Set INTERNAL BOUNDARIES to Handle Your Emotions Better w/ Nick Wignall

Mar 15, 2022

Welcome to episode 39 of the Mindful & Driven podcast! It’s all about how to not lose sight of what really matters whilst chasing your dreams.

Episode 39’s guest is Nick Wignall. He’s a clinical psychologist, writer, teacher, and podcaster. He believes what’s really important in life is emotional fitness rather than emotional intelligence. He has written hundreds of articles about this and gained over a hundred thousand followers in Medium who believe in this idea too. He uses his day job where he helps real-life patients to inform the work that is put out there for wide and different people. He does a few courses as well and a podcast which is called Mind and Mics.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation! I’d love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review and follow me on social channels. 

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • How to handle your emotions better.
  • Why it’s important to be mindful of how you feel.
  • It’s not because something feels bad that it is bad.
  • How to manage negative emotions.
  • What to do to stick to healthy habits.
  • How to be kind to yourself. How to achieve balance in life.
  • How to deal with negativity.
  • How to set boundaries with yourself to handle negative emotions.
  • Why it’s important to have internal boundaries.
  • The importance of having internal limits in emotion management.


  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Feeling bad about feeling bad (1:55)
  • Never miss twice (8:48)
  • The “toxic” label and setting boundaries (12:29)
  • What do you actually have control of? (18:45)
  • When your work aligns with your values (20:47)
  • A creature of habit (22:52)
  • Just because it feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad (31:01)


Intro Music:
“Himalayas” by Mona Wonderlick —
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
Free download:




[00:00:00] Nick: Well, in internal boundary, it would be taking responsibility for your own mind and attention. Right? This happened to me. That’s a bummer. I don’t like it when my sibling does this, but I am not going to keep my attention on that anymore. I’m going to put it onto something else that matters to me. And I think that our ability to set boundaries externally on other people is limited and complicated, but we always have control over our attention and focus. And so setting boundaries for ourselves, I think is a really productive arena to kind of look at and explore. 

[00:00:38] Amardeep: Welcome to the Mindful and Driven Podcast, where we help you to not lose sight of what’s really important whilst chasing your dreams. Today’s guest is Nick Wignall. He’s a clinical psychologist, writer, teacher, and podcaster. He believes what’s really important in life is emotional fitness rather than emotional intelligence. He has written hundreds of articles about this and gained over a hundred thousand followers in Medium who believe in this idea too. He uses his day job where he helps real-life patients to inform the work that is put out there for wide and different people. He does a few courses as well and a podcast which is called Mind and Mics.I think we had a fascinating conversation all about how psychology impacts what we are doing in our lives and how to make ourselves live the most fulfilling life we can. I hope you enjoy listening 

Welcome to Mindful and Driven Nick. It’s a pleasure to have you here. 

[00:01:25] Nick: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for having me. 

[00:01:27] Amardeep: You were one of the very first writers I ever read when I started on this journey myself and I just remember your amazing consistency where, what was great is that you’ve got the professional background in what you’re talking about, which is quite rare often online, where people would be talking about things that they’re not necessarily qualified to talk about. And what’s great is you can bring in the experience you have with real people and real clients you’ve helped. Because you’ve got that background, do you find that you often see other advice in line that you disagree with? 

[00:01:57] Nick: Sure. You know, like anyone else? I think there’s always stuff that I don’t particularly like or, I disagree with in parts, but I, you know, it doesn’t on a whole, I don’t think it bothers me too much. Like I think, you know, I think, especially if you’re talking about issues like that, that I do kind of mental health psychology, even as personal growth in general. I think it’s something to be aware of. If you want to be careful, if you don’t want to be actively given bad advice, but at the same time, you know, like people are, people know, people know, you know, like they can see like whether someone’s qualified or not. And just because you don’t have a PhD after your name or just because you don’t have sort of very specific technical credentials, I don’t necessarily think that means, it’s not okay for you to, to comment or talk about things or explain things or your experiences with things or, or even give advice to some extent, you know, like I, it doesn’t, it doesn’t bother me too much. I mean, every once in a while I’ll find things, but in general, I’m sort of like, oh, you know, this is the internet. And again, outside of the really extreme situations, I think we all just sorta know that it’s, it’s play, everyone’s sort of gathering and giving their opinions and talking, and it’s a little messy, but that’s, to me that’s kind of the charm to some extent. 

[00:03:02] Amardeep: Is there anything you do see a lot that you disagree with and you think that can lead people down the wrong path? 

[00:03:08] Nick: Sure. I mean, one of the things I see a lot is in, in kind of mental health and emotional wellbeing, generally, there’s a lot of stuff out there about coping skills. Like, you know, when you’re, when you’re feeling bad or you’re upset or stressed out or anxious or whatever, kind of the importance of coping skills and whether that’s, you know, you’re quick, you know, I’m feeling anxious, so I’m gonna do five minutes of mindfulness, or I’m going to do a deep breathing exercise, or I’m going to say a bunch of positive mantras or, or, or whatnot. I think that is a, it’s a very understandable sort of reaction to dealing with emotional difficulty, but it’s actually totally counterproductive for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of times, because when you, when you feel bad and then you immediately go to, okay, I got to apply some sort of coping skill to feel better. What you’re teaching your brain is, it’s not okay to feel bad. So you will probably get a little bit of temporary relief in that moment, right? You might get distracted. You might feel a little bit better, but the long-term effects are even worse because the next time you feel bad, the next time you feel anxious, next time you feel angry, whatever, not only are you feeling anxious, you’re going to feel bad about feeling bad. You’re gonna be afraid of feeling anxious. And so your overall level of emotionality is going to be even higher, which means you’re going to feel the need to cope even stronger, right. What you’re going to do, and you’re gonna get a little bit of relief again, but then the next time it’s going to be even worse because if you’ve taught your brain, this message. So it’s this it’s kind of an addictive cycle actually. And so I’m always very leery of the advice to use coping skills in response to a stress or, or kind of emotional struggle, tempting as that might be, I think one of the, if you sort of understand the underlying dynamics behind that, you got to be very careful with the idea of immediately applying coping skills. 

[00:04:51] Amardeep: Yeah. And I think you come to that sort of point of it. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, if you do feel anxiety, like it’s amazingly common now, probably too common, but that doesn’t mean it’s a problem with you in terms of like who you are. It just means that you might need help or there’s things you need to take care of. And it’s always something that can be done. Whereas if you try to just push it under the carpet straight away, or you try to, they said do breathing exercises or eat your way out of it, something like that, then it’s not addressing the underlying problem. And sometimes when you do it address the underlying problem, then that’s a sustainable way to have that greatest stability on the term. 

[00:05:29] Nick: And I think that it gets at the core confusion, which is a very understandable confusion to make is, what is the problem? When you feel anxiety, for instance, it feels bad, right? It’s really uncomfortable. It’s even painful to feel anxiety. Right. But just because it feels bad, doesn’t mean it is bad. Right. So when you, when you touch your finger on a hot stove, you feel pain. Is the pain bad? No, it feels bad, but without pain you would be incurring real danger and damage, right? Your finger would burn your you’d have tissue damage because of that. Right? So the pain hurts, but it’s actually a good thing. It’s just a messenger, right? It’s conveying a message to you about whatever the real problem or issue is. So I think that’s a, it’s a subtle, but really important point is shifting your perspective on difficult emotions and learning to see them as messengers. And you might not like the message. But the messenger isn’t bad for giving you that message and you’re not bad for having that messenger show up. The key is to keep the focus on, as you alluded to, what’s the actual problem here that this is alerting me to, and that’s, it’s a hard thing. And to do all that kind of in the moment, it takes a lot of skill, a lot of practice, a lot of patience. And it’s a lot easier to just say I’m going to distract myself with something, so I don’t have to feel this. So it’s, it’s understandable that people take that route and that people advocate for that. But if this is, if whatever you’re struggling with has become kind of a long-term issue, I think it’s really important to, to step back and ask those, those big questions about, like you said, sort of what’s the real problem here. 

[00:06:59] Amardeep: I think often, well, sometimes [unintelligible] coping mechanisms should really be used more preventatively. So for example, breathing exercises, if you’re doing that anyway, even when you’re feeling good, whether you’re feeling bad, and you’re just getting good at circulation and good oxygen into your brain, that helps you to deal with different problems, but it shouldn’t be only as a reaction. So it’s kind of that taking the same concept, but applying it away that’s preventative and stopping the problem becoming too big, rather than waiting for it to blow up and then you feel bad, 

[00:07:33] Nick: yeah, no, it’s good. I mean, it’s a great point. I was just watching my, my daughters were watching YouTube videos of Usain Bolt, the other day. I came in and they were watching like previous, like Olympics of him running. And I, for whatever reason made me think about this distinction that you bring up of, you know, people talking about breathing exercises as a coping strategy. But if you just think about the word exercise. Exercises are not what you do in a game time scenario, you don’t see Usain Bolt before a championship race. He’s not running wind sprints right before his race. Right. That wouldn’t make any sense. He’d be more tired and he wouldn’t be able to run very well. Right. You run wind sprints and you exercise and lift weights and do all that kind of stuff ahead of time. So that when the difficult situation comes, you’re strong and ready to handle it. Right? So to your point, exactly things like breathing exercises or, or mindfulness practices or exercises, those are what you do when you’re feeling good. To build up sort of strength and resilience so that when those difficult and challenging situations arise, you’re more able to deal with them in a healthy and productive way. 

[00:08:33] Amardeep: Has it happened to you in the past where you have had this difficult situations where you’ve struggled with your balance, and what did you do to get through that? Because I imagine for you as somebody who’s got the clinical background, there’s always maybe an interplay between yourself where you say, well, if I’m helping other people do this then why am I feeling this myself? And do you ever have those kinds of almost messy conversations with yourself of, I shouldn’t be feeling this cause I’m teaching people how to deal with this. 

[00:08:56] Nick: You know, interestingly enough, it’s, it’s never something I’ve struggled with a lot in the sense of like, feeling bad for feeling bad, because to my mind, like the fact that I have a PhD in clinical psychology, it doesn’t make me immune from feeling anxious or feeling angry or sad or experiencing grief or guilt, or like stress, or like any of those other things. Like those are all completely normal parts of being a human being. Right. That’s that’s totally normal. So I, I think. That and what that really does is it, it helps me not get too judgmental with myself for feeling those things, which is really what leads to a lot of emotional struggles, long-term. It’s not, it’s not the initial anxiety. It’s not the initial anger. It’s not the initial sadness. It’s feeling bad for feeling bad, which then leads to this whole gigantic layer of feeling really bad for a really long time and all the nasty kind of effects that come from that self-criticism, self-sabotage, avoidance, all those kind of behavioral patterns. So what the, my sort of mantra is James Clear has this great sort of line where he, or I don’t know if it’s a line it’s like a, I guess it’s kind of like a mantra, but he says never miss twice. And I really liked that as he applies it to like habit building, or if you’re gonna go to the gym, you know, like you miss a day because you’re just feeling exhausted and you don’t go to the gym and like, it’s not a big deal. Just, just make sure you go the next day. And I think that’s such a nice mindset because it combines sort of discipline and self compassion at the same time. Right. If you’re saying, you know what life happens, nobody’s perfect. Like I get angry. I raise my voice at my daughters. I hate that. I hate it when I do that. I really don’t like that, but I’m usually pretty quick to say, you know what? Like, I don’t like that. I shouldn’t have done that. But it’s understandable. Like I’m a parent, I got four kids. Like they’re acting crazy. Like it’s not totally surprising that I like lost my cool and raise my voice with my daughters, even though it’s, it’s something I really try really hard to avoid. And I really think by doing that, like by using that little move of don’t miss twice, right. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Give yourself a little compassion for the first mistake. I think that actually helps you, again, like respond in a, in a good way. Instead of getting really like angry with myself about being angry and kind of lashing out, like with my kids or something, which would then just leave me to be miserable, like for the rest of the evening. And they would, who knows, they would feel bad for me feeling bad. It just turned into a mess. Right. But it very quickly, I can just be like, all right. I didn’t like that, but it makes sense. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person. Let’s kind of get on with things. It’s just such a suddenly happier way to go through life, but it’s just a much more fun way to go through your work or, you know, parenting or whatever it is you’re, you’re kind of dealing with. So that, that idea, you know, the, the takeaway is that don’t miss twice. We all miss in one respect or another, we make mistakes. We screw up, we experienced difficult things, right. Even if they have nothing to do with us, they’re not our fault. It’s about kind of accepting those and then moving on as best we can. So I don’t know, that’s kind of my philosophy or how I approach not only kind of mistakes that I’ve made, but even just difficult emotions that had nothing to do with what, what I did. It’s to try and accept them, kind of compassionately and then move on. 

[00:12:09] Amardeep: I think it’s something close to that applies to how you treat other people. So I think it’s become more common now for this idea that you need to get rid of toxic people from your life. Right. Sometimes people can be really quick to label other people is toxic and say somebody does, there’s one thing that you disagree with or, someone like that, and then it’s like, okay, I can’t keep you in my life. You’ve got to leave right now. And it’s that zero tolerance aspect where it just doesn’t leave enough room for compassion because we all make mistakes. And we wouldn’t want to be treated that way ourselves, where if you’re talking to somebody and we say something we didn’t mean, or we didn’t fully understand, we wouldn’t want other people to just dispose of us. But I think it’s all in self hope at the moment, which is becoming quite damaging and kind of almost self-fulfilling if you call the people toxic, then you start acting in a toxic way. And it’s trying to get an understanding of, they said something that you didn’t agree with or they did something to upset you, it doesn’t make them a bad person. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe something was going on in their life. And I think I see yourself in people where somebody has done something to frustrate them or to annoy them, and they let that ruin that entire day, and they then create stories about they did it because of this, that they did. You have no idea why they did it. They might not even realize that they did something like that, made you feel that way, but we can start creating these stories. I think that’s just something which is taking that pause and thinking, wait, could there be a reason or reasons why that happened? Could it just be pure, they forgot? And they didn’t mean to do it or apathy? If that’s the case, then what’s the use of new ruining your entire day, getting angry about it. If they don’t even know they’ve done wrong. And it’s some guy trying to think about and try to encourage the people is don’t just hold on to grudges so easily. 

[00:13:48] Nick: Yeah. I mean, I agree. I think that is kind of a trend in yeah, in sort of the self-help world, I guess, broadly speaking. And I think, you know, I think it’s an, it’s an understandable kind of swing of the pendulum, you know, I think where, cause it is important to acknowledge how other people sort of affect us and think more carefully about the types of relationships we’re in and the nature of those relationships and how much sort of distance we want in those. And what’s okay. And what’s not okay. These are big, like cultural questions that are going on, and it’s good that we’re having those conversations. But, and so I, but I think you’re right. I think we probably swung a bit too far on just sort of labeling anyone you don’t like as toxic, just because they said one thing that made you upset. There, there are, I think there are very real situations where someone is pretty definitively toxic in a lot of respects over a long period of time, and like, sure. If that’s the case, go ahead and take whatever drastic measures you need. But to your point, I think a lot of the time, there’s a lot more nuance in there. And again, as you sort of point out, if nothing else for our own sanity and equanimity being a little less quick to just sort of go that the easy route of like, well they’re toxic and then continuing to kind of stew on it and dwell on it, and it doesn’t it doesn’t seem very, very productive on any level. 

[00:15:06] Amardeep: Hi everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the episode so far. I want to take a quick break to ask you to check in with yourself. There’s many people struggling with balance and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tips that my guests might share can hopefully help you along the way, but if you already feel overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s probably best that you ask somebody for help too. For some, this might be a friend or family member, while others might feel like they have nobody they can talk to. If you’re one of these people, check out the link in the show notes, it’s for United for Global Mental Health. They’ve got health plans all across the world, with people willing to listen on the other side. It’s important to let somebody know how you’re feeling. Now, back to the show. 

I guess, to that as well, it’s where if you’ve removed somebody from your life because of the way they make you feel, but then you then go on to complain about them or rant about them for the next two years of your life, they’ve still got some power over you, so you’re kind of, you’re letting them, you’re letting one behavior or one scenario take over your mood, even though they’re not even doing anything anymore. And that is the kind of, I think if you are going to remove people from your life because they’re causing toxic behavior, then you’ve also got to try to remove them from like annoying you in your head. And see if you can allow yourself to move on as well. You don’t need to forgive but try to at least distance yourself rather than let yourself be consumed by it. 

[00:16:24] Nick: Yeah. You know, something, I, I think a lot about it and talk a lot about with, with my own clients is boundaries. And obviously I think that’s something that’s becoming more, like you mentioned, sometimes the ultimate boundary is just kind of completely cutting someone off. Right. Literally cutting them out of your life. Boundaries like these, or even less extreme versions of them are important. Right? If someone, you know, continually, you know, if you’re, I don’t know, sibling calls you every single day to complain about their boyfriend and it’s just, it’s not doing them any good. It’s stressing you out. It’s not doing you, you can stop picking up their calls. It doesn’t mean you’re cutting them out of your life. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to talk to them about other things, but you’re just, you’re not going to have those conversations. Right. So another example of a boundary, and those can be really helpful, but I think what’s underrated are what I think of as internal boundaries which are, what, what are the boundaries you’re setting in your own head, right? So maybe you accidentally pick up the call and your sibling starts complaining about their partner or whatever, again, like, oh God, here’s one more thing. And you say, you know, okay, I’m not going to. I’m not gonna have this conversation and the call ends. Right. What, what do you do in your own mind after that? Do you continue to sort of stew on, like, why do they keep calling you? Like, why won’t they listen? It’s a simple request. Don’t call me and complain about, why do they, and before you know it, it’s 20 minutes later and now you’re super angry and you’re upset. And your day’s ruined because you’ve been stewing on, well, an internal boundary would be taking responsibility for your own mind and attention. Right? This happened to me. That’s a bummer. I don’t like it when my sibling does this but, I am not going to keep my attention on that anymore. I’m going to put it onto something else that matters to me. Right? That’s an internal boundary. You’re setting a boundary with yourself, with your own mind. And I think that our ability to set boundaries externally on other people is limited and complicated, but we always have control over our attention and focus. And so setting boundaries for ourselves, I think is a really productive arena to kind of look at and explore. 

[00:18:19] Amardeep: I think what you mentioned there as well is, it’s really important about, sometimes, if you’re trying to cut something out from life, it’s quite difficult. Whereas if you’re trying to replace it something else, or you say, okay, instead of thinking, I’m not going to think about this. You think I am going to do this instead, rather than allowing yourself to have your mind split into two different places so like well, that call is over now, this is what I’m going to focus on, this is what I want to do. I want to go out and maybe you’re going to spend time with your family, maybe going to spend time with your friends, but allow yourself to fully give yourself completely to that, what are you going to do? rather than keeping the window open for those other negative thoughts. 

[00:18:54] Nick: Right. And that’s, in some ways, this goes back to the question of, of control and like, what do you actually have control over? When it comes to other people, for the most part, you don’t have a ton of control. Like as much as I don’t want my sibling calling me about with all their problems about their partner, I can’t control whether they choose to call me or not. I could completely cut them out of my life, and that would be some form of control over them, but I’m probably not willing to go to that extreme. Right. But also internally, if my, if I have a thought pop up about how annoying my sibling’s being for calling me and complaining about whatever, I also, that’s not something I can control. Your mind is going to throw thoughts at you all the time. Right? All you can control is whether you choose to follow that thought or to put your attention somewhere else. So back to your original point, you can’t, you usually can’t get rid of annoying people in your life entirely. Most of us aren’t willing to go there. Similarly, you can’t just not have distressing thoughts or emotions, right? Those happen, they come up. What you can do afterwards is say, okay, I feel those. And there’s not much I can do about them. They’re there, but what do I actually want to do with my minute, hour, day life right now, given that those are just going to be along for the ride? Like, what do I want to focus on now? So it’s again, to your point, it’s a, it’s not so much, how do I get rid of this thing I don’t like? How do I kind of accept that and then keep my attention on what I actually want going forward? 

[00:20:20] Amardeep: I guess, along those lines then. What is it at the moment that you found in terms of your balance? Like, how are you living life at the moments? So you’ve got a new job soon coming up and you have your writing [unintelligible] course. And four kids, as you mentioned. How do you find the right balance between that at the movement? What are you putting into place in order to protect yourself? 

[00:20:40] Nick: Well, part of it is that a lot of my interests, my, my kind of hobby level interests and my work really overlap. So, but like my, my writing, for instance, and my course, like I just really, I enjoy doing them. I like doing them. Like, I, they’re just really fun. Like when I sit down and write an article every morning, like I do, I do an hour or two of writing every morning. It, it literally is almost never a chore. So in terms of balance, like that really helps when your, when your work really aligns with your values. Right. And that’s a whole thing, like we could really get into that, but I think I’m able to maintain a pretty good balance because I’m doing things that I just genuinely enjoy and would be doing anyway. Right. These would be hobbies if they weren’t kind of turned into bigger side projects. So that’s, that’s huge. I also, I have an incredibly supportive spouse. My wife is just a rockstar and she’s very supportive of all this stuff I’m doing. And we have a really good relationships in terms of, checking in on that kind of stuff and like my time and energy and like where all that’s being allocated. And so I think having someone that’s really supportive and easy to talk to about that kind of stuff, I mean, that’s huge. I couldn’t have done that if that wasn’t the case. So it’s definitely not all about me. So I would say those are the two big things, right. Having a supportive kind of social environment, and then also just my work really overlapping with my kind of intrinsic interests. Like I don’t, I don’t spend, you know, three hours every weekend golfing because like, frankly, I enjoy like writing and teaching more than I enjoy golfing. That’s not to say that golfing’s bad. Some people like it that’s their thing. Right. But my like, a lot of what I consider my work is also my pleasure, like my enjoyment, and so it’s not that hard. 

How do you find that in terms of with balancing the children as well? because If you write for an hour or two in the morning before you get to work, and then you put the courses and stuff in the evening, do you find it’s all okay? Then you have the right balance and you’re able to spend time with the people you want to spend or are there different pressures you have there. So my, what’s worked out so far and this could very well change, but like, here’s the other thing, I’m a serious creature of habit. Like I love routines and habits. It doesn’t bore me. I like, I really like all my days, basically looking at the same, some people would look at that and think like, oh, that’s super boring. And like not spontaneous or whatever. I love it. Like I love having my routines so that that’s another like temperamental thing that probably helps with this is just, I don’t mind that kind of hyper consistency in my routine and in my life. But what I will say about what my schedule looks like is Monday through Friday, I wake up pretty early. Like I would usually wake up around five and I’m at work writing by 5:30 or 6:00. Right. So. And that’s like, my kids aren’t up anyway. Right. And that by the time they get up and go to, so the way I think about it is from like 6:00 until usually about 4:00 in the afternoon. Like that’s my Workday. And I, I do everything in there. After that, on the evenings, and then on the weekends, I never do any work. I mean, almost never. There’s a few exceptions every once in a while, sometimes during naps on the weekends, I’ll go, you know, write for an hour or something like that. But I’ve just sort of blocked off that the lines are pretty clear between like my work, whether that’s my full-time job, my writing, my courses, whatever that all happens in that time period. And it doesn’t happen outside of that at all. And so I think that to me, the having those clear lines again, for me, this could be very different for other people, but for me, it’s really important because I really do kind of leave work at work. Like when I leave work, I’m not really thinking about it. And I’m able to be pretty present, I think, with my kids and my family, and that I think that quality of presence is, is really important and matters more than overall kind of quantity. So I don’t know if that makes sense. I guess just having hard lines is like my, if there’s a trick, like that’s what it is. I’ve just kind of time blocked. Here’s my time for doing all my stuff. And if it doesn’t fit in there, it doesn’t fit in there. 

[00:24:31] Amardeep: Have those lines ever been challenged where there’s something that you really wanted to do, or like an opportunity came up. It would have been outside those hours because for example, it may be one that happens at a time difference where there might be somebody on the other side of the world that would have to kind of then adapt my time to try and accommodate them. And it’s because I want to talk to them cause I’m going to enjoy that conversation, but then it then bleeds into, out of the normal time that I’d want to work. Have you ever had to deal with anything like that? 

[00:24:58] Nick: Yeah, again, I think I’m lucky and fortunate in that a lot of the people who, for instance, cause I run in that same thing with my podcast, booking guests. If I book people who aren’t in the US, for whatever reason, most of them tend to be in Europe, which coincides really well for me being in the US because I’m, I do a lot of my stuff early in the day anyway, so that tends to work out for, for a lot of my people. But frankly, I’m just, I, I think that other stuff like that does come up, you know, someone will only be able to do something on the weekend or, you know, whatever. I just have a bit, I can’t fit everything in, and at the end of the day, like I think if there is something that, that helps me, it’s that, I’m pretty good at saying no. And when I say I’m pretty good at it, what I think I’m good at specifically is usually what makes saying no hard is something like some kind of anxiety or fear, like FOMO, for instance, like fear of missing out like, oh, this person will be so great. How can I, so there’s that disappointment, right? That you feel. So I think what, what I think I’m pretty good at is sitting with that and acknowledging that, like not trying to avoid it, like, yes, like this is disappointing. Right. And that’s a bummer. And I would like to do that. Maybe I’ll be able to do in the future, but the cost of me trying to cram that in. It’s not worth it. So I actively think through, okay, what would I be giving up if I did that? Right. I would be, I mean, there’d be these couple of hours during my weekend, like with my kids, which I would be giving up. And I think about, I literally think about like, my daughter just got into Pokemon cards and loves playing Pokemon cards. Right. And so I think about that, like, well, that might not be, that would be two hours of her being super excited and us getting to do this thing together, which I would be saying no to. And that, that kills me even more like that feels even worse. So I’ve done this kind of like pros, cons evaluation, and thought through what’s the opportunity cost of making the exception and doing this thing on the weekend. And when you really get specific and think through those, those trade off costs. It’s pretty easy. Like it’s actually not as hard a decision as it seems. So I think being able to say no, by getting really specific about what the pros and cons of saying yes or no to a given opportunity are, I think 90% of the time that makes the decision for itself. 

[00:27:12] Amardeep: I think I can definitely take on that advice myself. It’s good that I can apply it because I think at the moment, because I’m still in the first year or so of me like working for myself, there’s still this idea of experimentation and trying all these different things. But if I run too many experiments at once, then they’re all going to fail. So I need. Look at that and make sure that I am, as you said making time to just be present. And as you go forward, do you think that you’ve got the balance, right? Is this the routine that you want to stick to or are there changes you want to make in the future? 

[00:27:40] Nick: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s pretty right. The broad outlines are like, if I imagine my sort of perfect schedule, this is pretty close to what it is. Like I wake up pretty early and have a few hours of like really, like solitude, like just to do like really creative stuff, usually writing, some reading, stuff like that. And then probably another few hours to do other, you know, other kinds of work-related stuff, meetings, admin, recording, podcasts, like stuff like that. And then to basically be sort of done by, midday early afternoon and be able to spend the rest of that time with my kids and with my family and being more engaged in whatever it is they’re doing. And I think, so if I can kind of keep this up or tighten that up just a little bit, that sounds pretty good to me. The bigger question is how do you fit in kind of bigger one-off experiences? Like if we wanted to, I don’t know, do a camping trip to Yellowstone for two weeks and go camping, right? Like how does, how does that fit in? And so having a schedule that is flexible enough to sort of receive big disruptions, I think is going to be something increasingly important, but it seems, it seems doable. So I have to say, I know it’s probably not a very interesting answer, but I really like this kind of system that I’ve developed and sort of polished over, over the years and who knows, like life’s crazy and can throw all sorts of curve balls at you, but this one. I think this idea of like getting started right away, early, doing my most kind of creative kind of difficult stuff within the first few hours, and then spending the next three hours kind of doing more meetings, logistical stuff. Like that’s a, that’s a great formula for me. It’s it seems to resonate with me and how I work and also seems to produce pretty good results, so far. 

[00:29:19] Amardeep: A little bit of an understatement there. I think you’ve had very good results so far in terms of the huge audience you’ve built now, over the years. And if you had to give people one piece of advice to say a positive mindset shift they could make to make a positive difference in their lives, what would it be? 

[00:29:34] Nick: Yeah, kind of like what we were talking about earlier, just because it feels bad, doesn’t mean it is bad. I think that’s the, like the thing you want to sear into your brain as much as possible, because so many, so many times when we get derailed from some goal or aspiration we have, like take procrastination for instance, when you really look closely at why people procrastinate, it’s the formula is almost always the same. It’s some, something triggers a difficult emotion in you. Whatever, it could be anxiety, sadness, guilt, fear, like whatever, and we, because we don’t like it and we think it’s bad. We try to get. We avoid it. Right. So I just got home from work. I know I’m supposed to go work out, but like, oh God, like I feel, I was just like, I’ve been kind of, I don’t know, I’m out of shape and I don’t want to get to the gym cause I’m like, I’m, self-conscious about how I feel and like gross. Netflix. Right. That distracts me from how I feel, like feeling ashamed of my body or feeling anxious about what other people are gonna think of me at the gym or whatever, right. That, that coping mechanism, avoiding the feeling. That’s what leads to self-sabotage. That’s what derails us from our goals. But I think if there’s one kind of trick to being really consistent about sticking with what actually matters to you being productive in the biggest sense of the word. It’s acknowledging those difficult feelings and reminding yourself, okay, I don’t like this. It feels bad, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. It doesn’t even mean it’s something I have to do anything about. I, I can, I am capable of doing what I wanted to do, despite feeling uncomfortable or bad. And I think a lot of people don’t really, they hear that intellectually and they’re like nodding their head. And they’re like, yes, yes, yes. But experientially, they don’t believe it. When, when the, when the rubber hits the road in the moment, they go right to like, nope, I got to get rid of this thing, this feeling before I can do whatever’s important to me, the opposite is actually true. If you really want to be free from those feelings, you have to do what was important to you, despite how your feeling. So reversing that sort of causality is really important. You don’t, you don’t try to make yourself feel better so that you can do something important. You do something important despite feeling bad, which then results in feeling better. So, and the, the kind of key, I think, nugget with all of that is, just because it feels bad, doesn’t mean it is bad. And that will really change your sort of, I think decision-making process in response to stressful, difficult events. 

[00:31:56] Amardeep: I think so often isn’t it where the things are good for us long-term, they feel tough at the beginning. And I don’t know why it’s like that. You’d think it’s just a weird law of the universe, where surely some things would feel good at the beginning and are good for us long term, but it always seems to be the bad things that make us feel good at the beginning. I don’t know how that worked out, but hope you can fix them about that. But it’s been a pleasure to talk to you today Nick. Where can people hear more about you and what you’re up to? Well, thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure as well. I love talking about this stuff and it’s been, it’s been really fun chatting with you about it specifically. In terms of where people go to learn more. My website’s probably the best place. 

[00:32:32] Nick: So it’s N I C K W I G N A L And yeah, you can find lots of stuff there. Articles, podcasts, newsletter, course, all sorts of stuff. Good place to go. 

[00:32:43] Amardeep: The final question I ask everybody is, what’s one small thing that brought you joy recently? 

[00:32:47] Nick: My, so a few days ago I was just working, doing my stuff, and out of the blue, my wife just texted me that she loves me. And it’s not, it’s not like it’s uncommon. She does that somewhat often, but it just, it’s just struck me like how it’s such a tiny thing. Right. It took, it took her literally 10 seconds to type that up and it just like, it made my whole day, you know, like it was so awesome. Yeah, it’s something that often it’s another one of those weird laws of the universe, I think. A good one is that, the size of our experience of joy is not particularly tied to the amount of effort it took on the other end, and so, yeah, I just, I think that was a, that was a lovely example of that. 

[00:33:22] Amardeep: So a great balancing out of the universe there between the two laws there. 

[00:33:24] Nick: There we go. 

[00:33:33] Amardeep: If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I’d love it If you could leave me a five star review, it really helps get the message out further. Wherever you’re listening, it would be awesome If you could subscribe and share in your social media channels. If you want to see more of my work and advice, you can find all of the links in the show notes. 


Thank you again for listening and I hope you have a lovely day.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.