Join business strategist Tina Tower as she explores how to build your empire by packaging your expertise into online courses, speaking, content, podcasting and credibility.

Tina has over 17 years of experience in starting, building and selling companies, she's a speaker, teacher, mama and world traveller.

She's unapologetic about living an intentionally big life and if you want too, this show is designed to show you many different options to help you gain clarity over YOUR version of awesome.




  • Habits and their role in achieving long-term goals

  • Habits and their impact on sustainability

  • Habits, willpower, and self-control, with a focus on exercise, sleep, and phone use

  • Sleep habits and daily routines for productivity and creativity

  • Rewiring the brain to overcome trauma and past conditioning

  • Overcoming trauma and building self-compassion through habits and therapy
  • Overcoming negative bias and focusing on positivity



You know some conversations you have and you just love? I got off this conversation with Dr Gina Cleo with a big smile on my face. What a wonderful, smart, beautiful human!

In this episode I ask Gina about how we create habits that last. Whether our success in having the habits we want comes from will power, motivation, or something else.

We talk about the difference between the reflexive and reflective part of the brain.

I am sharing my experiment with being my best self and why it failed.

Gina kindly shared one of the worst moments of her life and how she managed to harness all of the knowledge she’d gained about good habits to rebuild her life and come through to the other side stronger and happier.

Dr. Gina Cleo is one of the world‚Äôs leading experts in habits and is passionate about translating scientific evidence into simple, actionable strategies to help improve health, wellness, mindset, and lifestyle-related habits ‚Äď long-term. Gina has a PhD in habit change, is an Adjunct Professor at Bond University and an
Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

Gina’s habit change research has been published in medical journals globally and she has appeared for over 250 news outlets including many of Australian’s major television networks; ABC News, Today Show & Studio 10. She is also a regular keynote speaker and expert panellist at national and international

When she‚Äôs not geeking out on new habit research, Gina is running courses through her Habit Change Institute and obsessing over chai lattes. She has also recently published a book, ‚ÄėThe Habit Revolution‚Äô.

It’s a good one!


Where to find Dr. Gina Cleo

Website here

Instagram here

Get Gina's FREE Habit Change Masterclass here

Want more?

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Show transcription 


Tina Tower  0:00  

Hi, friend and welcome to episode 246 of her Empire Builder show. You know you have some conversations and you just love it. I got off this conversation with Dr. Gina Cleo with a big, big smile on my face. I mean, she is such a wonderful, smart, beautiful human. I did not know her very well, especially personally, we've never spoken to each other before. I've just admired her work from afar with her book and with her social media, and kind of was on the periphery. And this is why I love podcasting. The writer gives you such permission to have super cool conversations with really awesome humans, and I love her. In this episode, I asked Gina about how we create habits that last, whether our success in having the habits we want comes from willpower, motivation or something else. We talk about the difference between the reflexive and the reflective part of the brain. I am sharing my experiment that I did a couple of years ago about when I tried to be like my actual best self and went from zero to hero and why that failed. And Gina kindly shared one of the worst moments of her life and how she's managed to harness all of the knowledge that she'd gained about good habits to rebuild her life and come through to the other side stronger and happier. So if you don't know Gina yet, Dr. Gina Cleo is one of the world's leading experts in habits and is passionate about translating scientific evidence into simple, actionable strategies to help improve health, wellness mindset and lifestyle related habits long term. Gina has a PhD in habit change as an adjunct professor at Bond University and an accredited practicing dietitian, Gina's habit change research has been published in medical journals globally. And she has appeared for over 250 news outlets including many of Australia's major television networks like ABC News, The Today Show and studio 10. She's also a regular keynote speaker and expert panelists at national and international conferences. When she's not geeking out on new habit research, Gina is running courses through her habit change Institute and obsessing over Chai lattes. She also has recently published her book The Habit revolution, which is fantastic. I know you're gonna love this episode, I think we could all do with paying attention to habits that we have that we maybe want to stop and habits that we want to adopt into our life that have maybe been hard. And we want to know how we can make that lasting change so that we can live better and more joyfully. So you're gonna love this conversation. It's a good one here. She is Dr. Gina clear. Hello, and welcome to her empire builders Show. I'm your business strategist and host Tina tower. And I am so happy you are here. My goal with this show is to bring you inspirational and informative conversations with interesting humans as well as the tools, tips and resources to help you build your online business. Since starting my first business at 20, I have built and sold four times and in 2018. While traveling around the world with my family for a year, I tripped and fell into this wonderful world of online courses and I instantly fell in love. I'm a million dollar cost creator, a world traveler, best selling author, a mother of two men, children and a lucky wife. There's no playing small here, it's your time to grow to run a highly profitable business that makes you wildly wealthy, while you positively impact your clients and the world around you and have the life you've always dreamed of. Let's get it. Dr. Gina clear. Welcome to her empire builders show.


Gina Cleo  4:02  

So good to be with you, Tina. Yay.


Tina Tower  4:05  

Um, okay, so I was saying before we hit record, like one of the reasons why I really wanted you on was I was talking about habits and I was talking about high performance and different things. And four people mentioned you to me within the span of one month, which is always such a sign that you're like getting a great cut through and putting out really, really great stuff. So people are saying, I always wonder like, what do people say about you when you're not around? People are saying wonderful things about you. Oh,


Gina Cleo  4:32  

Thank you so much. And thank you to all those people, whoever you are.


Main Episode

Tina Tower  4:38  

It's always nice to hear. Okay, so at the start of your career, you were focusing a lot on the diet world. How has that changed for you and how did you kind of lock into this whole area of habits because reading about your early work and where you started you could have gone in many different areas. How did you get into this like I'm gonna focus on habits and devote A good portion of your life to it.


Gina Cleo  5:02  

Yeah, so I was a dietician. And yeah, I was helping people to do all sorts of things, whether it was gain weight, reduce weight, depending on their health. And I found that I could only help people short term, like, people would come back to my clinic. And they'd be like, Look, I did this for a couple of days, I did this for a week, and then I fell off the wagon. And it was a consistent pattern. And I also reflected on my own life. And notice that I was also struggling with my own sense of lacking self control, lacking discipline. And I was like, why is it that I say I'm gonna get up in the morning and do some exercise. And I ended up scrolling on Facebook marketplace for two hours? Or they say, I'm going to start this diet, and I don't like what is going on. And so I started to do some research about the brain and the motivation and what motivates us to do the things we do. And how can I be honest, those good days? Like, what's the ingredient in the good days? Yeah, that I can like, implement. And the more I researched, the more I found that habits are the only proven method to achieving our goals long term, it's the only proven method, nothing else works long term for any behavior change. And that was it. So I started my PhD in habits, I actually did a bunch of excellent experiments, because like, you can read something in science, but until you actually implement it yourself and see it for yourself. Yeah, to me. Anyway, that's what I needed to really solidify this theory.


Tina Tower  6:33  

So experiment wise, what was the hardest habit for you to either break or make that was important to you?


Gina Cleo  6:42  

Oh, that's a good question. I think the hardest habits are generally mindset stuff, and changing. Because often we think of habits, and we think of things like smoking or drinking or exercising. But our habits aren't just actions. They're also our belief systems. They're how we respond to things. So I think the hardest habits are the ones where I might have a belief about something like say, I feel insecure about this thing. And I'm trying to change my mindset around that. I think those are the hardest habits actually, to change. Yeah.


Tina Tower  7:18  

Yeah. I'm like thinking as you're as you're talking that going? Yes, I do think that as well. Because in the pursuit of, you know, long term goals that we have. And for most of us, I mean, most people that are listening to this podcast now are highly ambitious, high achieving, business, women, and so all have long term goals. But what I see so much is that we have long term goals. But if those small habits don't change, we can never actually get there. What do you see as the daily habits, and how much of that contributes to the achievement of that long term goal? If it's for something that you've you've never done before, and you've never been that person before? Oh,


Gina Cleo  8:02  

I mean, Vincent van Goff puts this great quote together. And it was great that things are achieved by a series of small actions put together. And I'm such a big believer of that. It's about the little things, I think we very often overestimate the big, like grand actions or decisions, when really the magic happens in the little moments. Yeah, decision to whatever it was like pay one small amount towards one debt. It's calling one person that you've been avoiding. It's making one healthy choice in a meal or going to bed 10 minutes earlier. It's those little things compounded and done consistently, that create the magic. And there's, there's two sides of this, because I feel like as a high achiever, it can be really hard to appreciate that concept and actually do it. Because we just want to achieve everything like yesterday. Yeah, totally. Telling someone to take baby steps. Sounds so tedious and like not a fun time at all. Whereas on the other end, it's the only way we can achieve something sustainably. And we know that through lots of research and also trial and error. Yeah, yeah, there's so why


Tina Tower  9:14  

Do you think we find it so hard? To do the thing that we want to do so that we can be the person we want to be, it's been when you're talking at the beginning about the different diets and different things like I've dieted every diet, most of my life, and it is really, really difficult. And I'm someone with a hell of a lot of willpower and a hell of a lot of discipline. So why do we find it so hard? Change


Gina Cleo  9:37  

is hard. Our brain doesn't like change. You know, we're very comfortable in our familiarity, even if that familiarity isn't serving us. We make about 35,000 decisions every single day. And so our brain has to automate a lot of those decisions so that we don't go into burnout. So things that you do all the time, your brains like right, I'm going to automate that. As those become habits, and then making a change, you're now disrupting the flow of, of that rhythm that you already have and your brains like, whoa, change means extra energy, extra thought, extra resources, like, I'm over here trying to make 35,000 decisions. And now you're wanting to make all these changes. Like, that's not cool. So change is hard, I think. And I think as well, we're given so many messages in society, like go hard or go home or you 're not big enough and rubbish, things like that, I swear. And next time I walk into a gym, and I see something like that on the blackboard, they have that I'm going to break it.


Tina Tower  10:42  

Oscar and Right, no,


Gina Cleo  10:44  

not true. Yeah, here's my website for more details. But when we sort of are told that unless we're giving something 100%, then we're not really that committed. And that's not sustainable, and motivation. Everybody's motivation is like a wave. It's up and down from day to day, from moment to moment. And if we're trying to achieve big things, we're having to have loads of motivation, and it's not sustainable to do it like that.


Tina Tower  11:12  

So what is the sustainable way to be able to do it? Well, when you think of


Gina Cleo  11:17  

habits, cause it doesn't need motivation, willpower or self control. No matter how tired or stressed or busy you are, you will always put your seatbelt on in the car, because it's something that you do habitually. And in the same way, if we can create a life that's filled with the effective habits, the positive habits for us, that is how we create sustainability, and that longevity of behaviors.


Tina Tower  11:46  

So if someone's in there, I'm going to tell you something that I thought, you know, you'll probably laugh or roll your eyes a little bit about me when I tell you this story. But I am very much into experimenting with myself as well, and trying to get the best out of life and different things. So I did this experiment about like, I don't know, five years ago now, that was my year of actual best self. And I thought if I was going to be my actual best self, what is every habit that I would embody? And I wouldn't drink alcohol, I wouldn't drink caffeine, I wouldn't bite my nails. When I was nervous, I would get out of bed at this time, I would work out for 20 minutes every morning, I had like 15 of these things. And I decided to start all of them at one time.


Gina Cleo  12:29  

Of course, high achiever and go okay,


Tina Tower  12:32  

like, can I just reinvent my whole life and be my actual best self, which lasted about 16 weeks? I was actually quite impressed. Yeah, I was quite impressed. But everything that I'd read said, you know, habits take 28 days or 30 days or something like that, which did not ring true for me. With different things like that, and all the research that you have done, is it best? And do we get momentum from stacking and going? Okay, we've done one thing and gives us the confidence to do the next thing and one at a time? Or is it like white knuckle it through it and be who you want to be like, where did I go wrong there? And what can people learn from my failed experiment?


Gina Cleo 13:11  

There's so much juicy things to talk about here. Firstly, 16 weeks is amazing. You should be so proud of yourself. I think the track record was only like two weeks with a kind of a list of bigger things to do. Well, firstly, our brain is only capable of making up to three changes at one time. Anything more than that starts to feel like a chore. It's quite overwhelming. And when life does life and throws something at us, those things start to fall away and the habits that we're trying to create fall away. The research shows that actually just trying to change one thing at a time is much more effective than trying to change multiple things. And then once that starts to feel more automatic, like a more natural part of your routine, then add another one and use that pattern. You say where did I go wrong? And I'm like, did you go wrong with weeks? That's


Tina Tower  14:03  

amazing. Yeah, but it didn't stick, so now I go. So my last plan was to go okay, I'm going to do one every 12 weeks because I thought that would be more achievable. So I stopped drinking alcohol in December of 2022. And then that was going to be 12 weeks and then stopped drinking caffeine. It took me a year later to stop drinking caffeine. So I've maintained it now. It's been, what, five months, six months, with no caffeine and a year and a half of I have no alcohol except I have a beautiful cocktail when I go out to dinner with friends. That's my thing. But that took me way longer than I thought. But now I feel like because I staggered it. It's like it's just part of my day now and I can't ever imagine a couple of years ago not waking up and having a beautiful coffee like that. Yeah.


Gina Cleo  14:52  

I mean it takes people say 21 days or 20 days. There's absolutely no research at all. No Oh, unfortunately, but think about it, Tina, like if something took three or four weeks to achieve, I feel like we would all be perfect and being


Tina Tower  15:06  

we won't be Yeah, we can stick to anything for that time. Yeah, anything for


Gina Cleo  15:11  

that time. But actually, the harder the habit is that you're trying to change, and the more ingrained it is in your life. And, you know, there's a whole bunch of factors. But basically, it can take anywhere up to a year to change a habit, it can take two weeks for really easy habits. So some of the studies show things like teaching someone to wash their hands at a specific time will take like two weeks for them to automate that. Whereas getting someone to go to the gym several times a week took about seven months in the study, because the act of going to the gym, there's a lot more sequences in that than just the same with having a glass of water with breakfast took like three weeks to develop, compared to doing 50 pushups, which took about a year, because that's a really complex thing to automate. Yeah, interesting. So simple habits are going to develop much quicker than those more complex ones. Also, the other factor here is how badly you want it, the stronger our intention, the change, the quicker that change will happen. Because it's like, I want this and so you become more consistent. you persevere through hard times, you're more focused on it, you're more mindful about it. So you gotta want it quite badly. Yeah.


Tina Tower  16:32  

And is that what keeps you sticking through when you go? Like, is it true that we've run out of all the decisions that we're making decision fatigue at the end of the day? And we actually run out of willpower and discipline? Is that true? Yeah,

Gina Cleo  16:45  

it is, there's actually a concept in psychology called ego depletion. And ego depletion is essentially a term that we give for when our willpower or self control runs out. And the things that deplete it, making decisions, being hungry. So hangry is totally a thing. being stressed, like with time, pressures, time, pressure, or you're rushed, things like driving through traffic, uncomfortable conversations, feeling any sort of negative emotion, sleep deprivation. I mean, taking


Tina Tower  17:20  

normal life is getting in the way of us having great habits,


Gina Cleo  17:23  

Actually, I like to think of getting up deciding what to wear in the morning, driving through traffic, getting the kids ready, then when you get to work a pile of emails, you're pretty depleted already. You have, like your breakfast. Yeah. Yes, our willpower runs out during the day, the things that we can do to replenish it. Things like rest, taking periodic breaks throughout the day, like 10 minutes and every hour meditation, a really good night's sleep, and having some carbohydrates. So that is really helpful and feeling positive emotions, like gratitude, and love and joy, those things help to replenish our self control. Which is why at the end of the day, we might find it harder to have self control than it is in the earlier parts today.


Tina Tower  18:10  

So are there any hacks that you have, if I use something simple, like the example you gave before of doing the 50 push ups, and you're like, I'm tired, I don't wander and we're behaving like a petulant toddler. And no, but it is important. And we do want all of the things that come with it. What are the hacks you have to stick to the habit when you're like on the cusp of giving it up? Yeah,


Gina Cleo  18:30  

I think make it really easy for yourself to just start, whether that's like, you know, if it's working out, for example, like have all your stuff out and ready and book into a gym class so that you can't just drop out of it. Or if it's sending that Lemoore email, like say to yourself, if I send this email, then I can watch TV for an hour like you. Like, giving yourself those instant rewards, I think is really helpful. Or stacking things with things that you enjoy. So I was working with someone recently who wanted to do some more exercise. And I was like, Alright, when you're on the treadmill, or bike or whatever it is, that's when you can watch like the most guilty pleasure show that you Yeah. And they're like, yes, I want to catch up on all these shows. And so they got to do that. And did it much more willingly because they gotta stack it with something else that's called reward, bundling. Attaching something you want to do with the thing that you kind of don't really want to do. Remember why you started Why is it so important for you to remind yourself change is hard. But the more you do it, the more habitual it will be. And then the easier it will be. So when you do it today, you're going to make it easier for yourself tomorrow and easier again, the following day and the day after that. Like you said with your coffee. Like you never thought you couldn't do it in the first few days, I'm sure it would have been a challenge. Yeah. Now it's much easier for you. Yeah.


Tina Tower  19:56  

Oh, especially with coffee. was more sudden, and then it got really easy. Whereas alcohol took me a long time to habitually get out of going, you know, hard day, glass of wine, great day, celebrate with a glass of wine. All of the different things like the amount of time I didn't realize how many things I had associated with it. So that was probably much harder in getting out of that habit of doing it. But is that like the Noma? Is it like a no muscle that when you say no more often, it does get easier in doing that over time?


Gina Cleo  20:33  

Yeah, it's more that the less you do something, the less habitual it becomes. And actually, then the less reward your brain gets from it. So before and you'd have a glass of wine, like you feel good. And not only you're getting a hit of dopamine, you're doing something that's normal for you. And remember, our brain really likes the familiarity of the comfort of that normality. Yeah. The more you say no, the more no becomes a bit more of the normal. And then eventually, no is your default. Yeah, it's more like the practice of it makes it permanent. Yeah.


Tina Tower  21:09  

Is there a habit that you talk to people about? Most often that you think this is one that I know would change the game for a lot of people but so many people struggle with it?


Gina Cleo  21:21  

The most reported unwanted habit is phones. 


Tina Tower  21:25  

I when I was


Gina Cleo  21:28  

Yeah, most people say that. And every age group says the thing that they struggle with the most. But I think the habit that would impact people the most is getting a better night's sleep. Sleep is everything. Yes. And the foundation of everything. And I think we're going to bed too late because we're scrolling. And we're snoozing, because we're tired from the night before. Because those are the other two most unwanted habits: Susy your alarm and going to bed too late.


Tina Tower  22:00  

Sleep is like my superpower. I wear an aura ring. And I have an eight sleep. Have you seen the eight sleep? Yeah. Which has like changed my sleep game completely. I just think I sacrificed everything for sleep. I had dinner with a bunch of girlfriends past weekend, and I made the dinner at 6pm. And everyone was laughing at me going it's like a Nana time. And I'm good. That's because I need to be back in bed by nine.


Gina Cleo  22:24  

I have exactly the same.


Tina Tower  22:28  

Yeah, when we ran our conference, like all of the dinners too early. So we finished the latest one at 10pm. So I'm going to personally need to go to bed. You can party if you want to. But nothing is worth it like the lack of sleep. In my mind. Yeah,


Gina Cleo  22:43  

people come over for dinner. They know they're getting kicked out. Like I literally say that uncomfortably now. But you have to leave by 830. Because yeah, that time Yeah, it's actually the reason why I don't really drink a lot of alcohol now as well is because it impacts my sleep so much. So I really, really love to have a glass of wine after a B day. The reason I don't is because it impacts my sleep. And I value sleep more than I value wine. Yes.


Tina Tower  23:11  

Yeah, that was the same way. My aura ring was telling me all of the different stuff. I'm a data girl. So all of the different stats, and then I was measuring how different things impacted and I was going oh, yeah, this is not good. Yeah, totally. What besides sleep? What is a daily habit that you think has totally changed everything for you that you've adopted? Since you've gone into habit research?


Gina Cleo  23:37  

Yes. It's like lots of little things. Yeah, like one big thing.


Tina Tower  23:42  

Are you actually the best self person with your habits?


Gina Cleo  23:46  

Some days? Yes. Yeah, time of month. Depending on how busy I am depends on motivation. Sometimes I'm just like, I'm killing it at life like this is awesome. And other days, I'm like, Oh, I'm just gonna watch reruns of funnel once in a life and the more I learn about the brain, the more it's shaped my behavior and my day. And actually I find the less it becomes this conventional nine to five type of work day. And I'm accepting that more and more and actually really loving it. But I find that the days I do some exercise, I focus so much better. And I'm just like a way happier me. So say I'm doing a keynote presentation, or I'm doing a webinar or even a podcast, I will make sure that I do some exercise in the morning so that I can bring my best self to those days. And I do even if I'm not like presenting. Yeah, but on those days that I definitely particularly do it. I'm also much better now at taking risks, like breaks throughout the day. It's not natural for me like when I was writing my book. I was just like, I wanted to sit and write for eight hours a day. Yeah. But then I found out the next day I was a veggie. Suppose I had nothing. And the more I learned about the brain again, the more I realized that actually those periodic breaks fuel creativity, they give us more energy, I'm going to be more productive, even though I don't want to walk away from my computer. So I'm really good at doing those things now. And finishing work, like not just for bed, because that impacts my sleep. So I cut off, I won't ever work after 4:30pm. As soon as I finish, I have a ritual of taking my dog to the dog park. So we're in nature, and I'm walking. And that marks the end of my work day. And after that, you won't be able to contact me.


Tina Tower  25:41  

Yeah, that's fantastic.


Gina Cleo 25:42  

Little yawns, things that just make the flow of my day, a lot more productive. And yeah, yeah,


Tina Tower  25:50  

It's something I've started doing every, every hour, having the 10 to 15 minutes off, and I've got my meditation station just over at the side, and I've put a treadmill in to just walk for like, 10 minutes only. But I'm really battling with the difference between going to the benefits of taking a break. And you know, I'm not as tired by the end of the day. But then you kind of balance that with the loss of focus, and going I loss of flow when you're halfway through something and the alarm will go off. And I'm like, what already, it just started. And because my thing is like I could, I could never look up, I could just just keep going all day. And so I constantly battle with those two things and go, should I stay in flow? Should I take a break? Yeah, it's


Gina Cleo  26:36  

hard. I know what you mean, I definitely cheat through that, where I don't break so much in the first half of the day. But then after lunch, then I'm much better at breaking because I find my focus in the morning. Like don't break it. Seriously. I work from home when my husband comes in to say anything, like I'm going out to the shops or whatever. I'm like, I did not need to know that it takes me because I will check my phone when I want to not disrupt my flow. Really, really stay true to that. Yeah, the flow. I think I personally think if you're in flow, keep going. Because it takes 20 minutes to get back into flow once you disrupt it out in a minute. Yeah.


Tina Tower  27:15  

What is the habit that you have that is the one you want to break the most like that you do, but you kind of grumble bum your way to end?


Gina Cleo  27:27  

Oh, this isn't good. Ah, I won't have habits. I I want to do more. Rob? Oh, yeah. Look, I'm not very good at posting on my social media. I know. It sounds like such a business issue. And it is.


Tina Tower  27:44  

I'm sure a lot of people can relate. Yeah, I could


Gina Cleo  27:47  

go on forever and never check my socials. I don't enjoy scrolling. I don't like being there. And I'm so tempted to say that because I also want to engage with my followers. And I really like when I'm engaging. I think just the act of it sometimes feels overwhelming. Yeah. And feels like and it's


Tina Tower  28:06  

a very weird, unnatural thing to do as well. Yeah,


Gina Cleo  28:10  

I know. And it's also just that we're talking about ourselves that much. I mean, why do you, why do people care about that? I don't know. I think that's something like I'm very hot and cold with it. I'll be really good for like, a week and I'll press every day and then I'll go MIA for two weeks. I'm like, I really gotta grind my way into getting back into it. Yeah, he's that kind of


Tina Tower  28:32  

Yeah, Dad's Yeah, yeah, cuz I'm always interested in what people find easy and what people find hard, because it's so different for everybody my habit for the day, because Instagram stories are where so much of my conversations and engagement comes into it. And so my habit was as soon as I walk into my office in the morning, before I do anything, 60 seconds is just an Instagram story of what I'm doing in the day. And that's it, then it's done. Then there's the data. You can use that one, Tina? Yeah. I like that. Thank


Gina Cleo 29:01  

you. Oh, my gosh, I love this. It's like


Tina Tower  29:03  

I needed that tweak. Otherwise, throughout the day I go, What have I got to say? I don't know if I've got anything like it, it was just like when I walk in you just 60 seconds, hold the phone up, say nothing. And then I'm done. Yeah, well, I


Gina Cleo 29:16  

like that. Oh, yeah. Yeah, we


Tina Tower  29:19  

are. Yeah. Can you because so much? And you mentioned this in the beginning that so much of our habits is actually what's going on mentally, behind the scenes and our thoughts and beliefs and those behavior patterns that we have? Is it possible to rewire your brain to overcome that conditioning and trauma from your past?


Gina Cleo  29:38  

Absolutely. Our brains. We underestimate our brains so much. Our brains are designed to rewire to reshape to recreate themselves and brains are constantly creating new neural connections and they're getting rid of old unused ones. And I can certainly testify to the power of reshaping things, or reframing thoughts around trauma. You know, I went through a really traumatic event a few years ago where I couldn't even leave my own house like I developed Agra phobia. And I was terrified of everything. And have you


Tina Tower  30:14  

come up then? Was that COVID sided? No,


Gina Cleo  30:18  

it was actually, my ex husband, I discovered was cheating on me. And he was going to brothels and hiring escorts. And the way I found out was, No, I was in the kitchen baking. And I flicked his computer open to check a recipe and his phone was attached to his computer. And he was at the shops. And this text message exchange came through between him and a prostitute that he was just about. Horrifying, it was awful. And you know, she was sending photos, and I discovered hundreds more. And why it was particularly so traumatic is because this man I was with was, you know, his nickname was the saint. He was just the most beautiful, kind, gentle, vanilla human being like, never in my life. I was literally like, no, he would not be capable of even knowing where to go. But there was this entire world. That is a whole other world in his life. And I didn't know about it. So I was like, if I'm so wrong about him, what else am I so wrong about? So my mind cracked like the sky and blue? Are these people who claim to be my parents, even my parents? Should we even brush our teeth every day? I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. And so this fear response to COVID me and everything that reminded me of him triggered my trauma. Like, oh my god, the smell of massage oil. There, his ringtone, the smell of coffee, Sheridan sheets, because that's what we slept on black cars. And it was just everything that triggered me. So I couldn't leave my house. And I had to rewire my belief systems, my trauma triggers I had to otherwise I couldn't survive in the world. And, gosh, it was a journey. Yeah, now I'm remarried not to the same guy. Sorry, you know, there's so much space for trust and vulnerability in my relationship that I didn't ever ever think that I could get to, only through rewiring those deep belief systems that I could achieve that. So when


Tina Tower  32:24  

you're in that part, when you're in, you know, a pretty bad way. What did you start with, to rebuild?


Gina Cleo  32:31  

I started with Decina. I think today, it's probably a good idea that you brush your teeth, just do that. And that's all you need to do. And I did just that. And then I was in bed for the rest of the day. And then the next day, I was like, Okay, today, brush your teeth again, and have a shower. And that's all you need to do today. And that's what I do. It was baby steps. When leaving my house, it was just to take one step outside the front door, and just sit with that discomfort for a minute, and come back outside. And that's what I did. It took me like a week to get out of my letterbox. But after that, I got curious about what was down the road and around the corner. And I was able to just really gradually experience the world again and find that I was safe. And it was okay. Yeah,


Tina Tower  33:18  

I'm with you. Like, obviously, both of us are surrounded by high achieving women, a lot of our lives and you were a very high achieving woman at that stage already. Were you more patient with yourself because you knew the data in there? Or were you hard on yourself? Because you were thinking, you know, I shouldn't be in this position, or a lot of women that I talk to that get big life curve balls thrown at them and getting into these situations is so hard on themselves. And so that can be really hard to overcome. Did you go through that or you knew what was going on? intellectually?


Gina Cleo 33:53  

We're both, you know, Slater, between those two things. It's the ego in me that wants to achieve everything now. And logic tells me that your brain is different. You need to stop, but also the circumstance of really not feeling like I had the capacity to do more than I was doing. Yeah, but the first time I went back to the gym was a couple of months later. And I was so much weaker. I was so deconditioned and I was so down on myself about it. And then I was like, Okay, I need some compassion here. Otherwise, I'm not going to be able to achieve anything. I couldn't focus. I couldn't even drive my car for a long time. I couldn't even go to the grocery store. I had to celebrate all the little wins to keep myself going. But yes, it sucked. And I was like, why can't I be the person I was yesterday before. And I had to keep reminding myself. I didn't have any trauma yesterday. This was a different version of me. And I have to build my way up again. Yeah. So I oscillate. You know what I still struggle there are still All times like, you know, my husband now like, drop his phone quickly if I walk through the room, and my mind is like, oh, yeah, the


Tina Tower  35:07  

trust issues like you've done? Well to go like a few years later, you're remarried. I'm like, that's some trust building. You've done that. Yeah.


Gina Cleo  35:15  

Oh, yeah, we worked super hard at it. Yeah. Didn't come naturally. But my fear response is, What's he looking at? And I have to work through that. And look, most of the time he's looking at stocks, or something like that. But I'll say to him, the story that I'm telling myself is this. And we work through that. And he's really good at reassuring me. But I get annoyed at myself for still having those responses on like, it pisses me off. You know, the old Gina who had this innocent vulnerability, you know, I was just so innocent and like, not exposed to some of the darkness in the world. Yeah, I missed that version of me. Yeah. But at the same time, I think it's beautiful to have, like, be in touch with that intuition. And, yeah, you know, what, I am a different version of me, but I am so much stronger, and I'm so much happier, and, and it's okay, like, some of the parts I miss are gone. Maybe there are other parts that would never be there had I not been through that.


Tina Tower  36:18  

Totally, I love that. And I love the way that you talk to yourself with that as well. So to maintain that self compassion, because obviously, you've had to do that a lot by coming through what you've gone through, but also just with how you live your daily life, and also just getting a PhD, as well. Even that is ginormous in terms of what you can bite off, like with self compassion, and having that are there certain things that you tell yourself that can be helpful to other people to know or are certain habits that you have to maintain that level of self compassion?


Gina Cleo  36:51  

You know, I think the more I talk to people about behavior and the things that they want to change in their life, the more I realize how similar we all are, yeah, we all share such a real human experience. And, you know, I've run this particular survey with 1000s of Australians from all walks of life, and they all report the same unwanted habits, everybody. And so I come back to that of, you know, I will always strive for perfection. It's in my nature to do that. But I'm doing okay. I think that's what I constantly say to myself, Gina, you're doing okay. It's, it's okay. If, if you need to, like being on the couch and watching fun moments of life all day. That's okay. Because yesterday, you freaking killed it. So it's okay. And I think bouncing it off other people has been really helpful for me as well. Like, my best friends and my husband say, like, I'm getting these thoughts. And sometimes it's really validating to, you know, hear what someone else thinks. And sometimes they slap me across the face. Me: Like, are you kidding? Like, do you realize how much you got done this week? Like, chill out? It's all right. Yeah. So I think yeah, those conversations are really helpful for me. Yeah.


Tina Tower  38:05  

I love that. So with everyone wanting to, you know, improve and be the best version of themselves. You have a free habits course going on. But how else can people work with you? And how are you engaging with people to share this now?


Gina Cleo  38:20  

So I've written a book called The Habit revolution. It's available on paperback, audible and Kindle. So grab that it's got so much of the juicy like how tos, it's a real like, guide it handhold you through it. I also run. Yeah, habit changed horses. I've got two different courses, one for everyday people wanting to understand a bit more about their own habits and really make meaningful changes. I've also got a course called the habit practitioner course, which is for anyone who's already a coach or a manager who's or works with other people, and they are interested in becoming a certified habit coach. So that is also available online. And then as well. Yeah, thank you. I know I blacked out social media before but jumped on my Instagram. I was just having a low week.


Tina Tower  39:12  

I think everybody has a love not a love hate relationship with it. But it's such a beautiful way to connect with people. I have made great friends that I met on Instagram which I would never have thought that that was possible but like real life quality friends and keep connected with everyone but it's also can get real weird on there. And then you know, it's very salesy and can be manipulative, and it's filled with grossness and all the darkness of the world that it's it's very Yeah, I have very mixed feelings about social media authors, I get it I think everybody does. Yeah,

Gina Cleo  39:45  

It's true. And I think as well from a habit perspective, because it is the number one reported unwanted habit. Sometimes I feel that I'm feeding the problem. And I'm not because if I wasn't there, you know, they'd still be scrolling and site there are men To me, but I still can't get behind the idea sometimes, like, I'm contributing to this engagement. I want people to watch my full video. I want, you know, they're watching my stories. But I'm now contributing to the thing. They're telling me they want to do less off. Yeah, that's in


Tina Tower  40:18  

my head is well, you just have like, in your 15 minutes of allocated time today, make sure I am one minute of those.


Gina Cleo  40:26  

And then and that's it. You know, tonight, I come back to the idea of scrolling is not the issue. Our phones are not the problem. It's too much of Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I can recalibrate my thoughts that way. But yeah, it was a very long response to have people get it. Yeah, I love


Tina Tower  40:44  

  1. I love the long responses. It's amazing. So I will link to all of the things and all of your things. You're amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. Our one question I will finish on is what is the one habit that you are not doing at the moment that is in your future that you want to put in? Do you have one?


Gina Cleo  41:03  

Oh, my gosh, these questions, okay. My future


Tina Tower  41:08  

or stop? That is a negative one.


Gina Cleo  41:14  

This is very personal. But I think for me, it's the moment I think someone might be criticizing me. I will hear that over all the wonderful things that people might be saying, like, I think my book has a 4.9 review of 4.9. And I was like, Who is that person? Five?


Tina Tower  41:38  

Yes, yes. That


Gina Cleo  41:40  

is something I want to break. Because when I see other people doing that, I'm like, Are you out of your mind, like 4.9 is solid. But I don't necessarily adopt that either. So you know, I teach it at the university in the same light, we get feedback from students, and I'm winning teaching awards. And but I'm also focusing on the one piece of negative feedback that someone says, Yeah, and I know we carry a negative bias, you know, our brains are wired to do that. But I really want to focus less on that. I want it to impact me less, I want to not notice it. That is what I want to work on. I


Tina Tower  42:15  

100% agree. I used to like the guest coach in somebody's program. And out of all their coaches, I was the top ranked person that they had always got great ones. And then one day, this dude gave me like a three out of 10. And he said that he had a negative visceral response to my voice and my laugh, and he was, anyway, this was years ago and see, I can still tell you what he said, like so bad. I can't tell you anything positive that anybody said. I didn't remember that. But so why don't we have brains that have a negative bias?


Gina Cleo  42:51  

I think it's a protective mechanism. I'm not. It's just nasty. Yeah, it's nasty. And I think even if our brains default to that we shouldn't break it.


Tina Tower  43:03  

No, no blocking. I've got a friend of mine who has no email now because she's quite high up in the online course industry. And so she gets a lot of fan mail and a lot of the opposite of that. She's like, I don't read either of it. I can't take the fan or the negative, there's no positive or negative. I just do my thing. And it's just blinking on.


Gina Cleo  43:24  

Yeah. And I love the idea of closing out the noise. Because I think the more we close out the noise, the more we can just focus on doing what we do. Yeah. Really good at that and not worrying about going hard or going home or what Sally next door is doing. It's like who cares just through you. Yeah, that's cool. Great


Tina Tower  43:44  

message to finish on. Gina, thank you so much for sharing with us. You're fabulous.


Gina Cleo  43:50  

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Great to chat with you.


Tina Tower  43:54  

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