Good For You

Making A Mind Movie

I recently found myself working on a ‘homework assignment’ for an online business group I am in that I never thought I’d ever do, something called a mind movie. (Aside: I kept wanting to call this a ‘goals video’ but way more useful stuff comes up if you search the right terms so I’ll do so in this post!)

What’s a mind movie?

A mind movie like a vision board except you make a video. You use inspiring pictures and text and cut it together with your psych up song. Cat Howell’s online group is where I’ve first learned about this but she credits Dr. Joe Deispenza for the concept.

Why do you make a mind movie?

The idea is you’ll watch this video daily as a reminder of what you are working towards. Now other people (like Grant Cardone) have suggested writing your goals every morning and every night so I’m guessing the idea of watching your goal video is a similar check in with yourself.

I think the other thing with goals, whether you make a movie or write them down, is that it forces you to be specific. Very specific in a way I certainly haven’t been before. How much money do I want to make? What kind of clothes do I want in my closet? What kind of qualities do I want in all my personal relationships?

And finally, your mind movie can change as your goals/dreams change or are attained.

What did I learn making my mind movie?

First of all, I am clearly not a filmmaker. The other people in my business course have way better looking movies than I do. But as Ira Glass has famously said (and I am massively paraphrasing here), amateurs are always frustrated when they have a vision but don’t have the skills to execute it but must persist anyway (and I have been blogging about persisting through my medicore video skills for years apparently so there you go!)

Secondly, the stuff I want isn’t nearly as out of reach as I thought. Like the car I love? Costs $40,000. It’s not a Lamborghini (then again, I don’t think we’re in the 80s anymore so maybe no one still wants those?) but a $40,000 car is totally attainable. As I started tallying up all the ‘ridiculous’ things I wanted, I couldn’t even fake spend one million dollars. I think if you go through this exercise, you might be surprised that you can actually have what you want. I know I was.

Thirdly, I got really really picky. So I spent (legit) two hours looking at houses online until I found one I liked. My initial thought at this was, wow, I’m being picky. But then I realized if I am going to spend energy wanting this and working toward it everyday, I should pick out a backyard inground pool I like and the front porch I want and all the other stuff. When you think of someone theoretically gifting you, say, a house, I think most of us would take pretty much anything in good shape that we could maintain (ex: property taxes). But when you think about working toward the exact life you want, suddenly that house gets very very specific. And that’s ok; it’s what’s called clarity.

And finally, I’m excited. I put my movie to ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ by good old JT:

Thinking of listening to the same song while watching my movie EVERY DAY felt a little daunting but this one makes me feel both smiley and energized when I listen to it.

My mind movie is turning into a pretty personal project… but perhaps in a few months, I can share the movie and follow up about what watching a movie on repeat can do to your brain. 🙂

Useful Resources

If you’re looking for some free resources related to this, check out: (I haven’t done any of these yet but looks like you’d be in good company if you did!
And if you are totally intimidated by video editing, you can actually make your video with Google Slides:


Year Of ‘Health’: A Half Way Point Check In

I’m a self help junkie but my goal is not just to read, listen to, etc. a bunch of resources but to actually use them in my life.

A couple years ago, I found Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map library. Basically it’s a list of words (and she/her team made them all pretty so you could print them or put them as your computer screensaver or whatever). Website is here but here’s the gist of what it looks like:

Now I get that if you are reading this, you may be on various ends of the woo-woo spectrum.

Regardless of how you feel about auras or the law of attraction, we can all agree keeping a word in mind (versus a giant list of new year’s resolutions) is easier and because of that, easier to stick with.

Last year’s word for me was ‘grace’ for obvious reasons. This year’s word for me is ‘healthy’. (Don’t like either? It’s ok, pick your own word for your year’s motto!)

Now if you look at me, I am not sure most people would use ‘healthy’ as an initial descriptor, mainly because I’m thirty to forty pounds overweight by most medical standards.

But here’s the thing, folks. Being healthy is a lot more than maintaining a standard body type. And rather than focusing on weight loss, I thought I’d make some moves to be healthier/happier that feel a little more in my control. So what does a ‘healthy’ person do if not a fad diet?

I started a bullet journal, and track habits. 

I have been intimidated by the bullet journal in the past, mainly because I am not an amazing artist (or someone  who has the time/interest in becoming one). But as an analog gal who likes stationary, I thought I would use it this year as a stand in to my day planner and at least have an excuse to buy some pretty pens.

Doing bullet journal has gotten me into habit tracking. Here’s an example of habit tracking from someone else (mine is not nearly so filled in or attractive!):

You can read this bullet journal story here:

What you do everyday is more important than what you do once in awhile, so the idea of habit tracking in a bullet journal is like Ben Franklin’s virtue tracker. To warn, you feel like a failure the first few weeks (or months) as you look at your chart every day and realize you didn’t do the things.

My three ‘health’ items I have been tracking daily since January 1 are:

  • Drinking five glasses of water a day
  • Getting rid of ten unnecessary items in my life
  • 5 minutes of meditation/grounding

(Aside: the ten items is something people definitely have feelings about. There are multiple disciplines though that have linked clutter to things like obesity and depression so I argue getting rid of clutter is a health thing. Most people I talk to think ten items a day is very extreme. But think about the pile of business cards at the corner of your desk that need to go into your CRM, the condiments in your fridge you haven’t looked at the expiration date on in awhile, etc. and it can add up fast. To ease in, try one item per day as a resolution. I blogged my journey with this resolution here a few years ago.)

Do I do *all* the things I track everyday, health or otherwise? No way. But at least my life is now set up where they could happen. My electrical grounding mat (a little woo-woo!) is under my bed and has become part of my unwinding ritual. I have a designated water glass (and water accessories like lemon juice) at my office and at home. And as the months go by, the boxes are getting fuller.

In other words, by making myself think about it regularly, it is actually likely to happen.

And as I master some habits, I can add new ones, like taking vitamin D everyday.

In my journal, I also have a list of ‘Healthy Nicole’ things I would be interested in trying ranging from walking on my slack line most days to oil pulling. In other words, while there’s always more improvement to make, I can see in my bullet journal how far I’ve come.

I’ve let go of peoples’ advice.

People who have never had a weight problem giving me weight loss advice is like me giving skin care advice. Let me explain.

I get compliments on my skin all the time. But here’s my little secret: I had cystic acne from the age of 12 to 25. (Like count 100 zits and keep going.) I went on really strong medication to cure it at age 25 and haven’t had an issue since. I destroyed most of the pictures that really showed it but here’s one of what my face looked like with makeup on it:

My current ‘skincare’ routine involves washing my face at night and wearing sunscreen/moisturizer during the day.

In short, I had a medical condition and it wasn’t any lifestyle choice I made (and trust me, I tried everything from not eating nightshades to changing my pillowcase every night) that cured it. So me doling out skin care advice to people and acting as if the moisturizer I use now cured me would be shady.

It’s the same with weight; it’s usually a more complicated problem (and by complicated I mean individual and involving a lot of factors). Much like my acne wasn’t because I didn’t ‘just wash my face’.

But I am on a journey of health and when I tell people, they have diets for me to try or workouts they think I should do. I just smile and nod and move on.

I quit booze for six weeks… and might quit again.

As a woman of a certain age, when I go out to social events and not drink, certain assumptions are made (either that I’m pregnant or have gotten uber religious/judgemental suddenly.) I spent the first month of sobriety just not going anywhere. Once I realized I was just avoiding explaining myself, I would preface a happy hour with ‘I have some medical stuff so I’m trying not drinking.’

I am working on not being weird about not drinking but honestly, I do feel better not doing it.

To make the whole thing more ‘fun’ I’ve been building myself a little non-alcohol bar of various syrups, bitters, juices, artisanal sodas, and other ingredients I can use to dress up my seltzer water. Then I get the end of the day cocktail ritual which apparently was what I liked about it anyway.

I am letting my hair go gray.

Part of the health thing is I’d just like to have shiny, beautiful hair in whatever color it happens to be. And so about eight months ago, I stopped coloring my hair.

Now I will say if you do this, there are some great Facebook groups of people also transitioning to gray that will keep you going despite people saying you look ‘older’ or ‘weird’ or whatever. (Yes, people have said both to me.)

I figure as long as I’m fine with it, all the stuff doesn’t matter. (My boyfriend thinks it’s hot so that does help!) Not spending 4 hours and $150ish every ten weeks at a salon though has given me some energy to do fun things, like experiment with makeup. Also, I am looking forward to hitting the pool and other activities I’ve avoided because I worried they would undo my expensive dye job.

And for the times I feel experimental, I’ve gotten some fun colors (pink and blue) as leave in conditioners so I can still rock out a bit while having healthy hair.

I bought a few things to make myself happy.

Now I’m not a big ‘buy stuff to buy stuff’ person but I’ve given myself a little monthly budget for personal care. This has given me ‘permission’ to do things like buy an Airdesk (for when I work from home on my laptop), an essential oil diffuser, some fermented foods at a local farmer’s market, and a good quality razor. All this totaled about $300.

By putting money toward my health/personal care, it has made me look at what I could be doing each month. Should I get a good multivitamin? Some deep conditioner for the gray hair? That delicious looking elderflower syrup I’ve been wanting to try with my blueberry seltzer? The possibilities are endless and not nearly as indulgent as I expected.

I got therapy.

I worked with a hypnotherapist and a traditional therapist to help me figure my stuff out. I am a bit proponent of an intelligent, objective third party who can also give you techniques of dealing with your own stuff. This has been a very personal journey but a very worthwhile one and if you want to talk therapy, please contact me and I’m happy to talk more candidly about it.


Now I know what you’re thinking: Nicole, if you can’t get on a scale and see numbers change, what outcomes could there be for spending so much energy, time, and some money on this pursuit?

  • My massage therapist is seeing overall improvements in some issues she’s been working on me with for years with my shoulders, arms, and back in particular.
  • People have been saying I look good and ‘seem happy’.
  • When I stopped by the prom to see my friend’s kid, a chaperone thought I was one of the kids and tried to make me go check in with my ticket.
  • Both therapists saw measurable differences heading toward my goals of dealing with my depression and coming up with positive coping strategies (and letting go of negative, limiting beliefs.)
  • My normally tense dog seems way less stressed out, so much so people visiting me at the house have commented she seems like a different dog.
  • My digestive tract is… working better. (I’ll leave it at that.)
  • Several people close to me have described me as ‘healthy’ without me telling them about my year goal.

Can I get healthier? Absolutely.
Will you be able to see differences? Maybe.
But in the meantime, I am enjoying the changes I notice and look forward to a healthier future I’m actively working towards.


How To Rock A Ten Hour Car Trip

I’ve been driving a lot lately… and just like anything, you definitely get better at it the more you do it.

As I put another 450 miles on my car tomorrow, here are some of the things I’ll be doing to prepare for life on the open road.

Get a power block/large charger.

If you are both navigating and listening to audio from your smartphone like I am, that is going to drain your battery fast. A fully charged power block can charge my cell phone five times, which is more than adequate for my ten hour trip. Very handy. I like the idea that you can also get ones that have a solar panel. Even though I’ve never really relied on mine to charge that way, it’s nice to know it could.

This is the one I have and if you buy one, I get 3%.

Check out cell reception ahead of time.

Most cell phone carriers have coverage maps. Looking at your expected coverage before beginning your drive can give you an idea of how long, if at all, you’ll be out of touch.

Personally, unless I’m having a super long ‘how’s your life’ conversation with a friend, I hate talking while I’m driving. If it’s a business meeting, I want to take notes and if it’s anything serious, it needs my full attention. This is why I don’t schedule meetings while I drive. This also makes it a zen experience for me, which I appreciate.

Make a list of useful things, like coffee shops or coworking spaces with WiFi, etc. in case you need them.

I’ve got a pretty good list of places where they have 24-7 bathrooms, coffee shops I don’t mind stopping at in an emergency, and other helpful things. Your line of work may need to involve something more specific, like maybe occasionally needing a large format printer or UPS locations. If you make a regular circuit, make note of these useful resources in hard copy form including addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, etc. Then when you need them, rather than having to do multiple Google searches, you can have it all on one or two sheets of paper.

Forward your calls if applicable.

Google Voice allows you to forward your calls to it and will transcribe and text/email voicemails. I find this handy when I travel as I can return important calls in a timely way.

Bring water and high powered snacks.

I bring about 10 water bottles (large ones) with me for both the dog and I. I’m never sad to have hydration with me. In terms of snacks, I love RX Bars because they are high protein (12 g and 250ish calories) and don’t have any chemicals in them. Being less reliant on road snacks is not only more economical but definitely a healthier way for your body to transition from one place to another.

Download productive audio books and podcasts.

The Pocket Casts app (not free) is my favorite podcast app. The app that comes on your iPhone either downloads EVERY episode or NO episodes of your favorite podcast. This app allows you to download episodes individually and arrange them in a kind of play list if you like. Once you listen to it, the podcast automatically deletes. And between that and downloading only the episodes I want, I have saved a ton of space on my phone. I also try to have at least one new audiobook downloaded in advance so I can look forward to it on the road.

Hide $20 in your car. 

I am the kind of person that carries cash (hint: if you ever have to split a dinner tab, those of us with cash always end up better off). But if you are the kind of person that doesn’t usually carry cash, hide $20 in your glove compartment. $20 can get you out of an unexpected toll or other situation and it’s not a lot of money to miss. The few times I dove into my stash, I’ve always been thankful for it.

The reality is that we all have these blocks of travel time and making the best of it is all we can do. And who knows, you might even enjoy it if you decide to.

Reconnecting with the World via the Internet

I didn’t realize how lonely the first month after having a baby really is. Sure, you have the company of the baby, but for someone who is used to being around other people on a daily basis and having some form of adult human interaction, it can be a shock to the system (in addition to the other stuff that comes with having a baby, which I won’t go into here).

While it has gotten considerably easier to find our groove over two months, a huge part of my rediscovered happiness has been found online. In addition to streaming a lot of Bravo and Netflix, and consulting Dr. Google at least once a day for 4 weeks, the internet has actually helped me step into my new role.

Without being as cliché to say “find your tribe,” there can be a sense of “these are my people” when you connect with the right groups/people/apps.

Private Groups. One of the biggest things online that helped me feel connected was private groups. A few of them are directly related to “mommy stuff” and another is a fitness accountability group. People post daily about challenges/victories, offer advice, and are overall supportive. The groups I like and participate in have a few things in common:

  • There’s no judgment. Mom-shaming is real, and from what I’ve seen it tends to come from other moms. The mom groups I like participating in are honest and not critical of each other’s parenting choices. I won’t go into detail my feelings about this, but when people come to a safe space to vent or genuinely ask for help, the last thing that makes them feel “connected” is getting criticized.
  • It’s honest. The groups I like are the ones that really capture the “win some, lose some” essence of everyday life. It’s not always Instagram worthy, but it’s still nice to share. For instance, one mom had gotten glammed up, just because, only to have her kiddo spit up all over her outfit. Some days I work out in my living room in baggy t-shirts and boxer shorts. The point is we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
  • It feels like a conversation. After all, that’s why I sought out online groups in the first place. The best groups encourage others to post and it’s not all dominated by one person (but there usually is some sort of moderator who keeps things going if needed).

If you can find a group with a common interest, join up! If you can’t find one…create one 🙂

Events on Facebook. Another way to stay connected is looking at the events on Facebook. One of my friends actually pointed out Emlen Family Doula’s new Postpartum Support Group that meets every first and third Sunday. Without Facebook, I never would have known about this delightfully local and incredibly relevant/helpful event.

You can search events locally, by event “type,” and Facebook will also let you know if you have a few friends interested in a nearby event (which may or may not feel a little bit creepy). This example is more of an intersection between online and “real life” but it helped me feel connected to other people in a meaningful way.

Hobbies. For me, working out has always been something that brings me joy. Using the power of the internet to read blogs from some of my favorite fitness people (Hungry Runner Girl, Carrot’s N Cake) helped me feel someone connected again. That, and I was able to stream some easy post-partum workouts to get my endorphin level back up before getting the doctor’s clearance to resume a more intense program. For other people, connecting with a hobby online may mean perusing through Pinterest or writing blog posts of their own.

Entertainment. My postpartum period was not all productive (actually a small percent of it was). Most of it was spent catching up on Bravo TV, checking out some new Netflix shows (American Vandal satisfies my love for true crime and comedy). Another source of entertainment was Instagram. There are a lot of funny/absurd memes about parenting- and complete randomness- that ate up more of my time than I’d care to admit. Strange as it may seem, these memes actually made me feel connected to the outside world because it helped me remember that it everyone struggles- but sometimes you just have to laugh about it.

Turn it Off. Honestly, sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming and you just have to step away from your phone or computer. Maybe make some tea, go outside for fresh air, read a book…we all need a break every now and then! Sometimes the most important connection to focus on is the one with yourself.

I’m happy to slowly be reconnecting with the world, online and off… and I hope this post helps at least one other person do the same.

Get the Baby off the Ceiling, Please: When Working from Home isn’t Working

As a parent, I learned quickly that, in order to be productive, I had to be out of the house. I have two young children — a 6-year-old who has some relatively minor developmental challenges and a 2-year-old who has done more to reinforce the “terrible twos” stereotype than anyone I’ve ever met. Both of them need and deserve an extraordinary amount of attention.

For years, now, I’ve telecommuted— one of the things I’ve enjoyed about working at Breaking Even is the ability to work anywhere that has wifi.  Almost anywhere, that is.

My house, be it ever so humble, is a no-fly zone when it comes to being productive. This was reinforced recently when I announced my intention to set up my Surface in the basement to do some editing. “Or, you could go to the library –- they have good wifi there,” my wife told me. What went unsaid, and what I should have picked up, on was the message, “You stupid man. You know what happens when you try to work from home.”

But down the basement I went, folding chair in one arm, Surface in the other. Things seemed to go well for an hour, and then an earthquake struck. Or, at least I thought it was an earthquake. You see, I had set up shop directly beneath the living room. We don’t have carpeting, it’s all hardwood. So there’s nothing to dampen the sound of the toddler stomping her feet as she continually ran between the TV and the couch (I’m convinced running and stomping are the only two modes of locomotion available to toddlers).

A half hour later, there was a series of ungodly screams. That itself is not unusual in my house, where ungodly screams have become part of the daily ambient noise (songbirds sing to greet the day, the tea kettle whistles, children laugh and then the ungodly screams). Nevertheless, my concentration was broken and I had a deadline to make for Nicole.

So I trudged upstairs, walked past the toddler who had managed to duct-tape herself to the ceiling fan, past the smoldering crater where the 6-year-old had burned down the sofa. I kissed goodbye to my wife who had assumed a fetal position on the floor (her eyes reflected the untold horrors our offspring had wrought upon our house) and headed to the library, where I was vastly more productive.

Maybe I’m exaggerating here, but the point is working from home as a parent can be more difficult in practice than in theory, even with another adult at home. Little kids yearn for your attention, naturally. They may not understand why mom or dad has to work, even with repeated, patient explanations, or the concept of deadlines, conference calls or why the preferred parent can’t unstick them from the ceiling fan.

Kassie has written a series of articles on mom blogging, and one, in particular, emphasizes the need for good time management and the need to compartmentalize when working out of the home. I’m a long way from mastering those skills, and I recognize that, in order to be productive, I need to be as far from my family as possible.

For those who can work from home while raising small children –- my hat’s off to you. For those who spend their days watching the kids while their partners are at the office (or the library) — my hat’s off to you as well.

Also, honey, if you’re reading this, the couch cushions may have flared up again. The fire extinguisher is under the sink.

Losing the Battle Against My Circadian Rhythm

At another job at which I work, I recently had to cover for a coworker who was on a well-deserved vacation. What this meant was getting up at 4 a.m. every day for the past week in order to meet a morning deadline. Here’s what I experienced on my pre-dawn commute to work:

  • Robins. I heard them a lot. Many people enjoy the sound of robins, but to me, the sound of those filthy red-breasted worm-eaters was just a reminder as to how freaking early it was.
  • Bobbing LEDs. These are used by joggers and bicyclists and serve as a shocking reminder that some people are up at this hour by choice. Seriously.
  • No traffic. Because all the sane people are still in bed. Their warm, soft beds. Maybe with their spouses. Snoring quietly, their eyes dusted gently by the sandman, dreaming under a smiling moon and twinkling stars. 

Once I actually got to work and downed my 14th cup of coffee, I discovered something. I was productive as heck. Why is that? (Don’t say it was 14 cups of coffee because that’s a slight exaggeration.)

It’s possible that with only one or two other unfortunate souls in the office there were fewer distractions. But I also believe that my brain just works better in the early morning. I’m working faster, and my output is more accurate. Yet, after lunch, I want nothing more than to stare blankly at a blank computer screen.

So I have to ask again, why is that?

In search of answers, I read this Wall Street Journal piece that cites molecular and computational biology professor Steve Kay — a man whose job title sounds more impressive than anything I’ll ever do in my life. According to Kay, most folks who work a 9-5 job are at their best in the late mornings, and we tend to drop off shortly after lunch.

The piece also argues that we should instead organize our lives around natural body clock — our “circadian rhythms,” citing “potential health benefits.” The WSJ paraphrases Kay, stating: “Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to such problems as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.”

Then there’s this article in Harvard Business Review, makings the case for managers to schedule workflow and deadline around that circadian flow.

I never used to work so well in the morning, but that’s changed as my youth has faded. It’s not surprising that our body clock changes as we get older. That teenagers are hardwired to sleep in and work late is nothing new, for example, although there is a movement underfoot to require schools to start later in the day to accommodate that rhythm.

So how did we get here? Why do most folks work 9-5 when our body tells us to take a 3-hour break after lunch? This infographic from provides some answers, with its roots made in the wake of the British Industrial Revolution.

My day isn’t 9-5. Rather I start anywhere between 5-6:30 a.m., depending on the day ahead, and whether I need to take time in the day to address the latest family crisis. What this means is my own circadian rhythm has me fighting the desire to eat lunch at 10 am and nap until 3 pm, at which point I start to feel productive again—right when it’s time to go home.

The lesson for me is to get as much done as early as possible because when noon rolls around, it’s all down hill. As I’m writing this, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I find that my productivity has dipped sharply. For example, it took me an hour to write the previous sentence. So it’s time to wrap this up.

Good night and sweet dreams.