All photos/art by Jorg Meyer
For nearly two decades, Cheryl Richardson has helped her clients boost their personal achievements and quality of life. She’s brought her brand of lifestyle coaching to television on The Oprah Winfrey Show and to radio as the host of her own call-in program. Her fifth book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care (Hay House; $15.95), was published in January. We sat down with Richardson at her home on Massachusetts’ North Shore.
“In my early twenties, I was working for my dad’s tax consulting business, making more money than even my friends who were college graduates. But I was working sometimes as many as 18 hours a day. Then one morning we got a call saying the office was on fire, and I watched as everything I was working for burned.
“It was a shock, but it was also a catalyst, because it was the first thing that made me stop and go, Okay, hold on here, I’m crying because my adding machine is gone. What does that tell me about my life? It was really a gift, and the gift of any kind of challenge, whether it’s a small challenge, a huge challenge, or a global challenge, is that it forces us to look at what we’re doing. It can be an opportunity that leads you to create a better life.
“We’re looking for things outside ourselves–our jobs, our 401(k)s, our salaries–to define how valuable we are. And when we lose touch with our internal center and we spend so much time on what’s going on out there, those labels mean something, and that’s a dangerous place to be located. We need to do the opposite. So when we see that our 401(k)s have gone down, or we’re losing jobs, what ends up happening is that our external reference for our value disappears. And hopefully we’re forced to go inside and say, Okay, I’ve been allowing the outside world to define who I am, and that needs to change.“
“You can’t re-adjust what the good life means to you without first making the raising of your own individual consciousness a priority; otherwise, you go back to the way it was. I actually care less about your revisiting what the good life means to you and more about getting you to really just stop and ask, How do I feel about this life I’m living?
“Sometimes, I’ll be driving and think, If this were my last day on Earth, would I feel happy right now in this moment with how I’m living my life? And that begins that deeper conversation about the good life. A good life is an authentic life. Is life good all the time? No. Life sucks for a lot of people right now. But how connected are you to your own inner wisdom? To your soul? To the people in your life, beyond the superficial chitchat? Are you having deeper conversations with people and [with] yourself?”
“Our greatest assets are our time and energy. One exercise I have my clients do–and it’s very simple and powerful–is to create what I call an ‘Absolute Yes’ list: five things they deem priorities for the next three to six months. It could [include] your health, your financial well-being, a big project at work, or taking care of an aging parent. Put them on index cards in numbered order and stick them in a place you see on a regular basis–by the phone, or on a desk in your office. I’ve even put one on the dashboard of my car.
“What [the list] does is raise your consciousness about how you’re spending time and energy. It shows you when you’re wasting time on things that aren’t on the list. If you find yourself complaining about things that you don’t really want to do, that’s just an indication that you’re not putting your energy toward the things that really matter.
“Can Yankees make the kinds of changes I’m talking about? Of course. Yes, we have a tendency to be conservative, maybe more reserved in our belief in what could be, but what’s great about being a Yankee is that we have the adventure mentality. That I can do whatever it takes to make it happen. There’s tenacity, a commitment that we have to staying with it, that can work to our advantage. A discipline … If we just open our mind and ask, Who am I? What do I want with my life? What am I happy with in my life? things will improve vastly.
“I’m a Yankee and it worked. If it worked for me, it can work for anyone on the planet. There’s nothing special about me.”