Done with Dieting Episode #88: Working In Your Life vs Working On Your Life

working in your life vs working on your life

Getting Started  with Your Goals vs Getting Stuck in the Weeds

Ever feel like you’re stuck in the weeds of your life? That you haven’t been making progress towards the things that you want to be doing? That every week slips through your fingers and you wonder, “Where did the week go? And did I even accomplish anything?” Maybe you feel like other people’s needs, wants and demands are getting in the way of anything that you want.

Or maybe it’s not other people, but things just ‘come up’ that seem to take priority over what you had planned.

What do you do?

In this episode, I’m breaking down how to get ahead of the tasks that make you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, and allow you to start concentrating on what you really want.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

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What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • What it means to work in your life versus on your life.
  • How you can start to be more intentional about working towards the goals and dreams that you have for yourself.
  • What to do if you feel like you’re stuck not knowing what steps to take next.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Ever feel like you can’t gain traction in your life? That the idea of meal planning, decluttering, or exercising just feels like a pipe dream. This episode is for you.

If you consistently feel overwhelmed going to bed knowing that you were busy the entire day, like you couldn’t even take a breath. But you have no idea what you did or like you did anything purposeful. Anything to move the dial forward on your goals. You are going to want to listen in.

Let’s get started.

You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes.

You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.

I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster, change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.

Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.

Welcome. Let’s get started.

All right everyone, welcome to episode 88 of the done with dieting podcast where we are talking about working in your life versus working on your life.

Now, you might be asking yourself, what exactly does that mean? And where this phrase comes from is actually in business. There’s a question of are you working in your business or are you working on your business?

And what it means is sometimes we are so in the weeds of doing daily tasks with coaching. What that would look like is being on coaching calls every day, and doing social media, and all of those things that you need to do.

But not being able to take a step back and look at where is my business growing? Where is my business going? What is happening? What is the trajectory of my business, how do I want it to evolve, and what are the strategic things that I need to be doing in my business in order to make that happen?

And so, what that might look like for another business owner, like someone who works in a storefront or in a restaurant is that they’re cooking all day and they’re waiting tables and they’re doing all of the paperwork for their employees. And all of that stuff is super important.

However, when they look at the growth of the restaurant and where they want the restaurant to be. They may not be spending a lot of time doing things like exploring other restaurants to see what they’re doing, or coming up with new recipes, or maybe redecorating, or thinking about the vibe that they want to have within their restaurant.

So, those are some business examples of what working on your business versus working in your business is like. And so, what that means for your life is doing things that are really kind of I don’t want to say mundane, but there are things that you’re just doing the day to day tasks without really having goals about where your life is. Where your life is headed. What do you want your life to be about.

And so, why this is a problem. And one, it might not be a problem for you. There are lots of people who don’t really set goals for themselves and they’re just fine with that. Same thing with businesses. You might want to be working in the kitchen or waiting tables and talking with your guests. That might be a phase in your life.

But if you’re in a phase of your life where you want more goals, where you want to have more things happen in your life. Then, that’s when we want to start working on your life. Okay.

So, how you know that you’re actually working in your life is that you’re going to bed every night like, what is going on? What am I doing? What are my goals? Or I had this goal of doing X, Y, Z. I was supposed to exercise this week, or I was supposed to meal plan this week, and I just couldn’t get it together.

And so, we’ll often beat ourselves up about it, right? Because we’re not doing the thing that we want to be doing which is moving our life forward. We have a goal; we have a desire to make our life better. And instead, we’re doing all of this drudgery.

We can use these same questions about business in your own life. So, are you working in your life or are you working on your life? So, what it means to be working in your life is again, you don’t feel like you’re gaining any traction in your goals. You just feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over and over again, kind of like ‘groundhog day.’ One of my favorite movies, by the way.

And so, some of the things that you might be thinking are I just need to get through this. It’s going to be better after this event or this time when the kids go off to school. I can’t keep up. I feel like I’m drowning. The days just slip by.

Have you ever thought that? Like, I don’t know what happened over the past week, or the past month, or maybe even last summer. Everything just seemed to go throughout my fingers. Feeling like thinking that nothing of consequence was achieved. Or thinking the thought, I’m just a cog. I’m a piece in a moving machine.

Have you ever had those thoughts?

And some of the feelings that you might be experiencing are feeling stuck, feeling uninspired, feeling like you don’t have a purpose. Feeling like you’re drowning, just feeling like this heavy weight on your shoulders.

One of my clients was just telling me yesterday that he felt like he had a mink coat on him. Like this just heavy coat on his back. And what he wanted was to feel free. Like maybe you feel resentful of others that you see on social media. You’re like, oh my gosh, their life is so amazing. And my life is so mundane.

Are you feeling any of those emotions?

And some of the things that you might be doing are groundhog day type actions, right? Doing the same things over and over and over again, without gaining traction. You might be experiencing some escapism.

Now, escapism is defined as a tendency to escape from the real world. We also might think of it in terms of buffering, right?

So, escapism is a tendency to escape from the real world to the safety and comfort of fantasy. Many of us do this through eating, through drinking. You also might be doing it through social media or reading fantasy type novels. Or you might be doing a lot of manicures and massages in an effort to reduce stress.

But that’s actually not helpful long term because when you get out of your manicure, when you get out of your massage, you’re put right back into the stressful situation of your life. Right? And so, what if we could actually create a life that you didn’t need to escape from. Wouldn’t that just be freaking amazing?

Now, some of the results that you’re getting is you’re not doing anything purposeful. And you don’t feel like you’re growing. Okay. So, those are the problems that we can see when we think about growing in your life. You don’t have any goals; you don’t have any dreams. And when someone asks you, what do you enjoy doing, or what do you want to do? You really have no idea. And if this is you, I want you to know that you are not alone.

So many women come to me and they’re like, I’ve been paying attention to my children and my partner for so long. And I’ve been catering to their needs and their wants that I’ve put my own needs and wants on the back burner. And I kind of forgot what they are. Like, I don’t even know what I enjoy anymore other than eating, or drinking, or going out with my friends. And I don’t really have that many close friendships to start with.

So, one of the ways that we can actually start to get around this is to start off by doing a time audit. And so, there’s this tool that Steven Covey made popular in the 1980s called the ‘urgent important matrix,’ but it’s also known as the ‘Eisenhower matrix.’

And think about a quadrant system. So, there’s one large block and four squares. The top two squares are labeled important. The bottom two squares are labeled unimportant. And then, when we look at the columns, the one on the left is not urgent and the one on the right is urgent. When we look at the things that we do on a daily basis, they will fit into one of these four quadrants. Okay.

So, things like meal planning or meal preparation, or answering texts or emails, or going to the grocery store, or doing all of the things that we do on a daily basis. Those things are going to fit into one of these four quadrants. And the four quadrants are important, not urgent; important, urgent; unimportant, not urgent; and unimportant, urgent. Okay.

And so, let’s go through each of these so that you can understand where you’re spending your time and then how we can get ahead of it. So, again, the first thing that you want to do is notice how much time you’re spending doing certain things.

Now, you’re not going to want to do this because you’re like, I don’t have time to do this. But when we have the thought, ‘I don’t have time.’ 100% of the time that I have that thought, I may not feel like I have the time right now. But doing whatever it is that I think that I’m trying to get out of doing is going to save me so much time and effort later on.

So, if you can do it, and there are apps that will help you with this. You can figure out what exactly you’re spending your time on.

So, let’s start with the unimportant tasks. Unimportant, not urgent. Like, these are the things that you’re doing that really are a complete waste of time. Okay. These are the things that are safe, and they are not dangerous. And I’m going to explain that again in just a little bit.

But these are the things that unimportant not urgent; scrolling social media, wasting time doing something that really does not have any purpose. Doing things that are unimportant and not urgent, don’t bring us any relief. Okay.

Now, the next quadrant is unimportant, but urgent. All of us have done this where someone else has said, I need you to do this for me. And we feel like it’s really important. Right? But then, when we sit back and we’re like, I didn’t need to spend an hour doing that. I have other stuff that I needed to be doing. And so, instead of telling that person, your kid, or your partner, or your boss. Know, we do it anyway.

Now, texting an email has a way of sneaking into this unimportant urgent area. When the phone rings, we have this Pavlovian response to answer whatever it is that someone else is telling us, asking us to do. Right?

And so, all of these things that fall into the unimportant urgent, they’re not actually moving us forward, but they feel so like I have to do it. Right? And so, when we take a step back though, we can really start to evaluate whether it is important or not. And we can easily say, no. Okay.

Now, moving up into the important category we have important and urgent. Now, these are the things that we do that are in crisis. Okay. When we are in crisis, we’ve let something go for so long that it all of a sudden becomes urgent. Right?

So, one of the things that I’m sure you’re thinking about right now is going to the doctor. There was a period of time when going to the doctor probably wasn’t urgent. But then, once we find a lump on our breast or once we start to feel pain, we’re like, oh, I really need to go to the doctor now. Or once that tooth has become abscess, we’re like, we haven’t taken care of it when it wasn’t urgent, but now it becomes urgent.

The thing about important and urgent is not only is it crisis, but it can also add up financially. So, think about going to the doctor when you have all the time in the world. That thing is going to pop up at the most inopportune time.

And typically, it’ll happen like on a Saturday, or on a Sunday, or at midnight, and you’re going to have to go to the hospital, or whatever it is it’s going to cost more in terms of time, as well as in terms of financial sometimes. Okay. Like, not paying attention to a leaky faucet could create a problem where you have to call an after-hours plumber. Those are not inexpensive visits, right?

Now, if you feel like your life is a series of important and urgent tasks. If you feel like you are constantly in crisis mode. What we want to do is we actually want to move you over into the important non-urgent. And what that is, that’s driving tasks from a sense of purpose. But we can’t do that alone.

And so many women, so many women, we do not want to delegate. Right? We don’t want to ask other people for help because we’re told or we have that adage, ‘it’s better to give than to receive.’ And what that means is that we don’t ask for help when we need it. And that is not serving us.

But we need to do that in order to live a more relaxed life. When we’re in the important urgent crisis phase, what happens is we are so incredibly stressed out. When we’re living in the unimportant non-urgent, that’s also stressful because we don’t feel like our life is worth anything. And when we’re in the unimportant urgent, we’re also feeling stress.

So, in any of these other categories, they lead to an increased level of stress. But when we’re living life in the important not urgent, we feel like we have time. We feel like we have purpose, and our stress level is incredibly lowered.

Now, I wanted to go back to the one of the categories, the unimportant not urgent. And I mentioned something about safe and not dangerous. So, I learned this phrase from my fellow coach and friend Michelle Runnels, who did an episode that I’ll link to in the show notes about getting cooperation and appreciation as a mom from your kids and your family. It’s an amazing episode and it’s one of the fan favorites. It’s always ranks really high in the downloads.

I was telling her about this episode, and she was like, oh, it’s like the safe dangerous matrix. I was like, what’s the safe dangerous matrix? And she was going back to the same quadrant system. But instead of important and urgent, we’re talking about safety and being dangerous. Okay.

And so, many of us think that for example, bungee jumping, we feel that that’s not safe, when that it’s super dangerous. But if you go with a reputable provider, you’ll know that bungee jumping is ultimately very, very safe. And we think it’s dangerous. And of course, it is. Right? Because we feel this sense of anxiety with it.

Another example of safe and dangerous would be like going to one of those high rises like the Sears tower, or the John Hancock building, or I’ve been to the CN tower in Toronto and all of them have these glass floors in their tall buildings. So, you can stand on this glass floor and look through it and see the ground. And it feels so unnerving. It feels extremely dangerous. It feels extremely unsafe.

But it’s incredibly safe because hundreds of thousands of people have been on it and there aren’t any cracks and the likelihood that it’s going to fall when you’re on it are like nothing. Right? No one has ever died falling to their death from one of those, but it feels extremely dangerous.

Going to the safe but not dangerous, where you don’t have any growth, you don’t want to be there. Things like doing what everyone else wants you to do. Right? It’s safe. It’s not dangerous. So, not speaking up. Like when you see an injustice, not speaking up and saying, Hey, that was wrong. That feels really on edge. Right? But just keeping to yourself feels really safe and it feels really not dangerous.

Something that I’ve noticed with a lot of folks that I talked to since the pandemic is that since we spent a lot of time in our houses during the sheltering in place. We don’t want to leave our houses anymore. And it feels unsafe and dangerous to be out in the world. Even if you’re an extrovert. So, notice that when you feel like, oh, you know what? I just want to stay home.

Now, when we get into the unsafe and dangerous, that would be things like drinking and driving or potentially playing with fireworks. You know what unsafe and dangerous is. Right?

And then, unsafe, and not dangerous is saying, no. Like even to your partner or your kids that could feel really unsafe and practicing self-care. Doing what you want versus what other people want. Those are just some examples of the safe and dangerous matrix.

And so, if you find that you’re not branching out, if you find that you’re not doing those things that you want to in order to be able to grow. You may be staying in that safe, not dangerous little cocoon.

But if we want growth, if we want to improve our lives, we need to expand. We need to be able to do things that are outside of our comfort zone, but we don’t like that. Right? We don’t like doing things that are outside of our comfort zone because well one, it’s outside of our comfort zone. But two, we’re afraid we’re going to be bad at it. And to be honest, the first time we do something, we are going to be bad at it.

Women are socialized to not say, no, we are afraid that others are not going to love us if we say, no. Right? Like we’re afraid of telling our children, no, you can’t have that. We’re afraid of telling our partner that they need to do their own laundry. They’re not going to like it. I’m not going to do your laundry anymore.

But this is exactly what’s keeping us stuck. It’s keeping us from doing what we love and it’s keeping you from aspiring to realize your dreams. Doing what is safe and not dangerous is keeping you stuck in where you are in your life.

What we need to do is we need to zoom out a little bit. Get away from it’s kind of like, can’t see the forest from the trees, right? So, we see all of our daily tasks. But we need to take a little bit of time a breath and ask ourselves some questions. And the main question is what is our purpose. And yeah, it’s great to ask yourself that question in terms of what is my purpose in life. But I’m also going to ask you to define each of your roles that you have in life and ask you, what is the purpose of you in that role?

So, for example, as a mother. What is your purpose as a mother? For most mothers, their job is to keep their children alive. And most parents also want to raise responsible adults. Maybe you even want to raise contributing members of society. And so, I’m going to ask you, is what you are doing for your children doing that? Are you allowing your children to grow into who they are meant to be if you are consistently doing things for them?

Now, as a parent, we don’t want to see our children fail. I get it. But just like you, everyone else needs to have their own path. And we need to be able to be bad at something in order for us to be good at it.

With your partner, what is your role as a partner? Here’s something that’s really interesting. Studies consistently show that marriage is really good for men. But really not good for women. And in fact, in happiness surveys, they’ve found that single moms and single women are actually happier than married women. And so, it’s really interesting to speculate about why that is.

Oftentimes, when we get married in heterosexual relationships, we take on the roles that we’re supposed to be doing. Women are good at the housework. Men are good at doing whatever it is that men do, right? And so, when we automatically assume those roles without even asking ourselves, do I want to be doing this? Then, we get stuck, and we start doing things that we don’t even enjoy.

And so, asking yourself, what is the purpose of my partnership with my partner? How do I want to show up in that relationship? And is doing some of the things that I’m doing for my partner, are they helping that relationship or are they hurting who I am in this relationship?

And then, one of the other roles that you may have is an employee or an employer. So, what is the contract that you have with your workplace? So, really thinking about that. And how do you want to show up for your employer? So, what is your responsibility to your boss?

There’s something that we talk about which is the difference between being responsible to versus being responsible for. And we can see that in our relationships with our children, as well as our partner, as well as our employer. I’m not responsible for certain outcomes, but I’m responsible to them for certain behaviors. Right?

And then, last is what is your responsibility to your coworkers? So, really thinking about how do I want to show up as myself in each of these roles.

Now, I’m going to invite you to get in touch with how it feels to do for others. Because oftentimes, women love to serve other people, right? We do. We are natural caretakers. And if you’re not a natural caretaker, that’s totally fine. You don’t have to identify that way. There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know what? I don’t really like taking care of people.

But if you are, that’s probably gotten you into a little bit of trouble. Because what happens is we take care of others, and we lose ourselves in that process because we’re constantly taking care of others. We put our own needs on the back burner. And therefore, we don’t know what we want anymore. We’ve forgotten to dream for ourselves in the process of taking care of others.

Now, if your children and partner are old enough to do for themselves, if they’re able to do for themselves, like really think about. What can I offload to them? And is this something that I really want to do? So, going back to that time matrix that I was talking about. Going through each of those different tasks that you’re doing on a daily basis and asking yourself. Is this something that I want to do? There may be times that you want to and there may be times that you don’t.

But if it’s a no, I don’t want to do this today, totally, okay. Right. You do not have to necessarily be consistent and always want to do something like doing the laundry, like making dinner. Okay. If you do want to do it, then go ahead and do it.

But we are allowed to have moods. We are allowed, you are allowed to one day, want to do something and the next day not. It doesn’t mean that you’re flighty, it doesn’t mean anything about you. Okay. It just means that you’re honoring yourself. And the more we can have an open conversation with those people in our lives about wanting to do what we want to do and not wanting to do other things, the better our lives are going to be.

Now, that may be a difficult conversation to have with your work because you might have certain responsibilities. However, you can always talk about renegotiating those responsibilities, maybe. Okay.

Do you feel obligated? Obligation is one of the strongest emotions that when we feel it, we never want to do what it is that we’re obligated to do. Right? If I feel obligated to make dinner, the last thing I want to do is make dinner. Just because I feel like it’s expected of me.

And so, really understanding the emotions that go behind each of these tasks that you’re doing. How do you feel about it? And do you feel resentful about doing it? Do you look at the other people in your life and are like, gosh, I wish I could do that.

And so, what this is leading up to is boundaries and control. So, when we can have good boundaries. And remember, I did a podcast on boundaries, I’m just going to link to it here. But boundaries are set from a place of self-love. Boundaries are never set from a place of trying to control other people.

And so, when we can allow other people to be disappointed in us and be okay with it, they will eventually, get over it. It’s going to be hard before it gets easier. And it’s going to feel bad when you tell someone, no. They’re going to expect that you’re going to do the thing that you’ve always done. Right? It’s part of what they’re expecting.

But when you say no, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad person. It just means that you’re setting up a boundary of I don’t want to do that anymore. It doesn’t make me feel good. And that’s all you need to know. Okay. So, people are going to be disappointed in you. They’re going to have feelings. It’s totally, okay.

Now, if you allow their feelings to influence your behavior, that is manipulation. And they’re going to know that they can do it again in the future. But you’re also not helping them to be who they want to be. So, going back to the roles. Thinking about what is my role in this relationship between this person and myself. And how can I help them to be the best version of them? Is it doing the task or is it teaching them how to do the task?

Now, when we teach them how to do the task, be aware that they are going to have to learn how to fail on their own, that’s going to be difficult. But the more you delegate responsibility and teach people how to do the tasks that you are so good at, the more you’re going to be able to get out of that crisis mode. And also, get out of the unimportant tasks altogether.

So, to get ahead of crisis mode, it may take a bit. And you’re going to feel like, you’re just completely overwhelmed. You’re like I have all of this stuff, all of this backlog. And then, I also have to do the future stuff, so that I can get ahead of it. Okay. It’s going to feel like a lot. But I swear to you, it’s going to eventually catch up. You are going to get ahead of doing the things that you need to be doing in order to get out of crisis mode. And let me tell you that being out of crisis mode and being in purposeful work, feels so much better.

Now, here’s something that I want you to pay attention to. Understand that if you cannot get out of crisis mode, it could be that you actually thrive being in crisis mode. There are people who enjoy being in drama. Right?

And so, if this is you, you’re probably saying no, I don’t like being in crisis mode. But constantly, letting things fall through the cracks until they become a crisis. Maybe a little subconscious, red flag. That tells you that you’re getting something out of it.

And what I notice with a lot of my clients is that what we’re getting out of it is the drama or feeling like a victim and telling people how busy we are. And so, sometimes we also get to save the day and feel needed. So, just think about when I’m in crisis mode, what am I getting out of it?

Now, of course, if this podcast has resonated with you, if you want to get into working on your life versus working in your life. I am going to invite you to work with me, to schedule a consult call with me. And if you want help with getting ahead of any of this stuff. Maybe moving out of the escapism, and eating, and drinking, and getting into planning your food on a daily basis or on a weekly basis.

So, getting better at exercising. And getting good night’s sleep. And all of those things that we want in our lives. We want to take better care of ourselves. But when we’re working in our lives versus working on our lives, we don’t have the bandwidth.

And so, if this is you, I’m going to invite you to schedule a consult call with me. And all you have to do is go to, and you will be able to schedule an appointment. All right.

That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. I will talk to you next time. Bye-bye.

Hey, Thanks for listening. If you’re done with dieting and would like to work with me as your coach, I’d like to invite you to reach out to myself and my team to ask about programs and pricing. Go to to get started today. I can’t wait to hear from you. See you next week.

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