The Tools we Work with: Conaghan Style

The tools we use to motivate ourselves are not always individual. After sharing my own, I wanted to share others. I set out to talk to some of my motivated friends and see what carried them where they are. That’s how I found myself talking to Dan Conaghan, a personal trainer managing his own business.


Dan Conaghan on his instagram, in action.


Our conversation took place in Dan’s domain, the gym. In a space where I often freeze like a deer in headlights, overwhelmed by my own insecurities, Dan’s confidence is able to make me feel comfortable. It is almost like having a chat over coffee, except it’s weights, and he will make you pick them up. In between the ringing of weights hitting the floor, guiding me through a set of dead lifts, and working on his own, Dan tells me how he came to be where he is.

The tattooed gentleman, who is usually in gym shorts, started off as an elementary teacher. Life has a strange way of putting you on an unexpected path, and Dan found himself laid off  due to brutal budget cuts. From unemployment he ended up tree cutting. As his life had settled with a routine at work he had also been building his routine in the gym. And as he stood in the gym one day, a light bulb began to flicker above his head. He was watching trainers at their job, people who were able to spend all day in a place he loved, the gym. It flickered a little brighter. He was watching trainers helping people learn how to work out. They worked in a gym, and they taught people. And the switch clicked. Trainers were people who worked at a place he loved, doing something he absolutely loved, teaching. With that realization he knew exactly what he wanted.


I feel like it is a little obvious that this man enjoys the gym. 

As always there were people who doubted, and Dan often heard the question “but when are you going to get a real job?” With their doubt he pushed farther, determined to prove them wrong. He passed his test. He became a personal trainer, and he didn’t stop there. In life there are moments when you have to take a leap of faith. Conaghan was training people at four in the morning, working for nine hours, training clients in the evening, and then passing out. He was pouring every ounce of himself into living a financially acceptable life while chasing after his goals. Except there is always a point when you have to let go of everything and dive right into what you want. Dan quit his job at the tree cutting business. Life did not catch him. Not right away at least. Dan struggled financially. He knew that he needed to work for himself and not a company. There he met one of the hardest years of his life. Discovering that renting a space was astronomically priced, he couldn’t move forward. Still, he persevered. A year after hitting his wall, he came back to it again and climbed over it. This time Dan found the opportunity he had been waiting for. Someone desperate to get a gym off of her hands, and Dan more than willing to take it.

It’s two years later, and Dan is the proud manager of his personal training business. He is able to price people at rates that are more comfortable for his clients, while still being able to live. With his personal momentum he continues to move forward, working to make fitness and healthier life styles more accessible to everyone. All the while still pushing himself mentally and physically to greater lengths.


Dan’s also lucky enough to have a motivating and badass girlfriend. She is insanely strong and I highly suggest you check her out here! It is inspiring as hell.


One of Dan’s beliefs in life is related to my last post Making Excellence Routine, and it was great to see that simple but powerful idea in someone successful. His way of saying it, a gym man through and through, if you want something you have to put in the reps. Reps, for those of you who are not gym savvy are repetitions of a set of exercises. “You want to write a book? Put in your reps. Do it consistently. It’s not about getting it done in one fell swoop.” He said the words and I couldn’t agree more. Dan has been a personal trainer for six years and his own boss for two. It took him years before he was able to achieve his goals. Years of consistently working towards more. From becoming certified, to learning how to sell himself, to taking the leap to make it on his own he had to put in the reps to build the life he wanted.

Our conversation inspired me with the idea that life really is not just taking a leap of faith. It isn’t a movie or a book. Life is more like carefully managing crevasses, climbing rock walls, jumping off a cliff, and then hiking to the next. Seeing someone who like myself had to struggle to find their own way, then work for what he has now with temerity, and who continues to find new ways to grow reminded me that there are no epic accomplishments ended with a curtain closing. There is only taking on as much of the journey as we can and pushing ourselves to be greater because it’s what we’re made for.


Not only is it motivating to see how much someone else can crush it physically, it’s great to see that mental perseverance as well. 

What is his secret to keep moving forward? Along with other brilliant habits, Dan introduced me to what I think will be my new favorite.

For maintaining daily motivation, Dan has a strong belief that lead to a great daily ritual. He believes that to achieve greatness, you should surround yourself with greatness. An adage many of us have heard, but Dan has his own interpretation. You do not necessarily need to surround yourself with great people, but great conversation. For Dan this means listening to his favorite podcast, allowing him to become inspired. Just getting a chance to discuss motivation and listening to someone talk about finding their passion was motivating. I have to agree with Dan, surround yourself with greatness.


I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Dan Conaghans life. If you did please feel free to check him out at his Instagram thefitferret_azoth! He is incredibly motivating and knowledgeable in fitness. Thank you Dan, for taking the time to have this conversation! It was a blast to write about.




The Tools we Work with; Part I

Waking up and finding the motivation to keep going, to clean the house, to go to the gym, to smile, to paint, to write, to confront your boss, to make a healthy meal, to run, to interact, to grow – is not easy. So we’re here, trying to figure out how to work ourselves up to it. How do we pull ourselves forward when everything screams to just survive?

Well, survival itself is pretty impressive, and don’t doubt yourself that. If you want more though and you find that you can’t seem to do it alone, then search out the tools to bring you further.

Each person is entirely different and so we all need different tools, what I am about to say is what has worked for me (most of the time). If this doesn’t sit well with you, then move on to something else. There is something out there waiting for you to grab onto and use to your advantage, you just have to keep looking.


When life hands you lemons, throw them away and buy what you want.


Motivation is elusive. It is something we have to search out again and again, until we learn to carry it with ease, and even then the simplest things in life can make us misplace it.

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            Recently I’ve found my motivation to make some serious life changes, and it’s carrying me back here and to other paths I’m exhilarated for. For the first time in a while I feel as if I am actually taking control of my life. I wondered to myself, how? What changed that brought me here, from the desperately lost human I was only a year ago.

Initially I wanted to take credit for these changes, to say I came to my senses all on my own and just decided to make the Big Moves. Except when I really thought about it I knew exactly what it was that made me decide to take control of my life, and it wasn’t me at all. Someone very dear to me, whose ideals on life make me a little crazy at times, asked me what I wanted to accomplish in the next year. The question immediately resulted in an argument, obviously. My response after realizing I had no idea was to shout “well! what did you want to accomplish!” Upon which he calmly listed off all of his goals in the last few years and how he had accomplished them. I was infuriated. I made up a million excuses about how I don’t like manifesting things, because what if I’m supposed to be somewhere else in my life? I proclaimed I like to go with the flow. I said I had focused on one thing but something had messed it up (but really it just wasn’t happening). A thousand reasons poured out of me, but at the heart of it I knew that I was just upset with myself. What did I want to do? How could I seriously have no idea? Why did I let myself float around for this long? It wasn’t fun to realize I had completely lost track of my goals.

Quietly I chewed on it. What did I want to do? I thought about it every time I didn’t want to go to work, every Sunday I wished the weekends were longer. I stared at it in the quiet moments, at red lights and lunch breaks, in the shower and the mirror as I got dressed. It haunted me in my anger, my disappointment, my sulking. What did I want to do?

Eventually I found the answers to what I want. I gave myself two goals for the next year, and I know that I am completely capable of achieving them. So why didn’t I do this two years ago? How did I forget to chase after my own dreams.

Life moves fast.

And when you are trying to do something you love, it is easy to lose that inner voice that keeps you on track. It’s easy to be washed up in what other people think you should do. Especially when you don’t think you can accomplish your own goals. The only thing that brought me out of my survivalist haze was the sharp questioning of my life.

Most people don’t want to have their life choices questioned, they don’t want people to remind them that the blame is at their own feet, that they really are in control of their lives. I know I hate it. I want someone to pat me on the back for everything I do and say good job kid, you’re killing it. When really what I need is for someone to ask me, is this the right thing? It isn’t fun to have to genuinely comb through your life. I don’t want to decide whether I’ve been making the right choices for myself (especially since I haven’t). It is necessary. Nothing is more motivating than your own passions, intrinsic motivation will always move you farther than a carrot on a stick. So you have to do it, we all have to. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Look around and see if you’re just chasing after carrots. Cut fast and deep into the core of it. Are you happy? No? What are you doing to change it? Nothing? Then do the things. Make the Big Moves. Change directions.

It sucks having to realize what you’re doing isn’t really helping you thrive. It sucks having to sit down and figure out what will. It really sucks figuring it out when you just want someone to tell you what to do. Still, you have to do it.


If you wake up feeling like you’re wasting away, if you can’t get a hold of that new task, if you’re forcing yourself into work every morning, you need to question everything.  I couldn’t do it on my own, I needed someone else to come into my life to make me pay attention. It made everything so much better. I like waking up and being excited. I like talking about my dreams and feeling like I’m going to throw up I’m so vulnerable. I like hearing that voice in my head that says “do it!” and listening to it. I like feeling alive.

Living life to your own strange, beautiful, frightening, potential is glorious. I’m so grateful to be at it again, and I want everyone to have the same. So I’m asking you, what do you want to accomplish in the next year? 


Ten (really)  Small Things to Get to It

I always see these motivational posts about ways to get motivated. Some one telling me that making a vision board and stretching in the morning will really help. I know they’re right, of course. The trick is when you are completely black hole unmotivated, you don’t want to make the vision board. And if I could get up to stretch in the morning I would already feel better than 50% of my peers. So while all of those fun little things to do are nice, they aren’t really helpful when staring down your own baleful depression. 

Instead I need the tiniest of reminders. The things I can do when I’m feeling desperate. I need the really small things to get to it, with no expectation of getting to it right now. After spending a day or two thinking about it, and testing them out, I came up with this list. I hope it helps you, if like me, the poster for that vision board is still staring at you blankly. 

One: Watch your thoughts. Happiness and motivation are not things that we get. They are things we bring to our lives every day. You have to carry them in, with your own voice, in your own head. We always have a murmur of thoughts babbling around, so consistently we don’t even stop to pay attention to it. Stop. Listen to it. Find out what you’re thinking when you aren’t paying attention. You’ll be surprised. You might find a lot of “I’m not really great at that” or “why am I always stupid” and other self deprecating phrases. Even simple thoughts will bully your personal mojo down. Watch that babble. Take things out that don’t need to be there, put things in that do. Spending two minutes lying around thinking kind thoughts is going to do you a lot better than spending any time with the negative ones. 

Two: Be honest with yourself. I know the old work myself out of that productive thing trick. How else would I be able to convince myself to skip the yoga and sleep in again? I know yoga makes me feel amazing. I know that I have a genuinely better day if I start off with it. I’m not even making this up. So why are there still mornings where I am wide awake, laying in my bed, hitting the god damn snooze button? Because I am a crafty liar. The alarm goes off. I roll over. I stare at that beautifully alluring snooze button created by the devil himself. And then I begin to lie. Well, you know, I think to myself, you got to sleep pretty late last night. 10:30? That’s not a full 8 hours. You really do need that extra half an hour. Or, I’ll do it right after work. I know I will. And so on, and so on. I come up with all sorts of stories to avoid hitting my feet on the ground for another thirty minutes. But if I stop lying, if I say, own up to it Cara, you know you should get the hell out of bed. You know if you go back to sleep you’ll feel groggy. Well, even if I do go back to sleep, when I feel like crap I know why. Maybe my brain slowly starts to associate sleeping in with crappy feelings. And maybe getting up to do yoga starts to look really good again.

Three: Log off of social media. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy. I know on days when you are feeling down that all you want to do is curl up and stare at Facebook or Instagram, blankly allowing nonsense information to enter your brain. It is my personal favorite past time. The trick is, it will suck you in for three hours and at the end of it you’ll still feel horrible, if not worse. Just close out of it. Just hit the back button, x, main screen button, whatever button you have to. Just click it and do everything in your will power to not click back in. Those notifications don’t matter, they’ll be there in the morning. Just move your brain on for a bit.

Four: Get inspired. Sometimes this step is a good one to go to right after you log off social media. On the days when the blue screen and depression have too much of a hold on my mind I can at least follow this step, and the motivation gears start moving a little. For me it’s as simple as logging off Facebook and on to Instagram. My instagram is filled with beautiful places, cute animals, and beautiful art and poetry. After about ten minutes of staring at that I can remind myself that THAT can be my life, and I maybe even get off my tablet. Other options are going on to WordPress and reading inspiring blogs, googling something you’ve always wondered about but never looked in to, looking up the history of someone you look up to and seeing how they accomplished their goals. Even things as simple as looking up your horoscope. Just get your brain back to thinking, to processing something useful.

Five: Hate what you do, as much as you can. This is not usually how I roll. I’m much more into the silver lining and all that. Only the reality is that some days there is no silver lining, or at least none you can see. If that’s the case, if you just can’t stop walking around cursing every thing in your life, then go with it. Take it to the extreme. Hate the way your boss talks to you. Hate the commute to your job. Hate the way your body looks. Hate the way you  feel. Hate that stupid plant that your cousin got you and you some how managed to kill. Hate it, get angry about it, as angry as you can. Then push that rage into something productive. That’s the hard part, but you can do it if you get angry enough. All emotions are important and useful. Rage has a lot of energy in it, it makes some serious heat. With enough heat you’ll get a fire, and that fire can start burning down apatheticville.

Six: Talk to someone about your plans. Pick someone you love, or maybe a stranger you don’t care ab0ut, whatever is easy for you. Then, go! Tell them how you have this plan to start removing dairy from your diet, or talk about how amazing you feel when you paint. Post a status, mention it at work, text your mom. Tell someone because excitement is contagious and having some one excited for you is powerful. If someone doesn’t get excited, move on to the next person. Or, tap into a little rage and get to thinking about how you can prove to them you’re a rock star. Just say the words. Talking about your plans, putting your intentions out there, can absolutely help to manifest them. 

Seven: Take responsibility for your own life. This is an important step and one we can all forget too easily. When life has us down it is sometimes simpler to think that the Heavens are having fun kicking you around. The reality is that outside forces can only help you so much, the rest is up to you. When you feel exhausted at work, did you unplug an hour before bed? When you have that killer headache, did you drink water? When you feel alone and unloved, have you reached out to anyone lately? The reality is that you know what you need to do, and maybe sometimes it is hard to do it, but that doesn’t mean you can start thinking the world has it out for you. Take responsibility, know that you’ve been doing a little of this to yourself. Now you can recognize that you can change it. It’s your life.

Eight: Ask your support system for advice. Good or bad, it’ll get you thinking. Maybe you’ve hit a wall in your writing, or you really don’t know how you’ll build that tiny house. Talk to someone about it. The internet isn’t the only wealth of information around you. So are your friends and family, who hopefully have the best intentions for you. Ask them what they think you should do. If their answers don’t ring true to your plans, then you can cross that off the list of options. It will get you back to thinking about what you need to do. And with enough bad advice, you might find you had the answer all along. Nevermind that a fresh perspective never hurts, and suddenly, you can be thinking outside of the box that you so quickly locked yourself in. Reach out to someone intelligent or who has the best intentions for you. You’re not alone in this Life thing. 

Nine: Remember why you even want to life. This is something I myself struggle with, a LOT. Not that I’m always thinking about ending my life. Just that sometimes you get swept up with the pay the bills, go to work, sleep, pay the bills cycle. It’s easy to forget what you’re passionate about, the things that make you happy. Then it’s easy to forget about dreams, and dreams can wither away and die if we don’t keep an eye on them. Instead of re watching The Walking Dead focus on your here and now. Remember what you wanted to be when you grow up. Think about the things you love, make them tangible. Giving that dream a little sunshine goes a long way. 

Ten: Don’t second guess yourself! Just that. Don’t second guess those instincts, those dreams, those fears, those passions. A wise woman once told me, in a yoga video (Adriene Mishler to be specific), the Universe has your back. You are a part of the Universe. You have your back. Stop thinking you can’t do this, you already are. 

Like I said, ten really small things. You might think they’re too simple. But from someone who hasn’t posted on this page in months, I promise, it really helps. Either way, share your thoughts with me! I would love to know what gets you motivated. 

Amore, amore!

It’s 2016! We’ve all had the last month to get high off the new year, new me motivation. I hope you spent it well! If you’re anything like me, you mostly made plans to kick ass. That’s okay though, because now it’s February. February is the real ass-kickin’ month. Why, you ask? Because February is all about the LOVE!


Some of you may be groaning with that “don’t get all mushy on me” vibe. You might want to just swallow that vomit back down and get on this love train, because it is going to be great.

When I say February is the month of love, I need to clarify one thing. I’m not saying Valentine’s day is around the corner and because you might be alone you should start forcefully improving. Oh, hell no! I’m talking about getting down with all the love. Self love, family love, friends love, pet love, food love, and all the other great loves we, well, love! Valentine’s day is a great excuse to celebrate all these things. Since we’re making excuses, we might as well make Valentine’s day the excuse to celebrate it all month!

You may be thinking, okay clearly Cara has lost it. Love has nothing to do with motivation. To that I say pish posh, my friend! Haven’t you ever been in love? Being in love inspires and motivates you to do crazy things. I mean why do I do the dishes? Because I love my mom, and I know it makes her happy. Why do I go running sometimes? Take one look at my excited pup and you’ll figure out why. Why don’t I just say screw it and call out of work? Because I love the people I work with, and that would make their days suck. Think about it, find your gem of life. Then acknowledge just how much it inspires you to do.

At one point I wrote an article about intrinsic motivation, and how important it is to follow your own path, work on the things you’re passionate about. Oddly enough I didn’t even realize that all that really meant is, do what you love. If you do what you love, you’re going to be more inspired to keep doing it. End result? Love equals motivation.

My first step for this Love month is FIND YOUR LOVE. Get on those dating websites and hunt that perfect person down! Just kidding! What I’m talking about is better than a desperate Valentine’s date. It’s a date with yourself. It’s you, some hot chocolate (or coffee!), a comfy seat, and a pen and paper. Time to write out those feelings. I know it’s cheesy but I promise, it works. The only rule? Be honest and open with yourself. Give yourself some time to figure out what exactly is your favorite thing in life. What is the most important thing to you? Get down with your bad self and find that Love. It doesn’t have to be something concrete, it doesn’t have to make you money, and it doesn’t have to be sentimental either.

Your love is yours, it can be anything. Any idea, any rule, any person. It can be a noun, verb, or pronoun! It doesn’t matter. You can write one hundred loves, or maybe just one. You can write an essay about your love or just a single word. As long as it feels true to you.

Find it, acknowledge it, and sit with it. For now, just figuring out what you really are passionate about is enough. I know, this is some pretty heavy, vomit inducing, mushiness but just try it. I promise, I won’t tell anyone.

My Worst Enemy

We all have dreams, ideas, and goals. Images we’ve painted for ourselves and others. Most importantly, expectations. Now of course once you see the word expectations on a motivational blog you must start thinking of great things. Publishing a book! Getting a great job! Learning an instrument! No. Drop those dreams for a minute, we have more important things to discuss.

Expectations we do not realize we hold on to every, single day. We expect we’ll probably be late, we aren’t usually on time. We won’t have time to fix that broken thing, we haven’t for two weeks. And I am absolutely certain that at some point today I WILL eat that unhealthy snack. I always, always do. The absolute worst expectation I carry around with me? Maybe I accomplished something today, maybe even a few days. But eventually I will break. Not a doubt in my mind, sooner than later I will fail. Does this expectation haunt you? Are you just counting down the moments until you give up?

I don’t want to give up. All I want is to be stronger. To see my dreams and once, just once, to reach them. The first step? Let go. Expectations and definitions have held my capability down like heavy chains. I didn’t realize I had made them myself. Slowly I had built what I thought was a security blanket, only to find a net and I was caught. It is time to cut my way out.

Before when I woke up in the morning I would confront myself. Am I going to get out of bed? Or will I just sleep a little bit longer? I went to sleep knowing I would have this confrontation. Then morning would come and sometimes I would get out of bed, others I would sleep. A few days ago I found the difference. In my first few days of motivation, I don’t even expect that morning routine. Contemplation isn’t involved. I wake up and I move. Not because I had the mental fortitude to work my way up, but because I didn’t cling to the expectations that I would go back to sleep. There was no second guessing.

Our worst critic is ourself. Our heaviest chains are our own doubts. We make our obstacles only when we focus on them. To find true success I first had to let go. Walk away from my own doubts and for once, not linger near them. I’m not saying shoving positivity down your throat is the best way to go. I’m simply saying that no one can succeed when all they expect is failure.

Drop the image of yourself you steadily built up. Those flaws you joke about? Quit it. Stop saying you’re always late, that you can’t make things work, that you have problems with commitment. I don’t care how lightly you mention it. That is not you. It is a wall of expectations you made and you need to knock it down. Yes, it’s hard to suddenly realize that maybe you’ve been setting yourself up for your own failure. But once you move on from that, all you have is success.