6 Goals That Truly Changed My Life

Since this is the season for making goals, I thought I’d share 6 PIVOTAL goals I’ve had in my life. My life would truly look so different without these goals. So I thought I’d write these up and send them out to you. Perhaps these will inspire your 2016…? If not, no worries. This is really an attempt to get you to share your most pivotal goals in the comments. 😉 I am a complete goal geek and will likely steal some of yours. 

1. Eliminated White Sugar

Danny and I have been living without white sugar for about 4 years.

Here’s how we did it:

  • We got sugar out of our system. That can take a few weeks. But really, even one week makes a difference. Once it’s out, the addiction starts to lessen. And then it’s more about making sure your lifestyle doesn’t include sugar. 
  • We don’t buy ANY white sugar and avoid products with sugar. In the beginning it took everything out of me to walk past the tubs of chocolate-covered-everything at Trader Joe’s and to not stop to just look (and buy). But now the addiction is out of us so it’s not so hard. This sounds weird, but it’s almost like that stuff doesn’t exist anymore. We just get in and get the 5-10 things we need and get out the door. No buying things we didn’t come to buy. It feels very efficient. 
  • We don’t have scheduled “cheat” days once a week or once a month when we eat sugar. This may work for the long term for some people. So if that’s you, I say have at it. But personally, I feel this is tomfoolery and just carries out the torture of craving sugar and doesn’t lead to long-term success. It leads to you dreaming about what you’re going to eat on those cheat days, later buying sugar, making things with sugar, stopping to get things made with sugar, thinking about sugar. To me, that isn’t freedom! 
  • We do have what we consider “treats” occasionally, but they are made-from-scratch at home. This way we know exactly what’s in them and we always use whole ingredients.
  • We did a lot of trial and error to find these “treat” recipes that we actually loooove. So at this point, we don’t feel deprived one bit. I peruse the raw food dessert recipes or paleo desserts online as they’re almost always made with whole ingredients and sweeteners like stevia, dates, bananas, or raw honey (it must be very high quality, pure raw honey- no corn syrup additives!). We sometimes use pure maple in a recipe – though we can’t get that here in Ecuador, so it’s a true treat if we have some. I know these sweeteners are still forms of sugar, but we use very little of it and to me, these sweeteners don’t have an addictive choke hold on me. I don’t think I’ve ever “craved” honey or bananas, for example, or wanted to eat an entire handful of dates (let alone a tub full in a couple of days.) 
  • I think avoiding processed foods and being gluten free and dairy free helps a TON. They say refined flours and milk turn to sugar in your body – and I personally think that just leads to unstoppable sugar cravings throughout the day. And of course, foods made in factories and sold in packages are often made with refined ingredients. These foods don’t satisfy hunger and nutrient needs deeply and so cravings can easily continue all day. 
  • We don’t drink soda. I’ve never been a fan. Though Danny was a major soda drinker for years (while working) and even he has given it up since moving to Ecuador. I personally don’t think it’s possible to be free of the sugar chokehold if there is constant soda in your system. BUT – the good news (!!): we make our own fizzy drink at home and it’s our favorite thing ever: 2 key limes squeezed in a glass of “agua con gas”. I take it plain. Danny puts a teeny bit of stevia in it (we use the stevia from Trader Joe’s). If we’re getting fancy, we add blended strawberry. So, so very good.

The Results: We almost NEVER get sick anymore. PMS was eliminated. We feel healthy. No more skin problems (including rashes) and no problems with yeast. No unbearable headaches/migraines. We love our bodies. We live free of the addiction and never think about sugar (including chocolate, people!) We never have shame about what we eat. Our thoughts are not consumed with needing to lose weight. It is the most liberating thing ever. And, also, it should be noted that we drive some of our sugar loving family members crazy. haha.  ðŸ™‚ 🙂 
Disclaimers: Living in Ecuador helps a ton. We have almost no temptations here. We also have had sugar say a few times a year in unique circumstances. But I don’t even consider them “cheats” or something because we truthfully could go without the stuff and don’t seek it out. Socially, however, it just sometimes seems like the most natural thing to partake of something. For example, one time we roasted marshmallows in our expat friends’ gorgeous hacienda fireplace here in Ecuador at 1 am while we chatted our brains out. It should be noted that the marshmallows were 5 times larger than American marshmallows. We’re talking the size of a baseball!! 

2. Slowed Down.

I used to live a pretty hectic life and I did zero self care. But I finally realized things needed to change.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I started making myself a priority. If I had a doctor or acupuncture appointment, I would step away and do it, leaving behind a pile of work, knowing that nothing was more important than my health. 
  • I had to let go of other “identities” that were ruling my life. i.e. being successful; being on top of things always; being a super star. The new identity was – I have love for myself and I’m going to care for myself. 
  • I exuded more self-respect for myself. Instead of, “Sure, I’ll do that.” It was more like, “I’ve got to head out at 6 pm today. So I’ll jump on this first thing tomorrow.”

The Results: I did experience friction. Because I deeply did want (and still want) to be a superstar at things. ha. But ultimately, working to give that up in the name of my health and well being has been life changing. This is when my life began to transform. Changing my overall identities led to more peace and happiness than I ever knew was possible – much more than I ever got from working harder and longer and achieving things. 

3. Got Out of Debt; Lived More Frugally Than Needed.

In my early twenties, I had a bit of debt. Boo. But I hated it. And so I paid it off in a few months and have never been in debt since (aside from mortgages.) After paying off my debt, I continued to live a frugal lifestyle so I could buy real estate.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I eliminated every expense possible: clothes, eating in restaurants, shoes, magazines, manicures, traveling, movies, home phone, T.V., entertainment. I just lived without. 
  • I got the highest paying job I could and lived below my means, regardless. 
  • Not a single purchase was paid with credit.
  • I saved some of my free lunch at my job (if there was enough) and ate some of it for dinner. 
  • For years, I got free clothes from the wife of my boss (she was my same size). 
  • I worked my butt off in hopes of a great bonus….and saved every dollar of those bonuses.
  • I made a goal to save a certain amount of money by the time I was 30 and used that goal as motivation. 
  • I invited a married couple to live in my living room for 7 months in Brooklyn (they were looking to buy an apartment and paid us rent in the meantime). 
  • I furnished my home cheaply, mostly with finds from the street, Craigslist, and IKEA. 

The Results: No credit card statements, no paying insane interest, no stress from debt, freedom to invest, travel, pursue dreams, and retire in my thirties. 

4. Learned to Use My Voice

You guys know I once felt like I had zero voice. But now I know I have one. And I know that you all do, too. 

Here’s how I did it:

  • I rewired my brain. I changed the script in my head. I began to believe that I did have worth. 
  • I began to have gratitude for my life and gifts and felt more confidence sharing openly with others. 
  • I practiced sharing my voice in a church setting by teaching young women, volunteering to speak, and sharing my comments during a class. 
  • I felt confidence in what I had to offer – or I acted like I had something to offer until it felt more natural.

The Results: I’ve now been interviewed countless times on TV, radio, and podcasts; I’ve been keynotes at events (sometimes the solo speaker for 3 days straight); I’ve spoken at conferences and events around the world; I now host my own retreats and mentor people online; and I hope this is only the beginning. I know I have so much to still learn. And I want to learn how to use my voice in better and bigger ways. 

5. Moved to The City of My Dreams

I had a dream to move to NYC – and at age 23 I made it happen. Whether you dream of moving to Dubai or Buenos Aires or Palm Springs or Brooklyn, I say go for it. Make it happen. Your life will never be the same.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I scraped together any amount of money I had.
  • I said good-bye to a boyfriend whom I didn’t want to marry.
  • I said good-bye to my family.
  • As an AZ girl, I had no winter clothes or scarves (the best I had was a thin pea coat from Wal-Mart. Pathetic.) But I went anyway and arrived on Jan. 2 to one degree weather. 
  • I lived with my brother and sister-in-law in Brooklyn and then started my job search.
  • I found my first job through a head hunter and got experience from there.

The Results: I wouldn’t trade that city for anything.

Disclaimer: My brother and sister-in-law were very generous and said I didn’t have to pay rent until I found a job. If you don’t have a situation like that when moving, I say to try and find a job prior to arriving. At least start the job outreach in advance and hopefully line up some interviews. This will hopefully shorten your time without a paycheck. 

6. Attended a Detox/Wellness Retreat

We wanted to do something like this. So it was on our list when we moved to South America. It was just a miracle to me that it happened and came together so beautifully. We were so new at this and felt kind of stupid showing up as we had almost NO experience with yoga or meditation. And now I’m completely sold on retreats and wish everyone could do it at least once.

Here’s how we did it:

  • We found some hosts that we resonated with. 
  • We trusted them and also loved what they had planned for the retreat. 
  • We decided this was AN INVESTMENT in our well being. Better than insurance. 
  • We just looked at each other and took the plunge.

The Results: We had the re-set of our lives. We experienced new forms of spirituality. We had a major jumpstart to take our health to a higher level – and that’s been going strong for two years. We were filled with energy and love galore for ourselves and for each other. We loved the experience so much that we created a retreat for all of you. 🙂 Ten retreats later and we can’t wait to host more. We will be announcing the next retreat for 2016 SOON!! You can read about past retreats here.


Of course, I’ve had loads of other goals over the years…ones that never came to fruition, or ones that are still in the works. I have a few good ones cooking away right now and I’m feeling some momentum. I hope you’re feeling that momentum, too, and send you my best wishes for 2016.

With love,


Now, tell me about some of YOUR best lifetime goals in the comments! What goals really did change your life? 

P.S. For the month of January, mentoring sessions with Danny & I are 2-for-1. Book a session HERE.

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  1. Charlotte Buckle January 5, 2016 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    What incredible achievements, Mara! Very inspiring and seeing someone else accomplish these goals makes me realize that, if I put my all into it, I can accomplish the, what seems at this moment, impossible!
    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    C | http://atlantic-c.blogspot.ca/

    • mara January 5, 2016 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      YES. I do believe that you can!!! Anything is possible. Dream BIG!

  2. Laura January 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing these, Mara! As a 22-year-old on my own for the first time (in Mesa, AZ coincidentally!) I am facing a lot of the challenges you mentioned. I like your straightforward approach, as well as the attitude that nothing is more important than individual well-being. 🙂

    • mara January 6, 2016 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Oh, Laura – 22! That is exciting! And knowing you from your wonderful comments on this blog here, I can say you have so very much wisdom. I'm so excited for your life to unfold more and more. Sending you good wishes for your challenges this year. May they work themselves out with a little care and attention. And, don't forget to DREAM BIG. GO FOR YOUR DREAMS ALL THE WAY.

  3. Geraldine January 6, 2016 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Reading your post I realize that I should think about what I already acomplished as separate goals. it would totally enhance the quality and quantity of what I done :
    – working in the field of international relations, learning foreign languages and living abroad during my twenties
    – settling closer to family, in a city that I love (Lyon) and having a job that fulfill me intelectualy as well as a human-being in my early thirties (I am participating to the protection of beautiful natural areas within the French Alps since a few months)
    – taking time to do the best for myself as an individual and recognize my worthiness (meditating, practicing yoga and being able to love myself enough to put boundaries gently)
    – taking time to do the best for myself as a body. I see a naturopath that recommended me to eat in a specific way* that make me feel SO much better!I do not stick literaly to it, as a often eat out for my job, and like chocolate ;-), but I am doing my best and still see the difference.

    So thanks for having me think that way 🙂

    My goal for 2016 is to keep going out my box to meet new people and make friends in my new town even though I am extremely tired by my professional activities. it would also be nice to meet a great guy among those new persons if you see what I mean. Even though I am doing my best to be happy with what I have, a little less solitude would be appreciated.

    * the point is not to mix every kind of food together and I DO recommend it. Basicaly take :
    – breakfast : fruits (+ coconut cream and nuts for me)
    – snack during the morning if needed : fruits and/or nuts
    – lunch : proteins + vegetables (raw and/or cooked, as your heart desire) OR carbohydrates (rice, pastas…)+ vegetables
    – snack during the afternoon if needed : fruits and/or nuts
    – Diner : carbohydrates + vegetables OR vegetables only (I often go with a soup)

    • mara January 6, 2016 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      I loved reading this so much. What an EXTRAORDINARY and unique life you've had!! And may this year be full of magic and dreams and light as you work on your current endeavors. Also, loved the food ideas. So fascinating to see the different options out there – and so glad you found something that works for you. That's no small feat! Much love, M

  4. Emily January 6, 2016 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Numbers 2 & 6 remind me of something I did in 2015: become a certified yoga teacher. I'd wanted to do this since 2008, but the timing and money never quite worked out. Then dear friends of mine moved away and started running a training program a few hours down the road. Two years later, I'd saved up enough money and vacation time to take the immersion course. It was a gift to me to focus on self-care and nourishing learning for almost a whole month, and it was accomplishing a very long-held goal. Yay! Just as my friend had said, it was a turning point–I ended up quitting full-time work and now have three part-time jobs that I love, even though my husband and I are living SUPER frugally now.

    • mara January 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm - Reply

      Emily – LOVE you and your dreams. So amazing to see them unfold. Also, it is one of the biggest blessings in the world to do what you love. So very many people do not have that privilege yet – either because they feel stuck or they also don't have a passion. May we both honor that privilege we have – of loving what we do. And channel that good energy and abundance outward. Also, high fives for living frugally!!! Danny and I have some additional financial and real estate goals for the future, so we're actually going into a more frugal mode this year as well. Sending you sisterhood on that path. 🙂

  5. Chris January 6, 2016 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Hey Mara! You go girl. I love that I know you. Oh my hopes and dreams….this year I would like to finish my house enough and finally put together a before and after because that has been such a huge part of my life and I am so proud of that space. It is an expression of me and my family and I want to share it. Our family motto this year is " THIS IS OUR YEAR" our year to put ourselves and not our work first. Our year to put our health and not our work first. Our year to put our passion and not our work first. Do you see a theme?

    I have dealt with terrible yeast infections for 12+ years. I have tried it all homeopathic, , creams, etc etc. I finally went on an anti fungal pill that i took weekly and it wiped them out for the 6 months while I took them. We were hoping that they would set me straight but a week after being off them, I got the worst yeast infection. it was after a notable binge of some yummy New Zealand biscuits sent to us but still I couldn't deny that there was some connection between what I put in mouth and the yeast. I knew there was after years of research but we live in a culture of medicating. A few days before Halloween I stopped eating white sugar…and actually fruits as well. I also stopped eating Gluten and Dairy. Basically I have become my own experiment to figure out what causes the yeast infections for me. I have had no full blown infections since. One might start but I can stop it with proper care. I found it easier to eliminate most everything because i feel like I have control. The holidays were a bust but even compared to how I used to be, they weren't that bad. The other had part…garments, they are the worst offender! Anyway…I thought I would be open about my experience with yeast infections in case anyone found help as I know I have spent hours reading online and researching. xo

  6. Christopher Keiner January 7, 2016 at 3:47 am - Reply

    hi guys,. . I love of being here reading your different post,. . 😀 by the way please visit my site at http://www.caimanhaitifoundation.org/.. thanks!

  7. leah January 12, 2016 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    I've forgotten how much I love your blog—haven't been here in a while. Sugar. Boy oh boy this is the one. It's so hard to quit! I've been working on this and it was so nice to come here and see that. I need to visit more often! : )

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