Hanna Hermanson is a certified business coach, author, and registered Yoga teacher. She is the founder of Dream Life Is Real Life, an agency that offers coaching and copywriting services for online businesses. Hermanson is a contributor at Forbes Coaches Council and the author of the book Dream Life is Real Life: How to create the financial freedom and impact you deserve.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

My humble roots started in small-town Wisconsin. I had a very comfortable childhood- complete with an inground pool and cul de sac. My mom worked in schools and my dad worked for the city, and I was their first child. A natural-born leader, and a bit of a spitfire, I think I kept them on their toes.

In school, I was a conscientious student and ran for class president every year, and I won every year. My willingness to work hard, speak in public, and befriend most of my peers offered me a lot of privileges and opportunities in my community. And I generally stayed on the straight and narrow, always wanting to “do the right thing” and color inside the lines.

After graduating from college, I found myself in a comfortable job as an Academic Advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I helped college students sift through and choose one of the 50 majors offered. Or, as I began to see it, 50 neat little boxes they could try and fit all their hopes, interests, talents, and dreams into.

But all this “doing the right thing” caught up with me, and I tangled myself into an eating disorder- it was a need for control and over achievement that led me to put my health in danger. While being a leader and stand out student served me well for several years, I think all the pressure to keep standing out was the root of my obsession with losing weight and running marathons.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

For a long time, I felt like a black sheep, like “nobody gets me”. And that belief kept me angsty and frustrated. I was working hard to prove to people that I was different in a good way- successfully or productively. Which was empty efforts, because I never really had anything to prove to people.

I wish I had learned to accept my quirks and strengths and own them unapologetically. I wish I learned not to defend or explain myself to anyone. I wish I had learned to simply follow my heart and seek joy- instead of approval.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Get a dozen coaching certifications before you get paying clients.

Create a program before you get paying clients.

Do free sessions before you get paying clients.

Start a website before you get paying clients.

Really, doing anything before focusing on enrolling invested clients into your coaching business is a waste. The truth is, I’ve made all these mistakes myself. And now I’m on a mission to help other coaches avoid the time, energy, and money wastes of certifications, making courses, websites, and free sessions.

People who pay, pay attention. And “practice” coaching on clients who don’t pay you is a waste of time because there is not a mutual investment. You don’t have to charge $1000s when you’re just starting if you’re not confident in your abilities to deliver massive results yet, but the best advice I could give another coach is to start before you are ready, and always ask for an investment. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby, not a business.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

In college, I got wrapped up in disordered eating and overexercising. I started spending hours each day in the gym and found myself cutting almonds in half for a snack because a whole almond was too many calories. The obsession with my body and weight put me in a really dark place. I avoided socializing, afraid there might be food there that would throw me off my “perfect macros” for the week. My focus was so on myself, and hypercritical of my body and mind that I had a hard time believing in myself or seeing the good around me.

Any disordered eating is a reflection of inner turmoil. My constant anxiety and need to be “better” wasn’t just about the food and exercise log. I had to face truths about myself bigger than “she likes to run” or “she doesn’t like cookies”. In therapy, I had to learn that what I was chasing was not a number on the scale, but fulfillment in my life.

This phase was colored with long cries, therapy sessions, and eventually yoga. The journey through this is one of my greatest gifts because my process of healing offered me so many personal development tools that I continue to use. Yoga, mindfulness, journaling, relationship building, getting out of my comfort zone, asking for help- these are all things I was afraid to do because I was so distracted by my eating disorder.

I learned that my purpose in life was not to suffer, but to seek ways to make an impact, and use my “obsessions” to help others. When I got obsessed with helping others, and not counting calories, the whole world opened up to me.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Mentorship.

If you want to go fast, go by yourself (and I did that). But if you want to go far, go with others. It is the network of cheerleaders and supporters and coaches that have helped me not only reach some success but sustain and scale it. I have a “Board of Advisors” that I constantly consult and ask for advice, and I think everyone should have those people in their life. The types of people who you would trade a day in life with- who have learned the lessons, and can give you the shortcuts and encouragement to reach your dream life.

What is your morning routine?

I wake up naturally around 7 am each day, and immediately cuddle with my labradoodle. Then I grab some water and settle in for a 20-minute silent meditation. After my meditation, I spend some time visualizing my dream life and goals, before moving into gratitude journaling. By this time, it’s almost 8 o’clock and I either go for a walk, read a bit, or listen to an inspiring podcast (Abraham Hicks usually) before “eating the frog” and tackling a work project.

I’ve learned to do all of this before checking email or social media which has been massive for my productivity!

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Mindfulness. In many forms. First, it was yoga and therapy when I was working through disordered eating and anxiety. Then it was meditation and breathwork. But the study of my thoughts and emotions, and how to guide them in a productive direction has been my most powerful “superpower”. I used to be a victim of the chaos of life- things changing, heartbreak, feeling annoyed, or on edge. But when I realized I was 100% in control of my emotions and experiences and learned how to slow things down and get clear on what I was really allowing, I am becoming more present and alive.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Google Calendar. If it’s in the calendar, it just gets done. I schedule everything- from the gym to date night to emailing my family. As a business owner, there are always 1,000 things I could be doing. So to not get distracted by all the shiny objects and fires that pop up in a day, I have to stick to my calendar. And it’s a good check-in work/life balance because, by color-coding my priorities (family, relationship, health, clients, fiances), I can get a daily snapshot of where I’m focusing (and what’s missing).

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield was pivotal for me actually realizing my dreams. The book breaks down 67 key success habits, with actionable assignments. When I actually started implementing and doing the work outlined by Jack Canfield, everything in my life started to improve, and my goals were achieved quickly. I’ve now become a friend of Jack’s and attribute much of my success to his work because when you work the principles, the principles always work!

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“When you help enough other people get what they want, you will get what you want.”

Originally from Zig Ziglar, but rings true through the book and in my life. Success doesn’t come from just reading books or meditating or focusing on yourself. Success comes when you look outside of yourself and start taking actions outside of your own comfort zone. To win, you have to help others win.