How Owning My Mindset Creates My Reality

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

On my recent flight from Budapest to Warsaw, I witnessed a tender moment that almost brought me to tears. I was seated on the aisle of a three person row. To my left, a young boy sat by the window, and his father occupied the middle place. About an hour into the flight, just before we started our descent into Warsaw, I observed the father signal for the flight attendant to come over.

They exchanged a few words, of which I knew zero because they were either in Hungarian or Polish, then the flight attendant withdrew to the front of the plane. He returned several moments later with a small package, a toy replica of the airplane we were on. I noted how I’d never seen anyone actually purchase this type of good on a flight before. Doing so always seemed faux paux, but at that moment I couldn’t understand why,.

The man lovingly handed the item to the young boy who gratefully accepted it. I smiled to myself; warmed, and deeply moved by the sweetness of interaction.

I noticed my response, and then took a moment to investigate and break it down. I realized my reaction was based on me viewing the father, who was about my age, through adult eyes. I sympathized with his “being a parent” imposter syndrome that I hear from most of my friends with children, and took joy in assuming his self-doubt dissipated ever so slightly due to his son’s happy face.

I also empathized with the young boy’s point of view. I recognized the immense joy he must have felt after, what to an adult, would be such a simple act, and I let myself sink into the belonging and support he must have held in his young heart.

It was a great moment.

But… here’s the next thought I had:

I have no idea if this story is true.

Yeah, I know what I saw; a man about my age handed a toy plane to a young boy. But, I had no proof that they were even father and son! Did they really feel all the sweetness and joy I described to myself? No clue! The man could be a criminal kidnapping the boy and giving him a toy to keep him quiet, OR he could be a step-father trying to win the love of a spoiled-rotten young child.

I determined that in the end it didn’t matter. What I TOLD myself was my reality, and the story, true or not, brought me joy. This is when the realization happened.

I saw how a simple thought (whether it was true or not) had both changed my mood entirely and crafted my reality. Then it hit me! “What I think has the power to change my outlook on life. If I don’t take ownership of my mindset and what I think, I’ll never be able to architect my best life because someone else will always have power over me.”

Whew… it was a moment, and the resulting thoughts are worthy of some dissecting.

Let’s start with the term “owning my mindset”? To me, this means being in control of how I think about and react to the situations, good and bad, that life throws at me. It also involves being responsible for how I see the world, and the stories I tell myself about what I see.

If I tell myself bad stories about something that happened, my world will probably seem pretty negative. However, if I tell myself good stories, the world will not only seem more positive, but I will also feel empowered to feed the courage I need to make the big changes that make me my best self.

Front of a bookstore and cafe in Budapest
I could look at this as a simple bookshop, or I can be open to the magic of the working space and secret garden within.
Line of beer bottles on a counter
I could tell myself being 37 years old and drinking beers all day in Budapest is irresponsible… or I could look at it as a gift.
Burgers, blues, and beers festival grounds
If I get hung up on telling myself I should be DOING something productive, I might miss out on some great live music at the Budapest Burgers, Blues and Beer Fest.
Outdoor Beer Garden in the Park
Some may look at a Tuesday beer garden visit as unproductive, I chose to look at it as awesome.

One example of “owning my mindset” was last August when I found myself in Bakersfield, California. Shortly after my time there, I wrote a piece depicting my experience of the city.

The short synopsis: Lis arrives in Bakersfield with the perception that it’s a rough, and therefore undesirable, place to be. Hoping to make the most of it, she decides to open her mind and heart, and after a few days of owning her mind, she has experiences which exemplify the beautiful side of the roughness. End scene.

I went to Bakersfield with preconceived notions, and I could have held onto the viewpoints that it was a harsh, mean, and dirty place to be. I could have let those define my time in the city. However, when I took ownership of my thoughts, decided I wanted a positive experience, and then let life happen, I was able to see beyond the reputation to the good that surrounded the town. Instead of having a negative experience, I had quite a positive one, and even hope to go back one day.

Reflecting on this, I asked myself, “Sure owning your mindset works in these smaller moments, but if all that’s needed to change your reality is a change in your mindset, how can disease, despair, injustice, and poverty still be so prevalent in the world we live in? How can so many bad and unfair events still be happening to so many undeserving and innocent people? Can people really change their realities by taking ownership of and changing their minds?

I thought long and hard about this one, as it’s a line I don’t tow lightly, but after sitting with the discomfort of these thoughts, I saw the answer clearly. Yes, changing your mind IS all that’s needed to change YOUR reality, but changing your reality can’t change what happens to you. Let me explain.

It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Many events take place outside of our heads. People come into our lives and treat us poorly. We lose our jobs due to poor company management. We face injustice due to ignorance and hate. A storm hits our city and takes away our home and all we’ve worked for. These events are out of our control. No matter what happens in our heads, these events transpire.

The good news is it’s not what happens outside of you that defines your reality. Yeah, I said it! So what DOES define YOUR reality? How you think about and react to the external. That choice is 100% up to you!

A great example of taking ownership of one’s mind to shape one’s reality comes from Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. The book is his story about growing up a mixed race boy in South Africa both during, and after, apartheid. (NOTE: it’s a great read! I highly recommend it!)

Throughout the book, Trevor’s mother is owning her mind, and thus defining her reality. A highly religious woman, she is someone who knows herself, acts from her inner being, and, when good or bad events come her way, accepts and views them through the lens of “God has his reasons”. She knows who she is, and her reality is never swayed. Of course, that doesn’t mean only good things happen to her.

After a harrowing near-death experience, Trevor sits over her hospital bed and says to her, “You’re lucky to be alive. I still can’t believe you didn’t have any health insurance.” “Oh but I do have insurance,” she said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes. Jesus.”

The woman didn’t dwell on the fact that she almost died, she owned her reaction and reframed it based on her deep seated beliefs and inner knowing. Because of this, she didn’t lead with fear, and she didn’t retreat from living to her fullest. She kept on going through life her way, no matter what happened outside of her. I’d wager that she lived the best life she could because of this outlook.

Violinist in Budapest
A violinist owns his reality by playing his finest despite very hot conditions.

Once I had this definition of “owning my mindset”, I started to ask myself, “How do I DO it?”

If you’ve been reading this blog, the first step should come as no surprise. Like Trevor’s mom in the above example, you have to first:

Know yourself

To know yourself, you must go into some sort of stillness.

This could be a formal meditation practice, or sitting still on the train or bus each day without pulling up something to distract you. It might mean taking 5 – 10 minutes before bed to reflect on your day and ask yourself what brought you joy, what took joy from you, where you showed courage, and where you chose compassion. Any of these options going into stillness in my book.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Budapest
I found stillness starring at this beauty.
Saint Matthias Church Square in Budapest
I found even more stillness on the walking tour through Budapest. Seeing these sights around me it was impossible not to stop and take them in.

In a video you’ve seen me mention before, The Art of Stillness, the speaker talks about moving to Kyoto, Japan from Manhattan. He notes how living in a place with limited distractions is “clearly not ideal for career advancement nor exciting for social diversion. But I realized that it gives me what I prize most which is days and hours.” He continues saying, “I’ve found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still.”

However you can make the time and space for it, be still each day and you will no doubt be on the path to self knowing.

It’s important to note that being still isn’t the only method necessary for acquiring self knowledge, nor is owning your mindset and telling yourself good stories the only way to craft the reality you want.

Once you’ve got a stillness practice on lock and you’ve begun observing and owning your mind, you must begin to ask yourself an all important question. This question is imperative to creating an authentic reality:

Where am I lying to myself?

I lie to myself a lot. I believe I do this to protect my status quo way of thinking. As an example, when I was in Budapest earlier this Summer I was getting frustrated at not knowing the language. My lack of knowledge caused me to feel powerless in many of my experiences.

I then observed myself (through stillness) starting to blame this powerlessness on the world around me. I was faulting everything else for my lack. When I started to feel these frustrations I knew it was time to ask myself, “Where am I lying to myself?”

Hungarian street sign
What’s in 15 meters? I have no idea!
Budapest Building Facade
A facade is only that. We need to dig deeper.

I answered, “You’re the one giving your power away. No one here cares whether you know the language or not. Take back your power.” And that’s just what I did.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~Alice Walker

The situations I encountered which I previously found frustrating didn’t decrease in number, but they DID decrease in frustration because I was now owning my reaction to them. Instead of being embarrassed or feeling vulnerable, I embraced my otherness and love of self. It was a simple mind switch, but it made a world of difference.

So yes, it really is as simple as changing what we think. How can I be so sure? Yeah, these examples are nice anecdotes, but how do I know this can happen out there in the “real world”? Because I’m living it!

Besides the examples I’ve provided so far, there’s the overarching narrative of my life. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Hold on to your hat!

As a woman raised in the rural United States, my entire reality/mindset growing up, what I was told my life needed to be in order for me to live my best self, was one of 1. find a husband, 2. have kids, and 3. be a dutiful wife, mother, and local citizen, and you will find happiness.. I had no other understanding of what life should be.

When I got to my early 30s and was nowhere close to this narrative I TOLD MYSELF I wanted to live, a dear friend said to me, “You know. Maybe you’re lying to yourself. You’re a person who will work to achieve anything you want. If you really wanted this life you say you want, you would have worked harder for it. Maybe it’s not what you want.”

Mind blown!

He was right, of course. Once I saw this narrative was not a reality I wanted, but rather a reality taught to me over the course of decades, I realized I needed to get my mind right and align it with my heart. Instead of beating myself up for being bad at finding a husband, a place to settle, or just bad at being a woman in general, I owned my perspective. I took ownership of my mind.

Now, here I am several years later, no longer faking that I want on that traditional path (though the ghosts of it linger, I won’t deny it).

This doesn’t mean only good things happen to me now that I own my mindset. Bad events do still happen, but now instead of letting them own my reality I take my power back and react to them in a much more centered, powerful, confident way. By no longer reacting from fear, I am directing my life, my way.

You can now see how owning my mind, and thus my reality, is the second structure needed to architect my best life. It’s a structure that, much like the first, any of us can work on no matter our environments.

By owning my mind I am in control of how I view and react to what happens outside of me. I’m no longer at the whim of others, or feel under the control of the powers surrounding me. I am my own master, which leaves me feeling afraid, alone, and powerless no more!.

On the contrary, I feel confident, assured, and empowered to act on my own instincts and desires. With these beliefs to anchor me, I can then take the hard, unconventional actions needed to walk my own path toward architecting the life that’s best for me.

It’s on me, no one else can do it.

At least… that’s what I like to think.


My Best Guess at Cultivating Happiness (So Far)

I told you how the morning after my arrival in Billingshurst, UK I woke with a terror. That moment sparked some further ideas on happiness that I want to run by you. I’ll start by describing that waking up in more detail.

As I groggily questioned the source of my fear, I recalled how, as of just a few hours prior, the homeowners had departed; leaving me completely alone in their home (except for the two very cute, cuddly basset hounds on either side of me whom I would be watching for the next 2 weeks). I resonated with my solitude deeply, which only served to stoke the flames of my anxiety.

Two Basset Hounds seated on a kitchen floor looking at the camera
The two bassets: Penny and Milly.

As the intensity of my horror strengthened, I imagined the feeling as a sort of ghostly transparent, skeleton-like hand hovering over my torso. Visualizing the hand was scary enough, but then I saw the apparition reach in to my chest, find my heart, and grip it so tightly I couldn’t breath.

That’s when the thoughts start. The self depreciating, growth denying, inhabilitating thoughts we all feel when we’re on the precipice of expansion and are afraid to take the next step.

What if something happens to me while I’m here? Who would I call? Why did I come here alone? I’ve made a terrible mistake stepping off the path most traveled and will certainly be punished for it.

I watched as the vice clenched tighter with each debilitating notion. Eventually, the moment passed and I was able to go about the rest of the day, but the essence didn’t dissipate entirely.

A week later I woke around 3am. I did that a lot during my stay in England. Maybe it was jet-lag, the suffocation of two basset hounds fighting to lay on top of me (one of which weighs 60 pounds and is convinced she’s a lap dog), or the fact that I’m not a good sleeper, but there I was again, lying awake in the early morning hours.

Human between two basset hounds on a bed
I was the human in a basset hound sandwich.

This night, the hand reappeared. As it crept towards me, it brought with it a reminder how all week long images of the places, people, and events from my life in New York City (where I lived from 2008 – 2016) pushed their way into my head as my heart longed to be amongst them.

In an attempt to fend off my grisly foe, I considered my yearning for the city. Missing NYC seemed quite strange because I was just there no more than a couple of weeks before. Having such a strong pull felt out of place, misaligned, and unnecessary if its cause was timing. This made me question what else was at its root?

I thought more about New York, hoping that doing so would quell my adversary and allow me to return to my slumber. I brought to mind the wonderful life I had there. I reflected on the career I built, and on how I was so passionate about it then. I imagined my life of friends, plays, sports, and being out just about every night of the week. I loved those times.

I chided myself for not keeping this world alive. How could I throw a captivating life that I worked so hard for away?! The hand clamped down on my heart.

I struggled out a breath and then pointed out to myself that I left NYC because it was no longer for me. I know I left for good reasons, and, although I love visiting, I reaffirmed to myself that I no longer have a need to live there.

I ended this nocturnal self discussion with, “That life in NYC wasn’t yours’.”

The clasp released and I sucked in a deep breath, as I thought, “Oh, that’s what my NYC thoughts are really about. I crave the distractions I had there. I’m grasping for that ability to ignore the realities of who I really am again.”

When I lived in New York, I built this “never ending, something to keep me busy” life and used it as my identity. I could point to it and say “that’s me”, and all was well with the world because I could prove I MADE it. Even better the always busy side of me never had time to examine if I was being honest with myself or not (Not-so-spoiler-alert: I wasn’t).

After 8 years of pointing though, I felt empty. I felt empty because, well, I was empty. All of those items I was pointing at were not actually ME.

This line of thinking stifled my anxieties for the night, and I was able to find rest once again, but when I awoke the next day, I was changed. I had somehow (my subconscious at work while I slept?) concocted a realization from the previous night’s narrative.

I originally thought that ghastly hand of terror was brought on by my fear of being alone without others, but after my dance with my devils that night, I realized this original line of thinking was incorrect. There was one thing and one thing only that sparked that hand’s creeping and crawling towards me:

My deep-seated despair of being alone while not knowing myself.

Yeah, sit with that for a second. I did.

I asked myself why I am afraid of being alone not knowing myself, and here’s the logic I came up with.

I don’t know myself, so I look to things outside of myself to define me (other people, identities, activities, etc). I’ve done this my whole life. I call myself a jock or a smart kid or a consultant or a User Experience professional… you name it!

Now, the cool thing about doing this is by externalizing my identity, I’m no longer responsible for living my best life. The external qualities which I deem as me become responsible for my happiness. I can always blame them if something goes awry. It’s a win-win! I get an identity AND I give up responsibility.

For example, if I realize I’m unhappy in my work, I can blame that work for making me unhappy instead of accepting that maybe I didn’t put in the effort of considering what makes me happy professionally, nor did I have the courage to go towards it.

I do this because I’m scared to fail. I can blame the external things and then… well then I never fail!

When I’m alone and don’t know myself, I’m without the objects or people I use to define who I am, and to whom I give my power. This is REALLY SCARY because it causes me to realize that either:

A. I’m nobody or
B. I really AM responsible for my happiness, but I’ve been slacking on this front BIG TIME.

Even worse, if I admit B is the answer (it is), then I can’t help but see that I have a whole lot of work to put in to make myself happy. This is a terrifying prospect to face, because I could always fail if I actually take responsibility and TRY.

The solution I went to in the past was ensuring I was never alone (Sound familiar?). I kept myself busy, around people, part of something.

Then I came to see that this solution is not sustainable, especially for those of us who want to architect our best lives. Eventually I will be alone, it’s inevitable.

Further, if I want to architect my best life I NEED to be alone without distractions in order to process my life, consider what brings me joy, consider what takes joy from me, and then conjure up the resolve to act on these findings.

So, what do I DO to keep that hand of terror at bay?

I do the hard work of going inward and getting to know myself.

I often say I’m on this journey to uncover how to architect my best life. I’m telling you today one of the most important steps in doing so is to do like the ancients have been telling us for years!

“Know thyself.” ~ Socrates

Yes, the ancient Greeks knew how important this act of self discovery is, which is why they inscribed the words on to one of their sacred temples.

In conjunction with Western Philosophy, The Tao Te Ching taunts that:

Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self requires strength.

Yeah so I’d say getting to know ourselves is pretty damn important.

How do you get to know yourself?

The Lis Hubert version begins with honestly and extensively answering these questions:

What brings me joy?

What takes joy from me?

For example:

Basset hound resting head on an end table.
Go ahead and try to not smile at this one. Definite joy bringer!
A sign which reads "Welcome to Arundel Historic Town"
I love a historic town.
Horsham coffee roaster sign
Locally roasted coffee ALWAYS brings me joy.
Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England
Seeing a castle always brings me joy.
A large art piece on the side of castle walls.
Im welcomed with some fun wall art.
Roof of The Parish and Priory Church of Saint Nicholas Arundel
It brought me great happiness to look up at this lovely scene.
Billinghurst park lawn
Walking through nature always brings joy to my heart.
A West Sussex footpath
Walking down a footpath in the English countryside? A shoe in for joy!

The experiences you see above all brought me joy. However it’s important to remember that I have to continue to ask why they brought me joy, AND I have to be HONEST with the answers if I’m going to get to know myself.

It’s also important to note that I won’t just ask and answer these questions once and be done with it. I must continually ask and answer these questions for as long as I am alive, AND in order for me to do this questioning and answering properly:

I must be still.

Recently, I came upon this video talking about the importance of stillness.

Funny enough the speaker talks about how much he loves traveling. About a minute into the video, he points out that, “One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it.”

He goes on to describe how to “bring the right eyes” to life. His version was to go into stillness. For him it was “The only way that I could find to sift through the slideshow of my experience and make sense of the future and the past.”

NOTE: He also talks about how he had a fabulous job and life in NYC, and then says “I could never separate myself enough from it to hear myself think or really to understand if I was truly happy”. Coincidence? I think not!

Ultimately the speaker’s advice is “to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most to recall where your truest happiness lies, and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.”

I’ve decided the only way forward is to take the “making a life” path. I know that in order to make that life fulfilling, I need to make it mine.

If I continue to go forward without knowing myself, I will never find personal fulfillment or meaning because instead of living my own life, I’ll be living another person/people’s story, and that story can never fill me up.

I must then know myself, find my own story. How I do this is up to me. No one else, no privilege, no environment, no other people, nothing outside me is responsible. If I fail to be happy, there is only one person to blame. Myself.

Either way, there’s failure to be faced. I’ll either risk failing to find true happiness or risk failing in my attempts to try.

I think it’s time to opt for trying.


My First Interview! – The Informed Life Podcast

I was on a podcast!



Jorge Arango Tweet
Tweet announcing my interview on The Informed Life podcast.

Last month, while housesitting in the Columbia River Gorge, my friend and colleague, Jorge Arango invited me to be a guest on his new show The Informed Life podcast.

Here’s a description of the show from the website: The Informed Life is an interview-based podcast that explores how people from different fields manage their personal information ecosystems to be more effective.

I had a blast chatting with Jorge about my journey; how I choose where to go, what I learn along the way, and, most interesting, what structures I put into place to keep going.

Take a listen when you have 30 minutes of ear time to spare, and be sure to report back on what you think!

Lis Hubert on Living an Intentional Life


Notes From the Lisbon Airport

Here I sit at a coffee shop in the Lisbon airport (NOTE: the airport code for Lisbon is LIS… just sayin), getting ready to fly back to the States after 6 weeks here in Europe.

Wow… I just spent 6 weeks in Europe!

In significant moments like these I want to be in a different mental and emotional space than I currently am.

I want to be in a reflective state, one where I’m deeply considering the immense amount of inspiration I’ve gathered over my time here.

I want to write clearly and concisely about all the new perspectives I’ve gained, and about how much “better” I am due to them.

I want to share romanticized scenes of European travel, and tell you how one can’t know the extent of how amazing it is unless they travel here themselves.

Sunset from a sailboat
The sun sets over the Tagus River… pretty romanticized if I do say so myself.

I can’t do any of this though, because it’s not what’s really going on inside of me.

Trust I DO have reflections, inspiration, new perspectives, and memories of the beauty that’s surrounded me. Trust too that I may even be able to share more about these moments with you in the coming months.

Ceiling detail at Chiado palace
Just some of the beauty of Lisbon.

However, what’s really going on with me right now is that I’m tired… bone tired.

I’m the kind of tired where your entire being is running solely on adrenaline; where all you can think about is how delicious it will be to lay your head on a comfy pillow, but also where you cringe at your inability to even consider how you’ll muster up the energy to make it to that next pillow.

Yeah… that tired.

I’m not just tired from traveling to 4 countries, staying in 8 different cities, and taking 5 flights all in 6 weeks (while working full time).

I’m tired because despite doing all this physical movement I’ve been going inward as well.

Allow me to explain.

I didn’t realize how much WORK working on oneself is. I thought I could just follow the steps, take risks, complete the tasks, and “whammo!” self work achieved.

What I’ve learned is that self work IS partly those things. But, in addition to all the external shifting, there is a whole world of internal shifting that is happening simultaneously below my surface.

Said more simply, self work doesn’t just take place in the active moments, but it is also happening internally as well.

For example, when doing self work I could be focusing on being present and experiencing a lovely moment in a new book shop when out of nowhere I notice anger slide over the happiness in my heart.

In this example, the emotion comes on randomly, perhaps triggered by a word or picture I glanced at. If I’m engaging in self work, it’s up to me to notice these emotional shifts, accept or resist them, then move on to the next awareness.

Now, consider this. All I described just now is only happening in just one moment, and it’s exhausting enough to imagine.

When I’m in self work mode, however, I don’t just have this one moment. I have to go through this process moment after moment after moment; as each random emotional shift occurs.

Couple that with the physical tasks of walking through the shop, being present, and enjoying my time and you’re looking at a lot of activity going on as I walk through a book shop!

Livraria almedina store front.
One of my favorite bookshops in Lisbon.

Nonetheless, I’ve chosen to do this self work, and I think it’s this choice coupled with the external travel and events which leaves me… well let’s just say I’m exhausted.

St. Antonio festival street of people
Surely I’m not tired from having this outside of my window for 4 nights straight.

Giving myself permission to recognize how tired I am, I’m taking time over the next few days and weeks to just be.

I plan to focus on resting, celebrating with friends, and reconnecting with my heart. I’m taking this shavasana to rest and allow all that I’ve learned to integrate into my being.

Time out market in Lisbon
I’m taking a time out!

So, here’s to a few days of enjoying life for what it is and not trying to make it what I think it should be.

Wish me luck!

Oh, and tell me what you think about my analysis here in the comments, please! I want to know how you do self work and integrate what you learn?!

Cheers!