Ep. #74: Indulgence and Identity

An indulgence is something you do in the moment that doesn’t serve your goal, and the antidote to indulgence is a shift in your identity. If you become in your mind the person who doesn’t need or want to indulge, that can change everything. Listen to this episode to hear how this recently happened for me.


Welcome to Rich & Thin Radio, the only podcast that helps you earn more and weigh less. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth, I’m your host on the journey to rich and thin, and I am very excited you’re here because I had a Rich & Thin™ epiphany this week and I can’t wait to share it to you.

As you probably can guess from our business episode last time, that episode was on indulgent business names, I’ve been thinking about indulgences a lot these days. That episode wasn’t initially intended to be only about business names that are indulgent. I started out talking about business indulgences across the board. That was the episode I was going to publish, and I could talk about that forever because they are everywhere, and the episode would’ve wound up being four hours long, so I cut it short and thought, I’ll only talk about this one aspect of business indulgence—just the names.

But my brain has been swimming around in the idea of indulgence, and I’m seeing indulgences everywhere. For a quick refresher, an indulgence is something that makes you feel better in the moment but that doesn’t serve the goal. In the case of business names, an indulgent business name makes the business owner feel better in some way. It gives the business owner some kind of emotional charge, maybe it’s amusement, maybe it’s sentimentality, maybe it’s just the idea that I don’t want to change the name, even though it needs to change, because it will be too much work.

When you let go of indulgence, you let go of low profitability. Just this week, I had a meeting with a client who had a name for her business that just wasn’t working to the degree that it could. It wasn’t a bad name, but it didn’t differentiate her from her competitors in any way, and in her case, she absolutely needed a business name with a compelling hook to it, because she has a brick-and-mortar location and she will get traffic from that as people are walking by this summer. And what I loved about this meeting was that the moment I suggested the new name, her eyes lit up, and she could instantly see the possibilities of using that new name. There was absolutely no indulgence going on in that meeting whatsoever. She instantly saw that the old name wasn’t showing her business off to its best advantage, and she took out her notebook and a pen and immediately started writing notes about what she needed to do to get the new branding in place.

And this is a very different response from an indulgent response. The indulgent response to a name change, or any change in your messaging that would make it more effective, basically involves whining and foot-dragging. The indulgent response is when you say, “Oh no, but I’ve already done all this work. Can’t we just stick with what we have?”

And the answer is no. If what you have isn’t working, you can’t stick with it. That’s the indulgence. It makes you feel good, but it’s not going to get you to the goal.

So there’s something interesting to notice here. This client in this meeting who whipped out her pen in her notebook and started making notes about the new name and everything she was going to do to put it into place, is the epitome of rich and thin, in my book. She’s in her 50s and she has the body of a teenager. She has the face of a teenager. She takes care of herself. Her whole approach to life and business and her relationships is about what serves her and the aesthetic with her body she would like to achieve and the health she would like to have, when we’re talking about her food. If it’s her family, it’s how she wants to show up there. If it’s her home, it’s what will serve her home. Whatever it is, indulgence just isn’t in her approach. She just does what serves the goal, and the way she does it in one area of her life bleeds over into the way she does it in every other area. Her approach to food, no indulgences, is exactly the same as her approach to business and that’s why she’s been very successful so far, and it’s why she’s going to be even more successful by working with a coach.

She shows up to do the work with her coach, and then when she leaves the coaching session, she actually does the work instead of indulging in the idea that she doesn’t have to, and that it would be easier not to.

So that’s an example of getting out from under a business indulgence. You have to be willing to do the work and not get mired down in whining about having to re-do whatever it is that needs re-doing. Your business starts in your brain, and our brains need editing. Redoing the work means that you’re editing and distilling, both inside your brain and outside your head in your actual business, and making both of them more effective, and indulgence has no place in that. Indulgence is the wrench in the machine that sends the whole thing off the rails. It’s not going to help you achieve your business goals, and today is our body episode so I want to share with you how indulgence isn’t going to help you achieve your body goals either. Actually that’s pretty obvious. Today what I want to share with you is how a shift in identity can make your desire to engage in indulgences go away, and here I’m going to discuss a major shift, and I mean major, that I had recently and it’s something I have been dancing around for a long time, and it finally clicked into place, and when it did, I felt the world move.

So here’s what happened. If you been listening to the podcast, you know that Adriane Nichols is my weight loss coach, and lately, in my quest to reach my dream weight of 105 pounds, she and I have been working on not eating at my desk. Because when I was eating at my desk, I’m usually not eating anything that serves me or my goal of reaching my dream weight of 105 pounds. I’m usually eating something indulgent that is not serving my goal. It’s something that basically involves me getting on the “fat-me freeway” and speeding away from my goal at 70 or 80 miles an hour.

And what I was thinking in these instances where I’m indulging at my desk was that I’m working too much, and I’m tired, and I don’t like this work, and my thought was also that that was why I was eating the indulgent foods. And here, I’m just going to come clean and tell you what it was. It was candy bars. My husband keeps fun-size candy bars in his car for when he goes hunting or skiing or hiking, and there’s a big stash in there so he can put something in his backpack before he heads out.

Well, what did I do recently? I went out to his car and I grabbed the bag and I brought the whole thing into the house and I had it sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk so late at night when I was doing certain kinds of work that I didn’t like to do, I could dig into that stash. And I wasn’t just eating one or two, I was eating ten or twelve.

Obviously that’s not going to serve the goal.

So Adriane and I have been looking at why I was doing this, and my thought was, I’m working too much and I’m doing tasks that I don’t want to do. Notice these are actually two separate thoughts. One is the about of the amount of time I’m putting in, and the other is about the type of work I’m doing during that time. I even published a recent episode in which I said, “I’m noticing that there are certain kinds of work where I am eating against my goal, so I need to let that work go,” and Adriane contacted me after listening to that episode, which was really fun… Side note here, I have to tell you it’s very weird when your weight loss coach is listening to your podcast and calling you up and saying, “I’m hearing things in the podcast that you’re saying that are signs that you are not thinking about your food as effectively as you could.” And one thing that she pointed out was that no matter what kind of work I am doing and no matter how I feel about it, I do not have to eat candy bars during those moments when I’m doing the work that I find frustrating and when I’m feeling frustrated. I need to disconnect food from frustration.

Excellent point, obviously. So here is a point of coaching nuance. If you’re waiting for your circumstance to change before you lose weight, you never need wait. You can always not eat in any circumstance. This is definitely something I am learning. It’s a skill, it is a strength. It’s a muscle you develop, and with Adrian, it rises to the level of superpower. No matter what is going on, unless the problem is hunger, for her, food is just never the solution.

So when she said this to me, I felt the lightbulb go on. And here, it’s so fascinating that you need a coach to point this out to you. We’re constantly remarking to each other in Rich & Thin™ Workshop, “I can’t believe I need a coach to point this out to me. It’s obvious now that you’ve said it.”

And I do this with my business clients. I point out to them over and over and over, “You don’t need the indulgent behavior in your business to feel good. You can manage your mind and do what serves the customer and both feel good and enjoy more profits. And here is where you have a business indulgence going on.” And when I point it out to them, “You are doing something in your client interactions or with your branding or message or marketing approach, or even your operations. that is indulgent, it’s thwarting your goal and it’s designed to make you feel better rather than to serve your customers and move your business forward.” When I point this out to them, they see it and a light bulb goes on with them, too. As the experienced outsider, it’s completely obvious to me, and when I see it and point it out to them, then they see it and then they can do something about it.

This is why everyone needs a good coach, and it’s why I do, too. Exactly the same thing happened when Adriane said to me, after hearing me say on the podcast that certain work makes me want to overeat so I need to stop doing that work. She said, basically, you’re wanting to change your circumstance, i.e. not doing certain kinds of work, so that you can avoid overeating. But there is always going to be something around you that you could use as a reason to overeat, so you must learn that overeating in response to a problem that isn’t hunger has to stop. That kind of overeating is an indulgence and it’s always going to thwart the goal. She didn’t say it exactly that way, but that’s the gist of it. Those are my own words, but that was the essence of what she was saying.

It’s completely obvious, I totally understood it. But here’s the other thing. This is where a lot of people stop in their coaching. They use mind management as a way to tolerate things that they no longer find tolerable so that they then can overcome the desire to overeat. They use mind-management as a means to stay in circumstances that are simply not their preference and that are less profitable than they could be.

This is where they stop, but I say this is only the beginning. You can use mind management to tolerate circumstances that you don’t prefer, but if you really want to get rich, you also need to use your mind to create something more than what you have right now. So managing your mind to accept the intolerable is not where it’s at for me, and this is why I am not a coach who is opposed to changing the circumstances when changing the circumstances it serves the goal. Certainly, you want to be able to achieve your goal in any circumstance, but if you can tweak your circumstance, elevate your situation, to get to the goal faster, by all means, do it. For example, I eat less when my house is clean. That’s a circumstance. I could manage my mind around eating less in a dirty house, certainly I could get that done, but why bother? It’s so much nicer when the house is clean.

And the same is true in your business life. One of the major hypotheses in this show is that overeating, over-drinking, over-anything, is a sign that you are playing small in your business and you want something bigger. You want it to be more vibrant, more fulfilling, more challenging, more lucrative, you just want to create something bigger and more valuable and better, and when you are engaging in your overages, whatever they happen to be, of course you can and should learn not to eat in those moments, but the other thing you need to do is listen to why you want to do your overages in those moments. When you’re overeating in those moments, it’s a sign that you are limiting your potential of what you could be and what you could create, and that you’re frustrated about that.

And this brings me to the Rich & Thin™ epiphany I had recently. One day I was on the phone a hedge fund client who wanted my help. We’ve been talking about various ways how he can “buy” my help, how we would structure that purchase, and on that day he said to me, “Look. I’m tired of messing around here. We need you to come in-house, so what’s it going to take? We need you here. We are getting a little tired of not having you all to ourselves, you’re helping our competitors, the other hedge funds that you’re working with, and we just want you in-house because we want to take this fund up to a billion dollars, and we think you are the person who can get us there. So what’s it going to take?”

And out of nowhere, I heard myself say, “CEO. I want to be the CEO.”

And when I said it, I felt this giant weight lift off of me. And what I realized is that all along I have been telling myself, I’ve even said these words out loud, “The reason I have a seat at the table is because I’m an accountant and I’m a lawyer and I understand the regulatory implications and the tax implications and the legal implications of any deal that’s being discussed, and that’s why I’m in the room. So thank God I have all these credentials and all this experience in the minutia of the deals that are being discussed, because that’s what gets me in the room. That’s why I’m part of these conversations.”

That was the story I was living in, and because of that story I was telling myself, I kept putting myself in situations where I was the person responsible for all the details. And while all of this was going on, I was frustrated and I was overeating, and I kept saying to Adriane, “I am the janitor to these hedge funds. Yes, it’s well-paid janitoring, if that’s even a word, but it’s not the work I want to be doing.”

And I was also telling myself another story, which is, “This is the most money I’m going to make. I sit down at a computer and type and money comes out, because my legal work is done in such a lucrative practice area.” I was believing my own money-limiting story, and that belief was leading to frustration. I felt like a racehorse strapped to a pony ride. Often at the end of a call, during which a $200 million deal was discussed,  I would say to myself, or sometimes even to my clients if I knew them well, “Someday I want to be the person who, when we all get off the phone, other people are doing the work of documenting the deal and making the transaction machine happen. I don’t want to be the person who gets off the phone and has 10 hours of fine print to write.”

So here’s something I’d like you to notice. Every result in your life comes from your brain. The results of me writing fine print for ten hours after those deal-making meetings was caused in my brain based on my (low) perception of why I was in the room. One of my old boyfriends when I was single used to call me the “princess of fine print.” That was my low-profitability problem. It came from my limited story of what I brought to the table, and if you have a problem in your life, it is a problem your brain is causing for you based on your limiting story.

In the moment I said that, “I want to be the CEO. I want to be the chief executive who brings this fund up to $1 billion,” I shocked myself. It was a moment as precise as when Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star. All of my stories about how I’m at the table because I’m the lawyer and the accountant with the regulatory expertise or the tax expertise or the legal knowledge, all of that fell away, and I saw that I had just blown up my money-limiting story. I blew up the story of why I earned the money that I earned, and by blowing up that story, now I can see that there is so much more available to me. I can be the CEO of a billion-dollar fund. I can be the CEO of a five billion-dollar fund. There’s no limit on what I can accomplish, because it all happens in my mind, and I can make my mind wherever I want it to go.

So in that moment, my identity completely shifted. And when your identity shifts, what happens? Your desire for indulgences falls off a cliff. In my case, it went away completely. I started saying different things to myself and to my family and to my husband. I was joking but I meant it. “Now that I’m a CEO, I don’t need to eat those candy bars anymore. Now that I’m a CEO, I don’t wear scuzzy sweatshirts anymore. Now that I’m a CEO. we don’t drink out of Mason jars anymore.” Maybe we’ll still keep doing that because I like to drink water in quart-size quantities. “Now that I’m a CEO, we don’t live in a tear-down anymore ”

if you go back to the first episode of this podcast, you will hear me saying, “We live in a teardown, and that’s okay with me, because I’m just not ready to remodel my house right now.” I said it twice. And what I’m realizing now is that there’s absolutely no reason that my house shouldn’t be to my taste right now. People who make far less money than my husband and me have lovely homes, and when I walk into them I think, Oh, I want this. It feels so clean and peaceful and restful. I want this for myself. And it’s something I didn’t have in my life, and I was telling myself it was about the circumstances. I was telling myself that it was about the circumstance. I was telling myself it was because we bought this house, or rather, I bought this house, at the top of the market. My husband comes from a family of auctioneers. He would have never bought this house at the price I paid. He would’ve hammered the price down by 45%, and we’d be sitting on equity.

But in any case, it’s never about the circumstance, it’s not about the current value of our home relative to what I paid. It’s not about, maybe were moving to San Francisco this year, and maybe we are, but we lived in this house together for our entire marriage, and during most of those years, we weren’t thinking about moving to San Francisco. We were living in the result of a house that is not to my taste because we were thinking, there’s no reason to burn a bunch of money remodeling a house that we don’t know if we’re going to sell or teardown or what we’re going to do with it.

That is a story I was telling myself. We have the money to make the interior of this house aesthetically pleasing and inviting and restful. And I was just doing without, and it was coming from a place of scarcity. That’s another thing I realized in this big shift. I believe in many, many ways that money is created in your mind, and then you make it happen in your life. But when the results of your life are in contradiction with that, what happens is you spot a hole in your belief. And with respect to my house, the hole in my belief was, if you spend money remodeling in certain circumstances, such as when the house is underwater, you have negative equity, or when you might scrape the house and build something new or whatever your excuse happens to be, the hole in my belief was that I didn’t really think that I could create more money in a sufficiently easy manner that would justify me having a beautiful home to live in all these years. And that’s kind of fascinating, right?

That was a huge shift, too. Now that I opened my mouth and said, “I want to be the CEO,” and my client said yes, and we’re in the process of inking that deal and I’m making the transition into that role, I can see a whole bunch of stuff that I could not see before. I truly create money in my mind. I decided I was done being the Princess of fine print, and I decided I was going to stand at the helm of a billion-dollar fund. And when I decided that, it became very clear to me that I do create money in my mind. I always believed it on some level, intellectually certainly, and deeper in certain areas. But I filled up that hole in my belief. Now I’m living the truth that I create money in my mind. It rings not just intellectually but at the deepest level of my being, and once I made that shift, I could see that I can have any house I want. And this was the most buoyant joyous realization of my life. I felt like my head was filled with helium for about four days after that conversation with my client for whom I am now stepping in as CEO.

And with that shift in place, I had no desire to eat candy bars. And I could see that the candy bars weren’t about the amount that I was working. I love working. Revenue generation is my favorite hobby. With this new identity in place, even when I was writing fine print, my thought about it was completely different. My thought about it was, I’m a CEO, I’m in a transition, I’m just getting some things off my plate, and eventually I am going to have someone else doing these things and I’m going to supervise the generation of fine print. I’m not going to create it myself.

So these words are key right? “I was going to get it off my plate.” So it turns out that all this time that I was thinking I am working too much and thinking that those thoughts were woven around my thoughts around me being the janitor to the deal rather than being the deal-maker, I was thinking, I’m tired, and working too much, I just want a treat, and that is thinking that’s why I was drawn to the candy bars. But actually I was drawn to the candy bars because I was literally shoving words down back inside of myself that wanted to come out, and the words were, “I want to be the CEO.”

And then another fascinating thing happened. For about four days, like I said, I was in my CEO model. I was feeling fantastic and I was shedding weight like crazy. Not just physical weight on my body, but other stuff—clutter and ugly clothes and a whole bunch of detritus in my life, that I didn’t love. And then, for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, the client I’d had this discussion with about coming in as CEO kind of fell off the face of the earth. I emailed a proposal for how the exact arrangement was going to work, and I didn’t hear from him for a little while. And then I fell out of my CEO model. I thought, he’s changed his mind. He doesn’t want to do this anymore.

And that led me back to “safety.” For a few hours, maybe a day and a half, I was thinking, well thank God I didn’t call up my other hedge fund clients and say, “I won’t be generating your fine print anymore.” I guess I’ll keep writing fine print and that will be that.” And where was I then? Right back in the Cherry Garcia. I didn’t eat any, but I was sitting on the couch thinking, I wanted some, so I had to look at this. What happened?

What happened was my thoughts had shifted again. This is key so I really want you to notice this. When I was thinking, I am a CEO, I had no desire to do anything damaging, and every desire to point my life straight in the direction of my dearly-held goals. When I was thinking, I’m not a CEO, I am a princess of fine print, I wanted to go back to the ice cream. All of this was my thoughts. I am not a CEO yet. That deal isn’t inked yet. But when I think of myself in that way, though, I show up in that way even if I’m not actually that yet, and when I show up that way, I’m actually going to make it happen. If I think of myself as the princess of fine print, I grab the bag of candy bars out of my husband’s car and I head to my office to churn some out.

Same circumstance. It’s always just me, but totally different thoughts about who I am, and totally different results based on which set of thoughts I’m thinking.

Your identity is the collection of thoughts you carry around about yourself and who you are. And here’s something else I realized. One of the coaches I’m working with this year is Stacey Boehman, meaning she’s a coach who’s coaching me, and she says, “Where there’s one, there’s two. Where there’s two, there’s four. Where there’s four, there’s eight,” and so on. She’s talking about prospective customers. And that’s when I realized, me having that conversation with my client about him needing my help was not the catalyst for me becoming a CEO. The catalyst was me deciding that that’s what I wanted, and someone who works in my client’s office actually said, “We didn’t even know it was the within the realm of possibility to have you on staff as our CEO.” I invented that in my brain, and if there is one person who wants me to fulfill that role, there’s two, and if there’s two, there’s four, and if there’s four, there’s eight.

So that’s when I sent a text to my client whom I hadn’t heard from about the CEO deal in a few days. And I said, “Are we doing this? Because if we aren’t, I’m going to call up Ray Dalio over at Bridgewater and see what’s going on over there.” In case you don’t know, Bridgewater is the largest hedge fund in the world, and here I was kind of joking, but kind of not, because I was back in my model of, I am a CEO whether I’m the CEO for this hedge fund or a different hedge fund that wants to go to billion.

And what happened? He was immediately in touch with me. “Yes, of course were doing this. We need you.” Turns out, he’d had a sinus infection and was out on antibiotics for a few days. This is also a good thing to notice. In his mind, I was always the CEO. My thoughts were shifting in and out of my CEO model, and when they were shifting out of the CEO model, that’s when the desire to overeat.

So what can we glean from this? One, no matter what the circumstance is, no matter how frustrating, it is never a reason to eat. Two, when you are in that circumstance where you want to eat, don’t eat, because what will happen is the thing that you want, what you really want and what you are using food as a very poor substitute for, will rise up into your awareness, and it might even come out of your mouth. You might find yourself saying, “I want to be the CEO,” or whatever the equivalent of that is in your own life. Your dream role is going to be different than mine, but whatever it is, if you’re shoving your words down with overeating or overdrinking or overspending or whatever your “overage” happens to be, those words will never come out of your mouth and create opportunity for you. The third thing is to listen to the things that you say, seemingly in passing. When you are complaining, when you’re getting off the phone and musing, “I wish I wasn’t the person who, when we all get off the phone, has ten hours of work to do while everyone else gets to go have a beer or go play golf or whatever it is they are doing,” that’s a sign. When you are complaining, that’s a sign that you want something, and you don’t think you can have it.

And the deadliest thought you can have on your Rich & Thin™ journey is I can’t have what I want. That thought kills more dreams than any other.

So I wish I would’ve paid attention to this 10 or 15 years ago, when I first started hearing this desire come out of my mouth, and when I started eating candy bars at my desk to shove it down, because if I had been paying attention to it, I might be the CEO of a hedge fund like Bridgewater right now.

And that didn’t happen, so all I can do is go forward with the knowledge that is currently in my possession, and use it to create what I want to create now. I hope you do the same with the knowledge that is in your possession. Rich and thin all the way my friends. I am getting richer and thinner by the day, and I hope you are, too. If you aren’t, get in touch. kelly@richandthin.com, because I know I can help. Your brain creates your result, and together we can look at what’s in your brain and what’s not serving you, so you can get started on thoughts that will serve you. The thought that’s serving me right now is, “I’m the CEO.” What thought will serve you? We can figure that out together, so if you need some help, I hope you get in touch. And now you may be asking, wait a minute? You’re still doing coaching even with this new job? And the answer is of course! I’m swapping a full-time legal practice for a CEO position, but I have time to do everything I want to do, and so do you, so let’s do this together.

Thanks so much for being here and I look forward to talking with you next time.

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