Balancing the Grind with Dr. Esther Zeledon, Co-Founder of Be.Act.Change

With a rich background spanning over 20 years, Dr. Zeledón combines her expertise as a “time guru” and “mindset master” with her personal journey as an immigrant to help individuals and teams unlock their potential.

In our conversation, she opens up about her journey from Nicaragua to becoming a best-selling author and sought-after life coach. She also provides insights into balancing the demands of being an entrepreneur, mother, and mentor.

Dr. Zeledon, your journey from a young immigrant to a best-selling author and life coach is nothing short of remarkable. Can you share how your own experiences shaped your philosophy in ‘Creating Your Limitless Life’ and influenced your mission to redefine the American Dream?

When my family came to the U.S. from Nicaragua, we carried all the hopes of living the American Dream that you see on TV, but reality was much more complicated. I had nearly died as a very young child, and my medical bills completely drained the windfall lottery winnings that saved my life. We lived paycheck to paycheck, and I grew up understanding that I could not become a burden to my family. From a young age, I became absolutely determined not to squander my opportunities.

I did all the right things, and I followed the formula of the American Dream. I ticked all the boxes: excellent grades, marriage at the ‘right’ age, scholarships to top universities, climbed the ladder, a big house with full staff, and yet, I found myself deeply unhappy. I realized the flawed nature of the American Dream. It’s a fixed, one-size-fits-all goal that can be as damaging to those who achieve it as to those who don’t. The American Dream assumes a universal standard that often doesn’t align with our true desires and potentials.

My book, ‘Creating Your Limitless Life’, is born from this realization. It advocates redefining the conventional American Dream to embrace our unique dreams and aspirations and aligning our lives with what truly brings us joy and fulfillment. I emphasize the importance of recognizing our uniqueness and the unique ways we solve problems.

It’s about changing our workplaces and societies to value collaboration over competition, mission and vision over mere titles and promotions. My experiences have shown that when we shift our focus from societal expectations to personal fulfillment, productivity and motivation skyrocket, and the impact we can have is profound.

The limitless philosophy is a practical approach to life that I’ve lived and seen transform others’ lives. It’s time for us to believe in our limitless potential, to create our own paths, and to trailblaze for ourselves and future generations. 

In your book, you talk about breaking down barriers and forging your own path. What advice do you have for high-achievers who feel confined by societal expectations, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds like yourself? 

My primary advice is to reflect deeply on what you truly desire and envision a life without confines, and believe that the dream is within your reach. I’m here to tell you that living without limitations isn’t just a lofty ideal – it’s achievable, and I stand as living proof of this.

Deep reflection starts with focusing on the legacy you want to create, your purpose, and the impact you wish to have in the world. Reconnect with your childhood dreams and the qualities of those aspirations. Remember the raw ambition of your inner child, and spend time considering this, free from societal, familial, and cultural pressures.

We all possess a unique gift for the world, and it’s crucial to honor that uniqueness. Especially as immigrants, we are often trailblazers, and it’s up to us to challenge and shift the narratives within our communities. We have the power to demonstrate that forging our own path is not only possible but also immensely rewarding. Remember, your journey and success can be the beacon for others to follow, showing them the way to a life of purpose and authenticity.

As a trailblazer and a Latina woman, how have you navigated sharing your unique story and experiences in a way that empowers others, especially those from similar cultural backgrounds?

Here’s an interesting tidbit: initially, when I began writing my book, my focus was solely on presenting a formula for discovering and living one’s purpose, and I hadn’t planned to share my personal story.

Admittedly, as a high achiever who has faced intense scrutiny throughout my life, opening up wasn’t easy. But I also remembered that books were my sanctuary growing up, my gateway to the world of trailblazers and dreamers, my source of ‘how-to’ knowledge and stories that inspired resilience. I realized that it was crucially important for me as a trailblazing Latino to share my story.

Don’t get me wrong –  I was still terrified about family reactions or professional repercussions, but none of my worst-case scenarios materialized. Instead, I learned that our stories validate our experiences and can be a source of inspiration for others. I aimed to make my book relatable and inspiring for readers of any age, and the heartfelt messages I’ve received in response have been incredibly humbling and affirming.

Sharing our vulnerable stories, especially in immigrant communities where silence is often the norm, is itself an act of empowerment. It’s a testament to the fact that our experiences, struggles, and triumphs can light the way for others.

Balancing the roles of entrepreneur, mother, and mentor is no easy feat. How do you manage these diverse responsibilities while staying true to your intuition and maintaining authenticity in both your personal and professional life?

Balancing my roles as an entrepreneur, mother, and mentor is challenging, but it’s something I’ve been doing since childhood – managing responsibilities, helping my family and friends, all while pursuing my education and work. I’m known as the time management guru. But the game changer for me was aligning my time with my legacy and purpose.

My priorities revolve around three core elements: empowering others to find and live their purpose (through coaching/mentoring), dedicating quality time to my family, and building my business to further my legacy. These are my ‘rocks’ – the non-negotiables. Then come the ‘pebbles’, secondary tasks that matter but aren’t as crucial, and finally, the ‘sand’ – everyday logistics that often consume our time without contributing to our main goals. This prioritization system is how I maintain clarity and balance in my life.

In my workbook, I introduce a color-coded calendar system that helps allocate time for these rocks, pebbles, and sand. This approach breaks down my long-term goals into milestones and tasks, ensuring that daily activities are tied to a larger purpose. It helps me live intentionally, aligning daily actions with my overarching goals.

This method not only keeps me focused but also diminishes guilt and overwhelm, reduces anxiety, and grants me control over my time. It empowers me and others to say no when necessary, set clear boundaries, and stay true to my direction and vision. By prioritizing my legacy and purpose, I stay aligned with my intuition and maintain authenticity in all aspects of my life.

Your passion for helping high-achieving women find happiness and alignment is inspiring. What common challenges do you see among the women you coach, and how do you guide them toward a more aligned and joyful life?

Although I coach both men and women, I have a unique affinity for guiding women, recognizing the additional societal hurdles and expectations we often face. A common challenge among women is the tendency to downplay their impact and strategic value in the workplace, focusing instead on task-oriented roles and being a good team player.

I see this reflected in their self-perception, their CVs, job interviews, and performance reviews. Too often, professional and talented women diminish their value as leaders, innovators, and trailblazers, leading to frustration, burnout, and deep misalignment.

Much of this stems from traditional societal norms that dictate that women should be supportive, volunteer, and not boast about their achievements, leading to a culture of toxic competition and people-pleasing. This distracts them from focusing on their unique contributions and the distinct problem solving approaches they bring to the table – something no one else can replicate.

My coaching approach with women begins with helping them unpack their unique ‘how-to’. We delve into their legacy, exploring how their distinctive traits have been present all their life, often unnoticed or undervalued. This process can be profoundly emotional, revealing how seldom women are celebrated or told about their positive impact on others. It’s a revelation for many, often leading to tears and a need for time to process this newfound recognition.

Part of my role is to give them the permission they often don’t grant themselves – to explore their desires and aspirations and embrace their unique path. My goal is to bring their focus to their powerful individuality and the value of their purpose and legacy.

Lastly, with your nomadic lifestyle and global travels, how has your perspective on life and success evolved? And how does this adventurous spirit influence your approach to coaching and mentoring others?

As a young girl, I was fascinated with travel books, dreaming of exploring the world. One of my greatest accomplishments as an adult has been following through on that dream, traveling and exploring the wonders of our world, and I know that this love for travel has deeply influenced my approach to coaching and mentoring. Meeting new people and understanding diverse worldviews has taught me the value of different perspectives and the power of listening.

This nomad lifestyle also reaffirms my belief in authenticity and importance of one’s purpose. Growing up, I was often told that pursuing a purpose was a luxury, a ‘first-world’ concept. However, my experiences have shown me that this isn’t true. Everyone, regardless of where they are from, has a purpose and a north star guiding them.

I’ve also observed that the pursuit of the American Dream is not limited to America. It’s a global phenomenon, where people worldwide are chasing similar metrics of success and struggling to find their unique voice.

This universal narrative needs to shift. My coaching is designed to resonate with individuals from all walks of life, across cultures, languages, and ages. Dreams and purpose are universal; everyone seeks connection, value, and fulfillment. Travel has also been a powerful reminder that if you feel out of place in your community, there’s a whole world out there where you might fit in perfectly. Your tribe exists somewhere.

Traveling also reveals how interconnected we are. Despite the vastness of the world, we share many similarities and are just a flight away from each other. This has enabled me to build communities globally, from Australia to Zimbabwe to the Dominican Republic and beyond. Connecting with others who also live a life of geographical freedom has been nothing short of amazing. This limitless lifestyle shapes my coaching philosophy – one that embraces universal aspirations and fosters global connections.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.