Know why you’re doing something: If you don’t know why you’re doing something it’s going to be REALLY hard to stay focused on it. We often don’t question why we’re doing something… we just do it because we’re “supposed to.” But the reason why you can’t focus may actually be because you don’t know why that task or goal is important in the first place.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cory A Rusin.
Cory A Rusin is a transformational purpose coach, purpose in life researcher, and founder of the Purpose Development Accelerator. She combines her doctoral research background with spiritual tools, like Human Design, to empower stuck entrepreneurial women to work through limiting beliefs & programming and unearth their unique gifts so that they can own their worth, develop their purpose, and confidently move in the direction of their dreams. Cory’s insight and tips have been featured in popular publications including HelloGiggles and Yahoo! Life. She’s passionate about helping female entrepreneurs trust themselves & live every day with a powerful sense of purpose.
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?
Sure thing! I grew up in a middle-class household in upstate New York. My dad worked for an energy company and my mom cleaned houses & sold Avon so she could be home with my younger sister and I. I lived a very happy childhood and I recall being both a very serious and very goofy kid. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed… but I grew up with parents who were silly and encouraged me to go after what I enjoyed in life. My childhood involved a lot of experimenting. I did ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading, hip hop dance, scrapbooking, studied photography, wrote poetry, tried swim team (and quit after a week), played t-ball, acted in plays… I tried A LOT of things. Which I believe has played a huge role in who I am as an adult. I was never afraid to try something out.. but if it wasn’t a good fit, I let it go.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I originally wanted to be a Clinical Psychologist… I went into college dead set on getting my PhD and helping others in this way. Luckily, life had a different path for me. After graduating with my Bachelors I applied to Clinical Psychology programs year after year… Most programs only accept 8–12 people every year, so it’s highly competitive. I was first on the wait-list for a program one year and every spot filled. During that time I was trying out different opportunities: I had received my 200 HR Yoga Teacher Certification and I was working for a non-profit helping students to re-enroll and finish their college degree… I was then recruited to work at a university doing the same thing. It was my boss at this university that encouraged me to apply for my PhD in Community Research & Action, a social-justice oriented program.
In 2017, at the same time that I was accepted to start my PhD, I also started a network marketing business which was my entry point into entrepreneurship. As my research evolved in my PhD program I was also experimenting with different forms of business & exploring where I fit in the online business world. I began researching Purpose in Life and realized that what I had loved about my network marketing businesses was really using my background in psychology, the principles of yoga, my research on purpose in life, and the tool of Human Design to help entrepreneurial women to develop their purpose & deep self-trust in the direction of their lives & business. And from that, my signature Purpose Formula and coaching program was born.
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?
Oh my gosh, yes. I truly believe none of us can really achieve much of anything on our own. We need people who believe in us to tell us how important our contribution is for the world & to give us that little nudge to keep moving forward. And sometimes we really need someone to lay out the steps to make our dreams a reality. Our dreams can be held so close to our heart that we can’t see how to actually make them real.
My good friend & mentor, Gabriela Toro, was able to look into my heart, see the vision I was trying to create, and then help me lay out tangible steps to make my coaching business a reality. Where my focus is very much about reflection and turning inwards to understand yourself on a deeper level… Gaby’s focus is on ACTION and I needed her guidance to create a framework that took the uncertainty & fear out of creating a program unlike what anyone else had put into the world before.
Not only that, Gaby has been my friend that helped me believe anything was possible for me. That I possessed within me something unique that needed to be shared with the world. Everyone needs someone who is going to tell you when you’re selling yourself short. Gaby is that for me.
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?
It’s funny… this is a really good, but challenging, question for me. I tend not to look at anything as a mistake or a failure. And I don’t say that to sound arrogant or like I don’t make mistakes, because I do and I definitely have days where I cry or feel angry or embarrassed, but I look at these moments and say “Okay… that did not go as expected. What can I learn from that?”
The funniest “mistake” I can think of is sending cold messages out to people when I was running my network marketing businesses. I honestly cringe now thinking about these because I wasn’t even taking the time to get to know people or the challenges they were facing before prescribing them an opportunity! That would be like going into a doctor’s office and the doctor doesn’t even ask you how you’re feeling before saying “I’m writing you a prescription for such and such medication.” Like, what? You would NOT take that medication (at least I hope not.)
BUT, I will say, those messages taught me how I didn’t want to run a business. I felt like I was treating people less like people and more like numbers. Now my business is centered around “what do YOU need? What challenges are you facing? Where do you want go & how do you want to feel?” and then offering resources that fit the needs of the women I work with. If I hadn’t been a part of a cold messaging type of business I wouldn’t have realized how highly I value human connection and deeply understanding (and listening to) my clients.
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?
Every “missed opportunity” is actually an open door. I was rejected by every Clinical Psychology program I applied to. Dozens and dozens of programs… not to mention thousands spent on applications & entrance exams. I was extremely frustrated at the time. I spent many nights crying and asking why things weren’t working out for me. This repeated in my network marketing businesses… why are other people seeing success and I’m not?
BUT had I gotten accepted into those Clinical Psychology programs or had one of my other businesses take off… I wouldn’t be here now. Doing what I actually love. All those closed doors that I thought had been slammed in my face were actually blessings in disguise. There was a BETTER path for me than what I had planned out for myself.
So when the doors seem like they’re closed, cry it out and then take the next right step forward. It’s all leading you to somewhere better than you can conceive in your own mind at the moment.
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?
Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie has been my lifeline for over 5 years. I have a VERY tattered version of it sitting next to me in my home office and for a long time I had it sitting in the passenger seat of my car. There are messages for each day of the year in this book and I find that they are always exactly the reminder I need to help me keep moving forward, even on the hardest of days.
This book has gotten me through an emotionally abusive relationship, the days I felt like quitting my PhD, tough conversations, and has been a guiding light that everything works out best case scenario. The meaning of the passages have changed as I have grown, but they’ve always had a significant impact on my day.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
My favorite quote is one by Elizabeth Gilbert: “Be brave. Without bravery, you will never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, your life will remain small — far smaller than you probably wanted your life to be.” When I was a kid I would tell people that my biggest fear was not death or heights or spiders… it was an unlived life.
This quote is a reminder to me that to TRULY live, you must take fear by the hand and walk with it. That an unlived life is one where I keep myself small and that only I have to power to befriend my fear and live big.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My main projects right now are my Purpose Development Accelerator (PDA) and Human Design Reports. PDA uses my signature Purpose Formula to help entrepreneurial women go from feeling stuck or lost to deep self-trust so they can develop their purpose and move forward in their life & business confident that they know how to always make the right decision for themselves. With so many frameworks, free trainings, courses, and platforms for entrepreneurs now, it’s SO hard to know what’s going to work for YOU. So I teach women how to come back to themselves and understand who they are at their core so they know with certainty what aligns for them and what doesn’t.
My Human Design Reports are a tool to help you understand who you were born on this planet to be. They’re the blueprint you always wished you had to understand the challenges you face, the way you think, the unique gifts you have, and the value you can offer the world. These reports, and PDA at an even deeper level, help more women to walk through the world OWNING who they are and the help they can offer others, which is exactly what the world needs, especially right now.
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?
Our habits are what we repeat over and over again without really thinking about it… they’re the outward expression of how we’ve been programmed to think & behave. If you have programs (and as a result, habits) that don’t support your goals and dreams… you’ll continue to live a life that disappoints you because you’re living on autopilot.
When you begin to rewrite your programming and alter your habits so they are in line with your dreams & goals for your future… THAT is when real change can occur in your life.
Think of it this way: imagine you’re driving a car and your best friend is the passenger. You’re having a really amazing conversation. When you arrive at your destination someone asks you, “What happened on the road on your way here?” And you can’t answer… your driving was on autopilot. You can’t remember how you got there. You made it there safely because your subconscious took over. But, if they ask you about the conversation with your best friend you can share every detail because you were consciously present while having that conversation.
Your habits are your subconscious, they’re driving your car. Your goals & dreams are the conscious conversation you’re aware of. But if your habits aren’t programmed for the destination of your dreams (and most of ours aren’t) you won’t reach your goals. So you must rewrite your programming & create good habits that move you in the direction of your goals & dreams without having to consciously think about them.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
My habits have been the reason for my success. I have created a habit of looking to what I can learn from a challenge instead of looking at it as an obstacle. I’ve created the habit of looking to what I’m grateful for each day instead of what’s lacking. Every time I start to worry, I let myself feel it, but I always tell myself “things always work out easier and better than I could imagine.” Now… these habits took time to build. So I started with the routines I could see weren’t benefiting me and actively started to change them, beginning with what I do when I wake up in the morning.
I noticed I felt rushed in the morning… so I started waking up 20 minutes earlier, meditating for a few minutes in silence, writing down 5 things I’m grateful for and why and I started implementing a process I call Alignment Questions. These are like affirmations in the form of a question that trick my subconscious into finding answers to make them true. For example, I may ask myself “Why am I enough?”, “Why do I have a thriving online business that supports me fully?”, “Why do I feel healthy every day?” or “Why do I have fun every day?” They can be anything you want to embody. I don’t answer these questions… I just ask them to myself. It works like a charm to help reprogram my habits because I start acting in ways that validate those questions.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
If I could recommend any place to start, it’s with Alignment Questions. It’s the simplest thing to start doing and it really helps rewrite who you believe yourself to be. It’s hard to ask yourself “Why do I feel healthy every day?” and keep up habits that DON’T make you feel healthy.
The other recommendation I would have to get started is to take out a journal and write out the routine of your average day. Next to each thing you do, write whether it feels good or not to do that thing. When you’re done, look at that list and pick a few to either cut out or start doing differently. I know we can’t always choose not to do something (like your job), BUT you CAN ask yourself how can I make this feel better? For any “bad habit,” write down an alternative that would feel better. For example, if you wake up every morning and look at social media right away & start to compare yourself to others… what is an alternative that would feel better for you?
What if you turn on the App Limits on your phone so you couldn’t access any social media for the first hour or two after you wake up? And what if you replaced the scrolling for a 5 minute meditation, writing down 5 things you’re grateful for and why, asking yourself a few Alignment Questions, and maybe 30 minutes of listening to your favorite music and dancing around singing into your hairbrush in the morning? Would that feel lighter? How would that change the course of your day? It doesn’t have to be those suggestions… but do what FEELS GOOD for you.
Good habits should make you feel lighter, happier, more joyful (even if sometimes they feel hard). Bad habits will put more weight on your shoulders and cause more stress. Knowing how they feel for you is the first step to changing them.
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.
My top three good habits span all three areas:
- Recognizing & Listening to your Intuition — this is number one. You cannot know what you need to improve or maintain your wellness, performance, and focus if you don’t listen to yourself. Only you know what you need, no one else. So practicing getting in tune with the language of your intuition and how it feels when something is a HELL YES for you or a HELL NO is key. Everything else stems from this one good habit. Even knowing what is a good habit for YOU stems from this.
- Sleep/Rest — You cannot create from a place of exhaustion. You cannot create a physically healthy body, you cannot create in your business, and you certainly cannot focus if your eyes feel like they have rocks tied to them. I am majorly guilty of not listening to this. I have answered voice messages when my throat was in pain from talking so much, I have tried to work out when my body was calling for me to lay down (and I usually injured myself when I pushed that hard), and I’ve forgotten really important tasks when my tank was running on empty. Rest is actually an action. It is a tool to move you forward. So take it when you need it.
- Audit your life frequently — You can’t change what you’re not aware of. At least every few months take note of what is and isn’t working in relation to your Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Then, write out what would improve each of those areas, create an action plan to make those changes, and see what works and what doesn’t work. Creating good habits is not a one and done practice. Your needs will shift and change over the course of your life. So your habits will need to shift and change with you. Scheduling in time to be present with yourself and evaluate what feels good and what doesn’t gives you control over the habits you allow to continue.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Oftentimes when we’ve been disconnected from our intuition for a long period of time it can be hard to know what it feels like. I always recommend to my clients to look into their Human Design. In Human Design your Strategy & Authority share how you are likely to feel your intuition. This small validation and reminder can help you start to tap back into what a yes & no feels like to you. You can start to test it out in low-risk situations like when you go to a new restaurant. You can tap into what your intuition is telling you to order. It’s little practices like this that help you begin to use that muscle again.
- Your evening routine is PIVOTAL to how rested you feel and how deeply you sleep. Take note of what you’re doing in the hour or two before you lay your head on your pillow. Take note of whether or not those activities make you feel rested. Small changes can make all the difference. Instead of going down the scroll hole of social media or watching a TV show or movie that is engaging your nervous system and keeping it heightened, create a routine that feels good for you. Maybe you read a book before bed or journal your thoughts out from the day or color in a coloring book (yes, adults can color too). These types of activities will lower the levels of cortisol in your system and help you relax.
- Start small when auditing your life. A perfect example is the evening routine audit. You check off two things by doing this: better sleep & stress-reducing habits. You can do the same thing for your mornings. Feeling into what activities are benefiting you in the morning and which ones are leading to more stress and anxiety. Very simple changes… waking up 5 minutes earlier to meditate, playing your favorite music or an uplifting podcast while getting ready. Every single activity can either move your forward & contribute to your overall happiness or keep you stuck.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
To really make the most of the hours you are working you should:
- Stay Present: prioritize what the most important tasks are to complete for the day and then focus on one until it has been completed. When I first started my business I was working full-time and completing my PhD more than part-time… As you can imagine, there were a lot of competing priorities. Writing down the top tasks for each in order of urgency allowed me to stay present on the task at hand because I knew once it was finished I had listed out for myself exactly what I needed to do next. My mind wasn’t wandering around, thinking about all the other things I needed to do.
- Set clear boundaries: If you’re anything like me, you really just want to help people and you feel obligated to respond to them quickly. But… in my efforts to always be available I would exhaust myself and not have the necessary energy for other creative tasks that needed to get done. Setting clear boundaries on when you respond to emails, voice messages, and texts will allow you to ensure that they get answered, but that you are also protecting your rest & work time.
- Forgiveness: not always something you hear as a performance tip. But, high achievers have a tendency to be REALLY hard on themselves. Especially when they don’t get everything done in a day that they anticipated or if something unexpectedly goes awry. Optimal performance means rolling with the punches and forgiving yourself quickly so you can create a new solution or move on to the next task without being preoccupied by the past.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- To begin practicing presence, take out your note pad on your phone. In that note, create a to-do list with the highest priority tasks at the top. For me, checking something off of that list is all the validation I need to keep making them. (How fun is it to cross something out and say “DONE!”?) This seems so simple, but most of us don’t create to-do lists for our work & life. We keep the list in our mind… which can be a real chaotic place to keep a list. That’s like throwing your grocery list in the garbage for safe keeping.
- On that to-do list of yours, set a time for responding to voice messages, emails, & texts. Then turn off ALL the notifications on your phone or put it on airplane mode. You’ll get to messages during the allotted time, but until then, your energy is being put towards the high priority tasks on your list.
- Forgiveness can be a more challenging habit to embody. My suggestion may sound silly, but what has helped me during times when something unexpected has happened is to remind myself to pause, take a deep breath in and out, and to actually say to myself “It’s okay, that didn’t go as planned. I forgive myself for where I feel like I fell short. Now, what is in my control and what solution do I have?” Talk yourself through it like you would anyone else. Look to what’s in your control now & take the next step forward.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Know why you’re doing something: If you don’t know why you’re doing something it’s going to be REALLY hard to stay focused on it. We often don’t question why we’re doing something… we just do it because we’re “supposed to.” But the reason why you can’t focus may actually be because you don’t know why that task or goal is important in the first place.
- Rest: Take a break. Our attention spans are not meant to work non-stop all day. The way we work is unique to each of us and some of us will need more breaks than others. Honor that.
- Get rid of the actual distractions. Make a list of ALL the things that pull your focus away from your work and then brainstorm how to eliminate those distractions.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Document your Why: take out a piece of paper and write down each of the tasks you have to complete or the goals you have. Why are you doing them or why is that goal important to you? Let’s say your why is because you have to do that task for your job. Why? What’s the importance if it? Do you not get paid if you don’t do that task? What’s the importance of getting paid? What does that provide for you? Dive DEEP. Start questioning why. You’ll probably start to see a pattern that the things you have the hardest time focusing on have the weakest Why.
- Back when I was working on my Masters degree I would take periodic breaks to watch an episode of the show How I Met Your Mother. It was something silly I could watch that would rest my brain from developmental psychology and research methods. In the self-development world we tend to vilify TV… but it was something I enjoyed, that had short episodes, and would let me rest before getting back into the work. Set an alarm to work in chunks of time that fit your needs. Maybe you work for 1 hour and reward yourself with a 30 minute walk or a short sitcom. And as soon as that walk is done or that episode is finished, you hop back into your next task. That break is a PART of the work, it’s not wasted time. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to come back to the task at hand refreshed and ready to go.
- Getting rid of my Facebook newsfeed and turning off ALL the notifications on my phone has changed my level of focus drastically. Google Chrome has the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook, so now I only use Facebook for the groups I lead trainings in and learn from. I turned off all the notifications in my phone except for text messages and the app I use to communicate with my clients. You’ll still check the apps… but it won’t be because a red dot is screaming at your face. This one action puts you back in the driver seat instead of letting your focus be controlled by your phone.
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?
A state of Flow only comes when you are doing work you TRULY love, enjoy, and feel fulfilled by. I feel this when I am putting together Human Design Reports for my clients or creating workbooks, or putting together a piece of content I KNOW is going to help my audience. Tapping into that state of Flow means really diving in to what makes you YOU. It’s understanding what your gifts are so that you can channel them into adding value to the world. We all have this capability within us. We can all do work that lights our soul up and makes time pass by in the blink of an eye. But it requires that we let go of all the “should dos” or “should bes” and tap into what makes us unique. That’s when Flow happens, when you’re your most authentic self.
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.
My grand vision is to initiate a global remembrance of each individual human being’s innate worthiness and instill a worldwide practice of turning inward to develop one’s purpose. To live in a world where everyone knows they have a unique medicine to offer the world and are not afraid to share it with others. How amazing would it be if everyone knew they didn’t have to go out and “find their purpose,” but that their purpose has been in them all along and all they have to do is nurture it?
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 🙂
I would LOVE to have a private breakfast or lunch with Vishen Lakhiani. His Lofty Questions practice is what inspired my own Alignment Questions (I just feel that writing down my questions helps me to integrate them rather than thinking them to myself. If it’s on paper it feels more tangible, more real.) To be able to sit across the table with Vishen & pick his brain… to learn from his experience, would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. What he has created with Mindvalley, with his ability to impact the lives of so many around the world, his knack for innovation… he’s a real expander for me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Connect with me on Instagram! That’s where I share everything & please don’t hesitate to send a DM and say hi. I’m a real lover of voice messages. My handle is @coryarusin.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.