Today Laura is having a 2-part conversation with Mary Polanco. Mary Polanco is a 23-year Retired Air Force Veteran, who calls Maryland home with her husband, Jose, and their two children, Aydia and Adrian. Throughout her military career, Mary developed ...
Today Laura is having a 2-part conversation with Mary Polanco. Mary Polanco is a 23-year Retired Air Force Veteran, who calls Maryland home with her husband, Jose, and their two children, Aydia and Adrian. Throughout her military career, Mary developed a strong passion for leadership, culminating in both an undergraduate and graduate-level degree in Strategic Leadership.
Beyond her expertise in team building and professional development, Mary is a wellness coach. Her passion for helping others is fueled by her own self-discovery.
She openly shares her difficulties with neglecting her mental health and self-care, which led to complete burn-out. It is through these hardships she uncovered the vision for her life and continues to share her journey.
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life, rat race, wellness coach, experienced, people, aligned, question, purpose, personal development, mary, uncomfortable, discomfort, military, thinking, exhale, anymore, reboot, beliefs, shifted, step
Welcome to rat race reboot. We have a wonderful session for you today a great interview with a fellow Air Force veteran Mary Polanco. She's a wellness coach, and she's going to share some of the things that she went through with breaking through the rat race breaking through burnout, and how her life has dramatically changed. So you're gonna want to stick around for today's episode.
The following was recorded in front of a live studio audience at the studio 21 podcast cafe. This is the United Podcast Network.
Welcome to rat race reboot. I'm your host, Laura Noel. And as a certified coach and former 27 year military leader. Each week, I provide bite sized mindset pivots that will help you reset your mind reawaken your spirit and regain your control. Hello, everybody, and welcome to another wonderful episode again, I am so excited to bring Mary Polanco on our show. She is a fellow Air Force veteran, I had the pleasure and honor of working with her back in the day, and I've been watching her journey unfolded. She's a wellness coach, and she helped so many people and what I think is so fascinating, and you're going to get so much value from this conversation is, you know, we both have similar stories where we were faced with burnout, and the toll that it took on our mental health and on our lives. And she completely turned it around. So I want to share her story and have her share her story, so that you can get inspiration and see that if somebody else can do this for themselves, and for their family and for their community, and step into the fullest essence of themselves. You can do it too. So welcome to the show. Mary, it's so great to have you on.
Oh, thank you so much. I'm just honored to be here. Thank you.
Oh, my gosh, well, let's start with telling the listeners kind of a snapshot in time, kind of what your journey looked like where you were in your life, when you really decided, oh, something's got to change.
Yeah, so I think that about 2017 was a pivot for me, I had been at what some people would consider at the height of my career, I was in a high visibility leadership position, I was taking care of over 100 people. And it was just a gogogo type of life. But I noticed that every day, I would promise myself when fill in the blank finishes, I will then take care of myself. And I noticed that this was a constant in my life, there was never an endpoint. And that was taking a serious toll on me, I started to have, over the course of the next couple of years, I started to have some physical manifestations of anxiety, which I had never experienced before. And that was when I really, it was sort of my way of saying to my own self, okay, you're not going to listen to me anymore. So we're going to physically take over, and then you're going to have to what we say in the military is take a knee and relax. And then we're gonna figure this out. My body completely started to shut down cognitively. And, and just, it made me stop and evaluate my situation. Yeah,
oh my goodness, you know, there's so many type A overachievers, like, we're kind of cut from the same cloth. And it oftentimes takes something that kind of shocks us over the head. It's like we're getting multiple knocks on the door. Okay, slow down. Okay, this isn't working. Okay, my stress levels are elevated, I'm getting run down. And it's kind of like that big aha, that kind of knocks us on our butt and gets us to shift in the moment. So what do you think, was driving a lot of the pushing and the, you know, just being in it all the time and constantly thinking, I similarly, you know, experienced that too. After this next mountain. I'll appreciate it after this next mountain. I can relax, but it just never seemed to happen until I had kind of a similar Aha. So yeah,
I think the fact that if you would have asked me that back then, what was going on in my life, I would have had no idea. It was the process that I put myself in the uncomfortable process for me to figure out that looking back on it now, I realized that I was doing everything in my life for someone else. I was always trying to, I knew what the positive feedback was telling me I knew I was extrinsically motivated to you know, hit a certain rank to get a certain position because that's What the people I trusted were telling me that I should be doing. And because it was so noisy, I did not take the time to sit with the silence and say, Okay, what do you want, because my life was filled with every sort of distraction. And not to mention just my military career, which was the bulk of my energy, taking of my energy, but it was also I'm the, I'm a wife, and I'm a mother to two small children. And I also want to be a good community member. And so I'm involved and I'm, you know, all of these things that I love education, I'm in school, you know, all the things. And so there was never an opportunity for me to say, Well, okay, are you doing what you're called to do? That was never a question. Are you doing what you're called to do? It was just always the the, the next question, or the question for me was always what's next? You're going to be doing next? What's your next job? Where's your next base? And that that, to me became a trigger. Whenever someone would ask me that question, anxiety would kick right in, of like, Why do I always have to be thinking of the next? And so that was sort of my pivot of maybe something's going on here where I need to stop and start answering this question.
Yeah, that's, you know, we can get so caught up in the rat race and in the grind and doing things that I love the quote, I'm not who you think I am, I'm not who I think I am. I think I am who I think you think I am. That's kind of a tongue twister. But it's, you know, I've experienced this as well. And it sounds like a very similar thing, where it's like, your goals don't even become your own anymore. It's, it's you're doing the things that you think you should do, or you think other people think you should do to kind of fit this mold. And after a while, it can be exhausting. You know, I remember asking a friend when I was living in this area previously, and saying, Gosh, when's it going to be enough? I kind of had that same feeling like when when somebody would ask you what's next? And your heart kind of melts? And you're like, Ah, why does there have to be a next? Like, can I just, can I just be for a little while? Yes. Um, so yeah,
I'm sorry, there was that there's this, there's this insecurity that lies with the for me that lived with the Can I just be, because I had been ingrained to think, if you're comfortable, you're not growing. And I do agree with that in so many, in so many ways. But I also think that there is something to be said for being in that moment of comfort, fit, building your confidence, knowing what you contribute, and really, just living. And I think that when you start to become so comfortable, because you're afraid of what's coming next, then we need to re evaluate. But if you're comfortable, because you've worked to get there, you should enjoy that. And you should build that confidence based on that foundation. But I was just one thing to the next constantly, and I and what was causing what was happening with each move each quote unquote, next for me, put me in a state of insecurity, a state of a lot of questioning the imposter syndrome. I was never really given the opportunity to kind of build myself up, if you will, if any of that's making sense. But But yeah,
yeah, no, that makes total sense. And yeah, we're, we're ingrained to believe that if we're, if we're not striving and moving for the next thing, that we're lazy, or we're not doing something, but I was writing kind of a couple of notes you mentioned and I want to unpack this is if we're not uncomfortable, we're not growing. But we have beliefs that are ingrained in our subconscious mind. So even if you're in if you grow up in a certain atmosphere, and you have certain beliefs in your family, those are a part of your belief system. And those run your everyday habitual behaviors and your way of being and your way of perceiving the world. If you're in a company, or an organization for a long period of time, and just like you're describing, you know, you had people saying, well, you should do these things, because it's going to help you get to this next level. Those become a part of your DNA, a part of your belief system, a part of your paradigm. And so this idea of, if you're comfortable, you're not growing, it usually is equated to physically doing something. And it's so funny, because i i Something told me to bring this little book I was doing a little bit of personal development study. I'm going to touch on this little page that I marked, but we equate discomfort to physically doing something to move ourselves out of our comfort zone. But I want to hear about your process and what you took yourself through to kind of break free from that. But what if the discomfort wasn't in physically doing something and striving for something and going for something? What if that discomfort was simply just reevaluating your belief? I can answer
that question. Yeah. If we all did that, we would be lightyears ahead of where we're at right now. Because that is exactly what I took that belief system of what everyone else thought I should be uncomfortable with to be growing. And I re evaluated and repurposed it for my own benefit. And then I stepped into the discomfort of was basically what was the antithesis of what I was believing. And so I was now I was, you know, doing the personal development. And now and that's where I can kind of walk through some of those things that I did, which were extremely uncomfortable. Okay, so here's, here's where it happened. I went from it was 2018. And I went from the just, I am trying to find the right word to capture how busy, right, the rat race, how busy I was, I went from that coming home, mentally and emotionally drained, not wanting to even look at my kids in their beautiful faces, because I was just done to getting into a position where I stepped away from the Air Force for an entire year. And I was in a job that was in the civilian sector. Still active duty, but now it was responsible for only me. So can I tell you how uncomfortable it was going from one extreme to the other? I felt, what am I doing here? What's my worth? People aren't coming to me, I'm not valued, like, how am I going to survive in this world? And what I call in that moment, that was the quiet. And what I found in the quiet was this extreme pain, where I could no longer wear my busy, like some sort of badge of honor. So now I had to sit with the quiet and I had to figure out who Mary was. And I had to answer those questions that I had been avoiding subconsciously, for a very long time. And when I started to really dive into that process I got through, I kind of got through the pain of the quiet, and I moved into now you have to make a decision. Now you're at the point where you can't just, you know, push to the side anymore. And that's where I really dove in to start doing personal development. And when I say personal, I don't know if you agree with me on this one. But our version, quote of personal development in the professional arena is not real personal development. And so yeah, so I'll, I'll just I'll just,
no, I love this. And I, we could talk for hours and hours on this, because I'm just taking notes on some key things that you're saying. Because I similarly experienced the same thing. It was around 2013 When I started my personal development, and I was that I felt lost. I mean, holy cow, I was like doing, leading up to that. Just getting promoted really fast the last few ranks and then doing marathons and then taking care of a father who was terminally ill and then doing a bigger competition in the doing to Kona, half Ironman, like who abuses their body like that, who doesn't actually love those things? I did not. I was searching for fulfillment, but I was looking for it outside of myself and validation. And it wasn't until I started doing that personal development and sort of getting other people on the base into it. It's totally different. And it shifts it gets you to I like to say it helped people introduce themselves to themselves. Because we really don't know. You said you found out what you wanted in the quiet and that purpose and but when we're so cluttered in the noise and the day in and the day out, we're not thinking and my mentor always says you know, mental activity does not constitute thinking, you know, we're we're thinking we're personally developing ourselves when we are comfortable in the question and being in the question And that's what really that I don't know about you. But that sounds like that's what helped me get clarity on my purpose. I remember somebody asked me and this was a gut punch, who and I, and trust me, I loved my military service. I'm proud. I have friendships and family really lifelong family and friends that I know that I could would be here in a heartbeat to help me if I needed and I would do the same for them. But somebody said, who would you be without the military? What? What do you mean, who would I? And I didn't know. I couldn't answer that. So the quiet that was that was life changing?
Yeah. And, and also, the, and I and I feel that way too, because I'm, I'm cautious. I know, I'm an I'm attached to this, you know, over two decades worth of military service, but the rat race and the overwhelm, and just that busyness that's everywhere. That's not just the military, right? We're there's so many of us experiencing that. But I remember, I remember when I, you know, I first realized that my life was mine. And I this is going to sound a little crazy. But it was at the tail end of my career, because I had always the never once never once more in my entire career. Have I throttled back. I've never said no to a promotion, I've never said no to an opportunity. And I recall being at my lowest, and I was being put up into to be considered on a board for the next big position. And I remember, I just didn't have it in me, there was no way that not only was this going to be a disservice to all the airmen that I was going to be charged with leading, but it was going to be the greatest disservice to myself. And so I went to my boss, very nervous about this very just did not certain. And I talked to him about it. And I just very transparently just poured my heart out and said, This is not right for me right now. Can we please reconsider and just do it next year, and he was just so supportive. And when I walked away from that, I because I realized, you know, through this process, be present, be present with your feelings be present with how you're processing. And when I walked away from that, I said, Oh, my goodness, people who love me still love me, even though I didn't say yes. And it sounds so simple. But that is what was weighing on me for so many years is Who am I going to disappoint? How are they going to view me am I going to be looked like I'm lazy and looked at like I'm lazy or a slacker? Or and then when I did that, and I owned my truth, it was the most empowering and beautiful thing I could have done for myself.
Yeah, that is beautiful. Yeah, I, I felt that way too. And that does not sound ridiculous at all. It's you have to own who you are. And we are not our roles that we serve in. You can love those roles, those positions that you're in, but that's not who you are, the essence of you is so much bigger. And when we step into that and own it and stand in that truth, and lovingly set boundaries that were knowing that we can serve in this capacity at our highest level in this way. But we also have this bigger piece of us that we want to honor as well. That's that's a beautiful thing. And I love that you, you had that realization that oh my gosh, I can I can start to move into my purpose and who I truly am. And the people who love me still love me like nothing's changed. In fact, you I know, I don't know about you. But I've experienced where I could be of service in a greater way, knowing that I was aligned with my purpose and truth and saying no, to some of those things that just didn't align with me anymore.
Yes, 100%. I agree with that. And that's what i that is the mantra I live by now is you put yourself first in the way of knowing who you are putting the work in to personally develop yourself so that you can show up for others in an entirely new and authentic way.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I definitely want to hear how things shifted. And I think, because this conversation is so great. I want to hear about that. And then we'll probably take a little bit of a pause and get people thinking about what they want. But I want to hear how have things shifted. So you were kind of in that space. You were kind of pulled in a multitude of different directions. Looking for that purpose. You finally gave yourself permission to find and stand in your purpose and say no to some things that weren't aligning with you anymore. What does life look like now?
So, my, the one thing I can say that's the biggest difference for me is the massive amount of belief that I have in myself. And I don't I don't allow limiting beliefs, negative self talk, I don't allow any of that in my life. And when it creeps in, because I'm human, and it does, I say, we don't do that anymore. That is not how we live our life. And so what that's done for me, by choosing to really put my efforts and energy into that mantra, and the way that I live, what that's done for me is it has opened up doors that I didn't even know existed for me. I've written a vision for my life, and I read my vision, and I stopped worrying about the how it's going to happen, because Taipei's are just known for that, like, now, I need a checklist of how this is gonna happen. Yeah, I stopped worrying about that, because I have testimonies for days on how that's worked for me, you know, how that letting go of that, and what I've been able to really transform and see my life as, but yeah, I mean, it's, that's really where I'm at right now is, is taking on new roles, new opportunities, based on what is aligned with my life's vision. That's where I'm headed.
Oh, that is beautiful. And it feels so good. When, when you are joyfully aligning yourself with your purpose, you're taking the time to chart that out and, and live it. Oh, my gosh, that must feel incredible.
Yeah, it does, I feel I went from opening my eyes in the morning with the weight of the world, on my shoulders, and it taking everything in me to put my foot on the ground, to waking up before my alarm goes off, and popping up out of bed with a smile and gratitude. It's that has been the greatest gift I've ever given myself.
I love that. And I, you know, we're gonna continue this conversation, we're gonna take a little pause here, because I want all of our listeners here to consider, you know, if you could have anything you want, if you could figure out what that purpose is, and stand in and then be excited about what you're about to do every single day to wake up before your alarm sounds enthused about what you're going to do and who you're going to be surrounding yourself with. I want you to imagine what that would be like, because we're gonna take this into a part two of a conversation. So your homework right now is to just think about that. And we're gonna end this part of our episode, just like we do every rat race reboot episode, with just getting aligned with the vision that we want to align ourselves with in our lives. So wherever you are, as long as you're not driving, of course, sit with your feet firmly planted on the ground. And take a deep inhale through your nose. And exhale. Take another deep inhale, just becoming aware of your breath. And exhale. And Take one more inhale, just opening up any areas where there are signs of tension, just breathing light into them and then releasing on an exhale fully and completely. And I want you to imagine that imagine you living your best life. enthused every single day about how you get to spend your day. Your time enthused about what you get to do, how you serve and who you get to serve with would that feel like if you could take that same enthusiasm and then also be living your best, healthy life? Healthy Relationships vitality to you that maybe you've haven't experienced in a long time. What would that be like? Would it feel like being you However, those people who spend the most amount of time with you, experience you and experience themselves being in this joyful presence what kind of ripple effect? Would that have? Just take a moment here to live in that space. Ask yourself what can I do today to move me in that direction and any ideas or inspirations just write them down. Don't overthink it and take that inspired action today
welcome back, everyone.
Hopefully you got some wonderful ideas or inspired action steps that you could take to move you in that beautiful direction. Again, I want to thank wellness coach, fellow Air Force veteran Mary Polanco for being our guest on today's show, we're going to continue this conversation. And I encourage you to get in contact with Mary. She's an amazing human being a wealth of knowledge, and she is, you know, totally done a 180 in her life, and I know she has a lot of wisdom to share with her with you. Follow her on our social medias, I've been following her and she is just amazing, and her journey is incredible as well, you can learn so much. So go to rat race reboot.com Look at the show notes and get in contact with Mary. Also, if you have any comments about today's show, or any show, follow us on whatever podcast platform you listen to your podcast on, subscribe to our YouTube channel. Leave us with a review and comments. I always read those but then it also helps get the word out there to more people who need this word and want to do this work. Thank you once again for joining us on rat race reboot every member everything is created twice. Always first in your mind and your imagination and then in physical form. And we'll see you next week for part two.
The views and opinions expressed by the hosts guests or callers of this program do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the studio 21 podcast cafe, the United Podcast Network its partners or affiliates.
Mary Polanco is a 23-year Retired Air Force Veteran, who calls Maryland home with her husband, Jose, and their two children, Aydia and Adrian. Throughout her military career, Mary developed a strong passion for leadership, culminating in both an undergraduate and graduate-level degree in Strategic Leadership. Beyond her expertise in team building and professional development, Mary is a wellness coach. Her passion for helping others is fueled by her own self-discovery. She openly shares her difficulties with neglecting her mental health and self-care, which led to complete burn-out. It is through these hardships she uncovered the vision for her life and continues to share her journey. Mary has a growing social media presence and is also currently writing a self-help, memoir, about her experience, in hopes that she can help others find…and live…their own life’s vision.