“It’s the single most powerful idea that’s driven my life,” Marie Forleo says of the words Everything is Figureoutable, a phrase she learned as a child from her mom that also happens to be the title of her new book.
“It’s helped me in high school to get out of an abusive and toxic relationship. It helped me gain rare work-study positions in college that helped me pay for my education. It has helped me land every job I’ve ever had, from bartending and waiting tables to being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, to eventually starting my own business and building it into a global brand,” says Forleo, a best-selling author, motivational speaker, and life coach who was named a thought leader for the next generation by Oprah and hosts the award-winning online show “MarieTV.”
In this interview and her “How I Thrive” video, Forleo opens up to Thrive about the secrets to her success, as well as practical ways we can all achieve our goals. Step one: “It’s important that we look inside our own hearts to define success for ourselves and get really clear, not only on what is that outcome that we want, but why is it important to us,” she says. “If there’s a deeper purpose, something so meaningful in your heart — especially if it’s tied to the betterment of others — that is what’s going to give you the juice you need to cross that finish line.”
THRIVE GLOBAL: What is your morning routine?
Marie Forleo: My morning routine changes because I travel a lot. Some of the pieces that are constant: First, waking up and making a delicious hot beverage with my man, Josh. Then meditation gets in there. If I’m working on a new writing project or something highly creative, journaling happens and then some type of movement. Whether that’s a little bit of dance or working out, using an app on my phone to get in a quick seven-minute workout or walking around the block — even a little movement really gets me going.
TG: You talk about striving for progress and not perfection. What’s behind that?
MF: Striving for progress and not perfection is so important, especially because many of us can suffer from versions of perfectionism. We hold ourselves back because we don’t think that we’re good enough, but that’s just a surefire way to keep ourselves miserable and stuck. You’re looking at folks that you admire, folks that have been out in their field doing whatever they’ve been doing for years, if not decades — and then measuring yourself in comparison to that and coming up short.
One of the things that we can do to combat that perfectionism is just strive for progress. Did you make any kind of progress today towards your goal? Even if it doesn’t appear at first glance, did you learn something? Even if you made a mistake or you failed, did you gain a lesson from it? Did you grow in some way? We can check that off as progress and when we start striving for progress over perfection, eventually you actually do reach that finish line. You do find yourself so much more capable with more skills and more experience in doing the things that you really want to do.
TG: How do you coach your clients in getting what they want out of life?
MF: One of the first steps to getting anything we want is having the courage to name and define exactly what that is. Throughout my career working with people, I would often say to them, “As your coach, I can help you get anything you want. But first you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to define it for me. You’ve got to clarify it and tell me what that is so I can help you reach that target.” It sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy. I think that many of us are afraid to admit what we want in our hearts. We’re afraid that we don’t necessarily have what it takes, that we’re not good enough, we’re not young enough, we’re not old enough or smart enough or talented enough. But here’s something that I’ve seen to be true, you wouldn’t have the dream in your heart if you already didn’t have what it takes to make it happen.
TG: What are some common excuses people make and how can we start to get past them?
MF: Excuses are one of my favorite topics because we all make them. I make excuses from time to time — we all do. This isn’t about feeling bad or shaming ourselves or beating ourselves up, but they do hold us back and limit who we are and what we can accomplish. I’ve seen that our excuses typically fall into three main buckets: I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money and I don’t have enough knowhow. Thankfully, every single one of those excuses can be overcome.
The way that we do this is to start looking at our language — specifically the distinction between two four letter words, “can’t” versus “won’t.” In my own life, 99% of the time, when I say I can’t do something — like I can’t get up early to work out, or I can’t find the time to get my writing done, or I can’t go take that class because I can’t afford it, or I can’t get started because I don’t know howm can’t is really a euphemism for won’t. Won’t means we’re not willing to — you don’t really want to. You don’t want to put in the sacrifice or the effort to get that particular result. At some point in your life there was a time you said, “I can’t do this. It’s not possible. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money, I don’t have the resources, the know how.” And yet, something was so important to you, something was so incredibly motivating that you overcame that lack of time or money or resources and you got it done, which proves to you that you are so much more capable than you give yourself credit for.
I would invite you to experiment with this little practice. Anytime you hear yourself saying the word, “I can’t,” replace it with “won’t” and just see if that feels more true. See if you don’t want to shift around your other priorities or don’t want to do the work or it’s just not that important to you right now. Saying that you don’t want something, that it’s not that important to you or you don’t want to change your priorities doesn’t make you bad or lazy. It makes you honest. And from that place of self honesty, that’s when everything starts to shift.
TG: Can you share a time that you went from simply surviving to thriving?
MF: I can think of one specific time when I was struggling real hard. I was still working to grow my business, and I was also having a challenge in my relationship. I’ve been in a relationship for 16 years and during that time we were at the point of, quite frankly, breaking up. We didn’t know which way it was going to go. And it was heartbreaking for me.
A point of the stress was how much I was working. I love my career, so from my point of view, the thing that I love — my business and what I’m on this planet to do — was causing conflict with the man that I love. I remember saying to myself, “I can figure this out.” While none of us can control what another person feels or how our relationship is eventually going to resolve itself, in my bones, I felt like there was more for us to do together. I just sat down and I had that real conversation. I said, “Look, I know we’re having challenges right now, but I believe in us. I need us to get to therapy. I need us to go and try every methodology, every tool we possibly can to see if this thing can come back together, if we can come back together and be stronger than we’ve ever been before.” It took us time and it took us a lot of tears, work, exploration and quite frankly, a lot of things that didn’t work out perfectly, but we got there. While I can’t predict the future, I am really proud of myself and of our partnership together for sticking with it and doing the hard things to figure it out.
TG: What are some ways people can work through something difficult?
MF: Step one to figuring anything out is that you must believe that you can. If you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t do this, this is impossible, there’s no way I have what it takes to get through this,” guess what? Your brain is going to disengage, you are going to shut down any possibility of you actually figuring it out. So the baseline that we all have to start from is believing that it is possible. It is my personal belief that every single person has innate wisdom in them to figure anything out in this world. Sure, you might need to gain skills or understanding or collaborate with other people, but the possibility is there.
TG: How do we overcome the fear that often stops us from taking action?
MF: It’s not about wanting to overcome your fear, but actually listen to your fear so that you can investigate. Fear is this interesting thing because most often, our fear is actually directive. It’s guiding us to what our soul most wants us to do in order for us to grow. So rather than trying to combat it or punch it in the face or kick it down, we need to actually embrace it as the directive guide that it is. What is it guiding you towards? What is the thing that evokes so much emotion in you?
Fear doesn’t have language skills. She’s using every power that she has to let you know that something in front of you is important. So it’s like she’s jumping up and down going, “Hey this thing, this thing, pay attention to it because it’s awesome.” So rather than fear saying, “Stop, danger, don’t do it,” what if your fear was saying, “Hey, this thing, go try it. I’m making you feel everything possible because this thing in front of you is essential for your growth.”
If you can be kind and compassionate to yourself, if you can know that every pro starts off as an amateur and allow yourself to just be sucky in the beginning and just get in there and get dirty, you’ll actually stay in the process, so you can close the gap between your ambition and your ability.
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