Live Life On Your Terms: With Julie Houghton

Early last year when I first met Julie, I was nearly 5 months pregnant and undoubtedly had thousands of thoughts running through my mind at any given moment.

Will being a mother change me? Will I lose my identity? What will Life look like? How will I make it through childbirth? What if something goes wrong? What if it doesn't turn out the way I want it to? What if... what if... what if...

There was a lot of joy coupled with fear and anxiety - but when I sat down with Julie, my perspective shifted within minutes.

She's an absolute light in this world and I genuinely feel lucky to know her. The way she shows up in her own vulnerability assures you that it's okay for you to be vulnerable too - and hell, it's actually quite beautiful.

Her story is one that resonates. Feeling stuck living someone else's version of her life, feeling completely out of touch with her true desires, a deep longing to chase The Big Dream, and the intense fear that comes with taking the leap. Then, she went after it.

Today Julie walks her talk. She took the leap and is now helping women find work that feeds their soul. Without further ado, I give you Julie Houghton. I hope you find as much inspiration and truth in Julie's words as I have.

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

Hi, I’m Julie Houghton. I’m a mom to two girls (ages 3 and 4) and a life & career coach. 

For most of my own life and career, I struggled with figuring out what I wanted to do vs. what I thought I SHOULD do. For 15 years I worked in marketing and corporate strategy in a string of what some might call dream jobs. I got my MBA from UC Berkeley. On paper things looked great. But deep down, I was pretty miserable. I was living someone else’s version of my life. I had done what I thought I should do for so long that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. 

And I was totally and completely stuck in fear – fear that I was a lost cause who didn’t actually have a passion or a purpose, fear that if I took one step off the corporate path I’d ruin my career, fear that even if I did figure out what I wanted to do with my career that we couldn’t afford for me to do it. 

The birth of our older daughter was the catalyst that prompted me to finally find my own courage. Now I specialize in helping women find the courage to do work they love.

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

For me it means trusting myself vs. looking outside myself for the answers. I spent most of my life looking for external validation. Now I know that I have all the wisdom I need within me. 

Part of how I check in with myself to see if I’m living life on my own terms is actually to think about the model I’m being to our two girls. In other words, sometimes when I’m debating about something I ask myself – is this the role model I want to be for our daughters? Is this how I want to inspire them to live their lives? Because what I want most for them is to have the courage and the confidence to live life on their terms. I want them to trust themselves, not try to follow someone else’s definition of who they should be. I want to show them that that’s possible. 

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

In my 15 years in the corporate world, I was so out of touch with myself that I didn’t even know what made me happy or what I truly wanted out of life.  I wasn’t sure if I actually even had any passions and if I did, I was pretty sure it was something that I wouldn’t make any money doing.  I only knew one thing for sure – the idea of quitting my job when I didn’t know what else I wanted to do seemed ludicrous. I told myself I should be thankful to have a job at all.

And then, like I said, when I gave birth to our older daughter, my whole world changed.  The idea of leaving her to go back to an uninspiring, stressful job with long hours was unbearable.

Thankfully that was what prompted me to start working with a coach. (Something I’d thought about for years and years, but I’d always told myself I should be able to figure it out on my own). I learned how to stop worrying about who I was supposed to be and pay attention to who I was. I learned how to move forward even when I was scared or the path seemed uncertain. I saw that I could have a big impact on the world while still maintaining a sense of freedom, balance, and ease. And I found my own calling: helping other women find the courage to do work they love. 

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

I take some deep breaths. I try to get out in nature. If things are really feeling hard I look up at the vastness the sky & literally say the words “I surrender this.” I play with our daughters and let myself be in that space they’re always in of noticing and marveling at the small details of life and just being fully present in the moment. 

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?)

For me it means just continuing to take small steps towards what I want and being ok with the ups and downs. I’ve come to realize that resistance is just a part of the process, not a reason to stop. Resistance used to keep me stuck, but now it’s something I can recognize and be curious about. 

I also look at the big picture. Like I said, I’ve come to just expect the ups and downs so when they happen it doesn’t throw me off. I know there will be times when nothing seems to be working, but I keep going anyway. Because I know that a few days later everything might just seem to click. It’s all just part of the process. 

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

First, that our fear holds a lot of wisdom, and fear can actually be a sign that you’re headed in the right direction. Our tendency is to think that fear is always a sign that something is wrong. When we feel fear, we tend to want to just run in the other direction. But there are actually different types of fear. And the easiest way to figure out what type it is is to check in with your body and your emotions. Do you feel constricted, with your shoulders in knots, a pit in your stomach and a sense of dread? That might be a sign that you actually don’t want to move forward – at least not until you better understand what’s going on with that fear. But on the flip side, is there some curiosity or excitement mixed in with your fear? Do you feel a sense of expansion even as you feel scared? That can actually be a sign that you’re headed in exactly the right direction, and the stronger that sense of fear, the closer you’re getting to where you need to be! 

The second thing I’d offer is that clarity comes through action. In my 15 years in the corporate world, I thought about leaving my job all the time, but that was just the problem – I spent all my time in my head. You can’t find your calling just by sitting on the couch thinking about it. You need to take action and try things. If you’re not sure what to try, just try anything! You can gain so much clarity just by trying something and seeing how it resonates with you, how you feel in your body, what emotions it brings up. And taking action doesn’t have to mean doing something drastic. Just talking to someone who’s doing that thing you think you might want to do can help you learn so much and allow you to get out of your head.  

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

 “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt


I can’t go a day without… my kids
Following the trail of my curiosities means… knowing that my inner critic might pop up with the reasons why something won’t work, but that I can thank that voice, see what wisdom it has to offer, and still choose to act from a place of curiosity
When I feel fear… I check in with my body to figure out whether I should move forward or not. Your body never lies! 
I feel joyful when… I feel like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life  
I’m most grateful for… my friends and family  

Want to know more?

If you’re ready to work that’s in alignment with who you really are, go to to get Julie’s free e-book, “Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Find Work You Love”

Julie Houghton is a life and career coach who helps people find the courage to do work they love. Prior to becoming a coach she worked in marketing and strategy for Fortune 500 companies for 15 years and has her MBA from UC Berkeley. When she's not coaching, speaking or writing, you can find Julie doing arts and crafts with her two daughters, hiking the Redwoods, or curled up with a good book and a seriously good cup of decaf.

You can find Julie at


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