Friday, August 16, 2013

The Having It All Project: Kristen Brown

I met Kristen at an event before the start of BlogHer, and as I often do with complete strangers at blogging events, we quickly dove into her life story and I knew I had to share it with you all. Kristen's life took an unexpected turn, but it led her down a transformative path, and now she helps others to transform their lives too. She's the author of two books, including her memoir "The Best Worst Thing," and you can connect with her company, The Happy Hour Effect on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Here's how Kristen is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I’m a widow mom, author, speaker and coach who is constantly juggling, growing, seeking opportunities and trying to remain grounded and present as a parent at the same time. My 30-year-old husband, Todd, died of a heart attack in his sleep in 2007 despite having no risk factors and being a tall, skinny, healthy former college athlete.

This massive stressor had a profound impact on how we live today. My daughter, Brooke, was only 10 months old at the time of his death so one of my key goals is to ensure she knows what a great man her dad was. I weave stories about him into our everyday life.

His heart attack at a young age also puts Brooke at risk for developing genetic heart disease so I’m constantly educating her on how to make the right choices with diet, exercise and lifestyle so she grows into an adult choosing healthy lifestyle habits. Plus I want her to just be a kid so I don’t want to be too overbearing with all the “rules” for health.

My 100% commitment to her health and safety often causes my own wellness to slip to the bottom of the priority list so I make sure that I schedule in me-time several times per week to recharge and reflect on my own growth and health.

Most importantly I try to live a low-stress, fun and interesting life that is infused with little adventures, flexibility and exposure to new ways of thinking and living. I love traveling with my daughter and now that she is getting to be a little lady (she’s almost seven) our options for travel destinations opens up. She likes travel too as long as we’re going somewhere that doesn’t require a shot!

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?I’ve developed several philosophies for dealing with chaos and craziness as I’ve evolved my business, Happy Hour Effect. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  1. Build in 2-3 minutes every hour to do a mini-meditation. I don’t chant or sit in a dark room. I simply stop what I’m doing and stop thinking about what’s next. We’re always thinking about what’s after this meeting, after work, this weekend, next month – and very rarely do we just stop to focus on the present moment and where we’re at right NOW. By building in just a couple of minutes every hour, I’m able to appreciate where I’m at, evaluate if I’m working on the right tasks to get me closer to my goals and reset my physical body by taking deep breaths.
  2. My Life Mapping process visually lays out all of the moving pieces of life – work, hobbies, commitments, core life (kids, health, etc.), big challenges and big dreams. I use it for myself and my clients to help get a grip on all of the things we juggle everyday so we are better able to decide what needs to rise to the top of the priority list. I’ve had so many people tell me this exercise changed their lives. It’s pretty powerful to see all the stuff that fills up your life down on paper and to have a real grip on what needs to happen to change your challenges.
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.I’ve had many, MANY moments where it all broke down. Since I started my own business I have had periods where money has been tight and I’ve had to get a day job to fill the gaps. Those are the times when I’m juggling way, way too much and it pushes me over the edge into stress, crankiness, unhealthiness and bad decision making.

Trying to remain a happy, positive parent while growing my business and writing life while working 40+ hours a week does not work for me, but it has been a necessary evil a couple of times over the last six years. Now that my own business is thriving, I’m day-job free. Money still gets tight sometimes but I’ve decided that it’s not worth the stress to have a full-time day job busting my ass for someone else just for a big paycheck.

I’m happier and my daughter is happier when I’m doing what I love even if we have to cut back on life’s little luxuries to get through the tight spots.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I can’t think of a specific balance role model but I have anti-role models – people who I see living super-stressed lives and trying to juggle way too much. I know I don’t want to be in that place so they always remind me to stay on track with what works for me and my daughter. (a.k.a. no full-time day job!)

I also know that I need to avoid getting over-scheduled. When my calendar gets so filled up that I don’t have time to actually get anything done, I get a little nutty. I consciously manage my calendar and spread out my meetings and appointments over time leaving a few hours of unscheduled time every day.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 

When I was 18 I planned on going to medical school, getting married, having a few kids and dogs and living a stable, luxurious life on a hobby farm somewhere. I had no idea how hard real life really is. 

As teens and even into our early 20’s we have such grand, amazing plans for life. Then some big setback occurs to level-set our reality and make us aware that life isn’t a big party all the time. It’s hard too. But the ups and downs create the person you are evolving into every day.

As I’ve aged (I’m 30-something), I become more and more wise to the ways of the world. I have a lot to learn yet and just laugh when I think back to those carefree days of my youth. I had no idea I would end up a widow. A harsh reality no doubt.

I also would never have dreamed I would be a bestselling author, national TV personality, coach and speaker inspiring others to go after their goals and dreams despite the inevitable stresses of life. A pretty sweet reality!

Every setback has turned into a lesson for growth and that’s what I remind myself every time I feel overwhelmed or stressed out.

I CAN have it all but not always all at once!

Relate to what Kristen is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

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1 comment:

  1. This is terrific advice - "We’re always thinking about what’s after this meeting, after work, this weekend, next month – and very rarely do we just stop to focus on the present moment and where we’re at right NOW." - thanks for reminding us to stay focused on what's important, Kristen!