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Marc & Angel Chernoff on Getting Back to Happy

Marc & Angel Chernoff on Getting Back to Happy

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Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Katie: Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and I’m here today with Marc and Angel Chernoff who are “The New York Times” bestselling authors of the book, “Getting Back to Happy” and the creators of Marc and Angel Hack Life which was recognized by Forbes as one of the most popular personal development blogs. They also authored “1000 Little Things That Happy Successful People Do Differently.” Through their writing, coaching, and event, they have helped thousands of people over the last decade with proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.

And they especially work with people who are going through tough phases and transitions of life including relationship changes, the loss of a loved one, job changes, or just depression or having trouble working through some of those phases of life. So I hope that you will enjoy this episode as much as I do.

Marc and Angel, welcome. Thank you guys so much for being here. And I don’t feel I can start with an intro like that without jumping into the questions by asking to hear your story. I know firsthand that you have a pretty amazing one. So let’s start off with some background. What is your story and how did you become what you are today?

Marc: So our story actually started when we were in our late 20s. At this point in our lives, we had no investment in personal development, self-improvement, looking into the mindset tools that were necessary to live a healthy life. And half the reason that was is simply because up until that point, we had had pretty good lives, right? We didn’t have anything major happen to us that was tragic. You know, people had passed, certainly, but they were grandparents. And then we ran into this very difficult season in our lives. It started when Angel’s older brother, Todd, died by suicide.

Just a few short weeks after that event, we lost our mutual best friend, Josh, to a heart attack at the age of 27. It was driven by an asthma attack and up to that point, he had never had a difficult asthma attack, never had it like a big asthma attack. It was always just small things and so we didn’t even realize that was a challenge for him. And this was a downturn in the economy. So, you know, we’re talking, this is the ’07-’08 timeframe. Both of us lost our jobs. We were struggling financially, we were struggling emotionally, we didn’t know how to cope with the loss that we were dealing with, the grief that surrounded it.

It slowly spiraled into mild to moderate depression for both of us and we started arguing as a couple. We were a newly married couple, married a few years at that point, and started basically lashing out at each other rather than having the loving and supportive conversations that we needed to have. We were leveraging alcohol and distractions like binge watching television to escape and bypass everything that we were dealing with, the emotions that were unsettling. And so luckily enough, we were both willing to see therapists. Through that therapy, we were basically urged to do some self-study as well. And so we started reading both Eastern philosophy and Christian philosophy.

So the Byron Katie’s and the Wayne Dyer’s of the world as an example. And we started really dialing into the tools that were necessary. We realized that we were at this point in our lives where the things that we were doing on a daily basis were not serving us. And so we started listening to the therapists, we started listening to what we were reading, and we started practicing. We actually started our website as a public accountability channel to hold ourselves accountable to what we were learning. And the communication opened up from there and it’s a big black box between then and now, but we basically dedicated ourselves to overcoming this and to sharing the struggle that we were going through to get to a better place.

Every single step, everything that we did was difficult and we put it out there very vulnerably and honestly and said like, “This is what we’re going through and here’s what we’re doing,” on our blog, marcandangel.com. Like, here’s what we’re doing to step through this. And we weren’t really writing for anyone but ourselves, but it was a tool that helped us move forward. So you fast-forward many years and that journey ultimately led us to write books about our story and the tools that we had leveraged to step through it and we moved into coaching and here we are today, which truly is a blessing to be here.

Katie: I feel like that’s such a great illustration though, because maybe that’s one of the misconceptions in today’s world, I think. In my own life as well, I know that some of my greatest life transitions and greatest accomplishments have come from some of the hardest times and I think so often like you guys in the beginning, it’s easy to try to escape those or should try to get away. So what was the mindset or what shifted? Like was there a pivotal time or lightning bolt moment or something that really made you guys make that shift from like we’re just gonna binge watch Netflix and drink to let’s change our lives?

Angel: I think we were just at a point where it was like, you know, is it always gonna be like this? Like, is it always gonna be where I’m just feeling sad and I can’t get out of bed. We got to a point where it’s like, “Okay, we have to change.” Like we have to make the change. We have to start doing things differently if we want to feel differently. And so I think it was just we got to a point where we had to take control over how we were feeling and how we were reacting.

Marc: Yeah. It wasn’t a one big, catastrophic moment. I think sometimes that’s a misconception in our lives. We get into that depressed state or we fail because of one catastrophic moment. And oftentimes, it’s all the little things that we’re doing or not doing. And so we sort of caught ourselves, and with help, of course. Again, I mean we weren’t doing it by ourselves but we caught ourselves and we realized like the things that we are doing on a daily basis, yes, there are these big things that happened to us, but all the little things that we’ve done since those moments have not been serving us. In fact, they’ve been taking us further away from where we wanna be.

And it was just sitting down long enough to realize that and realize that if we, you know, we can’t change the big things that happen but we can change all these little things we’re doing on a daily basis and if we do so, maybe there’s hope, right? And that was the journey we started on, like the daily ritual of like let’s make these small shifts. And they’re hard. I mean it’s easy to say like, “Yeah, I’m gonna make this change,” but to actually be consistent about it daily, especially when you’re struggling emotionally, when you’re dealing with depression, even the small shifts are very hard.

Angel: Yeah, I mean I think when you’re in a season of pain and struggle, I think it’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But down the road, you’re able to look back and see how much growth came from that and how…if you’re living an easy, comfortable life, you’re not able to see the opportunities and the growth possible but it really does take those seasons and those periods of struggle to help you grow and to help you see opportunities.

Katie: So how long of a process was that for you guys? Once you started that transition, was it, I’m guessing not an overnight success. How long did it take before you really started seeing the tangible changes in your own life?

Marc: It’s been years. So you’re talking about the early 2007 timeframe where we started struggling and that period of time lasted a couple of years of like truly struggling, truly dealing with depression, truly being at odds with each other as a married couple living under one roof. And again, speaking to each other in a way that was very defensive as opposed to supportive. So we started doing the coaching at the end of 2012. So you’re talking about a five-year timeframe where we started stepping more into ourselves and realizing that us continuing to share our story. And the coaching initially was completely free.

We were basically running like an online support group where we were saying, “Hey, rather than this blog just being about us, let’s share your story as well. Because people were just…they were writing us and saying, “Hey, like what you’re sharing here, I know you’re still stepping through this but it’s really helping me. And let me tell you about something that’s going on in my life. What do you think of this?” So it was really like five years later that we started writing about others more consistently and what they were going through and kind of wrapping our experiences around their experiences. So yeah, I mean I would say that it was probably roughly five years of a transition between being at rock bottom to being at a place where we felt we could serve others with what we have learned from going through it.

Katie: Wow, yeah, that makes sense, that it would take a while for those things to really like take hold in your own life and then now that you are able to pass those on to other people. You touched on something I think that’s really key to not just this but to whether it be nutrition changes, any change in life, which is that consistency and sticking with it, especially when you don’t want to. And I deal with that more from the side of nutrition and sticking with dietary changes in my background. It sounds like you guys deal with that with people now in coaching. So I’m curious if you have any strategies or practical ways that people can learn to be more consistent because I find, even in my own life, that is perhaps the biggest struggle. We all often have an idea of what we should be doing but that daily consistency is often the biggest battle.

Angel: I completely agree. I mean making it a ritual to where it’s a part of your life and not just something, hey, I’m gonna hold on to for a week or a couple of weeks or do this diet. But yeah, making it a ritual and making it a part of who you are and what you do. And I think one of the keys that’s really helped us is making the activity so small initially that it’s silly not to do. So like, for example, if you wanted to run every day and running a mile is tough, well, maybe just run around the block. It doesn’t have to be…

Marc: Or even walk.

Angel: Yeah, or even walk. It doesn’t have to be this big goal that we have to do initially, but start small. And start so small that it seems silly, that this is what you’re doing but you wanna stay consistent with it. So do it for a month and then add on to it and then do it, so then it’s just part of who you are, just like brushing your teeth, right? You brush your teeth in the morning when you wake up. You don’t have to think about that, you just do it. So breaking down these habits and these rituals so you can do them consistently and it seems silly that you wanna do it.

Marc: Yeah. And another… I mean, again, that’s great advice that we so often, we hear and we don’t do it. I mean, like Angel said, it can be something small, like if you’re waking up earlier in the morning and 10 minutes earlier is too much, do 2 minutes earlier. And do that consistently for a few weeks before you shift it. I mean, it sounds silly, like what’s two minutes gonna do, but two minutes is gonna get you to four minutes and four minutes is gonna get you to six minutes. I mean it’s just that philosophy. It’s something that we intellectually understand but emotionally in the morning when that alarm goes off, we don’t wanna wake up, even so, right?

So we’ve gotta ease ourselves into any change that we’re gonna make. I mean that philosophy is obviously universally applicable in our lives, whether you’re dealing with nutrition, whether you’re dealing with sleep, whether you’re dealing with habits that are gonna help you think better and ultimately live better.

Angel: Yeah. And I think it’s important to know, especially with personal growth, is like you’re never at a point where you’re above this or like you don’t have to work on yourself and you don’t have to practice techniques and mindset tricks. I mean, I think we’re constantly growing and we’re a working progress. So I don’t think it ever gets to a point where you’re like, “Oh, I got this. I’ve mastered this.” It’s always challenging. It’s always hard, but it’s sticking with it and doing the work.

Marc: Right. I mean, we’re multifaceted human beings. I mean, we could have the health thing really down but the relationship thing is falling apart. And even though the same kind of rituals and consistency that you would apply to like your own personal health would be very applicable to nurturing another human being in another relationship and yet somehow, that goes over our head. So yeah, we’re never above it and we have to address it in little chunks. I think another way to address it in little chunks, too, is something as simple as kind of you don’t break the chain calendar where you have like a visual wall calendar where you can see the whole year in one shot or at least a full month in one shot, but a whole year is what we have here.

And we tend to just check off our rituals. So if like one of my rituals is like every day, I’m like, “Marc, have I spent one hour of uninterrupted time with your son?” I mean, that’s something that no matter what’s going on, and a lot of days, it’s more than that but I wanna make sure that the very least is that. And so I have a wall calendar, I literally every day write a check through it when I’ve completed that. I make sure that that’s done in my life. And again, many times, it’s more time than that but I think visually, I’ll run into that busy day where I feel like I’ve got business things, I’ve got client things, I’ve got all these things and I’ll look at that calendar and I’m like, “You know what, I have gone three months without breaking that chain. I’m not gonna start today.” So it’s just a visual reminder of like I’m gonna continue my ritual. And I think that can be applied to any ritual that we want to address in our lives.

Katie: That makes sense. And I love that of starting so small that even seems silly. I feel like that’s kind of the antidote to maybe like New Year’s syndrome where we all make these huge, lofty goals and then we’re trying to like run a marathon, and eat super clean, and do all these things all at once and then it lasts for five days and then you just can’t sustain that because you’re trying to completely overhaul your entire life in one week whereas like small changes probably actually have you yearning to add more on in like I can run a little bit more, I can wake up a little bit earlier because you’re not trying to make such a drastic change all at once.

And I love that you brought up relationships because I think, at least from my audience, from hearing about it and from friends, this seems to be a really big topic right now. I think a lot of people’s relationships are in kind of tough transitioning times right now. And I know that you said at the beginning that you guys had a rough patch in your marriage early on as well. So I’m curious, from your own experience and then now from working with all these thousands of people, if you have some strategies that couples can use, and that we could even potentially use with our children, but especially couples, to make relationship stronger.

Angel: Yeah. I mean, communication is key. We’ve all heard that time and time again but I think where I was falling short was I was keeping my feelings inside or expecting him to know how I was feeling and not explaining how I was feeling, what I was going through, and how I was interpreting things like, “Hey, when you do this or say this, I feel this way.” The same thing is true, you know, we have a five-year-old son named Matt and it’s like explaining to him rather than just saying, “Hey, don’t do that,” but communicating like, hey, this is why you can’t do that or you can’t eat that because we have to do this first or, you know, I’m trying to help keep your mind and your body healthy and this is how I can help.

And so I think communication is huge. And so it’s just evaluating how you’re communicating and how…are you assuming they know what you’re thinking, you know, where are you falling short on that spectrum in terms of communication in relationships?

Marc: Yeah. And not taking things personally especially when there’s stress and there’s grief and there’s loss and you’re dealing with big things, but even the small things. I mean, we all see things, like Angel just said, differently. We can all go through a similar experience and interpret it differently and have different understandings of it and even be able to cope with it in different ways. And so a lot of times, especially in family dynamics, it’s tough when you have somebody in your life who is naysaying the thing that you’re trying to accomplish and kind of talking down to you about your dreams or about…even about a tough situation. They make it sound like it’s no big deal.

You’ve gotta keep things in perspective, which is tough to do. And so, for instance, if you’re trying to…if you got some lofty goal that you’re going after and you have, let’s say, your mom or dad or sister or brother naysaying this goal of yours like that’s not worth it, it’s too risky, you can’t do it, there’s two questions you have to ask yourself. One is, “Has this person walked the path before me? Do they really understand what I’m doing?” If the answer is yes, then maybe it’s worth opening your ears and listening.

But oftentimes, the answer is no. Oftentimes, the answer is they’re just naysaying you because they’re scared for you. They’re fearful that you’re gonna hurt yourself. They’re fearful that you’re gonna fail. They themselves wouldn’t do the thing that you’re doing. They can’t put themselves in that situation. So you’ve gotta give yourself that perspective and realize that oftentimes, the reason they’re naysaying you is because they don’t believe in themselves. They don’t understand it the way you understand it. And so that’s an important thing.

And then you really have to ask yourself how important it is to you, like do you need everyone’s validation? And that’s tough because we’re social creatures, but there’s a lot of things that we do in our lives where again, we take things personally. We lean on others for the answers and a lot of times, we need to lean more on ourselves for those answers. We don’t need to be arguing with a spouse, we don’t need to be arguing with mom or dad or whoever. We need to look a little bit more to ourselves for the support that we need to take the next step. So it’s definitely a combination of both, and I agree with Angel that the communication once you’re ready to engage is important. You’ve gotta be patient, you’ve gotta be open, but you can’t be hanging on every word and taking everything so personally.

Katie: Do you guys have any rituals specifically related to your own marriage and to your relationship there?

Marc: We have tons of rituals.

Angel: I mean, one main one that just comes to mind is we definitely try not to go to bed angry. We talk whatever we need to get off our chest before we go to bed so that when we go to bed, when we wake up in the morning, we don’t have that resentment boiling in us. So we definitely try to communicate any unresolved issues before we go to bed.

Marc: Yeah, yeah. And we make the time to do that. So Angel and I have this ritual of taking a long walk on the beach and it’s only once every two weeks, but that’s enough. It’s like an hour and a half walk and it’s time that is not business. It’s not even personal. It’s time that’s just sort of there if there’s anything to say, and there to just enjoy each other’s company if there’s not. And so it’s a great time once every two weeks, like clockwork, to give us the opportunity to get anything that’s been unresolved, anything that…like any ideas. And it can be positive or negative, right?

Any ideas that we’ve had, like just extra stuff. And I think a lot of couples, and we were just like that, we didn’t have that extra time. We’d try to do date night and we’d force that or we’d be doing business. Angel and I are unique in that we do a lot of business and work together, client work together. But we didn’t have that kind of just time that was there for whatever, just kind of like space that was allowed to be whatever it was where new ideas and interesting conversations could arise. And I think that’s where a lot of communication, that’s where we resolve a lot through that ritual.

Angel: Yeah. I think it’s important to create that space where you can be in each other’s presence. It doesn’t have to be date night or something, but it’s also not talking about the kids or talking about work or shuffling things around and hashing out who’s responsible for what but just providing that space where you can be with each other to have the conversation about whatever needs to happen. I mean we’re very fortunate that after we drop our son off at school in the morning, we go to the gym and we work out together. So it’s like while we’re working out, if things come up, we’ll talk about them. That’s just time where we’re not forced to talk about anything, we don’t have a to-do list. We’re working out but we’re there together, so if things come up, we can talk about it right then and there.

Marc: Yeah, you’re right. That’s very similar to the walk. The workouts in the gym, we’re not always right next to each other but you’re right, same kind of situation for sure. So it’s a long way of saying create space for each other. Create space with each other without an agenda where great ideas and important conversations can surface.

Katie: I love that, like creating those small times makes probably such a huge difference. You guys have a New York Times bestseller, “Getting Back to Happy,” your first book, and that’s what you guys are kind of known for. I know I’ve seen you in the media for that many, many times and I hear from a lot of people who are working through anxiety and depression right now and it seems like either it’s on the rise or I’m hearing from a lot more people who have it. And so I’m curious for people who are in that phase, I know you’ve touched on it a little bit, but what are some of the specific things that people can do if they are there, whether it be lifestyle adjustments or mental shifts, to start those baby steps of moving out of that?

Marc: Yeah. We have touched on a little bit. I tell you one thing without a doubt, you know, the mind and the body are intrinsically connected and just getting your body moving if you’re not, getting yourself out of the house, but generally getting some level of exercise every single day is so vitally important when you’re in that phase. When the anxiety is high, when the depression is kind of bringing that dark cloud over your head, when you don’t see a way out and you just kind of feel like you’re on that treadmill, changing your environment is so important. I would highly recommend if you’re exercising, like the walk is a great way of doing it.

In fact, the first ritual we ever started was a walk down a boardwalk in San Diego in a neighborhood called Pacific Beach. That’s where we were living at the time when this season really hit heavy for us. And the first ritual, and it was through therapy that we came up with this idea is, we said, we need to break our cycle and that was literally the routine of our day. And so we made a pact to start leaving the house together. And again, we were not on speaking terms at this point. So we were very much at odds with each other, but we were living under the same roof and so that was the positive. And we decided we’ll leave every single day at noon for a walk down the boardwalk. It’ll be about a 35-minute walk down and back.

And when we get to the end, we’ll sit on this little grassy space and just share space with each other. Like that’s it. We don’t have to force conversation. We’ll just be in each other’s presence. And so we did that. And it was about a month of doing that. Now we’re getting exercise, we’re breaking up the routine, we’re out of the house, we’re not next to the alcohol, not next to the distractions that were unhealthy and we’re doing this thing where like we’re out there. And naturally, what did that do, is it gave us the space to have the conversations we needed to have. Not immediately, but about a month down the road is where the conversations came from.

And ultimately, a lot of the books that we read that we started writing about on marcandangel.com were done on that little green space at the end, which is a little green space off of Sail Bay in San Diego. So it’s a little bit of our story but that’s something like just breaking your cycle, getting outside, like combining the exercise with changing your environment when you’re in the thick of things can be so powerful.

Angel: And I mean change is extremely difficult as we all know, whether it’s a lifestyle change, a relationship change. When you are changing what your normal is, it can be extremely difficult. And so I think it’s important to accept what is, like to have that clarity of like controlling what you can control but also accepting the circumstances that you can’t control and just being present and letting go of being able to control things and manipulate things and just saying, “Okay, what is it that I can control? What can I not control?” And providing that space to be present and to accept where you are in this moment.

Katie: I think that’s huge. And that’s something I’ve recently in the last couple of years really gotten into reading a lot of stoicism back from Marcus Aurelius meditations all the way to some of the modern ones. And I think that’s, for me, been one of the most pivotal shifts in my own life is letting go of the things we can’t control because I’m self-admitted, very type A and probably a little bit OCD. And for a lot of years, I would try to control all the variables in my life and make sure everyone was happy and juggle everything. And making that shift into realizing what are the things we can actually control and the main one I read, in high school, I read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and I love so much his idea that even when everything else is taken away, we still have control over our own attitude and how we respond to situations.

And I think that’s actually, for me, at least the perfect place to start because that’s the one thing we are always perfectly in control over and can have ripple effects into the rest of our lives and our relationships if we learn to master our own attitude and our own response to things. So I’m curious, have you guys read any stoicism as part of your journey or has that been part of something you’ve come across?

Marc: No. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a book I read many years ago and loved it. It’s definitely on the top of my list. Yeah. I think a lot of the principles of Eastern philosophy which Angel and I resonate with deeply, I mean we’re Christians, you know, our son goes to a Catholic school and yet we resonate deeply with Eastern philosophy as well. And I think it’s great to leverage all of that for your benefit and for the benefit of those around you. But I think a lot of that ties into stoicism, ties into this idea of letting go, of being very present, realizing that you can only control the battles of today. It’s when you are obsessing over the battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicated, and in some cases, impossible to deal with.

And so, dialing that back and bringing yourself back to this idea that life isn’t easy, right? I mean it can be a very difficult thing and we must accept that and embrace that in the present. That is the only way we’re gonna be able to take the next step, holding on to the idea that it should be different, holding on the idea that we need something other than what we have, is not gonna put us in a position to step forward.

Angel: And I’m very much like you, you know, type A personality. I like control. I like to control. I like to control everything. I like to plan things, I like to have an itinerary, and I like to, you know, even as far as relationships go and people, I think they should act a certain way or I should tell them when they should do things differently. And so that’s been a struggle for me too. Just to give you an example, a couple of years ago, we were recording the audio version of our book, “Getting Back to Happy” and we’re in the studio and there’s a director and a producer. So there’s someone listening in telling you when you need to articulate a word differently or change your tone. And I thought it was my job to tell Marc when I thought he needed to read something again or if he could have done it better and yeah, we had someone that was hired to tell us…

Marc: From Penguin.

Angel: …from Penguin, to tell us when we should reread it or change it or do this. In my head, I thought, “Oh, I need to tell Marc he should read that over. He could do that better.” And it’s like I really had to tell myself, it is not my job. And in that specific situation, it really wasn’t my job. There was a whole another person that was being paid to tell Marc when he should do it differently or if it was fine. And so that was eye-opening for me to realize that I think it’s my job to point things out to other people or if I think they should be doing it my way. And so it was a real eye-opener and that mantra, I keep in my head, like it is not my job. It is not my job to tell other people this or to point this out. It is not my…

Marc: Or to hold on to control, right? Because…

Angel: Yeah. I just need to control myself and worry about myself and worry about my abilities and not be so quick to point it out in other people or to think they should do things differently because I don’t have control over them and it’s not my job. It is not my job to worry about others and what they’re doing.

Marc: And that’s made you more supportive, which is interesting. The interesting part of that is by letting go of the need to control a situation, or the need to be right. In turn, you become more compassionate and you become in more service of this other person. So it doesn’t mean you’re no longer helping the people around you or not making great suggestions but you’re doing so in a way that doesn’t seem like an attack. It’s just fascinating, like it’s those little shifts that we make that make all the difference in the world.

Angel: But again, it’s constant learning. Like this just happened recently where I was like, it is not my job. Like repeat that to myself, it is not my job.

Katie: I love that. I’m right there with you. That’s a good one for me to keep in mind as well. You mentioned your son and you’ve mentioned a couple of times. And so I’d love to kind of go down the road a little bit of how can we foster these healthy mindsets in our kids from a young age because I think, for me, my story, it was a health journey where I got really sick with autoimmune disease and then researched my way out of it and eventually got better but as a mom, it’s very important to me to give my kids a really solid health foundation so that hopefully, they never have to face the things I faced.

Even though I’m so glad that I did have those challenges and I overcame them and they’ve been a huge part of my own journey, I don’t want my kids to have to go through that unless they really should have something in their life that happens that causes it like I did. So I’m curious, from the work that you guys do and now with your own son, how do you put things in place to give him a really healthy mindset from an early age?

Marc: I think presence is everything. I think Angel would agree with that. I mentioned that hour literally being on my wall calendar. It’s like a ritual that’s non-negotiable. And like oftentimes, it’s at least three hours a day. Angel and I spend a lot of time with him. We read with him, we do a lot of healthy things, but more importantly, we try to set the example. So it’s like when we talk about health, we wanna be out there on the playground with him. I think that’s a noticeable…something noticeable that we do differently. So we live in a little neighborhood in Jupiter, Florida. It’s a suburban neighborhood. Angel and I are often the only parents out on that playground actively playing with our children.

And I’m not saying anything bad about anyone else, but I’m saying it’s noticeable. We’re out there throwing the ball, running around, playing tag, we’re there, we’re in it. And it’s a small example of how we see our role as parents. You have to be there and you have to be in it, not just in your business but you have to be in the things that they’re interested in too. Because when you’re there and you’re a parent and yet you’re there to play and you’re there to engage, if you’re there for the fun times, when it gets more serious and the topics get more serious, they’re gonna notice, hey, they’ve sort of been here with me, listening to me, explaining things to me during all these other times that were great, it’s time for me to listen to my parents too.

You can’t only show up when it’s instruction time, I guess is what I’m trying to say. You’ve gotta be more present, you’ve gotta be more engaged, you’ve gotta be a parent and a friend. You’ve gotta have that relationship with your child. And that’s something that Angel and I practice daily and relentlessly and it’s a blessing.

Angel: Yeah. And I mean mental and emotional, helping him in that way, that’s tough because as a child, they’re learning how to react to their emotions, how to control their emotions. And so I think it’s good for Matt to see us have a disagreement and then we talk about it. Like we all get frustrated. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other and it’s okay to get frustrated and this is how to work through it and here’s how to talk about it. One thing I’m constantly repeating to him, and if he was here right now, he would tell you too, but whenever I see him getting frustrated and getting angry, I’m like, “Okay, repeat after me. Peace begins with me.” And we repeat that. And he gets frustrated and he’s like, “I’m not saying that. I don’t need to say it.” Because I tell it to him so often but I’m like, “When you get frustrated, it’s hard to control your emotions.”

Take a deep breath, say, peace begins with me, and let’s talk about it and see what you’re going through. And so we acknowledge that when you get mad and you get angry and you get frustrated, that all of these emotions are going on inside. So I don’t wanna ignore those and I tell him, we’re right there with you. We try to lead by example and say, “Hey, sometimes we get frustrated and this is how we feel and this is what we need to do and it’s okay to have a disagreement but you just need to talk it out and explain the situation.” So I think, yeah, when it comes to emotional and mental health with your children, I think it’s important to lead by example and to not think that everything is happy-go-lucky all the time, but that you have bad days too and it’s okay and to talk about it and not make it a secret.

Marc: I think we do a good job at that as well as like is being honest and open about the things that aren’t working for us, whether it’s something he’s doing or something that has nothing to do with him. If he asks, “Hey, like, what’s wrong?” Rather than just brush it off, we often explain. And again, he’s only five. So he’s young, but we bring it as much as we can to his level and we try to be honest and have those conversations. And through that honesty and that presence, he definitely takes lessons away and he understands things because we’ll hear it come back at us, which is always the greatest thing.

Angel: Yeah. When you hear your own words coming back at you through their mouth, it’s always…it makes me smile.

Marc: Yeah. We have a family motto that you were made to do hard things, just remind our kids, you know, push through in challenges. And they’ve heard me say that for a really long time and I’ve had it come back on me a couple of times. We were traveling a couple of years ago and we were at a Blue Hole in New Mexico and there was about I think like a 25-30 foot jump into the water and the water was like 50 degrees so it was cold anyway. And the kids all did it and I was like, “Good job, guys.” They were like, “Your turn, mom.” And I was like, “No, no, I’m good.” They were like, “Mom, you were made to do hard things.” And they would not let me not jump and I loved it but I was also a little terrified.

But I resonate so much with what you guys said. I think leading by example is one of the most powerful things, most powerful gifts we can give to our children truly. And especially, like you mentioned, let them see us fail at things, let them see that we don’t have perfect days so that they don’t have an expectation that that’s what they’re supposed to be when they grow up. And I realized that was a tough lesson for me a few years ago because one of my own childhood wounds that I struggled from and had to work through was the feeling of not being good enough. And I had really driven parents who held me to a really high standard and I’m grateful for that but I internalized very young that I wasn’t good enough at a lot of things or if I didn’t do things perfectly, that it wasn’t good enough.

And so because of that, my whole life, I was hesitant to do anything that I wasn’t already good at which is paradoxical, of course. And I started seeing that pattern in my kids and realized this is definitely not something I can talk them out of, but I need to be an example of overcoming that. And so the last few years, I’ve done things like take a voice lesson which was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, or learn to do handstands, things that I was naturally very not good at at the beginning, so that they could see me fail and work through that. And I think being the example of that is so much more powerful than just saying that to them, whether it’s in any aspect of life, whether you’re teaching good nutrition habits, whether you’re teaching good mindset, habits, or activity, anything. I know that old clichés but it’s so true. They see what we do so much more than what we say.

Angel: I love that. Absolutely.

Marc: Yeah, no question. And doing the hard things, that’s a motto of ours as well. I mean, yeah, it’s such a misconception, like we want things to be easy and yet, you know, in fact, one of my favorite books, “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck starts with a line and it’s on one line. It just says, “Life is not easy.” That’s it. That’s the first line of the whole book. And I love that because the expectation we have oftentimes as parents, as human beings, as children at every walk in life is that this is gonna be easy. I should come out of this smiling. And that’s not the case. We have to do the hard things to be happy, the things nobody else can do for us, the things that make us question just how much harder and longer we can push forward.

Because at the end of the day, those are the things that ultimately define us. They’re the things that make the difference between existing and being in the space that we’re in and struggling and ultimately living and stepping forward. It’s the difference between empty promises to ourselves and a life that’s filled with more happiness and more possibility and more success. So the hard things, I mean you gotta do the hard things to be happy in life and it is such a lesson that we often forget and we overlook. And as children especially, I think we miss it entirely. So I love that that’s a motto in your family. That’s fantastic.

Angel: Yeah. The growth comes from the discomfort. A silly example was just this past weekend, we were in Connecticut staying close to the coast. We were like three houses down from the beach and we were on vacation celebrating Marc’s birthday and I wanted to go see the sunrise. And the first two mornings, I’m like, “Oh, no. This bed is so comfortable. I’m just gonna sleep in. And then on the last morning, I was like, “No, I’m gonna see the sunrise.” So I set the alarm. I got up, but did I wanna get up? No. I was enjoying the comfort of my bed but I knew I wanted to see the sunrise but I had to force myself. I had to do the discomfort and get out there and do it.

And oh my gosh, it was magnificent. Seeing the sunrise right there, it felt as though it was a show just for me and I loved it and it just made the rest of my day so wonderful. But it’s like that mantra of doing the hard things, doing the things that are uncomfortable, they can apply to the big things and to the little things. What are the things that you’re pushing off that you don’t wanna do but that’s what’s gonna give you the most reward.

Katie: I love that.

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Katie: And from what I know of you guys, people often find you guys and come to you when they are going through big life transitions, like some of the ones we’ve talked about, when they have lost a loved one, or maybe you’re going through a relationship change or end of a relationship, or a job change, or any of those major stressors that we all face at different times in our life. So I’m curious for someone who is just finding you guys or any new listeners who aren’t familiar with you yet, where do you have them start? Where is a good springboard into the world of what you teach?

Marc: It depends on what the person is coming to us with. You’re definitely right, Katie, in saying that people come to us when they’re struggling, when they feel stuck. So the question is, is what is holding them up? Some of our clients, it’s relationship problems with family members. Some of them, it’s deep loss with the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, it’s just like the quarter life or midlife crisis, like I’m just at a point where I feel like I’m on that hamster wheel and I’m feeling terrible about it. So we definitely have to evaluate where they are. I don’t know if there’s a universal answer but I think we’ve discussed some of them already and it is making small shifts in a positive direction.

So it’s figuring out what are the current rituals. One thing we’ve mentioned, rituals and habits, but one of the things we take a quick look at is, what is it that you wanna change in your life? That’s a typical question you want. What isn’t working? What’s the thing in your life right now that you believe is not working? And what are the rituals that are leading to that situation? What are you doing? And yes, I understand that the loss of a loved one, major tragedy just happened in an instant, but once they happen, you know, yes, there’s an incredible amount of pain and suffering that comes from that, but a year later, two years later, if you’re feeling the same pain, it is not because that thing is happening again and again.

It is because you are doing things, you’re holding on to things, you are behaving in a way that is perpetuating it. And it’s a harsh thing to say. We’ve been there ourselves. And that’s a big example but the point is, is that the things we do daily once one of those big events happen, it’s those little things we do daily that either service it or take us further back. And so we say, you know, like what is this thing that you wanna change? How are you feeling? What is wrong? And what are the rituals that are supporting this feeling, this terrible feeling in you? And then, what does your ideal situation look like right now and what are the rituals that can get you from where you are to where you wanna be?

And so that’s kind of like a little framework, like a couple of questions of like what is it that you wanna change, what are the rituals that are supporting this problem that you’re in, what does the ideal situation look like and what are the rituals that can help you get from point A to point B? Of course, applying that to different people’s life situations takes you in completely different directions but it is a small framework I think that’s universally applicable.

Angel: Yeah. And then in addition to asking them what their rituals are that are supporting this change or keeping them stuck, is also having them question the thoughts that are surrounding this change and this lifestyle and this period in their life. So often, we are resisting what is and so if some of the thoughts going through our mind is it shouldn’t be like this, this is not how I planned it and it’s working…

Marc: And Katie mentioned one earlier, I’m not good enough.

Angel: Yeah, I’m not good enough.

Marc: I’m not good enough to take whatever this next step is.

Angel: But it’s like questioning the thoughts that are surrounded because so often, I mean 99% of the time, the majority of what we see first begins in our head. It’s how we’re thinking about it. So we have our clients question their thoughts, like asking the questions, is this all that is true? What you’re thinking about this situation that I’m not good enough or it shouldn’t be like this, it shouldn’t be this way, questioning that, is that all that is true, and then digging further into that, when I think this thought, how does that make me feel? And then…

Marc: Like who am I with that thought in my head going into any situation? How do I hold myself with a thought of I’m not good enough? Or how do I hold myself no matter what’s happening in front of me, if I feel like my life shouldn’t be this way? What does that do to my demeanor and my attitude? Who am I with that thought in my head?

Angel: And then even the question, you know, if I could never think this thought again, if I could completely remove this thought from my mind, what else would I see? If I could remove the thought that I’m not good enough, what else would you see if you can never think that thought again? Or if I could remove the thought, it shouldn’t be this way and I could never think that again, what else would you see? And so we definitely have people question their own thoughts because so often, we get this tunnel vision and we’re just seeing… I mean we’ve all been in those situations where there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. This is how it’s gonna be, it’s never gonna change. I can’t get out of this. And so we get stuck in that mentality, not realizing that there’s a bigger picture and there’s other perspectives that we’re overlooking because we’re so caught into that tunnel on that dark side.

And then also, what is the opposite of the thought and can you think of any examples that then support that thought? Like if you go back to your example, I’m not good enough, the opposite would be, I am good enough. I deserve to be here. And what are some examples that support that? And one that we always talk about is you’re a mother to your children. You are good enough because you are the only one that could be a mother to your children. Nobody else could fill your shoes and do a better job. And so it’s definitely having you question the thoughts that are going through your own mind because what we think we see, we ultimately become. So we need to challenge those thoughts.

Katie: That is so important. And I love that, asking better questions, because that’s something I’ve read in several books and heard about from therapists over the years is if you ask terrible questions, your brain will give you terrible answers. And if the questions you’re asking are like, “Oh, why can’t I lose weight or why can’t I do this or why is this so bad,” your brain is gonna find ways to explain to you why those things are and reinforce them. Whereas, I love your question, what is your ideal scenario? What is your ideal in the situation? Because then the brain starts working on that. Our brain is designed to answer questions and to connect dots and to find patterns.

So if you give it good, positive things to focus on, it’s amazing at that. That’s what we’re wired for. But so often, I think you’re right, we get stuck in those terrible questions and then we perpetuate that cycle. And I’ve also heard it explained almost like a filter of sorts. I know that’s an overused word with social media but like a mental filter where I know for me, at least, if I was in that place still where I didn’t feel like I was good enough, I would see examples that prove that everywhere I looked or like I would feel like someone was judging me or that I wasn’t performing well enough in someone’s facial expression, which truly like that might not have been… You know, they could have been having a bad day or could have had absolutely nothing to do with me, which is often the case. But when we’re in that mindset or we’re in that filter, we see examples that reinforce that everywhere even if they don’t exist. So I love that, like asking the opposite of the question and starting to make those shifts towards more positive questions. That’s beautiful.

Angel: Yeah. I mean one thought that I caught myself that I was constantly thinking and not even realizing it is that, you know, my sister is the most selfish person in the entire world. I was having all of this tension against my sister and I realized I was going into every situation with that thought at the forefront of my mind. And like you said, if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re gonna find it. You’re gonna point it out. So I was like, “There it is. Yep, there it is. Oh, I knew it. Gosh, she drives me nuts. Look at this. She’s always talking about herself. She’s always doing this.” But because I had that thought in my mind, I was able to point it out immediately in the entire time I was with her.

And so realizing that I was having that thought was eye-opening. It was like a slap in the face. And once I was able to recognize that and then say, “Okay, if I can never think this thought again, if I could remove that thought, what else do I see when I see my sister?” And all of a sudden, I saw a completely different person. She’s not the person of always being selfish. She is so much more than that. But I was just going into every single interaction with her with that thought. So that’s all I was seeing even though she has all these lovely characteristics that I love and care about. I mean she’s a part of me, she makes me laugh. And so it’s definitely challenging those thoughts and realizing if you’re constantly seeing something and it may first be beginning in your mind.

Marc: You were defining her entire character by one quality that she has, that she’s sometimes selfish. Sometimes we all are, right?

Angel: Yeah. And it’s not to say she’s not selfish but that’s not all that she is.

Marc: Well, it’s giving it a perspective you need, like having that perspective even with your sister. It doesn’t mean that your sister doesn’t sometimes do selfish things. It means, “Hey, you know what, let me give myself the perspective that I need to realize she does more than just the selfish things and that I can treat her like a whole human being that she is who has positives and negatives like we all do,” which ultimately increased your ability to communicate with her and improved your relationship. I think that’s what this…self-questioning is so important in the sense that as human beings, that’s what we have.

Katie, I mean you said it too. It’s like we sort of have this tunnel vision and we focus on the thing that drives us nuts and we look for evidence. We’re just narrowly focused on that one thing and we miss everything in the periphery. So when we start like questioning our thoughts, when we start saying like, is this the whole truth about this situation, how do I feel with this thought in my head? I mean who would I be without this thought? If this wasn’t my primary focus, what else would I see about this situation? What’s the opposite of this and can I find any truth in that? By doing that, we broaden our focus.

We get out of that tunnel vision and we start looking at everything in the periphery and we have all the data now and it takes time to get used to doing that. You have to do this as a ritual, like constantly kind of capturing your thoughts, maybe even writing them down and then going back later when you’re feeling calm and collected and saying, taking a look at these thoughts, like let’s take a look at what’s really going on in our head and heart during some of these high anxiety moments. We do this consistently and over time.

A few weeks, a few months down the road, you start having a better understanding of how you’re thinking, about how you’re reacting to these situations instead of more mindfully responding to them. And you get a better handle on yourself and that allows you to have better relationships, it allows you to feel better because you’re thinking better. You’re living better. But it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Like doing this once, saying, “Okay, I’m just gonna focus on my sister for a second,” doing this once, you can have a couple of ahas, but if you can really get into the habit of saying, okay, when I feel anxiety, if I have a thought, if I can catch myself and feel like oh my God, the anxiety is high, I’m feeling that way, that tension again, and just take 60 seconds to write down the thought, like do a raw brain dump, like what is in my mind at this moment, just get it down on a piece of paper in a safe place, then don’t self-evaluate in that moment.

Of course, the anxiety is high, the emotion is high, you can’t self-evaluate then. But tomorrow, next Sunday, when you have some time to dedicate to yourself, when you have some downtime and you’re feeling calm and collected, go back and look at some of those thoughts that you wrote down throughout the week during those high tension moments and put a more collective mindset on it. And that’s where you can kind of pick one of those thoughts out, read it to yourself, maybe chuckle, it probably won’t be rational. Oftentimes, when we’re high emotion and stressed, it’s not rational.

Tell yourself, “That’s totally okay.” But read it and apply some of these questions. Give yourself the logic, give yourself the perspective when your mind is calm and collected. And you do that again and again and that ultimately arms you to deal with it more in real time but it takes time to get there. And when you’ve seen it again and again and again, you’ll see the patterns and you’ll be able to better address those situations going forward. But it is a ritual like anything else. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get and it can be a blessing over time.

Katie: Yeah, I love it. It keeps going back to rituals and those small daily changes. And as we’re getting toward the end of our time, there’s a couple of questions I love to ask. The first being besides your own, and for those who aren’t familiar, you guys wrote “Getting Back to Happy” and “1000 Little Things.” Both of those are linked in the show notes but they’re available anywhere books are sold. But other than your own books, is there a book or a number of books that have really had a dramatic impact on your life? And if so, what are they and why?

Angel: I think, for me, one of the main ones that jumps out is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel. That book was just extremely eye-opening to personal development and self-improvement and controlling the things that we can control and being present. It’s very simple but straightforward and I think it should be required reading. It’s a great…

Marc: It’s a great intro. It’s kind of a good quick inspiration intro to personal development. It was one of those first ones right at the beginning that we had picked up and both read. That’s a great one. We talked a lot about presence. I think “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is a fantastic read. It’s not the most exciting read, but it kind of brings a lot of spiritual teachings down to how it relates to the present moment and how our true power to control our lives happens from one moment to the next. I think that also should be required reading. I think it’s universally applicable to any walk of life.

Katie: I love that. And where can people find you to learn more and stay in touch?

Angel: Yeah. They can find us on our blog, marcandangel.com and that’s Marc with a C. Also, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, just search Marc and Angel and you’ll find us.

Katie: Awesome. I love it. Thank you, guys, so much for being here, for being vulnerable, and for sharing today. This was such a fun episode.

Angel: Yeah. Thank you.

Marc: Thank you, Katie. We’re truly blessed to be here. Thank you.

Katie: And thanks to all of you for listening and for sharing your most valuable asset, your time, with all of us today. We’re 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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