When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Tina Lifford: My day starts before I get out of bed. Often as I begin to wake up I become aware of realizations that have been part of my sleeping or dream state. As I transition into the awake state these ideas – realizations – are present in a very ephemeral state. I attempt to gain a conscious grasp of these very fragile and fleeting thoughts by lying in the transition state in an open and receptive frame of mind. I might say something out loud such as, what was that realization I wanted to remember? I keep my journal next to my bed in case I want to write something down. Many great aha-moments and answers to important questions have come to me in by engaging this process.
TG: What gives you energy?
TL: Many things give me energy: my morning hike, experiencing a meaningful conversation, checking things off my “to do” list and randomly saying THRIVING words out loud, like: curiosity, hope, optimism, openness, excitement, vulnerability, appreciation, freedom, community, oneness, etc. Whenever I say these words out loud I feel happier and more empowered.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
TL: I don’t know that it’s a secret, but the life hack that has changed my life is to have an inner fitness practice. Developing an inner fitness mindset requires us to develop thriving techniques – strategies we can apply in navigating the twists and turns of life. Practicing such strategies has helped to enhance and stabilize my life. One of my go-to strategies is trading fear for curiosity. Instead of lamenting a situation, I have learned to bypass my knee-jerk reactions and become curious. I pay attention to my thoughts and reactions and force myself to consider how the circumstances might benefit, grow or expand me. This process turns life into an adventure.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
TL: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
TL: I remind myself often that my phone is my phone. It is not my boyfriend; nor, do I want to use it to feel a sense of importance. When I find myself becoming too attached to my phone, to reestablish distance and balance, I purposefully put myself on a phone time-out. I may turn the ringer off and go a couple hours without looking at the phone. When driving, before I get behind the wheel, I might place my phone in my purse, and put my purse in the trunk of my car. This keeps me from being tempted to text and drive. It always helps me to actively practice healthy detachment and the “this can wait” concept.
TG: How do you deal with email?
TL: I read emails throughout the day. However, I only address those emails that are truly time sensitive. If an email can wait it goes into one of two “not now” categories: emails I’ll read at the end of my day, or emails I’ll address at the end of the week. I save all not-now emails as unread, so I don’t forget about them. I have some not-now emails in my unread batch that have been there for months. I’ll get to them one day.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
TL: I have taught myself to give myself permission to do nothing, because doing nothing is an effective way to build the “being” versus “doing” muscle. Doing nothing allows me space to tune into where I am inside of my head – what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling – emotionally, mentally, and physically. The constant movement of our hurried lives can act as a distraction – a way to ignore what it is we’re really feeling. Tuning into our feelings helps us become aware of our default thoughts and habits. The more aware we are of our patterns and habits the more we can interrupt those old patterns and deliberately create new ones. In our society, learning to be with oneself is quite an achievement. Also, on a lighter note, at times, doing nothing is a way that I reward myself for being a responsible adult in our crazy hurried world.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
TL: It’s been a long time since I’ve felt burned out, maybe even decades. I learned back in my 30’s that if I burn myself out making everything and everyone else more important than my inner state, those things and people will be doing just fine, while I might be lying in a hospital trying to deal with the effects of priorities that put me last in my life. I try to, more often than not, put my intentions for my health first.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
TL: I’ve learned to reframe concepts like failure. Instead, I view “failure” as a “not-quite-yet” experience – I didn’t get it right this time, but next time will be better. There’s great information and potential to be gleaned from failure or falling short of the intended mark. The thriving mindset – which I believe is an innate part of everyone – believes that every situation in life is an opportunity to grow and expand.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
TL: When I’m teaching people about inner fitness and the self acceptance mindset, I like to reinforce this statement: “From this point forward there is never a justifiable reason to think or speak harshly to or about yourself – not for any reason, at any time, under any circumstances. It is simply unacceptable.” Even though this is technically my own quote, what makes me love it most is how workshop participants respond to it. It’s their reaction to the words that reinforces and reminds me why I love teaching people about this lifestyle and why I consider it my life’s passion.
Tina Lifford is an actress, playwright, and founder of The Inner Fitness Project. She currently stars on OWN’s hit series Queen Sugar and could previously be seen in standout roles on Scandal, Parenthood, and South Central, among others. Off camera, she is a wellbeing expert and creator of The Inner Fitness Project, an inner health and wellbeing movement that she hopes will serve as a resource to help women thrive by freeing themselves of their deepest fears and other reactionary behavior. Tina works with individuals, woman’s organizations and corporations teaching strategies that disrupt unproductive patterns and build resilience. In addition to founding The Inner Fitness Project, Tina has also written The Little Book of Big Lies, her play, The Circle, and a transformational self-care workbook – 30-Days to A More Fabulous You.