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Always Aim to Surprise & Delight

“Lead the life that will make you kindly and friendly to everyone about you, and you will be surprised what a happy life you will lead.”
– Charles M. Schwab

Point to Ponder:
How would your daily interactions change if your aim was to surprise and delight everyone whose path you cross?

Action Item:
Adopt ‘the Disney mentality’ by treating everyone (no exceptions) with kindness, as if they are your guest.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

If you live in Austin or pay a penny’s worth of attention to sports, you know that The University of Texas has a new athletic director, Steve Patterson. How this relates to my world is that my husband Russell is one of the assistant men’s basketball coaches. As anyone would expect, with new leadership comes change, new ideas and new expectations — all of which intrigue me because I’m a sucker for anything that applies to leadership, improving customer experience, relationships and bettering one’s personal and professional life.

One recent brilliant meeting the athletic department was required to attend was led by The Disney Institute. I think it’s safe to suggest that there’s not a person reading this journal who isn’t familiar with Disney and their superior products and excellent service. If you are a parent of small children like myself, Disney is my best friend friend and my worst nightmare. Their movies create an amazing experience and enhance my children’s imaginations, but the flip side is that my once charming and semi-sophisticated home has been taken over by Disney characters. Needless to say, they run an exceptional operation and I was ecstatic to learn the teaching points from the best in the world.

Upon picking Russell’s brain, he also shared the handbook and the impressive collection of notes. It’s difficult to say which philosophy or expectation is most important, however the one that resonated most with me is this:

Disney strives to surprise and delight their customers and one another, their co-workers. Regardless of business hierarchy, from the CEO to the custodians, they treat everyone as their guest. They always go the extra mile to ensure that everyone has a supreme experience.

I love that! I think it makes the most sense of any professional advice I’ve ever read or received… but what if we took it one step further? What if we applied this rule to our personal lives too? What if we treated our family members as guests and made it our daily mission to surprise and delight them, everyday? Confession: I know Russell would be beyond grateful if I treated him this way. And, to go another step, what if we treated everyone — including total strangers — as our guests? Can you imagine driving in awful Austin traffic and kindly motioning another driver who is trying to cut in front of you that he/she is welcome to slip in? I think we should try!

I really do think this Disney philosophy is the best and most practical life wisdom there is. I have no doubt that if we applied it to our personal and professional lives it would repair relationships and set us up for success in all areas of our life. I can for sure predict that life we would feel less stressful, we’d be happier, and the result would be improved health and quality of life.

Believe it or not, September is “Self-Improvement Month,” so each week we will discuss different ways we can all improve our lives. This week’s recommendation is adopting “the Disney mentality” and treating everyone (no exceptions) with kindness, like they are our guest. I have a strange suspicion that our efforts in “surprising and delighting” will lead to more personal fulfillment than anything else. It will be an exciting experiment with life-changing results, which we hope you’ll share with friends and even on social media.

For additional inspiration, check out this three minute video to see how one act of kindness by an eight year old is changing lives:

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Amy Myers MD Re-Blog: 8 Foods You Think Are Healthy…But Aren’t!

This article is a Re-Blog from the Amy Myers MD Blog. Check out this and more great articles about optimum health and functional medicine on the Amy Myers MD Blog! 


by Amy Myers MD

by Amy Myers MD

“Reduced fat” peanut butter? “Enriched” flour? Sure, those sound healthy, but the poor nutrient quality of so many “health” foods has been masterfully obscured by clever advertising.

Let’s look at 8 of the top foods that you might think are healthy, but aren’t.

1. Dairy

Dairy products such as milk and cheese have been touted as “great sources of calcium” and an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. But because of the types of dairy cows we use, how they are raised, and how dairy is now processed –it is not a health food.

Dairy is highly inflammatory, meaning it provokes an immune response in your body. Inflammation can lead to serious conditions such as heart disease and autoimmune disease. The body’s immune response to dairy can manifest in symptoms including digestive issues, such as gas and bloating, skin disorders, and even behavioral problems like Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, conventional dairy cows are injected with bovine growth hormone to increase milk production, which leads to infections that need to be treated with antibiotics. All of the hormones and medications that are given to the cows make their way into the milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt, and eventually into your body.

For more information about the dangers of dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium check out my article here.


2. Whole grain bread

Refined flour is almost as bad as sugar! It has no nutritive value at all. The word “enriched” on a package tells you that a food has been stripped of its nutrient content during processing, so much so that the manufacturer had to add something back in.

Whole grain bread may seem like the healthier option. In reality, any grains can be harmful. Because they contain digestion inhibitors, they can cause gut imbalances, such as SIBO and yeast overgrowth, and damage to the gut lining. For more information on the problems with grains, read this article.

3. Cereal

Cereal, even “healthy” cereal, is junk food! It’s a combination of several problematic foods that add up to one unhealthy breakfast. Cereal is grain-based, full of sugar, and usually eaten with milk. Kids’ cereals especially have been shown to contain as much sugar as cookies.

If you want a breakfast that will actually fuel you throughout the day instead of just giving you a sugar high, try a green juice or smoothie. I like to see how many nutrient-packed green vegetables I can sneak into my meals each day, and a green smoothie is the perfect vehicle.

Speaking of juice…

4. Bottled, boxed, or canned juice

I’m a big fan of homemade juice, but processed, store-bought juice is practically sugar water. When juice is extracted from a fruit, all that wonderful fiber that regulates how fast that sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream is left behind. The result is sugar that, despite its origin, looks no different to your body than table sugar. Juice contains all the calories of the fruit in a much easier to eat package, allowing you to consume much more than you need quickly. Without the fiber to activate your body’s satiety signals, juice isn’t going to fill you up. Add to that the fact that store bought juices are usually primarily apple juice and don’t contain any green vegetables.

Skip the store-bought juice. Either make your own, or better yet eat whole fruits and veggies!

5. Fat-Free or Reduced Fat foods

“Fat-Free” and “Reduced Fat” food labels perpetuate the myths that one, if something contains fat it is therefore bad for you, and two, if a food is fat-free it’s healthy. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

Fat is a very important part of your diet, and your body needs it to survive. It’s vital that you get healthy fat from sources like whole plant foods, such as coconut, avocado, and nuts and seeds. Taking the fat out of something like a nut butter means it’s going to be replaced with something else, such as sugar. Removing a component of any food just means you’re processing it more. Quite often, fat-free foods are more calorie- and sugar-dense than the original food.

Include healthy fats in your diet. Excluding fat from your diet will only lead to imbalance and disease later on.

6. Gluten-free foods

I certainly do not advocate that anyone eat gluten, however there is a myth that as long as a food is gluten-free, it’s healthy. If you’ve given up gluten but are still experiencing symptoms, it could be that you are relying too heavily on processed gluten-free foods that still contain lots of harmful ingredients, like soy, eggs, dairy, and other grains like corn. In fact, gluten-free foods are often more processed than their gluten-containing counterparts! Additionally, many foods that are technically gluten-free cross-react with gluten, meaning they provoke a similar immune response in your body.

Remember, just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as your best defense!

7. Soy & tofu

Soy is in practically everything. You can find it in milk substitutes, dressings and sauces, chocolate, body products, cakes, crackers, and of course, infant formula. It’s also used as animal feed, so it’s present in your meat products if you aren’t buying grass-fed or pasture-raised. Soy products like tofu are considered the quintessential “health foods,” but are they really?

Just as people who are sensitive to gluten sometimes rely too heavily on gluten-free products, many vegetarians rely too heavily on soy products as meat alternatives. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see from day to day. Whether or not you are a vegetarian, soy is not something you should consider a health food. Many people are sensitive to soy, and by producing an immune response it damages the gut lining and promotes disease. Soy also contains chemical compounds called isoflavones that mimic estrogen. Too much estrogen has been linked to reproductive problems and breast cancer. Additionally, 90% of the soy used in processed food in the United States is GMO.

Soy is ubiquitous in the Standard American Diet, especially in the form of soy lecithin, an emulsifier that is added to many processed foods. Soy lecithin is an extremely processed food additive and is best avoided. That’s easier to do on a whole foods diet. The less processed a food is, the less you need to worry about its ingredients.

8. Corn

You probably grew up thinking corn is healthy. However, like gluten, corn is not easily digested and causes lots of damage to the gut lining. Additionally, 90% of corn is GMO, and due to cross-pollination by wind, that remaining 10% isn’t guaranteed to be non-GMO. Because corn is highly inflammatory for so many people and provides little nutritive value, it’s best avoided.

Like soy, corn is in seemingly everything in the form of additives such as high fructose corn syrup, and in conventional, grain-fed meat. Quality matters–always buy grass-fed or pasture-raised meat products, and ditch anything made with corn syrup.

Your best bet when trying to eat healthy is to consume unrefined whole foods. Advertising confuses the issue of nutrition when it comes to processed food, making unsubstantiated health claims to sell a product. Identify and avoid foods to which you are sensitive and prepare your own meals to ensure that you are eating the most nutritious and protective diet. For some great recipes, visit my blog or sign up for my newsletter!

Read more great articles by Amy Myers MD on her blog


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Cleanse day 3: by Amy

By Amy Younkman

By Amy Younkman

Hello Cleanse Comrades!
Day 3 of my healthy Re-Boot was definitely the best so far. Woke up feeling clear-headed, energetic and full of vitality! I started my program on Saturday. Being a tea drinker, the caffeine boost is not a big deal for me, and I’ve really enjoyed the warm lemon water first thing in the morning. I’ve had two cups each morning and surprisingly I’ve not missed my morning chai tea. Been drinking different herbal teas a couple of times a day…..I really like all the Yogi brand blends. Warm drinks relax me, so I’ll have one in the afternoon and one at night after dinner.  Here’s a peek at my Day 3……

Up and out the door by 7:15am and not returning home until 4pm. Breakfast: Kind Bar and V-8 juice. Good stuff on the fly.

Packed my lunch and snacks for the day….felt like a real commuter bringing out the ‘ol lunch bag!  Late morning snack: an apple and an organic raspberry yogurt with coconut milk (yum!)  Lunch “on the road”: cage-free organic hardboiled jumbo egg (SO big and great snack to pack) and Detox Salad from the night before.  The Detox Salad with broccoli and cauliflower is filling, satisfying, love the crunch and sweetness from the currents and raisins.  It makes A LOT!

Got home around 4pm after picking up dinner from sweet Courtney Parker…..Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan…..didn’t think I was hungry until I smelled THAT!!!  To stave off my craving to dig into it I made myself a Cranberry Cocktail.  I’m not a big cranberry lover, so I add some kick with sparking water (not quite as much kick as if I added Deep Eddy Vodka!)

Dinner was so good I forgot to take a picture! My taste buds were happy until…….8:30pm rolled around… time to sit down with a warm drink and some CHOCOLATE. I was craving something sweet, so being the flexible and adaptable Monarch that I am….I made an executive decision that Protein Almond Balls ARE on the iGnite cleanse.

I whipped up a batch (after all, my Pilates peeps would enjoy them the next morning! )😄  Life was good once again. (The recipe is on the  blog; I added cherries instead of cranberries.)

Ahhhh… part of the day.  Wasn’t able to sneak one of these in until now.  What was I waiting for???

Goals Shmoals, Just What Do You WANT?

by Catherine Hearn

by Catherine Hearn

In the world of self improvement and self-help, you’re always hearing about the importance of goals. What are your goals? What are your dreams? What are your passions? And if you’re at all like me, those questions just make you want to roll your eyes and think… I don’t know what my “goals” are!  Who really does that anyways?!   But something happened in my life that made me think about them in a whole new way… a way that made complete sense to me.  And now, I see that they are just as powerful as people are always saying they are.  It just doesn’t have to be approached in such a boring way!  It’s time to make “setting goals” more approachable, more interesting, more…fun?

To make a long story short, the journey that brought me to setting and achieving “goals” and completely changing my life for the better went about something like this:

Stage 1:  Live my life as an absolute perfectionist, overachiever,  make-sure-I-look-good-in-everyone-else’s-eyes kind of  gal.  i.e.   always trying to get the ‘perfect’ grades, look as ‘perfect’ as possible (whatever that means?), be the president of my college organization, date the ‘cool’ guy, and on and on…

Stage 2: Get a standard office job doing what my college major prepared me to do…regardless of whether it really inspired or interested me. It’s what we’re all “supposed to do” after all, isn’t it? (gag)

Stage 3: Find out I have a brain tumor.   A benign, non-cancerous tumor called a pituitary adenoma to be exact. Not dangerous or life-threatening, but try explaining that to me in the same sentence as  the words BRAIN and TUMOR  in a voice mail left on my cell phone by my doctor’s office (awesome customer service, I know) , and I didn’t exactly hear the “you’re gonna be fine though” part…

Stage 4: Sit down and realize (post freak-out and crying session)… ok, clearly I am NOT in control of my life.   So, what CAN I do? Suddenly I realized that SO MANY of the things we sit around and complain about in our lives are actually within our control of changing.  Unfortunately, for most of us it often takes a moment of — oh wait, I might not have another day— to realize that.   So I asked myself,  how am I spending my days that suddenly seem more numbered?  Well, at the time… 9 hours a day at a job I didn’t like, in a 7-year relationship that wasn’t healthy, not working towards anything I had always talked about wanting to do “some day,” not really doing anything that necessarily excited me… not the best start, to say the least!  I  had been living my life entirely with the purpose of impressing others and was completely out of tune with what I personally wanted and who I really was.  This prompted me to sit down with a piece of paper and make a list (I love lists 🙂 ) — I asked myself just for fun, what are all of the things I’ve  said I’ve always wanted to do?  The list started something like this:

  • study abroad
  • complete a triathlon
  • become fluent in Spanish
  • go rock climbing
  • live in Southern California — I love the beach!
  • go to ACL (it had always sounded fun but because my friends weren’t into it, I never went)
  • drive a black bug convertible (why not?)

…and many more things, both small and big.

I decided then and there that THIS was my new to-do list. And to start on it…. RIGHT THEN. And what do you know? Within two years I had lived and worked abroad entirely in Spanish, spent  6 months living in San Diego (which led me to discover my passion for women’s empowerment & psychology of health & wellness) … and the list keeps going on.  Of course I have not checked everything off of my list, but I see them ALL as achievable and I am always working towards making at least one of them happen.  No more stagnant living for me!  My self-talk has changed from, why do that? That’s ‘not normal.’ To, why NOT? My new mantra became “no regrets,” and I became the queen of trying new things, getting outside of my comfort zone, listening to what I wanted to do instead of what was seen as “normal” to those around me —  and WOW am I a happier, more fulfilled and more joyful person on so many levels, to say the least.

I truly believe that God made us each purposefully unique, with very different, specific (sometimes random or silly) desires in our hearts.  He put all of these random desires within each of us for a REASON. We just have to have the courage to listen to them and go after them. It is THEN, along those crazy missions toward checking those small and large things off our “lists” that we will find our unique purpose and experience the abundant, exciting and joyful lives we are cut out to live.

It’s simply a matter of taking ownership.

I think this quote says it best:

The best day of your life is the day on which you decide your life is your own.
No one to lean on, rely on or blame.  The gift of life is yours, it is an amazing journey, and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  Life is about the choices you make — choose wisely.

So I challenge you,

  1. Ask yourself: Do I take ownership for the quality of my life? Or do I blame my circumstances or other people in my life for the way things are?
  2. Sit down & write down all of the different ways (big & small) that you complete these sentences:
    • “I’ve always wanted to _____________”
    • “I really want to _______”
    • “Someday I’d love to ______”
    • “I  wish I could __________”
  3. Get to work! And remember, it’s all about baby steps.  Decide that the second you want to start complaining about something,  you will instead decide what small steps you will take to CHANGE them.

You might just find that the grass, right where you are, suddenly gets a little greener 🙂