Want to Live Your Best Life? Listen to This Wellbeing Expert's Advice
The wellbeing of our mind, body, and spirit can be a conundrum. One minute it can feel like you've cracked the code on your fitness routine. The next, you are totally positive you've tapped into your soul. And then everything feels distant again.
We learned in our first interview with Danielle Posa that everything is connected. So if we desire consistency in our healthy habits, we need to honor the fact that they are not mutually exclusive elements. They work together to shape the quality of our lives.
For the second installment of our profile on the creator of The Wellbeing Hacker, we asked Danielle all of our pressing wellbeing questions so that we can all inch closer to living our best lives–whatever that means to each of us. And with 15 years of digging into the world of wellbeing and working with with some of the world's top spiritual thought leaders and wellness experts, including Deepak Chopra, she is a trusted expert on creating the life you want.
Read on for practical, specific actions you can take to live a healthier, more fulfilled life.
You’ve spoken a lot about living your best life and people like the idea of it, but they don’t always define it. From what you’ve learned in your work, what have you learned about what it really means to live your best life?
Well, I’ve written my own eulogy, which is a great way to understand where you want to end up in your life and how you can live your everyday life in alignment with that. I think it takes two components to live your best life: seeing a bigger context to your life, and being able to orchestrate your days in a way that you really love. So it’s a combination of being grounded in both the present AND the future.
Living your life inside a bigger context is so important because creates a sustainable source of motivation. It’s more of a natural inspiration rather than the kind of motivation you feel when you see an inspirational video or something like that. It doesn’t mean every single day you’re jumping out of bed, but you have this energy wired within you where there’s isn’t a whole lot of effort required to keep going. Instead, there’s a natural fulfillment that is a part of your everyday life.
In the context of my work, there are so many things I have to do that aren’t exactly enjoyable, and that’s the same for anyone with their own business. But when you feel like you’re operating in the main vein of what your life’s purpose really is, all of those things have a much bigger context. Even if they aren’t necessarily fun, there is purpose in them. To me, that’s real happiness. It’s not just a fleeting emotion. Genuine happiness comes from a deep sense of fulfillment.
When you’re someone who is goal-oriented, it’s easy to look at that bigger context and only see the future, never prioritizing the present. How does the second component ensure that you can live your best life now, not just at a future point? And how do you balance the two?
I think, for some people, if you’re too fully immersed in the big picture vision that you’re chasing, you’re not actually able to enjoy your daily life. So sometimes an obsession with a grand vision can cause you to end up neglecting other areas of your life.
Goals, dreams, and a sense of purpose as all very important but they require us to remain balanced, to take care of our bodies, and our relationships. If we don’t, we end up at the end of life wishing we had taken time to smell the roses.
Then there’s the opposite problem: when people say they are just living in the moment. There isn’t a bigger context they are living within and they aren’t thinking about the future or facing the facts of reality. The problem with this is that as human beings, we are naturally inclined to grow, develop, and achieve. And without something bigger to pull us forward, we can feel lost or like our life doesn’t matter all that much.
So the key is having a mix of both — living days where you are enjoying your relationships, taking care of your body, and appreciating the little things while staying grounded in the bigger picture of your life and working towards that.
My fiancé and I have a daily experience checklist that comes from the question, "What would a perfect day look like?"
Did I get some form of physical exercise? Did I spend time in nature? Did I have a meal with somebody that is meaningful to me? Did I wake up early because I know it makes me feel empowered throughout the day? Did I address my priorities early in the morning? These are some of the things actually on my checklist. It helps me clarify the specific behaviors that enable me to go to sleep at night and think to myself, “That was a really fulfilling day.” And when great days become more frequent, eventually you end up with a great life… because after all, life is just a series of days. So you have to master your daily experience and then also have a bigger context for life that you’re living into.
Never sacrifice one for the other. If you find a good balance, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll end up happy.
I’ve never heard of a blueprint of your perfect day. I LOVE that.
I have an Excel spreadsheet! I don’t do it every day but I know what’s on it and I try to score myself daily. It’s fun when it feels like a game. And it’s important to measure the things that matter.
I feel really good when I wake up early. I’m not great at doing it all the time but when I get into the rhythm, I can feel the difference. Or when I fulfill my priorities in the morning and can check that box, or when I meditate in the morning and can check that box, it feels very fulfilling at the end of the day and then it gives me more incentive to keep the pattern going.
So I have a score at the end of the day and each week I try to see how I did on average.
I know not everyone is willing to do crazy things like that but I think it’s important to even just think about what those perfect daily experiences might be. You don’t have to score yourself.
It’s about consciously thinking about what brings you genuine fulfillment.
When you create your own blueprint you have to think of that bigger picture first. Where do you see yourself in the long term? What daily activities over the course of time will lead up to that bigger picture? The answers are different for everybody but it’s important to ask yourself that. The mini actions need to line up with your purpose.
For example, when I read a little bit each day, it stimulates my thinking for my work. In order to stay engaged in my purpose, I need to read a little bit of different books daily so I can get re-inspired and focus on my mission. So reading is on my daily checklist. In the context of my bigger purpose, I know the many mini activities I need to do to keep myself on track with those bigger picture ideals.
Wellness has become such a mainstream conversation in a way it really wasn’t in the past, but your work has been on the convergence of wellbeing and leadership, which often can feel like two mutually exclusive subjects. Why do you believe the two go hand in hand?
At the end of the day, it’s common sense. It's almost weird that Deepak and I have to teach it in a sense because if you’re a CEO or the leader of a country or a city, it’s really just a matter of awareness. You’re in a privileged position where you are able to influence many people’s lives in your work every day and hopefully they are coming to work not just to get a paycheck, but to be mentally stimulated in some way.
The workplace is an opportunity for people to learn about themselves, from one another, through a manager, and learn about some particular area of work. As a leader, it’s necessary to have the awareness to recognize the objectives of the company and to see how profits can benefit the people who created that success — which includes both the employees and the customers. Maybe that means creating more products that genuinely benefit customers’ lives. Maybe it means giving people well-deserved bonuses or coming up with new ways of showing appreciation for good work.
That’s a lot better than using those profits just to look better next to the competition or to increase your stock price. It’s a matter of being the kind of leader that is present to the power, influence, and impact you have on people’s lives.
It’s also important that a leader prioritizes his or her own personal wellbeing. You can’t be a conscious leader if you’re distracted by all the things that are out of whack in your own life.
So being a conscious leader means being purpose-driven, they value their personal relationships, they take good care of their physical health and are leaders in the communities they are part of. Conscious leadership begins with wellbeing. When a leader is thriving in their own personal life, it has a subconscious impact on everyone around them.
How does that relate to your work with Deepak Chopra?
Well we’ve done various things together over the years. He’s always been the one to go deep - he gets into the more spiritual domain - whereas I tend to be more focused on the research and the straightforward information.
So in terms of the course we developed on conscious leadership, I talk about all the facets of wellbeing, the framework. A lot of what Deepak goes into in his part of this is helping people answer the deeper questions of why they want to lead and how their leadership is connected to the greater good of the world.
You can’t really work on different areas of your life until you first get grounded and connected with who you are.
It requires taking a step back and visualizing the meaning of your life prior to tackling everything else. It all starts with getting connected with your soul. And so that’s what Deepak focuses on.
What a lot of people forget is that being a conscious leader isn’t just about doing the right thing or even doing the right thing for your people. This is about ensuring that you won’t wake up at the end of the road and realize you didn’t enjoy what you built. It’s really about building a legacy as a leader. So you’re doing it for yourself just as much as anyone else.
Through your work, you’ve seen that happen — people at the end of their careers or lives being completely dissatisfied. What does that look like and what have you learned from it?
Many CEOs come knocking on Deepak’s door at the end of their careers because they aren’t happy with the legacy they are leaving in this life. They are looking for a deeper meaning. The problem is that if you’re in the hamster wheel for so many years of your life or your operating on autopilot and eventually you get to this age where you start to think about everything and have this moment of panic.
Part of what we are doing with our course is giving people this wake-up call earlier on in their lives by encouraging them to ask these questions. We want people to get connected with their souls so that they’re not waiting until they’re 70 to finally start asking themselves these hard questions as a result of a health scare or something like that.
You’re either born a conscious leader or you had a wake-up call that makes you a conscious leader. Otherwise, it has to be intentionally brought upon yourself by asking the right questions, taking a retreat, or spending a great deal of time reflecting. So our goal has been to help people “wake up” without waiting for the crisis to do that for them. You shouldn’t have to be hit by a bus to start rethinking your life. The best lives are consciously created day by day.
Click here to check out Danielle's course with Deepak Chopra, "Workplace Wellbeing & the Soul of Leadership Course"
Self-help and spirituality can be fantastic tools to living a happier, more purposeful life, but it can become a crutch if channeled incorrectly. How do you suggest delineating between the two so that you can optimize your soulful connection?
There are so many different types of self-help. I’ve sat in meditation retreats where there’s such an emphasis on letting go that I thought to myself, “Well, there’s only so much letting go you can do until you’re no longer taking responsibility for how you’ve treated people or what has happened in your life.” And I find that frustrating and I can see that.
I’ve seen people who have something going on and they’re actually just not dealing with it. They consider themselves to be “spiritual” but don’t really have the tools to actually handle life head-on.
They think they can meditate themselves out of it, or just not address it at all by letting go because they claim that there’s nothing they can do about it. But there is something you can do. You can have a genuine conversation with the person. You can apologize for what you did.
There’s always somewhere where you are the source of everything happening in your life. And when you see yourself as “the source” of all of it, there’s always something that’s in your power to do about it. AND you can leverage your spiritual believes to get in touch with that core part of yourself that helps you find answers and find solutions. So they go hand in hand. But don’t go to yoga class with all of your problems, and expect that all those mean things you said to your mother don’t exist anymore.
We can’t use spirituality as a scapegoat. There’s a fine line between where it becomes inauthentic. And I think people can sense when it’s real or not.
Often, the world of wellbeing and soulfulness and self-help can clash with career ambitions because it seems like in practicing habits for wellness, you’ll lose your edge. What do you think people are missing that leads them to assuming that?
Oh yes, I’ve definitely heard this before. And it’s kind of crazy to me. Because it’s actually the opposite. The more grounded you are, the more connected you are to what truly matters, and the more present you are in your life and at work, the more productive, focused and motivated you become. You are able to tap into a creativity, an energy source, and a peace of mind that enables you to excel and find solutions that other people cannot. That gives you a serious edge. If you look around nowadays as you walk down the streets, people feel more like robots than humans — being controlled by devices, busy going to the next thing… having a wellbeing and spiritual practice helps take the robot out of you.
Some of the world’s most powerful CEOs swear by meditation because when they do it, they come out of it realizing exactly what their priorities are, what things are in fact uncontrollable, and what they can’t get emotional over or take personally.
Being spiritually connected in a very authentic way means that things that would typically bother you may not have the impact they did in the past.
You may not be as reactive. You may not be exploding if someone pushes one of your buttons. That is all because there’s a deeper connection to your life and that gives you a huge advantage. You won’t blow opportunities because of overreactions and you’ll be more aware of opportunities coming your way because you're more present.
When you’re actually managing the aspects of your life in the same way that a CEO would run a successful company, you’re firing on all cylinders.
What do you think it means to have an edge?
Having an edge means being efficient and empowered in the way you run your life. It means being grounded in what truly matters to you, and not sidetracked by other people or information enabling you to produce results faster and easier. You can gain an edge if you’re someone who is aware of every little thing that’s going on. That way, when you’re in that meeting and someone mentions that one little detail, and you notice it, all of a sudden that may lead to some big opportunity for your career or for your life.
You will miss out on opportunities if you are not present enough to notice the little things and are too distracted by other areas of your life that you don’t have organized. That’s where managing your wellbeing really makes a huge difference at work.
If one area of our life is out of whack, all areas are out of balance.
You can’t possibly be doing a really great job at work if your health is messed up or if you’re having relationships struggles that are making you stressed.
When you’re somebody firing on all cylinders and you have been super mindful and diligent in having all areas of life work, then you're laser-focused at work, you’re empowered because you know you have your life together, you are excited about your work. You are able to deal with that one area of life in an intentional way because the other areas of life are in check.
If you are NOT doing some form of spiritual development, then you are only giving yourself a disadvantage because there are way more distractions than ever before and it is so much harder to stay focused in today’s world. Spiritual development and these self-help practices help you stay present in a world full of confusion.
Wow, I’ve never heard it that way. It’s not that you lose your edge. You lose your edge when you in fact don’t invest in personal development. You gain an edge by putting in the time.
Yeah, it feels almost crazy not to organize your life and make it your top priority. Don’t you want to be known as the woman who has her whole life in check? To me that’s someone to look up to.
What are easy steps a young woman can take to prioritize her wellbeing amidst all of the pressures and tasks of everyday life?
That’s a hard one for me because I feel like there's definitely easy steps but you also need to be committed long term. But you can start with the Wellbeing Hacker. :) Signing up to my email list will help you know where to start of course!
But it really goes back to this idea of commitment because, just like a career, you need to be in it for the long haul. It’s important to see it as a lifelong commitment to the wellbeing of your life. And the best way to do that is to begin your journey by understanding The Framework for Life that I’ve developed. It helps you see a comprehensive picture of everything that’s impacting your life, and where you should start. On my site you can actually take my wellbeing assessment to see how you’re doing at life, and schedule a call with me to review your results.
But, on a simpler note, I do think that leveraging the perfect day chart is a good practice to start with because it gets you thinking about what your life would look like on a daily basis if you are being super intentional.
Meditation is also important but people need to think of it as just being quiet for 15 minutes in the morning, because then I think you’re more likely to do it. Start with Deepak and Oprah’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge. The best time to meditate is before the world starts their day so you don’t feel the pressure of incoming obligations or emails. I actually have a Pinterest board of the things I want in my life that helps me visualize my life before I meditate. I think of my meditations as my manifesting time.
What can we do to optimize our tech usage for the betterment of our wellbeing?
Managing technology and distractions is huge in today’s world. Using little things like “Do Not Disturb” on your phone when you’re doing your work and being very diligent about when you answer your email so that you can focus on your work are a few things that are very beneficial. It’s so important to respect your own time. If you don’t respect it, and treat it like a highly valuable resource, no one else will either.
When it comes to sleep, leave your phone out of your room. When you wake up in the morning and your knee jerk reaction is to look at your phone, you’re immediately wiring yourself to get into robot mode. When you give into that temptation, you’re letting your phone run your life.
Don’t let Instagram become more important to you than having mental clarity.
Our phones affect our sleep in other ways too. Doing emails late at night makes us think about things we need to get done when we’re trying to fall asleep. So cutting down on phone use at least an hour before bed is so important. Not only that but the light from our devices affects our brain and melatonin levels making it harder to fall asleep. Look at your sleep as a very sacred experience, not an electronic haven.
What can we do to improve our productivity while not hurting our wellbeing?
Personally, I think checking off your priorities in the morning is a major one, and my calendar is blocked off in the morning so that I can just handle them first. Unless it’s really a priority, don’t do your emails first. There’s usually always something bigger that you should do that’s taking up the most space in your mind. Whenever I handle the big things I need to do, it makes me feel like I'm done with work for the day. Often, there’s only a few things on your mind that are really affecting you, so if you don’t handle them, you’re going to be stressed out and that doesn’t help your wellbeing. So I think handling your priorities is a big one but doing so without distraction is vital.
It’s allowing your mind a certain amount of time to get into a more zen-like state to be creative and get deeper into it.
Other simple things like incorporating movement is helpful. We are all sitting way too much and doing too much computer work. Exercise is different than movement. It’s important to take breaks and move around. If you have a phone call or a meeting, try to have movement during it. Schedule breaks at times when you can get out of the office and grab a coffee or chat with somebody for a bit while you walk. That will help stimulate your brain, your physical health, and your focus. It’s not a matter of physical fitness. It’s for energy flow.
We have to ask you about sleep. In a world of endless to do lists and pressure-ridden responsibilities, how can we reframe how we think about sleep?
I don’t think people realize that the benefits of sleep are not just from a physical standpoint but again from our productivity standpoint. Sleep is really the easiest thing we can do to boost our wellbeing. It takes no real effort!
Sometimes when you reach a roadblock and you take a nap, you wake up and you feel like you have a completely different mindset and suddenly solutions come to you that hadn’t before.
When you go to sleep, your mind sorts a lot of information. That subconscious space is the easiest way to get in touch with your soul.
You are allowing your mind and body to go to work in a way that doesn’t require effort. I think people need to put more emphasis on their sleep from not just a physical standpoint but for the mental focus and alertness. Great sleep reduces obesity, reduces your chances of getting sick, makes you more focused, and puts you in a better mood.
If you don’t sleep well, you’re hurting yourself and the people around you. No one wants to deal with someone who’s not well rested and grumpy.
You’ve talked a lot about optimizing your day for wellbeing. What’s your tips for starting that day with your best foot forward?
I think some kind of morning routine is extremely important. How you start your day is huge. Morning routines have gotten a lot of buzz lately, but there’s so much to be said for it. It sets the tone for your whole day.
When you wake up closer to when the sun is rising, the sun gives off a natural energy that wakes you up.
The light of the sun in the evening is totally different. When you wake up with the sun and do things before the rest of the world is firing off all their distractions, and you take some time to get some exercise in, have your coffee without worrying about anything, or reading a little bit, you’ll feel more focused and in control all day. I strongly believe morning routines are a huge contributor to our wellbeing.
What was your favorite piece of advice from Danielle? Share with us in the comments below!