Living the Life You’ve Been Given and Letting Go of the One That You Thought You Wanted

Living the Life You’ve Been Given and Letting Go of the One That You Thought You Wanted

Sometimes things shift.  Then we have a choice: do we shift as well or cling to what we thought we wanted?

Sometimes things shift.  Then we have a choice: do we shift as well or cling to what we thought we wanted? Why it matters: Our future happiness and well-being depends on that choice. It doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning everything we've worked for or making drastic changes overnight. It's a process of self-reflection, reassessment, and making conscious choices to align our lives with our true aspirations. The Payoff: By doing so, we can find greater fulfillment, growth, and a sense of living authentically.  That’s what my guest, Nicole Edwards, and I explore in this conversation. Links & Resources:

[00:02] Bobbi: Welcome to UnYielded Thriving No Matter What, where we talk about how to make your next chapter in life your best chapter. I’m your host, Bobbi Kahler, and I believe that the best is yet to come. Let’s face it. Sometimes things shift, and then we have a choice. Do we shift as well, or do we cling to what we thought we wanted? And that’s not a simple choice, and there are many factors at play. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning everything that we’ve worked for or making drastic changes overnight. It’s a process of self reflection, reassessment, and making conscious choices to align our lives with our true aspirations. And by doing so, we can find greater fulfillment, growth, and a sense of living authentically. And that’s what my guest, Nicole Edwards, and I explore in this conversation. And I do just want to apologize ahead of time. There are a few places in the conversations where we experienced a little technical blip. We’ve all experienced that on Zoom, and it caused a little bit of fuzziness. I edited out that as much as I could, but there are just a few places in there. So my apologies on that. A little bit about my guest before we bring her on. Nicole Edwards is an award winning keynote speaker, founder and CEO of Edwards Authentic, and the co author of the Amazon bestselling book, international Women of Color who Boss Up. She knows firsthand that living the life you’ve been given and letting go of the one that you thought you wanted is a bold and courageous move. Nicole, welcome to the show.

[01:47] Nicole: I’m so happy to be here, Bobbi. Thanks for having me.

[01:49] Bobbi: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to this conversation. And before we dive in, I guess why don’t you or as a way to dive in, maybe why don’t you just share a little bit about what you do and who you are.

[02:00] Nicole: Okay. I am a nonprofit leader. I have been that for more than 15 years. That’s kind of where the birth of my evolution started. And through the many years I have worked with, specifically social welfare, nonprofits, and even more specific than that, people youth development space, really. So organizations yeah. That I’ve worked with really focus on our young people. And that has been just a common theme throughout my life. Along my tenure as a nonprofit leader, I really honed in on the learning and development space. So what that means is training, personal development, et cetera. And I really love that work. My schooling is in mental health, and there’s something about personal development really understanding yourself, that unlocks a lot of things for people, some things known and some things unknown. So in my journey throughout the years as a leader in a nonprofit, there was a point where I thought, you know what? Who else needs to have this or have this information, and how can I make a greater impact? So I went out on a limb, and I started my own business of using some of the frameworks that I had been using all along to help professional women to really succeed in their endeavors and really honing in on this notion of personal development and how it’s directly linked to their success.

[03:36] Bobbi: Yeah, it’s such an important thing. So I love that. So nonprofit for 15 years. That’s a long time. Yeah, I love the leadership.

[03:48] Nicole: Yeah. There’s something about it that just lights up my heart. When we’re working with people who work with young people, sometimes it’s a thankless job, and a lot of times we don’t pay enough attention to those people who work with young people. And it’s just been my life’s role to really help that servant leader right. That person that really has a heart for giving back to others but not burning themselves out in the process.

[04:20] Bobbi: Yeah. And that can be a really fine line to walk.

[04:24] Nicole: Absolutely.

[04:25] Bobbi: Yes. And now with the professional women that you work with, is it any specific industry?

[04:32] Nicole: So my focus has been women. There’s a lot of women who have decided to make this transition from maybe a full time career in being, whether it’s a side hustle or maybe an emerging entrepreneurship journey, and also women who just find themselves stuck in a professional journey. So I tended to attract women from all different kind of walks, some in the education space, some in this youth development space. But I’m also finding that some corporate women also can benefit from the things that I have to share.

[05:07] Bobbi: It’s so universal when it comes to the personal development, personal leadership, and it’s so necessary. So I would love that. And now I know that when we were corresponding back and forth, one of the things we talked about is you said living the life you’ve been given and letting go of the life you thought you wanted is a bold and courageous move. Can you share more about that? Because I love that.

[05:29] Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. So we’re sitting here talking now about where I am today and kind of what are some high level what I do for a living. But I didn’t start out here. So a lot of times our personal stories are what kind of brings it home for other people to let others know that you’re not alone in facing all the things that we face as humans. So when I think about the planning a life that you wanted to live versus the life that you’re given, I go back to when I was a young graduate student. My background is in actually mental health. So I went through a program in graduate school for mental health counseling. I was one of those people who just loved to learn, and I couldn’t wait to get out into the real world, quote unquote, to start my career. And in fact, I did. So I graduated from graduate school and went right into the workforce. I felt like I landed my dream job on the first try. And at that time, I was working with teenage girls and girls that just needed some extra love and attention and also some tools in order for them to develop themselves so that they could really grow into the women that they were meant to be. So I think I had it all planned. At that time, I was a counseling professional. I thought, that okay, in a few years, I would progress to be higher up in the ranks, maybe in the C suite. And I just knew that I was going to be that CEO by the age of 30 because I just had so much love. And at that point, experience, I knew, or thought I knew, exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to get there. Well, at that time, I was also in a relationship, and we were very much in love, and there’s nothing quite like young love. And I was planning my career, but I was also planning my family life. I was planning to be the happily ever after with my husband and maybe a few kids. And I wanted to have it all. You know how they say you can’t have it all? Well, I wanted it all at that time and during the time where I was early on in my career, I found out I was pregnant, which we were really excited about, because this is part of the plan. This is part of what we wanted to do, only to find out, surprise, I was pregnant with twins.

[07:59] Bobbi: Oh, man.

[08:00] Nicole: Which was shock, because there’s no twins that I know about on either side of our families. And it wasn’t something that I thought about. It wasn’t something that some people say, you know what? I just want to get them done. I want twins. Yes. I never thought of that. So it was quite a surprise. And what became even more kind of eye opening was as I progressed through the pregnancy, twins, or multiples in general, are considered high risk pregnancies. So I became really sick. The type of sickness that’s all day, all night, I couldn’t eat, it was pretty bad. So that impeded my ability to do my job, and it also landed me on bedrest at 26 weeks. So into my pregnancy. Right. My plans are coming falling down kind of right away. So I ended up being on bed rest. And one thing led to another. They were delivered by C section, and I never got to return to my job. So my home run job, the one that I loved, the one that I had many plans for, was I had to pivot to doing that. Yeah. So that was the first turn of events. And then anybody who has children knows that childcare is very costly. And there came a time where I was faced with, do I work? Do I go back to work to pay for daycare, or do I stay home and take care of my two children at this point? So I made the decision as hard as it was to stay home. So the next four years, not only was I had to pivot, I was ecstatic to be a mom, but I also was one that really wanted my career also.

[09:59] Bobbi: That’s right.

[10:00] Nicole: And so I was thrust into this world of being a stay at home mom and all things two babies. And as my twins were developing, I noticed that my son was not developing the same as my daughter. So there’s key milestones when you have babies that are growing that you hit. There’s physical milestones and such, but there’s also other key markers. So not only like sitting up and walking, but babbling, talking, et cetera. So they were both hitting both of the physical milestones right on target. But when it came to language, my son was nonverbal completely, where my daughter kind of took off, and she was saying words and kind of piecing things together sentence wise, and there was just something different. So I knew I had to do something. There was just this tug and the outside world. I know family members and such. Oh, and you know, it’s okay, boys just develop slower. Which is not the case. Right. I knew something was wrong. So the long story short is that I did get them assessed. Well, I got Nick that’s the name of my son. I got him assessed. And this is the first time I had ever heard of anything to do with this. The doctor at the end of the assessment pulled me aside and said, have you ever heard of autism? And honestly, at that time, I had never heard of that term. Maybe vaguely somewhere over here, but I didn’t know what it meant. And I was like, no, tell me more about that. So he started to say about it’s a developmental delay, and it’s a spectrum of symptoms. And that here’s the things that we’ve noticed through the assessment that your son is not doing on target. Things like throwing him a ball. He didn’t know how to interact or throw it back. He didn’t even recognize his own image in a mirror, which how could I miss that, right? I don’t know how I could have missed that.

[12:01] Bobbi: Why would you look for it? You know what I mean?

[12:04] Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. That kind of started, as you can imagine, a couple of different angles of what I had planned. And so several years happened. I did eventually get a job, and then I actually got a divorce. So I ended up being a single mom with two young children with one on the spectrum, and that’s how everything started. And then now I’m here today with a lot of water under the bridge talking to you about this story.

[12:40] Bobbi: There’s so much in there, right? How did you navigate all that.

[12:45] Nicole: I think the short answer is one step at a time. It sounds so cliche, and sometimes we take that for granted. But I think when you are faced with challenges unforeseen and have no idea, you’re totally starting as a beginner. And I’m trying to educate myself and educate others while navigating the day to day life. You have to take it one step.

[13:09] Bobbi: At a time, otherwise it can become so overwhelming.

[13:13] Nicole: Yes.

[13:16] Bobbi: And then you’re stuck.

[13:18] Nicole: Yes.

[13:19] Bobbi: And then you’re really stuck. So thank you for sharing that, because I think it is you started that by saying, I didn’t start out here, or I didn’t start here. And sometimes I think we lose sight of that. Years ago, I was reading a book, I think it was Lincoln’s Virtues. And on the back of it I know that was such a dumb moment, but on the back of it, it said, abraham Lincoln was not born with his face on Mount Rushmore. And I thought, yeah, it’s how we live and it’s what we do, but we don’t start out there. And sometimes I think we can confuse our starting place with our ending place. Like somehow that determines it.

[13:58] Nicole: Absolutely. Especially when I was watching my peers, my best friends, do it the way that I thought I wanted. Right. So watching them doing it in all the steps with the children and the jobs and everything, and here I was in what was kind of just an existential crisis of what am I doing and how did I get here? And oh my goodness, what am I going to do?

[14:28] Bobbi: I like how you said there too, they were doing the things that you thought you wanted.

[14:32] Nicole: Yeah.

[14:33] Bobbi: Okay, so then from there you went to nonprofit.

[14:37] Nicole: Yes. So from there being the whole stay at home, my son gets diagnosed, I was in nonprofit, but then I went to another nonprofit organization, and so I was able to rejoin the workforce eventually. And I felt like I was way behind. I felt like it had only been like four or five years, but it honestly felt like a ten year. It felt like I was stuck at the starting of a race. I was held back for ten years. That’s what it felt like.

[15:06] Bobbi: I can imagine. So how has that turned into a gift for you?

[15:12] Nicole: When I think about it, there’s so many things I think that it has helped me to reframe certain things. And when I am not only experiencing things personally, but when I’m helping others for them to see the rarest of gifts in their own life, I think it comes down to a couple of things. I think one, it’s helped me to be more present. So this mindfulness of just being in the moment at the time and attending to whatever it is, or just experiencing joy, because you know what? My joy moments were few and far between at this time. In my life. And so I learned to just be in this moment, because that’s all I could do. A couple of moments from now, my son might have a meltdown in public, which he did many times, and at that time, I’d have to deal with it then. But it was so much like you mentioned, the overwhelmingness of it all. If I was to absorb it all at once, I don’t think I would have made it out.

[16:20] Bobbi: No.

[16:21] Nicole: Yeah. And there’s a couple of other things that I just want to share with you. So the next thing I would say is appreciating the small wins. Sometimes we don’t think of the very small things they tell you when you’re starting an exercise routine. Just put out your clothes the night before. If that’s all you did on your journey, that is progress. Maybe the next time you’ll get to actually put something on that, you put out the night before. Right. Until you build, until you get to where your goal is set. And I think that my experiences along the way with my son and both of my children, but specifically with my son, is that you can really change everything by celebrating the small wins on a daily basis.

[17:18] Bobbi: I think that’s so true. So I have a perspective on this, and I’d like yours. Do you think that most of us are good or bad at celebrating the small wins?

[17:34] Nicole: I can speak for myself. I am a big winner, meaning that I’m a big winner, but I’m goal oriented, and I tend to not celebrate until I cross that finish line. So I’m terrible at it. I was terrible at it. I’m definitely better since this experience, but I would say that we’re not good at it.

[17:56] Bobbi: I don’t think we’re very good at it. I’ve coached thousands of people. I used to do a lot of coaching in the sales world with sales managers and salespeople, and 99% of them were really bad at taking the time to celebrate their wins. And even if they did, it was fleeting, like, okay, well, what about next quarter? Or what about the next thing I’m trying to do? And I also think that those two, to be more present and celebrate the wins, I think they’re kind of there’s a connection between the two of them, if you know what I mean.

[18:30] Nicole: Yeah, I agree. There definitely is. I think they definitely go hand in hand, because if you’re present and you’re aware, I think that it opens the gateway for you to appreciate the small wins. When my son, for example, learned how to tie his shoes way later than every other kid that I know in my life, I mean, we had a party. That’s right. You have to I feel like, again, that one step at a time thing that I’m saying that sounds so simple, but it really is. I have found just transform the way that I approach my personal life, but then also my business as well.

[19:15] Bobbi: I can completely see that. And the thing about the Be More Present, I took a course and I’m a coach in positive intelligence and positive Intelligence, it’s a blend of sciences, neuroscience, positive psychology, cognitive behavioral science and performance science. And one of the things that they talk about is having moments throughout the day where you’re very mindful. Like a simple example is when you get your first cup of coffee or first cup of tea in the morning to hold it in your hands and just for a moment feel the cup in your hands, the temperature of the cup, how does it feel? And then actually smell your coffee or tea and then take a sip. And it’s amazing. By doing that, it’s like you become more anchored in the moment. I think before this program, I always thought that being more present was I don’t know, that I’d have to go meditate for 5 hours a day or something. So what are some of your practices for really being present?

[20:17] Nicole: I think my morning routine is everything and this is something that I’ve developed only in the last couple of years. I’ve heard about it, it was kind of daunting. What does that mean again? Do I have to go meditate for 5 hours?

[20:30] Bobbi: That’s not going to work for me.

[20:33] Nicole: I think for me is music for me speaks to my heart and very curated music that has lyrics and melody that really speak to my heart. So I took some time and developed a couple of playlists depending on my mood, that really just speak to my soul. I feel like it’s transformed everything because I let go of the notion that I have to do meditation. Although I think it’s a wonderful tool and I hope to get better at it. But for me it was more of walking right and walking outside in nature with my music that speaks to my soul is how I am actually present. And I’m pulling that space inside of me that sometimes gets lost. It does. As we do our day to day to day.

[21:30] Bobbi: I love that though. I was just listening to someone today, someone’s podcast and I don’t remember who it was, but they were talking about how art and music can definitely anchor us into being more present in the moment. Plus, of course, nature is a big one. It’s almost impossible to be in nature and not feel better.

[21:50] Nicole: I agree.

[21:51] Bobbi: Yeah, I love that. Okay, something I wanted to talk to you about because I saw it on your website, because you talk about authentic power, which I loved and I’d like to know more about that. But also you said you talk about destructive perceptions. I just wanted to kind of get your take on those two things.

[22:12] Nicole: So when I think about authentic power, this is really this personal development. But the aspect of getting to know yourself and all of it quirks and all, right?

[22:26] Bobbi: Yeah.

[22:27] Nicole: And within those quirks and all right, how can those work together? Fly in formation so that you can show up as yourself doing the thing or things that you are meant to do. And when you do those two things, right, that is where that power comes from. There’s no one else that can have it in that exact alignment as you do. And if we all do that work, we all in our own right, have authentic power. That’s what it is.

[23:03] Bobbi: I really like that definition. Really showing up as you, your uniqueness, the quirks and all, and that only you can do that. Do you find that that is sometimes hard for people? Is there like an expectation they have of themselves that they should be like somebody else?

[23:20] Nicole: Yes, there’s levels to it. So I know that this happens within ourselves. Just there’s aspects of us that we think are unlovable or just ugly or whatever the case may be. But then it also happens when now we’re in relationship with other people. So imagine like in your family, right? And you are the woo woo one that has these out there. According to your family perspective on things, you somehow get the message that that’s not okay or or what are you talking about? Like that that doesn’t make any sense. And then we feel shame. Right. We cower, we hold those in. We suppress them in the workplace too, in our businesses, on social media. Right?

[24:08] Bobbi: Yeah.

[24:09] Nicole: And we wonder why we have curated reels and how we say the highlight reel on social media. We always want to present the best of ourselves to everyone externally. I wonder why. I think a piece of that is because, one, we might not like it about ourselves. And two, is it really accepted? Is it really acceptable to be and show all of your facets?

[24:34] Bobbi: Right? What will people think? How would I feel if whatever and that goes on and on.

[24:44] Nicole: Yeah.

[24:45] Bobbi: So how do you help someone embrace that?

[24:50] Nicole: I think the first step, so I teach a framework. It’s a reflection framework. And it’s called true. So true. And it’s kind of like a step by step framework that you use to see what’s not working and what you can do about it. So the first one stands for take notice. So are there things that feel out of alignment that are not working? Things that you are upset about that just feel ugh like this is not right. So awareness is always the first step. How do you know something that’s unknown? It has to become knowable at some level, even if it’s just part of the way the next one is to reflect. So when we use this notion of reflection, what I take from that is looking back on the times when you either had joy or you felt seen or you felt like you were successful. Right. And really thinking about those times connected to that feeling. And what was it about that? Was it the circumstance? Was it something that you did? Was it just a perfect storm of things happening, whatever it is, to really understand when has this happened before and what was the circumstances surrounding that and then after that, it’s you is to seek understanding. So here’s where we got to not only reflect, but we got to get curious and do some digging, do some investigative work, right? That’s right. A lot of the years I spent with a beginner’s mindset navigating the waters of my son’s autism diagnosis, I didn’t know what I was doing right. But I knew that something wasn’t working, whatever that was at the time, many things. And I had to go seek some answers. And it’s okay if you don’t come up with the right answer. It’s just the act of getting curious and looking for what you have in front of you as teaching either tools or teaching moments or something like that. Something that’s going to help you to make a change. And then last one is E, which is embody. So once you’ve taken notice, you’ve reflected and done some digging there, you’ve sought understanding and maybe some information or clues as to what you should be doing. And then here, whereas the integration happens where you actually try it on, you got to start somewhere. And like we were talking about our small wins ties right into here. Like a small I don’t care how small it is, we really need to celebrate that you didn’t pick up your phone, you didn’t do it on the way to the kitchen in the morning like you always do this morning. Right?

[27:43] Bobbi: It is a win. I love that on the win thing too. And I don’t know why this occurred to me because on the embody piece, right, even if we try something and we fail, we can still celebrate that because we still took action on behalf of what we’re trying to embody.

[28:00] Nicole: Yes, I have a funny story, so I do a lot of speaking of keynote speaking, and I tell a story about how I thought it was a bright idea for me to audition for in the Heights. We were having a local theater production. Okay. I have no training. I don’t know what I was thinking. But it was something that I had done in the past that had brought me joy in the past. I’m going to try. And I failed miserably. I failed so bad. But you know what? It was a win. I got out of my skin. It was such an exhilarating, like, eye opening experience. I even during the dance routine that I was terrible at, I just started having fun with it and was just making up dance moves because you know what, life is too we take ourselves too seriously. I take myself too seriously sometimes. And just that experience of going through that. Like you’re saying you might not always get what you think you went into it for, but I guarantee if you look under the hood of it, there’s something there.

[29:03] Bobbi: That’s right. There’s something to celebrate. So I love that model. So I had some thoughts, like, on the take note, you said, look for those moments where we’re out of alignment. And I think that’s one of those things that we know it, we can feel it.

[29:17] Nicole: Yeah, you can.

[29:18] Bobbi: And I think we get really good at ignoring it, and then the voice gets louder and louder. Suddenly it’s not going to be ignored anymore. That’s how I love that.

[29:29] Nicole: Yeah.

[29:31] Bobbi: On the reflect piece, because I’m a big fan of reflection and journaling, something you said there was where are those moments where you did feel joy or, like, positive energy? I don’t remember exactly how you put it. I think that’s so important because I think so many times we look at what isn’t working, and I think there’s a time and place for that. Right? Well, here’s what I don’t want completely a time and place for that, but to look at the moments of that’s when I felt really good, that’s when I felt joy, or that’s when I felt engaged, that’s important work. Do you ever have people at that part when you’re coaching them where they’re like, I don’t know. I don’t know if I have any moments where I feel really engaged.

[30:15] Nicole: Yes, of course. It’s kind of like the same notion of when you feel like no one cares about you and someone asks you, you feel like no one cares about you and you have a hard time identifying. But if you really dig deep, hopefully most people can identify, at least even if it’s a passing moment, that someone showed care or showed you kindness. It’s the same thing. I think asking the right questions and giving an opportunity again for people to say whatever that means for them. I think sometimes the collective, we want people to answer a question a certain way, you know, and maybe there is some some merit to what they’re saying, and it has to be because that’s the perception. So, yes, I have people that are challenged or feeling stuck, most certainly. But I think with asking really good questions or maybe even modeling, I think you can kind of turn that corner.

[31:20] Bobbi: I think sometimes people think that there’s a right answer. They’re supposed to give it’s whatever moves you. Right. There have been times where I felt stuck at different times, and it’s like, okay, well, what energizes me? Nothing. That’s actually not true. So even if I just take something like because I love cross country skiing. Love it. I love road cycling, but like, cross country skiing, if I just say that, like, okay, well, what do you love about it? I love the learning. I love that there are skills that are. Involved. It’s being outside nature. So even if I just start to break down those things, then it’s like, okay, well, where can I take that level learning and that love of growth? And where else could I apply it? I mean, there’s ways to get unstuck, and I just think that sometimes I think we get really busy in our lives. That lack of margin is really hard.

[32:13] Nicole: Yeah, for sure.

[32:16] Bobbi: So, hey, I wanted to give you time too. Now, I know you have a book. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

[32:20] Nicole: Sure. Have it. Here it is called the International Women of Color. Who boss up? And it’s actually an anthology, so it’s a collection of 16 women entrepreneurs from all around the world who are telling we are each telling our stories. One aspect of how we overcame certain obstacles to get to where we dove in and followed that call to fulfill our dreams, essentially.

[32:48] Bobbi: Nice. I love that. So this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate I appreciate you and showing up with all the value and everything. Do you want to tell people how they can find you and what you’ve got going on and courses or whatever like that?

[33:04] Nicole: Sure. My website is Edwardsauthentic, so it’s my last name, Edward, and so is my Instagram handle. I’m also on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is probably my preferable platform. I’m on there too. You can find me Nicole Edwards, and it’s CPTD. So it stands for Certified Professional and Talent Development. And I would love, if anybody reaches out or listening here, if you just shoot me a message. I would love to even give you a free copy of my book just for thanks for listening and being a part of this. This is one of my favorite podcasts. Bobbi, you have such an amazing platform. All the things that you talk about really enriches us. I’m talking for everyone, right? For those of us who really have a growth mindset and want to make those changes in our lives, this is the place where you have to be.

[34:05] Bobbi: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I hope that this conversation gave you a little insight and inspiration for your own journey. As always, thank you so much for being here and for subscribing to the podcast. When you subscribe, it is truly a win win. It helps you so that you always know when a new episode is out, and it helps others find us as well. So I deeply appreciate your support. I hope that you have a terrific week, and I’ll talk to you again in a few days.

[34:35] Nicole: You subscribe our.

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