In today’s episode, Mike O’Neill sits down with Sarah Leslie, an incredible upgrade coach who has helped countless individuals transform their lives. Sarah shares her personal journey of breaking free from the conventional path and finding true happiness and fulfillment.
They delve into the power of clarity, vulnerability, and redefining your standards of living. Sarah emphasizes the importance of tapping into your unique desires and aspirations, rather than following the crowd. She guides listeners through a powerful exercise to envision their future selves and unleash their potential.
Don’t miss this insightful conversation filled with practical tips and inspiration.
Sarah Leslie’s Bio
Sarah has been helping people upgrade their lives for over 20 years. She was a licensed clinical social worker and now refers to herself as an Upgrade Coach. She teaches people the clear simple process of how to upgrade their lives and be in control of their futures. She knows personally the challenge of accomplishing big goals in life and believes the best way to make that happen is by working alongside a professional who knows how to do it. She stands out from others in her field as she is fiercely committed to her own personal growth and upgrading her own standards of living. She loves nature, being near the water and the mountains, cooking delicious meals, and having thought-provoking conversations.
In This Episode…
- Discover the power of upgrading your life and being in control of your future.
- Learn how to break free from the conventional path and create a life aligned with your true desires.
- Understand the importance of clarity in defining what you truly want and setting intentions.
- Explore the role of vulnerability and authenticity in leadership and personal growth.
- Gain insights into nurturing belief and retraining your mind to achieve what you desire.
- Embrace the power of imagination and visualization to manifest your goals.
- Find inspiration in Sarah’s personal journey of transformation and how she helps others get unstuck and on track.
Links & Resources Mentioned…
Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On-Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and with leadership coaching and people skills training, we help companies solve the people problems that are slowing their growth. Joining me today is Sarah Leslie. Sarah has been helping people upgrade their lives for over 20 years.
She was a licensed clinical social worker and now refers herself as an upgrade coach. I love that she teaches people a clear, simple process on how to upgrade their lives and be in control of their futures. She personally knows the challenge in accomplishing big goals in life and believes that the best way to make that happen is to work alongside a professional who knows how to do it.
And I think Sarah is just that person. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah Leslie: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Mike O'Neill: Most of our listeners may or may not know. I get the opportunity to have a conversation with guests prior and we had a conversation that quite frankly, I kind of wish we just hit the record button at the beginning. It was a rich conversation.
It was kind of far reaching, and I found myself. Hanging up from that thinking, ah, which ways might we go with Sarah? And I've got some ideas, but we may see where that takes us. But I wanna read something that's from your LinkedIn bio and it goes like this. My whole life I played by the rules. Listen to all the voices, did all the right things, and yet, After working so hard for 20 years in a career, I loved making six figures successfully, running agencies and owning my own beautiful home.
I realized I was miserable. What a way to draw someone in to the conversation. Tell us a little bit more about what happened next.
Sarah Leslie: Yeah, so I got just a, a slight bit emotional thank you for reading that. It definitely took me back. And it fits so beautifully with really our last conversation and also I think the conversation will end up having today.
I. I had to make some really hard decisions, some hard choices, some hard decisions, things that I was terrified of doing that I had been talking about doing, but hadn't really been taking action on in a way that would change the game. Right? I was taking little action. I was moving things around. At the time, I was a clinical director at a treatment facility to overseeing about 150 clients, and I was doing everything I could to make it work right.
Put things in order, move them around as they say. I sort of, it sort of started to feel like I was literally just changing the furniture. I had all of the same furniture in my office. Right. But I was moving it all around really trying to make it work because I. In theory, I did love my job. I loved the people I was working with.
I loved the team. I loved the mission, but there were just some things really out of order, both there in my workplace and then also at home. And so I had to make some really hard decisions and I got to that breaking point, like I so openly wrote about, and I feel so passionate about telling people that I got to the point where I was miserable because I believe I did do all the right things, at least all the right things that I was being told to do.
And so if you're anything like me and you're, you're a leader and you're a powerful and you're, you know, you're going through school and you make A's and you do like, you know, you go on, get your master's degree, all the things you're thinking. I'm gonna be happy. I'm gonna feel really good about who I am, and life is gonna be like amazing.
By the time I hit 40, well, I, that did not happen. And so it was like, listen, I can't go another, at first it would be like, I can't go another 10 years like this. And then it got to be, I can't go another five years. And then it just really got to be, I can't go another day like this. And I think it's so powerful to tell people coming from the background that I was in, being in the leadership role that I was in, I too was miserable.
I am still slightly surprised when I look at someone's LinkedIn profile or someone's Facebook, and they seem like they've got it all together, right? And then I end up on a call with them and I'm like, wait a minute, what's going on here? This is completely different from what's on your social. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying put all your, you know, All your troubles under social.
That's not at all what I'm saying, but I am still surprised, like, wow, I'm looking at this person, the front of them, right? They're out facing persona. And then I get in and I get to see what's really going on on their heart, which I've now been doing for 20 years, over 20 years. And I'm still surprised at just the number of people who do so well to put that persona on, and yet inside they're really hurting.
And so for me personally, being that I have been a helper for over 20 years, I really wanted to share that message. Like, Hey, you can have it all together and still be miserable. And there's a path forward. So for me, it was what I kind of call was more of a crash course and changing my whole life, which I don't advise, which is why I feel so passionate about putting it in my bio is like, I had it all together.
I was the leader, I was even the helper. And I still desperately needed help. I could not see my own blind spots and I could not see the way forward. I knew it was out there, but I could not see it. So I had to do what felt so difficult and very humbling to put myself out there in a way that said, Hey, this is what's really going on inside of me, and I really need help.
But it changed the game completely and in a relatively short period of time. Now, if you're anything like me and you're an overachiever, you want everything yesterday. So it took probably about three or four years for me to really turn things around and feel like really good about them. But I. It really only took about one year for me to make massive transformations, changing my job, changing my home you know, minimizing my belongings and getting rid of things that I've been talking about getting rid of for quite some time, and starting to travel, and ultimately learning how to be comfortable in my own skin.
Mike O'Neill: You know, this can lend itself going several different directions. I identify with what you just described. I, I kind of went through the, the things you just described and I was in a kind of a corporate HR leadership role, and I believe for most of my corporate career that my job as a leader was to not let them see you sweat.
Don't be vulnerable. And what I'm finding now in my one-on-one work with, with leaders working with leadership teams, it's that willingness to be vulnerable that really differentiates a, a good manager from a great leader.
Sarah Leslie: Yes, absolutely. And I would just add to that and one of the things that I was thinking about as I was getting ready for our time together today is how to do that well.
Right, because just like I alluded to earlier, sometimes people will hear my message and say, oh, well I should, you know, are you saying that I should put all of my like personal details out there on my socials? And it's like, no, of course not. And so it's, there really is an art to being vulnerable and being able to do that in a way that is what I call honoring of both yourself and the people that you're leading.
Mike O'Neill: As a coach, sometimes people are surprised to learn that I have a coach. I have a coach because I want out of a coaching relationship hope with the same, the unbearable to provide for my own clients. I love to go back to when you were in leadership role.
You had 150 some odd. I guess I call them patients. Is that the right term?
Sarah Leslie: Yes.
Mike O'Neill: And you're managing a staff. You are always on, if you will. We're kind of talking about this public persona, and I know you're probably more active on Facebook. I'm personally more active on LinkedIn. I don't know if there's a difference between the two in terms of willingness to be vulnerable, but I don't mind telling you when I look at someone's profile and everything's perfect, I kind of want to gag.
Sarah Leslie: Yeah.
Mike O'Neill: Because it's not true. Nobody is. But you found that though everything on paper. You checked all the boxes, you were miserable. And you did something about it. What you did about it was a series of things. For some they might, would describe that as radical. I loved in the intro where I described you as how you describe yourself, an upgrade coach, what does that expression mean to you?
Sarah Leslie: So for me, it's this moment that I can clearly remember I had several of them, but this one that stood out for me the most as I'm sitting at my desk in my previous profession and I'm staring off, sort of staring off into space and I'd been researching ways to get out of your corporate job, ways to be able to travel and still work nine to five, right?
And various other things related to that. And so it was like I knew there was more, and I knew, right, just from my background, I knew life could be amazing and I believed that life was meant to be amazing, extraordinary, and that felt just out of reach. Right. Like I could see it out there and I knew it was out there, but I could not close the gap to actually get myself there.
And so for me, that's where this word upgrade, I just started you know, recently, in the last couple of years, hearing various people talk about upgrading. And I had a very close friend, actually, who probably two years ago said to me, He sort of gave me an invocation perhaps, if you will. But this, this statement that really stuck with me, he said, continue to increase your standards of living.
And I have to say it first, I was like, what the heck does that mean? And I have meditated on it and meditated on it, and I've come to this awareness like I want, I want it to be somewhere else. But I didn't know how to get there. And so I kept using, we'll say the same tools. And like I referenced you earlier, I kept moving the furniture around thinking that if I just move the furniture around, I'll be able to somehow create this extraordinary life I wanted to be living.
That doesn't work that way. Right. And so that's where my awareness, like I had to get outside coaching. I had to get a whole team of experts as I refer back to them into my life to be able to help me cause I was trying to use all the same tools, all the same strategies. And lemme tell you, my brain is like a computer.
My number one on the Clifton Strengthens Finders test is strategy. And it was like, surely I can figure out how to do this thing. And so I tried. For way too long, every strategy I could possibly come up with to make it work. And so it was this awareness around I wanna increase my standards of living.
And in order to be able to do that, I have to actually upgrade the way I think and the way I go about accomplishing this now bigger goal that I had for myself.
Mike O'Neill: The expression standards of living resonated with me. I've only heard it in the singular standard of living, and I immediately think of the size of the house, the model of the car, the amount of money in the bank account, which college do the kids go to, et cetera.
And when I heard you say standards of living, It's far deeper than that. If you kind of step back and if you were to pick a standard of living that you wanted to change and you were able to change, and from that learning, you help others upgrade by changing, what do you find is often the things that your clients are struggling with that they really want to change so they can upgrade?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah. So the two things that come to mind immediately are Feeling happy or content satisfied, whatever word resonates for you personally. But feeling that sense of like, I'm good and I feel good about me regardless of what's going on in my family, in the community or the world for that matter, as we've experienced in the last few years especially.
And then also this idea. Which we just honestly don't talk enough about, at least in the circles that I'm in, but feeling comfortable in your own skin, such an important one. And those two I didn't have, right? Life would change around me and life would change inside of me, right? So it was like part of the reason I was really good at being a leader is because I learned how to be really steady in the face of crisis.
So in treatment for anybody that doesn't know, treatment is a constant state of change. And some might just refer to it as chaos. And so I wa I got really good because I moved around a lot as a child. I feel like that helped me to actually become really good at managing crisis and chaos. But, Internally, I was not, you know, as stable as I needed to be in order to actually feel really good.
I could keep things stable around me. That was not a problem. But who wants to live a, I mean, as I get to ready to say who wants to live a stable life, for me personally, that's just no longer inspiring. Yes, we wanna be stable. Don't get me wrong, for anybody listening, yes, I know we do want that. But the thing we also want, and we oftentimes shy away from is we want that variety in life.
We want that excitement. We want that adventure. And so a lot of people sort of err on the side of stability and security negating almost this other half of us that I believe all humans have, which is to feel adventure and excitement and pleasure.
Mike O'Neill: Adventure, pleasure. Those are not words that typically kind of come out of maybe my mouth. Maybe it doesn't come out of your client's mouth. There was a third one. Adventure. Pleasure. What was the third one? Do you remember what you just said?
Sarah Leslie: Probably something along the lines of like excitement.
Mike O'Neill: There you go. That was it. What is it about the way things are now that squashes excitement, pleasure, adventure. Why do people feel that that's elusive? Why is it Elusive?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah. You know, for me, and I think a lot of people, and all the conversations I've had with people, there is such a focus on being in control, doing things right.
Right. I mean really from a very early age you're like planning for how you're gonna get into the good college and then you're like planning very quickly after you get to the good college how to retire really well. So those are all forms of security and stability. Right. And while we absolutely need that part of ourselves, I believe part of the reason that the world has gotten into such a state of imbalance, if you will, just to put it broadly, generally.
It's because we've let go of what our other true needs are, which is variety, right? If you get up and you do the same thing over and over again, you get bored. It just happens now, you know, to the degree of variety that you require is gonna be different than the degree of variety that I require. But it's this shutting down of part of ourselves that actually ends up shutting down part of who we're meant to be.
And so, you know, if there's so much focus on people wanting to do good in school and then be able to retire, well, It doesn't leave a lot of room for the appreciation and our need for adventure and excitement. It makes it like an added bonus versus actually part of our innate needs.
Mike O'Neill: There are folks out there who I probably would not invite on the podcast because when they begin talking, they go off on this tangent that I have trouble relating to. What I have enjoyed in my conversations with you is maybe because we have a little bit of a shared history, my number one is strategy two.
I found myself and still do find myself calm under pressure, but I also found myself saying, you know, I'm good at what I do. I'm well compensated at what I do. I can do this for quite some time, but it wasn't enough. What I've kind of wrote in my appreciation of you is how you, in working with your clients, how you help them unlock that strategy.
And so let me tie that back to the question I try to ask all guests, and that is, can you think of a time where, and you've already kind of alluded to where you got stuck. But maybe a time where a client got stuck and h what did it take? What did you do in working with that client to he help them get unstuck?
Sarah Leslie: Oh gosh. There's so many different things and it really is very individual, but what is across the board that I talk about regularly really and just about every conversation, I, it just came up sporadically in the conversation I had before our time here today. It's really getting clear with what you truly want.
And it seems like such an interesting question and you know, sometimes I think people dismiss it quickly because whether it's a catchphrase they've heard before or it sounds too much like some of the, you know, poppy things that are out there, like live your best life. The thing about it is if you're not really clear, You are oftentimes going after the wrong things, right?
And so if we're just sort of aspiring to go to the good college, get the good job and retire, like I said, one, you're gonna get bored for sure. And we do that because we wanna be a part of the pack, right? As humans, we're in community and we wanna be a part of, we wanna belong.
And so we kind of go on that same adventure that everyone else is going on, only, you get stuck because you're following what someone else is doing, versus really tapping into your own uniqueness, which again sounds like such a catchphrase. And yet when you really understand that you have a unique purpose, you have a unique drive, you have unique ambition, and if you tap into what yours actually is, instead of copying the next person's, you'd never get bored.
You just literally can't get bored, right? And so helping my clients, helping really anybody that I meet, I mean, sometimes I can be out at a restaurant sitting at the bar and I'll end up in conversation with somebody, and then just how I attract what I attract. To me, we oftentimes end up talking about, well, what is it that you're really wanting?
I usually ask that question three or four times, and I spin it just slightly, and then all of a sudden the person's face just lights up and I'm like, oh, we just found it. Yeah.
Mike O'Neill: You know, it may be at a restaurant, at a bar, it may be in a coaching session, and you can see their eyes light up. You can see the light bulb goes off.
They begin to kind of get clearer on that. It seems to me that with that clarity, it doesn't take long before they go back to the quote real world, and the real world begins chipping away at that. How do you help your clients get back to that clarity when they find themselves reverting back to the the older ways? Does that question make sense?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah. Well, The thing that I help people with is really learn a new way to live, and that was ultimately what I needed. I was, again, trying to live an old way, in other words, using my old strategies, my old rules, my old beliefs, my old values, and so again, those were really based on someone else's.
Not good or bad, right? They're just someone else's based on all of my learnings and upbringings and the people I was around. And so when you really learn a new way to live, which is to truly tap into yourself one, and also accessing the greater spiritual connection that we all have to each other, whatever an individual happens to call that, and you align yourself with the possibility that this is actually the way you can live.
Right. So I spend a lot of, I mean a lot of the coaching time I work with people for periods of six months throughout the whole time period of working with people. We're always nurturing belief that they can have what, what they truly want.
And so you really have to adopt a new way of living because when you talk to the average person out there in the world, The average person out there in the world does not actually believe they can have whatever it is that they want. So that's a huge paradigm shift.
Mike O'Neill: Yes.
Sarah Leslie: So we spend a lot of time nurturing that, and I spend a lot of time detailing out, you know, specifically what it is they want, forming it into certain sentence structures that their brain actually would believe.
Right. Because a lot of this we're, ultimately we're having to convince ourselves, which is another way to say, we're having to retrain recondition our own minds, our own beliefs about what's possible. So that's really the thrust of the work. Tangible exercise I can give you is literally writing down what it is that you want.
And doing it in a way that's like, so a lot of this goes around setting intention and setting the energy for doing the exercise. Because when a person isn't highly motivated, They're gonna answer this question just totally differently than the person who's like, I am ready, and I want that light that I can see just up ahead of me.
I want it right now. So that person already is gonna sit down and answer that question very differently, and I would help them frame it in such a way that they actually go out into the future. And I say to them, all the problems that you've been having to get to that place that you wanna go, we've closed the gap and you are there.
So put whatever timeframe on it that you need to, if that's five years out, 10 years out, 20 years out, depending on how far away it feels for you. And I want you to be there. Right. And so usually I do a little exercise where I have them close their eyes and actually visualize themselves at whatever age that is, and then I ask them to spend some time writing out from the perspective of them now, 5, 10, 20 years into the future, and reflecting back.
So let's just use 20 years into the future, and now you're gonna sit down and you're gonna write, I'm 45, soon to be 46. For anybody who, who maybe is curious, instead of me just saying 20 years. So at 66. Right. Whoa, that is, that is a little shaky. So at 66, I'm now looking back, right? And I'm writing out the literal things that I have So been longing and desiring to have happen.
Yes. And so writing it from that future self, it just brings out things that you wouldn't normally think about. And it brings out more importantly, the emotions of I'm 66 and I've traveled to Paris and I've traveled to Greece, and I've lived in Ireland for six months. Those levels of details of the things that I desire yet to do in these next 20 years, but it brings out an emotion that actually gets attached to the vision.
Right, so we're pairing both the thoughts that we think in our mind and also the emotions that we feel in our body, along with this vision that you desire for yourself. It's by far the most powerful way to get anything that you want is combining all three of those.
Mike O'Neill: What you just described, combining all three of 'em. When you said envision 20 years from now, for me as a visual person, I did so, but that is using kind of my brain. I'm kind of using logic to kind of get that picture in in mind so I can quote, see it. I'm, I'm a visual person, but what really made what you just said particularly powerful is when that vision is clear.
Reflect on how you feel. And it sounds to me that it's the feelings that oftentimes drives our behavior. And that by marrying up the head and the heart and people can embrace a future me. X number of years out in the future, then they have something that they can aspire to. That's a great illustration of kind of how you help clients, Sarah.
Sarah Leslie: Yeah.
Mike O'Neill: For those who are watching on YouTube, they see a marked contrast. I'm sitting in front of a bookcase full of books. It's kind of boring. I'm wearing a brown shirt. Pretty, pretty darn dull. If you're watching on YouTube, you're seeing Sarah in front of a backdrop that's very colorful. Sarah in uses color.
Tell me a little more about how does color, how does that define you?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah, so I'll touch also just on what you were just sharing and answer the question at the same time. For me, it's really about tapping into our imaginations, right? And so our imaginations, the way I think of the imagination, it's sort of akin to fantasy.
And so you're tapping in both to the mind and the heart at the same time. While also from my perspective, again, I don't want anybody to read into it or, or not benefit, but it's, there's also this spiritual overlay that happens when we tap into our imaginations. And so we're going in into some other part of our selves and we're accessing something that we can see.
And if you access something that you can see within your own time alone, we'll say in your imagination, we know that it's possible. I'll just leave that to hang there for a moment. And for me, what happened when I was miserable and bored out of my mind essentially, is what I came to learn. I was really not miserable.
I was really bored out of my mind and feeling incredibly depressed about it. So the color drained out of my life. I used to be a person that loved color. Which I had honestly forgotten about until I ran into a friend that I had been friends with 20 years prior. And he noted, wow, you don't have very much color going on.
What's going on with that? And so for me, I lost my color and it's also taken just about four years to actually get my color back. This new persona will say that feels most aligned with who I actually am is just about a year old. But it's taken me that long to refind my color and to allow myself to embrace it.
Right? Because just not that long ago, there's a version of me that would've been like, this is too much. Yeah. So that's color for me. It means a lot.
Mike O'Neill: So what we've done for those who are listening, go to YouTube, watch what we're watching here. You can see exactly what I'm referring to. You know, Sarah, we've covered quite a bit in a short amount of time.
As you kind of reflect on our conversation today, what do you want the takeaway to be for our listeners?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah. So I think, you know, really listening to everything that we've talked about today, I think this part around it's super actionable and it, you could, you could have profound change from doing that exercise that I shared today to really be able to envision what's possible for you and to trust that the visual that your imagination comes up with is 100% possible for you to actually live out.
Mike O'Neill: Yeah, you used the word trust for the first time, I believe in this conversation, and that is, if you can see it, you can believe it, but you have to trust what you're seeing and what you're believing.
Sarah Leslie: Yes.
Mike O'Neill: Very, very powerful. Sarah, for those folks who want to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do so?
Sarah Leslie: Yeah, so the best way truly is to come friend me on Facebook. I do all my, you know, most connecting with people through my personal Facebook page. So come find me over there Sarah Leslie Liberated Badass, and you can also check out sort of the traditional stage, which is sarahlesliecoaching.com.
Mike O'Neill: Excellent. I'm laughing. We will put both of those in the show notes, so if you're driving, I didn't get that. It'll be in the show notes that you can click that. This is our second or third conversation. Each one have gotten richer and richer. Sarah, thank you.
Sarah Leslie: You are so welcome. I have immensely enjoyed it.Mike O'Neill: Well, I have too. I. Must also thank the listeners for joining us today. If you'd like to subscribe to this podcast, you can do it a couple ways. One way is go into your browser type unstuck.show, and while you're there, you can also subscribe to our weekly management blog. It's not very creative, it's called the Bottom Line, but I would invite our listeners, if you're trying to grow your business, but it's those people problems that have slowed you down. Let's talk. Head over to our website, which is bench-builders.com to schedule a call. So I wanna thank you and our listeners for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips from Sarah that'll help you get unstuck and on target. Until next time.