Mike Bayer on Creating a Strong Mindset in Ourselves and Our Kids

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com, it’s my new personal care line, Wellnesse with an “e” on the end. And this episode is all about curating a strong mindset in ourselves and in our kids. And I’m here with Mike Bayer, who is a two-times New York Times Bestselling author. He is the founder and CEO of the leading mental health treatment center in Los Angeles and considered one of the top life coaches in the world today.

He’s worked with A-list celebrities, and high performers, and everyday people, and he is an advisor to the “Dr. Phil Show” among other places. His work centers around helping people become their best selves. And we go deep on this today, things like breaking through anxiety, stress, and fear, how to make authentic decisions, and how we can curate a strong mindset in our children from the get-go. So, without further ado, let’s join Mike. Mike, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Mike: Thanks, Katie.

Katie: Well, you come highly recommended by someone I love dearly. And I’m so excited to chat with you today, especially for all the moms listening because I think so many parts of your message really resonate and are especially applicable to women and to moms especially. And from what of your work that I’ve read, I think one area that might be a great starting point is the idea of handling decisions because you have some strategies for this and I think they’re really applicable. And I think of all the population, I think moms have to handle the most decisions on a day-to-day basis. Certainly, I get bombarded with questions and decisions all day long. So I thought this would be a great jumping-in point on some strategies that you have on managing decision-making better.

Mike: Yeah, and you’re right. I mean, especially when you have stress, or pressure, or lack of sleep, decisions really get affected. I mean, we make over 30,000 decisions a day. And some decisions matter, some don’t matter. Sometimes we get really stuck on the things that are irrelevant, but we end up in this cycle or this loop. Sometimes it’s because our parents ingrained in us, this is important. And then other times we’re able to, kind of, you know, just not feel like it’s a big deal. So, it really depends. From my experience, a helpful tool is understanding, what right now is causing the most stress? And sometimes it’s really helpful to start there because what I’ve created is kind of like, a simple action plan for someone who really wants to shift an area of their life, feel a little bit different.

But usually, it’s good to kind of go, “Well, what’s most stressful?” And so once we identify what’s most stressful, we wanna go, “Well, why is it stressful?” You know, like, what is it about the situation that is causing fear, or panic, or worry? And it’s really helpful to understand, like, is it that bad? Is this situation that bad? And, you know, Katie, and having six kids, and being a mom, and the stressors that come with that, I mean, depending on the day and the mood and the time and the energy, you’re gonna make all sorts of different types of decisions. And sometimes decisions aren’t as big as we make them.

Katie: Yeah, and I love your idea of reserving the decision-making ability and the focus for the ones that do require more thought. I think, like, with moms, I call it death by 1,000 paper cuts. We get bombarded with the micro-decisions all day long. So some of those things that’s as simple as figure out natural strategies and that you don’t get asked the same questions and have to make the same decisions over and over. Like, if your kids are always asking you to get them water, put the water cups down low so they can reach them so they’re not asking you to get them water or give them the ability to answer their own questions whenever possible so that you’re not constantly the source of their decisions. But I think you’re right, when it comes to making the bigger ones, it’s really important to reserve that mental bandwidth and to be able to give those decisions the attention they deserve. And I think that’s, kind of, part of the impetus for your book, right? Your book is called “One Decision,” I believe. Can you talk about what that is and, kind of, using that as a starting point?

Mike: Sure. So, I find it really helpful assessment to figure out what decision needs to be made right now is an exercise I created called the SPHERES. And SPHERES is an acronym. I love an acronym because they’re super pithy and easy to apply. And so you can do the SPHERES with me right now if you’d like. You know, and we can do it with you and, Katie, we can take a look at it. So, the first S, and what we’re looking at is you’re gonna rate it, just from a 1 to 10. You’re gonna rate how in terms of you feeling, like, “Wow, I’m really content or at peace.” It doesn’t mean you have to have that joy. You know, like, sometimes we believe we have to this extreme joy all the time, which just isn’t reality. So, your social life from a 1 to 10 you wanna rate with how content you are with it. So you may not have a lot of friends but you may also not want a lot of friends. And so it may be an 8, it may be a 9, or you may feel like you’re lacking that community, that camaraderie, you know, other parents that you really love to be around. Maybe you, kind of, feel like you’re on an island. Maybe you don’t wanna be on an island. So first you rate the S.

Next is personal. The P is for personal. You rate it from a 1 to 10, and that’s your mental health. It’s how are you taking care of yourself? How is your anxiety? How is your depression? How are you looking at the world? The next is education or evolving. How much are you evolving? How much are you shifting and changing? And, you know, when we’re young, as we see with kids, they’re taught so much, they’re evolving so quickly, and then we, kind of, often stop evolving. We stop reading books. We stop getting interested or curious. we tend to get stuck with life. Rate that from a 1 to 10.

R is for relationships. Relationships mean, with your kids, with your spouse, with your ex, with your parents, whatever relationships are really impactful in your own life. The E, the next E is earnings. So, from a 1 to 10, how happy are you with how much money you have in the account. And S is for spiritual development. How spiritual do you feel? How much faith you have in your own life? Whatever that means for you. So, that’s kind of a simple assessment to start off to go, “All right, well, what areas are, kind of, lacking?” So, Katie, for you what came up for you?

Katie: I’m making notes over here if anybody sees me looking off-screen. I feel like I’m learning to prioritize the personal side better. That was an area that was lacking for me for a really long time. And I came from a pattern of, kind of, caretaking everybody else at the expense of my own mental health. So that’s what I’ve been actively working on. I feel like my strengths are probably in the education and evolving side because that’s so in line with my work. And I think the ones that are probably the lowest that I’m working on the most right now are relationships and the spiritual development side.

Mike: Got it. And this is good. So those are the two areas. And which of those are you most motivated to change?

Katie: Probably the relationship side. I think, like, that’s such a key of so many…it ripples into every other area.

Mike: Okay. And I don’t know if you wanna tell me, is there a specific relationship that you’re wanting to improve?

Katie: Actually there’s a couple. I don’t wanna give away too many details that aren’t mine to share. But there’s a couple that are really important. Yeah.

Mike: Okay. And in those relationships, would you say they’re causing more stress or you’re wanting more love, or you’re wanting more cash? Like, what would you wish it to be that would make it a little better for you?

Katie: In both cases, they’re sources of stress right now. And so, yeah, figuring out how to mitigate that.

Mike: Got it. And so, in terms of what it is that’s causing stress, this is, like, an assessment where I would go, “All right, we’ve dug in and we’ve gone, okay, here’s the one area…” Because it’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in those other areas that are really working, and it’s not fun to take a step back and look at that area because there’s usually some pain in it. There’s frustration. There’s like, I’ve tried everything, right? So it’s like, we don’t even wanna dig back into that. However, my belief and what I found is we’re always just one decision away from bettering, or changing, or shifting any area of our own lives. And so, if that one area with relationships is causing the most stress, I would say, “Well, what is one decision that you could make today that would give you more peace in that arena?” Do you have any rough, like, vague answer?

Katie: Yeah, I think in one particular, it’s gonna be related to boundaries. So it’d probably be a big key…And also, as you’re saying this, I’m making notes over here, and it seems like this is probably an evolving process as well because you’ve got almost like six balls in the air. And it seems like when you get a couple figured out or improved, that might actually, like, cause some friction in a couple of the others until you adjust to that throughout, kind of, all these areas.

Mike: Yeah, like, you’re right, one area can really trickle down like a plumbing system and it can cause some really bad water coming out of everything, right? Because when one area affects us, sometimes there’s spiritual development. Sometimes I find for people, it’s really good to start spiritually and to go, “What is a practice that works for me, that keeps me balanced, keeps me in faith?” Because when we have faith, and I don’t mean religious faith, when we have belief that it could get better, that really helps with anxiety, stress, and fear. So, for some people I work with, they’re like, “All right, I’m going to do a five-minute breathing exercise and a gratitude list. And at night, I’m gonna review my day. So, for everyone, it’s different. But we’re all, like I said, one decision away from improving one area of our life. And I find that when we improve that one area and it’s the right area, everything, kind of, gets better and more at peace. And granted, life’s whack-a-mole, right? Like, we’re always hitting a new area but it’s either grow or go. You know, and sometimes it’s like, it is what it is and we just have to make a decision to do what’s best for us, which ultimately ends up being best for the kids.

Katie: And you mentioned anxiety, stress, and fear. And it seems like these are all, kind of, at record highs as after everything of the past year-and-a-half. And certainly, these are things that I hear moms struggle with quite a bit, especially anxiety is a recurring theme from a lot of my readers and listeners. And I think from…I’ve read a lot of your work, you have a really valuable approach to these as well because I think often it’s easy to get in this mentality of, like, these things are outside of my control, and now there’s these forces and it feels very overwhelming. And so for people who are maybe in some of those states of mind, what are some tangible things we can do if we’re in anxiety, stress, and fear to move beyond it?

Mike: Well, I mean, it’s kind of like what I said where let’s figure out what is…what’s the heartbeat of this anxiety, stress, and fear? You know, like, really, sometimes we can get so overwhelmed that we don’t even know…you know, like, there’s a metaphor, you know, you step on a dry leaf, it cracks. It gets a little moisture and water, and then it bends. Right? And sometimes we get to the point where we’re cracking over things where we’re like, “Oh, my God, why did I say that? That’s not even that big of a deal.” So it’s figuring out what is that stress and then what is that support? Community, as you know, is so key to life. You know, it provides wisdom. It allows us to help others. You know, it allows us to mentor. It allows us to get mentored.

Even this podcast, it’s like, for anyone, it’s getting into that habit of, like, finding wise counsel and also giving back. I find that’s a really good solution for anxiety. Whether it’s going through a divorce, whether it’s what kind of school your kids should go to, because I’ve worked with a lot of parents and that seems to be a huge stressor is like, am I choosing the right school? Is this the right school? Now, I mean, things have changed so much, like you said, in the last year or so. But I think identifying the problem is always the first step to navigating on our roadmap where we’re going. And I find working with a lot of people for the past 18 years, they don’t actually know the problem. They think it is what their brain keeps cycling. But unless you bring someone else into the conversation, who’s wise and can provide guidance and solution, we can end up just in that same cycle.

Katie: That’s really interesting, that idea that they…So, are they focusing on a different problem or they think the problem is something different than what it actually is and that’s, kind of, causing a fixation, rather than them being able to figure out what the root is?

Mike: Yeah, like, so someone could be…I talked to someone recently, or this was last year when I’m thinking of this particular family, they were very stressed about, am I choosing the right school for my kid? It was like…It was very…She was even crying over it. She was so stressed out, am I choosing the right school for the safety of her own child? Well, if you peel it back, what she’s really stressed about is making the wrong decisions for her kid. It’s not even about the school. And then when we take a step back and we go, “Well, what other areas are you afraid of making the wrong decision for your kid?” it provides more clarity to the whole thing. Otherwise, the school is just like the external stress but the real fear is about I’m afraid of making wrong decisions for my kid. Got it.

Let’s look at all the right decisions you’ve made. Have you made more right decisions or have you made more wrong decisions? And because we’re all stuck in our head throughout the day, I find for a lot of parents, they don’t take the time to go, like, “God, I have made so many great decisions for my kids.” They don’t do that. Instead, they’re just like on to the next, on to the next, on to the next. And I think that that’s what I mean when I say people are focused on like, this is the stress but it’s deeper.

Katie: That’s a good point, really dialing it down to the root. And you also talk about shifting out of a victim mentality. And I think this is a really important key of…Like, some of my greatest teachers have been books but people like Viktor Frankl, who you added to him as an example,, if he can choose, that is such an extreme situation, like, we all have the ability to choose the things which are in our control, which are our own responses and how we react in any given scenario. But I think this one really can be tough for a lot of people, especially for anyone listening with a health problem because I certainly found myself going to that place when I was in the worst of autoimmune disease of that, kind of, like, why is this happening to me? It’s not gonna get better. And that’s a really difficult mindset to be in. And I feel like it can be a difficult mindset to break as well. So, what are your strategies for helping people who are there?

Mike: And have you talked to your audience before about Viktor Frankl and what he did? And…

Katie: A little bit. I’ve written about him some, just as a book that I love. And I’ve also, kind of, delved into stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius, and some of those works, but I mean, he’s a hero of mine. I love him. So we can definitely talk about him.

Mike: Yeah, he’s amazing. Yeah, and Nelson Mandela, you know, like, you look at these extremes…I’m friends with Sabrina, who’s Trayvon Martin’s mom, right? Like, I got lunch with her in Miami. I mean, I can imagine what it’s like to have your kid taken…you know, their life taken, put in the public eye. Like, she’s such a resilient woman. And, like, I think it’s very easy…The easy way in life is to be a victim. It’s so easy. It’s so easy because it doesn’t require any insight into self. But the problem is, you create a lot of suffering for yourself by being a victim. There is really no benefit to staying in this idea of victim. Like, I grew up in a family where there was this, like, blame and shame. And, you know, as adults, we often have to work on ourselves and relieve ourselves of, kind of, those things that we’ve carried for so long. But, you know, you can’t be a victim and empowered at the same time. And if you think you can be, from my experience, it’s wonky. It is off-balance because it’s really taking responsibility for our own lives. It’s looking at what do we have the power to change? And it’s also putting life into perspective.

You know, like, I’ve been to Kurdistan, Iraq several times, working with Yazidi women whose husbands have been beheaded in front of them and their daughters are sex trafficked and their sons were forced to join ISIS. And the moms are two hours removed from their homes and literally, like, they’re, like, our parents and they’re living in, like, huts practically, like, these little refugee camps. And they’re, like, the nicest people. It’s not at all what you see in the media, right? Like, they look like you and I. And to me, I owe it…those are victims. Like, of anyone that I’ve met, those are the people I’m like, “Oh, my Lord, that is horrific.” And it’s interesting how it’s so tough sometimes for people to get out of that mindset. But God, if someone is listening who feels like they’re a victim and wants to change because it’s toxic and you actually don’t feel good when you’re a victim. Man, it’s a game-changer. So, what is something that you see with a lot of parents in terms of being, kind of, a victim?

Katie: I think there’s a lot that goes…Well, I think there’s a lot of building pressure on parents related to the academic side, like you mentioned, with getting kids in the right school or the inability to make sure that they have the perfect future. And I think inadvertently, this has led to parents doing more for their kids and letting their kids do less on their own, which ironically, seems to actually be hurting our kids in the long run because they need these foundational skills. Early on, they need to be self-sufficient. They need to learn how to work through problems. But instead, I think parents are so worried about their kids’ futures, that they’re problem-solving for them and short-circuiting that cycle of them learning the life skills themselves. It seems to be a recurring pattern for sure.

Mike: So you’re saying, in terms of being a victim…the parents are a victim in the sense that they end up doing what their kid needs to do, but then they, like, act like they shouldn’t or, like, what…?

Katie: Like, doing it for them. Like, for instance, when I was a kid, I had an understanding if I messed up at school, I was gonna get in trouble at school and I was gonna get in trouble when I got home, and my parents were gonna back the teacher. And if I backtalk to any of those scenarios, it was gonna be worse. And now, I hear from so many teachers who have parents coming in and fighting their kids’ battles or being like, “My kid needs a different grade on this test.” And so kids aren’t learning, I’m responsible for my own actions, which seems to be what you were talking about is the root of this is in the responsibility in choosing radical responsibility, we find freedom. And so it seems like we’re keeping our kids from being able to learn that when we do that for them.

Mike: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And my sister is a teacher and she’s told me some of the stories of parents who come in where she’s trying to do her job. And, you know, it’s interesting. It’s interesting how things evolve and change. It’s almost like our parents’ generation were tougher than our generation and we’re tougher than the generation now, right? It’s like, where is this gonna end up in 30 years, right?

Katie: Yeah. And I think it goes back to the idea you’re talking about too of, like, responsibility. And I think maybe that’s part of what’s gotten lost a little bit in these generations. And the extreme example, that being people like Viktor Frankl who faced…or these women that you mentioned, like, faced things we can’t even fathom, which put our problems in perspective. But for me, for a long time, for instance, one of my internal ones that I felt like a victim in was I had a lot of trouble losing weight and I’ve recently lost almost 100 pounds. But before that point, I had this mental script of, like, “I can’t lose weight. Why is this so hard?” And I had mental excuses I could hide behind of, like, “Oh, well, I had sexual trauma and I have Hashimoto’s. I’ve had thyroid disease. I’ve had six kids. There’s all these reasons.” And when I was able to shift my mindset to being totally responsible and in control of that myself, and also being willing to face the inner work of working through trauma, I was able to shift that and the weight loss part was almost effortless once I fixed the inner mental side.

Mike: Right. Right.

Katie: Because I was no longer trying to, like, punish and fight my body anymore.

Mike: Well, congratulations. That’s amazing. I forgot to add the H to SPHERES. And just I ended up spelling out speres, but it’s S-P-H-E-R-E-S. It’s the first time I’ve done that in two-and-a-half years, but I’m glad you brought up health because, yeah, again, like, you know, making a decision towards anything has a huge effect on everything in life. And really, how do we take responsibility for our own lives? How do we not blame our past? How do we not blame our kids? How do we not blame the teachers? And how do we just realize that we’re capable of really thriving, and living, and marching to our own beat? You know, the cool thing I see right now with parents is there’s a lot more creativity with parents in terms of, like, education, learning, teaching, that seems like it’s a lot more flexible than when we went to school.

Katie: That’s true. And I think maybe something else that could be helpful in this area, potentially, you talk about avatars. And I’ve mainly heard of avatars from, like, as a writer, knowing who I’m writing to and having a very clear idea of my reader, basically, as a person that personifies in my head so that I can write clearly and, hopefully, reach who I’m trying to reach. But you have a really cool way of using avatars. And I feel like this maybe is an area where it could be helpful as well with changing our mentality a bit. Can you explain what that is?

Mike: Yeah, it’s so helpful for kids. And I’ve gone into schools and done this. It’s called the best self exercise. And essentially, it’s identifying who our best self is. It’s writing out the characteristics of who we are when we feel authentic. And then it’s creating an avatar. So, like, mine’s a wizard named Merlin. I have a wizard tattooed all the way down my arm. I have wizards all over my house. People give me wizards as gifts. But it’s really about bringing your best self into any situation where you feel uneasy, uncomfortable. And the great thing is everyone creates their own version of their best self. And for everyone, it’s different. And the kids can do it. I’ve had so many families do this exercise. And then you create your anti-self, which is the part of you that’s getting in your own way right now, the part of you that just feels inauthentic, the part of you that feels like, you know, gosh, it’s just I didn’t say that the way I wanted to say it or this just doesn’t feel like me. And you do the same thing, you create what I call your anti-self. Mine’s a male witch named Angelos because I think witches have no…male witches. Like, I don’t know, I don’t remember a lot of male witches growing up. So I feel like they just complain about everything and they’re insufferable.

But it’s really you add humor to self-help, it makes it a lot more attractive to kids because, like, even if a parent is really upset and their kid sees them and the parent’s, like, so angry, if the kid…Like, I had in the book, Road Rage Regina, which was this mom, whenever she got behind the wheel, she was just not a great…she was like an angry person on the road and it affected everyone in the car. And essentially, if the kids can’t go, “Mom, you’re so angry,” but if they go, “Mom, your Road Rage Regina came out,” it’s kind of funny. And then what it does is it allows us to make a conversation happen around self-help that’s fun, that’s created, that’s authentic. And it’s really powerful to see your kids go through the exercise because I’ve never had a parent guess all the characteristics and what was created out of a kid’s anti-self.

Katie: That’s really interesting. So this is an exercise even…what age do you have kids go through this?

Mike: Well, the school I went to, I think they were 8 or 9. So as young as 8 or 9-year-olds, and you get out some markers or crayons or paint or whatever it is, and you really just help them understand, like, who are you? And often the younger they are, the more they’re thinking of, like, superheroes or, like, something they’ve seen in cartoons are usually the inspirations. When you get to their anti-self, what that does is it helps you paint a picture, it helps them paint for you a picture of what’s going on internally that they can’t articulate into words. And so, I’ve had so many children share with their parents their anti-self. Like, I had one girl when I went to a school, I think she was like 8 or 9 years old, and the dad thought she was the most upbeat, you know, fun, happy child. And she said that her anti-self would not finish dinner, and run to the bathroom, and sit in there for an hour. And who knows what was going on in the bathroom too, right? The dad had no idea whatsoever. And so what it did was gave him some information for him and his wife to realize that that behavior is what’s starting to happen in the household. And then otherwise, they would have had no idea.

Katie: That’s really fascinating. And I think, as parents, I think I really believe that one of the best things, most valuable gifts we can give our kids is a strong mindset and that foundation mentally, much more so than even, to your early point, the best education that we worry so much often about them having every academic opportunity. But when we look at the long-term data, I’m sure you see this in all the high achievers you work with, a continual thing that separates people is that mindset component and things like growth mindset versus fixed mindset, but also, like, being able to break free of that victim mentality and believe that you have the power to affect the outcome. So, as a parent, I’m really curious, are there more strategies like that, that we can implement early on with our kids to really give them the gift of that mindset early?

Mike: Well, I’ll send you over…I did this exercise on Dr. Phil when I went into a school. So I’ll send that over to you, which it’s…If I was a parent, I would be doing this with my kid, absolutely without a doubt. It’s off my first book “Best Self,” and it literally will tell you what is going on in your child’s brain that they’re not articulating to you. It’s also gonna give you signs and symptoms of addiction, depression, anxiety disorders. You know, one of the businesses I’ve owned for 15 years is a treatment center. So I’ve dealt with thousands of families and what happens when somebody ends up having to go to treatment or loses control of their mindset. And so, this all does start at a very young age. I think that I’ve seen there’s a lot of confusion around food, eating disorders. A lot of this, especially for the younger females, I find, is so prevalent, especially with social media and being in the house. And typically, that comes from a parent, where the child feels like they’re being controlled a lot. They feel like they’re so controlled that the one thing they can control is food. That’s a pattern I’ve seen so many times. Parent doesn’t realize it. They’re doing the best they can, but they’re projecting their own emotions onto them.

I think it’s also really helpful to establish, like, a fun bonding time, like, actually understanding what your child wants to do by giving them options. You know, like, sometimes a kid will grow up in a family where the family loves football, so they think they should just play football. But a parent should give their child…And I know the parent really wants their kid to play football and go to their high school, and they have a whole vision for their kid. But think about it, I mean, if the kid’s…and sports are fantastic, as we know through research and everything. There’s a lot of sports. There’s a lot of communities. Really what it is, is community, right? Yes, it’s athletics. It’s fantastic for the body. But, you know, from my experience, you’re born into this family system, it’s easier for the parents to have their son go play football. But giving the son experiences and some options, even though you really want them to play football, is healthy because it’s giving them the freedom to start choosing what they enjoy. They won’t get resentful later on like they had to do it. And I think that’s something that parents seem to think, from my experience, that their kid suddenly should become an Ohio State fan just because they were. It’s like, you know, help a kid figure out, like, who they are, how they wanna live in the life, what they really love because they’re all such authentic, brilliant little creatures. You know, and we have to let that come out, you know.

Katie: I’m so glad you brought up that point because I think there’s many ways this plays out. And like you said, food seems to be a very common one and one that every parent has to navigate because we all have to feed our children. But it’s hard I think, especially as a mom, when your baby is literally grown in your body to break that mindset and realize as soon as they come out, they are separate of us and they are their own person. And I think maybe, like, community and culture is the beautiful way to do that. Like, create a community and culture in your family and in your small environment that they want to be part of, rather than maybe forcing that dynamic. And probably that goes a lot farther away. But when it even comes to the food situation or as they become teenagers, maybe the alcohol situation, things like that, it seems like psychologically, they are geared to need to separate from the family at some point and to figure out their own path. And to the degree that we try to inhibit that, we almost force them to do that more because they’re not able to go through that normal developmental stage. And I know it’s hard as a parent. I’m right there too with teenagers.

But it seems like any time, like, to your point, we can give them options and autonomy and let them make decisions in a safe way when we’re really actually empowering them and probably increasing the chances of them wanting to be part of our family culture versus demanding it. Are there any other things we can do to, kind of, try to break that control dynamic? I think of things, like, maybe with food of, like, even though I’m in the health world and we eat healthy at home, I view it as my responsibility is to cook. I cook clean food, but their responsibility is to decide if they’re hungry or not. And if they’re not hungry, or they don’t like it, I will never force them to eat. And if they’re not in my home, if they’re with a friend, I don’t try to control their food choices. They’re responsible for making food choices and learning the consequences of those choices. But I’m curious, like, are there strategies you give to parents to help break that control dynamic? Because it’s hard when we love our kids so, so much.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think everyone has their own authentic idea around, you know, what it means to support versus do it for them, to control versus, you know, keep safe. And so everyone’s a little bit different. From my experience working with families, it’s really important to allow and encourage someone to make decisions and make mistakes. You know, if somebody has choices and they make a decision, let’s say to…You know, there’s a lot of freedom that happens because it starts to build resilience inside of someone when they make mistakes. Mistakes are fantastic. Realizing what you don’t like or you didn’t enjoy doing blank activity, that’s fantastic. It’s not, oh, I’m so sorry that you didn’t love it. It’s more like, ooh, that’s really good to know that you don’t like that. And if you can teach your kids just that flip of obstacles becoming opportunities, they’re gonna be so resilient. Period. Coddling them when they had a bad experience is not going to build resilience.

Katie: Yeah, and that seems to be a commonality of biographies I read of successful people, that idea that and even in the stoicism idea, the obstacle is the way. And if you can frame it as there’s a lesson in this. And I know, like, it’s hard to do in the moment, certainly. But I can now look back even in, like, my most severe trauma during high school and say, honestly, I’m so grateful that happened. I wouldn’t have chosen it. I would never choose it for my kids. But I’m so grateful it happened because it taught me so many things. And so I think yeah, you’re right, if we can give our kids that mindset early on, that’s a huge key to them being able to face challenges without falling into those fear, stress, and anxiety loops you talked about.

Mike: Correct. And setting it up so they don’t have a victim mentality as they navigate life, where they think there’s a reward system. Because if the reward is coming from mom or dad, who are the most important relationships in a kid’s life, then it starts to teach a kid that behaving this type of way or if an experience is unpleasant, and you complain, that there’s gonna be this reward of nurturing or you don’t have to feel that type of way, but later in life, that’s not how life works. That’s not how business works. Maybe in the academic system, it’s gonna be coded a certain type of way that’s gonna be hypersensitive to everyone’s…you know, trying to be sensitive to every emotion. But once you get out of college, it’s just not like that anymore. And it’s not what people find attractive in partners or relationships, you know. But it’s such a great opportunity to change that conversation in, you know, your kids’ head. I think that’s…The fact that you…You know, I don’t even remember people like you, Katie, when I was growing up, who would, you know, provide advice to someone like my mom. You know, she would just flip on the television, you know, it’s 15 stations. And so parents now have such an opportunity to learn so much.

Katie: It’s true that the benefits of technology give us all this. We still have to be careful of how we curate that I think because it’s also got its downsides. But you’re right, we have the ability to learn from all of these amazing people throughout history at our fingertips and to teach our kids very much in the same way.

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I think you’ve touched on something that it leads into another question I wanted to ask, which is the idea of motivation, both self-motivation and curating motivation in our kids because I think it’s actually really illustrative of both within that how you mentioned, we don’t wanna just do this with our kids in a reward system, so they’re dependent on external rewards for their own motivation. And I think this applies to us as adults as well. But yet I see people, kind of, falling into that idea of trying to motivate themselves through some kind of external reward versus intrinsically.

And I know, you said if you could give a TED talk on any topic, one of them will be why motivational talks alone don’t work. And I think this is such an important point because whether it’s trying to lose weight, or get healthier, or make any kind of lasting life change, we have to have that ability to stick to it. And I have read some of your work. So I think this is a really important topic, how do we navigate the motivation component?

Mike: Well, I think it’s figuring out what is authentic for us and what is authentic for our kids. And it’s always evolving. We’re always evolving. So, what worked yesterday may not work in the future. So for some people, it’s figuring out, okay, what is going to create inspiration? For some people, it’s motivation. You know, sometimes motivation, it is creating a reward system that if, you know, the child cleans up after themselves, and takes out the trash, and does what’s necessary as part of the household, then, you know, it may be that there is dinner…you know, consistently if that happens so many times, there’s dinner at your favorite restaurant together or what have you. Like, that to me is all healthy. And it’s a part of teaching people that good things happen when you show up in the family, in your own life. But everyone’s different.

So, for some people, I found it’s music. It’s figuring out, listen, turn on that nostalgic song that you loved in high school or in college, and sit there for 5 to 10 minutes, and just chill with it. Like, just chill. And what I’ve found 9 times out of 10 when I’ve helped people do this, unless they’re completely unwilling to look at life any different, they’re so, “No, I’m gonna be stressed out and I don’t wanna feel any type of way. It’s not gonna work.” But if someone has a little bit of openness, music is tremendous if that’s something that vibrates through you and changes you. For some people, it’s exercise. For some people, it’s gonna be breathing. For some people, it’s journaling. For some people, it’s community. So it’s just knowing yourself and understanding, “Here are the different things that get me charged up to be inspired and motivated.”

Katie: Yeah, that makes sense. And yeah, I think that the point you mentioned is the internal key that we all have to navigate, which is being willing to make the change. And I learned, for myself, like, for a lot of years, I thought I was willing to make the changes but because of some past trauma stuff, I actually, there were parts of my brain that were saying it’s not safe to make these changes. And sometimes there’s things where we have to deal with a core thing, often that seems to go back to childhood, so that we can be in a mental space to be willing to actually make the changes. And then so often, the motivation can stem much more easily beyond that point. And I think it seems like many of us, even the high achievers that I talked to, emerge from childhood with, kind of, one of these core limiting beliefs, something along the lines of maybe I’m not good enough, or I’m not lovable, or I’m not worth whatever…So, I’m curious, do you run into that with your high achievers? And if so, how would you help them to work through that?

Mike: Well, I mean, I’ve been through this with everyone, you know, they all have a committee…Unless there’s just extreme narcissism, I mean, then it’s hard to get through, like, what…Okay, you know, why am I here then, what do you need me for? But, yeah, I mean, we all wanna be loved and we all get imposter syndrome or feeling like we’re a fraud at times or we’re not good enough. And I think we look for external validation because sometimes we just don’t feel enough today. But, you know, from my experience, it’s having that insight. When you know what you’re actually thinking, there’s relief in it because you know you’re actually thinking it and you have the ability to make decisions to change the way you think.

But you bring up a good point because if you’re able to say, “Look, like, I’ve had this long-standing belief that I’m not good enough or I’m not lovable,” then there’s a place to work from to go like, “Well, what would make me feel more lovable? Is this even realistic? Like, where did I create this story?” You know, and sometimes, I find working with other people is just tremendous because it helps us find our blind spots. You know, doing this all alone, some people are capable…I almost look at, like, they’re the person in school who doesn’t need to be a part of any study committees. They can do it themselves. They’re focused. But at a certain point, just connecting with other people who have had that same feeling or feel the way you do is a game-changer.

Katie: Absolutely. And that goes back to that idea of community as well, which I think we know from the statistics, at least on the health side, having strong community in our daily life is actually one of the most important things we can do for health and longevity. It’s actually more important than not smoking or exercising. Like, it’s drastically important. And so, I think maybe that’s a key as well as if that’s something that’s one of those areas of your sphere that’s lacking, maybe that’s a really important one to prioritize, and certainly one I feel like a lot of people are struggling with after this past year, that community’s been hard for a lot of people after this past year. Do you have any tips for curating a community? Because I don’t feel like it happens as naturally as it used to. For my grandma, it was like you had community built-in in your neighborhood or with your family, and in today’s very virtual world and very fast-paced world, that’s changed so much. And I feel like we have to be much more proactive about really creating this now.

Mike: Yeah, I think…I mean, it’s such an opportunity to find a community. Like, I go to jiu-jitsu. I started going to jiu-jitsu eight months ago. I’m 41 years old. I’m 6’5, 275 pounds. I’m built like a tree, right? But I went, “Uh-oh, there’s not…” Like, I’m a recovering alcoholic. So I could go to recovery meetings. I like jiu-jitsu, I could go to jiu-jitsu. I like fitness, I could join a fitness group. There’s so many different types of communities. I think sometimes we don’t stick around long enough to realize where the love is. Like, we kind of go into it maybe feeling a little insecure but there’s such…The virtual communities, yes, it’s great to have a virtual community, but there’s something about being able to connect with people in person. And, you know, religion has figured this thing out better than anyone on Earth. I mean, those communities, they’re just like, you know, they’re, like, businesses they have. Like, and so if someone’s a part of religion, I’m not but, like, it’s figuring out for yourself, what is gonna create that love and how can you give love back? How are you adding something too? And figuring out something because your kids are gonna get older. So it’s not just being a part of school communities.

Katie: Yeah, you’re right. I think that’s a good point that we can learn from that even if…And I think you’re right, religious traditions have gotten this right for a long time. And I think a huge part of their importance of people’s life is that community aspect, but they do things that we can all learn from, even if, like you, that’s not a big part of your life, of they meet regularly, and they focus on growth toward a common goal and things like that. So just having those factors, you can unite around other common goals or get together regularly in other atmospheres. But you’re right, I think that’s an easy place for a lot of people like the most natural place where they can, kind of, plug into that. But for people who aren’t in a religious community, that’s a great thing to learn from and to create community in your life.

Mike: Oh, yeah. I mean, are you…? What communities are you a part of?

Katie: Oh, well, so ours locally has been, kind of, amazing, actually, due to COVID it got even better. Geographically, we live in an area with a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of homeschoolers. So we’ve been able to unite around those things. And then even we live near a pole vault facility. So my kids all pole vault and they’ve united around the…

Mike: That’s cool.

Katie: …idea of an athletic activity and things like that. So, ours is very geographic and thankfully is like that 1950s neighborhood where you’re close to all your friends. And I’m extremely grateful for that. But I haven’t always had that either. In the past, I’ve had to be much more intentional about forming that and inviting people over. And I tell people, that’s also a key is if you don’t have it naturally, be the one that starts it. Be the one that puts yourself out there and invites people over or be the house where everybody’s always welcome and teenagers can always come hang. Like, my kids’ friends are welcome, anytime, any day. I will feed any children in my house. I always wanted to be the place where my kids felt that they wanted to hang out and to bring their friends to hang out. And then by ripple of that, I’ve become really great friends with some of those parents and developed friendships as well. But I think in today’s world, the lesson is you just have to sometimes be the one who put yourself out there and that creates it.

Mike: Yeah. Absolutely.

Katie: And you also talk a lot about the idea of making authentic decisions, and I think this is another really key point, and one that is also harder in the modern world because we have so many distractions and so many forces that are competing to tell us what are the types of decisions we should make and what’s important and what’s not. So, talk about that and the idea of authentic decisions and how you know what that is and how to do it.

Mike: Well, you know, I think the challenge is when we don’t necessarily need it, and we can’t…Okay, I created, you know, one decision called the FORCE, right? So FORCE is an acronym, and the F is for fortune-telling, the hack to it is fact-finding. And so, to fortune-tell would be essentially that we predict what’s gonna happen. And so, we’re not really making authentic decisions if we’re just trying to lean into what we’re expecting the result is going to be or we just think other people are doing this, so I’m going to do it too. And so, you know, it’s really hard sometimes to know for ourselves what is authentic when we’re in fear of any kind. And so, I think there’s so many decisions we make every day that are just, kind of, on autopilot, they don’t really matter. And then there’s the decisions that maybe are more critical decisions, where we’re figuring out what is our authentic decision in this sense?

And there’s no, like, good or bad decisions. Like, they’re just decisions because, in hindsight, we could look back at her life and go, “Gosh, I’m so glad I did that. I wasn’t going to do that.” And then we try to go, “Well, was that authentic? Was that not authentic?” But I think authentic, it’s really just trying to get honest with itself. It’s like making decisions from an honest point and understand what your intention is. It’s really what it is. And if you need to create an avatar to help you go through making those decisions authentically, sometimes it’s helpful to be like, “Well, what would kangaroo Katie do?” Well, she’d hop right into the next and she would basically show up and…You know, so it sounds so simple, but it kind of is.

Katie: Yeah. And I think that’s another important life lesson is sometimes it doesn’t have to be this complicated. And sometimes you wanna create all these elaborate strategies and systems, and sometimes those are needed, but sometimes it’s not. And sometimes it doesn’t have to be that hard. And I know, for me, one of those internal things was I had this script of like, “Oh, if only this, this and this happen, then I will be happy.” And then I eventually realized, I can actually just choose happiness now, and I can choose to accept my body now, and I can choose community now, even until I’m still working on these other things. And, like, to your earlier point, we have the ability and the power, when we take responsibility for things to make those decisions. We don’t have to wait on all the external factors to line up for us.

Mike: Yeah, you nailed it.

Katie: Well, and as we get close to the end of time, a few other questions I love to ask. The first thing if there’s any other areas that are commonly misunderstood or that there are misconceptions about when it comes to the work that you do.

Mike: Yeah, I think there’s misunderstandings that you need to pay to be coached. Like, there’s so many coaching programs out there. So it’s kind of created, like, to me, like, this belief that, like, you have to sign up for this program or this program in order to get what you need, but there’s so many free resources out there. Like, I have a free group, which I’d love for you to speak at. It’s our empowerment group every Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Like, our next group is all about an expert coming in talking about grief, and how do you deal with loss? And it’s over Zoom with, like, 400 people and, like, it’s free. And then we have a food and wellness group on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. It’s free and it’s a community of people really interested in a healthier lifestyle. And so podcasts, free. And so sometimes I think people maybe will pay to think that there…Unless you’re joining a community, I don’t know if your best time and energy spent is, you know, paying $20,000 for someone’s executive program. I know that doesn’t help my business but I’m just saying, like, that’s not…That’s one, what did you say, misconception is that you need in order to advance or evolve or grow in your life that, like, these “gurus” have figured it out and you must do it.

Katie: That’s a good one. Yeah, I think you’re right. And I tell my kids too, like, we take an alternative approach to education but we literally have access to more than the Library of Alexandria right here on our phone. Like, all the resources are there. We have access to them through podcasts, through the internet. You can find all of these resources for free. And I think there is value sometimes to paying for a specific program if it helps you stick to it and to having a more one-on-one approach for very specific things. But to get started, there’s so much already available that’s there and…

Mike: If you have the money, right, like, if you don’t have the money, chill a bit, like, you know. Like, and the other is people want to help people. People want to share wisdom. So, by asking someone to get coffee with you and to tell more of their story, it’s a compliment to them. You’re not actually…You may feel insecure like you’re being needy but people love to share. Now, they’re not gonna do it for you. They’re not gonna necessarily go make introductions, no expectations. But people love to teach other people, as long as there’s no drama and as long as there’s no, like, feeling like they have to do something. But if they’re just giving their wisdom, one of the greatest moments for so many people is being able to teach other people. And I know sometimes there’s this, I don’t know, I don’t wanna call so and so because, you know, I don’t wanna bother them. You’re not bothering them. They would love to tell you.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. And then that’s a great jumping-in point to community as well. And yeah.

Mike: Yeah, exactly.

Katie: I love that. Another question I love to ask is obviously other than your own that I’ll link to in the show notes, is there a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life? And if so, what they are and why.

Mike: Yeah. So, I mean, there’s several. I love Terry Brooks novels, which are fantasies. So there’s this book called “Swords of Shannara,” which I just love fantasy in every format and type. I mean, I’m a sober guy. So, “Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book” is great. It’s pretty cheap. It’s like 17 bucks and it’s a guide if you wanna get off drinking. There’s a book called “The Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison and it’s all about bipolar disorder from her perspective as a psychiatrist who has it. I mean, I’m more either fantasy or mental health-driven in terms of the types of books that I really love.

Katie: I love it. It’s on my list to get better at reading more fiction because I tend to, like, go into the deep sciency stuff. So I’m gonna make sure those are linked in the show notes.

Mike: Terry Brooks is so good. He’s so talented.

Katie: That’s a new recommendation. I’ll make sure it’s linked. That, I guess, ties in with the wizard and the male witch and all that kind of tied in to your own life.

Mike: You got it. Yeah, no, I mean, if you saw my house, you’d see wizards and color, and even, like, my logo’s a wizard because I remember…I have to remind myself…We all have to have reminders in our life to help nudge us along the way of being our best selves. So…

Katie: I love it. And yeah, that’s definitely been the theme of this episode is all those factors, both positive and negative, to help you become your best self. And with that in mind, do you have any parting advice for anyone listening today?

Mike: I mean, this sounds so cliche, but just for the last year, it’s just life is short. Life is just happening and do it today. You don’t have to wait. You can just start going at it today and make those changes, make those decisions today. You know, you’re not really working on it if you’re not doing it today. You know? And so might as well just do it today and make one decision towards a better life.

Katie: I love that quote, “You’re not really working on it if you’re not doing it today.”

Mike: Everyone says I’m always like, “Oh, well, I’m working on that.” Well, how are you working on that? “Well, I think about it.” Oh, you think about it?

Katie: We don’t have to wait for a Monday or the first of the month or…

Mike: Right.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. Just get started. And there’s so many quotes along those lines, that just taking that first step or action makes other action easier. Just do the small thing and start going. Awesome. Well, I know how busy you are. I appreciate the time today. This has been a really fun interview. And thank you for being here.

Mike: Thank you, Katie. I appreciate you and look forward to following up and seeing all of what you’re doing. I think you’re amazing, spreading the love and the message. So thank you very much.

Katie: Oh, thank you. And thanks to all of you guys for listening, and for sharing your most valuable resources, your time, and your energy with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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