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The START Formula | 5 Steps to Feeling Calm and Capable

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni

woman jumping at sunset

Entrepreneur, coach, and author Marie Forleo has dominated the world of small and internet business for over a decade. This fall, she published her second book called “Everything Is Figureoutable”—based on her talk for Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions—in which she teaches readers how to approach challenges with positivity and creativity.

The philosophy behind Forleo’s book comes from her mother, a resourceful woman who never backed down from a challenge, even if she didn’t have formal training or experience to do so. Her example has helped Forleo to build her multimillion-dollar digital empire with faith, gumption, and action.

As a companion to her new book, Forleo hosted a five-day online class in October 2019 to share her START formula. START is a five-step plan to help you reframe your mindset so that you can tackle any challenge. It’s simple—and the more you practice it, the easier it will be to take action on auto-pilot. 

S is for …

... Saying your mantra out loud: say “everything is figureoutable” at least three times. Forleo notes that saying something out loud—be it the figureoutable mantra or something else you are trying to learn—makes things more easily remembered and learned. 

Neuroscience backs up this principle: repetition is important for neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change continuously throughout a person’s life. That means that the more you repeat or practice something, the more you are able to strengthen those neural pathways that make a new mental state into a more permanent one. In other words, the more you repeat it, the more you will believe it and behave like you believe it.  

T is for …

... Taking a breath and touching your heart, at the same time, for at least three full inhale-exhale cycles. Whenever you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you can find it very difficult to think clearly or make decisions. Deep breathing is grounding, settling the body and the mind—this is one big reason why breathing exercises and meditation are so powerful.

A is for …

… Assigning an empowering meaning to your experience. Forleo says, “The quality of your life is determined by the choices you make about what things mean.” After repeating your figureoutable mantra and doing your breathing, you need to assign a meaning to your experience that encourages and empowers you. 

To override the stress and overwhelm you may feel when faced with a challenge, it’s important to make a distinction between facts and how you interpret those facts. For example, if you sent an email to your boss last week and still have not heard back, you could panic and convince yourself that your boss is unhappy with your work. This is a demoralizing story to tell yourself.  

Instead, a more empowering meaning would be to recognize that your boss is busy and may have missed your email, which can happen to any of us. It would be more helpful to follow up with her with another note or just pop into her office to let her know you are waiting on a response from her. 

It’s more useful and energizing to look at the facts objectively and assign an empowering meaning that makes you think creatively and feel more capable about the solutions within your control.  

R is for …

... Reinforcement, a tactic popularly used by athletes to help them perform. What this simply means is to employ positive self-talk when you are facing a challenge. Address yourself by your first name, then say something encouraging such as “You got this!” or “You know how to figure this out.” This works because when you talk to yourself like you would to a friend, you become a supportive bystander, which prevents you from overidentifying with difficult thoughts and feelings that distract you from believing in yourself and seeing solutions. 

T is for…

... Taking action. Think about one action step you can take now that will help you move forward. For example, if you were up for a promotion and did not get it, after you run through the first four steps of the formula, you may conclude that the next best action is to schedule a conversation with your manager to understand why you lost the promotion and what you can do to be eligible for one in the future. 

If, however, you are struggling to figure out what your next step should be, Forleo suggests making a list of five small things you can do to move ahead. Then pick one thing to do right now from that list. 

As Forleo says, “Action is the bridge between your ambition and your ability to figure anything out.” 

Simply START 

The five-step figureoutable formula is meant to remove overwhelm and that is why its simplicity is useful in any situation—especially in the workplace, where stress and anxiety can run high. Whether you are preparing to have a difficult conversation or are feeling unmotivated at work, the formula reframes your mindset so that you are focused on feeling positive about what is in your control and what you are capable of doing. The more you train yourself to run through the steps, the easier it will be for you to employ those steps as different challenges are thrown your way.


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Have you employed the START formula or something similar? Tell us about your experience on Twitter.

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.


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