The Fear of Being Average

You know that thing we do when we compare ourselves to others until it hurts? It’s totally normal. In fact, one of the most common causes of suffering in us humans is the desire to see ourselves as “above average” (a different way of saying we want to see ourselves as better than others) – and the vast majority of us suffer from this…which is why we compare so much. To see where we stand. When I first read that factoid as I was researching info for my next course (one on self-compassion!), I really really really wanted to feel that I was not victim to this desire (because that would be kind of average, right?).

But I so. totally. am. I have an overwhelming fear of being…average. I don’t want an average income. Or an average marriage. Or an average car, travel schedule, house, wardrobe, or stack of graduate degrees. I don’t want average grades, careers, weekend trips, or stories to tell by the so-not-average campfire.

I want a fucking extraordinary life. Waaaaay above average.

I have had a fear of being average since I learned what was possible if you proved you were above average in this world (aka school). Being above average got me out of the ghetto and into my Freedom Junkie way of living. It got me amazing opportunities: scholarships, grants, adventures, jobs…lots of good things. I was terrified of what would happen if I ever lost my ability to rank as above average. Indeed, the idea of losing my mind like my father did (he had schizoaffective disorder) was the scariest thing I could imagine. It was my above-average mind that…kept me safe. The fear of being average was such a big part of my life that it even drove me to hound my urooncologist when I was first diagnosed with kidney cancer to find an alternative to removing my kidney and chucking it.

I was sitting in a meeting with him at the uro-oncology unit of UC San Francisco (he happened to look like the Dalai Lama in a lab coat, which helped with our negotiations;). He told me that my tumor was in a part of the kidney where all the blood vessels come together, and that to remove the tumor while my kidney was still attached to me – and have a good chance of complete tumor removal without causing other severe complications – was very, very small. So they would have to just remove my kidney altogether.

Then he said the thing that got me researching my ass off: “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine with having one kidney. In fact, studies have shown that people who donate a kidney have the same level of happiness as the average American.”

Oh heeeelllllz no, Dr. Man.

“Ummm. No offense…but I am way happier than the average American – and I plan to keep it that way,” I replied. What I I didn’t say out loud was that the idea of being an average American was freaking me out. I just saw myself watching TV on a couch and having the big adventures of my life be camping out for Black Friday sales. I got on the internet that night, and while I was watching multiple YouTube videos of the surgery I was about to undergo, I saw an interesting blip on my Google search page: “UCSF: #2 renal transplant facility in the country”

Hmmm. So if the issue is they can’t cut the tumor out safely while it is attached to me, why not remove my kidney, cut the tumor out, confirm the margins are clear, then put it back in me?”

Shazaam!

I called my surgeon the next morning. “Interesting. I’ll see what the tumor board has to say,” he said in response to my suggestion. (Since this was such an involved surgery, you have to get the OK from everyone on the team – in this case, uro-oncology, the transplant team, and other hospital folk.)

The next day he called: “OK. We decided that we can try the autotransplant – but one of the main reasons is because you are a rock climber and have a higher risk for trauma than the average person, and thus may have a higher need for 2 kidneys.” Woohoo! Being above average saves my scared ass again! (But that is soooo not the point I am trying to make here;)

What’s poignant here isn’t the fact that I got the team to try a new surgery. What alarmed me was that the fear I felt when thinking I might end up average was all-consuming. Yes, the outcome was great for me in this scenario – but it always haunted me that it was my fear of being average that was the driving force. That it had been the driving force behind so many of my actions in the past.

So what’s wrong with striving to be above average when so many cool things can come of it? Like awesome adventure travel, getting to keep your organs, and free tuition, to name a few? When you have a “fear of being average” as your main motivation, you are also susceptible to a deep, wounding type of suffering, because your happiness is based on something outside of you: how you compare to others.

And as long as your happiness depends on where you stand in relation to others on the scale – even for something as noble as adventure or compassion or generosity – you will never have the kind of deep, radiant confidence (aka ziji!) that comes from knowing your own inherent self worth. So you know those days when you internet troll or just perseverate endlessly while comparing your life to others on Facebook or in “real life” – someone in a similar field as you or in your social circle or tribe – and you wonder why they seem happier or more loved or more famous or more exciting or more wealthy or more adventurous or more kind and compassionate or more relaxed … or more anything than you?

Yeah that. That’s from our fear of being average. The Comparison Carousel. Round and round. “Where do I stand now?” we wonder. All. freakin’. day. It’s exhausting.

I used to think only my friends and others with FOMO (fear of missing out) had this type of fear, and that it was this fear that helped them have such amazing lives of adventure. But then I started to realize that we all have the fear of being average. It’s why scapegoating is so common when times get tough – when there is an economic depression or scarcity of jobs, racism and discrimination increase as people strive to prove in a scarcity environment that they still have the one-up on others.

Don’t take this lightly, folks. This tendency to want to be above average creates more suffering in us as individuals, as well as worldwide in small communities, large countries, and in international relations. You may not realize the degree of suffering this causes if you manage to stay “above average” in the categories important to you or your culture for a long time…until you start to get exhausted running the race; start to fall behind; or finally find that person who is smarter than you, prettier than you, sexier than you, more adventurous than you…just better than you all around (all else created equal). And you will find that person. There is always – always – going to be someone “better” than you are at something (except, of course, at your own unique purpose;).

When that happens, you feel crushed. Or suddenly depressed, even though you have achieved some amazing shizzle in your life. Or you feel devastatingly not enough. I know some of you may be wondering if this means we should all strive to be “average.”

Absolutely not.

This life is precious, a gift like no other; to be born in your body on this planet with the ability to create life experiences and a mind to dream…its all a miracle and you would be a fool to not take full advantage of it and make the most of this life. I want you to live an extraordinary life.

Because of that, what I do want to encourage is this:

Do not let your motivation be to feel like you are better than others, or “above average.” Let your motivation in life be to live your best life. To live your gifts into this world. Screw what anyone else is doing. Only you know if you are living life full-on. And that is all that matters.

After all, in reality, we are all average. As Dr. Kristin Neff, a Developmental Psychologist from the University of Texas at Austin (and self-compassion geek!), points out, “To be human is to be average.” It’s true. We all have our strengths (the things we do really really well), and the things we do just so-so (sort of average)… and we also have our weaknesses – those things that we just suck at, or have a lot of room for improvement.

The key to sustainable happiness – and indeed the true inner confidence that follows – is to accept that we are all beautifully average. The world needs us all to be average at most things! Then, we can focus on our gifts – those things we do really really well – and leave the rest to the other average humans that rock the things we suck at. We don’t have to do it all or know it all (ahhhh…isn’t that relaxing!?). While the reality is that we may need to stand out from the crowd to get certain jobs or attain certain accomplishments, we don’t have to be better than someone else to be happy.

Indeed, the opposite is true. Embrace your averageness;) Live an extraordinary life on your terms. When you release the desire to be above average and embrace your true gifts and the preciousness of this life…ahhhhh – that is when the fun begins. The freedom. The adventure. That no one can take away from you.

Since this tendency to have a fear of being average exists in almost all of us, don’t beat yourself up about it when it arises. Just notice it. Notice it as part of the average human experience. Then do things differently. Choose to be motivated from your own heart’s desires…what makes you happy, no matter what else others are doing.

Stop comparing.

When you see yourself comparing, ask yourself what you really want in this life, and what is one action you can take right now to move you closer to it. Embrace your “average,” and focus on extraordinary living from your heart Recognize the common humanity in all of this – that you are not alone in your fear of being average.

That we all fear it. And that is it precisely our averageness that beings us closer as humans….And it is precisely the unique gifts that every single one of us has that, when expressed fully, make this life extraordinary. It is savoring each moment, staying present, being kind to ourselves and each other, manifesting your gifts and living this life as the greatest adventure of all time that will give you the radiant inner confidence to know you are crushing this whole carpe-the-dang-diem thing.

Only you know when that happens. And that’s all that matters.

Try this:

(adapted from Kristin Neff’s book, “Self Compassion”)

1. make a list of 5 culturally-valued qualities you have

2. make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are average

3. make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are below average

Now, can you look at this list and embrace it fully? Can you accept the fact that we ALL have traits in which we kick ass, fall within the bell curve, or need to leave to someone else – which ultimately makes us all…average? And can you feel in your bones that just because you – and everyone else – is actually quite average does NOT mean you cannot live an extraordinary life?

It just means you are finally…free.

How to Get Shit Done

Let’s be honest – we all have a hard time doing shit that we say we want to do sometimes (or a maybe lot of the time!). Like exercise in the morning. Eat less sugar. Drink less. Write that book. Have that difficult conversation with a toxic friend.

We’re diving into how to get things done in Freedom School this month, and I was thinking a lot about why it can be soooo hard to do something we really want to do.

On a Saturday.

Yeah. I know…I really DO geek out on this stuff;)


Why do we have ongoing to-do lists? Why do we tolerate a sense of overwhelm, stress, busyness, and a constant feeling of things being incomplete?

I wrote this reaaaally long post in our FB group that I thought I’d share with you here, because it addresses some of our struggles with getting shit done. If you have a low attention span today, just read the bold parts

First, let me ask you: What is it in your life that you’re struggling with that prevents you from getting what you want done?

And here’s what I want you to think about it: if you always kept your word to yourself, if you always did what you said you were going to do, if you always followed through on your best-laid plans, if you always were disciplined in the actions that you wanted to take, how would your life be different than it is now?

One of the reasons why some of us humans underutilize the special part of our brain that allows us to plan into the future (it’s a uniquely human trait!) is becausewe’re constantly letting ourselves down.

We make plans, and then we don’t follow through on those plans, then we just think making plans is a waste of our time and we stop doing it and we live our life in “default” mode. Doing what we’ve always been doing, instead of what we wantto be doing.

It takes much more effort to overcome our primitive brain – that’s focused on instant gratification – than it does to live in default mode, to just keep doing what you’ve always done. It’s so much easier to just keep doing what you’ve always done.

Doing things differently requires – or seems to require – more effort, and our brain is meant to be efficient. Default is way easier.

I remember when I first started being a coach and I started setting big goals for myself and my husband (then boyfriend) came to me one day and he’s like, “You know, it’s so crazy what you do,” and I said, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “You just say you’re going to do something and then you just do it. It’s wild to me.”

Now, I want you to think about that. Why is that so wild? Why is that so surprising? Why are some people just talk? I don’t think it’s because they mean to be, I just think they don’t know how to follow through with themselves.

It’s super important to do what we say we’re going to do – it builds self-respect and self-trust and a sense of pride and integrity.


So what’s a busy freedom junkie supposed to do?


1. The first thing that I want to tell you is that in order to overcome your primitive brain, which will be the loudest part of your brain, you have to plan ahead.

Calendar your to-do list. I just wanted to get that out here in case you didn’t read anything else.

BUT before calendaring items you need to create that to-do list. Get it out of your head because some of you have all these unfinished to-dos in your brain and you don’t realize that having

to think about them over and over again and the feelings that they bring up of incompleteness, is negatively affecting you. So it’s really important to empty it out onto a piece of paper. For some of you, you could probably write for 10 minutes. It’s totally fine.

What will happen when you’ve done this list is your brain will basically have nothing left to complain about because it will all be on the list.


2. Now cross off the items you really don’t have/want to do.There are a lot of “shoulds” we tend to have one our to-do lists.

And remember (this may be controversial…but that’s how we roll!):
You don’t have to take care of your children. You don’t have to bathe. You don’thave to eat. You do not have to wake up in the morning.

You don’t even have to live.

You have freewill as a human. There is nothing on that list that you have to do. You certainly don’t have to vacuum. You do not have to cook dinner. You do not have to do laundry. You don’t have to do any of it. So stop telling yourself that you “have” to do any of it.

Like Ajan Buddhasana says, “Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one to be.”

There are things that you think you think you “should” do, but you don’t want to do them, and you don’t have to do them. I give you permission right now to just never do them. Take them completely off your list!

You’re likely going to have consequences for not doing them. I want you to decide it’s OK to have those consequences for those things that you’re not going to do. Just like your reasons.

Let it be OK to not invite some people over if you’re not that into them. To have your groceries delivered instead of going to the store (one of my FAVES). To let your kiddo go to after-school care so you can get in a workout. To eat mac and cheese because you spent so much time writing your new book that you’re too tired to roast veggies.

I didn’t even do the Christmas presents thing this year. We were in the Philippines. I rented a house with two pools and a karaoke bar and invited the whole family and 30 of us partied for 3 days. No presents. I thought there’d be a huge rebellion. Nope. Apparently people prefer a 3-day party with karaoke 😉


3. Then you break down the items that made the cut – that you REALLY want to focus on – down into smaller steps.

This is super important – especially if you have a really hard time doing shit like going to the gym. Break it down into: I’ll get dressed for the gym at 7:30am. I’ll drive there at 7:45am. etc. Sometimes “going to the gym” seems too big, so the smaller steps help. This also makes allotting enough time a bit easier.


4. Now put ALL of these items into your calendar.

Here’s why: you have to consciously and deliberately supervise the primitive brain.

Now, what does the primitive brain like to do? It likes to get pleasureimmediately. That means resting, that means overeating, that means candy, that means alcohol, that means drugs if they’re available; anything to get a little short hit of pleasure is what that primitive brain has evolved to do for us.

Some of us just aren’t using our brains for what we want our brains to be able to provide us. It’s like you’ve gotten this amazing package of software in the mail and you’ve just left it in the box. That’s how some of us are using that higher portion of our brain.

But the thing with calendaring is that when you work, you’re going to be so much more productive, because if you give yourself a whole day to get your to-do list done, you know what you get done? Mostly nothing.


5. Once everything is on the calendar, you throw away your to-do list.

Now you just rely on your calendar. Ongoing to-do lists drain energy. When you put something on your calendar, consider it’s as good as done. Do it.

Remember: When the times comes, you’re going to want to eat Cheez-its in front of Netflix because your primitive brain is like, “That would be so much more fun.”

But you’ve already decided ahead of time because you know what your brain does ahead of time? It uses the prefrontal cortex, which always has your long-term best interests at heart. It’s always thinking, “If we do all these things, then we’ll have this book done and then we can sell the book.” Or, “If we do all these things, then we’ll have a business.” I”f we do all these things, then we’ll have a clean house.” “If we do all these things, then I’ll lose weight.”

If you don’t do all the things then you just stay where you are and your default mode is to just keep doing what you’ve always done.

When you overcome those urges for that instant gratification to switch into thedelayed gratification and to do the work that gives you the delayed gratification, that’s when your life completely uplevels

because you start obeying and working from the prefrontal cortex which has your best long-term interests at heart instead of acting like the primitive toddler brain that is the loudest, yelling one.

So when you come to 12 o’clock and it’s time to clean the closet and your primitive brain is rebelling, you can say, “I hear you, your opinion is noted, and we’re going to clean this closet out,” because at the end of the day, you’ll have the clean closet and the blog post written and the kitchen will be clean and dinner will be ready and you will feel PROUD.

And you won’t have done it in such a frenzied, panicked, exhausted way. You will just be honoring yourself the whole time.


Here’s what I’ve noticed to be true: When you do this, it actually energizes you because you’re honoring yourself. You’re following your commitments. You’re not thinking about all the stuff that you haven’t done. You’re not worried about all the procrastination that you’ve done. You’re not rushing because you have so much urgent stuff to be done. You’re just honoring your calendar.

Whew! OK – I hope that helps you have some ideas for how to really start getting some momentum on those things you’ve been putting off.

12 Essential Questions

A lot of people ask me what I do for the New Year since resolutions seem to resonate less and less with how people wanted to enter into this important transition. After all, more resolutions are broken than kept, and that doesn’t feel like a way to enter the New Year with integrity.

With the traditional resolutions, people often find themselves stuck in the same place year after year – even with having the best of intentions and setting achievable goals that seem totally doable. Goals they really really want! Some have been wanting them for decades! Let’s stop that stuckness right now.

It’s time to shake, woman…shake! 

It’s time to step into your wildness, your true desires, your heart-centered visions for your life with the most astute observation, integrity, wisdom, generosity and compassion that you can muster

Before deciding what you want to create in the upcoming year and setting your intentions for those, it is absolutely essential to reflect upon and learn about yourself and your patterns so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes and find yourself in the same old rut – again. Not doing this is why many intentions – aka “resolutions” – fail.

It’s only in knowing what we do right now that we can choose how to do things differently, or choose what patterns to keep and which to let go of. Doing things differently when something isn’t working, and keeping up the things that actually serve us, is how we create better experiences in our life – and lasting happiness too. Yummm right?!

That’s why I want to share with you my personal list of favorite Year-In-Review Questions to help make sure your whole being is prepped for making your next year the Best Year Yet. I’ve found that I create the most success in my life – personally and professionally – when I take the time to reflect on the past with the intention of learning and growing (and not for ruminating or lamenting!).

While creating goals and setting intentions are an important part of actively creating a kick-ass New Year, I’ve learned that BEFORE we do that, we need to reflect on what journeys we have been through, what has happened within us in the past year, so we can approach the next year more skillfully and with deeper wisdom.

I believe this is why “resolutions” are now often seen as clichéd and de-valued. People usually enter into resolutions without mindfulness, true emotional investment, or reflection on what would really make a difference, and a solid plan. Those things are the difference between a “good idea” and a “goal.” A good idea is just that – an idea. A Goal/Intention/Resolution, on the other hand, has a clear vision and a plan – a plan based on reflection and wisdom gained.Starting here is an essential part of building a good foundation for your next year.

After years of doing this every December, here are my favorite questions to ask myself. Have fun doing this! You are going to learn and grow from it, which means you’ll be far less likely to make the same mistakes and be more able to create your ideal life. Juicy, baby!

Pick a time when you have some quiet, uninterrupted space, light some candles (I’m into candles;), pour a glass of your favorite beverage, take a few moments to breathe deeply and calm your mind, and start in on creating the life of your dreams.

12 Essential Freedom Junkie Questions to Review Your Year - and Learn To Make the Next One Your Best Year Yet!

1) What am I most proud of from this past year?

2) WHO helped me achieve that – and did I thank them?

3) WHAT helped me achieve those things (habits, systems, choosing helpful mindsets, letting go of toxic relationships, etc)?

4) Who (or How) was I BEING in my life when I was most content this last year (confident, laid-back, present, slowed-down, adventurous, generous, healthy, compassionate…)?

5) Where could I have invested more energy (and “energy” means time, money, emotions, attention)?

6) What blocked me from investing that energy?

7) How can I remove some of those blocks/obstacles for the upcoming year?

8) What and/or Who did I take for granted this year?

9) How can I honor those people or things more next year?

10) What did I do to nourish my spiritual growth (retreat, regular practice, new supportive relationships, etc)?

11) Was it enough? If not, how can I add to that?

12) What was my take-home lesson from my most intense or powerful experiences in the past 12 months? (Everything happens for a reason!)

I dare you to take one action today based on these reflections. When you write things down – and share them – they take on even more power. If you’re shy, feel free to simply journal or send an email to me about what you plan to do. I’d really love to hear from you!

Have fun reflecting on your past year. It’s a truly valuable and simple “Jedi skill:” to actually learn from our past!

*** If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next year your best one yet, join Freedom School. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.

If creating the life you love includes drinking less in the New Year, Freedom School also gives you access to Drink Less, Feel Free, a 4-week program where you learn ways to free yourself from overdrinking. The tools here worked for me – and hundreds of others. You can also give it as a gift to someone you love that has repeatedly told you they wish they didn’t always overdrink. Life is too short to waste hungover or feeling guilty, right? Plus, saying you’ll do something and then not doing it screws with your self-confidence. This program is set up to give you the support and accountability you need.

The Truth About Freedom – 3 Common Mistakes People Make

When I started my business and chose “Freedom Junkie” and “Freedom Sessions” as a part of my brand, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty original. Most coaches were focused on manifesting “success” and finding your “true purpose” or your “genius work,” or living your “dreams.”

These are not bad things! However, Freedom as a word was something that a smaller, more wacky, unconventional and renegade group of coaches focused on. After call, convincing people freedom was da bomb was a lot harder than convincing them to want to be rich or successful…or happy for that matter. As with anything awesome, the word “freedom” eventually caught on in the coaching world, and now you can find the word Freedom everywhere!

But what does this really mean? Does this mean more people are actively looking for more freedom, or that more people are truly teaching how to create more freedom? I sure hope so!

Unfortunately, it seems that for most, things haven’t changed outside of the verbiage used. I’m seeing a lot people say, “Make more money and [therefore] have more freedom!” “Work from your laptop and have more freedom!” “Become an entrepreneur and have more freedom!”

While these are all fun things to have in life, these aren’t really the things that bring you TRUE freedom – they’re just twists on the words success, passion, and location-independence, for example. Do they help you with freedom? Sure! But do they address the root of freedom? No.

We use the word Freedom rather nonchalantly, but the word Freedom implies freedom from something. We can free ourselves from external constraints with financial abundance, location independence, self-employment….

But what’s the ONE THING we are all really seeking freedom from?

We are ALL seeking freedom from suffering. Not even freedom from pain, but from suffering! As the famous quote by the Buddhist teacher Haruki Murakami goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

The {often} hard truth about freedom is that it is so profoundly about the work you’re doing on the inside. In their pursuit of freedom, most people don’t remember these key points:

3 Common Mistakes People Make When Seeking Freedom

1. Forgetting that you first have to own your shit.

Freedom must begin here, with the knowing that life is in YOUR hands and no one else’s – not with your militant boss, your insensitive boyfriend or your mean sibling; not in your past with your controlling/abusive parents, not your crappy neighborhood or the fact that your parents didn’t help you pay for college, not your short stature or your frizzy hair. NONE of that has to do with your freedom in this moment, right now. Until this fact is absorbed, there will always be excuses instead of solutions. And here’s a tweetable, amiga:

You cannot create freedom with excuses.  (Tweet it!)

 

2. Not knowing what you want and what it feels like

First, get clear about what freedom FEELS like to you, because freedom is a FEELING. Focus on how your body experiences freedom, what it feels like to be free, really conjure up that feeling and its vibration and tap into it. This is the only way you will truly ever be free. If you have no idea what freedom will feel like to you, you won’t ever know when it’s arrived, and you’ll keep seeking in all the different places for it – which are often simply distractions. Unless you actually FEEL free, the other stuff that’s supposed to get you there doesn’t really matter. So be sure you are clear about how you want to feel and experience this whole Freedom thing;)

Once you’re clear about what the Freedom feels like for you, start to get detailed about the other aspects of Freedom.

There are 5 “currencies” of Freedom, not to be mistaken for freedom itself. These are:

  1. time
  2. money
  3. energy
  4. creativity
  5. location

When you are clear about what you want to achieve with each of these forms of freedom moolah, you can more easily see what ISN’T giving you freedom. For example, if you are clear about what you want in a relationship, if you are in a bad or even simply mediocre/”maybe” relationship, you can more easily walk way from it.

Why is this so? When you are clear about what you want, you can make decisions more easily and with more confidence, and you will be less likely to tolerate something that isn’t clearly what you want, or stall taking action due to being unsure or insecure.

When people vacillate about whether or not they are in a good relationship, or if they “should” be more patient with someone or consider their “potential,” this is likely because they aren’t clear about what they want.

When you are clear, you can say, “Sorry. Homegirl don’t play that.” Or, “I don’t date for potential. That’s sooooo 80s.”

Capiche?

When you’re not clear, you start wondering if it’s your shit, or if it’s because you’re tired or mean or too picky. You start wondering if it’s because you are judging them and you know that is a “bad” thing to do. However, when you are clear, it’s not personal. It’s just the facts, ma’am.

3. Not taking action (or simply taking the same actions you’ve been taking and expecting a different outcome)

Once you’re clear about what you want, it’s time to act on that. Only then will your life start to manifest more freedom. And that action needs to be different from what you’ve been doing. You can’t keep doing the same thing expecting a different outcome!

Only when you start saying, “No” when you don’t feel like doing something; when you stop tolerating, when the fear of not being free is greater than the fear of being alone and you leave an unhealthy relationship…

Only when you ACT on behalf of what you want – and you start banking your freedom currency – will freedom manifest.

It’s not enough to dream and set intentions and talk about it. It’s not enough to get a Freedom tattoo on your back or write down all the ways more money will help you get more time, energy, and passport stamps.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Act, and you shall receive (tweet it!).

So ask yourself this now:

:: What’s my shit? What is my baggage, my mistakes, my habitual patterns that no longer serve me, MY self-limiting beliefs...what part of the way my life is right now is not a part of my creation? (Hint: none of it)

:: What DO I want?

:: What’s one thing I can do right now that will move me closer to freedom – to what freedom means for me?

What does freedom means for you, and how you’re going to start manifesting it. The more free women in the world, the more free communities and cities and countries and continents…and the more free souls to light up the universe!

If you want to join a tribe that is totally committed to creating more true freedom, inside and out, click here to learn more about the Freedom Club.

This Thought Will Change Everything

I just got back from an awesome business conference in Dallas. I love going to these events because first, they scare the shit out of me.

I start to dream even bigger, which put my brain into fight-or-flight more because I feel kind of maxed out where I am already. I’m already booking most hours in my day (even if those still include playtime in the mountains), using up most of my money (BTW I put away the minimum I need to for retirement because I kind of suck at saving;), and continuing to move towards a life where I work even less than what I do now.

There’s not many things that scare me these days. But creating a bigger dream, putting it out there, and not having it come true is one of them. I fear that people will see me as a failure, that I will have deep regrets, let my family down, or take on too much and end up in overwhelm. Be broke. Get depressed. End up having to sell everything.

The bonus of being an experienced life coach is that I know how to coach myself, and I do know that ultimately, all those things I just said are thoughts. They may feel like real, actual things that I am afraid of, but in reality, they are just thoughts.

Knowing that my fear is created by thoughts – and not reality – has gotten me past every single obstacle I’ve had to overcome. Hard climbs. The first time I dropped into a steep bowl of fresh powder. Class V rapids. Applying to the top grad school in my specialty – and not a single other school, since I knew that was where I wanted to go. Cancer – twice. Being alone with my baby for months out of the year and for many, many weekends and evenings while also working two jobs. Sometimes three. Getting my doctorate degree with a toddler – while working. Starting my coaching business – and quitting my secure job to dive deeper into my business. Falling in love again after a broken heart. Having my heart broken again.

All those things I said above were indeed real – and they for sure happened. But what creates shitty feelings are the thoughts we have about those things – including fear.

So the second reason I love going to these events is because I am reminded of thoughts that can replace the ones that cause my fear. The big one I came home with, from my colleague Kara Lowenthiel:

“I do impossible things every day.”

Damn straight, sister. I have been doing impossible things. Every. Damn. Day. And I can continue to do so.

So when I dream up something so amazing it scares the shit out of me, damn straight I can do that too. I just need to do what I did for everything else: commit to it. Take massive action until I get exactly what I want – no matter what.

In case it wasn’t obvious, this formula works for you too. It’s simple – but not easy. Creating the life of your dreams takes grit and hard work – but life does anyway. So you might as well be creating your dreams while you’re at it.

The latest dream I’ve manifested? It actually brings tears to my eyes, because when I was at my very first business conference, I was asked to dream big – waaaay big – and one of the things I wrote on my 3×5 “goal cards” was to have a home in the mountains and a home on the beach, because I love both of them (but granite mountains trump all else, I think;). And also because growing up, we always lived in rentals, and until I was a teenager, I slept in one bedroom with my parents and my grandma.

Last year I made both of those things happen. In March, I bought this slice of heaven in Baja California Sur, Mexico (see the arrow? That’s pointing to the spot)

In December, I bought this tiny slice of heaven right at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, staring right up into the east side landmountains where I learned how to be confident, independent, and a true woman of my own making (pic on the right). The place I most dearly call home. Just beyond a nearby pass is one of the most gorgeous places on earth – Evolution Basin – and I can be there in a heartbeat (well, many heartbeats at 100bpm as I hump over the pass, at least;).

So you see – if I can do it, you can too. But first, you have to dream – you have to allow yourself to want the impossible. Because the impossible only seems that way today. And it only seems impossible because you think it is.

Then you need to tell yourself you can do impossible things. Every day. And commit to that – no matter what.

No matter what.

Did I say no matter what?

No. Matter. What.

 

Pssst. If you want help creating the life of your dreams, schedule a free strategy session with me by clicking here. I’ll show you how it’s possible to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Who Are You Willing to Disappoint to be True to Yourself?

I’ve disappointed a lot of people.

It was not comfortable.

But you know what? It was totally worth it, because it was absolutely necessary in order to stay true to who I am and what I believe in.

I disappointed the racist professor at our dinner table (and my date trying to get a job with their University) when he said, “I can’t believe people still think racism is even an issue. I mean, slavery ended over 100 years ago.” I pointed out that in fact, while slavery had ended in 1865, segregation didn’t end until 1964 (and that was only on paper) and many Americans in a recent poll said they’d rather be blind than black. Then I took a sip of wine from my glass and smiled at everyone.

I disappointed the client that wanted me to just give them the answer instead of having them do the hard – but rewarding – work of coming up with the answer themselves, and taking the risk to trust their heart. That’s not what coaching is about. It’s about self-discovery and evolution.

I disappointed my parents when I took a job that paid $50 a day and required me to live out of my car and sleep on the ground, instead of going on to get my PhD like they had dreamed. They had worked extra jobs to ensure I was able to go to a private high school instead of our gang-ridden public school, and after college I entered a lifestyle as a climbing guide that appeared to them to be a downgrade from our already sparse lifestyle. But I loved every minute of it.

I disappointed my first husband when he never tragically hurt me or cheated on me or failed to support me. He was a good man. But not the right man. And I asked for a divorce.

I could go on and on about the ways I’ve had to disappoint others in order to stay true to myself. Was it hard? For sure. Do you know what would have been harder?

Disappointing myself.

It should be harder to disappoint yourself than it is to disappoint others. Yet often we would rather let ourselves down than someone else.

We are taught this from a very young age – especially women. We are taught to put others before ourselves, and not in a compassionate way. We are taught to prioritize others in a survivalist way. We are told overtly and subtly that if we let people down – if we disappoint others – we are putting our own worth at risk.

We take the job we don’t really want. We say “yes” to things we don’t want to (any people-pleasers in the house?). We stay in the unfulfilling relationship because we think we should be lucky to have someone who loves us. We don’t wear what we really want out dancing. We don’t order what we want for dinner. We don’t travel around the world instead of heading straight into college or graduate school or that next job. We say “yes” to the food pushers even though we know the cake they are guilting us into eating will make us feel like crap. We have that drink that’s one-too-many because we want to fit in.

Here’s the deal: being willing to disappoint others in order to stay true to yourself is part of the price for evolving and moving towards the life you want to create for yourself.

 If you aren’t disappointing others, you aren’t really in the game.

Who will you need to disappoint to move one step closer to your dreams?

Check out this poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It’s one of my faves. I highly recommend you read this as in invitation to yourself.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.


It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.


I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.


I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.


It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.


I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.


I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.


It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.


It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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Pssst. If you want help creating the life of your dreams, schedule a free strategy session with me by clicking here. I’ll show you how it’s possible to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

How to Make Decisions

It’s easy for us to get into “analysis paralysis,” wasting so much time, energy and wine ruminating about which decision is best for us.

“Should I quit my job?” “Should I leave the relationship?” “Is that really worth the money?” “Where should I go for my one big vacation this year?”

And it makes sense. After all, life is short and we don’t want to f*ck it up if we can avoid it, right?

You’re likely wondering, “How do I decide? How do I get out of this crazy confusion and finally make a decision?”

I’ve done a lot of digging on this, since I have been feeling stuck lately on some biz decisions I’ve had to make.

Here are the 8 tips that helped me the most (you’re welcome!):

1. Get rid of “history bias.”
Step back for a minute and ask yourself, “Would you choose it now if there was no history bias?” What I mean by “history bias” is we tend to have a lot of weight on our shoulders because we keep thinking about all the things that happened in the past. It can make your brain a mess, for sure. So, if you were starting brand new, would you choose whatever it is that is going on right now?

So for example, if you are deciding whether you should leave a job or not, re-decide whether you would take it or not. Would you marry this person again? Would you buy this house again? Would you spend this money?

Whatever it is, consider all your options and ask yourself, would you choose it now without your history bias?

A lot of us say, “Well, I’ve just been doing it for so long.” Trust me: that may not be the best reason you want for choosing something. And remember, when you make a decision, you want to make sure you like your reason for choosing it.

2. Ask yourself, “What if failure is no big deal?” One of my mentors, Brooke Castillo, says, “What if you’re just either winning – or learning?”

A lot of times we hear coaches ask, “What would you do if you could not fail?”

But this new perspective takes it to the next level. So, if failing didn’t matter, if you knew you might fail at it, would you still do it?

If you failed at trying something, quitting something, or moving out into something, would you do it if failure didn’t matter?

This is important to ask because remember: “failure” is just the way you think about it. If you’re only “winning or learning,” then there really is no failure. Nothing is a failure. So when you take out the thought that “failure ruins everything” and that you could fail, which one do you do?

3. Imagine that both decisions could be awesome. What if you could succeed at both of them? Which one would you choose?
Some of us don’t choose one option over the other because we’ve played it out and we’ve already anticipated failure. We’ve already anticipated that we won’t know how to do something or we’ve succumbed to our own doubt about something.

For example, if you’re thinking about leaving a relationship, consider this:

If I stay married, the marriage turns out awesome because I make it awesome, and if I leave, my life is awesome because I make it awesome. So knowing that either way I could have an amazing life, which one do I choose?

Whoa. This clears up decision making so quickly, right? And it’s true: you can feel awesome either way (but that’s another blog post).

4. The next thing I want you to consider is one of my faves. It’s that can you say yes to both things.
I LOVE having it all;)

It’s super common to think “either this or that” when we are considering our options. We think one automatically excludes the other. This is a really great time to get coached!

We often think that if we say yes to one of them, we’re saying no to the other. Sometimes we don’t want to say no to the other, so we don’t make a decision.

But what if you could say yes to both things? Gasp!

Like, “Should I leave my job to become to a life coach?” What if you could keep your job and become a life coach in the evening? What if you could have both? Would you choose both instead of saying yes to one or no to the other?

I am really good at this because I’ve learned over many years to be efficient with my time. I get to do a lot of different things – I coach clients all over the world, I catch babies, I got my doctorate, I help people in integrative medicine, I volunteer in remote areas, I lead retreats, I teach new healthcare providers how to be good at providing care and being compassionate with their patients…

Do I do them all at the same time? Of course not! But I get to do them;)

Many people I know would have just chosen one of those things. And that’s OK too! It’s just that sometimes, you don’t have to. I decided I didn’t want to say yes to one and no to the other. (And it’s also not because I don’t sleep. I love me some sleep;)

5. Ask your “Future Self,” the you 10 years into the future, what they think, and why.
Remember that your Future Self has already learned the Big Lessons and who knows exactly what you need to do to manifest your ideal life.

When I’m making big decisions, I often ask my future self what should I do and why. It was one of the first tricks they taught me during my first coach training in 2009, and it sticks because it is really, really good! She always seems to know exactly what to do.

When I think of myself 10 years from now, at 55 years old (!!!), what do I tell myself? It’s crazy how much wiser I am. I always have the best answers;)

6. Give yourself a deadline to make the decision.
That’s right. You could go on and one ruminating. At some point, you need to stop it. There’s Parkinson’s Law: The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task. That includes decisions.

When the deadline arrives, make the decision and move forward.

I mean really, how long are you going to be deciding?

There’s actually no risk in deciding. The only risk you have is in the decision, in making the decision.

So give yourself until, say, the end of the month, or the end of next month, or the end of the week, and then you will decide one way or the other to do something.

That might feel scary to you. It did for me. But that means you’re doing it right. It’s okay to be afraid! Making decisions is what helps us move forward, to grow and evolve.

Know what else? It also helps us take action and therefore increases our confidence, because we juice up our confidence when we take action and learn from it. It also saves us time since we stop wasting time deciding!

7. Go over what is the best and worst-case scenario for each of your options.
I like doing this because the worst-case scenario often doesn’t feel as bad as I think it will when I play it out. Plus, what we often find out in the end is that the worst-case scenario is missing out on the best-case scenario;)

8. I saved the best for last. One that works for me consistently is asking, “What moves me towards who I want to be?”
So just be really clear and answer the question, “What moves you toward who you want to be?” It’s that simple. It works. Sometimes, another way to ask this can be to ask, “How do I want to feel?” Pick the thing that helps you feel that way. I do that a lot when I ask, “What will help me feel more free?” Deep down, you know what will move you towards who you want to be. And that, my friend, is what really matters.

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Pssst. If you want help creating the life of your dreams, schedule a free strategy session with me by clicking here. I’ll show you how it’s possible to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Letting Go of Outdated Dreams

Did you know I used to live out of my 1997 Volvo station wagon? For 7 years it served me well. There was just enough room for me to curl up in my sleeping bag, and I had two small crates of clothes and a HUGE bin of climbing gear. Colorful prayer flags streamed from my roof rack, and my friends could find me by looking for these flags in any crag parking lot.
Later I lived out of a large 1990s Dodge Ram 15-passenger van, lovingly named Chomolungma (the local name for Mount Everest). She was a beautiful baby blue, and eventually died a peaceful death as I was driving her across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.
Since then, I’ve often blogged about how I missed living simply in that way – having everything I needed in my vehicle so I could drive anywhere on a moment’s notice.
Recently, I ended up buying a 2003 Ford Econoline 350 Sportsmobile van, a beast of a van whom I appropriately named Mama Bear. I’m having the best time playing with her! It was a great decision – the freedom she offers me and my family when we travel is fan-freakin-tastic. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to use the #vanlife hashtag here – it feels weird for me, since living out of vehicles has been a mainstay for climbers for decades, and I feel I am returning home vs joining a new movement ;).

It feels good to be home.

Why have I decided to go retro (for me) with my travels and adventures?
Part of the reason is I realized some of my dreams of the adventurous life I wanted to live with my family were outdated. 
In my 20s and 30s, I felt the most adventurous way to travel was to go far (ideally at least 9 time zones away) and long (5-6 weeks minimum).
I also still had my dirtbag mentality that if I was going to spend $1800 on a plane ticket, I better make it worth it and stay as long as possible. That makes a lot of sense when you only make $1800 a month as a climbing guide. Not so much now in my life.
My husband and I stuck to these far-and-long travel goals really well – even after our daughter was born. Twice a year we would go to Asia or Africa with her for 4-6 weeks, plus many shorter trips in-between. I felt so…unconventional!
Until I didn’t.
Instead, I discovered I started to feel freakin’ stressed about it!
I was definitely the primary caregiver on trips, and while my husband paraglided, I was often alone with my kiddo in a foreign land. It was somewhat boring a lot of the time since I was limited in what I could do with a toddler, and I craved adult conversations and a good friend, despite the epic surroundings and amazing cultures I was experiencing.
I also enjoyed working on my business on these trips, since that’s a long time to go without creating something fun for my peeps. Slow internet in these remote areas (if I was lucky to have it at all) totally stressed me out. I am not as patient with technology as I used to be).
For some reason, I didn’t “need” 4-6 weeks off anymore either. That might have something to do with not being able to do 30-day expeditions as much;)
With a kid, I also found that returning from long trips abroad meant messed up sleep schedules for her (and therefore me) for a long time. It also meant the house was a shit-show while I unpacked from being gone for so long. Inevitably some plant died or some house item broke while we were away, and I’d have to deal with a broken hot water heater or a clogged up toilet on top of everything else.
I eventually realized that for this stage of my life, I wanted to take vacations with friends and be completely unplugged – for shorter periods of time.
Gasp!
I wanted to not have my travels completely throw me off my game anymore. I love creating through my work, and work wasn’t something I needed to escape for as long anymore. I love serving others. And I didn’t need to be away from friends and family for long periods of time either (must be that I am intentionally creating my community to be full of pretty rad people!).
I would rather hang out with a girlfriend and my kiddo gazing up at steep granite peaks from an alpine tarn in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California than chill out above a glacier in the Himalaya sans a friend.
Conversely, I’d rather go to the Himalaya and be there 2.5 weeks completely unplugged than try to stress about internet connections and finding friends to hang out with for an additional month.
It took a lot to accept this shift, and I’m still integrating it.
I had to let go of an identity and a judgement that if I wasn’t doing something utterly exotic far away and for over a month, I wasn’t leading a truly adventurous life. Sure, other people could think car camping was adventurous, but I had the belief that I was supposed to be an example of what level of adventure was possible with a family. I believe am that…but the way I was doing it was no longer honoring my new evolving self.
Recently I was sitting at an alpine tarn with a wise friend celebrating my birthday when she reflected back to me that indeed, it can be hard to let go of outdated dreams. That phrase hit me like a train.
Outdated dreams.
Exactly! That’s what was going on!
I was trying to live a dream that no longer applied to who I had evolved into.
I was resisting this new desire because instead of seeing that I evolved into a new person, I thought I was de-volving into a more …boring person.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Me trying to live an outdated dream had me feeling incomplete and stressed.
Embracing my new dreams – adventures with friends and being totally unplugged on those adventures so I could be fully present the entire time – has me feeling excited and passionate about my travel again.
I’ve got a road trip planned in Mama Bear this November, and I’m going to leave her with some friends in New Mexico and drive her to my slice of heaven in Baja come Spring. I’m going to head to Asia or Africa or South America next year and plan to meet up with friends and stay for less time so I don’t need to be plugged in at all while there. I’m going to be so much more relaxed on those trips and just allow myself to savor every moment.
I am so fucking psyched.
What dream are you holding onto that you’ve outgrown?
Are you telling yourself you “should” hold onto it because you’d be failing if you let it go?
Could it be that instead, you have evolved into a new version of yourself with different needs and different dreams that are just as valid and perhaps even more thrilling?
Try to see what happens when you let go of that outdated dream and live into new ones. What happens when you honor yourself and what you want…now?
For me, so far, so freakin‘ good!

what makes your soul sing?

Today marks my 45th trip around the sun. Whoa!

This year I’ve tried to think about how to celebrate by focusing on what is really important to me, based on my own experience of what I know makes me truly happy, content, and living with a sense of purpose. Here’s a few of the things I’ve lined up, and why. I hope it helps you create more moments of meaningfulness in your life!

After all – life is too short to be spending most of your time doing shit you don’t want to be doing

TIME IN THE MOUNTAINS WITH GOOD FRIENDS

Today I’m going to spend time outdoors with a group of wild woman I love. Tomorrow I leave for a backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada in California, with a dear friend of mine. Mountain time is important. Friends are important.

We’re heading to the east side, where there’s a slip fault and the mountains shoot straight up from the valley floor. I don’t like hiking in trees that much because I love vast, open views, so the east side of the Sierra feels just right to me. You get above treeline after some serious effort up steep slopes – and it’s well worth it. This place and it’s abundant granite are where my soul feels most content.

I had first wanted to spend tonight eating oysters and drinking champagne with my friends, which I definitely also love – but those things don’t make my soul sing. I want to spend my precious time doing what makes my soul sing, and today my soul wanted mountains (maybe after the hike, the oysters and champagne will take front seat;)

Do you have a place where you feel absolutely at peace and magical? Where is that? How can you spend more time there? How could you possibly…live there? A place where you feel free, where you can adventure (your way) and feel alive, is essential.

Do you have a friend who deeply understands you? Who makes you feel good about yourself? Who is easy to listen to and give generously to – and who gives back? How can you spend more time with them? How can you find someone like that – or build a tribe of more people like that? Your success and happiness are largely correlated with the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.

YOGA

After I write this, I am heading to yoga. It’s one of the few things in my life that has remained a constant source of support and rejuvenation. I took my first class at UC Santa Cruz when I was 18, and have never looked back.

What is a reliable source of nourishment – body and soul – for you? How can you tap into this more often?

Spend more time on what’s important. You need to schedule it. Prioritize it. Only then will it happen.

MEDITATION

Whether I like to admit it or not, my ability to be kind, present, patient and generous is largely dependent on how much energy I put into my spiritual practice (and not just reading spiritual books). A huge part of that is meditation. The times when I’ve been most proud of how I showed up in the world have been when I have made the time to meditate – especially when doing this Tonglen meditation I learned when I was 19 years old (this is a link to a guided meditation I did with a group on a retreat I led at Breitenbush in Oregon).

I think meditation works for me because of the way it helps me pause before reacting in a way that’s not in alignment with how I want to be in the world, and how it helps me step back and get perspective on what is really going on – seeing things as they are, without the drama and story I create around them. Tonglen in particular helps to heal painful relationships for me – and this is often a source of much of our suffering. It helps me feel more genuine compassion and love – even for people I may not be feeling warm and fuzzy about.

What helps you show up to be the best version of yourself? What helps you be more compassionate, loving, kind, and generous? Do that. You’ll always be glad you showed up as a good person.

TIME WITH FAMILY (I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago)

I’ve had a complicated history around my family. Once I turned 18, I couldn’t wait to leave the chaos and abuse of my younger years, moving out shortly after my birthday that year. Later, I was able to heal my relationships with my parents and with the neighborhood that brought me so much stress and violence. Not too long ago, my relationship with my mother got complicated again, and then she died. It was bad timing, but death is known for that.

This is my first birthday without my mother, who is the one and only person who never, ever forgot to wish me a happy birthday. I miss her dearly. I wish I had been able to show up better, to meditate more, work less, be more patient. But alas, I was struggling with postpartum depression and having to provide for my family as the primary breadwinner – a new and sleep-deprived mom – during her last years.

I’m only human, and I’m sure as hell not perfect. But I do see the importance of cultivating a loving family that feels good to come home to, and showing up for them in a way I can feel proud of. I’m trying my best. I brought my kiddo to camp late today so we could cuddle longer and share kisses and eat capers and lox together and walk at a leisurely pace, stopping to check out the fireweed blooms. I’ll spend more time with her and my husband after I get my massage this afternoon;)

I’m also going to try to forgive and let go of the shit that keeps me from loving fully.

It’s too heavy a burden.

Who is the “family” you are choosing to create? You get to choose many of them now that you’re all grown up.

Are you happy in your community? Are you showing up like you want to for your loved ones?

If you died today, would you have said what you needed to say to the people you care about? Do you need to cut the energetic cord between you and another person?

DANCING WILDLY

Dancing in the only thing missing from my agenda for today that would totally make me happy, so I’ve scheduled it for when I get back from my backpacking trip. I’m not talking ecstatic dance at 9am or salsa classes after dinner. I’m talking thumping sweating jumping head-banging spinning howling bring it on electronica latin club ska hip hop anything that’s got good rhythm with my ladies yet by myself in the middle of the dance floor appearing so wild that no one dare come near me kind of dancing. I can’t wait!

These are some of the relatively small things I’ve chosen to do, but they hold a lot of power for me.

I hope these ideas help you start moving towards a life that is more in alignment with who you are and what you want from this precious life. Life is too short for anything else.

Why I Miss Being a Dirtbag

I was recently watching the movie Dirtbag, a documentary about the legendary climber, Fred Beckey. It brought back so many memories of my own dirtbag days, although Beckey would put me to shame with how he stuffed pages of a novel he was reading into the liner of his jacket, then burned it in the morning to heat some tea water… or the beans and maggots dinners he had.

The movie defined being a dirtbag as “one who forgoes material comforts and defies societal norms in pursuit of a nomadic mountaineering lifestyle.” Yes, please.

What I loved about it was the simplicity and freedom of having everything I owned in the back of my station wagon, and the luxury of time. Time to just BE. I was working as a seasonal climbing guide and Outward Bound instructor, and I made $55 a day when I first started, for a 24-7 job.

There’s a saying in mountaineering that “on either side of the socio-economic spectrum lies a leisure class,” meaning you either made shit tons of money so you didn’t even have to work to make it and had tons time to do what you wanted, or you were a dirtbag and didn’t have a lot of money, but you had all the time in the world to do what you wanted since you lacked social or financial obligations like a regular job or a mortgage.

I also miss showing up at a climbing site alone (pre-cell phone) and seeing if anyone I knew had left a note up on the message board saying that they were there. Or the joy of a good buddy finding me as they noticed my prayer flags flapping in the wind on my car while I was making dinner in camp, and then us staying up late deciding what climb we’d do the next day, sorting the gear and memorizing the route and tracing guidebooks. There was something to be said about having more opportunities for synchronicity to blow my mind.

I miss showing up in Curry Village in Yosemite after a long climb and waiting for the tourists to walk away from their half-eaten pizza, and the sheer joy I felt as free, delicious food filled my belly, so my funds could go towards the pitcher of beer. I miss the long days, nights and endless weeks in the mountains with my good friends. You do one hard climb with someone and you can know them better (and they, you) than someone you’ve spent time with daily while at work in “the city,” even if that’s been for years.

Simplicity, nature and adventure make for a very, very content life. (—> that’s Fred Beckey at 93 years old! And he still camped on the ground next to his car at this age – no motels or AirBnB for this guy!)

Still, I am glad that these days I can be a Dirtbag by Choice. It’s nice to know I can pay for my medical bills and take care of my family and friends if something happens to them. And yes, I really like sushi too. And plane tickets. And retreats/workshops…

In the end, I think the key is not being attached to it all. I’m glad I had my dirtbag days, because it showed me I could have very little materially, and still go to bed feeling – truly feeling – “I am so fucking happy. I feel so fulfilled, so complete, so in love with life, that today would be a good day to die.”

When we have experienced being happy with less, we are not as scared to lose what we have. When you have the experience of being happy as a single wild woman, it is less difficult to leave a shitty relationship. When you’ve had the experience of creating success from nothing, you are less scared to quit a job. The fact that I have experienced viscerally that it is possible to feel such bliss while owning very little (and not just “knowing” it intellectually) makes it less scary to take risks with my business and lifestyle design, and helps me feel more free.

What could you lessen your attachment to that would help you be more courageous? Is it having to have a really big house or a fancy car? Thinking that you “should” make a certain amount of money? Proving something to friends or family?

What’s your version of “dirtbagging” it? What would it look like for you to live simply, or with a lot less than what you have now? In the end, you don’t really have to do get rid of it all – but you need to ditch the attachment to these things, because that’s what chains you down. It’s often good to “practice” by traveling with very few items, or stretching out your funds while on the road with a really low budget, or backpacking for an extended time with everything you need on your back. But there’s lots of other ways too.

Working on being less attached is a step towards true freedom.