Growth Stories

“No” Is a Complete Sentence? 1024 685 Thayer Fox

“No” Is a Complete Sentence?

Do you have trouble saying “no?” How many invitations do you answer “yes” to because you are afraid to say “no”? Afterward, do you use the word “should” to justify your response? “I should stop by that cocktail party for twenty minutes.” Why didn’t you give a clean “no”?

I heard in an Al-Anon meeting years ago that the word “no” is a complete sentence. It was a breakthrough moment for me, and all the times early on in my sobriety when my AA sponsor said that I over-explained and gave away my power came rushing back. The woman speaking added that you could even say, “…thank you”afterward if “no” alone sounded too sparse. “No” does not need to be followed up by an excuse or dressed in elaborate details. Fear and guilt do not need to accompany a “no”.

As I have grown, so has my relationship with “no”. After years of saying “No thank you” without further explanation, I added another line when I was responding to people or organizations that matter to me. I now create an opening for a “yes” to exist. For example, when invited to a cocktail party (I don’t drink, and dislike standing around and small talking), I say “no thank you” to that invitation and suggest a walk in the park instead.

Tim Ferris has a great podcast about various ways to say “no”:

Listen to How to Say No from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts.

I have noticed that women have more trouble with “no” than men do. Does it reflect our societal views on femininity and the proper way for a woman to behave? Does a clear, female “no” transmit a vibration of conflict or disruption because of its rarity? Or do women intrinsically care more about being accepted and loved? “No” definitely threatens our need to belong.

I said “no” the other day, and it took two hours for the conversation that followed to exit my brain. It was surprising to me because I had gone through phases when “no” was as easy as “yes”. I was asked to participate on a committee at one of my children’s schools. It was a time-consuming endeavor that held zero appeal. I re-read the email three times and played out various scenarios. I was flattered by the kind reasons they gave in asking me to perform the role, but I knew that was not a reason to say “yes”. Saying “yes” to potentially boost my child’s standing or curry favor in the school community equally inauthentic motivations. Both of those reasons tie back to my ego and need for significance. The only way to arrive at a “yes” in this scenario is if volunteering at the school occurred to me as an act of love.

There was a cc list on the email, and I debated whether to hit “reply” or “reply all”. Would the committee discuss my “no” and create a narrative about me? Would I become a bitch or become difficult to deal with, or just be regarded as plain old selfish? The good news is that people already have set opinions of us and it takes a lot more than one volunteer role to alter the way someone sees us long-term.

Too many small and seemingly benign “yesses” separate us from self, from our WHY. I love the Derek Sivers philosophy—it’s either “Hell yeah” or “No”.

There is no middle ground. Being aligned with self-gives us access to power. After doing work to identify my values clearly, decision-making became a breeze. I will write a post about a process I went through to determine my values soon.

Another waste of time is rehashing a “yes” response. If you think carefully about your reasons for a “yes” or ”no” in advance, then once you say it, the internal conversation must be over. The amount of mental space I used to spend questioning my ”yes” and “no” decisions wasted more time than actually showing up at something for a few hours.

Take notice of your first response to a yes-or-no question. The yes or no is always present in our body before our brain starts computing all the reasons why or why not. Whenever we talk to ourselves using “should”, we are in “no” territory.  If the cellular response is “no”, stay present to the way your mind handles the “no”. Look through all the smart reasons it produces to change the “no” into a “yes”: it’s just this one time and if I don’t say “yes” I may not be invited again. What will a “no” cost you? Get in touch with that fear and see where else it dictates your life.

“Nos” open up the space to fill your life with “yes” experiences. If you are feeling blah or lukewarm, take a look at your “yesses.” Too many seemingly benign “yesses” will lead us to an internal dead zone. The “Hell yeah” trail always leads to exhilaration and growth.

What is Hindering Your Task? 1024 683 Thayer Fox

What is Hindering Your Task?

We all have reoccurring thoughts in our daily life. One of my many themes is the thought that something is always getting in the way of what I am supposed to be doing. If I could only eliminate that barrier, then everything would fall into place. What is hindering my task?

What I am supposed to be doing is never crystal clear; I just know it’s not what is happening around me. My daily life can show up as an obstacle course that I need to get through before I can return to my “real work.” The way I operate regularly assumes that my real work has nothing to do with my family or the rest of the world. Refereeing my children’s arguments, listening to my husband talk about work, and engaging in any social rituals that I find unfulfilling, all show up as tasks that distract me from what I am meant to be doing during my lifetime.

I operate with a fixed belief about what needs to take place for me to produce something that could be labeled as a “contribution” in the world. The bar is high, to Mars high. Being driven and focused when my husband is at work, and my kids are at school is one thing, but it’s never enough. I look for opportunities throughout the evening and weekend schedule to escape them and return to the intensity of my time alone. It’s a subconscious and nagging pattern. A part of me believes that when I am engaging in the work that I deem important, destiny will arrive and reward me.

It’s all bullshit. I had that breakthrough this past weekend after listening to the incredible podcast below:

Listen to Jack Kornfield – Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy in the Present from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts.

It’s a long one, and I listened to it over a two-day period. Jack Kornfield is an awakened soul.

There is an AA saying regarding how a newcomer should choose his or her sponsor that I loved right out of the gate, “find someone who has what you want.” Obviously, this doesn’t mean a great coat. A sponsor is a mentor who guides you through the 12 Steps of AA which is where the transformative power of the program lies. Old-timers suggest that you carefully listen as people share at the meetings and then approach someone afterward who embodies qualities you would like to cultivate in yourself. Fourteen years after first hearing this phrase, the concept still guides how I choose people who participate in my life. It’s never the words that grab me, always the energy underneath.

Jack exudes patience, humor, and humble purity throughout the interview. He talks about Spirit Rock, a Buddhist meditation center in Woodacre CA that he co-founded in 1998. They hold silent meditation retreats there regularly. I immediately grabbed my calendar, ready to figure out when I could slip away for ten days. My only hesitation was not being able to speak to my children after I took my vow of silence. My children are 7 and 10, and we talk every evening when I travel solo.  In my heart, my family is my number one priority, even when they are showing up as burdens. The wheels were turning in my head as I mapped out different scenarios to make a retreat at Spirit Rock a reality without breaking the connection with my children. Half listening due to my new inner struggle, Jack shared a prayer taught that he learned from his Buddhist monk teacher, Ajahn Chah, during his time in Thailand:

“What makes (family life) work is that you have that intention…. Not just to soldier through it…. (but to say) “Let this be a place where I awaken graciousness, an inner sense of freedom and peace as things come and go…. Where I awaken the possibility of presence… in pleasure and pain and joy and sorrow and gain and loss… and that in all the changes, I find an inviolable or a timeless place of becoming the loving witness of it all…. Becoming the loving awareness that says “yeah, now I’m having a family experience, this is the place to find freedom.” Because freedom is not in the Himalayas or the Amazon; the only place it’s found is in your own heart exactly where you are.”

I had tears in my eyes by the end. Freedom is where I am. Right here, right now. There is nothing needed. Everything meant for me, will continue to show up if I live with intention, committed to opening my heart daily. The next leg of my journey may not show up as exciting as spending ten days at Spirit Rock, but I know that by choosing what is in front of me, I will find fulfillment. The time for a Spirit Rock retreat will come.

I taped the quote that Tim mentioned in the podcast next to my computer

“That which hinders your task is your task.” Sanford Meisner

Whatever registers as a nuisance or distraction today is the exact thing that I need to embrace.



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Systems Are For Winners

Recently, I listened to How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. I read the paperback version a week before hearing it on Audible. I highly recommend doing either. When Scott said early on that goals are for losers and systems are for winners, I was hooked.

Scott’s an original thinker with a shrewd sense of humor. It’s evident that he is a humble guy who enjoys his life. HTFAAEASWB is not written as a self-help book, although I found it more helpful than most books in that category. The ease with which Scott shares ridiculous stories from his past gives the reader permission to lighten up around some of their perceived failures. Scott’s view is so optimistic and energizing that I walked away feeling enormously excited about putting his advice into practice.

A key distinction Scott makes early on in HTFAAEASWB is the difference between Goals and Systems. One of my new systems, for optimal material retention, I already mentioned in the first paragraph. When I read a book that hits home, even if I love and underline every word, most of it evaporates in a month. Maybe this is a 44-year-old female thing, or perhaps I am just running out of storage space; whatever the cause, I wanted to create a new system to integrate thought-shaping books fully into my DNA. Reading or listening to them once doesn’t get the job done. HTFAAEASWB is the second book I have tested successfully with this two sensory approach, so now it’s officially become one of my new systems.

Scott also says that goals are for losers. I laughed out loud as he explained this in detail. He goes on to say that people with systems are the successful ones. It’s helpful when someone gives language to something that you do and don’t realize you do because that way you can start doing it with intention. My life is full of unconscious systems, and I am a far more successful person now than I was back in my goal-oriented youth.

In my 20’s, I was always chasing some goal. Losing 10lbs, finding a better boyfriend and saving up for a new article of clothing were consistently the top three. Clearly, these weren’t lofty goals, and they still consumed my focus. Yielding rapid, tangible results, the 10lb goal was my favorite, and I would embark on new diet plans regularly. The pattern was the same; I spent a month focused on losing the weight, reached the goal and then abandoned whatever it was that I had been doing the past month. Most of the diets were of the extreme variety so that I could reach the goal as fast as possible. I wasn’t just a goal person; I was a cut corners to obtain the goal person. I would then celebrate my weight loss with a pig out meal of French fries and cupcakes.

Goals are great distractions packed with short-lived highs that keep us nestled in a false reality. They spare us from having to look a layer deeper. Gaining and losing 10lbs a few times a year kept me busy. It was a much more comfortable subject to focus on than my alcohol issues and unresolved trauma from my childhood.

In my 30s, unbeknownst to me, AA introduced me to the world of systems. Systems helped me stop drinking and stay stopped. Friends and family used to ask me when I would graduate from AA. People go to AA meetings their entire life because AA is a system for staying sober, the same as eating healthy and going to the gym is a system for staying fit. AA taught me that all permanent change happens within a system structure. Simultaneously, my standards got higher, and this was the key. I created a new identity based on my higher standards.

Goals happen outside of identity and systems happen within.

The issue is that most of us defined ourselves a long time ago based on outside influences. Our parents, peers, teachers, bosses created our identity. We didn’t choose who we wanted to be, so our standards are a reflection of other’s thinking. Lucky for me that I was forced to start from scratch when I entered AA. My character was too warped to salvage after years of excessive boozing and bad behavior.

It was hard work developing a new identity but what a gift it was long term. I continue to update it every year, building systems to support new identifying traits. For example, I just started calling myself a writer two months ago. I thought I wasn’t allowed to call myself that until my name was in print. We often have random rules like this, which dictate our future possibilities. Sure, I had a goal of becoming a writer one day, which existed outside of my identity. There were periods I wrote and periods I did not. In January 2018, I made a choice to call myself a writer. Bold decisions have magic in them, and the commitment solidified after a few days of sitting down at my desk and writing. Writers write regularly, that was my new requirement for membership.

Over that hurdle, I started experimenting with writing during different times of the day to figure out when I was most productive. The morning was the winner. The entire process took a month to cement. Now every morning I sit down at 8:30 and write to 11:30. It’s a non-negotiable new system like going to AA or the gym.

Updating your identity is a choice that is always available. Decide what you want to be and set up systems to support you. Habits may take a few months to cement but change happens in an instant.


The Gift of the Broken Shoelace 1024 684 Thayer Fox

The Gift of the Broken Shoelace

We all experience weeks where everything that could go wrong does. One thing that I know by now is that these weeks will pass, a blip on the radar of my life. It’s how I handle them that counts. Do I act out? Do I make them mean something about my spiritual progress? Will I allow a broken-down week to send me into a nosedive that requires a month-long repair? How quickly can I turn a breakdown into a gift?

I am at the end of such a week; it’s uncomfortable and not where I want to be. I have utilized every tool in my arsenal and relief is temporary at best. Prayer, meditation, sleep, exercise, service work- these practices which usually shift my mental state are not working, and frustration is only planting me more firmly in the space I am trying to escape from.

All the issues I have been dealing with are of the “broken shoelace” variety. I learned that term in AA. The substantial problems in life are not what take us down; it’s the piling up of the broken shoelace issues that slowly chip away at our serenity.

It’s easy to access faith when I feel great, and things are going my way. I also know how to plug into God during a calamity. Disasters spike our adrenaline and promise spiritual lessons that will eventually enrich our lives. Showing up during a traumatic experience is purposeful, spending three days dealing with a broken computer are not.

These off weeks are no cosmic accident either. They usually take place after I go through a high energy phase of productivity and inspiration. I have a tendency to become less vigilant about the maintenance of my spiritual condition when I feel good.

I have a list of the levels of consciousness by David R. Hawkins pinned on the board next to my computer. I have been staring at it a lot the past week during calls with the Apple and Microsoft help desks. How did I revert to a ping pong ball bouncing between anger and pride? Haven’t I put in enough work to earn my permanent slot between love and joy. What will it take to get back there? Do I still have to go through all the levels or could I just skip the line and jump right back in at joy after a great meditation?

David is the author of many brilliant books on the subject of consciousness. I have read two that I recommend: Transcending the Levels of Consciousness and Power vs. Force, The Hidden Determination of Human Behavior. I read them after I received the list below at a year-long course I took called The Evolutionary Collective.

Having this metric to track me has been life-altering. Knowing that courage is the portal to higher altitudes has helped me embrace discomfort and fear in a way that has not historically been my pattern.

It hit me as I was staring at the list and writing this that I can’t move past anger until I give up my judgments about anger. Self-judgment leads to self-loathing. To get to courage, I have to step into vulnerability- become a loving witness instead of a judge. Once I stop making anger wrong, movement becomes possible.

At Date With Destiny with Tony Robbins three months ago, I learned that my emotional home is anger. An emotional home is a primary emotion we default to when we experience setbacks in our life. We all have one. I had an angry father, and I used anger to protect myself. Anger served me for a long time, so I need to acknowledge its purpose every time I return to it. Building a new emotional home takes hard work, just like hammering together an actual structure. Consistent practices that wire me to positivity and gratitude are essential in creating new neural pathways. When I am vigilant, I spend a lot more time in gratitude and love than I do in anger.

Today I am practicing acceptance. I will passionately take on all the practices that open my heart, letting go of any results. Whatever shows up, today will be whole and complete just as it is. I am grateful for the week of broken shoelaces because it gave me the opportunity to recalibrate and recommit.


The Power of Listening 1024 768 Thayer Fox

The Power of Listening

Do you ever wonder why you enjoy talking to some people more than others? Most of us assume the quality of the talking is the determining factor. Consider that it is the quality of the listening. Who you are to the listener actually determines what is possible between the two of you in any given interaction.

Landmark Education teaches many valuable distinctions, and one of my favorites is called – Already Always Listening. Here is how Landmark defines this on their website:

“Already Always Listening™
In the Already Always Listening segment, we visit the notion that while we think of ourselves as open-minded and objective, in fact, our approach to ourselves, our circumstances, and others are often filtered and even obscured by pre-existing notions and ideas – by our upbringing, our values, our past experiences.”

We all have a preset listening to every subject and person we know based on past reference. We are never listening to anyone.

Thanks to my weekends spent in Landmark courses, I can sense people’s listening of me immediately. I get dizzy when someone “listening” is stuck in their head due to fear or their own noisy, inner monologue. I get quiet when someone is “listening” to me through an old filter because it’s a waste of energy to keep talking. Spending time with people who hear me as the woman I have worked hard to be today allows me to grow. Clear listening is powerful; we expand in its presence.

Having lived in the same place for forty-four years with a peaks and valleys history makes for a lot of old listening. Being held hostage in a past story is painful; I feel invisible. Old friends and family have long-running narratives on each other. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the consciousness of the person and your track record. The way we are listened to can move us forward or can keep us stuck. When we feel misunderstood, we often lose our will to communicate and connect. This is a red flag that we are in the wrong environment.

Other times the glitch in the listening can be subtler. I have one old friend who can listen well as long as any of her unresolved issues don’t get triggered. She occurs to me like a field of landmines; specific topics can blow the conversation sky high in seconds.

We all have booby traps set up, it’s hard to ever shed our shit and step over into someone else’s world for an hour. When I meet someone with that ability, I am in awe. Grab hold tightly if you know anyone with this capacity.

We often create stories before meeting someone that impact our listening so that person never has a shot at being seen. We Google whatever we can dig up and if possible ask mutual friends for feedback. No one is a blank slate in this data-rich world. We all love to use identifying labels to flesh out narratives. For example, if I know someone is a psychologist, I may be more explicit in my sharing and open to receiving advice from him/her vs. my taxi driver. And after forty-four years in the back of cabs and NYC shrinks offices, I have had more spiritual moments in back of taxis.

We can also ask people to listen to us differently; like running an update on our computer software. This takes courage and an open mind on both sides but can be done. I have worked on salvaging a few old relationships. My mother and I have an entirely different relationship at age 44 and 75 due to updating our listening of each other. It’s unfair to count anyone out before you step up and create that conversation.

When someone is listening to me from an open space, their listening allows me to be great. It creates my best ideas and fills me with energy. I feel connected and grateful to that person for bringing out the best in me because I can’t do it alone.

Next conversation, focus on the listening instead of the talking.

How Much Time Do You Spend in Agreement Reality? 683 1024 Thayer Fox

How Much Time Do You Spend in Agreement Reality?

Do you ever have conversations in your head for hours about something that is bothering you? Do you call friends or family to vent? Do you think that a solution and relief will appear if you keep hashing it out? How much time do you spend in agreement reality

It won’t until you get into action. In your head, you’re dead.

Frequently, I hear people talking about what is going on inside their heads as if their thoughts are a reality. I did it just the other day for over an hour. I knew what I was doing, and I stuck with it because I had some free time. “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” gets me every time.

Had I been sitting alone, talking out loud on a crowded New York City street, there would be no difference between me and the schizophrenic, homeless woman Paula, who sits on the church steps a few blocks away from my apartment. The difference between Paula and me is that I have a home, a cell phone and a few people who I can call who will listen to me.

After a little circular time in my head, I phoned a friend under the pretense that I needed her opinion. I didn’t really care about her feedback; I just wanted to run the tape of my internal dialogue. The specifics were that I felt a teacher at one of my children’s schools handled something poorly. My friend listened politely, agreed and then threw a few of her opinions into the fire. My friend’s well-intentioned participation and agreement solidified my story and what started off as a flame, turned into a bonfire. We analyzed the teacher’s personality and motives, rehashing what happened from different angles. Eventually, we pulled the lens up and made the problem more systematic, a sample of the more significant issues arising at the school. Our continued agreement kept stoking the fire, we settled in around it, roasting resentments in righteous tones.

What started out as a passing thought now had an entire structure to it and showed up as “the truth.”

This is an example of agreement reality.

Here is the definition:

“Agreement reality is knowledge acquired due to others telling you it is so.”

I wish venting and agreement worked and I walked away from such calls feeling better. The agreement creates and confirms positions and venting strengthen neural pathways. I left the call angry and disempowered, planted in a clearly defined stance. Whenever I am making myself right and someone else wrong, alarm bells eventually sound. There is no possibility when positions are fixed. Just a drop of doubt can allow workability to enter the space. Curiosity creates bridges between us.

We live in a world of agreement reality, it’s happening all around us all the time. People who disagree with prevailing opinions often stay quiet due to the spiral of silence. The gist of that theory, developed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann is that if you speak up against a well-received, societal agreement, you risk being kicked out of the campfire and eaten by wolves.

Here it is:

On my best days, when issues involving a person or organization arise I have two sound choices; I can go directly to the person or organization with my complaint, or if I am not ready to do that, I can pray or meditate. If I am too possessed by negative emotions to trust myself to engage in a fruitful interaction, prayer or meditation is always a good choice for further guidance.

I also have another tool I regularly utilize which may sound simplistic and is a gem. I write down the person or organization’s name on a strip of paper after I meditate or pray and put them in my “God box.” It’s an action when you are not ready to take action. My God box is a small box that I keep on a table in my bedroom. The idea is that whatever you believe in outside of yourself (God, nature, whatever) will give you guidance when the time is right, regarding the name you place inside of it. It works because it gets the name out of my head once I put the slip of paper in the box.

If my issue is some circular, self-loathing conversation about an area of my life I feel dissatisfied or helpless in, there are even more options available. Figuring out where I can effect change is the first step, and I use the Serenity Prayer as my guide:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to the change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” When I figure out what is in my power to shift, I can create an action plan to do that ASAP. If I am unwilling to take action required for me to feel better, I acknowledge that and pray or meditate for willingness.

Getting up and moving ( Move a Muscle Change a Thought ) is always a good idea when possible. I then drop the issue by creating a distraction. Depending on the situation, I turn on a podcast or pick up a book, or call someone who needs support. Service is the best way I know to turn off the constant stream of self-talk.

Even if you choose not to address the primary issue, there is always an action you can take to get out of your head.

Talking to your friends or your shrink will only be helpful if they are brave enough to offer a different perspective. An agreement will reaffirm your position and keep you in your head. In your head, you’re dead.


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Tomorrow Never Comes: Make Today Count

Do you have something that you promised yourself you will tackle tomorrow? Will you start a new diet plan, or visit the gym you signed up for two months ago, and have not stepped foot in yet? Tomorrow, maybe you will get around to calling that out-of-touch friend who keeps popping up in your thoughts? Since you didn’t sleep well last night, tomorrow makes sense to start your job search. What about today?

The days and weeks go slowly and the years fly past us. Tomorrow never comes. The past and the future are hollow concepts. The time to take action is now. Today. The present moment is all we have and all we have ever had.

I have a game that I play when I find myself procrastinating too often. I visualize myself as a ninety-year-old woman in a rocking chair on the porch of our home in Maine, watching the wind blow the leaves backward on the trees in the yard. How will I feel about the past 90 years? Have I shared my love? What more can I give away? Have I allowed God to use me? Will I be at peace as I take my final breath?

After I do this simple exercise, sloth or fear or whatever is holding me back is gone. I become more afraid of sitting in that rocking chair filled with remorse. We regret the things we wish we had done, more than any of our perceived mistakes.

When I heard about the Stoic practice of memento mori, or “remember that you have to die” it gave language to my ritual.

“Memento mori is an ancient practice of reflection on mortality that goes back to Socrates, who said that the proper practice of philosophy is ‘about nothing else but dying and being dead.’”

Here is the link to the Daily Stoic describing this practice in detail:


“Memento Mori”: The Reminder We All Desperately Need


A few nights ago, when I was turning off the lamp in our living room at 10:30pm, I noticed bright lights beaming in an apartment across our back courtyard. Pressing my face close to the glass, I saw a nurse talking on her cell phone. She was waving her free hand around animatedly as she stared out into the darkness between us. I noticed movement behind her and focused in on an ancient woman tossing and turning in a messy bed. Staring blankly out the window, the nurse continued her call for over thirty minutes. I watched from the bench, wanting to make sure the lady in the bed was ok. When the nurse finally hung up, she pulled the bed back together and tucked the lady back in. Relieved after witnessing proof of care, I left my perch to go to bed.

I woke up the next morning thinking about the woman across the way. When I was out later for an errand, I stopped by her building. I have a friend who lives there and vaguely know the friendly Irish super, Joe. After inquiring about the lady in the bed, I learned that she has no visitors but her neighbors handle her doctor visits and nurse schedule. I walked away feeling uneasy but understanding that there was nothing I could do.

I took action because I don’t see that lady as separate from me. She is me, and I am her if I live another forty years. The only difference between us is time. I hope someone asks after me if I am alone in a bedroom. That lady is all of us one day not too far off. We come into this world alone, and we leave the same way. Death is the only road out of life.

The next time I feel scared or tired, or when I come up with reasonable excuses not to do something, I will think of the woman across the courtyard. What does my soul need to do before I lie down in my final resting place? I want to give everything away before I reach the end of the line.

How can I make Everyday Extraordinary? Even more, than I think possible.

We are all masterpieces, and it’s wasteful not to share ourselves. Let mortality be your motivator. Commit to living full out right this second; tomorrow will never come.






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How You Spend Your Time is How You Spend Your Life

How you spend your time is how you spend your life. When a friend said this to me a few years ago, it changed the way I thought about my time. He said that we are all concerned with how we spend our money and think little about how we spend our time.

After this conversation, I went home and looked at my desk calendar to analyze how I was spending the bulk of my time. As a stay-at-home mother, most of my time was spent with my children. The other quarter was split between “friends” and self-care. I didn’t have conscious parameters around friendship back then, so my friends were mostly other mothers who lived nearby. Gym visits and nail/hair appointments filled the additional flexible hours. Some of it was necessary to maintain a healthy body, and some of it was filling the void.

As my children grew, I longed to create my corner of the universe. I had an arsenal of excuses about what was holding me back that sounded pretty legit. There is a great saying “you either have results, or you have excuses.”

Six months ago, a friend asked me about my daily schedule after I described my desire to get back into writing. She also shared the steps that she had taken to create a new career for herself as a screenwriter. Revisiting the “how you spend your time is how you spend your life” conversation woke me up. I was saying that I was desperate to create something new, but my schedule did not reflect the passion in my words. Words without actions are concepts; only actions produce results.

I committed to reworking my schedule, with writing as my primary focus. Writing first thing in the morning with a clear mind was more productive and satisfying than trying to write in between lunch and school pick up. Creating new habits takes two months of discipline, on average. Now, two-and-a-half months later, I can’t remember life before my current schedule. I am much happier with my time and desire aligned.

At a Tony Robbins event I recently attended, “Date With Destiny,” Tony repeatedly bellowed “Raise Your Standards! They are way too low! Its why you don’t have results in your life!”

Here is a Tony clip I love:


If you don’t have results in a targeted area, take a good look at your standards. Does your schedule reflect your alleged commitment to this area? Who are you spending your time with? What are the standards in your peer group/closest relationships? When I had more excuses than results in my life, part of the issue was the people with whom I was spending my time. Small talking that occupied hours each day amounted to internal emptiness. The idler I became in my mind, the lower the energy in my body. That’s a state that people label as depression. Productivity is all about personal power. From that old state, I didn’t have access to the drive or confidence required to step up my game.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” Our relationships are imperative to our growth. Thriving people have thriving friends.

We always have control over the way we spend our time.

I understand now that the years I spent in advertising jobs complaining about my bosses were all a choice. The paychecks were good enough, and I was too lazy to look for a job with a kinder boss. We can’t choose the families we are born into, and as adults, we can create healthy boundaries if we have unhealthy relatives. When I hear friends say that they “should” do something, I feel their pain. A life of “shoulds” will never soar.

Look at the way you spend your time, and the people surrounding you. How many of them give you support and inspiration? Then look at your dreams and see how much time you allot to pursuing them. Do you have role models and strategies?

Even if you don’t want to make any changes yet, understanding that everything in your life is a choice is an empowering first step.



When You’re Hysterical, it’s Historical 1024 683 Thayer Fox

When You’re Hysterical, it’s Historical

Have you ever experienced an immediate and overwhelming emotional response? As if a swarm of angry bees suddenly possessed your mind? Your heart rate accelerated as your body entered fight or flight mode? You called five friends to describe in detail the atrocity that occurred, later realizing that your reaction was disproportionate from the actual trigger? If so, then you have experienced an Amygdala Hijack.

Before I learned this terminology, I heard people in the rooms of AA say, “when you’re hysterical, it’s historical.” It took a while for this concept to sink in, but I knew right away that this applied to me regularly.

A few years into my sobriety, life got pretty good and yet I was often a wreck. Seemingly small incidents would set off my internal alarm system, and I would freak out. After a few hours, the overwhelming emotions would subside, and I would have to go and clean up the mess I made by overreacting. I got sick and tired of saying sorry. Around six years ago, I learned about an Amygdala hijack. Learning the science behind “when you’re hysterical, it’s historical” changed my life. Here it is:

The good news is that there are actions that you can take to diffuse this unbearable emotional state more quickly. Awareness is always the first step in creating change. Increasing your emotional intelligence will help you identify when you are in a hijack. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is an essential book on this topic. Here it is:

Make a list on the notepad in your phone identifying your biggest triggers. Becoming familiar with your trigger list will immediately depersonalize the situation. Awareness does not prevent the storm from happening, but it will stop it from turning into a category 5 one. Once you realize that you are in the grips of a hijack, don’t react directly; focus on breathing and count backward in your head, starting at ten and repeating as necessary.

The sensation to release the upset feeling is powerful, and resisting the urge to share is the best tactic. If you cannot do this or need confirmation that you are in a hijack, speak to one safe person. Be mindful, that the more you tell the story, the stronger the swarm becomes. I sometimes ask my husband to support me, “I am starting to lose it, can you listen to me for a few minutes?” As soon as he confirms that my reaction is over the top, I stop talking. Another tool I learned in AA and utilize when triggered is restraint of pen, tongue, and email. Until the swarm is gone, it’s too risky for me to address the situation. An Amygdala hijack passes, and with older triggers, it can take an hour or two. The less time you spend giving it life, the quicker it will move through you.

My Amygdala was hijacked a few days ago. I haven’t experienced one for a while, and it was uncomfortable. I was caught up in a frenzy after a seemingly benign text message. Daniel listened to me patiently for ten minutes until I experienced a pattern recognition aha moment. One of my biggest triggers was activated – when I perceive someone has been dishonest by omission for personal gain. Sneakiness gets me every time, wiring back to a pattern in my family of origin. When I realized what was happening, I put my phone away in a drawer in my bedroom because I was tempted to respond. I counted backward as I paced around the apartment.

Walking is a great way to break up and redistribute negative energy- see my post below:

I continued to kick the disturbance out of my mind every time it popped up and my heart rate finally normalized. I had done no external damage, so no apologies needed. I thanked Daniel and picked up a book.
That’s a win with an Amygdala hijack.


Landmark Education: Change Your Thinking in Three Days
Landmark Education: Change Your Thinking in Three Days 640 298 Thayer Fox

Landmark Education: Change Your Thinking in Three Days

A great workshop can change your life after three days. Landmark Education runs the most powerful ones around the world.

I disliked my first Landmark workshop called ‘The Forum.’ I attended it in January 2013 in New York City. The only Landmark space I am familiar with is the one in New York – a windowless basement filled with uncomfortable chairs. It’s not a stretch to feel like you are being held hostage down there. The temperature is comparable to a meat locker; I wore a down jacket and ski hat throughout the process. The hours are long, and the breaks are short. Pack a big bag of nuts, fruit, and a water bottle.

The person who hosts the forum is called the “Forum Leader.” Their unwavering energy and confidence will blow your mind. Overall, the support staff is fine. They smile a lot and use Landmark jargon, which can co-sign the cult story for people who are looking for data to confirm that belief. They encourage staying in the room, except for allotted breaks. This made me claustrophobic immediately. They even recommend that you only pee on breaks, which are two to three hours apart.

Landmark’s sales tactics are not subtle. Pressure is applied to sign up for the next course starting the second day. I was one of three participants out of a group of 1,000 who refused to sign up for the next workshop, called ‘The Advanced Course.’ They bank on the fact that most people won’t step outside the campfire. I believe it’s an opportunity to get in touch with the pleaser in you and the pushback that can accompany a firm “No.”

So why am I even writing about this unpleasant place and experience?

The weekends I have spent in the NYC Landmark basement rewired my brain. No other work I have done has been that effective in such a short time. Three days and 36 hours were all it took. Feel-good weekends full of trust falls, and affirmations are a lot more enjoyable short term. You may even fondly remember that type of weekend a year or two out, similar to how you would a fishing trip to the Bahamas. Within weeks though, you will revert back to your default setting. Our settings are powerful. Rewiring your reptilian brain is not a comfortable process. Your ego fights for its survival. I felt as though I was going to die in that first Landmark workshop. Now I know that something was dying – the part of my ego that was messing up my life.

I walked away from the Forum believing that I would never step foot in 317-A West 33rd Street again. So why did I end up returning to attend three more courses?

A month later, then a few months later, then a year later, I noticed that my headspace and internal dialogue had shifted entirely. I will write about some of the distinctions I learned at Landmark in later posts. Overall, my limiting narrative was gone. Without it, something huge felt possible, and I wanted to find out what that something was, so I signed up for The Advanced Course a year later. During my third Landmark course, The Self Expression and Leadership Program, I created a transformational program of my own called “Change Your Story, Create Your Life” (post to come). I went on to teach “Change Your Story” in a Juvenile Justice home in the Bronx with five friends for the next two years. CYS was one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Whenever I meet someone who has completed the Forum, I know they are a force. It takes something way above mediocrity to commit to a weekend in that basement. All Landmark graduates share a bond. Most people complain when they are there and walk away with significant breakthroughs. Whatever bothers us in our regular lives shows up in the Landmark room. If we hate authority (yes, that’s an issue for me) then all the Landmark employees can be perceived as controlling. If we like judging people, we scan the crowd and make up stories about everyone seated near us. It’s not a Landmark issue, just a blank space in which we cannot escape our own patterns.

And In all the Landmark courses I attended, I peed whenever I wanted to.