The advice you’ve heard for years is wrong – a surprising life lesson from backpacking


You remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest and Bubba arrive in Vietnam and Lieutenant Dan immediately gives them a lecture on the importance of socks?

If you’re like me, you were probably sitting there laughing a bit at the scene, thinking that with all the dangers out there, socks really can’t make THAT much of a difference.

I was was wrong.

Lieutenant Dan was 100% right.

And I learned the hard way.

Last week I spent four full days and nights backpacking on The Colorado Trail. I thought I had packed well. I had layers for rain and sun and cold and a brand-new sleeping pad that I was unreasonably excited to sleep on (seriously, camping gear is SO much better than the last time I went backpacking!).

The day we started, I slipped on the same hiking boots and socks I had worn for the last several months in Minnesota. Just a few hours into our 50 mile trek, I knew I had made the wrong decision.

By the end of our first day I had blisters on the bottoms of both my feet.

The next day the blisters spread up through my toes and I got a new one on the side of my left pinky.

On the third day, I rubbed the back of my right heel raw. No blister – just raw.

On the fourth and final day I got another blister on the side of my right foot.

Each morning my hiking partner taped up my feet as best as possible, but despite the extra layers of cushion, the pain persisted.

It wasn’t excruciating, but it was there. For every single step of every one of our 50 miles.

And here’s what I learned from that:


So often I see social media posts about how when it’s the right thing, it’s easy. When you’re the flow of the universe, everything will magically appear in front of you without effort.

I’m calling BS.

Sometimes things ARE easy. And sometimes they’re hard.

The value of what you’re doing isn’t dependent on ease.

When something is HARD, it’s not necessarily an indication that it’s WRONG.

Case in point: Running a business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career – and it’s the best.

Instead of ease, look for ALIGNMENT.

Does the thing you want to do align to your values? Is your heart and soul calling out for you to take action? Does the thing lead to the life and world you want to see?

If the answer is yes, do the thing. Even if it’s hard. Because you can do hard things, too.

Hard things like deciding to break the rules you’ve been taught and create your own set of rules for life.

Hard things like speaking up against the status quo, even when it’s scary and you’re worried you won’t do it perfectly.

Hard things like saying no, quitting your job, disappointing someone, or following a calling that may not make sense to anyone else, but you know is right for you.

Just take one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. You will get there. The journey and the destination will both be worth it. You might even get some views like this:


Hard isn’t bad.

You can do hard things.

Staying true to yourself when you want to make people happy

Woman sitting on a dock staring at mountainsWoman sitting on a dock staring at mountains

One of the women in Beyond Perfect recently said in one of our group calls, “I just want to please others and be true to myself.”

I’m going to tell you a hard truth: You can’t always have both.

I’m normally all about the both/add and finding the win-win, but that’s not always the case when it comes to pleasing others and staying true to yourself.

Sometimes you have to choose between pleasing others and pleasing yourself.

Between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself.

Between living the life you desire and living the life others expect of you.


You deserve to choose you.

I don’t say this lightly. I know it isn’t an easy choice. You’ve been taught to put everyone else first and it is SO UNCOMFORTABLE to stand up for what you need and want.

It feels selfish. Sometimes even arrogant. There’s often guilt.

I even got a little uncomfortable writing this blog wondering if it was too strong or individualistic! 

And at the same time, when you choose to be true to yourself instead of pleasing others, you are living YOUR TRUTH. You weren’t put on this earth to follow what someone else thought was the best path for you. You are here to be YOU, to fulfill YOUR purpose, to live according to YOUR expectations.

And even more – when you choose to follow your own path, you are creating change

​​You are bucking the system that taught you to hold back your voice. You are breaking the rules put in place to keep the status quo. You are making an impact just by living life according to your own set of rules.

It’s not always an easy choice. But it is still a choice. What do you choose?

P.S. Click here to get on the waitlist for the next Beyond Perfect! It will be happening this fall!

Undoing the overdoing

Unraveling rope

Last week I went to my physical therapist to get some help with some minor but persistent low-back, hip, tailbone pain.

She demoed a new core exercise that was basically like the tiniest bicycle twist you can imagine – and then had me try it.

She stopped me before I’d even made it through one rep.

“Not that much,” she said. “Do it half that amount. It’s like you’re smashing into a brick wall with all of your force and really what you need to do is take it brick by brick.”

“Yep,” I responded, “that’s pretty much been my approach to all of life.”

Here was my MO for years:

👉 If running three miles was good, then four was better.

👉 If one making one appetizer for a dinner party was good, then two was better.

👉 If taking on one big project was good, then taking on two big projects was better.

I believed that more effort and more time = more accomplishment and more impact.

I was wrong.

Let’s go back to my physical therapist. Once she showed me the correct way to do the core exercise, my abs SHOOK within 30 seconds. It was almost comical just how hard my entire midsection rattled while trying to do her exercises.

And just two days earlier I had spent ten minutes doing planks – and my abs never shook.

Because it wasn’t just about doing MORE – it was about doing what’s EFFICIENT, ALIGNED, and TRUE.

This goes for every area of your life.

It’s not about giving an A+ to everything – it’s about giving the effort required to make the impact you desire.

And sometimes that means giving LESS than everything you’ve got.

I’m curious – On a scale of 1-10, how uncomfortable does that make you?!?

How hard is it for you do LESS? How hard is it for you to SAY NO so you can focus on the BEST work – the work that gives you joy and makes the biggest difference?

Doing too much makes you exhausted. It takes away your joy. Over time it makes you achieve less and have a lower impact — the two things you trying to accomplish by always doing more.

And, maybe most importantly, the constant overdoing and saying yes to everyone takes you further away from YOU. It leads you down a path where you are pleasing everyone but yourself.

None of it is good.

If you want to stop slamming yourself into a brick wall with overdoing, then you need to get on the waitlist for the next Beyond Perfect.

I launched the inaugural group of Beyond Perfect a few weeks ago and it’s already going GREAT! One of the women said in the very first week of the program, “I am loving this program already! Thank you!”

Beyond Perfect will launch again this fall and if you want to be the first to know about it and get access to an exclusive early-bird bonus available only to the people on the waitlist, then click here now.

Don’t worry – it’s not a commitment and you don’t have to pay anything to hold your spot. The waitlist is just an exclusive group that wants to get first access to the next Beyond Perfect.

It’s time to go Beyond Perfect – and get back to you.

How to make a difference when you’re completely overwhelmed


Raising hands

I want to tell you a short story about how a single sentence changed my entire perspective on making a difference – and how it can change yours, too.

Six years ago I attended the Net Impact Conference. I was considering a total career change from leadership development into sustainability (which wasn’t THAT much of a stretch since my undergrad degree is in conservation biology) and I attended the conference to see if I really wanted to make that leap.

During one panel discussion, a member of the audience asked how he could make the biggest difference.

Dave Stangis, then Chief Sustainability Officer for Campbell’s, said the words I’ll never forget:

Start from your position of impact.


I immediately wrote down the words in big capital letters in my notebook and drew a square around the sentence.

At the time, those words guided me AWAY from a career in sustainability because I realized MY position of impact comes from speaking, training, coaching, and guiding groups through development programs. I had no idea at that point that I would start my own business, but I knew I made the biggest impact when I did these things. And I love them, too (also very important🙂 ).

I know you want to make a difference, too. I’ve heard from so many of you who want to bring anti-racism work into your organizations and be a part of real change in your communities.

I also know you’re overwhelmed. You’re overwhelmed because you are inundated with resources and articles and directives to action – and you have no idea where to start. You’re overwhelmed because you’re worried about not doing it right. You’re overwhelmed because you have a million other balls you’re also keeping in the air.

And, oh yeah – there’s still a pandemic going on too.

So instead of being overwhelmed with all the potential things you could do, ask yourself: What is your position of impact?

To get your thinking started, here’s how that has looked for me:

Right now, my biggest position of impact comes from speaking and facilitating webinars. In the last month alone, I’ve led webinars on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Creating Your Own Rules For Success with hundreds of people from multiple different organizations.

I used to skirt around the edges of racism in these talks, bringing it up indirectly by using words like “power structures” as a cause of imposter syndrome.

No more.

Now I talk about it directly, saying that racial discrimination is one of the causes of imposter syndrome.

In Creating Your Own Rules For Success, I share directly how different groups of people are taught they need to follow different rules through seemingly small things like a performance review.

For example, I’ve gotten the feedback multiple times that I’m too direct. But I’ve never been called angry – something a black woman doing the exact same thing that I did would likely be told.

In the scheme of things, these are tiny actions. And I have A LOT more learning and work to do.

But these were small actions I could take right away to create impact. I didn’t do them perfectly. I know I stumbled over my words. But they happened.

What about you? What is your position of impact?

How can you alter what you’re ALREADY doing to create change?

Answer the question. And then go do that thing.

I’d love to hear your reflections. Post a comment below about how you’re acting from your position of impact.


P.S. If you want to dive deeper into working from your position of impact, read this blog I wrote in 2017.

Why living the life you desire isn’t selfish

Passion led us here

A woman said to me last week, “I’m working on living the life I desire, not the life I’m supposed to show up for.”

Wow. Her words hit me right in the gut.

Isn’t THIS what it’s all about?

Letting go of everything you’ve been taught you were SUPPOSED to want and instead showing up to live the life you ACTUALLY want?

And let’s get this clear right now – living the life you desire IS NOT SELFISH, for so many reasons.

One – When you’re happy and filled with joy for life, you show up better for other people.

Two – When you throw away the rules you’ve been taught and create your own rules for life, you break barriers. You become a change maker.

Three – When you stop worrying about doing what is “right” you do MORE good in the world.

Four – When you let go of perfectionism and proving and people pleasing and follow your true inner voice, the voice of your desire, you make an impact. You’ll share a dissenting point of view with your boss. You’ll put the idea out there that you’ve been pondering for months. You’ll write the song or poem or book and share it with the world. You’ll decide your heart is calling you to start a business or run a nonprofit or become a teacher and you’ll go do that thing.

Five – Pleasing others is not the purpose of life. YOU get to create your own definition of success. Impacting others and making a difference is definitely part of that definition, but when you let go of expectations and live the life you desire, that impact comes from your soul. It comes from your truth. It’s driven by mission and purpose, not pressure and standards.

The belief that living the life you desire is selfish is just a lie you’ve been taught.

It’s time to create a new belief.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😀

THIS is what my new program, Beyond Perfect, is all about. It’s for women that identify as overachievers, overdoers, perfectionists, and/or people-pleasers because this is my story and the story of so many of my coaching clients. These are the challenges getting in the way of so many women living the life they desire and sharing their true voice with the world.

Not the voice you’re “supposed” to share. Not the cookie cutter voice of the overachiever. Not the hustle puppet. Not the imposter voice. Your voice. Your truth.

I’m here to support you every step of the way. Let’s get started.

Get all the details about Beyond Perfect and sign up here.

Registration ends this Friday. See you there!

The single most important question to ask yourself to get past the fear of disappointing people

Writing in a journal

On Friday I hosted a webinar on letting go of proving, pleasing, and perfecting. We had a FANTASTIC group of women that shared SO openly.

If you weren’t able to join the webinar, let me tell you now – YOU ARE NOT ALONE in struggling with perfectionism or people pleasing or feeling like you have something to prove.

(Side note: Last week I did an Instagram poll about proving ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of people said they felt the need to prove themselves. Wow.)

A lot of themes came up in the webinar, but there’s one in particular I wanted to share today: A fear of disappointing people.

The fear of disappointing people was underneath so many other situations – having a hard time saying no, feeling like everything has to be perfect, doing or believing something different than what you were taught by your parents, teachers, or church growing up, working yourself into the ground to be successful (or to avoid failure, because that would be disappointing people).

Here’s the single most important question to get out of the disappointment trap: What is more important?

What is more important than disappointing people? What is more important than putting out “perfect” work? What is more important that questioning what you were taught and choosing a way that works for you?

Make the thing that is more important BIGGER than the fear of disappointing people.

The more important thing is completely up to you. It might be something big like expressing yourself or living aligned to what you know is most important or setting an example for your daughter about living a free life.

Or it could be something small, like it’s more important to sleep for an extra hour than to potentially disappoint someone by not responding to their email at 9:00pm.

What is more important to YOU?


Feel like you’re spinning on a hamster wheel? Here’s what to do.


Let me tell you a quick story….

I was out running Saturday errands a few years ago, shortly after I started my business. I had a long list of things to get done and somewhere between the grocery store and making returns at Kohl’s, I noticed my whole body rushing with an urgent need to make it through everything on my to-do list.

It was like there was a hamster wheel inside my chest, and I could feel it spinning faster and faster, whirring inside my body.

Instead of ignoring the feeling and rushing to the next task, like I’d done my entire life, I stopped. Literally. I stopped my body in the middle of running errands while standing in a crowd of people that were probably also rushing around checking items off their to-do list.

I took a deep breath.

Within a few seconds, my rational brain kicked in and said, “This is ridiculous. Nothing you are doing is an emergency. You don’t need to feel this way.”

I took another breath.

The whir of the hamster wheel in my chest began to quiet down. My heart rate slowed. The underlying anxiety pulsing through my body subsided. I realized I could be productive and calm at the same time. Rushing didn’t help me get through my to-do list any faster; it just made it less enjoyable.

I call this rushing manic mode. It’s the feeling that there’s not enough time and too much to do. Everything in your body goes on high alert. You feel yourself almost tipping forward with a desire to go faster.

There are so many things underneath manic mode – wanting to make everything perfect, fear of things slipping through the cracks, guilt and vulnerability when you do slow down, believing there will never be enough time to get everything done, etc.

It’s not healthy. Or fun. And I want to help you get out of it.

Yes, you can do exactly what I did when I noticed myself rushing and stop and take a breath. It will definitely help you get out of manic mode in the moment.

But to really get out of it we need to go to the root cause. We need to get to why you are in manic mode in the first place.

That’s what we’re going to cover in my free webinar this Friday on how to let of people pleasing, perfectionism, and feeling like you have to prove yourself.

In the webinar, you’ll discover what’s standing in your way of letting go so that you can slow down and reclaim your joy.

It’s happening this Friday, May 15, 12:00-1:00pm central. Sign up even if you can join live – I will send out a recording.

Sign up here.

So many people feel the weight of proving, people-pleasing, and perfection. So many women especially live in manic mode. Please share the link to sign up for the webinar with anyone that needs this (here it is for easy copy and paste:

See you Friday!


What to do with BIG feelings

Woman with little birds flying out of her head

There are a lot of feelings happening right now, aren’t there? It’s totally normal to feel anxious, sad, overwhelmed, happy, creative, grateful, and angry all in the same day. Or the same 10 minutes.

Even though it’s normal, sometimes it’s hard to know WHAT to do with these big feelings when they pop up. For a long time, I preferred to ignore them. I shoved them down and got on with my to-do list. I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings!

The numbing happens next. It’s the extra glass of wine. Baking multiple pans of brownies. Binge watching The Crown. Endless scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, or – if you’re cool – Tik-Tok (I’m not. Not a cool gene in me 🙂 )

But you all know that when we don’t actually feel our feelings, they get stuck. They fill up our bodies, causing actual physical pain, like a tight jaw or shoulders. Sometimes they overflow in snippy comments, anger, or a long, ugly cry (nothing wrong with that last one – crying is good!).

Feeling our feelings is hard for many NOT during a pandemic – and now it’s even more in your face because all feelings are heightened. I wrote a blog for Empower Equity Partners on three steps you can take to feel your feelings when they come up. They aren’t hard. They require a little time, but not much. Here’s a link to the article with those three steps:

One final word….your feelings aren’t too big. You’re allowed to feel whatever your feeling. You have the capability to feel whatever you’re feeling.

I like to think of our feelings like a wave. If you try to fight the wave and keep your head above the water line, the wave inevitably comes crashing down on you. But if you take a breath and dive straight into the middle of the wave, you’ll come out the other side unscathed.

Feel like you’re failing at everything? Here’s why and what to do about it.

Outline of a person in front of a clock.

A few days ago I posted a poll on Instagram with the question, “Do you feel like you’re failing at everything right now?”

85% of people said YES.

That’s a whole lot of people feeling like they’re failing all over the place.

And I know enough to confidently say – there’s no way you’re failing. You’re amazing. Your mind is just playing tricks on you.

And it also makes sense that you feel like you’re failing – even though it’s a total lie.

Here’s why:

The entire definition of productivity has changed in the last six weeks. Instead of being at work and doing work, you are now multitasking in a million areas at the same time. That makes you feel like you’re doing everything half-way (ie, failing).

It’s also harder to find the time and space to do the deep, uninterrupted work that makes you feel like you’re really accomplishing something.

On top of all of this, our culture constantly gives you the message that you’re worth what you produce. That you better wake up and hustle every day and prove your worth. So when you’re not living up to this ambiguous standard, you feel behind.

And if you’re an overachiever or perfectionist TOO – well, then. This is a recipe for feeling like you’re failing.

Here are three things you can do right now to let go of feeling like you’re failing:

  1. Define what “enough” is – what are the 1-2 work things and 1-2 personal things you need to get done each day? Write them down and know that this is your threshold for enough. And do your best to be realistic in what you deem to be enough! (I know…this one is hard for me, too)
  2. Look for the evidence of what you are doing really well. Things you’re proud of. I assure you, there is plenty of it when you start to look.
  3. Whenever that feeling of failure comes up, repeat to yourself: I am worthy for who I am, not what I do. Say it over and over. You will start to believe it.

P.S. I’m talking a lot about topics like this on Instagram – both in posts and in my stories. Come join me at @heather.whelpley if we haven’t connected there already!

Stay Awake – A poem for those feeling big emotions

Inner voice painting

Last Friday I shared the most raw blog post I’ve ever published. I live alone and I had the realization that I hadn’t touched another living thing in two weeks and it would probably be several more weeks before I did touch another person.

I felt deeply for a few hours. And then I wrote about it. And the next morning I shared that blog here and on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It was one of the most freeing and healing experiences I’ve ever had.

People popped up from all over the place saying the felt the same way I did and that they were touched by my story. And so many people offered to connect – it was amazing.

It’s also already the second most read post I’ve ever shared – and it’s only been out there for eight days.

Publishing that story of sadness and grief showed me that we can share hard feelings with people. You don’t have to be grateful and happy all the time – even if you are a grateful and happy person!

Right now, with so many ups and downs and uncertainties, it is so important to slow down and give yourself space to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You don’t have to deny your emotions.

On Sunday I wrote a poem about diving into your feelings that I want to share with you today. I call it “Stay Awake.”

When you feel a crack inside of your soul,
Slow down, pry it open, dive into the hole.
Sink, swallow, and let your truth thrive,
This is where you are most alive.
Shed the layers that kept you from hearing your heart,
Take a moment and listen to your whole in the parts.
Find freedom in allowing your feelings to flow,
Nothing held back, you can let it all show.
Stay awake for the wonder, the chaos, the pain,
Stay awake for it all, let go of the shame.
See the light shining from deep in your soul,
Nothing to fix, you were already whole.
So when the going gets tough, let tough be your guide.
Dive into you’re your depths, that’s where magic resides.

The cracks in your soul are an invitation to slow down and feel. You are most alive when you allow your feelings to flow through you – sadness, anger, joy, wonder, and everything in between. This is where your magic resides 🙂