How to Create a Culture of Wellbeing Around Yourself

Powered by RedCircle

There are few things more fundamentally important than our health and wellbeing. When we have it, we take it for granted. However, when we’re told there’s a problem or when we aren’t feeling well, it’s all we can think about.

Wellbeing has become even more of a focus since the pandemic because of the experiences we all had over the last 2 years. Mental health has suffered. We’ve neglected to take care of ourselves and chronic conditions are worsening. Yet, we see many people making professional decisions to help guard the lifestyle they had during the pandemic – particularly if it helped them make positive changes in their health and wellbeing.

It’s a lot to think about, so we brought in an expert.

Laura Putnam, MA, author of the award-winning Workplace Wellness That Works, is CEO and founder of Motion Infusion, a leading wellbeing provider. Her work has been covered by MSNBC, The New York Times, FOX News, ABC News, US News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and NPR. She is a former urban public high school teacher, international community organizer, dancer, gymnast and now a movement-builder in the world of health and wellbeing. With a mission to get people and organizations “in motion,” Laura is a frequent keynote speaker and has worked with a range of organizations from Fortune 500s to government agencies to academic institutes and nonprofits.

I met Laura at a recent conference, and I knew I needed to get her on the show. I hope you find actionable value in this episode and begin to make healthy changes in your own life.

Additional Resources:

  1. Workplace Wellness that Works
  2. The Link Between Self Compassion and Self Care
  3. Develop Better Habits in 2022

The Reason Why People Don’t Want to Return to the Office

COVID caused major disruptions in everyone’s lives. As we adjust to living in a post-pandemic world, many employees are resisting the idea of returning to the office. It’s not the office itself that’s the problem. It’s what it represents.

COVID abruptly and dramatically altered our worlds. As we learned to work from home, among other changes, we also began to re-evaluate our lifestyles. While the pandemic certainly brought about many unbelievably difficult challenges, it also caused us to reflect on our lifestyles, which were stressful and unfulfilling for many. It showed us that we do not necessarily have to live and work the way we were before. 

And that insight was freeing to a lot of people. 

As we adjust to life and work in a post-pandemic world, that means returning to the office for many workers. Employers have been surprised at the resistance that many employees feel about returning to in-person work. Dr. April Seifert, Peak Mind co-founder and social cognitive psychologist, explains why so many people are resistant to the idea of going back to the office full-time.  


Peak Mind Pro: Navigate Stress without Being Stressed Out

Back-to-school is always a stressful time for working parents. This year, however, makes previous ones look like a breeze. Set against the back drop of an ongoing pandemic, seemingly constant transitions in the workplace, and heavy world events, it’s important for employees to navigate stress more than ever.

In fact, a recent Gallop survey paints this picture vividly with data. Nearly half of employees experience a lot of worry daily and over half have a lot of daily stress. Rates of both are higher compared to last year, and the rates are highest for employees in the U.S. and Canada. 

This is troubling news because chronic stress is associated with all sorts of negative effects on your physical and mental health, like increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even death. 

Chronic stress impacts employee work performance, too. There’s not an off switch to flip to leave the stress load at home. Instead, poorly managed stress shows up at work in the form of presenteeism, disengagement (80% of employees are disengaged at work these days. 80%!), poor concentration, low efficiency, low creativity, difficulty prioritizing, and difficulty problem-solving and decision-making. 

Bottom line: Chronic, poorly controlled stress affects your organization’s bottom line.  

We don’t have to tell you about the damaging effects of stress. We have talked about that countless times on Peak Mind. Instead, we are here to give you tools – outside of the standard deep breathing and paying attention – to help you reduce stress and stressful situation. 

Stress, which is our body and brain’s reaction to any demand for our time, attention, and energy, is unavoidable. Fortunately, human beings are actually designed to handle a very high stress load…for a short period of time. The problems arise when the stress never ends, which is pretty much the case in our modern world. It’s important that we take steps at work and in our personal lives to create environments and routines that protect us against stress. Even basics like getting adequate sleep, hydrating and eating, moving as well as resting throughout the day, and periods without technology can make a drastic difference.  

There is a silver lining here. While stress is unavoidable, it isn’t all bad. When managed well, stress can actually be good for you. Stress can focus attention and provide the energy and motivation necessary to do well on a task. Under the right circumstances, stress can have a positive impact on your heart, making it more resilient. It can make you, as a person, more resilient as well. The challenge is turning bad stress (distress) into good stress (eustress).

Two of the biggest factors that help transform stress are: 

  1.  Believing that your efforts are worth it. 
  2.  Believing that you are capable of handling the task demands. 

 How can you help your team or organization tap into those mindset? 

Tools to Try

High stress can lead to overwhelm and difficulty prioritizing tasks and directing energy. That’s because high stress and anxiety bring with it a sense of urgency, making everything feel like it must be done right this second. The Priority Matrix is a helpful tool to sort tasks and develop a game plan. Use this tool on your own or with your team.

  • Urgent tasks have an impending deadline or are time sensitive. 
  • Important tasks matter. They provide value and make a significant impact toward meaningful goals.  


Psychological Strength

At Peak Mind, we’re dedicated to helping individuals and organizations thrive. We do this by teaching skills to build psychological strength, which encompasses solid stress management skills along with resiliency and mental toughness. 

Are you interested in learning what psychological strength is, how it operates in day-to-day life, and how you (and your team) can start to build it? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter below. 

Additional Resources

Our podcast vault contains a wealth of information to help in nearly every situation, including managing stress. These two episodes may be of particular interest to you.

Episode 267: How to Support Yourself Through Transitions

Episode 212: What to Do When You’re Stretched Too Thin

Ready to help your team build psychological strength?

Ready to support your team to help them manage stress and perform at their peak? Check out our ASCEND program! 

“It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.”
 – Hans Selye

Peak Mind Pro: Be Your Best Self

In order to be your best self, you must be able to handle tough situations. To describe these situations we use the acronym “VUCA”: 

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

Situations and experiences that can be explained by one or more of these characteristics are particularly tough for us to handle. And if you think about it, is there a better word to describe the experience we’ve all been living through the last 18 months? (Seriously, if you can think of one, hit reply and tell us!)

VUCA situations are particularly tough for us because of our mind’s natural tendency to seek out predictability, familiarity, certainty, and stability. Our mind’s natural survival instinct sees a predictable, unchanging environment as one that is safe. It’s known. It’s one where we can let our guard down. We feel calm, confident, and at ease in predictable, familiar situations.

Let’s unpack that for a second. Our mind’s natural tendency is to feel at ease in predictable, unchanging circumstances. This is our comfort zone. So naturally, when things tip in the “VUCA direction,” we feel it, and it doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to be your best self when your mind doesn’t feel at ease. 

So, is it really surprising that anxiety and depression have risen exponentially since the beginning of the pandemic?

We’ve heard from countless organizations over the last couple of months, and there is one common theme: people are feeling the stress and pressure of the ongoing VUCA situation we’ve all been living in. 

But, people still have jobs to do and goals to achieve. Our businesses and organizations still depend on our teams in order to move forward, even during challenging times.

So, what can you do to support your team so they can show up as their best, even in the face of adversity?

Monthly Tip

This month’s tip is to take a page out of the book of a true high performer. Michael Phelps is the most decorated olympian in history. He won 28 medals (23 gold), and has been lauded as the “greatest of all time.”

What contributed to that level of performance?

Sure, you can point to his natural physical ability to account for some of it, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

When you dig into Phelps’ training regimen, you see a series of rituals, like his race-day ritual above. These rituals are carefully crafted to put Phelps in a state of mind that allows him to show up and perform at his best. 

He primes his best self, and your employees can do the same. By priming our best self, we put ourselves in the mindset that allows us to handle more uncertainty. The repetitiveness and familiarity of a ritual like a race-day routine helps calm our mind during VUCA times.

Ask your employees to answer the following questions:

  1. When was a time that I was at my best? (Describe it in detail)
  2. How did I feel? (Be specific! Were you confident, calm, assertive, engaged, etc)
  3. What activities tend to elicit or detract from those feelings?

 For example:

  1. I was at my best when I reached my set goals while working on a big initiative last quarter.
  2. I felt in control and in a state of flow.
  3. My work was planned out – I knew when to do what. I had uninterrupted time.

Your employees can use the answers to these questions to craft their own “race-day routine” to prime themselves to show up closer to their best self each day. Not only does this further personal development, but it can trickle into other areas of your life. In this example, this employee could spend some time each week to plan out their work. They could consider blocking work time on their calendar to ensure adequate time to focus. 

By priming our best selves, we put ourselves in the best possible position to weather the inevitable challenges that a VUCA situation can throw at us.

Ready to help your team build psychological strength?

Ready to support your team to help them manage stress and perform at their peak? Check out our ASCEND program! 

“The goal is not to be better than the other person, but your previous self.”
– Dalai Lama

Peak Mind Pro: Combat Burnout at Work

A recent report by Medscape shows the staggering statistics of physician burnout in the United States. While it’s easy to point to the pandemic as the root cause, 79% of the physicians surveyed in this study report that their burnout began before the pandemic.

Research from Deloitte shows that burnout isn’t just a problem for our frontline healthcare workers. 91% of the respondents to a recent report say they have “unmanageable amounts of stress” that negatively impacts their work. 

The bottom line is that burnout is something that impacts us all. The cure for it is not to work harder and take on more. Read on to learn how building psychological strength can help combat burnout and promote work life balance to improve your mental health.


Psychological Strength Can Help

Psychological strength consists of teachable skills in 7 different areas. 

When we think about burnout, a few key areas are important to consider:

  • Emotions
  • Thoughts
  • Habits & Biology
  • Life Design

Leading Indicators of Burnout

Burnout is a state of exhaustion – mental, emotional, and physical – caused by prolonged, unchecked stress. The sooner you recognize the early warning symptoms of burnout, the better chance you’ll have of combatting it. Emotions and thoughts are powerful leading indicators.

  • Emotions – Burnout is characterized by a number of difficult emotions such as overwhelm, dread, and anxiety. One of the foundational steps to combat burnout is to recognize your own emotional profile. The more you become aware of your own emotions and work hard to label them (not just “good” or “bad,” but to name them very specifically), the sooner you can recognize the indicators of burnout and make changes to support yourself. 
  • Thoughts – Your thought patterns can also be a key indicator of burnout. Thoughts like, “I’ll never get all of this done,” or “This is impossible!” indicate overwhelm, which can easily balloon into burnout if left unchecked.

Combating Burnout

Once you’ve recognized signs of burnout, or recognize that you’re experiencing burnout, you can take steps to combat it. Your Habits & Biology as well as Life Design can help you do that.

  • Habits & Biology – There is a strong connection between the way we treat our bodies and how our minds operate. During times of stress, overwhelm, or burnout, it becomes exponentially more important to do the basics: eat well, sleep, move, drink water, and relax. These basic health habits form the foundation of a stronger YOU who is equipped to lower stress hormones and in turn help your mental health. 
  • Life Design – Life design can help you identify the root cause of your overwhelm and burnout and generate sets of solutions to test out. Check out this month’s actionable tip to learn more!

Tool to Try

This month, we challenge you to use key questions from Life Design to help address an aspect of burnout. Grab a pen and paper and get ready to do some problem-solving!

1. Laddering

Think about the factors contributing to stress or burnout for you. Identity a problem area or a change that you would like to make. Then, ask yourself a series of questions.

Start with “What will that change do for me?” Be sure to write your responses down.

Then, ask yourself “Why is that important?”

Continue to ask “Why is that important?” until you get to your root desire. You’ll know you’ve gotten there when you can’t go any deeper or you find your answers circling back to ones you’ve already written down. 

2. How might I…

Now that you know what you’re really trying to target, it’s time to come up with some creative solutions. You’ll notice that your root desire can likely be fulfilled in multiple different ways – even in ways that didn’t occur to you before you did the laddering exercise.

Ask yourself, “How might I achieve my root desire???”

This powerful little question packs a big punch! “How” cues your brain to start problem-solving. It’s a clever way to bypass unhelpful thoughts like “I can’t do that,” which shuts down active problem-solving.

“Might” is a permission slip to think creatively. You’re not saying that you will or have to test out any of the possible solutions you come up with, just that you might.

By asking yourself “how might I…?” you are upping your brainstorming potential, and you’re more likely to stumble on a viable solution. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down as many potential solutions or ways to get to your root desire as you can come up with. Don’t evaluate any of them! Go for volume.

Then, select the most doable option, and move forward with it to test it out. See if this is a long term fix for your burnout. Just taking an easy 5 minutes a day can help reduce your levels of stress, and combat burnout. 

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes….including you.”
– Anne Lamott

Time Management: Don’t Make Sacrifices

I’ve got an important question for you. Between the things you want to do and things you have to do, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Many people call this time management. But nobody talks about what do you have to sacrifice?

If you’re like a lot of people, you sacrifice things like sleep, exercise, fun and leisure. Unfortunately, those aren’t luxuries. They’re needs. Adults need fun and leisure just as much as kids do, and sleep and exercise are basic needs required for our biological systems to run smoothly. You can certainly get by without these for a while, but not without a big toll on your health, well-being, and quality of life.

“Great!” you think. “I’m already strapped for time, cramming more than one human being’s worth of stuff into one day, and you’re telling me to add MORE! Exactly how am I supposed to do that?”

I don’t have all the answers, and you may be limited by some very real constraints of your current situation, but the main thing is to get intentional. Time is a non-renewable resource. You only get 24 hours a day, and you have a finite number of days. How do you want to spend this precious commodity? Not how do others want you to spend your time. Not how does your mind want you to spend that time. How do you want to spend your time, based on your priorities and values and taking into account your responsibilities, goals, commitments, and demands?

To help you get intentional and get more life out of your 24 hours, here are a couple strategies to try out:

1. Do a time audit.

Take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down how you spent your time. All of it. Do this for a few days to gather some good data, then look at patterns. Chances are you’ll notice some time drains:

  • Do you lose time scrolling on social media, streaming shows, or other mindless activities?
  • Are you spending more time on certain activities than you realized? Or doing things more often than you realized?
  • Do others hijack your day with requests or demands?
  • Are you putting others’ wants or needs ahead of your own
  • Are you busy with productive procrastination? These are tasks that need to be done at some point but aren’t necessarily the priorities for that day.
  • Do tasks take you longer than anticipated?
  • Are you over-committed?
  • Are you doing things that don’t really matter to you or that don’t add value to your life?

Once you have a sense of how you’re actually spending your time, you’re in a good position to make some adjustments, which brings us to…

2. Plan your day in advance.

Take 5 minutes the evening before or first thing in the morning to plan your day. Then stick to your schedule, barring unexpected out of your control demands that arise. Be sure to quickly reflect on your schedule at the end of the day. Did you follow it? If not, what got in the way?

 Planning your day in advance allows you to consider what’s important to you and to be intentional about how you spend your precious time. Pre-making these decisions protects you against others hijacking your time. Of course, there will be people who need things from you – partners, kids, bosses, etc. –  and you may not always be able (or even want) to say no. With some deliberate planning, though, you may find that you’re putting out fewer fires and feeling more in control throughout the day.

Following a daily schedule also protects you from the sneaky things your mind does that take you off course. When you make decisions in the moment about how to spend your time, you’re more likely to fall victim to the numerous biases and short cuts that all of our minds take. For example, your mind will throw out a million excuses not to do things that take effort or energy (It’s too late to exercise. It’s been a long day, and you deserve a break.). It will prioritize the short-term pay off over the long-term (Scroll on your phone rather than meal prepping. It’s easier.). It will criticize or guilt you into things (You shouldn’t be reading a book. You should be doing XYZ.). And those are just a few of the ways minds try to “help” us out. When you map out your day, you take the decision-making out of the moment, which takes your mind out the equation. Sure, those thoughts may still pipe up, but they’re less likely to sway you.

Following a daily schedule is even more important if you’re at all prone to anxiety or depression, both of which can dictate in-the-moment decisions about what to do and how to spend time, resulting in self-amplifying cycles. Within my psychology practice, I’ve often seen giant reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms simply from creating – and sticking to – a daily schedule!

Tips for scheduling your day

  1. For some people, scheduling based on time works out really well. For example, at 8:00, I will make breakfast, check emails, and get ready for the day. For others, planning out times doesn’t work as well. If that’s you, try listing your daily “Must dos” instead. These are the activities that you must do today in order to feel good about how you spent your time.
  2. Include the big four as often as you can. For humans to be healthy and happy, we regularly need activities that are productive, enjoyable, social, and physical. A daily schedule isn’t about being productive non-stop. Try to carve out time for all of those kinds of activities, and It’s ok to double dip. Maybe going for a walk outside is both enjoyable and physical for you.
  3.  It’s also important to make sure that how you spend your time aligns with what’s important to you. That doesn’t mean that every minute should be fun or that we shouldn’t do things we don’t like. It does mean, however, that if how you spend the bulk of your time isn’t In line with your priorities and values, you’re not going to be as happy or satisfied with life as you could be. 

3. Incorporate Self-care.

Building effective self-care practices into your day can be well-worth the time cost. When you engage in self-care – real self-care, the kind that helps maximize your energy and mindset – you’re showing up at a higher level for the rest of your day. Figure out daily habits that help you get centered and feel strong. Is it exercise? Stretching? Listening to music while you get dressed? Having coffee on the porch? Cleaning the kitchen the night before? Unplugging an hour before bed? Waiting to check email until after you’ve accomplished something meaningful? Reviewing your calendar and goals each morning? Whatever it is, be sure to include it in your schedule. 

Designing an effective self-care routine can be a game-changer. Self-care [by Design] can help you level up your self-care.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

– Gretchen RubinP.S. I wore “busy” like a badge of honor for YEARS before finding Life Design, which was revolutionary. Life Design is all about creating a life that really works for you, rather than passively following the status quo. Combining Life Design with Psychology has made my life look and feel much differently than it did back in those too busy days. If you’re interested in diving deeper into this kind of work, check out our brand new Ascend program.


How to Protect Yourself from Burn-Out

Powered by RedCircle

Today’s show is dedicated to the person on the edge of burnout. The person who is juggling work, family, household, friends, and other responsibilities. 

You are an asset in your life. You are THE asset in your life, and as an asset, you must be protected. 

When you serve such an important role in so many different areas of your life, you need to make sure you’re able to show up with as much energy as possible. And, this means taking care of yourself, especially with stress and burnout.

Coupled with Coronavirus, world health experts identified burnout syndrome among those who developed a flawed work/life balance. Mixing work environments with personal life (family members interacting throughout the day), many were feeling overwhelmed, showing signs of burnout with physical and emotional effects; the worst cases could even be viewed as a medical condition. While physical symptoms of burnout were rare, job burnout was not, and the chronic stress that accompanied it. Without social support, workers experiencing burnout had compromised mental health.

Today, we’re speaking with Jamie Shapiro, Executive Leadership Coach, and Master Nutritionist. Jamie is the founder of Connected EC, and she has been coaching and developing high-performing teams since 1998. Her interest in the intersection of wellness and leadership grew out of her own experiences as an executive at large-scale IT companies. She managed large teams, faced enormous pressure, and was often on the road. 

We dive into such a great conversation in this episode. We talk about: 

  • Approaching leadership from a whole-body perspective 
  • The 4 holistic areas that true self-care should hit (pssst! It’s not just mental and emotional!) 
  • The battle between our short-term self who wants instant gratification and our long-term self who wants to grow. 
  • The importance of a clear vision for the future & the cognitive mechanism that fuels our ability to reach them. 
  • The gut–brain connection 
  • And finally, quick tips for pouring into ourselves so we can show up as the asset we are in our lives 

Jamie is the author of the book “Brilliant: Be the Leader Who Shines Brightly Without Burning Out.” 


When Being Selfish Is HEALTHY

We frequently have conversations with our students and clients about how it is NOT selfish to take care of yourself….but what if it actually IS selfish? What if it is something called healthy selfishness?

I came across this concept in a book I have been reading. The book is called “Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization,” and it is a modern-day revision of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. It is FASCINATING if you apply it to self-care

This book distinguishes between UNhealthy selfishness (which is rooted in greed, poverty, and neuroticism) and HEALTHY selfishness (which is rooted in abundance, the motivation to grow and be happy). It’s actually a form of psychological strength and resilience!

Healthy Selfishness = Self-Love

It argues that healthy selfishness is one factor that allows people to self-actualize and that healthy selfishness actually stems from healthy self-love.

Think about that! It all makes sense! When we love someone, we want them to be happy, and we do things to help support that happiness.

If we love ourselves, we should want ourselves to be happy and do things to help support our own happiness! A lot of people feel guilty about feeling good! 

What if, rather than allowing “selfishness” to be the excuse for why we don’t practice self-care, instead, we made it the reason why we NEED TO PRACTICE self-care?! 

What’s your level of healthy selfishness?

They included the items from a healthy selfishness scale, and I want to share them with you so that you can see just how ground-breaking this topic is. (For more detailed results on how you measure up, take the quiz here.)

How well does each of these statements describe you?

  • I have healthy boundaries.
  • I have a lot of self-care.
  • I have a healthy dose of self-respect and don’t let people take advantage of me.
  • I balance my own needs with the needs of others.
  • I advocate for my own needs.
  • I have a healthy form of selfishness (e.g., meditation, eating healthy, exercising, etc.) that does not hurt others.
  • Even though I give a lot to others, I know when to recharge.
  • I give myself permission to enjoy myself, even if it doesn’t necessarily help others.
  • I take good care of myself.
  • I prioritize my own personal projects over the demands of others. 


Healthy Selfishness in Action

Understanding something at a conceptual level and putting it into practice in your life are 2 entirely different things. Before you head off into your week, I want to give you a few tips to think about in order to cultivate your own level of healthy selfishness.

TIP #1: Ask yourself what you need…THEN DO IT

It’s incredible what happens if you take just a moment to stop, scan your body and your mind, and ask yourself what you need. Said another way, what could make you feel even better in this moment? 

Maybe you need a glass of water. Or 5 deep breaths. Or something to eat. Or a quick, brisk walk. Or simply to use the bathroom.

This week, twice per day, I challenge you to intentionally ask yourself what you need. And then go out of your way to fulfill that need.

TIP #2: Allow someone else to take charge

So many of us are the type who is used to taking charge or taking responsibility. We quickly spot issues around us that need to be resolved, and we fix them. Immediately.

This week, at least once, PAUSE. Allow someone else to step in. You’re not in this alone. Allow someone else to take some responsibility, and let yourself relax as they do so.

TIP #3: Say no

Be honest. When someone asks you to do something for them, is your immediate reaction to always say yes? How much free time does that leave you with? Do you ever resent having to follow through on those “yes’s?”

Just once this week, say no to a request or demand from someone else. Not only will this help give you the space you need to prioritize your own personal projects, but it’ll be good practice at setting healthy boundaries.

Need some help? We recently did an entire podcast episode on boundaries. Give it a listen to help give you the tools and confidence you need to say no this week. 

Go love yourself!

Self-care is a necessity. It supports you as the asset you are. You deserve to be loved and taken care of, just like everyone else around you. Love on yourself and take care of yourself this week! 

For help creating a stellar self-care routine, tailor-made just for you, check out our Self-care [by Design] mini-course.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”
– Paolo Coelho

Are You Living Life by Design or by Default? 

29 years ago today, my dad died from colon cancer.

That experience was one of the most impactful experiences of my life, but for more reasons than the obvious.

One of the biggest things I learned from that experience is the importance of TIME and HOW WE CHOOSE TO SPEND IT. 

At some point, our time will run out. This is the one certainty we can count on in life.

And how we choose to spend our time between now and then is of critical importance. Whether thats your career path, or even small parts of your life, be sure it is all by your own life design. 

I want you to keep that in mind as you read on.

Where we are now.

We thought we were in volatile, uncertain times before, but if you’re anything like me, you’re noticing an up-tick in volatility these days as…

Some states begin to reopen…

Other states remain on lock-down…

Small businesses announce their closures…

Unemployment payments are sporadically given out…

Friends and family members hold differing opinions about all of that.

It can begin to feel like everything is out of control.

But here’s the thing: Much of that is out of our control, and unfortunately, those are the things we tend to focus on. 

However, there is so much that is inside our control, yet that’s not where we put our focus. We have so much control over how we experience our days, and that, my friends, is where Life Design comes in.

What is Life Design?

Life Design is an approach that helps us live intentionally by designing our life experience using the ‘human-centered design’ process.

Human-centered design is the approach that businesses use to create products that we LOVE. 

The Instant Pot. The iPhone. And so many more.

The process begins by getting to know the people at the center of the design project. Once we know them (their values, needs, goals, barriers, etc), we can design specifically for them.

Life Design takes this very same approach and applies it to YOUR LIFE!

We get to know you at an intimate level, and using that depth of knowledge, we begin to apply it to different facets of your life.

The result is a life that feels custom-tailored for YOU. Because it was!

It sounds powerful because it is. This is why it’s such a big component of our core psych strength program, ASCEND. We know first-hand the power of Life Design and are weaving it into everything we do at Peak Mind.

The Opportunity is NOW.

Believe it or not, we have an amazing opportunity to practice Life Design right now.

As many of us move into the next chapter of our lives, we have the ability to question the aspects of our ‘old lives’ that weren’t quite right for us. 

We can also design new elements of our lives that are better aligned to who we truly are.

Now is the time to be doing this work.

It’s time to get honest about what was, and WASN’T, working for us and how we want our next chapter to be different.

It’s time to think through what these changes should optimally look like, identify likely barriers to these changes happening, and establish support systems to help make them a reality.

It’s time to start living by design, instead of living by default. 

“Many of the things in our lives are a direct result of choices we have made. Active or passive, they’re choices none the same. If you want a different result, it’s time to start making a different choice.”

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life!

As more states begin to slowly open after COVID19, you might find that some of your old habits sneak back into your life. Or, maybe you have found that you’ve developed some new habits during the quarantine period that you want to change.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, this post is for you. We’re going to break down exactly what a habit is (they’re VERY misunderstood) and ways to change them.

What is a habit?

Did you know that upwards of 40% of our behavior and 80% of our cognition is involuntary? 

Think about that!! 

Nearly half of the behaviors you execute in a day happen outside of your intentional control.

This is because our brains are habit-forming machines. They’re EXCEPTIONAL at it, and for good reason. Our brains have very big jobs. They have to run and maintain all of our bodily functions, while simultaneously taking in an incomprehensible amount of information each day, all the while, keeping us from missteps that could hurt or kill us.

No small feat!

To help preserve resources, our minds automate as much as possible, and much of that automation happens in the form of habits.

Now here’s the thing, habits are very misunderstood. People typically think about exercise, drinking, eating, and other things like that. But, habits are much broader than that. 

Habits are any behavior that is cued by something external or internal (or sometimes both) that leads to a reward. It’s that simple.

When you think about it that way, you start to realize that habits are broad and pervasive in our lives. 

Seeing your toothbrush cues you to brush your teeth.

Smelling coffee cues you to go out and get the newspaper.

Your hunger pang at 12:00 cues you to look for food.

Laying down in bed cues you to pick up your phone and check email.

So many of our behaviors run off of external and internal cues, which means it can be incredibly difficult to make changes to our routine when our environment is such a strong driver behind our behavior!

Never fear! There are a few things you can do to make it more likely that you’ll successfully change your habits. 

TIP #1: Get specific & intentional

Many people lose the habit game before they even start playing. It’s because they haven’t really thought through what behavior they’re trying to change.

They’ll say things like, “I want to eat better.” That’s not specific at all!

Being specific and intentional means examining your current behavior and selecting the very specific, “point-at-able” thing you want to change. (“I want to stop snacking after 8:00 pm.”)

TIP #2: Dissect the behavior

Scroll back up and look at that image of the anatomy of a habit that you saw earlier in this post. If you’ve done Tip #1, you’ve identified the middle of the sandwich: the behavior.

To truly understand your behavior and have a chance at changing it, you have to dissect the other 2 parts as well.

What cue (or CUES!) trigger you to want to execute the behavior?

What reward (or REWARDS!) do you get for executing the behavior?

In our previous example, your late-night snacking probably has a few cues, both internal and external.

  • Seeing the sun go down is a temporal (time-based), external cue
  • Feeling the boredom of the evening set in is an internal cue
  • Feeling a pang of hunger is an internal cue
  • The thought, “Come on, you’ve had a hard day and deserve it!” is another internal cue

You get the picture. Multiple cues can work together to trigger an involuntary behavior like late-night snacking.

The reward you get can be just as nuanced:

  • My boredom is relieved by snacking.
  • I feel rewarded and acknowledged for my hard work that day.
  • The fatty or sugary food tastes good.


TIP #3: Watch for cues!!!

Once you know what cues your behavior, spend a few days (or weeks, depending upon the regularity of the behavior), noticing the cues in action in your environment. Don’t worry about changing your behavior just yet. Just get good at noticing the cues and calling them out.


TIP #4: Replicate the reward

Now comes the real magic. Experiment with other behaviors that you can insert into the middle of the sandwich that give you the same or a similar reward to what you got from the original behavior you want to replace

Experiment with a BUNCH of different options. Try them on for size for a few days and see which ones work better for you. 

TIP #5: Monitor and separate yourself from your thoughts

As you make changes, your mind is going to go crazy! As I mentioned, our minds LOVE habits. Anything that we can execute involuntarily is one more thing our minds don’t have to worry about. 

Expect that your mind will throw you very convincing arguments against the behavior change you’re trying to make. This is so normal. 

Practice mindfulness by labeling the thought, (“The thought that I deserve that cookie is just my mind trying to get me to go back to my old habit.”). Then, practice labeling any of the urges, feelings, or thoughts that arise from it.

The goal isn’t to ignore anything or stop thinking. That’s not possible and can even back-fire. 

Rather, acknowledge the thought without judgement and label the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise.

TIP #6: Mind the gap!

Finally, as you’re making a habit change, expect that you’ll revert back to your old behavior. Habits are POWERFUL, even if they’re simple to dissect and understand. 

NEVER, NOT FOR ONE MOMENT, should you think you’ve failed, “fallen off the wagon,” or quit just because you’ve reverted back to an old behavior during your habit-change journey.

Instead of focusing on your one slip-up, start paying attention to the duration of the “gap” in between slip-ups. If you’re going in the right direction, that gap should slowly widen over time. 

If it does, THAT IS SUCCESS! Even if you slip up. That widening gap means you’re weakening the old behavior and strengthening the new one. 

Keep practicing with different cues, behaviors, and rewards until you start to see that gap widen.

Want more info?

This was the tiniest, mini-crash course in habits, but there is a wealth of information in this arena that is so worth diving into. 

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the following 3 books:


I also encourage you to try out Peak Mind’s ASCEND program. In addition to all of the great psychological strength building content, you’ll get access to a bonus Habit Formation & Change module.

You can do this!

My biggest wish for you coming out of this post is that you intentionally think about the actions you take in a given day / week / month / year, and spend some time thinking about which ones move you in the direction you want to go, and which ones don’t.

Too many of us are living our one precious life on auto-pilot.

You deserve more than that.

You deserve to live intentionally, purposefully, and by design. 

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
 – James Clear (“Atomic Habits”)