Denise Walsh sits with Kathi and talks about her book, How to Design Your Dream Life, and delves into personal growth issues, imposter syndrome, what helps us make changes in our lives, and how living a comfortable life is different than a “dream life.”

In today’s episode, you will know:

  • What is the definition of a “dream life”?
  • How to reset your internal GPS.
  • How do you get clear on what you want in life?
  • How do you line up your dreams with God’s heart for you?



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Transcript of this Episode

Read along with the podcast!


Communicator Academy Podcast #172


How to Design Your Dream Life



<<intro music>>


Kathi – Well hey, friends! Welcome to Communicator Academy, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators God has created them to be. I always love a good interview, you know. We don’t do a lot of them on here, because, let’s just say, Michele and I never run out of things to talk about, but this book looks so interesting to me. I just thought, if it’s that interesting to me, it’s going to be interesting to my friends here. So, we are talking to author Denise Walsh. Denise is the author of Design Your Dream Life. I’m intrigued by the title, a little controversially, I’ll talk to you more about that. I’m so excited to have you on Communicator Academy. Thanks for joining us today.


Denise – Hi Kathi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.


Kathi – Well, okay, I want to talk about the definition of ‘your dream life’. So, because, for some people who’d say, “That’s laying on the beach, drinking kokomos. I don’t know if that’s a real drink, but it sounds like a really good coconut drink. I think I just invented something, possibly. I don’t know. I’m imagining, for me, it sounds good for three days, then I think I would be bored out of my skull. So, I’m guessing that is not the person you are writing to. Am I correct?


Denise – That’s right. Yeah. Dream Life is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I think that’s kind of where it started from. I worked as a clinical psychologist as well as a business coach, and I found that so many people lived in a life they hated. They just kept doing it because it was comfortable. So, I have to start poking the bear and say, “No, what it is that you really want? What do you want life to look like?” That could mean a lot of things for a lot of different people.


Kathi – You know, it’s interesting. I’ve been dealing with somebody, and I’ve just come to the realization that she is miserable, and the thought of being at peace and in joy is not enough for her to be able to change. That breaks my heart, ‘cause I see an existence getting smaller and smaller. So, why is change so hard for us? I know there’s the fear of failure, but as a clinical psychologist you might have a little insight into this.


Denise – Yeah, we as humans love stability, but we also love a bit of risk. As soon as we take a step outside of our normal comfort zone, a couple of things happen. Number one, we feel more vulnerable. That brings up fear, lots of fear, right? Where we’re trying to grow ourselves, but we’re not sure if we’re good enough, imposture syndrome. All of the things that when you really show up, it brings up a lot of that fear. But the other piece of it, you’re also leaving people behind. So, you can think of the lunchroom conversation at work. If you start changing, you’re not interested in that conversation anymore and you start to grow. Sometimes those people can pull us back.


Kathi – Okay, so there are two things I want to delve into there. Specifically, for Christian communicators. The first one is imposter syndrome. I hear this all the time. I don’t hear it a ton on social media, I hear it in one-on-one conversations. This is something I’ve struggled with myself. “Who do you think you are?” That ties closely into the second thing I want to talk to you about is, what you’re saying is often, “We don’t want to change because of the connections we have in our lives.” How do we get to a place where, of course, we don’t want to lose those connections, except for maybe the ones that are holding us back, but let’s talk about imposter syndrome first? I bet that’s one of the top three reasons that people don’t live the life they are designed to live.


Denise – Absolutely. I remember when I had the stirring in my heart to write this book. I thought, “I can’t put verses in it. I’m not a pastor.” Then, I had to work on myself and say, “No! I went to Wheaton, which is a Christian grad school. I got my masters at Wheaton. I’ve gone to church my whole life. I can put passages in a book if it feels connected!”


Kathi – You’re allowed to quote the Bible, as long as you do it accurately.


Denise – Exactly! I think it’s an identity thing. We are growing into ourselves, three steps ahead of where we are, and it’s a process to get there. The Imposter Syndrome, the thinking we’re not good enough; the thinking we’re not smart enough, or we need these extra degrees to take action, really does hold us back. I feel like, if God has given us a dream in our heart that is stirring, then He’s also given us everything we need to fulfil it. So, I’ve had to use those affirmation consistently, as I continue to step outside my own comfort zone, and get scared and feel fear, and fall down and try again, in lots of areas of my life. I’ve learned it’s just normal, which means I’ve learned to not take it seriously. So, I just continue to move anyway.


Kathi – So, when does it become, “I have a fear of seeming like I’m trying to act bigger than I am.”? And when is there a reality of, “There are some things I can talk about, but there are some places I need to earn the right to talk about.”? So, where do you feel like that line divides?


Denise – Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think that people want to listen and learn from someone that’s been there and done that. So, there’s certainly an element that experience can bring upon that wisdom. But you also have to get started first. One of my favorite things to do is learn and teach and learn and teach. I’m learning, but I’m teaching at the same time. So, I’m consistently growing, and I’m sharing it with my audience. I’ve never really run into somebody who has been talking outside their scope, because I think, more often, people are scared, even if it’s within their scope.


Kathi – Right. They keep their scope very small. I think that we sometimes get mixed up. We think that the bad things from our past disqualify us, and so often it’s those things that qualify us. I love that. I’ve seen it both ways, but mostly, it’s because when you’re speaking outside your scope, it’s just a fear thing. You feel like you have to have all the answers for everything, and we don’t. We have to be the expert in what we’re talking about. I love this, because I think this is a big step in getting unstuck. So, that’s something you really address in this book. So, what are some other things that we can do as people who feel called to a certain ministry, or called to a certain group of people, and we feel stuck? We feel like it’s just not working for us right now. Are we in the wrong place? We’re just doubting ourselves. How do you get to that unstuck place?


Denise – This is my favorite topic, that pivoting point where you go, “Do I dig deep and rise up, or do I shrink back to what’s normal?” A couple things that I can think of is, number one, really clarifying what it is that you want. When you have a clear vision, a clear goal, a clear space. When you know what you want, you set your internal GPS and it triggers what we call the reticular activating system, which means you start to see those things within your life. For example, when you go car shopping, right? You’re looking for a blue Toyota. Now, all of a sudden, you see them everywhere. Well, they were probably there to begin with, but now, because you are thinking about it, you see them more frequently. So, clarifying what it is that you want, and getting really crystal clear on that perfect dream day, or that kind of thing, can help you see it in your life. The second thing, and I tell this to a lot of my coaching clients is, when you feel like you’re doing all the right things, all the right things and nothing’s working, one question I ask is, “Is there something you’re holding onto that is holding you back?” Sometimes it’s not related at all. This is the therapist in me that says, “Mmkay. This situation three years ago, because you’re still holding on to it, really is still impacting you today.” I experienced that through my writing of this book. It came out a year after I expected, and only after I forgave a certain situation. Again, I’m like, “I didn’t think they were connected.” But the how started flooding in when I had released those negative emotions.


Kathi – Okay, I want to go back to your first point, about getting crystal clear about what it is you want. So, two questions. One: Can you walk us through the process of that? What does that look like? And, two: How do you know that what you want, your deepest desire, aligns with God’s deepest desire for your life?


Denise – That’s a great question, because, honestly, the barrier a lot of people have. And even asking that question, “What do I want?” It can be “What do you want? What do we want?” For me, it’s a connected question. So, I’m trusting that what I want is what God wants, because He’s putting these desires in my heart, because I’m trusting that connection. Two exercises I ask people to do, is to write out their dream day in detail. Again, if your goal is to improve your relationships or improve your business, or whatever it is, we have to start with “What do we want our life to look like?” So, your dream day, in detail. From when you get up in the morning to when you go to bed. What do you see? Who are you with? What do you feel? What do you experience? What do you do? How do you spend your time? How do you feel connected to others? How do you relax? How many times a year do you go on vacation? All of that. “Oh! I just realized one of my dreams is that my boys easily and effortlessly go to school in the morning without yelling.” I just realized it happened this morning!


Kathi – Okay, so dreams can also be fantasies. Got it.


Denise – But it happened! My boys are actually doing that this year. It’s very cool.


Kathi – That’s amazing. How old are your boys? To give hope to all the moms out there?


Denise – I know. Eight and five.


Kathi – Wow! That’s impressive, Denise. That is impressive.


Denise – Well, school just started, so let’s see how it goes. I think that’s how it works. You get it on paper. You get excited about it, then you kind of forget, then all of a sudden, a couple years later, you think, “Oh my gosh! This is what I have dreamed of.”


Kathi – This is what I always wanted. Isn’t that so important to take that time to stop and recognize? Because, so often I’m on to the next thing, and it’s like, “Wait. Kathi. Let’s be clear. Between your intension, you hard work, your prayer, God’s blessing and the people around you, this crazy, only God-thing happened. Can we take a moment to sit and celebrate that?”


Denise – Absolutely.


Kathi – I love thinking through, “What does my perfect day look like?” Not that we’re going to have perfect days, but we can recognize. I love that. It’s the recognition of when what you want to happen happens, that you sit in gratitude. You’re not focusing on the things that didn’t go well, that didn’t go right. You’re saying “How do I focus on the things that God has brought to fruition, and how do I celebrate myself, the people around me and God in this?” I love that, Denise. I love it.


Denise – Another exercise I have people do, is write down the seven areas of life. So this is friendship, family, finances, health, hobbies, business, and giving back. Then I ask, “If you were to rate it on a scale of one to ten, what would a ten look like for you in this area?” We kind of brain dump some of that. Then, we just ask a simple question, “Are those things in your calendar?” If it were a ten to go on date nights twice a month, is that in your calendar? If it was a ten for you to volunteer at your school, is that in your calendar? I think, again, it can seem so simple, but so many times, we’re so rushed. We don’t spend time to do that.


Kathi – Denise, here’s the thing I’ve found. You can make lists all day long, but lists do nothing until it’s in your calendar. Until you’ve committed to say, “I am blocking off this segment of time.” It’s not a reality and it’s not a priority. I love that so much. This is such good stuff. Okay, so you have a couple of resources for us. The Dream Life Action Planner. Can you explain what that is?


Denise – So, one of the barriers I hear is, “I don’t have time. I have this goal. I have this dream. I have this stirring, but I’m so busy. I’m overwhelmed. I’m already stressed.” So, the Dream Life Action Plan creates the space for you to brain dump, get it all out of your system. What are the things you need to do? What are your priorities? What are all the life things plus all the life things you want to do? Then, rank them. Rank how important they are right now. Some things may need to be put on the back burner. Some things may need to be outsourced to a teenager or a cleaning lady, you know? You can’t do it all. Then the important things get put on your calendar. It’s a time management strategy that allows you to take a look at how you’re spending your day and plan it so you know that when you are going through your day, once it’s planned, you’ve got the intention, you know you’re going in a direction you desire.


Kathi – It’s so interesting. Just this morning, I was on YouTube and I was watching a video of this little boy, he was probably four years old? His younger brother was next to him, and he had a big wok in front of him, and he was cooking egg and rice. This little boy, four years old. I love your idea about outsourcing. One, I think we underestimate what our kids are capable of. I’ll make sure I link the video to this talk, because I know I underestimate my kids. We’re stealing their ability to go live their dreams, when we underestimate what they’re able to do. Also, to outsource and bring other people into your dream to see the possibilities. I love that. So that book is, Design Your Dream Life. Here’s what I’m going to encourage my readers to do. I think this book would be super valuable to your own life, but I think that there is power in doing it together with another friend. To hold each other accountable. So, I’ll say, we’ll put the link to the book in the show notes, but I’m going to encourage you to order two, and, in the nicest way possible, bully a friend into doing this with you. And you know what I mean when I say ‘bully’. You’re lovingly, affirming-ly inviting them into your process. I just think there’s power in speaking your dreams to somebody else, and putting them to paper and having that accountability. Absolutely. Denise, this has been great. Thank you so much for being on Communicator Academy.


Denise – Thank you so much for having me.


Kathi – First of all, guys, we’ll give you directions on how to get yourself the Dream Life Action Planner, but if people want to connect with you, how can they do that?


Denise – Absolutely. I am on social media, of course. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. Then, I have my own podcast called The Dream Cast. Digging deep and plowing through your own personal glass ceiling.


Kathi – I love it. Your own personal glass ceilings. I love that. We’ll put all those connections into our show notes. I think Denise would be a great addition to your life. You guys, you are a great addition to mine. You have been listening to Communicator Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. You’ve been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.





*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned item



Meet Your Hosts

Denise Walsh

Denise Walsh

Author, Coach, and Motivational Speaker

Denise Walsh is a proud wife and mother, former clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, and multi-million dollar- earning entrepreneur.

Denise started her career by working with families at a local mental health agency as a clinical psychologist but left the practice to pursue a successful career in the direct sales industry. Her impact as a leader in that field, coupled with other certification as a Jack Canfield trainer and experience as an elite coach with the John Maxwell Team, has given her the unique ability to help people tap into their ultimate potential and find their greatness. She has found her calling inspiring others to go after their dreams and has helped more than a million people find their purpose and fulfill their God-given destiny.

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Lipp

Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO

Communicator Academy founder, Leverage: The Speaker Conference creator and master instructor Kathi Lipp, is a national speaker and author of 17 books including “Clutter Free,” “Overwhelmed,” and “The Husband Project.”

She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and has been named Focus on the Family radio’s “Best of Broadcast.”

She is the host of the popular podcast “Clutter Free Academy with Kathi Lipp.”

Over the past 10 years, Kathi has helped hundreds of people increase their platform through teaching and coaching. She is a frequent teacher at writer’ s conferences and has helped countless authors and speakers find their audiences.

Kathi’s desire to help fellow speakers and authors avoid the mistakes she made, increase their confidence and be the person God made them to be, inspired her creation of Communicator Academy. Her newest adventure, is The Red House where she offers writer’s retreats and Writers in Residence events. Learn more about the Red House at

Michele Cushatt

Michele Cushatt

Author, Speaker, Mastermind Coach

As an experiened keynote speaker and emcee, Michele Cushatt’s speaking experience includes Women of Faith, Compassion International, and various retreats, conferences and events held across the country. She has also led radio, video and audio recording projects.

She co-hosted with Michael Hyatt on the popular This Is Your Life podcast. In addition, Michele serves as part of the Dynamic Communicators International leadership team, led by best-selling author and sought-after speaker Ken Davis.

Michele coaches multiple large-platform speakers in how to craft and deliver powerful presentations.
Michele authored Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life with Zondervan Publishers and I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is. Her third book will be launched in Fall of 2019. She launched her first Mastermind group in January 2017 and is currently taking applications for her 2020 Mastermind.

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