Forget the money. Now what?

If money were no issue, what would you do?

This question has been asked a million times.

Have you given it much thought?

This is a question begging for you to connect to your wildest fantasies and think about how you’d like to engage in life. It can really point to some important and interesting things about oneself.

What images are rising to the surface as you image your life unencumbered by the need to earn a living, or manage wealth that has already been earned?

How different is your vision for this fantasy life from the vision you hold for yourself knowing money is a factor to consider (a very big factor for most of us)?

My vision, considering I need to make a living, is to engage in work I enjoy, that fosters growth and allows me to support the growth of others. I envision making enough money so that paying my bills is never a stress, with enough left over to save, and some to spend on “fun”. I envision having plenty of time outside of work to maintain my balance in holistic self care (if you have any questions about what this means, please click here to download the free Health Impacts Health Assessment).  I don’t want anything too crazy. I just want to be healthy and happy.

This vision is so different from the one I have if money were not an issue.

Yes, of course, I want balance and health and happiness. These are core values, but the ways in which I would live these value would be so much more extreme.

I would choose to engage in 3 primary ways:

  1. Outdoor wilderness excursions (with leadership missions) ie. NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School- check it out if you have ever wanted to venture into the wild for extreme personal growth opportunities).
  2. Luxury trips around the world with only the finest of everything.
  3. Life at home with my simple, beautiful surroundings and simple beautiful coaching practice, and complex beautiful relationships.

I could go on and on in exploring and explaining why I am drawn to these 3 things in particular, but it doesn’t really matter to make the point of this blog. It just goes to show how much money does control motivations, beliefs, and behavior.

How do your visions for fantasy life and real-life compare?

Here’s what happens when you’re TOO focused

Michelle was consumed with paying off her debt. When she talked, it was clear that this singular goal had highjacked her mind. She had entered tunnel vision and was quickly losing insight.

In her mind, she was doing everything she could- working multiple jobs and putting all of her earnings into debt repayment. She made no time for others, no time for herself. It was all about paying down the deficit. When I asked about her sense of urgency, she explained that being in debt to her meant entrapment. Being debt free symbolized freedom. She had a clear vision and it’s all that seemed to matter.

What’s wrong with that, you may be asking? What’s wrong with motivation? Striving towards one’s goals? Paying back what is borrowed is admirable. Wouldn’t we all love to be debt free?

Here’s the deal: when the mind is consumed with a problem, there is no room for anything else. You can’t see beyond the tunnel and cognitive capacity is diminished. The mind sounds an alarm. In Michelle’s case, it was “pay attention to the debt – you’re trapped until it’s gone”. The actions she was taking (the jobs, the extra payments, the social isolation) quieted the alarm…temporarily. As soon as she slowed down, the alarm bells became louder. She was unable to focus on anything else.

When I asked how satisfied she was with her efforts, she reported a counter-intuitive outcome. Instead of feeling empowered and satisfied, she was falling apart. She wasn’t sleeping. She wasn’t eating well or exercising. She hadn’t had a date night with her spouse or a kid-focused afternoon with her son in months. Most surprisingly perhaps was her continued mismanagement of money. She was paying all of her debt, sometimes 2 or 3 credit card payments a month, but her scarcity mentality robbed her of the mental capacity to budget, plan ahead, save, and prepare for her on-going, recurrent and novel expenses.

This was leading to, you guessed it, more debt and a more profound sense of entrapment. She was in a tunnel-vision induced, scarcity-thinking spiral. She needed help.

Good thing she knew about integrative health coaching!

As difficult as it was for her to admit, she needed to stop focusing so exclusively on solving her problem. The antidote to her debt consumption was to do something, anything, that was unrelated. She needed to step outside of the tunnel. This was the only way to free up space in her mind for more effective problem solving, action planning, and insight. She needed balance in her life to be successful in her financial goals.

The bottom line is this: When we behave from a place of scarcity and enter tunnel vision, we often don’t realize what we are doing is worsening the problem rather than accomplishing our goal.

This article was based on an inspiring episode of Hidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts. The diminished capacity for executive function brought on by scarcity thinking is a topic of current research. The notion is based on limited bandwidth. Check it out here.






Money and (un)happiness

Money cannot buy happiness. Sometimes I think otherwise. Sometimes I think that a shopping spree at J. Crew, or a vacation to someplace tropical, or a West Elm redesign is what my life is lacking. Sometimes I think if all my debt was paid I would have a different perspective. But I know that these are just ways of distracting.

Last week reaffirmed the truth. Happiness comes from within.

If you were to ask me how my week was, I would report all good things. New clients. Positive feedback. Self care. It was truly a great week!

But on Friday I started getting a really low feeling. Often on Fridays I feel this way and chalk it up to being tired. But my week was very balanced and my energy tank full.

Being a super self aware person, I have a habit of connecting my ever changing moods to the various elements of health. If I am feeling down and can point to a cause, I can create solutions. If I know what is working, perhaps I can cultivate more.

In my history of unhappy times, financial health has been the most obvious source of my stress. This goes back to my childhood messages about money as a scarcity. So on Friday when I was doing my habitual “what could the problem be?” exploration, since I wasn’t tired, I began contemplating if the solution to my happiness was somehow related to money.

I mean, it’s April so I have the quintuple whammy of LLC filings, personal filings, and accountant fees on top of an estimated quarterly payment, and a secretary of state LLC report. I am also going on a relatively impromptu trip at the end of the month which is costly in itself, but also means I am away from work for 10 days. (You’ll want to follow next months blogs as I dive into exactly what this trip is all about, so stay tuned). And lastly, I paid for a big time national exam for health and wellness coaches, on top of planning for all my other April bills and half of May (seeing as how I’ll be on that trip and all)- whew!

Despite the recipe for financial stress, that also did not fit to explain my mood. I have had great coaching around my financial stressors, have created plans to save, and stay on top of these cluster expenses, so I’m good there too.

Since I quickly ruled out the most likely scenarios, I had to do what any mindful individual does when they fall into a mood…just roll with it. I didn’t judge it, or try to change it, and I certainly didn’t go out spending a bunch of money thinking material goods could shift my blues.

Since happiness comes from within, I gave myself the chance to connect with my inner wisdom (be quiet and no complaining). From out of no where I got a really clear message of what I wanted to do.  It was to get on my bike a take a long ride. I hadn’t been on my bike to really ride for over 2 years and I hadn’t even been thinking about it. I just slowed down, overrode the impulse to obsess about or distract through money, and arrived at a really authentic place for self directed action.

The bike ride, the act of actually doing it, shifted my mood. It turned my blues around and didn’t cost a thing. It reinforced how easy it is to use money as a distraction or scapegoat, and how money (be it a mess or all straightened out) cannot determine our happiness.

How often do you allow money to be the source of your (un)happiness?









Your past affects your cash

Money. Love it or hate it, at least admit it is a huge part of life.

Some of us are driven towards making more as a means to “freedom”. For some, money is an abstraction. Some of us have overspent, leading to debt. Money can be hoarded, avoided, and obsessed over. Money can be a source of security or a source for scarcity thinking. Money, and the way that it is managed, can determine much of our lifestyle, contributing to greater or lesser health.

This month I am focusing on the topic of finances in my blogs and other social media content. It can be a fascinating, triggering, energizing, infuriating, freeing, complicated aspect of the holistic model of health I use in my coaching practice.

What interests me, from a coaching perspective, is the relationship you have with money.

Instead of thinking “I go to work and pay my bills, what else do you want to know?”, consider this:

The ways we think, feel, and behave in regards to money come from something in our past.

Like other core beliefs, experiences with money shape our perceptions. 

For example:

It is no surprise that many conflicts within intimate relationships are around money. What do you suppose a child learns when they are exposed to parents fighting about the scarcity of resources?

Sometimes money is a non issue due to an abundance of resources within a family. What do you suppose a child learns about money if they are given everything they need and want financially and materially?

Think back on your own family of origin. How are the lessons you learned early in life about money impacting your life today?


Are you a shop-a-holic?

The phone rang. It was Steve. He wanted to resume his coaching. It had been 6 months since his last session.

“How have things been going?”, I asked.

Steve had been to a chiropractor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a nutritionist, and an energy worker. He was feeling “better”, but still struggling with the things that originally brought him to coaching.

What is my purpose?

What can I do to find clarity in my next career move?

Am I parenting in a developmentally nurturing way?

How can I bring my best self into this marriage.

My observation was that he was bouncing between experts, asking for the answers, doing everything he was told. Why was he still suffering? He was behaving like a shop-a-lohic.

I am not talking about clothing. Or gadgets. Or groceries.

I’m talking about shopping for healthcare services.

They are always looking for what’s trending, the best review, a discounted service.

They would like a magic solution. A quick fit. A guarantee.

They will ask around for recommendations, try a combination of several providers at a time, talk it up with their friends about what their so-in-so guru said, but they never stick it out.

Here’s why…

Just like the thrill of shopping, scheduling with a provider and going to that first appointment where you get to share your complaints feels great. It’s a dopamine rush. Even trying something for a second or third time can give the immediate reward you are looking for be it relief, a connection, a new tool. When it comes to sticking it out, however, there is little to no commitment.

Excuses show up: “I have so much going on. I don’t think it’s working. They didn’t say what I wanted to hear.”

These can all be legit barriers to doing the personal work of optimizing your holistic health. It can also be a way of hiding. Doing the work is the hard part and can trigger resistance. It can feel more rewarding to back off and keep shopping. The problem with that is that there is no long term reward to putting it off.

I understand what Steve was doing. He was looking for answers. But, he was looking in the wrong place. Steve doesn’t have a health condition that needs special medical attention. He is experiencing life! He is asking himself all the right questions about meaning and purpose. Through our continued coaching relationship Steve began to answer his own questions. He began to feel empowered. He participated. He committed. He stopped shopping and really began to grow.

If you identify in any small way with this shop-a-holic profile, I encourage you to try coaching. Coaching places you in the expert chair, while the coach  provides the structure and process needed to move yourself forward. Coaching gives you insight into how your day to day habits create your holistic picture of long term health. Stop shopping. Get started on the path to the healthiest you can be.



Step 3: See a vision, take some action

The past couple of blogs have been about how to turn complaints into changes for improved health and wellness.

Step 1: You realize there is work to do.

Step 2: You start to embrace the opportunities to grow through your stress.

Now, what are you going to do with all of that spiritual consciousness?

You are going to apply it to step 3: See a vision and take some action!

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

– Joel A. Barker

Without bumbling through some growing pains, it can be impossible to clearly see what you want. There is nothing like a little (or a lot) of stress to help you connect to purpose. Putting together some action steps based on your vision for the future can make big desires for change feel manageable. Here’s a little story of how these three steps showed up for me exactly a year ago.

I was complaining that my body wasn’t feeling great. I was also complaining about not feeling focused. I had some time on my hands and wasn’t using it well. I wasn’t feeling especially rewarded for my efforts, across the board, in life.

That was the clue that I needed to see what I was hiding from.

Step 1: Stop hiding.

I wasn’t exercising regularly. I wasn’t allowing myself to see all the cool things I was doing with my life. I needed a new commitment, something systematic that could boost my self esteem. I needed to reach out for support. I was ready to try something new.

Step 2: See stress as spiritual consciousness. 

I know that taking on something new, making a new commitment, brings a mix of excitement and resistance. There are two forces at once – let’s do this thing and let’s do that instead. Whatever I was going to do needed to be big enough to push my edges and allow in some discomfort. I knew that in working with the pain, I would transform. I was ready.

Step 3: See a vision and take some action. 

My vision: Run a half marathon. Put in the time to build endurance. See what the sport of running is all about. See myself in a new way- as a runner.

The first action step I took was to find a race in order to pin down a time line. The next huge step was to hire a running coach. She and I mapped out the day to day action steps. Then it was time to do the work and evolve through the plan. I had just shy of 4 months to go from running 0 miles to running 13.1.

The types of stress I experienced in training were diverse. There was straight up not wanting to do it. There were competing priorities (ummm work?). There were some athletic challenges associated with how to fuel my body and allow for recovery between runs. There was the matter of boredom during the run and anticipation of the runs as difficult, time consuming, and physically taxing.

All of these stressors presented opportunities for growth. I deliberately focused on the rewards of the running, rather than the resistance. For example, the feeling of accomplishment becasue the workout of the day was complete. I experimented with strategies until I found one that worked. For me the winning combination was to run late in the morning, with a camelback, with plenty of time to cool down, eat, and recoup afterwards. I found a sense of belonging and camaraderie with others who were training for the run. This replaced the generalized sense of isolation that comes with being an entrepreneur. I had a greater purpose with the exercise. I was doing it for a specific and measurable outcome. My confidence as a runner was improving.

The day of the race I was super excited. All of the work had been done. All I had to do that day was show up and run. I learned that running is a practice in mindfulness. The mind and body are working together. There are messages to stop (so tired) and messages to keep going (you can do this). There are waves of emotion. My eyes filling with tears from excitement and joy. Anger at the limitations of my body (my hip flexors will never be the same). Relief and pride at finishing what I started. All of this, and you just keep going. Just like in life, highs and lows, acceptance and trust. Letting go. Doing the work.

Running this race was one of the best things I have done for myself.

It showed me that committing to weekly actions steps can lead to something so much larger than I ever thought possible.

The annual marathon is happening again this weekend. I decided this year not to train (to put the same committed focus into my business). The experience was transformational.


Run completed just before a massive downpour! Time for brunch!

More of what we want

For most of us busy professional types, there are external drivers pushing our schedule. Meetings, deadlines, project management, task completion. We are familiar with the feeling of reacting to a stimulus- alarm goes off, baby cries, phone rings. We watch the clock. We are pressed for time.

How often do you allow yourself to be motivated by internal forces? To pause before automatic actions in order to feel into the impulse to stay or go, move or remain still. How often do you stop to ask yourself, “what do I want to do?” not “what do I need to do”, and then actually do it.

When you open your eyes tomorrow morning, notice what happens. Will you move automatically to jump out of bed, hit the bathroom, make the coffee…

Or, will you open your eyes and pause. Feel into an alternative. Wait for the driver of action to come from within. An intentional choice to act, or not. To see what you feel like doing. To see what can arise from moving outside of a habit.

Step 2: Stress as Spiritual Consciousness

When we hide from our pain, we hide from our potential. 

We may stay in hiding for years, and for good reasons! A sense of safety, comfort with the familiarity, naivety of how to adapt, lack of support…

Once we make the choice to come out of hiding, then what? Seeing all of the objects of our grief? Really, what’s the point? Where’s the fun in that? Isn’t it better to push the trouble aside, keep our nose down, and press on?

When  I was in The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) we talked a lot about fun. We learned two types: Type 1 fun is fun in the moment. Type 2 fun is not really fun at all, but after the fact (sometimes well after) you are glad you did it. Type 2 fun comes from those experiences of struggle and triumph, where growth happens, skills develop, and personal evolution occurs. Type 2 shows us what we are made of. There was a lot of type 2 fun on that sea kayaking expedition through Patagonia.

Coming out of hiding, identifying our pain and potential…type 2 fun.

Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of circumstance, and getting caught up in constant complaint, we can ask ourselves this: what are we here to learn?

Pain isn’t pain for the sake of hurting, but rather so we can find means of true healing.

Barriers point to the need for creative problem solving.

Pain and potential cause stress. Stress is the path to spiritual consciousness. It is only through stress that we have the opportunity to dig deep, to “do the work”, to connect to sources of strength around us and within ourselves.

If everything in life was type 1 fun we wouldn’t even know it was fun.

If everyday were rainbows and butterflies we would have no concept of beauty.

When we make the choice to come out of hiding, shift our thinking to growth potential, begin to recognize stress as the path to spiritual consciousness, we become the victors of our lives. We become more available to others.

Over the course of a wilderness expedition we have choices. We can be afraid and disengage which will lead to wet gear, no dinner, and letting your team down. Or you can show up, learn some skills, lead a team, and triumph through the journey.

 NOLS rock beach

This was a great day. Sun shining, lesson in back country laundry, time to experiment with campsite baking. At this point in the trip, the things that first felt like type 2 fun were now type 1 fun. We had developed some skills and a new perspective on how to be comfortable within extreme conditions. Working through the early stages of discomfort allowed us a more enriched and connected expereince later.

Step 1: Stop Hiding

Have you ever been given a gift of feedback that changed the course of your life?

When I was in an intense educational process a massive and unexpected change occurred in my life. It shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise considering the motto of the school was “learning that changes lives”. I guess I was naive to how the rug can get pulled from under you when least expected.

The change was a breakup. A big break up. Not being one to stick around after the “I don’t want to be in a relationship anymore” speech has been given, I packed my stuff and decided I would finish the program in my tent. Yep- I camped onsite for 4 months in order to complete the training. Lucky for me it was a beautiful farm, where healing and integration after trauma was the whole point.

The camping wasn’t the tough part. It was the fact that my identity within this cohort was in love, in this relationship, going to beat the odds and make a life with this person. I had a future ahead of me…with this person. So, when I had to come clean with my classmates, it was an admission that I wasn’t who I claimed to be.  Anonymity wasn’t an option. It was a bear your soul every step of the way kind of training.

My anger, heart break, and confusion manifest as sarcasm. As other students arrived for the day, I could be found in the bathroom brushing my teeth and wiping sleep from my eyes. Their love and concern for me was evident with gentle questions of “how ya doing Jess?”. My response: “f-ing great, how do you think I am?”

Well, that wasn’t in the healing spirit. My pain, evident to all, led to a one-on-one meeting with the administration.

“You’re sarcasm isn’t working for you Jess.”

That’s when I learned I was hiding. I was pushing people away. I wasn’t allowing myself to heal. From that point forward I dropped the sarcasm and embraced the love around me. I took the opportunity to fall apart and then rebuild a plan to move on.

The point to this story is to illustrate how we use tactics to hide from our pain, missing opportunities to embrace change and get closer to what we want.

To stop hiding is to acknowledge how we are doing- really. Sarcasm, complaints, avoidance, resistance- all of these keep us from pinpointing the pain. We have to know exactly what that pain is before we can create plans for health and healing. This can feel impossible without the gift of feedback, which is why coaching is critical for growth.

Try this: for one day commit to not complaining. Take note of the things that annoy you- the subject of the complaint. If complaining isn’t your thing, your challenge is to identify the points of resistance in your day- the thing you know you should do, but don’t. If resistance isn’t your thing, note where you feel judgment towards self and other.

The first step is to stop hiding. Make a point to connect with what feels too scary to face. From there step 2 is possible.


The cohort, on the farm, circa 2005.

After I heard this, life was never the same…

It took brutal honesty. It came from my college roommate.

“If you have things to complain about, you need to make some changes.”

This week I will be posting a series of blogs sharing some of the ways that this statement enables me (still to this day, all these years later) to rise above the complaining, the victim mentality, and the broken record of negative self talk.


My roommate Caitlin is still an inspiration.

Here are she and Moonshine making a vision board.

Everything on my vision board happened!

There is power in intentionality.