Instead of listening to my voice right now, are you thinking about a list of thankless tasks you need to check off just so you can get to another list of thankless tasks? If so, according to life coach Regan Walsh, you might have a “should” you need to shed. In her new book, Heart Boss: Trust Your Gut, Shed Your Shoulds, and Create a Life You Love, she writes that many women today are running on hamster wheels, popping Xanax, and in our most private moments, we’re asking ourselves the scariest question of all, “Is this it?”
Her book, full of great advice, is also the author’s personal story of how she left that kind of life behind and found one that instead makes her say, “This is it!” The kind of life she also helps her clients find and now wants to help you find too.
Jane Borden: Hi Author Hour listeners. I’m Jane Borden and I’m here today with Regan Walsh, author of Heart Boss: Trust Your Gut, Shed Your Shoulds, and Create a Life You Love. Regan, thank you so much for being with us today.
Regan Walsh: Jane, I’m so happy to be here, thank you.
Jane Borden: I loved your book, it’s full of really helpful advice and also great humor and heart. It’s part advice and part your personal story. Can you tell us about that decision to weave the two together?
Regan Walsh: Sure, I started the idea for this book when I was in my late 20s and I had been going through so many personal transitions. It was at that time I actually started a table of contents and wrote different storyline ideas. So, the personal part happened before I was ever qualified to be a coach and actually give that self-help advice.
It was kind of a blend of a coming of age and then also now that I’m a certified coach, it made sense to share this story but also give lessons on how you can avoid what it was that I was falling into.
Jane Borden: The advice that you give is what we glean from life experience so it really makes sense that you would share how you learned some of it. The book opens with quitting your job, which seems appropriate. Tell us a little bit about that.
Regan Walsh: My gosh, it’s one of my favorite stories. It was back during the recession of 2009, I worked for this really smart branding agency and they were too heavy with employees, so 30 of us got laid off, me included.
I did what any responsible person would do. I networked, I interviewed, I landed a job that should have been a dream job at this really well-respected digital agency that happened to be four blocks from my condo. I loved that I could walk to the office, it was exposed brick, you could bring your dogs to work, they had bowls full of candy, and young, fun colleagues.
I started the job on a Monday and every single day that week, I came home and I was crabby and I just felt this sense of dread. On Friday of that week, I remember I was walking to the office and it was a November day, and the leaves were turning and it was just this gorgeous morning. I walked into my office and I had to be on a four-hour conference call about women’s hair care products. Now, if the people listening could see me, I don’t care about hair care products. I don’t know how to do hair. None of that matters to me.
It’s a four-hour call, halfway through, thank god, they gave us a break. It was during that 10-minute break I literally was on autopilot. I got up from the conference room, I walked to my desk, I turned out the lights, I packed up my bag, I ran into the guy that got me the job and I said, “Micheal, I am so sorry, you’re not going to get your signing bonus because I’m totally out of here.”
Then I was like, “Wait, I should probably tell people I’m leaving instead of just ghosting.” I went back into the conference room and I looked at my new boss of 4.25 days and I said, “This isn’t for me. I’m leaving this job.” Do you know what he said to me? He said, “I am so jealous.”
He was a father of four children. I was single, no kids, I had only to be responsible for myself. I bet on myself, I got a job instead working in a warehouse in shipping and receiving. But actually, what was best about that day is after I walked out the door, I walked through the park back home to my condo, and it was there that I saw this man dressed as a clown, riding a unicycle and I thought to myself, “If this guy can make that choice during a recession on a late morning on a Friday then I can certainly quit my job and land on my feet.”
That is exactly what happened, it continues to be the best decision I’ve made, and I earned myself quite a nickname, which is One Week Walsh. I love it.
One Step at a Time
Jane Borden: Well, you alluded to something just now, you alluded to something saying that you were unencumbered, you were young, you only had to think about yourself. A lot of your clients are not in that position and this book is also geared toward them.
How do you help people who have a lot they’re responsible for, listen to their gut in situations like that, and make scary decisions?
Regan Walsh: Yeah, it starts with one step at a time. The first step is really to tune in and to become one with that sense of inner knowing that’s inside your belly and to start noticing what you notice, right?
Most of us can feel whether or not a decision is right or wrong based on what our body is queuing us into. I would say, today, where I am, anytime I’m thinking about taking a risk, the first step is, “Okay, what is the first thing I can do to get closer to this?”
Today, I’m not going to just throw away everything that I have going on in my life because I have responsibilities, but I can also make choices to get closer to my dream. I really encourage people to map out, what does that ideal life look like and what is the first step you can make today and then tomorrow and the next day so someday that you can get there. You have to be realistic with the choices and the risk you’re willing to take but you also have to be willing to bet on yourself.
Jane Borden: This idea that you can trust your gut to find happiness really resonated with me. I feel happy or unhappy, literally in my gut, which is kind of a “woo-woo” thing to say but how are the heart and the gut and happiness related? How can your heart be boss?
Regan Walsh: I think that just like you, I mean, if that’s “woo-woo”, being able to know when you’re happy or sad from your gut, then I am all in on that because when your gut is telling you something is the right choice for you, that makes your heart happy, and when you run toward happy, different doors open up and different experiences you’re meant to live are there for you.
And then the opposite happens. If you are saying yes to things out of fear or obligation or because you think you’re expected to do all of these things, chances are, you’re also going to feel that in your heart and you’re going to be crabby and your body’s going to start to ache. You have to honor your body and make choices to show up for her and listen when things are wrong.
Jane Borden: You bring up expectations. Tell the listeners about this notion of shoulds and how we can shed them?
Regan Walsh: So many of us “should all over ourselves.” A “should” is something you say yes to again out of fear or obligation, and it’s generally something you’re not excited about. If this weren’t COVID times, when we are recording this, if you say yes to staying up all night, making Pinterest perfect cupcakes for your kid’s classroom, you’re saying no to getting rest, right?
If you say yes to joining a board because you think it will make you look good, but you’re not really interested in the non-profit, you’re saying no to the opportunity to get involved in something that will bring life to you. A “should” is something that you do that is more of an external motivator.
It could be prestige, it could be money, it could be some sort of status versus what I share with my clients and I share in this book, which is you need to run toward those intrinsic motivators, the things that light you up and that bring you joy. That’s how you create a life that you love.
Jane Borden: Is there a way to know, I mean is it just following your gut, following your happy to know what to run toward?
Regan Walsh: When it comes to understanding what a “should” is, if you say yes to something and then you’re instantly trying to figure out how to get out of that and/or you’re dreading it until the day it happens and then you can’t wait for it to get over, that’s the sure sign when you commit to something and then you cannot wait to figure out how to bail.
I think that’s the number one way to know if it’s something you’re supposed to do or not.
Jane Borden: We’re already telling ourselves, we just need to listen better?
Regan Walsh: A thousand percent. One of my clients actually recently said, “My gut stopped talking to me,” I was like, “No, that’s total BS, it’s talking to you all the time, you’re just not listening.”
Sometimes we’re so busy doing and we have no room to breathe during our day. How could you listen? How could you find time to be creative or time to rest or time to think when every minute of your day is scheduled? We just need to make time to listen.
Jane Borden: This can be hard when your toddler is screaming at you. I appreciate how candid you are about children, about children being needy and an obligation. I think a lot of parents feel that they’re not allowed to have that response to active parenting. Talk about how we can liberate ourselves.
Regan Walsh: Yeah, oh my gosh. Jane, for the first probably two or three years I was a mom, I had the sense of guilt because I felt that I didn’t maybe love my children enough because I didn’t hear any of my friends talk about the things that drove me crazy about being a mom.
I certainly love my children. Also, they are exhausting, right? They also produce anxiety because they’re constantly saying my name. Last night alone, before bed, my youngest daughter who is almost five said, “Mom, mom, mom, mom” for probably three minutes. Now, this is at the end of the day, during a pandemic, when I’m launching a book, running a business, running a household, and in the middle of a major home renovation.
My heart was just racing. I thought, “Wow, women carry an invisible load on so many levels.” And I am very lucky that I have a partner in my husband Nick and we really are almost equal, but my kids don’t say, “Dad, dad, dad.” I think the number one way to liberate other parents is to talk about it. That’s why I am so honest about it.
My kids drive me crazy a lot. I still love them but I am somebody that needs space. I need time where somebody is not saying my name, or you know this nickname over and over and over again because it’s exhausting. I think we can show up for our friends and for our community by sharing honest stories.
That is truly what I hope to do with Heart Boss when it comes to my experience as a parent. There are moments when it feels overrated to be a mom.
The Invisible Load
Jane Borden: Yeah, I get that. You mentioned something that I would love to ask you to talk about a little bit more, the invisible load.
Regan Walsh: Yeah, so the invisible load. I’m going to give you an example of that and then I’ll talk about it. Tomorrow, my children at school have this 100-day celebration and I received an email and my husband received an email about this, and there are a handful of things we need to do in order to set our kids up for success for this 100-day celebration. I read the email, I saw what needed to happen. My husband still hasn’t opened it.
When I’ve been talking about 100-day and on Thursday we have to do this and that, he’s like, “What are you talking about?” The invisible load is that women, you don’t get a free pass. You have to be in the know. You need to know that the doctor’s visit needs to happen in time to sign-up for sports. You need to know when the Benadryl is expired or almost gone. I mean, I don’t care about expiration dates, but other people do and you need to know about the 100-day or the Valentine’s Day.
You know, that happened last school year. Valentine’s Day, the celebration was actually on the 13th even though I thought school was happening on Friday the 14th and a friend thankfully said, “No, there is a teacher day on Friday,” which meant I had to do Valentines’ for my preschoolers. I walked upstairs at the end of the day before bed and I said, “Nick, how long have you spent thinking about the girl’s Valentines and the party at school?” He said, “What are you talking about?” He hadn’t spent one minute on it. He hadn’t thought about it.
The invisible load is the thousands of details that women have to manage on any given day, week, month or year to keep their lives and their families and their communities and their colleagues afloat. It’s exhausting.
Jane Borden: You have some advice about how to manage it?
Regan Walsh: Yeah, so number one is always ask for help. We need to do a better job of raising our hands asking for help. Also setting realistic expectations of what it is you are and are not willing to do. I am somebody that I’ve set boundaries when it comes to my business, when it comes to how often I’m willing to volunteer or give back in this phase of my life. Time to me right now is really precious.
Before I had my children, I volunteered a lot. I did other things with my time. Now that I have my children, I’d rather donate to causes I love versus give my time. It is getting really deliberate with how you choose to invest your time, outsourcing things that are exhausting to you. We have some really great meal prep delivery services from local restaurants here and so opting into that so I don’t have to worry about cooking for my family every night. Whatever it is, the more you can simplify to focus on what matters most, the better.
Jane Borden: I want to highlight something you mentioned earlier because it comes up several times in the book. You mentioned that when you quit your job, your boss said he was jealous and it reminds me of some other examples you’ve given of people responding to boundaries and strong choices and the word “no” positively. In my head, I always think if I back out of this or if I say no to this, I’m really going to upset this person or disappoint them. Is that not always the case?
Regan Walsh: I mean you can also impress them, right? One of the things that I do is I don’t have coffee dates. What I found in my business is when I say yes to a coffee date that means it takes time to leave my office to go to the coffee shop. You have to have small chit-chat before you get to the heart of what it was the person wanted to talk about. Then you have to wrap up the conversation and get back to your office and then that’s like a two-hour situation.
Instead, I offer 15 to 20-minute phone calls. Every single time I share my “why” with people that want to pick my brain have coffee, whatever, they–except for one person, who wasn’t my person–every time people have said, “That is so smart that you do that and you protect your time and you’re able to be more efficient, right?” The one person that was like, “Oh, well that is not how I build relationships,” well, he didn’t need to spend time with me. If he doesn’t respect that boundary then it’s non-negotiable for me. I wasn’t going to go spend two hours with someone that wasn’t going to respect my wishes.
The Winding Path
Jane Borden: Yeah, boundaries can be a great litmus test. I want to return back to your personal story for a minute. Tell us about the winding path that brought you to the career you love, being a life coach.
Regan Walsh: I have been so lucky in my lifetime to be able to sample a lot of different industries, which I think is what ultimately led me to be a life coach. I was able, as you know, to work for a fun event company in New York City when I was young. After 9/11, I needed a job. I got hired into this role in a Big Pharma company. Eventually made my way back to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Worked in a creative sector, followed my heart and I was part of a team that started a non-profit for children with serious illnesses and it was there where I got exposure to another coach.
I attended a retreat that she hosted, and it was so interesting to look back on every chapter of my life and all of my strengths and all of the things that people compliment me on that are just natural for me. They all included characteristics that make a really good coach and so I started to explore what it meant to be a life coach, to get into coaching in general, and had a lot of conversations. One day I decided to take the leap and I went and then I enrolled in NYU’s coaching program.
I resigned from a job that I absolutely loved in order to create a business that I loved even more. I think it was because I had exposure to so many different industries and then found this coach at this moment when I was feeling, “Wow, if I want autonomy and I want to give running a business a go, what would that look like and what would I be qualified to do?” Coaching certainly is that for me.
Jane Borden: You found your “it.”
Regan Walsh: I totally found my “it” by doing what I love, which is listening, troubleshooting, and supporting people to go after their dream. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Jane Borden: I’m referencing, I’ll tell our listeners a phrase that you discuss and then turn on its head. We often find ourselves in the middle of our lives, you suggest asking, “Is this it?” which is a terrifying place to be in, and with this book you are empowering people to be in a place where they say, “This is it.” And I love that. Can you tell us a little bit more?
Regan Walsh: I mean honestly Jane, I would say every single woman I have ever coached has said, “Is this it?” That’s why I came up with that for Heart Boss because what happens is you grow up, you become an adult, and you create these milestones like, “I need to earn this by the time I’m this age. I want to fall in love. I don’t want to fall in love. I want to have babies. I don’t want to have babies.” We create all of these expectations and you finally climb, climb and you get to where you think you always wanted to be and then you get there and you’re like, “Well, this kind of blows. I’m exhausted, I’m sleep deprived. I’m working on a job I don’t even like. I married the wrong person,” whatever it is and you’re saying, “Is this really it like I created this?”
So helping women step off that hamster wheel in life, take a breath and assess what areas you know are holding them back, why they’re feeling that way, why they are so simultaneously overwhelmed with everything on their plate but then underwhelmed with their actual life? We get to dive into that and figure out what are the things that are holding them back from saying, “Wow, this is it!”
It really is a gift to be able to help them realize that what you aren’t changing, you’re choosing and most of us and probably everyone listening to this podcast can actually choose to create a different story for yourself. We have that power within us.
Jane Borden: I love that line, “What you aren’t changing you’re choosing.” It’s really empowering because I know personally, I tend to think that the things I’m not changing are things that are just happening to me but you are saying, “No, I am in charge.”
Regan Walsh: Yeah because most of the time you still have a choice. Something might happen to you but you have a choice on how you’re going to show up, how you’re going to react, what you’re going to think about yourself or other people. You can control what it is you’re thinking and how you show up and you can also choose if something happens to you then you can react and pivot, right? In a way that feels good to you and not just be stuck or be a victim.
Jane Borden: Regan, there is so much great actionable, helpful advice in here along with really relatable and funny stories. Is there anything else you want to say that I haven’t asked you about while we have you?
Regan Walsh: You know, nothing specifically. I just sincerely root for other people and so if you’re listening to this podcast episode and you’re feeling stuck, I would encourage you to read Heart Boss. I would encourage you to send me a note. I respond to every note when I can and know that I’ve got your back. I’m just such a fierce supporter of people who have the courage to create a life they love and I’m here to do that for you.
Jane Borden: That’s great and tell the listeners where they can go to learn more about you and your work?
Regan Walsh: Sure, you can go to heartboss.com. You can follow me on social media, it’s Regan Walsh Life Coach and on LinkedIn, Regan Walsh. I’m really easy to find, if you just put Regan Walsh in your browser you’ll probably find me in lots of places and spaces.
Jane Borden: What if I search for One Week Walsh?
Regan Walsh: Oh good question. I haven’t tried it. I’m going to do that once we’re done.
Jane Borden: It’s been such a pleasure speaking with you Regan. Congratulations and again listeners, the book is Heart Boss: Trust Your Gut, Shed Your Shoulds, and Create a Life You Love. Thank you.
Regan Walsh: This was so fun.