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Sept. 9, 2021

117. Separating Your Self-Worth from Your Work with Jennifer Ables

Validating your value and worth as person before you measure your work accomplishments and progress.

Validating your value and worth as person before you measure your work accomplishments and progress.



Jen has worn many hats in her life, from insurance underwriter to professional dancer to the founder of a charity. This journey took her from a cubicle in Philadelphia to White House guest, and includes a flag being flown in her honor in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. She has also been a nominee for “Woman of the Year” by San Diego Magazine and “Women Who Mean Business” by the San Diego Business Journal. Throughout her rollercoaster life, Jen has learned the difference between what it means to be successful and what it means to be happy. She is best known for her talks on gratitude, resilience, and reinventing yourself in this ever-changing world.










I'm sharing joy. That's the gut feeling of what I experience when I teach is joy, because I get to see someone along this journey. I love that part about teaching, and I'm like, okay, so joy is what I have to get in touch with. Joy is the thing that brings me excitement about this role of teaching. Now, second level, where else do I feel that feeling of joy?


Welcome, everybody. I'm really excited today. Have a guest on the show that I think is going to really change how you see things, how you understand, work, how you understand yourself. And I'm not going to give too much of a background because she's got a really cool story that she's going to share. I'll simply say that she is very multidimensional. I think it's going to reach you wherever you're at in your career. So, Jen, thank you so much for joining me.


My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.


Awesome. So Jen is going to talk with us today about separating your worth or your self worth from your work. And what I want to do is ask you, Jen, just start with your story because again, when you and I talked on the pre interview, that's really what engaged me at a much deeper level than most. And so someone might say, Wade, another person's story. This is a ridiculously cool story. And I think you're going to hear a lot that resonates with you, share a little bit about your journey.


Then what led you to the work you're doing and how that also and led to you getting more in touch with your worth and separating that from your work.


It's been definitely a varied career to lead me to where I am. It's one of those part of the reason I have my star background is this chaos in the moment. It doesn't look connect. But when I look back, there is definitely a pattern to it. And making sense of those patterns is kind of what led me to where I am. I have a degree in insurance. I used to work in corporate America, but I followed my heart when an opportunity came up to become a professional ballroom and Latin dance instructor.


And it's a huge leap of faith to be able to do something like that, to be able to do not what everybody expects of you to do. That's not the expected journey, especially not when you already have a business degree. But I took this huge leap of faith and really wrap myself. I've always loved being a dancer. I loved everything about dance, so a great opportunity. And it became my everything so much so that my personal life and my social life and my work life were all one thing.


And I loved what I was doing. And I felt like I'm so lucky that in my late late 20s, I've already figured it out. I already have living my purpose. I'm doing the thing. I've got it all figured out. I took this leap of faith. And just like the most we say, now the rest is supposed to be golden. And then I had an injury, actually, during a dance competition where I injured my spine. And the long and short of it is I've been left with a partial permanent disability because of that injury.


But it also took me out of work for five years and four surgeries and one of the worst moments, my depression moments of my life, that I wouldn't say just a moment, that it was four, five long years of it where I think it's the first time I really thought about this concept where my worth and my work were connected as one. Because when my doctor told me, you're going to have to find a new hobby, I was speechless, like, it will and then ask, it very angry, because how dare you that's not my hobby.


This is my life. Like, do you understand everything that I've given up to pursue my dream? So. And I remember saying to my doctor that I don't know who I am outside of dancing. So if I can't dance, if I am not this thing that I've spent my whole life, my whole dream, then what am I? And like, because I thought that was my purpose and that's everything I was supposed to do, I really felt lost because everything I had tied up everything I was, my whole identity as a human and valuing this worth in this Earth.


Wade tied up being a dancer, being a teacher, being all of these things. And it really it set me, like I said, into one of the worst depression of my life. And fortunately, I have a wonderful group of friends and family who love me back to health. And I thought, you know what I'm never going to do? I'm not going to dance it again. I'm not going to go down that road again. I want a healthy enough to be on my own again. I moved out to Southern California, and I was like, that's it no more snow on the East Coast, as looking for in the eye is not going to hurt my back.


No. Where dancing? Oh, wait. I'll just take a part time job. Dancing, which then led to me creating this charity, this nonprofit where I was teaching dance as an adaptive therapy to wounded warriors, was a program called Soldiers, who also and started with a six week class, ended up being 24 locations throughout the US, sponsoring Falls a night in Afghanistan, I've got my most prized possession, a flag that was flown on my honor over Afghanistan because of the work we were doing. It was again, like, it was one of those stars aligning kind of moments where I'm like, oh, if everything I just went through with my own pain, my own physical pain, my own emotional pain led me to create this program.


Then I guess it was all not necessarily let us all worth it. But now it all makes sense. Now I'm like, oh, you wouldn't have had the emotional capacity, the bandwidth to really understand what someone is going through when they're in constant physical pain, when they've lost their career, when they've lost all these things that I was like, my life prepared me for this moment. And then I thought, I found it. This is my purpose now I got it. Here I go feed first, right on in.


And I worked seven days a week. You're giving me an eight. That would work that, too. And I didn't notice it happening again because I felt so driven by what I was doing that I had no boundaries. I had no separate personal life from my work life. I worked other jobs. I was always working, and I didn't make time for myself. And I didn't think about it because I was loving what I was doing. But eventually, the stress of running an organization became very real nonprofits, very challenging, especially if you're starting it from scratch.


So constantly keeping funds in, constantly keeping something going. The stress of all of that really started the way on me, and my health started to decline. I have lime disease. So stress is a very I really have to pay attention to stress because it can really weaken my immune system even more than it already is. And the stress had pneumonia six times in a year. My doctors, like, pay attention. Like, what's it going to take for you to list. It like, You're going too hard. You have to back down.


And I was like, Nope, I can't. This is my mission. And I even said to my border directors at one meeting, like, I will fight for this organization. To my last dying breath. That's how passionate I felt. But I mean, those words, my last dying breath. Well, my doctors are like, well, we're close or six times in a year. What are you doing? And I had to take a leave of absence for health reasons. And then after that, I realized, like, oh, this is worse than I thought.


And I resigned. And if I thought my depression was worse when I hurt my back where I was then, as I resigned, as the 2017 was worse. But then that other moment by far, because I had risked more. I'd gone to this international level of running this whole thing and getting invited to a White House summit to talk about our work that we had done. And and now so the crash was that much farther down. And it was that much harder. And I found myself again at the same moment of if I'm not an executive director, if I'm not the founder of this organization, all of that is gone.


Who are you? And I had no answer to that question. And I thought, Come on, how do I end up here again and worse than the last time. So it led me on this really tough and internal journey to try to figure out not only the pattern, like, how did we end up here again? Why did you end up here again? And how can we make sure we don't do this again? And that's really led to the work that I do now, leading workshops on, really, all these thousands of dollars I spent in therapy and in self work that I've done to get some programs for other people who might struggle with that same thing.


I find a lot of friends who even in a social life, going through a divorce, I say, I don't know who I am outside of my marriage or with coronavirus people that have lost their jobs. You know, if my job disappears, who am I? That where do we ever learn this whole concept of try to separate your work from who you are as a person, because when that's not solid, it is really easy to get lost in those winds of change.


Got you. Thank you. Wow. The second time. And I'm still like, wow, there's so much to that. And one of the things that I was blessed to experience when I was younger, my father has done well as an entrepreneur. And I got to watch some of his friends who did better financially by far than they thought they were going to be doing. And I got to see that money wasn't the variable. In other words, somewhere happy, somewhere not. And for the most part, you've probably heard that some people say it's an amplifier.


If you're happy, you're going to be happier. If you're not happy, it's probably going to be more of that. And somewhere in that process, I got to watch that internalize that. And then when I was working on my master's degree in psychology, and I first came from the business marketing as insurance world two. And as I'm working on my degree, I'm working at this runway shelter called Covenant House and working with kids that have different things going on and addiction, homelessness, all sorts of different stuff.


And I was so blessed, I don't know where I learned this lesson, but I learned it before I went in there somewhere along all the reading and studying and personal growth work I did was this idea that if you take credit for Wade, you want to call the clients patients depend what model you're in. If you take credit for their successes or your children, if you're a parent, if you take credit for the successes, you're going to have to take responsibility for their failures. And that was something that I still wasn't able to fully separate from because you get entangled in this sort of work, even as a coach.


Now I do. But even more so when there's so much more on the line. And I remember feeling this sense of, well, this is for a Noble cause than just me. So this has to be my work. How can it not be my work? And so I've got to be happy doing this and then even pressure on that. If I'm not happy, I got to be satisfied doing this. I've got to make decent money on that fee is about to take a pay cut in half to do that and all these different things.


And then I was able to witness people around me because I at least had that idea in my head. And I watched some people that did take it to be a little too much. And again, they were just more somebody would say hard in their sleep. But it's one that their heart was in everything. And yet when something comes back and it didn't work out, they would be devastated. And I remember once one of the, uh, I was working with was having some challenges, and he was doing some not so good things to himself.


And those stopped for a while while I was working with them. And then eventually I stopped, like, maybe three, six weeks, whatever it was which to say that's happening. And I'm thinking, okay, this isn't going to persist. I'm not that good. I know what's going. And then he started back doing these things. They were somewhat harmful to himself. Nothing deadly. But none of that stuff is ever really a good thing. And the feedback I got from someone, what did you do? I said, Well, you're over estimating what I can do.


I don't have that kind of power. But again, that's something with all the reading with a mother who is an intuitive and read spirituality and psychology. And with that all that and a degree and a coaching certification, I was barely able to see that. So I can only imagine what somebody who's not been exposed to that because there's things I'm blind to it. If you're not aware of that or that level again of, wow, this is finally. Oh, so this is the mean. This is why all this happened.


What do you find? And the reason I guess this is so tough is because most people think, oh, well, if you're having some sort of existential crisis or meaning crisis, well, because you didn't do the work. And I find no, the people often did the most work that worked so hard. And everybody else is looking to them, which then makes it even more like everybody's looking at you like you've got it all figured out. And you're like, what are you doing? That'd be great. If I knew what's that been like for you as the person.


And then how do you help people now gaining this conversation of honoring what we can do and say, yes, there's something Noble, but I'm good at my profession. I take it seriously, but not taking it so seriously to then where it becomes how I see myself at such a strong level. How do you make that connection? Because again, I worked consciously to make it, and it took me years. How does somebody who's not in this conversation yet? How do they start looking at that?


It's a great question. And the concept that for me worked and where I continued and I say work as in like, this is where I started. But this is an ongoing process for me is understanding that there are roles that I play, and there are attributes of me. And when I'm really strong in the positive attributes of me, when I am at my best, when I am really in touch with that, I feel like we all know that glowing feeling or when you're in the zone when you're doing, it could be as simple as having a coffee conversation with your best friend when you're really connected with who the core of you is, it doesn't matter what hat I'm putting on.


I am better in any of my roles one night coming from that strong core place, and I never spent any time separating those two out. So part of part of really my work on myself was just start listing all of the roles that I have, whether it's as a friend, whether it was as a mentor, a teacher or executive director, all of these things, and then really thinking about when I was, when I was at my best in any of those roles, what are the things that came out for me when I was the best teacher?


I was creative, and I couldn't have created a nonprofit organization from nothing if I wasn't creative. But also if I wasn't caring, I wasn't compassionate. And there was all of these these words that really identified yet, like, when I would read those, I'm like, yeah, that's who I am. I'm caring. I'm compassionate. I'm creative on all of these things. And if any of those roles go away, that doesn't take away who I am. I can have a bad day. I can have a bad day as a daughter.


I'll be honest, but it doesn't mean I'm not a caring, compassionate person. I can still go back and fix it. There's a piece of me that belongs to just me, and that is untouchable by others, but also my responsibility to care for and guide that if I've ever feeling what think of as the opposite end of that spectrum is what I'm feeling angry when I'm feeling rage, what I'm feeling the opposite end of all these posite emotions that I'm like, oh, you have to. You got to figure out how to get back to you.


How do you get back to you? So that's a lot of the other work that I do is constantly reminding myself that if I'm having a bad day or something's not going the way I want to, that's normal that happens, and that it's not a reflection necessarily of my integrity, my sense of self. But it is a result of a role that I'm playing. And if I can separate the two know know how they're different, then I can bring back those pieces of myself that caring, compassionate, kind, loving, joyful person into whatever role I'm playing.


So they kind of blend together. But if I make them just one solid Ness, then when one goes away, it all goes away. So keeping those two separate. But knowing how to integrate them has been the work that I've been doing since finding myself at that rock bottom place.


Wow. That's so huge. There's so many things that come up for me as someone who studied so much of this. And I think what Wayne Dyer used to say that we're human beings, not human doing. And I've studied a lot of Debbie Ford work and integrative coaching and shadow work. And there's so much of this in here. So there's one thing that I learned again, I've read so many different people listen, so I don't know. And if you're listening, you're the person. Let me know. I can't remember who helped me get this idea, but was the idea of self esteem being who you or how you feel about literally yourself without the beingness without any reference to performance in any way.


And then this idea of there being performance steam. So, for example, I'm pretty good at beach volleyball. So I have high performance Steem there. And if someone were to say, Wait, I got high self esteem. If we're talking about Beach Bobble, you talk about brain surgery. Wait, as low, very low performance esteem there. That doesn't mean my self esteem has changed. I mean, God help me, I should have low performance team. I don't know how to do brain surgery. And so being able to understand that.


Okay. So that's not me. Like you said, that's not me. That's a dimension of me. That's an aspect. I mean, that's way the viable player Wade the brain Surgen. And so that that's actually healthy. There's sort of that good sense of the distinction. And I can work on my performance esteem and be excited about it. But then, of course, the danger becomes just like celebrating the successes of the students or the kids we have celebrated. Well, I did that. It's me, me, me, me, me. And then again, now slipping right back into that thing.


We're okay because I perform well, that makes me good, as opposed to wait, I was good and okay and acceptable in the first place. And by the way, either way, somebody will always think you stink. Wherever you are on the spectrum, they always be somebody to tell you that you're horrible. And it'll be somebody to tell you that you're great or awesome. And I'm really simple. The people who think I'm awesome, they are such more enlightened human beings. I spend more time around them. The other ones are kind of stupid or, at the very least, they're the wrong channel.


Jokes aside, I'm not the flavor for them, right?


Absolutely. For me when I was at that low .1 of the things that helped me out. A friend of mine is a Brene Brown coach, and she had me read some Brene Brown book. First time you watch some videos because I was like, I don't want to read. I was in such a negative space in my capacity for taking in information could last the length of a Ted talk. And then I watched your Ted talk on Vulnerability, and I was like, okay, I started reading her book.


I'm like, oh, there was a line and something where she's talking about self worth. Of the difference of when we tell ourselves I'm a failure versus I may have failed at something. And I was stuck in identifying as a failure versus something didn't work. An organization that I love, that I poured my flood it tears into is no longer around. And if I tied my worth to that, if that was no longer around where I was getting stuck with it, well, I didn't know if I should be around anymore, which is a really dark, awful place, you know, to be.


And when I read that line, I was like, oh, that's that's what's happening. That's what's happening for me. I'm not my self worth has been tied to this job. So I am feeling like a failure. And and it's not like absolve ourselves from responsibility. And there is definitely taking personal responsibility for things that went well and things that didn't work well. Like you said, if I'm going to take credit for any of the success, I got to take credit for the failures, too, but that it doesn't mean that I'm not still a good person, a caring person, joyful person.


And at the moment, I wasn't a joyful person. So I had to find my way back to that. But really digging into that concept was how I got myself out of that dark, dark place.


Okay, so now at this point, some of the people listen this pockets, and we usually we're talking about work less, make more help people. Where is the pivot and what I've known from the get go? I didn't kind of wanted to let this kind of play out in good ways. I know from my experience that again, when I get over identified with performance, then it ends up becoming, for me, a burnout thing, because there's at least in my experience, there's very few things as addictive as praise.


And you did a good job. Okay, well, now I don't want to let anybody down, and I'm going to keep doing that and just literally, until it stops. And that eventually can become a burnout thing. A lot of people might say, Wait, hold on. So, Jen, you started this nonprofit, and then it didn't work out. And you love the way you said it stopped. It didn't fail. It stopped going. So it didn't mean it failed anymore than sometimes people die. It doesn't mean they failed. They at some point they die.


A lot of people might be thinking, but hold on if you're not doing your purpose, or if that's only one thing which I think we're told that, and I don't particularly subscribe to that view of the world. Are we going backwards here? And yet what you and I talked about this idea of if you can separate your self worth from your work, then you can actually create more of an impact and in your community, your family, your work. What does that look like? Because to a certain degree, it almost as counter intuitable if you're not as heart into this, well, wait, we try to be cold now or how is it when you can separate the two and be a little more, perhaps objective, perhaps more calculated?


How does that help you be more impactful?


That's a great question and a great point, because I think that a lot of people hear that and they're like, oh, wait. So I shouldn't be passionate about my work, and I'm like, no, no, no. What I'm saying is, don't let if we've got two different lists here of the roles you take on the attributes that make you you your sense of self, that the goal is to find ways to bring that sense of self into your roles. It's not that your roles overtake your sense of self, their one and done it's that if I'm stronger, if I'm really in touch with my purpose being to live as SaaS my attributes as myself, my purpose isn't necessarily roll driven.


My purpose is living this life as a joyful person, as a, you know, creative person. So spending my purpose has been shifted. I used to define it with by my role. But if my purpose now is to go through this world as a creative person on a mission to spread joy and kindness everywhere I go, then that is the energy I bring into my role so that I am a stronger teacher now because my purpose is these other things, like how to be the best possible teacher I can be.


I really have to be in touch with the things that make me me. And that's why I've always been successful in the past. I just didn't recognize what it was that was happening. But now that I know, I'm like, oh, shift your definition of purpose from the job that you're doing to the how you're doing whatever job it is. So I feel that you will show up stronger for your work. You will stronger in your community, for your family. When you are in touch with who you are and what makes you so unique and so special, there is literally no one else on the planet like you.


You are you no matter what you do. So the core piece of you when that is stronger, that's the person that I would bring into whatever role. And I think that what you talked about burnout, obviously, that's where I totally ended up because I blurred those lines. I think it's a different piece of the equation is that if I'm spending too much time with all of everything is kind of wrapped up to this. I don't have clear boundaries and not feeding that sense of self. That's where that burnout to me can happen.


And one of the things I think of as became a father, and as I've made mistakes as a father and just all different things of life. It specifically that role. I've learned that there are certain things that are my mission that have absolutely nothing to do with monetization or making money changing diapers to in the morning. That is part of my purpose. I'm not a diaper change per se, and it doesn't limit my role to that or Puke picker upper, but it's part of that. And when I'm in touch with that, becoming a better father, because I wasn't always.


I think I'm getting better. So I'll give myself that credit. You learn certain things. But that's a process too. And I think this whole thing that people seem to think is that there are these isolated roles that have no connection. And while we want to kind of be able to tap into certain ones, there is still know who we are is so connected. And so to me, when somebody is putting too much of their value of theirself into the worth, I mean, even just to bring it down to now mechanics.


And I even think of Asana athlete. If you're an athlete, you're thinking about your shooting percentage, this is a basketball player. You're too much in your head. You should be enjoying the game and just putting your full into the game. If you're worried too much about the numbers, we see this in large businesses where things become more impersonal and people forget the connection part. And so to me, somewhere in there, there's something that speaks to keeping that spark alive, that peace that is human that still cannot be replaced by robots as much as it's in trying to be done.


And that's the part. And you said it a different way, but that's who you bring to work that day and whatever you do if you bring the work, somebody that's burned out, tired, upset down on themselves. I don't think it's too big of a stretch to think that that is not a great performance indicator. And if that person is happy and comfortable with who they are or at least comfortable with their humanist, I think that's a big piece that people miss. And so so much this even in what I do.


Okay, work four days a week, most of the time. And then sometimes there'll be something on a Friday that friends or entrepreneur friends are doing there's, like 30 of us going together on a Friday, and it's like, okay, so if my entire self worth is being a four day work entrepreneur, no, I can't go. So let me tell you about me. And it's so late. And with self important, you see, I'm a four day work entrepreneur, and I don't have time to do these things. You all go along, run along on your Friday, as opposed to, oh, you know, that's important enough for me.


And I don't have to define myself completely by that or whatever it might be. But it's difficult. I think of the movie, The Devil's Advocate. Have you ever seen that movie with and I don't want to spoil it to anybody watches movie. But long story short, Canaries character goes through this whole journey, and at the end, he thinks he's figured it out. And in a moment, it's like, gotcha you're right back in the game all over again with just a simple smile from my mother character.


And I won't say he again. But it's like, just when you think, like, oh, see, I've got this. And I'm all like, evolve now and again. I can. I think of your journey, like, even from a humble place, I figured this out now. I just think, like, I believe there's a guy in God smile, like, okay, well, okay. I got a little bit more going on here than maybe that.


And I feel like the fact that I was so happy in these different rules was like, universal God, whatever it is that you want to call it going, you're doing the thing if you could just realize the why you are being successful at that. And they're like, oh, you're not paying enough attention to that. I don't believe in any meanness or Mal intent on any kind of universal purpose. But I do believe that when I'm not paying attention, I get signed and the signs will get stronger and stronger and stronger until they literally knock me physically down, like they did in dancing.


And like, pneumonia did to me with my nonprofit career, that I had plenty of signs to slow down. Plenty. But I chose to ignore them. And part of that personal responsibility accepting my role in all of this. It's not like, oh, I just randomly caught pneumonia. I mean, yes. And again and again and again to the point where, like, I literally am sleeping for 16 hours, I have zero energy. It took the wind completely out of me. And if I could pay attention sooner and gone, oh, and maybe me some course corrections.


Could things have ended up differently? Maybe could have been. But that's part of where I am now, also of listening to. I feel like we get messages. And the message, isn't that like, oh, I saw, you know, I saw the same number pop up or SaaS had a cock band on my balcony. It's not The Hawk, is that? That's like, hey, there's something you need to pay attention to, like, there's signs if I'm getting sick, if I'm getting stressed and getting burned out like, these are signs from your body, like you're heading in the wrong direction, pay attention.


Yeah. And that's the thing. I think sometimes also, people look for it to be this dramatic thing, like, there's this bird that's going to fly down and it's going to have some sort of like, I don't know, a branch and the branches are going to drop, it's going to be broken. It's going to spell out a word or something. That's not been my experience. I do believe things happen for a reason. I definitely think when I'm paying attention, things work out much better in my experience, without getting too Ben physical, it's usually better than I had planned it to be.


And I think this is the thing, too. It's fine. I don't think this the idea. I didn't even think this idea would come up and what we're talking about, but I think about even something as simple as basic motivation. One one the more not so cool side that comes from the corporate world. Jen, we're going to give you love and attention if you do what we want and a story, we're going to mask it as stars and pins and points and plaques and all these and promotions and all these different things which have a real world purpose.


Maybe not the pin points and plaques, but the vacation, whatever it might be. But at the end of the day, just like a Pavlovian dog, if you don't do what we want, we're either going to at the very least, withhold something for you, or we might zap you. And I think a lot of people forget that a lot of the business world still works that way. So when people tell me I want to find my purpose in the business world, okay. It's like saying, I want to find entertainment at loud entertainment and movies at a library.


Well, libraries for books, if you want to allow to go to a movie theater. And I'm not sure that there's one particular place you go to find inspiration or meaning. But at the end of the day, for a lot of people, work is very utilitarian. It's very A plus B equals C. You do these things, you get this money, it's a trade. And I know plenty of people who trade their hours for dollars. They do their work and outside their work, they do their life purpose, and they're happy as anything.


And I know people who do some of it in their work most. I don't know anybody that does their work all the time, even whether it's the artist, if you watch any show on any famous artist singer, is that you'll notice you have to do that thing. Was that practicing? Oh, yeah, that's right. They do that practicing thing. They're not always just in front of an arena of thousands of adoring fans screaming, Then you are so awesome. They're working. And I think that's the part that perhaps people get caught up in this feeling.


Like you mentioned some of the feelings. How would you say you separate the more healthy feelings are? How do you overtime. You mentioned feeling like, okay, wait, yes. Some of this is purpose. I'm aligned. And the closest way I know to tell this to somebody. If you leave, let's say Florida and you're at the bottom of Florida and you decide you're driving. I say, I'm driving to New York, and I just, in fact, I don't even say I'm driving NewYork. I see, Jen, I'm going I 95.


That's one of the interstates. I'm going I 95 north. You say awesome. And we're going along and we're all happy, and we're cool. And I'm figuring we're going in the same direction, and you don't know where I'm going. We just know we're on 95 north, and all of a sudden I say, okay, it's time to turn left. And you're like, what said, yeah, we're going to go across it. I'm going to California, like, no way to. I'm going to New York. What? I thought we were on the same page, and sometimes we get attached like, no, but I thought it was this.


I felt this way. This is relationships. This is so many different things. It attachment to it. How have you been able to find that healthy balance of engaging and, yes, going out at and yet still being able to kind of check in, say, okay, because in my experience, when the money doesn't come and you get smacked in the face, that's easy. Oh, Stuff's not working. But sometimes the money is coming in. The praise is coming in. People are telling you, you're doing awesome stuff, and they're telling you with good intentions.


They see you from the outside and say, oh, you look happy. Look like you do. You should. How do you now that you've done this a couple of times on this dance, so to speak, a couple of times. How do you now get a better sense of okay, this is when I'm healthy with this. And this is where I'm now I'm starting to to attach this. Here I am starting to blur now that self worth. And that how I do my work. How do you keep an eye on that?


That's a really great point, because one of the things that I feel like I made the mistake of when I was in the nonprofit was that even when I started paying attention and like, I noticed them, like I said, I noticed them, and I chose to ignore them. I realized that that was a choice, that I kept it all to myself.




Didn'T want to let anybody in on any of my any kind of negative feeling that I had, because, again, I'm so proud of the work that we were doing. And I was constantly getting feedback from the participants in our program that I was like, oh, one. It felt like, so maybe I don't know what the word is disingenuous to share. Like, how could my poor little thing that I'm dealing with pales in comparison to the fact that I'm dealing with somebody who literally steps are an improvised explosive device, a lost a limb, like, Europe set that something's not working out with a grant.


Like one my negative self talk real loud. Like, how dare you get upset about this when you're dealing with this? So part of that is knowing that it makes zero sense to compare pain, pain and pain. So that's one of the lessons. But the other is like because of that, because I was not in that space yet. I felt really shamed, my own self, that I could even feel anything negative, that I could feel sad or depressed or stressed out or anything that I then kept it very deeper and deeper and deeper.


And I didn't share with anybody, anything negative that was happening to me or anything that I was feeling. So I went through it alone. And I know now, especially like, that was a choice that I made, looking back, maybe not my healthiest choice if I had let other people in. If I had told my closest friends, hey, I'm really struggling earlier on that there's no reason that I have to do this alone. I chose that, and it has consequences. And by the time I started letting some of my closest friends in, they were allowed and clear of like, you have to stop, like, you're literally killing yourself for this.


If you don't stop, you can't run this organization. You can't run this if you're sick. If you're all of these things, like, stop or slow down, and I let them in too late. But they were also a little bit of that safety net that I knew that when I did let go, they were the ones who are going to catch me. It's that trustful kind of situation that the people that I did choose to let in that let them know that this is something I'm thinking about.


This is something I'm struggling with, and I'm going to have to resign, and I feel horrible that I it's going to be okay. I will be here to catch you. So going forward, I've asked those closest to me to be like, hey, we all know this is my patterns, and I hope now that I am better because it's with us now, you know better. You'll do better, maybe. But I also SaaS an artist tend to get really caught up in the creative process. So it is kind of my natural tendency to get really excited about something and go all in that.


I've asked my friends, you have blank authority to send me a text, call me out on it. Be like, I think you're doing the thing again. Okay, good thank you because they discovered how bad it got for me that my friends love me, my family love me. They don't want to see me go there again. And then I think there's a lot, especially in the entrepreneurial spirit of liking. You got it. You're going it alone. This is your mission. And it's all you all person and driven that, you know, like, John Maxwell is like, you're not meant to do this alone.


You got to have a team of people. And for me, part of that team of people was also having a therapist, having someone to talk to, having not having to go through it alone. So that's definitely the part of my friends and family can keep me in check. They're allowed to do it.


That's awesome. Yeah. I think one of the things that definitely caught up in is this whole entrepreneur hero journey. And I think there's a fine line between hero, between delusional hero and between even martyr. And if you look at I've been blessed to live in different parts of the world, in different parts of the world, at least in my experience, have a certain flavor to their mindset. So if you go that concept, if some people are in survival mode and theoretically or by definition, for the most part of third world country has a lot of people in survival mode, then there's that success mode where there's some sort of sense of I'm making things happen.


And then there's that significance thing. And the survival feels very much like dependent. It does not feel good. It feels like there's always something. They're doing this to me. They're doing that to me. So out of control. I don't want to be in that place. I feel out of control. So I want to be in the success. That independence. I did this. I do this. And if you want to call it Western civilization, because it's not just. I mean, we get used to hearing it. I live in America.


You do. We get used to here, say, Americans, but it's just this idea of independence which all people go through. It's a teenager that says, I got this. I can do all this, and it turns into the young adult. It's like, yes, I'm proud. Look at me. I'm grown up. I can do all this. I'm not trying to do this out of ego. I'm not trying to thumb my nose in any faces. I'm beyond the the rebel stage. I really just want to do this. And if I only see those two choices, then when things get tight, so, well, I'm not going back to survival.


I've been there. I'm not going back to dependence. And then there's that other stage of interdependence of we that we got this. We can do this. And and, of course, it requires a little bit of that. Okay. I guess I'm not. Everything certainly requires humility. It requires a little bit of okay. Yes. I got here because other people have helped me. But certainly as a small business owner, so often we try to figure out everything. And as you know, I mean, especially today, just about every one of us.


If you're a solopreneur or anything like it, there's this really fearful sense of okay. Are we back in the 80s and 90s again where we have to pretend that everything is freaking perfect and anything you do wrong, like, okay, wait, is my hair. I mean, I can obsessed all thing. There's this little thing out of here. All of this. Does all this have to be that measured and that obsessive? And then it becomes hard to think. If I let my guard down, then I won't get the business.


I lose the money and I'm a provider and all these different things. And then add to that my gosh. I can only imagine, as you started saying, I started unpacking. Wow, that sense of guilt, me and my first world problem. While these people that you're serving, the wounded warriors have these issues, at least visually, are bigger or more daunting or more permanent or whatever word we want to put. And yet that doesn't mean that your emotions are irrelevant or who you are as irrelevant. And then again, just going back to mechanics.


If you can't perform, it doesn't help anybody. Martyrs don't help the cause. For the most part, martyrs die. And then we don't get to continue the work unless it literally requires you to be a martyr. And that's a really Outland situation for most normal businesses. Now just do the thing, be healthy. So one of the things that I really have loved that you've brought to this conversation, I'd ask you to maybe just comment on this to kind of put it together is for the people out there that are listening to this.


And if you're still listening is at this point, my guess is something that has struck a cord. You more than just the topics. Again, we've got a little off of the make money and mess time. Don't you do best. And yet this is all indirectly. This is the protective. This is okay. If you don't do this, how do you proactively? Well, two things. How do you identify if maybe you're having a challenge with us? And what are some of the positive things you can do to start building that healthy separation of?


Yes, I'm solid. I'm an individual and I have this business, this work that I do, and I want to do it well, but then I can still value myself without having to lose that sense of self.


That's really important work that's really important. I think that we do. I think that it starts with me. If you are that that identified with your work, peace out like an onion Peel back the layers. Why is that? Is it like, for me as a dance teacher, I was like, I love teaching. Will take it a step further. What is it about the teaching that you love? I love connecting with other people. Okay. What it is about the connecting that you love about other people keep digging further.


And it's like I just enjoyed, like, I'm sharing joy. That's the gut feeling of what I experienced when I teach is joy, because I get to see someone along this journey. I love that part about teaching, and I'm like, okay, so joy is what I have to get in touch with. Joy is the thing that brings me excitement about this role of teaching. Now, second level, where else do I feel that feeling of joy? How else do I experience joy in this world? Because if that role, if I find myself depleted, enjoy, as a teacher, I'm going to have to fill up that tank somewhere.


And if I'm not getting it out of teaching because I'm burned out of something that I'm doing, I have to find another resource to fill that tank back up. And how do I fill that tank back? Where else in my life do I experience the feeling of joy? For me? It's been where I say it's constant work that I have to constantly remember all the places that I can find, the things that make me me. It could be as simple as I have a dog who is just a silly, goofy dog.


And she plays with a rock like, it's the best thing on the planet. She gets so excited, and she is like, there's so much joy in her face, like, you know how like, you can sometimes see dog smile when she sees I'm hesitant to you and say the word because she'll probably start working. But when she sees a rock, she gets so excited and I laugh. And there's so much joy in me watching her. And for me realizing that watching somebody else something else experience joy gives me joy.


That's what happens when I teach somebody experiencing joy when they're learning something new, and I get joy from seeing their joy. So I know that as simple as it might sound, I don't need to invest in anything. I don't need money to fill that tank back up. I don't need to purchase anything. I need to experience those things. So for me, it can be as simple as again taking my dog out to watch her player, watching her run crazy on the beach or connecting with a friend over coffee, laughing.


I do improv, and the before times did a lot more improved them, obviously doing now, but like finding other ways to experience that feeling so that if in my work, I'm feeling more disconnected from it, I'm feeling burnt out and feeling all of these things. If I'm feeling burnt out, I have to find another source to ignite. Right? If the flame starting to go out, how do I stand that flame back into that warm, glowing feeling again? And there has to be other ways. So part of my constant continue self work is writing down moments every single day, like in my gratitude Journal of the things that brought me joy.


I have a neighbor that gets so excited every time he sees my dog, and the smile on his face gives me joy, and I'm like, There it is. So there's different. There are other ways to find it, to rekindle it so that I can then again remind myself who I am and bring that back into my role again.


Wow, that's awesome. And so I just think of gosh some of the reasons we do work or do anything sports. Sometimes there's that fine line between enjoying the game and or the applause or whatnot I think usually the true thing is when you're enjoying the game or the dancing or whatever it is. And I would suggest you all for those of you who are still hanging out like Wade, Where's my work less make more thing. Here's the thing or enjoy life if you can find the joy in multiple places.


And I've definitely found this, but I've never been able to put it the way you just put it there. If I can get that need met in different places, I don't have to only go to one place. And I think that's the thing. Once I forget where I got this idea of addiction being when you're trying to use something to fill a need that I can't fill. So, for example, if I'm emotionally hurt, drinking a beer might be a short term cover up, but it's not a physical substance isn't going to cure an emotional issue.


I might temporary distract me, but it's not going to do it. And I think so often we get caught up in all these different things that were supposed to do for us. And if we can segment it, how nice people would say, okay, you know what? Here's my diminishing return this part here. I make really good money. This part I don't even want to do. I'm going to take that part out, and I can either work less or I can build better or whatever it is, but just to be able to not look to work, to fulfill everything.


And I'll leave with this thought. For those of you who have been married in long term relationships, there's this point where if you're not careful, you start looking to one person to meet all your needs, and it's not healthy. There's supposed to be the person you laugh with and get romantic with and hang out with and watch the football game. And it's like, Whoa, you actually need your friend group and your so you need this balance. I think the same thing applies to work. You're putting too much pressure on it.


It's too unrealistic. And then asking yourself to continuously amuse yourself, entertain yourself and be like, yeah, I'm so awesome with me that you're like, yes, that's enough. That's just such a tall order. Thank you so much. I just really love what you brought to this. Where can people connect with you and find out more about the work you do really easy.


It's just my name Jen Able dot com. J-E-N-A-B-L-E-S dot com.


Awesome. Thank you so much. For those of you all, I got the privilege to do the pre interview Gen and just learn even other things about her and what she's about. There's so much depth to what you're doing. So I encourage you all listing. Take a look. Look deeper. I didn't think it was going to get this deep. I think are awesome because that's the thing. Sometimes a lot of people times people say, Wait, your podcast is productivity, right? I'm like that's part of it. I'm doing productivity because I want to enjoy life better.


And I think this is so much of that main piece because if you're enjoying life and you don't have to have the money, you don't have to have. You want the money. I'll take the money, but you don't have to have it. Then it can be a very different experience of life in this whole process. So thank you again. For those of you are listening, as always, afford to helping you help more people and make more money in less time. Doing what you do best so you can better enjoy your family, your friends, and your life.


Thanks again for listening.


Jennifer AblesProfile Photo

Jennifer Ables

Jen has worn many hats in her life, from insurance underwriter to professional dancer to the founder of a charity. This journey took her from a cubicle in Philadelphia to White House guest, and includes a flag being flown in her honor in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. She has also been a nominee for “Woman of the Year” by San Diego Magazine and “Women Who Mean Business” by the San Diego Business Journal. Throughout her rollercoaster life, Jen has learned the difference between what it means to be successful and what it means to be happy. She is best known for her talks on gratitude, resilience, and reinventing yourself in this ever-changing world.