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Chris Schafer talks about how to overcome sorrow and find joy

Jan 20, 2021

When Chris and my path crossed through a mentoring program, Chris’ story touched me deeply and I’m so happy to introduce you to this wonderful man today. Despite everything he and his family has gone through, Chris is a radiant man that has a wonderful take on life and spreads joy wherever he goes. Get ready to be amazed!

Chris is the father of a 15-year-old and happily married for 20 years to his high school sweetheart. «My family brings me a lot of joy». They live in Miami Florida and Chris runs a music school which celebrated its 20st anniversary this year. He also has a digital marketing agency to help other music school owners grow their schools, «bringing the love of music to as many people as we can».

«Learning an instrument can not only be a distraction for so many children but give them some sense of joy and happiness in their lives, it’s something that I’m very passionate about», Chris says and adds: «Putting others first before myself is something that I’m a big believer in and giving back brings me a lot of joy».  

Another thing that brings Chris a lot of peace and happiness is snowboarding. To compensate during lockdown he bought a One Wheeler, which is almost as good, Chris says happily. : )

«Having a conscious effort to create things that bring you happiness is so important», Chris

Chris says that he is a big believer in investing in yourself, a mindset coach, a business coach, someone who is where you want to go, with whom you can accelerate and speed up the process.

Looking back years and years ago, Chris was a free spirit «having maybe too much fun at times», Chris says grinning, just going through life, not having a vision what he wanted to do and what his main goals were.

«The first time I had a thought about this was in high school. At 16 the teacher wrote on the blackboard: What is the meaning of life? He sat down at his desk and for the entire rest of the lesson he didn’t say a word», Chris remembers, and that this single question has literally replayed in his head ever since that day. «I have this replay in my head: Who am I becoming?»

«How am I adding value to those around me? When you start deep diving into what inspires you and what really motivates you and moves you forward, becoming greater, I think you can start breaking down those different things. It doesn’t come easy but I’m always trying to be greater than I was yesterday in one way or the other».

Chris plans the next day at night when he sets a personal intention and business and life goals and he also practices gratitude before going to sleep. «Even when the day was just terrible, spend 10 minutes at night writing down thoughts that you want to get out of your head. I try to come up with at least 3 things that I’m grateful for. Going to bed with those thoughts of gratitude really sets you up for waking up with a positive outlook».

«It’s an important time that we’re all coming together as one», Chris

«Life is a series of feedback loops; Your thoughts dictate your feelings and it’s a circular motion. If you’re having negative thoughts, you’re going to be more of a negative person. You have 80000 thoughts per day and that to me is mind blowing, most of those thoughts were not even conscious. In order to have a more joyful, a happier and more fulfilled life you need to start figuring out: Are my thoughts coming from a primal state or from a positive state. Powerful state is happiness, joy, compassion, gratitude, calm, peace. The primal state is the opposite: stress, anxiety, fear, doubt, overwhelm. I think the right mindset will shift you towards a more powerful state, it will allow you to grow and learn from those things».

«Being outside of your comfort zone, I’m a huge believer of that», Chris

«If we live in this box of our comfort zone, we are never going to grow», Chris

I ask Chris how someone can get out of those negative thought patterns.

«I would focus on what you’re constantly telling yourself. When I do shift to a primal state, I just take a step back and think about how I can shift this over to a powerful state. The more often you do that, you start retraining your thought patterns. We have the capability to dictate our life’s journey, I want to come from that happiness and that powerful state more so than not».

As I know, that Chris is really good in doing this : ) I ask him how he plans.   

* Sunday evening: Planning the next week for about 20 minutes
* End of the month: Mapping out the next month for about 1 hour

«Planning ahead, you’re setting yourself up to succeed», Chris

«I have different buckets like business, personal, family, health and I’ll figure out short-term goals and maybe quarterly goals for business like how I can inspire my team to do certain tasks or goals that we've set to hit or that are going to bring in new clients».

A big question is always, how to start and how not to get overwhelmed by our own goals, I ask Chris how he deals with that.

The answer is that Chris focuses each day on the top three things that are going to move the needle for this day. Chris also likes to break a goal down into smaller junks to avoid the overwhelm. That’s what he did when he decided to do a challenge («way outside my comfort zone») where he runs 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. «I have never done something like that before, so I have set up a plan to train properly, breaking it down into smaller junks».

«Breaking down bigger goals and bigger tasks into smaller chunks and giving yourself enough time to tackle it, sets yourself up to succeed», Chris

Chris’ advice is: Figure out what is a priority, what are those three needle movers and dedicate the majority of your time on those and then tackle the other things.

Chris adds that you have to have fun as well. «A lot of things that bring me joy are simple things, sitting down for 30 minutes and read a good book, take a lot of walks with my wife, setting up tents in the backyard, having a dance party in the kitchen…»

Once Chris starts to feel overwhelmed, he takes a step back and asks himself what’s causing this and how he can shift it into a positive feedback loop. The more you think it through, it’s not going to reoccur as frequently and little by little you’re in this different phase.

Chris says that books like «Atomic Habits» and «Miracle Morning» with the bullet journal method woke him up to realize that he wasn’t planning ahead. «The more you plan the better you are to succeed, start stacking those wins, even when they’re small».

«If we take a step back and appreciate the little wins, that goes a long way to a powerful life and transformation for all of us», Chris

Part of Chris’ morning routine is meditation. He says that it first was awkward but that it over time transformed his life. «It just sets the stage and sets you up to do greater things throughout the day». Chris uses headspace or music and he also does Wim Hof’s breathing techniques. He describes one of them:

Lie down, have your right hand on your stomach and the left hand on your chest. Take about 30 deep breaths, fully in through the nose and out through your mouth, then you hold your breath. «You just be and let everything go, you clear your mind, and you clear your breath. You do 4 or 5 rounds of this. Each round you can hold your breath longer and longer and longer, it’s powerful». Chris also has cold showers in the morning, «that combination really gets the oxygen and the blood flowing, it just starts you off so powerful».

I ask Chris about the benefits of doing breathing technique like the one described.

«It’s settling the body and the mind, once you’re doing the hold it’s just a release of carbon dioxide in your body and so your body is able to naturally hold your breath. When you finally inhale, you’re not grasping for air», Chris answers.

I love the book «Breath» from James Nestor. His main message is: Breath 5.5 seconds in and 5.5 seconds out, always through the nose. I recorded a video about this book, I'll write the link to it below the blog.

Chris tells me another great breathing technique for when you’re stressed: Pause, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and then exhale for 4 seconds, doing that pattern for 4 rounds. «It brings you right back down. In my past I’ve been known to have some hothead moments, going into that really shifts your mindset and thought process».

We both have read the book «Atomic Habits» where «stacking habits» is a big thing.

«I used to wake up 30 minutes before I had to leave the house, rushed into the shower, grabbed a coffee to go and then I was out», Chris remembers. The first thing he did was removing his phone to the other side of the bedroom. «Going through Social Media there was a lot of negative energy right away. Putting the phone on the other end of the room, you have to get up to switch off the alarm». He then turns off the phone, grabs the journal and goes to his «little happy place» to start journaling. After that Chris goes through his day - «what are my 3 needle movers, what am I going to tackle for the week, what are my priorities, in my personal life, in all the different buckets» and after that he turns on the app for meditation. «If I want to work out after that, I put on my workout clothes right in the morning».   

«If you set these things out and you’re intentional about them, then that becomes a powerful priming routine that gets you ready to attack the day», Chris

Chris talks about the tragic loss of his daughter Maddison, that «really shifted my life and my direction and thoughts on how short and how quick this life is». Maddison was 18 months old, when she was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. «It was a year long battle that she had to go through and in the end she lost her life in 2012». Chris says that watching her going through this year of pure hell with multiple surgeries and losing her ability to speak, to see and to walk through the chemo process, but consistently smiling throughout the whole process was inspiring in so many ways. «That’s something I lean on every day, you have to be grounded in your why and you have to know what brings you purpose and she’s my No. 1 inspiration and my why to my life, to everything that I do, she’s there and guides me in that direction».

«There is always something more that we can do. That starts with ourselves, trying to find the positivity and the happiness and the joy in our daily lives, it starts with us. If we don’t love ourselves, if we’re not happy with ourselves, if we don’t try to make our own beings and our own lives more productive and more positive, we can’t share that with those we love», Chris

Chris says that we often make a massive thing out of little things, but it’s not worth focusing our energy or time on that, instead we should forgive and be humble, «even when you think you’re right or you know that you’re right, let’s focus on something more positive». Chris adds. «Having something that grounds you, that is your center and your why is very important to understand, in the beginning of your process and your path to happiness and joy. Taking it one day at a time and not being so hard on yourself, continuing to grow and to learn and to see others that have been there before you and that can speed up and accelerate the process».

«This world can be a beautiful place and I have to start the process», Chris

«The priority is to enjoy this day», Ronja

«You need some time for yourself to think, to create energy and then you can give even more», Ronja

Chris mentions the great analogy when you’re on a plane that is going down. «You put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then you take care of those around you and those you love. We have to look inside first and find out what are the things that aren’t bringing you joy and what are those negative feedback loops and change them».

It takes work, just like everything else but we have one shot at this and it’s about experiences while we’re here, while we’re present. You can’t bring any of your physical items when you pass, but you can build all of those memories and experiences for yourself, your kids, your spouse.

«Know that there are things that we can do. We all have the control to dictate our own life and our future, it’s not going to happen overnight, be kind to yourself, be gentle, be patient and take it one day at a time, know that you are loved, know that even if you can’t find that love within yourself you are loved and be kind to yourself, I think that goes a long way», Chris says.

I ask Chris where and how somebody can start that hates him- or herself.

Chris answers: «It’s removing those negative thoughts and reactions to your inner talk and your self-talk. It’s not gonna happen overnight, there’s no magic pill, there’s no snap your fingers and I’m in love with myself, but it’s being okay with making mistakes, being okay with not being perfect. I think we can come from that state of knowing that we’re all human, we’re all gonna screw up, we’re all gonna not like certain parts of ourselves or be insecure about public speaking or be insecure about walking into a room of people you don’t know or whatever the case is, but it’s allowing yourself and being okay with failure and learning from those mistakes instead of just failing and saying I can’t do it, I hate myself or I don’t like the way I look or whatever it is».

He adds: «It’s easier said than done. It’s just being okay with being imperfect and knowing that it’s a process and you’re on a journey, you’re on this path to improving different areas, they’re not all gonna improve over night and that’s okay, if you come from that place of accepting that and knowing that it’s going to take a little work. If it’s one small win a day, those things start to stack and they really start to grow into bigger things, just love yourself and be okay with not being okay sometimes».

«Ask yourself, can I change that or can’t I change that?», Ronja

«I’m really against diets and doing workouts that you hate, it’s not going to work», Ronja

«If you can’t change it just accept it, otherwise you’ll go crazy», Ronja

Chris says, that getting over self-doubt or self-hate is a cycle of transformation: You have this knowledge and experience that brings you to a new perception, then you have a change of thinking in your thought pattern and this goes back to the feedback loop. You have this change in your brain, that equals the transformation, you’re shifting your old thinking what you’ve been telling yourself over and over and over, so you have this shift which then forms a new thinking pattern. That thinking pattern then becomes back into the experience, which is now going to be a different experience. You continue doing that circle and over time you’re going to realize «Wow I spent so much time and so much energy on something that didn’t need it, when it was just really shifting that mindset and going back into a powerful state.

«Turning those 80000 thoughts a day into more powerful thoughts and more positive thoughts and by doing that little by little you’re going to have a massive shift in your life».

Chris says that he has been on this journey for the last 5 or 6 years now, starting with the death of his daughter. He went through dark depressed times where he drank a lot «trying to be happy with abuse of alcohol» until he realized, that this was getting him nowhere. «I needed to shift into mind body and soul, health and wellness, that was when I did a deep dive and went down the rabbit hole of self-help and personal development». Chris says that he tries to be greater than yesterday and he takes one day at a time. «Be easy on yourself, you gonna fail, you gonna fall down, it’s been a great ride, it’s been a really amazing experience and I have a long way to go, I don’t think we're ever finished but I’ve been enjoying the ride for sure», he adds.

«If you learn a new instrument you don’t expect to be good at it the same day, why do we expect it with other tasks?!», Ronja

«All the hard work we’re doing, everything we’re doing, if we can share that with one person or five people you just have an impact, that starts spreading and that reach gets bigger and bigger», Chris  

«Just smile more», Chris

«Music brings me so much joy, I love sharing it with as many people as I can», Chris

I ask Chris, what his message to the whole world is?

«Be kind to yourself, enjoy every moment, the small moments, the big moments, it’s never too late to make a shift into whatever that is for you. Don’t be so hard on yourself, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, it spreads, it really is contagious. We really need to come together more, and hug more, just go out there and have fun, we get one shot at this, we have limited time. Time flies by and I think we really need to speed up certain processes by getting coaches or mentors, having accountability partners. By having an accountability partner, they can also bring out those things in you, if you’re struggling you can reach out to someone and you have someone that has your back and that is so important. Having someone that you know you can count on. With my daughter Maddison, we always used to say «Madlove». Keep spreading Madlove, keep being kind to each other, we can make it better for ourselves and for others, keep spreading the Madlove, that’s how I’d like to end».

And that’s how this beautiful conversation ends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Things we talked about:

James Clear’s book «Atomic Habits»
James Nestor’s book «Breath»
Hal Elrod’s book «Miracle Morning»
Wim Hof’s breathing techniques
Headspace App
The documentary «The Social Dilemma»

My blog article & video about breathing:

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