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.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

what a 4500 year-old tree taught me about doing hard things

I was hiking toward a forest of knotty, twisted, magical trees, many of which are over 2000 years old, and the oldest of which is over 4773 years old. I wondered what it takes for a tree to live that long.

Most of us would enter into some kind of personifcation and think of things similar to what make strong, beautiful humans: good food, water, a comfortable environment, and if we’re lucky, maybe even good parents and friends. Plus good genes.

For these ancient trees, we might think they need good soil, a temperate climate, ample water, good (but not harsh) sunlight, and not too much exposure to harsh winds or bad storms.

The truth, however, is that we would be utterly wrong.

I learned that contrary to what you might think, the oldest living trees on earth grow at elevations between 9,000 to over 11,000 feet – in high desert. The oldest trees grow on outcrops of dolomite, a low nutrient soil. There are high winds. Harsh temperature variations. Periods of long drought. And they only grow here.

These trees were babies and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe, the Great Pyramids were being built, and when clay tablets were being used in northern Syria.

Holy shit, right? That’s some serious living…And they didn’t need the easy life.

What if we’re just as wrong about what makes strong, beautiful humans?

I sat with this tree you see in the photo (photo credit: Elliot McGucken), and marveled at the miracle of life it was a symbol of. So beautiful and resilient in such a harsh environment. The things that tree must have seen because it was willing to…endure.

I wondered what would have happened to this tree if it thought that it “should” have been born somewhere…easier. Nicer. Gentler. Or if it thought it should be bigger. Straighter. More green.

After all, it’s what most of us humans do.

We wonder what life would be like if we had different parents, a better partner, a kickass job, a bigger house. If we lived closer to the beach, the mountains, a cultural epi-center, or a river. If we had more money. A tighter butt. Skinnier hips. A higher IQ. If we could climb 5.13 or paddle Class V.

I bet if that tree had all those thoughts, “shoulding” on itself, it would have shriveled up at the first hard drought. Or gotten toppled over at the first big storm, not having bothered to put down strong roots in such an unrelenting place.

That’s often what happens to humans who think, “Poor me.” They give up.

But this tree didn’t think that way. Or maybe it didn’t think anything at all. It just kept living, doing what it takes. Making the best out of what it has. Knowing, trusting, this is exactly where it should be.

These trees loves it here. So much so, that they can’t grow in rich soil or kinder, gentler places. They need these challenges to thrive.

What if humans “thought” more like this tree. What if we didn’t question if who we are or what we have is enough?

What if we thought, “This is exactly who I am supposed to be. I am perfect for this life of mine. This is exactly what is supposed to be happening. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I was born to be right here, right now. I can do this. I’ve got this.”

I bet life would be different. I bet we’d be a whole lot happier. A whole lot nicer, more productive, and energetic. A whole lot…better off.

Some might argue, “Yeah – and we’d also have no development or evolution or progress for those of us stuck in shitty situations.”

Nah. Those are just more excuses for not choosing to be happy. When we are happy, we are actually open to more innovation, more options, more creativity. When we are happy, we can more easily generate more happiness.

When we endure, when have have survived and learned from getting through challenging times (instead of complain about it and wish things were different), we evolve, we adapt, we are resilient, and we are more confident.

We’ve done hard things. And instead of running from them, we aren’t afraid of them. We take more risks, we think big, We don’t shrink back.

We say, “Bring it on!”

Happiness is a choice. I had a Tibetan spiritual teacher that told me, “If you wanted to, you could be happy Just. Like. THAT!” And he made a dramatic snapping of his fingers high up in the air.

I just stared at him. I had no freakin’ clue how that was supposed to happen.

He told me I had to learn to direct my mind. Think different thoughts. To know that I create my own experience of reality. I needed to turn my suffering into happiness. WTF?

Fast-forward 26 years later, and I think I am starting to get it. This tree…this hella old, knotty, beautiful tree gets it.

Being happy is not easy. But I’m starting to believe that it is actually that simple.

We humans need to experience hard things to grow into something of a true work of art…a beautiful, twisted, gnarled and hearty human being whose life is their masterpiece. If we didn’t suffer, we wouldn’t grow and adapt and be pushed to rise up to the occasion.

We would not learn what we are made of.

This tree was not born wondering if it could make it. We, being silly humans, often do.

Know that you can.

Know that if you weren’t able to handle what you’re in, it would not be happening.

What’s going on in your life that you’d rather have…go away?

If you can actually make it go away, then by all means, do that.

But if you can’t, if you are truly not able to change what’s going on right now, what would happen if you chose to feel better about it? What if you chose to think differently about it so that it served you instead of ate you up?

This, my friend, could be a game-changer.

You’ve got this.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

why we let ourselves down

If you’re anything like me (or most humans), you start off with good intentions, make a promise to yourself to do things differently, and then don’t follow through.

You may say things like, “I will only have one glass of wine tonight” and it ends up being 3 (or more).

Maybe you say, “I won’t spend anymore money on clothes,” which works fine until the next Patagonia sale.

You might even say, “ I will not go on a second date with someone that does not reach out to me first,” which you stick to like glue until you feel extra lonely on a Friday night.

WTF? Why do we do that? Why do we go against our word…especially when its our word to ourselves?

Here’s the deal. Most people (and to be honest, many coaches themselves) focus on taking action “no matter what.” That means the emphasis is on taking action even if that action goes against every thought running through your head.

So you think, “Having another glass of wine is going to feel sooooo good.” Then you fight that thought all night and you succeed and succeed…until you don’t.

You think, “Buying that will be soooooo fun!” Then you fight that thought…until you don’t.

You think, “I am so afraid of being alone the rest of my life.” And you fight that with all your might….until you can’t anymore, and give in to the booty call.

Do you see a pattern here? No matter how many times you’ve successfully taken an action (or non-action, like refraining from going out for that booty call), if the underlying thought doesn’t change, you will eventually give in to your desires.

Resisting a powerful thought or feeling does not work in the long-run.

My colleague, Brooke Castillo, likens resisting your desires to pushing a beach ball under water and trying to hold it there. When you are resisting your desires, you can keep it up for awhile, but you can’t keep it up forever. You eventually have to let go.

A side note for those of you that cringe at the idea of resisting your desires: This isn’t about resisting healthy desires. This is about those desires we have that don’t serve our higher selves.

If you’ve been with me for awhile, you know I talk about how thoughts create our beliefs, which create our feelings, which create our actions, and ultimately create our reality/life experience.

In order to change our feelings (like a strong desire) we need to change our thoughts. Yes, we can try to change the action through resisting, but in most cases, since the thought is still there, we eventually can’t keep up with trying to change the action.

Unless we change our thoughts, the feeling that drives the actions we take does not change and ultimately, our actions don’t permanently change.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could change out behavior and have it feel…easy? To have it not be a constant battle with our feelings? And to have that change be permanent?

If we want to create a new reality – not buying something we don’t need; not having “just one more” drink or one more slice of pizza; not going out with people who don’t truly appreciate and love us, or anything else that doesn’t serve our evolution as human beings – we need to change our thoughts about the situation.

Start here:

:: What feeling do you think doing x, y, or z will make you feel? Do you think it will make you feel happy? Strong? Loved? That’s your current thought. (“Eating this will make me feel better.” “Going out with them will help me feel connected/loved.”)

:: Notice that the way you feel after thinking that thought is often a shittier feeling than you intended (weak, needy, self-pity, self-hatred, etc.), which is why you do something that makes you feel shitty in the end (crazy, right?!)

:: What different thought do you need to have in order to feel the way you want to feel, that isn’t dependent on someone else or doing something that isn’t healthy for you? (“I don’t need this glass of wine – I like to feel energized and fully present every day.” “I am more than enough as I am.” “This is exactly what I am supposed to be feeling right now.”

Make that thought your new best friend.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t come easily. This is stuff I teach my clients over and over again, and I continue to practice it myself every day.

But you must start trying.


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

True freedom is a feeling

Freedom – deep freedom – is a feeling.

While there are certainly many inalienable human rights that can help to define what freedom is, that’s not the freedom I’m talking about here. I am sure you can think of plenty of people that are privileged to have those rights, and yet they feel suffocated and stifled. Trapped, like a puma in a cage. Stuck. Like you will never know the true you, or live your true life.

Anything but free.

I’ve certainly been there. Have you?

Is this because we are spoiled and take for granted the freedoms we do have? That if we only realized how lucky we are to be able to write negative blog posts about the president without being blacklisted (for now, at least), or being a woman and being able to go to school without fear, or being able to stroll along the beach and not be concerned about landmines, that we’d realize how free we really are and get over it?

Personally, I don’t think so.

That’s because the deep freedom I’m referring to is a feelingit’s something that we sense deep in our soul, when we are aligned.

The surprise to many is that deep freedom is not having a location-independent lifestyle, or tons of money to do whatever we want with. It’s not being your own boss or not having to answer to someone else. It’s not saying whatever the hell we want and wearing what we want. It isn’t kissing or loving whomever we want, or living wherever we want.

Those are external freedoms. They are measured against us being able to do/be something without ramifications from others.

Deep freedom is when YOU are able to fully accept you, be you, love you…and also accept things as they are. That’s being aligned. The only ramifications of not doing these things are felt by just one person – you. The only person that makes you feel bad about these things is just … you.

So you see, if you want true freedom – deep freedom – it starts with going within. It can be easy to get distracted by the external freedoms, and trying to shape your life into the perfect little scenario where you don’t have to rely on anyone, or answer to anyone. But take it from someone with over 20 different certifications, 3+ places to live (read: run away to), and over a dozen ways I’ve learned to make money in case myriad things happen to the economy or political state so that I will always have my needs met: it doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t really free on the inside.

At this point, you may think, “Ana, I get the accepting myself part. But are you really saying I need to accept the things around me…this craziness that’s going on?” Yes.

Before you throw pastured high omega-3 eggs at me, know that by accepting things as they are does not mean you condone them or support them. It means that you stop wishing things were different, and get on with actively creating the world you want, while (and here’s the clincher) accepting and loving you and all the present moment has to offer.

Until you are able to pull that off, you won’t truly feel free, no matter how many beaches you take your laptop to for work, or how many Instagram photos you post about your travels. You’ll perhaps feel badass and very adventurous…but not deeply free.

This is why you always hear me say these three things together: freedom. adventure. purpose.

In my opinion, we need all these things to live a life full of Ziji (Tibetan for radiant inner confidence). When we feel deeply free; when we know we are squeezing every drop of juice out of this precious life with everyday adventures; when we use our mind, body and soul to fulfill our deepest purpose; we walk this earth grounded and with a powerful sense of confidence that is not shaken by external forces.

No. Instead we do the shaking up. From a place of confidence – not fear.

And sister, you know we need that more than ever these days.

How can you take steps towards this deeper freedom? Here are a few places to start:

  1. Get clear about your values. By knowing you – and what you want to say “Hellz yes!” to and what you want to say “Oh, hell no” to – you will be able to move closer to loving and accepting all of you. There’s some great activities to help you do this in my free Clarity + Courage Course
  2. Choose to focus on the things you can change, and release the things you can’t (and get reality checks from people to help you learn the difference). By refining our skills to know what we have control over (hint: usually that starts with ourselves and the way we respond to life), we can more effectively use our time, money, and energy to create positive change in the world. When you do this, you can more easily accept the present moment, and begin actively creating the world you want to live in, instead of fighting the wrong battles.
  3. Stop giving a shit about what other people think of you. “The people that mind don’t matter, and the people that matter don’t mind.” Love that quote. It is so, so true. Whenever you think about compromising your integrity or self-love out of fear of disappointing others, repeat that quote like a mantra. You need to focus on accepting your self – your full self – unapologetically, before you worry about what others think.

I know those things are easier for me to type than for you to do – but know that I have helped hundreds of women do exactly those things, so I know at my core it is possible. And if for nothing else, know that we need you, and your special gift, more than ever. This isn’t just a request in a weekend blogpost.

You achieving your deep freedom is a duty to your people. Now go get it.


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

the fear of being average (yeah, you’ve got it too, right?)

fear of being averageYou 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 fear of being average…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 uro-oncologist 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. I didn’t say out loud that to be an average American was the most miserable thing I could think of. 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…but rather 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 “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, 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 in which you are above average
  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 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.


If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.

We’re talking G for G’Damn That’s Good! A ditty on Guilt and Shame


Are you feeling guilty yet? You know, about the New Year’s resolution that doesn’t seem to stick, or the way you’re not keeping on track with feeling your best in the past year?

Did you swear you’d do things differently the next time you got in an argument with your partner, but you ended up getting defensive anyway, and letting the volume of your voice creep up to a wee bit higher than 11?

Did you make plans to totally thrive this year but you’re just barely surviving – again?

Or are you feeling shame?

What’s the difference????

Well, I used to wonder the same thing until I dove deep into Brene Brown’s work. I used to think guilt was a useless emotion…until I realized I was confusing it with shame. You see, that “G” word can have a few positive twists to it.

Sometimes guilt can be helpful because it catapults us into action. Guilt helps us know something is out of alignment and we need to do something about it. In guilt, we know we did something bad, and we feel it in our bodies. At our best, we can interpret guilt as a sign to do things differently next time.

Shame, on the other hand, is where we feel we are a bad person for doing what we did (or thinking the thought we did or feeling the way we did).

You see, guilt is about the action, and shame is about using the action to define who we are.
I remember when I totally blew up at my partner and I was so embarrassed about how I showed up. I felt like I was 16 again…like all the work I had done just vanished and I was left with my hormoned-out reptilian brain.

I said to my friend, “I am so ashamed about what I did.” She said, “You did something you see as ‘bad’…but you’re not a bad person.”

What a freakin’ breath of fresh air! That was exactly what I needed to hear.

So, if you’re feeling shame, know that there is a different way to look at it. What happened may have been “bad,” but YOU are not a bad/jealous/stingy/angry/aggressive/bitchy person.

You are not your actions.

Yet what do our actions represent? They usually represent a story that we are believing that affects how we interpret situations. Like how when my husband criticizes me and I interpret that as his about to abandon me. So I scream like a banshee (or at least I used to…it is getting better!). When I change my interpretation, my actions change.

If you are feeling shame, it’s best to remember you are not your actions – and that you can shift your actions by shifting the meaning you are applying to situations.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling guilty about staying on track with your wellness goals or your other self-improvement dreams, here are some ways you can turn the Guilt into Good:

* recognize guilt won’t get you anywhere. Instead focus on what makes you feel good! Like feeling sexy and having awesome passionate nights with your lover. Make that you big WHY for going to the gym. Like eating Haagen Daaz ice cream (I do!). Make THAT you big WHY for eating a super healthy lunch and dinner. LOVE your silk red dress? Make THAT your big why for shaping those sexy arms of yours!

* know most of us can’t do this alone…we need a tribe! Reach out to your sisters and community for support. I often find my friends help give me great perspective (be sure you pick the right friends to surround you with too!). This is a big reason I created my Urban Wellness Club and Adventure Mastermind – where a tribe of like-minded women hang together for a year.

* allow yourself “cheater days,” days where you do anything you want. In fact, don’t even make it a cheater day unless it’s sexier for you that way. Rather, use the 80/20 rule: look at is like you do what serves your body best 80% or the time, and the other 20%  is for your hedonistic side and you get to do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT. Yowza! That way you don’t feel deprived – or guilty! I love this rule. Personally I pick a weekend day to go all out each week.

* don’t beat yourself up about falling off the wagon – instead, dust yourself off, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, and get back on. Every. Damn. Time. I’m pretty dusty. But my hair looks awesome that way. And so do my Fiorentini + Baker boots. Oh SNAP!

* come up with a plan to do things differently next time. Visualize it, and feel yourself doing it differently. Really conjure up that scene in your mind in detail, and feel you rocking that new way of being to the core. You’ll be way more likely to pull it off!

* show integrity with yourself and follow through with smaller steps – if you tell yourself you are going to do something but then don’t do it, you will naturally start to beat yourself up. Set yourself up for success, and take things in bite-sized chunks that you can easily do. Your smaller accomplishments will add up!

* if you want a guilt-free way to enjoy this New Year, seriously check out Freedom School. It really is an awesome tribe of women who focus on positive change and not beating ourselves up. They give each other support, celebrate successes, bounce ideas off one another and manifest cool shizzle throughout the whole year (ask any of them – they love it!).

We focus on wellness, but not just your body. We jam on confidence, mindset, and jedi mind tricks too;) Come on over and join us!

I hope this helps with your Guilt and Shame gremlins – life’s too short to stress about those;)


How to Make Difficult Decisions

You know when life seems to come at you from all angles, non-stop, and all you want to do is hole up somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and take a deep breath? Make it all STOP, just for a moment?

I’ve been feeling like that lately. There’s been a lot of shizzle happening in my world, and the consistent factor seems to be that I’ve being asked to make lots of decisions. All. Day. Long.

And we’re not talking what to have for dinner. I’ve had to make some pretty big, life-changing decisions lately, and it’s been crazy overwhelming.

If you’re not in it now, I am sure you’ve been here before:

It feels like everything is happening all at once.

Everyone seems to want to know RIGHT NOW – and you feel immense pressure to give the right answer.

It feels like there is not enough time to tap into your intuition and core desires and all that personal growth stuff that you know you’re “supposed” to do.

You don’t feel like you have all the information you need to make the right decision…yet a LOT rides on the decision you’re about to make.

On top of it all, life’s shizzle keeps happening, like phone calls coming in non-stop (doesn’t everyone love texting like I do?), plumbing getting backed up – while you’re breastfeeding :/ , a family member getting seriously ill…need I go on?

It is ALL still happening, and no one and no-thing is pausing for you to create a nice and calm space in which to make your decisions.

Welcome to adulthood, right? Stressing about that high school paper I had to write sounds pretty awesome right now.

One of the myriad decisions I had to make recently was about an Integrative Medicine Fellowship with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona. Last year I had been accepted into this prestigious program, geared towards MDs, as one of the few nurse practitioners. I was ALSO offered a scholarship – for both years of the fellowship.

Most people I spoke to who didn’t know my whole resume said it was a no-brainer and that I should do it – for sure. Why were they so sure? Here are some of the things I heard:

“Dr. Weil is SO FAMOUS and brilliant! ANY chance to study with him would be awesome.”

“I’d go see someone just because I knew they studied with him.”

“This is such a rare opportunity – it’s SO HARD to get into that program!”

“Even though you’ll learn something and the people are great to connect with, you probably know most of the stuff they teach there already. But if you want it on your resume it can be worth it.” (This is what I heard from several people who did the fellowship themselves).

Here’s the thing though: upon careful investigation into the curriculum, I learned that it really wouldn’t add to my body of knowledge THAT much.

Fellows would study Ayurveda for 2 weeks. I studied it for 1 year already. They had 2 weeks of Chinese Medicine – I had 2 years of Classical Chinese Medicine under my belt. Plus yoga teacher training. And massage school. And health coach training. Functional Medicine education. Herbology studies…and endless hours of continuing education in Integrative Medicine.

Suffice it to say, no matter how big the scholarship, I had to decide if this would be worth my time and energy.

Often in making big decisions, we let finances be the ultimate factor. But I have learned – often the hard way – that time and energy are just as, if not more, valuable than money.

Ultimately, I decided that the return I’d receive for the time and energy and other resources that I’d be investing would not be worth it for me. It would be awesome for someone else, but not for me at this point in my life.

What were some of the other decisions I had to make?

Do I move my mother up here to live with us now, where she has no friends or community, so I can care for her and watch her diet like a hawk…or trust that she will do what it takes to preserve her barely-there kidney function as she enters Stage 4 kidney failure?

Do I go for a spot in a PhD doctoral program in nursing, a functional nutrition doctoral program, or a public health program?

Do I take out my IUD because of the side effects I’ve been experiencing even though I know I absolutely cannot handle getting pregnant right now…and I HATE condoms and hormones?

Do I go to Colombia with my husband to have an adventure with our baby, or do something relatively “boring” yet much-needed, like go to Ashland and Portland to eat organic food, hang with my girlfriends, and take a sensual writing workshop with Alexandra Franzen? (OK the Franzen writing salon is SO not relatively boring LOL!).

There are more…but those are what I’ll share here.

How did I make all these decisions in such a short amount of time, under a lot of pressure,  with the defecation hitting the oscillation all over the place and at very inconvenient times? Well, while it seems every coach out there will tell you to “listen to your intuition,” what do you do when you haven’t learned that skills yet? I know it has taken me YEARS to figure that out…and it can still escape me, especially when overwhelmed.

Here are some tools I used (that aren’t about tapping into your intuition):

Chew on it. Pretend to make the decision one way or another. Allow yourself to imagine life with the decision you just made. Sit with it. How does it feel?

Do you want to spit it out? Or swallow? Savor it? How does it feel 2 years from now? What is your day like when you wake up? What are your weekends like? How do you feel falling asleep? Do this for about a 1/2 day per decision option.

Ask yourself: “Will I have regrets about this 5 years from now?” If it’s clear that you’ll have big regrets after saying yes or no, I would seriously consider rethinking your options.

Make a list about what values you’re saying “Yes” to and what you’re saying “No” to. In my fellowship example above, I discovered that if I did the fellowship, I’d be saying Yes to my love of studying with other geeks about a topic I am passionate about, my love of learning in general, and enjoying studying with someone I greatly admire (Dr. Weil). Plus, I value being at the top of my field, and studying in a prestigious program would validate that (ahem…I mean, it would validate my ego).

However, I’d be saying “No” to my values of: not doing something just because it would look good on my resume; not spending time doing things that didn’t add substantially to my body, mind, or spirit for the time and energy they required; and my priority of more time with my super freakin’ awesome baby.

Drop into a routine/schedule. When you know what is happening when, you don’t have a bunch of background “static” to interfere with your mind’s clarity. You can then create the mental quietude to make a better decision.

When shit is happening randomly and unexpectedly, it makes it much harder to have the calm required to make big decisions. If you’re not a big schedule or routine person, this can be a temporary tweak to your style until you make the decision. Having a morning and/or evening routine also help the mind chill out and see through the muck.

Set the intention to receive clarity in your dreams. You can also ask for sign during the day. I do this a lot. I say, “Hey, Universe/God/Source/Gaia – could you puh-lease send me a sign about what I should do?” I have had so many clear signs drop out of the sky after asking for this.

Like the time I asked for clarity about whether I should break up with someone or not, then minutes later got a Facebook message from a complete stranger that my boyfriend was cheating on me. Clear sign, right?! Suffice it to say, I got really clear in about a nanosecond. What a douche. It was a relief actually. I have since learned to make decisions much sooner. I’ll have to write a different post about that one…

Write a pros and cons list. I’m not shitting you. This works. It’s not like I base decisions on anything related to how long the lists are. Rather, the process really helps me get clear as I think it through. I find my Yes/No practice that I describe above more helpful than this one, but it’s a good place to start.

Talk to a friend that lets you babble. I have found more than a few times that simply talking about my process with a good girlfriend will bring me clarity as I babble, even though I may not be making sense in the moment. Journaling can also substitute if it’s 4am and you don’t think your friend would appreciate you calling at that time. Once you’re done babbling, offer to buy her a glass of prosecco or a green juice.

Try to get as much sleep as possible…and sleep on it once you think you know your answer. Your mind will be much more sharp and discerning. It’s amazing the difference that sleep makes. Your brain is actually working on organizing all your thoughts while you sleep, so it can really help!

Do any one of these ideas really resonate with you? Or do you have a tip for your fave way to make a difficult decision? Share with me below – we could all use tips and support around this one!

How to Travel on a Budget like a Bad-Ass – Freedom Junkie® Tips for How to Live a Life of Fun, Passion, and Freedom Without Going Broke

I’ve traveled a LOT. I’ve filled two passports in my lifetime so far (I’m 38), and one even had extra pages, which I’m really proud of;) In fact, the first passport I filled was when I was making less than $14,000 a year. It might have even been less than $11,000 a year but I’d hate to exaggerate. Learning how to travel on a budget doesn’t have to break the bank.

I started my independent travels when in college, on scholarship, working for the Outdoor Recreation Department at UC Santa Cruz to make a bit of extra cash. I was also a New York Times campus paper girl. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t rolling in the dough.

And I didn’t just travel. I danced naked at drum circles on the beach and howled at the moon. I somehow still ate sushi and drank nice wine. I went on full-moon mountain bike rides. I went to hot springs on ocean cliffs as the waves sprayed me under the stars. I climbed mountains and kayaked with dolphins. I surfed, and fell in love on rooftops in Kathmandu.

My life was pretty Badass – and stayed Badass even after I graduated and entered “the real world.”

I want you to know you don’t have to work your ass off for only a few weeks of adventure a year. You can live a super FUN life, every day, even on a budget.

Here are some tips I’ve learned after years of preferring time over money of how to travel on a budget:

Freedom Junkie Tip #1 Expand Your Comfort Zone

Many friends said to me, “I wish I could travel like you. I just can’t afford to!” I’d think, “What??? You make $60,000 a year! Or even $90,000 a year! (Or more!) How could you not afford to when I pulled it off making less than $14,000 a year?”

It wasn’t lost on me that I lived out of my Volvo stationwagon with prayer flags, and that my only utility bill was my cell phone.

True: Lifestyle and comfort zone count. When you don’t require your outside temperature to be in homeostasis 100% of the time, it’s much more affordable. It’s really expensive to do otherwise (e.g. “The Venetian” in Vegas)

What do YOU need to feel comfortable and have a good time? Do you REALLY have to have air conditioning all the time when its a wee bit hot out? Do you REALLY need to have Starbucks coffee wherever you go? Do you REALLY need to have feather pillows and hot water (even if it is 90F out)?

If so, plan on working a LOT to pay for short vacations, because it is pretty tough to meet those standards in most awesome vacation spots, so it will cost you a pretty penny. (Although I have to admit that my friend Chris Guillebeau has managed to do the 4-star thing on a budget too. That’s advanced, but learnable!).

When you expand your comfort zone, you have a whole lot of options that open up – and a lot of great adventures to be had as well!

Freedom Junkie Tip #2 Go for the experience, and not the things

A lot of people come back from vacations talking about how awesome their vacation was because their hotel had an infinity pool and they had a kick-ass flat screen TV and the weather was awesome. Those things ARE all awesome. However, if you can’t afford the TV or the infinity pool, know that meeting a local because you were friendly and social, then getting invited to a party by them, then eating new and strange food they cooked over a fire, and partaking in a neighborhood illegal lobster hunt (before you knew it was illegal), makes for a way better “No shit, there I was!” story. By the way, this doesn’t just happen while traveling. I had the best time in San Francisco – the city I was BORN in – when I ran into some people, socialized, and got invited to the $5 Party Bus for a raucous evening of live, mobile, performing art. My friend found was telling me about how he managed to go on a great trip in his caravan. He doesn’t have a ton of money but he got a great loan from Auto Finance Online. I’d say its worth a look if you’re interested in finding the right caravan for your travels.

Be present, and stop wanting to be doing something or being with someone or being somewhere other than what is happening right now. There is so much juicy life to be had in the here and now, so many opportunities for mini-adventures if we’d just stop looking past the present.

Freedom Junkie Tip #3 What to eat, drink, and buy

Don’t drink too much alcohol unless you budget for it. Alcohol is the most expensive thing in restaurants at home or when you travel. You can get an entire dinner in Thailand for $3 but then spend the same for a glass of wine.

Cook a lot and eat out less while at home AND while traveling. People who cook really well, making yummy simple meals, are badass – and people will think it is really cool that you can do it too.

Learn to LOVE – absolutely LOVE – beans and rice.

This is obvious but I wanted to remind you because people used to make fun of me for doing it as a kid: get your clothes used. In fact, get lots of things used. Don’t buy crappy used. Buy quality used. Shabby chic but the for-realz shabby chic. The pic of our yurt in Alaska – everything recycled – is to the left.

Don’t be afraid to eat street food when traveling unless you ALWAYS get really sick. Some people are constitutionally weaker in the GI tract. Go to the busy people. Street food is under scrutiny by locals as well, and locals know who has nasty street food or who doesn’t take care of or clean their equipment well.

Having said that, be willing to get a little diarrhea and not be pissed about it. Traveling to cool places means new cool bugs. If you practice general sanitation guidelines like washing your hands, carrying hand disinfectant (and using it), and drinking clean water, you’ll be fine enough. A tablet of ciprofloxacin 500mg will take care of most stomach bugs anyway. And Pepto Bismol is the shit. Ha Ha.

Beer is cheaper than wine. Stick to beer or the local moonshine, or go to the wine specials section and buy by the case.

Freedom Junkie Tip #4 Independent Budget Travel

I still employ a lot of the tactics I used back when I was less financially abundant when I travel now. I call it “Dirtbag By Choice.” Budget travel is more exciting to me, even though I don’t “have” to travel that way. And these days, I find it is also safer, as independent travelers are less of a target for mean people (like terrorists) than if you’re hanging out in a 4-star hotel (we were sleeping on a cargo boat in Timbuktu when terrorists came to a hotel in the city).

The most expensive thing about traveling to the places I go to is the plane ticket. After that, if border crossings are involved, it’s visa fees. After that, it’s beer.

Having said that, here are a few tips on budget travel:

  • Be willing to spend more on a ticket to travel someplace with a super low cost of living. I would save up and fly to Nepal for $1800, and spend $600 the whole month I was there. Conversely many of my friends blow $400-600 per DAY in Vegas or Hawaii. Or freakin’ Disneyland with kids. It’s even better if you can stay longer after traveling so far. I’d stay in Nepal for 3 months at a time. However, if $1800 freaks you out, or you can’t stay for longer periods of time, or both: you can get to Mexico on Alaska Airlines for around $300-400 fairly regularly. And two fresh fish tacos with yummy guacamole and a cold Tecate or Dos Equis will cost you about $5-6. Beach camping is free in many spots.
  • Celebrate that you can still eat, drink, and sleep well on a budget if you go to the right places. I could spend $400 a month in India while eating and drinking VERY well. Yes, I had to go face to face with cockroaches twice, and a rat once. But that is CHEAP! And know that in most countries, those things are in fancy places too. They’re just better hidden;) In Thailand I could stay in bungalows on the beach – ON THE BEACH with a wonderful fan, which I much prefer over A/C – for $15-20.
  • What if you don’t like to travel to developing countries but want to fly somewhere? Hawaii. You can camp. And cook over a fire. And rent your own kayaks instead of going on a tour. I went to Hawaii and spent: $300 plane ticket (Hawaiian Airlines) from SFO, free camping (or tops it would be $10/night), a bowl of tasty poke with rice $7-9, cook breakfast (actually not that cheap to buy groceries there, ironically!) $6. Car rental was $180 for the week (90), and gas was $120 for two, total. One week in Hawaii, all inclusive per person: around $640. I brought my own snorkeling gear.
  • Don’t travel at peak times. Avoid spring break, Holidays, etc. Look into the Holidays of where you are going too. I once went to Istanbul during Ramadan, which was followed by their Spring break. Domestic flights were booked for two weeks straight over my Holiday. You can view all domestic flights here if you’re interested in booking some.
  • Be flexible with your dates when buying plane tickets. A day can make a huge difference in airfare. I was going to fly to New York once and saved $350 by leaving a day earlier.
  • Get a frequent flyer rewards credit card and use it to buy EVERYTHING. And pay it off in full every month. Some people even get several rewards credit cards. That scares me. But I admit to having two, which I pay off in full. I earn at least 2-3 round trip tickets a year (to fly to the equivalent of Europe for each one, miles-wise), because one comes with a companion fare of $99 a year as well. I once bought a car on my credit card and paid it off the next week (I’d saved for it)…but I got the points!
  • Use airline consolidators. These are different than companies like Travelocity or Kayak. I saw a ticket on Travelocity to Dakar for $3200. When I called the consolidator, it was $1600. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!
  • Travel WITH someone. Splitting things like cabs/rickshaws/meals/a bottle of wine is way cheaper. However, make sure they are trained. My boyfriend used to debate whether $3 more is worth it for an attached bathroom. It is if he wants to have sex. He now knows to not ask if I think it will be “worth it.”
  • Don’t go with a tour. Maybe a package deal can be worth it if they get good airfare plus hotel…but I tend to move a lot from city to city, so I never come out ahead with the hotel deals. However, I once bought a plane ticket/hotel combo to Baja and never used the hotel portion. The airfare was just cheaper that way. I know. Weird.
  • Plan ahead– tickets are always more expensive when you buy within 2 weeks…unless you’re like me and call last-minute and say, “Hey, I have 3- days off. Where can I go for super cheap right now?” Sometimes there are crazy-good last-minute deals, but you’ll have less choice about where to go. Vegas seems to pop up a lot…which is cool because I don’t gamble, but I do like climbing in Red Rocks. This also applies to different experiences you can participate in. For example, buying pre-booked tickets for a whale watching California experience would be more reasonable than buying one on the day. Plan ahead and you WILL save yourself money.
  • Use independent travel guides like Lonely Planet and The Rough Guide to help you do things your own way. Get on their forums and discover killer sample itineraries for wherever you want to go. People can even give you updated ferry schedules etc for cities you want to visit!
  • I sometimes get the itineraries from cool travel companies like Mountain Travel Sobek (who kicks ass, by the way – I used them for Bhutan because you HAVE to go with a guide in Bhutan and it was epic). Once you get their well-researched itin, you can then figure out how to do their itinerary on your own. Sahweet! I did a four-day itin in Cambodia en route to Bhutan from Bangkok. I planned a four-day layover in Bangkok before flying out to Bhutan. Their cost for the Angkor Wat “additional leg” of the trip? $650 per person for two or more, $985 for a solo traveler. Mine? $450-500 (with plane ticket). BTW I just want to point out – if you can afford Sobek, go on at least one trip with them. They are crazy good. And thanks for the itin tips, Sobek;)
  • Carry a mosquito net (if applicable) so you don’t have to stay in a fancy hotel just to avoid getting malaria. Plus, if you ever want to sleep on an open-air cargo boat like I did on the River Niger in Mali, you can do so comfortably.
  • Take second class trains and busses. You don’t need first class. It is usually freezing from out-of-control A/C in first class, and you won’t get to meet the locals. The exception is some buses, on which first class is the only way to guarantee your bus MIGHT have brakes (“guarantee” and “might”…oxymoron?). But in those countries, even first class is cheap. Third class is usually nasty – even to locals. I don’t do it unless I absolutely have to.
  • Be a woman. Once I met my boyfriend, my travel budget got cut (except maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought because we split things). I used to get so much free stuff. Flights. Food. Drink. Sailing trips. And no, I didn’t even have to have sex for it. In India, there are freakin’ LINES just for women. You can bypass 30 men to get in the lady’s line and get the last two tickets to Shangrila. Sahweet!

Freedom Junkie Tip #5 Camp

Sleeping outside is one of the coolest things to like to do. You can do SO MUCH for so cheap, be in stunningly beautiful places, and usually meet hilarious characters – especially if you’re willing to go a bit out of your way.

Learn to like sleeping on the ground. You will get to do much cooler shit for hardly any money if you don’t need a fancy bed. You can get a comfy sleeping mat, or better yet, backs tend to like firm surfaces, so you can try to learn to like something as simple as a carpet then more power to you! Most would enjoy investing in a really comfy sleeping pad if you need to. The super luxurious ones can cost up to $200+, but you’ll sleep like a baby, and you’ll save that in hotel room rates immediately.

Go to national parks: I buy a national park pass every year. $80 Unlimited admission to National Parks and Monuments (those can be $20 a pop!). Camp in the walk-in campgrounds so you don’t have to spend $20/night on camping. Or spend $20 a night on camping. It’s still cheap.

Check out alternative sleeping structures – some parks and tourist outdoorsy spots have SUPER nice things to rent out like yurts (that some with wood and kitchen supplies) which are really popular on the Oregon Coast, treehouses, fancy canvas wall tents…there are lots of new creative things to stay in! And most are quite romantic…at least for me!

If you have to choose, go for more time than money. There’s a saying:

On either side of the socioeconomic spectrum exists a leisure class

The luxury of time exists with the very rich or the un/underemployed. I fell in the latter for a long time (by choice). Not a lot of money, but a hell of a lot of time.

In my experience, having made anywhere from $11,000 a year to a super awesome 6-figure income, I had a LOT more time to have fun when I made less money. I have spent years learning how to make money AND have more time, but barring you taking the time to do the same, don’t sweat it if you are in a time vs money situation. If you have time, USE IT. Once you make a lot of money in the traditional sense, time costs more;)

(Note: If you don’t have a hell of a lot of money AND not a whole lot of time, we need to chat.)

Freedom Junkie Tip #6 What to Do

Do yoga. You will deal with all discomforts – mental and physical – much more skillfully and with more grace. Also, BONUS! : You’ll be much more comfortable sleeping on cargo ships and enduring long bus rides…and sleeping on the ground (which, as we’ve established, is uber fun).

Learn a little bit of the language and cultural customs wherever you go, even if that’s only a different part of town – and even it’s only basic phrases and simple niceties. When you travel – especially budget travel – you have much more interaction with locals, because pretty much the whole world is on a budget. Knowing their language will make interactions much more pleasant and interesting. Pictionary skills are awesome. And hand gestures. Get proficient at these.

Smile. Not only do people open their hearts and homes to pleasant people, you can get lots of free shit and at least avoid a lot of hassles by being pleasant, both here and abroad. As one Jersey cop told me, “You’ll catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar” Why he said that is another story;)

I’d love to hear more ideas about how to live a Badass Life on a budget. Please leave a comment below and share your ideas with us! I’ll definitely reply. Promise;)

PS: for more Über useful tips and beta on adventure travel on a budget and lifestyle-based businesses, check out Chris Guillebeau’s stuff like “Frequent Flyer Master” and his other programs. He’s all about freedom (like us!) and we speaka da same language. This is my affiliate link, BTW, because he and I help each other out. So I may get to buy a coffee on you if you use it, and it doesn’t cost you any more either. Sahweet 😉

Note: Ana Verzone (Neff) is a personal life coach, mentor and FreedomJunkie® She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Ziji Up! ™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting

How to Make Sure You Don’t EVER Have The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

This is not a morbid discussion. Au contraire, mon amie – this is about LIVING fully, living with so much juice that you go to bed thinking, with a smile on your face, “If I died right now, I would have no regrets.” And you sleep wickedly well so you could have another awesome day tomorrow. This topic is far from being about death. It is about living life Full On.

I had a big wake-up call when I was diagnosed with cancer – twice. It made me rethink my priorities, assess my life, and dive into my soul to do some deep work. The clarity I received around having death approach me a little too close for comfort was exquisite. However, no matter how scary cancer might have been – and still is in many ways – it is nothing compared to actually dying, especially knowing you are dying. It also means that the clarity received while knowing you are dying is that much more vivid. And we should pay attention to that.

It’s not uncommon in Tibetan Buddhism to hear that we are all dying, actually – the process starts immediately after we are born. None of us know when we will die – we just know for sure that we will, no matter how much green juice we drink, or how mach safety gear we wear when we are out playing our extreme sports, or how many risky things we avoid. Still, it is often easy to forget about this (or ignore it).

As a society, we often avoid thinking about death so that we can pretend it won’t happen to us. We may think that by thinking about it, it will happen sooner. Or that if we don’t think about it, it won’t happen. Or that if we think about it, we’ll get all sad and depressed.

The goal of reflecting on death is NOT to get all nihilistic and say, “So what’s the point?” But in case you DO head down that path, the POINT, my dear badass, is to remember that this life is precious life, so we must live it balls-out, full on, with wild abandon, and honoring your heart and soul, celebrating this preciousness with others.

The goal of reflecting on the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying is to realize that THESE are the issues that become most important to you when you review your life, your accomplishments, your challenges. Take it from the people who have gone there – to death and beyond – and don’t wait to start addressing these things now.

In one of my last posts, I spoke about how change is a Universal Law. That totally applies here. Change – and its counterpart, impermanence – is the only constant. The only thing we know is that things change and don’t last, including us! So we need to use this realization NOT to bog us down, but to motivate us to get off our ass and head outside to gaze at the moon, and hell, howl at it while you’re at it!

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying were recorded by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia. She cared for people in the last 3 months of their lives, and suffice it to say, making more money, climbing Mount Everest, or having a threesome were NOT on the list. Look over these regrets and know that you want to do things differently right NOW, so you don’t have to worry about these.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

:: Freedom Junkie Antidote: Cultivate your Ziji (= radiant inner confidence!). Follow your dreams, GO FOR IT! Take care of your body so you are healthy enough to fulfill your dreams. It’s not about health – it’s about what health allows you to DO. Get clear about what is important to you and exactly how you want your life to be. If you don’t know where to start, download my free eBook, “The Freedom Junkie’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Clear” (you can find the form on the sidebar). When you are clear about what you want, it is much easier to cultivate the courage to do what it takes to get it;)

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

:: Freedom Junkie Antidote: This is most common with the breadwinners of a household. Make the time so you don’t miss your kid’s birthdays, milestones, and the precious smaller moments. Instead of saving up your vacation time for “one day, ” or worse yet, hoarding your vacation time for when you “might” get sick someday, take time to enjoy life! I love Tim Ferriss’ idea of taking mini-retirements and not waiting until you are 65+ to have any fun. Re-think about how you can simplify your life so you have more TIME instead of more STUFF. And when you have that time, use it to develop quality memories and experiences!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

:: Freedom Junkie Antidote: Don’t suck it up just so you don’t rock the boat. If you don’t honor your needs, you will end up bitter and resentful and tolerating things instead of actively creating your life. While it isn’t useful to complain or bring people down, it is powerful to ask for what you want, make requests, and express yourself in a healthy way. Only then can others know what may be going on for you, and those who truly care about you will step up. Those who don’t? Move on.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

:: Freedom Junkie Antidote: We are social beings, and people with a strong sense of community are happier AND live longer. We all know how wonderful it feels to be acknowledged for who we are, and it can sometimes be easy to forget how good it feels to honor OTHERS in our lives that have given us so much. We can often think about how important it is to forgive people and to not hold grudges. However, it is just as – if not more – important that we let others know how much they mean to us. Stay in touch with your tribe, and let them know {frequently} what they mean to you. Make the time to be with them and love on them.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

:: Freedom Junkie Antidote: I am going to say something rather controversial (so what’s new, right?). Check this out: Happiness is a Choice. If you’re in a  funk, you can choose to be happy like THAT ** dramatic SNAP**  I’m not saying you “should” do that. I am a huge fan of letting crappy feelings wash over me so I can move through them sooner. What I am referring to here is making a choice to be happy when sitting in the funk no longer serves you. Don’t be attached to old patterns and habits that lead to your suffering. Don’t be afraid of change – look towards it fiercely! Lean into your joy and your dreams. If you are a pessimist, learn how to be optimistic (you can actually do this!). Don’t worry about looking cool or that being too easy to please is the sign of a dork or simpleton. Be THRILLED at things that are new and good. Clap. Dance! Howl. Twirl! Skip. Yeehaw! Feel your happiness fully. It’s the coolest – and sexiest – thing ever.

I know that because you are a part of the Freedom Junkie tribe, you will look over these 5 things and take some action around them. But what your own personal regrets?

What is one of your biggest regrets right now?

What’s one thing you can do to help release it?

If you want some help with this, schedule a free strategy session with me ASAP and let’s get you unstuck. Pronto.

Days 118 to 125 – F*#! Cancer

OK Fuck Cancer. I am SO over it. Sometimes I want to yell at it and chew it out and get pissy at it and smack it in the face. And kick it. Then I get scared it will get mad at me and kill me. Then I also see it for what it is. A thing. And I realize maybe I am so pissed at it because I see it as this “thing” that means so many other things, when really it is just being all it is and just doing what it’s DNA is telling it to do.

This all comes from an instance when I was mountain biking this past week. On our drive back to Oregon from Colorado, we decided to hop out of the car and go for a quick ride to get the blood flowing near a pass in Nevada. I was enjoying the beautiful view. And then we came down this steep hill and I could see the steep uphill in front of us. I got ready, and pedaled pedaled and pedaled and then I just couldn’t do it. I was so tired. So I got off to walk the bike. That’s OK. I’ve had to do that. Then I could barely even walk it up.

WTF? I had just rode hours yesterday in Moab up and down all these trails, and I thought I was getting in better shape. I know I am in my own personal worse shape I’ve been in a long time, but I thought it was still better than the average American and certainly better than the beer-bellied dudes who were riding past me earlier in the week. So my only conclusion brought me to tears as I pushed the bike uphill, heavily breathing and not understanding why…

I started sobbing, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) looked back at me, put down his bike,  and as he was walking towards me he asked, “What’s wrong?” “I’m sad,” I said through my tears.

“Why? It’s OK. I’m tired too,” he consoles.

And he put his über-fit arms around me. Hummmph. I wish I was that fit.

I’m getting there.

“I’ve never felt like this. It makes me think I have metastases to my lungs…” I say to him with reservation, not sure if he’ll think I’m a freak.

Are you fucking kidding me?!!! (Sorry, I do swear my share, but even moreso when I talk about The Big “C” sometimes) I haven’t had cancer for years now. For those of you new here, I had renal cell carcinoma in 2004 and melanoma in 2009, I think. That’s right. I don’t remember off the top of my head and I refuse to stop and do math for the Big C. After my second cancer I kinda stopped keeping track of exact dates. Like I do with birthdays. Or AP History.

In any event, it is incredibly frustrating that when I breathe hard at altitude with a sport I’ve only done maybe five times in the last 4 years I think I have renal cell carcinoma or melanoma cancer cells that set up shop in my lungs.

Now that is messed up.

So I let it wash over me, and I cried and cried. I told him it was OK, that I just needed to let it out. He told me his lungs were burning too and that he was breathing really hard. And he has been super-cardio-fit forever and even he was feeling it. Whatever. I guess I believe him. At the very least, I love him for even saying that.

I told myself it was the allergies, the tall grasses and wildflowers, my mild reactive airway issues, and my late nights catching babies on call 5 days in a row several times a month all winter – and oh, yes, those Annie’s cheddar bunnies chock-full of gluten goodness that led to this panting fate.

And I tried to enjoy the ride down…and I dare say I actually did enjoy it.

Then last night I have this caffeine headache because I decided to stop caffeine since I am so hyper anyway, and I swear it just crept into my life unbeknownst to me and my coffeemaker. But it started while I was asleep.

And you know what I dream? That it’s a melanoma on my freakin’ head and no one noticed it so I am pissed that no one saw it and told me there was this massive cancerous crap on my head. And I know too much about medicine (thanks, UCSF) so I know it’s likely categorization/staging and I think FUCK. I really messed this one up. This is what I get for rarely combing my hair.

And I then realize I am dreaming. HOLY CRAP I AM DREAMING! YAY!!!!! And I decide to change the course of the dream, and wake the hell up.

I comb my hair.

I order “Crazy Sexy Diet, ” (written by the badass Kris Carr who wrote Crazy Sexy Cancer and lives with a rare “incurable” liver cancer for WAY longer than they thought she would…plus she’s hot) to be shipped via free 2-day UPS, and think, “Dang. I need to eat more greens. And maybe even a little less bacon. Done.”

We all have “cancer” in our lives. Its that thing that scares you, that makes you feel powerless. Something you want to get rid of. What’s yours? Let me know below…I’d love ya for it!


Note: Ana Verzone (Neff) is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie® She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Ziji Up!™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting