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Crafting an Elite Identity | Dr. Maddy Novich on Health, Relationships, and Collective Thinking

Episode 103, duration 1 hrs 10 mins
Episode 103

Crafting an Elite Identity | Dr. Maddy Novich on Health, Relationships, and Collective Thinking

Join Dr. Gabrielle Lyon and guest Dr. Madeleine Novich in an enlightening conversation that explores the essence of personal, relational, and collective identities. From dissecting the intricate dynamics of health prioritization to unveiling the power of healthy boundaries in relationships, each episode offers profound insights into achieving an elite identity.

Dive into discussions on childhood nutrition, parenting strategies, and the transformative influence of collective thinking, as Dr. Lyon and Dr. Novich unravel the secrets to cultivating a life of purpose, resilience, and vitality. Tune in for practical tips and compelling stories that inspire listeners to elevate their lives and leave a lasting legacy of strength.

In this episode we discuss:
– Explores the essence of personal, relational, and collective identities
– Childhood nutrition, parenting strategies, and the transformative influence of collective thinking
– Secrets to cultivating a life of purpose, resilience, and vitality

00:00:00 – Introduction to Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show

00:06:49 – Understanding Elite Identity and Its Components

00:14:12 – Balancing Work and Family Life as a Mother

00:20:56 – Navigating Personal and Relational Identities

00:27:58 – Efficiency Tips for Busy Parents

00:34:48 – The Importance of Mentorship During Transitions

00:41:42 – Building Healthy Relationships and Setting Boundaries

00:48:42 – Collective Identity and Its Impact on Behavior

00:55:49 – Optimizing Health with Nutrition and Supplements

01:02:51 – Actionable Items for Improving Family Dynamic

 

Dr. Madeline Novich, welcome to the podcast. Not only are you a PhD, a professor in criminology, but you’re also my sister. – Hi, thank you for having me. – Welcome to the podcast. – I’m very excited to be here. – Before we get into what it means to have an elite identity, tell us a little bit about your background. – Well, I am a criminal justice professor in New York City. I teach at Manhattan College. I am also a mom of three and I live in New York City. – It’s really quite incredible. You also did your undergraduate at Penn. – I did my undergraduate and master’s at Penn. That’s right. I majored in Chinese and political science and my master’s is in criminology and then went on for a fully funded ride to Redker School of Criminal Justice. – Really extraordinary. And you’re also very well published. – I am. I have a number of publications on policing and their interactions with communities of color and I’ve done a lot of work in this space.

And today we’re gonna talk about a lot of things. I really wanted to bring you on for a number of Number one, because you’re brilliant, capable and extraordinary in many ways. The listener is gonna get a lot of value. The listener and the viewer is gonna get really a lot of value. We’re gonna talk about something called, as you mentioned, an elite identity.

And one of the things that we are gonna discuss is how to be successful in this idea of having different identities. And this is gonna tie into some of your work. So please, help us out. – Okay. So yes, I’ve done a little bit of work on how we navigate different identities. We, as people, have identities in terms of personal identity. We have a relationship identity, who we are in relation to other people and who we are as a collective identity. But we really wanna be successful in these different concentric circles, right? In our professional life, in our familial life, in our personal life. And it can be really overwhelming to have these different identities if we don’t really hone them.

And how, just for the sake of the conversation, how are we going to identify and define identity? – Well, I think we can define and identify identity by looking at the three different types of identity. We have this personal identity, which is attributes that we identify as elements of our personality, our race, our gender. We can have relational identity, who we define ourselves in relation to our people around us, like we’re mothers and we’re fathers. And our collective identity, who we identify as part of larger groups, like the military or sports teams. So I think that can serve as a premise of our conversation. – And when we think about, you know, everybody listening, and I think everybody, for the most part, wants to really be the best version of And in order to get there, we have to put in a framework for thinking about things and a framework for taking action. – Absolutely. – And that’s why I really loved this conversation of identity, personal identity, relational identity, and collective identity, and the transitions that we all go through. – Absolutely. And there’s life transitions, going from being a medical student to a doctor, or a resident and then a doctor, obviously they’re both the same thing, from being a military member to then– – To a civilian. – To civilian. – Yeah. – Being a non-parent to then a parent. – Absolutely, going from unemployed or from college to employed, right? So we are making identity shifts all the time. And it can be very challenging to know how to best navigate those new spaces. – And I would say that if you don’t, those are really the points of weakness. If we’re unable to navigate these transition points,

then I mean, these are the times where people really go off track. – Absolutely, and it’s easy to, right? It’s easy to not put in best practices because when you don’t necessarily know what they are, luckily there’s research and evidence to support some of these decisions. But also I think it’s really important that it’s never too late to change your best practices. And I think as a criminal justice professor or something that we learn as we see the age crime curve, people sort of maximize or commit their most amount of crime before the age of 25 because as research has shown, your prefrontal cortex and your amygdala don’t finish developing then. And what’s interesting is that’s what’s involved in decision making and impulse control, right? So it’s very easy to get off track when your impulse control and your ability to make really good decisions just hasn’t been fully formed yet. So it’s not your fault, right? So if you’re coming at this and you’re like, “I’m late in the game,” it’s not your fault, I promise. – That’s really enlightening. The brain, so most crimes happen early on? – It’s not that most crimes happen early on, it’s just that the bulk of offending or the vast majority of offenders will do so before the age of 25. – Why? – Because of this prefrontal cortex, the ability for the amygdala to finish forming for that impulse control, right? So crime takes a variety of different forms, of course. You have drug-related crime, you have addiction-driven crime, you have all these different kinds of crime. And it’s very interesting to watch a person who’s involved in crime, their trajectory really caps out often if they’re what’s called an adolescent limited, meaning it’s really limited to their adolescents. Then they stop offending because their brain finishes forming and also other life events, right? They get married, they go through these identity shifts, they go back to college, they go any number of places, they could be incarcerated, right? Big life changes happen, and all of a sudden their opportunity or their decision to engage in crime goes down. – And is there on the flip side, and I know that you speak and write about criminology and policing, do you think that there’s a positive flip side for these identity changes? – 100%, I think that when we, I think it’s important that we base our identity sort of in this health and wellness, right? I think that’s part of it too, is that people can come from a place of unhappiness or big life changes and really lose their way and it can be very challenging, but to refocus these positive mechanisms and really come back to good decision making and a good development of an identity is so critical. And I think we can both agree that this elite identity, one that is successful in different spaces and different changes is gonna be one that’s based in health and strength, both physically and mentally. And it’s like, how do we get there? – Tell me, do you have the answer? I would like to know, how do we become elite in our identity from a personal perspective? – So, I don’t have all the answers. – You have a lot, you’re a mom of three. I’m my sister and I usually call you for everything, so. – Well, I think we can look at the way that we transition from motherhood, I think is a really interesting transition, right? To go from a non-mother or a non-parent to a mother and trying to navigate this new space and this new identity. And I think this is an interesting way because we do get lost. I think mothers particularly can get lost in the new demands, the lack of sleep, the energy loss. So, I mean, I do have some ideas, but I don’t wanna– – I can’t wait to hear them. I can’t wait to hear them. And again, we both agree that the baseline of an elite identity is both grounded in strength and health and wellness, which is exactly why I wanted to bring you on for a number of reasons. But especially as we begin to think about these three primary areas of life, we talk about family, which is arguably the most important.

You know, and it’s very easy when we get wrapped up into an identity as I’m an entrepreneur or I’m a professor or I’m a professional.

And one would, I think that that then challenges the family dynamic and this family identity. You had put some statistics in here as we were pre-prepping for the podcast, 69% of Americans have kids, 15% don’t have kids but want, and a large proportion of the people have kids. So, there’s a lot of people that are gonna go through this identity shift from a singular person, as you point out, to a mother or caretaker or a father or caretaker. – Absolutely.

And I think these are huge transitional changes as we look at someone who’s going from only worrying about themselves or thinking about themselves. And parenthood is this, what we call this relational identity, right? They are now defining themselves, who they are in relation to somebody else. And it’s their child often, right? And it is enormous amount of change. And I think we, you know, you and I are both parents. You have two kids, I have three kids. You know, what challenges did you face as a mother? – Well, you tell me what challenges that, you know, my question to you is you are a professor, a mother of three, your husband is in tech, he’s working all kinds of hours.

What, give us an example of the challenges that you have faced? – I think I have faced a huge change in how I spend my time, right? I used to wake up and have my coffee and it was very leisurely, I’d get dressed, I’d go to work. My mornings now are you wake up, you have one hour to get three kids dressed, get them to school, feed them, pack their backpacks. You know, you are just, there is so much going on now all the time. My afters work, I pick my kids up, I take them to the park, I take them to gymnastics. My time is no longer my own. And so I think part of this identity, you know, it’s very easy to get lost in this identity of who you are. – Yeah, you hear that all the time. – Yes, absolutely. – That I’m a parent or a mom and, or I’m more than a mom.

And you see women really struggle with this. – Yes, and this is something, the first thing to go is the time for themselves because they’re giving their time away, right? And so a question I always get is like, when do you have time to work out? Or when do you have time to cook meals, right? Because you are exhausted and you are depleted and you don’t have that time anymore. And so I think when we want to think about action items, right, about how we empower caretakers and mothers to reclaim that time for themselves, I think it’s really interesting. I actually, can I talk a little bit about some research I did? – I can’t wait. – So I actually published a research article I coauthored called “Strategies for Balance,” how parents of color navigate the work and life in the academy. And really what we found is that the mothers specifically have different demands on them, right? So we know that men become parents and fathers and women become mothers, but we know those both result in a number of changes and life changes, challenges, right? Taking time and all of these things. But we have to account that these life changes are not the same across all the genders, right? And that women do face actually increasingly more or more difficult challenges when it comes to navigating this life-work-life balance. And I think what’s really profound is in the study that I conducted that mothers, more so, far more so than their male counterparts and fathers, expressed this guilt, this guilt of leaving their children, going to work. And so instead of going to say, professional networking activities after work, they would go home. And so you see them being systematically excluded from these professional building elements, right? And so when we think about identity, right? We think about the mother, how we can be successful as mothers, how we can be successful as professionals, how we can be successful in our personal life. But mothers are systematically disadvantaged in part by this guilt that they feel, in part of the demands, right?

The demands on the children to the mothers, to the fathers are different. I don’t know about your house, my house. My kids are always asking for me. Like, daddy will literally be on the couch and next to all three of my children, I will be downstairs in my bedroom and they will come down and ask me for the glass of water, right? And that’s just an example. So I think it’s important to understand that there are gender differences and how we can best support people as they navigate that. – And are there other challenges that you have faced? There’s the time, the boundary challenges. Did you experience that? – 100%, right? I give a lot to my kids. And to a point where it’s very hard to see when I need to take time for myself. And so I don’t take time for myself or I didn’t for a very long time. – Is it guilt or you just don’t wanna miss a moment? I know you obviously as my sister and I also know you as a mother. And one of the things that you do so well is you’re very much always living in the moment. – Yes, I don’t like to miss out on things. I have FOMO. I can have FOMO all the time, right? I don’t wanna miss out on– – Max, she’s called her kids at least 27 and a half hours in the last hour.

All kidding aside. – I think it’s part of it is I don’t wanna miss out. I definitely experienced some of the guilt and also it becomes pattern. After three kids, I’ve been a mother for 10 years. I don’t remember when it’s my turn. I don’t think to take my turn. And of course there’s logistical challenges of getting childcare, the appropriate childcare. It just sometimes it’s easier to just keep in the moment than it is to set up the things that I know I need. – In the study that you looked at, do you find again if women are systematically being deselected or self deselecting from things like networking events, from things like education to going to conferences because they are the primary caretaker, how does that in an overall pattern affect the workplace, the women in terms of growing their careers?

Have you thought about that? Was that one of the pieces in the study? – Absolutely. Well, you can imagine if you are systematically excluded from networking, you’re not gonna meet researchers, right? In my academic field, collaboration is huge, right? You want to meet other people who are working on interesting things and to do collaborative studies and research. If you don’t have the time to go to the conferences and to the workshops, right? We have these multi-week workshops for academics but it’s very hard for mothers, especially if they’re recently new mothers, right? If they’re still nursing, like you can imagine those kinds of innate physical barriers but also the guilt keeps them home, right? – Why do you think they, do you think the guilt is something that’s taught or is it something, do you think there’s a biological mechanism in place? – Could be. I think there’s certainly that’s possible but I also think we have a culture that, you know, we still put women in the home, right? It’s very unusual to see the female be the primary breadwinner still and I think that that is a narrative shift that should happen. – What do you think are some of the solutions to that? – Such a good question. – Do you have a study on that? – I don’t have a study on that but I do think that there are a number of strategies that people can take to really elevate their elite identity and one I think is you need to make time to prioritize yourself and this is really important.

We need to shed the guilt, we need to combat that narrative and we need to take time to work out. We need to take time to make that meal, to be healthy, to go out with our friends, to separate ourselves, to reclaim our identity. – Have you found that when that’s done over and over again that the guilt dissipates or do you believe that the guilt always remains? – So I don’t have any research or empirical support to support my opinion on this but I think the more you do it, the more you realize your children are okay when you go off to that conferencing network and you come back and you, I think they’re okay and I think I can dissipate with just some practice. – Yeah and you’re really also talking about two things here. You’re talking about the individual, the mother, the parent going to do these things and actually understanding and mitigating their own personal guilt and then on the flip side, where I think that we can shift the way that we think about it is and I was at an event and Dr. Chris Palmer was there and he is a psychiatrist from Harvard, talks a lot about the brain metabolism and ketosis and ketones and the metabolic health but all that aside, he said, you know, it’s really wonderful that you go and you speak and it’s also really wonderful when you bring the children and I said, well, you know why? Because I feel so guilty with everything that I’m trying to do for the world and he said to me, you are providing them with an opportunity to know that they can function without you constantly being there and it actually makes them stronger, more capable, more durable and when you bring them, it allows them to work through feelings of boredom or work through their own experiences and he said to me, you shouldn’t remove that from them.

That changed things for me. – Yeah, that’s really great advice. – Yeah, I really felt that when you think about it in terms of with this whole mom guilt and this identity of being a mom or you know, even parents, so for example, Shane, who works 120 hours a week, if not more, he feels really guilty. He feels as if he’s missing everything and those are pretty rough hours. –

Yeah, for sure. – But the time that is spent is very precious and he still has to work and build his own life and the world doesn’t necessarily, and some listeners may or may not agree, revolve solely around the children. – Totally. – It is a full dynamic.

Absolutely and I think what you bring up before, which I wanna reference, there is a study that came out that showed that working mothers are actually really important role models for their daughters, right? Because you are setting the example that you can go out and be hugely successful and a mother at the same time and you can be good at both and that changes the narrative that they have to stay home when they have

Yeah, it is certainly challenging. I think that if there are mothers listening here, I’m sure you’ve all experienced it and I’ll just from a very practical standpoint, women that I take care of and you know, throughout the years, they say, well, I don’t have time to work out because I’m gonna miss this baseball game or I wanna have breakfast with my kids. There is a trade-off. – That’s true, – I mean, there is a trade-off. For example, there are three days a week that I train in the morning, no matter what.

Some of those times, the kids will come with me, I always encourage them to come with me. The other time, they don’t and I miss that warning of sitting down and having breakfast with them. I don’t miss the time because we get time together but if I didn’t do that, my effectiveness as a mom goes down because I’m resentful. – Right. – I think that there’s a resentment that comes in when you are constantly giving and the, I wonder how we can reframe the way that we think about things from the identity standpoint of how can we be good teammates, good parents and still do the things that we need to do. – I think that’s a really good point. I think there’s a strategy that actually works well in my household and I can share it with your listeners, maybe it’ll help with them, is I think you can use data and to inform your responsibilities, right? To inform your daily schedule and your weekly schedule.

And I encourage people to map out their week. Just write down everything you’re doing for seven days. Every time block, see where you can cut time, create efficiencies, like today we were out working out and when you brought your kids, you were both spending time with your kids and you were working out. And so I think that it’s really important to use data to look at how you can best schedule your week. What efficiencies can you carve out? But you can’t just make it up, you actually need to take time to record what you’re doing every day and look analytically at your week. – That’s helpful. I don’t know if you remember this, but again, I’ve known you for a really long time. Way back then, but I would call you sporadically. Any of my friends that know me know that I will call sporadically, I’m a very social person, it is my nature, but I would call you and you would not pick up, you’d send me a text and say, “Hey, I have 35 minutes, I am deep in focus, “I’ll call you later.” – Correct. – You’ve done that throughout your life. And I learned a lot and as I became, because here’s the thing, at the time I didn’t have kids, and I would think to myself, come on, she’s not that busy, she can’t really pick up the phone, or she can really pick up the phone, or what do you mean I’m gonna talk to you at 10.30 on Thursday?

Now, having two children, I recognize that having a structure and Cal Newport talks a lot about this, he’s written many great books, but I learned that from you and not only that, you are incredibly efficient with your time. – The first recommendation that you’re giving is map out what your week is like and how you’re spending your time. – Exactly. – Were there places that when you did that, that you cut the fat? – Yes, absolutely. And actually this is something I do a lot, so for those of you who have seen my account, I have these cargo bikes. – Okay, so you guys said, let’s take a pause. I was like, do not talk about the cargo bike, but please give her a follow at cargo bike mama, M-O-M-M-A. My sister is extraordinary, and she’s not just extraordinary because I’m biased. I mean, this is a mother of three, a full professor of criminology who went to Penn, and you’re amazing.

Side note, okay, back to efficiency. – So the reason I bring up these bikes is because– – No one knows what a cargo bike is first of all. – Cargo bike is a very– – Matt, my producer over here. – Yeah, I showed him. So these are very common in Europe. In the Netherlands, you see them all over the place. Basically they are bikes where you can carry a ton of stuff, including kids on the front or the back. I have a few of them, and so– – Wait, wait, wait, wait. The listener doesn’t know at all what these cargo bikes are. They are a bicycle with this massive box on the front.

Mine, I like front loaders. They’re these huge boxes on the front, and you can literally load 400 pounds in these bikes. They’re designed to carry weight. They’re designed to be like a car replacement.

And so what else? Anything else I need to comment about these bikes? – No, just think about how Dorothy had the basket for the Wizard of Oz. Think about that times 500 the size of this. So you’re talking about efficiency, and this brings you to cargo bikes. – Exactly, and the whole reason why I even got these bikes, because I didn’t bike. I don’t know if you know this. Like I literally didn’t– – Well, you don’t drive, so you have to do something. – I don’t drive. I used to drive, but in New York, so I live in New York City, and traffic is awful. Traffic, parking, it’s all awful. We take the subway, which is great, but being a full-time working mom of three, I have very little time to spare. I just don’t have that time to spare. And so what I found is when we had spent the summer in the Netherlands, that by getting myself and my children and my groceries and everything around my bike, I would shave hours. I would just reclaim those hours back so that I could do something more meaningful instead of spending the time commuting. And so we got these bikes, and from, for example, from my home to my kid’s doctor’s appointment, by subway or by bus, it would take 45 minutes. In these bikes, it’s 15 minutes, and I can park in front. Right, so the–

– You can’t do that with a car in New York City. You can’t do that in the subway in New York City. So that was one of the things. And then of course the bikes became this way of being really efficient. I can, I work out, research shows that even with my e-bike enabled, it’s a moderate workout. I am spending time with my children and I’m commuting. I am doing three things in one, and I’m getting to my destination faster than I would. So I think, again, I went through my schedule, I identified where I was wasting time, and most of my time was wasted in transit. – What do you think other people could do? Let’s say they don’t have access to a cargo bike. One of the things I’m hearing you say is, it seems like commuting is a big problem for many people. – Yes. – Would you say number one, mitigate that time if you can find a different way? – Totally. – Possibly work part-time from home, maybe. And if you couldn’t, if you had to commute, are there strategies that you would use that time for?

So I think that commuting can be viewed as an opportunity to be spending time with the people that you love. You can call people, you can listen to podcasts, you can talk and connect with your Again, I use my commuting time as this multimodal way of engaging with my kids, as getting exercise and all these things. I do think that one thing about transitioning from a car to a car light, or using these bikes as a mechanism, is it doesn’t have to be 100%. Most people’s travel is within one to three miles of their home. Something that can be done easily, you can take a foot, you can take a walk, by bike very easily. So I think it’s identifying, again, you’re not gonna know any of this until you start recording your own data. – Yeah, it’s really helpful.

What else?

Again, prioritizing your self, and by doing that, I think a lot of people don’t know how to spend time with themselves.

I would say that I’m probably guilty of that if you were to say, what are the things that you do to prioritize yourself? I’m not sure I could give you an answer. – Any ideas?

I do get a massage, and I have an amazing massage therapist, Kathy Kistner, and she’ll come to my house, but I was terrible at actually scheduling the massages.

She was wonderful. She actually forced herself to say, I am coming over at this time, you better be there. And I was like, this is amazing. That might sound like a luxury, and it certainly is. I’m so grateful that she does it. But I would say that that’s probably the only thing, I must get better at that, because I don’t really even think about training as prioritizing oneself, but it is. – Right, for people who do it more passively, or maybe it’s not as central to their existence, it’s a really important thing to prioritize. And it can be very easy, the more responsibilities you have, the more identities you have. – What do you mean by that? The more identities that you have? – If you go from being a person to, a single person to being a mother, and being a professional, and being, say, if you do any sports or anything like that, you’re taking on multiple identities, right? You’re navigating these different spaces, and the more things that you take on, the more responsibilities or activities that you do, because you wanna have this enriched life, the less time you have, and it can be really hard to do these things well. And so– – How do you say no? – How do you say no? That’s really, oh, yes, I was at this great, I went to this great talk by these three female CEOs, and they said, listen, all you have to do when someone asks you to do something, and you don’t wanna do it, you say, “I’m as scheduled as I prefer to be right now.” – I am as scheduled as I prefer to be right now. I’m gonna start using that. – I think it’s great, you’re not lying. You’re just saying, “I’m respectfully declining “because I don’t wanna take on anymore.” – Where can people also make up inefficiencies? – I think they can make up inefficiencies by finding a mentor, too, right? They don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and I guarantee you, somebody else has done something along the line, or they have faced similar challenges. I did a little bit of research as well on this shifting identities from student veterans, right? Former military who left the military to become civilians, to become students, and one of the key takeaways was that they felt very lost without having that mentor, and I think that’s a takeaway we can apply to most places in our lives. – Just to clarify what you’re saying, transitions from the identity of being a active military individual, transitioning to then being a civilian, transitions are the rockiest times. Transition from job to job, transitioning from non-parent to parent, those transition points take people off track, and by the way, they are fully predictable.

Transition points, you guys are fully predictable. You know that there are going to be moments in life that you change, and these individuals will experience it as stressful, it is certainly unfamiliar, I think unfamiliarity, breeds stress, I love the recommendation to link up with a mentor, I have a mentor, I mentor a handful of people. The other thing, and I’d love to hear your take from your research, is that the community, community of other individuals going through similar things or again, someone that has done it, community matters. – Absolutely, you aren’t alone, right? Transitions can feel very scary and very isolating, and they’re new for you, even though they’re predictable, like you said, right? We all go through them, and what’s great is there are people who have done this and done it successfully, and so I think finding a community, because you need also that support, right? There are gonna be days where you are feeling awesome, and there are gonna be days where you feel really badly, and so you just wanna find someone who can lift you up and elevate you, and I think that’s a really important thing, is to surround yourself with people who really elevate you, to help you craft that elite identity.

That’s wonderful advice, because again, none of us succeed alone. – Correct. – We all have people in our lives that hold us to a higher When you think about elite identity, again, we can talk about health and wellness in its own domain, and then we can talk about it separately, but the reality is this idea of living a very globally successful life is truly the point that you are making about having an elite identity.

I have a note here that you had said, a separation of health and self.

Do you wanna explain to us what that is?

Well, I think it’s really important to come up with strategies to prioritize your health, right? And sometimes that can mean taking away the, you know, to not sacrifice, but to make decisions that I’m not gonna do certain things today, because I wanna prioritize my health, and I wanna, and prioritize my mental health. And so I think that was something that was very important for me to consider, is that I need to prioritize my health, because without having a healthy identity, all of your other identities are gonna be impacted, as well as your concentric circles of family, professional life, and familial life, right? If you’re not healthy, the people around you aren’t gonna be healthy, and you’re not gonna make healthy So I just think it’s really important to prioritize and separate that what you’re doing every day sometimes needs to be, not, again, not sacrificed, but shifted so that you can focus on what really sets a foundation. – What is it, what do you mean by concentric circles? – So I view the different elements of our lives as concentric circles. We have our professional circle, we have our family circle, and we have our personal circle. And they’re all interrelated, because how you do in one, and the identity you form in one, will absolutely impact the identity you form in the other, and how successful you can be in these other identities. – Can you give me an example of that? – Sure. I mean, motherhood is an amazing example, right? My family life, if I am very busy, and I can’t disentangle my motherhood identity, then I won’t go to that networking event. And that’s gonna impact my professional identity. – The other, again, we talked about these three types of identity. We’ve covered personal identity. Tell me about relational identity, and what role does that play? – I think that is a really important role. And again, this relational identity is one where you identify yourself in relation to other people. So, as a mother, right? You are defining yourself in relation to your children. And so I think it’s very important that we recognize that other people around us impact how we view ourselves, and how we act on a day-to-day basis. – Do you think it’s meaningful to change the language? Let me give you an example. Earlier in our conversation, I said, “I’m a very social person. “I’m identifying myself as a very social person.” Do you think having words and frameworks like that can hinder the way in which I navigate, the way in which I think about things? Or as long as it’s something positive, it’s irrelevant?

I think having a clearly fleshed-out identity is So we wanna use positive language, but negative, there are elements of our identity that can be negative too, right? You can feel down, or you can feel depressed, or you can have those parts of your identity, and they create you as a whole. No person is wholly a positive person, right? We have dark corners. – I don’t know, Matt’s pretty good over there.

So I think having a realistic narrative is what’s most important. – A realistic narrative. And do you have solutions for ways in which an individual could navigate their relational identity? Do you think that there’s pitfalls or downfalls that people should look out for? – Healthy boundaries, Again, how we identify as a partner, right, as a spouse, is also really important. And we wanna make sure that we are having a healthy relationship. Again, this all goes back to this health and wellness. We wanna have these healthy relationships, we wanna have these healthy interactions. – And you’re talking about health from two, two sides of the same coin. – Correct, mental health. – Yeah, what you’re really talking about here is, so there’s a physical health. But what I’m hearing you say is you’re actually talking about the mental health component to it. – Absolutely. – Do you think that there are ways in which someone could identify that they potentially are not living up to a certain standard from a relational standpoint? – That’s a really good question.

I think so. I think we can see that in relationships that aren’t fulfilling, or where we feel like we’re needing more, or we’re not prioritizing elements of ourself, or we lose our identity with that other person. You know, I haven’t done research firsthand, but I’ve done a lot of studying about domestic violence. And so when you identify the signs of domestic violence, it can be really important. – I’m really glad that you brought that up. One of the courses that you teach as a professor is ethics. – I do, I teach criminal justice ethics, but I also teach gender crime and justice. And so I think it’s very important to identify that we have morality and we have, where am I going? – I mean, morality is really interesting. Just the idea of, would you define that as how you do right and wrong? – Yes, how you do right and wrong. And that can be innate. It can also be learned and it can be cultivated. – And the reason I brought that up, the ethics component, because when you talk about relationship identity, again, what we really are, the goal of this podcast is twofold.

Number one, to really think about how do we raise ourselves to the standard of an elite identity. And what we’ve covered so far is primarily the personal identity and where there may be pitfalls of that, again, you and I are speaking on behalf of motherhood and mothers. I can’t tell you how many women that I interface with that say some of the things that you’ve brought up, even my own self, I have a ton of mom guilt. There’s lots of things that I’ve had to work through. And then the second component, so there’s that component, is this elite identity. The other part of this podcast is, I do wanna talk about childhood, raising healthy children.

And again, I think it all ties into how we can be the best version of oneself. But the relational identity, the reason I brought up ethics is because we have to think, how do we interface with other people? Are we a honorable spouse? Are we doing things that are disingenuine to how we treat a friend? And how that all falls into suboptimal behavior, suboptimal performance, and really kind of erodes the best version of oneself.

Where else in terms of relationship identity, and by the way, do we know when these identities form?

No, I don’t know, – It must start really, really early. – I imagine.

Are there other things that you would say how someone could really foster a healthy relational identity? You talked about – Yes. – Give me some examples of that. – So it’s actually funny, I wanna talk about something. – Please. – I wanna talk about something else because I just thought about it. So my husband and I, we have a really amazing and healthy relationship. And I realize we do things that might be a little different or kind of strange when we think about relational identity. But we basically have alignment meetings. So my husband– – Alignment meetings. – Alignment meetings, yeah. So we’ll talk about different– – We need one of those.

Matt, do you need that? I need that, an alignment meeting? – An alignment meeting, where we DDC. We debate. – What is a DDC? – We go through these. So one thing that I think is really important is when you’re building these relational identities and you want to have the best version of yourself, it’s communication and alignment with your spouse is like number one. And so one of the things that we do is we DDC. We debate, we decide together, and we commit to that decision. So he can’t go back, I can’t go back on him and be like, “Well, we made this decision, you made this decision “and I’m mad at you,” right? It was like, no, we debated it. We decided together and we committed to the outcome no matter whether it’s a good outcome or bad outcome. – DDC, debate, decide, commit.

Friends, we should all be doing this. – We should all be doing this. And then you have alignment meetings with your partner. – What happens there? – Well, if you are misaligned on really fundamental things like how you manage money or how you choose to go about transportation or how you choose to spend your summers or whatever big critical things in your lives with your partner should be done through alignment meetings. – Amazing, best podcast ever, alignment meetings, DDC. What would DDC do?

Do you have anything else there? Because that’s great. I mean, I don’t think it gets better than an alignment meeting because now we’re thinking about these three interlocking circles of personal identity, relational, where you show up in a relationship. What about these boundaries that you talk about? – I think boundaries are really important to carving out time for yourself, identifying where you can be focusing on yourself in your career and again, letting go of this, shedding this guilt that you can’t do it all because you can set boundaries and it’s really healthy to do so. – Where I, again, I take care of patients and while we talk about blood work, we talk about a number of things, being a physician is a sacred privilege and I don’t know, in the 1800s, probably before that, it was, the physician wasn’t just about, you broke your leg, it wasn’t transactional. They were advisors, they were confidants, they were someone who was critical in that person’s life and one of the things that I think really becomes important is that, I hear a lot of behind the scenes things that happen to people because how they show up in the world and what they’re going through from a relationship standpoint affects their health, period, end of story. When they are in a new loving relationship, you better believe that I am telling you, trends over time, I see improvements in blood work.

Patients lose weight, their blood pressure is better, it’s extraordinary.

The other counter to that is, when someone doesn’t set up a healthy boundary, I have seen that derail and unravel humans, case in point, I have a particular patient who was really in love with this girl and instead of being honest and upfront about who he really was, for example, he is extraordinarily social, he loves to hang out with his friends. He likes to put his phone away and he loves to hang out with his friends. He also has a lot of friends in general, some are male, some are female. He didn’t set the boundary that I am the kind of person that really likes to go out once a week, put my phone away, hang out with my friends. I am also the kind of person that has female friends and they text me, they call me and he was so in love with this girl that he put that aside and wasn’t upfront about it. And because he wasn’t upfront about it, that whole relational identity that he had built for word facing that was actually different from who he was, created a self imploding relationship.

That makes a lot of sense. – Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. The way that I see it, when you set up a healthy relationship identity or relational identity is definitely knowing who you are and putting that forward so that it’s not confusing for the person and then the other – Agree. – And this is where I think about love languages. – Yes. – You guys might think that I’m being silly, but love languages, we should actually take the word love out of it and it should be relational language. – Agree. – How do you feel safe and connected? Are you someone who is an active service person? Are you a quality time? Are you a physical contact person? It would be weird if you’re like always hugging your friends. So maybe that, maybe we’ll keep it as love language but very tactile, et cetera. And that becomes important to know how you feel supported. – Absolutely, absolutely. – The third type of identity is this collective identity. – Yes. – I would love to hear, and I think that you have a lot of gems to share, especially because of social media, people or gangs. Tell me about a collective identity and how it can help you become an elite performer or how it can derail you. – Oh, I think that’s, I mean, I can talk certainly on the derailing, right? As we know that– – Frame it up for us, I’ll tee it off. – I mean, of course, as a gang scholar, really, that’s my area of specialty. – Wait, pause. As a gang scholar. – A gang scholar, yes. The vast majority of my research examines the experiences of gang members and how we can, how we interface with gangs, how they respond, how they interact with people, how they interact with police, how we can reduce gang membership. So I do have a lot of research, and I’ve done certainly some research about how gang activity, and this is certainly a collective identity, can create increased likelihood of delinquency, right? So when you’re talking about gang scholarship or you’re talking about gang behavior, we study young men and young women, and we compare them to non-gang counterparts, right? The young men of the same similar backgrounds and the same ages, and whether they’re in a gang, and if they’re not, like their levels of delinquency. And gangs, as a collective identity, it significantly increased not only the likelihood, sort of group think, right? The likelihood of delinquent behavior, the increased likelihood of delinquency, victimization, all these number of things, really negative things that can happen when you’re part of a gang.

So that’s certainly the pitfalls. – Of a collective identity. – Of a collective identity that’s surrounded around crime and delinquency, right? Although we have to humanize the gangs, right? Gangs come out of environments that are very harsh, where there are not great alternatives. Young women in particular join gangs because more than likely, statistically speaking, they come from homes of violence and neglect. And the gangs become a safer, what they view as safer, whether it’s actually safer is a different story, but they view it as a better alternative than being at home. – That’s fascinating. It really sounds as if the personal identity, the relational identity, and the collective identity all feed one another. – 100% are interrelated. – And the collective identity, is this somewhat of the concept that you are, the five people that you surround yourself with, or is this more of a, you know, I am thinking about things in the way, and I’m just gonna give an example. I am thinking about things the way a carnivore, so if it’s a nutrition group, a carnivore or keto collective identity, or even whether you are Republican or Democratic, are these examples of all big things? – Yes, absolutely, and they’re collective identities. You know, one thing that’s really interesting is when you have groups of people together, the way and value structures can shift and change, because you are reinforcing, you know, and re-establishing these value structures, then what can happen, especially in like subculture, is they change, right? What you view as acceptable behavior can shift from the normative, or what you maybe were grown up to believe was the right behavior. – Give me an example of that. – I mean, I can think about this in terms of gang behavior, right? So like, let’s say you have someone who is not getting involved necessarily, but has exposure to gangs, ends up joining a gang, and originally wasn’t interested in say drug deal, right? Which is a very common activity that can be part of a gang. – What I’m hearing that’s so fascinating is that the behaviors that would be considered just outlandish for some people, there is a normalization that happens. – Exactly, exactly. And so drug dealing can be very common and very normative, or fighting. – Like, hey, what did you do today? Well, I sold a whole bunch of weed, or I sold a whole bunch of stuff at the corner, totally normal, how much money did you make? Like, that’s what they care about, right? So I think it’s very interesting, too, when you think about these value structure shifting. Same with violence, right? Gang members value, their value is in strength and shows a force, and beating people up. And they don’t do it all the time, but showing that they can hold their own in a fight. That’s a very different normal value structure from non-gang involved people.

Do you think that people, are there certain personalities, I know that this isn’t exactly what we’re talking about, and you might not know the answer to this, but again, the goal of the conversation is an elite identity. How can you then shift from a, I’ll use the term weaker, or less optimized identity, to something that truly is something that you can strive for and be proud of.

Are there certain personalities, or certain character traits, or certain environments growing up that would leave someone vulnerable to collective think in general? Or is it human nature to buy into a group think? – So I think that’s a multi-faceted question. I think there’s certainly, for some people, there is research to show that there is biological behaviors like antisocial personality disorder, right? Things like that, where you may be more inclined to join a gang. But a lot of it too is the environment, right? So not everybody is starting at the same playing field, right, so you have people who come from violence and neglectful homes, and they’re just not at the same starting point as someone who comes from affluence. And we can’t treat everybody the same, right? It’s not fair to them. So I think that’s a really important element of crafting an identity. – How can someone optimize this idea of collective think? Where do you see the benefit? How could someone, if they were just evaluating their time, evaluating their network, evaluating the space and the domains in which they live in, how could someone optimize this collective identity? – I think by joining groups that share the values that you wanna have, right? So I think, you know, maybe a terrible example is, my son’s a competitive chess player. He does his best when he’s– – Hey Jack. – When he is with his chess playing friends, right? And he says, “I think that’s why I think “they are thinking analytically. “They’re leveling each other up.” So I think you can really harness if you join networks or groups that really level you up. And you might have some good examples or some ideas of some of those groups. – That’s why we actually created the community. We created a Forever Strong community for exactly that. And I haven’t actually released it, but I created a creed for them.

I’m not gonna share it yet, but we created a creed that again, holds people to a high standard within themselves, just we have five main pillars and that’s actually why I created the Forever Strong community. – It’s amazing. – I mean, because I wanted to create an atmosphere that cultivates people and ways of thinking about things that are ultimately beneficial, that are supportive, that are positive, that value hard work, that value discipline. – That’s amazing. – And allowing people to do it collectively. – And can anyone join? – Yeah, yes, in fact, I’ll put you in the group. – Amazing. So I think a group like that would be amazing, especially for people who have lost their way or feel like they really need to surround themselves with people who can push them to the next level. – And I think that that brings up a really good point. People have to know where they’re vulnerable. And if you are in, and the points of vulnerability are always big transitions.

If you are someone who, and positive and negative, for example, someone who has lost 100 pounds and is now in a new body, they are at a transition point because they are in a different body, a different frame of being before people will react differently to them. – Yeah, for sure. –

And they have to feel comfortable in that new physicality. – Absolutely. – And any points of transition, and that is one of the things why we see a high recidivism rate, which is a high relapse rate of weight gain, people will often say it’s because they went off their nutrition plan and that’s very black and white thinking. The other reason is they don’t necessarily feel comfortable getting all the attention, or they don’t feel comfortable in this new body type. And that’s, again, points of vulnerability are really important places to get community and to step into community. – Absolutely. Especially when you feel that need, right? When you are about to relapse or recidivate. – Yeah, that is a very good point. Yes, in fact, I’m gonna put you in the group. This is, again, our forever strong community. You guys can find it online on my website. And I would love actually for you to come on as a guest. – I would love to. – For the community, it would be wonderful.

So far, we’ve talked about identities, personal, relational, collective, and I’m just gonna recap some of the highlights. And then if you have a little bit more time for me, I would love to chat about childhood nutrition, parenting, making good choices. Again, you are a professional mother. Personal identity that is really questioning where you are and recognizing if there are outside narratives that are influencing that. For example, mothers and mom guilt. There are many other examples of that, but again, personal identity, the big thing is taking time for yourself, doing the things that matter, and really managing your health and wellness. – Absolutely. – The second thing is relational identity. And that comes into play having a very good dynamic. And the big takeaway that I got was structure, DDC, decide. – Debate. – I’m sorry, debate, decide and commit. And what that does is it places a structure and a way in which you can then relate to the other person with certain rules. For example, you can’t go back and fight about it. And also, actually with personal identity, there’s one more thing is that looking at your schedule. We talked about health and wellness, but you have to look at your schedule to then deploy these tactics. Relational identity is creating a framework for the zone of operation within a household, within a friendship.

The other point to relationship identity is understanding boundaries. – Absolutely. – Being truthful and upfront with who you are so that people can know what to expect. And then the other component to that is understanding the quote, love language, the communication language.

What do we call it? The relationship language, whether you are active service, quality time.

I forgot gifts, I like gifts.

And then the third piece is the collective identity. The collective identity is understanding where you fit into groupthink. And really what I’m hearing, the big part of that is getting support, is finding a group and identifying with a larger group that holds to your standard and your values and that is supportive.

That’s a beautiful way of recapping it, And there’s action items for each of those. – Yes, I agree. Now I would like to just spend maybe 10 minutes talking about children, childhood nutrition, and doing things that are very valuable at the home front. Because again, this is some of the questions that I get asked all the time and where you really specialize and are very attuned to is behavior patterns. You had mentioned early on that the prefrontal cortex is not fully formed, that a large portion of crime happens before the age of 25.

This makes me think that we can do things from a very young age to instill good habits and instill good nutrition. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on that. – Absolutely. I think the number one thing for parents is to model the behavior they want their children to have. There is learning theory happening all the time around people, around you, around, your kids are watching you. What you eat is what they eat. What you do is what they do, right? I was watching you this afternoon, sister, you were working out and your kids were working out, right? So I think the really, the number one action item for helping families establish good and healthy behavior patterns is for the parents to do it themselves. – How to become an elite family. – Yeah. – Have good habits. – Have great habits. – And that includes physical fitness, it includes eating habits, it includes the conversation habits. Like I was explaining, we do kind of a DDC around the table every night in my family. We do the Rose and Thorn, right? And so my kids have come to expect that I am going to be checking in with the best thing that happened to them in the day and the worst thing that happened with them in the day. And that’s just a mechanism of communication and establishing what that does is it establishes open lines of communication very early. – It’s very valuable. – Yes.

What about nutrition? And I’m, I just want to highlight this because I’m kind of setting this up, but for example, omega-3 fatty acids. – Yes, very important I think for child development brains. My son has ADHD and we found after doing research that omega-3s could help with that. And so we do a high protein diet, take the Lion protocol, I’m not gonna lie. – And we also grew up, I mean, these are things that you and I, we grew up like this. – Absolutely. – We grew up in a very healthy household and there were things that both our parents modeled. – Absolutely. Healthy eating, mom always worked out, grandma worked out, our dad was really fit. It was just something we mimicked as well. We weren’t ever the type to just like sit around and eat a bag of cookies or Like that just wasn’t our, wasn’t what we saw, wasn’t what we knew. – From the research that you have done on ADHD and children, you found that omega-3 fatty acids influenced that? – I think it could help with brain function. And there’s actually some criminal justice research that also talks about this, which was they gave omega-3s to inmates in Pennsylvania, Dr. Adrian Rain, out of the University of Pennsylvania was one of my faculty members. And he started giving omega-3s to prisoners. They did a randomized control trial where they would give some inmates the diet as normal and they gave some inmates omega-3 supplements and they found a decline in impulsivity. They were calmer, it wasn’t huge, huge, but it was a statistically significant difference in behavior. And so when we were doing research for ADHD medication and it was during a time when we couldn’t get medication, there wasn’t a worldwide shortage and it was really difficult, we looked at every alternative we could. And so we did the omega-3s. – Are there any other nutritional tips or advice or anything that you’ve come across in your research, again, with brain function and impacting behavior that you would care to mention?

I don’t think so. I think just focus on, again, trying to limit, refined sugars, have a lot of omega-3s in your diet, fish, that kind of – Well, Dr. Madeleine Novich, thank you so much for being a guest. This is a very enlightening and meaningful conversation. Where can people find you? – Well, they can find me, of course, on Instagram at cargo bike mama, M-O-M-M-A. And I have a newsletter, www.cargobikemama.com, where I send out recipes and all kinds of different ways of maximizing your life. – Thank you so much for being a guest. We will link all of those below and well done. Thank you so much for having me, sister.