“Examine your limiting beliefs and self-talk”, Katy Kvalvik and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Examine your limiting beliefs and self-talk. Understand your triggers, then make a decision and create a plan to change the routine you step into once triggered. To help you get used to your new good habits and routines, leave yourself little reminders. I used to leave myself a note on the fridge to drink two […]

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Examine your limiting beliefs and self-talk. Understand your triggers, then make a decision and create a plan to change the routine you step into once triggered. To help you get used to your new good habits and routines, leave yourself little reminders. I used to leave myself a note on the fridge to drink two glasses of warm water in the morning, for example, when I was implementing that habit, or I’d leave time blocks in my calendar to remind me.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katy Kavalvik.

Katy Kvalvik is the creator of the Harmony Method® — a blueprint for work-life harmony and is a certified executive coach that provides personal and professional development services to transform and inspire today’s leaders. After overcoming multiple life-altering injuries — and relearning how to walk — Katy has dedicated her life to empowering leaders to fulfill their missions and live out their life purpose. From today’s leading corporate brands to entrepreneur-led start-up businesses, she has worked with companies such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Sony, American Express, Beach Body, and Singularity University as well as tech startups like VideoAmp, Pivot Bio, and MediGram, to name a few.

Katy also speaks on integrative health — specifically stress reduction, chronic pain, gut health, and chronic fatigue. She specializes in helping individuals build resilience, increase their high-performance mindset, and achieve sustainable results by incorporating health and wellness strategies into their everyday life. A graduate of UC Berkeley, board-certified health counselor, certified trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), certified yoga instructor, and business mentor, Katy is passionate about helping people thrive. To learn more, visit katykvalvik.com

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My parents had three kids in four years: my two older brothers and me. My brothers were into sports, so I was into sports. My parents’ goal was to have us go to bed by 8:00 p.m., then we’d be up early for a full day of activities and training with our teams. That really put a lot of structure and routine in place for me at an early age.

In many ways, I was raised like a boy. Anything my brothers did, I did. It’s not that I didn’t have any dolls given to me; I just preferred being out getting muddy with the boys. I was always told I could be anything I wanted to be.

At the same time, my grandmother (who lived abroad for 26 years before moving back to California) would take me to operas and symphonies and every museum in San Francisco. I grew up with a really unique mix of structure and culture.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve always been the deep listener in my family, and had a strong desire to help people and support them. This deepened significantly after I suffered debilitating injuries in my young adulthood and worked through them to find recovery.

After graduating from UC Berkeley and thriving in a corporate career of implantable medical device sales, I suffered debilitating injuries as a result of two car accidents — the first while I was training on a race bike and the second from a hit and run accident where the backend of my car went into the center of my car.

Regardless of the pain, I continued working, concealing my injuries under my scrubs. The stress of this deception and my PTSD made daily life very difficult. I was medicated, caffeinated, and running on adrenaline. On the weekends I would crash, spending most of my time alone in bed.

One day, after going to the bathroom, I laid on the floor and I stared at the ceiling wondering when I would ever get better and was this what life was really all about. For the first time in years, I reconnected with my intuition.

For the first time, I took charge of my recovery. My new mind-frame gave me the courage and hope that I could do anything I set my mind to, and I instantly reclaimed my power.

I healed more in the next two months than I had in two years. I refused to sit back and take pills that were prescribed. Instead I turned on my curiosity and sought out sage advice from ancient healing traditions, curious if there was an eastern compliment to western medicine. This journey led me across the globe: India to the Amazon, Kyoto to Bolivia, China to the Himalayas. It motivated me to go back to school to learn further about holistic, integrative, and leadership strategies. I first became a yoga instructor; then a certified health counselor. The more I learned, the more curious I would become. I became further interested in how our mind, body, and life are connected. I started studying energy work and went to get another certification in executive coaching realizing I wanted to work with leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and business owners. The more I studied and started to work with people I wanted to learn more, which motivated me to become a Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainer along with obtaining a few other certifications.

In this, I discovered I am able to study multiple systems of information and not be attached to only one. I became a translator to people for how to interpret all the information to get the results they were looking for. I realized that we have choices every moment regardless of what is going on around us. This concept of choice liberated me, and I set out to share the knowledge I gained to liberate people around the world.

After all that suffering then learning to heal and lead myself, I had so much knowledge and so much to be grateful for. I knew I needed to be of service to others, so it was a very natural segue into coaching and consulting in a supportive role.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My grandmother was a classically trained artist, and she exposed me to a tremendous amount of culture — from every type of food to having season passes to all the museums in San Francisco, and the symphony, and the opera. When my grandfather said he wasn’t going to any more symphonies and operas when I was around six years old, Grandma invited me to be her date to many of these events!

She was the most curious person I’ve ever known. And she taught me how to be curious, how to think outside the box and to have an opinion.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was speaking in Las Vegas at a conference eight years ago, and it was my first time ever doing a TED-type speech in front of a large group. The talk needed to be around 12 minutes. About two hours before the speech I added a few things. When I got on stage, I lost track of time and went for over 20 minutes, only got through 70% of my slides, and winged the ending. On top of that, I didn’t realize that the production staff had been telling me to wrap it up for several minutes. I couldn’t see them in the back of the room due to the stage lights being so bright and the darkened room.

People were inspired by my story, and I actually got some good feedback, but I was not able to follow the format and I felt like it was disorganized. It was a good lesson of “less is more” in most circumstances and present what you practice.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Keep the faith. Learn as much as possible in your early career years. Take on different mentors and spend time building your foundation. Find what you love to do, and what you get excited about. Give back and empower people.

Thanks to my upbringing as an athlete, I had the opportunity to learn that failure isn’t that bad. In sports, you win some and you lose some. You “fail” constantly. And it’s just not that big of a deal. So, be willing to fail. Be willing to take risks. You will learn a lot.

Your end goal might be making lots of money, but take time in your 20s and 30s to spend time going deep into fundamentals and foundational skills, and to get mentored by as many people as possible to learn how the things you want to do are really done. With that knowledge in hand, you can implement what you’ve learned and take calculated risks with that body of knowledge supporting you.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Tao Te Ching. I’ve read it over 200 times, and I enjoy listening to the audiobook version by Steven Mitchell in the car; it’s very calming.

For me, what impacts me most is the invitation to tap into self-awareness and a deeper wisdom to navigate life. This book has really helped me during my struggles and challenges, especially during my injury years.

One of my favorite verses is, “Do your work, then step back.” As someone with workaholic tendencies who tends to get very passionate about what I do, this speaks to me about how to have boundaries, recognize your personal puzzle piece in life, then be able to know when it’s time to step back — whether to lead from behind or just step back, enjoy your life, and not be in the thick of it all the time (which can create excess stress).

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Your thoughts become your reality. Choose them wisely.”

Most people don’t realize you can choose your thoughts every second, and that your thoughts then create your emotions and your feelings, which go on to impact your stress levels and hormones, which impact your physical health. It’s all connected.

Our limiting thoughts are actually caused by limiting beliefs. At some point in life, we decide, “This is how it is.” It’s a decision we make about ourselves and our model of the world, and it then limits how we think and how we live. The beliefs we hold internally shape our experience of the external world. They create our reality around what is possible and not possible.

The goal here is to take ownership of and responsibility for your thoughts. You are responsible for your results and your outcomes, and it starts with your thoughts and your belief systems.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m working with AllBright, a collective of members’ clubs that aims to bring women of different industries together to network, socialize, and empower each other. I created a digital negotiation course along with contributing to creating curriculum and overseeing two programs: Elevator (which gets women ready for the C-Suite) and Elevator Plus (getting women ready for serving on boards).

I’m very passionate about this work because it’s empowering women. I’m a huge advocate for women working with mentors, advisors, and teachers to build confidence and encourage them to take the big career leaps that, statistically, men take more readily and easily.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Your habits and routines are the structures that create your freedom to flow with the moment and align to your authentic center. When you practice good habits consistently, they will eventually become normal to your unconscious mind, which is the goal. The more you normalize good habits and start to do them automatically, the less stress you will experience and the more easily you’ll achieve your goals. Good habits also allow you to create an ideal plan for how you want to spend your time and who you want to be.

I was swimming laps with my brother last weekend, and we were speaking about our work ethic and consistency. We started reminiscing about growing up and being in sports year round, and the consistent routine and structure of our daily lives. Growing up with that structure transferred into how we navigate adulthood.

I realize not everyone grew up with this kind of structure being normal for them, but everyone has the option to create the habits and structure they want in their life.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

My habits and routines help me achieve the levels of high performance I want in my life. Having morning and night routines are number one for me.

I use the last 20 minutes of my evening to plan out the next day. Before I go to bed, I also take care of mundane tasks like doing the dishes, lunch prep, laundry, charging devices, and picking out workout and work clothes for the next day. I eliminate clutter to start the day fresh, and I set my intention for the day ahead. I have a set bedtime and waking time, and I use an alarm but don’t hit snooze.

In the morning, I get up, brush my teeth, make my bed, have two glasses of warm water and probiotics, review my intention for the day, meditate, and get some exercise in (i.e., walk for 10–20 minutes, do some light yoga, or do stretching and breathing exercises). Then, I shower and dress for the day with the clothes I’ve laid out the night before.

Other good habits that contribute to my success include writing out lists of what’s in my head so that I’m not stressed about remembering everything; taking “creative walks,” where I problem solve and allow new ideas to come through; and scheduling rest for myself, as rest is a crucial element to productivity.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits?

Think of habits in terms of three categories: habits you need to stop, habits you need to continue, and habits you need to start.

For example, a distracting habit you might need to stop is checking social media too often, binge watching Netflix, too much online shopping, or repeatedly hitting the snooze button. You might also have good habits you’re already doing that you want to continue, like eating a healthy diet of whole foods and mostly vegetables. There may also be new habits you want to start, like implementing a morning routine of exercising for 10 minutes, improving your night routine so you get more sleep, or planning out your day the night before so you know what to expect. Keep your habits simple and consistent to experience the most ease with them.

Start small, and don’t try to change everything at once. If you get off course, let it go, reflect, make any adjustments for the next day, and try again.

Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

You’ve got to get clear on “your why.” Why are you doing these things? If you want something, why do you want it? And why do you want to establish good habits?

If you have bad habits, it’s usually because you lack clarity or purpose, so you’re filling that lack with a coping mechanism to avoid something that’s unpleasant or painful. Get clear on your purpose and goals, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why you want to have good habits.

The next thing is to have support. When I get out of the level of motivation I am used to, I need support and accountability to jumpstart me and motivate me to follow through. Being an athlete growing up, I can jumpstart my motivation and consistency by working with a coach or a team. Accountability is so key here to lose bad habits. Whenever I feel I want to take my performance to the next level with exercise, or I have resistance or a lack of clarity in projects or work, I consult a coach, mentor or trainer to get back on track.

Next set up your home and work environment for success and examine the amount of clutter you have. In your home it is important to have order and prevent messy areas which can be distracting, prevent focus and cause stress. Take time to organize, including throwing out anything that is not needed. Create open space on counters, walls and other areas in the house even in your bathroom drawers.

Examine your limiting beliefs and self-talk. Understand your triggers, then make a decision and create a plan to change the routine you step into once triggered. To help you get used to your new good habits and routines, leave yourself little reminders. I used to leave myself a note on the fridge to drink two glasses of warm water in the morning, for example, when I was implementing that habit, or I’d leave time blocks in my calendar to remind me.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Drink more water.

Your body needs plain water, and water is not coffee, tea, or soda. Human beings are made up of around 70% water, so it’s natural that this is a basic essential for our wellness. Water helps to regulate body temperature; lubricates our cells, organs, and tissues; and carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells. It also prevents constipation.

The same hormone in your body that signals hunger also signals thirst. Oftentimes when we think we’re hungry or craving certain foods, we’re really just craving the water in the foods. Most adults are dehydrated.

We’re the most dehydrated in the morning after a night of sleeping with no liquids. A lot of people insist on starting their mornings with caffeine, but caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it causes your kidneys to flush extra sodium and water from the body through urine. Instead, you should start each morning with two glasses of warm water. If you do enjoy coffee or tea, have it afterwards in a small amount. Research has shown that we should wait until after 9:30 a.m. to have caffeine due to our circatidal rhythm, and drink water throughout the day. This is going to hydrate you and contribute to that great energy you’re looking for.

2. Eat an anti-inflammation diet.

Eat whole foods, and mostly vegetables. Inflammation is the basis of most disease states. To avoid disease, avoid refined foods — especially refined sugar — and eat whole foods instead. Hydrate and boost energy by drinking green juice made with vegetables like kale, cucumber, celery, spinach, and parsley. These vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables give you an energy boost without the caffeine jitters!

Create a life of wellness and prevention to avoid the reality of a life with constant disease management. My healing and health drastically improved when I changed my diet. I used to be a “sugarholic” and loved sweets. I could get away with it because I worked out so much. After my injuries when I could barely walk let alone work out, my diet finally caught up with me and I gained weight. It wasn’t until I learned on a deep level about nutrition and adjusting my mindset that I started to heal.

3. Learn stress-reduction techniques.

Reduce stress in your life by slowing down and elongating your breath and by eliminating clutter (in your physical space as well as your emotional and mental space, i.e., limiting thoughts and beliefs), refine your habits and routines, and fortify the support structures in your life so you stay connected and on track with your goals.

One of the areas I struggled with during my injuries and now help my clients work on is managing being overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is the worst! You can’t focus, and you feel like you’re being pulled in different directions. Stress-reduction techniques are what have saved me.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Create structure in your day with a morning and night routine. Having a go-to regimen for the transition into and out of your day will give your body and mind the clarity it craves when other parts of your day are out of focus or unpredictable.

Use a calendar or time management app to track your physical and mental energy levels and where your time goes. Use your “up” time — when you feel most productive — to put in your work hours. Dedicate your “down” time to rejuvenating activities like napping, reading, listening to music, connecting with friends and family, or journaling. Scheduling rest into your life allows you to respond rather than react to the many triggers in life and business.

Maintain productivity by keeping your physical health at the forefront. You can create a positive impact for weeks to come by stabilizing your blood sugar with an anti-inflammatory diet, plenty of sleep, and consistent movement or exercise.

Work with your body, not against it. Understand how your body restores and repairs itself mentally and physically. We all benefit from foundational elements, and we are all a little different with what works best. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead for meals, self-care, and exercise.

Keep it simple: Make this your mantra for life. For example, if your food routine is complicated, your experience of it will be stressful. Start small, and don’t add anything until you have installed the habit you are currently working on.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Get movement everyday.

You may have big goals for working out for an hour or getting in a certain workout routine daily, but allow yourself to find success with smaller goals, too. Get in at least 10–20 minutes of movement every day to boost your performance. I have a few morning routines based on the amount of time I have on a given day. Routines could be anywhere from 10–20 minutes to 1–2 hours. Life can be busy, and on those days I am grateful for my 10-minute routine.

2. Create a positive attitude and mindset.

Having a fixed mindset that is stifled by limiting beliefs and negative self-talk will continually hold you back from achieving the optimal performance you are capable of. Failure is not a permanent condition. Believe you have the ability to learn. Build up confidence, positivity, and gratitude to create an always-learning growth mindset and boost your performance.

In the beginning during my recovery, I had negative self-talk and a fixed mindset that I was not going to heal or ever be back to where I was before my injuries. I carried this heavy energy around, and everytime I looked in the mirror I would criticize myself. I will never forget the day when my mindset and attitude shifted. I was able to reframe my situation and start being for myself instead of against myself.

I remember when I finally walked a block without pain. That night before I went to bed, I told myself, “You did a great job, and next week you will walk two blocks without pain.” This is how I healed — taking one moment at a time and focusing on what I could do vs. what I couldn’t.

3. Get the support you need.

Keep track of your progress and be honest with yourself about what you need. For example, would receiving coaching or working alongside others boost your performance? Entrepreneurs and leaders get lonely! Have clear goals, then get the support you need. Start small and build from there. As a consultant and coach, I have worked with a lot of clients that have big goals both personally and professionally. It is amazing to watch them break through barriers with complete clarity once they build a strong strategy and set up the support they need to execute successfully.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Adjust your mindset. Create purpose for your life by outlining goals and intentions for the future. Get clear on what is holding you back, and learn how to get to the root of the problem. Start with your deeper “why.” Why are you doing what you do every day? Why is it important? Make sure your reasons are connected to your values and core beliefs. When you have a deeper sense of purpose and work on time management and organization skills, you are less likely to get caught in survival or stress mode.

Notice what you are saying to yourself in your mind when you look in the mirror. Be mindful of your self-talk, and adjust it to support your goals. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

If you need support with your self-talk, goals, or accountability, get help from a coach, mentor, or practitioner.

And get moving! I know when we’re tired, the last thing any of us want to do is exercise, but exercise is what gives us energy. Even something as simple as a 10-minute walk around the block after lunch or a simple morning stretching or exercise routine before you hop in the shower can make a huge impact on your energy and performance levels throughout the day.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Breathing.

Breathing correctly can help relieve anxiety and stress, helps regulate emotions, allows you to focus, and improves communication. Elongate your breath by using your whole body to breathe (versus just your neck or chest) so you can achieve a state of relaxed concentration and cultivate a sense of well-being and calmness. When I can’t focus or concentrate, or I feel overwhelmed, the first thing I do is to slow down and connect to my breath in long cycles of inhaling and exhaling. Slowing down gives our mind a chance to refocus, create space, and decide what the next steps are.

2. Plan your focus.

Even as a kid in school, I always had trouble focusing. What works best for me is to plan focus time in my calendar. Make sure your environment is set up to eliminate distractions; I have had success with wearing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Give yourself the space you need to focus, and allow creativity to come in.

3. Take structured breaks.

Walk around the block. Get some movement in. Listen to music. Have some fun. When you hit a focus wall, sometimes you just need a change of scenery to get your creativity and thinking flowing again.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Create healthy boundaries. Communicate what works for you, and what doesn’t. Get comfortable verbalizing your boundaries clearly so the people that support you in your world can help you align with your goals and intentions, as well as how you plan your time management to accomplish your goals..

Also, learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. If someone has boundaries that are different from yours, you don’t have to put yourself in a compromising position just to make them happy. Remember you are the only one responsible for your happiness.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Being in a state of flow isn’t magic; you have to make consistent time for it. I get into the flow because I schedule it. It’s all about prep to create the environment for you to get into that space.

How can you experience the flow every day? Practice, practice, practice. Create good habits so you can make entering a state of flow more automatic. I use meditation, breathing exercises, planning, music, and stabilizing my blood sugar to create an environment where I can be in the flow. As well as getting excess thoughts and lists out of my mind so I don’t get taken out of the flow state once I am in it.

I do an open eye meditation that I can step into throughout my day. And with the breathing exercises, most people have 16 to 18 breath cycles a minute. I try to have four to six. That activates my alpha brain waves and puts me into more of a flow state. I use my time management/prep time to literally block off part of my day for when I plan to be in deeper levels of flow. For instance, the night before, I get all mundane tasks done, clean up my working and living space, and plan a time block in the morning to be in the flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would create an empowerment movement — one in the field of health and wellness. This movement would empower people with the foundational skills for how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and achieve sustainable results throughout their life so that we can live in a society of prevention and wellness versus a system of disease management.

The other one would be in leadership, specifically in self-leadership skills, so we can influence the next generation of leaders to have more self-awareness, ownership of their results, and to lead from a more heart-centered approach with compassion.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Oprah Winfrey. I am so inspired by how she gives back to educational causes and supports women and girls. We must get to the root of inequality in the world, and it starts with empowering people with the skill sets, support, and education they need to thrive.

Lifting up and empowering women and girls is one of my philanthropic focuses, and I would love to brainstorm with Oprah to come up with new ways to transform their lives through mentorship.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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