Episode 362: Defining Your Patterns in Life for Happiness and Success with Judy Wilkins-Smith

Episode Summary

In this episode, Judy Wilkins-Smith shares the keys to ending limiting cycles and reframing them into lasting breakthroughs. Judy is a Transformational, Executive, and Leadership Coach, Author, and an Expert in Emotional DNA, Systemic Constellations, and Ancestral Trauma.

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We have a fun guest with us today. She is a highly regarded organizational, individual, and family patterns expert. A systemic executive coach, trainer, facilitator, thought partner, and leadership conference and motivational speaker. She has 18 years of expertise in assisting high-performance individuals, Fortune 500 executives, and legacy families to end limiting cycles and reframe challenges into lasting breakthroughs and peak performance. Welcome, Judy Wilkins-Smith! 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Thank you, Steve. It’s lovely to be with you. 

Steve Shallenberger: So excited to have you here. Before we get started today, I would like to tell you a little more about Judy. She is passionate about visionary leadership and positivity — we have a lot in common in that area. She loves working on global change and improvement. She uses her ability to understand critical dynamics in personal and organizational systems and the points at which they intersect, to create growth and success. As the Founder of System Dynamics for Individuals and Organizations, she collaborates with individuals and corporate decision-makers to implement innovation, ‘whole system’ design elements, ensuring balance, appetite for excellence, passion, and sustained success. She is the author of “Decoding Your Emotional Blueprint: A Powerful Guide to Transformation Through Disentangling Multigenerational Patterns.” Now, this is going to be fun to talk about, Judy. So, kick us off. First of all, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, and especially what you’re doing today.  

Judy Wilkins-Smith: I would say, leaving South Africa, that was huge. That wasn’t even a leap of faith, that was taking a run off the cliff and just going, “Here we go.” So that was a big one. And then when my father was killed, it was writing books. It was either write books or go crazy and I figured writing books was probably a better idea. So I always say, people say to me, “You can’t find the good in everything.” Yes, you can. That was his final gift to me saying, “Hey, you need to get up and do something different.” Because I’d come from the healthcare arena, and with him going, I just had no appetite for it anymore and went into what I’m doing now. So, yeah, he gave me a gift. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a great way to look at it. We all have really tough setbacks sometimes. And sometimes it’s really difficult to get out of the tailspin. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Oh, yeah, it’s super difficult. The thing is when you’re in a tailspin, that’s exactly when you’re in the area that I work with. We say to people, the minute you go into a tailspin, remember this: Your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions right now are going to become your new truth. So you want to be really mindful of what you’re telling yourself about the situation, how you’re feeling about it, and what you’re doing about it because you’re creating a whole new emotional DNA blueprint. Be careful. 

Steve Shallenberger: Tell us more about that. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: When I say “creating a whole new one,” I want to step back because you could be repeating it. What we know is you inherit your physical DNA. What most people don’t know is that you’ll also inherit your emotional DNA, your patterns of thoughts, feelings, actions, and inactions, and they circle down from events that have happened way back in your history all the way down to you, often because they’re unresolved and they’re looking for you to see them and give them the place. When that happens, you start to look at, “Where are the limitations? How does this pattern keep me stuck?” And that’s when it shifts, it starts to kind of prickle you where you’re really annoyed and you keep eating the same brick wall. If you’re smart, you have another little one that says, “Oh, just imagine what it could be like.” Well, when you invest in what it could be like instead of the way that it is, you start moving from the pattern that’s trying to stop to the pattern that’s trying to emerge through you. You’re now no longer reliving and re-litigating ancient history, you’re fully present and you’re busy creating a new future. It’s not that old, predictable future. So you’re rewiring your brain and your reimaging and imagining your emotional blueprint and your epigenetics. 

Steve Shallenberger: So, Judy, how can you identify these patterns that you may have inherited? It sounds like your research shows that we inherit some of the patterns we actually have in life. Is that what you’re saying? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Absolutely, yes. So, there’s an event and let’s say grandfather loses the family fortune. Nobody wants to talk about him anymore because he’s the bad dude who messed everything up. Well, in systems, we know, the minute you exclude something, systems don’t like that because everything has a place. So it creates a situation where you’ve got a pattern, and the pattern starts to expand and repeat. You see this in organizations and you see it in individuals. So now it comes down to you. And you’re great, you’ve got all of these ideas, and you want to go become an entrepreneur. But you know, “I should probably not do that,” because we know what happened to grandpa and we should know this enormous frustration going, “could have been a contender” as that famous line goes. But it’s when you look at that and you go, “Okay, that was my grandfather. What can I learn from that? What was passed down? What do they say about money and entrepreneurship? What do I want to keep? And what do I want to change? Maybe he went into risky business with a really bad partner, I’m gonna have mine vetted. I really want to go do the thing.” So, you’ve looked at the frustration, you’ve looked at the event that created it, and now you’re going, “What’s possible here?” And when you start to invest in what’s possible, you pull yourself past all of those excuses and all of those limiting cycles and you start anchoring in the possibility. And the other thing that’s super important is now you’re not just anchored in backward memories, you’re starting to create future memories and future memories are really important things. 

Steve Shallenberger: I just had a couple of questions about that. Are people always aware of their patterns, Judy?  

Judy Wilkins-Smith: No. 

Steve Shallenberger: Is this something that’s passed down verbally from generation to generation?  

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Not always. 

Steve Shallenberger: So, under the radar there that you don’t know about.  

Judy Wilkins-Smith: I have lots of people who say, “I’m this way because that’s the way I am.” And I go, “Okay, why don’t you go look at your ancestry, if you can, and see who else was this way?” And then come back in again,“Darn, it isn’t just me. I have it here, here, and here.” So we’re not always aware of it. If we are aware of it, what I will say to people is, “Let’s take any topic, success, and money. You’re struggling right now. When did the struggle begin? What do you tell yourself about that? What do you make it mean about you? What do you make it mean about others? What do you think, feel, and do around that? When did that first begin for you? What was happening in your life? Who else in the family has a similar pattern?” Now, if you know your family system, you may be able to tell me; if you don’t, I know that we’re still seeing the results of something. So what we do is we have a look and say, “Okay, what are the effects? Okay, so what effects would we like?” So, again, you’re switching from what you have to what you want — one will keep you stuck, the other one will set you free. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a good example, too. And I’m just curious, how do you increase your awareness about being able to spot these patterns and where they may impact you? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Have a look at where you’re frustrated or limited — angry, sad — or where you’re incredibly all inspired. Because we don’t just inherit negative ones, we inherit positive ones. Where am I inspired or passionate? Where did that come from? So, it’s where you feel heightened emotions — by the limiting ones or elevating ones. And you look at both of those, and it’s literally to sit down and write out, “What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I doing? What event may have sparked this? Does it live in my family or am I the one who’s starting it?” Because you may be the beginning of something, but that’s where you want to go and that’s where the juice is. 

Steve Shallenberger: That’s really fun. I love this thought, your field of study, and your research on this because it’s so fascinating because the implications are extraordinary when you think about that for your future posterity. Can you identify this and set a new pattern that also blesses all your posterity, is that possible? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Very much, and here’s where it changes: When you do what we call a constellation, which is exploring the issue in 3D. It’s literally in 3D. When you do that, you now begin to see, hear, touch, and feel what the issue is, and I’ll walk you through that in 3D. If you’re at a live event, that’s what happens to you; you begin to rewire in the moment. But here’s what you also notice: You know the dad who was that terrible villain because he wouldn’t let you do X, you suddenly see what his history was and why. And very often, people’s anger turns into insight and compassion, turns into appreciation and love. So if we look just at ourselves, it’s vastly different to looking at ourselves through a multi-generational lens, and the implications are huge. Suddenly, going forward, your children no longer have to carry what you did. And looking back, your father, the villain, may just be your father, the hero. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s exciting. I love the three things that you’ve identified that help you think about this: Look at your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. So, what you’re looking for, Judy, it sounds like, what serves me well, in other words, what really seems to work well, make me happy, and help me be productive and have strong relationships. But what are the watch-outs, too? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: The watch-outs are very much in our language. We don’t realize it but we’re talking about ourselves and our systems all day long with mottos that come out of our mouths, or our thoughts around money, “Only greedy, disgusting people get rich.” But we’d like to be rich — well, really? Do you want to be greedy and disgusting, too? So, what am I telling myself? Because if I think money is gradient disgusting and somebody says to me, “Hey, Judy, I have a million dollars for you.” I’m going to go, “Oh, I can’t do that because that can make me greedy and disgusting.” So, money doesn’t have a chance. 

Steve Shallenberger: So, then you’re into the rescripting. Let’s say then that you do exactly say, “Oh, money is disgusting and greedy.” How do you change your thoughts, feelings, and actions? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Money DNA is one of my favorite subjects because we’re so entangled with it. The first thing to know is money is not a commodity, it’s a relationship. And the way that you show up for it and expect it to show up for you will hold true that’s what you’re going to get. Then go and look at what did you learn growing up as a kid about money: “Love of money is the root of all evil. It’s love or money. Greedy people get money. God loves us to be poor,” and poor god suddenly go, “Really? I did not write this.” So, it’s looking at those and going, “So, what if that wasn’t true? What if that was different? If I had all of this money, what would I do? I could invest in this. I could take care of that. I could go on this trip. There are these people I can really help.” Now, you’ve switched off from survival brain and you’ve gone into creating brain. You’re rescripting your money DNA, but there’s a very important piece to all of this. Your brain has to tell your body a story that your body believes. Because otherwise, you’re just smoking and blowing hot air; it won’t work. But when your brain tells your body a story and your body goes “Yes!” That becomes your new truth. And you’ll know this for yourself; you look at something and you go, “How stupid were you? Why did you do this? You idiot!” And your body is going, “Cringe! Cringe! Cringe!” And then there are times where you look at and go, “You know what, Steve? That was pretty awesome.” And your body is feeling that, and that’s your truth. So, be careful, your feelings are the gateway to what you will or won’t get, depending on you. 

Steve Shallenberger: So, let’s say that you have a technician, some type of technician, and we’re talking about money now. Like in all things, it could be something else, it could be a mechanic, it could be a salesperson, and many of these people are paid based on their productivity. How can this help a person with responsibilities like that? What’s the application? Because we’re talking about money and some people get pretty comfortable right in the middle. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Oh, yeah, they do because that’s where the family is comfortable. The family system says, “This is where we are. We have money bandwidths.” And again, it rests in those sentences that we hear and that we’ve made true. It’s better to be educated than to be wealthy. It’s better to be kind than to have money. Here’s the other thing, Steve: Money is not an ‘or’; it’s an ‘and’. We’re the ones who created the ‘or’; it is not an ‘or’, it never needs to be an all. So, for the salesman, the technician, what you want to do is look at “Where do I allow my money to flow? And is it the best use for me?” Because it’s so nice to have a cigarette. It’s so nice to buy a magazine. But is that going to start building the life that I really want? Because if you really want it, you’ll build it, you will find the ways. What are you doing? You’re switching your mind off from “Well, you know what? Everybody smokes and drinks in the family, that’s what we do.” I’m building that nest egg. Here’s what I want to do with that nest egg: I’m not going to have that cigarette today or maybe not that drink, it’s going into my bank account. And I always say to people, be careful when you do that, don’t share it with everybody, because somebody’s going to rain on your parade. But have thatadventure, and invest in that adventure with all of your heart and all of your mind, and make it so exciting that you cannot resist yourself. 

Steve Shallenberger: I love it. And what you’re saying, though, when you get your thinking right, it really can dramatically impact your actions, your results, how you feel about that, and what you get. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Not can, it does. It totally impacts who you are, what you’re going to be, and what you’re going to achieve. You’ve heard this before, people will say, “If you say ‘I can’ and you say ‘I can’t’, you’re right.” They’re not kidding. It’s the choices that we make. But it’s not just saying, it is what’s going on here. If my heart is open, in other words, if I’m open to possibilities, my creative brain frontal lobes switches on and it tells my gut, “Hey, we’re in a good position here, let’s do it.” The passion switches on. If I get a fright or I’m really embedded in those old ways, heart says, “No, we don’t have any possibilities.” The brain goes, “Okay, back to survival,” and the gut goes, “I hope I can pay that bill at the end of the month.” And it all changes when you choose.  

Steve Shallenberger: What works best for helping people take the time to do this? Because one of the observations I’ve seen and maybe you’ve seen it as well is people just getting too rut and going from day to day, week to week, month to month. And next thing you know, five years have passed by, and still frustrated. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Because they don’t think anything different is possible. So the first thing I do when I work with people is to tell them, “Everything is possible.” And they look at me and they go, “Yeah, yeah.” And then we start looking at the patterns in the family because I know that every pattern in the family, which is your primary pattern maker, every pattern there is trying to become something else — it’s trying to elevate. So let’s look at what you’ve got. And then let’s look at where you want to go. And one of the other things I tell people is for goodness sake, ignore old wisdom that says, “You shouldn’t have wants.” Want as much as you can, that’s how the universe evolves. Babies don’t walk until they want. We don’t move until we want. And then invest in the want. And again, make it yours, make it personal, and shush. 

Steve Shallenberger: I love that. So, what you’re saying is it’s okay to dream. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: It’s not okay to dream. Dreaming is your gateway to the life you want. It’s that simple. If you can’t dream, that’s usually the people I get to see who say, “I can’t dream and I know that I could. Help.” 

Steve Shallenberger: And maybe even that is a pattern. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Yes. Because you weren’t allowed to because that was dangerous: “If you dreamt, look what could happen to you and look what you could lose.” Okay, that was your grandfather. What got him there won’t get you there. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, I think that’s really important. People that really are able to become their best are people that are able to imagine and create what can be in their life and get excited about it and recognize those exciting feelings, and that’s where, in your language, you’re working on your thoughts and your feelings. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: You are. And sometimes you’re not excited at first. Sometimes all you want to do is get out of survival and into a little bit of balance, or out of a life crisis. If you’re in a life crisis, my thing is, “Okay, what one degree would make you feel better? Just one degree. If you can improve that one degree, how are you going to feel?” So, don’t eat the whole elephant, you’re just going to get mental indigestion. One thought, one feeling, one action, that’s all it takes. One at a time. 

Steve Shallenberger: Good advice. How can systemic work and constellations reveal and help transform hidden issues arising from family or business or other kinds of close-knit groups or systems? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: I’m going to describe a constellation. I have CFOs who come in and say, “I have a problem I need to solve. Haven’t been able to solve it, don’t know what to do, can we look?” What we do is I’ll ask them to identify the components of the issue, and each component is written down on a separate piece of paper in a very specific way. Then we set those papers up, and I start to have a look and I go, “Okay, so why is there so much distance between this?” I look at the spatial relationship and I start asking questions. Well, then that means they’ve got to go and have a look and start asking themselves questions. And now because they can see it, they’re going, “Oh, and as they’re listening to the words, they can hear the limiting language.” And then I may say, “Okay, so we’ve got this paper facing this way, go and stand on that piece of paper and tell me what you notice: Who can you see? Who can you not? Who’s involved? Who’s not?” Now, they’re starting to put all of those pieces together. And before you know it, they’ll turn around and say to me, “Yeah, I can see it. And because I can see it, I can do something about it.” Well, constellations are that. We use live representatives or we use pieces of paper and good systemic questioning, and we start to ask people: “Where did that come from? What was happening for you? Does that thought serve you? How would you like it to be?” So you also get to test in real-time. What if we did this? What if you weren’t always stuck in this pattern, but you were over here? Because we’re employing multiple senses, they’re having embodied multiple experiences. And that when you get what you call that aha experience and they go, “Oh, my goodness!” And you can see it starting to rewire, the language becomes different, and the feelings become different, and they’re going, “This doesn’t even feel like my normal body.” And I hear that often. And within days or weeks, or maybe it takes a month or a little longer, sometimes years, people will come to me and say, “I got it. When I could see it, I could hear it, and I could feel it and walk in it, I could do something with it, and I could finally switch it.” 

Steve Shallenberger: Judy, from your experience, have you spotted any common destructive type patterns or counterproductive type that you see quite a bit and how do you help people with those? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: “This is the way I am.” “We don’t talk about this. We don’t talk about that. Let’s sweep it under the rug.” and I’m going, “If you don’t look, how can you move?” So, take the blindfold off. If you can take the blindfold off and you’re willing to look, and you’re willing to listen, and you’re willing to feel, things are going to start shifting for you. That lovely numbness that you think is pleasant at the end of the day is going to quietly evaporate and you’re going to be in the middle of a real-life adventure that you did not know existed.  

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a really insightful thought right there. “This is the way I am. I’m stuck. This is the way I’ve always been. Can’t do any better than this.” 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: “Some people are blessed with money and others are not.” “In our family, we all have bad relationships.” Good luck, if that’s the thought, that’s what it’s going to be. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, my goodness, these are great. And your message is, no, you’re not stuck. No, you’re stuck with bad relationships. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Exactly. And if you’re willing to look, you will literally never, ever, ever be stuck.  

Steve Shallenberger: So, open your mind and say, “What’s possible?” 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Actually, open your heart first because here’s the deal, when you open your heart, that means to open your heart to the possibility. In other words, “I can breathe. I’m not so angry that I want to do something.” What’s possible? Because the minute your heart opens, the brain goes, “Okay, we’re not in the survival people. Everybody, get aboard. We’re now getting creative here. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.” And the gut goes, “Oh, yeah, now we can run.” 

Steve Shallenberger: One last question. You’ve talked about money quite a bit, is there a simple systemic exercise to help us understand money DNA and how to create a healthier money mindset that will reveal our money bandwidth and current state of mind? You’ve talked about this a little bit already, it’s something that affects so many people. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Two things: One, there’s a whole chapter on it in the book, plus a great exercise that’s going to whip you around; but the other one is if you want to really sit and look at your money bandwidth and your money DNA, sit down and write down everything that you think about money, everything you feel about money, and all the actions you take around money. And you’re going to start seeing the patterns. And then ask yourself, where did that come from? Where did that become a reality for me? Was there an event? Or was there an event in a predecessor’s life? How has it affected me? How do I want it to affect me? And by the way, what kind of relationship do I have with money? Am I friends with it? Or is that the boogeyman who stands at the front door and freaks me out? Because if it is, how are we going to become friends? And ask yourself, do I treat money the way I would treat a valued friend? 

Steve Shallenberger: In the spirit of rescripting of the feeling, the heart, the thinking, which impacts the actions, do you have any books about money that helps you have a new perspective, a new way to look at it? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: “Decoding Your Emotional Blueprint” it’s in there, and it’s a whole piece on money because it is such an important topic. There’s a great section in there. I’ve had a lot of people call me and say, “Hey, this stuff works.” No, no, you work. The minute you work, it works. 

Steve Shallenberger: Good. I’m glad you mentioned that. I was thinking of “The Richest Man in Babylon”, which has so many healthy principles. But hey, let’s look right at Decoding Your Emotional Blueprint. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: It’s right there with you. Your money DNA is right encoded in you. Where did it come from? Steve, I have some wealthy people who will say to me, I worked really hard to get here. And then I say, “Great! So, what do you do with your money?” “Oh, no, I give it away.” And I’m like, “Really? You did all that workand yet, money is not cool.” Money is really cool. It’s really cool. It is a universal force. It is the flow of the world. Don’t diss it. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, it’s been a blast having you here, Judy. I can’t believe we’re done. So, any final tips for our listeners today? 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Transformation is not for the chosen few; it’s for those who choose it. 

Steve Shallenberger: Having our wonderful, great listeners who are so interested in improving themselves and helping those they associate with, grateful for them. How can they learn more about you?  

Steve Shallenberger: They can go to They’ll find a reference to the book, they will See where my events are, and they’ll also find constellations and meditations. And those I got super lucky with, I co-created those with a guy who is a Grammy Award-winning composer and producer. And we work together so that people actually have a felt sense of what that is. They can go through this and actually disentangle one of their own patterns. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you so much. It’s been a delight having you with us today, Judy. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: It has been such fun to be all the way over in Utah. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, yes, ma’am. Well, thanks for being part of our show today and we wish you all the best as you’re influencing so many people for good. 

Judy Wilkins-Smith: Thank you so much and take good care. Thank you for being there so we can do this. 

Steve Shallenberger: You bet. And we wish all of our listeners so are so amazing, all the best. You’re making a difference in the world today. The very fact that you’re here, that you’re interested, that you’re trying to find new ideas and how to improve. It is such an inspiration, and we wish you the best today and always. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, signing off. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best

CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.

Judy Wilkins-Smith

Coach & Author

Transformational Executive and Leadership Coach and Author. Expert in Emotional DNA, Systemic Constellations, and Ancestral Trauma. 

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