DESIGN YOUR LIFE: michelle of when i grow up


Good morning! Welcome to a brand new DESIGN YOUR LIFE. This week Michelle of When I Grow Up is sharing her intentions and some amazing ways she’s designed her life around them. I’m going to let our first meeting remain a mystery (to be revealed in the weeks to come), but I’ve loved getting to know her.

When I asked her to do the DYL interview I knew she would have a lot of great advice to offer. And I was right. Her professional  life coaching concepts, ideals, and action plans which help dozens of clients are also active in her own life. Though I can’t comment on the cosmopolitan recommendation (never had one), I love her “trust yourself” revelation. Take a look.

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Michelle of When I Grow Up

Claim your uniquity.


When I was 9, I wore two different sneakers (same Keds, just different colors with my own magic marker touches) & two different socks. When I was 10, I wore a hat. Yes, I was essentially copying Punky Brewster (who remains my fashion icon) & Debbie Gibson, but those girls allowed me to express my pre-teen self. As an adult, I claim my quirkiness in both my style, my personal life & my business. “Normal” is boring. Be yourself, & whoever doesn’t like it can find someone else to snooze it up/do business with.

Surround yourself with supportive, positive people (& learn to say “no!”).


I started purging my toxic frenemies when I started my coaching classes, & it’s changed my world. As a people pleaser, it was super tough for me to say “no” to anyone, even those who added nothing more than drama & snide remarks to my life. Knowing that the people that I lean on now are the ones who are only there to cheer me on – no drama, no hidden agendas, no jealousy – has lead to me pursue my dreams like nobody’s business. It’s also allowed me to know that my time will be spent with those that contribute something to my life, & that makes it easier to say “yes” – & “no”! – to those opportunities.



I have my own Bribery List of how I can celebrate each win (aka bribe myself), starting with the “little stuff” (buying a bouquet of my favorite flower, taking an hour-long bubble bath with a glass of wine & a magazine) & going through to the “big stuff” (tickets to a Broadway show & a lobster dinner!). I take out the list during Me Time (see below) as well as when I’ve accomplished a goal, big or small. I make my clients celebrate their wins, too. I’m super mean like that.

Find – and pursue – your passion.


When I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to pursue acting anymore – & believe me, it took a year if not longer – I absolutely knew it was unacceptable to me to keep living my life with the (well-paying, insurance-giving) job that I had. Not only was my boss emotionally abusive, but it was just numbing (& boring & painful & made me dry heave in the mornings) to me. I absolutely do not get the people out there who are super unhappy with some aspect of their lives, or their lives as a whole (!) & just take it day in & day out. Can a life really be lived without passion? Whether it’s a career or a relationship, each day needs to be filled with something that makes your heart sing. If you don’t know what it is, find it. Do something different every day that peaks even a bit of your interest, whether it’s taking a new class at the gym or reading a new book or finally taking that day trip to the wine country. Figure out what you’re passionate about & how you’re going to make it part of your life.

Don’t sacrifice Me Time.

I was so used to always putting myself last. Everyone/thing else comes first – my day job, my coaching, my friends, my family, yada yada yada. The time I needed to recharge my batteries, by either journaling or doing yoga or just sitting with a fiction book (this is where the Celebration List comes in handy!), was always the first thing to go. But I realized that I needed to take care of myself first so I can take care of all of the other people I care about, & who rely on me. Like my very first coach pointed on, when you’re taken through the emergency lists on a plane, you’re told to put the air mask on yourself first and then put it on the child next to you. Why? Because you’re no good to a child if you’re passed out from lack of oxygen! I now block 90-180 minutes on my calendar each week for Me Time, & treat it like it’s the holiest of holy appointments to me: a coaching session.

You’re the only boss of you.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Seriously, you don’t. Danielle LaPorte said that you don’t have obligations – only choices. Doesn’t that blow your mind? And yes, while I absolutely consider the voices & opinions of those I love, & Luke & I call ourselves Team Awesome (we ARE an awesome team!), I am essentially the boss of me. The end.

You’re not married to anything (or anyone!).

Don’t tell my husband! OK, I’m totally married to my husband, but this is something my Mom told me right before I went to NYU. “Remember, you’re not married to anything (or anyone!). If you don’t like it, you can always go somewhere else.” I think of this to remind myself to always listen to my changing values, passions & priorities. I might have had 1 dream for 20-odd years, but then I had a new one. And I might have another one before I’m 50. I listen, now.

Don’t waste the pretty!


Yes, this was stolen from He’s Just Not that Into You, but it can apply to more than relationships. I waited until I was 28 to find my husband, because nobody that came before him was good enough for “the pretty”. I’m not gonna waste “the pretty” on a career that isn’t good enough for me, either, or a friend or client that doesn’t appreciate what I have to bring to the table. Wait for what you’re worth, & pursue what lives up to your expectation.

Trust yourself.

At almost-32 years old, this is the most current lesson that I’m learning. My years of pounding the pavement as an actress had conditioned me to not expect anything so that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I hated being an optimistic pessimist (hope for the best, but expect the worst) & am now changing my perspective. I’m trusting that I can make a living coaching & can reach my dream. I’m trusting that things happen for a reason. I’m trusting that my past has lead me to this place, where I am today, & where I know that I belong.

Never underestimate a great Girls Night Out.


Or the power of a strong Cosmo. Mmmmm…..

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

[photo credit for image 3 and 6]

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  1. I love Michelle and the Celebrate life lists. What I really like about Michelle is you can tell her life hasn’t always been rosy; she’s had her struggles. Not everyone learned the skills of setting intentions, of choosing supportive thoughts when they were growing up and have to learn it late in the 30’s and 40’s. That means there were many years of less than nourishing thoughts. Michelle’s interview is another one of my favorite DYL. Thank you.

  2. Flavia

    This series never fails to inspire! Michelle, you are so right about the need for “me time.” I tend to put it behind everything else but notice the difference when I do make time for myself. I’m going to work on making it a priority!

  3. Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you, Jess LC!
    Thanks for including me, thanks for allowing me to stop & think yesterday, thanks for grounding me, & thanks for making this post so pretty & sweet.

    And thanks for your comments, Crystal, Christina & Flavia! You’re all dead on – I have had my struggles (trying to make it to Broadway is not easy!) & have put everyone else before myself, but now that I’m a Grown Up I have a new set of dreams, goals & values. The “secret” is to figure out your own intentions & work on molding them to your own comfort & needs. The way I say “no” (& feel good about it) is going to most likely be different to the way you say “no” (& feel good about it). Don’t forget to take the time to enjoy the journey & figure out what works for you!

  4. Jess, thanks so much for featuring one of the most inspirational bloggers out there. I never fail to feel pumped up, contemplative, or ambitious after reading her blog posts or emails, and this post was no exception! She has truly found her calling, and I love the attitude she’s adopted.

    And Michelle, your wedding pictures are GORGEOUS. Love the one of you laughing. So pretty.

    xoxo Maggie

  5. Jess — amazing feature!! Michelle is simply incredible. She is a constant source of inspiration :).
    PS I can’t wait to find out about how you two met 🙂

  6. Oh, you ladies are too good to be true!! What a terrific feature. And I, like Carolyn, am bursting to find out how you two met! 🙂

  7. Katie

    I am so lucky Michelle is my coach and this profile just reaffirmed it all! So, I kinda gotta gush here… but she’s given me a great opportunity to focus on my strengths and get to my goals one week at time while fighting through those annoying bumps in the road that can throw you off your game when you least expect it. She inspires me every week and this interview was even MORE inspiring!

  8. Eva

    Love this DYL! I just heard the oxygen mask example on Oprah yesterday! Is this a sign? Anyway, love love this post! Thanks to both of u!!!!

  9. (Blush)

    Aw, guys, stop it, will ya!

    Maggie – You’re so sweet. I’m so glad that my blog is so inspirational for ya! Maybe you’ll interview me next? 😉 Oh, and all wedding pics are by Kate Leigh ( She is beyond awesome.

    Carolyn & Jess – How DID Jess & I meet? Hmmmmm….

    Eva – Yes, yes it’s a sign! A sign that you are AT LEAST as important as everyone around you that you’re busy taking care of. OK, you’re MORE important, but I know that might be hard to digest. Make sure you put aside time to take care of you, so that you can take care of everyone else. That’s how I’m able to digest it, at least.

    Um, I just realized that this comment has a lot of inside jokes. That is not nice of me.

  10. Jess, I absolutely love this series!
    Michelle, you’re truly an inspiration! All of your intentions resonate with me.
    I agree with the idea that it’s okay to change your dream(s), your direction. Sometimes we hold on so strongly to something and forget to check once in awhile to see if it still fits what we want. I think especially when we’re young, its easy to be allured by the glamorized version of certain jobs, lifestyles, etc. The thing is that you never really know if something will truly fit unless you give it a try it and its okay to change direction if once you try you realize its not what you want.

  11. pve

    I think I want to try mis-matched sneakers….and socks.
    She is such an inspiration!

  12. Jess

    @ All: What great comments and I agree with you all, Michelle is a pretty awesome person!

    @ Michelle: Great job on such a fantastic interview! Thank you so much for participating 🙂

  13. Seriously, people. I never need to buy blush ever again. Thank you all for your encouraging words & thoughtful comments!

    Ariana – I couldn’t have said that better myself. Part of the reason I called myself the When I Grow Up Coach is that I had to learn what I valued as a grown-up – & then come to terms with it! While “the kid” in me didn’t mind getting a job on a day’s notice & leaving the next day for almost a year (OK, I did mind, but I grinned & beared it, knewing it was part of The Business), The Grown-Up in me did. The Kid didn’t mind/could deal with getting paid $400/wk (or less!) to do a show in a town where the closest movie theater was 90 min away (I kid you not), but The Grown-Up in me couldn’t. I could list examples for the rest of the day, but you get my drift. I THOUGHT the grown-up in me wanted a “stable” career, but it turned out she just wanted a passionate career on her own terms. That’s what I’m pursuing, & both The Kid & The Grown-Up in me are thrilled.

    pve – In 1987 Keds sold pastel versions. Pick a pink & a purple & you’ll be all set. And socks…well, someone’s making a lucrative living from that! 🙂

    Jess – Thank you for having me! I really can’t thank you enough. But I’ll keep trying 🙂

  14. annie

    I read this post last week via Google Reader, but wanted to make sure I wrote how much I loved this DYL interview. It might be my favorite ever! My husband and I are about to make some major life changes (he’ll be graduating law school in the spring), and Michelle’s advice is just perfect for what we’re both going through. Thanks for making this blog a place where I can learn how to better myself!

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