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Ep #210: Lessons Learned from Positive Psychology

A lot of my listeners and students ask me about the difference between therapy and coaching. Once I explain the difference, the next question I get is, “What about positive psychology?”

On this episode, you will hear the answer to that question as I’m talking to the one, the only, Dr. Sasha Heinz.

Sasha has an incredible background rooted in social sciences and positive psychology. She joins me to discuss the number of positive psychology theories and concepts such as flow and grit, as well as the importance of continuous personal growth.

You won’t want to miss this value-packed conversation with Dr. Sasha Heinz about the important lessons we have learned from positive psychology!

Grab your copy of our new Wisdom From The Life Coach School Podcast book.  It covers a decade worth of research, on life-changing topics from the podcast, distilled into only 200 pages. It's the truest shortcut to self-development we have ever created!

Listen to the show

What You will discover

  • The difference between therapy and coaching.
  • Sasha’s background in positive psychology and coaching.
  • What positive psychology is all about and how it differs from conventional psychology.
  • Two main theories of wellbeing in positive psychology.
  • Where positive psychology and coaching intersect.
  • What it means to be in a state of flow and how it impacts mastery.
  • The difference between grit and natural talent and which will get you best results in life.
  • The importance of continuous personal growth.
  • And much more…

Get the Full Episode Transcript:

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Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Life Coach School Podcast, where it’s all about real clients, real problems, and real coaching. And now your host, Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo.

Hello, my friends. I'm so excited today. I have the one, the only Dr. Sasha Heinz with me, and we are going to talk about position psychology. And here's what's great: Sasha's one of my coaches, and I sent her a text and said, "Hey, you want to be on the podcast and talk about positive psychology?" She said yes and we haven't spoke of it since. And we didn't even prep for this together, so she has so much knowledge in her brain, I'm going to try and get some of it out for you all by asking her some questions, but we're just going to roll with it.

So many of you guys ask me about - first of all, you ask me about the difference between therapy and coaching, and what that difference is, and then a lot of you when I tell you the difference, you say, "What about positive psychology?" So the difference between therapy and coaching, kind of my summary difference is that therapy really focuses on your past, coaching really focuses on your future, and then there's this positive psychology that is part of kind of the therapy industry that throws the wrench in all of it.

Brooke: And I know that you have ridiculous education, by the way. Can we talk about your education? It's such a gorgeous, beautiful education, I love that we have your brain to tap into. So first of all hello, and welcome to the show.

Sasha: Hi, I'm so excited to be here.

Brooke: So exciting. And I haven't had a guest on in so long, it's...

Sasha: Thank you.

Brooke: You're just so special, I love it. So first of all, why don't you talk a little bit about your history, your education, and kind of how you ended up here, and then I'm just going to grill you with questions about positive psychology. Are you in?

Sasha: Yeah. I actually think that people will be interested in how I got to positive psychology because interestingly enough, this was like, 2003, 2004, no one knew what coaching was. It was like – you’re an alien to talk about life coaching. I had a coach and she changed my life completely, and then - and I was 23, 24, and I knew this is what I want to do with my life. But I had just graduated from Harvard and both my parents went to Harvard too, and I grew up in this sort of, you know, East Coast, Ivy League...

Brooke: You're like, I have my Harvard degree I want to be a life coach.

Sasha: Right. Yeah, in 2002 I was like, what? So I was anxious about people thinking that that was sort of flimsy or silly to want to do that, but I had this desire. Like, I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. So anyway, I had other jobs that I didn’t love and was reading all these books, and this coach that I had been working with, she would give me books to read, and one of them was Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, Dr. Martin Seligman at U. Penn. And I immediately - I read this book and I was like, this is everything. Because the premise of the book is why in psychology - so he was the President of the American Psychological Association in 1998, 1999, around that time. And he had this observation, it was like, for every one article that's written - or for every five articles that's written on disease and disorder, one is written on wellbeing and achievement, talent, you know, character strengths and emotional health. And he was - just sort of put this out there as a question to the community of psychologists saying, why is this the case? This makes no sense. This does not reflect the normal population. 20% - you know, a normal curve, you have like, your two outliers on the end, 20% of the population has diagnosed clinical psychological problems. The rest of us are just the walking wounded. That's the way it is.

Brooke: The walking dead, but yes, walking wounded is so perfect.

Sasha: Right? So and I felt like I was in that camp. Like, I was really struggling, I had an eating disorder, we don't talk about eating disorders enough I think. It's like, we talk about alcoholism - it's a whole other topic, but I'm a proud recovered bulimic and but I needed help and therapy was not helping me at all. So the premise of Seligman's book was why are we rolling around in the muck to get clean? I was like, man, yes, because I've been rolling around in my muck and I'm not getting clean. But I am getting like, deeper and deeper into my own, you know, self-loathing and just chaos and all of that that I was in my own life. So working with a coach for me was the first time that someone asked me what I wanted my life to look like. It was like, what are your goals? And I'm like, huh? What?

Brooke: Can you repeat the question?

Sasha: Say what? So you go to a therapist, or I had been going to see therapists when I was in college and I was a mess. And you know, it was like, why do you think you developed this? And let's talk about the antecedence to how this happened and your relationship with your mother and all of that is - I mean, there's a lot to excavate there for sure. I adore my mother, by the way.

Brooke: Oh my god, if I had a dollar for every hour that I spent talking about my mother in therapy.

Sasha: Oh my gosh. If I could have it all back, like, seriously. So this really changed my life. She really changed my life because what I now know is that my mindset changed. I started to be able to see a different future for myself and imagine something else, and slowly my mindset started to change. So I immediately was like, there's something really amazing here and I want to do this. So there was no psychology programs in - positive psychology like, didn't even exist. It was just an idea. Truly. And I was trying to figure out - I was like, gosh, my parents - I was making so little money, I could barely pay my rent, and I was thinking like, "My parents are not going to like, sponsor me going to coach you, like, that ain't happening." So I like, no dissing coach you but like, my parents at that time were just, you know, they would have been confused by this.

Brooke: What was your degree in from Harvard? Your undergrad.

Sasha: My undergrad degree was in Social Anthropology.

Brooke: Oh, okay.

Sasha: Yeah, I've been in the social sciences my whole career. And so she sent - so my coach, like, we'd been working together, anyway, she sent me this email, she's like, "I was on some list serve and" - doesn't that sound so old school? "And there apparently, Dr. Seligman is starting a Master's program at the University of Pennsylvania." And I was like, you've got to be kidding me.

Brooke: Stop it, yeah.

Sasha: I'm applying right now. So - and by the way, college had been such a face plant for me that I had told my parents and my entire family and friends and everybody, I was like, I vowed I'm never going back to school, ever. Famous last words. So anyway, I applied and I got in, and then we were in the first class of first 33 students to get a degree in positive psychology.

Brooke: That's so cool. So did you have the intention of becoming a therapist at that point? Was that why you were going to go?

Sasha: No, I wanted to be a coach.

Brooke: You didn't tell people that, right?

Sasha: I didn't tell people that, no. That was like, keep that under wraps.

Brooke: Because as long as you're going to school and furthering your education, you don't really have to come clean, and you know, it's so interesting because as you're even talking about this, I remember when positive psychology, I remember looking up everything at the University of Pennsylvania and being like, "Oh my gosh, this is the answer to everything," because coaching really wasn't a thing yet. Like, it wasn't like a real thing. It was but in my mind I didn't see, can I do this as a career. So I think it's so interesting. I mean, I'm older than you, but we were kind of on the same page in terms of, like, our desperateness for something positive to be able to use.

Sasha: Yeah, well I felt in some way - I mean, the timing of it was just so lucky for me, but I mean, at the time there was so much momentum around like, this is the new movement and it's a new movement, new field, new movement, but what I really think now looking back is no, positive psychology was only trying to sort of rebalance the field. Like, let's address all of it, let's look at the ugly, the bad, and by the way, the good. You know, let's actually look at what's right with people as opposed to always what's wrong with them. But I mean, there's a lot of reasons why the field of psychology has so prioritized psychopathology, which is just a fancy way of saying like, mental illness, but because, you know, after the Second World War, you have a lot of soldiers coming back, they've got shellshock and now you know, PTSD - we call it PTSD now, but and they were funneling money into NIH to deal with this because they didn't know what to do. So it makes sense, but then it's sort of - from that, it kind of stayed in that place.

Brooke: That's right, yeah. Okay, so you get your degree, you get your Master's degree now, and did you love that course or that - getting your Master's there?

Sasha: It was one of the best years of my life. I loved it. It was just the most wonderful experience, I love that program so much. I've taught there twice, like, I just - it's magical every year, all the classes are just incredible. But it was the kind of academic - like, I am a full nerd so for me it was like, you know, this is a pig in slop, right? Like, I'm spending a year with 33 people, we all are taking the same classes, we have to spend - we go on the weekend because that's the way that the program is set up, so it's sort of set up as an executive program, which is actually an awesome way for a Master's program to be run because then you spend the whole weekend with all your colleagues, you know, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and talking all the time. So you know, we would spend every single meal, every conversation talking about the articles we were reading, what we were learning, the guest lecturers, and since there wasn't a single program in positive psychology that like, didn't exist yet, but this was brand new, Marty was basically just hand-picked like, 12 of his colleagues who were all head of their departments, like, the big top professor at their school and said, "Oh, come and guest lecture for a weekend with my students at Penn." So we got taught by everybody.

Brooke: It's so good.

Sasha: All the big names in the field.

Brooke: So you get your degree, and then what? You get your second degree, we should say. One more to get.

Sasha: Yeah, I get my second degree and then I decide that nobody is going to really take me seriously unless I have a PhD. So then...

Brooke: Obviously.

Sasha: Obviously. No, actually I had such an amazing time at Penn and I was like, god, it just - it was so invigorating. Like, I love being an academic, I love studying stuff, and so it just - it sparked all that again for me that I had sort of lost in college. I was like, "Oh right, I forgot. I forgot how much I love this." But at the time, there were no doctoral programs in positive psychology. That didn't exist yet either. So I got my degree in Developmental Psychology because my thought was, we're looking at development, we can look at positive trajectories, we can look at, you know, the negative trajectory. So it was just how does one grow over time.

Brooke: Did you get your Ph.D. at Penn too?

Sasha: No, I got my Ph.D. at Columbia.

Brooke: Oh yeah, that's right. I do know that, okay, cool. Okay, so then you get all this education, you become a doctor, which I think you should only go by doctor, because you are so smart, and then...

Sasha: Just make my husband call me doctor.

Brooke: I love it. So then what happened?

Sasha: Well, then I got to do what I wanted to do. Like, I had...

Brooke: Because some time had passed and life quickly became cool.

Sasha: Time passed. Yeah, and then I was free to go do what I actually wanted to do, which was to take all that I had learned and all these best practices and then apply them to people's lives, in my own life. Because this is what happened: so I went to Penn and I was so enthusiastic, like, you know, 25, 26, just all about it, and then I got to Columbia, and I'm in the - what we call - positive psychologists called psychology, business is usual psychology. Like, the other side, right? So I went to a program at Columbia that was very much business is usual psychology. And you know, like the way you don't talk about life coaching, like you don't talk about positive psychology. So then my focus was sort of changed but it was a really valuable experience for me. But what I found was the minute I got into an environment where like, it was hard. It was hard for me - like, the work wasn't hard but it was hard for me to dial up my motivation and enthusiasm because I wasn't studying the thing I really loved to study. So all of a sudden I'm like, I'm using so much energy just to get myself to do stuff that all of like, my kind of, you know, all the other things like, the exercise, all that started to fall away and I was like, what's going on? Like, I've developed all these great habits, I've really learned how to take care of myself, and now I'm in this - you know, I'm getting my PhD and I'm kind of slogging through it, I've described it as like, you know, it was like crawling through mud or chewing glass. Like, it was hard. And so I'm using so much of my mental and emotional energy just to show up that because I wasn't studying positive psychology, which I figured that out too late once I got into Columbia. I was like; this is going to be a little bit harder for me to make myself do this because it wasn't such like, a desire. Burning desire.

Brooke: It's so true. It's so - I mean, that's what we talk about with our clients all the time, right?

Sasha: Yeah, all the time. So it was like, required so much work from me and then - and so all of these sort of what we call in positive psychology, like, this positive interventions, the gratitude, the optimism, all the research on exercise and mindfulness, like, all of that was out the window.

Brooke: Right. So fascinating, isn't it? Okay. So let's switch gears here for a minute because I love that you shared your education and kind of your journey because I think that is so fascinating that you have such a deep knowledge of psychology.

Sasha: Oh yeah, let's dig in.

Brooke: Positive psychology, and to be able to bring that to - and then you learned, you went through my coaching program and learned all of my tools. So one of the things that I'd like - I think most of the people listening to the podcast are pretty familiar with my tools and what I teach, and you know, they're not all my tools, they're kind of the life coaching tools. So tell us a little bit about positive psychology and compare it a little bit for us to life coaching, and then talk a little bit about your practice. And I know that you kind of combine them, so I'd like to hear a little bit about that.

Sasha: Yeah, well one of the things that I wanted to talk about today is I think this is sort of an important place to start is there are two main theories of wellbeing in the world of positive psychology. There are many different ones, but there are two that are sort of more prominent. One is Marty Seligman's, which is what he called the PERMA model. When we were there, it was just - it would have been PERM, but he added the achievement later. So these are the - there are five components. So through research, just figuring out what are the components to well-being and subjective well-being and happiness. So and they were positive emotion, engagement, which we would sort of more colloquial call flow, relationships, so positive relationships, meaning, and achievement. So initially, the model was just positive emotion, engagement, relationships, and meaning. And he added the attachment later...

Brooke: The achievement.

Sasha: Sorry, that's my attachment theory, oh my god.

Brooke: Look at all your education coming out of your brain at once.

Sasha: The second one is I actually - well, I like the combination of the two. So and then the second one was developed earlier by two different researchers called Carol Ryff and Burt Singer. It's the six-factor model of wellbeing. And the components are self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery - environmental mastery is like, confidence, feeling like you can kind of take care of - you're good at work, you can take care of your own life - autonomy, and positive relationships with others. So you can see that there's a lot of overlap, right? Positive relationships, purpose in life, and in mastery is like, you know, flow, engagement kind of goes in the mastery camp. But what I think is important that I disagree with Marty and I have had arguments about this is I do not believe that achievement as one of the five components of wellbeing without self-acceptance, I don't think belongs there.

Brooke: I totally agree with you.

Sasha: Right?

Brooke: Yeah, because achievement - so many people try to achieve because they don't accept themselves.

Sasha: Absolutely. And I would say - I mean, a lot of the clients I work with I think would fall in that category of like, the endless striving, they've grabbed the brass ring, they've climbed the ladder, and they kind of get there and say no what? So what?

Brooke: Why am I not happy?

Sasha: Yeah, I still feel terrible. I still feel like I'm not good enough. So I think that that's a big hole in his model of wellbeing.

Brooke: I love that in the second model, the six-factor model, the personal growth because I've spent a lot of time talking about this on the podcast and with a lot of my clients is like, what is the point of the discomfort of growth? Like, why give up the chocolate, why give up the alcohol, why exercise, why do all of these things for personal growth, and I think it's because it's such a huge piece of wellbeing. So I love that they have that in there.

Sasha: Yeah, and actually this is really - I think you'll find this really interesting. So most of the research in psychology, especially experimental stuff is done with people in college because they're the population that's available to study. So the one thing that's great about positive psychology is that it's done an amazing job of actually looking at wellbeing across adulthood, which is actually not that common. The research on that is actually pretty new. So Ryff and Singer were the pioneers in doing research on sort of, unhappiness, and what they found was when they studied adults over time, that the only two factors in this six factor model that didn't increase over time were purpose in life, and personal growth. And that was such a revelation to me because what they showed when you're looking at something over time, that basically there was - like, once people got to sort of, 25, 30, personal growth and purpose in life started to decrease. And that's what I love about coaching and what I love about positive psychology is this idea that humans are developing organisms. We're intended to develop from cradle to grave. So to stop developing because you've gotten the job after college and you got married and you have kids and like, okay, I'm cooked. You know, it's done, is not honoring what our journey as human beings is actually supposed to be. So to me, coaching is the antidote to this.

Brooke: Yes, I totally agree with you. I think we're so focused on personal growth all the way up to about 30, right? And where we get most of our clients, we get these high achieving, fantastically successful people who are so unsatisfied, and when you ask them what's your future look like, most of them don't have an answer, right? And I think that is the reason why. So that's fascinating. So when you approach a session with a client or in your work. How much of these models do you incorporate? Tell me how you use positive psychology in your coaching practice.

Sasha: It's such an amalgam. Like, it depends what's going on with the clients, but to me, what positive psychology has done is it's provided an evidence-based foundation to the work that we do, which matters to me, right? It's - I always say to my clients like, this is not voodoo. There's no woo-woo happening here. Really, like that's not at all what's happening.

Brooke: You're like, I have books. I have research.

Sasha: I really care about this. This is evidence-based. I think...

Brooke: Let's pause there for a minute. Why is that important to you? Because it is important to a lot of people that ask me like, "What's your degree in? Where is this research?" Because I think there's so much fluff out there and I think that that is a legit complaint, that there's a lot of pop psychology, right? It's like, it's just stuff that doesn't have any substance to it. So talk about that just a little bit more, why it's important to you.

Sasha: I mean, my job is to help someone see their life, in my opinion, correctly.

Brooke: Yes.

Sasha: Right? Like, my job is to sort of help them reframe how they're seeing themselves so they actually are seeing themselves in a more accurate way than they currently do. So when I'm approaching this, I always want to know that what I'm saying is valid and that I'm not sort of the one, like, "Hey man, this worked for me, it can work for you too."

Brooke: Right. Because that may or may not be true. Right.

Sasha: Right. You know, and I think as a researcher, you know, the questions are always what's the lever? Like, what is the element here that's making the big difference? You know, like, that's why these models of positive psychology, of psychological well-being, which is really what they are, that's why they matter. And you know, so I can say to them with a straight face like, "Hey, you're not going to be feeling positive emotions all the time because guess what? To live a full, happy life, like, these are the components, like we've studied thousands of people, and when we study people that they self-report that they've very happy with their life, these are the factors that we find." And that is things that are not necessarily - like, you know, environmental mastery means like, you've achieved some level of mastery in your work, like, that takes patience and effort and time and commitment and dedication and all of that. Same with any relationship, any positive, meaningful relationship. Like, that's - there's pain and it's messy but it's - the love is real, right? You can't have a relationship that's just, you know, yellow smiley face, like, everything's great. So I think it makes the experience, like for me, it's so much richer because I'm saying like, "Hey, you know, I'm not making this stuff up. This is not like I had an idea and I'm making this up." There are very brilliant people that are deeply in the weeds on this. Like, trying to understand what's the piece that makes this work. Or like, what's the thing that - what's the mechanism that creates the well-being? And I think it's so fascinating.

Brooke: And what I think is so fascinating is I think that positive psychology has done more for life coaching than anything else that's come out, and I think there's sometimes this debate between therapy and life coaching, and I think that there are some things in therapy that are much too serious and negative based, and I think there's some stuff in life coach that's way too, like you said, voodoo and airy fairy, but there's this crossover, I think there's this beautiful crossover where you're taking this evidence based research and you're taking all these studies and you can apply it to the work that we're doing in life coaching, which I think is so amazing. It's so funny, so Sash and I are looking at each other on this screen and she has like, you have like, a sunbeam going into your eye. So here's what I want to talk about.

Sasha: I'm here in Pittsburgh.

Brooke: I want to talk about a couple of these concepts that are kind of around, and you know, that we hear. You call them psychological buzzwords that have been made popular by positive psychology, so the first one you have there is flow. So when people refer to flow, what are they talking about?

Sasha: So flow was sort of popularized in sport psychology actually, but so this - you can't read his name, I don't even know, he's Czechoslovakian, Csikszentmihalyi, Professor Csikszenmihalyi. He wrote the book, Flow, and he and Marty were really the founders of positive psychology, and a third guy named Christopher Peterson. But in any case, so he was interested in this - what he called this mental state where you're so immersed in what you're doing that you almost lose time. Like, you're not aware of - you're not even aware of your own feelings, you're not aware of anything but you sort of pick your head up and you're like, "Wow, how is it six o clock? I've been doing this for four hours and I didn't even notice it." And we call it flow, and athletes say like, "I'm in the zone," that's the same idea. I'm in flow. Like, they've got no psychological drama happening, they're just - like, they see the ball crisper if they're a tennis player, like, they see the ball crisper, golfer, like, they're not in their head, they're just in the experience of it. And so he was fascinated by this because when you're in it, it's not necessarily a positive emotion that you're feeling. You're not even feeling any emotion. You only think of it as a positive emotion in retrospect.

Brooke: Afterwards, right. That's fascinating, isn't it?

Sasha: Yeah. Yes, and he did like, revolutionize a whole new way of testing people where he had them wear beepers and so he would like deep them all day long and say like, what are you doing? How are you feeling? And anyway, but his like, measurement stuff is also pretty - it's really geeky but really cool. And this is also important to understand why from an evolutionary perspective we develop positive emotions because when we're in flow, when we're feeling positive emotions like joy or contentment, it motivates us to be curious to learn to master something. Like, you don't master something without flow. So the way that we've created this incredible world that we live in is because of positive emotions.

Brooke: That's so good.

Sasha: And I love that you say like, when you're in flow it doesn't feel positive while you're doing it, you're not even aware that you're in the flow until after you're out of the flow, right? That's what's so fascinating about it. Because people always used to ask me all the time, I remember I read - I went to a semester at Stanford and I was reading this book, I was an equestrian at the time and I was like, obsessed with like, hustling my way into flow. I was like, I got to get in the flow, how do I force myself into the flow, which of course, was so fascinating trying to watch myself at that age try and do that. But when you realize like, the way you wrote it here, it says emerging of action and awareness. It's like, when those are like, fully aligned.

Brooke: Totally.

Sasha: So when is the last time someone has said to, you know, like, anybody, like, "Hey, you need to increase the amount of flow you have in your life." Like, we never talk about this but it's an absolutely essential part of feeling - like, of living a happy life. Like, having - doesn't matter what you get flow in, whether it's in conversations or whether you get it in a hobby, or whether you get it at work, you know, but that's what this brings to the table is like, you know, it’s not just about feeling pleasure, it's about having this very complex, rich experience that that's what makes our lives great.

Brooke: Yeah, and you know, I don't know what is true about this, and you'll know because you've studied this more, but here's what I have found the instances of flow in my life have come after literally thousands of hours of practice. So when I was an equestrian, I wasn't in flow as a beginner. You know, when you're playing golf, you're not like, "Oh, I was totally in the flow." There may be pieces of it, times where you experience it a bit. But when I really started to get into flow was when I had had, you know, 10,000 hours riding my horse and dressage and I finally got - it all came together. And I experience it now as a coach. When I'm coaching in Scholars and I have like, an hour class, and I start the class and before I know it, I'm like, "What the hell? I cannot believe that class is over already" because I've had so many hours of coaching. And so I love the idea that flow is part of wellbeing but I also love the idea that in some ways, we need to earn that experience by showing up and being committed to the thing and repeating it enough times so that we can lose our self-consciousness and our self-awareness as we're doing something.

Sasha: Yeah, it's always an experience where your confidence and the challenge is sort of aligned. Like, the challenge is slightly above your confidence level, so it's like, it requires a little bit of reach for you but not enough that you're going to have a meltdown about it.

Brooke: Yeah, it's enough reach where you have to pay attention.

Sasha: Exactly.

Brooke: It's not like driving your car, which you're super good at. That's not flow because it's not quite challenging enough. That's so fascinating, I love that. Okay, so if people want to read more about that, they can check out....

Sasha: Csikszentmihalyi's book, it's called Flow. You can go on Amazon, just type in Flow, it'll come up.

Brooke: Perfect. Okay. The second one you have here is Grit. I love that book too.

Sasha: I know, it's Angela Duckworth. I mean, she was actually a doctoral student when we were getting our Master's degree, which is so funny to me. I mean, she won the MacArthur Genius award, she's total - she's a psychologist rock star.

Brooke: She's a badass.

Sasha: Totally.

Brooke: Love it.

Sasha: And she's just an amazing professor, a brilliant woman. So when people talk about grit, that comes from positive psychology. And the way she describes, or the way she defines, it would be: it's passion and perseverance towards a long-term goal.

Brooke: Yeah. I think this is a huge missing component in many of our lives, and I think partially it's because we misunderstand how to get into flow. So I think there's been so much - I'm going to say rhetoric - out there about how you should follow your heart and follow your dreams, and move towards what feels good and always...

Sasha: People can't see it but I'm flaring my nostrils.

Brooke: And always be inspired, and make sure nothing feels too hard because that means you're going in the wrong direction. And I want to say, no, the grit is what earns you the flow, right? The grit to get through and the passion. Like, she says the passion and the perseverance to not be a beginner anymore, I think is the important - being a beginner and moving through that process of being a beginner, and even an intermediate is uncomfortable. But on the other side of that is the flow. So speak to that a little bit.

Sasha: So her research, I mean, honestly, it's always me-search. Anyone who's studying anything, it's always because they had some experience and it's their question. So but she had been - she'd gone to Harvard undergrad, she graduated and then became a teacher, and she was doing Teach For America, and she sort of - and then she was at McKenzie, and she's done a bunch of - you know, very prestigious jobs, but in short stints. And this intrigued her. This question like, "Wait a minute, how am I going to get anywhere if I'm just hopping from one thing to the next?" So this was the beginning of her studying this. Like, what - and the beginning of her research really was on perseverance. So she was looking at - actually, not perseverance. It was self-control. So she was looking at discipline and self-control and some of her earlier research studies looked at high school students and they did tests on her grit test, which is a measure of self-control, to some extent. I don't know if they were doing grit. In any case, they did have measures of self-control, and then they also looked at IQ. And they were looking at grades, so they had all of this data on these kids. When they graduated from high school, how they scored on her grit questionnaire was more predictive of how well they did was then their IQ.

Brooke: I bet.

Sasha: And this was, you know, big and this was shocking for all of us that grew up in a world where there's fixed mindset around intelligence. Big time. Right? Like, I am this smart and that's it. I was a lot of this much IQ and that's it.

Brooke: And that will limit me forever, right?

Sasha: And that's it, for eternity. Like, nothing I can do about it, this is my lot in life. And what she has really shown is that - and you know, she's replicated this study again and again, which is kids who persevere through adversity do better. It outperforms IQ, always.

Brooke: Yeah. Just so good for us to know, those of us who maybe aren't at smart as others in school. I'm just saying. But and I love that grit is something that I feel like we have some say in, right? Versus our...

Sasha: Definitely. Well, so when I was at Penn, we would talk about this all the time. I just - when I went to college, and in high school too, effort was lame. Like, effort meant you weren't smart. Effort meant you were - you didn't have - yeah, so you'd go to this - I mean, Harvard was hysterically good and in exam, everyone was like, "Yeah, I totally didn't study last night." You're like, yes you did, you studied for a week, you know? You just say you didn't because you want to seem like you're just naturally brilliant, right? And we sort of prioritize and like, we celebrate the person who doesn't need to study yet can ace the test. And I think that there's been a shift in our thinking, thanks to a lot of Angela's research, which is that - sort of question that, like, wait a minute? Like, shouldn't we be applauding the kid who kills it because he worked his tush off? Yeah, because by the way, there's so much autonomy there, right? Like, he's only going to grow, that kid.

Brooke: Right. It's so interesting because when my kids are playing soccer at U9, and I thought, you know, that was the most important thing that a kid could do when they're nine years old, like, I was that parent. Like, I was like, for sure my son is going to play in the World Cup. And it was so fascinating to watch these kids that were just naturally talented at really young ages, and ones that had to work really hard. And now the kids are, you know, 18 years old and it's the ones that had to work hard are the ones that are killing it, and the ones that were so naturally talented aren't even in the game anymore.

Sasha: Yeah, well that's - Carol Dweck, that's everything she's done on fixed and growth mindset I would say like, this growth mindset is also sort of a buzzword nowadays, we talk about...

Brooke: Totally, yes, read that book. So good.

Sasha: And it's so good, and Carol Dweck and Angela are doing - are collaborating now and I'm really excited. Yeah, I'm excited to see what they're doing. Her research, same thing, began - she was looking at phenoms in the music world. so she was looking at kids that were pianists and concerto pianists at age seven, and were just off the charts, and everyone's like, hopes and dreams this kid is going to be the next Mozart, and then she would come and she would follow them over time and then at age 15 he doesn't even play piano anymore. And so she started to get fascinated with like, all her research was on young talent, phenoms. Like, that's what she was studying. But she developed this whole theory of fixed and growth mindset because what she observed was that these kids that were the phenoms would burn out, and then she's like, why are they burning out? This is so strange, they're so talented. Why would they burn out? And what she realized is if you believe that your talent or your intelligence is fixed, then your only mission is to appear smart. And you will do everything to maintain the façade.

Brooke: Well, because you feel completely out of control about it, right?

Sasha: It's not in your control.

Brooke: The reason why you're successful in the world is because of this natural talent, this God-given talent, and I actually - I thought so much about this, and this will be a good segue for us to move into kind of our shared passion with the clientele that we love. But I think this is very similar to people that are very beautiful, right? So people that the reason why everyone likes you is because you're very beautiful, and the reason why you get so much attention is because you're very beautiful or because you're very intelligent, or because you're extremely talented in this one area. People think, "Oh, they're so lucky. They're so naturally gifted." And the other area - so I think beauty, and the other area is being born with a lot of money, right? It's like, all of these things that you did nothing in your mind to achieve, you just happen to be rich, or beautiful, or talented, or extra smart, it really creates a problem in your psyche. Now, nobody cares is the problem, right? And Sasha and I talk about this all the time, like, our passion are people that have this situation where they seemingly have everything and so therefore they have no reason to be miserable so not only are they miserable, but they're hiding their misery from everybody, and...

Sasha: Right, they feel alienated in their misery.

Brooke: That's right, and they're trying to out-achieve their misery, right? Which both you and I can relate to. And so I think just right along with this kind of mindset is like, if the reason I'm loved is because of the family I grew up in or the money that I have, or my beauty or my intelligence, then how do I find myself in all of that and in fact, the only thing that then becomes important is remaining pretty and remaining smart. If I'm not smart, then I have to at least pretend that I'm smart and if I'm no longer pretty, then I have to find a way to make myself as absolutely pretty as possible, and I will tell you that the amount of self-loathing that accompanies what is seemingly a very successful, beautiful, talented person, I think is seriously uncharted territory, and I want to help those people desperately. And this is what I say, you know, when people are like, "You're just helping middle aged women who are bored," and I'm like, "Exactly. I am helping women because I understand that they don't believe that they have a right to be suffering, and so therefore they suffer within their suffering." And those are my people. Those are the people that I love. And I know those are the people - a lot of those people are the people that you serve as well. So do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Sasha: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Like, if the external stuff is sort of taken care of, like, you're left with you. There's no excuse for why you feel the way you feel. And everybody's biggest challenge in life is getting over their own crap in their head. In their head. Like, truly. Everyone's like - I had one client who was applying to some fellowship and the question was, what challenges have you had to overcome? And she was really upset about this because she felt like, you know, I'm hashtag blessed. I don't - I haven't had any obstacles to overcome. And I was like, what are you talking about? The only obstacle that any person - I don't care if you're a paraplegic, like, the only obstacle you have to overcome is what's happening in your mind.

Brooke: The crap in your head, yeah.

Sasha: With everybody. With everybody.

Brooke: And I will say that there are so many people that have been handed such what we would call as terrible hands, a terrible hand. Maybe it's a paraplegic, anyone would say, "Wow, that's a terrible hand to be dealt," that are so much happier than my client who's drinking a bottle of chardonnay every night in her mansion. Like, that is what fascinates me the most is like, we're all just humans and we're all blessed and cursed with our own thinking that we have to overcome.

Sasha: Yeah, the reason I said paraplegic is because a woman I know who was - she was going to be an Olympic athlete, she was beating Picabo Street, they were racing together, she had a terrible accident and is paralyzed from the waist down. And this was the end of her life. She was like, "I wanted to die. I couldn't imagine my life. All I wanted to be was a downhill racer and that was it." And she - I mean, over time right, she had to really work on her mindset. She is one of like - not only is she one of the happiest, like, most well accomplished human beings I know, but she has the richest, coolest life. She's married, she has kids, like, she just has this incredible life, and she's like, "Yeah, and I'm in a wheelchair."

Brooke: Yeah. Right.

Sasha: And she would be the first person to say, "It wasn't the paralysis that I had to get over. It was my mind about the paralysis."

Brooke: Yes, so true. It is so true. And whether - and I used to believe, and I'm sure you can relate to this too. I used to want to find that thing that had happened to me in my childhood. I wanted to find the thing that would explain my suffering. I wanted to - because you know, I have client after client after client comes to me and they're like, "I have beautiful children, I'm healthy, I have money, and I hate myself and I hate my life, and I can't find my way out of it. I don't want to tell anyone because they're like, how dare you. How dare you feel this way about what you're going through?" And it's like, I know that suffering. It's so deep and it's so painful, and that you know, there's nowhere really for, I want to say, us, to go. Because we have everything, we should be happy. And when we're not, we need to be able to have somewhere to go to get coaching and get help, which...

Sasha: I mean, I say this all - yeah, all the time. Like, it's just all the time, you feel like you're not - your problems aren't valid, and I mean, honestly, if I had a dime for every time a client has said, "I know, I know, I know, these aren't real problems." I'm like, "Okay, hold on a second here."

Brooke: Yeah, like, these are rich people problems or modern problems.

Sasha: Right. These are high class problems. I'm like, okay, but pain is pain.

Brooke: Yes, period.

Sasha: Period. Like...

Brooke: Emotional pain.

Sasha: Emotional pain is emotional pain. Period. And I might add, the reason I think that I am so passionate about helping people - I mean, I would describe it like chiropract your brain. Like, I want you to get an adjustment in your brain because one of my favorite psychologists, Albert Ellis, he describes - he's like, we have a condition, it's called being human. And that means...

Brooke: I love it.

Sasha: Right? That's we're like, effed up, fallible, and fragile. And that's the deal. And by the way, everybody - no one's exempt. Everybody's got it. This is everybody's problem. And so when you come to the table being like, oh yeah, no, like, the premise is that you're effed up and I am too, but then we can learn to manage that irrational thinking. Okay, now we're talking, right? And everybody can benefit from - every single person on this planet can benefit from this. And when people are feeling better and are experiencing more positive emotion, it's not inconsequential and it's not frivolous. This is what creates beauty, technology, business, thriving, solutions, that's...

Brooke: Creativity. All of it.

Sasha: All of it, right? It is our positive emotion, right? It's the broadening and building, that's what positive emotions do. They create. So it makes me incensed when the business as usual world is like, this is not urgent. Like, our patient's needs and like, the clinical needs are urgent and these needs are not urgent. I'm like, I'm sorry, this isn't urgent? This is totally urgent.

Brooke: Yes.

Sasha: Helping more people bring their full selves to the table is not urgent? Have you been reading the news lately? Like, I think it's pretty urgent.

Brooke: Well, and here's the thing that I find so fascinating about your clientele and the people that you work with is most of the people that are coming to you and that I've referred to you are people who know that there is no other wrong that will solve it, right? So there's a lot of people that think, "Okay, if I just could get some more. If I could just get the facelift, if I could just lose the 50 pounds, if I could just find the husband," right? So a lot of times, the clients that have it all are the ones that are the most urgent and the most desperate because it's easy for them to lose hope because there is nothing else out there that's providing them with the promise that they'll feel better when I get there. Now, we know that none of those things are going to give it, so it's I think when we get a client that's already done it all, the really high-achieving, highly successful people, those are the ones that I think are the scariest and the most trouble because of that.

Sasha: Yeah because when you get to the end of the treadmill, and that's another sort of concept in positive psychology, this is just true. This is actually what happens to us. It's called hedonic adaptation or we can call it the hedonic treadmill, but the idea is like, once you achieve a certain level of wellbeing, you then adapt to it. So this is the problem, right? So you get to this next level and now you're like, well okay, but now you're not satisfied with that, and then you want more and you want more and you want more. So we are constantly adapting to the new normal.

Brooke: Yes.

Sasha: Which is why people think like - I mean, I had this happen with my PhD, right? Like, I've been dying for my PhD for a long time, and then I get it, and then I'm kind of like, this didn't solve my problems.

Brooke: Why isn't this making everything better?

Sasha: Yeah, this was it. Like, this was the box that I was going to check that was going to make everything great, and no, I had adapted to this new level of achievement and now I need more to fill the bucket. So if you let your mind run amuck, that's where you're at. It's like, you are in a constant state of I need to achieve, I need to get, I need to have more, I need because I need to fill this feeling of worthlessness, and if I don’t keep grasping and achieving, then I'm going to have to sort of face myself, and guess what? Like, that's a good place to be. Like, when you get to that point where you're like, "I'm done, I can't do it anymore," you are so happy that you're there because that's when things can change.

Brooke: Well, and what's so interesting about that is I think a lot of people think that once you get there then you'll stop achieving or you'll stop doing it, and they're afraid that they won't be able - and what I have found in my own personal life and with my clients is that the opposite is true. You keep achieving because that personal growth is still so important to you, but you do it from this place of abundance and peace and compassion and thriving instead of this graspy energy where you're trying to find happiness out there in the world, that some level of achievement.

Sasha: Well, sometimes when I ask my client, I'm like, what would you do - so in psychology, you call this extrinsic motivators, so something that's outside of you that's motivating you versus intrinsic motivation. And I would say almost all of my clients have a hard time distinguish - they're like, "I don't know. Like, I'm so used to the external motivator, like, I don't actually know what is internally driving me. If I was just left to my own devices, like, what would I actually want to do? I don't know." And that's part of the process is when you've gotten to that point where you acknowledge that the external achievement isn't doing it for you anymore, and then you have to sort of get to know yourself. Like, okay, what do I actually desire? Like, what would I - what motivates me? What's going to keep me developing? And that's what it's really about. Then it becomes about developing yourself, which is so different than hustling for your worthiness.

Brooke: It's so different. Oh my gosh, it's so different, and you get to this point where I think there's a lot of talk out there that us life coaches and self-help people are very self-indulgent, and I think that the opposite is true. So I think it's self-indulgent is finding something outside of our self to solve for our emotions, right? By overeating and indulging in things that are external to us. And I think when we start managing our own opinion of ourselves, it's almost the opposite of that, right? We stop indulging our self and we start really paying attention. And when you start really honoring yourself as the human, that's when you really start serving and giving, which of course is the opposite of being self-indulgent.

Sasha: Like, the antithesis of it.

Brooke: Yeah, totally.

Sasha: Because I think people think, "Oh, I'm just overly focused on myself," you know, and that's the indulgent piece. It's like, "Oh, it's just navel-gazing and I'm just obsessing about myself. Like I should think more about the world." I'm like, yeah, but honestly, we've done studies to show that people that feel better about themselves do more in the world.

Brooke: So true.

Sasha: They give more, they serve more. All that.

Brooke: You know, when I was indulging in food, all I was thinking about, you know what I was thinking about? I was thinking about what I ate, what I was going to eat, and how much I weighed. Right? It was the opposite. When I started thinking about my mind and caring for myself, that's when I started showing up. Oh my gosh, so it's been almost an hour, I could talk to you for like, three more, for sure, we always like, geek out on this stuff, but I want to make sure that people come find you. You're at drsashaheinz, exactly how it sounds. Drsashaheinz.com. And first of all, you guys, everyone go to her website and just see how gorgeous she is because it's the most beautiful picture of her. I'm so excited about - Sasha's amazing, she works with a small group of clients at a time, application only. Is there anything else you want to say about your work and what you offer?

Sasha: Yeah, I mean, it's sort of like a hybrid of coaching and teaching. Like, I really want my clients to get tools to walk away. Everyone's their own best coach, always. But you need to learn how to do that. So that's what we do because I really don't believe in - I mean, you can read my website, but I really don't believe in this model of seeing a therapist for 20 years and getting nowhere. I don't understand it, it makes no sense to me...

Brooke: And we've both done it and it didn't work.

Sasha: Yeah, like, I've done it, I don't get it. I think there are some brilliant therapists. A lot of what we do actually is largely derived from CBT, and Albert Ellis's rational motive behavioral therapy and so there's so much goodness that preceded us. Once you understand how your mind works, the change can be quite rapid. Like, you really can start to change your life quickly.

Brooke: Yeah, it's so true.

Sasha: Yeah, and it's - yeah, it's always sort of it's a mixture of positive psych gems and stuff that we got from the world of positive psychology and tools from you and tools from CBT and all of it kind of mixed together. But I love working with people who are ready to dig in. Like, this is such a gift to be able to spend time and carve out time in your life to actually create a life, a meaningful life, a healthy life, like, a happy life, all of that, on purpose.

Brooke: Yeah. It's so true. And you know, it's so interesting is you just said that you're like a happy life, it's like, how do you really define that, and only you know. Like, I think a lot of times, we look at, you know, other people and we think, "Oh, they're happy." You have no idea. But you know if you're happy and you know if you need this work, and so if you guys want to check out Dr. Sasha Heinz, make sure you go to her website. Fill out her application, read about her on her site. She's amazing. I could not recommend her more highly. So...

Sasha: Yeah, let's make your life actually - the internal life actually match what you put on Instagram.

Brooke: Right?

Sasha: So that's what I do.

Brooke: You know, that's what we should say. We help you airbrush your internal life.

Sasha: We face tune your internal life, that's what we do.

Brooke: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, I love you so much.

Sasha: Oh my god, love you, Brooke.

Brooke: Happy to have had this conversation with you and if you guys have questions, go to her site, you can email her and ask her questions there. We will have everything that we talked about on this podcast in the show notes. So you can go and check out those books and purchase them if you would life.

Sasha: One thing I want to say is what I'll do is why don't I have a list of like, the top 10 positive psychology books, we could add that in the show notes.

Brooke: Let's do it, okay.

Sasha: Just to like, for fun. Just for people to geek if they're interested.

Brooke: That's a great idea. I think they would love that. Okay, we'll add that to the show notes.

Sasha: You're the best, thank you so much for this.

Brooke: Alright my friend, take care. Bye, everyone.

Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out Self-Coaching Scholars. It's my monthly coaching program where we take all this material and we apply it. We take it to the next level and we study it. Join me over at the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. Make sure you type in the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. I'd love to have you join me in Self-Coaching Scholars. See you there.

7 Comments

  1. This episode was the most AMAZING resource! Thank you, Dr. Heinz and Brooke, for this interview. I am writing a book for elementary students and have been communicating with Brooke’s staff about using her information. This interview is reassuring that there is evidence behind the model.

  2. Hello,

    My good friend shared this episode to help me with my current situation… What an amazing podcast! I agree with Cheri, thank you. I can’t wait to look at your website for more interviews and advice! Additionally, I would like to get in contact with Dr. Heinz, but her website is not working… does She have a business email or business phone? Thank you so much.

    Sincerely,

    Carla

    1. Thanks for sharing, Carla. It seems like Dr. Heinz’s website is working now, and you can also reach her at hello AT drsashaheinz.com.
      –Brecklyn

  3. This was an excellent podcast for me to listen to with many aha moments! I’ve recently discovered your podcasts and they are amazing!! I have been a trauma psychotherapist for several years and am in need of different perspective and have felt the pull towards life coaching. My “why” really came together during this episode hearing Sasha’s process. I loved how you both tied together all of it and I felt like you tactfully challenged the therapy field without dismissing it. Thanks for your content.

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