Live Life On Your Terms: With Helen McLaughlin

Picture this: you head to work every day and dream about a different life. One with more excitement, more adventure, just... more. You're tired of the mundane, the routine, and the same old day-in, day-out hustle. There's an itch to live differently. An itch that just does not want to disappear.

You decide to take life into your own hands and do something radical. You quit your job, hop in an RV and travel with your gorgeous partner around the country. Your guide? Curiosity. To become wildly curious about anything and everything you encounter. To open your eyes to the wonder that surrounds us constantly, but often we ignore or neglect.

That's where Helen McLaughlin found herself over a year ago. Today, she's still travelling the US (and who knows where next!) with her gorgeous (now) husband - and would you believe it? That curiosity has opened the door to transformation like no other.

I cannot even begin to describe the love I have for this woman! And I know you're going to fall in love with her too. Settle on in and enjoy: 

Tell us more about you: who are you and what are you all about? (Your story, your truth)

I’m a writer, curiosity coach, traveler, highly sensitive person, adventuress, INFP, wonderer, empath, purpose-seeker, and more. Until a month ago, my husband and I were roaming the country in our 34-foot motorhome; after much deliberation and nearly a year on the road together, we decided to trade in that adventure for a new one. Presently, we’re living smaller than ever before (a camping backpack apiece) and are taking the long way Home—traveling for both work and pleasure until we find the place where we’d like to put down roots.

I’m all about unlocking distinctions—namely, helping a client uncover the one (often small) distinction that allows her to shift her perspective so thoroughly that what once seemed impossible is now very much within her reach. (Hint: It was within her reach all along. She simply needed to shift her beliefs to serve her instead of allowing them to limit her.)

What does living life on your own terms mean to you?

Living life on my own terms means tuning in to what it is that I really want (and if I don’t know what that is, then it means devoting the time, energy, and patience to figuring it out first), and giving myself permission to have it. Not everyone is going to agree with what I want for myself—whether someone desires something else for me or feels threatened by the lifestyle I’m choosing or whatever else—but I’ve come to realize that that’s not my business. My life isn’t about satisfying some consensus; it’s about my continued growth, discovery, and becoming. We all get this one shot at life. At making it mean something. At letting it teach us what we need to learn. Doing it on our terms means the experience is going to look different from everyone else’s, and therein lies the fun.

Share with us a personal challenge that you’ve had to overcome and what limiting beliefs you had to break down along the way.

My most recent challenge has to do with navigating a pair of friend breakups. No one tells you these breakups will be more painful and fraught and mean-spirited than pretty much all of your romantic breakups! The dissolution of these friendships has challenged me to both define and honor my emotional boundaries. There’s this temptation, I think, to give the people you hold closest the benefit of the doubt, even as the evidence strongly suggests your heart is being mistreated. Making the decision to draw a line, announce it, and then not cross it has been one of the more difficult responsibilities-to-self to uphold. It has meant getting super clear with myself about who I want to be in my friendships…and recognizing when a certain friendship is requiring me to be someone else.

Naturally, self-doubt crept in: What if I need to try harder in this friendship? What if she’s right and I should’ve done more to show her that I love her? We’ve been friends for years and years—you’re not supposed to end these ones, you’re supposed to figure out how to make them work.

Ultimately, though, I had to remind myself that change is often painful, and that can’t be a reason to maintain the status quo. Also, who would I rather be: exactly who I am, or a codependent version of myself who caters to everyone’s deepest needs, wants, and insecurities? Put that way, it’s a no-brainer.

When life gets hectic and overwhelming, what do you do to feel more grounded and balanced?

Perhaps this is a bit simple of me, but tea! Cup after cup, if possible. It slows me down, grounds me in routine, and pulls me back into sensory experiences (a pretty common mindfulness technique).

When it comes to creating change in your life, what does putting it into action look like for you? (And how do you handle when/ if resistance pops up?)

Creating change isn’t for the faint of heart! I think we all probably try out lots of different methods before we land on the one(s) that works for us. That being said, no matter the daybook I use or the app I download or the motivational words I pin, I always seem to come back to the simple refrain of “Baby steps, Helen.” I have to start somewhere (and the real secret is, it doesn’t matter where) and I have to make it manageable for myself. Recently, I got back into running after several years of not running. The first step wasn’t to hit the treadmill at six miles per hour and a four percent incline. The first step was to investigate the hotel gym and get a sense for what time of day I want to be there and what equipment I want to use. When resistance pops up (as it always does!), I get curious and we talk it out. Usually, it goes something like this:

Resistance: I don’t want to do this thing because I’m afraid I won’t be any good at it.
Me: Oh, okay; well, I give you permission to suck at it. What else?
Resistance: What if it’s too hard for me? I don’t like feeling like a beginner.
Me: Hmm, maybe we can begin really slow, just to say that we started. An easy victory. Resistance: And what if I don’t like it?
Me: Then we try something else.

In my experience, resistance wants only two things: to protect me from the unknown and to be heard. (TWEET THIS!) I’m always willing to hear it out and thank it for its concern, but I’m never willing to edit my decisions to according to its fear-based métier.

What are the top two nuggets of wisdom or advice you would give to someone?

The two struggles that see the most action in my coaching conversations with clients are the difficulty of beginning a new pursuit and the difficulty in breaking the habit of people-pleasing. I’ll speak to those.

New endeavors are best jump-started with an attitude of experimentation. There’s nothing like a raging bout of perfectionism to freeze us up and make us believe we’re not ready to begin blogging, jogging, applying for a new job, planning a trip, you name it…and we should just put it off a while longer, save it for when we feel ready. As if readiness is a designated status that we can reach by waiting! But, if we reframe the activity as an experiment—a thing we’re playing with for a while, for the sake of learning something, without an attachment to a specific outcome—it becomes much easier to dive in each day and merely add to our data by doing.

Sometimes people-pleasing happens simply because we’re ambushed by a request and can’t think on our feet as readily as we’d like. I’ve always been a fan of thinking about my words before I use them (blame the writer in me); I find that testing out phrases and thoughts ahead of time makes them that much easier to use when the situation calls for it. Let’s say you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to favors, requests, petitions, etc., when you’d rather say ‘no,’ or at least have more time to think about what you really want. Craft a simple sentence or two wherein you’re super transparent about the shift you’re trying to make. It might go something like, "I've given myself a challenge to say 'no' more, so that I have room for the unexpected 'yes' in my life. I find myself wanting to say ‘yes’ to your request, but I know I need to give myself more time to figure out what I want and to make sure I’m in integrity with that. So, I’ll let you know tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.” Play around with what feels like YOU. Remember, these are 'I' statements, so, even if someone bristles or takes offense, you haven't said anything that's objectively hurtful. You do you (their reactions are all theirs).

What is one quote that really resonates with you, or that you choose to live life by?

“I've come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way. I sense a mysterious force behind what happens in the world, and it seems to me that souls are learning and growing, no matter how things appear. I trust that when people meet, we meet for a transcendent reason, and that the challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our soul's growth.” —Marianne Williamson

RAPID FIRE Q's:

I can’t go a day without… smiling.
Following the trail of my curiosities means… allowing myself to go down the rabbit hole; finding connections in seemingly disparate things; questioning everything, even the facts; getting playful; believing anything and everything is worthy of my attention and exploration; noticing, marveling, delighting more.
When I feel fear… I ask it what it’s trying to tell me, evaluate the situation for myself, and then thank my fear for endeavoring always to keep me safe.
I feel joyful when… something tickles my sense of humor and I get to laughing uncontrollably.
I’m most grateful for… my relationships and the infinite love that they contain.

Want to know more?

Helen has just gained an opening in her coaching practice and is looking to fill it with a woman who is highly motivated to transform some area(s) of her life, so much so that she won't let her fear preclude taking action. This woman has a Big Thing ('big' to her—a dream, a hope, an ambition) she wants to accomplish, but is struggling with beginning and/or feeling ready. If you know (or are!) this woman, reach out to Helen right away.

For tips on becoming and staying curious, being an everyday life explorer, and navigating the world with more discovery and delight, subscribe to her weekly curiosity and adventure newsletter at weeklyfindings.com/subscribe.

Helen McLaughlin is a writer and certified life coach who’s fascinated by the the concept of home, the quest to live a purposeful life, and star clusters that seem to disappear when you look at them directly. As a creative writer with an MFA and a penchant for conversation-oriented work, she’s a big believer that our words create our world. She’s keen on noticing folks’ limiting Stories (those beliefs we have about the world and our place in it) and helping them to revise self-narratives that no longer work well, maybe weren’t ever accurate, but were the best they had at the time. When she’s not listening or asking questions, she’s writing, drinking cup after cup of milky tea, and exploring the country with her curious husband. Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or through her website.

Give Helen some love in the comments! What's one takeaway that clicked for you?


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