an epic life

Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

The Magic Ingredients

January 3rd, 2018

Oops. I just got into The Magic Ingredients.

Ever since the boys were small, often on Sunday mornings, I have been making them “Mommy’s Epic pancakes” for breakfast. What makes them Epic is what we have all come to call “The Magic Ingredients.” The Magic Ingredients are butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.


Sure, plain pancakes are delicious. But pancakes made with The Magic Ingredients are extraordinarily delicious.

For as long as I’ve been making Mommy’s Epic Pancakes, I’ve been requesting my husband, Jerry, to hide The Magic Ingredients. This is how it goes: Sunday morning comes, and about 50% of the time, depending on who is all home and what’s going on and if I’m feeling like a great Mom, I’ll offer to make Mommy’s Epic Pancakes, to which the boys respond enthusiastically.

The next thing that happens is I instruct Jerry, “Honey, I need The Magic Ingredients.” And Jerry goes somewhere in the house, to the hiding spot he selected for The Magic Ingredients after the last time I made Mommy’s Epic Pancakes, he brings them to me, and I proceed to make the pancakes. When I’ve used the last of the pancake batter, I instruct Jerry to “Please hide The Magic Ingredients again.” I’m always sure to add, “Please hide them so well that I can’t possibly find them.” And off he goes.

Well, I often have a hankering for some butterscotch or chocolate or peanut butter, and when I’m not very disciplined, I will go looking for The Magic Ingredients. Either I’m a good hunter or Jerry’s just not a very good hider, because when I go looking, about 50% of the time, I find the goods.

As the first sentence of this post indicated, I found The Magic Ingredients just this morning. The butterscotch chips are my favorite. I actually really believe that I have some sort of addiction to butterscotch. I have no turn off switch, and the flavor of butterscotch just kills me I love it so much. When I was pregnant with our son, Hayden, and had a hankering for butterscotch, I put son Wolf in his carseat, and drove out during a hailstorm to a place called Dairyland, so I could get a butterscotch malt with extra butterscotch chips. Well, that little hankering cost us significantly in hail damage to our car. Oops. Like I said, I love butterscotch, and I may have a problem. But I digress… Sorry about that. 🙂

Thinking about all of this has inspired me to think about what are The Real Magic Ingredients.

I’m talking about The Magic Ingredients when it comes to my life. When I go to bed at night and rest my head on the pillow, I usually feel one of two ways: 1- Anxious because I didn’t do my best in one or more areas that are important to me. I feel regretful; or 2-Happy and satisfied about how the day went. My cup feels full.

The first will cause me to have a mediocre night of sleep, complete with at least one major bout of insomnia. On these nights, I often am awakened at 2am by my uninvited inner critic, who feels the need to provoke a struggle within me. You know the feeling, when your head is about to explode with thoughts of how you should have done this or should have done that, and all of the ways you could have done better.

I love the way writer Elizabeth Gilbert describes our mind when we are visited by our inner critic: “My head, like most of our heads, is a neighborhood you don’t want to walk alone in at night.” 

On the other hand, when I rest my head on my pillow at night and I feel great about how the day went, I experience a wonderful night’s sleep. If I do wake up during the night, my mind is likely reflecting on something great that happened, or anticipating something I’m looking forward to. It’s not the hostile environment that comes with the inner critic.

This is all to say that finally, at my age of 49, I have realized that the way to feel great about myself and my day is to make sure to have The Magic Ingredients in my life.

And I’m not talking about the butterscotch, chocolate and peanut butter chips for the pancakes.

I’m talking about these Magic Ingredients:

1. I’ve had a meaningful connection with each of my sons. I’ve connected with each of them in a meaningful conversation and exchange, and had time with all of them, and there have been some hugs. I’ve made them a meal, and/or offered to help each of them in some way.

2. I’ve had a meaningful connection with Jerry. We’ve looked into each other’s eyes some, had some quality conversations, and also connected on things that are practical and necessary. There have been some hugs and affection. (A friend of mine who recently went with her husband to a couples workshop told me about “launching and landing” — the idea that couples should make sure to connect at the start and end of their days. I like that, and it’s similar to what I’m talking about when I say meaningful connection. There’s meaning and intention in your connection with someone; you’re not just acting like roommates passing each other or bumping into each other in the house while getting things done.)

3. I’ve called and touched base with my Mom and Dad.

4. There’s been a group text that provided connection for my two sisters, my brother, and I.

5. I’ve cuddled with and had some time with our dog, Buddy.

6. I’ve had some contact with a close friend or two or three, whether it was a text exchange, or email to arrange a coffee date, or a quick call.

7. I enjoyed some time outside, regardless of the weather, and walked some.

8. I’ve done some real work for Epic Life, whether it was coaching calls, or Epic Adventure planning, selling/marketing, or working on a keynote presentation.

9. I was kind to everyone I came in contact with.

10. I helped someone.

11. I was grateful. I prayed and was thankful.

12. I did something to improve my health and take care of myself.

13. I ate healthy foods. Depending on the day, I may have even fasted.

14. I’ve read something, or many things. Articles, pages from a book, and as a result, I was inspired.

15. I wrote an article, or worked on a future blog post.

When all of the above are in place, they feel like The Magic Ingredients for my life. They are the things that make my life extraordinary.  

I know  – the list is long. There are 15 Magic Ingredients. But none of them is that difficult to do, and they are all things that I value.

Most importantly, they are all things I can control. In other words, I have a choice about how I will feel by the end of the day. That’s powerful, and good to know. If I’ve made sure to add The Magic Ingredients to my life, then I will have been my best and done my best. I will go to bed feeling good, and without regrets.  

What are your Magic Ingredients? I challenge you to come up with your own list. It’s valuable work to do.

By the way, I wrote a “Manifesto” for me and my life in 2011 that I still adhere to. I read it every single morning. Writing my Manifesto 6 years ago, and reading it daily has helped provide clarity for me about who and what are most important to me. It is only as a result of that work, that I know what my Magic Ingredients are, and can work to intentionally insert them into my day.   

Please check back soon. I’m writing a blog post about my Manifesto, and will share it soon. You might want to write your own for 2018. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and happy new year!

Related blog posts:

Daring to Fail, and Sometimes Failing

Meandering Thoughts from a Mind that’s “Under Construction”

An Experience to Rave About

Dear iPhone and Facebook: I Love You Too Much

Nobodies: I Want to Hear Their Stories


Want To Make A Change? Try WOOPing!

February 4th, 2016

First of all, I apologize this isn’t a shorter post. But as the saying goes, I would have written less but I didn’t have time.

Do you want to make a change? Then you’ve come to the right place. I have a new system to share that is easy – and proven – for making a dream come true, or a change for the better.

Hi there.

Hi there.

I’ve made significant changes to my life during the last 5 years, and all of them stuck, and so far have lasted.

There is a book that is most responsible for helping me to master change-making, and it is Switch, by Dan and Chip Heath. I can’t recommend it enough. I read it when it came out in 2010, and it has had a huge impact on my life. So much so that I use many of the principles discussed in the book when I coach, and facilitate development for leaders from throughout the U.S.

Now there’s a new book in my toolkit and, if you are wishing for a dream to come true, or to make a change in your life, then I suggest you get your hands on it. It’s Rethinking Positive Thinking, Inside the New Science of Motivation, by Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg. The book is based on 20 years of research and large-scale studies.

I should come clean here and say I’m an optimist to a fault. I not only think the glass is half full, I think the glass itself is amazing. Among other things, I am an emotional intelligence consultant, and optimism is one of the most valuable traits a person could wish to have. We have the power to choose to be positive, even when things are not awesome. The late, great Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, and author of the influential Man’s Search for Meaning (another book I so highly recommend!), said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

In addition, having positive fantasies is pleasureful, and optimism helps us alleviate our present suffering, while also helping us persevere through adversity. At the bottom of a mountain, it is absolutely more helpful to thinking positively than it is to think negatively.

However, as Oettingen points out, positive thinking is mostly helpful only in the short-term. Positive thinking, and positive fantasies, while they offer value, do not help us achieve our long-terms goals, and in fact, may help ensure that we don’t.

It isn’t enough to sit and dream; we have to take action and make sacrifices… Our dreams may be realizable, but they come down to challenges that require engagement and action. The good news… is that it’s possible to move energetically toward many of our wishes, and to do a much better job deciding which wishes are worth our effort and which aren’t, writes Oettingen.


Research over the past 20 years finds that dreaming about a desired future leads to low investment and little success, regardless of life domains, such as health, work, and interpersonal relationships. In order to benefit from positive thinking about the future, people need to incorporate in that positive thinking a clear sense of reality.

Most of us do not live our Epic Life, or have our greatest impact, or pursue our dreams because of fear. We fear failure, we fear disappointing others, we fear disappointing ourself, and we fear making a fool out of ourselves. These are fears most of us share, and at least one of them is usually the reason we play it safe instead of daring to do what we want or need to do.

One way to overcome these fears, or to proceed despite them, is to confront them at the outset. As an entrepreneur, goal-oriented person, coach and leadership development facilitator, I often use what Tim Ferriss calls “negative visualization” to help myself, or others, identify and articulate risks. By assessing the fears/risks in advance, often we realize the fears aren’t as bad as we make them out to be, which can have the powerful and beneficial effect of nudging us forward, not to mention keep us from being reckless in our pursuits. This process is also called conducting a premortem – imagining in advance all that could go wrong so that we can persevere if and when things go wrong.

Oettingen isn’t suggesting we do away with positive thinking. Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way, she writes.

Oettingen calls this process mental contrasting. And her system for helping us achieve our goals and realize our dreams is calling WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. (In scientific literature it’s called Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions, or MCII)


Here’s how it works:

1. Determine a WISH that you have. It can be a short-term goal or a long-term dream. (For example, I tried this out by having a wish, Write a Blog Post Today.)

2. Consider the best OUTCOME. (Given my aforementioned experiment, my outcome was to publish the blog post)

3. Consider the main OBSTACLE that could likely stand in the way of your wish coming true. (I am leaving town at noon, and I also had to write some emails to clients and I also wanted to get a 1-hour skate ski session in. These things could prevent me from having enough time to write and publish a blog post.)

4. Make an If-Then PLAN, such as If (enter obstacle), then (enter desired action). (If I don’t have enough time, then I will skip skiing so I can write and publish the blog post.)
Remember, this system is based on 20 years of research and many large-scale studies. It works. (This blog post is proof, right?! I used the app to create a 24-hour WOOP to accomplish this goal of writing and publishing a blog post before leaving town today at noon. Check!)

A bigger wish I have is related to a family trip we’re planning to Europe. We’re making our first international trip in late May and it will be for 4 weeks. My wish is to really experience and grow with my husband and our three sons while seeing a new part of the world. The ideal outcome for me is for us to further enrich our relationships with one another. A potential obstacle that could prevent the desired outcome is that I’ll be so busy capturing it in photos and sharing them with my networks that I will miss being as present as I’d like to be with my family during the experience. I know with all my being that this is a real threat to realizing my desired outcome. So a plan I will implement is to post only one photo per day from my phone, and then use my camera for the rest of the memory captures.

On that subject of wanting to be present, for yet another book I highly recommend, see Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation. Turkle is a social scientist at MIT, and has done extensive research on our increasing tethered-ness to our cell phones. As a result of this tethered-ness, we are often “alone together” – together, but not really. The book, and Turkle’s work are a real cautionary tale. I have been working on strictly limiting my technology use, and our family tried one week without it. It was hard AND amazing. I blogged about it here if you’re interested.

In conclusion, I don’t know about you, but for me, the higher the stakes, the more critical it is that I not only imagine my dream, but that I do the work required to make it come true.

P.S. Here is an exceptional podcast interview with Oettingen by the great Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman. Also, check out to see many testimonials from people in the health, interpersonal and academic domains who have tried, and had success, using the WOOP system. And/or download the app for free on your cell phone.

Thanks for reading, and best wishes at making your wishes come true using the WOOP technique.