Embracing Your Inner Shine vs. Your Inner Critic – Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo

Episode #109

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo (Dr. E) has a goal to change the world for the better, and she is literally living it to reality.  Dr. E learned at an early age that her inner critic was putting her in the red zone which was stopping her from doing things she wanted before she even began.  She’s built a career focused on helping people and organizations identify, and combat, the inner critic so we can succeed.  In fact, she says that when you let your inner light shine brighter than your inner critic then true success in inevitable.  Through hard work, dedication and continual growth she’s been able to share her life-changing strategies around the world speaking and on countless programs from Today show to TEDTalks.


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Early Ephiphany

After leaving college, our guest Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, was working in the physical therapy field when she encountered a military vet that was desperately struggling after having a recent amputation.  The attending physician stated that he would just prescribe the patient prozac.  Dr. E though began wondering why they weren’t talking to this patient was clearly struggling after losing a limb.

It was in this moment that Dr. E realized that her true calling was to go back and help people like this patient.  She acknowledged that not everyone loses limbs, but we all do suffer through loss in varying capacities.  In that moment she knew that she needed to go back to school to learn more.

However, during her first week in school, she started to question why she needed to get a Ph.D. in order to learn how to better understand how our thoughts control our lives because we could all benefit from this.  More importantly, though she wanted to come up with a way for people to learn in bite-size pieces.

Dr. E’s next pivotal moment came when life threw her a significant curve ball.  She has built up a successful practice when her husband was transferred out of state.  The thought of leaving her clients was hard, this was well before our convenient telehealth services today.  That’s when she had the thought to write a book that could help many more people beyond her therapy office.

If You Build It, They Won’t Likely Come

Writing a book though is no easy task as she’d soon discover.  During the writing process she discovered that most new authors only sell less than 250 copies in the first year.  In that moment she realized that she was going to have to face one of her biggest fears.  She was going to have to get comfortable speaking in front of a group of people.

If she was going to make this book successful then she was going to have to get comfortable talking in front of others for a speaking tour.  Yet, when you’re terrified of something your mind can become your worst critic and the antithesis of motivation.

 This started the journey for Dr. E to start developing new skills on speaking, on mentoring, on storytelling.  This PR focused approach was pivotal promoting the book, but more importantly, this effort helped expose her great techniques at mass.  

 Any nervousness she may have had at the beginning faded quickly as she’s traveled the world and has spoken on countless programs from Good Morning America, The Today Show and many, many more.  In fact, Shaquille O’Neal even calls Dr. E his “Head coach for happiness.”

The Red Zones

“Why do good people sometimes do bad things” is a question that had been plaguing Dr. E for quite some time.  What started as an internal reflective question became more of a societal question at large.    The desire to answer this question is what led to Dr. E’s most recent book, “The Red Zone”.

When we as humans experience high levels of stress we find ourselves in the Red Zone.  To visualize this think of a plane with zen on one end and total stress on the other.  When you get to 7, 8, 9 or 10 our brains enter the red zone that literally changes the biology in how we think.

 In short, we don’t approach situations with broad rounded reasoning able to judiciously evaluate the pros and cons as we normally would do in the green zone.  When we enter the red zone we tend to look at everything negatively.  

 Psychologist call this negative filtering.  Biologically, your limbic system is taking over in the “flight or fight” mode that historically saved us through evolution.  When you’re a caveman, living in a …cave, and you hear a twig snapping in the middle of the night it’s ideal to think the worst, because if you don’t there’s a good chance you might not live to see tomorrow.

 As we evolved as humans so too did the sources of our stresses.  The immediate fear of hearing that twig snap in the middle of the night has been replaced with long drawn-out stresses like the struggle of a job, challenges in personal relationships, or say a global pandemic lasting years.  These longer-term stresses can still have crippling effects which will often leave people stuck in the red zone for prolonged periods without them even realizing it.

 The longer you’re in the red zone, the longer you view the world through a black cloud.  So how do you get out of the red zone?

Getting out of The Red Zone

First step, just ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10 what is my level of distress?  In order to reapproach things you have to first understand where you’re at so Dr. E actually recommends that people set a regular reminder on their phone so they can self-assess.

Another tactic you can use is to start becoming aware of emotions you don’t like.  The second thing to focus on is our physical state.  It could be a tight neck, it could be a nervous stomach, etc.  The third thing to focus on is behaviors you don’t like.  Essentially, are you doing something that you want to do or are you avoiding things?

 Once you notice your emotional and physical states, and where you are on the distress scale you can begin to prevent yourself from actually going into the red zone which is important.  Because once you enter the red zone, the “normal” ways of pragmatic thinking begin to deteriorate.  So you actually need a new set of tools to get yourself out of the red zone.

 Dr. E then goes into ways that we can rewire our approach that in essence is based on the power we give to events vs. what those events actually are.

H.E.L.M. Principle

When you find yourself in the red zone you can use the HELM Principle to get out. “H” stands for HALT, specifically your mouth.  When you’re frustrated it’s best for you to keep your thoughts internal until you can find some rationality.  

“E” stands for exercise.  It’s not that you need to go to the gym, but you can do jumping jacks for 60 seconds or do a quick set of push-ups.  That physicality can be enough to quickly get you out of the red zone.

 “L” stands for laughter.  Laughter is a great disruptor, but can be difficult to conjur up in a red zone moment.  If in doubt, grab your phone or computer and pull up some short funny videos.  Humor can help to release natural chemicals in the brain that can positively enhance your mood.

 “M” stands for music.  You know when you hear those songs that instantly transport you to another time?  Dr. E recommends that you actually have a go-to music playlist on your phone so at a moment’s notice you can quickly mitigate your red zone moment.  Bonus points if you find yourself dancing to the music so you’re getting some exercise too!

 It’s not that any of these, or a combination of these will make everything instantly better, however, they can just be enough to get you out of the red zone.  Once out you’ll find yourself having more rational thinking, which in itself will help to remedy the situation you find yourself in.

Mental Health Stigmas

If someone hears “physical health” we often think of diet and excercise or getting the sleep that we need.  In short we immediately think of things that can make our physical health better.  However, when we hear mental health we tend to think of the negative aspects from depression, anxiety, etc..  So how can we as leaders reapproach the topic of mental health

Let’s look at the data.  Harvard research shows that people in the green zone are 31% more productive and they have an increase in sales of 38%.  So the question is why wouldn’t you put focus and energy trying to help your teams stay in the green zone.

 Dr. E shares a story from a client that starts every meeting by asking their employees on where they are on the distress scale.  If someone is in the red zone she reschedules the meeting for a later time so that the employee can be in a better state of mind.  As a result, the message that’s being sent to each person, and the organization at large are that you matter.  This leads to better productivity individually and creates a better corporate culture.

Dr. E’s Recommendation:

Podcast: : Dr. Joe Dispenza

Favorite Books:  59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman

Pizza: Mushroom & Articoke

Goal Setting and Persurverience

Very early on in her career, Dr. E’s aspirational goal was to become a guest on the Today Show.  What she learned quickly is that to get noticed you don’t focus on the on-air talent, rather you focus the producers behind the scenes.

What I love though is that Dr. E pitched story ideas over and over for two years before she got her first reply.  This is where your “why” really  comes into play.  As Dr. E says, when you really take the time to listen to yourself, and your truly passionate then you need to stay true to that.

 Getting on the Today Show though isn’t enough anymore.  You have to be prepared to leverage these kind of big opportunities by maximizing their reach.  Specifically through social media which can significantly.

Final Thoughts

Dr. E comes across as one of the most enthusiastic people that I’ve ever met.  She is literally the kind of person you’d want by your side when crisis strikes because her personality is definitely glass-half full.  Her positivity is so strong that one might question if its just an act.  However, it’s her passion to make the world a better place that is personally helping her through a difficult journey.

Approximately 7 years ago, the love of her life was diagnosed with ALS.  For the past 5 years her husband has been paralized on a ventilator requiring 24/7 care.  Dr. E has served as his primary care giver which can be incredibly taxing, but she is literally using the tools she shared throughout this interview to help her.

 No matter what challenges you face you can overcome things.  In psychology they call it problem focus vs. emotional focus.  It’s good to try and solve the problem, but it’s important to focus on how you let those problems impact your life.

 We hope you enjoyed Dr. E’s interview and hope that it helps to propel you and your business forward!

“I encourage everyone out there, whatever is going on in your business or personal life, you can make positive changes”

Elizabeth Lombardo

Gina Mollicone-Long

Connect with Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo