ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia says it’s all about having a plan A and B (and sometimes C).

By Jacqueline Schneider
Updated Mar 13, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
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Marinke-Davelaar Photography

By this point in the year, New Year’s Resolutions are hardly on anyone’s radar. In fact, research has shown that most resolutions are broken by January 19 (and only 60% of people make them in the first place). But if you want to make sure (mental and physical) fitness is a part of your life, or you’re after some specific health result, setting goals to work toward is a great way to make that happen. Goal-setting (and keeping) feels both empowering and exhausting, intimidating and inspiring. Perhaps nobody knows this better than Payal Kadakia, the founder of fitness and wellness app ClassPass.

While the road to entrepreneurial success (and fitness) wasn’t always a straight path forward, Kadakia’s little app recently reached a $1B valuation. She’s now up to 700 employees and over 100,000 reservations made through ClassPass, but that all came after a company name change and several failed business models along the way (Classtivity launched in 2012; it became ClassPass in 2014).

Point being, Kadakia is a fan of having options, and in fact that’s the core of her most relatable hack for making sure she leads with health. In a recent interview about her goal-setting, the founder told InStyle that she makes several daily plans (a plan A, B, and C) so she still has more than one way to succeed if her “ideal” workout plan should fail. (Relatable.) As a new mom, founder, and boss with a stacked schedule, Payal is someone to take notes from. “It’s all about priorities,” she says, “you need to prioritize yourself.”

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What advice do you have for those looking to jumpstart the fitness goals they made at the beginning of the year?

I usually set quarterly goals. My issue with New Year’s Resolutions is that 12 months is way too much time! The way I like to think of 12 months is more like how do I want to feel in a year and now what do I want to achieve.

What does your own fitness routine look like on a daily basis?

Dance is a really big part of my life, it’s my daily movement. I also do a workout daily with a little exception now [points to pregnant belly]. I just need to move at least once a day. Getting my workout in is a non-negotiable in my calendar. I actually have a Plan A and a Plan B of what class I want to do and sometimes, I’ll even have a Plan C. I need those 30 minutes; I can’t function without it.

What about the mental side of wellness? What are your go-to self-care practices?

One of the things I’ve done for the past 10 years is that I’ll wake up in the morning, find a quote, and share it on Instagram. I think if you post something in the morning, it kind of comes back to you throughout the day. The mental health part of it is training my brain and my thinking to be on the positive side versus dwelling on the negative.

With technology weaved into wellness and self-care so much now, do you believe in digital detox?

Like most people, I struggle too. I have the time block on my phone setup, which limits my screen time. I think it’s about knowing why you are on it. I love sharing my stories on Instagram and I know they inspire people, but I don't need to live on Instagram to know what’s going on in the world, I would rather have real-life conversations and quality time with my friends. At the same time, I’ve met incredible people because of Instagram who have become my closest friends so I think it can be a double-edged sword.

How do you think making micro goals helps you achieve your blue ocean, macro goals?

You need to know your priorities – whether it’s related to your fitness routine or your business, making a decision is important. The other big thing I live by is that you can say no without saying no! If you know the non-negotiables in your life, you don’t feel guilty for saying no.

Many people vow to change their financial health for the new year – do you have any tips for that?

I think this is a really important topic. My parents immigrated here in the 1970’s – I completely had to understand the value of a dollar. Once I had my first job and was making enough money, I saved a lot. I valued my money more because one day I knew I wanted the freedom to do something big. I knew in the future I wanted to have the luxury to open up my time. At the end of the day, the trade-off is money vs time. Money can become a constraint that prevents us from doing the things we dream of. The more you feel like money is not controlling you and you understand that you control the money, the more you can sit in your power.

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How does it feel for your company to be valued at $1B?

It does feel really great and for me the most important thing is that it really shows the impact we’ve made on peoples’ lives. I also feel like as a woman — and a woman of color — I can set an example for other women by being visible, because you can’t be what you can’t see.

People who are not thinking about self-care but could benefit from it, what’s a good entry point for them?

At the end of the day you just have to act. It’s about having the experience and getting off the couch – it’s all about priorities. You need to prioritize yourself.