S3E23: Michelle Brigman Asks, “What Brings You Joy?”

Michelle joins us in this episode to share her story of burnout, self-exploration, and self-discovery.
S3E23: Michelle Brigman Asks, “What Brings You Joy?”


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Show Notes

Michelle joins us in this episode to share her story of burnout, self-exploration, and self-discovery. She tells us how she learned to let go of some of the responsibilities that make you feel “always on”, to disconnect from all the stress, build time to calm your mind and body, and allow yourself to stop for just a moment. We talk about finding where you are in this moment, asking yourself if you are happy where you are in life, in your well-being, in your job, and getting down to the root cause of your dissatisfaction and unhealthy reactions.

We also discuss finding the things that genuinely bring you joy. We talk about letting go of all outside noise and distraction, technology included, looking inward at yourself, shifting the focus from what you have to give up or sacrifice to what you want in life, and figuring out how to get there. We explore what a healthy relationship with technology looks like, how Michelle uses it as a tool in goal-oriented empowerment, and how employing mindfulness and intention with your use of technology can help you achieve your goals. Finally, we talk about Michelle’s podcast Hard Won Wisdom, what that phrase means to her, and how she empowers other women to seek that wisdom.

In this episode, you will hear:

  • What is work/life balance?
  • Finding what your true self is longing for
  • Are you getting enough joy out of life?
  • Overcoming old ideas of what joy means
  • Unplugging from the notifications and mindless scrolling
  • What does healthy technology use look like?
  • How self-image can become tied to our use of technology, e.g. social media

Michelle Brigman is a transformational Client Experience leader focused on innovating strategies to drive revenue, mobilize cohesive teams, and influence the customer experience. Michelle has created profitable results in CX leadership positions for global iconic brands such as 7-Eleven, Citi, and Dell. She was named Top CX Professional 2021, 2017 IT Executive of the Year, 2017 CXPA Innovation Award Winner, and Co-Emcee in the Customer Centricity World Series Awards- 2022. Currently, she is the Sr. Director of Strategic Alliances for the #1 Experience Management platform Medallia, co-host of the Hard Won Wisdom podcast, EVP of Women’s Leadership Network, and founder of Brave Balanced Women, where she helps Executive Women find balance through wellness practices, self-discovery, and a powerful tribe of advisors.


Connect with Michelle:


Michelle Brigman 0:00
Technology is fantastic and improving, right? Enabling life enabling to do to do better things connect you with people explore creativity. But when it becomes your place to zone out, and you’re abusing that, and you’re keeping yourself from growing and evolving, and being curious and exploring something in a more non tech way, that’s where it begins to hurt. And those are the things I think that just understanding and being mindful of how and why and when you use technology is very liberating and empowering.

Announcer 0:37
Welcome to the healthier tech podcast, the show about building a healthier relationship with modern technology. Now, here are your hosts, R blank and Stephanie Warner.

R Blank 0:49
So I think the listeners are really going to appreciate this interview with Michelle Bregman that we had it she really, I think of all the interviews we’ve done, not just this season, but on the show to date, she helps illuminate the the the benefits and the costs of relationships with technology. And I really help I feel a really healthy way of approaching those decisions in your life.

Stephanie Warner 1:18
Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I think our listeners are going to really resonate with some of the advice that she gives on how to find our joy and how to, you know, build in these things that we really enjoy in life and back into our life without sacrificing and that’s a that was a key point in this interview that I think our listeners are really going to enjoy.

R Blank 1:41
Yeah, so and listen out for this is a really healthy discussion, too on the nature of work life balance, which is I think the first time we’ve actually really gotten into that topic on the show. So with that, let’s get to the interview. Sounds great. Let’s do it. Michelle Bergman’s professional life has been dedicated to helping companies like Dell, Citibank, 711, and Medallia build strong loyalty with customers, clients, partners, and employees. She is a transformational development speaker, and coach who shows professional women how to navigate the personal challenges that keep them from being happy, balanced and fulfilled. She’s also the co host of the hard won wisdom podcast, sharing her message and empowering executive women to find harmony while living their best lives. Excited to chat with her today. Welcome, Michelle, to the healthier tech podcast.

Michelle Brigman 2:34
Thanks, Tara. I’m really excited to be here.

R Blank 2:37
It’s great having you. So just to get us started. You know, it seems you from from what I know about you that that, for lack of a better way of saying it burnout is a big part of your story. Can you talk a little bit more about your prior career and what led to burnout?

Michelle Brigman 2:56
Absolutely. Well, in in, I still work in corporate, because I honestly I love it. I love what I do. And I love the industry I’m in. But really I just hit this sort of period of chronic stress and fatigue. And what happened is, I just found I never felt good, I’d go to the doctor, everybody would say, Michelle, you’re healthy because I did all the right things. If you looked at my habits and routines, you know, I exercise to eight, right? But the challenge was I didn’t feel good. And so it was through this whole sort of exploration to figure out what’s going on with me, I honestly decided that I am really good at tackling complicated problems at work. I’m doing it for these large companies. And why don’t I actually treat myself as the projects and apply some of those skills. So it just sit me on sort of this whole discovery around health and wellness, only to discover that 99% of the problems and the symptoms I had were actually based on my own lifestyle choices.

R Blank 4:01
I really liked that Pratik treating yourself as the project. That’s a that’s a really great framing. So what are some of those choices that you’re talking about there?

Michelle Brigman 4:10
Well, absolutely. Well, first of all, it was a matter of I think it’s particularly with women and women. I’ll say that have I’m going to speak to more of my demographic where we’re further in our career. We have we ended up at this crossroads right where we are. We don’t have a whole lot of friends. We don’t feel very good. We start weighing kind of our trade offs. Maybe our relationships are fractured, and we’re just not very fulfilled at work and it shows up to where we’re flat out exhausted and we’re not showing up with our a game. And it was just it as I started talking about how I was feeling it had to be done in the corners and the quiet, you know, in confidence because you didn’t want to show the cracks. And what I found is as I started to Talking about the way I was feeling leading me through investing in getting a coaching certification with integrated Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I started kind of talking about what I was learning because I was feeling better, I was letting go of some of the responsibilities of being always on, I was taking out some of the things in my life that were, frankly weighing me down. So as an example, it may be that I never took a break at work. You know, I mean, we live particularly now, even after COVID. I know many of us are like in these back to back meetings, and you never detach, right? So learning that by one building in breaks, to get away, unplug, take a walk outside, journal, call a friend, like there’s something else that you can do in order to just sort of calm down and find sort of that peace and balance that you are missing. Breathing Techniques. Those are another great exercise. So it just showed up where you’re just in this constant on state. And you don’t stop,

R Blank 6:13
stop, stop being constantly on and so is that part of what you would define as a I mean, because a lot of people use this term work life balance you hear all the time. And it’s oftentimes when it’s said, it’s just sort of assumed that you know, what they’re talking about, like, you know, what a work life balance is? Is that part of what the items you just listed off? Do those factor into what you consider to be a work life balance?

Michelle Brigman 6:38
Yes, I think that, like I love the term work life balance, but I think it means something different for everybody. So I think that one of the one of the exercises that we’ll do, as I’m, as I’ve gone through my own journey, and as I’m talking to a client, right is, let’s evaluate everything. And I’m going to take this back and apply it to business. Because if we’re tackling a big problem, right, one of the first things that you do is you figure out where am I? And that is a tactic that most people never stop, particularly women aren’t stopping to figure out where they are. So we’re looking at things around, you know, what’s my level of happiness with my job? What about my health? Am I happy with how I’m moving my body? Am I happy with where I’m at from a spiritual perspective, and my creative, and by looking at everything, and you understand number one, where they sit. And then what’s out of like I say, out of balance, and not everything is always important, because life isn’t always going to be this perfect circle where everything’s always you know, the skills always balance. But sometimes things are more important than they are at other times. So just as an example, I am, I found that I was constantly arguing with my husband. And if I were talking to my friends, I would talk about, okay, here’s all the things that were happening at home, I was frustrated, because, you know, he wasn’t doing the dishes, you know, whatever, he was just frustrated. Well, when I stopped and went through the exercise of really looking at all of these places in my life, what I found is I was really exhausted at work. I was we were in the middle of a big transformation. We were working a lot of hours, I was burnt out, and where I was bringing it and where it was showing up was I was arguing with my husband all the time.

R Blank 8:31
So those closest to you.

Michelle Brigman 8:34
Yes, but But I hadn’t, but I was complaining about the symptom, right the outcome and not looking at root cause. And I think that that right there is where there’s this big gap and how, and I, you know, I target women, but it’s men as well. We’re giving so much and we’re running and we’re reacting to whatever’s being thrown at us that we aren’t stopping to just go, Wait a second, what’s really going on, and let’s start unpacking that to figure out where things are causing me dissatisfaction. This out of balance.

R Blank 9:11
So, as you know, this is the healthier tech podcast and as you were going through that list of of activities that you intentionally sought out, right, building in breaks, unplugging, it was a word you verbatim used taking a walk outside journaling, these all as you were going through that list, it struck me that those were all tech free activities. And so what kind is Was that intentional, or is that just what happened when you decided to look for activities to help break like why do you think those all ended up being tech free activities

Michelle Brigman 9:45
because I think the change is you’re going inward instead of outward. And when you go inward, you lose you let go of the technology is not a part of that because it is noise distracting you from hearing the cues. See that your body is sending you through maybe a physical, you know, maybe it shows up physically something’s hurting, maybe you’re hurting emotionally, maybe there’s something going on mentally, you are blocking that communication where you reconnect. So that’s why it’s so important to set those things down. Walk away, really find whatever environment that you most feel at, you know, I’ll say connected or in tune with yourself. Mine happens to be outside, you can send me on a walk. And fortunately, I live near trails. I, it changes my outlook about everything. So whatever your special places go inside.

R Blank 10:45
Yeah, yeah. For me, it’s the, it’s the beach. So when clients find you? Do they already know that they want a better work life balance? Or are they seeking self improvement, and you help them realize that work life balance is part of that? What is the problem that people are trying to solve? When they come to you,

Michelle Brigman 11:09
they’re feeling very unfulfilled, I always say, what what happens is these women can say, my bank account looks pretty good. It’s pretty full, my life is very empty, and they aren’t sure what’s causing it. So by spending time, really setting down and if I kind of walked through the steps we go through is, like I just said, evaluating let’s talk about all of these areas. Where are you right now, that first step? The reality is they haven’t done it. So just giving them space and trust, and permission to sort of reflect on what is happening with them, is a gift in itself. And then from there starting to really spend time talking about, okay, let’s figure out and visualize what you actually want, not what you think you’re supposed to want. Not answering the question about, you know, you’re still living for your parent, you know, these women may be 45 years old, but yet their goals still sound like what their parents told them they needed to do at 25. Right, what do you actually want and what brings you joy, and really unpacking that and what it tends to be our feelings and not things.

R Blank 12:28
So you step back to that initial question you you put in your list, right? Where am I? That seems to me, and I’m hoping you can educate me on this, that seems to me to be one of those deceptively simple questions. Like, it sounds like where am I? Oh, that’s easy. Um, and then you realize, how do you help people even begin to answer that question?

Michelle Brigman 12:49
A lot of times, we just sit back and just say, what is it you love doing? What brings you joy? And I mean, let me ask you that what’s something you love doing our?

R Blank 13:01
Well, like I said, already walking on the beach, I love spending time in my backyard. I love writing. I really enjoy. I don’t know, love, but I really enjoy, you know, getting the chance to speak, to speak with people like you on this podcast. So these are, these are things that I love doing.

Michelle Brigman 13:19
That’s awesome. And if I asked you, do you do them enough,

R Blank 13:24
I am doing them a lot more now than I was. So on the process of continual improvement, I’d say I’ve made some really good progress. I don’t know if I’d ever do it enough until I get to be retired. And I don’t know when that’s

Michelle Brigman 13:40
sure. But it but you’re a great example of just in your story, saying that you’re doing more of it now. And but most of the people that I’m talking to, they’re not doing those things they have the dreams of I’ve always wanted to write the book. I really love being at the beach. But it’s been three years since I’ve gone. I really enjoy it whenever I can’t visit art galleries, right? And it just these are the things they’re not doing. Because why? Because they’re too busy. And by sitting down and saying, Okay, here’s your three things, right? Here are the three things you want more of, instead of talking about what you have to give up, which becomes a distraction. And you can tell yourself 1000 reasons why you shouldn’t be give these things up because of an obligation to someone else you feel, you know, some responsibility. But when you say okay, how can you get more time at the beach? Let’s figure out a plan to get you to the beach, because that brings you joy, and focus on what will that take. Now suddenly, they’re chasing something they actually want to do. And it’s funny by articulating it, and then starting to put it out there as a goal. Suddenly they start making space for it. It’s not a trade off. So it’s like it’s a shift of bringing in the things you want in your life and setting a focus instead of focusing on the things that you’re trying to let go of, or you think you should let go.

Stephanie Warner 15:11
Yeah, it sounds a lot like you’re advocating really listening to yourself and asking yourself what’s important. And one of the things that that I honed in on when you were you were, you know, describing your process is the question, what brings you joy for me that I remember being asked that question a few years ago, and having this moment of panic, because I didn’t know, I was so focused on the other things, the, you know, we’re always, you know, women, men, anyone professionally, we’re always working on what’s the next thing or next project? And getting to that place of even understanding that that’s a question I should be able to answer was really striking. Have you found that some of the people that you talk to have the same kind of epiphany of I’m not really sure what brings me joy?

Michelle Brigman 16:08
Absolutely. And I think that one of the misconceptions is, it has to be something huge and Monster monumental in your life, right. And whenever you start talking about, Alright, tell me about will say maybe spending time with family, well, someone may then realize, you know, what, I feel really happy whenever my whole family sits down for dinner together, because we never do that, that moment where I’m cooking, and maybe my spouse comes in to help me. And then we all sit down and short. Enjoy a meal together. That is joy. Okay, so again, now we start figuring out, alright, if this is something really important, how can we bring your family in, to participate in that?

Stephanie Warner 16:58
I love that I love that it you know, it can be something that is not monumental. But making that shift of recognizing and then making space for it has a monumental impact on your life.

Michelle Brigman 17:11
Monumental, because then again, you you sort of release yourself from the argument of time, you release yourself from the argument of commitments to everybody else. And you find that these are simple things that you can actually bring in, and you can sustain them over time. And even if you aren’t doing them set, if you’re not having dinner together as a family seven nights a week, but you are now doing it once a week, that’s one more time 52 More times this year than you would have done otherwise. It is a positive change that you can feel proud of. And it brings you again, it’s feeding Matt, what’s missing?

Stephanie Warner 17:53
So absolutely.

R Blank 17:55
So yeah, we’ve really liked where this conversation has gone. And so far, we’ve we’ve approached the goal of achieving more joy, and more fulfillment through the through less use of technology. I note that you also work as a stem instructor at women in it, right inspiring girls to pursue careers in technology and other STEM fields. And I don’t know if you know, I actually was a software engineer for about 20 years, and I taught at USC engineering school. And so to me stem a particularly stem for women, is is well, it’s just a really important initiative. That is something that in general, children need that type of education. And also in general, that whole field could could be a little bit less male dominated. Yes. And it is. So how does that relate to right? Because so much of what we talked about in terms of improving and increasing your joy is by decreasing the use of technology? How do you help the girls that you teach, understand what a healthy relationship with technology means? Well,

Michelle Brigman 19:03
a lot of it comes down to and it’s such a, it’s such a so true, the fact that there just aren’t enough. A lot of it comes down to again, having conversations with them about again, what what what are you interested in? What are you passionate about? And they’ll they know, and it may be let’s say, it’s fashion, I may speak to a young girl who was very interested in fashion. And we talk about you know, how technology and being comfortable using technology to do design work, or to market and bring a product to market or to manage, you know, supply chain, right? How does the technology play in that to sort of recognize that it’s not one or the other? It’s, they they both exist, so be comfortable and confident because technology is going to help you do that creative design work even better? Off sorry, no,

R Blank 19:58
yeah, no, no. And so what I Eric between both sides of that, right using less technology and using more technology, the words that popped into my head, and please correct me if I’m off base, but it’s a goal oriented empowerment process, that and I really and technology, both more technology and less technology plays into that. And it’s about being intentional and focused on your goal and realizing that, that you’re the one actually in control of these decisions.

Michelle Brigman 20:23
Yes. And I think even just to build on that, recognizing that when you’re using technology to shield or distract you from an emotion like isn’t a crutch, because I’m sad, I’m feeling frustrated, I’m depressed, I’m lonely. Recognizing that is what you want to break. Technology is fantastic and improving, right? Enabling life enabling to do to do better things connect you with people explore creativity, but when it becomes your place to zone out, and you’re, you’re abusing that, and you’re keeping yourself from growing and evolving, and being curious and exploring something in a more non tech way, that’s where it begins to hurt. And those are the things I think that just understanding and being mindful of how you how and why and when you use technology is very liberating and empowering for those girls, as well as just all of us.

R Blank 21:26
So go forth stuff.

Stephanie Warner 21:30
Sorry, I, yeah, I love that. And I one thing that I that for myself, when I’m using tech, I’m always tried to be really aware of how it makes me feel, you know, so in that I use as an indicator as to is this good? Is this something that’s helping me? Or is this something that’s making me feel? Not so good? So, I don’t really have a question. It’s just a thought that bubbled up when you were when you were talking about the, you know, use useful uses of tech? Yeah,

Michelle Brigman 22:03
well, I have a 15 year old daughter, so I have a 2023 year old son and I have a 15 year old daughter, and obviously technology is that it’s consumed. They’re involved in everything that they do, right. But that, but it’s very different, and how they use it. And I have to really, really have to pay attention particularly to my daughter, because there’s so much of this, the the self image, right? self image being being influenced by what people are posting on Instagram. I mean, it’s awful in terms of the fact that these girls, particularly because that’s who I’m around is her group, they are hurting with confidence. They are unsure, you know, am I good enough? They’re comparing themselves to everybody. And we talk about this a lot. And Stephanie, I certainly am not going to say we have it all figured out in my house. Because we we don’t. But it is a conversation that we are having about well, why do you think that is? What do you think is happening in their life, or let’s pull up somebody that’s really famous that you’re following. And let’s look at some of the other things that are going on in their life. And while we can talk about and they see it, it is a struggle every single day. And I you know, wish I had the answers on that one. I think we’re all kind of learning how do you how do you manage that in a healthy way?

Stephanie Warner 23:33
Yeah, absolutely. What I love and I think, you know, because you are a parent, I think it’s really important that you’re opening the dialogue, I think that’s really the best way to deal with the self image aspect of like social media. Because, you know, if you’re not talking about it, there, who knows what, what they’re developing, as far as image Association, you have an opportunity by having the dialogue to, to influence and balance out the thinking. So I think that’s a really great

Michelle Brigman 24:06
approach, or you just discount their feelings like, oh, you know, but like, you can’t do that either. Right? You have to you have to make it okay to back out. And when they tell you I’m feeling really self conscious and or they’re upset and you know, crying or this, I need a different brand. My hair is not right, like being able to just really dig down because I’ll go back to the point earlier, that is showing up here, but there’s something else they’re hurting from, and being able to explore that. And, again, being open and listening, which I’ll have a look. I had a conversation, my daughter this week, and after we finished and she had kind of moved on. I said, Okay, did I do a good job of listening on that one? Because I was really trying she’s like, oh, yeah, because I jump into problem solving mode. And I’m like, you know, I’m writing so let me know am I am I doing better at this? And she was like, Yeah, you got an A on that one.

Stephanie Warner 24:59
Oh, No, that’s great. That’s great. But those sorts of conversations are just great. And, you know, I think you’re you’re absolutely spot on that you have to create that space where it’s okay to talk about it, especially when we’re talking about social media and how it makes them be feel, and not discounting feelings. You know, I think that’s, that’s a key key piece of critical advice, I think. Right?

R Blank 25:24
So you, you host the the hard won wisdom podcast, which I’ve listened to I was actually just before this listening to the episode with I think it was more marine girl. And it’s a great, great show, how is that show helped you spread your message of living a balanced life

Michelle Brigman 25:42
at home, I love this. So this has been a love project very much so so I have to share my co host on Burma. She and I met nearly 20 years ago, because she was an upset customer. That was escalated to me when I worked at Dell. And you know, she’s an accomplished author, speaker. And we have just all we just hit it off and always kept in touch. And so anyway, we launched this particular particular podcasts, and it focuses on truly just trailblazing women, whether they’re from corporate, most of them are corporate, but they’re doing something amazing in life. So definitely check it out. But how it’s helped is the fact that a lot of these women that we’ve had on as guests, they are at a point in their life, where again, they’re really being honest about the struggle. So I mentioned earlier, a lot of these executive women have made a lot of sacrifices. And so but you can’t you don’t feel like you can talk about it when you’re in the middle of the trenches, because there is a certain image and a message that you want to convey to other women in business. And they are kind of stripping it down. And we get really raw about how what were some of the trade offs? How do you juggle? What did you learn how to make better decisions. So for someone who is coming up in their journey, they are learning from that hard won wisdom, so that things are easier, and they’re making better decisions for themselves. And everything just maps back to building confidence, having a strong voice, creating your boundaries, and making better decisions that aren’t always putting you last, but the importance of just putting yourself first so you can be better for your team, your family, your friends.

R Blank 27:40
I really liked that. So following that, and it may be you may just point back to the last sentence, he said. But as we approach the end of this episode, I like I like giving our guests a chance to share a specific, an actionable, a single specific and actionable piece of advice for our listeners. And in your case, I would ask for them to begin a journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Michelle Brigman 28:07
So great. And I think that the number one thing they could do is give themselves some permission to explore what they enjoy doing. Because you probably haven’t focused on you. You’re doing things for everybody else you’re doing, you’re involved in things because it’s meaningful to your kids, to your co workers to obligations. But give yourself some permission to go and think back around. What are things I used to enjoy doing that I don’t anymore. And try them out again, make a commitment that you’re going to do that thing in the next two weeks, if you can do it, but set a time constraint unless you say this set a SMART goal, right? Make a point that you’re going to do it and see if it still fits. And if it doesn’t start trying something else. But the point is take the time to as we said earlier, just quiet down and listen and reconnect with what makes you happy. Because there are so many ways for you to bring a lot more joy in without feeling like you have to walk away from your job, your family, your life in order to reclaim yourself.

R Blank 29:17
So, Michelle, this is this has been a fantastic chat. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the show. For everyone out there. The name again of the podcast is hard won wisdom. And Michelle, where would you like listeners other than that to connect with you?

Michelle Brigman 29:32
So I’m most active actually on LinkedIn. That’s where most of my activity clients are. And I’ll talk about that as well as health and wellness and just corporate life.

R Blank 29:42
Excellent. So we’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well. And I actually just followed you on LinkedIn this afternoon. So Well, thank you so much for taking the time today to join us on the healthier tech podcast. It’s been a real pleasure.

Stephanie Warner 29:54
Thank you. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.

Announcer 29:58
Thank you so much for listening. Turning to this episode of the healthier tech podcast. Remember to check the show notes for all the links and resources mentioned in the show. Please like and subscribe to the healthier tech podcast on Apple, Spotify or your podcast platform of choice. Get your free quickstart guide to building a healthy relationship with technology and our latest information at healthier tech.co

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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R Blank

R Blank

R Blank is the founder of Healthier Tech and the host of “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available iTunes, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms.

R has a long background in technology. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel.

In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering where he taught software engineering, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He has spoken at technology conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author of “AdvancED Flex Development” from Apress.

He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Connect with R on LinkedIn.

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