When T.J. Maxx reached out to me about meeting with a life coach and photographer, their pitch seemed so in tune with the current season of my life – my obsession with building happier routines, my renewed focus on the tiny joyful moments of each day as the bigger picture of my life took a frazzled turn — I had to give it a shot. T.J. Maxx launched the project to celebrate how women are making time for the moments that matter to them on their own terms, and I’ve found in my own experiences that setting aside at least a few minutes for those moments that make me happiest is the only way I stay sane and focused in other areas of my life. For years now, I’ve been curious about what it would be like to sit down with a life coach and what kind of insights they’d have to share. I spoke with Christine Hassler, who knows a thing or two about making life count (and just so happens to be especially pro at working with twenty-somethings) and later consulted with Danielle Guenther, a photographer who I’m secretly convinced is also a spirit guide.
After talking to me for about two minutes, Danielle knew exactly what I was all about and discovered a side of me I hadn’t even really mentioned to her — my love of all things theatre. In asking me about how I feel when I’m in the audience and the curtain first goes up, she brought me back to a moment and feeling that I cherish and look forward to so much. That same heart-swelling rush of emotion is accessible in lots of other places — the first step outside on a perfect sunny day, rereading my favorite part of a book I love — all of which I and many other women allow to fall by the wayside the second I become stressed — which is the exact time we’d benefit from those moments the most! I know I sound a little corny, but in my happiest moments, I do feel corny, and it’s kind of a fantastic break from the jaded look we all know and love. She captured me on my camera at my most caution-to-the-wind earnest in a photo I shared at the bottom of this post, and I have to say, it was kind of just let go and laugh in that moment. I asked Christine about how to make the most of our own special moments and about some of the things that stress most of us out on a regular basis. Here’s some of the advice I picked up, let me know in the comments if you’ve applied any of these tips in your own life!
1. On clearing your head: One of the most cringey things you can do for your wellbeing is rolling over and checking your phone first thing in the morning — and I say this as one of those people who checks her email the second she wakes up while still in bed. Christine suggested spending a set amount of time away from glowing screens after first waking up, and establishing a consistent morning routine to get going for the day. A tech-free hour before the day starts allows you to take time for yourself before responding to the demands and obligations of your other commitments.
2. On shopping for clothes and body image: If you’re not feeling great about your body on a shopping trip (though you are fabulous, I assure you), start with the jewelry section, where there’s less uncomfortable gazing into full-length mirrors. If all you can think are negative thoughts about your body when you start to try on clothes, try to focus on your face instead when you look in the mirror — a move that may help you forget that self-hating loop in your head. If you’re in a body-negative space that you can’t talk yourself out of, focus on being grateful for the most basic parts of your physical being, like having ten working toes and legs that walk. That in itself is an amazing thing!
3. On finances: Christine pointed out that everyone has their own emotional relationship to personal finance, a “money story” that they likely picked up from the way their family talked about and handled money growing up. Some of us feel as though we’ll never have enough to pay the bills no matter how much we make, others feel that financial prosperity is possible but that the only way to reach it is through working ourselves to the bone. Obviously, neither of those things are necessarily true, nor is any other personal money story, but we often see them as law without even realizing it. No matter what you were taught about money, one of the first steps to creating a better financial landscape for yourself is understanding your money story and acknowledging when it comes into play in your everyday life, because it could be sabotaging your choices.
4. On doing what’s right for you: Christine stressed that it’s very important to carve out a pathway in life that works for you and makes you happy, regardless of what we’re commonly told life is supposed to look like. We’re all built a little differently, and we all find fulfillment in our own ways. “Should” is a (figurative) four-letter word that creates shame and stops us from finding our full potential — so ignore it!
5. On finding your passions. Often, our greatest gifts come so naturally to us that we hardly think twice about them. If you’re looking for a career path or even just a hobby that makes you happy, think about the tasks that come second nature to you, because sometimes your greatest passions are hiding right in front of your face. Are you the friend who’s always giving others advice? Do you spend your weekends re-organizing your space for the heck of it? If the things you’re currently pursuing aren’t what you want, don’t be afraid to look even closer at where your strengths may be hiding.
6. On disappointments: Christine is known for helping people overcome what she calls expectation hangovers (which are exactly what they sound like!), and when I sat down with her, I happened to be in the midst of one myself. I was in the middle of a move and several unexpected changes had unfolded at once, zapping my mental energy in the process. In the past, I’ve occasionally been able to summon some perspective and an open mind out of nowhere to get through uncertain times, but I was just over it by that point and was desperate for more control over my situation. Unfortunately, life doesn’t offer much in the way of control no matter how much we long for it. It was pretty clever of the universe to throw me into this interview right at the time when I needed to hear Christine’s advice the most. She told me that when life doesn’t go as planned, to view things not as a loss of control but as an adventure. She told me to look at life’s unexpected turns with a sense of curiosity to see what comes next.
This isn’t easy (if only we could just flip a switch), but every time I’ve done it in my own life, it’s eased the stress of unexpected transitions — and I bet those of you reading can point to examples of this in your own lives too! Besides, what other choice do we have? It’s either truck through it with the best attitude you can muster or curl up in a ball and hope for the best. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control many aspects of how we react to what happens. This is one of the reasons I’m loving the company’s focus on significant moments — giving myself a few minutes to walk through the park before work or just alone with my thoughts on my commute makes me more collected for the tougher stuff throughout the day, and for me, that’s a big help in managing life’s stressors and disappointments.
Original by Claire Hannum