Recounting Life Lessons Podcast Ep 13: Environments for Success

“Is this empowering me or disempowering me?”

Life Lesson 13 is all about what you can do  to choose and create environments for success.

It was inspired after seeing Kekoa, Alana’s brother successfully complete a hike that was difficult for him because of the support of those around him.

We’re discussing topics around productivity, eliminating distractions, the importance of safety, curiosity vs. close-mindedness, and giving you a list of key questions that you can ask yourself to determine if a person or thing is contributing or taking away from your ability to thrive.

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SIONE: Welcome to the recounting life lessons podcast. I’m Sione.

ALANA: And I’m Alana. I want to start off this episode by telling you a story. Last year Sione and I went home to Hawaii. While we were there, we decided to go and do a hike that we had never done before. My sister Kawehi, my brother, Ikaika and his wife Faith, and my other brother Kekoa were with us. We were all pretty excited. Kekoa however, while he loves spending time with his family, he does not love hiking very much. And as the temperatures rose and Kekoa started to realize that some of the trail was steep, he lost all of his excitement. He stopped dancing around, and his smile had faded and he started saying things like I can’t and it’s too hard.

SIONE: We should mention that Kekoa is our brother who we’ve talked about in previous podcasts, who has Down syndrome and he has no problem letting you know, if he is unhappy about something. He was also the youngest in the group.

ALANA: If you have not watched this video of this adventure, you totally should. To this day it is one of my favorites, so I’ll link it in the show notes and description of this episode. Anyways, Kekoa has always been a cheerleader in our family, and it was natural for us to all rally around him and not let him quit. We had him do things like repeat after us and say “I think I can” and pause to flex and show us his muscles. It took a lot longer for us to do the hike but it was such an inspiring thing to watch when we finally made it to the top of the hike and he stood there saluting and had a fat smile on his face. He was giving us high fives and talking about how proud he was of himself.

SIONE: This entire experience inspired life lesson number 13 which is to surround yourself with people who won’t let you quit. And that is the lesson we will be recounting in this episode.

ALANA: More specifically, we’ll be discussing how you can choose and create environments that help you succeed and thrive. Let’s dive in.

Show Intro: Life can be an amazing teacher if we’re paying attention. The opportunities for learning and growth are infinite just like each of our potentials. This is the recounting life lessons podcast with Sione and Alana. Together we share and recount our journey to discovering the lessons that life’s adventures have taught us and why those same lessons can be significant for you. We are so glad you’re here. Who knows what kind of impact this week’s lesson can have on your life?

SIONE: Before we dive in, if this is one of the first times you’re listening, you should know that we are all about empowerment. And that means owning the power you have in your circumstances to make the most of them and thrive. So it shouldn’t surprise you, as we get into this topic, which is choosing and creating environments for success, that we’re going to focus on the things that you’ll have control of in those environments.

ALANA: We can’t necessarily control everything that happens to us or around us, but there is a lot that we actually do have control over. When it comes to our mental and spiritual environments, we get to choose what we read, watch and listen to in order to feed our minds and souls. In our homes and spaces, we have control over what we physically allow into these environments and how much order or disorder we’ll allow to accumulate in these spaces. And our associations with people, including those we interact with online, even our pets, they make up our social environments, and in most cases, we get to choose who we will allow into these environments and how much time we will actually spend with them.

SIONE: Each of these factors play a role in our abilities to progress throughout our lives. When it comes to the information you consume, the physical things in your surroundings and those who you associate with, how much care and awareness do you take? Have you ever taken the time to realize the various effects they have on your abilities to reach your fullest potential? Even the smallest adjustments in any of these areas can elevate our effectiveness and ability to thrive.

ALANA: Here’s an example. Believe it or not something as silly and mundane as post it notes or slowing down my success. post it notes people!

SIONE: Right!?

ALANA: If you were to walk into our home office, it is obvious that everything is set up in specific ways to help us stay focused, organized and know what needs to be done. There are several boards with lists and post it notes on multiple walls. There is one large board in particular that is covered with at least 50 or so of these post it notes at a time. We use it to post up the blog video on podcast topics that are coming up. Each of these post it notes are likely to move to five different spots in our office as videos are recorded. podcasts are uploaded and blog posts are written. Something else that you notice if you were to walk into our office is that almost everything is black and white. We have white furniture black and white letter boards, black and white chalkboards and the only real color you’ll see is from a few plants that are in the room. So back to these post it notes. What colors are post it notes? Right? They’re usually bright and neon and colorful. No big deal, right? You think, but I started to slowly notice and realize that they’re a huge source of distraction for me. Every time I’d see one of these post it notes or write a new note or move it from one spot of the board to another. I’d spend at least a minute bothered by the fact that they were affecting the calm and focused vibe I wanted to have in the room. I know I’m weird like that. It was a lot of wasted time and energy over something that would literally cost only a few dollars on Amazon Prime to fix.

SIONE: When all that time is added up. The color of these posted notes were a big deal and was slowing Alana’s progress and productivity. But don’t worry, folks, the colorful posted notes have been replaced with black and white ones. And paying an extra dollar to have the black and white post it notes was more than worth it to make our office an even better environment for success.

ALANA: You know, I laugh at myself a bit for having had something so simple bother me. But it’s just an example of how much our environments can contribute or hinder our ability to succeed.

SIONE: You know, a little blister on your foot can be determination between a win or loss in a basketball game.

ALANA: I believe so

SIONE: Something small. But there are specifically five things that we have for you to think about when you’re choosing and creating environments for success. Before we really get into discussing why they are helpful. I just want to give you a preview of what they are. One, the cost of distractions in your environment. Two how safe your environments are. Three, keeping an open mind staying curious and keeping your expectations in check. Four, are things empowering you or disempowering you. Five. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Let’s start off with the cost of distraction.

ALANA: We already shared a little bit about the cost of distractions when I shared about my whole post it note dilemma. Here are a few little facts to help paint the picture as to how much any distractions, in fact, are slowing your progress and success.

SIONE: Did you know that the average person is interrupted or distracted every 40 seconds? Did you know that it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus after being distracted? Did you do the math there? We didn’t even factor in the amount of time entertaining those distractions and we’re already in the negatives in the amount of time we are spending on focused efforts. That’s just crazy. I mean, you’d be paying the price for responding to the distraction of a simple notification, to check a tweet or text message for almost half an hour after the fact, even if it only took 30 seconds to check that message and respond

ALANA: Crazy! When you think about distractions, our electronic devices are probably the main sources of distraction. Text messages, phone calls, notifications from social media, emails, or Fitbits vibrating, to remind us to get up and move. And these are just the distractions that come from our electronic devices. Factor in people, pets, the need to use the bathroom, being hungry, the weather, the temperature, all of these add to these distractions. It doesn’t surprise me that we’d be interrupted every 40 seconds. But we can change that by minimizing when and how these distractions show up.

SIONE: So what can we do to minimize distractions and keep them from having the upper hand in our lives? Well, as a rule of thumb Alana and I have committed to dedicating at least one or two 90 minute blocks of time each day to focus, distraction free, o`n a project of highest priority for ourselves. We block these time slots out on our calendar, so no other meetings or appointments can be scheduled during these times. And we actually have timers that we put up to let each other know we are in the middle of the session so we don’t interrupt one another. And our phones go on to airplane mode so we aren’t tempted to check things online or get distracted from notifications or phone calls.

ALANA: We also make sure that we can keep our desks as clean as possible and the things posted on our walls and boards are specific to the things of highest priority so we don’t get distracted by a lower priority project during these 90 minute sessions. This is especially helpful for me because of my creative mind. Almost anything can spark a brand new idea or project that I want to work on or want to implement to improve a system that we already have in place. So it has an extra layer. preventing these distracting thoughts from taking over my focus time. I also keep a notepad next to me to just jot down really quickly if one of those thoughts or ideas do come to mind, so I know that I can get back to it later,

SIONE: We could spend hours talking about all the little tips and tricks that we use to eliminate and minimize distractions. But we’ll leave you with one more little piece of information. Why 90 minute increments? The reason we choose to work in 90 minute increments instead of anything longer or shorter has to do with how long we can actually stay in that focused state. It takes about 25 minutes to get into the groove and then by the 90 minute mark, your level of productivity will start to decline. So 90 minutes is all you need. If you want to schedule more than one 90 minute session in a row, just be sure to allow for a 20 minute or soul break in between to make the most of your time during those sessions.

ALANA: Okay, let’s talk about safety. In order to grow and progress, we need to feel like we are in an environment that is safe enough to make mistakes. Just today on Facebook, I had a couple friends Blaine and Trisha introduce me to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And guess where safety lands on that scale of needs. It’s number two after our physical needs, and before the needs for love and belonging, esteem and self actualization. So it is foundational and basic in our abilities to succeed in reaching our fullest potentials.

SIONE: You know, Suzanne Mikula mentioned the need for a feeling of safety when we had our on one of our videos. She mentioned that to help her sons work through difficulties. She will wrap her arms around them and hold them to physically remind them that they are safe. And that helps them learn how to successfully work through their difficulties.

ALANA: One of my Instagram friends, Lee Ann Singleton recently shared something that I absolutely loved in one of her posts and I asked if I could share here. She helps women believe in themselves. So check her out if you’re on Instagram. I’ll link her handle in the description and show notes. But here’s what she shared on friendships specifically, quote, finding people who we can be ourselves around, offers joy beyond measure, a joy that comes from being real and honest. When we spend time with people who love us unconditionally, it frees us of the worries that could cloud our minds. The worries that we all feel such as whether or not we are enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, funny enough, spiritual enough, good enough. When those worries go away, we feel more loved. We give more love, we feel more joy and we give more joy. End quote.

SIONE: That’s awesome. We need to feel safe to step outside our comfort zones to speak our minds and to even ask questions and make mistakes that we can then learn from. Alana, one of your greatest strengths is teaching. And I’ve been in your classes with your students, and you’ve been able to create an environment where everyone feels safe enough to ask questions, to respond to questions, and just know that they can feel safe enough to make comments and know that they won’t be teased or judged. And it’s incredible to hear and see what happens in their lives, and the confidence of those who teach. And all of that comes from you being able to create that safe environment for learning.

ALANA: Oh, thanks. I see you do that too for your students. One reason we are able to do this actually relates to the next topic for choosing and creating the success environments. You have to be willing to accept people for where they are and what they believe. And you can’t hold those things against them. It’s difficult to actually learn anything from one another or a particular set of circumstances if we hold too tightly to expectations.

SIONE: So this next topic is all about keeping an open mind staying curious and keeping your expectations in check. This one is pretty straightforward, but not always as easy to put into practice. If you truly want to grow and thrive, you need to stay curious and have an open mind. A closed mind is a sign that you think or feel like you already know at all, that you think or feel that you know best.

ALANA: Can you imagine if you were to go trick or treating as a child, walking up to every single door knocking, saying trick or treat, and then refusing to open your bag to actually allow anyone to put any candy into it? That’s the way I picked you’re walking through life with a closed mind. The opportunities for learning the sweet treats of knowledge are everywhere. But if we refuse to open our minds or bags, we end up going home with the same amount as we started that day with

SIONE: Which is nothing. One way to keep an open mind is to keep our expectations in check by having few if any. Take your trick or treating analogy, for example, if we went to every door expecting chocolate would be disappointed and ungrateful every time we got something else instead. But if we kept an open mind, we’d be excited and grateful for anything we got like chocolate, fruity flavored candy, a toothbrush or even an apple.

ALANA: Even an apple comes after a toothbrush?

SIONE: Exactly. In these scenarios, it’s better to set an intention to understand or learn something. Be curious instead of trying to force a specific outcome. Okay, so the next thing we want you to think about when choosing or creating environments for success, and to thriv in is probably one of Alana’s favorite ones. So I’ll let her start talking about this one.

ALANA: Okay, so if there was only one thing that you were able to walk away with after listening to this episode, this is the tool that I would say is the easiest to apply, and possibly even the most beneficial of all the tools that we’re sharing with you in this episode,

SIONE: I think so it would actually help someone use all the other things that we’ve mentioned so far. And it’s a simple question.

ALANA: But before I give you the question, I want you to think about your smartphone and your computers. The moment we turn on these electronic devices, it seems like everyone is trying to sell us something. Whether it’s a product, a course, an idea, an opinion, we get invited to participate in various activities and social events or movements. Some of the individuals that are pressuring us with their ideas and agendas are masters at getting us to feel something about what they are sharing with us. And our emotions are powerful in their abilities to help us make decisions.

SIONE: But a decision made purely from emotion isn’t always the most beneficial. And unfortunately, some people don’t have the best of intentions. It’d be unrealistic to think that we could simply get rid of everyone with bad intentions. And sometimes, in fact, even those with good intentions end up causing us a little more harm than help with their solutions.

ALANA: And that’s where this simple question comes into play. It will help you to choose and create an environment for yourself that will allow you to thrive. In order to discern if someone’s intentions are harmful or helpful for your growth and confidence, ask yourself this. Is this empowering me? Or disempowering me? That is the question. Is this empowering me or disempowering me? Do the people books, information, activities you’re participating in or listening to help you feel like you have greater control in your life and your decisions? Or are they asking you to give up a little bit of that power to fit into that narrative?

SIONE: And this also includes the thoughts that creep into your mind as well. You can choose which ones to entertain or to ignore.

ALANA: For the most part, people are good, and they have good intentions. And there are a lot of individuals who are happy to tell you all about their opinions and their ideas of how you should live your life. But ultimately, you are the one who will have to live that life, not them. So you should be the one to decide if the information that is being given to you is empowering or disempowering. And if it’s empowering, it’s also worth it to look into it further and get more information from there. Sione and I share a lot of examples and ways to apply the principles and life lessons that we share. But one thing’s for sure we would never want you to feel that we are telling you want to believe or do. We, of course would encourage you to always take these things that we share as inspiration and options.

SIONE: Our hope is that with every interaction, you walk away, feeling more empowered and confident in your own abilities to make wise choices for yourself. Okay, we’ve got one more tool for you to create and choose environments for success. We call it this one, asking the tough questions. We already gave you a simple question to help you determine if the intentions of others are harmful or helpful. Now we have the tough question.

ALANA: There’s a list of questions that we love from the legendary Jim Rohn when he talks specifically about the company we keep. His questions inspired us to come up with our own list of tough and important questions to ask ourselves. And these questions are great to ask when it comes to everything that you allow into your environments. Here they are. What do they have me doing? What do they have me thinking? How do they have me feeling? What do they have me doing? What do they have me saying? What do they have me listening to? What do they have me reading? What do they have me focusing on? What do they have me becoming? And this last one is specifically from Jim Rohn, and he calls it the most important of them all. Am I okay with that?

SIONE: Questions like these are super powerful. Now, are we saying to be judgmental? Absolutely be judgmental. Jim Rohn said stand guard at the door of your mind. We need to exercise our judgment on what we will allow ourselves to become. Let’s take a minute and practice this.

ALANA: Think about the physical state of your vehicle. Or maybe your home. The pictures on the wall, the dishes, the laundry, what is it doing to you? What does it have you thinking? How does it have you feeling? What does it have you doing? What does it have you saying? What does it have you focusing on? What does it have you becoming? And are you okay with that?

SIONE: You know, my mind went through a whole bunch of scenarios right there just thinking about those And I’m sure you guys listening went through some of those same pictures and thinking about those same questions. Well, what about your spiritual practices? same questions. What are they doing to you? What have they got you thinking? How do they have you feeling? What have they got you doing? What have they got you saying? What have they got you focused on? What do they have you becoming? Are you okay with that?

ALANA: These questions are also great to ask yourself about the shows you watch the books you read the music you listen to. I know of a mother of five who overheard her boys being sarcastic and using unkind humor toward one another the other day. She also noticed that the language that they were using was actually mimicking language from a show that they watch. She chose to use this as a teaching moment to point out that some language and behavior while it may seem funny in these shows, if they’re used in real life, it could really be harmful and hurtful. So she had them pick out one of their favorite kids shows, and gave them each a flag that they were to wave each time they heard someone lie, cheat, be little or speak rudely to another person or a punch line. She kept tally and was shocked to find that in this 22 minute episode, they had counted 55 instances of lying, talking back, belittling, rude remarks, etc. And out of those 22 minutes, only four minutes were dedicated to a positive message. And this was a kid show. Think about the things that you watch, read and listen to. What are they doing to you? What have they got you thinking? How have they got you feeling? What have they got you doing? What have they got you saying? What do they have you focused on? What do they have you becoming? And are you okay with that?

SIONE: And of course these same questions apply when you think of the people you associate with both in person and online. What are they doing to you? What have they got you thinking? How have they got you feeling? What have they got you doing? What have they got you saying? What have they got you focused on? What have they got you reading? What have they got you watching and listening to? What do they have you becoming? And are you okay with that?

ALANA: The reason we call these the tough questions is because sometimes we really don’t want to face the reality that some of the things that we are allowing and choosing to invite into our environments are the very things that are holding us back. We all have our guilty pleasures and bad habits that we aren’t quite ready to let go of. But these questions help make it really obvious to see the damage that these things are actually causing in our lives and As a bit of a PS, we know that we had you consider the people in your life and the roles they play in them. We aren’t suggesting that you cut people out of your life if they aren’t helping you thrive and succeed. But what we are suggesting is that you be aware of how they’re affecting you. And then you can better determine from that, how much time you choose to spend with them and under what circumstances would be best for you.

Show Outro: Life can be an amazing teacher, if we’re paying attention. The opportunities for learning and growth are infinite just like each of our potentials. But its potential is only as powerful as its application. So here’s one last thing before we go.

SIONE: Here’s a quick recap of the five things we discussed that are helpful to take into account when choosing and creating environments that will help you thrive and progress. Number one, the cost of distractions in your environment.

ALANA: Number two, how safe your environments are in allowing you to be vulnerable and make mistakes so that you can learn from them.

SIONE: Number three, keeping an open mind, staying curious, and keeping your expectations in check.

ALANA: Number four, are things empowering you or disempowering you.

SIONE: And number five, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.

ALANA: To start getting the most out of this lesson, we’d suggest that you commit to at least one way that you are going to take action to improve your environment right now.

SIONE: And if you aren’t a subscriber yet, now would be a great time to become one. In the next episode, we’ll be recounting a lesson about how much better we’re able to serve others as we succeed. So become a subscriber to the podcast or become a Sione and Alana Insider at to get notifications of new videos and podcasts sent straight to your email

ALANA: Who knows what lessons this week’s adventures will teach us.

SIONE:Until next time,

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