How many times have you reinvented yourself? From single woman to mother. From mother to empty-nester. From corporate career woman to entrepreneur. From daughter to caregiver. And so many other possibilities.
This episode’s guest, Karen Nowicki, is known as The Queen of Reinvention. Her ability to pivot and shift through life’s changes is inspiring. She believes that life is a journey in self-discovery and evolution.
Upside-down moments can become turning points. We all have many in a lifetime. How we manage through them so they don’t derail us is the code that Karen seems to have cracked.
I invite you to listen to her inspiring story of reinvention — multiple times—and how she became Soulfully Self-reliant.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Karen Nowicki: Becoming Soulfully Self-reliant
~María: Hello and welcome to from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan, your host, and this is my continuing series of conversations with brilliant, resilient women who have inspiring stories of transformation to tell and they are brave enough to share them with us here.
On today’s show, my guest is Karen Nowicki. She has been called the “Queen of Reinvention” and she’s going to openly share with us some of the pivots, shifts, and transitions that life has dished up to her, and what she believes is the best way to get through them. We call this episode, “Becoming Soulfully Self-reliant.“ I love that title, Karen. Welcome.
~Karen: Thank you! Thanks for having me.
~M: I’m excited to have this conversation with you about life’s pivots and shifts because we all have them, right? So help me understand what was the first time you felt derailed and that life wasn’t going in the direction that you had hoped?
~K: Well, that takes me back to pigtails and bangs, in probably my sixth-grade year. We were living in San Francisco Bay Area at the time. I thought my life was — as everybody’s life — I assumed was just perfect. I had both parents who loved me, I had three siblings, great circle of friends…
I’ll never forget watching a video in this class and a teacher talking about divorce. I remember looking around that room… it was one of those old films back in the early ’70s and the lights were off, and I remember thinking “how sad if a family would experience divorce.” I didn’t even know what that word was until this particular video. I remember looking around the room thinking, “My gosh, maybe some of my classmates are experiencing divorce,” and I thought I’m so lucky, that sort of thing. Fast forward to probably six months later, and my parents were announcing that they were getting a divorce. My world came crashing down. So that was my first acknowledgment, really, at such a young age, that life doesn’t always go in the direction we want it to go; and through life. I wanted to keep making everything perfect. I didn’t wanna experience that pain or that heartbreak again.
Got married at 29, and that was my forever marriage. I grew up Catholic, and I really took those vows to heart that especially after being in a divorce situation, I wanted to make sure that I was committed to my marriage and was in it through to the end. It was a rough, rough marriage. We were disconnected. We were esstranged.
We had two kids and with both pregnancies, I had postpartum depression. I’ll never forget standing in changing hand bookstore at the like next pivotal moment thinking, “I have to do something to change because I’m not happy. I’m not good for my kiddos.” I had read all the books around pregnancies and taking care of myself during pregnancies. And then got to that section on postpartum depression. I thought, “Oh, that’s not me,” like I had a choice, which is ridiculous. And out of the corner of my eye, there was a book that was kind of hollering at me in the aisle and I remember grabbing it. It wasn’t one that was facing outwards. It was just the binding, but somehow, for some reason, it was screaming at me.
It was Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. I remember just picking it up thinking, “I don’t know why this book is talking to me.” I’ve never had one of those experiences before that. I read the back. I thought, “Interesting…” I opened it up for the first couple of pages and I just melted to the floor and started crying because I felt like this author, this teacher, was speaking to me about how to take control of my life and really own every aspect of me.
That was kind of the first pivot for me to realize that even though I was going to leave my marriage and lose friends as a result, I had to do it to be true to me. My life since then has been a series of pivots and changes, and the thing that kind of rings true for me is if it doesn’t feel right for me then it is right.
So I’ve had career changes…very visible career changes, Maria. Because of social media and really the leadership roles that I’ve chosen in my business life, people watch what I’m doing. They’re paying attention. I’m a teacher, an educator, and a coach. I’ve made these pivots and these changes — big career changes — and I just continue to do it because that’s the only way I know how to show up and be.
One of the things my daughter had said at the time… she was probably 14… and financially things were rough because I had made a transition financially again and was on my own. She said to me, “Why can’t you just be like everybody else and just have a job? Just a regular job, right?” And I sat back and I thought, “You know, I wish I could. I wish I could be steady-Eddie and stay with a flow, doing the same thing all the time, but I don’t know how to do that. I have to evolve. I have to keep shifting and adjusting the way I’m being called to do that.”
~M: Wow, there’s so much there.
~K: I know!
~M: There is so much there. I love this. No wonder you are known as the “Queen of Reinvention.” Reinvention is something that I don’t think a lot of people think about or think about those transitions in our lives as reinventing ourselves, right? But I would love you to repeat the name of that book that called to you in the book store.
~K: Absolutely. So, it’s Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. Debbie Ford is an international best-selling author. I think this particular book has been written in, I don’t know, like 12-13 different languages. After reading that book front to back within that weekend and doing journaling exercises, I quickly looked her up and enrolled in her weekend course called “The Shadow Process.” Within two years, I was an integrative coach professional working with her team at John F. Kennedy University and became what we call an “integrative coach” or a “shadow coach” training other individuals and eventually coaches all over the world in this idea around honing your true self.
We are on an evolutionary journey, right? I know this is the work that you do.
~K: If we’re not evolving, if we’re not shifting and changing and embracing whatever the world is throwing at us, we’re stuck.
~M: You’re so right about that. What I have learned through my own experience and my experience coaching others is that many people believe that stuck-ness is normal, that there are no choices, and that they have to stay there because they don’t know. First of all, they’re probably comfortable there, right?
It’s the devil they know versus the devil they don’t know, and moving out of that is scary.
So I’m sure when your daughter said, “Why can’t you be like everyone else and have a job,” whatever that means to her that probably came from a place of uncertainty and wanting that level of what she perceived to be security and all of that, that comes with a mom having a job. So much has come out of this story of yours. I’m so excited to be able to explore this further.
It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
~K: It’s all about perspective. It’s all about the decisions that we make about ourselves in the current moment, but also what are we choosing to say about ourselves based on what’s happened to us in the past. We can’t change the past.
I could not change my parents’ marriage. I attempted to change my marriage. I always joke, “I spent the first seven years of my marriage trying to change Dale. I spent the next seven years of my marriage trying to change me. Only to find out that neither of us needed to be changed, and we just weren’t good together.”
We’re now great friends. In fact, I just introduced them to Mac6 where my radio studio is. And I think he might become the commercial broker here. We’re very good friends. We have two adult kids together. But we have to be willing to decide what our story is about ourselves and we have complete control over that, don’t we?
~M: Yes we do, yes we do. And that is… that’s kind of the teaching moment, isn’t it? Where people need to acknowledge the control they do have, and there’s so much we have no control over, and allowing that to control our lives is I think where we fall short of finding our own joy.
~M: When we find where we have control and literally take that control and decide how we want to show up in those pivots and shifts, we get to grow and we get to face them with more dignity and grace, I think.
~K: I love those two terms, “dignity and grace.” Whatever those core values are for us — and those are mine — if I can continue to benchmark my decisions as I make these transitions against those, am I doing this with dignity? Am I doing this with grace? Or how can I best do this with dignity and grace that helps me navigate? I have one more quick story. If you’re open to it?
~K: I remember when I had made the decision to leave my first marriage, and instantly people were questioning me. Everybody from my family or close friends, especially our couple friends. It didn’t make sense to people because on the outside… we appeared that we were getting along. I mean, I’m an open book, so most people who are really close to us kinda knew that we had challenges but still seeing us no longer together. Everyone felt a loss because we were so involved in everybody else’s lives. I was laying in the bathtub one time and thinking to myself for giving up this life that I knew, even though I wasn’t happy. Like you said earlier, it’s what I knew. I remember just crying uncontrollably, giving myself permission to feel the depth of the pain and despair because I had chosen that. And if I could get through that, I could get through anything.
~M: That’s so profound and it is so real. I’ve experienced it. I know exactly whether we make the choice to do something, to change or it’s made for us. There is still grief and we have to acknowledge that. We have to go through that and get to the other side of it so that we can actually see the opportunity that the change offers us, right?
Karen, there’s so much I can’t wait to get to that about the emotional journey that must have gone on because I believe that although our viewers may not connect exactly with your story. Although there are so many vignettes in your story that I would bet they’re gonna connect with one of them, but I know that we resonate when we connect with the emotional upheaval and that roller coaster ride that we go on when we’re going through these pivots and shifts in our lives.
So I would love for you to come back to the second segment and go a little deeper into that emotional journey. Would you do that with us?
~K: I would love to. Thank you!
~M: Perfect! Thank you.
This is María Tomás-Keegan.
~M: Hello and thanks for joining us again for part two of my conversation with Karen Nowicki. We call this episode, “Becoming Soulfully Self-reliant.”
I’m María Tomás-Keegan, and this is from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition. It is my pleasure to share inspiring stories like Karen’s. These women have figured out how to move through life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, and come out on top in triumph. They help us to know that we’re not alone as we struggle with our own life upside-down moments. In our first segment, Karen shared with us her first experience with an upside-down moment in her life. She was very young, she felt derailed, and then she used that experience to help her figure out how to get through the rest of those likes, and there were a lot of them as there are for many of us.
So hello, Karen. I know this story comes with lots of emotional upheavals and I would love for you to tell us how this rocked your world. The first, the divorce of your parents, then your own divorce and what you learned from that. What emotions came up for you, that you had to overcome?
~K: Yeah, so I remember as a young child, again, I felt like we had what I would call the perfect family until I found that we were not. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized, we’re still a normal family. People have difficulties and challenges. As a young girl, I was devastated. I was confused. I remember falling asleep at night with my head up against my parents’ wall. Our wall separates my bedroom in their bedroom, and I wanted to listen to every detail and find out where things went wrong and could hear them arguing which didn’t help my heart any, but I needed to know what had happened.
Flash forward to when I’m 29-30 years old, and I’m deciding that I, too, need to go through a divorce in order to continue to grow. I felt a great sense of loss. So many of our friends and my family didn’t understand the choice that I was making and that despair, that overwhelm… For me, learning to become deeply vulnerable is the greatest thing that I’ve experienced and that vulnerability sometimes looked like anger to me. It also looked like sadness. I get through anger pretty quickly, but sadness lingers for me. And that’s a heavy emotion for me.
~M: I think sadness is a heavy emotion for a lot of people if they allow themselves to actually feel it. I know so many women, and for myself even, I masked the sadness a lot. Did you ever do that?
~K: I have. And I was curious if what you’d mask your sadness with? For me, it’s busyness. For me, this is kind of why I thought we could call the segment, Becoming Soulfully Self-reliant. As I made every transition so whether it was my divorce, it was very visible. I was very verbal and very honest about it. And again, not everybody appreciated that.
And in all the career transitions that I’ve had, I’m very honest and upfront about it. Even though people are questioning it and uncertain whether the next move I’m gonna be making is gonna be hopping on a ship and leaving somewhere.
My mask for sadness has become: Let me get in the trenches. Let me stretch forward onto something that’s tangible for me, something that I actually know is clear.
And I’ve been really good about recognizing that so that I can open up to sadness more frequently because it’s not an emotion that I’ve, at least when I was really young, enjoyed feeling because I feel it a lot of emotion from other people as well.
~M: Absolutely! I think you’re right. For me, it was very much the same. And not only sadness would I mask with busyness. I would throw myself into my career. I would spend more hours than anyone should. Going in early, coming home late, just so I didn’t have to be alone with my grief and sadness because that’s when we have to do that in order to allow it to move through us, and we get to release it eventually if we choose to.
~K: Right. We always have a choice. You said in our first segment that sometimes we choose the transition, other times the transition chooses us. I don’t think those are your words, but that’s what I heard. And I would absolutely agree. But even in those transitions, we have a choice as to how to show up and we have to give ourselves the opportunity to feel those emotions, right? Maybe people linger for a while in anger, and then they go into sadness. It’s almost like grieving the loss of somebody. We all have different ways of grieving.
Transitions, I don’t think are any different than that. We all have our own tempo, our own pace, our own way of moving through it, but I think the key is to move through it. It’s life’s journey. I’ve always seen these life vignettes and these changes as kind of my calling to evolve to a better version of myself, which is why I continue to transition and make it so local so that other people could be motivated to do the same.
~M: I love that you said that because you are that role model for many because you are so openly honest about what you’re going through. And that helps others to examine, take a look at, discover what it is they’re hiding from or behind. And many times it’s that mask with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face that says, everything’s just fine, right?
Yeah, I wanna thank you for being so honest, so vulnerable and sharing the overwhelm that you felt, the grief, the sadness. I think other women who are listening are gonna connect with that and they’re going to look at you, as I do, with great respect. And great, you are the epitome, for me. So we’ve known each other a while, now, we’ve had a number of opportunities to have these kinds of chats. But you are the epitome of making a choice that is centered on who we are, right, who you are, and how you want to show up.
And I think that’s one thing, if you take nothing else away from this, it is the one thing that is so important that we learn who we are, that we connect with that, that we understand what our core values are, and we move from that place. So that every choice we make, whether it turns out to be a good one in the long run, or not, we just get to choose again. And that is so, it’s very scary for some people. I get that, but it is how empowering to be able to do that.
~K: The other thing I would add is that we are not our emotions. And even though I’ve known that for years, again, as an integrative coach professional and having studied that for three years and then taught others to do the same, I still get caught up in the emotions and I feel other people’s emotions. You might remember when my oldest son was going through challenges, just as recent as six months ago. And it consumes me. I fell into a depression which I hadn’t experienced in years and it caught me off guard because why me, right? I shouldn’t have to be feeling depressed and yet, there I was. And as soon as I could begin to see I am not my emotions and I’m also not my son’s emotions and be able to look at it and clear and give myself time to grieve who I thought I knew him to be, I could start to heal.
Our emotions are there to inform us. Our emotions are there sometimes to entertain us. They’re also there to jar us a little bit, but we are not our emotions, at the end of the day. We are a soul being living this human experience, and when we can become that witness to our self, we can navigate through some of this a lot easier and a lot quicker.
~M: That’s such a good note to leave this segment on. We are not our emotions. And they don’t have to define us, right? Yeah, it’s a perfect segue to get to our next segment where Karen is going to share more of her wisdom and tips from this journey of hers and what we may be able to learn from her. So I invite you to stay tuned because it’s more to come with Karen.
~M: Hello and welcome back to the last part, the third segment of my conversation with Karen Nowicki which we’re calling Becoming Soulfully Self-reliant.
Karen is President and CEO of Phoenix Business Radio X, and she believes that life is a journey, in self-discovery and evolution. The sooner we embrace this notion and love ourselves through the mock, the more peace and joy we’ll find in our daily lives. And Karen, I’m turning the tables on you, because you’re usually on the other side of being the interviewer, so I’m just honored that you were here.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan and this is part of my continuing series of conversations with strong brilliant women like Karen who have inspiring stories to tell and who are role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive. Hello Karen!
~K: Hello! Thanks for having me. This is fun to be on the other side of the microphone, so to speak.
~M: I am so happy that you’ve allowed me to do this to turn those tables. So we can hear your perspective on like which is very inspiring.
So this segment is about the lessons you’ve learned through your journey and those multiple pivots and shifts in your life that you’ve already told us about. But before we get there, where you’re gonna tell us what you’ve learned, would you tell us what it means, you touched on this in the previous segment, but tell me a little more about what it means to you to become soulfully self-reliant.
~K: Gosh, where do I start? Soulfully self-reliant is a term that I think I’d coined maybe somebody will prove me wrong someday, but it comes from my own experiences that… Let me step back. I grew up Catholic, I was a devout Catholic for years well into my first marriage and having kids and talk about having some life shifts there, with my experience with religion, the Catholic religion. At one point I decided I was no longer going to follow that faith and yet I’ve always been a very spiritual person, and have studied a variety of spiritual practices and I don’t, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter which religion or which soulful practice or spiritual practice we follow as long as we are doing it for ourselves, and then we can become soulfully self-reliant in that relationship with ourselves. So for me, if we’re talking about tips in this segment, the number one tip for me is that there is a higher being, working on my behalf, on all of our behalfs. And as soon as I can, kind of resigned to that fact that it’s not about what happens here in Karen’s brain only, or in her heart, or in her guts, all those things have to be singing from the same sheet of music. And if there is a bigger universe, a bigger God, a bigger something at play, I won’t even try to define it because I’m still in discovery with that and that’s what soulful self-reliance is to me, when I can get quiet with myself and get clear what’s happening in my head, how is it or is it in harmony with my heart and how does my gut feel about it? That’s soulful self-reliant when something has offered us a cue, one of those things aren’t in sync with the rest of me.
~M: That is so perfect, and it relates back to what we were talking about in the last segment, about being aligned and true to yourself and understanding whatever it is for you in terms of a higher being, if you even believe that there is. And if you don’t, that at least there is that alignment within yourself.
~M: So that you are connected with what you believe, with your values, with your beliefs, with your faith, whatever that maybe I think that is. So thank you for sharing that definition if you will. I was intrigued by that phrase, you’ve coined and I think it’s beautiful.
~K: Thank you.
~M: So now, let’s hear some of the other wisdom, the other tips that you’ve touched on a few already, but let’s just review those and tell me what more you have.
~K: Well, what comes to mind when you asked that right now is finding someone that can be your champion through the transitions, right? You’ve dedicated your career to this. There are aspects of my career where I’ve dedicated my time to people who are making transitions. I think that is so important to find somebody whether it’s a professional or a dear friend or family member as long as they can let you express whatever you need to express while you’re going through the transition that it’s your journey, and not theirs. I don’t believe that there’s anyone way to move through things. You’ve gotta keep finding your way to see what works and the key is never giving up in that. If you’ve gone through a divorce as I have, at least for me there wasn’t ever a time that I felt like that was the end of my life. And I have some girlfriends who literally have said, “My life is ended because my marriage has ended.” And through our friendships and through my relationships and other people who have coached these women, they’ve come to realize they can have a choice. They can shift and choose who they wanna be in these experiences. Same thing with career transitions. I’ve visibly shifted my career over the last 12 years multiple times and have landed on the top every single time because I’ve chosen that.
So finding a mentor or a guide someone who has gone a similar journey, I think is also important. I’ve never wanted to hire a coach, and I have plenty of coaches in my life. I’ve never wanted to hire a coach that’s never gone through what I’ve gone through, at least a little something similar because I want to know that they can feel me, they can have that same experience. So I think that’d be kind of the first tip that I would summarize.
~M: And that’s a great one. It’s something that I share a lot. This is not a life that we should be doing it alone, whether it’s the good times or the bad times. We are designed to be supported with love and encouragement by others, those we choose to surround ourselves with, right? So I think it matters a lot who we choose to surround ourselves with. And I work with my clients, it’s almost the first thing I work on with them, so I’m so glad that that was your first tip because I think it’s really important. Tell me what else?
~K: Well, so along with that, I think that’s the critical importance. Again, I’ve had many coaches and guides and counselors and therapists, you name it. I’ll continue to hire those people as I go through life. My current coach is my physical and wellness coach, ’cause I’m working on my physical being. And I always wanna learn from somebody who knows more than me. I also think, equally important is knowing when you’ve outgrown that coach, or that mentor and guide and that some people might cringe who are in the field and say, “Ooh, don’t tell people that” because they feel like they always need to have something else to offer their clients. I disagree. I would always start off with my clients by saying, I want to teach you everything that I know so that one day you look at me and say “My work is done here.” and then you go find that next coach, that next mentor or guide to take you wherever you need to go next. And that’s, again, I think that this piece of being soulfully self-reliant, if you were working with a coach and they said something that didn’t quite make sense, bring it inside, embrace it, listen to it, practice it, see if it fits, and if it doesn’t or you just take a small snippet from it, it’s okay. Find a new way to work through things.
And again, I think we underestimate the power of our own well-being, we have everything we need inside of us. We have everything we need already packaged in here. We just have to find a way to embrace it, tap into it, and start listening to it more frequently so that we can guide us wherever we need to go next.
~M: Yeah, great advice. I believe as you believe when I’m working with clients, I wanna take them from where they are today and kind of fill their treasure chest with life strategies and things/tools that they can use so that whenever that next upside-down moment happens in their life, they don’t need me. They already have the tools with what they have inside and what they have learned, and then they’re gonna get to learn more from someone else and take a different, get another perspective, take a different view of what’s going on. I love that, that’s great, great advice. What else?
~K: The next thing that comes to mind is the concept or the idea of energy, that we are energy. You and I are, in exchange, we are creating and experiencing energy together. Even though you’re in your home office, I’m in my office. This is… We’re in this experience any time we’re in a relationship with someone or we even pass someone, we have the opportunity to exchange energy. So the more we embrace how to not only own the energy within ourselves this goes back to that alignment again, the head, the heart, and the gut, there’s a lot of studies recently, they say that we have three brains, it’s not just this one up here that our heart has its own brain, and our gut has our own brain, the more we can get in concert with that in this idea that energy, we are just this energy field and it’s not negative or a positive, it just is, we can move mountains.
~M: And we get to choose what kind of energy it is. Don’t we?
~M: Right? So that whether it’s negative or whether it becomes negative or positive.
So, when we walk into a room of people we don’t know, we get to choose how we walk in there, right? And whether we attract people to us because of a positive energy or we sit back and we observe and we bring… it’s not negative, but maybe neutral, and we don’t attract anybody ’cause we don’t, it’s our choice, we get to choose that.
You know, I think the golden thread we’ve woven through this whole conversation is that of choice. Whatever we are, whatever circumstance we’re in, we get to choose how we move through it and beyond it, or not. That’s a choice too.
~M: Right? To stay within our comfort zone, to stay where we are, we’re maybe not happy, but we know it and we’re not willing to step beyond that comfort zone and deal with fear, or discomfort, or anxiety, or whatever, right? It’s choice, it’s all choice.
~K: It is, indeed, yeah.
~M: Karen, I love, I love this conversation with you. We could go on for hours, I know. I’d like to wrap this segment up and I’m sure there are others who are watching who would love to get in touch with you directly. Would you share with us the best way they can connect with you?
~K: Sure, I appreciate it. The best way to connect with me is currently on Facebook. That’s where I’ve spent the most time sharing my personal journeys and pivots and transitions, both the triumphs and the trials and it’s Karen Nowicki. I know that there are several of them, but I’m the one with great hair and possibly even a pop-a-color.
~M: Perfect! Okay. I appreciate all that you do for others, Karen. You are selfless in sharing the stories of business owners here in the Phoenix area and beyond. I’ve been honored to be on your show a few times and it makes a difference what you do. I’m just so happy that you are who you are, and that you are here to serve others. So thank you so much for being with us today.
~K: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. I appreciate it.
~M: And thank you all for watching this episode with Karen Nowicki. This series of conversations is based on my latest book, Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. My book, the articles I write, and these conversations are intended to share stories from the heart and life strategies that can help others.
I invite you to share them with the women in your life. So none of us will ever again feel like we are alone in this human experience. Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to help. I believe it’s our time to drive. Will you join me on that ride?
I’m María Tomás-Keegan, ’til next time.