Difficult Choices

In every moment, of every day, we are making decisions. We decide where to direct our attention, we decide when (if) we should take a break, we decide whether to answer phone calls or respond to emails. Most of us make those decisions automatically, without much thought. But what about the decisions that really FEEL like decisions? The types of decisions that keep you up at night with anxiety or rob your afternoon of several hours spent fretting over the options. When it comes to big decisions, what is the best approach?

Decision-making is a huge part of my coaching practice. I work with all of my clients to examine and execute on big decisions including whether to file for divorce, quit the job, fire the paralegal, or take the big leap. If you are contemplating a big decision, schedule time with me to get support and clarity.

We have talked about decision-making in several contexts but today I want to focus on actual steps to evaluating and making a decision. But first, let’s recap:

Step 1: Take the Decision off the Pedestal

Many of us have struggled with decision paralysis from time to time because we put these decisions on a pedestal. We allow them to loom ahead of us like giant crossroads in our lives. We have to first recognize that we are making this decision WAY TOO powerful. One decision will not make or break your entire life.

In order to move forward you have to separate from the facts from your primitive-brain-thinking. You have to first recognize the thoughts you are choosing as just that: thoughts. Focus on the facts of the situation and examine how else you could be thinking about them.

For example, consider these thoughts:

I need to figure out my practice specialty this year otherwise I will fall behind.

I need to figure out whether to hire another attorney before everyone gets fed up and quits!

When we scour those sentences for cold hard facts, I find none. Those sentences reflect our internal catastrophizing and dramatizations. Neither of which are helpful. When we can get clear on the facts, the frenzy in your brain calms considerably. We are left with:

I am thinking about narrowing down to a specialty this year.

I am considering whether to hire a new attorney.

Simple. Factual. Nothing to see here.

Step 2: Take a Hard Look at Your Worst Case Scenario

Whenever we are avoiding a decision it’s because we have convinced ourselves that there is a right and wrong path ahead of us and if we choose the wrong one, our world will fall apart. When we look at our worst-case scenario, we can see that it is really comprised of only two things: obstacles that you can navigate and negative self-talk you can address. We don’t have to allow our brains to tell us that if we make the wrong decision not only will everything fall apart but it proves something negative about ourselves: we aren’t good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we can’t do this, this will never work out, etc. Instead, take a long hard look at your worst-case scenario, decide how you would handle it and decide what you would make it mean. In doing so, you rob it of all it’s power.

Again, this is just a recap! More on Steps 1 and 2 is available here.

Step 3: Get Clear About Your Why

In any choice that we make, there will be pros and cons. There will be consequences of many varieties, even when the opportunity seems too good to be true. In those instances, we have to consider what we gain by acting. When we have clarity about what is at stake with every new decision, that clarity will light the path when things get murky (because they will). That clarity will allow you to keep moving.

More on Step 3 here.

Step 4: Embrace Fear

Fear, self-doubt, and guilt are all parts of the bargain when we choose to make changes — those feelings do not mean you are making a wrong decision.

More on Step 4 here.

Step 5: Commit to Having Your Own Back

Part of the reason we avoid making decisions is because of how terrible we are to ourselves when a decision doesn’t work out how we imagined. We beat ourselves up, we judge our past actions, we rewrite history to make ourselves feel even worse. If you can commit to making a decision and having your own back no matter how it plays out, what is there to be afraid of?

More on Step 5 here.

Having worked through Steps 1 through 5, we are ready to make a decision…but how?

How to make the decision

First we have to take a look at the options we are considering and set forth our justifications for each option.

Why would we go that route?

What is the benefit?

What is motivating us?

Why is this decision hard?

This step is critical and must include some serious introspection. Are you wanting to keep that paralegal because you don’t want to have to deal with the discomfort of firing her? Are you saying yes to that new project because you’ll “feel bad” if you say no? In this step, we have to get brutally honest about our reasoning. Ask yourself why the decision is hard. Consider all of the thoughts swirling around–are we worried about what others will think? Are we forecasting the future?

Once we have all the justifications set out for each options available to us, I recommend reviewing those lists and highlighting only the justifications that are factual. “Difficult” decisions are often soaking in drama. We have to get really clear about what is the true and what is just dramatizations.

For instance, we might believe that if we fire our paralegal we will “devastate” her or “ruin her financially.” But we don’t know if that’s true. What if she really hates the job but was too afraid to quit? What if she knew she wasn’t the right fit? Or instead, we think that if we say “no” to a project/engagement offered to us, the other person will be disappointed or angry. What if that’s not the case? What if they really don’t care they just asked you because you were the first person they saw?

This part of the process can be helpful in distilling our justifications down to the meat of it. Usually justifications surrounding “difficult” decisions are rooted in avoidance of some negative emotion–we don’t want to feel bad if others are hurt, sad, disappointed, etc. While we can recognize that they might not be any of those things, our fear around how we will feel if others are hurt by our decision can keep us paralyzed.

Now the magical part:

You just decide.


You look at each list of justifications and you pick the list you feel most strongly about.

That might mean that you don’t fire you your paralegal because you don’t want to upset her but at least now you will be very clear that the real motivation behind that decision is because you don’t want to feel bad if she’s upset. On the other hand, you might decide that you don’t feel good about that justification. You just have to ask yourself–do I feel good about my reasoning for selecting this option? That’s it.

There are no right answers. The only thing that matters is making a decision for reasons that you are honest about and for reasons that you feel good about.

Then we circle back to Steps 1 – 5 and execute, paying close attention to Step 5 where you commit to having your own back. We commit not to second guess, back down, or shoulda, coulda, woulda, ourselves later on.

“Every decision brings with it some good, some bad, some lessons, and some luck. The only thing that’s for sure is that indecision steals many years from many people who wind up wishing they’d just had the courage to leap.”

Doe Zantamata

Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels

Putting Out Fires

How’s your day going? Are you doing one million different things at the same time, answering phone calls, responding to emails, getting yelled at, blurting directives in the hallway, yelling at someone else, and juggling flaming torches, while running a marathon and planning a birthday party for your spouse all before 10am?

Just a regular Tuesday, eh?

Oh the panicked frenzy of practicing law! On those days, your brain is laser focused and you can feel the adrenaline coursing through your body as you move from one thing to the next with effortless precision. For many of us, we get addicted to this frenzy. We develop a strange love affair with the pressure and intensity of those days. We feel alive! Connected to the work! Like a boss. If only we could feel like this all the time!

While these bursts of energy and manic productivity can be incredibly addictive and create tremendous surges of satisfaction, working from this state is problematic for two reasons.

First, it is not sustainable. During these moments of manic productivity and putting out fires we are actually operating from a primitive state. Our body has infused our system with tremendous amounts of adrenaline because the pressure and stress that we have put on ourselves and created in our minds has led our primitive brains to believe that we are on the verge of being murdered by carnivorous clients. We switch into survival mode operating on adrenaline; our hearts race and our brains become laser focused on the task in front of us because it suddenly equates the task with survival.

Our primitive brain and the survival mechanisms that kick in are powerful and addictive in in many ways but we must recognize that living day-in and day-out being driven by adrenaline and our primitive brains is not sustainable. Our bodies were not designed to flourish under those amounts of adrenaline, which is a finite resource. It’s simply not possible to maintain that high and that level of focus and productivity long-term. We are literally living everyday in fight or flight, frenzied panic. Our bodies are preparing for battle. Productive? Yes. Sustainable? Sadly, no.

Sound familiar? Most of my clients reach out to me from that state of panicked frenzy or shortly after the inevitable crash. Stop the madness (literally). Work with me and let’s develop some tools to turn down the noise and put your logical brain back in charge.

Add to this madness, the physical and emotional toll of living on adrenaline for too long — persistent surges of adrenaline can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure, and elevate your risk of heart attacks or stroke. It can also result in anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia. I’m not that kind of doctor but the Google box and real doctors will back me up on this if you need more convincing.

When we operate from that space of fight or flight and let our primitive brain drive our actions and our responses, we also lose the ability to think rationally with our prefrontal cortex. This brings me to reason number two as to why this is not the best mode of operation.

We do not make good decisions with our primitive brains.

Our primitive brains were designed to keep us safe, seek pleasure, and be efficient. Our primitive brain is the fast acting part of our brain; it is not designed to move slowly, analyze facts, and make well-reasoned decisions. That part of our brain is designed simply to react: everything presented to your primitive brain will be perceived as an emergency, a matter of life-or-death. That means that every email that comes across your desk, every person that darkens your doorway, every phone call that comes in, your brain is going to interpret as an emergency that must be attended to immediately. Simply put, we are not biologically capable of making the best decisions when we are operating from fight or flight and letting our primitive brain drive the boat.

It’s like letting a toddler make decisions about your finances. They are going to spend all of your money going to the amusement park, eating cotton candy and raw cookie dough, and ordering all of the things from the late night shopping channel. They are not going to tell you to eat the damn salad, go to the gym, and “no, that designer purse is not the solution to your tale of woes.” The primitive part of our brain will seek the pleasure that comes from responding to that email immediately and from trying to please the client/partner rather than focusing on the project that you told the client you would get done today.

So what does all this mean?

When you find yourself in that panicked mode of productivity, recognize that your primitive brain has taken over and is clouding your judgment. You need to disconnect and reengage your logical brain. That might mean getting up and walking away from your computer and going outside for 5 minutes. Connect with nature. Take some deep breaths. Spend 5 minutes in meditation. Ground yourself and connect with a mantra–

This is not my life, this is not who I am, I am more than this job, I am more than this day.

By doing these practices we allow our primitive brain to disengage and we put the adult back in the driver’s seat so that we can start making better decisions for the long-term. We make decisions taking into account our priorities and the facts regarding what needs to be done and what does not need to be done in that moment. Save your primitive brain for real emergencies. Do not let your primitive brain drive the bus in your career. From that space you will only create burnout and block yourself from that conscious focus that will take your career to the next level.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

During our lives, many of get to a place where we just want to burn it all down and start over. We want out. We retreat. We want to start over and have it be better the next time around. We don’t want to do it any more. We just want to start again.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to set off and start anew. Unfortunately, what we often find is that while the scenery has changed, our problems remain the same.

During most summers, I spend about 7 hours in my car, every other weekend, driving home to visit my family. I love to make the long trek back home to enjoy time on the lake with my friends and family back home. The majority of my trip is spent at a gleeful and fast-paced interstate route, going 80 mph, making great time. But eventually, once we are about an hour away from our destination, everything changes. Suddenly, the only route to our destination is on county highways and gravel roads. The pace shifts to a crawl. It’s maddening to suddenly go from quickly moving along, making manic progress to maintaining such a slow crawl. It’s a challenge to keep myself from slamming down the accelerator and getting right back to cruising along at a smooth 80mph pace. At this point in my trip, 80mph is what feels natural; it’s become a habit and one I have to consciously brake (pun intended).

Our brains’ ability to get comfortable functioning in a particular state goes beyond my interstate driving. Just like when I moved from interstate to county highways, whenever we change the circumstances of our lives, our ingrained habits come right along with us. Changing to gravel roads doesn’t stop my ingrained desire to drive 80mph. Moving to a new environment does not make it easier to stop speeding in the same way that burning it all down and replacing it with something shiny and new, will not “fix” your tendencies. In the new space, we will find ourselves facing the same challenges all over again:

We say yes when we mean no.

We take on too much.

We struggle to disconnect.

We beat ourselves up over every mistake.

We fail to honor our priorities.

We doubt our abilities.

Those thoughts are like my 80mph climb back home. I’m comfortable there; I know that space. It’s uncomfortable to try and do something different. In the same way, it will take practice and work to change our patterned thinking, regardless of the scenery. No matter what external factors we change, it won’t have a lasting impact on our lives unless and until we change our patterning.

Switching over to gravel roads doesn’t change my tendency toward 80mph, I have to make that change consciously and with effort and attention. Burning it all down and starting over will not change whatever patterning we have that is plaguing us. That work will always be there waiting for us, no matter where we go.

Real change can only come from within and the external circumstances have no bearing on that kind of change.

Are you ready?

Photo by Peter Fazekas from Pexels

When Your Boss is a . . .

One of the things that I find most interesting about the legal profession is our commitment to the belief that as attorneys we can do it all. Rather than hiring business experts to operate the business side of a firm, we simply conclude that as attorneys we have the qualifications to manage as well as practice. As many of my clients and myself have concluded: just because we are attorneys does not mean that we are good bosses, leaders, managers, or mentors. So what do you do when you find yourself working with a boss (or any human for that matter) who is less of a leader and mostly just a jerk? This recently came to light in a session I had with a client who was struggling with her supervisor.

My client had been charged with managing a particularly large project that was not within her traditional practice area. The initiative required input and contributions from various practices across the firm and ongoing strategy sessions with the team. In addition to the strategy sessions, my client had regular one-on-one meetings with her supervisor. During a recent meeting with her supervisor, he indicated that he expected her to take the lead on the upcoming team discussion and that she would be managing the project from there on out. He wanted her to use this to get project management experience. When she attended the first team meeting to present the project plan, her supervisor took over and did not offer any opportunity for her to make contributions. As the meeting progressed, it became clear to my client that her supervisor and his team had not read any of the materials relating to the scope of the project and had grossly misunderstood the intent of the client. The meeting was largely unproductive, confusing for all members, and my client was pissed.

When we met, she relayed this story and went on to explain how her supervisor is a jerk, a terrible leader, incredibly disorganized, spiteful, arrogant, and childish. She said she hates working with him and that having to continually interact with someone who was such a poor supervisor was making her consider leaving her job entirely. How does someone like that get into a position of leadership!?

This kind of scenario and feedback is something that we all have to deal with at some point in time simply by being members of the human race. Although I like to think that we in the legal industry have an abnormal amount of individuals who are poor leaders and managers, the ultimate truth remains the same: sometimes people just suck.

But the problem with this scenario is that so many of my clients are driven to leave or consider leaving their place of employment due to this type of interaction. In attempts to remedy these situations, many of us vacillate between confronting the individual and outright avoiding them. We all know that feeling when you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re swimming in angry thoughts about the individual in front of you. They have no idea what they’re doing….I wish they would just shut up….why do they keep doing that….how can they be so oblivious….you’re such a terrible leader…. and on and on it goes. We feel our skin start to crawl and we actually start to believe that if we don’t get out of this place and get away from this person ASAP we’re going to lose our minds!

I get it. I have completely been there and so many of my clients have as well. So how do you dig out when every part of your body and every thought in your head is screaming to get away from this person?!

(Sound familiar? Sign up for a free consult, and let’s sort it out.)

First, we have to recognize that when we confront this person or simply avoid them, we are either trying to get the other person to change or we are trying to remove them from our orbit so we don’t have to do any work. We dream of confronting them and seeing them take our comments to heart so they can change for the better and then everything will be OK. In the alternative, we think that if we can just escape this person and not have to deal with them then everything will be OK in that scenario too. In either case, we’re trying to change or eliminate the problem person so that we don’t have to feel angry and frustrated anymore. Therein lies the problem:

wanting someone or something else to change so that WE can feel better is a futile endeavor that rarely works. Instead, our work rests solely with us and how we handle the situation.

In my client’s scenario, she truly believed that her boss was a jerk, a terrible leader, disorganized, spiteful, arrogant, and childish. She provided those details to me as if they were well-documented facts. What she didn’t see was that none of that was true. These were all optional things she was choosing to believe about her boss. All of these thoughts and judgments about this person were making her completely miserable. She wanted me to help her learn how to navigate dealing with her jerk boss but she didn’t see that her beliefs and judgments about him were actually what was making her miserable. What she didn’t see was that in order to move forward she would have to at least open herself up to the possibility that her opinion about this person may not be accurate. That she was choosing to believe day-in and day-out that her boss was a jerk. Regardless of whether or not any of these thoughts could be proven factually accurate, it was clear that by living in these judgments of this other human, she was making herself crazy. The work wasn’t in learning how to deal with her “jerk” boss, the work was in seeing that she didn’t have to believe that he was a jerk.

Our judgments of other people are founded on the belief that those around us are supposed to act a certain way.

My client’s boss was supposed to be a good mentor, a good cheerleader for her, and supportive. She had this whole perception of who he was supposed to be. Her conclusion that he was a jerk was at odds with how she wanted things to be. That tug of war with reality was causing a tremendous amount of discomfort and frustration for her. So much so that she just wanted to get away from it. But as many of you know, anytime you leave one experience for another we often encounter the same types of humans who elicit the same types of challenges all over again.

We end up creating for ourselves a pattern of moving from place to place, identifying a new jerk in each situation, and moving on again and again.

Rather than showing up to work believing that her boss was a jerk, she had myriad options available to her as to how she could potentially think of the situation. She could instead recognize that he was showing up exactly how he was meant to. He was being everything that is uniquely him. And that is completely OK. In fact, that is the beauty of this world. We all have the ultimate right to show up and be whomever and however we want to be. So rather than showing up in judgment and stewing in anger and frustration, my client could instead look at this person as an opportunity for her to experiment with compassion and unconditional love. She wasn’t frustrated because of him or the things that he was doing. The reason she was frustrated was that she was focusing on who she wanted him to be and was marinating her brain in all of these negative judgments about him when he didn’t fit her mold. So instead I asked her, how do you want to think about this person? How do you want to show up in this experience?

She revealed that she wanted to be calm and collected. She wanted to advocate for herself. To step in and LEAD just like he had asked her to. She wanted to focus on the fact that she knew he never wanted to be a manager and that he seemed to be trying to do the best he could with the position that he never sought out.

This didn’t make her feel warm and fuzzy. It didn’t make her want to stay at the firm forever. But it did allow her some neutral emotions and some space to look at this person from a different perspective. It allowed the judgment to subside and along with that came a reduction in her frustration and anger and her desire to flee. Instead, we developed a plan for her to have an honest and curious conversation with him about the project. A conversation that was not intended to CHANGE him but one rooted in compassion and a desire to better UNDERSTAND him.

After all, it’s so much easier to speak your truth from a place of neutrality than when you are fueled by pent-up anger and frustration.

Imagine how much happier we all could be if instead of judging everyone around us and believing that things should be different we chose to believe that everything was happening as it should and just tried to love those around us? It’s not easy but it certainly feels a lot better than the alternative.

I truly believe that the only thing preventing us from loving everyone around us is our thoughts about them. If you could change that, imagine how much happier you would be.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Painful Honesty

Today, the behavior of a small child completely rocked my world.

My girlfriend texted our friend group this morning to talk about an issue going on with her daughter. Her daughter was on the bus home from school and the bus driver and another child were apparently in a Russian standoff with the boy refusing to sit down and the bus driver refusing to drive until he did so. As the minutes drug on, my friend’s lovely and slight little girl, asked the boy if he would please sit down because she wanted to get home. And then he turned to her and punched her in the face. By the time, my friend’s beautiful little girl got home, she was in tears and told her mom what had happened all the while insisting that her mom not do anything about it because she didn’t want to get into trouble.

My friend was reaching out to us for our thoughts on what she should do. While we were all in agreement that something must be done, we were in agreement for a variety of different reasons. One of us wanted to know about the school’s rules and policies for this type of behavior. Was there some type of structure in place to track and monitor this type of behavior like a 3 strike rule, for instance, that would ultimately remove this child from the bus (or school) if the behavior continued? Another of us suggested a meeting with the principal to ensure that the child was removed from the bus. For me, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the life of this child that he would physically assault another, much smaller child, and go to such lengths for something so minimal? What kind of a disservice would it be to the child if this wasn’t reported. Maybe this was a cry for help? Even if not, it seems that this is something that would warrant additional follow-up and concern for that child–was he simply repeating what he sees at home?

As I thought about my friend’s daughter and her pleas to let it go and not make a big fuss over it, I felt myself relating to that sentiment in so many ways. Why is it that we often ignore the wrongdoings of others because we don’t want to “get into trouble”? Or because we don’t want to make it a big deal? How many times have we allowed someone to take advantage of us without telling them that is how we feel? Or watched someone act cruelly to another without saying something? To be clear, I don’t believe that saying something is likely going to “change” the offensive actor, in fact, I think that is highly unlikely. But what kind of message does it send to the victim when we don’t act? When we don’t say anything?

Could our willingness to call out bad actors inspire the victims to act, to leave, to stand up for themselves?

Could our willingness to call out abuse when we see it, communicate to the victim that it doesn’t have to be this way? Could it affirm for them that it’s not okay and there are strangers who might care more for you than that person?

What an amazing opportunity to teach a child that, yes, speaking up is scary and yes, the world isn’t perfect and it might make things worse or harder for you by being honest. But your honesty, your truth and your respect for yourself and identifying what is okay and not okay, THAT is gold.

Honoring your truth and your experience and calling out bad actors even when it might cause you some discomfort or fear is what this life is all about.

Trusting your value and using your voice to establish your boundaries is a lesson most of us spend our lives trying to learn. What kind of a world would we have if children started learning these lessons right away? What impact would that have on the bullying epidemic? What kind of future leaders would we have if everyone learned from a young age to call out inequities and seek justice, whatever the cost?

What type of world we would have if we as adults were able to channel that power and voice our objections to racism, sexism, and cruelty that we encounter every day?!

When I was engrossed in an abusive marriage, I was meeting with one of my close friends and sharing some of my struggles with her. She looked me right in the eyes and baldly said, “You need to divorce him.” She didn’t try to soften it. She didn’t explain. She was unwilling to pretend it was going to get better. She didn’t lie to me and tell me she trusted him or believed in my safety. She risked our friendship to tell me the truth. The truth that I need to hear. I felt seen and my struggles felt validated. That was a huge turning point for me in deciding to leave and I will forever be grateful to her for her honesty.

Insidious things are a part of our world because we let them be a part of our world.

We. Let. Them. Exist.

That is a choice we make every day, several times a day, every day of our lives. Today I am inspired by the lesson my friend is imparting upon her little girl. Today I will strive to be the best and most honest version of myself. I will speak up when I see things that are hurtful or cruel. I will speak up, not because I want to change anyone but because I want to be an example to others of what is possible in this world. And what is possible is a world where people support and love one another, including those we don’t even know and will not sit by and passively watch as others are harmed and taken advantage.

If you see something say something.

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Believing You Can Do It

Ugly beliefs: we’ve all got them. For one client it might be the belief that they are the ultimate cause of their client’s failure to win in court. For other clients, it might be their underlying fear that they aren’t going to make it and they are going to get fired. We all have them, laying below the surface keeping us from doing what we ultimately want to do. Those beliefs drive us to procrastinate, avoid work, avoid difficult conversations that are for our own betterment, and ultimately they keep us in a place that is inconsistent with who we are and where we want to be.

So how do we rip up those thoughts and get to a place of believing we can do anything?

We must first get to a place where we recognize and acknowledge that those thoughts we carry around in our heads are just opinions. They are not factual. They have not come to fruition. They are just words in our heads. Words we give power to.

Next we must realize that when we give those sentences power, they grow stronger. When we sit with those negative beliefs, our brain will provide all sorts of evidence to support those fears. If you give power to “I’m going to fail,” your brain will offer all sorts of evidence to support that thinking — ALL the reasons why failing is inevitable. Your brain is not designed to argue with the thoughts in your head. It is designed to agree with you by providing supporting evidence (i.e., confirmation bias). That’s why those thoughts feel so true. It’s why they have such a hold over us! But when was the last time, you also asked your brain to provide you with opposing evidence — to prove that you CAN DO IT?

When we worry that we can’t do it, we don’t even give ourselves the chance to consider whether the opposite might actually be true.

What if you can do it?

What if you are MEANT to do it?

Let’s be honest, none of us have proof that we can’t do it. None of us know with certainty that we will fail. So before we can shift to rosy thoughts about how we know we can do it, we first have to recognize our own role in this little song-and-dance: sometimes we give too much power to crappy beliefs about ourselves. Maybe we learned them from our parents, maybe they are criticisms offered by unkind friends or lovers of the past. Wherever they came from, their existence in our minds does not make them truthful.

Once we see our patterned thinking as just bad brain habits and not evidence of our innate shortcomings, we can practice believing something else. We can start to compassionately understand why we have gravitated toward those thoughts and we can dismantle those structures. For many of us, the reason negative thinking about ourselves is so powerful and so ingrained in our habits is that there’s a part of us that believes in the veracity of those statements. Knowing that, we can work to let that go too.

We all know that we say terrible things ourselves in our heads. We all know we have these limiting beliefs that we carry around. But the reason we carry them around is that there is a part of us that still wants to believe in their truth. You can’t let go of a belief so long as you are committed to the investment that it is true at least in part. We have to get to a place where we recognize that in our life we have so many choices to make. Choices to make about what we think about ourselves. We do not have to choose to believe that we can’t make it or that we’re going to get fired. Seeing those thoughts as choices can allow us to choose to believe something else.

But can’t some of those negative thoughts push us to try harder and do better?

I get asked this all the time. Intellectually, we know it’s not okay to talk to ourselves the way that we do and to carry around these worries about inadequacy; however, many of us look to our past successes as evidence that maybe being hard on ourselves is why we have succeeded. Maybe being hard on ourselves is how we were able to get where we are!

While I agree that for many of us, being hard on ourselves and pushing ourselves certainly contributed to our early successes in life. But when women come to me for coaching support, they are out of gas. They have pushed so hard they are pushing themselves right out the door and off of a cliff. While being hard on ourselves might have served us early in our careers, we eventually get to a point where it no longer serves us. We start to see the negative effects of treating ourselves so poorly. We have the success and the accolades but we have no boundaries, no balance, and our relationship with ourselves (and often others) is completely broken. You shouldn’t have to beat yourself into submission to achieve success — that pattern will leave you worse off than you started. (What’s the point of all that success if you don’t love yourself enough to allow yourself to enjoy it?)

What if instead of using negative self-talk to motivate ourselves, we choose to believe that we are inherently good enough and that we can be whomever we want to be?

Motivation will spring from either mindset but one requires an investment in our abilities while the other requires an investment in self-judgment. Which is more sustainable? Which will reap you more long-term benefits?

The choice is always yours.

Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash

Difficult Co-Workers

In every moment of our life, we have the option to choose how we perceive our experience. It’s easy to believe that what is occurring in our life shouldn’t have happened that way the things have gone wrong and that things should have gone differently. The problem with that thinking is that we become so wed to it and so invested in it that we believe it is the truth of our experience. We believe that what is happening to us in our world is bad and negative.

I recently worked with a client who was challenged by two women that she was working with. She believed that these women were the source of her unhappiness. She believed that they were the reasons she needed to leave her job. She believed that her job was not going the way she had wanted it to go. She was so invested in these beliefs and in the mentality that made her the victim and them the villain that she could not see her way out.

Through coaching, I worked with her to try and show her that all of these thoughts and beliefs were nothing more than choices and opinions in her head. Her opinions were not true for anyone unless she chose to make them true. And she was invested in making them true for herself. When I challenged her to think differently about her experience I was met with strong defensiveness. Immediately, she challenged me and asked if I was trying to get her to think pretty thoughts about these bad experiences in her life. Those of you that work with me know that my goal is never to shift you to prettier thoughts; my goal is simply to open up your awareness to the possibility that there are other ways of thinking about things  — that there may be more than one “truth” about a given situation.

There is never just one truth. There are multiple truths that can coexist at the same time.

For her, I needed first to get her to a place of neutrality where she could recognize that her perceptions of the experience were just that: choices. Her perceptions. Her opinions. And she could change them to something else. It didn’t mean that she needed to shift to something happier. We can always choose to live with those negative perceptions and interpretations of our life. But the power there comes from our choosing to feel negatively about those experiences and to think negatively about those experiences. My goal in teaching my clients to work through these challenges is to see that they are in fact making a choice. No experience is inherently negative. No fact of our life is inherently bad. We choose to make it bad. We choose to make it negative.

My goal in working with these clients is just to break loose that death grip that we have on our negative perceptions of reality and to open their eyes to that negativity bias and to be open to the possibility that there is always more than one truth available to us.

It doesn’t mean shifting from believing that our boss is the devil Incarnate to believing that he’s a saint. What it simply means is instead of living in the mind space where we always see our boss as a horrible human being and treating it as a hard fact, we shift to a mental space where we can see that he is there to teach us something about ourselves about our journey. For my client, what I wanted her to see was that she was choosing to be negative and to believe that this situation she found herself in was inherently negative. That was just a choice and she had complete authority to choose something different. She could choose instead to believe that this was part of her path. That it was time for a change. That truth could be equally as true as her belief that this was a bad outcome of her dreams. The choice was ultimately hers and each choice would dramatically impact how she showed up and experienced her time at that workplace.

Through my coaching programs, I help my clients to take complete authority over their life experiences. To take ownership of every emotion they experience and to consciously CHOOSE how they want to feel and what they want to believe about their lives.

“You see persons and things not as they are but as YOU are.”

What does your perception have to teach you about yourself? 

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Being Good Enough

Many of my clients have struggled with the reoccurring thought that they are not good enough. That they are going to fail. They drive themselves towards some undefinable perfection. During my career, with every bigger step I took, I have also struggled with those beliefs and fears. What if I fail….what if this doesn’t work out…what if I’m not good enough…

Anytime we compare ourselves to other people we lose over and over again. If we perceive ourselves as being better than others we completely disconnect ourselves from those around us, which feels lonely and miserable. On the other hand, if we perceive others as being better than us then we feel terrible because we have now classified ourselves as less than.

Unless your comparisons breed inspiration, it’s just a cruel game we play with ourselves.

The misery that we create for ourselves when we compare ourselves to others is astronomical. So what’s the solution?

Accept that no one is perfect, no one should ever want to be perfect, and that maybe we’re all just really good at being exactly who we are. And just maybe the beauty of this world is that there are so many of us unique human beings each contributing in our own way (if we could only embrace our uniqueness and stop comparing ourselves to others!).

In coaching, we can certainly work around those beliefs and navigate their hold on us, but what if we didn’t have to?

What if part of being human was simply carrying with us this recurring anxiety and worry that we aren’t good enough?

What if we stopped giving weight to those worries but also stopped fighting to change them?

What if being human and being the best version of ourselves simply meant that sometimes we wonder if we’re doing it right?

Whenever I catch myself wondering if I’m not good enough or if I’m going to fail, I just allow myself to recognize this completely natural thought offered by my completely human brain. I see it and I move on. It’s just my biological drive to stay safe and not do the hard things.

I know that we all have that challenge from time to time and I know that thought will only get louder as we all take steps to do the hard things. I believe that if we don’t periodically wonder whether we are good enough or whether we are doing it right, then we are not truly striving to live as the best and most authentic version of ourselves.

In sum, if you aren’t wondering whether you are good enough and regularly being confronted with those fears, you aren’t living big enough.

Being Treated Differently

Humans will be humans. They will make terrible mistakes and bad choices. And sometimes, even “good” people make bad choices about the things that they say or choose to believe. These thoughts are often unconscious. Habitual, automatic thinking.

These automatic, programmed thoughts and ideas don’t make them a bad person it just means that they have bad thoughts that they haven’t examined through the lens of implicit bias….the jokes that people make or that people laugh at, the automatic judgments they make about others without questioning those judgments. The reason this matters is because those small actions, those unconscious reactions, and judgments are what are keeping so many segments of our society from moving forward. It’s not necessarily explicit hatred of another group but it is implicit bias masquerading in a prettier outfit.

Most of us have our own experiences being treated differently. I remember a few years ago, I was attending an early morning meeting where I was the only woman. As background, I have two white Shiba Inu pups and anyone who knows anything about dogs knows that a person who owns more than one Shiba Inu is a masochist. A masochist who loves having dog hair all over every article of clothing they have as well as in their icebox, refrigerator, underwear drawers, deli meat, and attics. I ALWAYS have dog hair on me.

On this particular day, I was wearing a long black pencil skirt. As I approached the breakfast bar to grab some coffee and a bagel, I felt a presence close behind me. Then I heard an older gentleman speaking in a low, private voice right into my ear, I think your dogs left you a present on your skirt this morning. Embarrassed and confused, I turned to look and saw that my backside was covered in the white hair of my beloved pups. As I thanked him and turned to leave the room to redress the situation he smiled and said you have no idea how much I wanted to wipe that off for you. You just have to let an old man have his fantasies.


I was immediately floored by his comment but I told myself He’s harmless. He’s a goofy old man who doesn’t think before he speaks…I was so shocked and startled and I wasn’t sure how to respond but I knew I didn’t want to make a scene at 7:00 o’clock in the morning in a room full of men.

After the meeting wrapped up, I went back to my office and tried to put the strange encounter out of my mind when I heard a knock at my door. I looked up and found the same old gentleman standing sheepishly in my doorway and waiting for me to notice him standing there awkwardly.   This time he was apologetic and thanked me for not getting upside with him, “just an old man,” and the “stupid things” that he says. He begged me to tell him if I was upset by what he had said. I brushed it off, told him it wasn’t a big deal, and we moved forward with the relationship and our days.

At the time, I found myself confirming that, if someone else had made the same comment, someone that I thought intended to be suggestive or probing, I would have reacted very differently. I was so focused on the individual and my knowledge that he didn’t mean anything by it….he was a kind and goofy old man with no malice. But why did that matter?

Through this work, I now realize that my response is part of a larger problem. I was focusing on the intent driving the individual to act that way, allowing space for his ignorance. People’s actions are just as important as their intentions. This gentleman did not intend to sexually harass me but the fact of the matter is, his conditioned thoughts and his words went there. He was thinking of me and my presence in a way that was not acceptable or safe. Even if he wasn’t seeking anything out of line, his words communicated to me that as a woman, I will always, in part, be seen as a sexual object. By brushing it off and not acknowledging the problem with his words, I was trading his discomfort for my own. To avoid making him feel uncomfortable by calling out his actions, I swallowed the pill and felt uncomfortable enough for both of us.

I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable but it was okay for me to be uncomfortable.

Why? Because my predominant thought was “Let’s not make this a big deal….I don’t want you to think I’m overly sensitive or can’t take a joke.”

But the truth was, it was a big deal. The fact that I can still recall that moment so vividly and point to it as one of the many moments when I knew I did not belong is significant.

Those thoughts did not serve me at the time and they are not serving any of us today. Anyone who acts or speaks in a way that indicates you are not an equal in the workplace is a problem. It is not acceptable to stifle our concerns in favor of not making waves.

Instead of retreating in fear of confrontation and drama, I could have made better decisions and clung to better thoughts.

I want to feel angry when I feel like I am being discriminated against. I do not want to feel like “It’s okay.” I want to be open to the discomfort that comes with taking a stand and speaking my peace. These are essential emotions. I don’t want to feel good about these circumstances. I don’t want to pretend to be okay to avoid these negative feelings.

In those moments, I want to believe: This is an opportunity for me to be honest and develop my relationship with this human. I am not a victim, I am simply shining a light on the situation.

I am not trading my truth for your comfort.

The fear-based, glossing-it-over approach is not working. What does work is looking at people’s actions and challenging those actions where you see them. Rather than focusing on the person’s intent and formulating thoughts from there, shift your focus to the larger goal. I can address this and be honest with this person about what I think about what they’ve said or done. Demeaning words and actions, even ones that lack explicit malice, are indicative of tired thinking that begs to be challenged. If we keep condoning the actions and focusing only on the intentions, we sacrifice diversity of thought. We sacrifice honesty in our relationships.

In my experience, none of the people I have worked with were intentionally sexist/racist/homophobic. However, in my experience, many of those colleagues made sexist/racist/homophobic comments. They did not harbor hate but they did harbor ignorance and unacknowledged bias.

As humans in this world, we all have a role to play in fostering the evolution of thought. While that might mean we have to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations and call out actions that we know are not mal-intended. Unless we’re honest with people about how their words or actions impact our abilities to show up, to stand up, to speak up, we will never make the progress that our world so desperately needs.

Having trouble finding the words to speak your truth? Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Develop the tools to stand up for yourself and those around you. Coach with me and let’s make this journey together.

We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers. The proof that one truly believes is in action – Bayard Rustin

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Wanting it to be Different

I have been thinking a lot about investments and how crucial it is that we care for and nurture the investments that we make in our life. Not only the investments we consciously make but also the things that are important to us – relationships, education, health, etc. We all know that we have to invest time and energy in what’s important to us but many of us forget to apply that logic to ourselves.

When we find ourselves wanting things to be different, there is only one way to bust out of that plateau and build a life that will blow our own mind: intentional investment of our time, energy, and resources. Because wanting it, is never enough.

I recently invested in a personal trainer for the first time in my life. I’ve always been really fit and active but I finally got to a point where my health and fitness seemed to plateau. My weight wasn’t changing, my body wasn’t looking any differently, I wasn’t excited about working out; I realized that it was time for me to mix it up. I went to the gym anxious about the meeting and not committed to purchasing anything. As someone who’s always been into health and fitness, I figured that they could just give me some pointers and I can figure out the rest from there.

As we made our way through the session, I had a rude awakening. The workout was grueling and painful (and moderately humiliating!!!). At the end of the session, I realized that maybe I didn’t have it all figured out. Maybe it would make sense to bring in some support. So we sat down in the cubicle in the middle of the gym floor and started crunching the numbers. And I was completely floored! It was significantly more expensive than I had expected, and it was significantly more money than I had intended to spend on that particular afternoon. At that moment, I realized I was experiencing the same thing that many of my clients experience:

I wanted to change but I was hesitant to commit to doing the hard work.

My reptile brain was freaking out, objecting to this new possibility….when will I find the time…it’s too expensive…I can do it on my own…I don’t need this….it won’t work…, etc. As my brain spun out of control, I realized in that moment what was happening. I realized that it wasn’t really about the money, it was about my level of commitment to making an actual change…to signing up to do the hard thing…to spending a ton of money on myself in furtherance of a goal. To spending a ton of money knowing that I would HAVE TO show up to justify the expense! I didn’t actually believe that it wouldn’t work. I had clear evidence I wasn’t figuring it out on my own and I knew that I could find the time. None of my brain’s thoughts were the truth.

The REAL truth was that I wanted the transformation but committing to the work was freaking me out.

At that moment, I gave my reptile brain the middle finger and signed up. It was something I wanted and this was the first step to making good on that commitment to myself.

After I left the session several dollars lighter than I began, I realized that this is the challenge that many of my clients go through. No one gets excited about spending tons of money on personal training. People don’t get excited about spending thousands of dollars in therapy sessions. And many of the people I encounter are not excited about spending money on a coaching relationship. Why?

Because we’ve gotten along on our own for so long.

What more could these people possibly offer?

It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not a new purse that we can show off to our friends. It’s something that will require more of us. It requires us to put our money where our mouth is. To do something more than WANT THE CHANGE. Do we want it badly enough to submit to a process that will demand more of us and that will push us to take a hard look at where we really are? After I left my training session, I realized that just maybe I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was.

Just maybe I had some things that I needed to learn. And just maybe I need a little bit of humility about what I was capable of and how badly I really wanted things to change.

When we choose to make an investment in ourselves or not make an investment in ourselves, it is never really about the money or the time. It’s really about our humility and our willingness to recognize that we can’t do it all alone; that we aren’t getting there on our own.

I like to think about our investment in our professional lives and careers, in the same way, I think about buying a house. In both scenarios, we spend THOUSANDS of dollars on the investment. Both investments will provide for us and our families, will protect us, and give us stability. But the main difference is that when we buy a home, no one ever believes “that will be the last money I spend on that!” We know there will be upkeep and maintenance costs. We will make improvements and changes. When it comes to our homes, it seems we are always spending money to care for them and improve them.

But when it comes to our careers, we are much more reluctant to spend our own money on upkeep and maintenance. It is no wonder that for so many of us, our careers are run down and abandoned houses, left to wear away on their original foundations. Just like a run-down, decrepit house, treating your investment in that manner will never provide any return!

If you want your career and your life to blossom, you have to care for your original investment.

Professional athletes are the best in the world at what they do and they all have coaches. They acknowledge that there is room for growth, there is value in the different perspectives that those coaches offer. In order to create the life of your dreams, you must be open to the possibility that you aren’t seeing everything clearly. That just like me and my personal trainer, maybe you have more room to grow if only you had someone to push you.

I’m here and ready to push you out of your plateau. Are you in?