Podcast Interview with Laura Linn Knight

Hi everybody.  I am so excited to have my friend and advisor, Laura Linn Knight with us today.  She is a mom of two.  She was an elementary school teacher and a darn good one at that, and now she’s a positive discipline educator, a mindfulness optimist, and the author of an upcoming parenting book Finding Calm in the Chaos of Daily Life.  Oh my gosh, I need that.

Rebecca:
Laura, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Laura:
Yes, thank you so much Rebecca for having me.

Rebecca:
Just so you know, I have been hounding Laura to come on the podcast for, I don’t know, two years and I finally pinned her down.  I’m really excited to talk with you. Thank you.

Laura:
Thank you.  I’m so happy to be here.

Rebecca:
Laura is one of my favorite resources for when I feel totally powerless as a parent, which is actually pretty often.  Your tips are always going in my head when I’m like, “Okay, my daughter is not driving me crazy, she probably just needs a hug.  This is not what I want to do right now, but this is what I need to do.”

So Laura, would you share a little bit about you and your background so that our listeners can get to know you?

Big Health Scare

Laura:
Yeah, absolutely.  Thank you again for having me.  I found mindfulness actually after a big health scare in high school.  I had been an athlete.  I played water polo and I swam very competitively.  I had gone to the Junior Olympics and I was really on track with sports and doing very well. Then, my senior year of high school, I had a big loss in my family and I started having horrible stomach pain.  The doctors couldn’t figure out what it was.  I had tons of tests done and it was kind of this mystery.  Eventually, I was misdiagnosed with a disease that I actually don’t have and told that I was going to die from this disease.  It was a big shock of course for me and my family and the community.

I was given pain medication for all of my stomach pain.  Eventually, over time, I was able to realize that I didn’t have this disease that I was misdiagnosed with.  I didn’t need that pain medication.  When I transitioned off of that, I had a lot of fear and anxiety and worry.  I was just kind of plagued with it, and that’s how I discovered mindfulness and meditation and that has been this crucial component to my life then as a parent.

First I had this trauma that actually turned into one of my greatest gifts, which was the door opening to learning about how to have more calm and peace in my life, despite how my physical health was.  And then that translated later on as I became a parent. And just what you said, I felt very overwhelmed by the chaos of family life of parenting life.

I thought that because I had been an elementary school teacher, that I was going to have this advantage with my kids and then I was going to be able to escape some of the frustrations that I had seen so many parents struggle with.  But I couldn’t.  I didn’t escape just because I was a teacher.  You know, children are children and it’s all very developmentally appropriate but hard to deal with.  That’s when I combine the two.  I realized I needed the teacher tools and the parenting tools and I became a certified positive discipline educator, but I also needed the mindfulness, which I had been doing all along.

I’ve combined the two, the mindfulness and the parents team and that’s what I teach now because it’s my experience that I can kind of have all of this knowledge of what the “right” parenting thing is to do or how to best support my child or my children, but to actually implement that if I’m not in a grounded space myself feels virtually impossible.

Rebecca: 
Oh, that’s such a good way of putting it.  I find myself in that situation all the time where I have gobs and gobs of knowledge.  I know a lot of sport parents are former athletes and they go, “I know what the kid needs, but then there’s this disconnect,” and what you’re saying is that it’s not that you don’t have the right information, it’s that you’re not coming from the right place to then transmit it.

Laura:
Absolutely.  I was just looking at your website and I love that you say, “We walk this fine line of support, cheerleading, coaching, and letting go,” and that’s exactly it, right?  Whether it’s with a professional athlete as a child or any child, really, we’re always walking this fine line of how to best support them and also how to let go and how to hold our own space really so that we can ultimately be more present for them and more supportive.

Rebecca:
Awesome.  I’m curious because I, of course, look at you and think, “Well, you’re the perfect mom because you know all these things and you’re so grounded.”  What would you say is your biggest struggle as a mom?

Mom Struggles

Laura:
Oh, my biggest struggle as a mom is sibling rivalry.  I grew up as an only child and when I would go to my friend’s house, we would play quite nicely together.  I would go for a play date and we would play and then I would leave, so I was unprepared to have the sibling rivalry in my own home.  Even as a classroom teacher, you don’t see a lot of that in the classroom setting.  You know, kids might get in quarels and arguments, but they’re easily diffused.  But I have two children just two years apart.  They’re very close in age.  I have an older son who’s six and a half and a younger daughter who’s four and a half.  When they get going and in that argumentative state, I’ve had to learn a lot of tools, both the parenting tools and use my mindfulness tools on how to deal with that because it can be very overwhelming for me.

Rebecca:
That makes a lot of sense. So I remember you mentioning the fear that came from this. You know, you’re no longer dying, but you are massively uncomfortable not having these drugs in your life.  So how did mindfulness come in with the fear?  A lot of the athletes that I work with are struggling with perfectionism, anxiety, mental blocks, you know, these kinds of intense manifestations of like fear and being tightly wound.  So how does mindfulness play into those types of things?

Plagued with Negativity

Laura:
Yeah, that’s such a great question.  I just want to say to the athletes first and foremost that they’re not alone with all those thoughts and feelings and fears, and that it’s just more people have that experience of fear and anxiety than you even know.  And so just to know that you’re absolutely not alone in any of that.

I, of course, can relate.  For me, I was just plagued with these negative thoughts, kind of this what if … what if the worst thing happens?  Or what if this doesn’t work out?  Or what if I don’t get that teacher job?  And what if once I get it, I don’t get tenure, and just kind of always feeling like the shoe was going to drop.

Observing Thoughts/Feelings with Equanimity

What I had to learn first was how to observe my thoughts and feelings with equanimity.  So this metaphor that I love is that I think of a mountain.  When the mountain is strong and sitting there, the mountain is observing the weather.  So sometimes it’s raining and sometimes it’s windy and sometimes it’s sunny.  But no matter what the weather is, the mountain is still the mountain, and it’s still just watching the weather.  It’s not like, “Oh no, it’s too windy today.  The Sun is shining, it’s too hot!”  You know, it’s not freaking out.  It’s just having this equanimity of the experience of the weather.  That was the first thing that I had to do – really watch my thoughts and my fears, just like I would observe the weather.  “Oh, it’s sunny today.  Oh, okay.  I’m having fearful thought again,” and so putting some space and awareness around it was my first step.

Positive Affirmations

But then for me, that wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t just observe.  It was like I had to start to translate those negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  So instead what I did was, if I was afraid to go and do something, I would give myself a positive affirmation.  “I am so grateful that I’m going to have this new experience.  I’m so grateful that I can be enthusiastic about it instead of scared.”  So for me, that was big around public speaking.  I was really terrified of public speaking. For a long time, I just said no.  But then I realized, okay, this is something that’s a huge goal for me.  I really want to do it.  It’s part of my work.  I need to go out and talk to people on a public level.  Instead of having this fearful thought control me, first I observed it and then I started to change the way that that old story was playing over and over again in my head.  So it would be, “Okay, I’m going to go and do this.  I’m so grateful for this new experience,” even if I didn’t feel that way at first.  But as I told myself that over and over again, I actually could start to change the pathways in my brain.

Rebecca:
And did you notice as a result that the fierce stopped or did it just get a little bit easier to deal with?  What did you notice about your fear?

Saying “Yes”

Laura:
I noticed at first that the fear dissipated a little bit.  I was calmer.  I mean, at first I was just willing to say yes, right?  I was willing to just go and try again.  So for an athlete, maybe they would just be willing to go and swim again if something had happened and they didn’t want to get back in the water. So that was my first thing.  I was willing to go again.  Over time, of course, as I practice and I created these new experiences over and over again, then really the fear can be there, but it’s at such a less intensity than it used to be.

Rebecca: 
And I love that example that the mountain is not going, “Oh, it’s so hot out here,” it’s just being a mountain.  That’s something that is so critical for athletes is the ability to be present and not getting their hooks into any thoughts really, just being totally present in what’s happening in the moment.  And those fear thoughts or those doubt thoughts can come in and kind of take you out of the moment.

Now this something that I personally have openly and honestly had trouble with.  I read all the research on how meditation helps athletes perform better and how being present helps people be happier and it helps you live longer.  There are so many amazing things that go along with meditation, so why is it so hard to get started and to just sit still?  Do you have any tips for athletes, parents, or me on how to really get consistent and add this into your life?

Laura:
Yes, absolutely beause I felt the exact same way. I  had been told for years that I should try meditation and I just felt like I couldn’t.  I couldn’t even sit still in my own body and in my own skin.  That was a time in my life when people were telling me that that I was highly anxious.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in terms of my body image and wanting to have a certain appearance, and like I had mentioned, I was trying to get my teaching credential and get the right job.  So I had this incredible amount of stress that I was really putting on myself, but also with the teaching, that was healthy stress because it was a goal that I was trying to achieve much like your athletes, you know, this is an important life goal for them.  So for me, I was told, you know, you need to meditate, and I would try and I would have these ambitions, right?  Saying, “Okay, I’m going to do it.  I’m good.  Today is the day I’m going to start meditating 20 minutes every day today and then go and sit down and just say, no, I can’t do it.

So I actually went to a meditation class.  They had one at the local gym and I signed up.  I remember talking to the teacher and saying, “I don’t know if I can do this.  I just might be someone that can’t meditate,” And he was very kind and he said, “Yeah, well, why don’t you come and give it a try?”  And I just remember sitting in that room and feeling like everyone else was doing it right, and I just kind of felt like I wanted to cry.  It was like, “You guys seem like you know what you’re doing.  Yeah, I don’t.”

Just Three Minutes

And then someone said, “Why don’t you set your timer and try to meditate for three minutes?”  I’m like, “Oh, three minutes.  I bet I could sit for three minutes.”  Like that was doable for me.  So for well over a year, my meditation was daily, three minutes, and that was it.  I would set my timer and once it was up, I would get up, and that was enough for me to make a beginning.

Meditation Research

Then I started, like you said, there are all these meditation books, these good resources, so I started to read some books.  The first book that really resonated with me was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  He talks all about how we have this roommate that lives in our mind and it’s our thoughts and that we really buy into what it’s saying because it’s always spinning this story around fear.  And then if anyone talked to us the way that the thoughts in our brain talk to us, we wouldn’t be friends with them anymore, but we put up with it because we believe it because it’s in our mind.  So the whole premise of this book is just how to detach from the mind.  Then he shares his experience with meditation. Then there’s this great app that you might’ve heard of called Headspace.

Rebecca:
Yep. I’ve got that phone.

Laura:
I got Headspace and that motivated me to start doing 10 minutes.  So it’s been a very slow process for me.  Now I’m at a point where I get up every morning and at 5:45, before my kids wake up, I’m able to meditate for 20 to 25 minutes.  But that’s after over a decade of really wanting to incorporate this as a practice.  So, I think we can be slow in our process and that’s okay.

Rebecca:
Now, for people who have absolutely no frame of reference on what meditation is or how you do it, what’s kind of a simple thing that you can suggest for someone’s first time setting their timer for three minutes and sitting down?  What do they do for three minutes?

Laura:
Yeah, that’s a great question.  You know, there’s a lot of different teachings and there are different types of meditation.  There are guided meditations online and it’s become such a popular term and practice in America, which is great because there are so many resources.  For me, I’ve always kept it really simple.  I just sit and I pay attention to my breath.  I find a cushion or I sit in a chair and I sit criss-cross or I will put my feet flat on the ground and my hands in my lap.  I just breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth and in through my nose and out through my mouth.  And that can be it.  I just focus on the breath.

Bringing Awareness to the Present Moment

Sometimes I practice positive thinking.  If I noticed that I’m having negative, fearful thoughts, I will replace them with positive thoughts.  I notice any feelings that come up in my body or even the way that my shirt feels wet, it’s touching my skin.  It’s really just bringing awareness to the present moment.

Rebecca: 
Yes, which is where life actually happens.  We can miss so much of it by being in the “what ifs” or the “oh my gosh” of the past.

50-60,000 Thoughts Per Day

Laura:
Yes.  That is what I was thinking about when you were talking about your athletes and the parents and the worrying mind that we all have of, “How am I going to do in this competition?  How is my child going to do in this competition?  Are they getting the right support and the right resources, enough sleep?”  We can have these never ending worries racing through our mind.  Something that really helped me was I learned that every human has 50 to 60,000 thoughts a day.  So on any given day, you’re thinking 50 to 60,000 thoughts.  Most of those thoughts are repetitive in nature and most of them are worries, fears, fears about the future, regrets about the past, so just having that information was very empowering for me because I could see one, that I wasn’t alone and two, that we were kind of all going through this experience.  I think getting some distance from that fear is a really good first step in this whole process of overcoming the fear.

Rebecca:
Just the idea of not being overcome by it is so freein, too.  To go, “Oh, hello fear.  I see you there,” and then get in your body, get back to the moment, and then just execute the next skill.  Just try to get a little better, not just jumping on board and letting it take you for a ride.

Handling Fear

Laura:
Yeah, and I think for me, and I’ve heard some of this in your podcast, I heard you doing one about a vision board, which I love … I think that we have this awareness that there’s fear and then it’s like… and then what?  Now I’m aware of it so I might not be buying into it as much, but now what am I going to do with all that fear?  It’s still just spinning around in my head.  I think that’s where the vision boards, the daily gratitude, the positive affirmations, all those tools become so key.

Gratitude List

For me, every day as part of my meditation, I do that 20 to 25 minutes of sitting and focusing on my breath, but I also write a daily gratitude list.  That’s 10 things every day and they’re really specific 10 things every day that I’m really grateful for.  I go beyond just saying, “I’m grateful for my house,” but to say, “I’m grateful that yesterday I was able to have such a nice dinner with both of my children and my son told that funny joke,” or whatever it is.  I also use daily gratitude as an opportunity to be grateful for things that might not seem like a blessing or a gift in the moment.

Opportunity for Growth

I remember a long time ago, I was having such a hard time with a coworker.  We had been best friends and then that friendship was dissolving and I was devastated.  That was an opportunity to say, “You know, even this is really painful, I’m grateful that I’m having this experience because I can see how it’s giving me an opportunity to make new friends and cultivate new relationships.”  So really pushing myself to think even the difficult things in life and the scary things can also be opportunities for growth.

Rebecca: 
I love that.  We do a live training in my online community and we play a game called, “Unfortunately, Fortunately”.  Someone will go, “Oh my gosh, my coach was such a jerk,” and I go, “Okay, unfortunately, your coach was a jerk,” and then they’ll all raise their hands and go, “Fortunately it doesn’t affect me because I’m so positive.”  They all like kind of fight to get the answer in, and you can always find a “fortunately”, always, always!  It’s even kind of fun to be like, “Let’s find the worst possible thing and I bet we can find a fortunately out of it.”

Laura:
I’m going to write that down.  I love that term, “unfortunately fortunately”.  I’m so lucky to have you as a resource and athletes are so lucky to have you.

Rebecca:
I just wish I had all this good stuff when I was 12 you know?  But Hey, we get it when we get it.

Laura:
I wish too.  When I was in high school, I think that perhaps I could have gone on to play competitively in college if I had had the tools that I know now when I had all of those health things come up.

Rebecca: 
But obviously, you are on the path you’re on! Fortunately, here you are.

Laura:
Unfortunately, then, fortunately, here I am,  and I’m grateful to be here.

Rebecca: 
I have maybe a silly question.  Let’s say you’ve made the commitment, and you’re saying, “I’m going to start meditating.  I’m going to do three minutes.  I’m going to do my gratitude list.”  How do you know that it’s working?  Because I’m kind of a results person.  I’m like, “Oh good.  I did it.  It worked.  I’m going to keep doing it,” but it’s hard to do these practices that maybe aren’t so “instant gratification” or are they?  How do you know what’s working?

How You Know it’s Working

Laura:
I think you know it’s working because you start to feel a little bit calmer and a little less reactive.  So for me, as a parent, when I was talking about how I had to use the mindfulness, because I would have the parenting tools, “Okay, my child is having a really hard time, I know intellectually that they just need connection and support right now,” but what would happen instead was I would yell because I was so frustrated with them.  I knew what they needed, but I wasn’t able to access that because I wasn’t in my own grounded space.

As I use my meditation and my own mindfulness practice and my positive thinking and everything we’re talking about right now, I became less reactive with my children.  I noticed that there were times when I really wanted to yell, but instead, I could say, “Would you like a hug?” Or,  “Hey, I’m going to go in the other room, but let’s talk about this later.  Or, besides just in my parenting life and my personal life, where someone would call and say, “Can you come and do this global presentation for Expedia?”  Instead of me just saying, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, that’s way too scary.  I can’t do that yet,” I was able to say, “Yes, absolutely.  I would love to.”

Rebecca:
Then, of course, you have the various fears that come and go, and you navigate it and you show up in it.  Then its, I’m sure, amazingly successful and wonderful.

The Science Behind Mediation and Mindfulness

Laura: 
Yeah.  Scientifically they’ve been able to prove that with meditation and mindfulness you can have equanimity of your thoughts and feelings.  You can feel less stress and anxiety.  You can be less reactive, your focus can be better, and people have increased empathy and compassion and less obsessive thoughts.  They’ve been able to see that just by having these study groups, samples of people that they’ve studied, I should say, where they’ve been able to track them and see the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.

Rebecca:
Amazing.  And I love that.  I love that it’s three minutes.  I think every time I sit down, I go, I sit there in my mind going, “I should be meditating for 45 minutes every day,” that’s how I spend my three minutes instead of just breathing and being.

Laura: 
They’ve actually been able to prove that just by breathing, you’re able to switch from your parasympathetic to your sympathetic nervous system.  If you think of it like a car, you would have the gas and then the breath is like the brakes.  The gas is distress and anxiety and the breath is the brakes, and just by, I think they said six the last study I read, six deep breaths could change from the gas to the brakes as far as your nervous system goes.  So that’s amazing, right?  We don’t even have to sit for three minutes.  We could just take some deep breaths.

Rebecca: 
So if feeling activated, getting ready to compete, or having a conflict with a coach, you can just fit six breaths in.

Parents Stressed for their Kids

So now what about the parents?  I know the athletes get stressed, but sometimes the parents are just as stressed when their athlete is getting ready to compete. I’ve had plenty of parents ask me, “What do I do with myself?  How do I not freak out when I’m so nervous for her?”  Do you have any, any tips for what the parents can do while they’re watching their kids compete or maybe when they’re on their way to the competition that can just get them in that grounded space?

Laura: 
Yes, absolutely.  That’s such a great question and I think it’s everything that we’ve been talking about for the athletes also goes for the parents.  The parents can buy a journal and bring it to the competition and they can be writing their daily gratitude or they can be writing their 10 positive affirmations of what they hope is going to happen at the meet.  You know, putting that positive intention out into the world or taking the deep breaths or maybe bringing in their earbuds and listening to a little five minute headspace, maybe they don’t have to close their eyes, but just listening to the calming voice of someone talking in their earbuds, will help to just ground them and anchor back in.

Remember Self-Care

And then I think it’s a lot of the little things that we know as parents, but sometimes we forget and you just needed to hear again.  For me, it’s am I eating healthy food?  Did I bring myself a healthy snack for this event?  Did I get a walk in the morning before I went?  Can I take a walk during some sort of intermission or break?  Can I step out and just take care of myself for a few moments?  As parents were so burned out a lot.  We’re constantly going, and then to have a child that competing like your clients are, you know, is of course really intense, and so it comes back to kind of those self-care tips that I think many of us know about, but forget.

Rebecca:
Yes.  And, and that’s always what I’m saying.  There are plenty of moms who are in the private Facebook group that we have for kids who are going through the overcoming fear program.  Some of them are like, “My kid is not engaging.  My kid is ignoring it.  They’re avoiding.  What do I do to make her do it?”  And my answer is, “Take care of you, lean on us, talk to us about your experience, give her the tools, and then take care of you.”  That it’s.  I hate to give that advice because it’s like I wish I could just go dive into her brain and like flip a switch and then say, “Here you go, mom.  She’s ready to rock.”

I have a little gymnast and she is my greatest challenge and there are times when I’m like, “Just do the thing they’re asking you to do.  What is the problem? ”  This is in my mind, I’m not actually saying it.  I’m standing there trying to look very calm while deep breathing and telling myself, “I am the sports psychology go-to person for this facility and here I am about to lose my mind over my four-year- old and her inability to follow directions.”  What is it about them being your own child that like makes it so difficult?  Is this something that we can do right or do we just have to eat a sandwich and kind of let it happen?  What do you think Laura?

Worrying About their Future

Laura: 
It is really hard when it’s our child, and often I think the reason it’s so hard when it’s our child is because we go into that very fearful place.  It isn’t just about them not doing it right then in that moment, it’s about what does this mean for their future and if they don’t do it now, are they never going to do it?  And what does that look like?  Are they going to give up on their dreams?   If they’re not listening to me now, then what will happen tomorrow when they don’t listen?  We kind of project negatively into the future.  When it is our own child, it’s really challenging, and sometimes, yeah, we do just need to go, “Yeah.  Take a breath and let them have their own experience.”

There’s a lot we can do at home to support them.  In the setting, sometimes it’s hard because people are anxious and their coach is watching and you know, you can’t always do it right then because the nerves are too high.  Maybe the prefrontal cortex is not completely wiring at that point, your brain is kind of flipped.  Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about the “flipped lid” when we’re not in our rational thinking brain, but we’re more in our primitive primal brain, which happens a lot for kids especially because their prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until they’re 25.  But at home, we can support them by telling them stories about when we were also really scared, and how we’ve overcome those fears, and what it was like personally for us to go through challenging times in our life, and what tools we used that helped us in those so that they don’t feel alone and they feel that support from us as parents.

Role Playing

For younger children, we can do a lot of role-playing, which is an amazing tool where they get out their dolls or their stuffies, like you were mentioning your four-year-old.  They take out their toys and they really get down on the ground and they act out those fears and then they overcome those fears in a safe place.

For older kids it can even be them writing a story.  I’ve seen kids that were able to write their own story with their own ending and have the main character that was representative of a fear that they were going through and kind of work it out in that way.  That would then translate to actually being able to do the thing that they were so scared of for themselves in real life.

Rebecca: 
Awesome.  That reminds me of something that I’ve done where we imagine it a past experience where they failed and they were afraid.  Maybe it was a skill on the beam that they just could not do and the coach was yelling and it was this really intense, awful memory that often will flashback to kids as they attempt the skill again.  We’ll go back and imagine it, but from a distance, kind of like they’re lifted up out of it and they’re looking down on it so they don’t have the fear right there in their face.  They’re just kind of above it.  They’re breathing and they’re able to redo the situation and maybe speak up for themselves and maybe go ask for the help that they need and they’re able to slay the dragon and get through it in a different way.  But I love the idea of writing a story. Yes. And that’s what you’re talking about is so great. And then they’re able, I’m sure to do that again

Laura: 
Yes.  What you’re talking about is so great. And then when they’re able to do that again they’re thinking about the next future event and kind of running through in their mind like a movie and the obstacles that might come up and then how they’re able to overcome those.

Rebecca:
Which can be hard at first, because like you mentioned, a lot that the negative thoughts are so hardwired that they just pop right in.  But then if you’re the mountain, you can let them float by and get back to work.

Which Wolf Will You Feed?

Laura:
Yes, absolutely.  For anyone who doesn’t know it, there’s this Native American story about wolves, it’s an old Cherokee teaching about a grandson and his grandfather.  The grandson says that he has this fight that’s going on inside of him and it’s a terrible fight and it’s between these two wolves.  One wolf is evil. He’s angry and sorrow and he has greed and self-pity.  Then he has this other wolf inside him who is good.  He is joy and peace and love and hope and kindness and generosity.  He turns to the grandfather and he says, “What wolf is going to win?  I have these two wolves… which one is going to win?”  And the grandfather says, “Well, whichever wolf you feed.”

We all have that inside of us, right?   We have this one wolf of fear and insecurity. Then we have this other wolf of hope and ambition, and whichever wolf that we give more attention to is the wolf that ultimately will win inside of us.  That’s the voice that becomes the loudest.  I think for me it’s been a lifelong practice of feeding the wolf of positivity.  So that’s for kids, but it’s also for grownups because as adults, we are responsible for setting the tone in our home.  The more we are grounded and feeding that wolf of positivity, the more we’re able to show up in a really supportive way for our children.  We don’t contribute more to their fear.

Rebecca: 
I hate that so often I’m in session with these 12-year-old girls and I’m always like, “Tell me about your coach, tell me about your mom,” because those are often where a lot of that negative thinking comes from or that perceived pressure.  So of course, I have my own fear that, “Oh gosh, my perfectionism of trying to be an amazing mom is now going to somehow come back on me as my kid doesn’t want to be imperfect around me because I’m trying to be the perfect mom.”  So I have to remember to just take a break and have a sandwich again.

Celebrate Your Mistakes

Laura:
Yeah.  And celebrate your mistakes.  Something that we’ve done in the past or will do from time to time is we sit down at dinner and we share our failures for the day.  I really try and take a lot of time to tell my children when things happen during the day that didn’t go well or the times that I am scared, and I say, “Oh, I’m going to go do this thing and I’m so scared to do it, but these are the tools that I’m using to walk through that fear.”  It’s not so much always about them and me telling them what they need to do, but they get to actually see it reflected in me of like, “Oh yeah, I mess up all the time.  I mean, here are a few things that I did just today.  Here are some of the big mistakes that I made and here’s what I did to walk through that, how I was able to amend my behavior, or whatever I needed to do to work through that mistake.”  And then also what I learned from it.

Rebecca: 
Absolutely.  That’s one thing I have athletes do, which is essentially a mindfulness exercise of looking back on their practices or their competitions and asking, “What went well?  What didn’t go so well?  What did I learn?” Just trying to keep it all in perspective that even the very best performances have room for improvement.  When you’re like, “That was the worst possible scenario for competition, but my hair looked good,” whatever.  You can always find something that you can smile about and be like, “Wow, this worked out,” and then it’s always those big bombs that give you the most valuable lessons.

Like you said, your biggest asset was this horrible experience in your youth.  You wouldn’t be who you are.  In my experience, I quit gymnastics at age 14 because I was too afraid to go backwards, and now look what I do for a living.  I help kids go backwards.  If it wasn’t for that, I would not have this dream that I’m living.

So I love to tell parents, even if it doesn’t have this perfect rainbow, sunshine conclusion, it’s the ability to learn from it that makes life really pretty amazing and enjoyable.

Laura:
Absolutely.  Yeah.  It’s our experiences and what you get out of each of those experiences, you said it very eloquently.

Rebecca: 
So I always like to ask, because, PerformHappy is kind of my thing.  I want kids to be happy, healthy, and successful.  For that happiness piece, what can athletes and parents do just to get a little bit more happy in their life and in their performance using some of these tools?

Laura:
Well, I think that outside of the performance, first and foremost, even when they’re not performing and they don’t have things scheduled, that they can really take time at home for connection, to connect and have one-on-one time with their parents that is outside of these events so that they’re feeling really supported and joyful in that way.  Also, having little family outings and dates with their parents or just sitting down and playing checkers.  Something really simple, but just for them to have that special connected time and then doing fun things at home.  Turning on music and having a dance party in the kitchen or just finding those little moments of joy that can come into each day.  I think as athletes, I imagine that they’re feeling really scheduled and busy on top of all the school and in life that they have to do anyway.

So any small moments where even if they’re driving to a competition, turning the music up and just singing loud in the car and just looking for all those little opportunities to add joy and connection and then actually being at the competition, which of course is a high-stress time for everyone, I think it’s planning ahead.

Family Meetings

A big tool and our home is the family meeting.  At a family meeting we sit down and we give appreciations for everyone in the room and then we talk about anything that’s been coming up, whether it’s a problem or something that we want to work on or a plan that we’re trying to make.  I would encourage parents and teens to really sit down and say, “What can we do?  What could our plan be for our next competition so that we can bring more joy and calm?  What ideas do you have as the athletes and what ideas do you have as the parents?  Let’s just make a really big list of all of our ideas and then kind of come up with a little plan that we can execute next time.”  Then have a family meeting to follow up and see like, “Did that go well?  What worked, what didn’t work, what do we want to add when we want to try differently next time?”

Rebecca:
Great.  And I would say don’t do it in the car on the way home because that’s the, that’s the time when nobody wants to talk.

Laura:
No matter what it needs to be during a calm time at home that we say, “Okay, we’re going to have a family meeting on Thursday night, seven o’clock. It needs to be a set time.  But yes, never in the car on the way home.

Rebecca:
On the way home, you just go get food, just feed them.  That’s all

Laura:
Let them listen to music and let them stare at their phone.  Everybody’s happy. That’s it.

Rebecca:
Laura, thank you so much.  I’m like, “Can I go set my timer for three minutes?”  I’m going to go do it before bed.  I feel like just the way that you put it into perspective that these little things are feeding my confidence wolf, feeding my peace wolf, which then translates into my kids and my patients and my marriage and my clients, that these little actions of just setting the tone for the day with gratitude, setting the tone for the day with presence can have this big ripple effect.

“Mindfulness is doing what you’re doing.”

Laura: 
It really can.  And it’s amazing because it doesn’t have to be a really big thing. You know, mindfulness is actually just awareness of what you’re doing.  When my son was four, he said, “Mindfulness is doing what you’re doing, mom.”  I love that definition.  It is.  It’s just doing what you’re doing.  It’s like being present in the moment.  We can do anything mindfully.  We can wash the dishes, we can make dinner, we can vacuum – we can bring mindfulness to anything that we’re doing and then we can have a meditation practice.  Even if three minutes is too long, start with one minute.  Start with just five breaths before you get out of bed in the morning, five calming breaths before you get out of bed in five calming breaths before you fall asleep.  I mean, it can be such a small step in that direction and you couldn’t really see profound results without having to do too much.

Rebecca:
One other thing I suggest to people is that just to take two to five minutes of their warm up and do it mindfully.  You stretch mindfully, jog mindfully, just be present for a couple of minutes as you start your practice, to get yourself in the moment.  So I guess I don’t give myself enough credit for doing the mindfulness elsewhere.

Laura, oh my gosh, you are such a delight.  I’m so glad I finally got you on to share some of your amazing wisdom with the PerformHappy listeners.  Now, where can they find you if they want to check out your blog, if they want to learn more about you, where that, where do they go? If they want more

Laura:
If they want more tips and they want to be part of my newsletter, they can go to lauralinnknight.com.   I’m also on Instagram under @Lauralinnknight and I post daily.  It’s always a mindfulness meditation, parenting positive thinking tip.  So all about the stuff that we’ve been talking about tonight.

Rebecca:
I am a huge fan of Laura’s Instagram, so go find her immediately.  It’s amazing little nuggets that are like a little breath of fresh air every day.

Well thank you so much for what you’re doing, and sharing your time with us. I’m so grateful that you were able to join us for the show today.

Laura:
Thank you. Me Too. Thank you so much for having me.  I would love to come back again and we won’t have to wait too.

Rebecca: 
Okay.  Good deal.  We’ll schedule it.  All right.  Thanks, Laura.

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