This is part two of our conversation with the amazing Mary Polanco, who is a fabulous wellbeing coach. If you haven’t read part one, click here. We talked to her previously about the endless grind she found herself caught in, as so many of us do, and how she managed to transition out of her career in the Air Force to the life she’d always envisioned. This week, we’re going to get into the details of how Mary created this amazing 180-degree transition in her life—and how you can do it too.
Q: So many Type-A achievers impose this trap on ourselves where we always trying to go after this goal, then that, then another. We’re caught in that mindset of always achieving something and constantly asking yourself, what’s next? Goal achieving, obviously, is a healthy thing but when you’re at the point where you are always looking at what’s next in order to feel fulfilled and happy, that’s when it’s problematic. Mary was able to work on her mindset and shift things around so that she could find and stand in her true purpose. Now she’s waking up before her alarm clock, eager to start the next day. How many of us do that? Probably not many. So tell me, Mary, what are you enthused about? What excites you every day?
A: I call that part of the day my MMT time—Morning Me Time. I love knowing that the first two and a half hours of my day are completely devoted to myself. I’m excited to get out of bed in the morning because I’m going to read for twenty minutes and that’s going to fill me with new thought patterns as well as give me something else to pass on to the world. I’m going to do some sort of body movement like going for a walk. I’m going to take the time to enjoy my coffee. What I’m doing when I do these things is setting my intention for the day, as well as my short-term and long-term goals. I’m starting the day with a fresh, deep breath every single morning.
To get there, you have to know what you want and who you are. People find the question What do you want? Difficult to answer. Many of the people I talk to are searching for something and don’t know the answer. I think it’s important to start there and figure out what it is that you love to do. What you are called to do.
Q: I agree that quiet time is so important. I think that before you can even get to the question of what do I want?, you have to take a stand for yourself and create the space for that me time. So how did you navigate doing that, especially because you are used to performing and serving others?
A: When I got to see the ramifications of that decision—all those positive consequences—I realized this was important. I had to put me first in order for me to really develop as a human being so that I can give back to you later. I had to work step by step on the inner me in order to be able to find the voice that I had hidden away. I needed to learn to say, This is the right thing for me. Now it’s a non-negotiable. I’ve made a very strong commitment to never break a promise to myself again.
If I’m your best friend, husband’s wife, my kids’ mom, I would go to the ends of the earth to be reliable, to show up for them, and give them what they needed. But I wasn’t doing that for me. So in a lot of ways, I saw myself as a fraud. That was how I was able to make that connection to what was important by asking myself: Is that something I would do for someone else? Then I better do it for me because loving yourself is the foundation of all of it.
Q: Absolutely. It’s not about being selfish. It’s being selfless. You can serve and love on people in a greater way when you’re taking care of yourself. If we are expecting other people to take care of ourselves then we are putting that responsibility on someone else when it’s our responsibility to do that.
A: That comes into play in leadership positions as well. Toward the end of my career, I really started to shift how I viewed those that I was charged with leading. If I was putting too much on them and their response was, “Got it, Chief, let’s keep rolling,” I would say, “No, that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for you to say, hang on a second, we need to stop. We’re doing too much.” We’re always so quick to give, give, give, to others. It’s like a badge of honor. You have to ask yourself if giving all that is hurting you.
Q: I remember working with someone who had a parent that was ill. I told them to go and take care of their parent, but they wouldn’t leave work. It’s so ingrained in the individual and in the culture of an organization that we have to work hard all the time. I want people to go take care of their family and to know we have their back. That’s how we take care of one another. It leads us all to a more well-rounded, fulfilling life. Whether you are an entrepreneur or you’re in an organization, you can create that and cultivate that in your team.
A: The bottom line is that your results are going to be astronomically better when your people are really invested in themselves first, and then in each other, because they have the energy and the time and space to do what they need to do.
When I was going through this transformation and working on myself, I started realizing the power of being present. One day, I took my kids on a bike ride where we have these rolling hills. I sat on the top of the hill with no phone, nothing, just watching them have the greatest time. My daughter kept asking me to ride bikes but I said no, I was happy watching them. She asked if I was bored and I said no, that I was really enjoying this. Then she said, “Mommy, do you have cancer?” I asked her why she said that and she told me “It’s because you’re at peace.” If I could tell everyone one thing it would be to not wait for something like that to happen to change your life. I was such a stress mess before that I couldn’t even enjoy a moment with my daughter without her thinking that I was dying. But that moment was the compass to keep me going in the right direction.
Q: That’s so good. What a gift you are giving your whole family when you are present.
A: Completely. I became fun again. My son doesn’t remember the worst of it when I would go-go-go, head to work and come home and that was his life. But now he notices when we’re dancing in the kitchen and he notices the fun memories we are building.
Q: It starts with you creating that space for yourself, figuring out what you want, and then boldly taking steps and setting boundaries. Are there any other things that you would recommend that helped you to find that balance, presence, and beautiful joy in your life?
A: I would say, understanding and really valuing all the pillars of wellness. Acknowledging that healthy social connections are important. It’s okay to let toxic relationships go, too. Every single one of the people in my circle today wants to see me succeed, live my best life, and be the best version of myself. That’s the kind of tribe you want to be involved with.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what you do, how you help your clients, and how people can get in touch with you.
A: A large portion of our clientele come to use for the physical and nutritional aspects of wellness. I like to fill the gaps of spiritual and mental and social. We talk about their vision, we do goal-planning. I want people to hear other possibilities so they can begin to manifest those beliefs in themselves. We also have group workouts and I have a cooking class I’m doing that is coming up. We talk about all the ways we can nourish our bodies, even if it’s just sitting with yourself. I have a YouTube channel called Live Well, a website at http://marypolanco.com/, as well as Instagram and Facebook pages.
I encourage everyone to get in touch with Mary because she is a phenomenal resource for you as well as a wonderful coach, mentor, and leader. As always, remember, everything is created twice, first in your mind in your imagination, and then in physical form.