Transitioning to Self-Care

a road that runs between two small hills

Ten years ago today I started a private practice as a nutrition therapist in Austin, TX. I remember the excitement I felt just thinking about the lives I would help shape, the confidence I would help my clients build as they made better choices about nourishing their bodies.

But before I could even focus on my real work, I had to first traverse the reality that all health care providers face: navigating the system. Applying to be a Medicare provider, signing contracts with insurance companies, obtaining malpractice insurance, and complying with the ambiguous laws and regulations that relate to protecting personal health information–that’s what consumed most of my time.

To say the process was easy would be laughable; to say the process was simple, even more hilarious.

At one point, after many unsuccessful attempts at finding an answer to a question about the provider enrollment application with one of the major insurers, and after being unable to connect with anyone by phone, I drove to the regional office and waited at the entrance for an employee to arrive at work. Little did I know, the office wasn’t open to the general public, and although she was a bit surprised by my presence, one kind employee did answer my question.

And then there was the time I had a claim denied because I had forgotten to include the “plus 4” zip code on the form, something that wasted another 30 minutes of my work day.

And another time, I remember receiving a phone call from a man who sounded very concerned about his family’s health. He explained he’d been gaining weight, and that his wife and son had too. He was ready to make a change. He didn’t want to continue down the path he was on, and he didn’t want that for his loved ones either. But after completing the hour-long process of contacting his insurance company to determine his coverage details, and after discovering that his visits would only be covered for a diagnosis of diabetes (which he did not yet have), his response was that he would have to wait to schedule an appointment until he or one of his family members had a qualifying diagnosis.

Sure, you could make the case that each of us should value our health enough to find the means to care for ourselves properly. But the reality is, we pay a lot for health care already. And unless we get really, really sick, we rarely see a return on investment. The high cost of insurance and non-covered medical expenses make paying out-of-pocket for preventive services nearly impossible for most Americans.

And being a Medicare provider meant that I was legally bound to charge all of my clients the same fee, which also meant I couldn’t offer a discounted rate to cash paying clients. For obvious reasons, this didn’t sit right with me, and I eventually found other ways to reach those who weren’t able to access my services via the conventional health care system.

But I quickly began to see that a single provider practice, especially as an allied health care professional, in a system that doesn’t recognize the value of preventive care, was anything but viable as a business model–at least, not for the kind of provider I wanted to be.

And after realizing that many of the people who needed my help the most weren’t able to access my services, I began to consider new possibilities.

At the time, there was a new buzz word swirling around: coaching. A local organization that focused on helping individuals manage diabetes had begun using this approach successfully, and I started seeing more peer-reviewed studies reference things like “motivational interviewing” and “health behavior change.”

I began reading more about Martin Seligman’s work in the field of positive psychology, and the next thing I knew I was working for WebMD as a corporate health coach at Dell, working with employees at the company’s onsite clinic and fitness center.

I’m so thankful that I listened to my inner wisdom and transitioned to a path that is more aligned with my heart. It’s my mission to remove the stigma that’s often associated with self-care, and help more people see and feel the power that comes from taking ownership of our health and well-being.

When we remain open, we provide the space for amazing things to happen.

I’m currently in the process of developing a training program that’s designed to guide clients through the process of creating a personalized self-care plan, and my heart is absolutely overflowing with joy.

Are you transitioning to a lifestyle that includes more self-care?

Would you like to?

To learn more about this upcoming program that will be launching in early May, and to stay connected to Living Upp’s news and events, sign up to receive our periodic Warm Upp.

Keep Me Posted

Self-Care Activity List: 366 Ideas

8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Having trouble coming up with fun and interesting self-care ideas?

Last year, I took on a self-care challenge. For each of the 366 days in 2016, I experimented with a new self-care activity and then blogged about it.

What would you add to the list? Be creative and come up with your own bucket list of activities that reflect your personal style, needs and priorities.

  1. Enjoy a fermented food (or learn to ferment something yourself)
  2. Set intentions for the next day, week, month or year
  3. Express gratitude
  4. Take a walk in the woods
  5. Bake whole grain bread
  6. Include strength training exercises at least 2 days each week
  7. Get a haircut
  8. Get vaccinated
  9. Give blood
  10. Buy nothing (give something instead)
  11. Use a pressure cooker
  12. Get equipped for fitness
  13. Tidy up
  14. Drink enough water
  15. Get a pedicure
  16. Travel (without stress)
  17. Enjoy a sunset
  18. Listen to the ocean
  19. Go fishing
  20. Visit a fruit stand
  21. Meet new people
  22. Enjoy the sunshine (and then apply sunscreen)
  23. Overcome a fear
  24. Give yourself a break
  25. Sleep in
  26. Get a massage
  27. Cook with garlic
  28. Journal
  29. Walk and work
  30. Pay taxes
  31. Do “The Work”
  32. Relax by a fire
  33. Peruse the bookstore
  34. Fold laundry
  35. Drink tea
  36. Write a haiku
  37. Take a road trip
  38. Play in the snow
  39. Spend time with friends
  40. Floss
  41. Join (or start) a book club
  42. Eat local
  43. Meditate
  44. Continue education
  45. Use affirmations
  46. Receive gifts
  47. Relax with aromatherapy
  48. Eat colorfully
  49. Accept what is
  50. Volunteer at the food bank
  51. Snuggle with pets
  52. Taste
  53. Shop for groceries
  54. Zentangle
  55. Learn CPR
  56. Reminisce
  57. Garden
  58. Explore new possibilities
  59. Go out for breakfast
  60. Define your “enough”
  61. Change your mind
  62. Chase good weather
  63. Love the middle seat
  64. Cool off with shave ice
  65. Explore new places
  66. Smell the roses
  67. Go to the beach
  68. See the bigger picture
  69. Be a tourist
  70. Think in traffic
  71. Get a mammogram
  72. Read scripture
  73. Make a contribution
  74. Lounge
  75. Be part of a community
  76. Cry
  77. Practice good skin care
  78. Get certified
  79. Prune what’s no longer useful
  80. Press the pause button
  81. Listen
  82. Be quiet
  83. Eat green
  84. Celebrate
  85. Meander
  86. Notice nature
  87. Make the holidays healthier
  88. Plan
  89. Go cycling
  90. Reflect
  91. Recover
  92. Try fermented dairy
  93. Walk the dog
  94. Take a nap
  95. Build a support system
  96. Write a book
  97. Calm down
  98. Be vulnerable
  99. Set boundaries
  100. Laugh
  101. Play games
  102. Dine alone
  103. Walk (in the airport or elsewhere)
  104. Plan a menu
  105. Ask for help
  106. Cook for yourself
  107. Hug a pet
  108. Give gifts of gratitude
  109. Find inspiring spaces
  110. Talk yourself into fitness
  111. Listen to an audio book
  112. Be inspired
  113. Stay in
  114. Understand your impact
  115. Set weekly goals
  116. Use an iron skillet
  117. Stay in touch with friends
  118. Do the dishes
  119. Forgive yourself
  120. Let the oven do it
  121. Go to the doctor
  122. Work in the yard
  123. Savor something
  124. Make new friends
  125. Plant some herbs
  126. Build new skills
  127. Assemble (or reassemble) a first-aid kit
  128. Make a toast to a memory
  129. Shop the farmers’ market
  130. Say thank you
  131. Give feedback
  132. Hug a tree
  133. Take a hike
  134. Read the (entire) Affordable Care Act
  135. Make broth cubes
  136. Bake a cheesecake
  137. Make a breakfast bowl
  138. Use a foam roller
  139. Change your sheets
  140. Eat 5 (to 9) servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  141. Network
  142. Entertain
  143. Sit in stillness
  144. Think positively
  145. Make chicken noodle soup
  146. Do something you don’t want to do
  147. Don’t worry (be happy)
  148. Self-direct your care
  149. Admire art
  150. Eat some cherries (or another in season fruit)
  151. Watch a game
  152. Love lentils
  153. Cultivate awareness
  154. Review your finances
  155. Fuel up for a workout
  156. Celebrate success
  157. Work to physical exhaustion
  158. Take the day off
  159. Eat a big salad
  160. Apologize
  161. Spend time with family
  162. Go sightseeing
  163. Visit a museum
  164. Marvel
  165. Color
  166. Start a bullet journal
  167. Count your blessings
  168. Bake a spaghetti squash
  169. Work in bursts
  170. Drink coffee
  171. Go to the gym
  172. Pick berries
  173. Go to the dentist
  174. Take a yoga class
  175. Track your goals
  176. Lean into discomfort
  177. Stretch
  178. Give gifts
  179. Make yourself a bouquet
  180. Take shorter showers
  181. Test your day for flow
  182. Buy new exercise clothes
  183. Get an eye exam
  184. Set boundaries
  185. Clean your yoga mat
  186. Blend a smoothie bowl
  187. Ferment pickles
  188. Volunteer at a community garden
  189. Take a home-canning class
  190. Bake zucchini bread
  191. Get (and stay) connected
  192. Learn self-defense
  193. Attend a virtual retreat
  194. Envision
  195. Care for your feet
  196. Breathe deeply
  197. Make chicken salad
  198. Go camping
  199. Listen to music
  200. Use a sugar scrub
  201. Window shop
  202. Buy yourself a gift
  203. Make a Thai salad
  204. Organize your recipes
  205. Bake blueberry muffins
  206. Make a (healthy) Waldorf salad
  207. Study
  208. Try a new recipe
  209. Organize your mind
  210. Eat lunch at the park
  211. Do some gratitude journaling
  212. Be proactive
  213. Try again
  214. Brew beer
  215. Rest
  216. Learn from others
  217. Research
  218. Get a scalp massage
  219. Stop
  220. Stargaze
  221. Go floating
  222. Take a moment
  223. Get a manicure
  224. Weigh the pros and cons
  225. Share your story
  226. Travel back in time
  227. Snack
  228. Walk with a friend
  229. Savor salmon
  230. Admire apples
  231. Enjoy a mocktail
  232. Go meatless
  233. Ask for a Box
  234. Indulge in an Acai Bowl
  235. Understand the Science of Happiness
  236. Rediscover Old Recipes
  237. Experiment with Eggplant
  238. Eat (or at least try) Sushi
  239. Carry an EpiPen (if you have been advised to)
  240. Work Outside
  241. Crack Fresh Eggs
  242. Eat Tomatoes (off the vine)
  243. Say No
  244. Buy a New Pillow
  245. Talk About Ideas
  246. Monitor Your Performance
  247. Clean Your Refrigerator
  248. Treat a Minor Injury
  249. Change the Air Filter
  250. Make Moroccan Meatballs
  251. Choose My Circles Wisely
  252. Begin Again
  253. Get Acupuncture
  254. Plan a Vacation
  255. Remember
  256. Try Matcha Tea
  257. Get New Socks
  258. Commit
  259. Speak Up
  260. Prepare a Snack Board
  261. Update Your Wardrobe
  262. Sort & Purge
  263. Tour a Food Forest
  264. Be True To Yourself
  265. Donate to Charity
  266. Coordinate a Walking Meeting
  267. Ask Questions
  268. Get Your Hands Dirty
  269. Pack a Mobile Emergency Kit
  270. Plant a Tribute
  271. Enjoy a Sweet Treat
  272. Connect Dots
  273. Sip Bubbles
  274. Eat Fresh Figs
  275. Celebrate
  276. Melt
  277. Moisturize
  278. Catch Up
  279. Evaluate Your Social Media Activity
  280. Be Negative
  281. Understand Your Personality
  282. Hire a Coach
  283. Read a Book
  284. Spend Quality Time
  285. Create a Manifestation Space
  286. Reconnect with a Friend
  287. Stay Open
  288. Prepare for Emergencies
  289. Set a Deadline
  290. Do Something for Love
  291. Make Space
  292. Cook with rosemary (or other culinary herbs)
  293. Arrive (rather than impose)
  294. Buy coffee for a stranger
  295. Make a vegan dish
  296. Learn more about your body
  297. Just be
  298. Establish a morning ritual
  299. Give a random gift
  300. Try reflexology
  301. Try new exercises
  302. Vote
  303. Experiment with a sourdough starter (or other cultured food)
  304. Organize your personal space
  305. Collaborate
  306. Write down your soul
  307. Learn bonsai
  308. Create an afternoon of self-care
  309. Island (s)hop with a friend
  310. Crochet (or create something)
  311. Rake leaves
  312. Live vicariously
  313. Sit with ambivalence
  314. Gain an understanding of politics
  315. Evaluate what’s essential
  316. Clear your calendar
  317. Ask for what you need
  318. Practice something that’s difficult for you
  319. Maintain financial harmony
  320. Have a kind disagreement
  321. Support a friend
  322. Brainstorm
  323. Learn something new
  324. Rearrange furniture
  325. Decorate
  326. See your favorite band live
  327. Try reiki
  328. Bake a pie
  329. Prepare a special meal
  330. Watch a funny movie
  331. Look up
  332. Do chores early
  333. Make a list
  334. Email yourself ideas
  335. Arrive early
  336. Warm up
  337. Learn to knit (or some other form of art)
  338. Notice the little things
  339. Watch it snow
  340. Drive slowly
  341. Choose theme words
  342. Stay open
  343. Move forward
  344. Have faith
  345. Don’t make plans
  346. Stay in your jammies
  347. Stay in touch with mentors
  348. Relax at the spa
  349. Learn about gun safety
  350. Get a fluoride treatment
  351. Call in a professional
  352. Go to the symphony
  353. Challenge yourself
  354. Listen to an inspiring audio book
  355. Read old journals
  356. Be a caregiver
  357. Have coffee with a friend
  358. Find a “plan B”
  359. Enjoy a holiday tradition
  360. Feel grateful
  361. Binge watch a series
  362. Have breakfast in bed
  363. Discover your core desired feelings
  364. Go Snowshoeing
  365. Whiten your teeth
  366. Reflect on your year

Ready to start your own challenge? Download a free self-care planning worksheet here.

Need some help developing your own self-care practice?

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 353): Challenging Myself

brown knitting needles

Staying in my comfort zone feels, well…comfortable.

Earlier this year I wrote about my experience with leaning into discomfort after agreeing to be interviewed on camera. As an introvert, this is definitely not something I consider to be one of my strengths by any stretch of the imagination. At first it felt really awkward, but as time went on it was fine. In fact, afterward I couldn’t remember why I made such a big deal about it.

No matter how much we may try to resist leaving our zone of comfort, we almost always get pushed into other zones. And I’ve learned that change is much easier when I’m the one doing the pushing.

Throughout my self-care journey this year, a large number of my activities have involved taking a class, reading books, or learning something new. Love of learning is definitely one of my VIA signature strengths.

It seems I’m always finding new interests or hobbies. For example, a friend of mine once invited me to a bead show, all with the sole intention of having me pick out some beads that she would eventually make into a necklace for me.


Instead, I loaded up on supplies and set out to learn how to make my own jewelry. I couldn’t help myself. I loved the idea of a challenge.

So yesterday, it’s probably not surprising that while casually perusing a yarn shop, I noticed a beautiful scarf that nearly paralyzed me in the middle of the aisle. It was clearly not a beginner’s project, but that somehow didn’t register in my brain.

Instead of thinking, “I could never make that!” I heard “how can I make that?” echo inside my head.

How do you challenge yourself?


Self-Care Challenge (Day 341): Choosing Theme Words

theme words

As a planning enthusiast, it’s not all that uncommon for me to begin thinking about my goals for the coming year in early December. That’s about the time I begin assessing my accomplishments for the current year (to make adjustments to compete any lingering goals), and looking forward to what’s next on the horizon.

Early planning certainly has its advantages. For one, there’s a much better selection of planning supplies in early December. Stores begin putting out their planners and calendars during the start of the holiday season, so by the time January rolls around they’re pretty picked over. Early birds have a definite advantage. Early planning also allows me to enjoy the holiday season without burying myself in goal-setting activities. And similarly, planning ahead means I can get a head start on my goals at the first of the year.

Last year, I chose “connection” as my mantra, and, looking back, it really did help me to focus my energy on making that a reality. In many cases, I pushed beyond my comfort zone as an introvert, attending networking meetings (even when I didn’t really want to), connecting one-on-one with people who shared common interests, and sharing personal aspects of my life on my blog. There were many times that I had to remind myself that “connection” was important to me, and that had a dramatic impact on how I spend my time.

What did all of that bring me? More connection.

I have formed more connections this year than any other that I can recall in my adult life. I feel incredibly supported, encouraged, and inspired, and I’m ready to dust off some of the ideas and goals that I’ve shelved over the years.

As I think about 2017, and what I hope to create over the next 12 months, I keep going back to my reiki experience, where the words wonderful, beautiful, open and warm spontaneously appeared in my mind. They clearly have some kind of significance for me, and I’m feeling drawn to exploring them a bit more this year.


Beauty and Openness shall be my theme words for 2017, and I can’t wait to see how those words manifest over time.

What do you want to experience in 2017? What are your theme words?


Self-Care Challenge (Day 323): Learning Something New

If I were a cat, I doubt I’d have made it past my teenage years. All of my lives would be used up on my wild sense of curiosity. I love learning, and I’m constantly asking “why” questions because there always seems to be another layer to the proverbial onion.

Six of my daily challenge blog posts this year have related somehow to the topic of learning–and a whopping 46 of them (~14%) make a reference to learning in some way.

Thanks to technology, we really have to go out of our way NOT to learn new things. Popular websites are constantly evolving, forcing users to adopt new features; new platforms are emerging, offering new ways to communicate; and some technologies simply go away as newer ones come into being.

I’m not a tech prodigy by any means, but I can learn just about anything if I devote enough time to it. Yesterday, at the suggestion of a friend, my self-care activity was to use Adobe Spark to create my first-ever video for Living Upp.

To my amazement, it was super fun and easy!

Making an introductory video is something I’ve been contemplating doing for a while, but simply haven’t made the time. Honestly, it had been on my to-do list for so many weeks that I was starting to feel annoyed every time I saw it. The idea of being on camera has never appealed to me; I’m much more comfortable talking or writing.

In fact, several months ago I was invited to do an interview on my book, Uppward: A Self-Care System for Purposeful Living, and being on camera to create that video moved me completely out of my comfort zone. I had to really push myself to do it, but I’m so glad I did.

Yesterday’s video project was much easier because I didn’t have to be on camera. Baby steps. (Who knows what I’ll try next!)

I’m constantly amazed by the expansive complexities that exist in the world. Just when I think I’m beginning to master something, the door cracks open a little wider and I realize that I didn’t really know much at all.

Even so, learning is part of who I am. It brings me into a state of flow, and it makes me feel alive.

What makes you feel alive?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 322): Brainstorming

a road that runs between two small hills

Creative brainstorming is a core component of coaching, and, as a coach myself, much of what I do includes helping my clients consider new possibilities for solving problems.

Those who are on the outside of problems and challenges often see them with more objectivity. There’s less emotion, less fear, less uncertainty, and that means there’s more room for creativity.

My self-care practice yesterday involved visiting a mastermind group of local coaches who share a common interest in helping people reach their personal goals. While this may sound odd to professions that view peers as competitors, coaches typically cover a vast array of specialty areas. Our techniques may be similar, but our clients are usually quite different.

These ladies are absolutely my kind of people–they are futuristic, passionate, positive, solution-oriented coaches who understand the value of goals-setting and taking action to make those goal a reality. They also understand that manifesting our dreams is a process, not a one-and-done task.

There wasn’t a lot of structure to the group itself, which I actually kind of like. It left a lot of room for creativity and flow. We each had a turn to introduce a topic for discussion, something that we needed input on or was causing us to lose momentum.

Brainstorming is a great way to explore new paths that we may not have known existed.

That’s what I love about mastermind groups like this one. They are inspiring and energizing, and it’s nearly impossible to leave not feeling motivated to try something new. Experiments are part of the learning process, after all.

Where do you do your best brainstorming? Alone in a quiet place? Taking a walk? Asking others to provide input?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 316): Clearing My Calendar

While many of us thrive on having things planned in advance (you know who you are), sometimes life isn’t as predictable as we’d like to believe it is, and we don’t always know when we’ll “need a moment” to collect our thoughts, catch our breath, or assess our priorities.

Yesterday, after learning that one of my in-person appointments needed to reschedule, I decided to clear my calendar for the rest of the day. These unexpected openings often come when we need them the most, and I wanted to take advantage of the extra time I’d been given.

Having those few hours to finish up some things I hadn’t been able to make time for in recent weeks felt like a gift. It was the same when I worked in a corporate setting too. A meeting cancellation felt like winning the lottery, especially on those crazy days when there was barely enough time to use the restroom.

Whether you work for yourself, manage a small team, or lead a giant corporation, there will always be nonessential meetings and tasks that you can easily move (or cancel) if and when it becomes necessary.

When we’re honest with ourselves about what we need, and make adjustments to our schedule to get what we need, we’re practicing self-care.

Admittedly, planning ahead for catch-up time is essential–but that requires us to know ahead of time when we’ll need it.

Where can you clear some time on your calendar?


Self-Care Challenge (Day 313): Sitting with Ambivalence

Lime green adirondack chairs

Have you ever come face to face with an enormous decision, but felt paralyzed and unable to choose between them?

Maybe you’re not ready to make a decision just yet because you’re still weighing the pros and cons. Or perhaps you know the answer, but you’re just too fearful to execute on your decision.

Whatever the root cause of the ambivalence, most of us have experienced it. And that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling since meeting with my new coach yesterday. (This is just one more example of why coaching is so beneficial.)

Having someone to serve as our impartial sounding board is critical to our personal growth. Coaches can repeat things they’ve heard us say–things we didn’t even realize we were thinking or feeling, much less saying out loud–helping us to think critically about what we really want.

Sometimes we come face to face with a decision we’ve always known we’d need to make at some point, and sometimes we’re completely caught off guard, not seeing until that very moment that an obvious decision has been trying to get our attention all along.

Sitting on the fence, in a state of ambivalence, can be useful–as long as we don’t stay there forever anyway.

For now, I shall sit and ponder, weighing the pros and cons until I arrive at a decision that is right for me.

What are you sitting on the fence about?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 304): Organizing My Books

Stacks of books on the floor

Books are my guilty pleasure.

(I take that back–I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about my collection of books after all.)

Love of learning is among my top 5 VIA (Values in Action) Signature Strengths, and books certainly fill that need for me. Couple that with my introverted personality type, and it’s easy to see why I’ve accumulated so many of them over the years. I thrive in a contemplative state. That’s where my greatest ideas come from.

For those two reasons alone, it’s easy to see how books have been taking up more and more space in my life over the years. I’ve tried thinning them down, but since I mostly read non-fiction I tend re-read a lot of them, gaining new insights from my recent life experiences that I didn’t pick up on during the first reading.

I’ve had to repurchase a handful of books after donating them, thinking that I gotten what I needed from them already and was ready to pass them along to another reader.

And while I have, and still do, use my Kindle to read some things, I like to underline, highlight, and write in my books, processing the words as I go, and integrating them into practical nuggets of wisdom for my own life.

Yesterday, I had to accept the fact that it was time to add another bookshelf to my office. My books were becoming far too crowded, and I was having to resort to stacking and double shelving them. (Perhaps the fact that my first job was in a library made this practice unacceptable to me.)

Suffice it to say that I feel much better about their living conditions now. They are sorted and organized by topic, and have plenty of room to breathe. Now I can find what I need when I need it much more easily.

Self-Care Challenge (Day 285): Creating a Manifestation Space

Organized desk

I noticed recently that my office was a disaster. I’ve been working on a number of projects simultaneously, and stacks of research and journals have taken over my floor. And then it dawned on me that I’ve been avoiding the space altogether. I can’t stand the clutter, and it probably isn’t surprising that I haven’t been motivated to complete any of my projects. Disorganized spaces make it difficult for me to focus.

This weekend, I made a commitment to myself to design a “morning ritual,” a new daily habit to help me stay accountable to myself by starting each morning on a positive, productive note. I’ve always been a morning person (depending on the day, I’m up anywhere between 4 and 6 AM), so it’s the perfect place to start.

I wanted the space to feel magnetic, luring me in each morning to review my vision board, read over my goals, spend some time gratitude journaling, and outlining a plan for the day.

In preparation, yesterday’s self-care activity was to create an inspiring space that makes me happy–and is organized to help me get sh*t done!

It’s funny how something as simple as rearranging furniture or changing out a few decorations here and there can make a familiar space feel entirely different. Putting things where they go and removing things that don’t belong (things that aren’t useful anymore or no longer spark joy), makes priorities much easier to see.

Less is more.

And, as outrageous as the name may be, I’m calling it my “manifestation space” because it’s where I intend to bring some new and exciting ideas to life.

Where do you feel the most inspired to create and take action toward your goals?