Cheryl Richardson: Life Coach Seen on 'Oprah'
The complete interview with life coach Cheryl Richardson:
Cheryl Richardson knows a little something about the path to success. For nearly two decades she’s helped her clients boost their personal achievements and quality life. She’s brought her brand of lifestyle coaching to The Oprah Winfrey Show, is the host of her own call-in radio program, heard weekly on XM satellite radio, and is a New York Times best selling author. Her fifth book, The Art of Extreme Self Care (Hay House), was published in January. We sat down with Richardson at her home on Massachusetts’ North Shore.
YANKEE MAGAZINE: I understand that early on in your working career you had to pick up the pieces after a tragedy and start anew? How did you do that?
CHERYL RICHARDSON: When I was in my early twenties, I was working for my dad’s tax consulting business, making good money, more than even my friends who were college graduates. But I was working crazy hours, sometimes as many as 18 a day. Then one morning we got a call saying the office was on fire and I watched as everything I worked for, burned. It was a shock, and it was upsetting, 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.
YM: Based then on what you went through, what do tell someone who’s looking at a crisis of their own, via an ever-shrinking portfolio or a possible job loss?
RICHARDSON: We have to remember to stop and breathe. Most of us when we’re faced with fear–and the stop market is such a beautiful metaphor for this–we impulsively do something, like pull the money out right away, which is not always the right thing to do. When that happens, the chances of making a mistake are far greater. One of the things you need to do is look around and say, okay what do I need to do immediately in order to take care of myself and my family and so I can create some breathing room and step back and take a look at what’s happening and maybe gain a different perspective on that level.
YM: Which of course begs the question: how did we even get to this point?
RICHARDSON: I think the simple answer, which is really quite complicated, is that what we’re facing is connected to there being a lack of consciousness. We’re asleep in our lives. And when we operate in an unconscious way, like many of us do, we don’t really make the best decisions. So, for example, if I’m overworked and stressed out, and I decide to spend money as way to give myself a temporary reprieve from that anxiety, then I might just slip into unconsciousness and spend more than I have, and before you know it, I have credit card debt. Or, if we look at it at a systemic level we have credit cards companies that encourage people to spend money they don’t really have. Why? Well, if we have systems made up of unconscious people we can perpetuate that behavior. Whether it’s me going out and charging for things I can’t afford, or the lending practices of banks, it’s about being unconscious. That’s the problem on a fundamental level.
YM: Is it possible, then, to find the “good life” in these uncertain times?
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 you 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 down the street 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 conversation, 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 cocktail level chitchat? Are you having deeper conversations with people, and yourself and not about whether the SUV is okay or the house is okay.
YM: It seems as though the modern day world is built around distracting us from taking care ourselves on a personal level. How do we get around that?
RICHARDSON: We have got to learn to manage technology. Are you letting technology manage your life or are you managing technology? That’s something we really have to learn. Like, rarely do I have ringers turned in my home. I hate them. They’re like a call to action. The phone rings, your body goes tense. I’ve rarely have voicemail on my cell phone. At one point I had to put it on for a client who was traveling around the world. My friends would call up and go, oh my god what happened? And I’d say, don’t get used to it, it’s coming off soon.
YM: What’s one important endeavor you tell clients to try and do when they want to rethink how their life is organized?
RICHARDSON: Our greatest asset is our time and energy. One exercise I have my clients do–and it’s a very simple and powerful–is create what I call an Absolute Yes list. These are five things they deem a priority for the next three to six months. It could be your health, your financial well-being, a big project at work, or taking care of an aging parent. Put them on three, three by five index cards in numbered order and stick them in a places you see on a regular basis–by the phone, on a desk in your office, I’ve even put one on the dashboard of my car. What it does is raise your consciousness about how you’re spending your time and energy, particularly on those things that aren’t on the list. If you find yourself complaining about things that you don’t really want to do, that’s really just an indication that you’re making unconscious choices and decisions. You’ll soon find that you’re starting to spend your time and energy on the things that really matter.