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From Fear to Fortune (Jeanna Gabellini) Transcript

Neuroscience of Coaching – Episode #5

From Fear to Fortune (Jeanna Gabellini)

Jeanna Gabellini: It’s only off limits if you think it’s off limits. In fact, I try to say yes to things because I want them and don’t look at the reality of what it will take to get there because if I looked at that, I would probably never choose a big goal.

Dr. Irena O’Brien: Hi, I’m Dr. Irena O’Brien and you’re listening to Neuroscience of Coaching. I’m a cognitive neuroscientist with almost 30 years of study and practice in psychology and neuroscience. And as the founder of the Neuroscience School, I teach coaches and other wellness professionals practical evidence-based strategies to use in their own practices. In each episode, I invite a seasoned coach to discuss a topic that clients struggle with, and together, we provide you with science based tools to help your clients reach their goals by working with their brains to create results that last.

During a conversation with our guest, Jeanna Gabellini, she said that her clients often think that building a business is hard. They think that because they keep looking at the big picture rather than breaking things down. And that reminded me of our first episode where we talked about the beauty of small tasks. Today, we’re going to go into that in a bit more detail and talk about effective ways to accomplish goals.

So we all have goals. We have professional goals, where we want to be professionally in a year or two or ten from now. We have goals about getting healthy, losing weight if we need to, exercising more. We have family goals, monetary goals, social goals, and yet we often have difficulty staying with the program. The question is how can we structure goals so that we increase our chances of achieving them?

I want to tell you about how small goals can lead to big wins. Teresa Amabile and Stephen Kramer studied 7 companies consisting of 238 employees for between 9 and 38 weeks. The employees were asked to keep a daily diary, describing one event from the day that stood out in their minds, regardless of the type of event. In total, they collected 11,637 diaries.

From all the diary entries, they found that the single best predictor of inner work life was progress and meaningful work, no matter how small. Your inner work life includes your perceptions, emotions, and motivation. So making progress, being productive and creative leads to positive inner work life. And progress and inner work life fuel each other in an upward spiral.

It’s all about the dopamine. When we expect success, we get a spike in dopamine release. The dopamine activity lasts several seconds, which predicts success on the next task. This means that when we have experienced success, we are more likely to experience success on the next action.

What can we learn from this research? To achieve our big goals, we only need to start with something small and simple that we can succeed at. This small progress increases motivation, which leads to even more progress in an upward spiral. It really is that simple. All you have to remember is to break things down into tasks on which you can succeed.

When you succeed on a task, you get a dopamine spike. This dopamine spike predicts success on the next task. Thus, you could set up your day as a series of small tasks to ensure that dopamine remains high all day. This has been called the dopamine drip method, and I employ it frequently.

Now let’s dive deeper into the topic with my guest, Jeanna Gabellini. Jeanna is the master business coach and chief rabble rouser of MasterPeace Coaching. After 28 years of liberating business owners from the curse of not enough and the myth of hard work pays off, she knows without question, you can attract all the clients you want, make massive amounts of money and impact millions, even if you’ve been struggling for years.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Jeanna. So first, before we start talking about accomplishing goals, will you tell us a little bit about your work and how you came to be doing it?

Jeanna: Well, first of all, I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me. I used to work for a– I fell into it. I resisted at first, but I started working for a personal growth seminar company. And I was coaching there, loving it. I had no idea people did it on their own and you could make a business out of this. And someone told me about a coach’s training school. And I said, “What? People do this for a living? Oh my gosh.” I went and went to their first weekend class. And I thought, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

And I have been, and I love it today just as much as I did back then. In the beginning, of course, it was like, I want to coach everybody on everything. And since then, I’ve whittled it down to my favorite clients are business owners because what happens in your business actually happens in your life, but it’s just a more targeted way to help people get what they want.

Dr. Irena: That is so true, isn’t it? That what happens in your business happens in your life.

Jeanna: When you were talking about the dopamine hit. I was thinking, that’s good. And what if, I think a lot of people have problems with, if they do the task, then they do the next task and they’re making progress, but somehow they still think they should be doing more. It should be going faster. They should have it all handled.

Right before we hopped on the podcast, I just heard from a client who was saying that exact thing. Oh my goodness, like I’m making progress. Here’s my check in and I feel like I should be doing so much more. Really? Because the way I’m looking back at this story, it looks like you’re doing a lot. You’re making huge progress and yet people aren’t always giving themselves acknowledgement and credit for what they have done. We’re so focused on what we haven’t done.

Dr. Irena: What? Are their goals not good enough?

Jeanna: Well, that is a great question. I think often their goals are not their true goals. I think that their goals are what they think they can get or what they should be doing based on what they hear everybody else saying or what their fear or their whatever. They’re not truly making goals from their heart, from their soul. If they knew they could have it and they knew it was totally possible, would they ask for something more or something different? Something less stressful, something bigger, something more exciting.

So, yeah, I don’t think that everybody is always choosing their true to their heart goal in the first place, which makes it hard to get motivated. If you’re like, yeah, that will just get me to something a little bit better than where I’m at, that’s not always exciting. And it’s not exciting to go for a goal that you didn’t choose from your heart. That’s why not all business strategies help you grow your business and you procrastinate because you’re like, I wouldn’t even want to do that. But I heard from some expert, you should do that thing. But in your heart, you’re like, I hate that thing. I don’t want to do that thing. That thing is so not me.

Dr. Irena: So how do you help them choose a goal from their heart?

Jeanna: A lot of journal prompts. I have discovered that journal prompts are an easy way to bypass the thinking brain of the shoulds. And so a lot of times, I’ll use the word soul or higher self or their best self or their future self, you know, what is your future self think about that? Or what is your future self want you to know about X? Whatever the goal is. And oftentimes they’ll get this, “Ahh” moment from just simply finishing the journal prompt because the way that we’re trying to figure out next steps is often not even from your heart. It’s still from your head and we’re just not making wise choices because it’s not a true choice. And our brain’s getting in the way.

Dr. Irena: So I have a similar trajectory. I started off as a CPA and that was my father’s choice. It was important to get a secure profession. So that’s what I did, but it wasn’t me. And then I went back to school to study psychology neuroscience. And so I got a PhD. And then after that, I coached for a little bit, but my true love was neuroscience and I love reading about it and writing about it and talking about it.

So this is what I do now. And that inspires me. And when you find what truly is you, then it is easier to get the dopamine hits, right? Because if you’re working on something that you’re not really that interested in, it’s hard to be inspired by a task and it’s hard to be inspired by the success that you have on that task.

Jeanna: Yeah, because you’re just trying to check it off the list. You just want to get it done instead of being excited and engaged in the process of finishing it. Like right now, I just created a new coaching program. I’m putting in a lot of hours, more hours than I ever expected. The level of depth I’m going to, I didn’t plan on it. It’s just what’s coming through as I’m writing and creating, but it’s exciting. I’m not complaining about it.

All of a sudden, where normally, I wouldn’t work past, let’s say 4:00. Now I’m working till 8:00, sometimes 9:00, and I only go to bed because I know my husband wants to snuggle. Otherwise, I’m like super excited. I’ve got energy. I’m like, dang, I got to go to sleep. This sucks.

Dr. Irena: I know exactly what you mean. You end up finding this energy that you didn’t know that you have. It is hard, but it’s still enjoyable. Of course, not every bit is going to be enjoyable because there are some tasks that you have to do that are leading you to your inspiring goals that are still not that much fun. Like for most people, it’s some accounting. For me, sometimes it’s starting the process of writing.

So I use the dopamine on a day when I really don’t feel like starting the writing, but I know that I have to. I choose a small goal, like if I’m describing a research study, I’ll start with the method section and I just copy and paste, so just to get something started. And it’s amazing how it can set you up for a productive day. Have you tried that?

Jeanna: Yes, except I didn’t know that I was doing what you’re saying. Yes, because I definitely get stuck. I do the same thing that my clients do. Yesterday, I started the new module for the program. I look at a blank page and I’m like, oh, the blank page. Where am I going to start? What am I going to do? I’m like, let’s look at the last module and let’s just start with the intro. “Welcome to Module Four.”

Like literally, just write something on the page. “Welcome to Module Four.” Like, oh, okay. I know what to do, I could lead in now. And so you’re right. Yes, doing that, it’s just being able to finish that one thing. Sometimes, I’ll do a timer and say, just look at the blank page for 15 minutes and see what happens. Of course, something usually happens.

Dr. Irena: Yeah. You don’t have to start from the first word of the first sentence of the introduction. You could start anywhere in the middle. Start somewhere that’s the easiest for you. And then you build around it. Often, I write the introduction and the summary at the very end. And the middle part, I just jump around as I’m writing the middle part.

Jeanna: That’s awesome.

Dr. Irena: Yeah. So do you think that a person could break down any big goal into smaller tasks and achieve it? And what about audacious goals like becoming president or going to the moon? So is there anything that’s off limits?

Jeanna: No, I don’t think anything’s off limit. That’s only off limits if you think it’s off limit. In fact, I try to say yes to things because I want them and don’t look at the reality of what it will take to get there because if I looked at that, I would probably never choose a big goal. In fact, we’re looking at a new rental property right now that I’ve been looking for for about three years. And it’s the house, like the house that has all the things I could ever want. And the timing is wrong. I don’t have time to devote to it because when you buy a property, there’s just so many things you have to do to even get to the point where you’re in contract.

There is the financial piece. I wasn’t prepared to buy a house at this cost at all. And thinking I wasn’t going to just because of where interest rates are and just where we’re at. So everything seemed wrong if you looked at it from a logical perspective, except the heart is saying, Oh, hell yeah. So instead of going into a meltdown or just disregarding it, it’s like, well, if I knew we can make it all work and I don’t absolutely do not know how right now, where would we start?

Okay, well, let’s call the realtor, have her go look at it. It’s three hours away. I can’t go look at it right now. And let’s just start with that. And then you just start with the next question and the next question. But I keep looking at it through the lens of, if I knew it could all come together easily, what would I do next? Let’s just take that one next step. Because if I looked at all the practical things, I wouldn’t even look at it. I would not even see it as an option.

Dr. Irena: So you’re breaking it down into smaller tasks, so it becomes less scary because if you just focus on the big goal, then it often are scary goals. But if you start breaking them down into smaller tasks, they become doable. And then you’re creating that dopamine drip, which will propel you.

Jeanna: Yes. And you get more information with each new step. There’s more clarity. There’s more inspiration. Each phone call I make in this particular case gives me new information that informs me for my next step because often, we don’t know the next step when we start, especially if it’s a big audacious goal. Let’s say we don’t have a mentor for that area. There’s no rule book. There’s nobody in your life who has ever done that before.

Some people are paralyzed by that. But if you just take that one next step, you will get clarity about the next step. I’ve never not seen it happen, unless you’ve decided that there’s no way you’re going to figure it out and then you shut yourself down from an inner game perspective. You just, you shut the game down, then of course, you’re not going to find the next step. But if you stay open, I’ve never not seen people get their next step.

Dr. Irena: Do you have a client story you could share?

Jeanna: Well, I’ll tell you a story that happens quite frequently because there are so many with this one particular course that I teach. It’s called 10k in 10 days. Intentionally, because I know that would be a stretch for many of the people in my audience. And I know it’s triggering, meaning I know they all want it, but the secondary belief is, yeah, right. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m not used to that. I’ve never had it happen before. Why in the hell would it happen again?

So I’m actually quite surprised that people sign up for it all the time because in the back of their head, they don’t even think it’s possible. They’re hoping it is. And just by the sheer act of saying yes to the possibility, people come in. And before they even get through, maybe even two modules, because they’ve already decided that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible. They get new clients. Money comes in from a weird way. They are consistently shocking themselves about what happens in these unexpected and weird ways.

Not even from the practical things that they thought would generate the money, but it’s because they’re now leaning in with curiosity. Like, well, what if it was possible? Let’s check this out. I’m open. I’m not certain that this is going to happen, but I am open. And I think sometimes that’s a great place to come from. Certainty can often turn into attachment, right? Where we just, we want it so bad, which is how I’m feeling a little bit about this house.

I’m like, Oh, what if the guy doesn’t take our offer? And, and, and I’m like, it’s okay. Somehow or another, it’s either going to be this house or something even better. So don’t future forecast fear or something bad. Let’s just stay right here. The next step is to actually go see the house in person.

I had another client actually come into 10k in 10 days. She was on the verge of starting a new business, but she wasn’t even exactly sure what it was. She had worked for somebody for years. She had unexpectedly gotten let go and she was like, Oh my goodness, what do I do now? I said, you should just come into this course. Within five days, she had her first client. She had a hundred thousand dollar contract, shocking to me as well as her. So excited and not surprised because she just was in the open place of let’s see. Let’s check this out.

Dr. Irena: So did you encourage her to do the one step at a time?

Jeanna: I am a big proponent, I’ve said this for years; baby steps lead to avalanches of abundance.

Dr. Irena: And the dopamine drip.

Jeanna: The dopamine drip. Exactly. Action feels good. And an action could be, like, before Art Paul, I was writing in my journal. I didn’t finish, but I started. Sometimes, the most powerful actions are the ones that just get you centered. Like if you want to go make a lot of money, go for a walk. If your head’s spinning, just go for a walk. Just that one step will help you get more aligned, more grounded, more focused. Often, the steps that give you the greatest traction are not necessarily “the practical steps” that you thought it would take to get from point A to point B, but you feel good in doing the step.

So as long as you feel good in doing the step, it’s all creating momentum, except we should just not judge the step. Well, I should have been doing this instead. Really? Because it sounds like you were guided to do that thing, whether it was journal or go take a walk. So I’m going to say that was the most appropriate step at the moment to prepare you for the next step. That might be more practical.

Dr. Irena: Exactly. So how do you help people who have fear around their goal, right? Or people who are stuck, right? And just can’t seem to move forward.

Jeanna: Yeah, I think the first thing is always to come back and get connected to the thing. Like, okay, you said you wanted it. That’s why you chose it. Do you still want it and why? For the sake of what? If I can’t get connected to why, then it just becomes a goal on paper, something to do, something to worry about not happening.

So, A, always bring them back to the why. Two, one of my favorite, favorite, favorite things to do it all the time is journaling the situation, the end outcome as if it’s already happened, right? Writing as if your future self is telling one of your best friends or your partner, like, Oh my gosh, this is what happened. And not putting any limitations on it. Making it real, right? Giving it feelings, bringing in the senses and then getting crazy.

Most people are just so practical because they don’t want to be disappointed. What if the outcome doesn’t happen, but what if it does? And what if it was better than you could have even imagined? And is the goal that you’re choosing the one star version of your goal, or is it the five star version? Because I’m only interested in getting the five star versions and if you’re connected to the five star version of it, the ultimate, what would be better than good? You’re going to have more momentum. You’re going to be more excited. It’s going to be more easy to lean all the way into the goal versus just thinking about it.

Dr. Irena: Yeah, exactly. Some people though, like, do have a really great goal that inspires them, but they still have fear of it moving forward.

Jeanna: I like to make friends with the fear. What is the fear saying? What is it telling you? What is the exact part that you’re afraid of? Because people will say they’re resisting this one piece. But they actually haven’t had a conversation with themselves. They’ve just been in the adrenaline of the fear, right? They don’t even know. There’s like, “Ah, that’s scary.”

But why? What do you think is going to happen? What’s the worst case scenario? Can you be okay? Like literally surrender into the worst case scenario and know that you will still be okay.

Dr. Irena: And the power of just starting. Just start, just take a small step, right? And that can usually eliminate that fear or at least reduce that fear, right? Because fear activates the amygdala. And it’s really hard to start activating the dopamine if you have this fear that activates the amygdala. And so, that’s what I use all the time because there are days where I just don’t feel like doing anything or there are days when I have fear around the things that I have to do.

And so I’ll just take an, okay, what can I do that’s going to keep moving me forward but that’s small? And then I do it and it changes my whole outlook for the day.

Jeanna: Or when asking yourself, what would make that thing easier or more enjoyable? Maybe if I put on music, maybe if I want to pour myself a glass of wine, maybe if I call an accountability buddy or just check in with someone and say, I’m just going to tell you right now, I’m going to do this thing. Can you tell me something to pump me up? I’ve done that a million times. Ah, my best friend, I’m scared to do this. Tell me I can do it. You can do it. Okay. All right, I’m going to go do it.

Dr. Irena: So in your bio on your website, you talk about the importance of fun to achieving your goals. So how does fun get you there?

Jeanna: Well, I like games and even if you don’t, how can you make it fun? Like I remember when I first started my business, there was no internet marketing. There was no social media. I went to networking events and people would give me these little pieces of paper, right, with a lead on it. I would take it home, and I’m supposed to call the person to follow up.

Well, that sounded scary and awful. I did not want to do that, cold calling people. It felt like crap. And so I would look at the stack. And so, finally, I just created a game and I said alright, because back then I was still in my 20s and not really mature and definitely in avoidance. Looking at those slips of paper, I’m just going to go watch a soap opera. Yeah, a soap opera instead of going and calling the person.

So I made it a goal. Like okay, so I’m going to talk to at least five people today. And then I’m going to ask them either to have a free coaching session or ask for the business. But until I get five no’s, I cannot watch TV. And then often, of course, I would go past five and I would often get a yes. And then I would just stop because I actually felt like it. But I needed the game to get started, you know, some sort of reward system because I needed my dopamine hit. I needed my reward.

So if you can make it a game. It’s quite fun. Or you get points if you do this. And if you get so many points, then you’re going to give yourself something. So I like to play games in whatever way possible or turn up music, do whatever it takes to make it more fun, including taking breaks. Sometimes, I’ll give myself permission. All right, I’m going to take a five minute fun break, do something totally mindless, and then I’ll come back.

Dr. Irena: Fun also increases dopamine. So if you’re already increasing dopamine, do you find that that’s easier when you get back in that it is more enjoyable?

Jeanna: Absolutely. For sure.

Dr. Irena: Yeah. So, when you were doing the five calls, how did you feel when you’d done the calls? And let’s give an example that you got no for all five calls. Did you feel good about it anyway? Just because you’d made the five calls and you’d made a game out of it.

Jeanna: Absolutely. Now, I have to admit, part of the game was getting me used to being neutral about a no. I didn’t want to hear no’s. I was scared to hear a no. So part of it was designed so that I could neutralize that fear around getting a no. It’s like, oh, I got a no. It’s still okay. And yes, look at me. I did my five calls. I actually had the gut to reach out to someone. Yay me!

Dr. Irena: And you accomplished your goal of making five calls, even if they were five nos. And so you got the dopamine hit because you’d accomplished your goal for the day.

Jeanna: Exactly. Often we think, there is this only one step that I can only do the step this way in order to get to end result. But that’s not true either. There are usually other ways to get the goal done. So for instance, I did what I call a big girl launch where I wanted to do this big online launch and I wanted to have lots of people promoting me, except in order for people to promote me, I had to ask them to promote me and that felt uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to bother people. I didn’t want to feel needy, pushy, irritating, all the things. And so I thought, what makes me actually feel that way? Because, oh, I’m going to feel like just another person emailing them in an inbox, wanting something. And I thought, well, if I could do it any way I want, how would I reach out? I don’t want to call people. I have a lot of resistance to that because that’s going to take a lot of time. And I don’t have a lot of time. I think I had kids at that point and they were toddlers. And I’m like, I can’t be on the phone chatting it up for a half an hour with each of these people, but I wanted that connection.

And so I was just, hmm, what if, and then of course, when I’m in the possibility, somebody said, hey, there’s this app. And at the time, it doesn’t even work anymore, but whatever it was at the time was new to me. And they said, if you can actually make like a five-minute video, and it will send a person the clip of the video so they see your face and you can just say, play here. Like, Oh my gosh, yes, I can do custom videos for everybody.

I had so much fun. I got so goofy and people even said, I don’t even promote other people, but how could I resist your video, Jeanna? And I thought, ah, because I’m in my zone of comfort. I chose to find a way that actually suited my personality, my style, and what felt comfortable versus forcing myself to do the thing and just get over it and do it when I didn’t feel connected to that. I felt awful sending people emails. I didn’t want to do that.

Dr. Irena: I love that story, Jeanna. You found a way to make it fun. And you’re right, there is usually more than one way that we can accomplish something. So your website also talks about the importance of breaking the mold and doing things differently. We just talked about that, but what is it about the mold that doesn’t work for people when it comes to accomplishing goals and what is the conventional wisdom getting wrong?

Jeanna: I don’t think that conventional wisdom is wrong for everybody, but I do feel that we need to look at things as a framework versus the formula to follow exactly and give ourselves permission to zig and zag. If I were making up this formula, would I do it that way or could I accomplish that a different way that allows me to stay in my comfort zone?

I want to say something about comfort zone. When I talk about comfort zone, sometimes the action themselves, just taking new action in an area you’ve never done before, it is scary. You will be out of your comfort zone. But the way you get there can keep you in your comfort zone. There is always a way to stay in the comfort zone or find a workaround so that it’s more of a buffet rather than a fixed menu, if you will, because all of our personality styles are different. Our motivators, our values are different, what we feel comfortable doing is different.

And if it’s a true preference, like I prefer to do it this way versus I’m scared to do it this way. And sometimes, that’s a question to ask yourself, is it because this isn’t the right way for me to do it? Or is this just fear and scarcity talking? ‘Cause there’s a difference. I wanted to ask people to help me. I just didn’t want to do it in that way.

And once I found my way, I’m like, Oh, it’s fun to ask people. I’m having so much fun using my creativity and being weird and silly in each of these videos, and being able to customize it rather than I know my tone doesn’t come across well in an email, right? I’ll just sound like everybody else and I’m not like everybody else. I’m super eccentric. Video is a great format for me.

Dr. Irena: I love that story, too. And how there is no one formula that works for everyone. Everyone kind of has to develop their own formula in the end, right? And break things down into their own steps and do things in the way that is comfortable for them. Not too comfortable though because you want to keep pushing the envelope just a little bit, right? Just if you’re too comfortable, there is no growth.

Jeanna: But you also have to trust and trust the moves that you’re making. If you feel the nudge to do it a certain way, you’ve got to trust the nudge. There are times where your inner guidance is going to sound ridiculous and crazy and weird and too outrageous. Those are the times you should definitely listen because it will always be a better outcome and it will lead you to the easier way to get the next step done, for sure.

Dr. Irena: So, is there anything else that you’d like to say to our listeners?

Jeanna: Yeah, enjoy the process. Don’t be attached. Every step, even when it looks like you should just do A, B and C and then you’ll be done. Sometimes, it doesn’t. And the thing that you thought was going to take 3 minutes might take 3 hours. So what? Like, if you can just continue going, Oh, well, so what? This is how it’s meant to be or I’m not attached to the end outcome being exactly how I thought from the step, it’s okay.

If you can be in the process and just stay present and enjoy it, you’re going to have a lot more dopamine because often we’re making ourselves wrong. I took too long. I have to do it over. I screwed up on that part. So what? Each time, each step that you’re taking, even if you “screwed up,” it’s getting you more clear about how to do it better the next time. So don’t sweat it, people. Relax.

Dr. Irena: Exactly. So, what’s the best way for listeners to find out more about you and your work?

Jeanna: Well, you can go to and peace is P-E-A-C-E like Interpeace. There’s a free gift on the front page, a five-minute thing that you can do to get in the zone of attracting more of what you want into your business or your life.

Dr. Irena: So thank you so much, Jeanna. This has been a really great conversation.

Jeanna:  And thank you for having me.

Dr. Irena: Thank you all for listening and remember that it is possible to accomplish any big goal. All you have to remember is to break things down to small tasks on which you can succeed. And when you succeed on a task, you get a dopamine spike and this dopamine spike predicts success on the next task. Set up your day as a series of small tasks to ensure that dopamine remains high all day. And make sure you’re having fun.

I’m Dr. Irena O’Brien and you’ve been listening to Neuroscience of Coaching. You can find out more about me at The Neuroscience of Coaching is part of the Mirasee FM podcast network, which also includes such shows as Just Between Coaches and Once Upon a Business. This episode was produced by Cynthia Lamb. Danny Iny is our executive producer and post production was by Marvin Del Rosario.

To make sure you don’t miss great episodes coming up on Neuroscience of Coaching, please follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channel or your favorite podcast player. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It is the best way to help us get these ideas out there to more people. Thanks and we’ll see you next time.