[quote style=”boxed”]I shake my ideas like my terrier does her favorite rubber chicken toy until they give up their squeaker. What I mean by that is, I make up for what I lack in talent and brains with sheer bullheaded determination.[/quote]
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She is the author of five additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Life Organizer, that have inspired close to a million women in nine languages. She has spoken around the world on self-care, written a national magazine column and even sat on Oprah’s couch talking about the power of retreats. She believes that self-love plus world-love equals wholeness for all. Visit for fabulous free goodies and her upcoming retreat schedule.
What are you working on right now?
Exploring the idea of a “shero’s” journey. What is it? Is there a real model in those words that could help women? I’m exploring it by writing a fantasy novel about a world in which rest, stopping and dreaming are no longer allowed, as well as by writing lots of blog posts and leading retreats and online classes.
Where did the idea for Shero’s Journey come from?
The central questions of my life have always been: How can we be fully alive? How can I? How can I help others be more alive? What helps us be more alive and present and whole? Why doesn’t our culture (I live in America) support that; why do we want to make crappy food, empty movies and spend hours watching bad TV?
I’ve been an ardent feminist since I was little, primarily because I saw my mom trade her beauty for comfort, and while my parents had a loving marriage, it was very 1950’s. Mom was not allowed to work. That still makes my hair burn. So both of these lifelong obsessions keep fueling me—how to help myself and other women live free, self-expressed lives we love.
The actual word “shero” comes from the amazing Maya Angelou, and it has always stuck me with since I heard her say it in an interview. We sure know the hero’s journey—Frodo and the ring, etc. But how is our women’s journey different? Are there myths out there or archetypes that might help us live well today?
What does your typical day look like?
I’m a huge believer in morning rituals. Right now, mine is: brush teeth, stick head under tub faucet to wake up, throw on yoga clothes, go out to the studio for 10 minutes of yoga, 10 minutes meditation, then make tea. Back to the studio to write for at least 30 minutes. Then I give myself limited time with email and social media—it is sucks my energy so fast it’s crazy. I make breakfast, often green juice or eggs, and do what feels more important for the next few hours. The afternoons often degrade into too much email checking as my focus wanes. I have a hard stop at 5:30 p.m. Evenings might bring yoga class, watching British detective shows with my beloved or (especially) reading.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I shake them like my terrier does her favorite rubber chicken toy until they give up their squeaker. What I mean by that is, I make up for what I lack in talent and brains with sheer bullheaded determination. That is my super power—that and enthusiasm. I also believe in getting a ton of peer support so I feel less alone.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Service. There is a huge trend of people realizing that the world needs a ton of help and a real hands-on, “I’m going to do something about it” mood out there. It is so exciting to see people taking action and giving money, waking up to the fact we are all so interconnected. It gives me hope that we can survive and leave something good for my kids.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
Literary agent’s assistant in Hollywood. I am dyslexic, a terrible speller and I was far too nice. This was before PCs, so I had to type everything. The daily courier guy would be waiting for me, and I would be using White-Out to correct the letters I needed to send while sweating the deadline. Plus I was terrible at “working the phones” and getting the whole pecking order down: Who was I supposed to put through? Who was I supposed to make wait? I lasted two months.
I learned that I had better develop the talents I had, because working in an office certainly wasn’t an option.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would be far more savvy about taking advantage of the incredibly early success I was lucky enough to experience. I was too “aw, shucks” and not enough “own this space.” I let self-doubt and being a nice girl hobble me. I would have hired help, got out in the world more to meet people and simply recognized that people looked to me as someone they trusted and followed and I could build on that in so many ways.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Meditate and do inner work. You have to learn to quiet your mind, and you have to have ways to be working with your inner darkness, weaknesses, doubts and fears or they will (I know of what I speak) cost you dearly.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Trying to pay someone to rescue me. I kept trying to hire someone to tell me what to do with my business. “Someone else must know the best way to do X or Y,” I would think. I had to learn to trust myself and to forgive myself when I made mistakes. I’m still working on it, but I’m getting much, much better! I’m overcoming this issue through meditation and inner work, and it also helps to have a mastermind group to call me out.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Curating good content with a tight focus and a point of view is a great strategy for many businesses who need content but can’t or don’t want to create it.
And…Environmental impact and service are no longer lip-service items in your business plan. They must be at the honest heart of anything you do.
And…Put all 10 toes in. Real commitment sometimes takes struggle to come to, but it’s so worth it when you feel yourself jump all the way in.
If you could change on thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would help people understand that global warming is real and work with everyone on the planet to change how they live so we can all live. I would have to be magical to do this—even more magical than Harry Potter —but that is one reason I’m writing a fantasy novel.
On a more serious note, I do wonder what would happen if we put all our global resources to work on solving one issue a year. You know how communities read one book and discuss it for a month? What if we took on global warming or child slavery or extreme poverty and everybody on earth worked on it? We attend to our sufficiency—not growth, not profit, just sufficiency—and get on with solving the issue of the year.
I look at something as vast and expensive as the Olympics or even just a Batman movie and I think: we do have at least some of the resources and know-how to take on these big issues and knock them out.
Tell us a secret.
I’m a glutton. Thank god I have a good metabolism. I love my two dogs more than a person probably should. There, that’s two.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
1. Evernote – It gives me one place to dump everything, and it’s so easy to search.
2. Freedom – Turn those damn interwebs off.
3. Scrivener – It is perfect for the way my mind works, especially the note card function.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Wisdom of the Enneagram because it will help you see all the ways you get in your own way, develop new skills, and it will increase your compassion for others. It’s vast and life-changing.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. @lisenbury – Because we created this amazing program together called TeachNow, and she teaches about hot monogamy.
2. @zenpeacekeeper – Because we lead a yoga/writing/photography retreat together with @traceyclark that rocks, and she’s a former UN Peacekeeper.
3. @zefrank – Because he is brilliant and so freakin’ odd.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
On the beach last night talking to friends about our teenagers. The sweetness of the pink and grey clouds, the warm night (so rare here) and the sharing of nothing special made me laugh.
Who is your hero?
Or shero. 🙂
As much as I don’t want to claim it, my mom. She’s brave in the face of Alzheimer’s and being lonely since my dad’s death almost six years ago. She’s a trooper, and she doesn’t give up. I so admire that.
How do we discern the difference between self-care and laziness?
Great question! By asking yourself, “What is being served, my self or my greater purpose?” By “self.” I mean personality or ego. By “greater purpose,” I don’t mean you need to know exactly what your purpose is, but only that you are up to bigger things. There isn’t a right answer to this question;there is only curious inquiry.
For example, right now, I really want to get up and go for a walk. It’s beautiful outside and my back is bothering me from sitting most of the day. If I take a moment to inquire, “What is being served by my walk?” all sorts of insights might occur to me. If I wanted to get up because I was feeling afraid or overwhelmed by my work, that would show up. I might still take the walk, but I would know why I was going—for a healthy escape break. Maybe I ask and I realize I’m just tired and need to move my body, and that serves both my self and my greater purpose. Cool. Or maybe I realize I’ve been pushing myself lately and I’m need to rebel a little bit. Again, I now see that and decide, choose, what I want.
Inquiry brings choice. Choice is the name of the game.
Why did you get a divorce?
My former husband Chris recovered from cancer and found he wanted a different life. It wasn’t what I wanted for our family, and I will always hold a lot of sadness that we couldn’t find a way to keep growing together. I’m also totally in love with my new guy, and we’re going to be married next year. I find holding both the sadness of my former marriage and the great love I have found makes me a much richer and kinder person.
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