What I Learned from Being Three Months Behind on ALL My Bills

Recently I was challenged by a commenter to share a story on my “happy blog” of a time when I was so behind on things for several months and didn’t know what I was going to do. This person was in a very negative space and assumed I wouldn’t have a story like this since I’m so happy all the time. Usually I don’t engage in those comments, but this time I felt compelled to do exactly that… because this is a part of my journey and has absolutely shaped who I am today.

One summer while living in Hawaii, I found myself three months behind on every major bill. Student loans, mortgage for my house (which I was renting at the time), car payment, credit cards, home owners association, and electric. I was also a month or two behind on my phone and internet. The only thing I wasn’t behind on was my rent, because I figured it made more sense to ensure I didn’t get evicted. And in case you’re wondering, three months is when Hawaiian Electric will shut off your power after no payments. Yeah.

This was one of the most stressful times in my life.

Living in one of the most expensive places, trying to build a business with my ex-boyfriend (who also had to pay bills from our shared revenue), having clients pay late or not at all, no regular influx of new work, and still completely lost in my quarter-life crisis.

Getting through each month had been a juggling act for some time, but eventually, I just fell behind and couldn’t catch up. There were times in those three months where I literally had to choose between gas or groceries, usually choosing a little of both… but making sure to get groceries first since the hold placed by gas stations could overdraw me on it’s own.

There were also points where I was so broke I actually owed the bank nearly $1,000 in overdrawn funds.

I remember conversations with my friends at the time when they wanted to go out for dinner or other fun activities. “I can’t, I’m broke,” I would say. “Haha, me too! Let’s go to the movies…” was always their reply, not understanding I was actually without money in that moment.

Many, many tears were shed during those three months, and honestly, in the months before and following. It was with some help from my mom, an influx of new work and past due payments, and a lot of hustle that allowed me to pull through that time. I paid my student loans and car payment late for an entire year following those three months because I could never quite get back ahead.

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Here’s what I learned from this time:

1) It’s really not the end of the world.

I remember the very first time I overdrew my bank account when I was in college by $20. I was so upset and nervous, feeling like my whole world was crashing in. I also felt the same way the first time I made a late credit card payment. I probably spent thousands of dollars on overdraft fees in the year in question. Thousands. While my credit dipped, it wasn’t the end of the world and I actually learned it’s better to overdraw your bank account than to pay a credit card late. I basically learned to be strategically broke!

Here’s the truth: I could very well have lost my house and my car, but I didn’t. Even if I had, it really wouldn’t have been the end of the world. My credit would have sucked, for awhile. I would have felt pretty crappy, for awhile. I probably would have had to move back into my parent’s house, for awhile. But then life would have gone on and I absolutely would have picked up the pieces. I’m not saying stop paying your bills because it’s no big deal, just relieve the pressure a bit by knowing it’s not the end of the world. Stuff can be replaced, credit can be rebuilt, and we’re wired for survival.

2) It’s possible to feel abundant when you have nothing.

One of my friends and coaches had given me an exercise to try around abundance several months before I fell behind, which I refer to as the “$100 bill practice”. Simply put, you keep a $100 bill in your wallet at all times and mentally spend it. Any time you’re out and about, you think to yourself, “I could buy that! I could sign up for that program! I could see that movie AND get a bucket of popcorn!” It trains you to approach life from a place of abundance and not scarcity. While going through this tumultuous time, I stuck with the practice, always thinking, if it comes down to it, I can pay something with this $100. Should I have paid something with it, probably… but maintaining the practice helped me stay in a place of possibility. I could get through this.

Since this hard time, I’ve had months that have been overwhelmingly challenging financially, one of which was actually last fall, and I’ll share more about that experience soon. Despite not having enough money at times, I always feel abundant and I credit it entirely to this practice.

3) This type of experience can change you for the good.

So long as you release the bad limiting beliefs and fears you pick up as well. I’ve worked hard to remove a lot of money blocks and limiting beliefs from those times. I’ve worked hard to restore the belief that I can generate as much money as I need and desire. But the habits I picked up weren’t all bad… for one, I’m much more conscious about when and how I invest my money. I work hard to live within my means, am aggressively tackling my debt, and learned to be a super saver shopper. I also fell in love with thrifting. For awhile, all I could do was buy second hand, but now it’s something I do for fun in addition to treating myself to new items. I’m not as wasteful as I was before, I appreciate the money I do have, even when it’s not a lot, and I have this unwavering sense of faith and trust. Trust that even if things do get that bad again, I’m capable of getting myself through it, because it’s not the end of the world and I’ve done it before.

4) There’s nothing more powerful than positive thinking.

When I replied to the commenter that inspired this post, I mentioned that I’d be happy to share my story, but they probably weren’t going to like it because it came down to mindset for me. While I got stressed and cried and felt utterly exhausted, I always stayed positive. I would break down, take a deep breath, focus on the fact that I hadn’t lost anything yet, and worked to trust that everything would work out. I truly believe that if I hadn’t had this practice in place, I wouldn’t have made it through. Things would have gotten worse, I would’ve lost my car or my house, and I would be scarred for life from this season.

5) We all have different tolerance levels for risk.

And debt. Mine is higher than most, yet if I could do it over again, I would have kept my bridge job for far longer than I did. I made it happen and I made it work, but it didn’t have to be as hard as I chose to make it. You have to be honest about your level of tolerance for risk and debt and act accordingly. There’s no right answer. I’m comfortable with debt because I’ve always known being broke and not making enough money to pay it off was never going to be my life long mode. Back to the last point, I’ve always believed in my ability to be successful and make things happen, and that’s carried me through and beyond this rough patch.

So tell me…

What have you learned, or what are you learning, from the most difficult experience of your life? What are the lessons and the gifts? How can you find the positive and use this experience to change you for the better?

PS – My life changing, signature program Foundations for Unshakable Joy™ starts on Monday, August 11th! This transformational program is the EXACT foundational process that took me from a stressed and depressed mess, to happy, fulfilled and living a life built around my passions and purpose. It has everything you need, and I’ll be there every step of the way guiding you, supporting you, coaching you and holding your hand as you step into your truth, uncover your passions, and begin to create alignment in your life and career. My promise to you: You’ll experience more joy, passion, zest for life and clarity than you’ve ever experienced before, in just 8 weeks. Click here to learn more.

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An entertaining look at how I got started coaching… it’s pretty great.

Have you ever wondered how I got started coaching, or maybe what it would have been like to work with me when I first began? Whether or not you have, I think you’ll find today’s story entertaining and insightful. :)

When I first began coaching, I was still doing a lot of my own personal development work, but there was one thing I hadn’t yet mastered: getting out of my head and into the present moment. So when I had a coaching consultation or call, I would spend at least an hour preparing for that call. No joke.

I would start to get really nervous, write out and practice my sales pitch, obsess over all the possible things I might be asked, and consider how exactly I would respond to those questions or inquiries. It was exhausting to say the least. When the calls finally rolled around, I would have to do a pretty crazy little dance-jig to try and work out all the nervous energy I was stuffing down, make weird song like noises to open up my tightly closed vocal chords, and quickly glance back over all my prep notes.

Then, I’d hop on the phone only to find I still barely had a voice (there was a LOT of throat clearing), forgot everything I wanted to say, and would fumble through the calls. I’ll admit these weren’t my finest days as a coach. Did I provide value to my clients? Absolutely, I have no doubts about that… but I could have been far more impactful if I hadn’t been so deep in my head and obsessed with everything that could possibly be said or asked.

Outside of coaching, I spent a lot of time in tense anticipation of any kind of interaction or situation, because I was always thinking about what was going to happen, how I would be perceived, what I would say, etc. One time I even sat down after a quick introduction at a networking event wondering if I had even said my name right! I’m still not sure on that one…

These days, it’s a totally different story.

You’ll never catch me preparing for a coaching call unless there’s something I need to read or review from a client. Outside of setting up my lighting and closing my office door, you’ll also never catch me preparing for a video interview, even for big platforms like en*theos Academy (okay, maybe I touch up my hair and makeup). I’m calm, totally present, focused, and completely in my genius zone at all times. More importantly, I serve my clients from a much deeper and more powerful space than ever before.

When I started coaching, I tried everything I could think of to get to this kind of space, but that was the problem. I was thinking way too much. It wasn’t until I learned an incredibly essential and simple shift that I was able to access this cool, collected, focused, and genius side of myself. It took a lot of practice, I won’t lie… but this tool has 100% transformed my life.

Not just with my work and clients, but in my relationships and daily life. I’m happier, more at peace, totally tuned into my intuition at all times, and rarely ever stressed out anymore. Powerful, powerful stuff and I’m so excited to share this final tool with you today. :)

Ready to create some massive shifts?!

Learn the Most Essential Shift for Eliminating Stress and Negativity

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After you watch the video, leave a comment let me know your thoughts, what came up for you, and how you’ll begin utilizing this powerful shift in your life!

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Colorado Bucket List: Dinosaur Ridge and Triceratops Trail

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On a whim last Saturday afternoon, I decided to choose an item off my Colorado Bucket List.

After realizing many things were either not free (just spent a lot of money in Portland and feeling the frugal!), going to be crazy busy because of the weekend, or more than 3 hours away, I settled on Dinosaur Ridge!

My guy and I headed on down to just south of Golden and paid our $2 admission to a teeny tiny exhibit hall. It had a pretty awesome Triceratops skull, but was otherwise dated and lacking things to look at. But, it was only $2 and the admissions man was super sweet.

We then headed up the road and did the little 3mi out and back walk where we saw dinosaur footprints and bones in the sides of the mountain. Pretty cool and fascinating to see… we also had a good view of Bandimere Speedway and watched some cars duel it out on the track.

After the down and back walk, we drive to Golden to do another short 3mi down and back walk on Triceratops Trail! It was mostly indented dino tracks and butted right up to a golf course, but it was still a fun little jaunt.

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I was broke, overweight, depressed, and… filled with joy.

Today I want to tell you another story…

A couple years after throwing everything into a tailspin while trying to “change my life” many years ago, I found myself having just moved to Hawaii with my then boyfriend and living at my parent’s house. I was working full time doing customer service and data entry (I don’t think I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this AT ALL, but just in case…I most certainly didn’t enjoy this at all!), trying to start a design business, completely broke, unhappy in my relationship, still overweight, still totally lost as to who I was or what I wanted, and still very depressed.

It wasn’t a fun time.

I was working at a job crammed into the home office of my boss. She had this impressive book collection on the shelves next to her that we were allowed to borrow at any time. One day when I was in the office alone and bored out of my mind, I started perusing the bookshelf. I’d never really read any self help or personal development books, but I was immediately drawn to Jack Canfield’s book Success Principles… it practically leapt off the shelf at me! I took it home and began reading immediately.

From there, I started listening to recorded trainings by Jack and other mentors, read more and more personal development books, and started reading blogs and articles with the same focus. This self help stuff was pretty awesome and I was hooked.

More importantly? I had begun putting a handful of the principles I was learning into practice, but I wasn’t really sure if anything was working because my life didn’t seem to be changing like I’d been hoping it would for the last two (very long) years.

Then one evening, after a long day at work, I came home to work on some design projects for my growing business, only to find that my computer was completely dead. My computer, with all my files, client projects, and personal photos and artwork, wasn’t starting up and was leaking some kind of important looking fluid.

Now, after a couple years of life being incredibly exhausting, tear inducing, stressful, chaotic, depressing, and completely out of balance, one would expect me to have a total meltdown. I even expected me to have a total meltdown. After all, that was my default when even the smallest thing went wrong those days.

Instead, I smiled and shrugged it off as just a little bump in the road.

I managed to not only make the situation work until I could scrounge up enough money for a new (very used) computer, but I did it peacefully and joyfully. Were there moments that were stressful? Absolutely, but I hadn’t handled a single thing with this much grace and joy in a long time, if ever.

While I was reading a lot of books and learning a lot of new tools and tricks, there was one simple mindset shift that allowed me to not only handle that situation like I did, but allowed me to shift into the joyful, positive, and totally in love with life person I am today.

Let me be clear, I’m not without problems! Things go wrong in my life just as often as anyone else’s. I’m hit with unexpected expenses, slow months in business, unhappy moments in relationships, and challenges left and right. In fact, last fall was one of the most stressful times of my life! But no matter what, I always come from a place of joy and peace. I’m always happy and grateful for every single moment and experience in my life, even the sucky ones.

I’m not special, and I certainly didn’t start off at an “easy” or “happy” place giving me a leg up on these kinds of experiences. I started from a place of confusion, depression, stress, and chaos, and yet…here I am today a happy and joyful person. Like I said in Monday’s email, it’s because I did the work. Really, truly did the work, and I continue to do it every single day.

Today I want to share that simple mindset shift with you so you can do the same in your life, regardless of what’s going on. This exercise is short and powerful, and can be applied to ANY area of your life where you’re feeling dissatisfied and will instantly raise your vibrational level so you can start attracting all of the amazing things you deeply desire.

Let’s dive in!

The Simple Mindset Tool That Will Instantly Bring More JOY Into Your Life

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After you watch the video, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts, what came up for you, and how you’ll begin utilizing this powerful tool in your life!

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My BIGGEST, most painful lesson in taking ownership, ever.

Every so often I become aware that another year of my life has passed. This isn’t because it’s my birthday, it’s just a moment where I’m reminded of where I was exactly a year ago. For many years, this realization was met with a pounding heart, deep sadness, and frustration that another year had passed where nothing in my life changed. Nothing at all. I was unhappy, lacking joy and fulfillment, depressed, overweight, completely lost as to who I was or what I wanted, always broke, and without depth and connection of any kind in my life. So realizing that I’d spent another entire year in this place was devastating.

Let me give you some back story…

When I was 21 years old, I had everything I thought I ever wanted. I had just graduated from college at the top of my class, had an amazing job at a local graphic design firm, a brand new townhouse, a boyfriend of almost seven years (my “high school sweetheart”), and a shiny little car in my own name. On the outside it appeared that I was doing everything right for my age, and, honestly, a lot better than my peers. People were really proud of me and impressed by the life I’d worked so hard to create at such a young age.

But despite outward appearances, I was absolutely miserable.

Knowing that the guy I shared a home with was not “the one.” Finding that the great job, despite the excellent pay and awesome projects, wasn’t making me happy. Feeling trapped financially by the house, the car and the “perfect little life” I had created… basically feeling that nothing in my life was right, deeply unfulfilled, isolated and with absolutely no clue what to do about any of it!

I attempted to resolve the growing discomfort with several new jobs, all ridiculously fabulous and with increased salary and clout. I ended my relationship, jumped into a new one, and threw myself into a whirlwind of painful changes and serious stress. But no matter what I did, something deep inside me just wasn’t having any of it.

During this difficult period of my life, I truly believed I would never be happy. I believed that I simply wasn’t built for it and being a “happy person” just wasn’t in the cards for me. I believed that life would always be a struggle and it would pass by right before my eyes with absolutely no say on my part.

And yet, here I am today with a completely different life and perspective.

When I realized recently that another year had passed, I felt expansive, joyful, filled with gratitude, amazed, and absolutely in love with myself and my life. And the best part? I feel this way every single day.

How’s that for a change?

The reason I’m sharing this with you today is because I want to touch on something incredibly important that took me years to understand: creating the changes you want to see externally in your life starts with the changes you make internally. Despite all the job, location, income, business, and relationship changes I made during that difficult time, nothing actually changed for me. I was still unhappy, lacking fulfillment, completely lost, miserable, and depressed.

It wasn’t until I started doing the inner work, and I mean really doing the work, that I began to create amazing things in my life externally.

This week, I’m going to be sharing three videos with you that contain the most essential tools, mindset shifts, and exercises with you so you can begin creating an amazing life you absolutely LOVE, right now. When asked by my clients and Mastery members what was the ONE THING I did to really start making changes in my life, I tell them there are three simple things I did.

Each of these individual exercises are truly transformational on their own, but combined? They’re unbelievable. Spoiler! In this first video, you’re also going to hear about the biggest, most painful and slightly embarrassing lesson I’ve ever learned on taking ownership in my life. It’s a doozy.

Depending on how you connected with me originally, you may have already seen these videos, but I encourage you to take some time to really watch them again, AND work through the exercises. This isn’t the kind of work you do once and suddenly everything’s amazing. Nope, not even close. I still do the work in these three videos every single day. That’s how I created an amazing life and business I love, and it’s how I’ll continue to build on the beautiful foundation I’ve created.

So, let’s dive in shall we?

The Nine Words That Will Forever Transform Your Life

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After you watch the video, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts, what came up for you, and how you’ll begin utilizing this powerful shift in your life!

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People around me have noticed how “happy” I’ve been lately and I can 100% say that I have never felt more happy, authentic, confident, and healthy as I do now. I am so grateful to Stephenie for helping me begin this journey of self discovery. — Jennifer McAleese