5 Steps for Identifying, Evaluating & Conquering the Fear Holding You Back

Tonight, I will prove that I looked fear in the face and conquered it. It tried to back me down, but I overcame it. I will be playing my first tennis league match. You might read that sentence and think it’s not a big deal, but let me assure you, it is to me. I’ve only been serious about playing tennis for a few months now. I’m not close to being ready to be truly competitive.  I have played one match in a tournament and while I am happy with my performance, I lost. The positive people in my life tell me to not worry about it because everyone had to start somewhere. As much as I know that is true, it doesn’t sit well with my ambitious persona. I am the type of person that avoids things if I feel like I am not good. I’m the type of person that would wait until I’d had many tennis lessons and I felt certain I could be more competitive before going “public”. So, why am I doing this? I am doing this because I vowed to take control of the bad habits in my life. Taking control in this scenario means facing and conquering fears.

Last fall, a good friend of mine, Amanda, asked me if I’d like to play on a tennis team. I had been asked this before several times in the past and had said no every time.  I enjoy being athletic, so I believe people assume I’d be a good team member to have. But I have zero tennis skills or knowledge. Zero! However, last year when my friend asked me to play, I decided to say yes. I said yes for many reasons but mostly I wanted to face my fears.

As a certified professional coach, I have been formally trained to help my clients overcome fear and obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. I love every minute of being a coach and helping others to grow and blossom as they overcome their roadblocks to reach success. However, being the coach is a very safe place to sit. I do a lot of listening and ask a ton of questions, none of which pertain to me. It is easy to set my life and fears aside to constantly help others work on theirs. I decided to join the tennis team so I could remember how it feels to be 100% uncomfortable while traveling the path to success. I push my clients to do this and remind them of all the benefits associated with pushing outside of their comfort zone. I knew I would enjoy tennis, but I also knew I needed to practice what I preach: “Face your fears. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Tune out the noise associated with individuals that are judging you. Stop holding yourself back.” I know I will be a better coach if I continue to overcome my own fears. So here I am, excited and anxious to be attempting to play in my first tennis league match (in front of others, really keeping score, scores that are recorded, oh my word!!!!!!!!!! Did I mention I haven’t been playing very long?!?!?!).

When coaching my clients through fears and obstacles, I have a large toolbox to pull from to get them past what is holding them back. This time I have pulled tools to use to coach myself. It has been a very empowering experience that I want to share with you in hopes that you can use some of the tools in your own life when facing fear. If there are things in your life that you would like to attempt or accomplish but haven’t found the courage to go for it yet, it is time to find out why. I’ve found that most goals are attainable when we stop making excuses and face the fear holding us back.

Fear is a natural response to new and uncertain situations. Our body reacts with the fight or flight response and the level of stress we perceive is increased. Further, our fear and stress levels are heightened when we place a high value on the outcome. We decide to run or put up our fists. When we run, we are allowing fear to win. Obviously, there are some things we should run from, but for the most part we run when we shouldn’t. In deciding whether to run or fight we must first clearly articulate what it is we truly fear.

Facing fear becomes easier when we have a process in place for identifying and evaluating it. Below, I have outlined 5 steps that I have used successfully with clients and myself for identifying, evaluating, and ultimately conquering fear.

  1. List the excuses you have given for “running”. Can the excuse be overcome easily? If so, it’s not your real fear. Keep going.

As I tried to pinpoint why I ran from playing tennis for so long, I began to explore what I was afraid of by making a list of the excuses I had given for saying no. I had a long list of them, such as “I haven’t played before. I don’t know anything about tennis. I don’t have time. I don’t have a racket.” Then I took the time to evaluate each excuse to see if it could be overcome. In every instance, there was a simple solution. This told me that the excuses weren’t my real fears and I needed to dive a bit deeper to find out what I truly feared.

  1. Ask yourself, “If I went for it, what is the worst thing that could happen?” Evaluate the list and identify your true fear.

We can identify our true fears by asking the question, “If I go for it, what is the worst thing that could happen?” Make a list of the answers. In my case, the list was “I could get hurt. People will laugh at me. Others might find out that I am not a good athlete. People might see the real me. I want others to have a high opinion of me. If I show them my weakness, they might not respect me as much.” As I look back at my list, it is easy to see that my real fear revolves around other’s opinion of me, which I want to be very high. I am afraid that if others see me struggle on the tennis court, this will lessen their respect for me.

  1. After identifying your true fear(s), ask yourself, “How true is that?”

 How true is it that people I know will have a lesser opinion of me if they see I am a terrible tennis player? I took quite a bit of time to answer this question.

  • First, I know that the people who really love me are proud of me for starting a new sport at 46. They don’t care how I play. For them, it’s a resounding not true.
  • If I’m truly honest with myself, I know that most people will not think anything about the way I play tennis. In fact, they won’t think about it all! As important as it is to me to play well, it doesn’t even show up as a blip on most people’s radar. For them, the answer is another resounding not true.
  • However, there might be a group of people that do look down on me for not playing well. If they do, what does that mean? I can best answer this by thinking of something I try to teach my daughter – she should never try to feel better about herself by putting others down. This rang in my head as I thought about the people that might think less of me. Are they are seeking ways to feel better about themselves? If so, that’s about them and their insecurity, not about me. Wow. Or perhaps they are the type of people that look at outcomes without taking the process into consideration. While outcomes are important, they are far less valuable than the lessons learned, and the effort put into the process. If you don’t believe me, just ask Nick Saban. A person with an outcome only focus is missing so many great things in life. That makes me sad to think about.

What a revelation! Most won’t care how well I play tennis. But there might be a handful of people that think less of me. A funny thing happened as I thought about the type of people that would judge me if I’m not good at tennis. I put myself in their shoes and felt myself wanting to help them to overcome their insecurities and to enjoy the parts of life they are missing. Suddenly, I’m not afraid of what others think about my tennis game. Turns out my fear was self-imposed. I had been holding myself back for no reason. How often do you think this happens to you?

  1. Visualize what you’d like to accomplish, set goals, and make a plan.

Now that I realize I have nothing to truly fear, I am free to dream about how my success might look. I can visualize what I would like to accomplish. This allows me to set goals and make a plan. Set both long-term and short-term goals. Take the time to celebrate every win in your life. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plan as you proceed through the process. The best laid plans often go awry. Most importantly, never stop dreaming.

  1. Surround yourself with a stellar support system and GO FOR IT!

After you have set your goals and made a plan, it is imperative to surround yourself with a great support system. Someone once said, “If you look into your inner circle and it does not inspire you, you are in a cage not a circle.” We become the average of the people closest to us. If you surround yourself with people that are positive and uplifting, you will be lifted.

I have a fantastic tennis circle. My tennis coach, Angel Hernandez, lifts me to a higher level. He is a talented tennis player and he is also a great person. He is teaching me to play tennis but more importantly, he helps me to believe in my abilities and myself. If I get discouraged, he reminds me of how far I have come. He is an outstanding coach! True story – as I finalize this blog, Angel just sent me a text telling me, “YOU GOT THIS!” Be sure to have an Angel in your life!! My team, the Serve-Aces (say it quickly, tehehehe!) is stellar too. Most of us are true beginners and have vowed to build each other up. It makes no sense to do anything else. Also, we have tried to stop apologizing to each other for the tennis skills we have yet to master. Apologies imply we have done something wrong, but we haven’t. We are in the midst of our process and having a great time together.

I’m so excited for tonight, the first matches of the winter tennis league. I’m proud and happy that I practiced what I preach and finally faced my false fears and decided to begin playing. I’m still nervous and anxious, but now it is not because I’m afraid of what others will think. It is because I want to do well, for myself, my coach, and my team. I’m going to work for the best outcome while taking pride of where I am in the process!

-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your serene success!


Happy 46th to me! It’s time for my 2nd half!

It’s time to give myself another birthday gift!

If you follow my blog you know that two years ago I gave myself the gift of happiness for my 44th birthday. I had found myself in an ironic state. Materially my life was wonderful but internally I was miserable. I had hit emotional rock bottom and was determined to claw my way out. At that time, I had no idea how I would do it or what my journey would be, but I was ready to get moving. I won’t rehash the details as you can see those in my previous posts but to sum things up, in less than 12 months I left my job as a CEO, sold our home and downsized, became a certified professional coach and launched a new business, Soluna Strategies. It was CRAZY but the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The path I took involved a deep dive personally to identify my core values and determine why I was or was not honoring them. Now I live each day focused on making decisions that honor the things I find truly valuable. I feel as though I have been rewarded for those efforts. Not only have I found personal peace and happiness, but the universe has rewarded me with a new daughter and the ability to live my dream of coaching and teaching entrepreneurship on a college level. I now have a very clear vision of how I will live the rest of my life and know everything I want is possible.

The gift of happiness I gave myself on my 44th birthday was so transformative that I decided I to give myself a gift every year. It couldn’t be any gift. It had to be a gift that would change my life, a gift that would keep on giving. Last year for my 45th birthday, I gave myself the gift of health. I want to live a long life and I want to live it in a body that is still capable of being active and enjoying all the things I like to do. I want to be able to run and play with my children and eventually my grandchildren. I want to travel, sail, swim, and snorkel up to the day I die. I knew that if I was going to make that happen I needed to start taking better care of my health. Since my 45th birthday I have begun to eat healthy 95% of the time (everything is good in moderation! I enjoy the 5% with no guilt!) and I exercise regularly. I feel better than I have felt in years. I’ve lost almost 15 pounds and I have abs again! Let me be clear, I did not give myself the gift of health because I was focused on how I look. I do feel better when I am happy with the way I look, but this was bigger than that. I want to live a long time and I want to be active my whole life. When I focus on that goal rather than how I look, it makes sticking with a healthy meal and exercise plan so much easier.  It was a great gift and it keeps on giving!

It’s time to give myself another gift! I just celebrated my 46th birthday! I’m happy (44th) and I’m fit (45th) so for the big four six, I am giving myself the gift of control. I giggled when I typed that because my friends and family know I am a control freak so why in the world would I need to give myself more control??!!! I am giving myself the gift of control because I want to take charge of my habits and how I spend my time. I do some things that I consider bad habits. I want to stop the circle of bad habits and create new circles of good habits. For example, I spend too much time on social media. I don’t want to quit social media because I love it but I need to control the amount of time I dedicate to it. Another example is that I drink too much wine. I love a good, deep bodied Malbec. In keeping with the gift of health I need to drink less so I am giving myself control over that bad habit. I have plenty of other bad habits that if I take control over will result in the type of long-lasting transformation that I want in my life. I plan to live to at least 90 which means I have started the second half of my life. I am going to play the second half as strong as the first. I have no intention of slowing down or maintaining. I am winning and I plan to run up the score! So stay tuned! I will share my journey’s ups and downs! Hopefully I can provide some hope and motivation to those of you wanting to make changes but if not, I certainly hope I can provide you a few laughs!

Happy Birthday to me!


-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your success!


When is the last time you had REAL fun?

At what point do we decide that we should stop experiencing life and fun the way we did as a child? When do we decide it is juvenile to be silly and play unless it includes a child? More importantly than when, is WHY? I’ve half-heartedly asked myself these questions in the past, but this has been brought top of mind again. The past couple of weeks my oldest child has been away at camp. I receive infrequent letters from her because she is having too much fun to take time to write home. My only indication of how things are going for her comes from pictures posted on the camp website. I scour them daily hoping for a slight glimpse of her. My fear that she is homesick is put to rest when I see her face full of laughter and joy. She is clearly having fun! As I look at the faces of all the girls in the pictures, their energy jumps off the screen. They are loving life and it shows!

Simultaneously, I have been working with a professional on my company and personal branding. One of the many activities she asked me to do was to develop a mood board on Pinterest. I wanted to post pictures of adults with the same joy, fun, and laughter that I saw in the girls’ faces in those camp pictures. I could barely find any!!! I was surprised and saddened. What does this mean?

As I roll this over in my mind, I remember things my 9-year-old daughter has said to me in the past. Once after getting a French manicure, she asked why I didn’t chose a pretty color polish. When I told her this looked more professional, she responded, “Why does professional have to be boring?” Wow. Good question. One other time I mentioned having to attend a Board meeting. She asked, “Mommy, why do have to go to another one of those bording meetings?” In her mind, she thought I was saying boring. She was doing a great job of reading between the lines because usually they are boring, oops, I mean professional.

I have had other confirmations in the past couple of weeks that we adults lose our fun factor. Over the weekend, we had some friends over for dinner. We were discussing our daughters attending camp. One of our guests said, “I want to go to camp! Why don’t we have camps for adults?” I’m sure a few exist but it is not as prevalent as for kids. Why?! I would go! I would love to hang out with new friends by the camp fire laughing about our day while making smores. We now have the ability to pair that with a great wine and we aren’t doing it!

Even worse than losing our ability to tap into our inner child is that we look at those that are lucky enough to do it as if they are doing something wrong. If you saw a female enter a “bording meeting” with bright yellow fingernails, a fun pony tail, and beach t-shirt how would you respond? If you saw a group of men playing a game of freeze-tag in your neighborhood, what would you think? What if they asked you to join them? Social standards might cause us to categorize this type of behavior as immature, unrefined, or unpolished. But why?

That’s another thing! When do we stop asking, “Why?” Is it because we finally drove our parents so crazy asking why over and over again that they warned us to never say it again?! Did we really never ask it again? Did we begin to accept social norms, become boring, lose our curiosity, and stop playing without asking why? Why?

Life as an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We have more freedom than we did as a child, but we lose sight of it under the weight of our responsibilities. We must build a career, a family, a home, college funds, the list goes on and on. Is it this weight combined with social norms and our failure to ask why that is stealing our inner child joy?

Opioid addiction, anxiety, depression rates, and suicides are rising exponentially. We must begin to ask great questions to find out how to solve this. My questions are, “How would we feel if we decide to begin letting our inner child have fun again?”, “What would we learn and possibly change if we started asking why again?”, “What if we continue to follow the trend of losing the suit/tie and redefine professional?” and “If we could tap into our inner child at least once per week, what could that do for our psyche?”

Truthfully, I have no proof that tapping back into our inner child would help with the problems mentioned above. I know they are very complex issues. This blog has been a complete brain storm rather than following my normal pattern of tell a story, present questions, and offer researched solutions. What I do know is that I am tired of missing out on the fun I see in my daughter’s face. I want to have fun like that again! Also, I am going to begin to ask why much more often. And I am going to redefine professional to reflect who I am and what my inner child loves. I invite you all to come with me! Anyone up for a game of freeze-tag?? Let me know your thoughts!

-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your success!

My Dad was J-Bird (and he was awesome!)

My Dad was J-Bird. He was quite a large personality in the small town in which we lived. J-Bird was the fire chief, an ambulance driver, a county commissioner, and unwavering public servant. As one of 17 children, he learned from necessity how to provide for himself and others. (Yes, 17 children from one mom and dad!) I love my father very much and miss him daily. He lost his battle with diabetes twelve years ago today.

I credit my Dad with helping me to become the woman I am today. As we head into Father’s Day and I honor the anniversary of his passing, I would like to spend some time sharing with you the example he set for me and some of the best advice he gave to me over the years. A lot of you knew him, but for those that did not have the pleasure of meeting him please allow me to tell you about him.

Ray “J-Bird” Westbrooks grew up in a small town in a poor, very large family and as such, never had the opportunity to go to school. His time was spent working to provide for himself and family. He never told me anything first-hand about the difficulties he faced growing up. Complaining about it wasn’t his style. I saw the person he became though. He was a man with ambition and strong work ethic. He seemed to have unlimited energy and a great passion for serving others. Over the years, I have been amazed at the number of stories I’ve heard about ways that my dad helped others. Somehow, he had time for almost everyone and the willingness to help. He loved to have fun too. I have fond memories from my childhood of time spent at the softball park as he played, Sunday afternoons at the lake water skiing, and the numerous fish fries he loved to have for our large extended family or for the city employees and their families. He enjoyed fishing and sharing his catch with pretty much anyone that would eat what he cooked. His food was good, but his company was better. He was a fantastic story teller, funny, and quick-witted.

As my Dad, he was strict and ruled with an iron fist. I tested his patience many times with the strong-willed personality I inherited from him. But, he was also my safe place and my supporter. I always knew I could count on him. If work allowed, he was always there while I cheered or played softball. He would drive us to cheer camp and happily load and offload all our stuff. He had nicknames for all my friends and I think he got a kick out of our antics. My dad was always there when I needed to talk. I valued his advice and level-headed thinking more than he knew. He always shot me straight and helped me to face the world with a pragmatic view. Dad was not an educated person but was one the smartest men I’ve ever known.

J-Bird was infamous for his quotes. Truth be told, he had quite a potty mouth and I won’t share most of his sayings with you as good as they are! There are a few though that are my favorites and I reflect back to on a regular basis. These nuggets of advice have helped me more than I can articulate and continue to help me as I face struggles or obstacles in life. I can’t call my Dad anymore but I can still hear him clearly telling me the following:

“You didn’t think they’d just give it to you, did you?”  My Dad asked me this so many times over the years. It was usually his way of bringing me out of a pity party because things were difficult or weren’t going my way. It was his way of reminding me that I needed to get over myself and get back to work at achieving my goals.

“Time is all you have.”  This was so simple, but so profound. I tend to over commit myself and then get frazzled at what I perceive as my lack of time management skills. I’d call my Dad to give some excuse for missing a family event, not performing to my expectations, etc… and talk about how busy I was. He’d shoot back to me that time is all I have. This would trigger me to stop complaining about my busyness because I chose it. It would also help me to prioritize my commitments. At the heart of this is that we have a limited amount of time each day, each year, and in our lives. We must choose wisely how we use it. We all have time, it is the one thing we all have. What we do with it is up to us.

“It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” This is seriously my favorite piece of advice from my Dad! The world is full of drama, insecurities, and competitive situations. I’ve had my share of being the target of the mean girls, the mean moms, the work cliques, and politics. I’ve also been on the other side when I’ve been urged to take sides, gossip, leave others out, or tempted to stir the proverbial pot. As I talked to my Dad about whatever was happening at the time, he’d tell me, “It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” Bahahaha! Instinctively I laughed but it is so true. There are so many situations that we should just walk away from and not engage. If we do, we make the situation worse. The older I get, it is easier to take this advice.

Twelve years ago today, the last thing my Dad communicated with me was a thumbs-up. He wasn’t perfect, but he was extraordinary. He had lived a thumbs-up life. He still inspires me and motivates me. I am grateful for the example he set in persistence, how to overcome, and the importance of serving others while never losing his ability to have fun. He made me the woman I am proud to be. I still hear his voice and feel his strength. Thank you, J-Bird. Love and miss you!



Be a Rock Star!

My life has been super busy and crazy lately. I found myself completely overwhelmed and needed to press a reset button. Last week I shared my thoughts with you on how I get my mojo back. Thank you all for reading and sharing my blog! Most of all thank you for your kind comments. You all know how to make a girl feel great. You also made me think – A LOT. You told me that I am a rock star! I was so taken aback. I don’t feel like a rock star. I’m not even sure I know what it means. The only thing I do know is that I have a vision for how I want my life to be and I realize that if I want that life, I must make it happen. I’m not a wisher, I’m a doer.

Everyone has visions of the type of life you’d like to lead. Unfortunately, we get caught in the trap of uncertainty and fear. We hear our inner voice tell us things like, “You can’t do that” and “Everyone will make fun of you if you share that dream.” We let our inner voice talk us out of lots of great things and kill our confidence. I call this inner voice a Glitch because it is something that should not be there and because the word rhymes with what I’d really like to call it! I think of the Glitch as the devil sitting on my shoulder whispering bad things into my ear. Sometimes I believe it and let it hold me back. Other times I call my Glitch out for being a liar and trying to bring me down. The more I can call out my Glitch, the more confident I am and can keep working towards the life I want.

Everyone has a Glitch, even rock stars! The people that we see going for their dreams and living confident lives have learned to recognize and control their inner voice. This takes a lot of practice but here are a few steps for getting started:

  1. Articulate your dream. What life do you want to live? What do you want to achieve? Do not be afraid to write it down or talk about it to someone. To move forward and be successful you must know where it is you want to go.
  2. Put the right picture in your head! Create a picture in your head of what your perfect life will look like. Better yet, create a vision board that you can look at any time you want. After you have created this beautiful picture, keep it there! Do not let the pictures of the things you think are holding you back creep in. This will slow you down.
  3. Recognize your Glitch is your bad imaginary friend. As you articulate your dream and create the picture of what it will look like, your Glitch is going to lose its mind!! It will be talking so fast to you, you won’t be able to keep up. It helps if you picture your Glitch as a separate little being that lives outside of you. Your glitch can look any way you want. You can give it a name! It is easier to control your Glitch when you picture it as something outside of you. It might feel hokey at first but trust me. I have two Glitches – one male and one female – that I have named Fred and Doris. I hate Fred and Doris. They are complete liars and try to bring me down constantly! I give them the evil eye now when I hear them speak. I imagine turning my back on them, stepping on them, and laughing at them when I succeed at something they said I couldn’t do. It is very empowering and helps my confidence grow a great deal!
  4. Put your Glitch on mute. When you start to feel scared or doubt yourself, it is important to recognize this is your Glitch talking to you. Become very good at noticing when the Glitch speaks. Your Glitch is all your fear and uncertainty wrapped up in a tiny, but powerful voice. Your Glitch is a liar. Your Glitch survives on your fear. Tell your Glitch to shut up! Put it on mute! You are not all the things it tells you. You are more capable than your Glitch wants you to believe.

As you let yourself dream and create a picture of what you’d love your life to be like, your Glitch is going to come at you full steam ahead. This usually results in feelings of being inadequate and helpless. We find it very hard to reach for our dreams because we think we can’t achieve them. It is very normal to be afraid of failure but the only true failure in life is not trying. Successful people don’t always do the right things, but they don’t let setbacks stop them. I have messed up a lot of things over my life and made tons of mistakes. If I let Fred and Doris have their way, they’d convince me that those mistakes will hold me back from ever having success. Instead, I put them on mute. This helps me to be a doer and not just a wisher. If that makes me a rock star, then I’ll take it.

Have a great Monday, week, and LIFE!!!!

Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me! I recently celebrated my 45th birthday. This year I feel completely different than on my last birthday. Last year I was in a rut and looking for an escape from the hamster wheel in which I had found myself trapped. If you have followed my blog over the last year, you know that for my 44th birthday I decided to give myself the gift of happiness. As I set out on my journey, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for but I knew I needed something different. I had achieved what most would consider a successful life. I have a fantastic husband and daughter, I was a CEO, and I had all the material possessions I wanted. I could travel and enjoy the things that make me happy. The trouble is I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was downright miserable. From the outside looking in, I can imagine that most people thought I was crazy when I began discussing how unhappy I was. I laugh when I think about some of the phone calls I received as friends were checking on me to make sure I was “alright”.  I was and always have been “alright” but that didn’t mean I was happy. Last September I set out on a journey to find my happiness and what a journey it has been! I am thrilled to say that I have my inner joy again! Happy birthday to me, indeed!

If you are seeking the path to inner joy, I invite you to join me as I tell you my story. I do not propose to know all the answers, but I did find my answers. My journey is just that – my journey. I want to share everything I have learned about finding inner peace with you in hopes that you can use nuggets from it to help you with your journey. I don’t think that anyone should or will follow in my exact footsteps because each person’s path to inner joy is different. However, I do believe there are some important truths that can apply to most people.

I have made huge changes in the last twelve months including leaving my position as a CEO, downsizing my home and possessions, working to become a certified professional coach, and launching a new business. I have learned so much about myself and others. I look forward to sharing with you and hearing from you as you have questions and comments.

The burning question I sought to answer was “Why am I so unhappy?” There are times in our lives when it is very easy to pinpoint reasons that we are not feeling as joyful as we’d like. Other times, it isn’t as clear. For me, I was dumbfounded as to my lack of joy. I was living the life that society says should be wonderful.  The answer turned out to be fairly simple – I was not honoring my core values.  As such, I was living each day in inner turmoil.

Core values are guiding principles or qualities that represent our highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and driving forces. Your core values form the foundation from which you should make all decisions. If you are living a life that upholds your core values, you feel a sense of fulfillment and joy. When your core values are not being honored, it leads to feelings of frustration, anger, and a lack of happiness. Our core values are the basis for how we define success. My problem was that I had made the mistake of assuming that society’s definition of success was my definition of success. I had never taken the time to explore my core values in depth and to truly articulate my definition of success. Man, that mistake has caused me a ton of gray hairs!

As I look over the past year, I am extremely grateful for the wonderful people in my life that have been and still are supportive of me. I’m excited to say I feel joy and a sense of fulfillment again. I have a clear understanding of what I value, how I define success, and what my future holds. I look forward to sharing this with you.

Finding Balance

Have you ever given yourself a birthday present? Most people don’t think to get themselves something. I know that I never have, but last year in September on my 44th birthday I decided to do just that. As my birthday approached, I could not shake the feeling that something was missing from my life. I have a very good life that looks just like everyone imagines the American dream should look. However, I was very unhappy and unfulfilled. I decided that I would give myself happiness for my birthday. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do this but I was determined. I began a journey of introspection that has been the best thing I could ever do for myself. This past year I feel as though I have given myself the gift I have been seeking – true happiness with a dose of peace and joy.

As I reflect on the path I have taken, it is clear I have grown more personally in the last eight months than the 44 years leading up to it. My life, just like most, has been quite a roller coaster filled with both good and bad experiences. The ups and downs have helped to shape my values and priorities in life. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I decided to downsize. The material things in life brought me joy but quite a bit of pain as well. I was spending too much of my time maintaining this lifestyle and not enough enjoying my family. I chose to minimize the distractions preventing me from being present in the times I viewed as important. While this was a great decision, I realized that it was not enough to help me achieve the happiness I was seeking. This led to further introspection.

I spent a great deal of time articulating what I really needed in my life in order to be happy. It became obvious that my definition of success did not truly make me happy. As I redefined success, I realized I needed to honor my values. I value being a mother and wife but I was not executing as well as I wanted because I was working too much. This realization caused confusion for me because I also value having a career that is fulfilling. Another of my values is creating fun experiences that provide great memories. I was not enjoying as many of these as I would like because work was demanding. Again, confusion set in because I truly enjoy working. My definition of success included being a great mom, wife and career woman. To be happy, I knew I had to find a way to achieve all three but I was having a tough time developing a plan to make this happen.

I spent some time researching tools and methods for achieving balance in my life. My solution was to find a life coach. A life coach is a person that helps to motivate, support, and push people to set and reach goals. A life coach provides accountability within a confidential and judgement free zone. It is like a personal trainer but for life goals. I had been feeling the need to move forward and make changes, but I felt like I was stuck and did not know how to take the first step. A life coach’s job is to help people sort through their thoughts, goals, and fears to develop a plan and then to hold them accountable in enacting the plan. This was just what I needed!

As I looked for a life coach, I became frustrated because there weren’t any in my immediate geographic region. Of course, at this point my entrepreneurial bells started ringing. I began to research coaching more in depth, not just to find one but to figure out how to be one. As I did this, a familiar feeling started to bubble inside me. It was something I hadn’t felt in a few years and had missed quite a bit. It was the feeling of fulfilling my purpose in life. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart with a need to help others succeed. Although I had labeled it differently, I realized I had coached entrepreneurs for many years as both a professor and as a consultant. How could I have forgotten how much I loved it?! As I continued reading about coaching I felt excitement and the urge to start doing it again. I remembered the joy I feel when I help others achieve success. I love the glow of possibilities in entrepreneur’s eyes and the energy they exude as they chase their dreams. I understand those feelings because I’ve experienced them. For the first time in several years, I was feeling them again. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and coach again. This was perfect in that it provides me a career I love with a flexible schedule allowing me more time with my family. Now eleven months later, I have left my position as a CEO, downsized our home, and taken the leap to becoming a full-time coach… AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!

I am excited to launch Soluna Strategies, an entrepreneur and business coaching firm dedicated to helping others achieve the success they desire. Happy Birthday to me indeed! I have found the perfect solution to help achieve balance in my life while seeking my goals and honoring my values.

Are you feeling stuck? Would you like help sorting through your thoughts, feelings, and life so that you can work towards the life you desire? Email me. I’d love to help you! While I focus primarily on business related goals, I do have a vast network of coaches. We can find the perfect coach for you. I look forward to hearing from you!!


-Gina Simpson is a professional business and entrepreneurship coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!


I wish I had known then what I know now! -part 2

If you could go back in time and change some of your decisions, would you? If you did, how do you think your life in the here and now would be different?  There are times in all our pasts that we wish we had made a different decision. We get lost in dreaming about the “what ifs” – What if I had done this rather than that? It’s completely normal to reflect on our past and realize some of our decisions weren’t optimal.

In my previous blog, I introduced the concept of bounded rationality, which explains that individuals make decisions based upon the limited information and resources available at any given moment in time. As we age, further our education, and gain life experiences our level of bounded rationality increases. This allows us to look back in time and evaluate our past decisions. Our past decisions weren’t mistakes. They were reflections of our level of bounded rationality.

The awareness of bounded rationality gives us permission to be more forgiving of ourselves and others when decisions prove to be less than optimal. We make decisions based upon the best possible information we have at that moment. Maybe it is a good decision and maybe it isn’t, but it is the best one based upon what we know. If it proves to be the wrong decision, that doesn’t make it a mistake. It’s only a mistake if we do not seek out “good information” from others that could have helped us.

Hopefully, understanding the concept of bounded rationality motivates us to continually try to increase what is contained within ours. One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain. He said, “A man that does not read has no advantage over a man that cannot read.” I interpret this as continually expanding my bounded rationality. If I do that, I will be more successful than those that do not. There are numerous articles out there that talk about the reading habits of the most successful people in the world. They understand that life-long learning is crucial to their success.

Now that you know past decisions are not necessarily mistakes and the importance of increasing your bounded rationality, we can explore practical ways to apply your new-found wisdom. In my next blog, I talk about practical ways to apply the knowledge of our bounded rationality to increase our probability of success as well as possible pitfalls to avoid.

-Gina Simpson is a professional business and entrepreneurship coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!

I wish I had known then, what I know now!

I wish I had known then what I know now. How many times have you heard someone say this or said it yourself? Recently I made the decision to leave my CEO position to pursue full time coaching. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so owning my own business again is very appealing to me. Also, I’m very passionate about helping people, especially budding entrepreneurs. This is going to allow me a more flexible schedule so that I can spend more time with my daughter. It’s a complete win-win for me. In my heart, I know this is the right decision but I can’t help but wonder if a few years from now I’ll look back and feel the same way. As those thoughts pop into my head, they create fear and self-doubt. I’m sure you can all think of a time when you’ve faced a decision that has left you feeling afraid and second guessing yourself or of decisions you’ve made in the past that you wish you could do over. I’m excited about my decision, so I don’t want to let negative thoughts and feelings take over.

I’ve been fortunate in my career with many great opportunities in both the public and private sectors. As I look back on my time as an entrepreneur, professor, consultant, and CEO I can see times that if I had known then what I know now I would’ve made different decisions. I can see that there are things I could’ve done to be more successful and to help those around me more. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?! Instead of looking back on things with regret, I look back and analyze why I made certain decisions so that I can better ones in the future.

In graduate school, I learned about a concept that changed me forever. It is called Bounded Rationality. In 1947, Herbert Simon introduced this idea to explain decision making. Simon believed that individuals face limitations when making decisions in terms of information, cognitive capacity, and time. I think about it like this: get a piece of paper and draw a stick person in the middle. Then draw a big circle around the stick figure.

The stick figure is faced with a decision. Maybe it’s a managerial decision, job change decision, an entrepreneurial decision, or something as simple as what to have for dinner. The circle around the stick figure represents everything this individual knows based upon several things such as education level, life experiences, and known resources available. Every person’s circle, or bounded rationality, is a different size and contains different information. We all make decisions based upon what is contained within our bounded rationality. Hopefully as we age, continue to learn, and have more life experiences our circle grows larger. We can try to increase the size of our circle by diving into educational tools, seeking out mentors, and getting involved in more activities. There is a component of time associated with the size of our bounded rationality as well. It makes sense that the older we get the more time we have to increase our bounded rationality. This helps to explain why we hopefully get wiser as we get older or why we say I wish I had known then what I know now. It also explains why hindsight is 20/20. I like the idea of bounded rationality because it helps to alleviate regret in past decisions. We all make decisions based upon the amount of information we have at the time the decision is made. Some of those decisions were good ones and some were bad ones, but there’s no reason to beat ourselves up over the bad ones. We all do the best we can in the moment. After I was exposed to this idea, it helped me to understand myself and others better.

Five years from now, will I look back and think I wish I had known then what I know now? I certainly hope so because this will mean that I’ve learned something. But will I regret my decision? HECK NO! If I am aware of my bounded rationality, emotions and personality and use that information to make a decision, I can never make a mistake. Wow, that’s a powerful statement, isn’t it?! You don’t have to make any more mistakes either.

In my next several blogs, I’m going to dive head first into this with you. I’ll start with discussing bounded rationality. The power associated with this concept is one of the key factors of success – in everything! Stay tuned!

We do not see things as they are. We see things as WE are.


Every morning I watch the news while I enjoy my coffee. Most times I’m listening to keep up with things that are going on in the world. This morning I heard something different. I heard a lot of talk about pain. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the news that triggered this thought. Rather it was the commercials. The majority of the advertisements were either personal injury lawyers or some type of pharmaceutical product. As I listened to their messages, I could tell they were going for the same target market – vulnerable people in pain. Please know that I think there is a need for attorneys and pharmaceutical products. However, I am troubled at the message the commercials are sending to a group of people that obviously need help. The message sounds like this, “If you are hurting, I have the quick answer.” “I’ll make you feel better with either money or medicine.” Perhaps this is true, but what if it’s not? If it’s not, then what is the answer for helping vulnerable people in need? I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ve tried to pinpoint the mentality of those giving the message and of those receiving it.   I don’t know these people personally and can’t tell you definitively what their mindset is. The truth is it doesn’t matter. It only matters that someone is in pain and/or unhappy and looking for an answer. What is the answer? The answer is different for everyone and regardless of who you are, the solution begins internally.

Every person endures some type of pain in their lifetime. We all process and handle the pain in different ways. There is truly no right or wrong way to feel or react to tough circumstances. Each person is unique and feels things in their own manner. Individuals cope with pain in different ways too. We’ve all noticed the person that seems to be strong. We also notice the people that seem to lash out or struggle more with overcoming. What is the reason that people respond in varied ways? What makes one person more resilient than the next? There are many reasons for this and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. I would like to touch upon one idea that is worth thinking about. That is that an individual’s ability to cope with pain is directly related to their level of self-awareness and willingness to improve.

Self-awareness and the willingness to improve are key to success in all aspects of one’s life. Taking true stock of one’s self is a beneficial exercise.  A simple way to do this is to pay close attention to how we respond to people going through a hardship. Are you compassionate or judgmental? Do you respond in love and understanding or do you critique how they are handling the situation? Do you assume the best or the worst? One of my favorite quotes is “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as WE are.” This simple quote lets us know that we judge others based upon things happening in OUR minds, hearts, and lives. Once we internalize this concept, we can achieve better self-awareness. If we are seeking to improve ourselves, we can make a change in how we respond to others. The practice of increasing self-awareness and adjusting behavior for the best outcome is one way individuals become more successful and resilient in all situations. It takes practice, but certainly is achievable.

Most of my blogs are about self-realizations and growth that I have experienced. This morning I responded to a series of commercials in a much different manner than I have in the past. I tried to remember how I used to respond. The honest answer is I would make fun of the commercials with no true thought as to what they were saying or to whom they were appealing, then I’d turn the channel. I responded this way because I was looking for a way to build my self-esteem. I was putting others down and thinking less of them so that I could feel better about myself. Ouch. This morning I realized I felt true compassion for both the advertiser and their target market. Why was this morning different? The last six months have been fantastic for me in terms of personal development. I was ready to grow and not at the expense of others. I have freely shared my pain, progress, and successes with you in hopes that you can relate and find your own path to happiness.  Today, I’d like to leave you with a challenge – pay attention to how you respond to people. Are you the vulnerable person I mentioned earlier? Are you the one judging others? Are you the one responding with true compassion? You’re answer to this question will give you some great insight on yourself and how you might handle challenges. I hope you find this useful. Have a fantastic week!

If you have questions or thoughts on coaching and how it can help you with personal development, please visit my website at www.FreeLunchKid.com or email me at Gina@FreeLunchKid.com.