enjoy the hell out of the search and know you’ll always have a friend and supporter in me.

XOXO

Molly

Retiring-Katie

It started with a question:

“What makes you really happy? When was the last time you were happy? What did it feel like?”

I came across this question in the Joy Equation a little over 5 years ago.

In 2009, I was 25. Living with my dad. In a back and forth dead-end relationship. Laid off from my job. Depressed. Stuck. So unhappy that I couldn’t even answer a simple question of “What makes you really happy?”

I applied to be a Season 2 blogger. I got in. I wrote about my depression. I moved to Philadelphia. I started my own freelance business. I began life as Katie Blogs. I slowly crawled out of the hole I had gotten into.

****

I remember after I was a Season 2 Stratejoy blogger, I emailed Molly and told her that I just wasn’t ready to leave and asked if she needed any help behind the scenes. This magic that I had experienced of being amongst “my tribe” was so intoxicating, that I didn’t want to let it go.

After the next season of bloggers was done, I still wasn’t ready to leave the tribe and Molly asked me to stick around again for the next season.

This continued on. Season after season. Project after project. Year after Year.

Even when my time was stretched to the absolute max, and I felt overwhelmed with everything,  I never felt ready to leave the warm little cocoon of Stratejoy. Being Molly’s community manager has become such a big part of my identity. My security blanket.

There were days where I thought about the chance of joining Stratejoy in a more official capacity as some kind of coach in training. I mean, what could be better than working with one of the most inspirational, gorgeous souls ever? As much as I love Molly, here’s my hard-hitting truth:

Stratejoy was never my dream. It is, and always will be Molly’s. I was along to help her shine. I feel like I did that to the best of my ability. Every day. For 5 years.

But now? That time I’ve carved out of my daily life for 5 years, needs to be refocused on my dream. What will make me shine? What’s my big dream?

I have absolutely no idea, but I’m not willing to put off finding out anymore.

And while I have absolutely no idea where life will take me next, for the first time I can say with full and complete confidence: I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to write the next chapter of my life. 

What this all means: I’m officially retiring from Stratejoy. Short. Sweet. Simple. Incredibly scary. But such is life, eh?

I’ll end this with the same question that, before Molly, I was unable to answer:

“What makes you really happy?”

Grey’s Anatomy, pancakes, brunch, twinkle lights, Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, Wine feelings, candles, freshly washed sheets, backrubs, cupcakes, the perfect spotify playlist, inside jokes, unexpected texts, teaching, dance parties, … and that’s just today.

To Molly “Pants”. – Writing this post came easily to me, until right now. I’m sitting on my couch in fuzzy socks, drinking chai tea, hair in a messy bun, with ugly tears streaming down my face. Everything has changed for me over the past 5 years – from where I live to the people I share my life with to what I call my job, but you’ve been the constant.

You’ve shared in my successes. You’ve seen me at my worst. You’ve seen me at my best.  You’ve never judged me. You celebrate with me. You say “what the fuck is wrong with some people?” with me.

Working with you, I’ve learned how to accept success. I’ve learned how to own up to my mistakes. I’ve learned to do what I say I’m going to do. I’ve learned the value of my time. I’ve learned to value other’s time. I’ve learned about every project management system ever and which ones are worth the money. I know my way so hard around WordPress.

Hands down, the best gift you ever gave me was YOU. You in all your raw, makeup free, no shower, baby on boob self. Through both of our bad times, at the end of the day, when shit gets real and dirty, no matter what, you always show up as a leader, a coach, a friend. You showed me what healthy relationships look like, and because of that, I’ve made it a habit to accept nothing less.

Removing “Stratejoy Community Manager” from all of my bios is going to be difficult. But I’ll forever be a Molly-Pants fanatic and Stratejoy Tribe member.

Lead on, leader.

xo.

It Feels Like Home

FeelsLikeHome

I have a confession.

Last January I was busy thinking of all the excuses I could give to get out of going to our Elevate Retreat. I know. Why would I purposely miss the “fun” event to kick off the Elevate year? Am I insane or just purely wasteful, because there was definitely a portion of the financial commitment that contributed to that retreat? Yet, there I was thinking about morning sickness, car trouble, work. All. The. Excuses.

Thankfully my guilt took over. I bullied myself into packing my fears of not fitting in and forced conversations right next to my “yoga” pants that hadn’t seen a day of yoga in their life, and headed to Ojai.

Still giving myself pep talks as I walked into the entryway, I was immediately welcomed with strangers filing around a large wooden table to offer personal-space-bubble-popping hugs, which I awkwardly tried to pass off as being totally normal though it was totally causing Stranger Danger alarms to go off in my head. Then it happened. A quick quip, a combination of intellect with perfectly portioned side of sarcasm, and I found my first “sister” in Maureen.

Driving away that weekend I could not contain my excitement as I babbled on and on to Zee Hubs about how amazing the weekend was. How I met people and shared things with I hadn’t even had the courage to share with family or closest friends. That somehow I felt like they knew me better in a few short days than people I’d known my whole life. That we laughed, cried, dreamed, and manifested a spirit guide (at this point he was one phone call away from having me greeted with white coats upon my return). I’d written a letter to Liliana that finally expressed how beautiful it felt to be “almost parents” together. And so on and so on for nearly the entire drive home.

Now as we near the end of our official Elevate year Molly asked to think of what would make this year feel like a success. My first reaction was to panic. I hadn’t accomplished…

A baby shoe boutique. I hadn’t launched it. It was my big goal and I hadn’t accomplished it.

I hadn’t accomplished it because Molly helped me realize there are more important aspects to dreaming big than checking off boxes and getting gold stars. Looking back I now see what I did accomplish was so much greater than I ever anticipated last January.

I learned what drives me and how to claim my real passions in life. I implemented ways to maintain balance in the face of everyday “busy”, including tools to pull me back to my true center. I let go of things that no longer served me to focus effort on those that do. I created a tiny human. My husband and I tackled some big milestones in our marriage. We put a personal financial plan in order to work toward the lives we are manifesting.

I found my Tribe. 

The twelve strangers who I’d been so scared to meet, to be judged by, they have become sisters. They are my Tribe. My family. They are the ones who offer safety to say those secret dreams aloud. They are there reminding each other that a bad day doesn’t make a bad life, and it’s never too late to start over. They protect our dreams even when we, ourselves, are their biggest threat. They dole out tough love when necessary and comfort always. They push us to lay aside excuses and continue to put one foot in front of the other. They hashtag. They dance party. They yurt. They celebrate.

They feel like home.

So whatever else happened or happens this year with Elevate, the biggest success had already been won that short weekend in Ojai. It quietly happened as invisible ties were thread, connecting thirteen sisters across the states (and Canada!).

I can’t tell you to join Elevate. I can’t push you to work with Molly, or a life coach. I can’t force you to ask “what if” and explore how you might be capable of living your best life. But even if you never join Elevate Mastermind, Holiday Council or sign up for coaching, I can only hope that you should be as lucky to find your tribe too.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a tribe to find yourself.

 

Mallory200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Mallory, soon-to-be-mama and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Mallory is a dreamer, a seeker of inspiration and curator of life’s beauty. A researcher by day, professional pinner by night, she’s often distracted by shiny things and has marked 2014 as the year to end her 90% completion streak starting with giving birth to Zee Shrimpress and launching the first addition to her multrepreneur portfolio – a luxury baby boutique – because who doesn’t love ridiculously cute, tiny things?  When not honing her mad visualization skills with Zee Hubs, she can be found celebrating a circular life in Los Angeles with Puffin Muffin (puppy) and Skittler (cat).

My Secret to Getting Everything I Want

Let’s make this short and sweet — My secret to getting everything I want?

Silence. Reflection. Solitude. Visioning.

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It’s why Walden went to the woods, it’s why Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Coast Trail, it’s why 26 year old me backpacked around the world for 10 months.

It’s why I do my own Holiday Council program every December.

You know that post on Facebook that went wild — the one about the cult of busyness? How the new answer to the question, “How are you?” is “Busy” and it’s said with some level of pride, exhaustion, and resignation?

You might try to throw me into that camp.

Acknowledged. But I truly attempt to answer that particular question with, “My life is beautifully full!” even when I haven’t showered in two days, there are 200 unanswered emails in my inbox and we’ve been relying a little too heavily on frozen potstickers for dinner.

Which are fucking delicious by the way.

Before I had my two little darlings, before I had my six figure business with a full client load, before we decided to become homeowners who needed to remodel their entire house — I had a buckets of time to reflect on my life. I had a huge expanses of nothingness and nobodyness to dream, to journal, to ask myself how I was feeling, to deeply question myself about the next leg of my journey.

These days I’m seriously happy if I get to drink an entire cup of coffee before it gets cold, remember to shave my legs once in a blue moon and sneak some walking meditation in while I’m pushing a stroller.

I am not complaining. Not in the least.

My current reality is privileged, and precious, and basically all of my dreams come true.

But.

But.

But…

I got here because I dared to dream this life so many years ago.

The business, the babies, the beach house, the husband, the legacy work, the honest relationships, the laughter, the adventures.

I dreamt it and I put in the work. Took the risks. Pushed my edges.

Worked on my relationships with my boyfriend, my scarcity mindset, my eating disorder, my communication style, my idea of perfection and pleasing, my holier-than-thou ice queen confrontational reaction, my ability to be comfortable with wild amounts of uncertainty.

That work took silence. Reflection. Solitude. Visioning.

Creating time and space for those precious gifts is why I still do the Holiday Council alongside all of you.

I’m leading the three weeks for hundreds of you, but I’m right there in the trenches going through the process with each of you.

I need those 3+ hours of dedicated Molly time to dream about my life, my business and the mama/wife/woman I want to be. I depend on that dedicated time to feel fully grounded in my world, to know where I’m headed and how I want to feel throughout the journey.

I am acutely aware that giving myself the gift of reflection and visioning is vital to my sanity, which in turn is vital to the health and happiness of everyone in my world.

The Holiday Council may not be a season in the woods, the Pacific Coast Trail or a backpacking trip around the world.

It is, however, my December version of silence. Of reflection. Of solitude. Of visioning.

My dreams are born and activated through this journey.

It’s absolutely my secret to getting everything I want.

Registration is open through Monday, December 1st.

I can’t state strongly enough how much I hope you’ll join me.

Isn’t it time you got everything you wanted?

Holiday Council XOXO Molly

Finding My Unicorn

FindinyMyUnicorn

 

I know that girl with the big plans and big dreams is still in there somewhere. She’s confused, and she’s hiding, and she’s not sure how to reconcile Bordeaux-Eran with the Baby-Mama Eran. But she knows that somewhere, there’s a middle ground; that those two people are actually different sides of the same coin.

 

Those words are mine, written at the beginning of my Elevate journey, when I was lost and struggling as a new mama, battling with the remnants of post-partum depression, and longing to go back to those late summer days of a solo trip to Bordeaux.

At the beginning of the year, my son was almost 10 months old. We had literally been physically connected for the last 19 months as he grew first in my body, and then because of my body and the sustenance it produced. I felt like, in order to “be a good mom,” I needed to be his everything.

I felt such a huge responsibility to this little person. If he wasn’t sleeping, my immediate thought was, “What have I done wrong?” When he was grumpy, I felt immense pressure to figure out what I needed to do to make him happy again. If he giggled, my heart soared; if he cried, my heart broke.

I was on a rollercoaster of emotions, and my tiny child was at the control board. And I don’t think either of us was a fan of that situation.

Something needed to change.

Each day since starting Elevate, I sit down at my office desk and I face this giant wall: (see attached photo), and I am reminded of the intentions that I set for my year: Nuture. Be Present. Be Proactive. Be Colorful. Be Brave. Be Loving. Be Beautiful.

My Wall

At first, these words scared me. They challenged me. They opened me up, and they made me cry. They made me see the dark sides of myself, but gradually, I was able to see the lighter sides too.

They made me wake up, and take control of my life again.

These words weren’t alone in their colossal impact on my life over the past year. Nope. They had 14 soul sisters, each of whom gave me shining examples of how to live up to these words in their own strong and sweet way.

I needed this year to discover who I am again.  To make peace with motherhood. To learn how to provide love for my son while encouraging him to be his own person. To nuture my business, my creativity, my relationships and my self.

Over the past year, I quit my part-time job and am now focused 100% on building my photography business. I am excited to wake up in the morning. I feel beautiful again. I have creativity pouring out of my veins. I have a more positive relationship with my husband. And I CAN’T WAIT to pick up my feisty little toddler from daycare at the end of the day.

It hasn’t been easy. There have been as many downs as there have been ups, and I’m not prancing through cotton-candy fields on a rainbow-colored unicorn every day.

But I know where to find that unicorn when he gets lost. And I know how to manifest my own cotton candy field when things seem really gloomy.

I am present. I am proactive. I am colorful (and so is my unicorn). I am brave. I am loving. And I am beautiful.

But most importantly, I feel like I own this life again.

Eran - Stratejoy picWITH LOVE FROM

Eran, Photographer, Risk-Taker, 2014 Elevate Sister

Upon taking a leap of faith and quitting her “grown-up” job in 2007, Eran has spent the last 7 years conquering fears, exploring options and checking off all the “to-do’s” on her life list.  A true Renaissance soul, Eran is not satisfied doing just any one thing. Photographer, singer, music-arranger, Sound of Music enthusiast, writer, micro-manager, traveller, French-speaker, dreamer, wine-drinker, risk-taker, and most recently, mama to a gorgeous and giggly little boy – these are just a few of the titles Eran wears on a regular basis. Eran can be found on Twitter @eranjayne.

 

It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year

It’s Holiday Council Time! Cue mega excitement in my world.

(Want to head straight to the registration page? Click HERE!)

I’ve been leading this 21 day December journey for 5 years now, learning more each season about what makes a powerful experience for YOU.  I always strive for a balance between inspirational and useful — I want you to feel hopeful and cozy and motivated, but I also want you to take ownership of the process and make it work for YOU.

Get it?

It’s all about YOU becoming really connected to your dreams/themes/intentions and really clear on how to activate them!

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I recorded this video to share some of the reasons why I think dedicating time to both looking back and looking forward is important for your happiness, your success and your joy. It’s why I do what I do with this program.

I also wanted to explain my vastly different choices in this year’s interviewees. We’ve got men! And women who aren’t coaches! Crazy, right?

If you stick around until the end, there is also a bonus reading of my “future self” visualization from last year… Was I right about the sex of my baby? Did my specific predictions come true? You’ll have to find out!

Hope you join us for the Holiday Council this year, babe. It’s a structured dose of magic for your 2015!


XOXO

Molly-Sig211

p.s. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Check out the Holiday Council HERE.

Holiday Council Banner

In the End I Want To Be Standing at the Beginning With You

IntheEnd

I’m in serious shock and denial that this is my wrap-up post for Stratejoy.

It seems only yesterday that I received an email encouraging me to apply for Elevate. With trembling fingers and pounding heart, I submitted my application that very morning. I tried to remain ambivalent while I discussed it with my husband – it was, after all, a large investment of time, energy, and money – but he read me like a book. “You obviously have to do this,” he said. My enthusiasm clearly could not be contained.

I’ve had the privilege of sharing parts of my experience in this forum with all of you: from my challenges with food to my feelings of anxiety and depression, my thoughts on having a child to finding the energy for what’s important. I can hardly believe how much I’ve accomplished:

  • I trained for and completed a half marathon, and I’m signed up for my second half in February 2015 (at Disneyworld!).
  • I cut gluten out of my diet – previously one of my primary food groups – and have made major strides toward getting my health back on track.
  • I’ve dedicated hours upon hours to figuring out what my purpose is and how to bring my career and personal life into alignment with my values.
  • I’ve explored and nurtured sides of myself – creative, spiritual, personal – that I didn’t know existed.
  • I’ve become a more loving and generous partner to my husband.
  • I’ve given myself the space and energy to focus on my own needs before we start a family (and I am much closer to believing that I can be a capable, confident mother).
  • I’ve started to accept the body and the mind that I was given and have taken steps to be kinder to myself.
  • I started my personal blog (honest-woman.com) and continue to dream up plans for its future.
  • I’ve made dramatic improvements to my home, making it the calm, restful haven of my dreams.
  • I grew my network and nurtured beautiful new friendships, both inside and outside of Elevate, and I no longer feel lonely in DC.

 

The list goes on. The changes are still happening.

 

It is a bit frightening to think of midnight on January 1, 2015 and know that this direct source of accountability will no longer be there. However, in addition to the aforementioned network that will still be with me, I will take the lessons that Molly has imparted and I will continue to practice them daily:

 

Take one step.

It doesn’t have to be grand or significant. It just has to move you and your goals forward a tiny bit. Send one email. Clean out one drawer. Write one paragraph. Take one step.

 

Behave as if.

If a situation is not going the way you’d like or your response to it is not what you’d call ideal, stop and think what doing it “right” would look like. Who are your role models? Who IS doing it right? Use their behavior as a guide star and behave as if you’ve got it all figured out. This is a nicer way of saying fake it ‘til you make it.

Really allow yourself to feel your feelings. This is easy when you’re feeling joyful, less so when you’re feeling miserable, lonely, or heartbroken. Nevertheless, take the time to sit in your pajamas, binge-watch Netflix, write sad poems in your journal, or just lie on the couch. Whatever it is, really steep yourself in that feeling until you’re ready to let it go. Fun fact: giving yourself the time to really wallow makes it a lot easier to move on.

 

 Ask for support.

Find the people in your life that love you and care about your wellbeing, and ask them for help. Tell them your plans and see if they’ll hold you accountable. Return the favor.

 

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

The secret, closely guarded by grownups for millennia, is that everyone is afraid. Seriously, everyone. The only thing standing between you and your big dream is action. Whether you’re wildly successful or you flame out, you’ll learn from the experience.

It seems so simple, but these lessons were hard won. I relearn them daily.

 

 To the ladies of Elevate 2014, my soul sisters, homegirls, and heroes:

This year would not have been the same without the incredible friendships, support, and love to be had within this tight circle. You have propped me up when I felt I couldn’t go on and applauded me when I persevered. You’ve allowed me to witness the unbelievable transformations in your own lives. You have my heart. Now. Forever.

 

To Molly:

What can I even say? For all the good juju, laughter, and tears; for the changes you’ve brought about; for the potential you saw in me; for the renewed joy I take in my friendships and relationships; for the dance parties in the yurt; for showing me that it’s all ahead of me and it’s all in my power to change, I thank you.

 

***
Just recently, I received an email soliciting applications for Elevate 2015. I cried first, then smiled. For the ladies who are about to embark on the most incredible, transformative year of your lives: how I envy you.

 

 

LaurenHeadShotWITH LOVE FROM

Lauren, Gender Studies Buff, and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Lauren is a lifelong learner, a Broadway musical enthusiast, a chocoholic, and a recovering perfectionist. She is also a Women’s and Gender Studies buff and building community with like-minded ladies is her jam. She is thrilled to have the privilege of participating in Elevate 2014 and to cheer on this group of truly impressive individuals as they kick ass and take names. You’ll find her on Capitol Hill with her husband Sam and her spunky Cavalier Bess Truman.

Is This The End? – An Elevate 2014 Farewell from Maureen

RunningMaureen

So I can state, for the record, that 2014 has been one of the best years of my life.

Of course, it’s easy to say that now, looking back to 2012-2013 and living through some of the crappier years I’ve experienced.  While learning how to run and launching back into the world of dating were two major year goals, I think I’ve left the heavy lifting until the end: embracing my true self and coming to a place of acceptance and happiness with my body.  

Instead, I ran my first long distance race, led a team of 20 people at WalkMS and raising over $5000, dated most of Arlington, VA, and found a funny and loving boyfriend.

Let’s face it; somehow training for a long distance race was easier than figuring out how to have self-esteem. What the fuck is with that?  

Looking at my 2014 Holiday Council goals and desired outcomes, I identified this issue as the biggest and most difficult challenge in front of me.  Figuring out how to accept and love the Maureen in the mirror would be the real test and require dealing with a lot of crazy emotions I may want to keep hidden.

In fact, my Elevate application includes this paragraph:

What do you think is holding you back from reaching your goals? 

I believe my tendency to tie my success with how I look and how I perceive other people’s opinion of me. There are days at work where I could receive positive feedback or navigate  difficult political red tape, but it will not mean anything to me because I look tired or feel ‘gross.’ I will spend an extra ten minutes in the morning staring in the mirror thinking negative thoughts. That’s ten minutes I could be at work finishing something, or ten minutes I could be running. Or simply being present in my life.

 

If I’m reading those words as Maureen the senior policy analyst, they seem so dumb and needless. Yet, if someone were to ask me right now to say the first few thoughts that come to mind when I think about my body, they are (and have always been): ugly, fat, broken, and/or undesirable. As I write this post, these feelings are so raw and tangible. During my marathon training run a few days ago, the negative self-talk was so bad that I could not celebrate that I completed 20 miles–the farthest I have ever run in my life. Instead of feeling accomplished, I feel miserable. Right now, I’m still really upset about a training run that didn’t count towards anything and really has no bearing on the rest of my life. In my head, my inner critic Fran is listing things that prevent my success:

 

  • If I didn’t have MS (which I didn’t choose),
  • If I were the same weight I was in 2011 (achieved through starving myself),
  • If I ran every day (nearly impossible factoring in a high impact job, increased MS-related fatigue, and wanting to maintain a social life), or
  • If I was thinner I would be more successful (whatever that means).

 

Where does this come from and how do I get it to stop?

 

For me, I didn’t know I was fat until the fifth grade. Until then, I was just a girl trying to figure out the scientific method and quadratic equations. Yet, in 1992, my legally blind grandmother kindly informed me that I was too round for my age.  I didn’t know what to do with that kind of information, but it left a mark. After her comments, I became hyper-sensitive to every sideways glance, heard every whispered insult, and spent most of my free time figuring out how to change every part of my being to be different. Over the years, I’ve bought pills, followed the fad diets, implemented two-a-day workouts, and purchased enough shaping garments, makeup, and creams to supply the Oscars for years. Factor in the MS diagnosis and its serious (yet more and more unlikely) ramifications with my skewed self-image, and BAM. You get a very driven and impatient lady, wanting to be everything and everywhere at the same time, looking perfect. I’ve wasted god knows how many hours being disappointed with myself, seeing every imperfection and disappointment.

 

Now, I’m down to the wire. Come December, I won’t have  the easy access to Molly and her oracle-like wisdom anymore, and the 2014 sisterhood is spread throughout the US and Canada, potentially never really talking to each other again.  I see the calendar pages turning and I feel this internal pressure to get everything accomplished and come out on the other side a changed/better Maureen. The assumption being that I needed a lot of fixing to begin with, and that I haven’t already changed quite a bit. There’s Fran again, telling me that I haven’t done enough.  She’s focused on one part of a complicated year plan, not allowing for the times when shit happens. As Molly mentions in one of her September posts, “Perfection is a trap.” It’s my trap, for sure.

I can hear Molly say “what happens if you free yourself from Fran?”  

What if I just stop giving a damn and just focus on what is going on right now? What if I give Fran another role in my crazy head? What would that be? What if I just stop lying to myself about what I should be and celebrate what I am? Then, I’m pretty sure that’s the freedom I need. I’ll have another 45 minutes to list five gratitudes instead of being stuck ripping myself apart in the mirror. I’ll have the head space to enjoy huge accomplishments like completing a marathon or being a bad ass at work.

Having those internal conversations, hearing Molly inside my head and asking the right questions of myself in the midst of a busy life, all of these things just may well be the ultimate success of my Elevate year.  I am coming out of a year of intense introspection stronger and ready to take on the next challenge ahead of me.  I suppose after this post, I’ve got my goal for this year’s Holiday Council figured out and my Elevate year has provided the tools to develop a successful way forward.

Maybe this year it will stick?

 

moe headshotWITH LOVE FROM

Maureen , soon-to-be marathon completer, 2014 Elevate Sister.

Maureen is a hopeless optimist, reformed tomboy, and has a strong and snarky voice of reason. She roots for the underdog, which comes in handy being a Notre Dame fan. When not discussing U.S. foreign policy, Maureen organizes fundraisers for her favorite charity, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, attempts to hold crow pose for more than two seconds, and is still trying to figure out who talked her into running a half marathon this spring. If not at work, yoga, or running, you can find Maureen watching shows about handsome vampires or discussing how cute sea otters are.

I Believe in Synchronicity

Synchronicity
I was just feeding my daughter Juliet in the semidarkness of her nursery, noticing her little knuckle dimples as she clutched my finger and her sweet rosebud mouth. I was breathing in her baby scent and watching her dark eyelashes close as she drifted to sleep, while I sat, rocking and thinking.

Rocking and thinking about how she’s going to have big beautiful dreams for her life. About how she’ll meet plenty of resistance because life is fucking messy sometimes. About how she’ll need guidance from me, but also a chance to fly on her own.

So many journeys ahead for this tiny girl of mine.

As she snuffled in her sleep, I started sending blessings into the future for her. I wished for her to persevere through hardship, to approach life with joy, for ease in her chosen path, and for love.

Lots and lots of love.

The kind of honest, authentic, I-can-be-my-most-undone-uncensored-self-and you-won’t-flinch love. Love in all forms, in all her relationships. Supportive, unwavering love.

As I was rocking and thinking, I realized my wishes for YOU are the same.

The support to dream your big dreams, guidance to navigate your journey, grit to do the work, joyful perspective to be present to the small gifts, ease to prioritize your true desires, and love.

Lots and lots of love.

Expansive, crazy-huge-but-gentle, let-me-witness-all-sides-of-you love.

That’s why I do my most important work within the yearlong container of the Elevate Mastermind.

I get to help make my wishes for you come true.

And I get to love up on you all year long.


I believe in Synchronicity.

Have you been waiting for this?

I’ve been waiting for you.

I created Elevate Mastermind because after being in business for 6 years, I have amazing clients and Tribe sisters who are ready for the next step.

You’re not in crisis anymore.

You have an amazing sense of who you are and a growing sense of what you want. You’re starting to get the phrase, “Just do the work.” You’re starting to question your own self-imposed limits. You’re itching for a chance adventure, to create, to dig in.

You understand that in order to truly shine, your inside attitudes and desires need to be in alignment with your outside actions.

(click to tweet)

What you lack is the like-minded company with whom you can be utterly honest.  You lack long-term high-level support with a mentor dedicated to your success.  And perhaps you lack a bit of motivation to keep doing the work, day after day, when the results aren’t immediately clear.

Those are the problems I’m solving by creating this group.

That is the kind of love I’m giving. 

Those are the dreams I’m supporting. 

This is not a business mastermind, concentrating on profit and online marketing (though we can totally jam on your biz if you like). This is not a church circle (though we do talk spirituality), book club (though we do read a lot of incredible books), networking conference (though you do make life long connections) or manifestation retreat (though we will create many miracles over the course of the year).

ELEVATE MASTERMIND is a group of women who understand the quest to find balance in ambition and acceptance, to find strength in our individuality and to find joy in the process.

It will be made up of women who come from all walks of life — some in business for themselves, some with high-level corporate jobs, some stay-at-home mamas, some going back to school, some partnered, some single, some pregnant — from Los Angeles to Calgary, Dallas to DC, Nebraska to New York City.

All are committed to dreaming, creating, and receiving the most incredible year ever.

You too? I’ve got 4 spots left for 2015.

Ready to make this dream a reality?

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Really looking forward to reading your application and testing my theory of synchronicity!

XOXO