384: Roberta Fernandez—Can Changing Your Thinking Change Your Life? AHARA Says Yes

Hear how to open yourself up to a world of infinite possibilities

As you know, I like a fresh lens. That’s what we do as anthropologists. We go out and help you see what’s all around you, and sometimes you can’t see what’s right here. Today, I have a wonderful woman, Roberta Fernandez, who’s going to help you do the same thing. Together, we’re going to help you realize that change is painful in some ways, but an opportunity for you to transform who you are in a great way. A personal and professional development consultant, Roberta takes your full self and helps you look at it a little bit differently. I love the word development. It isn’t a coach. It’s how do I help you grow? And how do we take a challenge and address it? Listen in to find out.

Watch and listen to our conversation here

Key takeaways from our conversation:

  • You cannot change a culture until the people in it change.
  • Emotion drives all behavior.
  • We all at some point in our lives should “clean out our closet” — get rid of those limiting beliefs and the stuff that really isn’t a part of you, and open the door for that higher self.
  • If we’re only focused on the problem, that’s all we’re going to be able to see. We have to focus on the solution, what we want.
  • The story we tell is the life that we create for ourselves. And it’s the life that we get stuck in. We stand in our own way, and what we want to do is to be able to open ourselves to this world of infinite possibilities.
  • Most of our thinking is habitual, just automated. When we become aware of how we think and what we feel as an individual, then we can recognize those things in other people.
  • The reason why we want anything is because we think we’re going to feel better when we can have it. So even though we don’t know the answer to something, we know how we want to feel when we’ve accomplished it.
  • If you look at any great artist or scientist or inventor or highly successful person in general, they’re going to tell you that changing how they think, how they process, and how they see things differently than anybody else is what has contributed the most to their success.

You can connect with Roberta on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and her three websites: Roberta Fernandez/AHARA, Conscious Napping and Conscious Napping For Business. You can also email her at roberta@consciousnapping.com.

Want more on how to actually bring about real change? Here’s a start:

Additional resources for you

Read the transcript of our podcast here

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. I’m Andi Simon, I’m your host and your guide. And if you come to my podcast, like so many of you do, you know my job is to help you see, feel and think in new ways. And remember, I tell you that because until you see something, it doesn’t exist. And if you don’t feel it, you don’t know how to respond to it. And so my job is to bring you people who, through their stories, will help you think about yourself through a fresh perspective.

It’s not exactly the right metaphor, but I like a fresh lens. And that’s what we do as anthropologists. We go out and help you see what’s all around you, and sometimes you can’t see what’s right here. But today, I have a wonderful woman, and she’s going to help you do the same thing. So together, we’re going to lift you up and help you realize that change is painful in some ways, but an opportunity for you to transform who you are in a great way. She’s smiling.

We are very aligned and it’s so exciting to meet Roberta Fernandez. I’m going to read her bio a bit as a personal and professional development consultant. It’s interesting, when I launched my business, it was as an anthropologist that helps companies and the people inside them change. Not that different, but to be a personal and professional development consultant takes your full self and helps you look at it a little bit differently. She offers programs for individuals and organizations that develop emotional intelligence, EQ, and guides them through a change process to awaken their full potential and realize their higher abilities.

She’s perfected individual personal development, and that’s different from coaching. And I love the word development. It isn’t a coach. It’s how do I help you grow? And how do we take a challenge and begin to address it? And wellness. And I love self-care and well-being, executive managerial and team corporate training programs, particularly in the area of sustainability, culture change and emotional intelligence. She’ll get you more familiar with the sustainability part of her career, but there’s a whole package here that comes together with Roberta that you’re going to enjoy.

She’s conducted thousands of individual client sessions, more than 85 noteworthy presentations and trainings over the past 15 years. She’s going to talk to you about her new program called AHARA. I’m going to let her tell you about it in just a little bit. It’s a sacred term that refers to the support of consciousness, eliminating everything which is not the intrinsic or higher nature of yourself. It’s interesting, I was supposed to do a podcast with somebody earlier who was going to talk about something similar in her own discovery. When we got together, she wasn’t quite ready to talk about it, but in some ways, we must be facing an interesting moment where we are looking for our higher nature and the world is a very fragile place. And she’ll also talk about cleaning your own closet and conscious napping. She’s very clever lady. Roberta, thank you for joining me today.

Roberta Fernandez: Thanks for having me, Andi. I’m really excited to be here. And I’m excited too, because I think we are such a good fit for each other with how we think.

Andi Simon: I think it is, and it’s always interesting how we came to think the way we think.

Roberta Fernandez: Right it is. It’s been a journey. It is.

Andi Simon: So let’s talk about your journey. This didn’t all just drop into the bucket right here. You’ve had a wonderful life professionally and personally. Share it with us. And that’ll set the stage for what the programs are that you’re offering today. Please. Who is Roberta?

Roberta Fernandez: Well, I think I am a culmination of many, many years, getting into that last third of my life now, which is a pretty exciting time. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since my 20s. I’ve done a lot of different things, but I think the thing that really changed my life, I had founded a Montessori school for 3- to 12-year-olds. So talk about anthropology. Montessori. She was an anthropologist, too, as well as a doctor way ahead of her time.

I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. And I was sitting in a theater one day and I saw this movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and it just rocked my world, I have to tell you. And so I went home on the website and buried deep with this link, “Apply to be a presenter.” And I thought, okay, I can talk, I know how to talk, right? So I did. I forgot all about it. Probably 5 or 6 weeks later I get a call, it’s Al Gore’s office, and he invited me to be one of the first 50 people that they were going to train to give this climate talk.

Andi Simon: It was, see, I believe in serendipity. Absolutely.

Roberta Fernandez: And I was looking for my next stage and I had no idea what it was going to be. And so I went to Nashville. Long story. Mr. Gore trained a thousand people to give that climate talk over probably a six month period. And it was a wonderful grassroots, nonpartisan movement. I learned a lot from it. It opened my world, my look at my world, to a whole new area of sustainability, which was at that time not a very common term.

And I ended up working with a company out of Sweden on sustainability, and became a consultant in that field. But what I learned really quickly is there was such resistance to that term, and you can’t imagine why. Oh my gosh, you cannot change a culture until the people in it change. I mean, you can fire them, you can get rid of them, which sometimes is the right thing to do. But really you can’t delegate the way people think. You can’t do that top-down.

So I did that for quite a few years, and I did a lot of corporate training for really big companies and universities and even cities. And then I found hypnosis, which really is a whole different way to take my career. But in actuality, it’s the same thing. It’s just a different tool. With hypnosis, we’re looking at changing people’s perspectives with the way they think and the way they behave, because emotion drives all behavior. And so the last 12 years of my life, I’ve been working with individuals, helping them to change.

And a few years ago during Covid, Covid changed everything for everybody in some way, I decided I’m in the last third of my life. What’s my legacy really going to be? And I decided to take the last 20 years of my experience and roll them into a process that I call AHARA. So there’s several things that I do: cleaning out your closet is really getting rid of those limiting beliefs and kind of getting rid of the stuff that really isn’t a part of you, and opening the door for that higher self.

And then we start the Aha process, which is a year-long program where people learn to change how they think. I was really inspired by Einstein’s quote: “I look at the world and all the problems that we have that seem insurmountable and we’re not making very good progress with changing some of them.” And he said, “the problems that we have can’t be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

And as a hypnotist, I know that what we focus on expands. And if we’re only focused on the problem, that’s all we’re going to be able to see. We have to focus on the solution, what we want. So if we look at that, that is the basis of an aha, and that is exactly what you described: changing how people think, how they feel and then how they behave in the world.

Andi Simon: You know, Roberta, I’m an anthropologist. I’m a reader in neurosciences and the cognitive sciences. And, you know, we’re remarkable critters. We’re meaning-makers. I love the work that begins to show us that we have a story in our mind. And where it comes from is complicated. I’ve actually done hypnosis, so I’m sort of fascinated with our talk today. But once you have that story in your mind, it becomes your reality.

Roberta Fernandez: It does.

Andi Simon: And I tell folks, it really is an illusion. There is no reality. The only truth is there’s no truth. That’s right. And once you have it, though, you look for other people who are part of your tribe, the place you belong with your story that fits their story, and you all reinforce each other’s common reality. There’s nothing but one story.

And so when I get into a corporation or community group that’s stuck or stalled and you try to pull them away from that story, the first thing they say is, oh, no, we don’t do that. And I laugh and I said, well, that’s the problem because you don’t see it. You don’t see what’s right in front of you. And so you’re onto something for our conversation today that’s extremely important, a little different perspective. But this mind is really powerful at creating something that may or may not be good anymore.

So as if you’re thinking about the next phase in your own career, I want to hear more about what you’re creating and how you’re applying it, and why it’s working.

Roberta Fernandez: Yeah. Thank you for that. And you’re absolutely right. The story we tell is, it is the life that we create for ourselves. And it’s the life that we get stuck in. And the problem is, that’s just me and you. When you’re in an organization, you’re in a sea of those different perspectives and learning how to navigate all of those perspectives without losing your own identity, without losing your own opinion. And yet respecting and honoring those other perspectives allows us to do something amazing. And that is to create a new story and create a new reality.

I think when we look at how stuck people get in their own way of thinking, we stand in our way, and what we want to do is to be able to open ourselves to this world of infinite possibilities. And when we really look at how our mind works and how we function in a traditional environment, we’re only really looking at about 25% of what our opportunities are.

And so AHARA, at its core, is really teaching people to become aware of their own thinking because, as you know, most of our thinking is habitual. It  is just totally not responsive, it’s just automated. And so when we become aware of how we think and what we feel as an individual, then you can recognize those things in other people. And the Aha process is designed to teach you how to navigate that sea of perspectives.

Andi Simon: Well, you said something very powerful there. The thinking is habitual and what AHARA allows you to do is, I’m not going to say break the habit, but maybe it’s part of that. Habits are very powerful and very important. I mean, they make you very efficient. And the problem with breaking them is the brain doesn’t really want to work hard on learning something new, even when you’re getting educated. 

You can feel your brain working really hard, trying to figure out what they are saying and how they are telling me to do this. And until you actually do it, it really doesn’t exist. And then all of a sudden, you practice and you practice, and you get it. It’s a little like learning golf. I was thinking of which metaphor I could use. I’m a 12-year golfer, and I remember having a club and a ball and a book, and I don’t know why someone gave me a book to learn to play golf. It was irrelevant because I could read about it. But until I hit the ball, I went, oh, is that what they meant? And then I hit it twice. That was bad because now I could play this game. I can’t play the game. It takes a long time to finally get it so that it works.

So this is important now when you’re helping people through the process. There are multiple levels at which you’re working. You want to talk about the differences between the elite and the club and all of this because I think it’s important for people to hear that.

Roberta Fernandez: Yeah. Thank you. So really, it is one-on-one. So that is a very intensive way to look and learn the AHARA tenets. When I started three years ago, that’s the only way I offered it. I would work with a client over six months and we’d meet twice a week. So it was pretty intense. There’s some advantage to working one on one in that. It’s like immersion and that’s always a good thing. And you’re focused and you’re really into it. So you become acclimated to it pretty quickly, that’s not reasonable for a lot of people. And it’s also very expensive to do that.

So AHARA Club and AHARA Team are the same program. It’s just in the delivery that’s different. So both programs last a year. We have a couple of group sessions a month, a one-on-one session a month, and a whole slew of other things that go into the program. Team is just within one company. And the advantage there, and this is what I found in my sustainability work, especially the larger companies, they’re so siloed.

I remember in Target, for example, they had two sustainability divisions. One was architectural and one was in-store and processes. They never talked to each other. And so this idea of having a common language and a common approach and common goals that you set with each other. So a team is just within a company, it might be the leadership team, it might be the advertising team, the sales team, but they’re focused on their company’s issues.

AHARA Club involves people from lots of different backgrounds. So entrepreneurs, leaders, individuals who want to better themselves. And I love that too because you get such a different perspective on how people are applying what they’re actually learning. The key to AHARA, I believe, is that everything that we talk about, all these things you and I are talking about, are some of the basic tenets of AHARA. But it’s one thing to know them, it’s another thing to integrate them as a permanent part of your being, of how you function in life.

And so over the course of the year, as the members of the cohorts participate, they have activities that take these tenants and encourage them to use them in real life scenarios. So it really is an integration process. It’s not like a coaching program where I’m holding people accountable and coaching them. It really is about changing the way you think, the way you problem solve and and the way you live your life. And that starts individually. So there’s a big focus on the self. But once that awareness of how you’re thinking of how you’re interacting with the world, then how do we incorporate that on a personal and professional level? And that’s what it is.

Andi Simon: Possible to share an illustrative case with the listener or the viewer to concretize what you’re saying because I’m trying to imagine what you’re saying, and I am not getting a good imagination on it, and I don’t want it to be external from us. This is something that goes inside us and is extremely transformative, if I hear you correctly. Can you give an example?

Roberta Fernandez: Yes. So an example would be one of the women that went through AHARA, she was very successful in what she did, but she was bored to tears and she was thinking she needed to change careers, but had no idea what that was. And even though she was very successful in what she did, we found in working together that imposter syndrome was a big part of her life, and even thinking about doing something totally different was just beyond her capability because of a lack of confidence.

So first we had to work on those issues. We had to clean out the closet, so to speak, of those limiting beliefs and really look at what was driving those things to begin with so that she could better understand who she was. And once we accomplished that, then it became looking at the specific tenets of AHARA. For example, you mentioned how reality, how your thoughts create your reality, how that reality shapes your life because there is no reality, there’s a map, but we all use that map in different ways. We all experience that territory differently.

And so looking at where her focus was was really challenging for her because she didn’t know what she wanted to do. So we started with having her vision, the solution. And when I talk about problem solving from the solution, what I really mean is the first thing, because she didn’t know what the solution was. She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew one thing, and that was how she wanted to feel when she was there.

Andi Simon: Love it, love it, love it.

Roberta Fernandez: Because here’s the thing: the reason why we want anything is because we think we’re going to feel better when we can have it. So even though we don’t know the answer to something, we know how we want to feel when we’ve accomplished it. So we started visioning, doing some visioning work with her on how she wanted to feel. And it was really interesting to see how that vision started to work its way backwards. And bottom line, what she found was she didn’t want to do anything different. She wanted to do what she was doing differently. It’s a huge idea and it made all the difference in the world.

And it’s so interesting because she’s a mortgage broker and that industry has taken a beating lately, and a lot of mortgage brokers don’t exist anymore. When I look at her website, when I look at her posts on Facebook and Instagram and social media, I see AHARA all over it and she’s still actually attracting people that think like she does because her whole thing was in her company, she built a company, but she had not built a family, and that was super important for her. When she first started implementing AHARA, it was very much in her family, juggling her kids and her husband and all their responsibilities. And then that started integrating very much with her as a person, as a business person, and gave her a gift.

Andi Simon: You gave her a gift, didn’t you?

Roberta Fernandez: Well, she gave it to herself. I have a process that helps you discover your own answers. And I think that is really essential for all of us. 

Andi Simon: I have a leadership academy, I have several, and I’ve been doing them for several years. And I love taking emerging leaders, once a month, beginning to get them to see themselves as no longer those managers, but as leaders. What do those words mean? I often say that the words create the worlds we live in, and if you’re going to go from manager to leader, something has to stop and something has to start. You can’t just add more on.

Yeah, well, the first session and it’s coming up, I asked them to draw pictures and tell us stories about themselves today. And then I asked them to visualize what it is they would like to see themselves become. Tell us a story about that, because I got to start them to see, feel and think about themselves through the story in their mind. And what you’re telling us, it’s a different approach, but very much the same. If I can’t see it, I can’t ever become it. And then we try to backward plan, small wins to begin to move ourselves closer to that. The vision changes, you know, as life gets in the way of where I want to be. It actually takes you in better places, because you can begin to see it as part of this complex thing that you’re crafting.

Roberta Fernandez: Absolutely. And I think when you look at, and this is the value that I have gotten from being a hypnotist for 12 years, the imagination, the subconscious mind, which is home to the imagination, home to your emotions, home to your rules about life and how you think. What created you as a person when you can tap into that? I always tell people, everybody came to me as a hypnotist for one reason and one reason only, and they would be dumbfounded by that. They would say, well, how will you deal with all these people with all these different problems? And I would say that’s only the symptom.

The reason why people would come to see me is that there was a disconnect between what they consciously wanted and what their subconscious mind believed was possible. And inside of you, the one thing that I am absolutely sure inside of each one of us are the answers. We just can’t connect to them. And that’s the bridge that I played as a hypnotist. And I learned so much about human behavior and how the mind works and how really simple those answers are. Once you can get clear. 

Andi Simon: Pretty, pretty cool stuff, huh?

Roberta Fernandez: It is. Yeah.

Andi Simon: So now, how are you building? This is a new line of business for you. As if it’s not quite a startup, but it is the next step in it. 

Roberta Fernandez: You know, it’s new and it’s old because this is really the same work that I did in the corporate sector. I just did it on larger scales, right? I would have large training sessions and that kind of thing. So AHARA, any of the group ones are 12, we limit it to 12, 8-12 people at the most, but still more than one-on-one, because I also realize when we’re looking at it professionally, having a variety of opinions and ways of applying what you’re learning is so very important because people ask questions that I never would have thought of. And that’s a learning experience for me. So I love the idea of working in small groups, but it really is the same thing I was doing before. I’m just packaging what I’ve learned from several careers, actually, and putting it all into one tool, if that makes sense.

Andi Simon: I think that’s wonderful. So it’s not a startup, it’s a restart instead of branding. It’s a rebranding. But it is your skills, well-honed in your expertise and experience. This is not an imposter syndrome stuff. This is a woman who has had a great experience listeners might benefit by and do it in a very different way.

I can’t tell you how many times I became an executive coach. I don’t sell it, but often my clients need it. And so I go from consulting into coaching, mostly to become a listener and to help them get some perspective, but it’s amazing to me how without that, people have a hard time thinking. They have a hard time doing and they need to somehow, I won’t say the word vent, but to express the dilemmas that they’re facing.

And often it’s well beyond what you ever could have imagined and sort of like, I’ve had some clients and they’ve had family issues, and we get on a phone call or a Zoom for a business conversation. We never get to the business, the whole people and the combination of home and work sometimes just need a hand, you know? Let’s see if we can help you rethink what you’re doing and move forward some way, right?

Roberta Fernandez: Yeah. You know, I remember when I was young, there was the attitude of, you have to leave your problems at the door when you get to work. And no, that was a thing, right? You’re right.

Andi Simon: I am the same age. It was exactly. Absolutely.

Roberta Fernandez: And it’s impossible. It’s like saying you can separate the body from the mind and the spirit. You can’t. We are a whole package deal. And how we are personally definitely impacts who we are professionally. And we tend to think of ourselves as a different person when we walk in that door. And that is not the truth. It is not the truth.

And what is really cool is when we realize that and we can learn how to integrate these processes as part of who we are, we become more efficient in both our personal and professional life. And so when I was rebranding myself as not just a consultant, I really was specific and intentional in saying a personal and professional development consultant because they’re inextricably connected.

Andi Simon: And if you can structure a process for yourself of moving between roles, I often tell my clients that life is like theater. You don’t see it that way, but it’s just another metaphor. And in each place you are, you’re playing a role, sometimes well-honed, in others not. But I used to find that when I came home from business and my two kids were there waiting for time, I’d say to them, mom has to take a shower first. And I took the shower, I sat on the floor outside the shower, and I took the shower as a quiet downtime to move from business to mom.

And then I came out as a mom, and I vividly remember saying to myself, this is very healthy for them and for you because as you walk through the door, you’re still there and now you have to come here. The mom and I never quite tried to master that, but I remember having to because it was intense, both the business side and the mom side and being a professional person, you know, it was always managing a blended life. You had to figure out how one person could keep shifting rolls. And I remember we had one party for one client and it was on my birthday. My daughter came with me, and it was with great pride that I showed her off and brought her in. It was okay. So I think that these were complicated critters, and I do think it’s time that more people need them. 

Roberta Fernandez: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. So  I think I agree with everything that you’re saying, Andi. And I think if the audience can really take something away from this is that, really exploring, you mentioned that you’re a neuroscientist. My daughter is a neuroscientist as well. And we have very interesting discussions as a hypnotist and a neuroscientist together about how the brain works. It’s really important to understand that; you mentioned earlier the brain has to be efficient.

And so the majority of things that we do day in and day out are just habits. It’s something, and our thoughts too, just thoughts. We keep thinking over and over again but change is possible because it just is. And the way it’s possible is by becoming aware of how we think.

And when I look at the acronym of AHARA, A Higher Awareness leads us to Realize our Abilities, because we cannot fully realize our potential and reach that potential until we are aware of who we are, how we think, and how we navigate this world. And once we can tap into that, then the sky is absolutely the limit.

Andi Simon: You almost answered my question, which was, Roberta, tell the listener one or 2 or 3 things you don’t want them to forget. That sounded like the one.

Roberta Fernandez: Oh, it’s one.

Andi Simon: Yes it is. You know, because we’re about ready to wrap up. Is there a 2 or 3 you can add to that, or shall we just end on that note?

Roberta Fernandez: I think here’s how I’d like to end it. If you look at any great artist or scientist or inventor or just a highly successful person in general, they’re going to tell you that changing how they think, how they process, and how they see things differently than anybody else is what has contributed the most to their success.

Andi Simon: Good. So now we have a great podcast to share that you can change. It is painful. The amygdala really hijacks most new ideas. The habits make you efficient, but not necessarily productive. I love the story of the woman who wanted to stay and do what she did, but do it differently to add real value to herself and others.

And change is painful. But it happens. And I also love the fact that when you’re understanding that the words we use create the worlds we live in, sometimes we have to shed some ideas deliberately. And I like the idea of doing it in groups of 8 or 10, so you can help each other stay on course and not fall back. Because sometimes we fall back, even though we really don’t want to.

We don’t even see ourselves. It’s just the old habits rising to the surface. Oh, we’re complicated humans. God, if only it were easy but there’s progress. Now, remember, Judith Glaser does great work with conversational intelligence, and her stuff about the brain literally changes when you hear stories like we’re telling. So just so you know, listeners, you listen and your brain is adapting to what you’re hearing. Your story is changing, and there’s actually DNA that’s gone through a transformation there. Maybe.

But I love the idea that this is casual and outside of us, but comes inside of us and begins to be transformative, like your work. So absolutely, I’m going to say it’s time to wrap. I always love our podcasts. This is a great one. I’m so glad you came to me. I don’t know where, serendipity and there you are, but it’s been a great conversation about things that I sort of knew, but I didn’t know a lot about for our audience. Thank you for coming. It’s always a pleasure to help you see, feel and think in new ways.

Remember my new book, Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere, and I think that it’s a time for us to begin to understand how change is possible, and we should be changing. The joy of writing this book is that 102 women want to share their wisdom with others so you can thrive in business as well. And that is a very big change. When you read those stories and look at their wisdoms, you go, oh my gosh, that’s a great point. I can do that. Not the least of which is serendipity is a great way to start the day, and we have been serendipitously happy today.

Goodbye my friends. Thanks. Send us your emails at info@Andisimon.com and we will bring more great people onto the show. Goodbye again. Bye bye. Have a great day. Thanks, Roberta.

Roberta Fernandez: Thank you.


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