Our Guest: Joan Herrmann
About This Episode
Your genes are not your destiny. But your attitude may be. We can resign ourselves to a certain pre-conceived ending of our lives. Or trust that “the beginning of the end” will blossom into a second Spring. Radio host and motivational speaker Joan Herrmann knows first-hand exactly what this twilight crossroads looks like, and how to come alive from a place of utter despair, as she did – even as, within a 9-month period, her marriage crumbled, both her mother and sister died, and her oldest son left for college. Rallied by a starry array of radio-show guests as her teachers and guides, Joan was led to discover that not only was everything still possible for her, but that, for everyone, our best age must be now, because that’s all we have.
5 Things You’ll Learn
- No matter where you find yourself, life isn’t over until you decide it’s over
- Being a victim vs. making something of your life
- Changing our lives by changing our 60,000 daily thoughts, 80% of which are negative
- Techniques to dismiss negative thoughts and conquer the subconscious mind
- Learning the two most important words — “I am” – and rediscovering what follows them
Welcome to our podcast called Love, Longevity, where we help you to live longer better. Our host, Michael FitzPatrick, founder and CEO of the Long Term Living Association, otherwise known as the LTLA, interviews thought leaders, innovators and experts across the country on a variety of issues related to aging and longevity; finances, legal, legacy and philanthropy, health and wellness, relationships and family, housing and transition, caregiving and more. The goal of the LTLA and this podcast is to change the paradigm as to how seniors and their families view and plan for aging and longevity issues. Now, join us as we welcome today’s very special guest on this episode of Love, Longevity.
Well, good morning, afternoon, evening, whatever time of day it is that you’re listening to this podcast, welcome to Love, Longevity. This episode is with our special guest, Joan Herrmann. Just so we can make sure that you can hear me and I can hear you before I get started, Joan can you just say hello and we’ll double-check the audio?
Hi everyone, thanks for having me.
Perfect, perfect. So, we are very excited about today’s episode of Love, Longevity because Joan has just a tremendous not only an energy, but she has a tremendous amount of experience I life, and some great information to share with all of us, and the topic of today’s podcast is Your Best Age Is Now.
So, for those that don’t know Joan Herrmann, she is the owner of “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life”, which is a phenomenal company, we’ll talk more about that a little bit later on. I just want to give people, Joan, a little background, introduce you, because you’re bio speaks for itself but the folks on this call that are listening are going to walk away with some very, very valuable information from you. The purpose of this podcast is we want to interview people who are thought leaders, right, who are inspirational, who are examples in life versus a warning sign for people, what things we can focus on and can do versus what we shouldn’t be doing, and in the areas of aging and longevity and innovation and things that are geared toward that marketplace that are for folks over the age of 50, 55, and one of the things I’ve seen in my 17 years in this business is that people spend a lot of time on self-development and personal development and growth in the first half of their life, but they get to 55, 60, 65, and they don’t really have as clear of a vision for their life going forward. So, a little backdrop, your bio is, Joan is the founder of a multimedia communications company, and created, hosts and produces the radio show “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life”. Joan also publishes a monthly digital magazine “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life 24/SEVEN”, which is distributed to hundreds of thousands worldwide. Her guest and magazine contributor list reads like a who’s who in the most influential and inspirational people in the world, and I’ve seen it and I could not agree more with that, it’s just an amazing collection of people you surround yourself with. She is a published author, a motivational speaker on the topics of transition, mind-body connection, and self-empowerment. Joan has been featured in print and broadcast media numerous times, so without further ado, welcome Joan Herrmann. Give us a little backdrop of your story; where did you grow up, tell us about your family, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time, let the audience kind of connect with you in that capacity first.
Sure, Michael, thank you so much for having me on your show today. Everything that you said in the introduction is so true. We spend so much of our time when we’re younger thinking about all the wonderful things that are ahead of us; getting married, and a career, and being educated, and then when we approach middle age and we’re 40, 50, 60, we tend to think that the best is behind us, and that is what my work is really all about. I started, I created the “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life” brand in midlife. I was in my mid 40s, I had been married 23 years, I was the mother of 2 children who at the time were in their teens, and after having devoted myself, like so many women do, to my family, I literally gave up my own identity to do that. After doing that, when I was about 43 years old I was looking in the mirror one day and I really had no idea who was looking back at me. One time I was a college-educated woman, an intelligent woman, who thought I was going to offer so much and have so much for myself, and I don’t regret my choices because I have wonderful children, but I do regret what I allowed to have happen to myself, that I lost my identity, and so in that “Ah-ha” moment of reflection and trying to figure out who I was, I had a crazy idea to create a radio show that could perhaps empower people, women in particular, who were feeling similarly to the way I was, who were trying to figure out what’s next. So, my background was in PR and marketing, but not media, I had no radio experience, so this was really a crazy idea. As I was starting to rediscover myself, I guess I was changing the dynamics of my relationship, so at that time my husband wasn’t as supportive in the changes that were taking place in me and our marriage started to have problems. At the same time that I’m starting to come alive again and my marriage is falling apart, my mother and sister, literally in one weekend, my mom has a stroke and my sister is diagnosed with a stage IV cancer and I had already lost my father and my brother, so the journey from that point was I was creating something that I felt was of value that was helping me but I was losing the life I knew, and within an actually about a 9-month period of time my marriage ended, my mother died, my sister died, and my oldest son left for college. So, what literally saved me was that seed of this work about change, and when I started it I had no idea what was coming up in my life, I couldn’t have imaged that, but I really became a student of my work, so this work began at a very dark point in my life but it also began at a point in my life that I thought the best was behind me. It’s now 8 years later, I’m 54 years old, and I’m doing work that I could have never imagined, work that I thought was reserved for someone in her 20s, so the messaging of what you said is so important for us to understand that no matter where you are in your life, it’s not over until you decide it’s over, and that is a really important message that I hope people take away from our conversation today.
So, Joan, let me ask you a couple questions on that level, because it’s a journey, it’s a personal one, and obviously you have to have a level of transparency and authenticity to even go out and share those personal times of your life, so you didn’t expect to be at certain places at certain times in life, but life’s circumstances occurred, and so a big part of what you do in the community that you surround yourself with is really focusing on where do we go from here, right? How do we either pick up the pieces or how to we continue to grow and to inspire and so on, so Your Best Age Is Now, why is that the title of this podcast, why is that an important topic for you? In other words, the follow up to that would be how do our thoughts really impact our physical and our emotional health, and you’ve been through a lot of that stuff that you could speak to.
Okay, so, the best age is now, and the reason is because that’s what I said a moment ago, it’s not over until you decide it’s over, and how you think about yourself and how you reframe your thoughts to whatever point you are in your life is key. So, when I was going through all of that loss, I was literally suicidal, and I don’t use that word as, you know, sometimes people describe themselves like I wanted to kill myself; I really wanted to kill myself. I spent alot of my time trying to figure out a way that I could do it that wouldn’t hurt my children, as if such a way existed, and it wasn’t that I wanted to die, I was tired, I didn’t know what was going to come next in my life. I was alone, I had no family; as I said, my father, mother, sister, brother, all passed away, all I really had left as family were my children. I was going to be a single parent now, I was going to be a sole financial provider, without any real knowledge of how that would happen, and I was very, as I said, I was exhausted. But, what saved me, and it truly did save me, was that seed for this radio show, because as I was going through these dark moments, I started to interview guests that really became my teachers. I had to read the books for the guests to prepare for the conversation, I researched their work, and that is what really was a turning point for me. So, you mention you get to different points in your life where you decide, and I truly believe it is a decision, I am either going to go in one direction and be a victim and allow this to defeat me and to live that life of “poor me”, or I’m going to turn this into something that has benefit, I’m going to learn some lessons, I’m going to make something of my life. The reason I created this “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life” brand, it’s a holistic brand, it’s the connection of mind, body, soul and spirit, because we are the sum of those elements, and so it begins with what you think, and let me give you some information about this. We have 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts every single day. Imagine that; 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts go through your mind every day. More than 80% of those thoughts are negative; so 80% of 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day are negative, and 90% of those thoughts are the same thoughts you had the day before. So, the same thoughts, then, equal the same choices, the same choices equal the same behavior, the same behavior equals the same experiences, the same experiences equal the same emotions, and the same emotions equal the same thoughts, and that’s our cycle. So, until something changes, nothing in your life is going to change, and that’s where it begins; it begins with your mind, and those thoughts have a profound impact on your physical and your emotional health.
There’s a science now called epigenetics, and I say now, it’s recent, it’s a few decades old, but that’s considered new science, and what this basically says is that we have thoughts every day, and from those thoughts our brain, and this is really basic language, our brain creates these chemicals that are then circulated through your body. When you’re happy, when you’re in love, when you’re feeling in a positive way, your brain creates oxytocin, which is a bonding chemical, it creates serotonin, which improves your mood and your sleep, it creates endorphins, which are painkillers, by the way 3 times more powerful than morphine, it creates dopamine, and it creates positive growth hormones. By contrast, when you’re sad, you’re angry, you’re stressed out, you’re living in fear, your body creates adrenalin and cortisol and other inflammatory agents. These chemicals, whether they’re happy positive ones or stressed out sad ones, get circulated throughout your body and that determines what goes on physiologically in your body. It contributes to disease, which is nothing more than dis-ease, it contributes to illness, it contributes to how your genes are expressed, so that gives you an idea of just how powerful your mind is in how you live your life.
Okay, that information is powerful by itself, and I think that one of the follow up questions I have for you on that is because there are a lot of intrusive thoughts that people have, right, there are thoughts that you sit back and wonder “where did that come from?”, like “why is that thought coming to me?”. How does somebody, knowing that there are 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts that occur in the course of a given day, right, and that 80% of them are negative, how does one-I always think of that game, the whack-a-mole game on the boardwalk where they have the little shark heads that pop up, and to win that game you have to hit as many of those shark heads as you can in that one minute-so a negative thought comes in, right, so what are some techniques, what do people do, how did you, from all the people you’ve interviewed and how you have put this into practice, what does one do about that?
Well the first thing is to understand we operate from our subconscious mind 95% of our time, some studies say it’s even higher than that, and from our conscious mind 5%, and some say it’s as low as 1%, so what that means is our subconscious mind, those programs are not even our own, they’re programmed from the time we’re children and so it’s like that knee-jerk reaction, you know if you’re in a relationship with someone and they do something and you go into that autopilot mode, that’s your subconscious programming. When someone says to you “you should really apply for that promotion”, and your first thought is “I’m not smart enough, I’m not educated enough”, that’s your subconscious mind coming into play, and those are the thoughts that we’re not even aware of, they just happen. The key is to operate more from your conscious mind, to be more mindful of what’s occurring, and to catch yourself when you have those thoughts and to change them into something more positive.
Two words that are very important, I believe that are probably the most important words in our language, are “I am”, and the reason they’re so important is because what follows them defines you. So when you’re so used to saying, if somebody says you should go on that date, “Oh no I’m too fat, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not whatever” fill in the blank, we have these thoughts all day long, that starts to define who you are, so you need to spend more time in your conscious mind and that occurs from being mindful. What I started doing when this happened, when I wanted to start to make some lasting change, I started paying attention, and in the very beginning I sometimes tell people, create this log, have one column of a thought that occurs, one column of what you’re doing at the time, and something that you could switch it out to. So, I’ve tried to now, when I go down that autopilot mode and I have those “I am” or “I can’t” or whatever it might be, the negative thoughts, I’m now working very hard to switch that consciously to a more positive thought about myself or about my life or about a situation.
Studies show, as I said, when you are living from a more positive place, no matter where you are, it might be about someone who is retiring and their view might be from some subconscious programming that once I retire that’s it, it’s over, there’s nothing else for me, they need to get out of that way of thinking, first become mindful that they even have that thought and then switch that to something that’s more beneficial that’s going to serve them much better in the long run for their life. So that would be what I would advise; be mindful of what you’re thinking, once you recognize it that is shifting you into your conscious brain, and then you can replace those thoughts with more positive ones and then it becomes more of a habit over time, and that’s just it, you’re reprogramming your mind.
Absolutely. You know, they say that from age 0 to 7 something generally happens in one’s life in terms of our programming. You’re born and you’re given a name, right, you didn’t name yourself, you were given a name, generally you were given a religion, you were given the town that you grew up in, you were given your sociodemographics, all sorts of stuff as modeled and groomed by those that brought you into the world, then your teachers and then your managers and coworkers and so on all along the way, but they do say that from 0 to 7 something usually occurs in our life that could be pretty impactful, and then from 8 to 15 or 16, some other things occur in our life that have left a lasting memory so to speak, and then from 15 or 16 to our early to mid 20s other things, bigger things, occurred, and what seems to happen is that those things that occurred way back when, you know, we are like meaning-making machines, we are the ones that kind of attach these meanings and interpretations to those things; you know, if something horrible happened we think that all men are this or all women are that or all adults are this or whatever it might be, and so what I want to transition to for this call is, like we said in the beginning, you know from age 20 to like 50 or 60 you see a lot of people that are in this world of development and growth and learning and the Tony Robinson events and really empowering your mindset and kind of helping to redesign, you know, some of the limiting beliefs, right, and installing new more empowering beliefs. I read something, I’m curious to get your thoughts on this, but there’s a gentleman by the name of Dan Sullivan who runs a program called Strategic Coach, and he’s coached thousands and thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners, but he wrote something talking about longevity and he said that a lot of people have an age pegged in their head as to when they think they probably will die around, right, given either family genes or family history or whatever, and he says “what I’ve witnessed is that people will spend almost the last 10 or 15 years creating that self-fulfilling prophecy”, and so he came up with this whole goal to live to 156; not to live to 156 actually, but to see if his brain would rework itself to know that he’s not dying at 78 or programming himself to die at 78, so what do you have to say for people-and all of a sudden, by the way, in his 70s he has more energy, more activity, he’s just producing, but a lot of people are in this more transitional period of life, right? They’re going from being a worker, to maybe a retiree. They’re going from being a parent to being, you know, maybe being a grandparent or an adult child taking care of aging parents. They’re going from being an earner right to a spender, and all these transitions that are occurring, it’s almost like they don’t know either a) what their identities are, and b) what the empowering beliefs and actions are to really create a strong identity, you know, for their family or for themselves. So, what does somebody do in this phase of life, because there’s so much transition from 55 to 60 and beyond, from your background, your knowledge base? What would be some encouragement or some practical takeaways for people?
Jane: Well, you know, okay so let’s go back to starting with, and you mentioned this, it’s your belief system of what you think will happen. So #1, genetics, throw that out the window because epigenetics basically says that, you know, your history of genes is nothing more than a blueprint but you can change it, so just forget about that because you have the power with your lifestyle, the way you eat, the way you think, what you do, you can change your genes; so that’s really important; number 1, people have to remove that belief system. The second thing, I work with a lot of people who are reinventing themselves midlife, like myself, and when I was in that dark time I really did believe the best of my life was behind me, you know, college, kids, marriage, buying a home, all the wonderful things that we dream about, I actually said to myself on a number of occasions “there’s nothing left for me to look forward to”. I can tell you now, that was the most ridiculous statement I ever made to myself because I look at life now at my age in middle life that there’s nothing I can’t do, and that’s another thing that you have to start to think. So, once you believe that your genes are not your destiny, there’s nothing you can do, that will start to put you on the right path. I spoke with an author who had done work on people that were living to be 100 years old and he said that it’s the cultures and the way they view things that really make a difference, and here’s an example. Menopausal women in the United States have a difficult time; they have hot flashes, they, you know, experience very real physical symptoms, but his point was a lot of those physical symptoms are driven by our belief system that menopause is the beginning of the end. By contrast, if you go to some cultures, they view menopause as a second spring, and to them it’s a new beginning, and those women do not experience the same physical symptoms that we do. So, if you put that back scientifically to the mind, like you said, when people decide they’re going to have a difficult menopause and this is the end, when people decide “I’m 62 and my mother died at 75 so I don’t have that long left to live”, when they make that decision it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because the mind is that powerful. Let me give you an example. There’s something called, you’ve heard of the placebo effect, there’s something called the nocebo effect where cancer patients, there was one group of cancer patients who were given chemotherapy treatment and there was another group of cancer patients who were told they were being given chemotherapy treatment and they were given nothing more than saline. The group that was not given the chemo experienced chemotherapy side effects without having a drop of chemo in their body. That shows you the power of the mind. When you decide that you’re going to pass away at a certain age, when you decide that this is the end for you, it might as well be because you will create that ending for yourself.
I have met Diane Gilman. She has a jeans company on the Home Shopping Network; she started this company in her early 60s. If you look at all of the people that are successful today at ages when we were growing up we looked at these people and said oh, they’re so old, if you look at the things they’re accomplishing today it all begins with the belief that they can do it, and that is what I really want your listeners to understand. We’re all going to go through changes in our lives, and we fight so hard not to go through change, but really change, it can be wonderful. Even the horrible things in life can be wonderful, they can put you on a path that you never imagined if you allow them to, if you stop fighting them and if you embrace it. I know that sounds so, you know, someone who is where I was, is saying probably like “yeah, you don’t know my situation, you don’t know what I’m going through”; I’m telling you I do, and I’m telling you everything that I’m saying to you is possible if you change the way you view things. Dr. Wayne Dyer said “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”, and nothing can be more truthful than that statement.
Oh, my gosh, absolutely. So, in wrapping up here, what has you the most fired up about the future and what are some of your big goals in the next 1, 3, 5, 10 years, what are you working on?
Well, it’s interesting, because like I said I never would have imagined that I would have felt that everything was possible, but it is. I mean, a few weeks ago I did a brand event at the Bergen PAC. I was on stage with a New York Times bestselling author doing a major event, and for a woman who started this middle age who was nothing more than a soccer mom, to be working with the people that are leaders in their field is literally nothing short of a miracle; so I, today, believe everything is possible. We have a wonderful magazine that you can read on our website, it’s the first letter of each word of the brand “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life”, so if you go to CYACYL.com you can listen to my shows, there’s great information there that you can extrapolate and put into your life, there are articles in our magazine, we have a wonderful team of experts, everyone that is there to give you information to support you. So for me, I believe that anything is possible and everything is possible, and that’s how I’m moving forward and I want everyone listening to us today to take that attitude, whether you’re 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, anything is possible if you choose it to be, because I’m living it, these are not just words, so just go for whatever it is you want to do.
Absolutely. Well, Joan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time, your insights, and I was going to ask how the listeners can get in touch with you, but you’ve so eloquently already provided a great segway into the work that you do and the “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life” website which, again, was the first letter of each of those words and it’s dot com, correct?
Right, exactly. So Joan, continue on the path that you’re on, helping people and helping people rediscover the answer to “I am…”, but we’re most grateful for your time with us this morning. I know for a fact that whoever is listening to this is going to get a lot of value out of this, and onward and upward in the rest of life, and just choose what you want, go for it, and wherever it takes you it’s either going to be a great learning experience, right, or a lesson or something else, but any parting words?
No, I just want encourage you to keep on with your work because you are changing lives and I’m so happy that I was able to be a part of this today. You are definitely making a difference in the world, and I wish you all the best.
Thanks Joan. Again, the title of this one was “Your Best Age is Now” because it’s all we have, and so go out and live powerfully. Thanks everybody.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of Love, Longevity. With 80 million baby boomers coming into retirement, we need to change the paradigm as to how seniors and their families view and plan for aging and longevity issues. Here at the LTLA, we are your partner for aging options. To learn more about the Long Term Living Association and how we can help you, please visit us at longtermliving.org.