an epic life

Posts Tagged ‘goals’

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


3 Words To Guide Me in 2017

January 3rd, 2017

Every new year I choose 3 words that I want to guide me. (This is originally Chris Brogan’s idea)

Our family’s 2017 words are Challenge, Adventure and Service.

My personal 3 words for 2017 are:
1. ONE (Single task. Do only one thing at a time. If I’m writing, I’m writing. If I’m reading, I’m reading. If I’m in conversation with someone, I’m in the conversation. If I’m folding laundry, I’m folding laundry. If I’m driving, I’m driving. If I’m eating, I’m eating. You get the gist. It’s about focusing, and eliminating distractions.)

2. PRACTICE (Practice everything, including juggling, harmonica, reciting favorite poems, mindfulness, mobility training, etc.)

3. HELL YEAH ~oops a 2-worded word~(Saying Yes to memory-making experiences, which for me, tend to be the spontaneous ones. I started implementing this in late 2015, when I slid down the Popo Agie waterfall for the first time since I was a teenager; other examples include getting in the hotel pool and playing ball with my sons, going down big water slides, saying yes to our 30-day Europe trip even though we weren’t sure we could afford it, and spinning cookies/donuts on Jan. 1 of this year.This is also similar to living according to Derek Siver’s “No Yes. It’s Either Hell Yeah or No” philosophy.)

What are your 3 words? I would love to hear them, so please think about this and share them in the comments.

Ask & Answer These 3 Questions

February 26th, 2016

Did you know that the biggest regrets people have when they are approaching the end of their life are not related to things they’ve done, but rather things they didn’t do? It’s true. They are more disappointed, and regretful, about the things they didn’t do, that they wished they would have done, that they can no longer do.



When it comes to regrets, I think there is no better teacher than someone who is approaching the end of his/her life because they literally and truly view each day of their remaining life as a gift, and they are more reflective than most of us.

But it’s not only the dying who feel this way about regrets. I read a lot of books, and one of the books I’m currently reading is Originals, by Adam Grant (also the author of one of my favorite leadership books, Give and Take). Grant is awesome. He’s the youngest tenured, and highest rated professor of psychology at the Wharton School, and what he has to share, which is always backed by research, is compelling. Recently, in a LinkedIn post, he wrote: Most people predict that it’s the actions they’ll regret more. We cringe at the anguish of declaring bankruptcy or getting rejected by the love of our lives. But we are dead wrong.

When people reflect on their biggest regrets, they wish they could redo the inactions, not the actions. “In the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did,” psychologists Tom Gilovich and Vicky Medvec summarize, “which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.”

So I challenge you to ask yourself these questions, reflect on them, and then answer them (for yourself, or in the comments section if you’d like to share – and feel held accountable as a result).

1. What is something I am wanting or needing to do, but I’m not doing?
2. Why I am not doing it?
3. What am I waiting for?

I would never ask you to do something I’m not willing to do, so I’m also doing the work. I’m getting ready to go on a walk in the woods, and I am going to turn it into a productive meditation focusing on these three important questions.

Have a great day, and thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.
If you could use a coach to help you change your life, accomplish a goal or two, make or break a habit, or to dare you to crank it up a notch, please keep me in mind. I’ve coached 115 individual leaders from throughout the U.S. during the last 5 years, and I’ve learned a lot. I also do keynote presenting and leadership development facilitation. Here’s my Brochure. Or, if you’re a woman and you’re interested in making some changes to your life, getting in the best shape and health of your life and want to go on an unforgettable, 5-day guided Epic Adventure, please consider my Epic Women program. I’m recruiting right now and have 4 spots remaining on the roster.

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.







Our Family’s “3 Words” for 2016

January 4th, 2016

My friend Chris Brogan has been doing this wonderful exercise for the last 10 years where he chooses 3 words to guide him through the new year.



What a great idea. These words serve as markers – cairns – to keep one from wandering aimlessly away from their intentions during the year. I love to explore and go off-trail, but I also want to not wander too far from my path, or get lost.

I don’t have my personal 3 words yet, but I’m almost there and I will write about these in a separate post. But for now, even more exciting for me is the fact my family came up with 3 words. My family consists of my husband, Jerry, our three sons, Wolf, 15, Hayden, 13 and Fin, 8, and myself.

First off, just having the “What should our 3 words for 2016 be?” conversation was fascinating and fun. During dinner last night, we debated on words, and about their meanings. I suggested Fun be one of our words, while another family member suggested Adventure. I wondered if those were the same thing, when Hayden, our 13-year-old, argued effectively that fun and adventure aren’t necessarily the same thing. “If you go out sailing in stormy seas, that’s an adventure, not fun,” he said.  Jerry suggested Learning, which we all liked, but then one of our sons he wanted New, as in seeing and experiencing new things. We all agreed that Discovery would include learning and new things, so we went with that word. There was some debate about if Discovery and Adventure were too much alike, but then we all agreed they were similar but not the same. “If I discover I don’t like eating peas, that’s not an adventure,” one of them explained. Although I said I thought that was debatable, we settled on DISCOVERY, ADVENTURE & SERVICE. The conversation alone was fun and was different conversation from ones we usually have.


What I love about our family’s brainstorm and three words is that we have these three important intentions on record that will help to remind and guide us in our actions throughout the year. Our 3 words will be a topic we can revisit on a regular basis as we sit around the table for dinner. We can collectively ask, What have we done that was adventurous? What have we discovered? And, what have we done for others? If we realize that a week or two has passed and we haven’t done anything service-related for our community, friends or neighbors, or that we haven’t discovered anything new lately, or that we haven’t had an adventure, then our three words will remind and inspire us into action.

What will your 3 words be? Please reflect on this, and if you want to participate, please share your words below. I’d really appreciate that, and your words may inspire others.

Thank you for stopping by. Fondly, Shelli


How I Want To Be In 2016

January 1st, 2016

Happy new year! I love this time of year. In fact, I love the last week of every year. Not only because I’m with family and friends, and we’re celebrating the holidays, but because it’s the last week of the year. I love this time of reflecting back on this year, while imagining what’s possible in the next.



I am a goal-oriented person, and what Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, and most recently, Better Than Before, would call an Upholder. I am self-motivated and am always setting goals and working hard to achieve them. And most of the time, I do achieve them. But not always. For example, one of my goals for 2015 was to become limber and flexible enough that I would be able to touch my nose to my knee in a hurdler stretch. I didn’t achieve this goal. I worked pretty hard at it for 5 months before falling of the stretching wagon, and try as a I might, it’s not going to happen in these remaining 70 minutes of 2015. Darn it anyway.

As is tradition, my husband and I and our three sons sat around the table at dinner tonight, on New Year’s Eve, and reflected on the year before brainstorming our family goals for 2016. (We went around the table and each of us offered up some highlights from the year. One of our sons, and not our oldest, said, “I became a man this year.” He laughed when he said it, and we didn’t ask for specifics! Another son said he was glad he had so many days where he didn’t wear socks or underwear. Another reflected on a year that was the first for him to drive, and to work a paying job. We were grateful we spent some of our spring break with Jerry’s dad, since he fell sick unexpectedly shortly after that and passed away a month later. And there were others, but that’s a sampling. Then, each of us offered up family resolutions for 2016. These include eating more exotic foods, offering to do more service work for our community, going to Europe, and others.

Our family game of Tripoley, which we played while reflecting on 2015 as a family, and looking ahead to the new year.

Our family game of Tripoley, which we played while reflecting on 2015 as a family, and looking ahead to the new year.

But I digress. I think the most important question any of us can aim to answer is, “Who do I want to be?”

I feel strongly about this. When we know who it is we want to be – when we can imagine and visualize our Best Self –- then we can orient our whole life, including all of the things we do and all of the ways that we behave, accordingly. Our Best Self is our True North. It’s not a destination. It’s not a place we hope to arrive at. We can be our best version at any moment. Our vision of who we want to be is an orientation, and having this vision of our Best Self keeps us on track to being the person we want to be.

As a coach, I invest a certain amount of time with my clients encouraging them to imagine and articulate who they want to be. I hadn’t done the work myself in a few years, and so earlier today, with the new year dawning, I thought I’d revisit the exercise. What I found is that it is easier for me to imagine who I want to be if I first imagine, and list, HOW I want to be. (I love Annie Dillard’s quote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Amen to the emphasis on HOW we live our lives.)

So I wrote down the following roles I play in my life, starting with my Best Self, and then for wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, coach, community member, and so on, and next to each, described how I want to be in each role. Words describing how I want to be included patient, loving, compassionate, generous, kind, open, etc.

Thinking about and writing down how you want to be in 2016 is an exercise I recommend doing.

Not too long ago, one of our sons was having a problem related to forgetfulness. He was doing his homework but often forgetting to turn it in. After a few occasions of forgetting to turn his work in, he did it again, and at wit’s end, I lost my temper with him. I can tell you, I was not the mother I want to be, and it not only hurt him, it hurt me. While I didn’t regret the value I was taking a stand for (forgetfulness is not a positive habit to develop), I did very much regret the way I was handling it. What I’m grateful for, though, is that I’ve thought a lot about how I want to be as a mother so that when I am about to go off course – or as was the case in the above example, right after I’ve gone off course – I notice and am aware of it. I was able to make it right with my son, and find a different strategy for how to handle this if it were to happen again.

This is just one example of why reflecting on how we want to be in the world is valuable and important.

One of the realizations of 2015 for me is that I’m pretty much a practicer of stoicism. This wasn’t intentional… it’s just that almost everything I’ve learned about Stoicism mostly lines up with how I live my life. Four of the best books I read this year were Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, The Guide to the Good Life, by William Irvine, The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, and Seneca’s On The Shortness of Life. I am also a fan of Tim Ferriss, and he talks a lot about stoicism in his podcasts.

Seneca, a Stoic, was a proponent of meditating at the end of the day that took on a form of evaluating the day’s events and how he handled each of them, against how he wanted to be, and how he wished he would have behaved. I see tremendous value in this exercise, especially since I’ve done the exercise I mentioned above, where I have thought about and listed HOW I WANT TO BE in each of the roles in my life.

By the way, I did also come up with many new year’s resolutions, which I may write about from time to time in the coming weeks and months. But for now, I guess I’m sharing what I think is a valuable insight, and that is, taking the time to consider how we want to be in our life is probably more important than the goals we set for ourselves.

Happy New Year, and thank you for reading. I really appreciate your stopping by.


P.S. How do you want to be in 2016? I have room for a few more clients if you, or someone you know, would benefit from having a coach to dare, encourage, support, and hold you accountable.